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A smile cracked across Inmortos face, the grease of his meal congealing in the corners of his mouth. “Goooooood.” he hissed gleefully as the force twisted and cracked in the air, the accursed blade coming into view.

 

A dark glee emanated from the shrouded Sith Lord. His plan was beginning to come together. He could not take his eyes off the weapon. He could feel it’s evil desire contained within it’s form. All part of the grand plan. It called silently, subtlety on the force, for anyone who could hear it; any mind and body that it might control to wrought it’s original owner’s darkest most base desires. To control such a weapon would unfathomably escalate the Necropolis Lord’s skills in bringing about death, death upon which to build his legacy. He just needed to best it.

 

Inmortos’ eyes stared at the weapon, regarding it hungrily, a predator pondering how best to take down it’s prey without being gored.

 

With a raised hand, he carefully shepherded the gilded box the sword had lifted from out of the table into the open room, gingerly enveloping the weapon in it’s padded embrace. He then maneuvered the box towards him, gingerly depositing it on the table in front of him. He could not take his eyes off of it as he stooped close to take in the ancient intricacies of the filigree covered sheath and hilt. Even the ancient battle damage was in a word, “exquisite.” He breathed the word in awe. The closer he was to the blade, the more he could feel the still tormented soul within the weapon, it’s owner long dead, searching for a host. Inmortos licked his lips hungrily. He wanted to grasp the hilt of the weapon, to draw it from it’s sheath, to wield it in a flurry of devastation. Scanning the weapon end from end, Inmortos resisted. He knew the dangers. He would not expose himself or the power before him to Nok Morliss. If the Nemodian did not know what he was giving up, it was not up to Inmortos to correct him. They had a deal.

 

Tearing his eyes from the weapon, Inmortos slammed the lid of the case shut, it’s latches swinging shut on a wave of dark power, sealing the sword within. It would remain there until Inmortos was in a safe location from which to combat the wraith within and master it. Glancing at the sloshing liquid in the aged vial, sealed with an unknown animal wax, Inmortos’ focus shifted again to Nok across the table. “They are the hallmark of our order, yet they may be your undoing.” He spoke a vague dark warning about the weapons he had just asked about as he tapped a gnarled and chipped fingernail atop the ash-infused glass. “The power you crave, the key to the doorway lay within. Drink it to the last drop Nok Morliss. But, only if you are strong enough to withstand the storm. Are you, Nok Morliss? Are you prepared to journey beyond the power you now have? To risk it all, to gain eternity? Take it, Nok Morliss, the power is at your fingertips to seize, if you crave it.”

 

With that, Inmortos tipped the stoppered vial forward, but before it could clatter to the table it arced through the air. The Sith Lord gingerly deposited the vial in front of his host. “Take. Drink. Such a cordial has not been tasted by mortal man in millennia.”

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Nok's own twinge of fear illuminate the vial to him. But to him it was simply...liquid.

 

A chemical? A drug?

 

Nothing I want to take in the presence of a stranger.

 

Nok smiled, his expression almost slimy in its falseness.

 

"Millennia? Quite a treat then." He stood. "I hope you don't mind if I retire to somewhere more comfortable to take it," he said, waving his hand absent-mindedly at the room. "Such power deserves a more fitting locale to be used." Of course, Nok intended to have the substance tested first, and he had no doubt Inmortos knew that without it needing to be stated. It would have been far more unusual for Nok to trust Inmortos.

 

Sith did not trust.

 

"Eat more if you like. Otherwise, consider my staff at your service. Explore the city if you like. I'll let you know when I'm ready to proceed with our business."

 

Nok walked out of the room.

 

When he was nearing his own chambers, he spoke to the Deepguard droids that had fallen in beside him as his bodyguards.

 

"Post Inmortos' picture in the database. Have the city's security cameras and droids observe him, but do not approach. I want him tracked, but from a distance."

 

"It will-," the droid on his left started.

 

"-be done, my lord," finished the droid on his right.

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

4 hours later

 

"You're certain?" Nok asked, suspicion laced in his tone.

 

"Yes," the 2-1B surgical droid responded, "the drug appears to be nothing more than a mild hallucinogen. Uncommonly manufactured and with rare active ingredients, but the substances involved are all well documented and studied. There are some contaminants, likely caused by non-sterile processes, but nothing toxic or biologically reactive."

 

"And the test subjects?"

 

"All 6 subjects, human, quarren, and mon calamari, experienced the expected effects of relaxation and minor hallucinations. The same can be said for the remaining 18 subjects who were subjected to the synthesized copy. I've also compared the substances chemical makeup against your specific biological profile, and can find no potential reaction specific to your biochemistry." The droid cocked its head, a moment of rare personality shining through. "Honestly, sir, this stuff would barely be considered illegal on most worlds. Its not even addictive."

 

Nok frowned. Perhaps he'd been duped. Or perhaps the substance was intended to open the mind and make the user more susceptible to the Force's influence. A minor benefit, and certainly not what Nok paid for, but still...

 

A brief moment of fear and worry flashed through him. What if he was wrong?

 

No. The analysis was conclusive. And even if there was something unexpected, Nok had a full medical team present with the best toxicology and diagnostician databases downloaded into their high-quality brains. He was protected here.

 

"Very well. Monitor my signs, and be ready to flush my system of the substance if I signal it." He paused. "Or if my life is threatened."

 

The droid only whirred and flickered its optics in response.

 

Nok looked down at the vial, then downed it in one gulp.

 

He lay back on his bed and waited.

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Inmortos understood his host’s hesitation, even if it was masked behind an aura of excitement. He would have been shocked and disappointed if the self-proclaimed ruler of this world gad unstoppered it and downed the concoction without a hesitation. It would have made him just another pawn of the Sith, like so many mindless warriors that prowled Korriban and the like. This one though, craved power; yet was wary of it. He might go far if his love of corporeality could be realigned.

 

Inmortos did not rise as his host left. In fact, he barely raised a hand in wave as some sort of casual dismissal. Both parties seemed to have what they had come for. For the cameras that undoubtedly watched them, it would seem so. There was more. These traded barbs of Sith machinations were but the opening piece exchange on the dejarik board of their relationship.

 

It was only a matter of time before he was called back to deal with the piece Nok Morliss had claimed as his own. Surveilling the encased sword before him, Inmortos knew he had his own trial to undergo. 
 

Inmortos patted his bulging belly after Nok left. He diverted his gaze to the remains of the feast before him. He was full; full enough that the idea of another bite repulsed him.

 

Calling his heavy-headed cane to his hand, Inmortos pushed his chair back. It’s ornate legs scraping loudly across the equally decorative inlaid floor. He rose to his feet, reaching out to cradle the wooden box and it’s dark blade beneath his free arm. He could feel the tendrils of evil grasping at their bonds, their hunger seeking an outlet, someone worthy enough to take on the mantle the weapon’s previous master once carried. He could feel it. Inmortos knew he was not the supposed worthy warrior  the spirit sought. It did not matter; he had no doubt that he could master it. It was mind over matter. It was that simple. With the dark side as his weapon, he would master this dark dirk just as he mastered death.

 

With his trophy tucked away and his cane in hand, Inmortos turned. He did not need Nok Morliss servants. They were no more than spies and pawns; spies and pawns that were living, not Inmortos’. The skeleton of a man shuffled out of the hall and down the walkways back towards his ship. It was the only place on this world that Inmortos felt that he could expose himself to the dangers of the sword. Inmortos had read and read, he academically knew what to expect; but he was not going to allow Nok or his henchmen to see him in such a way; not that Nok would not have his own turmoils to address. That concoction had been altered especially for the Nemoidian, not biologically, but for his soul. It would open him up to the faintest suggestions, make them real, plunge the Nemodian into a world of his own creation. All he needed was the right nudge and his deepest fears, innermost turmoils, and faintest neuroses would become a reality that bound the Sithling to his own soul. Inmortos would return to him when  the time was right, to conclude his baptism of darkness. For now though?

 

As the door of his ship sludged shut behind him, Inmortos heard the locks engage. It was a simple enough distraction to pull the heat from the air, and seal the exit amongst a tomb of permafrost inside and out. It took some time, but the ship was soon enough encased in an opaque crystalline tomb of stagnation made matter, frigid and lifeless.

 

Only then, when he was sure that he was entirely alone did Inmortos set down the ornate wooden case atop a workstation table. Gently, with almost a holy reverence, Inmortos undid  the clasps and opened the box. As he did, a wave of invisible lust poured over him, inviting anyone who felt worthy to clasp the carved hilt of the needled black blade. The Sith runes seemed to almost glow a soulless black that radiated as it drew in the light about them. Inmortos could almost hear the desire to destroy radiating from the weapon, all he need do was reach out and take it and the battle of wills would begin.

 

Reaching out his knobby hand, Inmortos clasped the weapon. A surge of darkness pulsed from the weapon up through the Sith Lord’s hand. Inmortos’ veins bulged and vibrated beneath the tidal surge of power. He sharply drew his breath, inadvertently lowering the temperature  in the ship by several degrees. 
 

Move number two was underway.

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At first, nothing happened.

 

Nok lay there, long moments sliding past. At first, he waited patiently. Then, he grew confused. Then irritated. Then frustrated.

 

"Why does it not work?"

 

The droid offered no response.

 

Then Nok realized he couldn't sense the droid, despite his growing anger. Nok couldn't sense anything at all.

 

"What is-" Nok said as he stood up from the bed.

 

There was no floor.

 

Nok plummeted, or at least he thought he did. No air moved past him, he couldn't see, yet vertigo so intense it almost made him vomit sent his stomach into his ribcage.

 

The substance had not been a simple hallucinogen.

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On instinct, Inmortos inhaled. It was as if he had been struck firmly in the gut by an unseen beskar fist. He would have doubled over but for raw fury that seemed to course from the aura of the blade through his hand and through his form. It was as if liquid fire boiled his blood within the prematurely-aged necromancer’s veins. Accustomed to cold, Inmortos cried out in pain. It was not in words, but a bestial roar of pain, of agony, of rage.

 

The blade pulsed in the Sith’s hand. Through the fog of pain and smoke of rage that coursed through the air and his body, Inmortos tried to steel his own mind against the spirit contained within the blade. It fought him. It sought to contain the spirt and will of the wizard so as to use his body as a vessel to accomplish it’s unfinished will.

 

Inmortos was no mere mind to be trifled with, possessed as a toy and cast aside when the fun was over. No. He was a master of more than his own physical form. He was a Lord of the Sith, a practitioner of the most profane arts, one who bent the force to his own will and was not controlled by it. If the force bowed to him, this spirit would be no different.

 

Still, as he fought, every nerve ablaze, he was not victorious. Yet, he was not victorious yet. 
 

 “You are not worthy. You are but a morsel; chewed, forgotten. Give me your body. I will give you a flash of worth before you die.”  A masculine voice reverberated throughout the ship, rattling the walls and toppling anything not secured. It spoke with disgust and disdain. It’s formless words seemingly spat from unseen lips. It had measures Inmortos and seemed to have found him wanting. In those words, the presence of the ancient spirit entrapped in the blade surged, grasping at Inmortos mind.
 

Inmortos could feel the spirit’s blackened tendrils of hunger clawing at the fringes of his mind. He tried to form words to respond. He couldn’t. All that escaped his mouth was a slurred “Guuuuuhhhhh,” as a strand of saliva drizzled downwards from his lips and dangled from his jaw. Even forming the words in his mind seemed lacking as Inmortos felt the spirit’s hold cementing.

