Tipoca II, Deep Space
The room was dimly lit, the centrally located overhead lamp unable to cast the shadows from the corners of the room. A tumult of individuals were seated around the length of a conference table and blocked the light from escaping the arena before them. The boisterous conversation sounded akin to the cacophony of battle - escalating towards a conclusion. Arrayed at one end of the table, the Summit - Alara, Shadow, and Braecen - stood before the congregated members of House Excidium. They were flanked by a growing cadre - Rasilvenaira, Xan, Derek - yet the absence of one of them held the conversation in thrall.
“I just received a priority message from the Proconsul, Elincia…” Shadow Nighthunter, Battlelord of the Sith Order, lifted her fingers from her datapad screen with a sigh. She looked up to face the members. “Looks like Kylex found us a new home, but he did not make it out.”
“Kylex is dead?” Knight Katyusha blurted out, her eyes gaped wide from the shock of the announcement. Immediately, she separated herself from the crowd to approach her Master, Shadow.
“Why wasn’t I notified of this?!” Rosh Nyine bursted out. As the formal tutor and mentor of the aspiring Equite, Rosh had gained notoriety and prestige with each success of his former student. With Kylex gone, he would have to redouble his efforts. Independently.
“It is my understanding,” Jorm began, ‘that it was a firefight.” Recently elevated as a Palpatine, Jorm now possessed insight into the internal workings of the Consul’s plans. On his own datapad, he reviewed the file with greater scrutiny. “I’m not sure if he survived that one or not. The findings are inconclusive.”
“Oy, I can relate to that,” Xantros pointed at himself and Shadow, “we barely made it out with our lives from our sticky situation.” Several veteran Equites grumbled in agreement. Excidium had been tasked with the lion’s share of scouting new locations for Scholae Palatinae. Their detachment from the Clan military making it easier for them to infiltrate and observe potential bases.
Alara attempted to stem the growing tension in the room with calm words. “It is not confirmed , at this time, whether he is alive or,” she paused, “dead. But one can assume that a level of hostility wouldn’t be easily avoided…” Alara’s frown deepened. “We have to remain positive. Hope for the best. And continue to move forward. For the Empire!”
“For the Empire,” a chorus of voices mirrored her words. In the wake of the words, a heavy silence threatened to engulf the room.
“What of a new Sergeant, then?” Lucyeth voiced his concern and broke the impending silence. “As Alara said, the House must continue onward. With or without Kylex.” Chrome, Vaeris, and Koryn nodded in agreement from the far left of the room. Each held their arms crossed as they waited for a response.
Professional Brandon Tarsus stepped forward to defend his wife. “I’m sure that Shadow,” he paused to consider his words, “and the rest of the Summit, already have someone in mind.” He turned toward the collective leadership, “Right?”
“Screw appointing a Sergeant! What if whoever did Kylex in comes after us next? What will we do then?” Malodin’Tater called out. Fear gave life to their voices and others began to raise their concerns and doubt, as well.
Shadow stepped forward. Normally quiet, her presence commanded the attention of the room, and their silence as she addressed them. She faced her peers and answered all of their questions - spoken and unspoken - in the wake of the disaster that fell upon the Cocytus System. “We keep our weapons sharp and our minds sharper. When Xantros and I were targeted, we stuck together. As a team, we made our way out together - no matter what sacrifices we had to make.” Her words, and their deeper meaning, took root in the minds of the congregated. As she took her seat, she flashed a smile towards her friend, and fellow colleague, Rasilvenaira, who had been smiling approvingly.
The large doors leading into the room burst open. Everyone instinctively reached for their weapon, but stayed their hands as the familiar faces of Warrior Zehsaa Hysh and the bounty hunter Bale Andros entered the room with two unfamiliar faces: a blue skinned female and a blindfolded Kiffar male. Each of the captives were in handcuffs as the large Zabrak dragged them to the front of the room. “We found these two skulking about Kylex’s quarters.” Zehsaa’s words left her uncolored lips like a shock of electricity.
“Chained them up and brought them here as soon as possible. The little blue one tried to resist me.” Bale boomed in a jovial tone - a mixture of amusement and pride. He kicked the male, “Now, runt, tell them what you told me. How did you get on this secure station?” Braecen doubted if such an opportunity would present itself again when the bounty hunter applied his attention to security aboard the makeshift base. Bale was not affiliated with Scholae Palatinae in the traditional sense. He was a hired gun, contracted through Zehsaa, who’d quickly made a name for himself within the Brotherhood. Braecen didn’t know exactly who was paying the hulking Zabrak, but there was no doubt his services didn’t come cheap.
