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Tarses' Game: Fianchetto

Posted on Sun Mar 28th, 2021 @ 12:23pm by Mentis & Amare & Reave & Kalen "Rex" Vickers & Valavai Tarses

Chapter: Chapter VI: The Last Bastion
Location: Bunker, Bastion
Timeline: Day Two, Week Four (Continuing on from "Tarses' Game: First Move")

OLD


Rex's emotions brought on an odd fear within Mentis; not a fear of Tarses or any tricks he had planned, but a fear of loss. He had come so far, it would be devastating if they should die here so soon after beginning his new life away from Axion. If he died here, he imagined his old master gloating, proven right about how leaving the cult was a death sentence.

The pale humanoid turned with a quiet passion in his eyes towards the corridor ahead and, fueled by that same passion, he strode forwards with the others in tow behind him.

Amare kept close pace behind Mentis, and spoke quietly to his ear, "Listen, I may be Sith and a kriffing murderer, but I am not nearly as heartless as that other Nautolan you once you knew...at least I hope I won't be. If I could, I would give back some of the energy I took from you, fight by your side again if possible. I apologize for my transgression. If we survive this, I will teach you what I know of my power if you wish it."

Casting a sideways glace as he strode forwards, Mentis once again gazed into the Nautolan's dark eyes for a hint of her true self and whether he could trust a word she spoke, "If we survive this," he echoed, "You will face me in a duel so I may come to know you fully..."

NEW

As the group strode through the building, following holographic signs along the walls pointing their way to a lift, then to the ground floor. they emerged into another long corridor, and an expansive reception area that was heavily fortified with heavy military-grade blast doors strong enough to withstand thermonuclear explosions, security scanners, and rows of stormtroopers standing at attention with their rifles at the ready waiting for the order to cut down the intruders.

"Outside," a senior-ranked trooper ordered them, pointing towards the sealed entrance bulkhead that opened up before them in a rotating fashion like the iris of a human eye parting from a dilating pupil.

When the group emerged, Mentis leading the way, they were met with an entire battalion of nearly one thousand heavily armed stormtroopers and commissioned officers along with three mobile artillery cannons, three hovering fighter craft with many more patrolling the Bastion skies above, and a battlecruiser also hovering more than ten thousand feet in overwatch, all of which had their weapons trained on the intruders emerging into the light of day.

Amare beamed with grinning joy at the marvelous deployment of military might. She was very impressed, and as an officer stepped forward to greet them, she could begin to sense the low-key fear wafting through the air like fresh barbecued fish. They knew whom she and Mentis were; superior luminous beings armed with lightsabers and powers some would consider to be unnatural. It was astonishing in spite of the fact that the soldiers knew they had the upper hand and would win easily.

"I have noticed this," Amare said over her shoulder to Mentis. "The dark side inspiring fear through the hands that do its bidding. Do you feel it? They're genuinely concerned about us. Actual fear for their lives. These men are smaller than you. Indulge in this. Drink it in. Let it fuel your power."

"Not all these men fear us," Mentis frowned, a breeze sweeping a steely air across the open courtyard they were assembled in, "Sometimes the enemy is not as frightful as the one holding the lead about your neck. Punishment, disorder, non-conformity; these things can breed a quiet fury in a person."

A younger low-ranked officer was given the nerve-wracking duty to approach the group. He stopped about six meters away, stood tall with beads of sweat running down from his forehead, and presenting a holocom disc in his open palm. The monochromatic image of Valvai Tarses appeared again.

"Grand Moff, I am so impressed," Amare said in an almost mocking manner before the old Human could speak. "All of this! Just for us! Tell me, do any of them perform tricks? I should like to be entertained after a long journey. Better yet, you can dispense with your games and order these brave men to stand down and kneel before us." Her shoto sprang to life and its green blade was near the young officer's throat just barely slower than the blink of an eye. All of the nearby trooper immediately leveled the rifles at each person in the group and especially at Amare's head. The Nautolan, for her part, was calm, and her smile grew wider.

