The riots had continued in Ohmen City. The city was rife with anger. Within the stone walls of the City an evil air seemed to have replaced the clean mountain winds. Terrorist attacks were nothing new across many systems these days, but this explosion of anger was different. Smoke drifted from one sector of the city. A massive explosive device had detonated at a major hospital there not long ago. Now the entire area was alight with blaster-fire, wreathed in smoke, and chemical guttering blazes smoldered everywhere. So far the riots were limited to one sector but they seemed to be spreading rapidly.
A lone figure crouched against a half-blasted wall.
He checked the magazine on his blaster carbine. One last magazine, and he could hear the rioters approaching.
(Twelve hours ago, I was a God...)
Blazing red bolts of blaster fire ripped into the seared duracrete around him as he rolled awkwardly towards cover in the rubble. Lightsabers would have been handy, but he lacked the ability to control one now. He couldnât even sense the incoming bolts anymore.
A crimson bolt tore through his helm, blowing out his brains as it passed through his right eyesocket and out the back of his skull. The Reaper had found him.
(I was somebody..... I was powerful.)
Armored troops ran to the body. They pumped a few more shots into the cock-roach kicking corpse for good measure. One of them bent to examine the cooling cadaver. âDark Jedi Knight,â he muttered through the com. The hand reached to take the dead foeâs lightsaber to match the ones worn by his teammates, and then stopped.
(I used a sword made of heavenâs fire...)
âArconan Scum,â chuckled one of the others. âIâm glad heâs dead. Serves him right.â
(Is Hate all that is left for us without the Force?)
Headmasters Chamber, Command Center
As the pressure door closed behind her, the familiar sight of a lit holoprojector greeted the Headmaster. The Iron Throne loomed, the Dark Lord standing before it, the Herald to his right, standing pensively, and to his left, the Justicar, clad in dark armor. Ronovi paused for a moment, mind dissecting the image of the former Headmaster in full combat gear. Things must be already worse than she had anticipated. The Epicanthix had a will of steel, however.
âLord Ashen,â nodded Ronovi as she dialed the connection in with more clarity, her promised glass of whiskey locked in her spare fist. âWhat is your command?â
The room lit with an eerie blue as the holoprojector ramped up to full transmitting power. The quiet hum of the power couplings in the room contrasted oddly with the many old and worn books and cases lining the walls. A brownish smell of old burning vanilla was barely detectable as the machines warmed up.
Muz Ashenâs dark eyes narrowed slightly. âThose who have carried the affliction all point to your facility. To Lyspair.â
The silence was deep within the Headmasterâs chamber as she considered the news. Her mind was like an iron beartrap.
âIndeed. We do have a situation here. And I hear weâre not the only ones.â
âLock it down tight, Tavisaen. Keep yourself away from them.â The holoprojection shut down as Muz turned to the Dark Jedi standing around him. âWeâll send assistance.â
Deep Below Castle Tarentum
Seven journeymen, who had been so previously blessed with power and rage, now stood armed to the teeth with rudimentary weapons of any sort, as well as blaster rifles and armor. Where these potent individuals had previously been progressing masterfully with their lightsaber training and Force techniques, now, they were limited to using only those weapons they had trained in their old lives. These men and women could still utilize a lightsaber, but the connection they had felt to it within the Force was no longer there. It was a shattering blow to them, to feel as though a weapon they were bonding with could now cause them as much grievous injury as to their enemies.
The seven stood facing their current and former Quaestors, the men who had told them repeatedly that they were their allies and friends, and servants of Tarentum who would lead them to the greatness available within the Dark Side. They had lied to them. In their minds, they had given them their respect, their trust, and even their friendship, and he had tossed it aside in betrayal.
"Something ill has befallen you," Anshar answered, "and as we had spoken before, my intention is the same to seek out answers with you. But you are all impatient and aggressive. We have done you no harm, and I would advise against seeking to stand against us. The Elders and veterans of Tarentum, the Tarentae and the Equites have taken nothing from you. Do not tread this path, my brothers."
"Keep your lies to yourself, Master Anshar!" one of the seven screamed in rage. The Force-blind Journeymen raised their blasters in unison, as though the message had been a prearranged signal to fire as one. Each of the Journeymen let out their fury with well-placed, coordinated fire that would have torn through a lesser being. Anshar and Bloodfyre lit their searing lightsabers with blinding speed.
