There was a time Mrysti lived for moments like these. The feel of the wind as it blew in from the open cargo door, her hair whipping wildly against the wind. It was those precious few moments of preparation and reflection on what was about to take place. Almost as a ritual, she would open the cargo door or the assault hatch of her shuttle and stand in the door; watch the world rush by in a blur as her transport took her to destiny. It was her meditation, her battle reflection as she mentally prepared herself in that moment. The wind was her silence, blocking out the comms or the chatter from the Soldiers on board. Mrysti put herself in that place for a reason. To get ready for what was to come. And as the shuttle took her to her destination it usually spelt doom for wherever she was going to land.
Not this time. Mrysti knew what she was getting into. And there was a level of apprehension that even the open cargo door couldn’t solve. Unlike Karolin, Mrysti stacked her worries on her shoulders starting from the most to the least troubling. She couldn’t just meditate it away or trust so easily in the Force that ‘Everything would be OK’. Mrysti didn’t work like that, she never had. Her outlet was to solve the problem the best way she knew how. In her mind, there was no problem that couldn’t be solved with the right amount of physical force applied. This time, it was not so simple.
Dremmess had failed to kill Arcann and the former Eternal Emperor was now back to his former habit of contacting Mrysti’s daughters through her Holocron. It was how Mrysti knew where Arcann was even before Vaylin attacked Voss. The Republic and Sith Empire thought this was just another of Vaylin’s random world scorching attacks meant to cause terror throughout the galaxy. Mrysti knew better. As it turned out, Karolin was right about Redemption after all it seemed. She just picked the wrong sibling. Vaylin was beyond Redemption and though Karolin was loathed to admit it to her sister, in her heart she knew it was true. Both sisters took solace in the fact that Redemption was on the horizon for one of the Eternal Siblings. That one being Arcann. Mrysti still had to force herself to think differently about it and as the shuttle continued to jet across the scarred Voss landscape she wondered what she would do when she finally saw Arcann again.
As she prepared to jump out of the door and into the silence of the Void, she whispered to the Force like she always had. ‘Force free me to do what must be done…’ Though Mrysti wanted all of it to be over for more reasons than the threat to her family, she knew what she had to do. There was still a level of disbelief that this time she would be rescuing the man who made her go into hiding, threatened her family and killed her brother. Arcann was guilty of so many crimes against the Alphas. Closing her eyes, Mrysti clenched her fist tightly around the hilt of her lightsaber as the red/black blade came to life with the smell of ozone. There was still a level of disbelief that she had to save Arcann. Samantha and Karolin wouldn’t have it any other way.
So many times, they faced one another, so many times each had the other under a boot and within an inch of death. So many times….
Smoke and fire ebbed from the battlefield below as the Assault Shuttle parted the clouds of blackness. The dark gave way to a new light. This part of Voss already devastated they were getting closer to the battle raging elsewhere. The light was from turbolasers and fire as defensive positions and buildings exploded from the bombardment above. The entire Eternal Fleet was here on Voss. Vaylin was leaving nothing to chance this time. She wanted Arcann. Mrysti had to find him before she did.
<”Thirty Seconds, Love…”>
Vander’s voice broke Mrysti from her consternation as she glanced back at the onboard speaker system; Vander sitting co-pilot to Porchia as the younger Alpha dodged and weaved between flak and turbolaser fire. The ship rocked, Mrysti didn’t seem to notice, she never did; smiling to the speaker as she turned to look back out at the scarred landscape.
“Waiting on the ‘Green’ light this time…” Mrysti said jokingly. Her habit of jumping into a more hazardous area than the actual drop zone or before she was given clearance from a pilot to do so. For the first time, she waited. She wanted those moments. Even though Vander was piloting and not next to her she was as close to him as she was going to get for the foreseeable future. Battle was always unpredictable. Both of them knew any engagement could be their last. It was why they loved each other so hard. They needed that time because it may not come again.
<”RT is righ behin’ ya….Ten seconds. I ain’t gonna say it…”>
Mrysti smiled again as she leaned out of the door, the pressure and force of the wind increasing as she prepared to hurl herself into the void.
“Fine…I will.” Mrysti paused and looked up at the small hatch which separated the cockpit from the cargo area. “I Love you…and yes, I will…” Vander would just say ‘be safe’ so Mrysti answered ‘yes’ before he could say it.
Jumping out, the silence took her as the rush of air hit her hard. All of the apprehension and worry seemed to bleed away for a moment. She rolled into a ball and then pronated herself out to float in the air before using the Force to right herself and slow her decent. The ground was coming up fast. Mrysti closed her eyes one last time and smiled. This was what she was born for.
“MOVE!!! MOVE!!!” Karolin thrust her hands above her to catch the falling tower in the Force as ‘Coalition’ Commandos moved back away from it quickly. The Battle raged around them as she strained under the weight until she felt it lighten slightly. Opening one eye under the strain, she saw Aldurion come up alongside of her, his hands also thrust up above him. Even under the stress of holding up so heavy a weight, he managed a smile at his lovely bride.
“N-need a hand??”
They held as long as they could, Aldy looking back to see the last of the Commandos out of danger before he nodded to Karolin. They let the tower go at the same time leaping away as it came crashing down in a cloud of dust. Karolin fell into his arms as they rolled away to safety. Even in the loud din of battle, all of it seemed to soften as they looked at one another, slow smiles ebbing to their faces. Karolin pushed off of him and started to stand as he grabbed her hand and pulled her back down. Aldurion started to say something, looking over the battlefield and catching sight of something. He let her go and slowly they stood together as Karolin’s face turned into a scowl. They both now looked off in the same direction.
“It was bad enough that Vaylin attacked Voss, but to destroy the place you asked me to marry you…”
Aldurion looked out toward where the Steps of Harmony once stood. Now the entire area wiped off the map. The entire Northern Peninsula, gone. He clenched his fist. As Karolin ran her hand up his arm and finally back down to that fist.
“Nothing is sacred to Vaylin.” He looked at Karolin with sad eyes. They turned a fiery orange as they lit with anger, “That is why she must be made to suffer for this.”
Trying to break the moment, Karolin smirked and elbowed him as she started to move off again. “You could always pick a place you know she won’t attack…and ask again.” Karolin started to run off and turned around to wink at him. “You know what my answer will be, each and every time…”
That did make him smile as he took the saber hilt off his belt and with a flourish lit the crimson blade; following after her. “No? Yes?...Maybe?”
Explosions erupted around them as they ran through a strafing run by an Eternal Empire fighter, seeming not to notice as they smiled at one another; ducking under a pile of rubble. “The fact that you are still so unsure is cute.” Karolin reached over and rubbed his face with her hand as she smiled. He touched the comm unit on his wrist and looked down at the display as Karolin watched him seeming to ignore her comment. Aldurion didn’t like to be called ‘cute’, even by his wife. Though he did crack a slight smile at her touch. He rubbed the dust off the unit as he watched the display a few more seconds.
“She’s landed. Coming in from…” He peered over the rubble as the Skytroopers approaching them suddenly exploded in a fury of fire and metal. Ducking back down he smiled at Karolin as the shards of debris hit them, “…that direction.”
'The Castle'....Undisclosed Mining Moon near Endor....
There was much to prepare. At least that’s what Beta told V’ictoria as the plan started to take shape. Having recovered most of the data she needed V’ictoria was reconstructing the Alpha Project from scratch. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. When Beta approached her about reentering ‘The Castle’ as a last bastion and resting place of the fallen Alphas, Victoria did him one better. This would be her new repository for the project.
The three of them descended the ramp to the shuttle as Amalgom took the lead and produced a scanner to check for hostiles. It wasn’t so long ago that Arcann kept the place under constant guard after Mrysti’s reemergence from the facility. He shook his head at the other two as they started to walk. There was no one around. It seemed ‘The Castle’ was once again their secret to keep.
All of it came to him in a vision. Beta’s power of foresight was increasing under his Mother’s powerful tutelage. There were things that needed to be done to ensure their survival. Beta as the organizer for the family was the best choice. The fact that all of it was happening at the same time as the annual Life Day Celebration was mere coincidence. He used that as cover to stay behind as everyone else left to go to Voss. Taja, Beta’s newest love interest had returned to Zakuul to foster rebellion. As much as Beta wanted to be in every place at once, finding a new home for the Alpha Project was more important.
As they entered the facility through the destroyed vault door, Beta started making mental notes about what needed to be fixed as they walked. Amalgom was doing the same, moving to the generator station.
“Much work to be done here.”, V’ictoria’s melodic voice resonated in the emptiness as the two men started moving things out of the way and bringing initial power back online. She nodded to herself as she looked around, “Yes…this will do. This will do nicely.”
Jumping through the cloud of debris, Mrysti landed with a reverberating flourish; launching her hand out to unleash a barrage of deadly lightning toward the oncoming Skytroopers. Karolin and Aldurion leapt over the debris they were crouched behind to join her as the three of them corralled the group of droids into a pile and eliminated them.
<“Takin’ a poundin’ up here!!!”> Porchia’s voice cut through the last sounds of Mrysti slicing through the few remaining droids. <”…Don’ know how much more we kin take, ta be honest. Fleets holding out, but the Eternals are reenforcin’…”>
Touching her wrist, Mrysti grimaced her reply. “Just have to hold out long enough for us to find Arcann. We don’t want a full-scale engagement, not yet. We are not ready to face Vaylin full on.”
<”Not gone have much choice I don’ think. Unless ya’ll do sumthin’ down there.”>
Mrysti exchanged glances with Karolin. Slowly, Karolin closed her eyes and reached out in the Force as another army of Skytroopers started to close the distance with them. They waited a moment, Mrysti almost reaching out to break her sister out of her meditation. Karolin looked up at the last second and pointed a different direction.
“The Shrine. We have to get to the Shrine of Healing….”
Desperate situations always called for desperate measures. Unfortunately, just being married, RT was not feeling particularly desperate. At least not yet. He smiled as the assault shuttle streaked by once again, laying down another barrage of deadly fire out to his front. The massing Skytroopers exploding as the blue turbolasers hit and destroyed the ground and the area around them.
“Damn that woman can fly…” He said it mostly to himself, the comm inside of his helmet not open for broadcasting. Porchia was an outstanding pilot, one of the best in the Republic or the Empire for that matter. And she had proved it. Not that RT had a basis for comparison, he didn’t pilot as well as she could; and he was biased. Porchia was not only the love of his life, she was also his wife.
Looking back to his unit, RT touched his head and then made a hand signal to move forward. He stopped almost as suddenly as he started to move, the information scrolling in the ions inside of his helmet.
<CHANGE OF MISSION…VECTOR 817 – CLEARANCE….SHRINE OF HEALING….>
Opening his comm channel to the rest of the squad and his unit he signaled for everyone to stay in place as he sent the change of orders to everyone’s HUD. <“Change of mission, orders coming in on your HUD…rally on me. Heavies to the front and prepare for anti-armor assault.”> RT looked at the red blips in his visor and knew the larger ones were armored units, walkers most likely. He touched the side of his head and sent a confirmation acknowledging his orders before sending a voice message back to the originator.
<”Need some armor support on this Vector.”>
Looking down at her wrist comm again, it chimed an acknowledgement as Mrysti heard RT’s voice follow close behind.
<“Need some armor support on this Vector.”>
Karolin and Aldurion were already moving toward the Shrine as Mrysti smiled and changed the frequency on her wrist comm. “Vander, honey? Did you hear that last request? Can you do our young lad a favor and drop some armor on him?”
The voice that came back was full of humor as Mrysti could hear the unbuckling of a seat belt in the background.
<”Do ya one better than tha’, Love…how bout’ I come on down there an join ya….”>
Lying flat on his back and under the power of the healers, Arcann for the first time since his battle with Dremmess was totally powerless. Nearby, his Mother loitered and waited; watching the healers closely as she paced back and forth. Who were these ‘friends’ of his that were coming? She had never met the Alphas, though she had heard much about them. Thexan kept one of them locked away for some time years ago. Rumors had it that he was in love with one of them; the one he kept locked away. Senya didn’t know for sure, she was busy running and hiding by the time word reached her. Her husband wanting her nowhere near either Arcann or Thexan as they scoured the galaxy and took it piece by piece.
It was one of the Alphas that took Arcann’s arm and half of his face. Only Thexan’s intervention at the critical moment saved his brother; only to have Arcann kill him later on. Senya shook her head at the thoughts. How could things have gotten so out of hand? Though she hated Arcann for what he done, she had to do what a Mother could to save her children. What any Mother would have done. As she looked back over at Arcann with sad eyes, she realized that no one would understand. Not after the monster Arcann had become. It was something only a Mother could understand.
Then there was Vaylin. What had she become? What had been done to her that made her so crazed and rageful? She knew the sanitarium was the reason, though she didn’t want to think about it. Her husband had systematically shut Senya out of their lives and then began forging each of the children into his personal weapons. His will to rule the galaxy. Senya had to do what she could to recover all of them from what had been done to them by their father. It was her duty as Mother to right the wrongs of her children and redeem them if she could. Though she was beginning to doubt that she could save Vaylin.
She hoped that whoever was coming would understand that. Otherwise, she would have to fight to the death to protect him.
As the seatbelt unbuckled, Vander’s smile was already threatening to overtake the rest of his weather-beaten features. He had given up a lot when he sided with Mrysti so long ago, that fateful day on Hutta seemed like yesterday to him. There was never a regret in his decision to leave the Republic. Even then he could see what was coming on the horizon. Something ugly, something sinister. The military was in danger of becoming a pawn to the bureaucracy. Governor Sareesh, fresh off successfully terraforming Taris into a more stable Republic Colony was using that success to elevate herself in the echelons of the Republic Political arena. Not many people knew her personally, but Vander did. He worked with her, he and his team of Commandos working diligently to undermine the Sith Empire’s efforts to stop the Republic on Taris.
At the time, Vander believed it was just another warfront. The Republic and the Sith at odds with one another because of ideology. Just another planet where the two factions opposed one another. There was no deeper meaning to it, not to Vander. The Sith reasoning didn’t matter to him. He was a Soldier, fighting his Republic’s enemies was his sworn duty. Vander Kell never considered there were deeper issues involved with Taris and never asked the question, why. Why did the Sith even care about Taris? Though the history of the planet was well known, the Jedi Civil War which resulted in the planet being decimated by the then self-proclaimed Sith Lord Darth Malak. Vander never questioned the reasoning behind the Republic’s actions; just another Republic world the Sith needed to remain either neutral or in Sith control.
It wasn’t until he was trapped in a portion of the Endar Spire during a mission that the questions finally came to light. Alongside of a Sith Warrior, Vander had to work with his enemy to escape the deathtrap they both fell into. During that forty-eight-hour period, he gained a respect for the Sith who he knew would betray him the first chance he got. There was no love lost between them; though they knew neither one of them would escape if they did not work together. In the end and during a brief pause in their efforts to escape the wreckage, Vander asked the question. What he got in return was a wicked laugh.
“That’s one of the things that separate you and I, Commander…I know why I fight; you do not…”
It was an answer that Vander didn’t want to hear, didn’t need to hear and it shook his resolve to his very core. There was no political objective on the part of the Sith, no hidden agenda. They wanted Taris to remain uninhabited because of what the Jedi had done during their Civil War. It was a time when the True Sith were absent from the galaxy and the Jedi decided; in the Sith’s estimation, that they needed an enemy to fight. So they fought one another, one deluded Jedi deciding that he was above the others and another who would also fall to the same spell. The Sith wanted no part of Taris associated with their history. They wanted the planet and the story to remain hidden and forgotten forever.
“If we HAD destroyed Taris, do you really think that we would be here now? If WE had destroyed Taris, there wouldn’t BE a Taris left to fight over. This is entirely the Republic’s plan to associate the devastation and delusion of Taris with us. When we as a culture and a people, had nothing to do with it.”
It was farfetched and entirely too simple. Almost laughable when Vander first heard it as he looked at the Sith incredulously. But the Warrior was entirely serious. There was no other goal than to preserve their history and Vander could hardly believe that for the first time he was doubting himself. Further proof came when Sareesh and a team of Commandos rescued him and executed his Sith partner in front of his eyes. To once again bury the truth. Had Sareesh been alone, he believed he too would have been killed. Only the presence of other soldiers spared him and looking into Sareesh’s eyes, he knew what the Sith Warrior told him was true, a fact further verified by Sareesh’s own words.
“You are not to speak of this ever, under the pain of death. Not a physical death Commander, but a death I would exact from you personally. I could destroy you in the political arena, take from you that what you most cherish; your men.”
It wasn’t until Sareesh was elevated to Supreme Chancellor that he knew his days in the Republic were almost over. From the very beginning, her lust for conquest, her desire to destroy everything about the Sith were in keeping with the subterfuge of Taris. Not that Vander had any love for the Sith Empire, but he did begin to question the Republic’s motives. He even thought of presenting what he knew of Taris to some very sympathetic Senators in order to stop the Chancellor, but in the end, gave up on it. Even when he was reassigned to Coruscant and the Ministry of Defense; he knew it was all a plan by Sareesh to keep him and anyone else who knew the truth close to her. The old adage; ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ echoing in his mind.
It was during that time that he first encountered the woman who would eventually become the mother of his child. The Sith Lord, Mrysti Alpha. On a date with her sister and on the Republic home world illegally; both sisters were just out to do a little partying together. Vander, drowning his depression at a local bistro encountered both sisters after an all-night bender. There was something about her, even then. She had a presence and it had nothing to do with her being unusually tall or muscular. That fact made her stick out in a room.
Vander never believed that the Force controlled someone’s destiny. He believed in it because he had seen it work. But looking in her eyes he knew that there was something speaking to him, that somehow, someway the two of them would meet again. That something in the Force was directing him toward her for some larger purpose. He shook off the feeling, even when they exchanged names and spoke only briefly. He knew he would see her again.
It wasn’t until he was back on the frontline that he realized whom he met that night. The literal, ‘Hammer of the Sith Empire’ had walked into a local bistro on Coruscant; flirted with him and smiled. Walking out of his life again and one of the galaxies most hated enemies, he had to question his own loyalty. But when the call came and he found out this same person was forming an alliance to fight a threat to the galaxy, he thought about the Sith Warrior and all that happened on Taris. With the direction of the Republic going sideways, it was not a hard decision. Vander Kell walked out on the Republic and walked into his destiny.
As he buckled the seatbelt after sitting down at the command console of his walker, he smiled. How strange the galaxy turned. He definitely didn’t see this for himself so many years before. Now, there was absolutely no other place he would rather be. Vander Kell was once again on the frontline of a much greater conflict, fighting for something he could believe in. And it wasn’t just the galaxy or the Republic, it was the woman he loved and the daughter he cherished. Vander Kell was a man with a mission and that reason called him to join her on the surface; a call he was very eager to answer.
<“Tighten up lads!!! We drop in five….goin’ in hot. Time to take tha figh’ back ta tha Zaks….an let them kno’…this ain’t their galaxy, this is ours!!!”>
-- <”The Eternals are massing on the approach…”> RT touched his helmet as he spoke into it. To his front, he could see the endless sea of a mixed army. Walkers, legions of Skytroopers; the automated machines which made the bulk of the Eternal Empire’s forces, all of them begin led by a singular legion of Zakuul Knights. This was not going to be easy. He glanced skyward before pushing off the rubble he was crouched next to. A battle had already been fought in this spot, at the onset of the attack by the Eternal Fleet, but then it was just orbital bombardment. Vaylin obviously didn’t know where she was going. Now the Army to his front obviously knew their objectives.
Looking skyward, RT had halted his team and called on the follow-on force to stay in place. Where was the armor he requested? There was no way he was doing a frontal assault on the Shrine without that support. There were simply too many Eternal Empire walkers out there. He could feel the restlessness in his forces. Though he was more than just the Commando leader of his own team, he loathed to also be in command of so many other portions of ‘The Coalition’ army just due to his proximity to them. Porchia was busy flying and doing her thing, even as a General in ‘The Coalition’ his wife’s place was in the air and RT knew that. Mrysti and Karolin were busy making their way toward him, but the battle would be underway by the time they arrived. That left him to take command until Mrysti could arrive. Not a position he ever thought he would be in. He grimaced at the thought, but a smile quickly started to crease his concerned features as the voice of one Vander Kell broke squelch on his frequency.
<“Someone call fer a wreckin’ crew?”>
As the walkers landed, RT’s eyes got wide. A series of modifications had been done on the Mandalorian Basilisk War Droids. Under Vander Kell’s keen oversight, the droids barely looked like a standard Mandalorian piece of war equipment. They were larger, bristled with more rocket pods and bore two large cannons on two arms instead of the medium cannons on four. Gone was the tail, used for stability and offensive ‘swiping’ capability. The claws were replaced by the cannons, Vander was definitely going for a ranged attack, instead of the up close and personal way the Mandalorians took to their enemies. But, the Eternal Empire was a different kind of enemy, full of Force Users and long range turbolasers. It was one of the reasons the Mandalorians had been playing defense the last few years. In addition to fighting an enemy with the capability they lost against in fighting the Jedi many decades before; they were fighting an automated enemy. An enemy with range capability and a rapid-deployment mind-set. The Eternal Empire could put walkers and skytroopers anywhere at anytime and at a moment’s notice.
The Mandalorians could have learned a thing or two from the large monstrosities that now walked past RT and his Commandos. Vander was on the cutting edge of innovation, hard to believe from RT’s stand point in knowing the man. That the gruff, cigar smoking, ginger-headed Commander; who was so fond of laying down his blaster rifle and jumping into the enemy with Vibrohammer in hand would take such an approach to warfare. It showed that even Vander could see the need for change and change he did. RT touched the side of his helmet, a slight laugh emanating from within.
<”Yes, Sir…General Sir. You are right on time. I was about to start without you.”>
<”Gimme a minute with tha Eternal Lads down ‘ere…boyo. I’ll clear ya a path. ‘Hammer’ Squad…’Vee’ formation, on my walker….in tha lead, rear echelons…show em’ wha we brough’ fer em…”>
On his command the rear walkers already forming up behind Vander’s lead walker stopped and deployed rear struts with dug into the ground with a vibrating ‘BOOM’ sound. They stayed in place as the other ten Walkers began to spread out their ‘Vee’ formation. The rear walkers already winding up their cannons with the high-pitched whine of collecting energy. The ‘Boom’ from the arm mounted heavy cannons were louder than the struts as the rear support walkers targeted the furthest Eternal Empire walkers and started working their way toward the enemy at Vander’s front. Already his ‘Hammer’ force living up their namesake as they returned and smashed fire through the skytrooper front and middle lines. It was hard to believe that anything could survive through that onslaught.
Waving his hand, RT knew that even ship mounted turbolasers on walkers would miss some of the Eternal Empire’s forces as he began to see skytroopers with rocket packs and shields land in the center of the battlefield and begin to target Vander. For a moment, watching Vander and his walkers making quick work of the Eternal Empire; he thought Vander might win the battle all by himself. It turned out they would have a job after all. RT smiled to himself as they came up over the hilltop and into the fray.
<”Coalition Forces…commence ground assault. General Kell is in the lead….protect the walkers.”>
On the other end of the battlefield, it was unusually quiet. No doubt because of Vander’s arrival and the Eternal Empire Commanders turning their focus his and RT’s direction. Mrysti took a look at her wrist mounted data system and memorized a quick layout of the battle taking place in front of the Shrine. There was no time to think about what was going on. She had a mission and as much as she wanted to think about who was down there and what they were doing, she couldn’t think about Vander. Didn’t want to imagine that he was the one leading it, even though in the back of her mind she knew there was no other place he would be.
She deactivated the comm system and started down the hillside on the opposite end of the field, taking her saber back off her belt and holding the hilt; not activating it. If this was a distraction mission or a decoy assignment; Vander was passing with flying colors. Looking over the battle field at the explosions and chaos ensuing below her she knew it was much more. This was the culmination of forty-eight hours of planetary conquest. Both armies moving over the surface of Voss, taking positions, destroying the planet, limiting access. This could very well be the last battle of the invasion and she wondered if anyone on either side had realized that yet. It reminded her of Korriban and what she saw when they first arrived. The Sith committing their forces to a narrow access with no idea of what was coming. The Eternal Empire landed reinforcements non-stop and increased their numbers ten-fold. Something the Sith didn’t account for, the Eternal Empire at that time being a new enemy and the Sith having no idea of their capability. It was time for change and the Coalition adjusted to the Eternals way of battle. They too could now be in multiple places at once and deploy their forces to a position in a moment’s notice.
Mrysti scoffed a laugh, oh how things had changed in the few years since the beginning. How they had adapted to a new enemy, absorbed and used the Eternal Empire’s way of battle against them. It was why she thought about it being the last battle of Voss. Did either command have any idea how quickly both factions committed everything to the defense and capture of the Shrine. It, for the moment, had become the center of the universe. And it was all due to what Vaylin and Mrysti wanted. Perhaps, the Commanders didn’t know, but Mrysti and Vaylin did. The fact that both armies converged on each other in front of the one reason Vaylin came to Voss was a mere happenstance to what was about to take place. As she skirted the battlefield and made her way to the Shrine, she said a prayer in the Force and to her own ancestors that those giving their lives for an objective they had no idea about would pass into the Force peacefully. Though she doubted if Arcann deserved the sacrifice either force was giving him.
Vaylin really didn’t want to do this. Large scale battles were better left to droids and Generals. She had no wish to sully her hands with this personally. Not having cornered her Mother and her Brother in one location, easily bombarded from orbit. But the situation dictated a more hands on approach, much like she used on Ord Mantell the last time she encountered her Mother. There was nowhere left for them to hide, no more ‘loyal’ Zakuul forces to protect them both. Vaylin had wiped all of them out. The arrival of the ‘Coalition’ changed things a bit. An old enemy, one she had failed to eliminate had finally shown its head again. This time Vaylin was going to do it right, this time she was much more powerful than she was the last time they faced one another. This time Vaylin was going to do more than blind Karolin, she was going to kill her slowly and in front of her sister so Mrysti could watch every agonizing moment.
The lander set down in the rear of the Shrine and out of the way. The back part of the Shrine of Healing was a drop off, a Cliffside that allowed no easy approach. And as Vaylin disembarked and looked up at the massive cliff that stood before her she grimaced. To approach from the front or to the side would put her in the midst of her forces and delay her objectives. Vaylin didn’t have time for that, not with both sisters approaching.
Sadly, Vaylin realized she had run out of time, unless she delayed them somehow. By all accounts both armies were now fighting on even footing. The Eternal Fleet decimated or under the control of its personal GEMINI unit, delayed response time. There was little coordination in the fleet. The ground forces were now on even terms, with Sith, Mandalorian and Republic forces joining the ‘Coalitions’ cause; not to mention the combined force of literally hundreds of various resistance groups across the galaxy.
Vaylin’s head went up suddenly as she caught a sense of one of them, her mouth twisting into a scowl. Mrysti was on the other side, passing right through the battle field. Karolin was not far behind. She turned with a flourish and re-entered her shuttle taking out her holo-device. All she needed was some time, perhaps goading them would buy her the time she needed to complete her conquest and decimate the Shrine of Healing into literal atoms.
Once a pearl of the galaxy, the Shrine of Healing was in shambles. Walls fell inward and fire encircled the once ancient stone carvings that adorned every inch of the temple. Smoke obscured Mrysti’s vision as she moved from one hall to the next, jumping over debris and climbing over fallen walls to get toward the rear of the temple. As she entered the main foyer it’s expanse seemed smaller with the fire in every corner and the thick smoke that loomed overhead. How far the temple had fallen and it would get worse as Vaylin pounded the hearty structure to try and destroy what was inside. Karolin moved up and over a wall as Aldurion jumped to the other side and gave her his hand to help her down. She didn’t need it; the move was more for gestures sake as they smiled at one another, Karolin mouthing ‘thank you’ as she took the hand and stepped down. They came up alongside Mrysti as the three of them looked up and at the large ray shield which had been hastily erected in from of the healing passage. This is where she would find them and as Mrysti stared at it, Karolin could help but stare at Mrysti; a slight frown coming over her.
“Redemption, Mrysti…I was wrong about Vaylin. But I was right about redemption….” Karolin spoke softly as she reminded her sister as to why they were there. Mrysti looked slightly at Karolin out of the corner of her eye, but only briefly as the two of them stood before the ray shield. They waited, both of them knowing that the one who controlled the ray shield from the other side was coming. Both Karolin and Mrysti could sense her.
As the white armored woman appeared and stood defiantly on the other side, neither side spoke; just staring at one another a long moment. Even in the midst of chaos and with time running out, they needed that time to size one another up. Mrysti finally stepping forward to present herself, making the first move. She put her hands on her hips raising her chin slightly.
“—Darth Retuvisa, yes….I know. Your reputation precedes you Dark Lord.” Senya looked past Mrysti toward Karolin and Aldurion as she turned her eyes back to Mrysti. “I know why you’ve come. And I won’t allow you to harm my Son.”
Mrysti stood her ground, the vibration of constant bombardment and the battle outside echoing through the chamber. She used that to emphasize her point. “It is not I, you should be worried about…but your daughter; if you are in fact…”
“I want to help you Senya…but your Son, he has done unspeakable things. He must be brought to justice.”
The other woman narrowed her eyes at Mrysti. There were lots of things she wanted to say about ‘Justice’. Senya spent her life in its cause. She WAS justice for her people in some ways. And she had seen the ‘Outlander’ versions of justice. Both from the Republic and the Sith Empire. One proclaiming to be on the side of righteousness the other proclaiming the righteous side was weak. Neither one fully aware that they both were wrong. Justice, like beauty; was truly in the eye of the beholder. Senya couldn’t deny that Arcann had done some terrible things. His hand dripped with the blood of billions. But that didn’t make him any less her Son. Something only a Mother would understand.
“If you want to help, as you say…then help me ensure that he is healed. I cannot ask forgiveness for what he’s done; I can’t even ask forgiveness for myself. I left my own resistance group in order to rescue him from himself.” Senya pursed her lips, the echo of explosions getting closer as the army and her daughter closed in from outside the walls. “This shield has to stay up until I can trust you and I can ensure that he is fully purged of his rage. Help me ensure this…hold my daughter off until I can save him. Then I will believe you….”
