Star Wars the Next Era: First Installment

April 11, 2012
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Unzdu paced the room, gnarled claws clinking on the icy marble floor, mottled brown fur smoothly pressed into slick obedience of his form. He wore a simple ornate helm complimenting a long deep purple robe and silvery ceremonial armor. A vibro-blade was belted at his waste, extinguished, this part of his appearance was genuine, these fools hadn’t tried to take this from him. He was growing impatient with the prattling of the other clan heads and the meaningless debate, it went nowhere and didn’t help with the deteriorating relationship with The United worlds, nothing was being decided and many were content to squabble and bicker over political slights and petty disputes. He was frustrated with everything, the finery everywhere, including the clothes that adorned him he’d rather appear with nothing but the fur on his back and the weapon at his waist. The attire would do nothing for protection and would be ruined after the first strike, such a waste of recourses. It made him feel enclosed, caged.

His real armor was strengthened by a protective energy shield, complimenting the sturdy shell, which was what a real Oreon clan leader would appear in, rather than this blatant herald of his rank and class. Unzdu growled softly and turned to a nearby servant who bowed shortly in submission. Unzdu turned back, restraining himself from spitting in disgust.

While these fools were served and waited on, living in the most luxurious temples, their people, his people, the warriors of all clans, including the Klason, lived simply, but happily. They were the ones to bring the Clans victory; they had done so for billions of years, swallowing all resistance in the bulk of the empire. Small luxuries should be everywhere instead of being greedily seized by the clan heads.

Snarling soundlessly, the chieftain subsided, standing still as he gazed out the window. Snow had gathered among the trees surrounding the building, and water lazily dripped from higher branches, where patches of ice were illuminated by golden rays from the sun. He marveled at the pure beauty of it, the way the ice shed water, slowly relinquishing it and letting it roll gracefully to the ground. Everything would be okay if he could make it through the meeting without strangling any of these fools. Unzdu breathed in deeply, he could almost smell the lush foliage, taste the dew on his tongue.

He closed his eyes, reflecting on better times, the times of the hunt. Moist earth under his back paws, the scent of animals, tame and wild, gathered by the wind, the pound of heart beat, the primal thrill that shudders through your body as you approach the kill. Relaxed, Uzdure reopened his eyes, sunlight lighting the room with harsh blue reflected from the snow and the blue sun, Andures.

Eventually, The Clans of The Claw would be united; they had stood for hundreds of thousands of years and would for many more. All other dominant species had been conquered, and cleansed from the galaxy except for small pockets of enclosed populations, all that stood would fall under the might of Oreons. All species with sufficient recourses or numbers to provide a threat were extinct. Moons had been created for their enemy’s lasting races, given the right to spread, rule and populate large moons and small planets, but confined to the surface and guarded specifically against space-ship creation. The might of the Clans had always prevailed, and many warriors have come to look with envy at worlds within The United Worlds and hostilities had arisen from their blatant refusal for any trade agreements between the two empires. The Clans may have to go to war once more, if it was their will, it was not the first time or the last and many blades could be whetted with the blood of their enemies.

“The council heads will be present in the meeting room shortly. It would be ill-advised to keep them waiting.”

The white-pelted servant commented courteously.
“Give me a minute; I will be with them soon.”

This was it, Unzdu breathed deeply, replacing his anger with something resembling patience, no matter how short it was. Unzdu continued to drink in the scene outside the window. He must of stood there longer than he expected because the servant was at his side again.

“The others are waiting; I presume you will be joining them?”
Apparently the servants weren’t as blindly obedient as they appeared, or at least this one wasn’t.

“Of course, lead on.”
And with as much grace as eight- hundred pound blizzards possessed, the pair swept aside the entrance curtain and glided into the conference room.

The reactor burst approximately two hours before the set of the copper sun, halfway through the day on the planet of Fostep. Terry, a researcher in the core facility, hurried by the pulsing machine, the tail of his stereotypical lab coat flapping behind him like a pair of small white wings. The laboratory had been built exactly a mile above the planet’s core, suspended by an extremely complex and ridiculously expensive web of struts, mixed into an impenetrable bond that held the complex above their doom far below. The complex itself was controlled by the most powerful and expensive technologies, constantly laboring to control pressure, temperature, filter air and shield the entrances from prying eyes. It was the pride and joy of Fostop’s central continent, which was an underground civilization of colossal size. All of the buildings were deep within the earth, buildings snaking down deeper and deeper into Fostep.

But this was far, way too far down.

