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Posted on Thu Sep 19th, 2019 @ 9:02pm by Kalen "Rex" Vickers & Thane & Bomoor Thort & Amare & Rynseh Lahan & Reave & Zenarrah Sozo & Mentis
Edited on on Thu Oct 3rd, 2019 @ 11:28pm

Chapter: Chapter V: Unbound
Location: Red Raptor Landing Site, Valley of the Dark Lords, Korriban
Timeline: After the "Showdown on Korriban", Day 4

Authors' Note: This post follows on directly from the 'Showdown on Korriban' quartet of posts, all of which occur simultaneously.

The befuddled mismatched astromech droid had come to a startling conclusion in the past five-point-four minutes, one that was taking up a substantial amount of its meagre computing power as it fizzed and warbled in its manic efforts to prepare this ageing, confusing Corellian cargo ship for launch.

It had realised, only truly for the first time, despite the many long years it had gone without any formalised memory wipe (there had been accidents, of course - he was Captain Vickers' droid, after all), that it shared many of the same qualities as Captain Vickers himself.

Having access to a vast, if corrupted, repository of information, ranging from astrophysics and starship maintenance - being its more useful memory files - to trivia on late eleventh century Twi'lek holodramas - being its less useful - Brick was aware that it was a common misconception amongst sentients that their organic pets would come to resemble their organic owners, in both appearance and personality. Now, whilst neither Brick's programming nor his developed character lent themselves to critical self-analysis on any grand scale, Brick had nevertheless realised it had developed faults akin to Captain Vickers.

On numerous occasions, when in possession of various components that were oft-replaced, Brick had noted Captain Vickers' remarkable absence of bravery in the face of conflict, even if it had learned to admire the wily Human's penchant for inspired escapes and flattery. Whether it be a card game gone wrong (usually when the captain was caught out cheating), or a mishap over the wrongs words said to the wrong ladies, Captain Vickers never failed to meet Brick's computational expectations by evading conflict as deftly - or as quickly and cowardly - as was possible.

On this occasion, however, it had been Brick that had been running away. Or rather, rolling away, as rapidly as his outdated and poorly-maintained wheels would permit.

As lightning had struck and lightsabers had clashed, as explosives had exploded and blasters had blasted, Brick had sped away at top speed - the top it could manage when towing a grav sled at same time, that is, but certainly faster than it usually travelled, as it was usually mindful of its physical limitations, courtesy of Captain Vickers' long-term neglect.

The yellow-and-faded-pink droid's audio sensors detected a couple of crescendos in the storm outside, as well as registering a few notable sounds that it had come to associate with organic suffering. One was markedly bestial, and not something Brick had concerned itself with, whilst subsequent noises had, within ninety-eight-point-four percent probability, matched its vocal records for Captain Vickers. Brick dumped files and ended unnecessary processes, in a vain effort to increase its technical scope and prepare the ship, this Red Raptor, for a rapid takeoff, in true Captain Vickers' style - although Brick noted the absence and ultimate fate of its home vessel briefly (before ending that process, too. In fact, it then deleted its entire redundant database on the vessel.)

Initially, Brick had struggled to gain access to the ship, not being in possession of the appropriate codes nor the computational facilities to adequately crack said codes. Fortunately, Brick's time with Captain Vickers, who engaged in activities the astro had come to recognise as not falling within certain galactic legal parameters, had left it with a certain alternative skill-set that lent itself well to these situations. Also fortunately, the ship's actual astro - the G2-series scattered unceremoniously upon the sled - contained the necessary data.

From there, it had been a simple case of ignoring the impending doom of its owner and his newfound allies in the valley beyond whilst ensuring the aged ship was prepared. Its two scomp links were stretched across the cockpit of the Red Raptor, interfacing with numerous systems at once as it communicated with the vessel's antiquated computers. As Brick noted another shift and crescendo of noises and voices beyond the open ramp of the ship, it felt a digital wave of relief wash over it, as the vessel lit up and its engines roared noisily to life.

Spinning its head about in its axis and pushing itself back in the opposite direction, leaving the vessel's systems to run automatically for the moment, Brick only crashed into two walls as it navigated its way back to the vessel's entrance, where its fizzing purple optical sensor detected two robed figures already reaching the base of the ramp: a Cathar, with an injured and bleeding Ithorian leaning heavily on the older felinoid.

