Plot Update Four: Nothing Follows


Plot Update Four: Nothing Follows

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_Nothing Follows

Path…what path is there? We are all tumbling down the mountain to the valley below. We do not choose if we fall. We simply do. The most that can be hoped for is to hit a few less trees on the way down._



_A tiny electronic voice interrupted his thoughts. “Lord Muz is here, Grand Master,” it said from somewhere in the deep folds of Sarin’s robes.

He was pleased; briefly. His security detail had alerted him to the arrival much sooner than he’d expected. Raken had trained his soldiers well. Sarin couldn’t see them at the moment. They were out there in the inky darkness among the trees and shadows. Black figures, silent and efficient. So unlike what had characterized the Royal Guards of old. Perhaps a new Guard was in the offing? Time would tell. Many things demanded his more immediate attention.

None more so than the Dark Prophet who had come to kill him._


**Uncharted Planet

Corporate Sector, Outer Rim

Fall of Antei, Day 73**

“Lord Muz is dead,” the soldier reported.

Sarin had not moved since the duel’s end. He could taste the iron tang of blood in his mouth. His blood. It had been a long, long time since that had happened. Kneeling on smashed cobblestone in the courtyard of Palpatine’s lost fortress he surveyed the scene about him. Armored soldiers kicked through the rubble of Sith statuary now strewn everywhere. Darth Bane’s head lay a meter to his left looking up at him with empty eyes of stone. Pale moons still punctuated the night sky.

What had happened here?

Sarin’s thoughts were unclear. He demanded his faculties answer him, but he had yet even to rise. Could he rise? Image and sound assaulted him. His head throbbed with the coursing of his blood until his face was as warm as if gazing into a fire. Pain shot through his body and his fists clenched reflexively. His lightsaber was still in hand. Why?

More sound. More pain. Images raced through his mind poorly recreating the events that had unfolded. One image froze in place. Muz. He had fought Muz. He had killed Muz. He had commanded him to attack; to hold nothing back. And so he had had to kill his Shadow Hand. His most loyal and trusted servant. His successor.

Clarity dawned. Sarin had done what Sith had been doing for thousands of years…ensuring survival. Were Sarin to lead them back to Antei—back to victory—he would need to be sure he was the one. His failures had caused him to question his methods; question himself. Muz had simply fulfilled his purpose. Had he killed Sarin, a stronger leader would be taking them back. But with Muz dead at his own hand, Sarin confirmed himself. There was no doubt now.

He demanded order. Sarin’s body returned to his control and he looked up with the old heat in his stare. His soldiers were watching. Weakness could not be tolerated. Not now. Not ever.

He stood.

“Are you alright, sir?”

The security detail had known to stay back, but now gathered around the Grand Master. Most faced outward to identify further threats, but a few officers looked at Sarin through the photoreceptors of their helms somewhat bewildered.

“Call for another security detachment,” Sarin said.

Though a full detail was already on site, the officer assumed the Grand Master wanted to be more cautious given the ordeal he’d just undergone. He contacted Nightfall in orbit and relayed the order.

Turning back to Grand Master Sarin he said, “My lord, ETA—uhhk”

Unable to breathe, the officer clawed at the controls on his gauntlet to switch to internal air. Assuming they’d been gassed, he knew he’d have seconds to seal his suit and draw on the temporary supply. Through his narrowing peripheral vision he could see the others of the detachment grasping at their forearms attempting to execute the very training he was. Everyone was going down; all except the Grand Master. Standing in the center of the struggling guards, he looked renewed, peaceful; the image of calm focus.

The officer’s vision went dark and he fell.

Sarin looked to the crumbled statues at his feet. No, weakness could not be tolerated. Not even from himself.

**LAAT/i Gunship

Feriae Junction, Thesme Sector

Fall of Antei, Day 98**

The blacked-out gunship hugged the rugged terrain of Feriae Junction. The world was core-ward from Antei along the Hydian Way and a strategic target for both sides of the war. It had been devastated by a Yuuzhan Vong siege protracted by several thousand determined New Republic defenders. With reinforcements, the Republic had a chance of holding out.

“I’m not kidding,” Casen was saying from the floor of the gunship. “He took out twenty crab boys at least. It was beautiful.”

