Cotelin walked within the shadows once again. His body rested comfortably in a medical bay within the Justice but once again his mind wandered from reality. The Grand Master had attempted to open his eyes and regain consciousness when the visions first came, but now he accepted them with grim acceptance. The visions were coming at a greater frequency, their content focused on his past decisions and actions.
“Where am I?” he asked as the shadows began to fade. His vision focused and unfocused providing glimpses of transparisteel viewports, crew members, and holographic displays. Cotelin’s mind pushed forward through the shadows until they fell away and his visions focused. His feet stood firmly planted on the command deck of a Star Destroyer and his eyes watched the crew expertly conduct battle drills.
“I don’t recognize the ship,” Cotelin asked the familiar form gazing out of the bridge’s primary viewport.
“You are standing on the bridge of the Grey Wolf.”
Of course, Cotelin thought as he observed his old friend. The dark armor, crimson cape, and short hair remained, but the wounds from earlier visions were gone.
“Are you here to ask me to join you again?” Cotelin asked.
“You have done much, achieved countless victories, and the time to walk away is nearing. But no, I am not here to ask you to join me in death.”
“Then what,” Jac began, but his old friend held up a finger and interrupted.
“Captain, full alert. All turbolasers to full power. Bring the ship about and prepare for incoming.”
Klaxons blared and red lights flashed across the bridge as Cotelin watched the Grey Wolf revert to real space. Swarms of unidentified ships appeared and the red and green flashes of turbolasers erupted as a very real sense of danger washed over the old Grand Master.
Cotelin looked to his old friend and the realization hit him before the words were spoken.
“I’ve come to warn you.”
Aegit Kamat Hyperlane
37 ABY, hours later
“Shields up and open emergency communication channels.” Admiral Farhan ordered as chaos erupted outside of the Justice’s viewport. An unknown gravity well had pulled the Taldryan fleet from hyperspace and an enemy force had opened fire immediately upon their reversion to real space. The ship’s friend or foe system had already identified the treacherous Knights of Odan Urr within the ambush, but unidentified ships were also engaging Taldryan forces.
“Admiral, The Dark Prophet and Valor were pulled out of hyperspace directly into mine fields. They are reporting the mines are Arakyd Industries type B models. Their systems are taking a pounding, but the ships remain structurally sound.”
Farhan leaned back in his chair and observed the unfolding quagmire. Sith Space was treacherous and forced large fleets to utilize narrow hyperlane corridors, but even with the predictability of fixed space travel their opponents should not have known the exact time they would arrive at the ambush location. House Taldryan had been betrayed.
“Flight Ops, inform the Vanguard Battle Group to launch all fighters. I want this rag tag force decimated and I want the space mines cleared. Targeting, find me the source of the gravity well. Communications open a channel to the recon teams and inform them they are on their own.”
Jaguada: Near Orbit
“What the hell do you mean they were just pulled out of hyperspace?” The muscles in Dark Jedi Master Keirdagh Taldrya Cantor’s face tensed as his eyes bore into the young communications officer. The Special Forces and General Support Forces of Taldryan had launched hours earlier on a reconnaissance of Jaguada and they were relying on the Fleet’s support.
“Sir, Admiral Farhan reports that the Vanguard Battlegroup has been ambushed on the Kamat Aegit Hyperlane. An unidentified gravity well brought them out of hyperspace. They were engaged immediately by unknown forces. Admiral Farhan reports that the Jedi House of Odan Urr is also operating in the kill zone and engaging Taldryan Forces.”
Cantor was bewildered. “Who in the hell plans these operations?” The Dark Jedi Master looked to the assembled team of warriors crammed into the hull of the assault transport and felt under bewilderment at the ineptitude of the Dark Council. They had put him and his men into danger again.
“What do you want to do?” the gruff tone of Cantor’s voice asked the men seated around him.
It was the tired, but measured voice of Jac Cotelin that responded.
“The mission is a go. We knew the ambush was coming. We will accomplish what we came for.”
Cantor nodded to the Grand Master. The Dark Council had their plans and Taldyran had theirs.