Mrysti seemed unconvinced, she folded her arms and glared at the woman. She couldn’t know the conflict Mrysti was going through. Behind the ray shield lay the man responsible for her brother’s death. But as she looked in the older woman’s eyes, she saw the look. It reached her on another level and Mrysti instantly thought of Samantha. It was a look only another Mother would understand. Almost as if the Force was speaking to her directly Mrysti’s eyes got wide at the revelation. ‘What would you do, what have you done to ensure Samantha’s survival? There is nothing you wouldn't do’. Mrysti could see that Senya and herself were not so different. And if the boot was over the other foot, it could very well have been Mrysti asking for someone else help in keeping Samantha safe. Senya couldn’t do it alone, Mrysti could see the pain in the woman’s eyes at even having to ask for help.
Reluctantly Mrysti nodded and looked down at the ground as Senya turned and ran back the other way. Back to where her Son lay. The roof of the grand foyer caved in as Skytroopers and Eternal Empire commandos began dropping in with rocket packs. Already their weapons trained on the heroes as Karolin activated her saber and stepped over the rubble to get out front. She cast her hand out and projected the Force to protect them, the first blaster bolts splashing off the protective barrier she was projecting.
“You made the right decision Mrysti…and it was your decision to make.” Karolin spoke as she leaned into her barrier and pushed more of her power into it, giving her sister a side long look, “You were the only one who could make it. Only a Mother would understand.” Mrysti twirled her saber, glancing at her sister reluctantly. Saying nothing she grimaced, hoping she had made the right decision. It went against her nature. Mrysti always the one who made the hard, often unpopular decisions. Always the one who fought on the side of what she interpreted as the ‘right’. Everything about her wanted to destroy the ray shield and go down into the shrine to kill both Arcann and Senya. As she prepared to jump into the fray, she heard Karolin laugh, “Look at it this way…you are denying Vaylin what she wants. If you killed them both then you do Vaylin’s work for her.”
The healers were stationed in the four cardinal directions surrounding the unconscious Arcann. The directions also represented the elements of Ground, Water, Wind and Fire. They used their power to try and heal Arcann of his wickedness. Many times they got close, but the former Emperor was holding on to something; some bit of rage he refused to let go of. Arcann’s father had forged all of his children into Weapons of his Will. They were tied to his spirit and to the Eternal Throne. Even in the chaos, that Will still existed, even though it had passed to Vaylin as she now controlled the Eternal Throne.
The healers all shook their heads as the echo outside got closer, vibrating the walls around them. Senya bit her nails as she watched, her head coming up from watching her Son as the healers all lowered their hands. “We have done as much as we can, he is tied to something we can not release him from. We lack the power to sever that bond…” One of the healers intoned as the others stepped back.
“NO!!! No….you have to. He must survive, he must be set free of his…”
“We lack the power to sever his bond to the Throne…”
As Senya heard the word, she also heard the Force. Realization came to her. The healers were right, they did lack the power to sever the bond, but their interpretation was wrong. It wasn’t the Throne that was maintaining Arcann’s rage, but his Father. His Father’s spirit, even in that room and with Vaylin closing in Senya could feel it. Vaylin’s proximity made her feel it as if her former husband was standing in the room with her. There was only one who could sever that bond. And it had to be someone who knew Valkorian, someone who knew their children. It wasn’t the Throne that needed to be cast aside, but Valkorian.
All Arcann’s life all he and his brother wanted was their father’s approval. He craved it, craved the acknowledgement that never came, the love that he lacked from a father who only saw him and his brother Thexan as a means to an end. Valkorina fed that need, nurtured it and used their desire for his approval as weapons against them, until eventually it ate one of them up. Senya saw that now, she knew what Valkorian was doing, only saw it too late. Before she lacked the strength to do anything about it. Valkorian seemed so powerful, so much larger than he was. Slowly, Senya lowered her hands. She knew what she had to do. There was only one who could save her Son and it would take the love of a Mother to do it. Stepping forward, she looked at each of the healers in turn.
“Take me…I know what must be done. Allow me to sever that bond for him…”
The numbers continued to pour in. As Mrysti leapt in and spun, slashed and hacked her way through the droids and commandos, she was steeped deep in a bloodlust that clouded her vision. Her mind went blank as she allowed the Force to use her and her power to defeat the numbers in front of them. A blade came down as she landed. The blade nearly cleaving her in two, just before Aldurion blasted the attacker over her shoulder, leaping in right next to her. Mrysti seemed to gain a moment of clarity as she looked at Aldurion. They nodded briefly as Mrysti stepped back toward Karolin.
“There are too many….we need to seal this breach or seal ourselves in!!!” Mrysti glanced back at the ray shield as she spoke, gesturing for Karolin to follow her. “C’mon…get your husband. This way!!!”
Lifting a piece of the roof in the Force, Mrysti hurled it at the Ray Shield controller. The shimmering blue forcefield sparkled and sputtered as it finally deactivated, the three of them running inside. There was lull in the fight as Aldurion used both hands to push back the Skytroopers closest to them in the Force, finally running to join Karolin and Mrysti inside. The three of them stood at the hall’s entrance and looked up at the low ceiling. Without saying anything after glancing at one another, the three of them lifted their hands to the air and started to concentrate on collapsing the entrance. It vibrated and shook as all concentrated in the Force to collapse the only way in or out from that side. The other entrance on the side of the cliff, where Vaylin waited patiently.
As the hall collapsed, Mrysti was already turning to run the opposite way.
As the healers turned their attention to strengthening Senya’s bond in the Living Force, something the users of the Force from Zakuul were not attuned to, she closed her eyes. The rush of power as she felt herself flow out and into the unconscious stream of the Living Force. There was light and a rush of darkness, Senya had arrived in the battlefield that was her Son’s mind. There waiting on her was Valkorian. They were back in the Throne room, Valkorian standing in front of the throne and at his feet lay the bodies of his three children; her children.
“You must know there is no way to stop this Senya…Arcann belongs to me. If you let him go, I make you this promise…I will allow you to live. Even in the new universe I am constructing…”
Senya ran to Arcann in her mind. She glanced at the body of her other Son, Thexan. It was too late for him, she could feel that Valkorian had already absorbed his power. That was the Sith Emperor’s plan all along and no one had seen it. As Senya rolled Arcann over she cupped his face in her hands. He looked as she remembered him, before the bomb set by the primary Alpha had damaged him to the point of using cybernetics. Valkorian laughed as Senya looked down on her Son sadly.
“Arcann listen to me…you are stronger than this. You are. Come back to me, release this anger you have for your Father and return home.” Senya glanced up at the Sith Emperor as she continued to speak to her Son, “He has no hold over you…” She looked back down at him, “…and, I Love you. You don’t need his love. You have mine.”
Outwardly, both Senya and Arcann’s body jerked in the physical realm. Unseen by the healers who were concentrating on Senya’s bond in the Force and in holding Valkorian at bay. He had no power on Voss, he never did. Even on the one occasion that Valkorian had chosen to assume the body of a Voss mystic. The Voss power of foresight and their connection to the living Force was too strong for even an entity as powerful as the Sith Emperor to overcome. It was why Senya brought Arcann to this place, it was why the Force led her there. The healers all tightened their hands as they focused their power, something shifted as Arcann’s body lifted in its slumber. Together, speaking in unison the healers all spoke loudly.
“The sacrifice…has been made.”
Mrysti sent her saber through the wall and into the panel on the other side. The second ray shield deactivated as she entered another spacious foyer. The healers had all fallen to the ground and were just recovering from their ordeal as Mrysti ran to the body slumped over to the side of a Voss meditation couch. As she touched Senya and the body lulled over to fall fully onto the floor, Mrysti pulled her hand back in shock. Senya was dead and Arcann was gone.
“Standard Orbit…bring the Harrowers into a standard attack pattern. Clear this orbital corridor and signal the resistance….”
As the Sith Battle Fleet jumped into Voss orbit, it caught the Eternal Fleet by surprise, the ships from the Eternal Fleet on that side of the planet catching the turbolasers of Four Harrower class Battleships and eighteen Dreadnaughts. They exploded in sequence as Empress Acina pushed herself up and off the command chair to approach the forward viewport, looking out dispassionately.
“Corridor clear, your highness…”
“Very well, place my voice on planetwide broadcast frequency. I want this message heard by all those who would hear it…” She cleared her throat in a quick clipped rumble of the throat, “To all those in defense of the planet and part of the Resistance, this is Empress Acina; Empress of the Sith Empire. We bring greetings and aid to all those who would have us. We mean you no harm and only wish to work together in coordination for the defense of this sovereign world….”
Mrysti was already at a dead sprint, running in the direction of the Cliffside entrance. It was the only way out of the Shrine and the only way Arcann could have run off to.
<…. To all those in defense of the planet and part of the Resistance, this is Empress Acina; Empress of the Sith Empire. We bring greetings and aid to all those who would have us. We mean you no harm and only wish to work together in coordination for the defense of this sovereign world….>
Hearing the voice come over the wrist comm, Mrysti slowed her pace in shock, but only for a second as she glanced at her wrist. Rounding the corner, she saw the shuttle bearing Eternal Empire markings and the Emperor’s personal seal start to lift off. She made it to the launch pad in time to see Arcann peering down back at her as the ship started a slow turn to move off into the upper atmosphere.
Mrysti rubbed her wrist and shouted into her wrist comm, an open channel for all to hear.
“This is the Commander!!! Arcann is escaping…stop him. I need all air support to zone in one my location and stop that ship….NOW!!!”
Acina put her hand to her face and rubbed her chin softly.
“Voice print identified. It’s Darth Retuvisa, My Lord….”
A wicked smile started to ebb its way onto her features as Acina turned with a flourish and made her way back to her Command Chair.
“Do as she says…zone in on her location. We don’t want to keep her waiting…”
Vaylin could sense her brother leaving and scoffed loudly looking up the cliff side. She was about to order her forces to follow as it hit her, something strong in the Force. A wave almost as powerful the day Thexan died. Vaylin felt her Mother’s presence pass through her as she left the mortal world and passed into the Living Force. Senya was dead. Vaylin placed her hand to her head and lost concentration a moment. She left weak as she leaned on the side of the ship and extended a hand for stability.
There would be another time, she knew her brother was no longer on Voss and at the moment she won a small victory for herself. Her invasion of Voss was to rid herself of her Mother and her Brother. For the moment, she would take the loss of Mother as a personal victory; one she created herself. By pushing them into a corner, Senya had sacrificed herself for Arcann.
Vaylin sneered, certain that Senya would have done no such thing for her. There would be another time and Arcann would wait, as would the Alphas. Voss was now insignificant as Vaylin stood up straighter, shaking off the weakness that came about with the passing of her Mother.
“Gather my forces…sound a full retreat. Voss is no longer an issue….”
As Karolin and Aldurion made it to the landing pad after fighting off the last of the skytroopers who made it into the inner sanctum; they both stopped abruptly at the troopers standing before them. Black armor and blaster rifles raised their direction. A white uniformed officer stepped forward motioning for the troopers to lower their rifles.
“Jedi Master Karolin Alpha, I presume…I am Admiral Yelchin; Commander of the Sith Fleet and attaché to Empress Acina.”, Already Karolin was getting a sense that she wasn’t going to like what was about to take place. She laid a hand on Aldurion’s saber arm to motion for him to lower his blade. Karolin got straight to the point after glancing around and not seeing her sister. The Admiral gave a faux smile as he bowed slightly, finishing the question Karolin was about to ask, “Darth Retuvisa has been taken into custody by the Sith Empire…the Empress wishes to see her.”
“Custody? Since when does the Empire take anyone into ‘custody’ just to see someone?” Aldurion asked it as he stepped in between Karolin and the Admiral.
“Very good point…I won’t lie to you. There is little need for that. Darth Retuvisa is under suspicion of treason against the Sith Empire. The charge of Heresy I believe…who understands such things? I certainly don’t. The Sith…and their rules. It’s all very vague to m—“ His words were cut off as Karolin stepped around her husband, raising her hand to lock the Admiral in a Force Choke lifting him off the ground. The blaster rifles of the troopers immediately coming back up with the whine of power cells to level against Karolin and Aldurion as the Admiral struggled for air.
What started as a roar ended with the whimpering sounds of the survivors. Voss was stunned by the brutality shown to it. Equally stunned by those who turned up in its defense. Former adversaries, newcomers from all corners of the galaxy all in one location to oppose the Eternal Empire. After their departure, the usually stoic Voss in an unlikely move chose to hold the summit in the remnants of the Voss capital building, where the ‘Three’ once held court over all Voss decisions involving society. That society was smashed now and Voss serving throughout the galaxy in various resistance organizations within the Republic and Empire now held sway over decisions the ‘Three’ would have normally had say so on.
Karolin had good relations with the Voss. Even with some of her Voss allies vouching for her and her sister’s ability to have seen all of this coming; Karolin and ‘The Coalition’ had more of a voice than other organizations. Just by virtue of having seen this years before when no one else did. That held a special place in the hearts of the Voss who held up their ‘seers’ as the makers of society. There was no greater vision than one of the future. And it was a future which Mrysti and Karolin saw.
As they all sat around the table, Karolin could not keep her eyes off the Imperial delegation who also kept looking her direction. There was an Nerf in the room and it was bigger than the ginger haired General who brooded in the corner refusing to sit. Karolin spoke to Vander after Empress Acina departed for Dromand Kaas with Mrysti onboard her ship. It was everything Karolin could do to stop Vander from turning the Coalition Fleet on the Sith. If Vander had it his way, ‘The Coaltion’ would now be at war with the Sith Empire. But as Karolin put it, ‘The Coalition’ was bigger than one person, even its Commander and Founder, Mrysti Alpha.
No one really heard what was going on as the Voss talked. Subjects ranging from reconstruction of not only the government but the planet itself. These were big issues, bigger than the people who sat in attendance to lend their support. And all those in attendance were there for that support, but the Nerf in the room wouldn’t let Karolin or the Sith listen. Something else had to be dealt with first and it was only a matter of time before that came to the surface. “The Sith Empire is more than willing to help in that regard…” The Sith Ambassador stood and offered a friendly bow to the Voss which was addressing the table. The subject was government reconstitution. “Many Voss allied with the Empire have already returned to Voss in hopes to lend their aid and the Empire will graciously lend that support to Voss in regards to seeing your government reconstituted; with minimal influence of course…Empress Acina has no wish to return to the days of old.”
That was enough, or maybe it was just enough. The phrase ‘Days of Old’ spurring Vander into action as he pushed off the wall, ending his brooding. “Ya say tha…but how can ye proclaim minimal influence when ya jus’ took one ‘a the resistance commanders ‘a by far THA BIGGEST resistance unit in tha galaxy inta custody. Answer meh tha’?!?!” All eyes including those of the Voss turned to the Sith delegation as the ambassador smiled pleasantly.
“We are not here to discuss our internal politics, but rather to discuss the future of Voss. If you would like to have a sidebar conversation about this after, I would be more than happy to—“ Karolin slapped her hands on the table rising slowly, interrupting the ambassador as he spoke. The room fell silent. Thus was the regard in which the Voss held one of the galaxies greatest ‘seers’. Even the Sith Ambassador sat slowly as she rose, her red eyes boring into the Pureblood diplomat.
“But we ARE here to discuss it. My sister was one of the primary architects of this resistance you speak of. The Empire wouldn’t even have any Voss dissidents if it wasn’t for her. She saw this, even before me… she saw.” Karolin made sure to look at the Voss watching her as she spoke to emphasize the importance of her sister. It was after all the Voss’ summit and no conversation could be held about what the Sith had done in taking her sister if the Voss didn’t agree. “The Coalition stands ready to assist the Voss in every way possible, but we doubt the Sith’s words if they cannot even speak to their reasoning behind talking one of the galaxies greatest architects of the resistance into custody. No further discussion can be made on OUR part until the Sith address this.”
Heads were nodding as the Voss listened and then agreed with Karolin’s very formal words, there was no trace of her usual Southern Corellian twang as she used her diplomatic voice to make her words sharp and to the point. The Sith delegation rose from their chairs and bowed graciously as the Pureblood diplomat looked at various people in attendance, especially Karolin.
“We hear your words, Commander. I will speak with our Empress and see that you are given an audience in order to address your grievances.”
Dromund Kaas....Sith Citadel....
The former Dark Council chamber had been transformed under Empress Acina’s watch. It had been years since Mrysti had seen the inside of the Council chamber. Her last visit was to humble herself in front of a then Darth Marr led Council in asking that she be given her Command back. As she walked the hall into the chamber looking around, she scowled at how bright the chamber had become. Windows now adorned the upper terrace. And where each council chair once stood in the circular chamber, computer terminals and stations now adorned what had become Empress Acina’s ‘Throne Room’.
Though Mrysti was in chains and under guard, very little had been said to the Former ‘Hammer of the Empire’. She could sense a reverence from her former allies. The guards kept her at a distance and even under guard treated her gently. She spoke very little and they in turn spoke very little to her. Making their point clear at her capture, the Sith wanted her for some reason and though the reason wasn’t good, she had yet to actually see Acina. Taken at the point of a dozen blaster rifles, Mrysti was being led to her first meeting with her captor. This was not going to go the way Acina planned it would.
Stopping in the center of the circular room, Mrysti raised her chin and looked up at the throne scoffing slightly at the visage which sat in the overly large chair. Acina looked down on Mrysti with as much contempt as she was given both women looking at one another a long moment before any movement came from either woman. Mrysti knew Acina only in passing. Just another Dark Lord on the Dark Council. She didn’t even know what Sphere of Influence Acina was in charge of, that was how important Mrysti thought she was. Acina was no Marr and she was definitely not the Sith Emperor, who everyone knew by now was responsible for creating the Eternal Empire.
“Darth Retuvisa…the ‘Hammer’ of the Empire. I want to thank you for joining me, you have ignored my summons repeatedly. It seems in chains was the only way to get you here….” Acina waved her hand lazily as it came off one of the throne’s armrests. Mrysti shackles fell off loudly hitting the floor in front of her.
“…’Darth’ Acina…” Mrysti purposefully refused to address her as ‘Empress’ as she spoke with an edge to her voice. Her right hand rubbing the wrist of her left, “…I was a bit busy, you know…fighting for galactic freedom…defending the common ‘good’….”
Acina scowled at Mrysti’s lack of decorum in not addressing her properly, but said nothing. Both of them were from the old regime, fellow Dark Lords of a similar rank, before the Eternal Empire. There was a strange silence in the room as those in attendance, either seeing to the various parts of the Empire on their terminals or trying hard to look busy during the very awkward audience. Acina rose slowly from her throne and waved her hand again. “Leave us…I wish to speak to Darth Retuvisa alone….”
Both women stared one another down as the room emptied, the last individual out closing the massive throne room doors behind them with a loud ‘clank’ of closing metal. Acina seemed to relax once they were alone, but it was Mrysti who spoke first; to purposefully control the conversation.
“Why have you brought me here?”
Acina smiled wickedly as she descended the stairs to the throne. “Oh, I think I’ve made my intentions very clear; to place you under arrest of course. Did you really think we would allow you to ‘leave’ the Sith? What kind of ruler would I be if I allowed one of our Dark Lords to simply declare they were leaving the Order and then running about the galaxy doing…how shall I put this…” Acina stopped and looked up at Mrysti with a glare; placing her hands on her hips. “…what she ought to be doing in the NAME of the Empire.”
There was another silence as the two looked at one another. Mrysti folded her arms over her massive chest and smiled wickedly, “So that’s what this is about? You haven’t been very successful as an Empire and I have. So you wish to claim my glory as your own.” Acina didn’t answer, instead moving off to the side of the throne. Very gently, she pressed a panel as a table extended out from part of the throne base recessing to reveal a hidden bar counter. Mrysti leisurely followed the ‘Empress’ as the other woman began to make herself a drink.
“Corellian Brandy, if I recall….isn’t that right?” Acina handed Mrysti the glass as she poured one for herself, leaning her back against the counter after she finished. “You’ve been too long away from your own kind. Your Master is very disappointed with your lack of gratitude for what you’ve been given.” Mrysti watched the woman as she took a sip of the drink and let it burn down her throat, “To even begin to describe our dismay at your requesting Republic asylum, not to mention requesting to be made a Republic citizen…you have no idea how many calls I had to take requesting your extradition. There is even talk of execution….”
“I thought this was the NEW Empire…” Mrysti took another sip as Acina held her glass gingerly. There was a point to be made, but Acina had to build to it. Mrysti was way too familiar with how all of their minds worked.
“It is.” Acina put the glass down hard on the counter without even taking the first drink of it. “But you…are the ‘Hammer of the Empire’. To defect, after creating your ‘Coalition’. We were going to leave well enough alone when you went off on your own to form your alliance with your sister, we were even going to turn a blind eye to your not invoking the Sith Empire in your victories; out of respect for your sacrifice on Korriban….” Acina let that sit a moment as Mrysti’s eyes came up to lock on her at the mention of Korriban. “But…to request asylum from the Republic after denouncing your heritage that’s—“
‘The Sith are NOT my heritage. It is a byproduct of an unfortunate set of circumstances….”
Being well aware of Mrysti’s history, she looked down. “I know…and that you have reconnected with your Mirialan ancestry is admirable. But YOU ARE Sith….regardless if you think so or not.”
“Not.” Mrysti sat the glass down next to Acina’s after finishing the contents, “The Force has led me in a new direction. I am no longer tied to the Sith, I can’t be and be allowed to accomplish what it is I am destined to do.” Mrysti turned away and that brought Acina off the bar counter.
“We are not some pirate organization or club you can just depart without so much as a ‘by your leave’!!! This is the Sith Empire, we do not forgive….and we do not forget! You owe your allegiance to us and only US!”
Mrysti turned back toward Acina, her shadow now cast large and over the much smaller ‘Empress’. “No one owns me. Any debt I owed to the Sith I paid in blood years ago. This is about the Empire’s defeats since the emergence of the Eternal Empire, the Empire’s vanity and ego. Nothing more!”
Smiling wickedly at the statement, Acina folded her arms over her chest. "Nevertheless, you are a Dark Lord of the Sith and therefore subject to the code and the jurisdiction of your Sphere.” Acina conveniently left off the part about being subject to her own jurisdiction as Sith Empress. But she didn’t want to push the ‘Empire’s Hammer’ too hard; she did release her from her shackles after all. Acina was still looking up at the enormous Mirialan, who dwarfed the diminutive Acina by feet instead of inches.
“Your jurisdiction died with Marr!!! His influence no longer controls me, nor does that Sphere…”
“The Sphere of Military Offence still exists….” Acina lowered her voice her tone getting softer as she made her way back to the throne steps. She waited until she got to the top of the stairs and sat back in her throne before continuing, “I was going to offer you that Sphere…in hopes that you would renounce your ties to the Republic and make amends for your dereliction during this troubling time. All can be forgiven…war makes for hard choices and sometimes difficult decisions. You were under duress, no one would think differently of you if you were to undergo the Ritual of Atonement and beg forgiveness for your crimes.”
Mrysti eyes got wide, she nearly laughed but held it in as it came out in a scoff, “Crimes?!?! What crimes?!?! I have done nothing against the Empire since forming my ‘Coalition’ if anything I have helped your cause, you said it yourself. We sacrificed at Korriban—“
“-- Precisely my point, you have already given so much to the Empire. Why not do it in the Empire’s name? You are the HAMMER of the Empire, Mrysti…” Acina purposefully used her true name as she leaned forward in the large throne. “…imagine the fear in our enemies when they learn that THE Hammer is now in charge of our offensive Sphere.”
“And all of this can be mine if only I atone for something I have not done and beg forgiveness for a crime I have not committed?”
Acina said nothing as both women looked at one another. Moving to the center of the room, Mrysti bent slowly and picked up the chains holding them in her hand to look at them in silence. The Sith code taught the Sith to ‘break their chains’ and Mrysti had done that, with everything. There was no way she was going to put those shackles back on again. There was too much at stake. Turning to face Acina, Mrysti held out the shackles and smiled wickedly.
“You don’t know my sister…she is a lot like me. Only much more prone to emotion than I am. You better put these back on me, Empress Acina and lock me away where she will never find me. For when she does….she will free me and anyone who gets in her way will pay a heavy price..."
As the comm system clicked on, Porchia was monitoring the navigational computer preparing to set the fleet on course for Dromund Kaas. Karolin was not going to wait on an ‘audience’ with the Sith Empress. She was going to get her sister now. No one was in disagreement. Not one person serving in the ‘Coalition’ was against it. Everyone wanted their leader back.
<…Stand by for a message from the Former Supreme Chancellor of the Republic…>
Porchia and every other eye on the bridge turned to the holo-field as Saresh’s image rezzed into existence.
<…twenty hours ago, I was authorized by an overwhelming vote in the Senate and with the urgency of the Supreme Chancellor to form a special coalition. This coalition will be comprised of the Resistance groups spread throughout the galaxy. For so long, you all have fought the Eternal Empire alone; without support from your respective governments. That ends today. It is my honor and privilege to announce that with my leadership, we will bring all of the resistance units under one umbrella. No longer will you fight alone, no longer will you take the battle to the Zakuul without the backing of your government.
If you are receiving this, you are now under the Command of the Republic Military. All resistance units have twelve hours to send acknowledgement back to the Republic and fall to command. Welcome back to the Galactic Republic….and May the Force be with us All….>
As the image derezzed, there was an uproar on the bridge as various officers and Soldiers began to argue and talk back to one another. This was an unprecedented moment. For the first time, the Republic was acknowledging the resistance, meaning they were officially joining the war. Porchia folded her arms over her chest and glared at the fading light of the holo-comm. This couldn’t have come at a worse time, with the fleet preparing to depart for Dromund Kaas.
But Porchia knew better, this was Saresh trying to make a name for herself and at the same time openly subvert the leadership of ‘The Coalition’. As she considered the facts another message started to come across the holo-system. This time it was Saresh personally. As the image rezzed into existence, Porchia was the face there to greet her.
<…Porchia. Is Master Alpha or Darth Retuvisa available?>
Saresh knew well that Porchia was a General in her organization, but purposefully chose to ignore it. Smiling falsely, Porchia looked up at the image and scoffed.
“Naw…none ‘a them. But if you got business with us, you kin take it up with me.”
<…Fine. I expect your unit to be in Coruscant orbit within twelve hours. Have both Master Alpha and Darth Retuvisa report to me at the Ministry of Defense upon their arrival.>
Porchia shook her head.
“Negative, bitch…this here AIN’T yer outfit. It belongs to us.”
<...Have it your way…but if I don’t see ‘Coalition’ leadership in twelve hours then you become an enemy of the state. There will be no further military action against the Zakuul without Republic authorization.>
Porchia leaned in close to the image, “Oh…yer gonna see sumthin’ in twelve hours. ‘Member when I told ya you should’a stayed on the city council…yer about ta wish you woulda took my advice…”
<…Childish threats, from a child. I expected as much. I am taking command of all of these rogue elements. Your two aunts are not fit to lead this resistance. They will comply or all of you will pay the price…>
Samantha was almost used to hearing the tiny voice talk to herself. Often she would sit by and just allow her younger self to converse with the Holocron, without a thought of stopping her. It was strange how ‘grown-up’ Samantha sounded when she conversed with the Holocron, always alert, always attentive and always asking big questions of the triangular device. Now, the elder Samantha realized who it was on the other end of the Holocron. And even though she had never directly spoken to 'Timothy' she knew that Timothy was Arcann. And in the last few days, conversations with him had picked up to an alarming degree. So much, that the Elder Samantha was now considering confronting him herself. So far, just listening in, the conversations were innocuous; though on that particular morning things were getting interesting.
They had just finished breakfast and Samantha was thinking of taking the younger Sam out for a walk in the wilds. Not too far from their compound, but enough to experience the magic that was Yavin. All planets held their own special traits, but Yavin was by far the most mysterious. Taking the younger Samantha to Yavin was thought to be a distraction from what would have turned into a time of pacing and worry. Mrysti was still in captivity on Dromund Kaas. And the younger Sam needed to continue her lessons in the Force without the unnecessary burden of worry for their Mother. Though each girl could think of nothing else. As much as the Elder Samantha wanted to go and join Karolin in her mission to retrieve their Mother, she realized the bigger responsibility was to her younger ‘sister’. Samantha after all was to be the savior of the De’nabre line and in order to fulfill that destiny, she would need proper guidance.
As she leaned on the stone slab just outside the atrium, the elder Sam listened in on the morning’s conversation between her little ‘sister’ and Arcann. He had become very inquisitive on that particular morning asking lots of questions about their Mother as well as getting some rather pointed questions back about his own Mother. It always made the Elder Samantha smile to hear her younger self talk back to someone. Youngsters often had very little filter on what they said; often speaking exactly what was on their minds. Samantha had not yet learned that some things were better left unsaid or as unspoken questions. But as Arcann continued to ask about Mrysti, he got very specific questions back from Samantha in return.
“But why? Why do you have’ta do it? If your momma don’t want you to, you shouldn’t…”
“Well…it’s because my Mother wanted something better for me, a purpose. I thought I knew what that was, but now I am not so sure. Now I must reclaim my throne in order to figure out that destiny. Does that make sense?”
Little Samantha pursed her lips putting one hand in the other. She had heard all of them talk about this ‘throne’ Arcann was speaking of. And they always talked bad about it…and about Arcann. In her little mind she put two and two together, the throne plus Arcann equaled something bad.
“You don’t have to do it, you wanna do it…there’s a big difference. My momma always said there is a big difference between what you want and what’cha need.”
There was a long silence as the elder Samantha continued to listen. She was surprised that Samantha was cornering Arcann like this. It was because in the little girls mind, the voice was not the man responsible for so much evil currently in the universe. To little Samantha, the voice was Timothy and it always would be. Though little Sam did realize who Timothy was, she didn’t treat him like the monster everyone else spoke about him.
“Hello? Hello…are you still there?”
“Yes. I am here…your Mother, she sounds like a very wise person. I saw her recently, she is very strong in the Force. I wanted to speak with her, but the time was not right to do so.”
Samantha beamed with pride as she stuck her chest out a little, smiling.
“She’s the wisest…..and tha strongest too. She could beat tha whole Empire by herself!”
There was a slight laugh from the Holocron as the Elder Samantha allowed herself to move from the wall and up next to the little girl, sliding down in the seat next to her overlooking the balcony. “I bet she is. Do you think she would allow me to speak with her? I know some things that might help her, but I am afraid she may still be too angry to speak with me about them.”
Before little Samantha could answer, the Elder leaned in close to the Holocron and smiled, looking at little Samantha as she did so, “That all depends on you Arcann. Unfortunately we can’t ask her right now. The Sith have her and until she returns home—“
“The Sith?!?!” Arcann didn’t react in the change of speaker as both girls watched the floating Holocron for any signs that Arcann would shut down the link now that both Samantha’s were near. “I didn’t know that. It must have happened after I left—“ he cut off abruptly as the triangular shaped Holocron began to glow a shade brighter red. Believing Arcann was close to shutting down the link, Samantha spoke quickly.