Sergeant Akor Digh shook his head. He’d seen what the Jedi could do and it was frightening. And he wasn’t on the receiving end. But this mission didn’t call for one so they had joked, “The Force is not with us.” Someone had heard they might be a liability on this op as there could be enemy Jedi on the surface. They’d find out soon.

The men of 1st and 2nd squads, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company mostly rode in silence on the floor of the craft. They sat back to back in two rows facing outward towards the skin of the aircraft. Some, like Casen, liked to tell stories or talk idly to pass the time. Seated near the rear, Digh, the Platoon Sergeant and Company First Sergeant listened more due to the consequence of proximity than interest. Digh kicked at the man next to him who had fallen asleep and continued to listen.

Casen was animated. “He was a big one. Digh, you saw.”

Digh said nothing. He wasn’t sure if not having a Jedi along on this run made him feel better or just uneasy.

“He had the Vong like this,” Casen said gesturing menacingly with his hands. “Bent that karking Vong backwards the wrong way. Unstoppable.”

“They go down,” First Sergeant Speros said standing at the tail. “Just like anyone else.” Speros was busy monitoring the company and pilot nets through a pair of jacked-in headphones, but he didn’t want his men to be too taken with the Jedi and their flash. But he understood.

“Roger, First Sergeant,” Casen said smiling. “But it’s how many they take with them before they go I’m interested in.”

The First Sergeant nodded, but not at Casen’s comment. The pilot’s call came through the headset and he relayed it to his men. “Six minutes!”

All conversations ended. Everyone repeated the time and carefully made their way to a knee then stood and took hold of loops of heavy-duty fabric anchored overhead to steady them against the bucking ship. They checked equipment and mentally reviewed their portions of the mission.

“I bet clones never did this,” Salas yelled in Digh’s ear.

“Salas, I heard your dad was a clone,” Casen yelled back grinning.

Salas pulled on his pair of heavy bantha leather gloves and responded to his friend with the appropriate salute.

“Three minutes!” Came the call from the First Sergeant acting as chalk leader for this stick.

“Three minutes!”

The LAAT/i’s doors automatically slid back to either side of the tail and the cold wind of the planet’s nightside whipped through them. Digh thought it felt like water flowing around him as he searched for the ground and signs of the target. He could see flashes in the distance that briefly illuminated the interior of the ship. New Republic artillery probably trading blows with Vong plasma, he thought. They were still aloft so the air defense grid hadn’t picked them up. They were obviously too busy fighting for dear life against the death-worshippers’ onslaught.

“One minute!”

Digh pulled a set of cheap goggles over his eyes to protect them from the dust. He charged his weapon and squeezed the shoulder of the man in front of him.

“Thirty seconds!”

The sound of war was distinct now. What had been soft whumps and crumps a minute earlier were now sharp cracks. They passed through pockets of hot air rising from fires burning on the ground. The gunship bucked more as the pilots struggled through and around thermal blooms and shockwaves. Digh could just make out the shape of a massive six-limbed creature battering a particle barricade in the distance. The monster soaked up staggering amounts of fire yet continued to ram ahead as if the more damage it incurred the stronger it became.

The LAAT/i suddenly rocked upward then down and the ropemasters standing at the side doors identified the landing zone. “Ropes!” they called and kicked four twenty-meter coiled ropes over the side. “Follow me!”

And they did. Each stick went out its own door sliding the near length of the rope until hitting the ground and running to cover. When the LAAT/i’s crew chief verified the ropes were clear, he released them to fall to the ground in quick, curling spirals.

Fire was everywhere. Smoke assaulted them through the cloth wrappings around their faces. Angry hyphens of incoming and outgoing fire lanced the midnight blue sky in all directions. The New Republic had their hands full on this world and more. First squad separated off and went towards their objective while Digh fell in with his squad as they rallied near a shattered building on the outskirts of what had been a fuel depot. They moved out carefully in hurried crouches skirting the perimeter of out-buildings trying to clear the heavier fighting that was already rolling their way.

A pair of Incom T-47’s screamed by overhead to add their measure to the battle. Digh wished them luck. Had he time, he could have stopped right there and marveled at his circumstances. He had come so far. Had things turned out differently, he could very well be fighting in one of the New Republic units entrenched here.

He was very glad he was not.