Darth Gravid’s Fortress
“We are under heavy fire from multiple directions. The landing zone at Objective Rancor is hot. I repeat the LZ is hot.” Morotheri Mithfaron screamed into the microphone attempting to communicate the gravity of the situation his team was facing. It had been three hours since his shuttle came in hot at LZ November and things had gone from bad to worse.
Intelligence had indicated the planet was abandoned, but multiple enemy forces had converged on his position with maddening fury. The Kaleesh Kolkpravis had advanced on Odan Urr with swords drawn, taunting the Jedi into individual combat. Inexperienced Jedi rushed to engage the enemy forces and were greeted by the detonation of suicide vests. The Kolkpravis did not seek battle; they sought Odan Urr’s annihilation.
The initial slaughter had subsided and Odan Urr’s forces had adjusted to their opponents tactics, but Morotheri needed his reinforcements. Looking at a group of warriors huddled behind cover, Moretheri called out to his Quastor, “Liam, what is the status of our fleet? They should have been here hours ago.”
Liam Torun looked to his ally and could only shake his head. His voice straining to be heard over the withering fire on their position, “We are on our own.”
Kalsunor QX2 Platform
Ernordeth Puer-Irae was a rising star in the Dark Brotherhood. Ambitious, powerful, and cunning beyond his years, the Dark Jedi Knight was gaining attention for his performance in the Dark Crusade. He had heard the whispers and knew that the Dark Council had noticed him. He was marked for a future in leadership, maybe even the Council itself.
That meant little to him as his shuttle spiraled out of control and his had slammed repeatedly into the back of his crash seat. The transport ferrying Tarentum’s Special Forces had been unceremoniously shot down as soon as they entered the gravity well of Kalsunor. The shuttle’s pilot had identified the abandoned QX2 Platform and pushed what remaining power the craft had into a crash landing in one of the exterior hangars.
Ernordeth’s crash restraints dug into his body as the Tarentum shuttle skidded across the landing bay’s floor. Swiping their release with his free hand, the Dark Jedi Knight bounded from his seat and moved towards the shuttle’s exit ramp. The gravitational and life support readings indicated the hangar bay was leaking oxygen into the vacuum of space and losing its gravitational support.
“Two minutes and we are exiting this shuttle. Combat suits, we are going zero g. Two minutes!”
Ernodeth watched the viewport and saw the movement with the hangars shadow. A military force was already on the station and was moving into position.
The Tarentum Aedile could feel his combatant’s thoughts as they prepared for combat. They were organized, prepared, and they had been expecting Tarentum.
Someone has screwed this mission up bad.
“Five, four, three, two, one.”
Ernordeth popped the release on the exit ramp and all hell broke loose.
Lambda Class T-4a
Kalsunor QX2 Platform
Troutrooper was already annoyed with the Mandalorians on his shuttle. They spoke in guttural tones, grunted often, and could barely contain their glee at the pending battle. Trouty, as he was affectionately known by his friends, pondered the thought of the Mandalorians armor changing color like the mood rings worn by children. The image amused him as much as the Mandalorians were amused by calling him “deuce head.”
Being holed up in the Lamda Shuttle with the bucket-heads was not his idea. His newly appointed Consul felt that the Dark Jedi Master could temper the bloodlust of the Mandalorians and prevent them from destroying the potential treasure troves of artifacts on Kalsunor. Trouty was confident he could manipulate the Mandalorians, but he was unsure if he wanted to put forth the effort. Kalsunor was a garbage heap amongst garbage heaps in Sith Space.
“Master Troutrooper, our Tarentum allies have been engaged by unknown forces. We have just witnessed one of their shuttles crash land on the QX2 platform to our starboard side.”
Troutrooper glanced down at his hands. Artifact hunting on a silooth plagued planet with the potential of an acid bath, or a trip to the QX2 facility to gloat at Tarentum’s misfortune.
“Commander, inform the Consul that we are diverting our course to the QX2 facility to render aid to our allies.”
Kamat Aegit Hyperlane
Arden Karn was a volcano waiting to explode. The Sith Warrior was renowned for his calm demeanor and calculating personality, but even he had his limits. The Dark Crusade had been a resounding success for House Plagueis, but something had bothered him about it from the outset. Operations were compromised, personalities were mismanaged, and the whole affair stunk of the Dark Council’s scheming. His initial concerns were minor compared to the catastrophe that sat before him.