"It is as I anticipated," the Grand Moff said, stroking the tiny pricks of grey hair on his weathered chin. "Such rude words spoken in such a way does not come so easily to a Jedi. Indeed, the rumors were true after all; Force-wielding renegades with dark powers roaming the galaxy. Regardless, do be a good girl and put away the laser dirk, or our deal is over. I would hate to see your story ending here and now before your Rattataki has his chance to prove his worth."

Amare knew the theatrics were over, and that the real show was in Mentis' hands now. She withdrew and disabled her shoto and looked down at the shaking boots of the officer who apparently experienced a visible loss of bladder control.

"Aww, tsk, tsk," Amare muttered at the officer, slowly shaking her head at his embarrassing misfortune. Nevertheless, the Human had stood his ground, and to his credit, didn't flinch at all in spite of his close shave with death.

"Young man," Tarses spoke to the ex-cultist, "please speak your full name for the record."

The pale Humanoid looked around at the vast crowd assembled, realising that he had probably never addressed so many, having worked in someone else's shadow for his entire life. He summoned his convictions and stared out into the middle distance as he spoke.

"I do not have a family name to give you. I am known as 'Mentis'."

"I see. Now," Tarses said, "look up."

The officer stepped aside just as a tiny black dot started to fall from the warship hovering high above. Seconds passed and that dot gradually grew until the roaring sound of retrothrusters and jetpack exhausts were heard. Seconds after that, a new arrival landed hard on the patch of ground that was clear of the other soldiers. A small short-lived shockwave could easily be felt by all those nearby as the thing that landed slowly rose up, a formidable seven-feet tall humanoid suit of black and silver-lined armor. Aside from its plated shoulder-protecting pauldrons, and its arm and leg guards, it was not bulky, but rather athletically shaped, almost form-fitting. Its helmet was featureless like that of a shadow, and the body was molded to vaguely resemble the appearance of a perfectly balanced and well-muscled human male built to peak conditioning. There were several groupings of three tiny red lights at the joints of each of the limbs including two groupings on the chest over the pectoral plates.

"Before you stands one of our most gifted servants of the people of Bastion," Tarses introduced as the black armor draw a silver longsword with a black grip and guard from its back. "Agent Palidor is the first of our Bastion Knights, the culmination of centuries of experiments designed to accomplish one singular goal: the swift elimination of the Jedi. The condition of victory in my game is simple: destroy him in single combat, or he will add your head to my collection of Mandalorian helmets. May the Force serve you well, as they say. Be brave, son, and give us a good show."

The officer from before stepped towards Mentis and held out a lightsaber hilt. Mentis' eyes widened as he recognised his own weapon being held to him. The weapon that should have been securely held upon the Red Raptor. He snatched it almost instinctively from the Human with a tug of the Force and caressed the red leather ribbon upon the hilt. He glared back at the man, wordlessly interrogating him. But there was no reply; with military precision, the man simply nodded and returned to his position to the side.

Several regular troopers stepped forwards and ushered the rest of the group back, cutting Mentis off from his support and stranding him alone like a paddleboat facing a battleship in a great ocean. But, beneath all the armaments of the great black behemoth before him, beat a mortal heart just like Mentis own. As Amare had highlighted, there was a fear to drink in and a focussed passion that was almost tangible.

Mentis did not need to tear down the armour to be victorious, just snuff out that frantic heart within.

Behind them, standing just to the side of Amare, was Rex and Reave. Rex's nervous, fearful expression had been largely unchanging since his words of concerned warning to his friend, whilst Reave seemed genuinely astonished by the remarkable show of military might lingering high over them all. The diminutive strong man had never faced an army, and he was visibly teetering closer to his Human friend than the norm.

Rex, for his part, could be heard holding a gulp back, and he brushed back some of his own beads of sweat from his face and hair.

"I got a bad feeling about this, lady," he muttered to Amare, eyes flitting nervously around the huge crowd of armoured warriors and vehicles, his sense of self looking to be entirely subsumed by the vast Bastionite military. "They've played us. They've damn well played us. It's what they - what he - wants!"

