-Dokken's super commandos return in an explosive fast paced journey to end the war, once and for all.
Tales of Darth Skuldren: Chapter 13
"Date With The Overlord"
Vlakor, Muulag Homeworld:
“Saul Duck!” Screamed Dokken over the deafening blasterfire.
Saul rolled out from behind a burning speeder truck into a nearby alley. An instant later the truck burst into flames as a Muulag rocket soared down from the rooftops.
Saul yelled over the noise, “Zephr! Get those rocket snipers!”
Laying on his stomach, Zephr Sul peaked around the corner. He scanned the rooftops along the street. Through the scope, he saw three shapes moving along the tops of the buildings. Nudging the crosshairs on target, he tenderly pulled the trigger.
The resounding crack broke through the muffled sounds of gunfire. A body fell off a building two blocks down the street.
“Good shot.” Replied Dokken, crouched next to Zephr.
Two more shots followed. Two more bodies fell. Stillness engulfed the street.
“That’s it.” Zephr replied as he continued to scan for more targets.
Dokken looked behind him. His weapon’s specialists, Lok ‘Arsenal’ and Castulli Mondor, were waiting patiently in the alley, there heavy repeating rifles at the ready. “Okay, move out.”
Lok and Cas scrambled out of the alley and down the street. They moved cover to cover, taking advantage of the ruined civilian vehicles scattered along the road. Dokken nodded to Saul across the street, and they followed.
A burst of static emitted from Dokken’s comlink. “Admiral, we’re in position…standing by.”
“Roger that Gold…Silver is moving into position now…we’ll be there shortly.” Dokken looked at his chrono. It had only been 30 minutes since they landed on this nightmare world. He looked up at the dark violet sky. Four more hours of daylight. Plenty of time. By now the overlord ought to be locked down in his bunker. The end of this war is almost within reach.
* * *
Constant gunfire rained down onto the street. The blaster bolts sprayed back and forth in a continuous deadly wave. Rounds pierced through permaglass and stonewalls spraying shrapnel all around. A few remaining Muulag soldiers struggled to find cover as they were cut to pieces. The wounded crawled on their hands and knees, while others lay gasping on the ground.
“Get some! Get some!” Taunted Trigger Galland, as he poured death upon the unfortunate enemy defenders.
Muulag bodies were littered in the shattered windows and blown out doors of the
buildings below. Charred walls smoked among the rubble. Shards of glass sparkled on the sidewalks. It was a surreal display of carnage.
Otto spoke up. “Trigger, hold your fire! Silver team is moving up. We’ll lay down cover when they’re in position.”
Trigger ceased fire. A curl of smoke crept out of the end of his gun barrel. The radiating heat caused sweat to pour down his face. He took off his T-visor helmet, letting the cool air dry off his soaking head. His stomach started to growl, reminding him that is was dinnertime. He nearly kicked himself in the shin for not packing any rations.
Turning around slowly, he began to ask, “Otto, you pack any-” and made the mistake of looking over at Grullock. His question was cut off as his stomach lurched into his throat. He couldn’t hold it, the vomit spewed out onto his armored boots, slopping onto the roof.
Startled, Otto turned his head to see what was going on and quickly looked away in revulsion. “Cut that out Grullock! This is no time for a snack!”
Completely confused, Grullock set the bloodied Muulag arm down to the ground. Sinister black fluid ran down his face. He had never understood what the problem was. Among his people it was proper custom to feast upon one’s foes.
With one last swallow, he responded. “I am sorry, but it is my right as the victor. It is the way of my people.” He wiped his mouth clean with his arm and took a swig from his flask.
“I don’t know Grullock, that’s some pretty strange stuff. Try not to do it when I’m lookin will ya’.” Trigger propped his rifle on the roof’s ledge and peered down upon the street. “Looks clear Otto.”
“Gold team, Silver is in position. We’re making our move.” Dokken’s voice came over Otto’s comlink.
“Roger that Gold. Coast is clear.” Otto aimed his rifle down at the three-way intersection. The simple O-ring scope magnified the wrecked landscape below. Three ruined landspeeders and two speeder bikes were sprawled along both sides of the road. In the distance he could see troops running from building to building engaging in small firefights. Every now and then a grenade would punctuate the muffled gunfire.
He watched the five members of Gold team weave through the wreckage directly below. They were heading towards a large municipal building. According to their intel it was the Muulag capital and the overlord’s personal retreat.
* * *
Dokken ran behind Saul as they crossed the street, passing in between the ravaged hulks of civilian transport. Reaching the building on the other side, they stopped and scanned the area. All clear. Dokken gazed up at the massive building in front of them. A long flight of white stone stairs led up to a block shaped government fortress. Somewhere among the lower levels would be the overlord’s bunker.
“Saul set the explosives.” Dokken repositioned the squad off to the side behind a short, decorative sidewall.
Saul’s armored silhouette ran up to the front of the building and placed an adhesive cord in a one and half meter circle. He ran over to a nearby landspeeder and dove for cover. An ear ringing blast erupted.
“Go, go, go!” Dokken sprang up from behind the wall and led the charge through the building’s new door.
He ignited his ruby red lightsaber and stormed through the hole. Inside was a smoke filled office littered with splintered furniture and burning paper documents. Running through the already blown out door of the office, he rounded the corner scanning both directions. The Force was telling him left.
Dokken turned back, shutting off his lightsaber, “Lok, Cas, take the stairs.” He pointed to a stairwell at the left end of the hall. “Saul, Zephr bring up the rear.”
Lok and Cas led the five-man team down the winding stair well. So far they were meeting no resistance; the building was empty.
After descending thirteen grueling flights, they finally reached the bottom of the stairwell. They fanned out into a small open area that led off into several directions. The entire floor was cast in total darkness.
“Switching to thermal vision.” Replied Lok. Everyone else followed suit, switching their helmet optics to thermal settings. Admiral Dokken relied on the Force instead.
Lok looked back at Dokken. “Admiral, can you sense him?”
Dokken closed his eyes and looked to the Force. There were no other life forms on this floor, but there was the distinct electronic aura of a droid. Yet it was also corrupted in the powers of the dark side. This is unexpected.
“He’s in a chamber…down a passage…through that door.” Admiral Dokken pointed at the dual doors in front of them. “I’ll take point.”
Dokken stepped up to the doors triggering them to open. Lok scanned the hallway for traps.
“Looks clear sir.”
They carefully made their way down the black hallway. Through their helmet visors, the illuminated walls were a pale blue. The heat signature of each person appeared as vividly detailed neon ghost.
At the end of the hall was another set of double doors. Just as before, Dokken approached the doors and entered the wide-open chamber beyond. A pair of red glowing eyes shined in the middle of the black room. It was the overlord.
Through their enhanced optics, the commandos could see a droid, two meters in height, standing ominously among banks of computer terminals. Large encased wires were sprawled about the floor, all of them leading to the droid, feeding him power. At the other end of those long wires, housed in a separated building, were thousands of captives. Each one connected to machines that transferred the energies of their sufferings through the encased cables. Their pain fueled the overlord’s power through ancient Sith alchemistical processes. It was a horror that had not been seen for ages.