“We received a distress signal from Kylex’s aircraft. When we got to the coordinates, we found nothing. Our next move was to attempt to find him here.”
“And you are?” Alara growled in contempt.
“Renna. I’m practically his sister. I was shocked to hear from him. Ever since he left us, he has been elusive about his role here,” the woman stared defiantly back at the Aedile. Her eyes boiled from the emotional storm that ate at her from the inside.
“I’m afraid the price for trespassing,” Braecen began conversationally, “is death. Unless, of course, you can provide some sort of value to us.” The lethal ultimatum hung in the air. The Quaestor could momentarily sate the House’s hunger for vengeance with the trespassers deaths. He would, however, not turn away able, willing assets in a time of war and transition.
“I am Levi,” the Kiffar began. “I will pledge myself to your cause.” He turned his eyes, obscured by a golden blindfold, onto the Quaestor, “If you promise me the chance to find out what happened to Kylex. And allow us retribution to whomever wronged him.” The self-assured tone pleased the Quaestor. He could use the defiance and resolve of Renna and Levi to advance Excidium’s agenda.
“Release them,” Braecen ordered. “I want them under surveillance at all times. Until they have proven themselves loyal soldiers in our war.” He turned toward Shadow, the leader of Tacitus Athanasius, “This will be your responsibility. If they prove unloyal, kill them.” The Quaestor then turned to the rest of the House, “Much has happened since the destruction of Cocytus. Many of you scoured the galaxy for a suitable home. Your efforts in this endeavor, this excursion, were not unnoticed. We will find a new home and we will prevail.” He clasped a fist to his heart and shouted, “For the Empire!”
Their voices rang out deafeningly, “For the Empire!”
The trio watched as the room emptied. Force Users, Mercenaries, and Loyalists departed in small clusters as they discussed the future of the House. Excidium could loosely be defined as a House within the Brotherhood. Recognized as a vassal House of Scholae Palatinae by the Iron Throne, the core group was disavowed by Scholae Palatinae - publicly. The political distance allowed the Consul to assign less desirable tasks to the Quaestor. Each move was necessary for the Empire. It was the lie they told themselves to keep going with their work. The House had seen many iterations of itself, but now - in the wake of disaster - it would have to reshape itself again.
“We have to change,” Alara stated simply. She placed her hand on Shadow’s arm, “As much as I value the Assassins you train, I am beginning to see the need for another team. We need another approach to add a new dimension to Excidium.”
The leader of Tacitus Athanasius regarded her friend and former mentee neutrally, choosing her words with care before speaking, “I agree. In this war, we are going to need all the help we can get. But is a single team enough? And who would lead it?”
“No,” Braecen chewed on his response, “one team will not be enough. And I do have someone in mind to lead this new team.”
“Hostis humani generis,” Alara responded.
“Hostis humani generis,” Braecen echoed.
Shadow looked from Aedile to Quaestor with an inquiring look on her face. “Inside joke?” She had noticed how close the pair had become since the fall of Cocytus. They worked tirelessly - in private - on their grand design. Looking on from the outside of the bubble, Shadow wondered how much of what was happening was scripted by the pair. Nothing seemed to surprise the pair short of Kylex’s untimely disappearance.
“Enemies of all mankind,” Alara translated. “It is something we have held as a truth of House Excidium since taking our positions. In the public, we are vilified for our actions - the scourge of the galaxy. Those who hold a tenuous relation to the illustrious Cocytus Empire: the unwanted, the washouts, the failures, the greedy, the reckless. Everything we did was to serve our own purpose, our own ambitions… our own path.”
“We saw the House twisted and manipulated throughout the years. Blade,” Braecen said the name as a curse word, “used her power to further her own agenda. The deadpool, opposition to orders from the Consul, and all her other creations. In her attempt to redeem everyone, this House lost its purpose. Imperium is the sword and shield of Scholae Palatinae. We are the unseen dagger.”
Alara nodded emphatically, “To preserve this advantage for Scholae Palatinae, we must embrace the forthcoming change. We will need to break our operation into several cells working towards specific objectives. Find and exploit every advantage. Capture or destroy every threat to the Legacy of Palpatine. An organization with the sole purpose of advancing the mission, and well being, of Scholae Palatinae.”
Shadow grinned. Finally, she had been roped into the grand design. As the leaders of Excidium began to detail their plan, it all began to take shape in the Battlelord’s mind. She saw how different pieces of their operation would fit together, but she also understood there were things they were not telling her, as well. She would let it pass for now.
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