And so Terry perished, the first of countless millions as plasma snapped the protective barriers on the closest reactor. Pure energy escaped in a torrent so intense, it blotted out all surrounding existence; a white maw destroyed all essence around it, a tide in the wake of violent, dark energy. Mass warped and twisted, writhing from form-to-form, other-worldly powers working through the molecules instantly, before destroying them in a wave of malevolent nature, raw death destroying and blinding all else. Long since caged under man’s shackles, the ensuing energy wiped all other disasters off the map, it poured through the cracks of everything, hissing towards and around the spars holding the building up. Three hundred more people perished: scientists, engineers, security, and all beings in the labs.

The last three reactors burst at last and the energy multiplied, matter exploding and carving the earth away in swathes miles long, hissing, sizzling and crackling, pure molten rock torn away by fusion. The smoking, dying giant fell, the monster caught in another trap, gravity, the strength of energy allied with it and it plummeted it, hissing and burning itself away, sustained by multiple eating chemicals, that reproduced and fed off each other, elongating and evolving from the mass around it. Atoms tore themselves apart; fire hotter than young suns tore through the mile in seconds. The sturdy, unyielding crust of the world saved it from but a hundredth of a percentage of the damage unleashed by the explosion as the core met the thousands of tons of evaporating durasteel. But still, the destruction was massive, millions destroyed in a millisecond. The atmosphere of the world itself turned red, rocked by signals of ghastly death, colored smoke from all over the planet, mixed into a beautiful, terrible sheen of distilled blood. Fostep was dying, turned into a regal ruby in its final moments. From far planets, government aid ships already approached, engines glinting dully in the wake of the pulsing majesty of Fostep.

The Crimson Eclipse’s crew was silent as it lay beneath the shadow of its cloaking device. It was nothing unordinary, they were always skittery before a battle, at least most of them, the others just are smart enough to shut up, Syvil let a crooked grin across his reptilian, Trandosian, features momentarily. Then he sat and waited, his eyes focusing on the small scanner on the dash, keeping track of the tracers they’d hidden on the selected ships. The signal not only gave them tracking ability, but transmitted a signal. Any passing scum would know it was Syvil’s kill. The flashing red dot was still in hyperspace, but heading towards their direction, and Dagobah. Twenty minutes until arrival point, in ten the boarding parties would be scattered, as Captain of the Crimson Eclipse, he would stay on the bridge for the initial fight, but would take a support craft over to start the battle. The crimson eclipse was larger than most pirate ships, about twice as big, and accommodating at least twice the amount of crew and more firepower, almost as fast as the traditional pirate favorite, her counterpart, it hosted a bay of small assault craft, along with a small bay for one single-person fighter. The support craft were one-time uses, cheap- but with mediocre armor. They had very little weapons but had a shield drill useful for infiltrating hangers. The prize this time was ambitiously large and escorted by four fighters, they were heavily relying on the element of surprise and Antino, the fighter pilot, and if they could take out the escorts quickly they would have a chance if their boarding parties got through quick enough. Other pirates might have hated all the ‘ifs’ in the scenario, but Syvil almost quivered with anticipation, he lived for the risk, the exhilaration of flirting with death. (Death and Syvil had an interesting relationship, but all in all, they were very close.) It had been awhile with this ship, almost a full ten years, he had stolen it off a Cezifrer station (Czifron, is a well-known, extremely expensive, high quality ship-maker). Syvil chuckled quietly, he still remembered the head of security’s face as the security system had been bypassed in five minutes, and remembered bypassing shock shields and breaking through troop doors into barracks of surprised men, who never knew what to do as Yexra, his wookie companion, broke through the back wall. It would have been much easier and less dangerous to get one another way, but it was much more fun that way. Plus, it was cheaper. The craft they sent after him hadn’t been built to withstand his security blaster upgrades. And technically, the cannons that turned them into molten metal were supposed to be locked down.

“Captain, the boarding parties are ready for launch.”

A voice growled in harsh basic. Shaking himself from his memories, Syvil turned to his second, Yexra and than at the time and started. He’d wasted enough time already it was t-minus ten minutes. Syvil un-slouched and sat up in his leather chair,

“Understood, I’m ready. I’ll just get the weapons primed.”

Syvil threw himself into the world of the cockpit, his self-engineered energy-uses, software and programming, changing the ship into a customized, easily controlled, multi-level fortress. He shifted more energy to blaster cannons, started warming up his warp webs, his scatter- rockets and his turret lock AIs. He set the security to focus on smaller craft and to shoot in a certain pattern for the types they’d be fighting; he set the shields on the front of the craft, facing the incoming ships to power-up to full when hostiles entered the radar, or his special, cloak-piercing software. He also turned on and off a number of others, and the auto-pirate system to lock on the specific scenario he’d programmed in long ago, when he left the ship itself would follow specific orders from his own data-spanner and fight unpredictably, even intelligently when he was not present. His data-spanner in turn was loaded with a scramble virus which would automatically upload all information through an untraceable link to the ship’s server under layers of protection. He could use quick, already made scripts for maneuvers including piecing together battle and selecting certain ships for destruction in a matter of seconds.

