“I hope you had something in mind?” Lucine asked, ducking low as a mechanical limb tried to sideswipe her. The Shadow Lady despised physical combat, but she put considerable time and effort into staying proficient at it.
“Working on it,” the Zeltron retorted. The Jedi seemed a bit more in his element as he fended off the attack, the Force guiding his limbs to deflect strike after strike with an apparent lack of effort. But the strikes kept coming, and Teikhos hadn’t severed any limbs after the first. His eyes darted to and fro, seemingly everywhere but on his opponent.
“Quickly,” the Sith hissed. Her arms were already burning with the strain and she was not pleased that her companion, who was clearly strong enough to incapacitate their attacker, was inexplicably disinterested in doing so.
And then the Jedi found whatever it was he had been looking for and his face lit up. “About forty degrees to your right,” he said.
“What?” Lucine asked.
“Up in the stands. Do you see it?”
The Human spared a glance to her right. Turrets were popping up from the arena floor all around them, holding fire until the current monstrosity was dealt with. The arena’s wall loomed in the distance, crowned by a small, boxed in observation booth just below the Grand Master’s throne. Was that what he was getting at?
“I don’t understand,” Lucine complained.
“Don’t understand,” Teikhos answered. “Just do.”
Insufferable Jedi platitudes, Lucine thought, but her companion offered some clarification.
“Run for it.”
Glad for any excuse to escape the pummeling, Lucine waited for the next opportunity to duck under one of the mechanical arms and then took off in a flash of copper curls. The arena’s other traps opened fire before she got very far, but the controllers had overplayed their hand in their zeal to work the crowd back up. Now that they were all plainly visible, Lucine had little difficulty avoiding the flamethrowers and power coils and the blaster turrets were no match for her lightsaber.
The crowd didn’t seem very interested in her, but their cries of encouragement were turning to surprise. She guessed Teikhos had stopped dancing and started fighting.
Like most of the arena’s traps, the vivisection droid was only a real challenge while it held the element of surprise. Lucine hadn’t had quite the finesse or raw strength to disarm it, but Teikhos was pleased at how easily she slipped away from it.
As for him, well, striking a vulnerable spot was pretty easy now that the two saber-wielders had been hacking away at the device’s armor. Teikhos plunged his blade into the thing’s horrid little droid brain and tried to use its bulk to shield himself while he pulled his weapon free. And then he ran after Lucine, trying to stay ahead of the deluge of incoming fire.
Teikhos made for the arena’s edge, lightsaber flitting from side to side as he batted away blaster fire. Lucine was almost at the wall—by the time he caught up with her, she had her back to it and had settled in. As long as her body could keep up with the effort, she would be able to hold off the arena’s traps indefinitely.
But as much as Teikhos admired that body, the Shadow Lady was beginning to huff from the effort and he knew she couldn’t keep up forever.
“Cover me,” he said flatly, stepping behind her and clipping his inactive lightsaber to his belt.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, darling,” Lucine said, not entirely able to hide the edge in her voice.
The Jedi didn’t have any clever retort. In the midst of the swirling ocean of hate and fear and pain, of tortured animals and the bloodthirsty, spectacle-crazed crowd, Teikhos was an island. Not an island of peace, exactly, but an island of certainty. As he said, he was going to finish this.
The Iron Legion had searched him when he arrived on Arx and Ciara’s men had searched him again before allowing him into the colosseum’s staging area. Looking over his meager equipment, they thought the lightsaber was his only weapon. But the Jedi had brought another, a weapon against the arena itself. Teikhos drew on the Force and the certainty of his path as he looked up the supposedly unscalable arena wall. He was going to need all the help he could get.
And then he jumped.
The Force almost burned in his thighs as he channelled as much energy as he could into launching himself upward. At the apex of his jump, Teikhos repeated the effort, this time bringing supernatural power to bear in his arms as he hurled the head of his grappling hook at the parapet atop the arena wall. It latched on and the Jedi grunted as he swung gracelessly forward, smacking into the wall before lowering himself down as quickly as he could.