"Bweep-FZZZ-dwoop-BRRVVD!" It warbled panickedly at the two men.

Ryn glanced at the droid, then darted his eyes left and right, completely unfamiliar with the antiquated layout of the freighter.

"Which way to your medbay?" he asked Bomoor whose condition seemed to be losing stability with each passing moment.

Sparing a glance at his surroundings, rather than simply allowing Ryn to guide him forward, Bomoor responded, “Through the door… turn right… last room before the engine…”

Following the directions, Rynseh awkwardly folded himself and his wounded companion through the doorway and out of Brick’s sight. The droid heard them shuffling down the corridor as it continued to prime the ignition cycle, noting and compensating for a few fluctuations in the flow to each turbine at the rear of the ship. As things were going well, it dared to run a little atmospheric sweep to see if the present weather would impede their take-off.

However, Brick was again interrupted by Rynseh’s return to the cockpit, seemingly having left Bomoor in the care of the ship’s holographic doctor droid, which it noted was the source of some power drain to the ignition cycle. Another correction it would have to apply.

It was at that moment when Zenarrah bounded onto the loading ramp with a comatose Amare helpless in her arms. They slowly made their way up the ramp and Brick spared an eager glance to see if Rex was close behind. Sure enough, the pale-skinned organic appeared, practically carrying the smuggler with Reave close behind with what would pass for a worried expression in his glowing eyes.

Rex gestured to Mentis to let him walk in on his own, seemingly seeing the unconscious Amare in Zenarrah’s arms. He pulled himself over and sat in one of the cockpit chairs, with his shattered arm still slung across him for some support.

"Hey, buddy," Rex managed through a wince, actually leaning forward to pat the scratched domed head of his astromech, growling in pain with the motion. "You did good, Brick," he went on, ignoring the inquisitive and concerned bleep-bloops of the troubled droid. "I gotta say, though; I was expectin' something a little... flashier."

Rynseh rushed forward, paying the closest attention to the Nautolan pair, rather than the other newcomers.

"How is she?" Rynseh asked as he started to reach out in offering to take Amare off Zen's hands.

"Lucky to be alive no thanks to us," Zen grimly replied, a bit of her contempt for Ryn leaking from her thoughts that were on the verge of exploding with rage as she walked past, ignoring the Cathar's gesture of aid. She went directly to Mentis, knowing full well the heroics the frosted-skinned man played in defence of her daughter. "Please, help her to a bed. I will be along shortly to help her and your friends. And...thank you. I owe you everything for saving this girl's life."

Mentis rubbed the back of his neck, still shaking off the odd feeling he had experienced when he went to Rex’s aid, now threatening to return being told he had saved this young woman’s life.

“I don’t think…” the Rattataki began, before gazing into those deep Nautolan eyes, filled with a warmth that Nala’s had never held, even when they had been at their closest, “Sure. I will see that she gets to a bed. I will see if there is any bacta for her leg.”

Mentis took Amare in his arms, awkwardly like one would cradle a delicate ceramaplex vase, and, with a nod towards Rex, took her out into the main corridor to find the medical bay for himself.

Zen went back over to the top of the ramp with lightsaber in hand, but not ignited. She looked down at where Ryn was now standing watch at the foot of the ramp, having been passed over in favour of Mentis in caring for Amare.

"Where is Thane?" she called out to her former master. "Those cultist scum are still out there."

"Almost here," Ryn replied as he beckoned Thane to pick up the pace with sweeping waves of his hand. "Let's get a move on, mister! We have to go now!" Ryn's impatience was stemming from the grim fact that he could sense that the Wookiee had not been vanquished from the fall into the ravine. If anything, it only served to make the malevolent beast even angrier than before.

Thane leapt over another rock, artfully dodging various outcroppings and other obstacles as he sped towards the Red Raptor's open ramp. His Force-fuelled rage had maintained his clarity of purpose and vision, his energy and focus not faltering as he rapidly closed the distance between himself and his companions.

