Where ever she went, heads turned; unless she didnât wish to be seen. The assassin moved as one with the crowds of Devaronian men and women; the hood of her war-coat shielding her azure eyes from the throng. A slight aura emanated from her, exuding a sense of belonging. To any passer by, she appeared as nothing more than just another woman going about her business on this chilly day, though none would ever remember even seeing her.
As she walked, she passed street-level advertising. Eye scans allowed the ads to be personalized, asking individuals by name for a moment of their time, to consider a new product. One such ad, targeting a man beside her, asked if he longed for the days of his youth, if he wished to be forever young. It implored him to seek out the nearest Eternal Youth Councilor.
ââ¦endorsed by Derc Kast, galaxy famous Holo-Movie actor and model.â
âRemember kids, donât be a toolâ¦â, she passed out of range of the ad before the familiar voice of the Son of Palpatine could finish his tagline.
Ashia Kagan Keibatsu was in-fact going about her business. Business that required care and precision, but business she welcomed with a joyful heart. The Dark Lord of the Sith trusted these assignments to her when he wanted them kept quiet.
Everything was in place; her tracks had been well covered; her execution of this mission had been flawless and her prey would die an agonizing and slow death, a traitorâs death. Her connections to Revan provided her with her preyâs exact location, only one thing left to doâ¦.the one known as Robin Hawk would die.
The Quaestor gazed out of the view port beside his aide. Shazâair, a Miraluka, could not âseeâ as his human counterpart could, but could discern the extent of the wreckage all the same. The twisted remains of the planetâs primary orbital fuel refinery lay before them, floating haphazardly, kept at a safe distance by the pull of the Gas Giantâs core and the shipâs extensive shielding.
Shazâair turned from the view port, resting his weight upon its transparent surface, âThis was no malfunction.â
âIt appears, Master Taldrya, that TalSec recorded an unknown drive signature leaving the system moments prior to the explosion.â
âThen why wasnât it discovered before this happened?â
Mistakes happened; they both knew that. Senior officials in the Naval Service were pouring over records, asking these questions to their subordinates, and attempting to come up with an answer to that very question. How had saboteurs not only entered the KrâTal System, but manage to destroy a full 30% of the Houseâs capability to extract and refine fuel from the planet? Perhaps there was some weight to the information his contact in Revan had given him. He would have to gather more intel on that.
Shazâair too turned from the view port, âSee to it that the appropriate actions are taken, but bear in mind the Grand Masterâs ultimatum.â
Returning to the cockpit, the aide assumed the helm and plotted a course that would take them on the quickest possible sub-light route back to Karufr. He had hardly engaged the drive systems when a priority alert popped up on their shared message terminal.
Allowing the Questor read it to himself, he busied himself with the flight controls.
âContact Admiral Slaxton. Naga Sadow may need a friend by their side.â
Vismorsus put the slip of flimsy down on the table prepared for him by his ushers. Outside his tent, the sounds of the alien jungle fell silent; a sure sign that the creatures of the night could sense a dark storm brewing within. Several voices bombarded the Quaestor with demands, yet he withheld himself. The fury that had been steadily building was directed at the Grand Master, as well as those who would force him to take action.
The news was one of personal joy. Robin Hawk was dead. He forgot all about his excursion, the hunting trip in the depths of Ptolomeaâs jungles, and instead fantasized about how he would have enjoyed killing that woman himself. Several voices chimed in their agreement. One however reminded him of his dilemma. Another long time Palatinae was dead at the hands of a Sadow and on the orders of the Grand Master none-the-less. That is, supposing the intelligence he received was correct. Those too stupid to understand the value in patience would demand action. The death of another comrade would be the straw that broke the Banthaâs back.
Suddenly a sharp pain in his right hand brought him out of his reverie, giving him a moment of relief. The man looked down to see blood seeping from his palm where heâd clenched too tightly in rage; his razor sharp nails leaving half moon cuts in the skin. Shaking the blood from his hand, the Quaestor summoned one of his assistants.
The room was brilliantly decorated; Golden trim, onyx inlay, rich lighting, a real Kriin-wood table from Alderaan, and Nerf-hide seats supported upon intricately wrought electrum stands. The bodies that graced the room were among the most powerful in the Galaxy, in terms of military power, financial strength, and connection to the Force. It was from here that the day to day business of the Brotherhood was decided, run, and carried out. Only one seat, grander than the rest, remained empty though all others were filled.
âMy Lordsâ, the Deputy Grand Master rose, âI call this meeting to order. Previous minutes are displayed before you. If you have any questions, please voice them now, otherwise, onto new business. Weâll begin with the Justicarâ.