It took five minutes to prime the battle station, links and all, including the weapons he’d produced. Five minutes left, he busied himself, enjoying the silence from the others’ anxiety, and the unintelligent talk that pervaded the men. He quietly prepared his blasters, grenades and mines, and finally his vibroblade. He had just sat down when the entry alarm chimed and the hulking vessel blossomed into existence, filling the once- unoccupied space in front of the ship.


Fostep’s aid ships hung over the planet like a benevolent grey wing. The ships waited, crew idly talking. A crisis wasn’t taken seriously until they were in it. They were all waiting for the scout ships’ reports. It took a full hour for it to reach them from the remaining craft and be pieced together by the network. But then, as one- the wave descended rippling into motion before crashing down on the burning planet below. There was no time to slow and the almost physical depth of the harmful chemicals tore through half a dozen craft, showering the dead terrain with more sparking debris. Shuttles, traveled through, lighting the atmosphere with faint trails of smoke, mixing with the toxins that clouded everything. They tore through the underbelly, mostly intact, a few worse for wear. Many pilots saw no more than the hiss of steam as waves of fire tour through the sea, islands of oil sparking and hissing aboard a churning inferno of boiling death. Flames blew skyward in geysers of supernatural fire. Gasps of horror issued from rescuers’ throats at the carnage arrayed below them, the burning dawn of energy. Buildings sputtered, ravaged with ragged claws. Bodies were everywhere, smoking, half-burned, or as little piles of disintegrated material. And then there were the wretched ones, the ones still alive. Thrashing and twitching, tortured by spasms of burning pain, plastered with gore, mixed with mud, torn open to reveal their contents’. Many still ran, pursued endlessly by flames that tore through the surface of the ground, tongues of death running over the jagged teeth of the surface, heat and smoke clouding the air with soot, poisons mixing. Mutated, half-human figures tore at themselves in the background. Everyone felt the terror, the pain, the complete animal, savage will to survive, the insane torture and horrors summoned from the darkness, the unimaginable, imagined and torn into reality. Men vomited at horrible sights. And the shuttles were pushed to maximum, laboring wildly in their desperation to get to the surface and, more importantly, to blur the images below. No one could tear their gazes away, staring on in morbid fascination and growing, primal terror. Many more shuttles stalled under the strain, joining the rubble piled over the entire surface of the planet. Acid rain took two, never-ending torrents of unstoppable droplets piercing shuttles and decaying them in record time. Some met there end on the surface, insane refugees murdering the inhabitants, others were taken from the air by manic, winged beasts. For hours thousands of people searched the planet frantically, collecting those able to travel and least-wounded, horror-filled eyes obscured by retreaters. One after another, shuttles took to the skies again, leaving desperate others behind, only to be replaced by more. But there wasn’t enough, there was just too many civilians left sobbing in the dirt. And as their saviors scrambled to collect them, they knew it was all on a timer, they only had enough time to get what they could for Fostep’s once-invincible crust was being undermined at an astonishing rate. Only one more wave of helpers was to be launched, for Fostep’s death was looming on the horizon.