Overhead, the Force storm of the Cult of Axion was already gathering once more. Whilst no rain now fell from the darkening skies, great bolts of lightning - this time of colours from across the spectrum, offering a dazzling and awesome display of power from the dark side warriors - were streaking across the plateau. One of the bolts struck into the ground some yards from Thane, and a huge chunk of the stone broke away, falling into the rapidly-expanding ravine.

The fallen Jedi could still hear the barbaric screams of the almighty beast he had presumed Bomoor and the Jedi Master had felled, echoing even against the terrible thundering of Kelderesh's renewed magical frenzy above, it screeches growing closer with each short second. Wind was also now gathering, with a icy bite to it quite unlike any of the warm breezes typical to the ancient Sith tombworld, buffeting him as he ran. It almost caught Thane off-guard, threatening to make him tumble.

Calling deeper upon his reserve of anger, his fury at Kelderesh's ability to escape his judgement, he corrected his course back towards the ship. Standing upon the ramp, the Raptor already beginning to shift itself to rise from the dusty ground below, rocks and sand being kicked up as the ageing Corellian ship's thrusters blasted to life with enough force to lift the multi-tonne machine, was the Cathar Jedi, beckoning at Thane.

"Let's get a move on, mister!" Rynseh shouted to him over the storm and ship engines, steadying himself with a vice-like grip as the Raptor wobbled upwards. "We have to go now!"

It would not be a hard jump; Thane had made bigger jumps in the past, during situations almost as tense as this, albeit without the wrath of the dark side to empower his limbs. He was more advantaged now, really, than he had ever been in the past. Even so, he allowed himself to slow slightly, eyeing the Cathar with unseen suspicion.

In this exact moment, even with the gathering surviving cultists behind him, the would-be Sith knew he could catch the Jedi Master unguarded. Their alliance during this confrontation was one thing, but that confrontation was now reaching its close. This grizzled warrior had sought them out, undoubtedly at the behest of the High Council, had had successfully cornered them. Back on the Red Raptor, he, Bomoor and Amare could quite easily be at the Jedi Master's mercies.

To fall in battle against the Cult of Axion was a mercy of its own, Thane mused to himself for the Cathar. A believable mercy.

But he had not yet forgotten the Master's own companion: the second blue-skinned Nautolan to grace the Raptor's roster, who he spied stood beside Rynseh himself. It was a potential contest he was not yet ready for, and he did not think her so gullible to believe the veteran Jedi would suddenly slip during a take-off, dark-siders inbound or otherwise.

Thane jumped, just a few short metres away from an array of red-hued lightsaber slicing at his last position, and landed with a thud upon the ramp, his forearm suddenly clasped tightly by Rynseh. Although it caught the Caanan by surprise, the red-and-gold of his eyes having given way to their natural blue, he returned the Cathar's grip and allowed himself to be steadied by his former colleague.

"Thank you," he said with a nod, his eyes and senses searching for the felinoid's true intentions.

Ryn simply nodded at Thane with furrowed brows as he helped him aboard. It wasn't merely the Cult that had followed Thane, but the very dark side itself radiated from the Caanan like none he had ever felt before. As he followed Thane up the ramp, he signaled to Zen waiting at the top to seal up the deck as the ship was lifting off. What his eyes didn't see however, was cooperation from his former padawan... was pure unadulterated wrath.

Rynseh grunted as a sharp stab of agony darted into his mind. What felt like a long stretched out minutes spanned only a handful of seconds as he was forced to relive the moment on Balmorra from three years prior that changed his life forever.

One after another, the bombs went off all over again in his mind, and he could see the men ripped to pieces in front of him. Captain Florien, Lieutenants Carpello and Kudori, Sergeant Rixx, and finally himself. Once again, he saw the image of the mysterious person in the heavy Mandolorian armor suit, only this time, the person disabled the seal to the helmet that gave off a light hydraulic hiss. When the face beneath was revealed, he saw the detonator in her hand. There was no smile on the Nautolan's face, just grim resolve, and inky swirls in her eyes that eschewed the regret she felt when she pressed the trigger.

No...Zenarrah...she betrayed us...betrayed the Republic...How...? Why?! My greatest padawan... she's...she's...a MURDERER!!!