 

“Weak. Pathetic. A vessel to carry me to a more worthy slave.” the dark voice scoffed. The whirlwind of it’s power intensified within the ship. It tore at the icy walls Inmortos had crafted sending shards of glassy blades into the air before melting them in the heat of it’s rage. The words that emanated from the void before now fell from Inmortos’ own maw, the spirit having gained a foothold within the mind and body of the frail Sith.

 

Inmortos could feel his control being torn from him. It slipped away, cell by cell, as the spirit claimed any recess of his mind not possessed by the power of the dark side. Any portion of Inmortos that he had not gilded in dark desire was endangered. He was not conquered; not yet; not by a long shot. Inmortos felt the spirit surging against his weaknesses. His physicality may have been his vulnerability; but where his form lacked and his mind was ravaged, his will would prevail.

 

Inmortos buried himself in the darkness of the force itself. He called forth the darkness of death, the despair of life, and mentally threw it back against the warrior spirit. The spirit betrayed itself. Powered by passion and rage, it was a herald of death and destruction. Inmortos, on the other hand, was not a mere herald. He was a master of death, toying with the line and breaking it, shaping death and life as he saw fit. Most Sith reveled in destruction and that is where Inmortos would succeed. They tore down, he used the darkness, used death, to build. Visions of impregnable fortresses and frozen impassible tundras filled his mind, thrown up in defense to the destruction the spirit threw forth in unrelenting assault.

 

As the battle for Inmortos’ mind raged, elsewhere within the city another battle was commencing. Nok Moriss had consumned the elixir. The mysterious draught had been crafted to Inmortos’ direct specifications. Amongst it’s chemical properties, it bound the consumer to the necromancer. It’s catalyst; the force itself, a poison beyond the realms of simple medicine and one that would prevail until it was purged in its entirety.

 

In that moment, Inmortos felt the bond pull taught, like a chain of darkbess that linked Morliss’ soul to his own. It was a distraction. It was enough. As Inmortos’ attention was turned to the plan that he had all but forgotten within the maelstrom, the malevolent spirit sensed the recession of the tide and swelled against the momentarily weakened walls of Inmortos mental defenses. It was enough to pull Inmortos back to the battle at hand. Nok Morliss was unimportant now. This vorpal blade and it’s dark passenger were more than the Sith had expected. Something this powerful had been held in the collection of an unknown Sithling? How? What other secrets did the blind lizard possess?

 

They were thoughts that passed briefly through Inmortos’ mind before being seized and consumed by the gnawing hunger of the spirit. It was taking more and more. Inmortos sank to his knees, both hands wrapped white-knuckle tight about the hilt of the weapon. Even it’s weight was too much as the blade fell to the floor, slicing into the durablast flooring several inches. Inmortos could not release the blade if he tried. The spirit willed it. It would claim Inmortos as it’s own. It would use his frail body to once again bring havoc to the stars until a more suitable warrior might be found. Inmortos mind continued to fall, secrion by section. The distraction had allowed it to breach the walls of dreams that had repelled it. The spirit began to sift, consume, weigh and evaluate Inmortos’ deepest secrets, his darkest desires. The Sith lord laid bare like a book of yore. Each a weapon in its’ own right to one that knew how to wield it.

 

Words were unimportant now, all the spirit had to do was poke a memory, drag it to the surface and expose it and Inmortos did the rest.

 

The death of his parents.

 

The deaths of countless others, buried and forgotten.

 

The initial concern with death before the galaxy returned to a normal flow. Each life snuffed out as if it were nothing.

 

The corpses of the reanimated dead, stripped of individuality and purpose beyond the will of the necromancer.

 

All of these memories swirled with countless others of rejection, failure,  hopelessness. Each memory opened Inmortos up more, allowing the spirit to dig with impunity through Inmortos. It was almost as if the spirit took a sick glee in torturing the Sith. It’s laughter carried in the force itself, dark and evil and entertained entwined with hunger and rage.

 

This continued for who knew how long. Inmortos’ defenses had been overwhelmed. His body was all but possessed. The spirit delighted in Inmortos’ suffering. It continued to dredge up painful memories, morph them, combine them, rewrite even happy ones all to destroy the man within and leave whatever remained a quivering mass of ethereal plasma that could not harm a thing.

 

It was then that the spirit pulled forth the core that had carried Inmortos to this place. The fear emerged from the depths like a specter of yore, swathed in the billowing robes of death as it stared down into an unmarked grave. It was a grave that contained Inmortos himself. Alone on an uncharted world without a soul to be seen or sensed. Buried, dead, forgotten before he even cooled. No one and nothing to remember his name. Fear. It was palpable. It was everywhere. It was everywhere. Fear drove Inmortos even if he would never admit it.

 

The spirit of the sword cackled in glee as it shoved the memory against the last vestiges of Inmortos’ being. Crippling fear thrown against a forgotten death. It was a fear that Inmortos had used to drive himself. It was his base. It was his core.

 

Inmortos felt the fear. It was a fear he had sworn he would conquer. It was a fear that drove him and gave him purpose and power. It was that fear now that gave Inmortos pause as he fell back against the onslaught. He could not be driven any further. He would be forgotten in an instant.

 

And so it was that fear that Inmortos clung to. It could not be twisted or morphed into anything worse. He had held it and nurtured it for years. Grasping this fear, Inmortos cast it onto the spirit in an effort to drive it back. He would not be conquered, not by this. He had seen fear. He did not fear this spirit. He only feared what would happen if he failed. He would not fail. Like a bludgeon, Inmortos flailed his core like a chained mace against the lesser weapons formed from his own shadowy mind. He had one fear that he had mastered and from it, all others would be driven back.

 

The ancient spirit continued to fight, casting whatever it could grasp at the weapon Inmortos clung to within his mind.

 

On the deck of the ship, Inmortos’ body flopped forward driving the blade deeper into the floor and the hilt into his own gut. The glowlamps surged and burst in a chain reaction one after another. The icy cold about them surged with the internal surge of Inmortos responsive assault to retake himself, bathing the darkness in an icy grasp that fought against the fiery rage of the spirit.

 

Ever so slowly, the spirit gave up the mental ground it had claimed. It refused to be cast back into the blade. It refused to be imprisoned for eternity once again. So as it’s own power was forces back, it followed whatever lines of escape it might find, grasping, shaking, and manipulating whatever it could find. Memories, feelings, emotions all were weaponized and cast about in a maelstrom of destructive energy.

 

The easiest means of escape: the phantasmal chain that bound Inmortos to Nok.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nok fell.

 

He crawled through a field of waving grass, the Onderon sunset casting orange streams through the waving shadows. He stood over his eldest sister's corpse, the last of his siblings to die. Now it was a howlrunner. Now it was him.

 

Still he fell.

 

He couldn't breathe.

 

He couldn't think.

 

But he could see.

 

There. Grasping, clawing, reaching, clutching, something held him, dragged him down. Nok was pulled down, and as the thing coiled around him and flowed through his mind like ice water, he sensed it. He felt it as if it was himself. It hated. It rejoiced. It conquered.

 

Nok recoiled from the malevolent thing, and on some level he knew this was more than a dream. It was far too real to be a dream, and far to real too be the mundane world of light and base, solid mass. Here, things simply were. And this thing...Nok knew it more and more with each second it soaked through his soul. It would consume him. It would be him.

 

Nok screamed. The creature screamed with him.

 

Dead in the cold and dark.

 

The words came with a hard bite that they'd never had. Before they'd been a whisper, then a scream. Now they were a icy knife plunging through him, leaving nothing but the dead, evil thing that spoke to him with dark joy.

 

Suddenly, he was solid. He was real. It was like lying in bed, paralyzed and numb.

 

Dead in the cold and dark.

 

No.

 

He lay on the ground, tall, indistinct figures surrounding him.

 

Dead in the cold and dark.

 

No!

 

They stared down at him in mute judgment. They didn't hate him. He wasn't worth their hate. Only their brief irritation.

 

Nok was powerless. Nok was weak. Nok had nothing.

 

Nok was nothing.

 

The faces, indistinct, flickered to ones he recognized. Most were neimoidians, countless greedy, conniving fellows who had looked at Nok with...disgust. Almost pity.

 

No. He had won. He'd tricked them. He'd...

 

Cheated.

 

No!!!

 

Worth nothing.

 

I'll kill you!

 

Hollow, black laughter was his response. It shook the world, and the dark figures dissolved, along with Nok's vision.

 

Nok fell again. The creature's grip grew tighter. Nok could feel its anticipation. It wanted out.

 

...Out from where?

 

The creature attacked with new viciousness, and for a few moments Nok thought he was lost.

 

...Those who surrender

 

The unearthly shriek of joy mixed with panic filled Nok's mind as the creature struggled to grind the last of his soul away.

 

...Deserve to be consumed.

 

Nok grasped that thought, a hard gem that creature struck again and again.

 

You failed! Strike. You were blinded! Strike. You only take from those too weak to stop you! Strike.

 

Then it's slimy, slippery tendril closed on something. Buried deep, deep within, it grasped it with glee and pulled it forth.

 

You didn't kill the second howlrunner. Strike.

 

You were scared. 

 

Crack.

 

Nok saw it again. He relived it. Those few seconds standing before the second howlrunner, the terror of his own potential death freezing his hands.

 

Coward. Failure. Weakling.

 

Nobody.

 

Nok tried to scream, but his thoughts flowed like congealed duracrete.

 

This...this was wrong.

 

Yes, he'd been scared.

 

But so had the howlrunner.

 

He saw it, tearing away the veil the entity had thrown over his memory. The howlrunner backed away, panicking at the smell of its dead mate. It had been terrified of Nok. It had...

 

NO!!!

 

The beast had lowered its head. In surrender.

 

I never surrendered.

 

The creature clawed, but Nok's strength returned as the creature's cold lies and truths alike were pushed back.

 

I never surrendered!

 

Nok clutched at the creature now, and it squirmed, digging its ethereal claws into his mind over and over again, tearing his mind apart. He could sense its intention. If it couldn't have Nok, it would destroy him first.

 

I never surrendered!!! Now GET OUT!

 

Nok threw the beast away into the inky void, and readied himself for whatever came next.

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Inmortos lay on the deck of his own ship panting. All about him the air swirled within invisible jetties, buffeted by the ragings of the dark side of the force. In his hands, he still clasped the hilt of the cursed rapier. He would not let go. He refused. Even if he could, the spirit within clung to him with such strength that he would not have been able to unwrap his fingers from where they were frozen about the hilt.
 

Blue icy tendrils laced down the length of the weapon equally as they traced intricate lightning-like patterns along the veiny bulges of the decrepit Sith Lord’s arms. A combination of the dark forces that dueled for control within the void. Cold, dark, and devoid of life; the siege continued. The spirit’s anger surged against the inky walls of fear that Inmortos cast to meet it. He would not be forgotten. All would know his name. No damned spirit condemned to an eternity of servitude imprisoned within a single blade would stop it. He would die one day. Not today. He would die free and resting upon a throne of power, not whilst striving to achieve it. “Not. This. Day.” he snarled grasping the icy cold nothingness and hurling it against the attack.


Icy winds surged from Inmortos’ mouth entering the maelstrom, lowering the temperature within several degrees. Ice and death held back the inmortal

memory of the current    
 

fires of rage and lust. Even as the Spirit fought to keep the ground it had gained, it slipped against the slick freezing exteriornthst coated the core, coated the soul of Inmortos. The more it grasped, the more he pushed back.

 

The spirit refused to be contained. It would not be driven back to his eternal prison. He had tasted freedom and knew he had but find a host to wield his power. A victim to carry forth his will until he could grow in strength, taking another host, then another and another until he could reform a body of his own. It would be one forged by hate, lust, desire, passion; sustained by the desire to lay waste to all in his path.
 

The colossal clash of a titan of yore and the immortality of a life that existed in the present and would for eternity rocked the the ship, cracking the ice it was embedded in. 
 

