The room was silent except for the distant hum of the ship's engines. Truger stat shifting his gaze periodically from Will to Master Graves and then back again. Will sighed, he'd hoped Master Graves would be satisfied with what he'd already been told and spare Will from telling the rest but Will could see Master Graves was going to sit there as long as it took to get the whole story from Will. Alright, alright. If Trix wants the whole past unearthed fine...
No one said it but everyone knew these were not just pirates, many of their number were Dark Jedi and almost all of them seemed Force Sensitive. The Jedi had held all morning and afternoon, repelling repeated attacks. The survivors of the strike team had filtered back in twos, threes or as rag tag squads throughout those chaos filled hours. None of the 8 Republic Commandos had survived past noon, though they hadn’t gone down without a fight. Now it was dusk. Will’s face was covered in blood and grime and he was quietly doubtful that nightfall would bring any respite. In the distance he heard dull thumps.
Incoming! Take cover! Jedi scrambled for the nearest foxholes that had been added to the defenses during the lulls in battle. Will huddled close to Kara in their foxhole, dirt spraying down onto them whenever a mortar round landed nearby. Since early afternoon the pirates had switched from constant direct attacks to using mortars to keep the Jedi pinned down. The first targets had been the transports, all three had their engines knocked out in the first barrage. The pirates never stayed in a firing position for more than a few minutes before relocating. Occasionally the pirates went into the trees to fire anti-tank rockets directly into the Jedi positions. Normally the Jedi designated marksmen killed the pirates before the rockets were fired, but they didn’t always manage to get them.
As the mortar shelling slowly lifted the cries of wounded and calls for medics began echoing from further down the line. Among the medics scrambling to respond to calls for help and Jedi leaving foxholes to retrieve fresh magazines from the charging stations set up further back Will saw a Jedi running, a look of urgency on his face. "Wheres Knight Kelvar?” The Jedi shouted. Standing cautiously Will beckoned him over. Knight Kelvar! Master K’Sharr needs reinforcements on the north perimeter! They’ve broken the line!"
Here they come again! the Jedi manning the light repeating blaster called out as he opened fire.
Will turned to Kara "Hold the line here. I'll take my squad to reinforce Master K’Sharr."
Kara nodded "Be careful Will, these pirates...they aren’t human." She turned back to the line, aimed her carbine and fired.
Will grinned "What and let you have all the fun after this?" He lightly stated, then noticing the genuine look of concern on her face he placed his hand reassuringly on her back "Don't worry I will, take care of yourself too." Will stood back up, looking into her eyes. She smiled, her eyes sparkling in the twilight. Her face was streaked with dirt and her hair was unkempt yet no one he had ever met before looked as beautiful to Will as she did right now. "Finder Four on me!" Will bellowed. The five surviving Jedi of Pathfinder squad four fell in and Will led them away to join the fight at the north perimeter. Behind him the blasterfire continued and Will could hear Kara shouting orders to the Jedi still manning the position.
Will's squad found the north perimeter had been pushed inwards, forming a crude semi-circle with its peak almost reaching the landing gear of the gunship that had been stationed at the north perimeter. The three gunships had been deployed to add extra firepower at three of the four perimeters. Near the gunship was the aid station, but the medics had expected to primarily be treating wounded pirates, not Jedi. Protecting the aid station was Master K’Sharr who had formed two squads of Jedi into two ranks. The front rank created a nearly impenetrable shield with their sabers, the second one fired their blasters over the shoulders of the first rank. Will admired the precise coordination between the two ranks, the Jedi with blasters firing perfectly timed and aimed bursts during the split seconds when a saber blade did not block the line of fire. But that was the only area where the Jedi were successfully holding the Sith at bay, everywhere else had broken up into a frantic melee fight as the Jedi fought desperately for their lives. He could see pirates carrying wounded Jedi into the forest, closer by pirates rooted among the dead for loot, they sensed victory was near at hand if Master K’Sharr’s group could just be killed.
25 meters away a Medic was gagging on the ground, eyes bulging as she grasped at her throat, blood oozing between her fingers. Grinning malevolently the pirate turned to the wounded Jedi who the Medic had been attending. With surgical precision the Dark Jedi slashed open the Jedi, bent down and inserted a small object. Backing away the Dark Jedi smiled sadistically and watched as the incendiary grenade exploded. Flames lept up through the cut in the Jedi’s body, the Jedi shrieking in pain as he was burned alive from the inside out.
"Take that frakker out!" Will's sabers flared to life, rage welling up inside him. "Saul nail him once he's distracted" Saul, the squad’s Designated Marksman, nodded and broke off. "Charge the frakker head on, use flash-bangs!" Will unhooked a flash-bang from his belt and charged. They were now within 20 meters "Grenade out!" Will and the other Jedi in the squad shouted, hoping to trick the Dark Jedi into thinking the explosives were of a lethal nature. Blaster fire was searing past them as other pirates became aware of their presence, perhaps also protect this Dark Jedi who was apparently an officer. Most of the blaster fire missed, but a few bolts struck home, vaporizing the head of one of Will's squadmates, wounding a second in the belly. The Dark Jedi spun around, located the grenades and batted them away with the Force. But the Jedi were on top of the Dark Jedi now and the only thing that kept the Dark Jedi from being cut down was his choice of a vibroblade instead of a lightsaber. Will regretted that because the Dark Jedi would never have been able to activate a lightsaber in time. Despite being attacked by three Jedi at once they were unable to land a killing blow.