“I can tell you this. My Mother will never help you reclaim your former throne, if anything she would—“ Samantha glanced at the little girl again remembering to choose her words carefully, “—hurt you, to stop you from getting it again.” The little girl frowned at her sister and what she perceived as a threat to her ‘friend’ though she didn’t voice it, only looking at the Elder Sam with an annoyed expression. What came back was Arcann’s voice in a much softer tone.
“I understand. It was part of what I wanted to speak to her about. In reclaiming my throne, I was doing it for the good of the galaxy this time; not for myself. Though I don’t believe I am strong enough to resist the temptation of power once again.” Both girls looked at each other at his words, he seemed to sense their confusion as he continued, “Someone must always have control of that throne. It is the only way to maintain control over the Eternal Fleet. Without someone guiding, directing it; chaos will erupt. In the absence of orders, the fleet with turn on itself as well as any planets it deems a threat based on its limited knowledge of the galaxy.” Arcann paused before he finished, both Samantha’s still looking at one another as they listened. “There must always be…an Eternal Emperor on the throne, even if it is for no other purpose than to keep the fleet under control.”
Though neither Samantha knew as much about the Eternal Fleet as Porchia or Mrysti may have known, they both understood what Arcann was saying and it was important. The Elder Samantha was not about to speak on her Mother’s behalf, that was not her place, but the new information was something that Sam was certain none of the others knew about. “I will make certain that my Mother hears of this. And thank you…you didn’t have to explain it, but you did.”
“No thanks are required. I am long past redemption, but perhaps I can work toward atonement for what I’ve done. I wish for that to start with your Mother, if she were available.”
It was her turn, the little girl spoke up first; annoyed that her elder ‘sister’ had barged in and interrupted a perfectly good conversation about ‘Mommy’s’, “My Momma will be happy to hear you say that.” Sam frowned slightly, “I’m sorry to hear ‘bout your momma…I know you must miss her already.”
Another long silence ensued, both girls exchanging looks as neither was sure if Arcann had maintained the connection through the Holocron or simply disconnected after Sam’s comment. Finally, Arcann answered. It was in a low and very gravelly voice, but it brought a smile to both girl’s faces.
“Thank you, my friend…I appreciate that.”
“Well, this sucks.” Mrysti murmured to herself as she looked around the tiny room, not entirely a cell, but as close as the Empire was willing to make a cell to incarcerate a Dark Lord of the Sith. Mrysti glared out of the forcefield that surrounded the doorway. She could have very easily escaped, but where would she go? Also, she had no desire to play right into Acina’s hands. Attacking the guards and effecting her escape through force would give the new Empress all the reason she needed to have Mrysti punished for further ‘crimes’ against the Empire. Only those charges would have been real, not fabricated like the current charges were.
Mrysti was going to stay put. Even as she meditated in her tiny space, she could sense that Karolin was coming and from the sense she got from her sister she was enraged by the Sith Empress’ move to capture Mrysti. This was not going to go well for Acina. Mrysti only hoped that Acina would allow Mrysti to see her sister before she was given audience with the new Sith Empress. Otherwise Karolin would not be tempered enough to control herself in the Empress’ presence.
In a way, it was the first time Mrysti had caught her breath since waking up from her five-year sleep. In the cell, alone, she was able to sit and think about all that had taken place. So much had happened since coming back into the universe, so many different enemies and challenges they as a family had to face. From the return of their Mother, Alexandra and her subsequent passing, to the recent unpleasantness with Karolin’s injury; a lot had brought the family closer. And Mrysti smiled as she thought on it. There was so much to be thankful for, even in the midst of so much chaos and strife.
There was Vander and the two Samantha's to consider. With so much going on, she had not even had a chance to corner Vander and drag him to the altar. That's the way she envisioned it in her mind as she thought about her Republic Trooper. It brought a smile to her face, a joke in thought, but it was literally what she was doing. Vander was far too aware of the pressures that surrounded Mrysti and he was far to lenient with her. There were times that Mrysti wished Vander treated her more like one of his troopers and less like a lover, but in Vander she saw that she was his escape. It made sense that he treated her with 'kit gloves'. Mrysti was his jewel, his prized possession and you don't handle things you cherish roughly.
So it fell to Mrysti to be the one to ask him to marry her, to force him to the altar to make him be the one to say yes. It was what she desired more than anything, for Sam to have a complete family. Mrysti knew in her heart that Vander and she were destined to be together, it was the way it was supposed to be. If only she could find time to do it, there never seemed to be enough time, time to do what you wanted to do rather than what had had to do. Things were once again speeding up toward a conclusion and unlike the many times before, this one was clouded. Even meditating on it, Mrysti could only see a fog. It worried her slightly. Fogginess in the past meant one thing, there was something coming that involved her directly and her present actions were preventing her from seeing the future of it. It was the Force' way of protecting her from making a bad choice and affecting an outcome that SHE wanted rather than the Will the Force had already set in motion.
And it wasn’t over. Voss was done, but the war went on. And until the Alphas could find Vaylin and finish the job there would be continued chaos in the galaxy. Already things were moving again. Senya, Vaylin and Arcann’s Mother had sacrificed herself so Arcann could live. Mrysti understood that. She didn’t know Senya, didn’t know her history with the other resistance groups in the galaxy, but understood that after Dremmess attempted to kill Arcann, it was Senya that rescued what was left of him and nursed him back to health. Something only a Mother could do in the face of what Arcann had done to the galaxy.
Mrysti’s only hope now was that Arcann had a change of heart in light of his Mother’s sacrifice. Karolin had been right after all, only in her vision she had the wrong sibling. Karolin believed it was Vaylin who was supposed to be saved, only it was Arcann the whole time. Convoluted, clouded; the Force sometimes showed itself in visions giving a word or a phrase, perhaps some images that the interpreter tried to correlate with their own knowledge and experience. Mrysti was a believer, though she would never tell her sister as much. Things did happen the only way they should. She sighed to herself opening her eyes to look around the room as she sat in a meditative posture.
Just like being in the cell and under arrest by the Sith, it was happening the only way it could have. All Mrysti could do now was flow with the current of the Force, to fight it would be wrong.
A brilliant flash of light and all of the ships, including Vaylin’s were at instant hyperspace.
“W-what is it doing…what's going on?!!?” Vaylin clenched her fist and glared at the GEMINI controller. The answer she got was not what she wanted to hear.
<”Maintenance….the fleet must return to the source for updates and maintenance”>
Angrily, Vaylin tried to reach into the field and pull out the GEMINI controller as it floated in suspension and was surprised to find that she was unable to. The Hyperdrive placed a protective shield around the droid controller as the ship and all the rest of the fleet launched itself for destinations unknown.
There were alarmed expressions and surprise as Vaylin stepped back. It seemed all of the humanoid members of the fleet, to include Vaylin were powerless to do anything while the fleet transported itself to wherever they were going for ‘repairs’.
The consciousness of the Eternal Fleet flowed like the current of the Force, every ship coordinating with each other to create a harmony and symbiosis of thought. It’s what made the fleet so unique and responsive. But that consciousness had changed after the droids gained a bit of independent thought and evolved beyond their programming. It always struck the ‘consciousness’ as strange that the Zakuul never bothered to question where the fleet came from or why it was constricted the way it was.
Arcann and Vaylin, even Valkorian to some degree took for granted that the throne controlled the actions of the fleet, when the throne was more of a governor of the fleet consciousness. It was the central hub that all major thought flowed through and it served as the fleet's home base and control away from the planet of its origin.
Now that fleet was returning home and taking Vaylin with it. She didn’t know it was not purposeful, she just happened to be on board when the fleet, as a whole, decided it was time to jump. For the moment, Vaylin was out of the galaxy and out of the fight. Just as the Force willed it.
Shaking her head, Karolin said nothing, but cast a glare at the Ginger-haired General until finally she had to say it due to his continued adamant stares, “No…just—NO, Vander. I can’t have the unstable element of—“. Vander crooked his finger her direction. Already they were drawing attention from a conversation that should have otherwise been held behind closed doors. It was his tone of voice to the small Mirialan that made Aldurion move from his own position by the forward viewport; the image of Dromand Kaas floating out before the them all. As Aldurion cast the glare toward Vander for him to ‘watch’ how he spoke to Karolin; Vander softened his tone.
“Can I speak ta ya a momen’ lass…” Though he softened his tone, his glare still persisted. And even as they went into the Captain’s Ready Room, a small chamber off the bridge used for planning and small meetings; Aldurion was close behind. Karolin knew this was going to be a hard sell, but she had no intention of taking Vander to the surface with her. He was already volatile enough, but to add him to an event that was already going to be tense was to invite an explosive situation.
The door shut behind them as Aldurion leaned on the inside of the door folding his arms across his chest to watch the two. Vander barely let the lock ‘snap’ on the sliding portal before he started in on Karolin, much to the dismay of Aldurion; whose only reason for being there was to ensure Vander treated his wife fairly.
“Whatdya mean…I cannae goh?!? That’s MY Mrysti down there!! If ya thin’ I’m gonna sit by while ya placate and bow to this Sith witch, then ya goh another thing commin’ missy. I—“ Karolin smiled warmly. On one hand, she was quite sure that Vander was in love with her sister. Why else would he act like he was acting? Not that Karolin needed any further proof, everyone knew it, but Karolin couldn’t remember when she had seen him this angry. On the other hand, she was not about to let his anger dissuade her. Vander was NOT going to accompany her to the surface. He was simply too emotional about the whole situation. That combined with his hatred and bias for the Sith already, there was just no way Karolin was going to invite disaster.
It wasn’t that she was not angry as well. Mrysti being ripped from all of them on Voss was a cheap move by the New Sith Empress. But the diplomatic side of Karolin could not help but think that there was more to this than just Mrysti being charged with false allegations. There had to be, this just didn’t make sense to do in the middle of a war, when their side was finally winning under that same individual that the Sith saw fit to try and untimely punish. Also, the fact that allies, good allies were few and far between in that day in age. The Sith needed friends. Friends like ‘The Coalition’. This made no sense to do if they were looking for allies against the Zakuul. The Republic was already making their play, in appointing Saresh to wrangle all of the Resistance Units into one umbrella under her command. A fact that unnerved Karolin to no end. It was why Porchia stayed behind after the ship left Voss sector space. Porchia had a taken a personal interest in seeing the end of the Republic bid to ‘gain’ allies. Albeit by force, not the way the Sith was going about doing it.
“Calm down, Vander…if this goes south—“
“There’s just no whey…tha’s my girl down there and—“
“Would you just hush a moment—“
“No!! I’m noh gonna sit back an—“
NO!! Hugh shut up!! This is my deal, we—“
“I’m not keeping you completely out of it. I need you to be here in case things go south, someone needs to be ready to extract Aldurion and I as well as rescue Mrysti if things don’t go our way!”
“This is just tha kinda thing tha—wait? Wha’?” The last statement finally reached Vander as both Karolin and he were arguing and talking over one another. Karolin was completely serious, almost. She didn’t see Acina doing something that would invite full scale war, even though they were in Dromand Kaas space and the Sith had the upper hand. “Well, why didn’ ya sey so, love.” His smile was infectious as he leaned forward and hugged the diminutive Mirialan. “Ye wan’ meh ta start plannin’ it??? I’m whey ‘head ‘a ya love…got schematics, layouts…already picked tha men I need ta pull it off—“
As Vander continued to talk, Karolin pushed him toward the door, “Fine…fine. I leave that in your capable hands.” She gave Aldurion a wide eyed look who up to that point stood unmoving against the side of the door. He caught the hint from Karolin’s look and stood aside very rapidly, opening the door so Karolin could practically shove Vander out. “Just Wait for my signal, ‘General’. You are not to make any moves on the Sith until you hear from me one way or another. Understood?” She didn’t wait for an answer before Aldurion stepped back inside and closed the door behind them both.
Turning to face Karolin, Aldurion gave an awkward smile. What could have been a very volatile confrontation, Karolin handled with ease. It was a credit to her skills in diplomacy, muscles she hadn’t flexed in sometime. There was little need for that during the War, but on the tail end of the conflict, it was good to start flexing those same muscles again. There would be a need for diplomacy if the galaxy was to heal after such a long and destructive conflict.
Letting out a sigh, Karolin slumped down the chair behind the Captain’s Desk, Mrysti’s desk and rubbed her hand along the surface before allowing herself a moment just to breathe. What was about to take place would redefine the relationship between ‘The Coalition’ and the Sith Empire for years to come. But Karolin was too close to it all. In all actuality, she should have asked Aldurion to do it. He was much more objective than Karolin or Vander ever could have been. His dislike for Mrysti combined with his status as a Commander in the resistance would have made him the ideal candidate.
But this was too important for anyone but Karolin to do and she knew it. Hands slipped around her shoulders as Karolin jumped slightly at Aldurion’s touch as he began to massage her shoulders. She relaxed under his hands as she reached up and touched one of them lovingly. “I know you believe you have to do this, I can feel that. But you know, all you have to do is ask and I will go. I have no problem doing this if you wish to remain on board the ship.”
Karolin looked up at him, at his words and smiled, “No. I wouldn’t ask you to, but your insight serves you well my love. I was thinking that exact thing when you started to—OH…” He hit just the right spot as Karolin seemed to slump more in the seat. Her head lulled forward as she allowed him to massage her neck and she began move in time with his hands. “How did you know that was the—spot. Right there….” Without looking up, she smiled wickedly to herself, it was evident she was smiling by the low gravely tone of her voice. “Is the door locked?”
It was Aldurion’s turn to smile as he glanced briefly at the door before looking back down at his lovely bride. “Isn’t it always…” They had time, Karolin wanted to make the Sith wait before she contacted them or even just decided to get on a shuttle and arrive unannounced. It would build up in Acina’s mind as to what Karolin was going to say or do. Sometimes anticipation was the worst part. It was no accident that Aldurion and Karolin found themselves with a free moment, the first in a long time as Aldurion started to move his hands down her back.
They had time. And Aldurion was ready. There was very little need to voice what both of them wanted that time for as the light dimmed and Karolin let out a pleasurable sigh.
“She certainly is bold, I will give her that.” Acina continued to watch the scanner that tracked the ‘Honor’ in orbit above Dromund Kaas. Already Acina had dismissed calls for raising the planetary defense, that would be seen as weak. After all, it was only ‘one’ Republic Battleship. Easily destroyed if she so wished it. But that would have been terribly rude not to mention coming off as completely desperate. No, this was going to be a game of ‘nexu and mousedroid’. Acina once again found herself in the middle of a diplomatic incident with one of the factions she wished to ally herself with. That was one of her objectives all along.
Having been denied the pleasure of having Mrysti accept her offer of taking the Sphere of Military Offense and using ‘The Coalition’ to fight in the Empire’s name; Acina now had to explore other options. The ominous warning Mrysti gave before being led away again echoed in her mind. Mrysti’s sister would not be as amicable as Mrysti was.
That was hard to imagine. Anyone who knew Mrysti Alpha or her history in the Sith Empire knew her as a ruthless and cunning warrior. Absolutely heartless with her enemies and the enemies of the Sith Empire. Shrewd and pragmatic, Mrysti killed without thought of the outcome. She did what she had to do because she felt it was just. Only, before the Zakuul that just cause was the Sith’s just cause. Things were different now. Acina could sense it standing in the room with Mrysti. It wasn’t that she had gotten soft, but definitely more balanced in the Force. It was almost as if Mrysti gave off a light that surrounded her darkness. Perhaps it was just that the cause she now fought for was more balanced or just than causes of the past. Acina didn’t know, but as she walked back toward her throne room she felt the cold fear of uncertainty creep into her stomach. Perhaps she had extended herself too far this time. She consoled herself with the fact that Karolin, unlike Mrysti was a Jedi and Jedi could be reasonable, even if they had fallen from grace as Karolin had done.
<“Jedi Master Karolin The Barsen’thor Alpha, Commander of the ‘The Coalition’”>
The announcer droid issued the warning just as Acina made herself ready. As the door opened to the much smaller version of Mrysti Alpha, Acina found herself looking downward. Surprised by the fact that Karolin was several heads shorter than her sister. Her record of service to the Republic and to the galaxy making her seem much larger than she actually was.
Karolin carried herself with a grace that surprised even Acina. Walking slowly and very formally toward the center of the throne room. Stopping, Karolin finally cast her eyes upward and with a bow as well as a slight curtsy acknowledged the Sith Empress. There was a gleam in her eyes and hint of terrible wickedness behind her gaze, it almost made Acina smile, but she held back any reaction. Acina had to maintain the upper hand at all costs.
“Your highness…” Karolin finished by bowing her head before slowly raising her head and red irises back to the elevated Acina; who nodded in turn. Time for the awkward silence as both woman stared at each other for a long moment.
“You honor us with your presence, Master Alpha…”
A discrete but very real smile filled with an evil that Acina had rarely seen crept into Karolin’s features. It was shocking, the Jedi’s eyes almost seemed to get a darker red as Acina watched her.
“No, it is I who am honored, your ‘grace’. Thank you for allowing me ‘audience’…”
The statement was filled with a hidden vitriol. Acina couldn’t help but smile this time. ‘Oh she’s good’, Acina thought as she came up off the massive throne to begin descending the stairs. “I am honored to finally make your acquaintance, Master. Your reputation precedes you. I have known you as a cunning adversary in our previous conflict. You may find it interesting to know that the force you faced above Hoth when you were in command of the Republic 7th fleet was part of my Imperial Fleet…” Entirely purposeful, Acina tried to invoke an emotional response or a feeling from Karolin by reminding her of a painful episode. For the briefest of moments, Acina felt a pang of rage echo across the space between them, but just as quickly the iron door of will slamming shut any emotion in Karolin’s mind. Her smile however, betrayed everything as Karolin’s veneer of wickedness finally shown through. She glared at the Empress behind the smile and lowered her gaze with a nod of the head ever so slightly.
“That’s a pity, your highness…”
“A pity? Why is that…”
As Karolin’s head came back up and the two locked eyes, the feeling of uncertainty turned to cold fear in Acina’s chest as Karolin spoke, “A pity that you were not among those on board my ship…I would have enjoyed the pleasure of ‘meeting’ you.” It was well known that Karolin killed everyone on board that ship. A veiled threat hidden behind her sweet voice as Acina nearly stumbled back.
“Y-yes well…that is unfortunate, perhaps we wouldn’t be having this conversation today and the galaxy would be a much different place.”
“You mean without YOU in it? I would tend to agree.” Karolin outright threatened the Sith Empress, but Acina didn’t react smiling back her acknowledgement just as cold as the feeling that crept around her heart in that moment. Karolin carried with her the sense of dread and fear. The reports on her did not do her justice, she was indeed powerful. Much more powerful than Mrysti could ever have been and that was the part that made Acina the most frightened. That someone as ruthless and cunning as Mrysti could have a sister that was even moreso. The fact that she hid herself behind a veneer of beauty, cloaked in the force; threw most onlookers off. People would be fooled by Karolin’s size and her extreme beauty and that would be the first step toward anyone who faced her downfall. Karolin was NOT to be trifled with, suddenly Acina realized she had bitten off way more than she could chew by capturing Mrysti.
“Well, shall we get to matters of state…” Acina was suddenly very anxious to get Karolin as far away from her as she could, “…there is the matter of alliance that I would like to discuss just as soon as I—“
“—release my sister? Yes, I know. I figured there was much more to this entire charade than just charging my sister with Heresy against the Sith Empire.”
That statement infuriated Acina as she suddenly got a little of her strength back, tuning her head abruptly to glare at Karolin. This was the Sith Empire after all and Acina was not going to be talked down to or handled by an outsider in her own throne room.
“Excuse me? Charade? This is no charade. Your sister turned her back on her people…MY people. Regardless of what you think of the Sith Empire we do live by a certain code and your sister decided that the code no longer applied to her. You do not become a Dark Lord of the Sith and ascend to the rank of Darth and then decide to leave the Empire. That cannot and will not happen under my watch…”
Refusing to back down Karolin took a step forward, “Then…you do not plan to release my sister?” There was an edge to the question as Karolin returned the glare, cold fear once again creeping up into Acina’s chest, though she didn’t show it. Not outwardly.
“That is a matter for discussion after you and I have laid out our plans for—“, Abruptly Karolin turned and started to walk away, “W-where are you going?!?”
Turning sharply to face Acina already halfway down the long red carpet that led to the throne, Karolin smiled with wickedness again, this time deliberately no veneer of beauty or hidden intention behind it.
“To order ‘The Coalition’ to begin landing our troops…we still have factions on Dromand Kaas and Darth Retuvisa, MY sister, helped form the first resistance units on this planet.” Karolin took a deliberate step forward, “Do you really think that I would simply come into orbit in one ship and come down here to beg you to release my sister and then bow to your strong arming me into allying myself with you?” Karolin’s voice started to rise as she took another step toward the Empress, “WE formed the resistance on this planet, we took out the first garrisons in Kaas City. Do you think that I would come here and NOT have a plan for taking your entire planet out from under you?!?! DID YOU!!?!?”
With that the doors to the throne room closed abruptly with a swipe of Acina’s hand, the Empress reaching for her lightsaber.
“Oh…you shouldn’t have…” Karolin reached for her own sabers as the two women rushed one another.
Voss Orbital Station….48 hours before the ‘Honor’ arrives on Dromund Kaas…
There was no talking her out of it. Porchia had warned Saresh not to interfere with her family affairs. Not after the debacle involving her father years ago. The fact that Saresh had the audacity to invoke her father’s name at her capture right after being arrested for having the Zakuul Ambassador to the Republic assassinated. There were some in the Senate, as well as Saresh, who were still calling for justice on that act. That the war was back on, Coruscant had been attacked again and Porchia was at the forefront of the fight against the Zakuul gained her enough support in the Republic senate that it was an issue best set aside for later. A loss for Saresh, but a win for Porchia and the other Alphas.
It helped matters that the trial was a sensational event. The trial of a famous former Pod-racing Champion, turned Resistance General. Daughter of one of the Heroes of the Republic. It made for sensational news coverage. Saresh couldn’t just get ‘rid’ of Porchia like she had done so many times with other people who got in her way. Porchia knew the deal, even if no one else did. Saresh was crooked and this latest move by her was simply a power-play to gain more power in the Military arm of the Republic. And Saresh timed it perfectly, waiting until Mrysti was incarcerated by the Sith. For a moment, Porchia thought there could be a connection between the Sith Empress and Saresh, but Acina didn’t strike Porchia that way. The Sith were much more deliberate in their actions, at least Acina was. There were those in the Senate that knew as Porchia did that Saresh was dangerous. There was even talk of Saresh using her ‘new’ power and military strength of the various resistance units to overthrow the Republic government.
Even if RT didn’t want to admit it; there was still too much Republic Officer in him, Saresh had become dangerous. It was his duty and right as her husband to voice concern, but he wasn’t talking her out of it. Knowing that going in, he excused Karolin from the Ready Room so he could be alone with his wife for a moment.
“You can’t just assassinate a Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, Porchia…that’s not how this work—“
“She ain’t tha Supreme Chancellor…not no more! She’s a bitch who done got too big fer her britches.” Porchia was carefully packing what little she needed, all of the assorted armaments on the table. Lastly taking her holster and putting it around her waist. With a spin in both hands she holstered the twin Rangefinders; a gift from her Uncle Marstel with a smile before bringing her hand up to touch RT’s face. “She had this comin’ fer a while…this is just tha straw that broke tha Nerf is all, baby.”
“What are you gonna do…waltz right through Republic customs carrying a sniper case and say, ‘Oh it’s my laundry…never mind that rifle in there.”
Porchia smiled wickedly at the comment. Oh, how much RT still needed to learn about his new bride. They had gotten close and even closer in the past year. She loved how much he underestimated her. The small frail looking purple-haired girl who continued to surprise everyone. Porchia had so much of her father in her it was scary. Holding up the code cylinder, Porchia quickly pocketed it as RT reached for it shaking her head. “No…noh this time, baby. Ya ain’t goin…I got friends in high places that thank as I do. Saresh has gotta go. She’s plannin’ ta overthrow the Republic will all of the forces she is aligning. And she can do it too, some ‘a these resistance groups ‘r better armed than tha Republic Military.” Porchia shook her head as she placed the last pieces of the rifle in the case and snapped it shut. “No, she’s gotta go, baby…Saresh is now an enemy’a tha Republic.”
“Then I’m going with you. I will not sit idly by and allow—“ Porchia touched his face with a sweet smile.
“You’re so cute when yer tryin’ ta be forceful.” It meant ‘no’, she wasn’t allowing him to come. For a lot of reasons, Porchia wanted to protect RT from himself. Porchia did have a lot of her father in her. She knew what it meant to have a love of country and a sense of duty that obligated you to protect something. RT would always be a Republic Soldier, she wouldn’t try to take that away from him. But, it was why she couldn’t ask or allow him to come with her. It was for his own protection. Porchia’s illusion of the Republic was shattered after she seen the ugliness of it, Saresh being a part of that. She saw what blind devotion did to someone. She saw her father sacrifice himself in the end for that blind devotion and never quite forgave the Republic for what that did to all of the Alphas with Project Alpha.
This was something she had to do on her own.
The facility was a high security as she could make it. Former Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, Leontyne Saresh was granted a level of security by her former station, but she needed more. Now that she was making her final move, she needed as much as she could get at least till she could move her operation back into the Ministry of Defense. That would be soon, as soon as she could gather her forces and force the Republic’s hand concerning the Eternal Empire. So far, the Republic and the mass of squabbling Senators had agreed on nothing concerning the renewed conflict. Only to redeploy the fleet and put all of its Military forces on alert for possible deployment and action. Even the renewed conflict and the fact that Coruscant itself had been attacked hadn’t moved them to action. As much as she hated the Sith, she admired the speed at which they reacted under one leader. Something the Republic could never do. It was the beauty of the Republic and Saresh was tired of it.
“Three more units are reporting in your Excellency…” The aide-de-camp moved his finger up and down the holofield as he checked names and units speaking to Saresh, who was hovering over a large holo-table. The plan was simple, Saresh would get the units all collected. Deploy them all to a vulnerable spot in the Zakuul frontier, made easier by the intelligence reports that the Eternal Fleet and Vaylin had vanished suddenly after Voss. There was no better time than now, there was just one vital piece missing and it made Saresh angry, more angry because this particular unit had part and parcel of a Republic project leading it.
Skirting the issue, Saresh questioned the Aide without looking at him, asking about another ally of ‘The Coalition’. “The Mandalorians…have we heard from them.” That brought the eyes of the aide up and over his holo-pad as he shook his head ‘no’. Saresh slammed her fist down on the table and turned toward the Aide. “Dammit, did you send the message I specifically wrote?”
“Yes, your Excellency…I did as you requested. And no response…”
Reality struck, Saresh didn’t actually expect an answer. The Mandalorians were rearmed and fighting among themselves for which direction they were going. Their leader, the new Mandalore, Shae Vizla didn’t have the reputation in the Arena the former Mandalores had. Her reputation was built on her work for the Empire, that work being the Sacking of Coruscant so many years before when hostilities renewed between the Sith and the Republic. But Saresh had hoped, especially when she learned that Shae had reached out to her mortal enemies the Alphas and “The Coalition’ for support. Saresh slammed her fist down again. “Damn them…” She hated the Alphas like no other. They weren’t galactic heroes, they were laboratory experiments gone awry.
Reaching up with her off-hand, Porchia adjusted the scope and zoned into the flat that lie in wait across the cavernous speeder lane. This was a no-fly zone, the traffic had been rerouted to keep anything away from the building Saresh occupied at a distance of several kilometers. It was no big deal to Galactic City, speeder lanes were re-routed all the time. What it did do was make it possible for Saresh’s security forces to monitor anyone or anything coming into the security zone.
Porchia smiled to herself, it was good to have friends in high places. It didn’t hurt that her benefactor was using a proxy Senator to do his bidding. But as she took her eyes away from the scope a moment to look down at the Holo-pad strapped to her thigh and review Saresh’s security protocols, she saw the initials at the end of the information. None other than the New Supreme Chancellor of the Republic could have managed such a feat. Porchia had it all, security rotations, times, dates…even numbers of personnel in the building. If she wanted she could have called up what all of them had for breakfast that morning.
She didn’t care about the politics behind all of it. The new Chancellor could have been using Porchia as much as she was using him to take out Saresh. Those politics didn’t concern her. What did concern her was the alarming information that came with all of the security data. Porchia was right all along, there was more to it and Saresh was going to make a move against the Republic. The fact that Saresh thought she could and right under the noses of those she used to serve with was a testament to her audacity. Nothing in the Coruscant political arena stayed secret for long, not when those you thought were your friends had their own political aspirations.
The green field of the sniper’s scope lit up Porchia’s face as she looked once again through the small device and out toward the large bay window which surrounded the room Saresh was using to plan her Coup. Carefully and with a slow release of breath, Porchia touched the trigger of her rifle. A red beam came on and cast itself across the space between them. Slowly, Porchia calmed herself and her breathing, slowing her heart rate.
“They are aligning themselves as you instructed your Excellency, docking at the planetary—“
Saresh turned to see the Aide drop, a smoking hole in his forehead as a man on her Security team rushed the table, out toward the window. He meant to tackle Saresh.
Spinning around Saresh watched the man who was headed her way drop as well as another man by the door that was just drawing his blaster.
There was always time, that’s what her father had taught her. You rehearse, you plan and then you plan some more for all contingencies. Nothing ever went smooth. Nothing ever went according to plan. Only training met those unforeseen events when a military operation started movement. And Porchia was well trained, her whole life.
Very slowly she got up taking the rifle off her shoulder, her fingers moving quickly over the holo-pad to activate different parts of her own contingency plan. Moving to the edge of the building she slipped into the rocket pack and placed the controller gloves on her hands, flexing them to make the controls snug in her palm. Touching the activation, she rocketed into the air and to the final phase; toward the bay window, reaching down to take the charge off her other thigh. Things were going much more smoothly than even Porchia planned for as she launched the charge from her other thigh out in front of her with an attachment from her blaster; to land on the window before she reached it. Saresh was in for the last shock of her lifetime.
Doors activated, emergency bulkheads installed by Saresh’s security forces in case the building was under attack. Only no one on the security force activated them. The Forces were now locked behind those bulkheads as alarms started cascading their sound throughout the building. Sparks flew from the control panels as the holo-recording system which kept watch over the entire building as well as the communication array went out suddenly. Lights shut down with the loud whine of lowering power, the generators entering a self-diagnostic sequence, as well as the droids which occupied the building.