A deep synthesized voice boomed out into the room. “Finally I meet worthy subjects.” The overlord disconnected itself from the interleaving cables. “Bow before me and I will spare you. You may serve among the head of my legions, conquering all who stand before you. Your will would be another’s command. Each of you would be rulers of entire systems. Whole planets would exist only to fill your desires!” The words thundered out of its metallic fanged face. It waited for an answer.
Dokken ignited his crimson blade.
“Foolish spawn, now you will suffer…forever!”
Electric bolts shattered out of the robot’s metal arms. The arcs stretched across the room like fingers of lightning. Dokken and his men leapt and rolled out of the way.
The lightning followed Dokken. He swiftly caught the bulk of the electric tendrils with his lightsaber. The electricity crackled around the humming beam. The overlord’s fearsome visage was illuminated by the squad’s gunfire.
Lok and Cas poured a storm of red blaster bolts into the robotic monster in the center of the room. With unnatural speed, the droid managed to dodge the incoming fire. Now that the lightning attack had ceased, Dokken sprinted towards the overlord, unleashing a powerful slash aimed at its head. Metal tentacles shot out of the droid’s back, intercepting the red blade, and knocking the admiral back off his feet.
Spinning around, the overlord blasted Lok and Cas with an intense electrical charge. The blast hit them square in the chest, knocking them off their feet. Their armor clanged as it hit the metal grading. Smoke rolled off of them, as they lied motionless on the floor.
Saul had worked his way around to the other side of the room. He propped his blaster rifle on top of a computer terminal and sprayed a three round burst into the robot’s back, showering sparks onto the ground. An ear-wrenching scream emitted from the overlord as it whipped a tentacle over at the commando. The metal whip sliced through Saul’s armor, cutting through to the skin. Saul fell back and crawled for cover.
Taking advantage of the distraction, Dokken swung at the droid again, this time his humming scarlet blade connected, ripping off the thing’s left arm and tentacle. Its right tentacle whipped around wildly and was parried by Dokken’s lightsaber.
Suddenly the robot shrieked an ear splitting howl. Dokken fell to his knees, his eardrums erupting in pain, feeling like they were going to burst. Warm fluid began to ooze out. Blood trinkled down the sides of his head.
Across the room, Zephr patiently put his crosshairs on the back of the droid’s neck. His helmet filtered out the deafening frequencies and illuminated the blinding darkness. Slowly his finger pulled back the trigger. A satisfying click as the firing mechanisms snapped into place. A sharp crack as the ionized gasses emitted a powerful red blaster bolt that raced across the room.
The bolt seared into the overlord’s neck, severing wires and filaments. Its head flew forward and yanked back. A precious few strands of weaved metal braids left the head dangling from its neck. Yet its red eyes still glowed ominously.
Lunging up at the robot, Dokken swept his blade across for one final blow. The red lightsaber sparked as it slashed across the overlord’s chest, completely severing the head and gouging its armored chest plate.
The overlord’s head and body clunked to the floor, first landing on its collapsed knees, then tumbling to the ground.
Saul rose up from behind a desk, blaster rifle at the ready. “Is it dead?”
Dokken walked over and kicked the robots head. The metal object slid across the floor, bouncing off of Saul’s armored boots. “Yep.”
Zephr went over to Lok and Cas’s smoking bodies. He checked their vitals. “Hey they’re still alive. We’re going to need a stretcher.”
Saul took off his backpack and rummaged through his medical gear. He pulled out two compact collapsing liters. Extending out the high-tension metal rods, the small pieces of equipment turned into full size, lightweight stretchers. “Here, help me get them on.”
Zephr and Saul carefully placed Lok and Cas on the liters. Tightening up the straps, they secured them on the gurneys. Zephr looked over at Dokken, “Admiral, can you get this one by yourself?”
Dokken nodded. He lifted the stretcher with the Force. It hovered a meter off the ground. With renewed determination he stated what was on everyone’s minds, “Lets get out of here.”
* * *
Spurts of gunfire splattered over the rooftop. Pieces of debris shot out like shrapnel, bouncing off Otto’s thick armor. He looked at his chrono. Ten minutes. Static bursts over the comlink.
“Gold team we’re coming out, over.”
“Roger that Silver, we’re taking sporadic gunfire from incoming atmospheric fighters. We’ll draw their attention.” Otto looked over at Grullock.
Hoisting a heavy missile launcher to his shoulder, he looked through the scope. A digital read out screen highlighted the fighters as tiny red squares. They were small one-man jobs with light armor, built for speed. A tiny beep indicated he had a lock, the highlighted red square began to pulse. Pulling the trigger, the missile surged out of the firing tube with a massive swoosh.
The rockets kicked in and set the spiraling missile soaring towards its target. Screaming by just 10 meters from the rooftops, the fighter barrel rolled head on into the missile, erupting into a fireball.
Trigger quickly loaded a new round into the tube. “Clear!”
Two more fighters executed a wide turn, heading back towards the capital building. Grullock aimed for the lead ship, waiting for it to reach the point of no return. The missile shot out instantaneously with a pull of the trigger. Another explosion starburst in the air showering flames in all directions.
As the lead ship incinerated, the one behind plowed through the aftermath taking serious damage to its maneuvering jets. Spinning out of control, it crashed into a nearby building.
A fireball erupted out the side, blowing out hundreds of windows and sending the shards of glass down onto the street like crystal rain.
“Skies are clear.” Grullock smiled a devilish grin as he watched the chaotic display.
“Lets form up with Silver and get outta’ here.” Otto cast one more glance at their surroundings.
The Muulag capital city had turned into a burning battleground. Ships were dog fighting above the rooftops, gunships were strafing enemy positions, and the landing boats were still pouring onto the ground, filled with WaKatA forces.
Above the planet capital ships were still fighting for their lives. Colossal Muulag flagships were streaming turbolaser fire into the suicidal Wallonian counterparts. The Wallonians were engaging point blank, offering full broadside assaults on the enemy vessels. Small Moldavian sphere ships assisted the Wallonian attacks by tearing through the Muulag frigates and fighters. Green, red, and orange turbolasers crisscrossed the vacuum of space in a cacophony of color. The giant cloud of ships swarmed like a dying hive struggling for survival.
* * *
Dokken and his men fought their way back to their dropship. In the middle of a courtyard it sat peacefully unscathed. Around it was a thriving crossfire between a Muulag regiment and two companies of WaKatA shock troops.
Lok and Cas had already came to. Both were running on adrenaline and painkillers but at least they didn’t need the stretchers anymore. Dokken assessed the situation before them and began handing out orders.
“All right, heads up. We gotta’ clear out those enemy positions before we can pull out. Saul we’ll cover you, you make your way to the ship and open up on those slug’s positions. Lok, Cas think you can manage to get up on that roof and give us some cover?”
“Yes sir!” Came the simultaneous reply.
“Good. Trigger, you got your toys?” Dokken looked at Trigger’s expressionless T-visor helmet.
“Always!” He patted the lethal satchel that hung by his side.