"No," Amare said quietly to Rex without turning to him, her overconfident persona having been shed upon seeing the intimidating Bastion Knight. "We played ourselves by coming here...though your feelings may be right. I sense something...something very odd about that one." Then to their mutual friend, she spoke louder, "Mentis, don't underestimate that warrior. There's something not right about whoever he is. Don't ask me why, I just feel like he's more than he appears."

Palidor heard Amare's every word, but remained perfectly silent as he twirled his longsword in one hand with great ease as he slowly stepped sideways. His featureless mask gave no indication of his intentions or emotions. It was then that he held his weapon's grip with both hands and entered what was undoubtedly a Shii-Cho battle-ready Jedi opening stance, sword held in front at an upward diagonal angle. He awaited Mentis to make the first move.

The former cultist set his feet apart and ignited his blade vertically before him. There was a notable wave of surprise from the onlooking crowd as the brilliant red beam of light broke forth from the hilt. It was of some comfort to Mentis that at least not all his secrets were known to these Imperials.

This Palidor was a knight of some description but, as Amare had warned, there was an element of the unknown about him. He mirrored the man's opening stance and, after mustering the strength he could draw from the Force around him, the pale warrior shot forwards. He angled his weapon just slightly to the right to pierce between the neck and shoulder of the armoured man. It was an obvious first strike by design but one that tested the reflexes of his opponent.

Palidor's response was swift, sharp and much more nimble than a man wearing so much armour had any right to be; he caught the blow, sending silvery-rose sparks out from where their blades made contact. But this was only a test and Mentis already had his next strike in mind. He shot his whole body to the side and spun his blade around to almost the opposite angle to strike at Palidor's legs. With the precognition of a Force-user, his opponent's metal-clad arm followed the motion and again caught his lower blow just quickly enough to deflect it away and have the crimson blade bounce harmlessly against the outer layers of his suit.

This was a surprise, which almost sent Mentis off balance but he quickly shifted his weight back to the centre and held his blade vertically in a defensive shien pose as the inevitable counter blow came down upon him. The attack was strong, presumably aided by great synthetic muscle within the armour. Fortunately, Mentis was used to withstanding blows from massive opponents such as the towering Mange who held nothing back, even in training. As Mentis held the weight of the great sword upon him, he realised how much like fighting a Force user this was: anticipating his actions, matching his speed with lightning-fast reflexes. This suit gave this man extraordinary powers. But Palidor had merely adopted these abilities, while Mentis had been born to them.

Palidor scanned Mentis' stance, identified it as Form V, and the built-in A.I. system recommended Form III to counter. With just a thought, he agreed and the computer loaded the knowledge base of Seresu into Palidor's mind. He immediately went into the classic opening pose of Jedi Knights who were masters of the most defensive form of all, blade held up at his side horizontally just above his head, the other hand outstretched towards Mentis, two fingers pointing almost tauntingly.

A male voice heavily filtered with a synthesized electronic reverb to make him sound more menacing spoke to his Rattataki opponent. "You fight well," Palidor said almost derisively, "but as you can see, I am familiar with the ways of your kind. Your techniques are known to us. You will fail."

Amare felt the need to dare Palidor to give up the armor and fight fair, but then she felt a familiar presence somewhere close. "Master?" She looked all around hoping he and Bomoor would appear out of nowhere and lay waste to everyone in sight, but the Caanan prince was nowhere to be seen. She could feel his eyes upon her, and it gave her hope that her master was up and about again. She closed her eyes to try and focus on where Thane was. She, Rex, and Sev would need help if Mentis was slain.

Palidor's confident mocking burned into Mentis so that he felt as though his scars would erupt with fury. He was sick and tired of Humans telling him he was inferior and no good. This was his arena: he was born to duel and born to triumph and some stim-boosted Imp trooper was not going to belittle him.

"It is YOU who will fail," Mentis hissed, crouching slightly like a Nexu preparing to pounce as he aligned his blade backwards along the length of his body, in the form II style, "Do not pretend to know the Force. It will dominate you. I will dominate you."