The window imploded inward, as an individual launched through, discarding the pack they were using to fly across on as they came up in a roll behind the holo-table. Saresh ran for the door but stopped and slowed, raising her hands in the air as she heard the whine of blasters powering up behind her.
“Do you have any idea who I am…what you’re doing! I am the—“, everything Saresh was going to say afterward would fall on deaf ears as she slowly turned around to face her attacker.
“Yea, I know who ya are…bitch. An I told ya…don’t kriff with me an’ my family.”
Lowering her arms Saresh looked at Porchia sarcastically.
“What are you going to do? The authorities are already on the way…you just attacked a building under the jurisdiction of—“
There was a sound of ripping attachment bands as Porchia took the holo-pad off her thigh and tossed it at Saresh. “Ain’t no one comin’…hugh done double crossed yer last friend in the Senate.” Color seemed to bleed from the former Chancellors face as she swallowed hard, but determined not to show fear. She stuck her head out and raised her chin to the smaller woman.
“I am…the Former Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, Leontyne Saresh…this Republic is nothing without me! I built Taris…I took the fight to the Enemies of the Republic when no one else would! They…YOU need me.”
As Porchia squeezed the triggers of the twin blasters ending the life of the last Supreme Chancellor she grimaced angrily. Taking out a holo of her father and tossing on the now lifeless body.
“I told ya…ya should’a stayed on tha City Council….”
As the doors shut, Aldurion’s lightsaber dropped into his hand as he rushed the door only to have the high-pitched whine of two high powered Imperial Blaster rifles leveled at him by the guards at the door. He lowered the saber, it’s white plasma blade quickly shutting off as he smiled at the two guards, who did not flinch; gesturing beyond the door.
“Your Empress is about to get her ass kicked in there. You probably should let me go in.” The two guards slightly looked at one another before looking back to Aldurion with a slight turn of helmet. “OR you go…either way someone should save her. I mean she just got the job, would be a shame to find another Empress so soon…”
Acina leapt forward only to have the twin blue and purple sabers of the much smaller Jedi deflect both attacks, Acina swinging with the bottom crimson blade and rounding the saber over her body with a twirl to strike again. That was the advantage of a dual saber, you could hold it in one hand and use the Force. Karolin saw what was happening as the Empress landed after both strikes to launch her left hand out in an attempt to fry Karolin with lightning. In a move she taught her Son, Beta, not too long before, Karolin twirled her blue blade absorbing and tangling the lighting in its plasma. She spun, a little of the lightning burning her hair as she launched the tangled web back at Acina; striking the hand that was launching it.
“AGGGHHH!! So typical!!! Jedi and their defense!” Acina waggled her hand as it smoked. It made Karolin smile to see the Empress back off, but the comment also made Karolin frown slightly.
“I haven’t even shown you my best stuff…giving up already?”
The Empress sneered, renewing her attack. Karolin could feel that the Empress was not trying to kill her as much as make her submit. Something that was never going to happen. Both women charged again, Karolin leaping up and over the Empress as she thrust the business end of her dual-saber in the spot Karolin occupied only a moment before. Slapping the Empress on the back of the head as she sailed over the top of her Karolin landed and turned with a flourish, twirling both sabers to come up in fighting posture.
“Was it something I said? You seem to think I am here to be dictated to. I am NOT one of your Sith Lords; though I did hold a title at one time or another.”, Both women began to circle sizing each other up. This was not going to end suddenly or with a fury of clashing lightsabers. Karolin clipped the blue blade to her belt after deactivating it. She twirled the single purple saber in front of her, “C’mon…admit it, all you have to do is ask…and ask nicely.”
Words continued to prod at Acina as she let out another scream and charged forward. Karolin smiled to herself and closed her eyes allowing the serenity of the Force to surround her. As the Sith Empress struck, once, twice and then three times in a series of deadly blows; Karolin was everywhere and nowhere all at once, blocking, spinning and moving away from the slashes. As Karolin twirled out of the way she launched her off-hand out and pushed the Empress back.
“UGH!!! This is going nowhere?!!?”Acina exclaimed. Karolin emphasized the statement from the Empress as she lifted the saber from her grasp to land in her own palm. Very delicately she deactivated it and sat it down in front of her, opening her eyes with a wicked smile.
“There. We can keep going if you want. I have all day.”
“I will NOT be dictated to in my OWN house!”
The Empress kept her eyes on the saber as Karolin stepped back and deactivated her last hilt clipping it to her belt, “Then don’t. You don’t have to admit anything to anyone outside of this room. Declare a victory, say whatever you want about what happened behind these doors. Just let my sister go so we can continue our work. Vaylin is gone right now, we should be taking advantage of that!”
Reluctantly, Acina moved to the saber and picked it up, clipping it to her armor. She moved past Karolin and started for the stairs of her throne, but stopped to look back at Karolin. “I will…release her.”
“And the charges?”
The frown came almost immediately, Acina waving at Karolin dismissively.
“I will…make them ‘go away’. If your sister wishes to be a ‘Jedi’ again, who am I to deny her. She is…or rather was the ‘Hammer of the Empire’. It will not go over well with the other Sith in control of the Empire, but we will manage.” She watched Karolin expectantly. There was something else she wanted and it was Karolin’s turn to offer up her own concessions.
“This is not about Mrysti being a Jedi. This is about her being allowed to follow her own destiny, even if that destiny takes her away from the Sith. I will do whatever I have to in order to see that fulfilled. She deserves that.” Smiling sheepishly, Karolin knew there were things she had to give in order for this to be fulfilled. She watched the Empress who was watching her in turn, waiting. “You need allies, ‘The Coalition’ would be honored to count the Sith Empire among its many friends.”
“And you will never again try to pursue her in an attempt to—“
There was a high-pitched cackle as Acina started to ascend her stairs to the throne, “Oh no…I can’t promise there won’t be others who will try to make her pay for ‘betraying’ the Empire…” Karolin started to move toward Acina as she delicately raised her hand for Karolin to stop, “…I can promise that ‘I’ will not. And as long as I sit at the head of the Sith Empire, she will be left alone.”
Karolin nodded respectfully. There was much more to be said, but it wouldn’t be said by her. Mrysti was the one in charge and it would be her that dictated how far their alliance with the Sith would go. For the moment, all was forgiven. Karolin turned to walk back toward the massive double doors as Acina spoke up.
“Remember, no victory can be complete without the ‘help’ of your allies. When you do finally take Vaylin down, we want to be included…it’s what ‘friends’ do for one another.”
Karolin turned back toward the throne with a graceful bow. It should have been over, but there was something bothering her. The whole fight, it was almost as if it was staged. “That whole fight…the whole act of drawing sabers on one another. What was that all about?”
As Acina reached the top of the stairs and flourished both arm sleeves over the top of the arm rests of the massive throne before settling in with a wicked smile.
“You never truly know someone, until you fight them. And how could I take you at your word until I saw if you lived up to the legend that follows you. Go in peace, Jedi…retrieve your sister. I will see both of you soon, I am sure.”
Mrysti was led out to the landing zone, the guards staying way behind her. It gave the appearance that they were accompanying her and not leading her to the landing pad to release her. She even waved them off once they arrived. Karolin’s infectious smile permeated her face as Mrysti looked to both her and Aldurion, continuing to look around for Vander.
“Oh, he’s around. Our contingency plan was to have him break you out and assault Imperial Detention.” Mrysti’s eyes got wide as Karolin shrugged, “I had to tell him something. He wouldn’t leave well enough alone. But it was exactly what I thought. Acina wanted to strong-arm us into an alliance…”
“And?” Mrysti placed both hands on her hips as she watched her much smaller sister.
“And nothing. I worked it out. We will ally ourselves with the Sith, just not on their terms, but terms we all agree on.” Mrysti seemed bothered by that. It wasn’t that she distrusted her sister to do the right thing, it was more that Mrysti wasn’t present for the ‘negotiation’. Had Karolin told her they fought, it would have been even more bothersome, but Karolin held that little bit of knowledge for another day.
“Any word on the whereabouts of out wayward would be Empress?” Karolin shook her head at the question.
“Not yet. We are going to rendezvous on Yavin at the retreat and catch our breath. We literally left Voss and came straight here, we have yet to refit for the next fight that’s coming.”
Mrysti nodded her head and stepped past them without another word. Karolin glanced at Aldurion and shrugged again. Both of them felt something different in Mrysti, a resolve she didn’t carry with her when she left Voss rather suddenly. Karolin dismissed it for he moment, but as they got into the shuttle and Karolin glanced at her sister she could see it was written all over her. Too soon to question her, it was something else Karolin decided to address at a later date. For now, they were leaving the ‘hospitality’ of the Sith Empire and back on track to finding Vaylin to end the Eternal Empire.
Hydian Way Hyperlane....Outer Rim...
With another brilliant flash, the Eternal Fleet emerged from Hyperspace back on this side of the galaxy. A very productive trip from Vaylin’s point of view. Once again, she had complete control over the Eternal Fleet, all of the individuality of the GEMINI control droids purged from their databanks. As Vaylin sat in the center command chair she watched the bridge crew scramble around and make note of their location, Vaylin seemed to be the calm at the center of that activity.
“We have emerged in the Outer Rim, your highness…” The Captain said it with an air that Vaylin who always had something to add would add further orders.
Getting up suddenly, Vaylin walked to the window and looked out. She let out a breath of air as she smiled. “Closest star system…inhabited preferably.”
“We have emerged from the Hydian Way Hyperlane, five parsecs outside of Sulust.”
Vaylin turned with a start, clenching her fist. “Excellent. Project a course back to Zakuul by way of Sulust and five other inhabited Republic planets. We will bombard them on the way and raze the surface of their capitals to the ground. I have a party I want to arrange to let our people know I have returned and their ‘Empress’ will tolerate no dissention from the Rebels.”
The Captain hesitated, but not enough to peak Vaylin’s ire as he moved his hands in the holo-field, directing the other ships in the Eternal Fleet of Vaylin commands.
“Orders Acknowledged…projecting course to Sulust now.”
Returning to her command chair, Vaylin draped her arms over the rests and placed her hand to her chin. It was an interesting place, Iokath, the home planet of the Eternal Fleet. The fact that it chose that moment after Voss to return to their home was perplexing, but in Vaylin’s estimation could only be chalked up to the Will of the Force; something she was loathed to admit to. Her great power, she always saw it as a personal thing given to her by her powerful mother and very powerful father. That it was meant for more than just some unseen entity’s whim. Now with things happening the way they were, Vaylin was forced to see that the Force did in fact have a Will, though she was determined to bend or even break it.
Vaylin would not be dictated to. They escaped Iokath, but not before the machine planet set off an EMP like charge that would have been powerful enough to not only shut down the Eternal Fleet, but the electrical impulses that powered humanoids as well. It would be sometime before she could return there with the Eternal Fleet and tear the planet apart to get at its secrets. She didn’t care, there were more important matters to attend to. Her party for one, after the razing of Republic planets, her brother for another, after finding him in order to execute him publicly so the Zakuul people would know she was the one true Empress of the Empire. And finally, to rid the galaxy of ‘The Coalition’ as well as any other resistance units who would challenge her rule. Vaylin smiled to herself, the Sith Empire and the Republic who so foolishly allied themselves with the weakness that was the Resistance would soon be begging for forgiveness. There was just one other little bit she needed to take care of. Things were already in motion to remove the conditioning that plagued her and prevented her from unleashing her full power. A gift from her family.
There was nothing left of the Sanitarium planet. No one would know when or if she ever went back and fear crept at her stomach as she thought about the place. The things they did to her there to temper and control her immense power. Now it was a hindrance that required her attention. She saw it on Iokath, as she attempted to grasp an Eternal Empire frigate in midflight and redirect it into the Iokath control module. It strained her, hurt her to use that much power. With the ‘governor’ off she could be free to do what she needed to, the Force would flow freely through her and she could harness that power to do unimaginable things. Perhaps even destroy a planet with a thought if she wished it. Vaylin, would become not only an Empress, but a god.
It was a testament to her power that her father placed such restraint on her and not Arcann or Thexan. She was always more powerful than those two. This was her destiny, even if they wished to deny her of it.
After all, they couldn't allow monsters to roam the quiet Zakuul countryside, could they?
It was an excellent rendezvous, it wasn’t home, but home was where your heart was. And all parts of Mrysti's heart were on Yavin. She knew the breather wouldn’t last long. Already she and Karolin got the sense that Vaylin would be returning soon. Something she looked forward to discussing with the interloper who had assumed control of her Holocron. Something else she planned to discuss with Arcann as soon as she got a chance. Mrysti needed that Holocron back and without his interference upon it. The time had come for her to complete the last parts of it and close it forever. Only to be opened by someone worthy to receive its knowledge.
She had planned for that someone to be her daughters, or even Karolin if she needed to look something up after Mrysti was gone. The entire ride back to Yavin on the shuttle, Karolin and Aldurion continued to give Mrysti strange looks. They could tell something had changed in their leader. Mrysti did her best to keep a serene mindset to throw them off, but she lacked the mental skills Karolin had in that arena. There was no way to fool them and though they didn’t know specifically what had taken place in her cell on Dromand Kaas, they knew something was definitely wrong with Mrysti. She seemed too composed after her ordeal. An ordeal that ordinarily would have left her angry and enraged at having been snatched away from the battle.
Being in the cell gave her time to think after her confrontation with Acina. She sat, she meditated and what the Force told her was a truth she did not want to face. That her time was growing short. That soon she would be called ‘home’. It was Mrysti’s time to settle her mortal affairs and prepare for the next journey. Mrysti knew that the final confrontation would end with her death and she didn’t need her power of foresight to know that the Force was not just giving obscure signs of it. This time it would be forever.
The time in the cell allowed her to settle with the fact. She had lived a life of purpose, not always on the side one would judge as righteous, but of a purpose she always believed in. It was time to finish the Holocron and seal that purpose within it forever so that hopefully someday, someone would come along who would understand. There were no tricks to it, no magical spells in the Force she was going to place on the Holocron. Just a simple phrase that would open it, a phrase that only someone looking for that singular purpose in their lives would understand.
She said nothing to Karolin or Aldurion about it and decided on the trip that she would say absolutely nothing to Samantha the Elder or her younger half. There was only one regret in the whole process of coming to terms with it and that was Vander. He was not of the Force and he would never understand. The largest part of his lack of understanding would be Mrysti's ability to see the end and not do everything she could to avoid it, if for no other reason than for the sake of their children. But Mrysti knew, there was no avoiding this. There was only one who could finish this once and for all and the burden was now placed on her. The Force had told her as much.
Vander would not understand it, he would be resentful and hateful and even guilty because of it. Mostly because in the heat of everything that had gone on between them over the past year and a half, dating back to nearly six years before when they started all of this; he and she had not taken that walk together. She had not held his hand and he hers and swore their lives to one another. Nodding to herself, Mrysti thought it was better this way. It was the way it should be. Vander deserved happiness, he didn’t deserve to be burdened with more than he was already going to be burdened with. Leaving him with Samantha, even though she knew Samantha would be well cared for, was burden enough. In her Holocron she would place those final lessons and close it with a part of herself so that it would have a piece of her lifeforce inside. A piece that she would give to Samantha or that Sam would find when the time was right.
The shuttle landed and as the other two departed, Mrysti waited a moment at the ramp to compose herself. She had to hide these facts from her daughters, the eldest one was sure to sense something was amiss and Mrysti couldn’t have that. These moments should be their happiest, she wanted that for her daughters. To reveal the truth now would turn the occasion into a discussion she was not ready to have, not with any of them. Finally, she walked slowly down the ramp to be ambushed by both Samantha’s as Vander picked up the smallest one and the eldest clung close to her Mother.
“How was the weather on Dromund Kaas, Mother…much like you remembered it?” Samantha joked as she hugged the larger woman’s waist and looked up at her Mother.
“How would I know…I spent the majority of it in detention. Ask your Aunt…and your father. They were on the outside.”
Karolin stood off and watched the four of them meander off into the interior of the temple and disappear. She stood watching for a long time until she couldn’t see them anymore, a troubled expression on her face as a hand placed itself on her shoulder. Karolin placed her own hand over the top of Aldurion’s without looking away as he spoke over her shoulder.
“I felt it too. There is something troubling her…a resignation I have not felt for sometime. Not since…” Aldurion let it trail off, “…it doesn’t matter.” Karolin turned to face him.
“Should I say something? I don’t want her—I mean, we need her to be clear about what our objectives here are.”
Aldurion shook his head. For the first time he believed he was reading something in Mrysti that even Karolin hadn’t sensed and it was because he himself had been in that place Mrysti found herself. A place that Karolin had never been. The resignation Mrysti felt was the same resignation Aldurion felt earlier in his life, when all hope was gone, when he resigned himself to the Force; a time before Karolin. He felt it once again on Mirial as the plague finally took its toll on him and he used his last ounce of strength to hoist Karolin into the starship that rescued them both before succumbing to darkness. A darkness that he had already accepted as his death. But, in both instances Aldurion had done what he set out to do. The latter, he had successfully kept the one thing he treasured above all things safe and knew she would continue on; that thing was Karolin.
Watching him strangely, Karolin almost asked, but decided not to as Aldurion took on a faraway look before looking back at her with a slight smile. He had to lie, something told him to. “No…I wouldn’t say anything. She’s your sister, if she feels that she needs to confide she will. It could be the upcoming conflict. We all know Vaylin is not long for coming back to the galaxy and then…she will not be long for this existence.” Aldurion said it with a finality that stopped Karolin cold. She looked back at the entrance where all of them disappeared to, still worried and still perplexed. But said nothing, taking her husband’s hand.
“Very well then. They are taking care of family…we should do the same.” A devilish grin came to her features as she pulled Aldurion from the landing platform. “Did you know…there are at least eighteen different waterfalls in this section of the jungle? One is reputed to be so strong, you would be unable to stand up underneath it.”
He smirked at her comment allowing himself to be pulled as he hopped down off the staircase. “And I suppose you want to see that one…or at least give the falls a shot at resisting your weight?”
“Not MY weight, love….Our weight….”
Dinner was loud and raucous. There was much revelry as boasts were made, drink flowed and laughter permeated the large cavernous dining hall. Mrysti stood and lifted her glass to them all who finally quieted enough for her to speak. She smiled as the wine sloshed out of the glass with the gesture, all of the adults having far too much alcohol during the course of the dinner.
“Why did we never have Life Day here??!?” Mrysti looked around and finally landed her eyes on Karolin, “Where is Beta, isn’t this his job…to arrange for family get togethers? Is he not setting up the Life Day celebration on the Wookie Homeworld again?”
Raising her glass to her sister and drinking since it wasn’t a toast but rather a question, Karolin smiled. “Regrettably, he’s been drafted by ‘you know who’ to help with some secret project.” Mrysti scoffed at the words, at least Karolin hadn’t said ‘her’ name; which quickly got an admonition from Karolin. “Careful now, Mrysti…you and I may not like Victoria, but she did give me my sight back. Though I’m not sure I want to see what you look like after we finish this next bottle.” The table erupted in laughter as Mrysti gave a smirk.
“I’m not the one who flails at holding my liquor, ‘dear’ sister.” Mrysti sat the goblet down with a wicked grin, but only after finishing the contents. “As I recall…last contest, I won. And you found yourself passed out, slobbering and pawing at me with professions of sisterly love.”
“Well now…tha’ I gotta see. Sisterly love…I don’ believe I eva ‘eard Karolin say those words noh in me life…” Vander stood and toasted the table, “Ta love…sisterly ‘er otherwise. Though I migh’ be a wee bit interested en seein’ jus how far this love would take tha two ‘a ya!” He gave a wicked laugh after, that only several joined in with as Aldurion gave Karolin a look of shock. She patted his leg knowingly, shaking her head as she whispered.
“That never happened. I may go both ways, but never with my sister.” The comment was perhaps louder than Karolin planned as Vander laughed loudly again.
“SO hugh say!!!” Mrysti immediately elbowed Vander hard and it cut his laughter in half, “Sorry, love…jus havin’a wee bit’a fun.”
Raising her glass back up, Mrysti took on a more serious expression. This time a legitimate toast.
“We…have all walked a long road together. All of us seated here, have journeyed through the trials that the Force would have us face. Only to emerge stronger. We found one another, we bonded and together formed the family unit that makes up who and what the Alphas are. We are more than one legacy, we are a combination of legacies now. I foresee that our combined histories will live on long after all of this…all of us, have passed…to each and every one of you. My love, my devotion…my life. Strength and Honor!”
“Here, here!” Collectively they all drank to Mrysti’s toast as she sat, not looking at anyone of them after speaking. But, Karolin was watching her. After those words, she was watching her more intently. More than ever, Karolin knew something was changed inside of her sister and now more than ever Karolin wanted to know what it was. Aldurion watched Karolin and squeezed her leg under the table to have her avert her eyes. For a moment Karolin cursed the bond the two of them shared as Aldurion whispered to her.
“Leave it…leave it alone.”
“I can’t…did you just hear that. It sounded too….final.”
Aldurion said nothing else as the laughter once again took over the table, this time Samantha was attempting a joke and having missed the punchline, it was funnier than if she had gotten it right. Everyone was laughing. Everyone except, Karolin.
Sitting in the foyer flanked by her daughters, Mrysti watched as the smallest of the three; little Samantha manipulated the triangular Holocron in the Force. It righted itself in her tiny hands and floated in the air as Sam smiled at it. She spoke softly and cooed at the device as the Elder Samantha and their Mother watched.
“Timothy. Momma’s here…you should tell ‘er what you told me yesterday.”
Mrysti’s eyes went from little Sam back to the Holocron until it final started to glow slightly. A voice, seemingly from beyond began to echo from the device until it became as clear as a holo-comm.
<“Darth Retuvisa…Mrysti. I hope I can call you that…”> Mrysti frowned at hearing the all too familiar voice, a voice of her once most hated enemy. She folded her arms and glared at her own Holocron.
<“I guess…I have no way of stopping you at the moment.”> There was a pause as all three women looked at one another before ‘Timothy/Arcann’ spoke once again.
<“My power in utilizing this Holocron wanes, so I will be brief. I want to thank you for what you did for my Mother. I know her death was not of your hand, but her own. She gave her life so that I may live and in living help you to do what it is you must.”>
“And what is that?”
<“You must rid the galaxy of my sister. I alone am not powerful enough to destroy her, but together—“>
Mrysti stood and nearly smacked the Holocron from little Samantha’s hand but held the slap away from the very frightened look of her younger daughter, “—There is no together here, Arcann. You are a war criminal…a murderer. You are responsible for so much of my family’s personal pain, that you would even begin to consider that I help you to—“
<“—yes, I know. And I understand. You don’t trust me and if I were in your position, I would not either. So, I bring you news…news that will at least help to gain some of that trust.”>, The three women leaned in as the Holocron glowed a brighter red, Arcann’s voice seeming to strengthen and he spoke, <“My sister has returned from the far reaches of the galaxy. She has somehow managed to gain complete control over the Eternal Fleet once again, but that is only part of her plan. Even now she burns a path across star systems on her way back to Zakuul to seed terror back in the galaxy. Once she reaches the throne, she will announce her plans to rid the galaxy of both the Republic and the Sith Empire’s home planets. But first, she will need to remove the programming my father placed in her psyche to control her immense power.”>
Giving a strange look, Mrysti looked at the elder Samantha who shrugged. It was the first time any of them were hearing of this. Arcann seemed to read the silence and the thoughts as he continued.
<“It was my intention to wait to tell you of all of this upon your return. I tried to reach you before, after Voss. But you had been taken by the Sith and I had already fled the planet in hopes of avoiding my sister. I lacked the strength then…and I lack the strength now. But together—“>
Swallowing hard, Mrysti reached down and plucked the Holocron from her daughter’s hands and held it close to her own face. It’s red glow lighting her features as she spoke directly to it. “What do you propose?”
<“Attack her. Now. While she is the most vulnerable. I have contacts on my planet, I can organize the Zakuul resistance, I can meet you there and together destroy her before she leaves to complete the next phase of her plan and removes the ‘governor’ which controls her ability.”>
There was another long silence. Even though Mrysti wanted to say no, she couldn’t. She did however, delay the answer as she placed the Holocron back on its pedestal all three of them stepping back from it.
“I will….consult my sister. We can plan an assault from—“
<“NO…you mustn’t attack her openly. Not yet. She will be surrounded by the loyal forces of Zakuul as well as the Eternal Fleet. This will have to be done covertly, I can send you the plan, but you must follow it to the letter….I’m sorry, my power is fading. I will contact you tomorrow…”>
“Es a Damn trick!” Vander exclaimed as he came up off the glowing holo-table that presented the map of Zakuul floating in the ions above them all, “Tha’ hugh ‘a all people could even begin ta—“
“I trust him, Vander…there is no reason for him to lie.” Mrysti’s voice was calm and even, though Vander was anything but. His words accusingly harsh towards the woman of his affections. The others surrounding the table watched them and the plan as it once again played in the ions of the hologram floating above them. An architectural schematic of the Royal Palace, it’s many floors and doorways; hidden paths, lighting up as it went through the program piece by piece. Porchia was manipulating the controls as the others argued. Having rejoined the family after her ‘mission’ to Coruscant, she was the most intrigued by the details of what Arcann had sent them and based on her knowledge all of the data was extremely accurate.
“As much as I hate to admit it, for once I find myself in complete agreement with Vander.” Aldurion said evenly as he looked at the fiery copper-haired trooper. “But, that Arcann would have us dress as Knights and—“
Karolin laughed as she interrupted, “Not us, love…Mrysti and I. There is no one who would be able to fight our way out or trick our way out by suggestion, but the two of us.” That offended Vander and Aldurion in a comedic way as the two men gravitated toward one another shrugging and nodding to the other.
“I’m a pretty goo’ ina figh’ meself, ya kno’….”
“I’m not so bad either…”
Already shaking her head Mrysti pointed at the map as Porchia moved it in response to Mrysti’s prompting. “This isn’t about either of your abilities. This is about being discrete and cloaking our ability in the Force. No one has been as close to Vaylin as the two of us have…” Mrysti gestured to her sister, “…and none of you can sense her presence like we can. We can avoid her if need be or even cloak our Force ability to shield ourselves from her detection.”
Vander folded his arms and tightened them on his chest and he huffed, looking up once again at the map. “So…hugh get in, then wha’…ya ambush ‘er. Ya kill ‘er?!?!” Vander reached down past Porchia and zoomed the map out to a planetary scale, much to Porchia’s annoyance. A picture of the Eternal Fleet which surrounded the entire planet came into view. “Even if yer able ta get ta Vaylin…an tha’s a big IF, ya have tha whole bloody Eternal Fleet ta contend with, ‘er elite guard on tha ground…this es a bloody suicide mission!”
There wasn’t much Mrysti could say that would change Vander’s mind, once he was set in his way and she could tell he was. Falling back on her only recourse with him she scowled. “When has ANYTHING we’ve EVER done NOT been a suicide mission?” The two locked eyes and Aldurion as well as Karolin imagined horns locking as well. It was the latter’s voice of reason that stopped the two from continuing the argument as Aldurion politely took the holo-control from Porchia zooming the image back into the palace grounds.
“Excuse the interruption, but I still fail to see the objective here.” All of them except Porchia turning to look at Aldurion as he manipulated the controls, “Our purpose has always been to eliminate Vaylin, I fail to see how throwing ourselves into the proverbial ‘nexu’s’ lair makes this any different than an outright attack.”
It was Porchia this time, the one who studied the plan thoroughly that Mrysti gave her that finally spoke up. Aided by her husband, she gestured to RT to lower the room's lights as once again the ions fluctuated on the holo-table to start the entire plan over again. She took center stage, every bit the Commanding General as she looked at each of them in turn.
“With the plan provided, I think I can answer that question…” Porchia’s voice very formal and much deeper than normal as if she addressed a class of first year cadets in an academy on some distant world, she pointed to the main foyer of the Palace itself. “According to the data given to Aunt Mrysti by Arcann, Vaylin is planning an additional phase after she announces the extermination of the Republic and the Sith Empire to the people of Zakuul.” The map zoomed into a series of rooms and hallways as a red line made its way from one point to another, starting at the landing pad behind the Palace. “So our purpose here is two fold and I have factored in various contingencies to counter any of our actions should things go wrong. Our first objective here…” Porchia pointed to the main foyer, “…disrupt the Empress’ announcement, do not allow her to announce to the galaxy that she is going to exterminate both the Republic or the Sith. By doing this we rally the other resistance units as well as her own people against her. We will have the upper hand.” The map zoomed out again to the back area of the loading dock. “Arcann and his forces will land here to cut off any axis of escape by Vaylin and her forces. With us in the front disrupting her announcement and Arcann bringing up the rear, we close her in. Basically sandwiching her in between us.” Porchia clapped her hands together loudly as she emphasized the final phase. “Together with our forces and his, we should be able to close in and capture or destroy Vaylin in one swift blow.”
“Destroy.” Aldurion stated without any fanfare. “Our objective is to kill her, there will be NO capture.”
Porchia nodded at the sentiment as she continued, “With Aunt Mrysti and Karolin disguising themselves as Knights, they should be able to infiltrate the Command facility inside the palace, deactivate the shield to allow Arcann to land his forces and deactivate any defenses inside the Palace grounds.”
“Buh wha’ if their discovered ‘efore any ‘a tha’ takes place?” Vander asked the question with an edge, he glanced at Mrysti as he asked it, still skeptical of any plan which had the ones he cared for in harms way. Mrysti expected nothing less, Vander was not one for covert action. A consummate military man and Infantry soldier, Vander always preferred a more ‘frontal’ approach and direct action as opposed to anything else.
Swallowing hard, Porchia signaled RT to raise the lights. “You and I will be on stand-by a parsec out. If there is trouble or the plan goes awry, we activate the fleet and hyperspace into orbit immediately dropping our troops on the outskirts of the main city. There will be no direct approach due to the shield.” Porchia gave a sad look, “This entire plan rests on Aunt Mrysti and Aunt Karolin’s ability to lower the shield and deactivate the defenses. If they fail, they will have to hold out until our reinforcements arrive…and we will be fighting our way through. I have Arcann’s word that if the plan fails he will land his loyalists with us and have the resistance on the planet act as a diversion to get us to them quickly.” Porchia stepped away from the holo-table, “I’m not going to lie, this is not going to be an easy fix if they are discovered. We will have an entire planet at war in order to get to Mrysti and Karolin.”