The former Headmasterâs azure and amethyst blades wove a net of blazing light with reflected bolts. The Master had honed his Soresu to a fine art and reached the pinnacle of the form. Bolts returned to their originators, taking down one Journeyman quickly. Another hand built a puissant wall of Force, covering the areas he could not simultaneously reach.
The Elders had to hold the now-six away from the control room. All of the operations of the Castle were conducted mainly from this center. Other secondary centers could serve to assist with Tarentum's operations, but the plagued Journeymen were coming to this location for a reason. They wanted control of the Castle, and they wanted revenge upon the leadership of Tarentum. Something was causing them to burst forth with glory in the Force, only to see their powers completely drained and washed away in the brilliance of perceived godliness.
"Keep firing! Take him down!" The six were directed in their efforts, and though Bloodfyre seemed and Anshar both pinned down, Erskin Finn knew better than to give them any quarter. Finn had been recently promoted to Jedi Hunter, and had seen some of the potential of the Elders as he had been preparing for the path to his Trials. All his power however and left him rapidly. He was empty. The Elders still had their powers, and in his twisted mind he would take that power from them and reignite his own.
The Elders were backing closer to the doors leading to the central control room. Finn knew they needed to keep the Masters from reaching those doors, and sealing themselves in. There were automated defense systems that could be activated by the Quaestor if he were able to seal himself within. The control room technicians were said to have been evacuated, and the room sealed, when the announcement was made by Tarentum's leadership that many of the Journeymen had violated Tarentum's sanctity and brotherhood, and a state of emergency had been declared in the Castle. Finn couldn't believe the control room would have been left vacant, but it was certainly a possibility.
The Human and the Shaevalian glanced around as their blades continued to move seemingly at random, hands, his body, every movement dictated by the moments of insight in the Force. They could reach the control room, but these six would still be out here, perhaps armed with explosives and a path of entrance. Either way, the mutineers were forfeit in their lives, and in their allegiance to Tarentum. They would either be sacrificed now, or sacrificed later in the greater good of regaining control of the Castle, and rounding up the infected to quarantine them.
In the end, the choice had already been made. Anshar glanced back to the seven, and to the corridor walls around them. Guests from the other Houses and Clans often requested an invitation to the Castle for doing business with Tarentum merely to see the undersea majesty of the Castle. Every corridor was made of transparisteel, and the view of the sea life had never been a disappointment to any of them. Sharks, whales, fish of every kind, and creatures great and terrible to behold greeted every member of Tarentum, and every visitor that Tarentum received.
With a quick thought Anshar ordered the control room doors open with just a thought. The Quaestor and Sith Master turned and moved quickly to enter the opening as Anshar called out, âFlood the corridorâ. The doors closed, but not before the Elders could hear the sound of water come streaming in behind them..
Darkness erupted around them, and the room seemed to quaver. The walls dropped away for them, and the floor fell away into meters of yawning abyss. Below them black waters roiled with loathesome beasts, aboil with tentacles and foul snapping teeth. Vertigo quavered through their guts. Several vomited and two fell to the floor in the agony of falling to their doom as the illusion took hold of their minds and bodies. The Master smiled grimly. Too often Dark Jedi focused only on strength or arms, but power in the Force and the will to use it was more important. Their will had been weak- and even more so as the Plague stole their vitality.
The Quaestor and Sith Master turned and moved quickly to enter the opening doors of the control room, shutting them quickly behind them with a wave of their hands. The strength of the Force closed them quickly with a deep clang to the mighty ocean now obliterating the halls outside. They could feel the Plague beginning to eat at their power.
(Is jealousy all we have left?)
Fremoc swatted blaster shots away as he moved forward. All Hell had broken loose on Yridia, just as he had arrived to locate and bring Korras back to Antei. He had not located Korras- but he had instead found a serious fight. Pudu had hit the proverbial fan. The Fist snarled in anger. Journeymen in revolt were everywhere, and the ones right in front of him were hammering at him with blaster rifles. The revolt was unthinkable. It made no sense to the hardened warrior. None of this made any sense whatsoever.
(Jealousy and rage?)