Zen's dark telepathic onslaught failed, and Rynseh blasted it aside through sheer power and force of will.

"On killed them! How could you?! Traitor!"

"You will not take my daughter or these people to Quellus, hypocrite!" Zen screamed with pure hate in her voice, her Force Mask dropped, and all the darkness she absorbed from the battle with the Cult raged with glowing crimson fury in her wide aquatic eyes and hypertrophied blood vessels bulging around them and on her cheeks and forehead.

Thane's eyes spun onto the Nautolan, leering with surprised suspicion. 'Daughter'?

Both hands were then aglow in blinding red light as Zenarrah unleashed stream or red lightning-like energy, only it was in fact her form of Force Drain, disrupting Thane's thoughts. She directed the entirety of her power, let the cascade of hate she had gradually accumulated and bottled up for two decades come down on Master Lahan, and simply was not enough. All she could do was slow him down as the more powerful Cathar held his lightsaber vertical in front of him in a defensive advance against all the power his former apprentice could marshal against him.

"You are no Jedi," she added through strained defiance. "You are as corrupt as the Senate. You and your allies are nothing! You are all scum! I should have finished you off on the med-evac when I had the chance!" Zen's plan had been to stun and push him off the ramp for the Cultists to devour, but she wasn't strong enough, and now feared she made a critical error in underestimating the old man's power.

Rynseh gave no reply other than the deepening scowl on his rough hairless face as he nullified the fallen knight's draining effect. If anything, Zen's darkness only strengthened his resolve as he came closer and closer up the still-open ramp. The effort to resist her intense betrayal caused a hard strain on him that started to tear at the skin grafts on his face. Uneven lines of subdermal tissue began to be exposed and streaks of blood weeped from those deepening breaks of flesh. He then joined his other hand onto his lightsaber and triggered a truly unusual effect on the plasma blade. Through modifications in his old saber's hilt, and his knowledge of an esoteric technique he developed from his own personal trauma, Rynseh caused the beam on the saber to flare and crackle and roar with the sound and appearance of a chaotic blue shaft of fire.

Thane, initially taken aback, even as he felt the tremendous build-up of dark energy within the enraged Nautolan, brought his hands up to shield his eyes, the brightness from the Jedi Master's lightsaber as it roared upon its connection with Zenarrah's dark power making him squint. It was a rapid development, one that he he had not foreseen, and he found himself watching the former mentor and pupil advance upon one another, each of their righteous furies crashing down upon one another.

He did not know these two, but in the short time available to him to think, he could not help but wonder if this is what fate also held in store for him; watching the two warriors locked in a battle of wills and Force might, he wondered if this could one day be him facing down Master Sotah, the kindly Selkath unable to forgive his mounting crimes and betrayal of their lives' works.

The Cathar took two more lumbering steps closer to Zenarrah, Thane's brief companion upon the summit, his grim visage locked in an expression of dogged determination. It was clear to the Sith that the Master's powers, or at least his will to use them, exceeded that of his former padawan's. Before too long, it would all be over, the outcome of this confrontation sealed.

Thane knew little to nothing of Zenarrah's darkness or her journey here, aside from the fact she had willingly accompanied this Jedi Master - a Master who, quite clearly, had intentions of his own against Thane and Bomoor, likely to return them to Quellus' Council - during his search for the Red Raptor, using the falsehood to her advantage. Whatever her reasons, daughter or otherwise, her goals were clearly more in line with Thane's. The Cathar, however, was one of Quellus'; his power was remarkable, and his sheer determination laudable. This paragon of the Reborn Jedi Order would drag Thane and Bomoor back to Coruscant to stand trial before the Council, their drumheads arrayed before them.

That same Council, he seethed, that had Bomoor spy on me. That same Council that sent Loren after me!

It was either that, or be forced into open confrontation with the Jedi Master, a veteran agent of the Reborn's crusading leadership. It was not a battle Thane, who found his ire rising once more, was not convinced he and Bomoor would necessarily win. Not yet. One day, perhaps, but not yet. As he felt the power rising ever more within Rynseh Lahan, Knight of the Reborn Order, so too did the Sith Lord of the Third Republic draw his own once more unto himself, the Jedi Master too preoccupied to sense it.