“All right. Trigger I want you to sneak up on those positions and give them a surprise. Zephr, you watch his back.” Dokken turned to Otto. “Grullock, Otto, your with me. Lets see if we can give these boys a hand.”
The squad moved into their positions. Lok and Cas set up on the rooftop while the others weaved through the blown up cover of the courtyard. The WaKatA forces were pinned down along three enclosing perimeter walls. Across the way, the Muulag forces were holding out in a line of single story buildings. In the distance Muulag tanks were fast approaching. Time was of the essence.
Searching through the soldiers, Dokken found the commander.
“Colonel what’s the situation?” Dokken crouched next to the colonel; he was a black furred Katarii, one of the members of the Wallonian-Katarri-Alliance, WaKatA for short.
The colonel’s eyes grew wide when he looked at who was addressing him. He snapped a crisp salute. “Admiral, a Muulag infantry regiment ambushed us after we landed. They’re trying to keep us pinned down until they can move in their armor. I’ve got gunships coming in but we gotta’ hold out till they get here.”
Dokken nodded in approval. “Sounds good. I’ve got two men infiltrating the Muulag position as we speak. I’m going to give them a little surprise then hit them with that landing ship.” Pointing across the courtyard, he indicated the serene vessel.
“No good sir, that thing was here when we landed. Someone encrypted and sealed the hull-” recognition sat in, “-oh, sorry sir, I didn’t realize it was your ship. I’ll send word of the plan. My men will be ready.”
“Good luck Colonel, lets hope we can take this planet with as few casualties as possible. I’ve got to see to my men.” Dokken saluted the colonel and left. He, Otto and Grullock worked their way closer to the edge of the firefight, taking cover behind the outer perimeter wall.
Cas’s voice crackled over the comlink. “Admiral, gun team in position.”
“Copy, open fire when I give the signal.” Dokken switched frequencies. “Trigger, prepare to strike.”
“Roger, ready and waiting.” Came the static covered reply.
Behind a one and a half meter stonewall, Muulag fire pummeled Dokken’s position. WaKatA troops were lined along the entire stretch, popping up to return fire. Peaking over the top of the barrier, Dokken could see Muulag soldiers shooting out of windows, doorways, and off the rooftops. One Muulag officer stood out.
He was around two meters in height and stood on top of the center building. A gleaming gold beret adorned his bulking head. Dull gray camouflaged fatigues covered his body. The officer was pointing and shouting orders to his men, while blaster fire bounced off the mobile shield unit he was standing behind.
Closing his eyes, Dokken held his unlit lightsaber in his right hand. He sought out his target, mentally locking him in place. Rising amid the chaos of battle, he threw the lightsaber over the wall and propelled it with the Force. The shiny metallic cylinder flew straight towards the target, but missed the shield and continued to rocket past.
The Muulag officer turned his head, watching the strange device fly by. He chuckled and turned his gaze back to the battlefield. A buzzing crackle ignited as the red bladed lightsaber collided with the mobile shield unit. The officer’s head hit the roof with a wet smack. Nearby Muulag soldiers stared in shock as their commander’s limp body slumped to the ground. His severed neck still smoldered from the wound. The lightsaber had boomeranged back to hit its target.
Slowly the deadly cylinder flew back to Dokken’s hand.
* * *
“Hey Lok, look at that…it’s the Admiral’s lightsaber.” Cas pointed at the floating cylinder.
Lok nodded. “That’s the signal, open up!”
Both of the heavy repeaters unleashed a maelstrom of firepower on the Muulag positions. Hundreds of bolts splashed the surrounding buildings, cutting Muulag sharpshooters into pieces. The gunfire along the entire battlefield surged with the new onslaught.
* * *
Trigger looked over at Zephr. “Go time!”
Laid out in front of Trigger was an odd assortment of objects. They looked like colorful toy blocks, something that a kid would play with. Trigger grabbed a bright green rectangular block and heaved it into a window.
“Run!” Trigger sprinted away from the building.
“But what about the explosives!” Cried Zephr.
“Run!” Repeated Trigger as he yelled over his shoulder.
Zephr grabbed two blocks and ran after Trigger. He remembered the last time Trigger blew something up and his adrenaline shot up two paces. This is going to be big.
* * *
As the familiar metal cylinder returned to Dokken’s hand, a massive explosion engulfed four buildings on the left perimeter of the battlefield. Flames and smoke rolled 50 meters into the sky as the explosion wafted up like a giant mushroom cloud. A third of the enemy’s positions had been wiped out.
“Sithspit!” Cursed Otto, “sorry Admiral. That di’kut Trigger nearly took out half the block!”
Dokken could barely hear him over the ringing in his ears. The gunfire lulled in the wake of the blast. Dokken, Otto, and Grullock exchanged glances and nodded. Simultaneously all three stood up and opened fire on the stunned Muulag defenders.
* * *
Running up the boarding ramp, Saul rushed for the cockpit. He fired up the engines and gunned the ship up off the ground. In a mad rush, he brought up the weapon’s displays. Arming two concussion missile tubes, he opened fire on the Muulag positions directly in front of him. Two buildings instantly erupted in flames. The Muulag turned their attention to this new threat. Now all small arms fire was being redirected on his ship.
Nothing the shields can’t handle. Lets give them a taste of rapid fire.
A fast attack quad-laser cannon mowed the Muulag buildings into shreds. Thousands of bolts per second slashed through the enemy positions like a giant chainsaw.
Wholesale destruction baby!
Chunks of brick and stone were eaten away and blown off onto the streets. As the walls caved in, the Muulag soldiers became exposed. The laser beams tore them to pieces.
Saul’s was nearly flung out of his seat as the ship was blasted by incoming fire. Alarms sounded and flashed. Looking at the radar, Saul spotted a line of blips lined up outside the city walls. It was an armored column. Time was up.
* * *
A high whining sound cut through the air. Using the Force, Dokken projected his voice, “Incoming!”
Everyone took cover as massive mortar fire rained down on their positions. The high yield energy rounds thundered into the courtyard leaving gaping craters amid the WaKatA forces. Parts of soldiers and landscape were thrown up into the air as the balls of plasma crashed into the ground. Their defensive lines were instantly shattered.
“The Muulag tanks are in range…where are those gunships-” Dokken’s voice was cut off by a screaming quartet of Trollgan gunships whizzing over the courtyard.
* * *
“Capt’n, those look like our guys.” Replied the Trollgan pilot as he skimmed the ship a mere ten meters off the ground.
The Trollgan captain sat back in his rotating command chair. “Yes…then the Muulag tanks must be over that row of buildings there...” The captain shifted in his bright orange dress uniform. Flashy medals clinked together as he hit the comlink button on his chair. “Gun crews…open fire.” He looked up at his pilot’s shaved, lumpy head. “Put us on target helmsmen.”
“Yes sir!” Cried the pilot.