Exploding into existence, escort fighters ran right into a volley of blaster fire. Precision cannons met their marks and 2/2 fighters exploded in orange puffs, before a single enemy gun fired. The whole ship rocked as Antino and the boarding parties launched, streaking towards the hull of the bigger vessel. He spun the control sticks in time to avoid two more clouds of space rubble, while Antino detached from his current headlong hurtle and cut off, the last of the escorts were down. Swiveling his attention to the other vessel, Syvil guided the ship forward, weapons filling the space in front of Syvil with plasma, laser bolts and concussion missiles, hammering the hostile’s hull, sizzling and raking the enemy ship with explosions and wrapping the vessels with the cling nets. Scatter rockets separated into thousands of small pieces, bursts of death showering down on the shields of the enemy in a rain of smoldering death. Guns exploded, the once full side of cannons, decimated, torn from the side of the larger vessel. Only a few dozen turrets were ready and intact. Flushed with victory, closing in for the kill and watching the enemy shiver and spasm under the assault, Syvil watched in horror as his cameras picked up more dots, and then the Crimson Eclipse rocked, pock-marked with volleys of lasers, missiles detonating on his shields. His under-powered rear shields gave way and the armor, strengthened with Uzdure, barely took the onslaught. The Crimson Eclipse, spun and twisted before reversing direction, twist-turning back to the enemy in a confusing, sly loop. To his surprise he saw not two more, but four more fighters, wheeling back in for another assault. He wove, tearing through the next sheet of cannon fire, and with one hit of a button, torpedoes exploding spontaneously in the air. He grinned with satisfaction, his signals had worked, no one had engineered something to stop it. Then he went back to the grim work. The Crimson eclipse took more fire, a gout of chemical-based flame blossoming on one side of the ship. Hammering triggers, Syvil’s yellow hands blurred over the controls. The ship lurched, somersaulting and spinning with frightening and sickening speed. It looped forward and came down directly on the incoming fire. The captain pressed a button and a focused ray fired into it, cutting through it with contemptuous ease. The ship tore through the fireball, a hulking shape before the other three craft, he hammered out a series of cling fusion nets, and four sprang through space. Two fighters shot away just in time, harmlessly darting away. The fourth dodged one, but then paused for a clear shot at the big pirate vessel and sailed right into the last. The net caught and contracted, ultra-fine acidic bands slicing through the metal, electricity coursed through the fighter and it sizzled with activity as it was cut to shreds by the threads. The Trandosian looked to his right at a second display and cursed quietly, only two boarding parties left, the enemies must have re-animated their remaining turrets after the engineer droids had disabled them, the boarding parties must have been torn apart. Syvil opened up a transmission,

“Antino, you’re needed over here.”

“Aye, will send those pilots to hell, cap’n.”
The fighter streaked past the viewport, engines laboring as it poured on steam. A cloud of blasts materialized between them and orange and red blasts streaked the black backdrop. Syvil turned on auto-pirate and readied his weapons, he would take the last support craft, he was going in.

Joseph’s eyes ached from staring at the holoterminal and his back burned from the continued inactivity, he would stop in an hour, he promised. He would leave in an hour, he promised himself, he was just completing the organization of a series of records about the hutt civil war, the journal of a young republic soldier named Vexrian who fought on the front lines against hutt forces, it was a collection that seemed endless, conserved on record for further use. Joseph stretched, his sore muscles contracting momentarily and blinked once before continuing.

This Vexrian might not be important in the short-term, but in the long term, the consolidation of knowledge would help educate people in the future, or so he had been told. It was necessary, even an honor to be among all this information, in the beginning he had loved it, for the first year he had thrown himself into the past, and present, reading everything from engineering guides to novels, he now knew so much more than he ever would had he not. But he was becoming soft, this was his third year here and his saber training had reduced and then subtly vanished, occasionally masters would find him on the training field being overcome by over-practiced, able-bodied Padawans. He had tended the archives so long, every new mystery no longer thrilled him, it bored him. He put in long hours, constantly everywhere, taking care of the memories of holo-disks from years past. Occasionally Jedi would come in for information for missions, and he tried to stay as close as possible to whatever was going on.

Joseph’s eyes stung, he blinked slowly and forced them open once again. Maybe if he stayed longer it’d make up for everything else the council didn’t know about. Finally, after a frustrating twenty minutes of reading the same sentence, he logged off, rerouting the project to his personal files. He plodded out of the abandoned archives, feet skittering audibly in the silence, he glanced back, it was empty but for Master Tanner, Joseph hadn’t caught her outside of the archives yet, in his three years there. The Twilek, glanced up and smiled warmly before turning back to the tomes and data cards arrayed before her. Joseph smiled thinly back. The temple was peaceful as he walked the hallways, every couple minutes he noticed a Jedi folded in concentration, and as he passed the garden, he saw Master Sata sitting quietly with a group of younglings. As he reached his bedroom closet, he paused. He wasn’t going to go tonight, he was just too tired. Maybe I’ll actually sleep tonight. He entered, hinged giving way silently. A small bedroll was stretched across the floor, accompanied by a small night stand. He sighed at the drab surroundings, and then settled down on the thin mattress to meditate.