Before Vander could say anything, Karolin stood and smiled. “Then we won’t fail.” She looked at Vander before nodding to Porchia. “Very well done, ‘General’. Thank you…if you will all make ready, we should be leaving within twenty four hours.” The group started to break up as Karolin moved over to Porchia and clasped her shoulder, “You are so much like your father. He would have been proud of that presentation, he couldn’t have done it any better than you did.” She smiled at Porchia before motioning for Aldurion to follow her out, leaving Mrysti and Vander alone in the briefing room. Vander leaned on the wall and folded his arms shaking his head.
“I don’ like it. I don’…this makes no sense. Why now? We can jus’ catch ‘er when she makes ‘er move against the Republic, there is no reason ta—“
“We can’t Vander.” Mrysti moved away from him throwing her cloak over her shoulders as she collected her things. It wasn’t an answer and Vander was determined to have one. Pushing off the wall he grabbed her arm and twisted her toward him.
“Then tell me why? Make me understan’ why we have ta risk it all fer this one opportunity, fer a man that we swore we were gonna kill when we had tha chance.”
Her eyes cast to the floor, there were other things she wanted to say. Thankful for once that Vander could not read her in the Force. “Because, this is only the first part of her plan. Arcann told us she has something blocking her power, once she sets the Eternal Fleet against the Republic and the Sith Empire she is going to some planet that was responsible for that conditioning. She is going to have that block removed and she will be almost unstoppable if that happens.” Vander let her go as he stepped back, he could almost feel Mrysti tremble as she said it, something he had never experienced from Mrysti as long as he knew her.
“An’ this power…she will get it after she visits this place? I mean, c’mon…how much power are we talkin’ ere? She can’t be more powerful than all ‘a us can she?”, As Mrysti looked up, Vander got his answer. He understood the Force, the power to move objects or influence others, even see the future in some cases. From the look he received from Mrysti his face grew pale a moment. It was as if Mrysti was speaking of death itself in referencing Vaylin. She didn’t try to explain, but Vander got the message. “Well thas’ it then…this is tha push. Es finally ‘appening. We ‘r finally reachin’ tha end ‘a this whole thing. I can feel it.”
It as almost as if Vander was speaking of something else, something he couldn’t possibly know as Mrysti looked at him with a realization. Vander was speaking of the end of the long battle they started together so many years before, Mrysti was thinking of her own end. She grabbed him and held him close, “Yes…it’s the end. We have finally reached it. And after it’s over, all will be well. I promise you.”
As the others got ready, Mrysti sequestered herself in her meditation chambers. Alone and with her Holocron, she had one final thing she needed to do; ensuring that her final communication with Arcann through her device was finished, she took the Holocron in hand and stared at it for a long time. The time had come to finish the device, as she could feel the end coming. It was something she never thought she would have to do or that when it finally did come it would be with her at a much older age. As the Force told her, she needed to single up her personal affairs, the Holocron being only one of them. Mrysti didn’t know how the end would come, but she did know that the Holocron was going to be a vital piece of it.
Sitting in a meditative pose, she held the device out in one palm and closed her eyes to meditate on it. Slowly it rose from her palm and glowed slightly, the top opening as it slowly started to spin. Runes of knowledge began to cast themselves out in the atmosphere as light cascaded around her. It began a strange humming sound as the device and the vast knowledge it contained already began to link itself with her mind. She saw the past, the present; things she had placed inside. The journey she took to get to the point she sat in that moment.
There were bad parts of the story, parts she would rather have removed from the Holocron. And as those thoughts and memories began to play themselves through her mind, she was tempted to remove them, but decided against it. Even the bad parts made up the person she was. The exodus from the Jedi Temple in her attempt to follow a brother who was disillusioned with the Order. Her near death during that same venture which resulted in her enslavement and torture, which tempered her into the lethal instrument she became for the Sith Empire. Her victories in the arena, being touched by the Force as it punished her for killing ‘love’. Her tutelage under Darth Isilith, her rise to power and her conquest of Tatooine. All of it was part of what made Mrysti who she was.
There were good things as well. The parts she knew she had to keep. Rejoining her family, getting close to her sister once again and regaining the memories she lost during her ordeals early on in life. Meeting Vander, having Samantha. Liberating countless worlds and saving countless millions of lives that would have otherwise been lost had she simply given up.
Mrysti was a product of the Alpha Project, designated 003. The third in a series of five, she was granted her special gifts beside the Force by that project and though at times would have rather given some of that back to have a normal life, regretted none of it. Not even the things others would have deemed as evil or twisted.
“This is the final lesson I impart to my Holocron…” Mrysti began to speak, ensuring that the interactive portions of the device were active to record not only her thoughts but her essence in order to interact with any that would come across it in the future. “…the lesson of my Ascension and what gave me the power of Foresight. It was once a curse, but if you are using this Holocron to learn that lesson, then you realize how valuable it can be.”
She referred to the power granted to her the night she touched one of her Master’s Holocrons, the power that latched on and took hold of her former power as a Jedi Consular. At the time, Mrysti didn’t think much of it, covering her hands constantly so that she could not make skin contact with anyone and thereby see the last moments of that individuals life. It was a warped sense of humor the Force had in warping her former Consular abilities to give her the power to see everyone’s end. Everyone except her own. Now that she knew that end was coming, she didn’t need her own power to see it.
Stopping a moment, she swallowed hard before continuing. Thoughts of her daughters made her tear slightly as she sniffled steeling herself against emotion. Emotion would taint the lesson she was trying to impart to the interactive device.
“To my daughters, I bequeath my ultimate knowledge of the Force. That there is no dark or light…there is only the Force in its ultimate truth. I give you all of it, all of the rights and wrongs of it. All of the dark and light of it. This vessel contains all of my knowledge, all of my thoughts, my hopes and my dreams. As well as my journey which has brought me to this moment. All of which I now give to you. This will be my final lesson. Use them wisely…use them in the truth of the Force. It’s will be done…”
Mrysti closed her eyes and concentrated. The Holocron spun slow at first speeding up as she linked her mind to the device and transferred her thoughts on her Ascension and the power she had of seeing the end of those whom she touched. It continued to spin as she slowly opened her eyes and lowered her hand from its base to look at it.
Taking the final step she stood and clasped her hands together tightly, light emanated from her closed and crossed fingers as the device came apart in pieces floating symmetrically to reveal the core of her knowledge on the inside. It glowed with a brilliant purple light. Not truly of the light of the Force, nor of the dark. Mrysti transferred the last part of herself into the core, gave it a piece of her essence and felt a bit of her life force drain out as she was taught by Darth Isilith so many years before. It was the final seal, the final act of finishing her personal Holocron. The rest of the story that would soon take place on Zakuul would have to be written about or told by others. As the device’s pieces floated back together and sealed shut in one brilliant flash, one final time.
“This armor smells” Karolin made the remark as her and Mrysti made their way up ‘Honor’s Walk’ toward the Royal Palace. Mrysti couldn’t disagree, letting out a slight snort of laughter. Though she didn’t feel the same way, her armor was a little tighter and pinching in certain ‘areas’ of her massive physique. It wasn't easy to find a set of armor to fit her huge frame. The undersuit having to be improvised by Vander in order to accommodate her. He still wasn’t convinced she could pull it off, even more worried once he saw her in the Elite Guard’s armor.
‘Yer gonna stick out likea sore thumb, love…’ Those were his parting words that echoed in her mind as Mrysti glanced over at Karolin, who was busy adjusting the helmet on her head. Mrysti almost recommended she cut her hair, but she knew how that would have been received by her sister.
“Of course it smells, it’s had a dead guy in it.” The two sisters exchanged glances as the Palace came into view. Their HUD systems in their helmets beginning to feed them the information on the night’s festivities as well as a dual channel frequency hop that kept both Mrysti and Karolin in contact with Vander and Aldurion. The latter had positioned himself inside a relay station halfway between the Spire and the Palace itself. Aldurion’s knowledge of Zakuul technology making him the best candidate to keep the girls linked into the rest of the group. The many hours, days and even weeks Aldurion spent lurking around Zakuul while Karolin was under Zakuul programming making him a new expert in their technology.
<”Palace coming into view…I’m feeding you the Command Center relay and Security information being fed to the rest of the security force. They won’t be able to track you, like the other Knights and you won’t be able to respond to them by holo-link. But if questioned you can respond voice only…don’t worry about it, there are so many Knights here, you two should go unnoticed…”>
Without meaning to, Karolin nodded to her husband’s voice. Only to get an elbow from Mrysti as she to heard his message. “Act Casual…” Karolin elbowed back as the first guest came into view, both women standing a bit straighter, both women putting on a more arrogant walk as they closed in on the courtyard.
<”…stop the horseplay, you two. You are the Empress’ Guard. Start acting like it…”>
“Yes, Daddy…” Karolin retorted with a bit of a snicker. Mrysti ignoring the comment as they continued their march to the Palace Gates. This was shaping up to be a grand celebration. The courtyard was lined with dancers, singers and artists from across the planet. Fireworks exploded overhead every third minute as citizens milled around and intermingled with the artists as well as members of the Zakuul Military, to include the Knight’s Guard. Karolin and Mrysti seeming to blend in just as Aldurion said they would.
<”…wait. Stop…move to that outcropping in the Palace Gardens over there. Move now! Get in behind the hedgerows…”>
Both women tried to move as nonchalantly as possible, albeit quickly as Karolin placed her hand to the helmet hissing back to her husband. “What?!? What is it?? We are almost at the gates.”
<”…I’m getting another transmission trying to break into our frequency….clearing it….Got it, patching it in. It’s Arcann….”>
Both women looked at one another, but said nothing as the raspy low voice of their once most hated enemy broke squelch inside their helmets with a high-pitched whine.
<”…Greetings, ‘loyal Knights’…”>
“Not funny, Arcann.” Mrysti spoke back into the HUD display as security information updated on her facial display.
<”…forgive my interruption. I thought you should know, several members of the Resistance have placed themselves throughout the festivities. You won’t see them, but they will see you. As you get closer to the various security stations they will attempt to distract and even lure the guards to various spots in the Palace to facilitate your mission. Also, stay clear of the Horizon Guard…”>
“Horizon Guard?” Karolin was the first to ask the question rather abruptly as several Zakuul Knights passed by, one glancing their direction. Mrysti taking it upon herself to snatch Karolin up and pretend to straighten her armor. The Knights continued to pass.
<”…yes, My Sister took it upon herself to replace my personal guard with one of her own. They have their own frequency that is seperate from the Knight’s Guard. They will be monitoring the crowd as well as the other Knights. If you get close to them, they will detect your disguise as your operating numbers will not appear on their security feeds…”>
“Oh great…wonderful.” Karolin slapped her sister’s hands away. “Stop! Their gone…” Mrysti lowered her hands and peered out from around the hedgerows, both girls beginning their path toward the gates once again. “And these Horizon ‘what-evers’ they have access to everything the normal Knights do?”
<…yes, and more. They are Vaylin’s personal guard. They can go where no one else can….>
Mrysti stopped walking and hissed into her helmet, both women looking out toward the gates as she asked the question, “Then why don’t we blob two of those guys and steal their equipment? Being one of those more ‘Elite’ guards would give us access to—“
Aldurion broke into the conversation with a high-pitched whine as their frequency hopped to the station he was occupying. In the background the sound of speeders and equipment hummed over the sound of his voice.
<”…scanning. It’s not possible. These guys are basically Exarchs, the more potent Force Users of the Zakuul Military. You both could overcome them, but then…the entire Palace would be alerted. No…we stick to the plan…”>
The Palace was massive. Despite Vaylin’s predilection for evil, she definitely knew how to throw a party. Karolin looked around in wonder, almost wishing that she was a guest as she looked at the décor and the festivities going on around them. Passing through the gates, the pathway gave way to a grand foyer. Announcer droids keeping the guest up to date on the latest craze or happenings within the party. Events were taking place, there were dancers in almost every free corner. A lit dance floor with citizens dancing over a forcefield that below housed all of the arena animals set for a grand battle later on that evening. That got Mrysti’s attention as her eyes went down below to the arena floor. Gladiators and fighters from across the galaxy were gearing up for what would be the mother of all battles. All of it, in Vaylin’s honor.
“She’s definitely sparing no expense this time.” Karolin remarked as both of them came to a stop by one of the grand bar counters. Karolin licked her lips, badly wanting to take the helmet off and get a drink.
“Strange that she would have the funds for all of this since the other Resistance unit wiped out the Zakuul finances on Vanden.” Even as Mrysti spoke it, she halfway expected Arcann to say something. He didn’t as the two of them watched and waited. Both women waiting for their controllers to tell them to move. Off to the side, Karolin noticed the first of the Horizon Guards move into view and pass through the foyer. The guard seemed to be scanning the crowd and ignoring the festivities around them. Karolin elbowed her sister, both of them turning away to look as if they were checking something by the bar, “I saw him…”
As the guard passed, both women seemed to relax. That’s to say Mrysti relaxed. There was still tension in Karolin and it had nothing to do with a smelly suit of armor or being in the middle of enemy territory. She noticed Mrysti seemed almost too relaxed. This was a situation that should have had her on edge. Moving her nose inside the helmet she used it to deactivate the outside frequency Aldurion was monitoring for a moment, effectively muting him before she turned to look at her sister.
“What’s going on with you? You have been acting strange since Kaas…and I want to know why?”
Mrysti turned slowly and looked at her sister through the visor, “You want to talk about this NOW?!?! Karolin, please…”
“Yes now. I want to know why you seem so ok with all of this? Why since Kaas you seemed to have resigned yourself to…well, all of this ending. You’re planning something, you never get this resigned unless you know we are going to win or…” Karolin stopped speaking a moment and moved closer grabbing Mrysti’s arm to pull her toward her, “…you had a vision. Didn’t you? The Force spoke to you…it told you something that changed your outlook on all of this.”
Snatching her arm out of her sister’s hand, Mrysti scoffed. She was getting annoyed and busied herself looking at the crowd as both of them waited. Hope beyond hope in Mrysti that either Arcann or Aldurion would chime in soon to break Karolin’s line of questioning. “Yes, the Force told me something…but it’s not important, not for what we are doing RIGHT THIS MOMENT.”
Shaking her head, Karolin scoffed back. “Fine. Keep me in the dark…I am going to get to the bottom of it. I know you finished your Holocron. Sammy told me you did right before you sealed it in the vault on Yavin.” Karolin paused a moment as an awkward silence grew in between them, “If you are planning to suicide yourself, please let me know. I don’t want to go down with you.”
There was a clipped short, shrill cry of laughter as Mrysti tried to play off the comment from her sister, “Suicide myself?” Mrysti looked at her sister’s visage through her own visor, “I would never ‘suicide’ myself, you know me better that that.”
“Well good…because…I’m pregnant and I can’t afford to have you jeopardize that with some kind of foolhardy plan to end this by killing yourself in order to get to Vaylin.”
The gasp was almost audible as Mrysti sucked in a breath of air at her sister’s sudden surprising reveal. “Y-You’re what?!?! How did you…I mean, I know HOW, but HOW did you get pregnant? We can’t do that, we shouldn’t be able to…” Karolin shrugged her shoulders, she had lots of theories on it, most of them revolving around V’ictoria’s recent trip into her genomes to repair her sight.
“I don’t know. But I bet you anything Aldy had something to do with it. I haven’t told him…I don’t want him to know yet until I think he’s ready.” Karolin grabbed her arm, “Don’t say anything, will you?”
The conversation was muted on Karolin’s end for some reason and Aldurion moved his hands in the holo-field of the cramped space trying to figure out if the disruption was on his end. Then he heard Mrysti’s voice and realized it was a disruption from Karolin’s armored systems. He was just about to tell Mrysti to let Karolin know she should check her systems until he heard it. Up till that point, he hadn’t really been paying attention to what the two girls were talking about. His attention on monitoring the security situation at the Palace as well as coordinating the movement of their forces planetwide.
<”…“Y-You’re what?!?! How did you…I mean, I know HOW, but HOW did you get pregnant? We can’t do that, we shouldn’t be able to…”>
He felt the blood rush to his ears, sound seemed to bleed out around him as his mind began to race. Thoughts came rushing in, excitement soon replaced by fear as he realized what he just heard. There were so many levels to the fear that he was almost unable to function. Quickly he sat up and pushed what he heard from his mind, he flipped the toggle to speak to Mrysti, but depressed it again sitting back against the wall of the relay station. He had no idea what to say, or if he should say anything. That Karolin would mute herself and not tell her sister to, perhaps it was Karolin’s way of telling him without telling him, but he soon realized that wasn’t the case, she just forgot to tell Mrysti to mute herself.
Anger replaced the fear for his wife, then the fear came again. His wife. Their child. Both of them INSIDE the palace. He pushed all emotion deep inside, he had a job to do. This had to be dealt with later.
Aldurion pressed the toggle again and was about to speak, but was saved by Arcann as the high-pitched whine of incoming communications broke his mad rush of thoughts.
<”…Get ready. One of my resistance personnel is about to create an opportunity. Keep your eye on the far hall…it’s the quickest way to the Security Station in that part of the palace, you will need the code key to access that maintenance tunnel for the Command Area….”>
Karolin nosed the mute inside of her helmet as Mrysti elbowed her. She got the tail end of what Arcann said as both women pushed off the bar counter and began heading toward that end of the Grand Foyer.
“Roger. We are in position.” Mrysti touched the side of her helmet as both women kept watch on the far end of the Foyer. Karolin watched the security feed flow through her HUD and froze suddenly. Her heart seized in her chest as she realized what she just done. Muting herself, but carrying on the conversation with her sister. And her sister was not muted on her end. Mrysti had just told Aldurion what she didn’t want him to hear. Karolin visibly slumped as Arcann’s voice once again came through their systems preceded by the high-pitched whine of breaking squelch.
<”…move now. Toward the hall…”>
In the far corner chaos started to get the attention of the guards of the palace as security feeds began to display the disruption in Karolin and Mrysti’s holo-feeds. The man fell, he grabbed his chest and began convulsing. Frequencies began to chime in with different reports as Zakuul Knights and Horizon Guards moved away from the hall entrance and toward the disruption taking place.
Karolin and Mrysti walked at an even pace and passed through the hall arch without fanfare.
<”…place your hands on the pad at the station. The armor is encoded with key codes to allow you entrance into the station. Once inside, open panel AA-34, take out the third holo-card and leave…”>
Moving quickly and doing exactly as they were told Karolin kept watch as Mrysti entered the station, opened the box and took out the Holo-card pocketing it in one of the armor’s slots. They quickly left and moved the opposite way down the hall, toward the depths of the Palace.
<”…wait. Wait….I’m getting…”>
The announcer droids finished what Arcann was saying as Mrysti and Karolin turned back to look down the hall and into the grand foyer.
<…Ladies and Gentlemen….in anticipation of tonight grand event. Empress Vaylin is requesting that all guests enter the main Palace grounds and remain there for the duration of the event. The Palace Defense Shield will be raised in honor of our Empress, with the Palace Defensive Batteries firing non-stop…in salute of our beloved Empress…>
Both women turned to look at one another slowly. Neither one of them spoke, but things just got a whole lot more interesting….
This all resided on Aldurion’s decision. He was the comptroller, the man in charge, the facilitator of all things moving in and out of the plan as it began to change and change rapidly. Vander’s voice had a nasty edge as he bit sharply back at Aldurion. In his heart, he really wanted to acquiesce to what his esteemed colleague was barking at him about, but he knew to do so would be giving too much away. The three of them continued to argue back and forth, Aldurion still plagued by what he overheard between the two sisters and for the moment he was frozen with thoughts of his pregnant wife.
<”…Git them outta there NOW, Aldurion. I mean it…don’ make me come down there an pull rank!!...”>
<”…it changes nothing. We follow the plan, we have committed to many resources to fall back now. My people are already in place…”>
<”Hugh shut up, Arcann…no one es listenin’ ta hugh!!! Aldurion…pull tha damn plug. Thas our girls down there, yer gonna wind up getting’ them killed!”>
The voices continued to banter back and forth, Aldurion still frozen with fear as his thoughts and instincts were fighting within himself. He clasped his hands together tightly, tight enough to push all blood from the color of his skin as he grit his teeth, Arcann and Vander now arguing back and forth between themselves. “Force….give me strength.” Aldurion murmured before he leaned forward and thumbed the toggle to answer the other two men.
“We stick to the plan—“ Aldurion answered forcefully, fully keeping his finger pressed on the transmit switch so Vander couldn’t interrupt him. Vander had no idea how badly Aldurion wanted to agree that they extract the two girls at that moment. “—Arcann is right. We have too many assets in play and we will NOT get another shot at this. Mrysti and Karolin have been in dangerous situations before. I don’t want to hear it…I am the one in the control tower, I have the means to pull the plug on this operation at a moment’s notice. YOU WILL, stand-down General Kell and await my follow-on instructions. Mordeth OUT!”
Aldurion let out an exasperating sigh as Vander’s voice once again chimed in and began to curse angrily. He tuned it out and closed his eyes softly, a brief respite before he contacted Karolin and Mrysti to see what the next move was going to be. In his heart, he knew he was right for the good of the mission and for the galaxy. As a soon to be father, a part of him died inside.
“Well this is different.” Karolin watched through the upper Palace Skylights as the descending cloud of a defensive shield lowered and cascaded into place, followed by the sound of turbolaser batteries firing.
Mrysti placed her hands on her hips and watched upward as well, both women now considering their options. The landing of Arcann’s troops as well as their own the foremost thought on her mind. “Vander has got to be going crazy at this moment…I bet you anything he is trying to get Aldurion to pull the plug on this.”
Both sister’s looked at one another as Karolin shook her head, “He may do it too…but, he can’t. There is too much at stake. Even if he does know now.”
Mrysti grabbed Karolin’s arm, she realized what Karolin must have known after revealing her secret. “By the Force…Ancestors!! Karolin, I’m sorry….I had no idea you were muted, I didn’t even think...” Karolin patted her sister’s hand and smiled.
“It’s not your fault. It’s mine.” They both looked up once again as the batteries continued to fire. Mrysti glanced at the chrono built into her armored gauntlet as they both realized their time was running out. Vaylin would be taking the stage soon and they had not even begun their approach to the Command Area of the palace. Gritting her teeth, Mrysti didn’t want to say it, but the mission had to come first even if she was worried for her sister. Karolin said it for her. “Someone has got to be on the ground to facilitate our troops landing now that the shield is up. They won’t be able to make the same approach and if we fail to get the defenses down—“
“We won’t…or at least YOU won’t.” Mrysti touched the lightsaber magnetically sealed to the skirt attached to her armor as she started to move away. “I am going to get inside the Command Center…I will get that shield down. You make sure our troops know where to land and if those batteries don’t go down—“
Karolin smiled inside the helmet as she answered her sister. It was just like old times, the two of them finishing each other’s thoughts. As a team, both sisters were nearly unstoppable, such was their bond and their combined power in the Force. “-- I will take them out myself.” She stretched slightly in the armor and grimaced, looking around. Perhaps it was time for a change of venue as well as a change of clothing. If she was going to have to be more mobile, she needed to have something less stifling than a suit of Knight’s Armor. Mrysti watched her stretch and smiled to herself.
“What are you going to do?” Even in the armor, Karolin took a very signature pose, cocking her head to the side. Her eyes glanced through the vaulted archway which led back to the outside and into the courtyard. Until that moment, she was going to make it up as she went along, but seeing the dancers lining the walk; a wicked smile came to her features.
“I am going to dance my way to victory. Force knows you couldn’t do it.” Mrysti wanted to disagree, she could hear the humor in her sister’s voice as Karolin too started to move off the opposite direction. But she was right; Mrysti was too well scarred, her tattoos and her size too well known to be put on public display, as much as she wickedly relished the idea of dancing her way right into jutting a dagger into Vaylin’s throat. She stretched as well, unconsciously. A bit jealous. If anyone was more stifled by the armor of the two sisters it was Mrysti; her six foot, eleven-inch frame practically testing the structural limits of the Elite Guard’s armor.
“You be careful…” Mrysti said into her HUD as she walked back in the hallway arch to disappear around the corner.
“You too, sister…” Karolin taking a detour, watching the pathway most of the dancers and artist were going in and out of; a backstage entrance where everyone was making ready for the ‘main event’.
As Aldurion sat back up and looked at his holo-display, he realized the two were separating and very nervously started depressing the transmission toggle to get hold of Karolin. When she didn’t answer and her transmitter came to a stop in a maintenance area of the palace, he immediately started trying to reach Mrysti, easier since both sisters were on the same frequency. “Mrysti, where is she—I mean what are you two doing? Why are you splitting up? I have decided that we must stick to the plan.”
The answer had a bit of a sneer as Mrysti retorted back, “No WE decided, while all of you men were busy arguing about it, the two of us decided to take action.” He hesitated a moment and calmed himself before answering, his voice low and grave.
“You both really shouldn’t split up. You can still get into the Command Center and lower the shield.”
“Right genius…but who is going to ensure the Landing Zone is clear.” There was a silence as Aldurion realized Karolin’s tracker had still not moved.
“What is she doing Mrysti?”
“Her job…she’s going to ensure the Landing Zone is clear. I will have the shield down in about, twenty minutes. And looking at my chrono, that’s about all we have left.”
The great thing about any Palace was there were so many corridors and rooms. The great thing about parties in a Palace, there was so much going on in every corridor and in every room it was hard to keep track of any one thing. The Dancers and Entertainers were busy running in and out changing outfits, grabbing props and lights; that they saw a Zakuul Knight walk in, but they saw a beautiful Mirialan dancer walk out.
It helped matters immensely for Karolin that she was very adept at getting ready to entertain or go out on the town in a flash. Many, many years of experience in looking good and looking good quickly. And there was so much to choose from. The clothing literally lined a near half kilometer down one side of the maintenance corridor, mirrors and holo-emitters for putting on body paint and make-up lined the other side. The expense to have all of it in one spot must have been enormous. Karolin almost couldn’t decide, but she quickly frosted her hair, using an old Nar Shaddaa technique of folding her hair over itself on one side, painting and then flipping and folding on the other to paint an entirely different color.
Being able to not only disguise herself in the Force, but also her appearance was crucial. She knew she would attract attention. She was not the only Mirialan there performing for the Empress and her guests, but she was well known in some corners of the galaxy. Also, her tendency to hide her darkness in the Force and present a visage of beauty at all times made her terribly alluring, more so once she started placing paint on her body as well as decorating her face. She chose a veil for the occasion and lined her eyes with a lace netting to cover some of her features. There was so much to choose from it almost made her forget why she was there. The excitement of getting ready to perform, to dance. One of her favorite activities. She had to calm herself remembering there was another reason her hormones as well as her excitement levels were way off the scale. Very gently she ran her hand over her abdomen.
It had only been a few days since Aldurion and Karolin had been together. But they had been together a lot since leaving Tython. She tried to count the times as she finished with the holo-imager and made her final adjustments, placing her hands under her breasts to primp them slightly in the top she wore, finally giving herself a last look and a wink in the imager as she strutted out of the arch heading for the courtyard. Already there were stares and claps as she made her way to an available pole that was just being vacated by a Twi’lek, who gave Karolin an awful look as she left for the maintenance area. Twi’leks, why did they think they had the corner on dancing and entertainment? She had never met a Twi that could out dance or out ‘look’ her. Karolin doubted she ever would.
Rounding the corner, Mrysti nearly ran directly into one of the Horizon guards and quickly went the opposite way, but only for a moment. Aldurion had fallen silent, failing to give any more direction, Mrysti was relying on her HUD and the map it contained to keep her in line for the Command Area. She made herself look busy, checking over a power conduit. There were so many more with all of the power needed for the various activities going on in the Palace at the moment. The Horizon Guard gave Mrysti a cursory glance, but continued on; heading for the upper terrace and the party floor on that level. It was the direction she need to go as well, but she waited for him to disappear before moving off the same direction.
She knew why Aldurion had fallen silent, he was watching the scanner at the moment and most likely any holo-cams he could hack into in order to watch Karolin. His feelings on matters shifted understandably after Karolin’s blunder and Mrysti could only imagine what he was going through. Vander acted the same way when he first learned, but it was under entirely different circumstances and Mrysti told him herself. As she started to move and walk up the stairs a voice, gruff and modulated called to her to stop. Mrysti froze and waited to hear it again before turning.
“You there…Knight.” Mrysti turned to see another Knight addressing her, but this one carried a shield. “Assist me a moment would you?” This was not going to end well, only Officers and Exarchs carried shields, Mrysti realized this Knight must have been the latter. She stood up at a modified position of attention, her eyes forward as if she was awaiting instruction.
The Captain handed her his shield as he lifted a heavy tray adorned with all sorts of beverages and various food items. “Follow me, would you? It’s almost shift change, I need to get this to the barracks before the next set of guards come in or there will be no food left.” He turned abruptly and started the direction Mrysti already needed to go. She followed, but at a distance as they made their way up the stairs.
Rounding another corner, the Knight in front of the forcefield saw Mrysti first and the shield she was carrying, snapping to attention and addressing her as ‘Captain’ before lowering the shield with a push of a button on an armored gauntlet. The Captain in front of her didn’t bother to correct the guard, instead making an annoyed rumbling sound and walking on through, Mrysti followed as if she owned the place.
All around her were Zakuul Knights in various stages of dress, at least twenty or more. She began to get a sinking feeling as the Captain looked back at her and gestured for his shield. Mrysti handed it to him without hesitation as he reached up and slapped her on the back. “You’re a tall one. Thanks for the assist, you can eat if you want…it will be at least fifteen more minutes before we switch out. Right before her highness speaks…”
Without meaning to, Mrysti looked around after watching the Captain leave and realized she was exactly where she needed to be. None of the other Knights questioned her or looked her direction, all of them too interested in eating before they went on duty as she faded into the background moving to one of the Holo-terminals in the far corner of the room. She began to type and pressed her hand to her helmet.
“Aldurion…Aldurion, do you read? I’m in the Security net…I need a passcode to get into the Command Net, but I’ve accessed the system. Aldurion!!”
Spinning and whirling; Karolin tilted her head back and looped her legs around the stationary gold pole, turning upside down and sliding down to allow her hands to touch the ground before gyrating her body back upwards to flip her legs off and land with one hand still grasping. She was good and was having way too much fun as she tried to focus on where each of the power terminals and the manual gunnery stations were for the turbolasers in her part of the courtyard.
“I’ve already accessed them.” Karolin nearly fell off the pole losing her grasp as the Knight standing next to her and looking off toward the gardens spoke in a low tone. She quickly righted herself and glared the direction of the armored individual before the Knight turned slightly and then back to watching the garden.