An ear splitting whine cut across the battlefield as the Trollgan gunships magnetic accelerator cannons charged up. Like a shattering thunder burst, the cannons blasted through the Muulag buildings cutting completely through to the other side. Solid streams of slug rounds literally tore the buildings in half. The gunfire continued into the fields behind the buildings. The strafing fire burrowed across the ground and crawled its way to the Muulag tanks. They sat blissfully in an open field, firing without a care in a long ordered column. Four lines of spewing dirt snaked their way along the field. The tanks erupted into balls of fire as the lines of fire crossed the armored columns. Massive radioactive slug rounds burned through the enemy’s power cores sending turrets flying into the air as their armored shells bursts into flames.
The Trollgan gunships made three more passes, cleaning up the stragglers. The Muulag attackers were decimated.
The captain reopened the com. “Good work gun crews, lets circle a few times and see who else we can find. There’s plenty of targets on the scope. Lets see how high we can raise the score today.”
The Trollgan captain eased back in his command chair as his crews celebrated. The Trollgan’s revenge on the Muulag had been a long time in coming.
A long time in deed.
* * *
Soldiers stood and cheered at what was left of the Muulag positions. Men quickly formed back up into their squads and continued their assault into the city. Dokken spoke over the comlink.
“Saul pick us up.”
After boarding the ship, Dokken went to the communications board and checked the situation. The WaKatA Fleet was pulverizing the remnants of the Muulag forces in space. Dozens of Wallonian battleships were finishing off the remaining enemy frigates and fighters. Three Muulag flagships sat motionless in the vacuum, silent tombs to all those on board.
“Face of Death, this is Admiral Dokken, please report situation.”
“Sir the enemy’s home fleet has been defeated. We’re mopping up now. Damage reports are still coming in but most of our fleet is still intact. The Face of Death really turned the tide of the battle sir, I don’t know what we would have done without her.”
The Face of Death was a spherical Moldavian flagship. It bristled with enough firepower to engage an entire fleet by itself. Along its gigantic hull were emblazoned images of Moldavian demons. The mere sight of the ship was enough to instill fear.
Dokken spoke over the comlink, “Good work Captain, it looks like we have the Muulag at a disadvantage. Continue the clean up.” He closed the com.
The overlord was destroyed. The Muulag homeworld was under assault and would soon surrender. Now all he needed to do was take care of the Muulag fleets.
Khan Furthog assured him that the Muulag Kahns of the Fleet would surrender without a fight as soon as he made his address. In two hours Mol Furthog would announce his people’s surrender and the Fleet Khans would be ordered to stand down.
This war was almost over.
* * *
Outer Edge of the Void, Muulag Space:
“Khan Kazen, Mol Furthog has just announced the surrender of Vlakor. The High Khan of the Fleet has ordered all Fleets to return to the homeworld and stand down. Sir, the war is over!” The Muulag aide was trembling in fear before his commander. The Muulag had just lost the war.
Kazen didn’t frown, he didn’t smile. His face was emotionless. Yet his mind was buzzing. No…this war is not over, not yet. He dismissed the aide and faced his communications officer.
“Open a channel to all Fleets.” The officer manipulated the controls and gave a thumbs up.
Kazen spoke into the com, “Great Khans of the Fleet, I’m sure you have heard the news. We have lost Vlakor, however we are not defeated. The Fleet is still intact. I say we continue with the original plan. It is time to take this war back into the enemy’s field.” In the ensuing silence, Kazen waited for a reply.
Tog, the grizzled Khan of the Fleet, the symbolic patriot of their people, was the first to answer. “I think I speak for all of us...I agree. We do not surrender. We didn’t surrender to Trollgus the Terrible, we didn’t surrender to the dark ones, and we are not about to surrender to these Wakatans!”
Khans Shtohl, the oldest and most experienced commander in the fleet spoke next. “Tog is right. I am one of the few veterans who can recall our encounter with the dark ones. These Wakatans are nothing compared to them.”
Khan Lol was the last to add his consensus. The decision was unanimous.
“Gentleman we now bring this war to a new level. Plot all courses to Katarii!”
The crews of the Muulag navies rejoiced in battle lust. The war would continue and Muulag would not go down without a fight to the death.
Khan Kazen sat back in his command chair. Thoughts continued to spill through his mind. Now I will finally get a chance to fight. And the overlord won’t get in the way to stop me. Everything is going according to plan.
Tales of Darth Skuldren: Story 14
Skuldren's rogue Sith cope with a new discovery while others look for long lost holocrons and gain the attention of the Jedi Council...
Kajji XII, Skuldren’s Academy:
Darth Skuldren sat crosslegged in one on the academy’s libraries. Enveloped in a black cloak and dark shadows, he sat deep in meditation. The darkness centered his mind into the void concentration. To reach the Force’s enlightenment one had to release themselves from the outside world, to free themselves of conscious thought. The darkness helped.
Darth Xenon approached his master carefully. His soft leather boots eased across the stone floor without a sound. Skuldren acknowledged his apprentice with a nod.
“What is it Darth Xenon? Did you obtain the holocron?” Asked Skuldren in a calm, serene voice.
“Yes Master Skuldren, I found the holocron as you asked…but I discovered something else…”
Skuldren could not sense his apprentice’s hesitation in the Force but he could hear. “Go ahead Xenon, what is it that you discovered?”
“It’s about the Katarri Rituals master. It seems that the cost of creating life is higher than I expected.” Xenon paused again.
“Yes, I thought there might be a catch.” Skuldren opened his eyes to look at his apprentice. Xenon’s youthful, clean shaven face was pale a frightened.
“Basically the Katarri concentrate of directing the flow of energies in the Force. They use events in the environment as a source. When Praxus created his bug, he drew upon the energies of the erupting volcanoes, the heat of the lava, the combusting particles. Using similar means we were all able to achieve some measure of creation. What I didn’t realize is that when we did so we killed the things we drew from. In Praxus’ case the volcanic eruption stopped. What I’m getting at master is that if you perform the rituals without an external power source you end up consumming yourself.” Xenon turned to look behind him.
Through the dark aisles of holobooks strode a somber figure. As the man drew closer, Skuldren realized it was Ziam.
Timidly Ziam spoke, “Master, I had an incident…”
Ziam raised his left arm.
Skuldren stared in disbelief. Half of it was gone. “The rituals did this?”
“Yes master. I was trying to impress Lotus and…well it sort of took my arm.” Ziam gazed at his feet, too ashamed to look his master in his eye.
“It’s all right Darth Ziam. You need not feel ashamed. Many Force users have had accidents in their pursuit of knowledge in the Force. The unkown is a very dangerous thing.”
Skuldren rose from the floor and stepped towards Ziam. He put a caring hand on his shoulder and gave him a well-meaning smile.
“You may have lost a forearm but you are still powerful in the Force. Let us see what kind of prostetic Bacillus can make up for us.” And so the three Sith walked out of the library.
Skuldren mused over the idea in his head. Sith. In reality he was no more a Sith than a master on the Jedi council. He did not embrace the dark side nor did he crave power. Knowledge was his pursuit. Even if he wanted to pursue the ways of the dark side, he felt sure his heart would get in the way and that was not something he was prepared to throw away. When it came down to it, he and his order were something of their own. Something beyond Jedi or Sith. Hopefully, something better.