The shuttle’s engines roared in T’tuin’s ears as they descended towards the burning world of Fostep, sitting in a cross-legged position, he struggled to shield his mind from the great spiking forces of emotion that clawed their way from the surface. Pure, primal terror emanated from his surroundings. Reaching deep into the gentle tide of the force, he unleashed a force wave, washing the terrible emotions from his perception. He had to be free of distractions, free of passion to be able to do this. His heightened force was a curse and a blessing, the fighting hordes of emotions threatened to consume even the Jedi Masters calm demeanor and honed discipline. All around, the crew was thoroughly spooked, horrified, but not to the degree of the survivors below. These men were well-trained and disciplined, they would conquer their fears. Passion is no weakness, it is used to help and protect, and to aid others with your love. The Jedi remembered the long conversations and teachings revised by Luke Skywalker, the long-dead mentor. He had been taught to use his passions to strengthen himself, use his love and compassion to sustain and nourish others. T’tuin let the hum of the force fill his soul and pour out over the edges, combining with the living growl of the engine. The suffering were waiting for them, he must persevere. As they approached the surface, the pressure almost doubled, souls screaming or just fighting in pure torment. He struggled again and again as they descended, nightmare becoming reality, his Geonosian insect body shaking and trembling.

And now he stepped into it, the minutes stretched and moaned in his memories as a flurry of movement and siphoning a flow of refugees inside. More and more came and they selected the best able to survive, he nearly cried as he had to refuse a wretched child, who’s side had been melted by acid. But he had to stay strong, if just for the men behind him. And then he felt it as he scanned the rubble, surrounded by a bubble of force power. No more suitable refugees were in sight and he tore inside as he projected his awareness around, it as a consciousness, filled more with anger than fear, force power emanating from his presence, but then as he dug deeper he felt the grief, the power and then, compassion.

He turned as he felt a tap at his shoulder, it was one of the other crew, face obscured by a rebreather mask,

“Were cutting this close, we should probably leave soon, the hold is almost completely full now.”

“There’s something I need to do.” The garbled speech of the Geonosians was hard to understand and he looked at T’tuin oddly, but didn’t ask for clarification, soon he vanished inside the craft, sealing the door behind him with an audible hiss.

Master T’tuin leaped away into the smoke, as he felt harmful gasses press in, he projected a shield forcing the elements away. His wings blurred as he launched himself into the air, skillfully dodging fiery debris, pulled upon by the presence of the force-user, the world around him becoming insignificant. This one was important; he/she had to be preserved. He picked up speed, making huge leaps from piles of shredded permacrete, his wings catching him and pulling him farther. He shot across the landscape, before finally coming down, claws sinking into the earth. To his surprise, a young child, pitiful as unto the other refugees, knelt over sunken corpses, pulling instinctively upon the force. His tears were blown away with the wind, oblivious to the burning world, preserved in his insanity. Master T’tuin looked around and felt the conditions worsen, molten metal flashed through the air. He had to do this fast. The Jedi Master leaped forward, fighting against the winds buffeting his crystal wings. He tucked and fell to the ground climbing to his feet nimbly. With one pulse of force power, the child was knocked unconscious. It was necessary, if barely. Crying himself now as he watched other refugees being torn apart by the world’s wild energies, he was pulled upon by duty. If he wanted to leave alive, he would have to do it now.

Claws blurred as he carried the small child through the land, his trail was hampered by colossal spires of teetering rubble, but he just went through, his lightsaber blurring as it struck through piece after piece, clearing a trail with a whirlwind of buzzing yellow energy.

He made it barely, tossing himself into the closing entrance compartment as the shuttle lifted off, the child cradled in his arms, his saber lost on the ground below. Entering the main room of the craft, he slumped in a corner, exhausted and taken from the long hours. He had given his all, there was no more, he gave into fitful sleep, harshly jerked away from reality. Of the four billion residents only 4,000 had escaped the fiery apocalypse. They had barely escaped, in only ten clicks after escape the entire land mass of the world disintegrated and in twenty more everything else. And so Fostep perished, the brilliant explosion lighting the heavens with an infernal gleam.