"Your crimes are intolerable, Zenarrah! I will stop you here and now! I will stop all of you!" Rynseh declared as he finally stepped into range and raised his flaming sword high to begin a heavy cleaving strike.

As the crackling brilliant blue blade of the Jedi Guardian arced down towards its corrupted victim, it advance was halted, intercepted by the sudden appearance of Thane's own stark violet plasma. "We are... no... Jedi," the Caanan grunted, gripping the electrum hilt of his weapon tightly with both hands, grimacing under the weight of Rynseh's extraordinary might.

Rynseh's Jedi veneer had quickly broken down as his grimace turned into a snarling animalistic sneer with fangs bared and salivating with primal rage. Pound for pound, Ryn had the size and strength advantage over the impudent young Human, but the Force was the great equalizer among their empowered kind. Between resisting Zen's dark side ambush and Thane flush with the corruption of Korriban in his veins, Rynseh, for the first time in many years, knew he was at an extreme disadvantage he wasn't prepared for. The level of anguish from two sudden betrayals was almost too much for him to bear. The battle he was losing wasn't a lack of the physical, but rather a realization that he was weaker in his mind than he previously thought. The very notion of which made his heart tremble with diminishing confidence.

"You can still redeem yourself, Thane," Rynseh said gruffly to him in a poor attempt to keep his inner rage at bay. "You don't have to do this. The dark side is not worth it. Walk away!"

"Peace," Thane hissed, mockingly, as he struggled against the powerful Cathar's might, "shall overcome... emotion!"

The shimmering and sparking of the two warriors' blades made their determined eyes light up, their matched expressions locked upon one another as Thane slowly dragged their saber lock upwards, baring his teeth as he brought himself to be in front of the venerated Jedi Master. Behind Ryn, the ramp had not yet closed, and the heavy winds of the cult's Force storm billowed into the compartment, lapping at the two combatant's robes. The ship rocked as the wind buffeted it some more.

"I...I can't go on...he's too powerful..." Zen said aloud through pained breaths as her power and emotional zeal was utterly exhausted. She reached for nearby bulkhead to hang on to and leaned heavily on it so as not to lose her footing from the pull of the turbulent atmosphere outside. Her anti-Jedi rebellion was now entirely in the hands of the bold young man that dared to fight in her stead with a shimmering amethyst blade clashing against the might of one of the most powerful and battle-hardened masters the Reborn Order ever produced.

Although neither warrior yet lost their footing, Thane took advantage of the next rock of the Raptor and twisted his blade, bringing their saber lock up closer to their heads, drawing his sweating pale face up close to Ryn's hairless one, their blades almost licking at either of their fleshes. Thane was sure to lay bare the darkness gathering within him, making no effort to conceal the twisted power he was quickly calling upon to press his advantage. Gold swirls flooded the ice-blue of his reddening eyes, glowing with rage at this agent of Quellus, amused at considering that there had ever been any other true alternative to this path.

The path of anger, fear and rage Thane had set upon when he had cut Loren down on Jericho. When he had claimed Darth Bane's holocron for himself. When he had declared himself the Lord of the Sith during King Hazzarah's games.

And what Sith Lord would he be if he could not fell a Jedi Master?

"A believable mercy," he seethed to Rynseh in a menacing half-whisper close to his foe's ear.

Rynseh could see the maneuver Thane was about to perform the instant before it even happened, but the drain had slowed his reaction time, the blade lock had occupied his strength and supernatural focus, and age and extreme past traumas had hindered his reflexes to the point where all he could do was gird himself for the moment of impact.

Thane brought his offhand away from his hilt with Force-imbued speed to smash it palm-flat straight into the Cathar's sternum, imbuing all of his summoned darkness into the telekinetic thrust, sending a massive wave of energy straight into the Jedi Master.

The blast of power crashed through nearly all of the Councilman's Force barriers - which served only to save his felinoid bones from shattering under the massive wave of power - and sent the hulking scarred Cathar and his lightsaber arcing out of the Red Raptor's open ramp and out of sight with little more than a grunt, tumbling through the storm-ridden Korriban air down into the Valley of the Dark Lords - and the waiting cultists below.



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