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Apogee, Part II

Posted on Thu Aug 1st, 2019 @ 7:20pm by Kalen "Rex" Vickers & Thane & Bomoor Thort & Amare & Rynseh Lahan & Reave & Zenarrah Sozo & Mentis
Edited on on Thu Oct 3rd, 2019 @ 11:29pm

Chapter: Chapter V: Unbound
Location: Valley of the Dark Lords, Korriban
Timeline: Mid/Late Day 4, After "Apogee, Part I"

OLD

Backing up the group was what appeared to be a battered and mismatched G4-series astromech, its faded pink-and-beige plating pale against the bright pink of its optical sensor, which occasionally fizzed as it focused on Thane above it. Beside it was a creature Thane had had limited experience with before, but that he recognised as a Jawa, although a peculiar wide-brimmed hat was perched atop two angry golden eyes that - along with an oversized repeating blaster that almost dwarfed the Tatooinian - were pointed directly at him. Finally, there were two Humanoid figures glaring up at him with confused expressions: one was a dark-skinned thickly-sideburned Human man, garbed in a duster with a small handheld blaster joining the Jawa's in aiming him down, whilst the other was a being he instantly recognised, even if his queer company confused Thane.

"You!" Thane hissed at the pale-skinned Rattataki - one of Axion's favoured Dark Jedi enforcers.

NEW

The Rattataki stood ahead of the other three strangers. At seeing the familiar Cult of Axion Dark Jedi, whom he and Bomoor had encountered on both Nar Shaddaa and Jericho, the violet blade of his electrum-hilted weapon snapped to life in his hand, even though the aspirant Sith made no other combative movement. The cultist's companions, he had to admit, made strange bedfellows for the bald warrior.

Where are the others? He mused warily, grip on his lightsaber tightening as his eyes narrowed.

His Nautolan apprentice was confused and surprised by his sudden reflex to ready himself for battle, but she learned her lessons well from the dangers of Korriban that hesitation could easily lead to death. Following his example, Amare swiftly came to Thane's side and brought her amber-hued lightsaber to bear.

"Master? Are these the cultists you spoke of?" she asked him whilst trying not to look or sound afraid (she was), and never taking her eyes off the well-armed strangers below.

“No, hold on!” the Rattataki stepped forwards, waving his open palms in front of him, which had the unintended effect of causing the Red Raptor trio to tense further, “We’re not with the cult. I’m trying to escape from them.”

Bomoor peered deeply at the bruised and battered man, also sparing a glance for his companions, “That seems unlikely. Something has happened to the Jedi in the orbital station and you alone could not have defeated so many trained Shadows. Your fellow cultists must be close at hand.”

Mentis winced, knowing how bad it looked with the cult here as well. This was not how he had planned it in his head, “Listen; I did not come here with them. I cannot go back to the cult now; Axion wants me dead for betraying him. I had Rex here risk everything to get me away from them and to get to you. We were nearly just killed by the cult shooting us down.”

There was a tension in the air more real and palpable than even the Dark-side essence of old. If the two former Jedi chose not to believe or trust in the former cultist, then they would have no trouble in ending his journey right here and now. He was laying himself at their mercy and, unfortunately, also risking the lives of Rex and Reave, who had chosen to accompany him once again in spite of his warnings.

“You came to find us?” the imposing Ithorian queried, his doubtful voice bearing a note of curiosity, “Surely you can’t expect us to believe that you would come to us to escape? Axion is hunting us too.”

"I told you!" The Human beside Mentis, Rex, mocked him, knocking him with his unarmed hand, although he winced in obvious pain at the use of his offhand. With that grimace passing, he now looked up to the three Force users looming above them. The grip in his blaster was loosened a little, the duster-clad man apparently sensing a slight dip in threat, for whatever reason. "I told him! But yeah, he really is that stupid. I told him we shoulda stayed on Nar Shaddaa, rather than chasing you crazy bunch of wizards halfway across the galaxy. I tell you, the strings I had to pull to find you los- people." He now hit Mentis with the side of his blaster. "And he owes me my ship."

With that last comment, the angry Jawa screeched a few abusive warbles in Mentis' direction. The droid hid behind the Jawa.

Rex spoke to much and far too quickly, Thane decided, his hooded glare passing from Mentis to Rex, and then back to Mentis again. Although the Force was unreliable in this dark place, he was not sensing any obvious deception from the crooked couple. Even so, many Force sensitives had learned to conceal their presence - involuntarily, sometimes, as it was in Amare's case.