10 Years Later, Present Day

Maneuvering Coruscant’s never-ending traffic was tricky at the best of times, but being pursued by criminals didn’t help much. Ryan glanced over his shoulder, only to duck a blaster bolt directed by the sniper in the back of the other speeder. His own craft, a slick black speeder made for speed was equipped with only basic armament. Yanking the control yoke left, he angled into the incoming traffic, bending through the crowded space, narrowly escaping collision with multiple craft. Instead of continuing, the pursuers ascended for a better view and the man in the back angled his blaster for another good shot over the side of the vehicle. Ryan broke through the other side of the traffic only to hear a scream of approaching shot. Cursing, he braked suddenly, before accelerating dangerously, engine shrieking in protest. A missile streaked by, detonating on a nearby building with a loud bang, sizzling shards of transparisteel fountaining out from the burning maw. Perfect. When the smoke cleared, Ryan was long gone, angling between two nearby buildings, nicking a spire and drawing a piece of metal across the speeder’s left flank with a terrible screeching noise. Diving low behind a towering office complex, he idled, hovering, the purr of the engines vibrating in his eardrums. He waited in silence, listening to the traffic’s steady drone for an approaching engine. Finally, he shot out from the behind the building, confident of his safety. A barrage of blaster fire greeted him, the larger waiting vessel hovering in place above the multi-colored blur of traffic below. Plasma burst on the craft around him, a hasty duck the only thing that kept him from incineration. Pulling the throttle to the max he shot away, weaving and rolling, one more volley would have taken him down. Glancing back again, he saw the craft keeping up, barely. A few more choice words were lost in the wind that tore through the open speeder. And then as he banked the speeder he watched as the creature with the launcher fired, fire and smoke streaking from the incoming warhead. He didn’t have time to move the vehicle, so without a second thought he leaped from his speeder as it detonated behind him, raining debris on the glowing city below in an expanding sphere of fiery orange.

The council room was enormous, a cavernous dome of glowing durasteel. The lights were set up to set a-lit a matrix of ornate multi-colored jewels affixed to the ceiling, the glintof the rubies, emeralds and amethysts casting beams of color across the ceiling. The bright center accenting the graying shadows at each of the eight corners. At each corner large oak podiums bearing a clan crest emblazoned on an ornate tapestry across the middle. At each one a small assembly of Oreons stood, dressed in ceremonial garb. As he walked quietly to his own position he took in each clan and clan head.

There was Angeradun of the Brudai clan, a white beast streaked with black war paint, bearing a pair of very short vibroblades. The crest was the silhouette of an Ice Terror (a beast on the clan’s homeworld), fangs extended upward and diagonally across the tapestry. To the right was the Zhirayr clan, the clan head adorned with a headdress of crystal and diamonds that glinted with his every moment.

Unzdu scowled briefly; there were much better uses for all those gems, even buildings were more deserving for them than simple clothing.

The Zhirayr crest was an enormous paw ripping through some unknown backdrop, claws dripping.

Trund, Unzdu recalled, that was the Chief’s name, standing regally before the council, and the main usurper of the Klason clan. The clan was coveting his lands, and was always trying to shoulder their way into correct position to gain some advantage or earn some debt that would require land or luxuries to change hands.

Then there was the Fryj clan, headed by Swiftclaw, dressed in a simple hunting tunic, and sporting an enormous double-handed vibroblade. The Fryj crest was a two headed serpent wound around a burning world. A neutral unknown to Unzdu in Council politics and warfare, fair and operating way away from the Klason clan’s territory and own operations.

Fordut stood before the next podium, a small and wiry beast, armed with a pike of sizzling durasteel, Abdul; his advisor was huddled in the corner, trying not to attract attention. He could have to keep an eye on that one. This was the Bruneir tribe, an electrified shield fixed(a traditional Oreon weapon effective for shielding warriors) on the deep red of the tapestry.

Traditional beast-riders, the Yungju tribe’s crest was the silhouette of a group mounted riders, dust spraying up with every footfall. Kirato, their chief was dressed in tattered riding leathers, the wear was obvious, and a mark on his side looked suspiciously like a stab mark.

Unzdu looked over at the next clan, Oreons with coats of nightmare black, the Vitairs, and the only other ones at the assembly with a fur color varying from white. Their crest was two yellow eyes peaking from a black background, and their chief, Atura wore a set of ornate armor and a pair of battle claws.

As he plodded across the gathering, nearing his seat he took in the last two clans, the Hughy, a more peaceful (relatively) technology-oriented clan that produced expert engineers. Lead by Zyron, an Orean with vibroswords slung across his back, dressed in a plane brown cloak and a solitary ring.

The last one he saw as he mounted the podium was the Gidarum, their close neighbors. There were constant minor squabbles between their two clans, usually between citizens, but never anything serious. Their chief, Yackgur was armed with a very untraditional weapon, an enormous, custom-made, disruptor rifle and a row of detonators.

The meeting was about to begin. His second, Knaru sat next to him, watching the assembly with narrowed eyes. He was an enormous advantage over other clans, he always watched everything and he always remembered. The only disadvantage was that he was well-known in his dealings with anyone who had enough credits to pay. Unzdu would have to wring the information out of him later.