There was no time for play, as much as Fremoc enjoyed martial tests of prowess. Obelisk used the terrain against their foes. Mastery of terrain and position was tantamount to their deep philosophy of warfare. His hand gestured and the wall ripped loose from the deep underground tunnel. Debris blew inward under the massive pressure of the waters outside. The attackerâs bodies were literally torn to pieces from the pressure of the twisting water pressure and debris that slammed into them.
âFish food for fools,â smiled Fremoc as the pressure door sealed in front of him. He could almost smell the saline pressure that grasped the tunnels around him. He grimaced as he considered his options. The Fist pulled a comlink from his belt as he gestured to several Royal Guardsmen behind him. âKorras isnât here,â he canted, âbut the Scourge is.â
The response was quick, the pale Twiâlek face a pallid blue from transmission across the universe. âMakes sense. Sealed underwater, contaminants would run rampant through their systems very fast.â The Voice paused, flipping the tome he had been reading with a long finger before continuing. âThey turned aggressive now?â
Fremoc would have growled, had he not a better control of his temper. The man was safe in his cloistered libraries, far from the front, as he always seemed to be. âI lost three good guardsmen, Vodo. Theyâre striking out at anything unaffected, and Korras is gone.â
âHeâs probably already in space. Iâd get out of there. Youâre not an Elder, so who knows how soon you may be affected.â
Fremoc listened to the measured words, the calm delivery. Krath and their treachery. âTell me this isnât your doing.â
âNo, my friend.â Vodo could have laughed, if not for the shouting outside the gates of the library.. âI would take credit for this madness.â
[Without Power, what are we?]
As the Headmasterâs image faded from the holodisc on the Grandmasterâs desk, Fremocâs own hologram spoke up clearly. The Fist was in charge of all the Brotherhoodâs armies- and he was concerned. âThe Houses and Clans send word that most of their Journeymen have fallen, with even a few Equities beginning to show the signs of infection. The first reports on all this came from Plagueis, it appears.â
Taigikori spoke, armor clattering as he sat. âThey have riots in their capital.â The Justicar frowned. âIâm hearing reports of all sorts of violations. Homicides... torture... rampant brutality beyond even what is considered ânormalâ for Dark Jedi. Sheer madness. We cannot let our command structure break down like this.â
A holoimage of Korras formed, and against his profile data streamed in from the Brotherhood fleet on the floating display. âNaval Units converging, Grandmaster. Apologies for not informing you earlier, but I hoped to get in front of the situationâ. The last comment was made more for the benefit of the Fist who was still in Yridia from his fruitless search of the MAA. âOur alliesâ, Korras continued, âare not ready to assist at this time until we have more information as to what has been happening to usâ.
A pressure door slid open with a hiss as Halcyon arrived. He was wearing battle kit. Green robes hung over his darkened armorweave and durasteel suit. The suit was only worn in times of strife. The green haired Drall native wasted no time. âIronically appropriate, considering the meaning of the Sith name,â remarked Halcyon as he walked to his chair. âI am willing to bet thereâs a pattern. A vector, spreading it if you will. My sources within Plagueis also report a more disturbing factor.â
âOh?â queried Shikyo nonchalantly as he picked up one of his lightsabers and peered at it curiously. He flicked a bit of bone out of one of the recesses. âWhat do you mean?â The Herald heard many things in his travels, and this was a rumor he had heard as well. Shikyo cut straight to the point like a well-tempered blade. âThis must refer to the prodigies I have heard about. This is a jacked-up situation. Frack me sideways.â The Herald furrowed his brow. âWe need a plan.â
Muz looked silently at them both, fingers stroking his goatee in deep contemplation of the Force.
âYour thoughts?â The silence was perfectly quiet. A powerful precipice had been reached.
Halcyon spoke. âThat some of their Journeymen have been âblessedâ by the Force and exhibit powers beyond their normal abilities for a short time. And then- die horribly. Many of them exhibit madness and homicidal tendencies.â The green haired Sith Lord shrugged. Quiet resounded save for the breathing of those in the room. âIt bears investigation.â
âLetâs do this.â Shikyo crossed his arms. The Dark Side spoke to the Herald, whispered to him secretly. âWe have to get a handle on this and put it down.â He regarded the holo-info with the professional calm of a soldier, even as the scenes degenerated into disgusting anarchy. âThat looks pretty bad, to put it mildly. Another good Brotherhood day.â
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