“Aldy!!!” Karolin hissed as she continued to gyrate laying her back against the pole to slide down and bend forward at the waist. “WHAT are you doing here?!?! You’re supposed to be in the relay station.”
Without turning he spoke and gestured slightly toward the relay station which hovered a quarter of a kilometer away near the Spire. “We will talk about that later. Right now, I am here to make sure you’re safe and the mission—“
“Kriff the mission! I know why you’re here!” Karolin hissed again, this time grabbing the pole with two hands she twirled around it letting go to spin and grasp it again to turn back toward him, “Who’s monitoring the operation?!?!”
<“Ya goh me, Love…Aldy had sumthin’ ta take care of. He linked the relay’s terminal to us. We’re on stand-by in tha Old World.”> Mrysti nearly stepped back into a Knight as they passed her heading for the Food Table, at hearing Vander’s voice. There was no time to argue about who was more technologically able to give her what she needed. Mrysti glanced at her Chrono again. Ten minutes left before ‘show-time’.
“Vander. I need the code to access the Command Area’s shield controls on their net. I can do it from this terminal…I don’t even have to go down there.”
There was a pause, Mrysti could hear Vander typing something on the other end as he finally spoke up. <“Eigh’ zero-zero too-too Alpha won Zulu Charlie…”> Mrysti quickly typed the code in the holo-field. As the announcer droid began the preliminary call for everyone to gather in the main foyer.
<…Ladies and Gentlemen; those gathered on Holo-vid around the galaxy. I am pleased to present to you, your Empress of the Zakuul Empire. Defender of the Faith, Keeper of the Eternal Throne…Empress Vaylin, the First….>
Mrysti cursed and Vander seemed to curse at the same time, both of them saying the exact same phrase as Mrysti pushed off the terminal taking her lightsaber from the armored skirt it was attached to.
“Citizens of Zakuul!!! Our time is now! The time for the galaxy to know where the true center of the universe lies…”
Mrysti stalked down the hallway as Vaylin’s voice echoed through the palace. Time had run out, the need for subterfuge ended. As she approached the Command Center one of the Horizon Guards stepped out and held up a hand for Mrysti to stop. Activating her lightsaber with a quick ‘snap-hiss’ of red/black plasma she quickly removed the hand before spinning to finish him with a thrust through the center of his chest plate. Powerful as they may be, that particular Horizon Trooper was not expecting to get attacked by one of his own. But that trick would only work once as Mrysti turned toward the door to see Knights and troopers activate sabers and run toward her.
Reaching up, she ripped the helmet off her head and it seemed to make them slow at seeing her true face, at least that was Mrysti’s impression as she stepped through the doorway. The first of the Knights leapt at her, she quickly snatched the assailant in the Force hurling him forcefully into an adjacent wall. The force of the impact shattering the plaster and stone that adorned the Command Area. She slashed the next Knight and began methodically working her way toward the large terminal in the center of the room. Parts of Knight’s armor, body and ozone from blaster and lightsaber filled the room. Mrysti lifted the next Knight and raised him to the ceiling, striking out behind herself to cut him in half without looking, keeping her eyes on the terminal she knew controlled the defenses for the Palace.
As the Captain monitoring that station pressed the alert button and then pressed it again when nothing happened, Vaylin’s voice echoed over the sound of death Mrysti dealt as she made her way toward him.
“…no longer will we be slaves to the Outlander. We will strike, we will strike decisively this time and each blow will be a DEATH blow…”
Coming off the pole, Karolin could see the crowd had dissipated moving into the Grand Foyer to hear Vaylin speak. She looked at Aldurion who had his hand to his helmet, listening for something. “Mrysti has gone offline. No doubt she attacking the Command Center directly.” Karolin slowly closed her eyes and reached out, just as quickly opening them again.
“Yes.” She looked around nervously. No guards were moving, no alarms had been sounded. Aldurion watched her and Karolin could hear him laugh slightly as she gave him a strange quizzical look.
“The Alarms wont sound while the Empress is speaking. They are deactivated…” There was another look of shock from Karolin, followed by a wicked grin as she took her lightsaber in her hand moving toward the Foyer. “On Vaylin’s orders…interruption is punishable by death. Any interruption, even alarms.”
“Well then…time to make our presence known.”
The last gasps of life from the Knight Mrysti held in the force ended with the crunching sound of his throat as well as the helmet that covered his features. The Captain backed up off the terminal. Communications were locked, alarms were deactivated. All of it done under Vaylin’s orders. Foolishly he reached for his saberstaff as Mrysti jumped over the top of the terminal burying her own saber deep in his chest, plummeting his body to land flat and hard against the surface of the floor.
She quickly started working her fingers into the holo-field. Things may have been deactivated, but the Command Area sat in the center of the Palace for a reason. Every Guard, Knight; anyone in the Military passed this point at one time or another. News of the attack would get out. Mrysti had to hope Vaylin kept talking long enough for her to finish what she was doing.
More Knights started down the hall as they saw the six foot, eleven inch tall behemoth activating the terminal and operating the controls. She looked to her left and smashed the panel with her fist as sparks flew from the control she shattered and the border of the door which opened into the hallway from the Command Center. As it sparked, it slammed shut from the malfunction of the control Mrysti shattered. She didn’t look up as the Knights landed against it and began hammering and sending lightsabers through the metal. Just a few more seconds, she glanced up echoing the thought out loud.
“Just a few more seconds….and you can have me. You can have all you want….”
“…this is our time!!! This is our moment!!! As your Empress I vow to you that I will destroy the Outlanders!! Already they run and hide from our might. Our very presence fills them with—“
Vaylin looked down as Karolin stepped through the crowd and folded her arms over her chest.
“Fear. What you meant to say was fear, Vaylin! Are you scared?”
Vaylin backed up, she touched the button on her gauntlet as troops began to file into the room. Citizens started running and screams could be heard as Vaylin continued to back up and then sneer down at her one time captive.
“Kill her!!! Kill all of them!!!”
Even as the blaster rifles powered up and Aldurion was already placing himself between Karolin and every Zakuul trooper and droid in the room; the windows to the Grand Foyer shattered with the rain of incoming turbolaser fire and the sound of a dozen assault craft. As the shield was still dissipating and the turbolasers whined down with the command to shut down, Vander and Arcann’s forces moved under and inside the remaining shield raising the shuttles up at the level to blast the terrace Vaylin was standing on. She dove for cover as Vander moved his forces around Arcann’s decorating the floor of the Foyer with blaster fire of his own. Chaos erupted as Karolin dove, with Aldurion holding her to land on the forcefield which covered the pit below.
The battle erupted in full force as Vander and the Coalition Commandos engaged the forces Vaylin sent into the foyer. Arcann landed briefly, his forces moving off another direction as he extended his hand to Karolin, helping her up as he gazed up at the shattered terrace once occupied by his sister.
“She cannot be allowed to escape. I will find her and end her once and for all.”
Aldurion nodded to the one time Emperor as he moved off activating his yellow lightsaber and disappearing down the back hall. Karolin and Aldy looked at one another as she gave him a slight smirk.
“Ok, so we cut it kinda close…but she got the shield down.” Aldurion gave her a scolding look as he grabbed her arm.
“You could have waited till the shield went down before engaging Vaylin.” He glanced at her abdomen, but said nothing. She merely smiled, giving him a quick kiss on the nose.
The door to the Command Center dropped. As the Knights desperately trying to get in finally gained access. They stopped as Mrysti rounded the corner of the terminal activating her lightsaber.
“All you want…”
Very few of the Knights had ever seen a full ‘on’ attack by a Sith Lord with all of the power of the Dark Side behind them. It was like Mrysti was bathing in cool waters, so familiar, so chaotic, but the familiarity making it seem so serene as she waded into the troops. Casting her saber out to the side to lift the first Knight in the air with the power of the Dark Side hurling him in the wall. The saber came back up as she grasped it in two hands to swing like the ‘days of old’. A time when the Empire sent its enforcer to make a point. To emphasize that, no one, nowhere defies the Empire and lives to tell the tale.
Releasing an ear-splitting battle cry, Mrysti swiped the lightsaber as if she was holding her Hammer; cleaving two of the Knights into two before she even got to the others. She could feel their fear. It made them hesitate and question their motivations. It fed Mrysti, more than any fear she ever tasted before. Because this fear was greater than the fear the Knights had of their Empress, at least in that moment as they all looked at Death Incarnate.
Spinning and slashing, she blocked and ducked an attack only to grab the saberstaff from the Knight who slashed at her and wrench it from his hands by sheer strength. Time seemed to slow as she did it, she could see the eyes widen in shock and surprise that such a beast existed. A beast that could not only wrench the weapon from the hands of an attacker by sheer strength and will, but could shatter you from the inside with the Power of the Force. Mrysti kicked out on the Knight sending him sailing with the force of a speeder into another wall. His body shattered as she spun with her own saber in one hand, the Knight she destroyed weapon in the other.
She was the storm that Vaylin created. The perfect weapon of the Force’s Will. And it’s will would be done.
She turned slowly as Arcann stood defiant looking at his sister.
“Brother. Come to ask forgiveness…or to take back your throne?” There was a nasty edge to her voice as she asked the question. Arcann was already moving toward Vaylin. She could feel his intent and moved toward him as well. Even as he slashed down, the more powerful Vaylin was already phasing into the Force to move through him. She phased back into existence long enough to draw her saber. As each of them passed one another only one saber struck. The sound of meat being sliced by plasma and the sickening sound of a cauterizing wound breaking the silence of their meeting.
Vaylin didn’t turn after she passed. Deactivating her lightsaber and very gently putting it back on her belt. Much in the same way that Arcann killed Thexan. A single pass, but then a flurry of lightsaber blows preceded it until Arcann’s hate overcame the much more skilled swordsman that was Thexan. On that occasion, Arcann realized what he’d done and held onto his brother, holding him and lowering him to the ground softly; watching the light fade from his eyes as Thexan gave his last. But Arcann was filled with a passion and a hate that made him powerful during that engagement. A hate that he no longer held.
As Arcann dropped to his knees, his hand covering the gaping wound Vaylin placed in him only moments before; it was shock and surprise that filled the last moments of his life. Still she did not turn, even when she heard her brother fall to his knees. It was not until she heard him fall face first that she finally graced him, by looking upon his last moments of life.
She stepped over him, clinched her fist and began to systematically crack every vertebrae in his spine with her immense power. But he was already dead by the time she made it to the second one in his neck.
“Say hello to Thexan for me…’Brother’…”
They were too late. Karolin nearly running directly into Mrysti as the two ran at one another from opposite ends of the Royal Garden. Looking at her sister, Karolin nearly lost her stomach. Not merely from the look of death that shown itself all over her armor; the blood, the gore of butchering her way to the garden above. But Karolin as well as Aldurion could feel the taint of the Dark Side. It was thick and flowed with Mrysti like a cape as she moved.
The two of them only brushed a moment before they both started off running again. Karolin knew that Arcann had followed his sister up there. Mrysti stopped abruptly as she saw Vaylin standing over the lifeless body of her brother, Arcann. Shaking her head, Mrysti took off in a sprint; the Force behind her. Vaylin nearly let Mrysti get close enough, the sound of the scream and the roar that Mrysti carried with her meant to be Vaylin’s end. She swatted Mrysti away as if she were paper, only to have Mrysti right herself in the air and launch herself back toward her.
That surprised Vaylin as she looped one leg over the speeder bike next to her and launched herself into the air. As Mrysti landed, she tried to grab the bike in the Force and pull Vaylin back to her. But her power was spent, or perhaps it was the slight attack Vaylin did to swat Mrysti away. In a blinding flash, Mrysti launched the last of her power in a lightning barrage that only touched the tail end of the speeder.
All three of them heard Vaylin laugh.
It seemed to louder than normal…almost as if she was taunting them. Either way, they had let Vaylin escape. And now Arcann, was dead.
“What you were looking for was some ‘unattached’ familiar help, am I right?” The deep voice, crisp Imperial accent had a hint of sinister behind it. Just enough to annoy Mrysti as she strapped on the last boot under the brown tunic she wore. Without looking at Amalgom or answering him she looked down at his cockpit scanners and smiled, slapping him on the shoulder and moving past to go aft in the former Imperial Agent’s shuttle. If anyone could find the place, Mrysti knew it would be Amalgom. She just hated to call him away from whatever devious plot he was working on with V’ictoria. She wasn’t going to ask, though she was understandably curious.
“What I was looking for was someone trustworthy who I wouldn’t mourn too much over, if things went…’badly’. “, She looked at Amalgom, the white teeth disappeared from his own semi-sarcastic remark as he realized just how serious she was, but still she was smiling. It wasn’t too far from the truth. Sneaking off like she did was for a reason. After her sister, Karolin’s big reveal, Mrysti was not going to even ask or risk telling Karolin in the event that she would have volunteered. Porchia was married. Vander had a destiny to fulfill with their daughter. This was all Mrysti. She had no choice; at least in her own mind but go it alone.
With what little data she had left, only someone with Amalgom’s expertise and intelligence skill could have found Nathema. No doubt the Imperial archives dating back to whenever the Sith Empire first began would have record of a world which seemed to have dropped off the star charts. As they entered the system Mrysti finished packing her expedition gear and pulled the turban and veil down over her shoulders, throwing the shall over her shoulder as she re-entered the cockpit.
“Force, save us…” It was a rare treat indeed to hear those words come from someone with Amalgom’s background. But as she looked out the forward viewport she could see why. Nathema, like Ziost; was a dead world. By all appearances a once vibrant world, that suffered the same fate as Ziost. As they got closer, the echo of the Emperor’s devastating power hit Mrysti as it passed through the augmented shuttle and she fell a little lightheaded. Amalgom grabbed her arm, “Are you ok?”
“It’s ok, my Lord….I felt it too.”
Old habits died hard. Amalgom got up out of the pilot’s chair to ease Mrysti down into the co-pilots chair. To him, Mrysti would always be The Lord Darth Mrysti Alpha; Darth Retuvisa – Hammer of the Empire. Even if she had sworn all of it off. She waved him off annoyingly grabbing her temples stretching her hand over her forehead and flexing, “It’s fine…slow your approach. Let me get use to this ‘void’ of power I am experiencing. Just need a moment to adjust.”
It was more than an Echo of the Force or a Void. The Force almost seemed to be in reverse on this planet. The voices she heard were like negative energy. The sounds of a billion lives, snuffed out in the blink of an eye. The echo of the awesome energy used in a ritual that like Ziost, consumed the entire planet.
Amalgom slowed his approach and started his initial scans. His face twisted into a grimace as he found…nothing. Few signs of primitive life and the signature of a once thriving civilization. He continued his scans looking at Mrysti every so often, who kept her head down and temples flexed.
“…she will consume the planet…”
“…our power is infinite…”
“…fueled by the souls of billions…”
Mrysti let out a sigh as the voices increased in intensity, she looked up and let out a groan. “Why would she come back here….subject herself to this?” Mrysti seemed to be asking herself, but Amalgom found the answer just as she asked it.
“I think I know…one structure. Alive and operational.” His blue skin appeared to get paler as he looked over at Mrysti again, “…the only one on the entire planet.”
“Roger that…understood. We will meet at the rendezvous on Odessen. Thank you Shae, Force be with you…and be safe.”
Karolin placed the headset down and huffed a sarcastic laugh. Who would have ever guessed in a million years that Karolin Alpha would be exchanging pleasantries with the Leader of the Mandalorians? Not after everything Shae Vizla and the Alphas had been through together. Once mortal enemies, Shae was now a vital ally in the fight against the Eternal Empire. An Empire that despite Vaylin having escaped, still had teeth; as she still had a significant Army and Navy at her disposal. Thanks to her most loyal of servants, who ferried her off planet to…Karolin had to consider that, she really didn’t know.
It brought up the information from Arcann and the sudden disappearance of her sister after they returned to Tatooine. Mrysti definitely knew by now and she purposefully left Karolin behind. She grimaced and rubbed her abdomen unconsciously. The ‘baby’ was getting in the way of doing her job. But she couldn’t fault her sister as much as she wanted to. Still, Karolin was determined to change destiny. She knew Mrysti had a vision of how all of it was going to end. And it ended with her. That, Karolin could not accept.
According to Shae, all of the combined forces of the various Resistance units were meeting up on a planet called Odessen. It, like Zakuul, was a nexus in the Force. Saresh was getting her wish after all, just not the way she envisioned before Porchia put an end to her. All of the combined strength of the Resistance in the galaxy, combined with the Sith Empire and the Mandalorians were gearing up to finish the Eternal Empire once and for all. The Republic, at least in an official capacity, respectfully declined. It was all something they never could have done ‘together’ when Arcann and Thexan tore through the galaxy and both major governments the first time.
Enemies, were becoming allies. Old hatred and grudges, set aside for the good of the galaxy. All of it was finally coming to pass as Mrysti and Karolin foresaw so many years before. They had thought that it would have happened when they formed ‘The Coalition’. Same vision that was coming true, just different time frame and with significant loss to get them all there.
Continuing to hold her abdomen, even though she showed no outward signs of being pregnant, Karolin moved to the console and punched in some out of sequence coordinates. An attempt to try and locate her sister.
“It’s no use. I already tried tha’…” Vander came rolling down the stairs just as Karolin started playing with the holo-table. His face looked like he hadn’t slept in a week, deep lines and dark circles. Karolin knew it was more for worry than lack of sleep. He leaned on the table and let out a sigh as Karolin tried to pretend she wasn’t studying him. After a moment he looked over and smiled, letting out a weak laugh. “Hugh kno’…it’s funny. For a momen’ there, I ‘ad er. I ‘ad er to the point ‘a tellin’ me everythin’…” He watched Karolin, who now definitely wanted to avoid the conversation. “Now…ear we ‘r an’ now she’s even avoidin’ hugh…”
There was a questioning tilt to his voice as he watched the smaller of the two sisters, close down the system and step away. He was about to ask, Karolin saved him the trouble.
“You don’t want to know Vander. So don’t ask me….you won’t like the answer.”
He pushed off the table, a hard look on his face. “Buh’ she did say sumthin’ to ya…tha’ I kno’!”
As Karolin tried to turn away, Vander reached out and gently grabbed her arm pulling her back toward him. “No, she didn’t say anything. I figured it out. And I am working on it…trust me.”
“If tha woman ‘as a death wish I jus’ wish she would clue me in. Ya kno’…I got—“ He stopped speaking and let Karolin go, placing his fist in his mouth to bite it hard. The pain turning his grief to anger. “All I ever done was four ‘er…I gave up sew much, jus’ ta be with ‘er. And this is wha’ I get!”
Moving back toward him, she let the big man fall into her chest as she ran her hand over the back of his copper hair. She could feel him sob and grasped his head tighter.
“I’m working on it Vander…trust me. I will not let this go down without fighting the Force on it.”
“…she’s run out of tricks…”
“…her disregard for our Will must be paid in blood…”
Not knowing what the voices were refering to Mrysti disregarded them. Mrysti shook her head and leaned against the shuttle ramp as Amalgom bounded down and laid a hand on her back to steady her, “Perhaps, this is not the best idea…MY Lord.” He looked around, dust filled wind whipped their clothing. A deathly chill to it, even though it blew in hotly. Amalgom could feel it too, he couldn’t hear the voices, but the Echo of the Force was strong. So strong it threatened to make him, a seasoned veteran of some fairly awful assignments, retch.
“No…no, I’m fine. I will fight through it. Vaylin is here. And whatever she is up to, she will be vulnerable. I can sense it.”
Looking back at the shuttle, Amalgom flipped the switches on the speeder he rolled out of the cargo hold. Its power seemed to have been drained, the battery completely charged when he left the Sanctuary Moon. “Well, it appears we must continue on foot, My Lord…sincere apologies for that. I could have sworn the battery was fully charged.”
Nodding as if to an unseen force, not looking at Amalgom; Mrysti knew where the power went. The same place her power in the Force was going as she felt it fluctuate within her. The very essence of Nathema draining the circuits of machine and man alike.
They started off and began their walk toward the huge black structure in the distance. Light flickered from rooftop landing pads and positioning lights. It looked like a monument, no distinguishing features could be seen on the smooth black surface, at least from their distance. If that wasn’t enough to tell them they were going the right direction, there was the pull of the Void. A Void which called to absorb Mrysti and Amalgom if it so wished to.
“All is in readiness, your Highness…” The Anomid Scientist Vaylin was so loathed to see once again stepped back and bowed with a flourish of his arm as Vaylin stepped into the circle. It was surrounded by stone columns. The combination of Schism Collective technologies and Sith Alchemy. Some of which even the engineers working on, didn’t quite understand. They were working from blueprints that were over 3,500 years old. She glared at the Doctor, if she didn’t need him; didn’t need any of them, they would have died upon her arrival.
“And we are sure this will work? The key…it’s here to unlocking my power?”
The Anomid Doctor swallowed hard as he answered, not completely the truth, “Of course…it is an exact replica of the device we used to lock your power long ago at your father’s request.” He stepped back and flipped a switch on one of the column control panels, other engineers doing the same as if on que. He looked back at Vaylin as she looked down at the center of the circle, just a final thought to remind her of, “If you survive this process, of course…this…is going to hurt. Immensely.”
Just as she looked up at his final words about to retort with something vile, green beams of light and power arced along the columns instantly to strike at the very center of the circle. Vaylin let out a scream of terrible pain as the light and power snatched her up and levitated her from the floor.
“AGGGGhhhGHGHHH!!!” She fought against it, trying to push back with her own power, the Doctor yelling to her over her own screams.
“Do not fight, your highness!!! It will only make it worse!”
“NO….NOOOOOOO!!! I can’t!!! I WON’T!!!! AGGGGaaAAAAGGHGHH!!! Nugh---NOT A-Aagin...”
Her screams filled the halls and the vast chambers of the Sanitarium. What few windows to the outside shattered under the strain of the one who was conditioned there. Walls shook and cracked as she resisted the power and supplemented some of it with her own, pushing back against the machines desire to annihilate and consume her.
One of the Columns exploded in an arc of light, hitting the engineer manning the station and shearing him in two. He evaporated before the parts of his former mortal coil hit the floor, turning to dust. Sparks ate at the other consoles as the Engineers and the Doctor backed off after seeing what happened to the other one monitoring the console.
“IT’S—It’s GOING TO BLOW!!!” They started to run, to escape from the room as Vaylin caught up in the power of the Force saw them try and escape. In her fury and as she was being torn apart she reached out toward them all.
“NO!!! Y-YOU WILL NOT LEAVE ME H-HERE!!!” All of the engineers were consumed by the power that arced from her outstretched hand, turning to dust under the cloud which began filling the room, lighting arced from it and shook the chamber. Only the Doctor escaping as Vaylin brought the arch of the doorway down behind him, sealing herself in.
The invisible wave of energy that bled out from the lower floors and through the passages of the Sanitarium made its way up to the level Amalgom and Mrysti searched. It shook the entire facility and threatened to boil them over from the shockwave as well as the weakness it made them both feel. Mrysti fell to one knee and as much as Amalgom wanted to help her he was unable to, for he was also on a knee. Her head darted up toward the far lift as she got a sinking feeling to accompany the sickness of the negative Force energy which was steadily passing through the room.
“It’s begun…we may be too late!”
Getting up they both ran for the lift and dove in just as a support beam crashed down overhead barring the exit. The pathway they took was now no longer accessible. Going down the lift, Amalgom looked back up and immediately began calculating the possible exits based on his memory of his ship board scans. They were not going back up. Mrysti knew it as well as she looked down. Trying to make light of it she looked at him and opened her mouth to speak, but Amalgom finished the comment for her.
“Expendable. Yes, I know…I will get us both out of here. No need to make light of it….”
“AAAAGGGHHHHH!!!” Vaylin stretched her arms away from herself and finally pushed the energy threatening to tear her apart at a distance. The Columns cracked and began to sheer as she grimaced under the enormous pressure. “N-NO!!! I W-WILL NOT DIE HERE!!!” Her face twisted in pain and rage as she took one last breath before pushing the rest of the way out and launching all of her power against the beams. The columns broke and shot off their foundations crashing against the walls of the large circular laboratory. The room fell silent for a moment, but the Force cascade was still making its way through the building. All of the residual energy that bled off Vaylin and the procedure now threatening to consume every living being still remaining in the facility.
Falling to her knees, Vaylin slowly stood and stretched her fingers, working her way through the rest of her body. A test to see if everything was still in working order. Her head darted toward the door as she sensed it, a wicked smile coming over her lips and walking that direction the remaining skytroopers fell in behind her. All of her organic guards having been consumed by her Eternal Fire in the Force. Mrysti was in the facility, but the Alpha twin was too late. As much as Vaylin wanted to engage her personally there were bigger issues than one dreadful enemy. The destruction of the entire galaxy awaited her.
Through the force, she could see as if looking through a window. There were no limits now. Like rushing water through a large pipe, the Force flowed through and around Vaylin. She could see everything, the galaxy; people, places and things. She knew where each and everyone of her enemies were at that moment. And though her attention was still distracted by Mrysti she reached out feeling the essence of billions. She could touch some of them. If she was closer, she could almost swat them down from a distance.
There was still a residual weakness. She could feel it, but it was most likely the Sanitarium. A place she dreaded to return to. Her face twisted in disgust, the place that was her jail, now became the place of her liberation. Despite all of the terrible things that were done to her there. The Force poured off of her as she walked. Conduits exploded on their own with just a thought. The circular enclosure where she was once kept shattered as she passed. The roof of it falling down on top of her living area. Her former belongings scattering out like leaves. Something rolled out of the destruction and hit her foot. Reaching down she picked up the Nerf she carved by hand as a child. Once her favorite toy and guardian in times of fear. Which there were many. She wrapped its center in twine and carried it with herself always. That was until the Doctors got their claws in her. It was then that pain and fear became her constant companion. It replaced the Nerf. As she stood looking at it she disintegrated it with a thought, the ashes of her former toy and her former life blowing out of her hand as if it was never there. Just like that place, soon it would never be there as well.
There was nowhere to go. A visible cloud of energy was flooding every access as Amalgom led them both forward. It was unlike anything he ever seen and looking at Mrysti he realized the cloud as well as the Sanitarium had severely diminished her powers. They turned back and walked up another corridor, already the cloud was permeating the area; Amalgom grabbing her hand and quickly leading them around it as they descended further into the bowels of the structure.
“Where are we going?!?! We are going to block ourselves in.”
Amalgom shook his head, letting go of her hand to punch some keys on his wrist unit. “No, My Lord. This leads to a lower level docking bay. I can only hope this— ‘whatever it is’ has not made its way down there.” Mrysti watched him as he followed the path on the unit. It struck her as strange that Amalgom was still calling her ‘Lord’ after all the Empire suffered, not to mention that she gave up her oath and allegiance to the Sith to pursue the Eternal Empire on her own.
From what she knew of Chiss and not just Amalgom, their loyalty to whatever they swore to was unquestioning. Despite what the Empire had become, Amalgom had taken his oath to support it no matter what. And that meant to also support Mrysti. As an Imperial Officer, their first loyalty was always to the Sith. It didn’t matter that Mrysti had said she gave it up or turned her back on the Sith Code. To Amalgom she would always be a Darth and therefore his superior.
As they turned the corner, the first of the Skytroopers set on 'search and destroy' mode came into view. They immediately began firing as Mrysti and Amalgom dove across the corridor to lean against the adjacent wall. He yelled over the din of the blaster bolts as he drew both his side arms. He heard the familiar sound of a lightsaber ignite behind him. “We have no other way to go…if we wish to escape, we must get past them.” He looked back the way they came, the tunnel now filling up with a noxious and poisonous cloud. The cascade was threatening to overtake them.
Mrysti pushed out and around him, stepping past. “I’ll handle this…keep your eyes on that cascade and stay close.” He grabbed her arm alarmingly, she didn’t look well and Amalgom was worried she wouldn’t survive an attack on so many droids. She looked at the hand and then Amalgom. In another time, he would have been flogged or worse for placing his hands on a Dark Lord of the Sith. He knew as much and quickly removed his hand, an apologetic look that was met with Mrysti’s wicked smile.
“I’m fine….I can handle a few droids.”
Making her way across the hangar bay, destruction followed her wake. Not purposeful, Vaylin was having a difficult time controlling her powers as she moved. Floor plates lifted from the ground and slammed into the ceiling as wall conduits continued to explode in time with the sound of crashing and exploding around her. There was a literal storm of energy which swirled around her as she concentrated to try and do even the basic of tasks. She looked at her wrist, as the comm unit threatened to come off and launch itself off her wrist. She laid her other hand on it and closed her eyes tightly, speaking while concentrating on the unit.
“Commander…I am in the lower hangar. After my departure commence bombardment…I want this place to be a crater by the time I arrive in orbit….”
She lifted her hand as the comm unit ripped itself from her wrist and flew into a dark corner of the hangar never to be seen again. The droids, already scanning a turbulence around their Master, kept a distance as she turned toward them.
“All of you…your service is no longer required. ‘Seek…and Destroy’ what is left of Mrysti Alpha and her companion…”
There were so many bolts coming her way, Amalgom didn’t see how with the weakness Mrysti was suffering she was able to block, much less deflect them back into the mass of droids at the end of the hall. It was a testament to her great power as she closed the distance, getting within striking range; Amalgom looking out from behind her to pick a droid or two off as she moved. Swinging with a rageful scream, Mrysti poured into the droids. She moved fast, slashing and hacking; but Amalgom could tell she was not at her full strength. He had actually seen her and her brother, Hamner move faster before. Amalgom smiled to himself, how long had he been around these Sith that he could tell so much about them just from their movements and attitudes?
As the last droid fell, Mrysti seemed to stumble and fall against the wall of the corridor. It’s surface starting to crack as the facility now shook not only from the Force Energy ripping itself through the facility; but now the familiar sound of an orbital bombardment that started. Amalgom shook his head and pulled his ‘Master’ from the wall looping her arm around his neck to move away from the cascade and past the fallen droids. “I get the feeling that Vaylin does not like us very much…. it’s almost as if she wishes us dead.”
Mrysti huffed a weak laugh at his comment, “I never knew you were funny, Amalgom. Humor is not a Chiss strong suit…”
The hangar exploded as Mrysti and Amalgom made their way to the lift access. More blaster bolts began to rain down on them as another set of Skytroopers emerged from a corridor across the expanse. As they ran, Mrysti looked up. She slowed as she sensed it, all at once slamming herself into Amalgom and knocking them both to the floor as they rolled away from the orbital blast which sealed the expanse of the hangar and destroyed the only shuttle left in the bay. Rocks fell toward the floor as the last of the pale daylight from outside bled through the cracks of what was their only way out.