Inmortos slowly backed the spirit from the recesses of his mind and body. He forced it backwards, condensing it’s power into a smaller and smaller space in his body. It held against being forced back into the sword. Eventually as it flailed and raged, rocking Inmortos’ body, causing his limbs to flail and the sword to slash against the walls carving deep furrows, the spirit began to bleed. It would not be crushed. It would not be contained. So it bled.

 

Finding a way of escape from being pinned against the aura of the blade, the spirit found an opening. It surged forth. Distance did not matter, what mattered was that it allowed the spirit to escape the crushing press of crystalizing tendrils of ice and the darkness of death. At the other end, another maelstrom raged. It was different, defenses and attacks were thrown about with little concern for the newly arrived presence.

 

The spirit followed the bridge that linked Inmortos to Nok, a creation of the elixir. Behind it surged the cold tendrils of ice and voids of death that Inmortos pushed after it.  “You will not escape me!”

 

Into the maelstrom, the spirit threw itself, his rage and desire mingling with the chaos of the storm as it sought a foothold from which to fester and grow. It would find a servant and with it, be it Nok, Inmortos, or another, he would rule.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It returned. Whatever it was...beast, nightmare, spirit...it returned, furious and desperate.

 

No tricks this time. No hunting for hidden weaknesses. It meant to take Nok once and for all, power versus power, will versus will.

 

It came like an icy wind that stripped Nok of his fine robes, tearing them from his body as if they had been threadbare rags. Then it took his skin. Then the flesh beneath. His warmth. His blood. His bones. In Nok's nightmare, it stole them all.

 

Then it began to take Nok's mind.

 

First came his things. He saw vaults of nova crystals, chromium, and gold. He saw piles of relics and trophies, stuffed beasts he'd never hunted and fine gems he'd stolen. Bit by bit, piece by piece, they turned grey and disintegrated. The vision around him whirled and the icy wind of the spirit screamed in joy.

 

It was going to unmake him.

 

Next came his servants. Rows upon rows of droids lined up before his eyes, each programmed to serve one purpose, to serve one man. Nok was their universe, their reason for powering on, their reason for thinking at all. As he watched, they too turned gray and fell to dust.

 

Nok could feel his soul unraveling.

 

Now it turned its attention to his power. Memories played before Nok like holofilms. He saw himself as a young man, slitting the throat of his youngest sister. He saw the explosion at Hallax Industrial HQ as his bidding competitor's lifelong dream went down in rubble. He saw himself wielding the Force for the first time, touching that immense infinity that lurked just beyond sight. One by one, the monster devoured them all.

 

Possessions, servants, power...it took them all. What was left of Nok?

 

He was hollow. A fragile shell on the brink of collapse. He was nothing. He knew nothing...

 

...nothing but desire.

 

He wanted. He wanted so badly it burned. With each thing the spirit had taken from his mind, his hunger had only grown. It wasn't the simple greed of a neimoidian. It was the searing, blistering desire of the grub that had killed his nestmates for their food long before he grew hungry. It was the young businessman who'd crouched and slept in a crate for three days to plant an explosive. It was the hands that had dug through a mess of guts, blood, and body parts for a single jeweled brooch, even as the imperial forces continued their purge block by block.

 

Nok was empty, and that was what defined him.

 

And this spirit had only strengthened that.

 

Those...are mine

 

Whether it was the Force or some quirk of this nonsensical, nightmare realm, the world responded to Nok's desire. His mind reached out like a spectral claw, and he felt it tear into the spirit, plucking away the mental pieces it had snatched from Nok. He tore into the thing, ripping what was rightfully his from its mind before digging the claws in even further. Nok saw glimpses of the spirit's mind. Of its desires. Of its fear.

 

Nok saw the sword.

 

His lip curled in glee.

 

You were mine...but not anymore!

 

Nok hurled the spirit away, back where it had come from.

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It took hours for Inmortos to drive the spirit entirely from his mind and body. He never let go of the sword, even as he slumped to the floor. The Sith Lord’s limbs lolled to either side of him as he gasped for air in the still coolness of his ship.

 

In the distance Inmortos could still feel the spirit as it beat a trail down the path of least resistance. It howled and slashed digging for freedom. The Sith Lord did not care. For a moment, the struggle was over. How long he lay there, the decrepit Sith did not know. It was hours more. Hours in which Inmortos’ hunger manifested. His fingers tightened around the hilt of the blade. With it, he knew he could stride forth with an edge to control the living. In death, he would be remembered forever.

 

Carefully, Inmortos began to pick himself up from the frigid durasteel floor. His breath hung crystalized in the air. Adjusting his disheveled robes, Inmortos’ cast his gaze about for a place to secure his newfound weapon. The ship was destroyed. The power of the force had torn the nearly empty craft asunder. Arcing wires hung low, light panels flickered against the shadows, the smell of melted plastics and electrical burning hung in the cold.

 

And then things changed, the calm was beset by an audible howling and a wind that whistled through the ship coming from nowhere and everywhere. The demanding spirit careened back along the expanse that joined Inmortos and Nok. It’s hunger, hatred, and darkness struck Inmortos’ mind like a jackhammer, sending the Sith Lord sprawling back to the floor with a crash. The sword nearly leapt from his hand, but Inmortos reached up grasping it  with all the strength he could muster.

 

With a new surge of vengeful power, the spirit drove it’s claws into Inmortos’ soul only to be met by an icy wall of hunger. The spirit’s claws raked the ice, opening wounds that sucked it in. Inmortos would consume it. There was nothing this long dead spirit could offend or offer, imprisoned within a vorpal blade, cursed to an existence of servitude to a worthy master.

 

Inmortos was that master. He knew it. He would make it so.

 

With a cry of anguish and anger Inmortos allowed the spirit to flow into his soul, to rake it’s vengeful claws against that which made Inmortos who he was, to taste life and inmortality. With a colossal heave that caused the temperature to drop significantly, freezing any moisture in the air, and drawing on the life forces in all directions for miles, casting a shadow of the reaper on any it touched, Inmortos grasped the spirit within the icy walls of death of his own soul and funneled it along a slippery slide. Back along his arms and into the weapon itself, the Sith channeled the spirit before slamming his mind shut against the call of the weapon imprisoning it back within it’s cage.

 

Inmortos could feel the spirit rattling within the weapon, raging for release. It longed to rule, to destroy, it would not allow this weak sorcerer to contain him. Inmortos could hear the spirit screaming in the back of his mind. Eventually he hoped to tune it out; but for now, Inmortos was content to have conquered the blade and inhabitant within.

 

Picking himself up from the floor again, Inmortos leaned heavily on the ravaged wall beside a jutting spear of twisted metal clung to by icy tentacles that crackled with electric energy. Regarding the blackened blade in his hand, Inmortos shoved the weapon between his belt and robe. It was not a deserving place for such a forbidden evil blade. It would have to do.

 

His eyelids were heavy. Inmortos’ soul was ragged. The Sith Lord’s power was ravaged and hungering. He had won. That is what mattered. Even as he felt weakened, Inmortos was not defeated. Slowly the Sith extended his hand out into the air before him reaching along the drug-induced tendon towards Nok’s soul. He felt the power, the emptiness, the greed. He smiled darkly as he twisted the tendrils of life all about them, pulling them along towards death and driving that energy along their bond. Life and death blended together as it surged from Inmortos to Nok grinding against one another in a cacophony of gnashing teeth and a maw of destruction.

 

“Morliss, this spirit is mine. Now taste the truth. Life and death stretch beyond mere things. Use them or be consumed by them; lost within their grasp.”

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Nok sat up in his bed. Around him, medical devices beeped as they projected what were no doubt concerning data that Nok was blind to. The 2-1B surgical droid tapped rapidly on one of the wall displays, then halted midtouch. It turned, and for a moment stared at Nok in a way he could only describe as dumbfounded.

 

"What...what happened?"

 

"I do not know, master. You were in a form of REM sleep, yet you skipped the initial stages, and I can find no evidence of what caused the sudden shift. The drug burned through your system at an accelerated rate. I suspect a foreign catalyst, but I have yet to locate it. It's possible it may have been dissolved in your bloodstream already."

 

No...it was not physical.

 

Nok could still feel it. Like a thread wafting in the still air, one end knotted around his little finger.

 

The thread pulled taut.

 

Nok, finally regaining some semblance of his mind, braced himself for the spirit.

 

It was not the spirit that came, but a storm. A blizzard.

 

Nok screamed, slamming down to the ground as if he'd been shoved by some invisible hand. Mindless, howling noise and power tore through his mind and body. It was everything. It was life, it was existence, it was death, it was oblivion. It was the Force ITSELF! Like corpse worms, it burrowed through Nok, trailing searing heat and the cold of death wherever it touched.

 

Nok struggled, the small part of him that remembered what it had been like to unravel into the Force before. But this wasn't unraveling, this was being torn apart! He thrashed and ripped at the threads of the Force that he could manage to grasp, but it only added to the maelstrom. Devices, furniture, and the droid all rose into the air and began slamming and crashing around the room, the screeching and clanging of metal adding to the riot in the Force that only Nok could hear.

 

Dead in the cold and dark.

 

The vision returned. But not like before. Before it had been a muffled, veiled thing. Terrible like the shadow of a falling moon, but a shadow still. This was the full thing. And it devoured him.

 

Empty, broken, quivering on the ground of the medical chamber. Yet Nok was also looking down at himself, a towering figure wrapped in shadow. The chill of death ate at the pathetic figure cringing beneath him. The prone Nok shivered, struggling to keep warm, despite knowing his death had come. The towering Nok grimaced in disgust.

 

"Wait..." the cringing Nok said, haltingly. "This isn't right. This isn't...no...NO!"

 

The towering Nok stepped forward, his shadowy figure multiplying until the weak, dying Nok on the floor was surrounded by terrible, indistinct figures. Nok saw himself through both sets of eyes, and for a fragment of a moment he had clarity.

 

"I'm...you have to stop! You're losing yourself! This isn't what we wanted! This desire will never end! It will destroy us! We are wealthy! We are powerful! We have ENOUGH!"

 

Then his mind broke once more, and Nok was in two places again. In the cowering wretch on the floor, and in the shadowy figures surrounding him.

 

Shivering, impossibly cold yet not the least bit numb, the weak Nok felt things he had long thought buried. Regret at killing his own siblings. Disgust at his underhandedness. A brotherly affection for some of his subordinates.

 

And above all, he felt the emptiness. That emptiness had been with him whenever he gazed upon his new treasures, or when he thought about all he had amassed over the decades.

 

Hollow, the Nok prone on the floor soon could not muster the strength to even shiver anymore. His skin turned black with frostbite, and his mouth dribbled blood that froze his lips together.

 

Meanwhile, the standing Nok's were unaffected by the cold. They saw what the weak one couldn't. They felt what the weak one refused to. They touched the Force.

 

The Force was in everything. It was in the air, in the water, in every beat of every heart. It was entwined with every thought, it riddled every dream, and to it the void between stars was nothing but an infinitesimal speck. The Force flowed through the very fabric of the universe.

 

And Nok could command it.

 

Life was power. Through power came control. Through control came ownership. Through ownership came godhood. For what was a god but the being that owned your soul?

 

This emptiness could be filled.

 

As if the weak Nok could read the mind of the powerful one, he struggled to speak, lips tearing as the seal of frozen blood tore his skin.

 

"No...stop. Please...we didn't want this...

 

We just wanted to survive."

 

All of the towering Nok's gazed down at their weaker counterpart.

 

"It's not enough."

 

One of the powerful Nok's raised his foot, and with a dull, anti-climactic thump, he brought it down on the weak Nok's head. It shattered like porcelain, frozen into brittle bone and dead flesh.