The pale humanoid sprung up and towards Palidor, eyes focussed not on the blade the Imperial held, but on the minute motions he could sense within the armour, showing him how he was about to shift and manoeuvre.

He saw it; a slight shift in footwork as the powerful man readied to slice across Mentis' torso as he leapt over. Except, Mentis would delay his motion slightly so that he wouldn't be there. Through the Force, he once again altered his inertia to halt his speed momentarily allowing the sharp blade to harmlessly swipe at the air in front of him, before he released the ability and slingshot himself over Palidor, carving a great molten gash through the shoulder metal of the armour. Palidor's reaction had still been fast, narrowly moving to avoid being sliced through the neck but, to those watching , it would have seemed a disastrous miss for the trooper.

Landing on the other side and swivelling quickly, Mentis reached a hand out to grasp at the now weaker portion of the armour and began wrenching it away. Sparks began to fly as the circuitry within was torn apart.

"Just a mollusk in his shell," Mentis derided the man as he began to get a better sense of the more-vulnerable lifeform within.

Palidor pivoted and slapped Mentis' hand aside. With that same free hand, a blaster emitter appeared from beneath a compartment hidden in the forearm. Blue pulses of stun energy was peppered at Mentis. The intent to use stun shots was to avoid deadly lightsaber deflections of standard bolts that could put the lives of those nearby at risk.

Mentis furiously twisted his blade to dissipate the shots; his reaction was quick but he still felt one of the blasts partially impact his leg. It was not a full stun impact but he still felt his nerve endings burning as they were overcharged by the impact. He sunk to one knee and again held his blade across him defensively.

With his other hand, he reached out and began peeing back more of the armour's now-exposed circuitry. He hoped he would at least cut off power to a large portion of the suit, if not trigger a suit-wide failure. However, he was certainly no expert in such advanced armour and Palidor was no fledgling officer.

Palidor attempted to counter with a charged blaster shot, one that would be larger and create an area-of-effect concussive blast, even if blocked, but the emitter burned out and alarms were blaring inside the helmet. Warnings of critical system failures were blinking across Palidor's vision as the Force came close to tearing the suit asunder, and internal atmospheric depressurization was imminent. In a desperate move, he remembered his studies of Form V and lunged forward to bring his sword down on Mentis' head, putting all of his armor's weight and the forward momentum of the telekinetic pull to come down hard on his opponent.

Both men locked blades, metal sparking against pure energy, Palidor pressing in closer, attempting to overwhelm the partially stunned Rattataki with sheer brutal strength and the steel of a trained killer's hard-boiled willpower.

Amare carefully watched their movements as the fight had come to a head, burning into her memory how Mentis mixed swift defensive countering with offensive use of the Force, and noting how Mentis was shifting his muscles and spine to maintain his ground in the saber-lock. She could feel her pale ally marshalling the Force around him to gird himself and resist the cybernetic tide pressing down hard on his weapon. It was a glorious sight to behold, almost heroic in that fleeting snapshot of time, and it was truly most inspirational to her. Mentis was fast gaining on becoming a more potent teacher of lightsaber combat than even Thane or her mother had been. The flashes of white light and sparks from the point of contact where the blades met reflected in her wide dark eyes as she smiled with great anticipation and almost malicious glee, looking forward to the proceeding instant of death between one of the two fighters.

I want this strength...I want to fight like this...better than this...I want to be more powerful than both of them combined! she thought to herself with deep invidiousness.

Under the intense pressure of Palidor's blade, Mentis could feel tears welling up in his eyes as his Force strength waned and he felt his own muscles buckling under the strain. All the while, his leg wanted to give way below him as his nerve endings sizzled. This reinforced man had greater brute strength than even Axion's great beast Mange. He knew he could not hold this form for much longer but he did not have to let it defeat him.