Kir Katarn straightened his Imperial-style jacket and glanced around the room.
âI have very little to report. The recent troubles between houses have been dealt with behind the scenes. I havenât had to raise my hand to anyone.â It was hard tell from the steel gaze he held whether he was annoyed or relieved at this.
Halcyon bowed his head in thanks to the Justicar as he jotted some notes, âNextâ¦ we will hear from the Seneschal.â
âBrotherhood finances are becoming stronger my Lord. Revenue from the Tempest Omega accounts have begun flowing in earnest and Iâve begun investing it in various interests in this sector and region. The Master-at-Arms informs me that the Navy has requested additional personnel to fill its ranks and I have seen fit to supply him with the necessary funds to commit a recruitment drive in the Outer-Rim territories.â
Each Dark Councilor, in turn gave their report to the Deputy until it came time for the FIST to speak. The Son of Sadow remained in his chair, eyes affixed to a dark spot in the grain of the table before him. He was only shaken from his concentration upon a gentle force nudge from the Deputy Grand Master.
He looked up at the inquisitive stares of his peers, âYes? Ohâ¦ I, uhhâ¦â
The Fist cleared his throat as he sat up in his chair. âIâve been combing over the records and files of the Royal Guardsmen Iâve been training, attempting to identify individuals who may pose a threat to our Grand Master or this Council. Additionally, Iâve seen fit to assign Cethgus Entar of Arcona to be the Headmasterâs personal guard. Lastlyâ¦â
His voice trailed off as he lost his train of thought. Things had been rough for the Assassin in the last few weeks. The loss of his eldest son and the trauma of the explosion had taken its toll on the man. The grief he shared with his wife had begun to strain their once stable marriage and union. He found it hard to show affection for his two infant children let alone his beloved wife. What point was there if they could be taken from him in mere moments?
Halcyon Rokir rapped upon the oaken table impatiently, âLastly?â
Again snapped back to the present, Fremoc regained his line of thought, âIts nothing my Lord. Itâs something that would be better suited to the ears of Darth Ashen alone.â
There were three of them in the party. It had been difficult to arrange the trip between them seeing as though they had all belonged to different Houses and Clans, and that the nature of their journey was one that their brethren would be none-to-happy to hear of. Their disappearances were likely known by now and to those sharp enough to read between the lines, their ultimate destination was likely known as well.
The sun bore down on them as they entered the small outpost on the outskirts of Anchorhead, the planetâs oldest continuously populated settlement. Their robes were dark and offered little to no protection from the omnipotent heat of the twin suns that hung in the noon sky. With hoods pulled over their faces, they were at least spared from the visual glare, but that did not reduce the burden of the heat building up under their garments.
A tavern at the end of the lane they had entered seemed cool and welcoming, its adobe exterior shedding the yellow-white light of the twin suns as if to say to the weary three, âWelcomeâ.
They entered and cast off their hoods. The tavern was dimly lit, a reactionary habit of the locals to the brightness outside. A classic Max Rebo Band hit played on a music box, setting the ambiance succinctly. It was as though the sojourners had stepped back in time 35 years into one of the holo-vids made about the early adventures of the Jedi Luke Skywalker. The tavern looked every bit as wretched and villainous as they could have imagined, only that this was not Mos Eisley. That was 200 miles south on the edge of the Dune Sea.
The three stood out from the patrons already drowning their individual sorrows, regrets, and misfortunes in their drinks save for one, who sat in a corner slowly drinking a glass of blue milk. They recognized him as their contact by the brown robe adorning his shoulders, similar to their own in all ways but the fiber and thickness. They joined him, filling the seats placed around the table in anticipation of their arrival.
No one spoke for a few moments as they all locked eyes with the man in brown. He took a deep breath and placed his glass on the table.
âAre you sure you want to do this? What reason do we have to trust you?â
The tallest of the travelers looked the Jedi in the eye, âReach out, you can tell we are here for one reason only. There is no darkness in my heart or any of ours. The longer we remain in the Brotherhood, the greater the chance weâll be identified. Odan-Urr is our only hope.â
âVery wellâ, the Jedi finished his drink and raised his hood over his face, âWe leave tonightâ.
Vodo Biask skulked down the halls, silently musing to himself. He mulled over plans for the next week, those already in action, and those that had failed. His thoughts drifted to that of his duties; his oath-bound duties to the Grand Master and the duties of loyalty to House and Clan. He took little notice of the chamberlains and officials scurrying to and fro. They knew not to break his concentration. It had been a mistake perhaps, but the last man to interrupt his thoughts had been hurled into a nearby sculpture of the Warrior-Emperor Okemiâ¦and into his sword.