She stood up and dusted herself off. “Could be worse…I could be dying by Vaylin’s hand. Instead, I get to die by your side.” Amalgom stood and leveled his blasters at the skytroopers just coming through the dust cloud created by the hangar collapse. There was a level of respect he felt from Mrysti that he never quite felt before. Glancing at her and quickly, then back to the barrels of his blasters.
“Stop this, My Lord…you will make me blush. I do not wish to die with a grin on my face.”
Twirling the saber in one hand, Mrysti stepped forward, deflecting a few of the incoming blaster bolts as the frequency of the blasts began to increase. The skytroopers were now zoning in on their position through the smoke and fire of the hangar. Amalgom backed up and placed his back against the wall as he began to take fire himself. Resignation came over him.
It was not such a bad way to go. Amalgom had given his life FOR something. At least in his estimation. But there was more, as he watched the back of Mrysti Alpha, one of the original five, Amalgom realized he had also given his life and his service for something else. His mind went to the original Alpha he served, Hamner Alpha; Mrysti’s brother. He remembered betraying him because he disagreed with his methods against his own family. There was no honor in that man. It led him to Treavor Alpha and an unlikely rivalry that would grow into a grudging friendship and respect on Bilringhi.
Amalgom had given himself over to not only the Empire, but to the Alphas without even realizing it. In these last moments, he realized that his service to them was the greater of the two honors. It shaped him and made him the Chiss and Imperial Officer he had become. A sadness came over him as he continued to fire. His mind turned to V’ictoria. They had only just begun. Chiss never have regret, it’s conditioned out of them. But as he unloaded the last of one of his blasters, flipping it to load another power cell, he swallowed hard. He would miss her, but if this ‘Force’ that the Alphas and the Sith were so fond of speaking of actually existed, he would see her again. Consoling himself with that, he fell against the wall and smiled. He would see her again.
Mrysti launched into the skytroopers as the hangar continued to disintegrate around them. One of the blasts lifted her from the ground sending her flying back toward Amalgom as the two landed side by side, the dirt and dust from the explosion pelting them as she let out a haggard sigh. “If it’s not one thing…it’s another. Just let us die fighting already!” Mrysti got back up and launched herself toward the fray once again.
As Amalgom slid up the wall, his hand hit a control panel. He turned and saw a maintenance access, pressing the controls and working the holo-field he got the door opened and quickly yelled out to Mrysti. “My Lord!!! Over here…quickly.”
Reaching up with her last bit of strength, she pulled on the loose beams of the hangar ceiling and directed them down to the floor in the Force. They crashed with a loud ‘boom’ as she turned to run back toward Amalgom. The girders would not hold off the skytroopers for long, but it gave her a bit of breathing room. When she reached him, he was already working the controls to lower the access ladder, Mrysti looked over and up the shaft as she quickly entered the enclosure, gesturing to Amalgom. “C’mon….quickly.”
He felt the sting, before he felt the pain of it, looking down at his side where the reemerging skytroopers were making their way through the rubble. Quickly lifting his blaster to destroy the droid who shot him. He slumped, looked at Mrysti and then at the several dozen skytroopers coming through the smoke before looking back at her again.
Mrysti saw it in his face, already coming back down the ladder to grab Amalgom and jerk him into the passageway. “No!!! Amalgom, you can’t do this…you won’t survive!!”
He kicked her back into the passage, made easier by how weak the woman was from fighting and from the drain of the place on her Force power, he smiled warmly. “No, ‘My’ Lord…I won’t…but you will.” He raised his blaster to point it at the control panel, giving Mrysti one final look and a wicked smile. His Imperial accent adding menace to the words. “Give my regards to Vaylin when she finally breathes her last…”
With one blaster bolt he sealed the door and turned to face destiny. It was proper, it was what a servant of the Empire would do for their Masters. More importantly, it was what Amalgom needed to do to give Mrysti a fighting chance to survive and make it to the surface. They never would have made it climbing the ladder with so many of the enemy on their heels, not to mention the orbital strikes. Mrysti may still not survive, Amalgom knew that. But he knew enough about the Alphas to know, they were miracle workers. They turned the impossible into the possible. For the first time, he was going to return that favor to one of them.
As the skytroopers finally massed in their last formation, the ceiling of the hangar finally succumbing to the orbital strikes; Amalgom moved forward to face the onslaught of blaster bolts. Leveling both barrels of his blasters he pulled the triggers and held them down to allow for the full compliment of both power cells to drain in rapid succession. There would be no reloads. He charged into the fire, letting go of his Imperial Conditioning and his Chiss manner.
Screaming in fury to let ‘whoever’ know on the other side…that he was coming.
The attack came as little shock to anyone who had been fighting the Eternal Empire for a number of years. The ferocity of the attack however, that was shocking. The forward lines of ships crumbled almost immediately as the net-like formation of Eternal Empire ships closed to drop ship range. Luckily the various Admirals and Captains experienced with Eternal Empire warfare rigged their pickets to detonate at each marker. It punched holes in the Eternal Empire net that was quickly closed with their own reinforcements. It was unlike anything the veterans of the War had ever seen before. Vaylin, unlike Arcann was committing everything she had left to the battle on Odessen. She was not looking to conquer or occupy. She wanted pure annihilation.
As the drop-ships landed, RT and Vander were already in the walker bay familiarizing themselves with the various frequencies to coordinate the battle. Mandalorian, Sith and various resistance groups; all with their own chains of command, all trying to coordinate a battle with no clear lines of battle. The Eternal Empire was literally everywhere. Reports were coming to Vander that Skytroops had even landed right on top of the main Command Center. Luckly the main resistance unit that had been using Odessen had it enforced for such an attack. It was still unnerving that no place was safe. The battle was literally everywhere.
“This es a shit-show, Lad…” Vander mumbled as he glanced at RT who was busy strapping himself into a transport vehicle. “Good Luck out there, if ya git in trouble…I may or may noh’ be able ta save yer skinny hide this time.” He laughed, but was half-serious and RT knew it. He didn’t responded verbally only nodding his head slightly as the transport launched and lifted RT and his men for somewhere on the battlefield. They were deploying literally everywhere. Vander had no idea where he would put his own walkers as he glanced at the holo-tablet on his arm. “Whoever is coordinatin’ this…Force, bless em’…”
Karolin leaned over the holo-table, the glow of it lighting her features as she moved icons around the board in time with the reports of the controllers on the other side of the wall. Aldurion kept watch over her and the table at the same time. There were reinforcements coming in from other parts of the galaxy and being stopped by the net which was closing around the planet. The battle could very well be over by the time any help got through. He opened and closed his hand in a fist and slammed it on the table, it made Karolin jump as she glared over at him.
“If you’re going to do that…try somewhere else!” She snapped at him as he looked back to the board. There were little words shared between them after the battle started. There other conversations all leading to two things. Karolin’s need to intervene on what was transpiring on the planet and Aldurion’s need to prevent her from doing so. The holo-table and command coordination a compromise for them both. And Aldurion was determined to keep her there.
There was still no word from their commander. Mrysti had disappeared to Nathema, that much they were sure of and with Vaylin’s appearance and sudden attack they could only surmise that Mrysti had not survived. It bothered Karolin more than anyone, because she did not feel her sister’s passing into the Force. Something she was sure she would have felt. But for any number of reasons, it may have been something that Karolin could have been prevented from feeling. The result of one of their many conversations, Aldurion alluded to the fact that Karolin had been trying to hide from him on more than one occasion. Pregnancy aside, Karolin and the Force did NOT have a good relationship at the moment. She had disobeyed it’s Will more than once and now could be the beginning of the penance she would have to pay.
For the first time in a long time, Aldurion had the vision that Karolin could not see. And it involved the Force’s Will. Karolin would not be allowed to intervene with whatever was about to transpire. To do so would put both of their lives in jeopardy as well as the life which grew inside of her. Though she was loathe to admit it, Karolin already knew and she knew Aldurion was doing everything in his power to prevent it by keeping her there. He returned the glare with one of his own crossing his arms. But said nothing.
She continued to move forces around the board as others joined in moving their own forces around the board until they eventually moved away to join the battle or coordinate closer to the fight. Something Karolin was not going to be allowed to do.
<”Sir—they are everywhere…one of the resistance elements is trying to get their ship off the ground. It’s a ‘fleet killer’ called the ‘Gravestone’…”>
That was RT’s new objective as reports started to come in that Vaylin was moving forces that direction. It had to be important if she was willing to turn the tide of battle that way. But was one ship really going to make a difference? He didn’t think so, but with the way things were going a chance was better than nothing.
“Move your elements that direction, we will work in support and clear the area for you once we finish here.”
Blasters and turbolasers shattered the background noise as RT ducked and returned fire, murmuring to himself. “If we get out of here…that is.”
Looping around once again in her fighter, Porchia flew by and did a ground reconnaissance; it just happened to be right over RT’s position. At least that was what she wanted everyone to think. Angrily she reached over and cut off all the comm channels, which were blazing with several different commanders, giving several different sets of orders. Coordination was right out the window as the battle was showing. It was pure chaos on the ground as in some areas the fighting had already went hand to hand, with Knights engaging Sith and Jedi at point blank range.
Shaking her head, she moved the ship back across RT’s position and pulled the trigger toggles on her flight yoke strafing the ground around her husband and ending the resistance he was up against. A walker zoned in on her ship and tried to fire in the air as she looped around and let out a scream, coming back around to rocket the offending attacker with one of her own rockets. It exploded brilliantly as she flew past again, glancing out of the side window and winking to the men below. The wink was meant for one man of course.
<”That’s one hell of a pilot!!”>
RT heard it even before he looked up to see Porchia dart past again, “Yea…SHE is.” They came out of the culvert they were in and started their movement again. Fire and debris littered the landscape as they made their way forward, again stopping once they came under direct fire from another force moving toward them. RT cursed to himself. “We are getting nowhere!! Where are those other forces on my screen?!?”
He gestured for his men to take cover once again as they again dug in and began another battle for the few yards they managed to advance.
Letting out a huff, Karolin slapped the holo-table. She pushed off and laid a hand on her lightsaber. Aldurion was quick to get in front of her, shaking his head. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Out there!! Someone has to get control of this battle before we waste every asset we have!!”
Aldurion had already decided it was NOT going to be her. There were other Commanders, other units that could do it. Shae Vizla, perhaps even the Sith; but not Karolin.
“Get out of my way, Aldurion!”
“No. I will not.”
As the argument was about to ensue one of the doors to the main command center blew open suddenly. Blaster bolts preceded the mass of droids and Knights which came through the cloud to attack the center’s occupants. Karolin and Aldurion exchanged a quick glance as both of their lightsabers came off their belts and activated in their hands to fight off the incursion.
She was in rare form as she angrily, pushed back on the Knights in the Force; lifting one and slamming the Knight into the wall not once but three times. A bit of overkill. Aldurion smiled out of the side of his mouth as he spun and leaped past an attack to bury his blade in another Knight before spinning in a flourish to launch his own attack at those still coming through the shattered doorway. He launched a blistering attack of lightning and Disruption toward the Skytroopers and Knights. Karolin was very hormonal, he almost felt sorry for the Knights he didn't get to kill. If they made it to her, they were getting no quarter.
Before long the attack was over, at least for the moment. But there would be more. Karolin placed her saber back on her belt as she turned without a word back to the table. Aldurion did not do the same, the hum of his saber getting closer to her as he spoke.
“You will remain here…” He touched her arm and tried to turn her toward him, “I mean it…I will go and take care of this. No one else is coming in here, but I need your word…”
Karolin dipped her head lowly and nodded. She knew she was saying ‘yes’ to more than just his demand for her to stay safe. This was also about ‘another’ matter. She unconsciously rubbed her hand over her abdomen as Aldurion moved off, lightsaber in hand.
“—There is no clear line down there!!! Or anywhere fer tha’ matter!!!” Porchia had one channel open as she exchanged words with Vander.
<“Sorry, Love…I goh myself in ‘a quagmire…found their walker drop zone. Can’t leave ‘ere until I shut it down. Yer man is on ‘es own till I kin get free.”>
Gritting her teeth, Porchia flipped the small craft around and unleashed the last of her payload on the attackers to RT’s front. As they exploded she set her ship on a collision course with the culvert the Skytroopers were in before gripping the ejection module on her seat. Pulling it a split second before the ship crashed in a brilliant fireball; Porchia was tossed out of the craft and into the air. A small chute deploying to slow her decent. Without telling Vander or RT, Porchia was about to take matters into her own hands.
Tapping his wrist unit, RT watched as the ship crashed into the forward line of Eternal Empire troops. Porchia was too good of a pilot to not have done it deliberately. She was angry and it was why she sacrificed her ship. Now she was going to make him go look for her. Just as RT got out of the culvert and was about to organize a search party he heard her curse through the woods, the trees parting to reveal a very angry looking purple haired girl.
“Are you out of your mind?!?” RT snatched her down into the ditch he was in and jerked his helmet off. “You are more use up there than down here!” Just as she was about to remark with a sarcastic grin, she drew her blaster firing over her husband’s shoulder. The Skytrooper fell back and over the other side of the ditch.
“I kin take care ‘a myself…and now I gotta take care ‘a you too.” She climbed out of the ditch and gestured forward, “C’mon….we are going back ta tha command center. This here battle is over…”
“It ain’t over!” RT was already out as the next wave of skytroopers started to emerge from the woodline behind them. She smiled sarcastically again.
“You were sayin’…in case ya ain’t gathered it yet. Them droids are comin’ from behind now. That means they ‘r pushin’ toward the command center.” She licked her lips flipping her blasters in her hands to holster them both. “And in case ya ain’t guessed it yet…they ain’t takin’ prisoners.”
As the last picket exploded, a lone ship pushed thorough the fire and debris; twirling on its axis to whirlwind toward the planet below. Vaylin watched through the forward viewport and smashed the console once she saw the ship break through, behind it several others following the lead ship’s lead. Turning on her Admiral, she glared angrily.
“I told you…quick and decisive.” She clenched her fist and drug the Admiral over toward her in the Force. He clutched at his throat as the unseen power threatened to choke out the remainder of his life. Angling her arm she made the Admiral look out in space, still holding his throat in the Force. “Does that look ‘quick and decisive’ to you?” He tried to speak as Vaylin let out an exasperating sigh and twisted her arm in time with the loud ‘pop’ of his throat. The lifeless body hit the floor at her feet loudly and much to the chagrin of the bridge crew.
“You!!” She thrust a hand out toward another officer finally pronating a bony finger toward him, “Are you the second in command…I forget your name…”
“Excellent. You are now IN Command.” She turned back to the forward viewport, “You have one hour to end this…if you fail you will be replaced as well.”
Vaylin was no military tactician, but she knew what she wanted. Total annihilation.
As the shuttle landed, the lone figure emerged and walked down the ramp. The other shuttles which blew the blockade landing a little way behind the first ship. As the figure walked straight into the fire in front, several Skytrooper units and Knights saw the landing and started that direction.
As they emerged and tried to attack the lone figure they were stopped by an unseen force.
Raising an arm, the figure blew the Skytroopers and Knights away like leaves for reaches far into the forest, never to be heard from again. The blaster bolts stopped by the Force or brushed away by the figure’s immense power. The light of the flames lit her face as she passed, she could see the chaos that was ensuing on the planet and knew the one she searched for was not on the surface. Only the anarchy of a battle out of control, for both sides of the conflict.
It was time to get the battle under control. Mrysti had finally landed.
They zoned in and surrounded her. But it was a one sided engagement, as Mrysti spun and Force Pushed the crowd of Droids and Knights away from her. Launching, tumbling and swooping through the air away from her to hit the cliff sides and trees hard enough to crack and split where they landed. She stopped and looked at her hands when the mad rush toward her stopped. It was in wonder that she looked and searched herself to try and discover where the power came from. Sure, before she was a powerful Sith, but at the moment she felt unstoppable.
The answer came as a silent whisper in the Force…
‘This is it…’
A moment she never thought would come, but it’s foretelling had played a big part in getting her back to Odessen. After getting to the launch pad and reluctantly leaving Nathema, she knew her destination even before she plugged it into the Nav-computer. Giving the crumbling structure on Nathema one last look and a silent prayer for the Chiss’ years of faithful service to her and her family; Mrysti launched back into space and headed back to Odessen. Amalgom was a tough loss, but a necessary one. At least that’s what the Force told her. She was more in tune with herself and the Force than she had ever been. Reaching out in that moment, she launched herself up and over the trees landing on a rock outcropping to survey the battlefield.
It was pure chaos. Not just for all of the assorted Alliance forces, but for the Zakuul as well. They were scattered and deploying everywhere. In their haste to complete their Empress’ orders, there were no strong points. Slowly, Mrysti stood and brought the macrobinoculars to her eyes looking out over the carnage. A coordinated effort by the Alliance would break their back in more than one area, but her forces too, were scattered.
Yes, they were her forces. She considered each and everyone of them hers. It was Mrysti and Karolin who started all of this even before anyone knew who the enemy was. It was Mrysti who led the charge for years before the galaxy woke up. It had to be Mrysti to rally all of them, the only one that each and everyone of them would listen to. Looking out toward the shipyard and docks, she could see the Mandalorians starting to rally on several objectives, but some of them not sure where exactly they were going. Who was running OPS from the Command Center? Whoever it was had no idea that some of their assets were getting away from them.
Shae Vizla scoffed into the frequency as her image rezzed and then scrambled briefly from interference. <“I am telling you…there is no strongpoint here. No where to set up a defense and the ‘Zaks’ are already all over the docks. I am not committing anything till I see some of these other units start movement.”>
Karolin frowned at her words and punched up the map to zone in on the location she was in. It displayed the ‘Scorpion’ walkers and other armored equipment she had with her as Karolin moved several pieces around. It was hard to do all of it and not get involved directly.
“I will contact the Sith, Shae…you have my word that I will have you some support there directly.”
<“You better. There is no holding these docks without air cover. I don’t have enough armor for a direct assault and that ship is still moored to the dock. There is no lifting off until we break through and release the dock control!!”>
Rubbing a hand over her head and brushing her hair out of her eyes, Karolin sighed and punched up the frequencies the Sith Empire was transmitting on. All she had to do was convince them to provide their own Mandalorian allies some support and the docks could be taken. No one was listening and everyone had their own ideas how the battle should be run. Where was Mrysti when Karolin needed her?
Jumping down off the outcropping, Mrysti touched her belt realizing she had no Holo-comm. The ship she arrived on too far back and now covered by the enemy to walk back to, she looked out and over several walker battles taking place. She recognized several of the large monstrosities that bore the marks of Vander’s Infantry element; smiling to herself. That was where she was headed.
“C’mon ya kriffin’ Zak Bastards…” Vander cursed as he pressed the button to laze several targets for his squad to obliterate. Smoke filled the air as all of them launched rockets at the same time, obscuring their vision; the fire of the explosions from the direct hits lighting up the smoke filled air briefly. For every two landers Vander and his element destroyed, the Zakuul landed three more and they were landing farther back as Vander destroyed their landing zone.
<”Sir, we need a reload…getting low on rockets and power cells.”>
Vander looked at his own supply gauge and realized he hadn’t been keeping accurate count of what they were expending. Armored warfare was not his forte. He was adjusting, someone had to do it and he was a much better tactician than other Commanders who volunteered. Primarily, Vander wanted the duty because it provided him with a bird’s eye view of the battlefield and allowed him to maintain direct contact with the enemy without having to look at a read-out every few seconds. But the duty was much more logistics oriented. He had to keep his walkers in power cells and ammo or they were just large walking metal targets.
“Move ta tha last marker an tha’ Zak landin’ zone we waxed…see if tha’ stuff ain’t compatable…if so, we scavenge.”, Moving along a narrow path, they started to get single file. Vander could smell the trap even before he and his unit entered the valley. The hesitation was the only thing that saved them all as the sides of the cliffs exploded raining fire and rocks down on both sides. Vander was slightly hit as his walker rocked from the explosion. Otherwise he was unscathed, “Back up…back up!!!”
His internal communications cut on as a familiar voice echoed into his internal speakers, “Heya baby…need a little help refillin’ that brute?”
With the leg hatch opened, Mrysti was manipulating the holo built into the walker to speak to Vander. He wasn’t hard to locate, his name was painted on the outside of his machine. She smiled looking up at the cockpit as she spoke to him and winked his way.
<”Stars Love, ya still like ta make an entrance…”>
“That I do, boyo…” She said in a mocking tone; making fun of his accent as she continued to look up at the closed hatch. Looking over at the other walkers she knew they were running low on supply, some of the other operators already hopping out to reload their machines as she debated on which way to go. The path Vander was taking his unit now closed off from the ambush in the valley.
<”Goh any power cells an rockets down there? Could use sum…gimme a minute, I will join ya down there.”> Placing the Holo-comm down in the hatch and closing it, Mrysti moved off toward the shattered landing zone. There was one Eternal Empire walker still operational as she launched and then started to climb the metal contraption to get up to the top. Vander was already on the ground as she started to climb, “Whataya doin?, I don’ need ya up there I need ya down here.”
It was purely a selfish comment. Mrysti knew he wanted to just kiss or hold her a moment. But time was short and Mrysti had already scouted their next advance as she got to the top of the walker. “Don’t have time for that. Get back in your machine…I got a plan.”
“Well, their advance is stalled…if you could please lend them a hand at the—“
<”I’m sorry Commander, that’s not possible. I have every aerial asset committed to the defense of our capital ships…I can not spare even one.”>
Karolin grimaced as she struck the table with the palm of her hand. Perhaps she was being too diplomatic as she positioned herself so the Imperial Admiral could see her in the holo. “I am aware of that Admiral…but our ground attack is stalled. If we don’t get that ship unhooked from the dock there won’t be any capital ships left to defend?!?”
As the image started to derezz, Karolin thought at first that the Admiral was ending their conversation abruptly in defiance of her asking for help. Another image started to rez into existence over the table and as it did so, Karolin stepped back. The voice was coming in on other terminals and echoed throughout the facility as a planetwide broadcast.
<”This is Coalition Commander, Darth Retuvisa…better known as Mrysti Alpha. Target this walker and pinpoint your fire on my trajectory. All forces will direct your attack to the Docks…I am assuming overall command of the operation. Any objections can be dealt with by myself personally. Failure to adhere to this directive will be met harshly…”>
For a moment, all of the channels went silent and Karolin stared wide-eyed at the holo-table as every element began directing their orders and forces toward the Docks. It was the first time since the battle began that all of the Forces were operating under a single Commander. Karolin smiled, putting her hand to her mouth; a tear streaking down her face. “Missed you…welcome back, Mrysti.”
Vaylin watched in disbelief as the holo-board on the bridge of her ship changed suddenly. All of the Alliance forces moving as one toward the Docks. For the most part, Vaylin was counting on the disorganization of the Alliance to allow her to destroy the Docks and the ships therein, but something had changed. The Force told her nothing, even with her immense power and the ability to see everything; Odessen was shielding some of her vision in the Force.
Vaylin turned toward the communications officer as he looked worried and hesitant to interrupt her brooding. “What is it?!?”
“I’ve broken the Alliance encryption on their last communications….you should hear this.”
As he put the communication and holo-image on the overhead, Vaylin was already building toward uncontrollable anger. It grew as she watched and continued to listen.
<”…. This is Coalition Commander, Darth Retuvisa…better known as Mrysti Alpha. Target this walker and pinpoint your fire on my trajectory. All forces will direct your attack to the Docks…I am assuming overall command of the operation. Any objections can be dealt with by myself personally. Failure to adhere to this directive will be met harshly…”>
Concentrating, Vaylin stopped herself from killing those around her with a thought as she clenched both fists. “Not as dead as I was led to believe…” Reaching down she pressed a button on the holo-table, “…I will fix that. Commander, focus all of our forces toward the Docks. Everything, pull them all out of engagement and move immediately.”
As the Commanders and Admirals heard the order none of them were brave enough to point out that ceasing the engagements they were in to reengage elsewhere would use up more assets and resources than they had. All of them put their hands in their pockets and watched it happen. Better to save their own necks than risk the Empress’ wrath.
Sith airpower combined with the strength of the Mandalorians and Alliance forces made quick work of the outliers. Getting closer to the objective, Mrysti continued to operate her walker falling back behind the bigger walking monstrosities of Vander and the Mandalorians. She had to direct the battle and she couldn’t do that actively engaged. Besides, she had them all working on one objective at the moment.
Getting to the Docks, she watched as Vander and the rest turned to face the oncoming attackers. There were two sides to the conflict now. Vander facing the attackers trying to destroy the Docks and those being redirected by the Zakuul to support them. Thumbing the toggle, Mrysti screamed into the Holo-comm. “Shae!!! Get your men over to the other side!! Cut off the reinforcements. You got ‘Zaks’ flooding in from that side to cut us off.”
There was no answer or acknowledgement, just action as the light from the plasma beams and rockets hit the area Mrysti was referring to. As the light dimmed, she saw the Mandalorians rushing over the hill. The Zakuul in full retreat or being held back.
Vander reached the Dock and with one fell swoop of a mechanical arm destroyed the mooring control. They all watched as the huge ship known only as the ‘Gravestone’ lifted and launched into the air, heading for the battle in space.
As the mooring exploded, Vaylin turned on her bridge crew. Her control totally gone as she swiped her hand in front of her killing all of the officers who happened to be in her way. The movement was not purposeful, she was actually pulling her cloak around her, only squeezing her fist in anger briefly before walking away. It was all the power of her mind, snapped from having just watched her forces fail once again. She grit her teeth as she started for the lift on the far side of the bridge and actually felt the floor buckle under her. The structure and internal dampening fields groaned with her every movement, as if at any moment, she could literally cause the ship to fly apart with just a thought.
It was time to take matters into her own hands.
The bridge seemed to release and the sounds of structural stress eased as she descended to her shuttle bay. But all through the ship there was a ripple of her movement. It didn’t end until she was safely on her way to the surface below.
-- Making it back to the main command center, RT reached down to help Porchia up as she bounded up next to him. Slapping him hard on his back armor as he lurched forward slightly, giving her a side long sarcastic look. “You know…I didn’t have to help you. Could’a left you down there.”
“Yea? And I could’a left yer ass in tha woods. You’d still be fightin’ off stragglers if I wouldn’a led us up back up here.”
This was where all of it was going to go down, Porchia was convinced of that. Even though RT was not, as he once again took out his Macrobinoculars and looked around from the elevated position of the Command Structure. It was situated higher and built into the mountain side. A large platform that jutted out from the rock face and sported many turbolaser batteries on the far corners. Below them, the hangar buzzed with incoming and outgoing ships as fighters went in to refuel and back out again to resume the battle. RT half figured Porchia would be headed below to get another ship and was surprised to see her looking out of her own Macros as he pulled his eyes away with a smile.
He was only slightly annoyed that Porchia was still hanging around. The comm channels all buzzed with the cheers of victory at the docks and it seemed the tide of the battle was turning. There was really no reason for her not to be flying, “Aren’t you going to—“ Before he could finish, Porchia tossed him an annoyed glare, which quickly turned into a warm smile.
“I’m not lettin’ you outta my sight bubba…”
<“I’m chasin’ em down, ‘fore they regroup.”> Vander didn’t ask permission, he didn’t need to. Neither did the Mandalorians, as they too started to move off in the direction of the retreating Zakuul Army. Mrysti pressed her communication toggle as she fired turbolasers into the last of the Zakuul still standing on the dock. She was taking moderate fire, but nothing she or the other walkers still sticking with her couldn’t handle.
“You do that…’Commander’…” There was a humor to her voice as Mrysti spoke back to Vander. He realized he should have said something, but the moment passed.
<”Meet up with you at the Command Center, shortly…don’ do nuthin’ stupid, hear?”>
She laughed into the comm as Vander disappeared with the other walkers over the ridge, “I won’t…save some for our ‘allies’…they will need something to brag about later on.”
Mrysti’s signal fizzled a little, it caused Vander to look down. Strange, there was no way she should be out of range already. He reached forward and adjusted the Comm, continuing to work the controls. As they approached the staging area, he abruptly stopped. Something was moving toward the Zakuul and also toward all of them. He leaned forward slightly and rubbed his eyes. Eternal Empire walkers were being picked up and hurled into the air as if they were toys. Yet he saw nothing. At least not at the height of a walker.
“Boys…stay frosty…we got sumthin’ up ahead…all scanners to full—“
<”AAAGGGHHH!!! It’s a—“>
<”She came out of nowhe—“>
The comm started to fizz again as Vander finally looked down at ground level. Just in time to feel his walker get lifted and tossed away. “What tha—“
It was irrelevant now. Her own walkers or those of the enemy, nothing was going to be spared. Not until she was finished. A wake of purplish Force Energy and a trail of lightning that seemed to come from the heavens followed Vaylin as she made her way through the valley. Pushing everyone and everything out of path. But it was so much. Vaylin had caught her Army in retreat in an attempt to regroup for another attack. She cursed them as cowards as she made her way through her forces and finally touched some of the Alliance walkers.
They flew away just as easily. Some of them crushed by her power, others fried from the discharge of energy that arced around her. It was her intention to spare no one, but as she looked up at the structure which displayed prominently on the horizon; the platform which jutted out from the mountain side with its bristling batteries, she dropped the walker she was holding and changed direction. Moving away…the Force trailing in her wake.
“Vander!!! Vander!!!” Mrysti twisted knobs and pushed Comm buttons as channels started to fizzle and wink out. Her HUD started to show once ‘green’ icons now turning 'red' and then going dark. Something was decimating the Force that Vander was heading off after. Mrysti got a sinking feeling, she felt HER presence even before Mrysti directed her walker the direction Vander disappeared.
Coming up over the ridge, all Mrysti saw was destruction. Walkers; both Zakuul and Alliance sitting in strange patterns, twisted and burning. Yet nothing to show what direction Vaylin went except the trail of twisted metal. “Oh…if he’s dead…”, quickly unbuckling her seatbelt, Mrysti launched from the hatch to land softly on the ground. She looked around frantically to try and find him. There was no way of distinguishing, there was so much metal scattered around.
Seeing the blue of an Alliance walker, Mrysti quickly approached. She tossed sheets of metal and fragments out of the way with brute force and lifted the bigger pieces in the Force. She stopped cold once she saw his walker, slowly approaching as his hatch burst open from within; Vander rolling out in front of her.