* * *
Skuldren and Ziam entered a large simple building made of stone and durasteel. Inside various tables were laden with mechanical parts. Pieces of droids were strewn everywhere and the air was thick with the smell of oils and lubricants. Off in a far corner, Bacillus was illuminated by the sparks of a welder.
The bright blue flame sent golden chunks of molten metal flying off in all directions. Bacillus noticed his company and killed the torch. He raised his protective facemask revealing a grimy smeared face.
“Hello Master. Is there something-” That was when Bacillus noticed Ziam’s hand.
“Yeah, kind of had an accident.” Ziam shrugged.
Master Skuldren cut in, “Could you make a prostetic to replace it?”
“Certainly.” Bacilllus replied. “I’ll need to go over the details, take some measurements but it should be no problem.”
Bacillus flipped the mask back down and went right back to work. Skuldren looked at Ziam, shrugged, and gave a reassuring grin.
Out from behind a shelving unit, stepped Captain Siyal, a purple skinned Ryn and an old friend of Darth Skuldren. It had been many years since Skuldren had seen Siyal, who had arrived on Kajji just two days ago on Bacillus’ ship.
Siyal had told Skuldren about the information he got from a Dashade mercenary. It seemed that the Sith wanted Skuldren dead.
“Well Siyal, I see Bacillus has been keeping you busy. How long do you think you’ll be staying?” Asked Master Skuldren.
Siyal looked down at the mechanical device he held in his hand and seemed to mull over the thought. “To be honest I’m in no rush. I wouldn’t mind laying low for a while and this place is about as good as any. Good friends, no rent, and Bacillus here says he can make Pazaak shifter that even a droid couldn’t spot.” Siyal gave a jovial laugh and glanced conspiratoryally at Bacillus. “That and I spoke to Xenon the other day and he says he knows this girl in the academy…”
“Yes, Xenon could probably help you there, I have no doubt. Well enjoy your stay, I have some things I need to attend to.” Skuldren turned and left his friends and apprentices behind.
* * *
Coruscant, Jedi Council Chambers:
At the top of the Jedi Temple’s tower, sit an assortment of twelve Jedi Masters. The black night sky glows from the city planet’s numerous lights. Distant airspeeder traffic zooms by in the distance in a city that truly never sleeps. Not even the Jedi.
Tonight a special meeting was called. One deemed important enough that all twelve members of the Jedi High Council made the effort to attend in person. The topic of the meeting, as ever, was the Sith. However this discussion focused on one in particular, a Sith Lord known as Darth Skuldren.
Master Garu’un, a blue furred Nazzar and one of the five permanent members of the High Council, was the first to speek up.
“Masters we are gathered here tonight to speak of the Sith known as Darth Skuldren. Thus far he is responsible for the deaths of six Jedi Masters and six Jedi Knights. And now, as we speak, it is believed that he has etablished a refuge for rogue Sith. He now trains the castaways and deserters of the various Sith factions. The longer we wait, the more powerful he and his order becomes. Yet we must tread carefully.” Garu’un nodded to his left. “Master Beldo if you would…”
Master Beldo stood up and walked into the center of the room. He was a tall, lanky, brown haired Frozian and a well respected warrior among the Jedi Order. Beldo had fought in no less than 53 different wars across the galaxy and it was his hope to bring peace through victory.
In the warm glow of the chamber’s lights, Master Beldo stood in an ellaborate green and black marbled tunic. Calmy, he addressed the Jedi Masters. “I have looked into the matter, as asked, and have done some snooping around. What I have learned is that this Sith Lord has indeed assembled his own private order of Force adepts. He has been training them in the old ways and it is quite possible that he has rediscovered the Lost Rituals of Krudesh-”
There were gasps and murmurs among the room at mere mention of the lost arts. The arts of Krudesh were not forgotten among the Jedi Council but neither were they desired. Long ago they sought to be rid of the knowledge. A wisdom so powerful and tempting that few, even among the High Council, could resist its use. The Jedi had determined that some things were better off left unkown.
A Gand findsmen, Master Schen Xyrr, regathered their attention. “Master Beldo, how did you come across this information? How reliable is it?”
All eyes focused on Beldo. “It is quite certain. My padawan has infiltrated Skuldren’s order and has relayed the information back to me-”
Beldo was cutt off by the council’s immediate distraught reaction. The Masters confired their concerns with eachother and some showed anxiety over the possible outcomes of such a secret being in Sith hands.
“-Please Masters, let us focus. I think I can say that this changes matters quite drastically. There is doubt that we must take action. The question is how? At first we sent four Jedi to deal with this Sith. He killed three. Then we sent eight, of which none returned. Now we face not only this Sith but at least a dozen of his apprentices and hundreds of his followers. This is no longer a situation for us alone.” Master Beldo stood silent in front of his peers.
“And what was the Chancellor’s response, Master Beldo?” Asked Garu’un.
“The Chancellor spoke with the Admiral of the Fleet and assured me that anything the Council needed in this matter would be provided. Nothing is official yet, but I’ve done some planning and figure that we will need a strike force of six dreadnaughts with the standard compliment of support vehicles. The Republic will lend us the use of a full batallion of veteran shock troops. Tentatively I think we should match their numbers with at least a third of our own in order to make sure that this threat is taken care of thouroughly.”
“A hundred Jedi…do you think the Senate will see us as overacting?” Inquired Master Xyrr.
Master Cas Trun, a human, stood forward. “I do not think it matters how the Senate sees this. These Sith have found the Krudesh Rituals and are now more of a threat than all the Sith factions combined. My question is soon can we act?”
“Three days.” Replied Beldo. “I’ll need three days in advance to inform the Chancellor that it is official. The Republic forces are already preparing their force for the attack.”
“This is all well in good but you’ve never said where these Sith have located themselves too. I hope its not a populated environment.” Remarked another human Jedi Master.
“No, it is not. The Sith have stationed themselves on the planet Kajji XII, they have built an academy out of the old ruins there.”
“Of all places…Kajji. Do you think it mean anything or is it coincidence?” Asked Master Trun.
“Nothing is of coincidence in the Force, Master Trun.” Replied Garu’un. “Well I believe things are well under way. We are in agreement to act.” He paused to gain each councilmen’s assurance. “And Master Beldo’s plan seems to be sound. Does anyone here disagree?” Again he paused. No one present was of a more military mind than Master Beldo, and no one disagreed. “All right, in three days one hundred of our order will assemble with the Republic forces and head out to eliminate this Sith threat. There lies but only one more thing…who among us will go?”
Everyone present wanted be a part of the mission. The very balance of the Force was at stake, yet the fate of the Republic could not just be left to its own.
Master Beldo broke the silence. “Two of us should stay. Two of the permanent members of the council. They are the wisest among us and the most able if anything were to happen to the rest.”
“Do you think it wise to send so many, Master Beldo? Do these Sith present that much of a threat?” Master Garu’un’s tone was lined with the slightest shread of worry.
“I do.” Beldo’s voice was calm and stern. “I think this Sith is more powerful than we realize. He can cut Force sensitives off from the Force with ease and he has shown that he can do so even to the Maseters of our order. The only way to defeat him will be by the blade…through skill alone.”