The Deputy Grand Master, fully aware of the Twiâlekâs defensive nature, cared little and stood in the path of the VOICE. Vodo approached, nearly up until they collided and stopped. Now aware of the fellow Taldrya standing before him, the Voice bowed calmly, tilting his head with difference. A slight smile crossed his visage.
âMaster Halcyon, what do I owe this pleasure?â
âNo need for formalities here, Biask.â
Vodoâs smile faded, âVery well. How can I help you?â
Years of history colored the interaction of the two councilors. Both, long time leaders of Clan Taldryan, each held a healthy respect for the other. For Vodo, feelings of familiarity and mentorship manifested. Halcyon had been his role-model for years now. As for the other, Halcyon saw the Twiâlek as one of his best projects, a creation worth its labor and effort.
âAshen has been receiving word of the goings-on in the Clans and Houses. Heâs been receiving them from a source that I cannot identifyâ¦â
Though they had begun walking slowly Vodo again stopped and looked to the Elder. Halcyon, a former Imperial Intelligence Agent, had always maintained a healthy network of informants and spies.
âIâmâ¦at a loss for wordsâ. Vodoâs eyes searched those of the Elder momentarily.
âAs am I. I have my suspicions of course, but nothing duracrete as of yetâ, Halcyon stroked the green goatee adorning his chin, âThere are two possibilities.â
âAnd those would be?â
âOne: Revan. Sarinâs pet project is essentially one giant intelligence factory if put to use properly.â
Vodo knew what was coming next, âAnd the other?â
âTwo: A well connected individual, with ties and access in every unit of this Brotherhood, with regular travel to and from their systems. An individual uniquely placed to have both the private ear of the Grand Master, but also to remain so visible as to be invisibleâ¦â
Halcyon knew. The Voice grew stiff, his chest filling with icy cold, âI assure you, Master Halcyon that such an individual may exist, but I cannot say that the individual you suspect is your culprit.â
Sensing duplicity in his student, and yet the truth, the Deputy Grand Master nodded and dropped the subject, âOh, and there is one other thing.â
âSyn Kaek is dead.â
Staging Point Theta-2
12 light years from the Lorta System
Off Corellian Trade Spine
Commander Miros closed the holo-message. Admiral Simonetti had been clear in his directions. If Scholae Palatinae made a move in light of the death of their Housemate, the Recon Fleet was to mobilize immediately to the Cocytus System. Her black hair was pulled neatly under her duty cap which added a certain sharpness to her normally beautiful face. She pulled at her uniform, straightening it, as she stood and paced out onto the bridge of the Overseer.
The child of a moisture farmer, here she stood on the command deck of one of the Dlarit Corporationâs largest warships. She was proud of all that she had accomplished in her life up to this point and was not fearful of the consequences of taking her small fleet into battle. She was concerned however of what she could hope to accomplish in the enemyâs home system alone with a Frigate and two Corvettes. It would be hours before one of the Home Fleets would be able to mobilize for offensive war should the moment of truth arrive.
âMaâam! Ships decanting from Hyperspace!â an excited voice rang out.
Alarms went off in her head, as well as around her. They were not expecting anyone here, period.
âI need information. What can you tell me about them?â
âThree ships: Two Heavy Cruisers and one Gunship. Theyâre Palatinae!â
Another officer piped up, âIncoming message for you, Commander.â
The bridgeâs PA system crackled to life as the gravely voice of the Palatinae Line Captain boomed. âLower your shields and prepare to be boarded. This fleet is under orders to open fire on you if you do not comply.â
Miros became livid, âOpen a channel for reply!â
âIâ¦ Theyâve cut me off, Maâam.â
âTheyâre powering weapons! Fighters inbound!â
It was all moving so fast. She would respond in kind, âLaunch our fighters, shields to maximum. Send a signal to Fleet Admiral Simonetti. All hands: battle stations!â
Two squadrons of dated but capable Z-95 Headhunter fighters launched from the decks of the Enforcer-class Picket Ship to meet the incoming wave of TIE Defenders, a much newer, faster and more agile craft. Weapons from the two Majestic Heavy Cruisers baring the Sword and Dragon of Scholae Palatine opened on the small recon fleet. Flanked by a single gunship, the ships comprised Line Delta of Task Force Starstealer.