They moved silently through streets of rubble. Occasionally the pointman would hold up a fist and halt their movement to allow a Vong patrol to go by. Doubtless the crab boys were probing this area quietly for hidden access points into the shielded fortifications under siege. Fortunately, Digh and his men already knew where that access was.

Digh pushed his goggles up and over the bill of the softcap he was wearing and rubbed his eyes with his non-firing hand. No wonder the New Republic was losing this war. His eyes were burning from the smoke. He missed his Kraytskin. Even the Vong were smart enough to use armor.

The NR battledress uniform he wore consisted only of soft armor that was not designed to stop much more than harsh language let alone a Vong razor bug traveling 250 meters per second. The uniform’s best protective feature was that it identified him as a lieutenant with New Republic Special Forces. An “officer” would have a better chance of talking himself out of a brush with a security patrol should they become separated or were forced to abort. In fact, every man in his squad was identified as an officer of some rank or other by their stolen uniforms.

Explosions continued to bloom around them like a coordinated holiday display. They crept ever-nearer Digh’s position and he was anxious to get them under the protection of the Republic’s energy shield.

The squad halted again and took up a security posture while Digh and the other leaders checked their maps. The bunker entrance was the nondescript one-story pile of rubble directly ahead of them. They split the squad into its two internal fire teams and Digh’s moved forward to the bunker entrance while the other provided overwatch.

Digh descended a shallow stairwell at the front of the building into a narrow passage that terminated in a steel door that looked like something transplanted from a bank vault. The passage was cold and damp and allowed entrance only in single-file. The other three men of his team watched up and back while Digh rapped on the door twice in quick succession with the heel of his fist.

Digh and his team were instantly bathed in blue light from scanners embedded in the door’s frame. The chips in the rank badges of their uniforms were sliced and should identify them as Team 239 who had departed the wire four days ago on reconnaissance. When the scan was complete the outer door slid up into a recess and they entered cautiously. The outer door sealed behind them air-locking the four men inside. They were decontaminated for possible Yuuzhan Vong spores and other hazards and then allowed inside.

The process repeated for the other team in Digh’s squad until they were all inside heading down a long narrow tunnel under the shield and into the heart of the New Republic’s fortifications.

“We’re glad to see you,” an intelligence officer was saying as he led them through the warren.

Digh appeared to listen attentively but was busy counting doors and passages as they went by. So far everything matched up. The intel guy had said his name was “Martin” or “Markin”. It didn’t matter.

At the thirty-eighth door they stopped. Martin or Markin said, “We thought you’d gotten lost out there.”

He led them through a secured portal into a series of makeshift offices and rooms of sundry purposes. When they reached the area that had been denoted as Room 4 on their layout of the warren, Digh knew they were in the right place and casually pulled his goggles down over his eyes.

“You can drop your gear here. There’s some caf over there and Fil is bringing in some chow,” Martin or Markin said. “Let me get my debriefing kit and I’ll be right back.”

“Is that your wife?” Digh asked before the man could go. He pointed to the picture of an attractive woman wedged into the sill of a window separating the two rooms.

Martin or Markin turned his head to look. “Oh, no that’s—“

Digh raised his weapon to his shoulder and shot the man through the side of the head before he could turn back.

He put two more bolts through the man’s chest as he hit the ground. “Do it,” he said. His team was already moving securing the immediate area, engaging a few confused military staffers. When the firing stopped, the suite of offices was cleared and they began prepping their demolition charges.

Bravo team had already moved off to their designated target in the next room. Digh watched the door leading to the corridor beyond. There was no security presence in this area but there would be. They didn’t need long though to rig their explosives and begin extracting.

Casen had climbed his way up into the rafters overhead. Above the false ceiling ran coolant lines dedicated to the massive reactor that powered the shield beyond. Digh’s squad was responsible for the secondary coolant system while 1st squad was dealing with the primary system in another part of the complex. When the charges went off, the coolant systems would fail simultaneously and force the droid brain regulating the system to enact safety protocols that would take the shield offline rather than risk a catastrophic failure.

Or so they had been told in the briefing. Digh just wanted it done. He had no idea why the Dark Ones wanted this world to fall to the Yuuzhan Vong. The opposite would seem to be in all their interests, but why rarely mattered at his pay grade.