In a final attempt to cast off Palidor, the Rattataki allowed his stunned leg to buckle slightly, shifting all that tremendous weight to one side. Palidor was pouring so much effort into this strike that he could not break away quickly enough and his great sword slid down Mentis' lightsaber blade, overcoming the tension that would have held two plasma weapons together. Just as Mentis felt the blade slide off his own, he turned and delivered a swift slice across Palidor's armour, finally severing the loose connections in the already-weakened suit, and then followed up with a precise stab against the warrior's hand.

The armour held against the weapon, but the sudden heat forced Palidor to release his weapon, which Mentis used a final thrust of the Force to shoot away. His power was drained, but he had learned long ago never to let that show against an opponent and he slowly paced forwards, projecting a menacing aura as he bought his blade towards the now exposed skin between Palidor's shoulder and neck.

Palidor kept his gaze upon Mentis, unyielding as he began to feel the intense burning of the weapon approaching his flesh.

"Enough!" came a voice of the younger Imperial officer that had initially approached them, "Knight Palidor will submit. The victory is yours Knight Mentis; this will not be a death match."

Mentis blinked and held the blade away slightly, but kept it fixed on Palidor. He had never been referred to as a 'Knight' before. While it was said out of ignorance of who he was, the officer's words still had some meaning to the pale warrior.

"Is this true, Palidor?" Mentis queried, caught between his urge to strike the man down and this knowingly-fabricated sense of honour not to strike down a submissive opponent, "Do you yield this fight?"

"Heh, heh, heh..." came a faint chuckle from Palidor as surges of crackling energy began surging across the surface of his suit of armor. "Hahaha...a knight defeated by a pawn...or perhaps--nuugh!--a pawn...r-raised to a knight. Well played, Jedi, but you don't know just how far we've come, Jedi. You can strike us down--argh!--but it takes a lot more than the death of this body to kill us."

Just then, the sound of what sounded like a warning alarm started from within the suit, beginning with a low tone, and gradually building more and more towards a higher tone and increasingly rapid tempo.

"Clear out! Now!!" shouted the same officer that stopped the duel. "It's going to blow!" Without hesitation, all of the troopers in the immediate area around Palidor's overloading armor were in full retreat, some taking cover behind nearby armoured personnel carrier speeders.

It was then that Palidor's downed near self-destructing suit was slowly being lifted off the ground. Mentis could see Amare had both hands stretched out, eyes clenched tightly shut, concentrating with all her might. By this point, Rex, Reave, and Sev were already scrambling for dear life, but it might've already been too late if something wasn't done.

"Nuuughhh! He's....he's heavy!" she said through panted breaths as the alarm sounds were getting dangerously high pitched as its power core was seconds from detonation. Her arms and legs were buckling under the resistance of Palidor's dense mass. "Throw him...now!"

Eyes wide, Mentis watched the mass of man and metal suspended in the air. His body still wanted to give way as he felt his energy exhausted and Amare wanted him to use his power once again to cast Palidor away? It seemed like an impossible task, but their lives hung in the balance and Amare had stepped up to the task of protecting them, despite her previous attempt to drain his energy. Mentis tried to remember the short but meaningful teachings of Bomoor on his own relationship to the Force. There was no end to the Force's potential and, by making himself open to it, he could rejuvenate himself. He tried, for a moment, to allow his anger and fear wash away. It was difficult to cast away all his doubts surrounding Amare, this strange Imperial world and his newfound concern for Rex but he managed to force out enough of these thoughts to make himself open to the power of revitalisation.

Through gritted teeth, Mentis released his new energy in a directed wave towards Palidor, sending him up and away from them. Within moments, the suit detonated with a mighty explosion that seemed to obliterate the man inside the suit and sent shards of dense metal hurtling in all directions. The shockwave it created was equally devastating and would have done significant harm had it been any closer to the ground.

Falling to his knees, Mentis wearily gazed at the steely sky where the black cloud that was once Palidor was gently swept away in the wind. A weariness came over him and his eyelids flickered as his head drooped down to the ground. From here, saw Rex and Amare, pushing past the troopers to reach his side just before the fatigue overtook him.




MENTIS

☼ New Ability - Revitalise

 

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