 

The remaining Nok's turned, and as one they left their wretch of a soul behind. Dead in the cold and dark.

 

In the physical world, Nok's scream had become a rasp as his voice had given out, his body helpless to act with the mind occupied. But the storm did not slow. It swirled around Nok like a force of nature, but as what remained of Nok's mind emerged from his vision-induced stupor, something else emerged from the center of a storm. Nok's will, hard as steel formed in the eye of the maelstrom, and Nok rasp of pain turned to a growl of rage and pure, primal denial of his own death.

 

He flung his arms open wide and raised his voice in one last, rough cry, and he drew the power of life and death into himself.

 

He doubled over, and the sound of muscle stretching and bones creaking filled the room. His skin, once an unhealthy shade of pale green, lost any remaining color, turning into a dull, lifeless gray. It stretched taut over his hands, legs, and face, forcing his body into a permanent hunch, his hands curled into claws even as his lips drew back in a rictus grin. The black corruption spreading from his eyes blossomed like a grotesque flower, spreading across the remaining of his upper face and stretching long, thin lines of rot and foulness along his jaw and down his neck.

 

Power was what the Dark Side offered, and Nok had taken all he could from the storm of life energy. This twisting of flesh was a petty price.

 

Then it was calm. Nok slowly rose, as much as he could with his warped, hunched form. He sensed the room around him. The machines lay broken on the floor. The surgical droid's chest had been sheared clean through from one shoulder to the opposite him, as if someone had grabbed it and twisted until something tore. Its eyes flickered briefly, perhaps attempting to serve its master as its programming dictated, but then the little lights went out for good.

 

Nok saw his broken tools, his broken droid, and it kindled something inside of him. Rage.

 

"How...how dare you" he rasped. Then, his voice growing stronger, he screamed, "HOW DARE YOU!!!"

 

They were his! They belonged to him! He wanted them to function! How dare they cease!? They obeyed the dictates of reality before their master's will!

 

HOW DARE THEY!

 

Nok's mechu-deru extended out, and his will was made manifest.

 

He commanded the droid to function. It was cut off from its power supply. A fact that was nothing in comparison to its master's desires. Cables snaked out to link it with what remained of its lower torso, and power flooded its circuits.

 

But it wasn't enough. The storm of power he had taken in was too much to hold. It was destroying him!

 

His attention turned to his possessions.

 

"SERVE ME!!!" he screamed.

 

The power within him flooded out, his mechu-deru the open channel it needed. It flowed into every cable, servo, processing unit, and power supply in a thousand feet. The eyes of droid guards burst into showers of sparks before they collapsed in smoking heaps on the floor. Lights exploded in rapid succession. Power supplies ruptured and and exploded, spilling fire and acid into hallways. But it still wasn't enough! The power flooded further, into the very walls and doors of the structure. Metal shrieked as door motors slammed on and twisted the steel around them. Girders bent as the mechanisms inside disassembled and reassembled into nightmarish combinations over and over again. The building shuddered as the entire structure twisted and shook itself almost apart in the wave of power channeling through its machines.

 

Then, like the last bit of light of dusk finally falling behind the horizon, the torrent of energy stopped. Nok lay on the floor, and the only sound was the sparking of broken technology and the Sith Lord's rasping breath.

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From his tomb of a ship, encrusted in ice, Inmortos felt the irrefutable power of desperation, desire, and the festering of rage at being denied. It swirled together on the tendrils of the purest energies of the force. A twisted smile parted the Sith Lord’s mouth, ichor dribbling from the corners. He cackled quietly in the silence. Finally, the baron of Mon Cal had felt the truth. Finally he had traversed beyond. He could now learn the deeper truths that transcended mere life, time, space, and the physical worlds so many bound themselves to. Nok Morliss would be forgotten. In his place, an unforgettable nova of darkness would erupt.

 

With a wave of his hand, the Firrerreo called his heavy Ithorian wood can to his hand, the metallic hilt smooth against his fragile flesh. It was time. With slow heavy footfalls the Sith left his ship, the icy encasements shattering at the necromancer’s touch, his heavy midnight robes hanging loose about his form.

 

______________________________
 

 Thump.   Thump.   Thump.

 

Inmortos’ cane fell heavily against the uneven floors that had once been Nok Morliss’ secure medical facility. An orb of entropic energy had been all it took to gain access to the twisted and warped hallways. Darkness reigned here. It was a presence that fell heavily upon the mind and soul. Pedestrians and passerbys gave the area a wide berth unsure of what was going on, but innately feeling the somber unholiness of the place.  As if the cracked roadways and twisted building jutting upwards was not enough.

 

The hallway was silent save for the spray of sparks that occasionally fell from a twisted fixture like a waterfall of yellow energy. These flashes of light were all that illuminated the Sith Lord’s way. They were unneeded. Each tap of his cane, each footfall carried with it a sense of eternal forboding. Each step was sure across the uneven jagged surfaces that had been twisted by the maelstrom of Nok’s fruition. Inmortos mind churned, a vortex of unfathomable depth. His conscious plodding mingled seamlessly with the numerous histories that were contained in his decaying mind. 
 

Reaching what had been the last secured door before Nok’s private medical chamber, Inmortos did not stop. The blast door that dangled by a power cord was of no concern; nor was the door that had been driven through the wall and lay crumpled in the hallway. Inside it was black. Electricity crackled unseen behind the walls. There was not a photoceptor to be seen. The mechanized temple of the Nemodian had been rendered void. Within Inmortos sensed one thing, one life; and it was devastated. It was unleashed.

 

Moving forward, the Sith Lord slowly and directly made his way to the heaving Sithling. He poked the mass on the floor with the worn end of his staff. “Get up. You have been weighed by the force and found acceptable. Do not lie like the dead or be treated as such.”

 

Inmortos waited until the wretched husk of a being slumped himself to a standing position. Then with a heave he pulled the neuranium ceremonial dagger from the end of his cane. The wooden haft tumbled to the ground with a clatter. The heavy weapon hung in the air, an unholy energy reverberating about the blade. Without a word, Inmortos lunged forward, ubtil his blade pierced Nok’s flesh. “O waed yn tywallt bywyd. o fywyd, marwolaeth. Mewn marwolaeth mae meidrolion yn cael eu hanghofio i ddifrod amser.” Inmortos chanted, his voice low and crackling with dark side energies. He drove the blade deep into the rotted flesh of the Nemoidian; the Sithling’s blood spurting and spewing forth in warm sticky gouts.

 

 

“Goresgyn amser,”  he growled. The energies of Nok’s lifeblood literally boiling forth into the air in a steam that the necromancer inhaled. Nok slid from the blade and fell to the floor in a puddle of his own blood. Standing over the once-apprentice, Inmortos regarded him in the dark, his voice booming through the still air as it swirled with mystic energies. “Cwympo marwol. Codi anfarwol. Krath Apothos! Gods do not bleed!” The Sith Lord fell silent, waiting to see if Nok would rise and fill his newfound name. It was not a Darth. It was more apt, more ancient, more befitting one of which Inmortos would stride beside for a time building his own sanctuary. This man would become like a god to these lessers. They would serve him and in the shadows, in their deaths, they would serve Inmortos. No, he was no darth. He was more. This wretched sorcerer before him was a Krath, not bound to serve and fall in battle, but to carry on his faithful charge unto eternity. 
 

“Rise!”

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For a moment, the only sound was the sputtering of sparks. Blood pooled outward from Nok's prone form.

 

Then he twitched. Like a stunned insect, the hunched body of the neimoidian blindly flexed and felt around him. Then slowly, slowly, he began to rise. His legs weakly scrabbled against the floor and were no help, and his near useless arms could barely extend themselves to a right angle, much less push him up. Instead, he rose as if suspended on strings, until his stooped body rested on his feet. Where once Nok had been tall, he now curled over in a permanent hunch. His skin was drawn tight across his body, looking as if it might tear with the slightest movement. And the black, corrupted flesh had exploded over his head, with tracing lines running along his jaw and neck.

 

Blood stained his chest an ugly red, and it continued to run down his soiled, shredded robe, darkening the fabric where it touched. Nok breathed in a heavy rasp, and for a moment, it was difficult to tell if he was fully concscious. Then he extended his hand, gray skin turning white where he forced the fingers to straighten, and the remains of the medical diagnostic station slid over to him, screeching and sending up sparks as metal scraped against metal.

 

He tightened his hand into a fist, and bits of the plating and equipment tore themselves from the mass of useless electronics and floated over to Nok, arranging themselves over the deep knife wound.

 

Inhaling, then exhaling, Nok called upon the depths of the Force he had willingly lost himself to, and willed the Replacement power of mechu-deru to save the failing prison of his flesh.

 

Metal bent over the open gash, cables wound under his skin, tubes that had carried lubricant and coolant replaced the severed blood vessels, and in a few moments the bleeding had stopped.

 

Where a small knife wound had once been, a mass of metal and lights covered a 6" diameter at the center of Nok's chest. With every beat of his heart, the lights pulsed, and as the seconds passed the pulses grew steadier as his heart founds its strength again.

 

"Your...lesson...was appreciated." Nok rasped, his voice hoarse and weak but more certain than it had ever been. "You have held up your end of the bargain. You have a place here...Inmortos." The Nok cocked his head. "What you called me...Krath...Krath Apothos." If possible, his rictus grin spread a little wider. "Yes...Nok is dead. He surrendered. He settled. And so he was devoured. Krath Apothos rules the skies of Mon Calamari...and soon more." He turned his blind gaze to the Sith who had broken his chains and set his soul free. "Darth Inmortos...was that a lie? I have met...Darths...before. Limited, blind creatures. You do not strike me as such."

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A gleeful evil radiated across Inmortos twisted face at the sight of Apothos rising up, his body contorted by darkness. The continued writihing and twisting that intermingled with the visceral pain that the newfound Sith Lord willingly subjected himself to only made the necromancer salivate, bloody phlegm running freely down his face. 
 

As the Nemodian spoke, Inmortos was struck by the sinister darkness that radiated on the man’s words. Gone was the sniveling businessman and his cowardice, his small desires of power to keep himself afloat in his cushioned lifestyle. Here before him now was a being that had overcome those chains and would do infinitely more given the time. 
 

“Like Nok Morliss used many names, so do I. Darth Inmortos strikes fear. Krath Inmortos is eternal. Study your histories as I and learn. Darths are tools. Show the semblance of service, as a darth. Seize power, true power, a Krath.”

 

”Come. The force is ripe.” Inmortos turned and gestured. His slow heavy footfalls echoing in the darkness. With a swipe of his hand, the ceremonial blade returned to it’s sheath within the Ithor wood cane. Thump. Thump. Thump.

 

________________________
 

Through the winding city the duo shuffled, a cloud of shadow followed them. The wind blew stiff and cold. Down alleys and streets, up stairs and lifts. Ascending the tallest spire, beyond the reach of the lift, up shaky ladders and out a rusted door, the two exited into the cloud-filled sky. The city was barely visible below.

 

Here the wind buffeted them. The tallest spire in the city swayed precariously beneath them. “Fear. Wind. Death. Heights. Let the fear feed you. Embrace it.”

 

Looking upwards, Inmortos began to climb between the waiving antennae and sensor suites. Hand over hand he climbed until he clung to the uppermost spire, designed to catch and ground lightning from the violent ocean storms the world was known for. Here, there was barely enough room for the two sets of feet that were the Sith Lords’. Placing his back against the icy spire, Inmortos howled into the wind. He grasped Apothos’ hand, helping him to the spire, his frail frame bellying a secretive strength. Hefting the Lord up, Inmortos hissed into the Nemoidian’s ear, Let us call down the vortex. With it, the city and world will be cemented in the tendrils of darkness, within your grasp, forever. The cities yours. The seas mine.”