Starships from Clan Arcona, House Tarentum, and multiple unknown forces buzzed the Ascendancy in utter pandemonium. The entire Dark Brotherhood fleet converging on Kalsunor had been ripped from hyperspace and was under a coordinated attack. The confusion led to acceptable amounts of friendly fire incidents, but Arden could not rule out the potential that Arcona had engineered the entire event.
Ronovi had tasked him to remain on the bridge to ensure a smooth transition to Kalsunor space and he could sense her displeasure from the main hangar of the Ascendancy. The special forces teams had boarded their shuttles hours earlier in preparation for the main invasion and were waiting for the command to launch.
Arden’s mind calculated the odds and chances of success of several plans before giving the command to the bridge.
“Captain, order all ships to clear a path. Our Special Forces will launch from here and travel at sublight until they can make a microjump to Kalsunor. The bridge is yours.”
Arden Karn walked with a purpose from the bridge and relished the thought of exacting revenge on whoever had planned House Plagueis’ mishap.
Objective Ardent Glade
Koryn Thraagus staggered backwards as an armored fist smashed into his temple. Reeling from the attack, the Rodian Krath Priest spun in a defensive maneuver to avoid the inevitable follow up attack. Fighting off unconsciousness, Koryn continued to back pedal from his attacker in an attempt to buy time. His lone weapon, a lightsaber, remained unignited in his right hand. The blade had short circuited moments prior when it struck the cortosis gauntlet of his attacker.
His engagement with the Sun Guard had gone much like the entire operation. It was a complete cluster-funk. Scholae’s Special Forces had touched down at Tritos Nal’s Forge and were immediately engaged by an entrenched force that possessed superior numbers and firepower. The Sun Guards had attacked in a coordinated fashion born from their experience in combat. Wielding cortosis pikes the Sun Guards were capable of matching the Dark Jedi in close quarter combat and their initial onslaught broke the Scholae line.
The Scholae Quaestor, Xen’Mordin, had sounded the alarm and commanded his forces to fall back into a defensive perimeter. His actions had saved the House from destruction, but even now their fate remained unsure. Multiple individual battles raged simultaneously and Scholae’s ground forces were being chewed to bits.
Koryn continued his defensive stalling as the Sun Guard stalked him. Despite the hopelessness of the situation, the Force whispered to the young Priest to hold on for just a few more minutes. Stumbling, Koryn dropped to a knee and his attacker was upon him.
“Die Jedi,” the modulated voice of the Sun Guard mocked.
“You first,” Koryn said through pursed lips as a blue lightsaber blade appeared from the Sun Guard’s chest.
“It took you long enough,” Koryn gasped as Evant Taelyan’s extinguished his blade and the body of the Sun Guard dropped to the ground.
Objective Ardent Glade
The Bpfasshi Jedi Hunter drove her beskar katana through the skull of her attacker with a violent declaration of her martial prowess. Ripping the blade from the Sun Guard’s head, Syntari emanated a serene calmness that overcame her during the heat of battle. With a flick of her blade, she sheathed the weapon and returned to the ranks of her Clansmen as they awaited the next wave of attacks.
Her selection to the Special Forces team had come as a surprise to some within Naga Sadow, but she had the support of the Clan’s leadership, to include the enigmatic Darth Vexatus. Despite her youth and rank, Syntari had proved a capable warrior with the ability to rise to exceptional challengers. She has spent over two years training at the foot of the Herald and had spent the last five months perfecting her skills as a Jedi Hunter. She was ready for more and she was ready for it now.
She knew that Korriz would offer her the opportunity to excel, but she had not counted on the entire operation to fall apart from the start. Vexatus and Macron had utilized their Elder powers and rebuked the initial ambush, but Syntari could sense more attackers coming. Her thoughts focused on the opportunities that lay before her and the power that could be obtained through victory.
She sensed Vexatus staring at her or through her. The Dark Prophet merely smiled at her as if she were a child in the Force. “You have much to learn here.”
And the next wave of attackers were upon them.
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