Thane leapt down to the ground beside Rex and Mentis, landing silently but for a Makashi flourish of his violet blade, which he now pointed down at the dust in front of the supposed-former cultist. Rex's leapt back two feet, and his blaster twitched back up to aim at Thane's face, but no blasts were loosed at the former Jedi.

"The Cult of Axion is here?" The Caanan demanded, twisting the downturned blade slightly. If the orbital station and its contingent of Jedi Shadows had indeed been wiped out, it effectively confirmed the presence of the cult, and rather added an extra sense of urgency to their departure - once the allegiances of this ragtag group were finally clarified. Exiled from the cult or not, he had no particular desire to collect their detritus. "And why would Axion seek to revenge himself upon you?"

The pale-skinned man looked at the violet blade, following the line up to the golden grey eyes of its owner. He knew this Caanan was powerful and that he had some link with Axion’s previous dealings before Mentis was even a member of the Cult. Perhaps that was why he did not truly trust him, “There is no resignation from the Cult of Axion; the Master will go to any lengths to prove it is his way or oblivion.”

Carefully, with their focus still upon the newcomers, Coda and Bomoor worked their way down the slope, carefully supporting the grav sled, until they were all together on the lower pathway of the valley.

“Either the Cult is here for you or they are here for me,” Mentis looked past the Human and towards the Ithorian as he continued, “This is why I sought you out. If there is truly no escape from Axion then we can at least unite our forces. I come here to pledge myself to you. If you deny me, then you sentence me to death.”

“We no longer represent the Jedi Order,” Bomoor attempted to explain, “If your intention was to seek them out, then you didn’t need to hire a spacer to bring you out to the most forbidden world in the Galaxy. I am still struggling to believe your story here; you were on Jericho and on Nar Shaddaa. What has changed?”

As they were speaking, the Jawa with the ridiculous hat positioned himself slightly behind Rex, appearing almost bashful as his sparkling-gold eyes glittered in amazement at Amare. When she clocked him looking, he quickly focused back on Thane as the aggressor.

Amare crooked a hairless brow at the curious creature from Tatooine, and wonder what he was, or if he was even a 'he' at all. She never met one of his kind, but his mannerisms made him appear super adorable to her eyes. She wanted to smile and ask him his name, but seeing his oversized weapon ruined any desire to treat the little guy as a friendly. She sincerely hoped things would not turn violent. She was turning Sith, but that didn't necessitate a life of indiscriminate killing, especially when new faces had the potential of becoming useful allies if she played her cards right.

Frustration and anxiety continued to well up within Mentis as the questioning continued and the hum of the Caanan’s blade still pointed at him made him want to quickly draw his own blade and tear the man down. But he was tired and weak, facing two, perhaps three, powerful opponents.

“We don’t have time for this,” he said through gritted teeth, feeling his composure slipping away, “I know the Cult is here and that means we don’t have long before the druk hits the fan. We need to leave now.”

Buoyed by the presence of Amare and Bomoor, Thane nevertheless considered Mentis' words evenly. There was, of course, an instinct to complete the work on dismembering the Dark Jedi that Kip Hoddai had started on Nar Shaddaa a year ago. He was certain he would divine some measure of satisfaction from ending the Rattataki's life, warranting himself a small iota of his own revenge for the actions of Axion and his cult.

But, he recognised, that was petty. That was not who he was, nor what he intended to be.

"You're right about that, at least," Thane said, disengaging his lightsaber and returning it to his belt. "We don't have time for this." He began turning on his heel, purposely leaving the subject unresolved. As expected, one of them rose to the bait.

"Wait, wait, wait!" Rex declared, his own blaster finding its way back into his holster, rushing forward to nearly grab Thane's arm, although he stopped short when he caught a glimpse of the would-be Sith expression. "I mean, you're not gonna leave us here like this, are ya? After all this, after all the kark Reave and I went through with Mantis, you're just gonna fly off and leave us on this dust ball!?" He railed on Mentis, arms spread wide. "Seriously, dude?" Reave the Jawa added his own note of displeasure.

Thane, not quite turning back, glanced for a moment at Mentis' sour expression of his shoulder, before turning in turn to both of his own companions. For his part, he actually believed Mentis' story, but he was now curious as to what Bomoor and his apprentice would make of it. The pair and their Jawa and droid comrades had clearly made a huge effort to locate them, so they undoubtedly had some meritorious talents, but as both Master Sotah and Bane's gatekeeper had each wisely advised him: saying less, or even nothing, was always an option.