The Dark Jedi spun and dodged, vibroblade glinting in the light from the lightsabers. The Dark Jedi caught the saber blade of one of the Jedi, twisted his wrist to break the lock and with a few quick flicks had slashed the belly of the Jedi open. With sudden intensity the Dark Jedi unleashed a new flurry of attacks, driving Will and his squadmate Blaine back. Through careful manipulation of the combat the Dark Jedi had driven the two apart. Unleashing an unusually powerful Force Push the Dark Jedi sent Blaine flying into a tree where he collapsed unconscious.
The Dark Jedi then swiftly kicked Will in the chest, knocking him to the ground. Desperately parrying the vicious strikes from the vibroblade Will tried to regain his footing. But the ground was slick with blood and he couldn’t find secure footing. Will tried to block yet another savage slash but the Dark Jedi had somehow become very powerful in a matter of seconds, easily knocking Will's green short saber out of his hands. A fancy parry twirled Will's silver-blue long saber out of his grip and the Dark Jedi grabbed the saber hilt. Looking at the short saber hilt lying on the ground the Dark Jedi crushed it with the Force. When I’m done with you, Jedi, you’ll wish you were at the mercy of a sarlaac instead of me. The voice rasped tauntingly. Suddenly Blaine dropped out of Force Cloak behind the Dark Jedi and stabbed his combat knife into the nerves in the Dark Jedi's lower back. Almost instantly a blaster bolt vaporized the top half of the Dark Jedi's head.
...I'd never seen such cruelty on the battlefield before. I'd hoped never to see it again, I'd liked to think that all the lives that were lost had ensured it wouldn't be seen again...but Hoth showed I was wrong. Trix is a fool if he thinks that we've left those manifestations of the Dark Side behind to freeze for eternity on Hoth. Master Graves if Trix gets his way you condemn Jayda to death and then one by one the rest of us will join her. He's a greater danger to our survival than I or any other Grey Jedi ever could be...
Knight Kelvar and Finder 4 squad reporting Master K’Sharr
Master K’Sharr nodded and turned back to the gunship Where are my frakking reinforcements?!
I’m sorry sir, they’re jamming comms, I can’t break through
I don’t give a frakk if you have to stand on the top of this ship flashing a glowrod, get that message out or by the Force... Master K’Sharr turned away in disgust.
Kelvar, deploy your squad to the left of the gunship. You hold that position at all costs, use your bare hands if you have to but do not surrender the position.
Sir. Will said deadpan. Motioning his squad to follow they began digging fresh foxholes at their new position and prepared for the long night ahead...
Will paused, the memories crystal clear, the smell of the moist ground mixed with blood, each snap of a twig threatening another attack. He blinked slowly and resumed the tale
...The screams had been echoing from the woods since night fell. No one could see anything but they all felt in the Force the terrible pain being inflicted on the Jedi who had been captured during the day. Yet despite the passage of seconds into minutes, minutes into hours no one had become one with the Force, they just continued to linger on, each scream a beg for death to bring an end to their pain. The Dark Jedi knew things about torture that Will didn’t even dare imagine and the Dark Side washed through the forest like a horrible flood keeping the Jedi prisoners alive.
Will could feel the resolve of some of the Jedi breaking as the screams continued to echo in the night. He wasn’t sure he wasn’t starting to crack too, for the past hour he’d jumped at every shadow absolutely convinced that there was someone there. Yet the Force told him there was nothing there every time. Suddenly he heard gagging coming from the foxhole 10 meters away. Blaine I’m going to take a look what’s going on over there. Will whispered to his squad mate. Carefully crawling out of their shared foxhole Will creeped centimeter by centimeter to the adjacent foxhole.
What’s going... Will started to whisper and then he saw it...fiery yellow eyes glaring up at him and in the dim light he could see blood smeared across a wild looking face.
We’re under attack! Will shouted, desperately grabbing his lightsaber off his belt. The Dark Jedi growled and lunged with a vibroblade. Will, still prone, rolled out of the way and into a crouch, his left hand on the ground to support his weight, right arm extended to his side saberhilt in hand. Snap! Hiss! The silver-blue blade came to life, illuminating not one but numerous Dark Jedi creeping into the Jedi lines. Sabers ignited all along the line as Jedi desperately tried to fend off the Dark Jedi trying to kill them in their foxholes. In the foxhole Will had heard the gagging come from he could see the bodies of the two Jedi, one with a deep cut into their throat, the other’s throat looked odd, almost as if it had been crushed from the inside.
Shouting a battle cry Will charged the nearest Dark Jedi. Will fought for all he was worth, all the energy built up from the past few terror filled hours finally being released. He cut the Dark Jedi down quickly with ferocious attacks, snatched the vibroblade out of the dead Dark Jedi’s hand and began attacking the next nearest Dark Jedi.
...I suppose I tapped into the Dark Side that night. At least that's what I was told. But they didn't understand then and Trix doesn't understand now that there's a difference between the Jedi ideals applied in the safety of the Temple and their application in the field against the darkness in that forest Will looked right at Master Graves I saw what you did on Hoth, I saw you use the Force to rip out a dark wampa's heart. How is what I did any different?