 

Releasing the Krath, Inmortosnstared out into the vastness, beyond the horizons. Here, high above the world Inmortos could taste the energies of life that radiated from the world. He also could taste the death energies waiting for eons to be mined by one willing to profane themselves. By binding his powers with Apothos, Inmortos knew they would exponentially power one another. What one could not control, two could not help but seize.

 

The wind whipped the dark necromancer’s robes in a fury about him. Raising his hands to the sky, he let forth a blood—curdling screech that was torn from his lips before it could carry beyond his maw. It was then that he began to chant. Inmortos’ hands whipped about in the air tracing invisible sigils into the wind to be carried across the world. He felt Apothos’ power. He drew upon it, combining it with his own.
 

The temperatures began tp plummet as ice formed about them on the spire and in the air. On the wind the crystals were whipped tearing at robes and flesh flaying Inmortos flesh until blood and ichor flowed freely. Still he writhed in his evil dance calling forth the energies of death from the deep, manipulating lives to spark the deceased back to an eternal servitude.

 

Below the waves began to crash, whipped to a frenzy by the rising maelstrom of the force. Ice and snow tore through the air, coating the city below in a slick of ice. Those who were near death, the old and feeble, the sick and dying; they were pushed towards the maw of the open grave. Embraced by death before they were ready. The fell into the eternal rest of death, but inly for a moment. Their death energies pulled them back to the world, binding their carcasses to Inmortos will.

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Grief.

 

It rose from the city like a miasma, the tiny tragedies of each death drawn too early by Inmortos' call a candle that released a plume of the black, raw emotion into the air.

 

Anger.

 

An undercurrent that flowed through the city. It lurked in the minds of every citizen, from the proud autocrats who'd kept their positions through bribery or good fortune, to the lowly, broken workers who had always kept their head down no matter who ruled. They saw this planet as theirs, and it rankled them to know Apothos had claimed it as his.

 

Fear.

 

Ah. There it was. Like the golden light of the sun or the constant pounding of the waves on the city's base, fear colored everything. They feared Apothos. They feared the new, dark thing that had taken up residence. Even those who had never seen the necromancer or heard of his coming knew something had changed, and like animals at the onset of winter they could sense the death in the air.

 

Apothos extended his hands, the new arthritic pain in his fingers nothing compared to the power that flowed with such ease through his hands. Inmortos was a vortex, a whirlpool that drew the energy of death into himself from the city as a whole, and Apothos could see the ripples and currents that the necromancer surrounded himself with...and sent back out to the corpses that would be his servants.

 

Could Apothos do any less?

 

Exhaling, he rode the waves of fear and death with his mind, extending his will in a dozen tendrils to the city that he knew, deep in the core of his soul, belonged to him. He was a god, and this was his domain. His will would be obeyed.

 

He found machines, computers, and droids that his mechu-deru would turn to instruments of his will. Quietly, instinctively, Apothos saturated each and every one with his will. An impossible task normally, but with his newfound mastery and the currents of power that Inmortos was calling up, Apothos found that his reach had extended beyond anything he had dreamed possible.

 

Code was rewritten. Command sequences were added and implanted deep in the core of each device's software. A door was given a special protocol to slam shut on someone passing through, should the proper target be identified. A speeder bike would start up and accelerate out of control should the command be broadcast. A gonk droid would overcharge and become a walking bomb with a simple line of code. Dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of tiny traps and malicious programming saturated the city, hidden beneath a layer of steel and circuitry. Yet, it was dormant. Hours spent in ritual to turn his city into a weapon, but it still needed a master to command it. Apothos of course could, but it was not his place to deal with minor, petty annoyances. He needed something else. He needed...

 

A low, rasping chuckle escaped him, muffled by the whipping winds that had numbed him hours ago.

 

He did not know if he'd planned it, or if perhaps the Force had guided him, but the perfect solution was all around him.

 

Apothos shifted his focus to his Deepguard battle droids. They patrolled the city streets, and only a few, bloody demonstrations of their strength and firepower had been enough to subdue those who saw them walk past. Now, Apothos slid into their minds like sliding a worn glove onto his hand, their electronic shells recognizing the touch of their master.

 

He added a simple command code to them. Deepguard were already capable of broadcasting to each other. Apothos simply expanded that to include...everything.

 

If a Deepguard identified an enemy, every device around them capable of recognizing their signal would react, their hidden traps and coded killing protocols activating in a storm of mechanized mayhem and death.

 

Let enemies try and take Apothos's city from him. He was god here. The city served him.

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As the winds whipped about the duo of Dark Side practitioners atop the seating spire, so too did the tendrils of dark side power. It manifested at first as a faint fog, but it grew exponentially. It expanded outwards until it seemed the whole of the ravaged sky across the city was one raging vortex of clouds, ice, and thunderbolts. It was enough to ground even the heartiest of ships trying to leave and turn back the most daring pilots on sea or air trying to approach. Amongst it all, countless faint strands of light and energy seemed to buzz forth, congealing and separating at whim. Life energies of the immeasurable dead lost to the expanses of seas and watery graves combined with the tendrils of life lost that hovered about relics of the dead scattered throughout the city.

 

All of these energies rose upwards as if in sheer defiance of the maelstrom that buffeted the worldscape in every direction. High into the air the alien orbs streaked until they blended into haze-ish glow that enveloped the sorcerers.

 

Inmortos let out a bone-chilling scream into the winds as he extended a frail filleted hand out before him, blood dripping from it before being torn away by the winds. Beginning to clasp his open hand into a fist, Inmortos drew the orbs, the streaks, the amorphous blobs of foggy ligjt and energy into his hand. The light extinguished in a blink as Inmortos hand closed into a knuckled fist.

 

Raising his fist into the air, Inmortos sleeve fell to his shoulder. His newly revealed pale flesh was instantly set upon by the ravaging weather and powers of the transforming force. Forcing his fist as high as he could, Inmortos opened his hand casting the light upwards in a short burst of light into the crushing vortex. It vanished in an instant, the power being dispersed in the storm until it rained down as an indistinguishable fine mist across the city.

 

Clinging to the spire, Inmortos felt the power of the force surge through him with unholy might. For an instant, Inmortos felt the power of every life that he had touched. It flowed through him. It touched his own life force. It ravaged his single life as it entered and exited his body in an instant. The vacuum left Inmortos destitute of all but the faintest glimmers of power. He pulled unnaturally against the force, willing himself to stay concision, to survive. With this energy he clung to the spire alongside Apothos. For hours he hung there, clinging to life as the storm ravaged itself into nonexistence with the rising of the sun.

 

Below the city and seas appeared normal, untouched by Inmortos’ sorcery. Below the surface however, the Sith’s magicks took ahold. They bound the city itself to the energies of the dead. Trespassers, defilers, those who sought to overthrow the rule of the Sith, who would dispute their claim to the world, would be met by waves of undead hordes drawn from the seas and catacombs with no other purpose than to destroy they that dared to desecrate the hold of the Sith here. The spell was complete. Inmortos was spent.

 

Reaching about the spire, Inmortos grasped for the hem of Apothos neck with a blood crusted hand. He pulled the Krath close. In a deathly whipser Inmortos hissed, “Geonosis. Take us to the gathering. Power beyond this world is within our grasp.”

 

 

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Coral City, the capital of Mon Calamari, the sun-kissed city of the seas, lay blanketed under thick clouds oily with smog and smoke. An unnatural chill swept the streets, and the open air parks and pavilions that had once held crowds of thousands every day now stood empty, walked only by patrols of dark red Deepguard battle droids. The people, Quarren and Mon Calamari alike, huddled in their homes, afraid but unable to give shape to their fear.

 

All across the city, the weak and feeble had died. Hospitals turned out bodies in the dozens. Minor, inexplicable glitches accompanied the sudden onset of death, with seemingly every machine prone to fits and bouts of static and twitching. In one case, a criminal demonstration protesting the pollution of their waters at one of the droidworks had turned ugly when the Deepguard arrived, and for no explainable reason a cargo loader lurched forward into the crowd, maiming and killing dozens in seconds while the people scattered. And there was the water...

 

The waves were choked with toxic runoff from forges and droidworks, and for days saboteurs and activists had been swarming the edges of the city, clogging up drains and leaving outraged graffiti anywhere they could reach. But now, no one went anywhere near the water's edge, and none of them could exactly explain why...

 

From this greasy, dim reflection of what Coral City had once been, two ships ascended, before piercing the overhanging murk and accelerating out into the clean void of space.

 

Inmortos's S-161 Stinger luxury yacht, The Eternus, flew beside the sleek, blue-green frame of the newly christened Iron Howlrunner. Baudo-class sporting yacht, the fast ship was smaller than what Apothos had been used to in his old life, but maneuverable and infinitely customizable. This particular model had been owned by a prestigious Mon Calamari engineer before he'd died protesting the actions taken by his world's new Sith ruler. At its helm, Apothos reclined. The pilot's seat had been ripped out, and Apothos sat on a silvery, high-backed Emperiax Walking Throne, six silvery legs automatically adjusting and balancing against the thrust of acceleration. Immobile and magnetized to its back was a folded Neimoidian mechno-chair more suitable for tighter corridors.

 

Apothos did not touch the controls. The ship moved and altered at the Krath's thoughts and will, accepting the touch of its new master with the absoluteness of a machine.

 

The two ships jumped to hyperspace...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Stealth Corvette Languedoc emerged on the very edge of the Mon Calamari System. Its radar and radiation absorbent coating was waiting a deep midnight black. It would still be visible if the defense grid was looking at the right place at the right time, but the crew knew the dangers. Long wave detection antennas made up the majority of the modified CR-90. ESM masts the rest. The ship was defenseless otherwise. 

 

A deep scan of the Mon Calamari Defense Grid began in earnest. The results being tightband broadcast back to the listening outpost on Kessel. 

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Pretender to the Galactic Throne

Leader of the Rebel Alliance

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The Shipyards and Defense Fleet of Mon Calamari remained oblivious to the Languedoc and its scans. The starlanes that had once bustled with the traffic of a thousand different worlds and the freight of a booming planetary industry now only held the odd collection of junker ships crewed by the scum of the galaxy, side-by-side with Sith naval patrols. Criminals and worse had come to Mon Cal, and were slowly infesting the now open skies and empty docking bays with their rusted heaps and retooled "freighters". The blue surface of the planet was marred with spots of greasy black clouds like open sores on skin, marking where cities and their new industries pumped pollutants into the air in the name of efficiency.

 

Dominating one of the main repair bays, droids and repair ships swarmed the armored hull of the Black Bracer. New sheets of durasteel were layered on top of old, and the clusters of laser batteries poked through like spikes. Beside it, the Broken Bullet and Moon Beetle sat in their own docks, crates of missiles being loaded in as the final steps in the extensive repairs the two had required.

 

And, hidden from site, Our Velvet Ire watched the repairs from behind its own scanner spoiling array.

 

The Strands had committed some of their forces to Mon Cal's defense, no doubt seeing opportunity for their brand of scheming and power in the corrupt planet and its industries. Commanding the defense was Captain Jaden Jorik. Mercenary, thug, survivor...

 

And lackey of Nok Morliss, supposed ruler of this world. His master was absent, and the rumors he'd heard weren't encouraging.

Edited by Krath Apothos
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The civilian craft broke hyperspace, it followed standard procedure so as to begin landing on the once pleasurable world of Mon Cal. Even amongst the industrial sludge, lawless pleasures still coated the world in dark and exotic financial gains. Pleasures that any well-paying vacationer could find without risk of coming to such a world; pleasures that a low-budget cruise line would exploit for a quick credit in a moment. Back room deals just made the deal sweeter. 