As Thane took several steps away, Bomoor paced forwards until he looked down upon the slight Rattataki male, who was closer to Thane’s age than his own. While much of it seemed a blur now, he remembered how close this man had gotten to killing him during their fight on Jericho, even with the then-Jedi’s heightened powers at the time. Mentis had not been deterred by the terrible wounds he had suffered in their first encounter.

Bomoor had never once wondered what would happen when such an efficient humanoid weapon struck away from its master to think for himself. Perhaps it was his failing for not considering Axion’s disciples as complete entities or perhaps it was yet another failing of the Order for portraying those that those given over to the darkness as beyond recovery.

“There is much fear in you,” Bomoor observed, “It spills into everything about you, for good and for ill.”

He turned to Rex, “Your friend conceals it well, but there is fear in him too. Perhaps this is why you have found each other. Still, it has gotten you both this far. Come, we will not abandon you here. Not today.”

Mentis’ eyes shot quickly to Thane as if he was going to disagree with the Ithorian’s judgement before returning to Bomoor, “Thank you for your trust,” his head shot down slightly, almost the start of a bow, but he halted himself from completing it, “You probably never heard my name before. I am Mentis and this is…”

"Uhh... Rex. Captain Rex Vickers," the Human introduced himself awkwardly, briefly fumbling with his hand, appearing unsure whether he should offer it or not to the towering Ithorian Jedi. "An unexpected friend of Mantis' here. I... I also know Sev Rezer."

The Öetragan nodded, “Well, you clearly all know a bit more about us. I am Bomoor Thort and my friend with the violet blade was Thane.”

He turned around, “And our final companion here is Coda… uh. I mean, this is Amare.”

On cue, Amare disabled her lightsaber as she started to relax a bit, and smiled almost bashfully at the handsome Mr. Rex who appeared to be the one true gentleman of his marooned posse.

"Hello," she greeted him, for a moment sounding like her old friendly self. It didn't even sound natural to her playing the kindly Nautolan girl. Amare reminded herself that Coda was the playacting mask now, not the reality.

The grey man next to Rex, however, rubbed her the wrong way. There was something about him she didn't quite like, and the sight of his black lightsaber with its little red cord didn't help impress him to her either; if anything, it meant he had to die first if Thane chose to attack. She kept her hilt in hand, keeping a close watch on Mentis just as she started to experience an uncomfortable sensation in her head.

"Unnhh...whoa," she muttered, nearly losing her footing. She put a hand up to her forehead as a foreign voice passed through her head...

Zara...

"Who...is that?" she turned away from the gathered group of friends and strangers, looking behind her, and all around, anxiously seeking where the voice was coming from. At first, she thought it was a trick of the wind or wayward Sith ghosts trying to torment her a little more before she gladly left them behind, but it was, in fact, a woman softly calling out to her...

Zara...(little one)...

Those last two words...they were spoken in Nautila, the common aquatic tongue of her species' homeworld.

"Master, someone's...unnnh," she said appearing to be suffering as both hands were on the sides of her head now. Through heavy laboured breathing, she added, "So strong... ohhh...she's...calling to me...a Nautolan...? Knows...my name. Somewhere close by..."

(Be not afraid. We're coming to you. Be strong...just a little longer...)

The lightheaded feelings subsided, and with an expression of horror, she exclaimed, "She found me! She's coming this way!"

“Another Nautolan!” Mentis’ eyes flared wide as his fears played out once more, “He’s sent Nala after me!”

Bomoor looked around, trying to determine who required the most attention, “It sounds like we should not waste another moment. Let’s hurry on to the ship!”

Although he had a momentary concern for his apprentice, Thane ensured he focused on the present, the looming sense of danger now creeping into all their psyches - even if he now had a name for the foul Nautolan apprentice of the dreaded Axion.

Nala.

"You are with us for now," Thane said simply, either aggressively nor kindly, but more an observation of fact. Since Morgo and Bería, as well as that of Sev's unreliable allegiance to the crew of the Red Raptor, the former Jedi had grown increasingly wary of allies that stood so close to them, threatening to invade their limited coterie, especially in these dark times of inquisition from the Jedi Council.

With only a momentary hand placed upon Amare's shoulder for encouragement and a burst of endowment from the Force, he encouraged the apprentice forward and once more took himself to the front of the group at an accelerated pace, now almost jogging. A dark cult awaited them upon the darkening horizon of the ancient Sith homeworld, and Thane had no intention of their remarkable achievement being undone by haphazard followers.

"Make haste," he warned to the newcomers. "If you fall behind, you will be left behind."

TBC

 

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