Lucine was breathing hard now, her reflexes slowing as the onslaught continued unabated. Teikhos secured the grappling hook to his belt before he reactivated his weapon.
“Going up?” Teikhos asked with a roguish grin. Lucine made an uncharacteristically unfeminine grunt at him but she dropped her guard, deactivated her saber, and wrapped herself around him more tightly than was strictly necessary. Teikhos clutched his own lightsaber in one hand, ready to bat away any incoming fire, while the other wrapped around Lucine. “Could you get that for me?”
The Human fumbled with his belt for a few heartbeats before she found the switch, but once the automatic winch got going they rose quickly.
The Zeltron tried not to get too comfortable with the Shadow Lady pressed so tightly against him, her hot breath against his neck, the feeling of her heart pounding behind her truly remarkable—
Focus, he thought. Lucine was a child of the Force like all living things, but that crushed velvet body concealed a soul of crushed glass. More importantly, Aura had a very un-Zeltron and, to Teikhos’ mind, un-Jedi attitude about exclusivity in relationships. Fortunately, being hauled up by one hip, butt dragged against a stone wall while machines shot at you, wasn’t very conducive to romance.
They made it up safely, somehow, and Lucine managed, somehow, to clamber off him and over the small parapet separating them from the crowd. The Jedi followed, pulling himself up and over the hook latched onto the parapet.
The crowd was not happy. Neither were the two armed guards outside the control room door. But before they could attack and before Teikhos could even think about how to deal with them, Lucine brushed past the Jedi and waved one manicured hand.
“Dive in,” Lucine said, her voice the sickly sweet of overripe fruit and her words laced with poison. The guards were trained to resist such use of the Force, but their overlords only tolerated so much capability to resist and they could not hold firm against her. There was struggle, hesitation, but eventually submission. The two guards leapfrogged the parapet and fell screaming to the arena floor below.
“Oh, don’t fret about the help, dear.” The Sith was in her element now, far above the beasts and traps and surrounded by pliable, sapient minds. And on the other side of that door, three very frightened, very pliable minds awaited her.
Teikhos was pinned down now as the small legion of guards frantically converged on their position. The Jedi’s azure saber flashed again and again, redirecting blasterfire back to his attackers, but so long as he kept the fighting away from her, Lucine didn’t care what he did. After that little stunt down below, he owed her a few minutes of distraction. She plunged her emerald blade into the control room door.
The durasteel glowed and then melted away as the amethyst blade rocked forward and back. The Sullustan was babbling in his incoherent native gibberish while Tag and Bink discretely shuffled back to the far corner. They have not lived into ripe old age by being old.
After what felt like an eternity, the door collapsed in and natural light flooded the dim chamber. The statuesque, scarlet-haired beauty strode into the control center as if she owned the place, and, as far as the occupants were concerned, she did.
Full lips twisted into a cruel smile. “Boys, could you shut him up?”
“Yes ma’am, Mistress Ténama ma’am yes,” Tag and Bink stammered before helpfully draining their blasters’ power packs by firing into the Sullustan’s back. It took a conspicuously long time, and certainly more shots than were required to kill an unarmored, 40-kilo scientist. But their dedication was impressive.
“Now,” Seraine purred, “What am I going to do with you two failures?”
The two gave each other sideways glances, each trying to work out how to pistol-whip his best friend to death.
Teikhos interrupted them, darting in through the smoking doorway, lightsaber in hand. He took in the scene quickly, then looked to his companion. “Really?”
Lucine sighed and let the illusion fade. “For the record,” she said, “Zeltrons do not have more fun.”
“Remind me to hook you up with my masseur,” the Jedi quipped. He turned his attention to the two men in the corner. “You should probably leave now.”
Tag and Bink ran, mindlessly darting out into the light. Lucine said something cruel and witty but Teikhos was so focused on his task that he couldn’t even hear her. He raised his lightsaber high, then brought it down into the nearest console. And then the next one. No more traps, no more arena fights, no more vivisection droids. He would tear this entire hateful colosseum apart brick by brick if that’s what it took to put an end to pain and suffering inflicted here.
The Brotherhood would rebuild it.
And the Jedi would smash it again.