The mood of the council grew somber as they reflected on this. For so many years they had grown to rely on the Force and its guidance. The battle ahead would quite possibly be the biggest challenge any of them would ever face.
* * *
After returning from their vacations, Master Skuldren had sent his apprentices off on various missions to obtain holocrons. Using an ancient book that Darth Xenon had found earlier, they were able to determine the locations of hundreds of previously lost holocrons. Thus Darth Adder and Darth Praxus found themselves paired up for an adventure on Devaron, the homeworld of the Devaronians.
Devaron is a mountainous world with deep valley connected by innumerous raging rivers. Along these low lieing mountain ranges, the females of the Devaronian population make their homes.
“Watch your step Praxus, the darkness can decieve the sensors in your mask.” Adder pointed down into the depths below. “It’s the steam from the algae. It interferes with the electronics.”
Praxus peered over the edge of the path. There appeared to be nothing down there but a bottomless abyss. “I hate caves.” Muttered Praxus.
Adder tilted his head toward the smaller man. “I thought your people live in caves?”
“They do, but our caves have floors. This one has an indoor cliff.” Praxus adjusted his goggled mask, turning up the intensity of the light amplifiers. A small whine could be heard as the servomotors readjusted to the new setting.
The two men continued along the dark, dreary, narrow path. Each step tetered on the edge of a seemingly endless oblivion. How much farther. Thought Adder.
According to the holocron book, somewhere at the end of this cave is a statue that stands watch over an old Jedi Masters holocron. As of the moment, Adder could see no end in sight. So carefully, very, very, carefully, they continued.
Hours went by as the cave’s path winded under the mountain. As the air got cooler, they could see their breath, and quickly found comfort in the extra parkas they had packed. The locals had been very helpful with supplying them with the proper gear. The extra weight came in handy.
After two meal breaks and a dozen breathers, the two adventures finally came to the end of the path.
“I don’t see anything. Shouldn’t there be a statue?” Asked Praxus.
“Maybe this is the wrong cave.” Adder suggested.
Praxus closed his eyes and opened himself to the Force. No. He felt it. Somewhere near he could feel it. “Its close. Look around.”
Adder’s gaze followed up the wall and into the stalactites above. Using the Force to see in the darkness, he saw only what one would expect in a cave. Moss, bats, and rock.
Looking down, Praxus examined the sides of the cliff and noticed a ledge below there’s. “There! Look!” He exclaimed.
“That rubble there, that could be a statue. Lets climb down and take a look.” Suggested Adder.
They took out their climbing gear and rappeled down over the edge. Fifty meters down was a outcropping of rock. On it was the old remains of an elaborate statue carved from some precious stone. What was left looked like the upper torso of a Devaronian wearing a strange helmet. His left arm was missing but the right was held out, palm up and open.
“I bet he was holding the holocron. A quake must’ve knocked the statue off from up there-” Adder pointed at the path above them, “-then fell here.”
“I found it!” Cried Praxus. Shifting through a small mound of loose rock was an octagonal box covered in strange symbols.
He held the object up for Adder to see.
Such intricate details. It’s a regular work of art.
“Well let’s head back, we’ll see if we can get it too work when we get back to the ship.” Said Praxus.
“Yeah, if we try and mess with it while we walk we’ll be liable to fall for eternity. It’d be kind of hard to concentrate while your falling.” Joked Adder. They both laughed.
By sunrise the next day, the two adventurers finally made their way back to the ship. It was a small frieghter, one of several among the academy’s pool of ships. Looking at it, one didn’t see anything remarkable. A simple ship. No elegant designs, no suped up engines, shielding, or weaponry. The only thing it could boast about was its reliability. Ol’ Bacillus took good care of his ships and they hardly ever broke down.
Adder and Praxus crawled up the boarding ramp and slumped down into some comfortable chairs. They were exhausted and both of them fell asleep in their chairs. By about midday they woke and grabed a bite to eat, some simple ready-to-eat meals they kept in the storage cabin. While Praxus chewed on a large, sweet synthesized beetle, he rotated the Jedi holocron in his palm.
What secrets do you hold little one. Mysteries of the universe. Principles of the Jedi Order. Or family recipes handed down for generations. That brought a smile to his snout. All that work for cooking instructions held as treasure by some eccentric Jedi Master holed up in a cave.
“What’s so funny?” Asked Adder.
Praxus swallowed the remains of the beetle. “Did you ever stop to think that some old crazy Jedi might just fill one of these things up with his prized family recipes. I bet they’d get a kick out of that.”
Adder laughed, then stopped abruptly. “That’s not funny. Open it up. Aint no way I spent all this time hiking for a Jedi cookbook.”
Still holding the holocron, Praxus opened himself fully to the Force. He did not reach out to the holocron as many would be tempted to do. Quite simply, he allowed himself to be reached. Adder sat and waited. After a while, he went back to eating his nerf steak.
Patiently Praxus waited. It had been centuries since the holocron had been accessed. Within its delicate framework a tiny powercell slowly recharged itself. Drawing upon Praxus’ Force energies, the holocron awoke.
“Hello Jedi Knight. You have journeyed far to seek the wisdom of my aid and I am glad to give it. For seven centuries my holocron has dormant in the caves of Devaron, waiting for the adventurer of my vision to arrive. We are well met. I am Cilla Dornmuust, a Master of the Jedi Order, and keeper of the Krudesh vision.” Spoke a projected blue spirit of a lond dead Jedi. Her voice was cheerful and full of hope.
“What is this vision that you speak of?” Asked Adder.
The blue image turned towards Adder and regarded him with curiosity. “It is odd company that you keep, Jedi Knight. Though I guess a warrior will be needed for your quest.” She turned her attention back to Praxus. “The vision was mine. I alone among the order received it, but the other members of the council felt it as well. The Force showed me a brave Force adept who would walk a path of his own. He would gather the secrets of the galaxy to him, though he know not why, and would train an apprentice among many who would discover the true purpose of the Krudesh Scrolls.” She paused, staring intently into Praxus’ tinted goggles, as if she could actually see through them into the beady black eyes underneath. “You are that one. You will discover the secret.”
And she disappeared.
“What happened, did you break it?” Asked Adder. His voice was startled.
Calmly Praxus placed the holocron on the table. If Adder could have seen his eyes, he would have noticed a far off look that seemed to peer into the future. For a moment Praxus could almost see it. He certainly felt it.
“Praxus. Praxus, are you all right? Did she do something to you?” Adder rose up out of his seat and went over to Praxus to see if he was okay. The sudden movement jostled Praxus out of his dreamy gaze.
“I’m fine, really. I was just lost there for a moment. That’s all.” Praxus crossed his arms and leaned back, admiring the holocron as it gleamed in the cabin light.
“Well, is it broke?” Asked Adder again.
“No. It’s not broke. It’s just…sleeping. It speaks when it wants to. Obviously it doesn’t want to right now.” Praxus unfolded his arms and took a sip from his glass of water. “I think it wants me to…sleep on it. The information that is, the vision.”