“Sergeant, we’re set,” Casen called out as he dropped to the floor from the ceiling rafters above.

Digh called it in over his secure platoon net. The Platoon Sergeant acknowledged, then answered back a few minutes later with, “Go.”

All took cover as Digh called out, “Fire in the hole!” and nodded for Casen to detonate their charge. The room shook as ceiling tiles came down and rafters fell. Green coolant ran free to the floor from shattered lines overhead and already alarms could be heard in the distance.

“Prepare to move,” Digh called out as Bravo team rejoined them. Another explosion whumpfed in the distance and they knew 1st squad would be moving now and extraction would be en route. Digh moved to the door leading to the corridor beyond and back the way they had come. 2nd squad stacked to either side and followed him out covering all angles of the hallway with their weapons.

Digh stopped almost immediately halting the entire procession. The intimidating blue glow of a lightsaber blocked his path a few meters ahead. Fortunately, he didn’t fire.

“I’m Jedi Knight Eema Fos,” she said. “And I need your help.”

**Uncharted Planet

Corporate Sector, Outer Rim

Fall of Antei, Day 73**

“Lord Sarin is dead,” the soldier reported.

Muz barely heard him. His insides were shattered beyond repair even as he implored the Force to aid him. He was dying. He had done as his master had asked and succeeded…only to fail. If he died as a result of his wounds, there would be no clear successor to the throne. The clans would tear themselves apart vying for control. It reminded Muz no matter how successful or powerful the Brotherhood became it was still a delicate lattice held together by fewer lynchpins than anyone dared to guess.

He could not die. Yet. “Inform…Katarn,” Muz said from one knee. “He…will know what to do.”

Muz coughed blood and sat down.

“We’ll have a shuttle here in ninety seconds, my lord,” one of the Grand Master’s protective detail said. “Lie back. Let the medic work on you until then.”

Muz was lying back anyway. Fading. He doubted the medic had a treatment for what Sarin had done to him. Sarin. His body lay not far away in a pile of cloth and armor. His head was here though, next to Muz, staring back at him now with empty eyes that were neither accusatory nor congratulatory. Muz would have preferred either to this…nothing. Why Sarin had chosen now to test himself he didn’t know. But whys were often hard to come by in his position.

The medic injected something into his leg. Muz was too tired to discern what it was. He could hear the whine of a shuttle’s engines being pushed hard in the distance. It didn’t matter. The medic continued to work and Muz reached out for the nearest soldier and pressed into his hands two metal cylinders. He said, “Katarn,” and did not move again.

The medic was still working.

The soldier Muz had grabbed looked down at the lightsabers in his hands. They were intricately crafted and bore the lion insignia of the Deputy Grand Master. The shuttle touched down not far away and a medical team was already on the ground and rushing over. The soldier stood and ran towards the shuttle clutching the lightsabers in one hand.


“Enough,” Sarin said and let the vision fade.

The statues of the Emperor’s courtyard still looked down upon him with scorn. Neither of the two futures he had glimpsed offered the answers he wanted. He wondered if there was any permutation of events that did.

A tiny electronic voice interrupted his thoughts. “Lord Muz is here, Grand Master,” it said from somewhere in the deep folds of Sarin’s robes.

He was pleased; briefly. His security detail had alerted him to the arrival much sooner than he’d expected. Raken had trained his soldiers well. Sarin couldn’t see them at the moment. They were out there in the inky darkness among the trees and shadows. Black figures, silent and efficient. So unlike what had characterized the Royal Guards of old. Perhaps a new Guard was in the offing? Time would tell. Many things demanded his more immediate attention.

None more so than the Dark Prophet who had come to kill him.

Always in motion, Sarin thought and activated his lightsaber.

GJW9 Teaser Trailer - WMP-only unfortunately.

Very nice. Keep up the great work Raken

Raken I love!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Great work keep it up. Yes I agree with Anubis!

Impressively written, Raken. Looking forward to more.

Ooooooo. Awesome.

Excellent Raken, it gave me chills.

<3 Raken.

Wow. 0_o Force to choose between my Kin and the Throne. Color me officially bought in!!! Nice work!

FYI - the final result of that battle will be the death of them both... leading to a new reign of Shadow terror! Wooo!

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