Syvil’s boarding craft streaked away from the pirate vessel, engines streaking in a blue trail of fire behind the drop ship. The big trader vessel loomed like a Juggernaut Cruiser in the view port, the small attack vessel insignificant to the giant, as it should be, he would be harder to hit and less noticeable. He watched the remaining two other boarding parties pierce the hanger shields with their shield drills, trailing smoke from the auto-turrets’ fire as they descended into the ship. He would have to do this quick, hands on the yokes in front of him, he concentrated all power to the engines and the frontal shields with a couple quick commands and the speed doubled, streaking towards the ship, it would be optimal to enter at a different part of the ship, but he needed to meet up with his crew, there just wasn’t enough people, or strong leadership to keep the attack parties going.

His datapad chimed, there must have been a damaging hit to the Scarlet eclipse, not taking his eyes off the controls, he reached over and punched in a command, a second beep followed it. An enemy fighter had gone down.
The craft spun and lurched away from a spattering of cannon fire that tore by, plasma missing the unshielded hindquarters of the ship by inches.

Syvil pushed the shuttle to the max, engines laboring to keep up with the pace he set it, it shot like a rocket towards the hanger, evading fire from starboard cannons. As he sprang straight at the shielded bay he set all power to the now spinning shield drill. The shield gave way like toilet paper and the ship went screaming into the hanger. It was too late to slow down, and as the craft accelerated towards the far wall, he ejected, a pod forming around his chair and springing from the ship, the vessel detonating behind him in a fiery cloud. The explosion drove the pod away at supernatural speeds, the newly asserted gravity bringing it down into a lethal dive. All at once he crashed into the ground of the vast bay, crashing through durasteel, permacrete and landing in a freshly made crater.

The newly embarked boarding parties looked up in alarm, twenty or so feet away, a couple pirates had been knocked to the ground by the impact, but otherwise they were unharmed. Smoke broiled up over the crash site, and the invaders advanced cautiously. Their leader, Jadr, a former slaver with a commanding presence, strode forward, his blaster angled offensively.

“I sure ‘ope this one’s for us,” Jadr drawled through his thick cigar, he signaled his companions to cover him and then barked into the fleeing clouds of smoke,

“Who’s there? State your intentions!”

“It’s me.” Syvil said as he wandered into view, his yellow skin blackened with fresh burn marks. He shouldered his repeater and loosened the vibroblade at his belt before commencing with the orders.

“If we’re going to take this ship, we’d better do it soon.”

Syvil scanned the exits; he was surprised the security teams hadn’t arrived yet, maybe they were waiting to ambush them, or just didn’t think two boarding parties could take the ship, well he’d prove them wrong. He started splitting them up and organized the remaining crew, splitting them into teams and then gathering heavy weapons and security squads. He hadn’t see Yexra in the party and soon realized the bleak truth, the wookie had been a good companion but his pirate days were over. Syvil would allow himself to miss him once he’s taken care of these honest unfortunates.

“We’re ready, let’s go get paid!” The Pirates ran into resistance right outside the bay doors, as they ran into the hall, land mines detonated, and some of the front-runners were sent to the ground. A large security team surrounded the exits, gathered behind reinforced stacks of crates. Syvil somersaulted away from the spatter of heavy guns that chattered at the pirates on their arrival. His claw found his wrist and an energy shield hissed to life around him. He took stock of the situation in one quick glance, a semicircle of heavy guns were arranged around the opening, with supporting troopers, these weren’t normal escorts, these were trained, highly capable experts. Though he had never pitted himself against them, he was up for the challenge. He quickly ordered the snipers forward along with some infantry escorts. The pirates came in, spreading out, firing and hurling grenades into the enemy ranks, when the snipers got out, highly-effective lasers picked off gunners and took on the slack of the ordinary soldiers.

Syvil signaled for heavy- weapons and mobile units before joining the fight, leaving the position he had held for some time. He leapt onto the barricade, firing into the enemy, the repeater pulsing in his hand as he flooded the enemy with blasts. Dodging to the left to evade the green pulse of an armored trooper, he peeked out from behind the crate only long enough to hurl an explode-on impact grenade with lethal accuracy. The grenade exploded full in his face, the flash blinding his comrades and turning him into a blackened husk.

Pirates charged forward with lighter weapons now, blades and pistols becoming more versatile as they chased the guards down the corridor. Unfortunately, as the overrun defender’s corpses mounted also did their casualties.