Adder sat back down and seemed to be reassured. “Yeah, the vision. That’s creepy how it knew that stuff.” Adder looked into Praxus’ black tinted goggles. “Looks like you’ve got yourself a destiny.” Adder simled.
A destiny. Yes, it would seem so. Thought Praxus.
Tales of Darth Skuldren- Story 15
Disclaimer- Parts of this story will seem worthless if you have not read story 14, as you will be left in the dark about the Jedi Council and the preceding events. It is imperative that you’ve read story 9, otherwise the ending will be meaningless. Please read these two stories BEFORE you read this one in order to get the full effect.
“The Battle of Kajji”
“To create one must destroy. To paint pictures one grinds trees into pulp to produce paper, and renders rocks and plants into powder so as to produce color. You do not destroy matter, you simply transform it. This upholds the fundamental law: matter is neither created nor destroyed.”
Tenets of the Laws of Creation, once written by Lord Krudesh and now reflected in his rituals.
Kajji XII, Skuldren’s Academy:
The sky was blotted out and darkness fell over the land. There were no blue skies above the Kajji academy this day, only a swarm of Republic ships. Darth Skuldren looked up at the chaos unfolding and stood in disbelief. The shock rendered him frozen like a blanket of concrete. He couldn’t move.
An incoming concussion missile crashed into the ground ten meters from where Skuldren stood, filling the air with a horrendous ear splitting explosion. Flames and debris shot out in all directions. Burning cinders splattered on his face and brought him into motion.
Buildings where vaporized. Students stumbled into the streets screaming, covered in blood. A thick fog began to blanket the academy as more missiles fell. Tears welled up in Skuldren’s eyes as the smoke grew thicker. The ground shook as he ran from the orbital bombardment.
Finally he reached the outer wall. Again clean air filled his lungs and eased the pain of his burning eyes. Standing outside the academy’s main gate, he could see the surrounding countryside. The gentle, green, rolling hills were covered with assault shuttles. Out of the ships, hundreds of little soldiers swarmed in his direction. Among the rolling sea of bodies where colorful beams of light held aloft like torches, like bright beacons.
They were lightsabers.
Hundreds of Jedi.
The charging horde fell fast upon the fleeing Sith. The dark warriors were too outnumbered to stand a chance. One by one they fell to the Jedi’s neon blades.
As Skuldren ran, he could hear the humming sound of inevitability closing in on him. And as the Force would have it, he found himself fleeing down a dead end street.
This was it, this was the end.
Turning slowly to face his pursuers, he ignited his lightsaber. A familiar red blade emitted from the ornately crafted gold handle. Sweaty palms tightened on the cross work threads of grip. He expected to see three, maybe four Jedi. Instead nearly fifty filled the wide street before him. At the head of the crowd of dazzling lightsabers stood eleven Jedi Masters, nearly the entire Jedi High Council.
All this for one Sith Lord. Thought Skuldren to himself.
He savored it like a compliment. Its sweetness ended as the burning hot blades of energy pierced his tender flesh. Muscles melted like ice. His cloak caught a fire. The last thoughts squealing through his brain was the face before him. A familiar face.
A silver lightsaber blade rose high in the air, and Jedi Master Sederis screamed his vengeance. Then there was blackness. Numbness. Cold numbness.
Skuldren woke. His sheets were soaking wet from perspiration. Slowly he sat up, holding his hands out in front of him, arms outstretched. They were shaking terribly. As bad as they were, his heart was beating even fiercer, so fast that his chest was aching.
It was dark in the room and his eyes had yet to adjust. There was only the pain of his body, a pain that still lingered from the dream.
Was it a dream? He thought. No, it was a vision. Something that has yet to happen but is unfolding. Something moving against me. Against us.
He looked at the chrono on the wall, four more hours before sunrise.
Could this wait? No.
Getting up, he quickly got dressed and headed out of his comfortable little house. Outside the stars were still gleaming in the sky. The moon had already set.
There were no street lights to show the way, but the starlight was enough. Walking the streets like a wandering ghost, he arrived at Darth Ziam’s door. His house was a little bigger than Skuldren’s. It was made of simple stone with more modern architecture inside. The modern plasteel door rang with a hollow thud as he knocked.
Moments later Ziam opened the door. He stood in plain black sleeping garments. They looked lightweight and comfortable. Yet his tired face wore an expression of worry.
“What’s wrong master?” Ziam asked, his morning breath caught Skuldren off guard.
In a slightly shaky voice, Skuldren spoke. “I had a vision, a Force dream. Something terrible is about to befall upon the academy. We must make haste. I fear the Jedi have decided to end matters once and for all.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Coruscant, Parade grounds near the Jedi Temple:
Three days had passed. Now on the normally empty parade grounds, a hundred Jedi swarmed about, making their last preparations before take off. Padawans were paired with their masters, and teams of Jedi Knights boarded their assault shuttles. Above them, somewhere beyond the atmosphere were half a dozen Republic dreadnaughts.
Master Beldo, a brown haired lanky Frozian, stood watching the assembly. He was a veteran of many wars and couldn’t help but wonder how many here today would not return. Though their victory was certain, the cost was always unpredictable.
Just the one Sith was able to kill a taskforce of eight Jedi, what could a dozen do.
Then again, there were a hundred Jedi at his command. Two weeks prior to the High Council’s official decision, he had sent out word to hand picked volunteers. There were no children in his task force. No philosophers or historians. Every one of the Jedi were proven warriors and skilled in lightsaber combat. They were the best in the Order.
“Master Beldo, are we ready?” Asked a patient young man.
Beldo had decided to leave the Order’s Master at Arms, Jhung Bollen, behind. Master Bollen was the deadliest man in the galaxy with or without a lightsaber, yet the chance of loosing him along with the others was deemed to high a cost. Thus Bollen sent his apprentice in his stead. His name was Ren Stalder.
“Yes Ren, I believe we are. Lead the way.” Replied Beldo.
Ren turned away briskly and hotfooted his way to their assault shuttle. Ren was a youthful human, about 19 and ready for Knighthood. After this mission he would lose his Padawan learner’s braid and would rise among the ranks of the Order. Beldo liked Ren. He was both resourceful and responsible. An odd combination for someone his age. Beldo could remember his last few years as a Padawan, they were anything but responsible.
He followed Ren onto the ship and walked past the other Jedi onboard. Slipping into the cockpit, he took the copilot’s chair while Ren sat in the pilot’s seat. Beldo opened the comm to all the other shuttles on the ground.
“All Jedi shuttles this is Master Beldo, we launch in five minutes.” He looked at his wrist chrono and noted the time.
“How did you sleep, Ren?” Beldo asked casually to pass the time.
The sandy brown haired man turned to the Frozian and broke a wide grin. “Like a rock.”
Beldo smiled too. A warrior, like me. There’ll be no one better to have at my side.