 

Docking, the ship began the usual hours-long process of offloading her pleasure seeking passengers. On a lawless world like Mon Cal there was little need for security checkpoints, not when Sith-powered bots patrolled the streets and sorceries permeated the very air of the world. The passengers were allowed to disembark and move about the pleasure areas of the city, all within careful observation of the countless cameras of the planet’s automated security forces.

 

Moving quickly with the aura of a shuffling cleric, The Mantis moved seemingly aimlessly away from the ship, his censer bearing staff clacking against the cobble-appearing durasteel streets. He wandered moving further from and back closer to the casinos, bordellos, and pleasure centers; each foray taking him on a new path a bit further.
 

They were on the clock. The few rebels amongst the majority of ‘innocent’ sinners had to act and soon.

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Kessel:

 

Mythos had heard of the devastating happens of Mon Cal and the Sith's current occupation of it's surface ports. But he wasn't sure of it's strategic value in the war with the Sith. This caused him to sit silently in the background as he thought upon it's purpose, his attention darting back and forth between the Jensaarai and Lieutenant Andromina in between his own thoughts. When the Jensaarai, Mantis, made his departure, Mythos rose to make his own without word, his mission clear cut. It mattered little the reason it was chosen, only that the higher ups demanded it. He would make sure it was liberated from the Sith War Machine.

 

Once headed back to the city, he commed ahead to Jibb, requesting a team of five lined up as work detail for the cruiser and two personal escorts for himself. Wasn't much of a detail, but Mythos very rarely operated outside his skillets, the former Alliance Marshall using his strengths to his advantage. And with SaberCats, it was a variety tailored to suit his needs. They were capable of becoming ghosts without the Rebellion's aid and each had been trained to fit various roles in times of need. This is why he chose to bring them, and now it was time to prove themselves.

 

After arriving at Von Howlster's Reach, Mythos made sure his weapons were placed in separate unmarked crates, but kept his armor for personal reasons. The two who accompanied him dressed in civies while the five that were to labor aboard the cruiser departed with their gear and his own, safely storing it aboard the cruiser with the affects of the patrons. When it was time, Mythos, Grenn, and Altos departed for the cruiser as well, and Kessel became a blur in the distance as Mon Cal became their next destination.

 

Mon Cal:

 

The air of Mon Cal stunk with the putrid stench of the Sith occupation. The outbreak that once razed it's surface had left behind the entrails of oppression and socialism under Imperial Law. And even the surface layer still bore the mystical wounds of the Force upon it's civilians, the broken spirits lingering in an almost decaying and ruined state. As soon as Mythos disembarked the cruiser, the aroma of Mon Cal churned in his stomach and burnt his sense of smell, causing the Shistavanian to cover his about as best he could. For most travelers, it was an odd thing. But for those who knew his race would almost instantly recognize their heightened senses. Humans were lucky creatures.

 

Meanwhile, as Mythos, Grenn, and Altos made their way away from the starport and toward the security terminal, the five Marines began unloading the personal affects of the patrons. For now their job was simple, observe their surroundings. Learn the movements of the Sith patrols and safely hide away their gear among the others. And when the time came, retrieve it.

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DG-OG13 stood sentry on the roof of an abandoned house, dead center of what had once been a thriving neighborhood affectionately called Shelltown by its inhabitants. Now it was Sector 3-18, forcefully evacuated so that the visitors of the new, adjoining Pleasure Sector 3 did not need to suffer the sight of locals while the local businesses parted them from their credits.

OG13 was aware of all of this, but it meant nothing to him. It was merely context for his current assignment, though if he was honest the thought of his fellow Deepguard droids forcefully evicting the Mon Calamari who openly despised his model-series gave him a slight twinge of joy.

His range-boosting antennae was extended, and his mechanical mind whirred and buzzed as it coordinated the movements of the other Deepguard patrols.

 

Analysis alert: New arrival has exceeded preset parameters for [unusual] behavior. Evaluation in progress.

 

Query: Upgrade designation from [unusual] to [suspicious]?

 

Analyzing...

 

Analysis complete. Subject == Human : [Middle-aged] or [Elderly] : Potentially [Senile]

 

Rejecting upgrade to [suspicious]. Reducing perceived threat level. Dispatching corrective unit.

 

Mantis:

A single Deepguard approached the aimlessly shuffling Mantis, moving to block his path.

 

"You are approaching the end of the designated recreational area," it said in a deep, reverberating voice. "This sector is categorized unsafe, due to planned..." it paused as its databanks searched, "...urban renewal. Please return to the recreational facilities." It paused again, dead eyes staring out, before it spoke up once more. "If my performance has been inadequate or given offense, please give me your ID code registered with the sector, so that you may receive a voucher for a free meal."

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The heavy-laden cleric paused as he was confronted by the droid. Beneath his faceless features, the Jensaarai frowned. Apparently finding a closer transport to ferry him towards his goal was out of the question. Undoubtedly if this droid went missing it would raise the alarm; a little too prematurely for what the rebels hoped to accomplish.

 

In keeping with his character, The Mantis rattled the censer at the end of his staff angrily in droid’s face spewing clouds of incense into the air. He then turned and shuffled off back the way he had come.

 

Ducking into a doorway, The Mantis leaned heavily against the wall. He closed his eyes and reached out on the tendrils of the force. He was a Jensaarai. His actions here were for the betterment of his people galaxies away. To stop the Sith here would be to drive a wedge into the onslaught of the Sith war machine and to direct them away. The rebels were a blight to the Sith. The Jedi a threat. The Jensaarai were there to lurk in the shadows, unseen and safe, protecting their own, and by it, the worlds about them.

 

The Mantis’ head inclined towards the smog filled aky above. It was as if he could almost feel his people across the cosmos. He was bound to them by more than a mere oath. He felt the worlds between them, the stars, the dust, the very cosmos. He was a Jensaarai, all of this was a part of him, just as he was a part of it. The Mantis allowed his focus to expand, he felt the world around him intimately. It was sick, twisted and corrupt. It longed for healing. He felt every molecule and particle, the steel, the water, wood and even air. He allowed his spirit to entangle itself with them all. Their fate would be as his, for in the force, they were one and the same. Across the city, across the waters, he allowed his consciousness to spread until his persona was nothing more than a background noise drowned out by the buzz of machinations and nature. Invisible against the galaxy.

 

The Mantis waited a minute more as his mind settled and he focused his sight on where he was. He felt the world all around him, yet saw and moved in his own body. For the inexperienced, it was a equilibrium-defying experience.

 

Returning to his shuffle, The Defender returned to his path. He did not wander any more, his actions were pointed and direct. He needed to reach the city’s edge.

 

Walking along, the cleric-disguised Jensaarai flitted effortlessly from shadow to shadow. He turned to avoid any gatherings of workers shambling to or from their laborious tasks. In spite of being spread so thin so as to avoid more than a passing detection in the force or a fuzz on a camera or photoceptor, he did not want to take any undue risks.

 

As he neared a relatively desolate marina, the cleric paused, slipping between a pair of overflowing trash bins. With a slight clamor, he pulled himself up and over the fencing that barred the city from the once pristine docks of pleasure crafts. These boats now sat derelict in their moorings, the first signs of lack of care and decay manifesting all over.

 

Through the slitted visor of his disguise, The Mantis surveyed the docks before him looking for a craft to ferry him forward. Given the lack of resistance on the subjugated world and the desertion of this usually bustling trade and pleasure post, he suspected an unauthorized departure would draw attention sooner than later.

 

Eying a Luxsub setting low in her moorings, The Mantis hurried towards it. It was unlocked. As if the force had willed it. Clamoring aboard, the Defender was pleased to find that even in her abandoned state the craft still appeared watertight. Even better, it started with a touch.

 

Within minutes the craft was motoring out past the protective reef that enclosed the marina bay. There was no way to avoid it and surely the craft would be detected. Still, he maintained the slow no wake speed of the marina, ignoring whatever chirping the comm might be making. When he passed the last buoy and cleared the reef, The Mantis immediately began a sharp descent beneath the waves. Pushing the craft to it’s limits, The Mantis left a whirlwind of churned water in the crafts wake, even below the waves, as they motored out to sea and more importantly towards the Hakawa Islands and the dark crops being cultivated there.

 

The Mantis only hoped that Mythos and his men could create a scene soon enough that he could make landfall and together they could divide the security forces of the planet and open up a weak point.

 

 

Edited by Leena Kil
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At the security port station, things went as expected for Mythos. After their carry on luggage was checked and revealed nothing out of the ordinary, a change of thin clothing for lounging, a pack of smokes, a handheld gas torch for striking said cigaras, and a few miniscule items unworthy of note, Mythos and his escort were allowed through. Pocketing his identification he was granted, he made his way toward the recreational district and pleasure plaza where he had a hotel room booked for the next few days. All in all, it seemed like any other Shistavanian vacationing such a world. And that was the point.

 

After taking a little time settling his things away after check in, Mythos made his way around the pleasure plaza, keeping of the appearence of vacationing while scouting the area for his move. For most vacationers, he appeared out of place, a towering wolf man escorted by two humanoids. And all shrugged it off as an alien with diplomatic status, exactly what his identification personified him as just earlier in the day. Mythos Fenrir, Shistavanian Prince, a title he rarely used after leaving his pack behind so long ago. After all, sometimes the best identity was one that held some half truths to it, similar to the greatest of lies.

 

After walking the plaza's boardwalk and enjoying a few morsels of local cuisine and a few alcoholic drinks in big vertical glasses topped with cocktail umbrellas and fruit, Mythos made his way into one of the local casinos for a few games of chance. Visual surveillance was a great start, but local chatter always held deeper information, and drunken gossip held half truths. With the right amount, one could always strip away the lies and find the truths hidden within. And it had been a long time skill of his, dating all the way back to his time as a Marshall.

 

A few hours later, and a few drinks down the hatch, Mythos was on to a potential target. He nodded to his escorts and excused himself from a pazaak game, Mythos took the moment outside for some fresh air. Lighting a cigaras and taking a drag, he began a solemn and quiet stroll outside the city's pleasure plaza and toward the planet's shipyard, cup in hand and song in heart as he stumbled and swayed, his eyes ever alert. He was intrigued to test their security and alert levels, and a drunken Shistavanian would stick out like a sore thumb, especially in a no smoking zone as he clumsily nearly fell into a mineshaft entrance.

 

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Mantis:

As the submersible pulled out of the harbor, a single floating probe droid noted its departure, logging it for analysis by the Central Command Tower.

 

Alert: Unauthorized vehicle departing city.

 

Searching for owner...

 

Owner found: Jemala Morloon. Former founder, CEO, and primary employee of Grab-n-Grill.

 

Error: Owner's assets due to be foreclosed on by 2nd Coral City Bank. Owner owes >=200,000 credits. Owner possibly deceased: 84% probability.

 

Compound Error: 2nd Coral City Bank operations suspended until further notice, due to investigation of seditious activities

 

Analysis...

 

Analysis...

 

Analysis complete. Designated submersible == unowned. Therefore, theft is not possible.

 

Submersible departure == minor offense. Driver will be detained and questioned upon return to Coral City marina or upon arrival to any other city marina. Vehicle registration marked for impound upon return.

 

Close case file.

 

Even as the Central Command Tower dismissed the departing submersible, something else looked up and noted the small vessel moving through the water.

 

Life was in there.

 

Warm...

 

Breathing...

 

Life.

 

It hungered. It only knew hunger. And cold.

 

But not now. Not now.

 

It closed its eyes, and rested its head back on the floor of the reef.

 

Around it, thousands like it waited.