Syvil stopped abruptly after dealing with a skilled defender, with his sizzling vibroblade. He called the men back into position and they halted away from the other defenders, heavy weaponry now dominant. Portable mortars stood ready to fire, rocket launchers were primed and ready and electro-cannons were waiting for the order. The enemies came back now as a more coordinated attack, a wedge of troopers charged blasters and grenades detonating as they charged. The ones in the lead instantly fell from a tide of heavy fire, an electro-cannon burst felling almost four men. But armor turning the worst of the fire, and they fired back at the pirates.
Syvil leaped up with a dozen comrades and engaged them. Leaping towards the first he brought a small pistol to bear, bolts zinging on the armor of his adversary. He dodged a school of buzzing plasma and then charged forward, letting loose a charged burst into the enemy’s chest. The soldier fell back, slightly charred but turned and fired through his pain. The shielding absorbed most of the shock, but Syvil felt his left shoulder turned to fire and his left arm fell limp. Jerked backward a couple feet, he dropped his pistol and rushed forward with the vibroblade, much quicker than the security team member he cut through him with a single strike before altering his attention to the next opponent.

This one had thrown himself flat before the mortar fire and regained his feet, a focused shot from his rifle vaporizing a crewmate to Syvil’s right. Syvil sprang forward, his momentum carrying him around a series of blasts fired by a couple of approaching soldiers. He landed on his feet, blade coming to bear on the soldier. The electrified blade chimed and sizzled on the man’s heavy armor. Another shot fizzled on Syvil’s light armor, but he was thrown back a pace, long enough for the other man to ready his fists. He studied the man’s style as he launched himself at Syvil, careful to keep his opponent between him and the incoming shots coming from further down the hall. The man’s style was clumsy, an average security hand-to-hand training, Syvil snarled, batting away the man with one blow from the sword and using his strength as an advantage. Coming in high, he struck at the armor, it gave way, the blade cutting through and making its way through flesh. Blood spattered, interacting oddly with the specialized current running through the blade. Gasping, the man fell clutching at the gash in his chest, before sprawling in the dirt, choking and coughing up his respiratory system. Sorry kid, you picked the wrong the profession to go into.

Looking around him at the battle, widening his senses, he saw the exhausted looks of the last of his crew, wounded lightly, and watched as security droids with heavy blasters came around the corner, and he knew they wouldn’t be able to make it. He’d lost his data-spanner in his dramatic hanger entrance, and had no way to know anything about his ships. He knew they couldn’t survive the next wave, and his wound throbbed even more as he fought.

The mission had been a complete failure; more escorts had arrived before their meeting, and consequently, only two boarding parties had made it on, barely enough to take a regular-manned ship. Through some stroke of luck they had been able to cripple the large security team onboard, but they couldn’t last through these heavy droids. Voice thick and overly- raspy with the shame of defeat and the smoke broiling from the battlefield he barked out a command,

“Give yourselves up.”

The men were too tired and exhausted to argue and a good number of them had reached his same conclusion. At least the cells were decently clean; he had seen them on their way over. Dropping their weapons and coming out into plain view, the exhausted buccaneers watched as droid engineers put the droids into defensive mode, ordering them to stand down. An honor guard of droids and security personnel assembled around Syvil and the remnants of his crew.

“Who’s the leader here?” asked an officer with a scar running along his cheekbone.

Without hesitation, the others pointed straight at him. Well, scum would be scum, and he was the scummiest of them all.

“Aye,” Syvil said, baring his ivory teeth. He wasn’t going to make this any easier for them, not by a long shot.

“You’re coming with me. The rest of you, you’re heading straight for detainment block D.” He acted like he was just giving a passerby directions, but they didn’t have much choice.

Soon the quiet chatter and clank of the security droids faded as they moved farther away. Looking back, he sized up the officer, he could probably take him. But before he could do anything, five or more troopers scuttled from the hallway beyond, always keeping the muzzles of their guns yawning at him.

The leader cuffed him silently under the men’s blank stares,

“Let’s see what we can find out about you, shall we?”

The dark figure whispered down the corridor, silent even in his heavy armor, black combat boots whispering across the solid, hard durasteel flooring. The invisible threads and cameras that guarded the entry of the room, along with the auto-turrets installed in the ceiling and the pressure pads just outside the door, were not tripped, even the life-form and thermal detectors weren’t tripped, and it was as if the person wasn’t even there. The keypad that was used to open the door was ignored, along with small mechanical threads that raised the alarm and all immediate security measures was not tripped. The person just pushed it back into the wall slot without a grunt of effort. The rolls of bodyguard droids in the walls weren’t activated yet either as it swept across the room. Senator Olfson, competitor and highest runner for the role of Emperor lay on an enormous bed that tracked his exact temperature, weight and pulse. A small needle was produced from the armor around the shadow’s personage. The needle was inserted into his neck. It was instant, without a sound the pulse stopped. But no alarms blared, no auto-turrets opened fire. The complex was peaceful, serene as the figure made its way out onto a balcony, where a silent swoop bike idled.

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