The master looked at the Padawan. “When we arrive in system the Republic ships will engage any defenders the Sith might scuttle into the air. Since the Jedi are currently at war with the various Sith factions, the Republic’s rules of engagement will allow them to begin with an orbital bombardment. After that, we’ll head down with the Republic ground forces and mop up any resistance. Remember, this is a Sith occupied world, there are no friendlies down there. A trained Sith will use every trick he has to catch you by surprise. I’ve seen them destroy their lightsabers and surrendered themselves only to unleash a deadly blast of Force lightning when you lower your guard. Sometimes their wounded will beg for mercy. If you stop to heal them or attend to their wounds they stab you with a concealed vibroblade. There are a hundred different ways, a hundred different scenarios but the end result is the same: don’t trust a Sith. A user of the dark side is never unarmed. The Force is his weapon and he will use it against you whether it be in combat or captivity.”
Ren’s face was stern. He took Master Beldo’s advice to heart.
Beldo looked at his chrono again. It was time. He reopened the comm.
“All ships prepare for launch, I’ll lead formation.” Beldo nodded to Ren who in turn manipulated the pilot’s controls.
Gently the ship rose vertically off the ground as the surging engines lifted them up into the sky. The assault shuttles lined up precisely as they gained altitude. Leveling off they picked up speed and soared towards the Republic dreadnaughts waiting above.
The journey through hyperspace to Kajji XII would take 72 hours. The Sith had that long to live.
* * * * * * * * * *
Kajji XII, Skuldren’s Academy:
It was daylight now as Skuldren walked the empty streets of the city’s ancient ruins. Ages ago this city had once stood against invaders, but Skuldren did not know how that battle faired. They say history repeats itself, yet Skuldren knew that it could be changed as well. The errors of the past, if studied, could be avoided. All those years as a book worm had turned Skuldren into an armchair general. If the Force had its way, his skills would be put to the test.
As per his orders, his students were busily at work. Bacillus, Ziam, Xenon, and Praxus were gathering all the academy’s occupants, students, guests, droids, and creatures alike, onto the training fields just outside the city’s outer wall.
Out along the green pastures stood a thousand sentient beings. Bacillus instructed his droids on how to fight in the oncoming battle. Xenon gave similar instructions to his creatures, large and small. Meanwhile Ziam was assigning the rest of the group into militias while Praxus handed out arms and munitions. Everyone was mobilizing for war.
Inside the empty walls of the city, Skuldren approached his old friend Siyal. Long ago Siyal and Skuldren had used the Force to turn a profit. They ripped off casinos and robbed the occasional gangster. Together they made enough to retire and so they went their separate ways. Only recently had they been reunited.
Today the Ryn was wearing a colorful pirate captain’s jacket decorated with fake medals and medallions. He wore a mischievous grin on his mustachioed face, yet his eyes were as young as ever.
“Well, well, well. I always wondered what a book worm like you would do with all that loot we plundered. Go figure, you bought war supplies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many guns. Guess you got enough hands to use them though.” Siyal’s voice wandered off as he waited for a response.
Skuldren snickered at his compatriot. “Money well spent wouldn’t you say, considering the situation? I bet you spent all yours on gambling, women, and booze.” It was a good natured jest.
“Most certainly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Live in the moment because ya’ never know when it will be your last. Can’t take nothing with ya’ in the afterlife sep’ your memories, and I’ve made plenty.” His smile grew such that his entire face wrinkled in pleasure.
“Well Siyal, it looks like will have us a good fight on our hands. Time is short. The Jedi could arrive tomorrow, next week, or in ten minutes. There’s no certainty in the Force.” He stopped to correct himself. “Well, there’s no exactness, I should say. They’ll come and soon, but soon is vague.” Skuldren looked to the sky. It was still blue. The darkness had yet to arrive.
Siyal looked up, seeing nothing, he looked back down at Skuldren. “Think they’ll open up from space or play fair?”
“They’ll hit us with everything they got until we’re all dead. They’ve stopped playing games, Siyal. Something more serious is at stake.” Skuldren’s voice was grim.
“This has something to do with that Krudesh stuff doesn’t it?” Siyal asked innocently.
“Yes.” Skuldren looked at his friend. His intense grey eyes reflected the seriousness of his tone. “It does.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Two days passed while the academy prepared for the invasion. Skuldren sat in his house with his apprentices. All of them were lounging comfortably in the form-fit chairs in the living room. It was a plain room with no holoscreens, no pictures, just several comfy chairs and a table.
Xenon voiced his worries. “Master, there is only the five of us to stand against whatever the Jedi throw at us. There is only so much we can expect out of the others-”
Ziam spoke up, “He’s right. I’ve spent a lot of time with the students. Most of them only have primitive skills in the Force, they can’t be expected to fight trained Jedi, not even Padawans.”
“I don’t know, I may be overestimating the abilities of my droids, but I think my forces at least will have a fair shot at taking down the Jedi in numbers. There’s only so much shrapnel a lightsaber can stop before the rest tears you into pieces. My droids’ equipment is specially designed for this kind of thing.” Replied Bacillus.
Praxus was next. “And you, Xenon, should not underestimate the skills of your creatures. All of them have proficient fighting abilities and are now quite well armed. Even the students should be able to hold off the Jedi forces with the specialized equipment we have given them-’
Skuldren cut him off. “-Ziam and Xenon are right. Remember, the strongest fighters of our order are still out searching for holocrons. Adder, Iconoclast, Lotus, and even Moto have yet to make it back. Since we have no idea when the attack will occur we must assume that they won’t make it in time.” He looked at each of his apprentices in turn, gathering their undivided attention.
He continued. “It is true. With the students, Xenon’s creatures, and Bacillus’ droids we have nearly a thousand at arms. But numbers will not be our strength. Neither will surprise or defense. We must rely on brains and brains alone.”
“No offense master,” retorted Xenon, “but just how well can we outsmart the Jedi?”
Skuldren turned to look at Xenon. Both sat clothed in black tunics. There was an uneasy silence that followed.
“It can be a matter of outsmarting them and a matter of doing something they cannot or will not allow themselves to do.” Without any emotion, he uttered, “Will use the Krudesh against them.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Another days passing brought everything to its essential place in the fabric of fate. On the serene surface of Kajji XII, Skuldren’s academy continued to make preparations. What they didn’t know was that their time was up.
On the edge of the system, six Republic dreadnaughts exited the realms of hyperspace. Spaced out in between the larger vessels were a dozen support craft, each supplementing the firepower of their larger cousins.
The small fleet had but one purpose, to destroy Darth Skuldren’s Sith Academy.
In command of the strike forces was Jedi Master Beldo, one of the long term members of the Jedi High Council, and a veteran warrior. He stood on the command deck of the Barganna, one of the Republic dreadnaughts. Behind him was the ship’s captain.
“Captain Daller, it is with a heavy heart that I give you permission to begin this operation with a full orbital bombardment on the enemy forces on Kajji XII. You may proceed when we are in firing range.” Master Beldo’s words were anguished and solemn, quite contrary to Captain Daller’s response.
“Thank you Master Beldo, you and I both know that this is the wisest course of action. You are saving many of my men’s lives as well as the lives of your Jedi forces.” Captain Daller turned with a smile to his executive commander. “Inform all ships to approach within firing range of Kajji XII. Assault shuttles will land simultaneously to maximize our advantage of surprise.”
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