The bright blue-white turbo laser blasts collided with the forward shields of the Overseer as the two Assassin-class Corvettes, Adjucator and Exile, moved forward to engage the enemy fleet at close range. Though no match for the heavy cruisers, they would tear through the TIE Defenders as they passed and would be a much larger problem for the Corellian Gunship, Relentless.
Space became filled with the passing hulks of capital warships and fighters, brief flashes of laser fire, and concussion missiles. The Overseer turned its bow to the enemy fleet, presenting the smallest possible profile while bringing its turbo lasers around. It unleashed a heavy salvo against the Adenn which was returned two fold by the Majestic and its sister ship, the Basilisk. The Overseer reeled under the attack, its shields flickering for a moment before restoring their resiliency. The commander of the enemy line smelled blood and ordered a follow up attack.
The Overseer continued to absorb fire until its shields failed all-together. The Exile moved to use its mass as a shield for the flagship but found itself similarly exposed to the heavy cruisersâ barrages.
Miros was hurriedly issuing commands, attempting to get her ship back into fighting condition when her Sensor officer again reported, âShips emerging from hyperspace!â
Her mind raced. It had only been twenty minutes since sheâd ordered Simonetti be made aware of their situation. There was no way in the Nine Corellian Hells that he could be here already.
âWho is it? More Palpatines? Plagueis?â
Again the PA came to life, âThis is Rear Admiral Saiff Hessan, Taldryan Security Force. Scholae Palatinae ships: stand down and make ready to jump to hyperspace. You are in violation of the Grand Masterâs peace and have provoked an attack on the Great Clan Naga Sadow.â
Miros raced to the transparasteel viewplate to her left and gazed at the magnificent grace of Taldryanâs Bothan Assault Cruiser, Dark Prophet II. It was flanked by two gunships and a small mass of fighter craft. She could only guess at how they knew to be here, but she wasnât about to complain. She looked through the forward viewplate to see the Royal Navy of Scholae Palatinae hesitating, unsure of what to do. A few incredibly long seconds followed as she watched until the masses of Majestic Cruisers began to turn and made to leave before vanishing into the black of space in the blink of an eye.
Sleep was such luxury that he couldnât remember the last time heâd awoken so rested. Methyas took a slow, deep breath and yawned. He felt the warmth of sunlight dance across his face. He was at peace; a feeling so foreign to him that it was almost unnerving. He was soothed though at the thought. No more conflict, no more turmoil; only peace.
Something picked at his mind though every time he thought of that word. Peace. It was foreign to him, now that he thought about it. It was inconsistent with what he believed. He believed thatâ¦what did he believe? Methyas rose from the bed, holding his head in one hand as he did so, unsure if it just hurt, or if he was frustrated by something. Something wasnât right. The more he thought about it, the more he was sure of it. He didnât have time to be sleeping in; there was something important he had to do.
Something, he was sure, that was vital to the survival ofâ¦ Again he drew a blank. Where was he? How did he get here? The Prelate began asking questions that anyone would have asked given a complete lack of foreknowledge on his current situation.
âThink backâ, he hit the back of his head as though that would jar the memories he sought loose, âJust think. I amâ¦Methyasâ¦Pepoi Lâeonheart. I amâ¦â Again, stymied, he shook his head and walked to the refresher. No need to work himself into a fury just now. âWait! Furyâ¦Passionâ¦Strengthâ¦Powerâ¦â
Like a flood, the images of his life crashed back into his mind. It was all there; the recon mission, his brother Mirado falling, Michael Halcyon entering the room. His heart rate suddenly accelerated as he realized the terrible danger he was in. Years of training manifested in the form of instinct. He searched for his equipment, his clothes, anything his captor or captors had missed. Nothing. The room was bare except the few items one would expect from a mid-grade hostel. There was a lamp, but it was bolted into the bedside table.
Leaning against the sink Methyas shook his head and sighed. Suddenly, the Force tingled around him. He spun into a low combat stance, ready to react to an attack that never came.
âThereâs no reason to fear me. In fact, this is not the first time weâve spoken.â
The man moved to the bed and touched it. The Force tingled throughout the room as the full-size bed, the only real furniture in the room, transformed into a chair upon which the man seated himself.
âThis is not the first time youâve fought my illusions, not the first time youâve clung to your misled beliefs in the Brotherhoodâs ways, and not the first time youâve had to be re-educated.â
The surroundings before the Miraluka flickered momentarily as the Sadowan fought the cloud that started to form in his mind. He could 'see' the Force throbbing around the man as the rest of the room shivered slightly, as if it wasn't really there.
His brow furrowed, Methyas demanded an answer.
âWho are you?â
âYour new Master. I am Michael Halcyon.â
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