 

Cold.

 

And hungry.

 

Mythos:

DG-OG13 had already purged all but the most basic data of the encounter with the old, staff-bearing human from its memory banks when a new alert chimed.

 

Analysis alert: New arrival has exceeded preset parameters for [unusual] behavior. Warning - Individual has exceeded limits of Pleasure Sector.

 

Query: Upgrade designation from [unusual] to [suspicious]?

 

Analyzing...

 

Analysis complete. Subject == Shistavanian : [Inebriated] : [Smoking] : Present in [Industrial Work Zone] : Physical Status - [Dangerous]

 

Rejecting upgrade to [suspicious]. Altering designation to [Danger to Self/Others]. Increasing perceived threat level. Dispatching multiple corrective units.

 

OG13 deliberately chose Monitor models to intercept the Shistavanian, who was getting dangerously close to one of the mining lifts. Their non-lethal weapons and lack of blasters would be more suited to a scuffle with a drunken tourist in a sector filled with industrial equipment.

 

Three Deepguard, called off patrol, emerged from different points along the swaying Shistavanian's path, from alleys and streets. They formed up in a wedge in front of him, and just behind lay the open loading area of the mining sector, large bipedal loaders lurching back and forth as their forklift arms shifted crates from pallet to pallet.

 

"Sir," the first began.

"-you are not permitted-" continued the second.

"-to be here. Please allow us to escort you back to the Recreational Sector," finished the third. Each droid held their right arms loose, ready to deploy their electroshock prods if this turned into a scuffle.

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The sub chugged along without much issue. Apparently the craft was well overdue for it’s regularly scheduled service and several flashing alerts continued to signal that regardless of her pilot’s attempt to acknowledge and delay them. Still, the craft did not seem to suffer any catastrophic failures as it made it’s way to the Hakawa Islands.

 

Nearing the mountain peaks that poked above the water, The Mantis slowed his craft, taking in the scans of the area. This far out to sea, there was little need for a full security contingent to be present on and about the islands. A few smaller docks extending out of caves and a single larger warehouse-line structure were all that seemed to inhabit the otherwise desolate windswept mountainsides.

 

Idling beneath the choppy waters, the Jensaarai pondered for a moment, his face an emotionless slate as he contemplated what he was about to do. It was for the greater good. Still, that line from his order’s code, ‘Preserve life, from it flows the force’ tumbled in his mind. This seemed an ideal location. Given the Sith’s fascination with mechanized servants, The Mantis assumed that the majority of labor here would be the same. Worth a check still, he decided. Angling the sub for the surface, The Mantis turned the craft and angled it back to open sea before gracefully diving into the choppy waters.

 

His armor was light enough; but it still tugged him downwards. The Mantis had to push himself with each stroke to pull himself upwards and forwards until he reached a point where he could stand. Pulling himself ashore, the Defender took the moment to rest, his eyes scanning the rocky hillside before him.

 

Wrapping himself in the force, his consciousness and mind extended out across the island chain so as to render him undetectable to force user and security system alike, the rebel-aligned monk began to pick his way towards the main loading dock. This was the largest island and with it came the most activity, and the chance for a bigger distraction.


Slipping through the shadows, The Mantis nodded to himself as he saw the plethora of droids mindlessly offloading crates of supplies and gingerly stacking hydrostatically sealed containers.  Balo Mushroomd. 
 

Nok Morliss was running his own death stick production facility on Mon Cal!

 

Flitting from shadow to shadow with the ease of a wraithe, the ninja-esque warrior monk made good time; clinging to overhanging pipes, swinging from catwalk to assembly line, crawling along a suspiciously well maintained ventilation duct. Soon enough he found himself in what could only be called a control room. Given it’s sparsity and single chair with a control station, that was generous. The window that looked out over the dimly lit violet lamps confirmed the man’s suspicions. It was a  drug farm. Undoubtedly the other mountains had also been hollowed out to accompany the vast levels of constructed terraces and hanging gardens to maximize the growth of the mushrooms and who knew what else.

 

Staring at the screen, The Mantis gave an effort w and see if he could gain access. A simple password was enough to dissuade that plan. There was no sense alerting security forces yet. Given the clicking and clacking of the keyboard, it was apparent the station had not been manned in quite some time. The polished socket for droid use was a testament to the automated order the ruling Sith lord commanded.

 

The old fashioned way it was.

 

Leaving the overlook, The Mantis snaked his way through the still air of the temperature controlled grow cavern. He had to divert a few times, avoiding the automated watering features as they kicked on in different section. He was unsure and unwilling to find out what sort of chemical concoction was being poured into these plants to make them more addictive, grow faster and larger, or anything else. Glow-in-the-dark was not a look The Mantis was keen on.

 

Soon enough he was on the grated floor of the lowest level. Water dripped in the semi-darkness at a constant rate. The entire area smelled earthy and warm. Scanning as far as he could see with his infrared scanner the Jensaarai smiled when he saw it.

 

Binary loaders were known for their strength and simplicity. Anti-sabotage was decidedly not their forté. There, stacked against an exterior inclined wall were the remnants of the mining explosives used to hollow out this and the other mountains. There sure was a lot of it. Waste not, want not?

 

Being careful not to slip on the watery flooring, The Mantis scurried cautiously, a rodent in the darkness, towards the expertly stacked crates. Some of them were starting to mold already. The stacks reached to the first ceiling and spread to the left and to the right until there were enveloped in the purple darkness.

 

It was a simple enough task to set a timer on a pair of thermal detonators and lob them amongst the crates. After that, all that was needed was to get away.

 

The Mantis took off into the darkness making his way upwards towards his point of entry.

________________________

 

Thirty minutes later the entire island was shoock by an earth-shattering explosion that toppled the interior lattice-frames grow beds and sent rock and dust tumbling downwards into the grow area. Plumes of stone and fire erupted from the side of the mountain. The waters shook and frothed at the intensity of the blast.

 

Somewhere in the chaos that ensued a single message flagged with the Jensaarai warrior’s unique coding passed by on encrypted comms upwards towards the stealther rebel craft that was monitoring the system: 

 

‘IT IS DONE’

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Steam and gas rolled and bellowed around the area as the three Deepguard Monitors strolled up on Mythos in his 'drunken stupor', the towering beast leaned over and regurgitating the alcohol he had consumed as their voices echoed across the landscape. Mythos had chose this place for a reason, his intent hidden behind false presentation. Civilians were minimal, if not non-existent in the area. Patrols were automations, non sentient and expendable. And the only thing local besides the mines were a nearby powergrid that powered most of the surrounding sectors. If this hit was successful, it would cascade. Now was the time to sober up.

 

"My, the mannerism programmed into you lot." Mythos spoke with heavy breathing as saliva drooled from his maw, metallic clawed gauntlets digging into the duracrete beneath his hands. Lunging his bipedal feet forward in a primal motion, Mythos connects with the first of the three droid's and sends the trio toppling over one another. "I think I've got it from here."

 

In the same fluid motion, as his feet return beneath him, Mythos kicks off the ground and toward the enemy, sparks of electricity igniting before him as the droid's programming kicks in an attempt to subdue the Shistavanen flicker in the darkness and off his unmasked visage. Quickly his grasp hinders one of the prods aimed from atop the pile of mechanical humanoids, struggle of beast and machine ensuing until Mythos manages to drive the prod into the circuitry board of the machine and it seizures, the two below glowing with personal shields. Mythos recoiled, his fangs snarling in response to the heat and radiation. They were more resilient than he had thought as chatter echoed about. He knew he didn't have long before backup would arrive.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

After Mythos departed, Grenn and Altos waited awhile before excusing themselves from the casino as well, their mission greenlit and ago. Whether or not the Colonel succeeded or not mattered little at this point and they headed straight for the starport for the rendezvous with the others. A small trek and a few back alleys and they arrived, Creole and his men geared and ready for Grenn and Altos.

 

"The Colonel?" Creole questioned as he threw a gun to each. Grenn gazed at Altos before chuckling. "He overdid it a bit, but you know the Wolfman. I'm sure he can drink us all under the table."

 

A stifled round of chuckling between the seven erupted as Grenn and Altos suited up in the enclosed storage facility. Once geared and ready, the seven departed, George carrying the Colonel's gear across his back. Just as they cleared the fence line and drew to the shadows, an eruption forced a brief halt in their movements. It seemed the invasion had begun. With that, Altos lingered out alone and accessed the local holonet through a local line and began slicing through the comms. A few moments and communications would be down.

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Mythos knew he had to avoid the shields directly and limit their prods connecting through his armor and fur as much as possible, limiting his actions to mostly defensive measures. He had knowledge of most droid's due to his past experiences, but these models were unknown, not even modified submodels. And this made his severely nervous. Combined with his being unarmed, and it seemed fruitless. At least, until an explosion a few kilometers away brought a moment of distraction, a distraction he could use.

 

Explosions were a common place on the battlefield, a reality of war. So much so that veterans like Mythos were rarely effected by them in the heat of combat. They had grew to expect and accept them, use them to their advantage, and react like they didn't exist. Especially if they were distant. Even in his past life as an Alliance Marshall, although not as common, did tend to occur. Add that part of his life to the part as a member of the Rebellion, and it accounted for two thirds of his life living through them. So when the droids inquisitive nature responded to the distant explosion, Mythos reacted.

 

Lunging forward on all fours, Mythos used his wide shoulders to plow through the shielded droids as the radioactive shields heated up his armor just briefly, melting the leathered hide and turning the durasteel a glowing orange. With the torch in one hand and the force of his momentum, Mythos collided with one of the loader droids. Placing the lit torch into the crate it carried as it began to topple, Mythos recoiled backwards just as the droid fell into the open mine, it's repulars unable to correct it's course.

 

Seconds later, the ground shook and flames erupted below as the gas ignited, Mythos hugging the ground as if it would fall away, the gas vents around them lighting up the darkened Industrial Sector as much as they did the remaining two Deepguard Monitors. Mythos did not wait a second longer than he had to and quickly got out of there as another explosion rocked the nearby powerplant and sent half the city into darkness. His part here was done and there was bigger fish to fry. Hopefully this was enough a distraction for the Rebellion forces to take the opportunity.

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Mantis:

The explosion that rocked the mountain sent up huge plumes of dust, smoke, toxic fumes, and electronic alerts. The facilities had deliberately kept security light, to keep from drawing the attention of insurgents, but now with the mountain's tunnels and caverns lit up with the fires of burning industrial equipment and narcotic fungi, the security of the remaining facilities began immediately calling for help.

 

Yet...for some reason, Coral City did not respond. The Central Command Tower made no reply.

 

Still, the facilities were not defenseless. A trio of Vulture droid starfighters lifted off from the beaches where they'd lurked beneath sheets of camo-netting, and lifting up more slowly behind them were a pair of Hyena droid bombers, armed with depth charges. An attack by underwater forces had always been considered the most likely method of attack on the facility. Their priority now was protecting the remainder of the facilities.

 

Bomb on sight.

 

The Vulture droid starfighters began scanning for unauthorized vessels...

 

 

 

Mythos:

Communications were down.

 

Power for almost 50% of the city was down.

 

Central Command Tower went silent. Not powered down, as it ran off its own generator, but cut off by the sudden loss of communication resulting from the rebel tampering.

 

Then the droids responded.

 

Deepguard Overseer models stopped in their tracks, range-boosting antennae extending from their backs, linking up with others until a loose network was formed. Painfully, agonizingly slowly, deluges of data were passed along, and each Overseer gained a rough idea of the severity of the attack they were under. Insurgency response protocols went into effect, and each Deepguard squad was given the same directive.

 

PRIORITY COMMAND: Restore/maintain order.