“Crazy Bitch!!” Vander coughed a few times as Mrysti kneeled next to him. He looked at her and smiled weakly, “Noh hugh, love…Vaylin. I ‘ave never in all my years seen…” They both looked up the path leading to the mountain side as Mrysti stood up suddenly. Vander looked at her and waved her off. “Go…Go!!! I’m fine ‘ere. Jus’ gotta git me bearings…”
The alarms were already going off in the Command Center from more than one incursion by Zakuul forces. As Vaylin approached no one was the wiser. Especially not with only one individual on foot. When the first of the Jedi and Sith guards did notice her and activate lightsabers to attack, they were quickly consumed by her rage. Either fried by the lightning storm which followed her or outright disintegrated with a thought. Vaylin continued her progress stepping up the stairs to the main platform.
Screams echoed out, followed by the sound of blasters as RT’s men turned on the approaching storm. They were hurled off the platform or electrocuted by her Will as Vaylin made her way across the platform. RT grabbed Porchia and pushed her behind him as he drew his rifle off his back. Saying nothing, he launched forward and held the trigger down firing madly at the Force which decimated his squad. Vaylin reached out, she launched the power she twiddled between her fingers out toward the trooper.
They were both thrown back, RT landing on Porchia as he fell after being hit by the blast from the coming storm. It burned a hole through his armor and as Porchia shook her head to clear it, she laid a hand on his chest. Immediately, she shook him. No response. Her eyes already welling up, she screamed in rage and drew her blaster to begin firing at the cloud, which started to clear. Vaylin stepped through and seemed to absorb every bolt Porchia fired at her. With a flick of her wrist, she jerked the blaster out of Porchia’s hand and smiled with a vicious grin.
“We can’t have that…” As Vaylin bared down, about to strike Porchia down the same was she did her husband, she stopped and stood up straight. The smile continued, “Wait…”, moving her wrist again, she pinned Porchia to the deck of the platform and circled her slowly. “…I know you…don’t I?”
Standing up straight as if given a shock, Karolin’s eyes got wide. Vaylin was close, very close. Unconsciously she rubbed her abdomen once again and grimaced, looking around. “Kriff it…”, she took off out of the doorway toward the outside platform.
“Yes, yes….I do know you. Your father was the one who scarred my brother…” Vaylin lifted her arm as Porchia came up off the deck to float in the air above her, seeming to struggle against an unseen Force holding her, “I really should thank you…he almost succeeded and put a damper on my brother’s power…if only—“ Vaylin looked at Porchia closely, she could see the tears streaming down her face and pursed her lips humorously; looking down at RT’s lifeless form. “--he was your husband? Pity…trust me, you are better off. Love is for fools…nothing good ever comes from it.” She tapped the finger of her other hand to her mouth as she considered. “Now what to do with you…you are important to them. But now you are scarred, probably permanently. I can’t let you live…if I do, you will try to kill me….endlessly.”
Porchia spoke through her teeth as the unseen Force kept her from moving, “Y-you sh-should kill me…I-I am go-going to k-kill YOU!!!”
Vaylin slowly lowered her hand, “Perhaps you’re right…farewell then...” She raised her hand again as blue arcing power and symbols began to coalesce and float around her.
Jerking her head the other way, Vaylin caught the tail end of a Disruption as Karolin leaped in. With her other hand, Karolin gently caught Porchia before she fell, lowering her to the ground. Porchia had fallen unconscious, as Karolin kneeled over her body, laying a hand on RT’s chest. Her head darted back up, twisted in rage. “You are going to pay for every single life you’ve taken…”
Coming up to a sitting position, Vaylin raised herself the rest of the way in the Force and floated toward Karolin. “Come now…you and I, we have a relationship…you don’t want to kill me. You love me…”
Thrusting both hands forward, Vaylin launched a twin blast of blue tinged Force Energy at Karolin, she rolled out of the way in time to come up to a knee. But, her attacker was already on her. With both hands outstretched still, the cloud of energy started to form around her again, Vaylin began to sink back into the cloud with only her voice being heard.
“You can’t win, Karolin…none of you can…”
Diving toward her, Aldurion caught Karolin just above her hip, purposefully. As they landed, the energy from the cloud striking the spot she occupied only a moment before; Aldurion looked at her and smiled weakly. Slowly he stood, thrusting his lightsaber out to the side. “Maybe not one…but all of us can.”
Karolin tugged at his arm, she could see it, feel what was about to happen. There was no way she was raising her ‘children’ without a father. Slowly she stood up and by his side, activating her lightsaber in her other hand. “Then we do it together…” he gave her a worried look, no way did he want this to happen. But it was too late to get Karolin to safety. Vaylin lowered back down in front of them, the cloud dissipated enough that both Aldurion and Karolin could see the white teeth and the evil grin greet them.
“No…I have no time for this.”, With a swipe of her hand both Karolin and Aldurion were thrown against the wall and held there. Both of them using all of their power to try and resist to no avail. “It’s better this way…in a moment, you won’t feel a thing. I promise you.” Slowly she closed in and started to once again call on her ancient power to disintegrate both Karolin and Aldurion.
“They won’t feel it…but you will.”, Her voice seemed to carry across the expanse, enhanced by her own power. It made Vaylin turn her attention away from her captives to look. Essence rolled off Mrysti as she stepped up the stairs and purposefully toward the massive storm holding her sister and her brother-in-law. “And I promise you…it won’t be quick.” She thrust out her hand as the saber hilt built for her by her daughter snapped to life with the red/black of a plasma blade.
Vaylin lowered them both as the last figure in the macabre play appeared, approaching from the same direction Vaylin took to get here. Swiping again, Vaylin knocked Aldurion and Karolin against the wall. Both of them slowly sliding down to the floor in unconsciousness. Her attention diverted, Vaylin lowered herself to the platform and took a step forward, lightning continued to arc around her as she took step after lightning tinged step.
“Mrysti…Bell….Alpha….oh how I have waited for this moment. You were right you know, when your sister tried to save me. You should have killed me then…before I released the rest of my power. Sorry, I missed you on Nathema…I hope you enjoyed your stay….”
Mrysti shook her head, rage building within her, all at once leaping and diving toward Vaylin, the saber blade held out to her front to impale the purple hued cloud. Vaylin seemed to phase in and out of existence, as Mrysti landed in the cloud, her blade burying deep into the platform. Appearing next to her Vaylin backhanded the much larger, bent over Mirialan. Spinning from the blow Mrysti landed and scrambled to get back up. But Vaylin was already there, leaning forward; almost nose to nose with her nemesis.
Every blow shattered something. The personnel manning the Command Center stopped to watch from a distance or on monitors. In orbit, the space battle took a brief respite as those tuned to the Command Center also began to observe. Shards of the Command Center began to fall in the cavern below as each strike of a blow from Vaylin flung Mrysti into something new. It was like a game to Vaylin, who could have at any moment simply ended the Mirialan’s existence.
Slowly, Mrysti stood, only to get struck again. This time being hurled into one of the turbolaser batteries. It exploded around her as Mrysti shielded herself from most of the effects of the explosion. Internally, she could feel her power starting to wane. Too much depended on what was happening, everyone knew it. It was why most of the battle ceased to see the outcome.
Stepping out of the debris and hurling the metal out of her way, Mrysti sneered. Vaylin had given up floating, the cloud of Force Energy dissipating for the moment as she smacked her hands together to dust them off. A shrill laugh came from her as she watched Mrysti come out of the destroyed battery angrily. “This is pointless…you realize I am just toying with you. But…you were the one who suggested we go slow.” With those words, Vaylin hurled herself with inhuman speed into Mrysti launching her once again into another part of the Command Center.
This time Mrysti crashed through a wall and landed on a series of power conduits. Again, shielding herself from most of the damage, she shook her head; getting up a bit slower this time. Vaylin didn’t follow, but the laughter carried.
“Hammer of the Empire…A DARTH no less…striking fear in those whom you encountered…”, Moving through the hole, Vaylin followed the path of destruction. Her face twisted slowly into rage, “It’s time to end this!!!” But Mrysti was not there. “You cannot hide forever…”
‘…out of balance…you must bring the Force into balance again…’
The voice echoed in Mrysti's head as she held her shoulder, moving away from the wall she was forced through. “How can I fight her if she’s invincible!!?!?” It was a question asked angrily through teeth as Mrysti, for the first time in her life experienced….fear.
“Come out…come out…wherever you are…” Vaylin sung the words as sounds of rubble and equipment crashed in her wake, her continued pursuit of Mrysti.
Throwing herself against the wall, Mrysti let out a haggard breath. She could feel herself hyperventilating from the fear and the pain of her injuries.
‘…trust…you must give yourself…to the Force…’
Again, Mrysti’s face twisted in anger at the voice. She never believed, not fully. Her entire existence since being changed by the project, the Force was an addition to her augmented strength and agility. It served her well, until she came face to face with an entity comprised entirely of the Force. Vaylin had unlimited power, it was everything Mrysti could do to cloak her movement and hide herself from her pursuer. “I can’t—how do I give myself to the Force when all I hear are words!!!” She pushed herself off the wall and staggered forward, falling into another wall to slide down under the stairs. “Help me…”
Shaking her head, she didn’t understand. Mrysti had never considered embracing fear. It was a lesson her Master, Darth Isilith tried to teach her. The lesson never took hold. Mrysti considered herself to BE fear. Others would fear, others would embrace the fear she projected, but never her. It couldn’t happen.
“There you are…” The melodic voice was followed by a grasp in the Force which picked up and hurled Mrysti through the wall leading back to the platform. She rolled to a stop and tried to push herself up, instead spitting blood out on the deck.
Blinking twice, Mrysti looked back toward the wall she was thrown through. She echoed the words that played in her mind, “Let go…” Slowly she pushed herself up to a sitting position and watched as Vaylin slowly approached. “I must let go…” She was figuring it out, slowly; more words coming to her. “…of fear…MY fear…of Death.”
There was a chime that echoed in her mind like a bulb going off in her head. She felt it leave her, fear; all emotion; all of it bleeding out of her as she picked herself up off the ground. Vaylin stepped through the hole and lifted herself in the Force, the purple cloud started to coalesce around her once again.
“This…has been entertaining…” Blue runes of light and the heavens opened up for Vaylin as she started to chant something. The tattoos on her arms glowing in time with the power as it began to grow around her. “…but sadly…it must end. I promise…I will make Karolin and the other’s deaths quick….” Vaylin’s voice grew dark as she grit her teeth, moving toward Mrysti in a flash of movement and light, “BUT NOT YOU!!”
Like an iron vice, Mrysti reached out and stopped Vaylin cold. Her hand clasped around the cloud’s throat as she tossed the entity against the far wall, next to the hole she was thrown into. Vaylin hit hard, but she did not go through the wall, merely making an impression as she stopped herself to float back off the barrier. Her eyes were wide with disbelief. “Impossible!!!” Launching herself back toward Mrysti, Vaylin pressed all of her power, the cloud, the arching lightning and the trail of blue Force Energy toward her foe.
Mrysti closed her eyes…she smiled as the entity approached. And time began to slow…she could see Vaylin coming, but as the Light of the Force surrounded her all she felt was peace. It warmed her, she felt safe as her mind wondered in that moment.
‘…walking the halls next to her, I never felt closer to my sister. We are one. We will always be one…death cannot separate us…’
‘…even as I struck you down, I felt your presence. I didn’t know it then, as the Force punished me for killing love…but even death cannot destroy a love that was meant to be…’
‘…my greatest achievement…my greatest invention…you. I have never known what love was until I found you…you gave me Samantha…death cannot end that…’
‘…just when you think your heart is full….all you need do is look at your child…you will find that love is endless…death cannot stop that…’
‘…there is no death…there is only….love’
Mrysti spun into the cloud, yellow light surrounded her as she struck Vaylin almost as if she were sitting still. Launching into the air, Vaylin felt it. Not only the blow, but a strike that was of the Force itself. It was something she never experienced before. She landed hard and felt the power she carried start to retreat inside of herself. Once again, she felt like a child; scared, afraid of what might happen should she use her power. Shaking her head she sat up and stared in disbelief. The Force itself was against her and as she looked at Mrysti, the yellow glow of the Light surrounding her, Vaylin knew. There was no way to win.
“I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!!!”
Reaching inside, Vaylin harnessed the rest of her energy and launched it down deep into the core of the planet. The world itself began to shake as a purple barrier began to sparkle and shimmer around her. Crying madly, she looked into the sky, her cry to the Force itself, “I WILL NOT BE DENIED!!! THIS GALAXY IS MINE!!! EVERYTHING…..IS MINE!!! MY WILL…NOT YOURS!!!”
The essence of the power began to rock in waves over Mrysti and the rest of them as Karolin and Aldurion woke from unconsciousness. Karolin looked at her sister, it seemed like for the first time ever she saw something different about her. Standing from the massive blow she dealt to Vaylin, Mrysti smiled down at Karolin and stretched her hand out calling the saber back to her grasp. Karolin knew, she dove forward and tried to grab her sister. Only to be pulled back by Aldurion. He pulled Karolin in tightly, almost in a forceful hug, “NO…NO…you are not allowed…” Aldurion knew, as Karolin did; the Force would allow no interference from her this time.
Walking forward, the waves of energy started to ebb around Mrysti as she slowly lifted the blade in her other hand. Her clothing, not already sheered from the battle with Vaylin began to melt and tear away from her as she got closer to the energy Vaylin was creating. Parts of Mrysti were starting to melt away. Like walking into a tsunami, Mrysti bent down and forced her way forward. Fighting the urge to scream in pain, she felt her skin begin to tear away getting close enough to feel the enormous pressure Vaylin emanated. It was her intention to destroy the world and everyone in it. As her power echoed across the landscape, she was the epicenter; Vaylin’s head still skyward as she cried out in her own pain. Everything she was, all of her immense power; she wanted to use to crack open the ground they stood on.
Stretching out her hand, more to shield herself from the blinding purplish light than to guard against Vaylin’s power, Mrysti continued to move forward. She closed her eyes a brief second to gain her strength before pressing ahead again, her hand cut through the bubble of energy protecting Vaylin as the skin sheered away from the bones of her hand, the rest of her body disintegrating upon entering the bubble as parts for herself started to powder in a misty red form.
With one rageful scream, Mrysti swung the red/black lightsaber into the hole she created with her hand. As she did so, Vaylin looked down at the last second to see the lightsaber penetrate her chest, she smiled in that brief second as she and Mrysti’s eyes met.
Blinding, the explosion rocked the platform and consumed the spot both Vaylin and Mrysti were standing on as the echo of the Force ebbed its way from the two women to cover the landscape and sky. Everyone felt it, it passed through everything.
Karolin pushed off Aldurion and stood slowly to look at the smoking crater left by the incredible power of opposites colliding against one another. Mrysti lay directly across from Vaylin, their feet nearly touching, but both lying motionless. She didn’t need to approach to know…Mrysti was gone.
As she bowed her head and fell back into a now standing Aldurion he clutched her tightly, looking at what Karolin could not bear to witness.
Sounds of running feet and clatter made Aldurion look toward the stairs. Vander was at a full sprint until he saw what lay in the center of the platform. He grew pale and slowed to a staggering walk, eventually falling next to Mrysti. Slowly he pulled her bloodied lifeless body into his arms and held her, rocking her slowly.
Letting Karolin go, Aldurion approached to help Vander. Karolin kept her back to everyone as he leaned down to offer Vander his hand. The copper-haired trooper looked up at Aldurion with a blank stare, his voice hollow.
Reconstruction started at the Odessen base almost immediately, more out of necessity than anything. The Eternal Fleet immediately left orbit following Vaylin’s death. Much to the Alliance’s surprise, leaving the remains of the Eternal Army on the surface to surrender or keep fighting without support. Only the ‘Gravestone' and few other Alliance ships tried to follow; reports came back to the Odessen Command Center that the fleet itself scattered. The large mass that only a few hours before formed an almost impenetrable net around the Alliance moon was now all across the galaxy, for reasons no one could explain.
Though efforts to repair and dig out from under the massive battle were underway, the immediate circle that formed around “The Coalition's’ main leadership did not move. It seemed as if they didn’t even breath. Stunned, shock still gripped them. Even as word of victory spread through the Alliance, none of them felt victorious at all. Mrysti was gone, their leader having sacrificed her life to end the greatest threat the galaxy had known.
Hours seemed to pass on the main platform, everyone outside of ‘The Coalition’ command structure keeping a distance from the heroes. And that’s what they were, everyone knew what ‘The Coalition’, especially their leader, had done. Vander sat, legs under him holding her body for what seemed an eternity. All of them still in a state of disbelief that she was gone. Mrysti, who at times seemed indestructible and had cheated death at almost every turn, had finally surrendered to the Force.
Moving her body to the lower levels, Vander carried her through the halls and down to the hangar bay. Not really sure what to do or where to place her, he entered her shuttle and stood what would have been considered a vigil over her. No one came near, no one would dare.
No one spoke, not until Karolin who left on her own to head to the hangar bay was stopped by Aldurion. He could feel his wife’s anguish and knowing what he knew as well as what he did in holding her back in the last moment, struggled with what to say. Never one to mince words, he followed Karolin until she turned on him, he could see the look of pure hated in her eyes and her need to lash out, but the words wouldn’t come from her lips. She wasn’t able.
“I did what I had to…you can hate me all you like. But know as well as I do…the Force was not going to allow—“
“SINCE WHEN..do you believe in the Will of the Force? Something you so casually talk about as ‘omnipotent and all-powerful’ with a sarcastic tint in your tone?” Karolin’s eyes, red and not just from her irises projected fire. It almost made him back up, instead he raised his hands defensively.
“I’m not the one who defied the Force…I’m not the one who said ‘Kriff you!’ when you were told to do otherwise. You did that…it just so happens that this time it spoke to me, because it knew you would not listen!”
So badly she wanted to lash out, at anything. Aldurion just happened to be in the way. Swallowing hard, she backed up and bit her lip, giving a sarcastic smile as she moved backwards facing him, toward the Hangar Bay. “Fine. Go have a talk with it…if you will excuse me, my sister just died…I’d like to go see her…”
He dropped his head as Karolin spun to walk off, anger palpable and flowing off of her like a warm blanket. Aldurion was understandably worried for his wife, he would have been more worried if he would have allowed her to do what she wanted in those last moments. It was no longer about Karolin’s ability to make poor decisions, or her rash acts. He could protect her from herself only so much. Aldurion’s concern was for the ‘children’ she carried. As he turned to go the opposite way he found himself for the first time thinking of them ahead of Karolin. For the first time, she was NOT his top priority. And he knew in that moment, he would do whatever he had to in order to protect them. Even if that meant making an enemy of his wife.
Enough was enough, Porchia repeated it again and again in her mind. So much had been ripped away from her, perhaps RT was right. This was all to do with the Alphas, her father included. For so long she took for granted that they were incredible people, super beings and more than just ordinary Soldiers or Jedi. RT tried to tell her that before and she didn’t listen, she couldn’t. Living up to them, being a part of them was who she was.
“You’re going to need some stitches or I can seal it for you…” The medic held the hydrobandage over her face as Porchia replaced his hand with hers, waving him off.
“I’m fine…I’m sure there are others who could use yer expertise.” The medic looked around the platform and shook his head. His eyes said it all. All that surrounded them were the dead. Porchia was one of the few to survive and that was only because Vaylin wanted to play with her.
“No General…there aren’t many left…actually…” He wondered off as Porchia watched him slowly pick up his medical gear and move off. ‘Not many left’. That continued to echo in her mind. She was alive only because Vaylin wished it. Right after Vaylin struck her husband dead. The thought threatened to choke Porchia up again, she buried it deep to stop from crying. Shaking her head to herself she swore, she was never going to cry again. Not for RT and not for them. Porchia was done, with all of it.
For as long as she could remember, the Force had been torturing her. Her earliest memories being in the rafters of the Jedi Temple, seeing that shuttle crash through the foyer and the front entrance; dozens of red lightsabers emerge to slay the Jedi in their Temple; her Temple. After all, the Temple had become her home while her father was away. Vaylin, tossed her away like she was nothing, struck RT down like he never existed. And then laughed about it. Laughed at her. She was tired of being the joke, the shadow of all these super beings.
Looking up, she watched Vander pass, carrying Mrysti’s body. Cradling it. Porchia understood the connection, Samantha was also her charge at one time. A time once again when she became the ‘second’; the one who had to stay behind because of the Force. As she watched Vander pass, his eyes locked forward, almost walking in a robotic fashion, she took a look at the woman he carried. Her Aunt Mrysti, a woman she simply despised. They had made a peace, because they had to and because Mrysti trusted Porchia enough to raise Samantha while they all had to go away.
Still shaking her head, she was not going to cry or mourn Mrysti’s death. Porchia felt bad for Sam, but not for Mrysti. In her estimation, she finally got what was coming to her. The death of her brother and her mother, now fully avenged. Her head still shaking ‘no’, Porchia had to ask herself what all of it mattered now? All of them were gone and now the one thing she finally trusted in, the one man in the universe she allowed to get close to her after the death of her father; was gone too.
Getting up, she tossed the bandage away from her face and stalked off. There had to be a ship around there somewhere, she had to get away. As far away as she could.
Karolin approached cautiously, she stopped at the ramp and looked up inside. Vander seemed to dart out almost immediately, ready to ‘kill’ whoever would dare approach. He seemed to back up, confused upon seeing Karolin; but still stayed in her path. She stepped back, opening her mouth to speak, but could not. The two grabbed hold of one another desperately hugging for a moment. At last, Vander finally let go of everything he was bottling up. It was fitting, Karolin smelled so like her sister. And he need that familiarity for the moment.
Reluctantly letting each other go for the moment, Karolin wiped her face and forced a smile. It was short lived as Vander did not return it, wiping his own face quickly, “I goh…ta tell Samantha. I don’ kno wha’ I’m gonna say I—“ Looking back into the dark of the shuttle he stared up the ramp, his eyes locked. Karolin ran her hand on his shoulder softly.
“Let me do it. I will contact them…they should be here before we move—“ Karolin was going to finish by saying ‘her’, but stopped when Vander’s head darted back to look at Karolin suddenly. No one wanted to mention ‘her’ or even think about what happened next. No one was ready for that.
Changing into her brown Jedi Robes, Karolin waited; hands folded in front of her as the wash from the shuttle blew her robes away from her body. She didn’t move, didn’t avert her eyes form the jet’s blast, allowing it to flow over her; she stood rigid, steeling herself for what was to come.
Telling Vander to stay away and simply dismissing Aldurion, this was her duty to perform. She was the one who contacted them, it would be Karolin who would lead both Samantha’s to their father and…their mother. Surprisingly, Samantha didn’t say much. There was no shocked reaction, screaming or crying. Samantha could have known, she could have felt it in the Force; Karolin knew that. But, even knowing something was coming and preparing yourself for it never got you ready to face the reality of what you knew. No one was ever ready to face the reality of death.
The wind died down and the ramp slowly lowered as Samantha the Elder emerged, carrying her younger self; ‘sister’. They stopped right before Karolin, the younger of the two bowing her head softly.
“Hello, Auntie…uh, I think we need to see Momma now…”
The tiny voice threatened to choke Karolin up, as she prepared herself for being face to face with the little one. Fortunately for Karolin, the ‘liitle one’ seemed to be the one directing things from the start. As Karolin said not a word, spinning to lead the two toward the hangar bay and their father.
Across the galaxy, groups of Eternal Empire frigates dropped out of hyperspace and into orbit of various systems. All of them in their usual ‘net-like’ formations. Though the individual fleets were not large, they were large enough. As they approached each Core World, they began to bombard the planets without warming. Dromand Kaas, Coruscant…even Zakuul itself was under attack.
Republic and Sith fleets responded as quickly as they could, the Sith in worse shape after lending aid to the Battle on Odessen. With no one to help, no one to call on; the remnants of the Eternal Fleet were wreaking havoc all across the galaxy. All control, all temperance provided by the one who sat in the Eternal Throne gone. With Vaylin’s death, control of the fleet passed to…no one. The Eternal Fleet was out of control and there was no one to stop it.
Trying to recount what happened to Samantha, Karolin put her hand over her mouth to prevent herself from breaking down again. The two women leaving Vander and little Samantha alone in the hangar, as the elder Samantha could no longer be in their presence or the presence of her mother’s remains. It was just too much all at once. Samantha reached out to stop Karolin from going on, it didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was that her Mother had done what she felt was right and in the end, did what the Force called her to do. Mrysti died redeemed and that was the most important thing to Samantha.
“Do you remember…” Samantha started off, smiling at Karolin as she began to speak, “…when you and I first encountered one another. I would have killed you where you stood…you were the last person I saw before you tossed me out of that window and I blamed you for so much. I blamed you for taking my mother away from me…” Samantha was speaking on Karolin’s journey to bring her back through the Force to help her fix something she created. It was one of the reasons Aldurion held Karolin back in Mrysti’s final moments. To correct that wrong, Karolin had scoffed and ignored the Will of the Force. A penance that was now paid with Mrysti’s passing.
“Yes, I remember.” Karolin sniffled and wiped her face, happy for a brief respite from thinking about her sister.
Getting a faraway look, Samantha stepped away and clasped her hands behind her back, “You asked me something, as we stood on the dunes looking at our home. Do you remember what that was?”, Thinking back, Karolin couldn’t think of anything at that moment, her mind so distracted she merely shook her head. “You asked me, ‘What would I give to see my Mother, one last time…” Sam looked down and seemed to break a moment, her chin quivering; which she quickly recovered from to smile, looking back at Karolin. “…I told you, I would give anything. And I did…” She reached forward and grasped Karolin’s shoulder tightly. “You are not to blame for this.” Sam seemed to instantly know the internal struggle Karolin was dealing with, “This…was the Will of the Force and it happened the only way it could have. Someday, you will have to accept that and forgive yourself for this, when you realize that there is nothing to forgive.” The two women embraced as Vander entered, his arrival surprising both of them. He had not left Mrysti’s side since everything happened.
All of them stood around the holo-table, minus Porchia. No one seemed to know where she was. Karolin knew she most likely ran off, no one knew Porchia better than she did. An image of Darth Acina hovered in the ions above them, as well as several smaller holos of planets around the galaxy, all of them under bombardment by an out of control Eternal Fleet.
“It’s unlike anything we have endured thus far…” Acina’s image seemed to fizzle a moment as explosions were heard in the background. “…it’s catastrophic. I know under the circumstances…” She hesitated looking at Karolin a moment before turning her eyes back to the group, “…this is a difficult request. The other Alliance units are either depleted or have retreated back to their respective worlds. The better part of my fleet was used to assist you and—“
Raising her hand to stop Acina from continuing, Karolin spoke abruptly. She needed no further convincing and Acina was fairly lose to begging as it was. “There is no need for delay…” Karolin looked at the others, “…we will make for Dromund Kaas with haste…” There was a strange look from Acina as well as representatives from the other planets.
“Master Alpha, I’m afraid you don’t understand. This is happening across the galaxy…the throne must be taken or destroyed if there is any chance for survival. Vaylin’s death has left a void….the fleet is out of control because NO ONE is occupying the throne.”
They all exchanged glances. Lots of thoughts floating around about what to do, the one thing they knew they needed to do was get to Zakuul. “No, I understand…we will make for Zakuul immediately…” Karolin turned to begin planning the move as Acina spoke up once again. The other holos and planets winking out after hearing that 'The Coalition' was about to begin movement.
“There is…one other matter I would like to discuss; albeit briefly. Your sister…Darth Retuvisa…” Karolin turned with a fury, her eyes lit with flame at what Acina was about to say. Acina quickly calmed the room, “…she was not only a hero to the Alliance, she was and still is a hero to the Sith Empire. We would be honored if you would allow us to keep vigil over her, while ‘The Coalition’ is once again engaged on Zakuul--”
Rushing toward the table, Vander raised a finger angrily toward the Sith Empress, “Noh on yer life witch!! She goes with us ta Zakuul…she started all this. I’m gonna see she finishes et…” Vander had not forgotten that it was Acina that took Mrysti prisoner after Voss and he was not about to give her mortal remains over for the Sith to do whatever they wanted with them. He had no intention of letting them out of his sight.
All of them looked at Vander like he said something NONE of them had thought of before. It made sense, though none of them thought of it the way Vander did. All of them shaking their heads in time as his words sunk in.
“You have your answer, Empress Acina…we will make our own way to Zakuul and—“
“Please…” Acina’s voice seemed pleading almost as she dipped her head slightly in the holo-stream. “…allow us to show our gratitude. At the very least, allow the Empire to offer you transport to Zakuul. It would be our honor…”
It was unexpected. Though the orbit around Odessen was littered with the remains of the previous space battle, the Sith Fleet did an excellent job of clearing the lane toward them. But that wasn’t the most surprising part of the voyage. Lined up, in perfect order; one ship next to the other, Dreadnaughts, Harrowers, every ship in the Sith fleet sat in a perfect row all the way to the main fleet Command Ship. As the shuttle passed the cordon of ships, the smaller ones sitting in between the large capital ships opened fire, not at the shuttle, but above them. All firing in unison, all of them firing in unison for a fallen Commander, the Hammer of the Empire.
They were still surprised by the time they made it to the Command ship. Surprised even further as the ramp lowered and a cordon of Imperial troops and officers stood in perfect formation awaiting their arrival. The boson for the ship stepped forward and in naval fashion blew the command whistle for all troops to come to attention as he announced the arrival of their shuttle.
“Now arriving…Commander of the Coalition and Dark Lord of the Sith, her Lordship, Darth Retuvisa.”
There was an audible rush and click of heels as the gathering, which spanned the entirety of the docking bay came to attention, the Admiral bowing as Vander, Samantha, Karolin and Aldurion led the steel box containing Mrysti’s remains down the ramp held up by repulsors.
“Master…” He looked at Karolin and nodded to the others as he stood back up saluting. “The guns will fire salute until we disembark for Zakuul in honor of her Lordship. And for this voyage, our Empress has given permission to rename the ship from the ‘Indomitable’ to….the ‘Hammer’.” He smiled at them all as he stepped aside quickly allowing them to pass.
It was a somber moment, one that would etch in the minds of all of them. Each one of them laying a hand on the box to lead it thorough the processional. No one had given any thought to honors or what would take place after all of this was over. It seemed the Sith were taking matters into their own hands, at least for their part of it. Mrysti’s former Empire paying homage and final respects, in a fight that had yet to be over. Slowly the casket made its way past the rows of troops, the Commanders all saluting as it passed.
And in the rear of the casket walked a lone little girl, overwhelmed by the fact that her mother had meant so much to a people and to an Empire that she had given up on and walked away from in order to defend the galaxy.
Despite what any of them thought, Mrysti was a Sith, raised a Sith. And though misguided, her people honored her, even at the end.