 

Patrol routes were changed, messages were sent, auxiliary units were activated. In a few places, the lights flickered back on as back-up power systems switched on. Others gained a dim glow as priority sectors were bled a portion of the city's remaining power, other sectors losing their now useless Holonet and a dozen other frivolities in exchange.

 

But even as the mechanical element performed damage control, the living element began its own reaction.

 

In the poorer neighborhoods, natives huddled together, wondering if perhaps the regime that had taken their planet was now coming to take their homes...or lives. It wasn't an unwarranted fear. Cutting power had been the first step for every other neighborhood evicted for "urban renewal."

 

The business districts and the more well off reacted as one might expect, with confusion and outrage. Already, units of Deepguard were being dispatched to clear the streets, by force if necessary.

 

The visitor districts, including the Pleasure Sector, were the sites of the most chaos. People who lived by few rules and fewer morals reacted with either paranoia or opportunism. Here and there, the bodies of criminal scum were found stuffed in washrooms and under tables as enterprising rivals took advantage of the confusion and loss of security surveillance to take out their competition.  The patrols that had been protecting the Pleasure Sector were suddenly called to move in and restore order. More than one drug lord, smuggler, and arms dealer found their way to the ground courtesy of a bronzium fist or electroshock prod.

 

Worse, the hidden workings of Apothos' mechu-deru began to reveal themselves.

 

In one sector, a grocery dispensary manager worked to rile up the locals into a frenzy and fight the oncoming Deepguard. Illegal blasters and homemade explosives began taking out Deepguard units in ones and twos. Their sudden rebellion came to a halt when a single, damaged Deepguard managed to stagger up to the ringleader's own grocery dispensary, and as it broadcast its detection of enemy combatants a gas line in the building inexplicably overloaded itself. The result explosion took out the ringleader and 8 other insurgents, along with the heart of the mob's fighting spirit.

 

In another, a thief carrying Mon Calamari art set to be auctioned to offworlders cursed and shrieked as his speeder bike inexplicably turned right uncontrollably, spinning the man into a building and destroying him along with the precious works of art. The Deepguard patrol he'd crossed had only just registered him as hostile before the incident happened.

 

The city was infected, and now the hidden malevolence of Apothos was playing out in scene after scene of bloody chaos.

 

________________________________

 

DG-OG13 was experiencing something new. Considering its operating life had only been 57 standard days so far, it shouldn't have been surprising that it would still be finding novelty not in its databanks, but it was sure this was a sensation few other Deepguard had experienced.

 

Rage.

 

Upgrading designation of [Shistavanian] to [Priority Target].

 

Commencing [Retrieval]. [Violence - Minor] permitted. [Violence - Major] permitted. [Violence - Lethal] permitted. Dispatching retrieval team.

 

________________________________

 

At the site of the now exploded mining shaft, the two remaining Monitors stood, orders bleeding in from the more intelligent DG-OG13.

 

"Commencing-" began the first.

"..." The second paused, as if waiting for their now disabled third member of the trio to finish the sentence. After a moment, it spoke. "...pursuit."

 

The two began loping off into the darkness, as OG13 attempted to estimate the fleeing wolfman's path of retreat. Other patrols were called off from restoring order in order to form the net the closed around the area OG13 thought the Shistavanian might have fled.

 

This insurgent had challenged OG13's control. Control was all the droid knew. It would not let him get away if it could help it.

 

_______________________________

 

Space: (General)

 

Up above, fighting the creeping edge of a headache, Captain Jorus opened his tired eyes at the sight of the Black Bracer and other Strands ships jumping to hyperspace. Contract was up...apparently. Jorus didn't have the clout or disposition to argue with the fanatics aboard the Black Bracer, so he simply let them go and rearranged what ships he had into a tighter security formation.

 

If he was lucky, nothing else would go wrong today.

 

Alarms blared.

 

....Kriff kriff kriff kriff kriff...

 

His foul-mouthed mantra played monotone in his head as forced his tired eyes to focus on the readout. What he saw woke him up immediately.

 

A few quick jabs at his screen, and he shouted into his comm, "What the spice-loving karking heck is going on down there!?"

 

Central Command Tower only returned static.

 

Jorus narrowed his eyes. Comms were down. Power was out. The Hakawa Islands had been attacked.

 

Any one of those would have been impressive for the local insurgents. But all three? Simultaneously?

 

"...Broadcasting to all units. Red Alert. Red Alert. All units enter military readiness. Now!" He switched channels. "Shipyards patrol, get on the line and get those Strands battleships back here immediately! I don't care what you have to promise them!"

 

Maybe this was nothing. Maybe the local protestors had finally gotten their act together.

 

But it didn't feel like that. And Jorus had survived on paranoia. He wasn't about to change now.

 

His screen beeped out an incoming transmission.

 

"Oh for the love of...I don't have time for-"

 

The computer suddenly skipped past the notification and connected.

 

"Captain Jorus."

 

The criminal turned commander froze, breath catching as the raspy voice crackled over the speakers.

 

Boss...

 

"What is happening in my city?"

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In close formation with Apothos’ ship, the Eternus dropped from hyper. The bridge was cold and empty save for one black-shroud being who stood at the helm. The temperature in the ship was just enough to preserve life, bearing back the eternal embrace of the emptiness of the cosmos. The phrase ‘like a meat locker’ was only apt in that it barely touched on how cold it was within. The edges of the crafts view panes were spiderwebbed with frost.

 

The dark lord shivered momentarily against the cold, a vestigial reminder of his still somewhat mortal body. He had departed Aaris III before his ritual had been completed. The man longed for nothing more than to continue his construction on his tombworld, a legacy to remembered across tome eternal; but with his power came responsibility. A responsibility to the more carnal ventures of the Sith Empire; and so he had returned with Apothos to his throne to obtain crafts of war upon which to carry the legions of his undead servants, to subjugate the galaxy and in that allow Inmortos time to cement his own legacy in stone, blood, and ice.

 

With slow deliberate movement, Inmortos surveilled the orb before him. Mon Cal, that perfect jewel, hung weightless against a backdrop of stars. The flaws of the world wrought by the weakness of Nok Morliss, a weakness now carved free of his flesh, glimmered like cracks on the world’s surface.

 

A dark presence emanated from the ship, connecting with the lingering sorcerous necromancy Inmortos had left in place upon this world. If it had been a test of his abilities, the stating power of the magics, even this far away, boasted of unseen success. The status of the bodies reclaimed from the deep was another matter entirely, one of which had yet to be seen.

 

Yet something was wrong, Inmortos could feel it, a chaos not of Sith machinations blended with the cries of recent and long ago rendered evils that echoed from the world. Surveying the cosmos, Inmortos pondered as to the location of Apothos vast fleets. Had the one he had unshackled been deceiving him all along?

 

With a determined depression, Inmortos keyed a comm directly to his comrade. His voice was a harsh grating whisper, cold and heavy, in a word, lifeless. “Apothos. Your world smells of chaos wrought not by our hands. Revolution unto a god is sacrilege. Punish them.” He lifted his finger from the comm before adding with a hiss, “Or I will.”

 

So much water. So many servants cast unto the deep and forgotten by their brothers in arms and loved ones. So much potential. This world was truly a gem to behold and with the proper urging could be transformed into an icy tomb of immortality; but first, it must be crushed.

 

The Eternus angled itself, not waiting for Apothos reaction and began a sharp descent towards the planet. Whatever was going on would be dealt with. Permanently. All the Sith Lord needed was a place to land. The shipyards were open and known to Inmortos to contain the prizes of his brother. They mattered little to him; however, the ships and knowledge contained within would be of great use in establishing Inmortos’ own contribution to the Sith war effort. Then at last, he might be left to his own devices, to eternity.

 

The Eternus landed softly in the midst of the yards, a flurry of armed deepguard noting the ship’s arrival and logging it as the dark lord’s. A token emissary stood to greet him as the clunk of his cane heralded his decent to the planet.  “Go.” he waived his hands at the droids, sending them off to their more oressing tasks of suppression.

 

With a grandiose wave of his hands, dark ripples of energy cascaded outwards from the Sith, swarming back unto the ship like a pack of ravenous howlrunners clawing atop one another until they surged within and awoke the slabs of undead stacked within the hold. Within minutes an entire squadron of diminutive lizardfolk armed with jagged evil spears and blades and clad in bulk plate and mail trudged forth. The life was gone from their eyes, replaced with a hunger; obedient, subservient, and deadly. The first of Inmortos undead servants from Aaris III to be blessed to be chosen by their god and carried forth unto the stars. At home, they had already become the stuff of legend.

 

Across the city, chaos seemed to reign in the moment, as even now the hordes of Apothos magicks brutally restored order to what should have been a lesser servant race.

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Fire and Blood.

 

The Force echoed with a chaotic cry, that of a pack of hunters close to their kill. The Sith would hear the warcry before any of their sensors picked up the hyperspace signals of the Crusader’s fleet. Above the world of Mon Calamari, the forces of Mandalore the Bloody were released from their bonds of hyperspace.

 

The first signatures that would be detected would be that of the massive Neo-Kandosii Battleships, the twin Xaakzaamheid and Nat’ah, followed swiftly by their escorting Fane-of-Swords Frigates and Jehavey'ir-class Assault Corvettes. These were veterens of the recent Battle of Fondor and of the Crusade that had pierced to the heart of the Core worlds, leaving devastation and grief in their wake. Their crews carried the warcries and standards of their god with them, Kad Ha'rangir.

 

A swarm of Bes'uliik Wardroids were the tip of the spear, and at their very head was their leader, Terra; Mandalore the Bloody. She sat astride her Bes'uliik, Hades, dressed in the beskar’gam befitting her rank, pure black, darkmetal plating with crimson symbols, painted by her warpriests in the blood of a sacrifice. Upon her helm was the shining bronzium circlet that showed her rank. Behind the blazing, crimson T-visor, were eyes of blood-stained silver, pupils dilated and reflecting the darkness of space like a wine-dark sea. A darkmetal smile twisted her youthful face behind its mask. 

 

Behind Terra, rode the handpicked honor-guard of Clan Blackmorne astride their Bes'uliiks, following in tight formation as their Mandalore dove into a spiral towards the ocean-world, eager to begin another battle on in their war of honor.

 

The Mandalorians had come to Mon Calamari, and there would be no dawn for the Sith.

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To the Death...

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In a storm of dark painted durasteel the Rebel fleet emerged from hyperspace over the once free bastion of Mon Calamari. Perhaps it was a desperate move, perhaps it was unnecessary, but the Rebel High command knew that they could not let tyranny exist unpunished within their own de jure territory. Mon Calamari cried out for justice.

 

Mandalorian star cruisers, their designs as ancient as their gods, emerged in halos of their drive exhaust. Mass drivers thundered like cannons of the old age and the feared Basilisk riders dove out from hangers, their ‘T’ visors reflecting little but the blue world below them and the burning ships of the Sith Empire. 

 

The elegant Hapan warbirds slipped from hyperspace beside the iron dreadnaughts, their rotary turbolasers already spinning. Their my’til interceptors flying in flank beside the Mandalorians. Next came the grey painted Tapanis, carrying the red and gold of the Principality of Outremer on their wings. The bulk cruisers showed their age, but their crews were strong. And beside them came the Corellians and Bothans. Then, at long last came the Misericordia. The Flagship of the Rebel Alliance. The Flagship of the old Imperial Remnant. A pocket dreadnought, larger than any Imperial II Star Destroyer of the last eon, the Destroyer thundered away with its great turbolasers, while wings of rebel alliance starfighters fanned out like wings on either side. 

 

The rebels had heard the call of the downtrodden. And they would answer.

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Pretender to the Galactic Throne

Leader of the Rebel Alliance

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