Return of the Rakghouls
It was a week since Ahsoka had returned to the Jedi Order. She had just been given command of the 398th legion after its leader, Bultar Swan and her second-in-command, Commander Voxx, had been killed on Nar Shaddaa trying to apprehend Cad Bane. Ahsoka had yet to find a suitable candidate as her own second-in-command. As if that wasn't enough, she and Anakin had just met with Commander Carver, the new Coruscant Guard Field Commander, who informed them that all high-value separatists at the detention center had escaped, including such people as Poggle the Lesser, Wat Tambor, Nuvo Vindi, Moralo Eval, and Darts D'Nar. Disturbingly the back wall of Carver's office had Poggle's wings nailed onto it. Carver mused that at least he had torn the wings off Poggle before he escaped. Thankfully, Rex came in saying there was an important message they had to see, and they were able to leave.
The three of them were in their speeder heading for the spaceport when Rex showed them the message.
It was from Echo, a friend that Ahsoka thought had died on a volcanic world called Lola Sayu.
"I survived the explosion on Lola Sayu but was unconscious for a month, General Skywalker," started the message. "The Seps held me captive until Captain Gregor broke me out of the prison ship when it was above Abafar. We then stole a ship and are now on Taris awaiting pickup. It will be great to return to the 501st, sir."
Ahsoka smiled at the message. "At least one good friend is still alive," she said to Anakin. "Taris sounds like a good destination for the Devastator's maiden voyage."
The Devastator was the new flagship for the fleet under Anakin and Ahsoka's command: a massive ship, the second of the Imperator-class Star Destroyers, a gift from the chancellor himself.
"General Skywalker, we are approaching Taris. We shall arrive within 5 minutes," said Admiral Yularen.
Yularen had recently recovered from his injuries at Sullust and was eager to get back in action. Taris was a city-wide planet but unlike Coruscant, it had surface oceans. The oceans themselves were polluted millennia earlier, killing off all aquatic life and kelp. As a result, the planet was entirely dependent on outside resources for survival. The planet had a very bad reputation for Humanocentricism, corruption, and organized crime. If criminals weren't simply executed, they and their descendants would be banished to the Undercity, with only cannibalistic Sithspawn as company. That all ended when Taris had been severely bombed by an especially psychotic Sith Lord almost four thousand years ago, killing almost it's entire populace and condemning the rest to a slow extinction by radiation poisoning. The planet had been recolonized nine hundred years before the Clone Wars and it was only in the last century that the city had been restored to its former glory. Four billion people now lived on the reclaimed planet, where once ten billion had resided. The planetary government had declared neutrality shortly after the First Battle of Geonosis and was now one of the only planets in this part of the Outer Rim that hadn't been the site of a battle, either on the surface or in the system itself.
When the ship emerged from hyperspace, the bridge received a transmission from the surface. It was Gregor and Echo. Gregor was in his Katarn battle armor and Echo was wearing a civilian space suit.
"Sir, we need evac now!" Gregor shouted into the comlink. "A bomb just exploded above us and it dispersed some sort of bioweapon. Everyone outside is mutating into some sort of monster. I sealed my suit and Echo grabbed the closest thing he had to it. We need to get out of here now!"
"Sir, I've just detected numerous detonations across the planet!" shouted the observation officer in one of the crew pits. "They seem to be releasing an unidentified pathogen."
"Sir, I'm detecting large numbers of unidentified life-forms on the surface and… this can't be right," said one of the sensor technicians. "They are appearing right where the identified ones are disappearing."
"Get the Tuskens Bane ready, I'm going down there," ordered Anakin. "Admiral scramble the fighters, shoot down any other ship trying to leave, no exceptions."
"Understood sir," answered Yularen. The Tuskens Bane was a prototype Lambda class shuttle. Anakin had acquired it after the Twilight was destroyed on Kalavela. Ahsoka and Rex followed Anakin to the shuttle in order to rescue their friends from whatever was down there.
When they arrived, the streets were in chaos, humans and near-humans were turning into grey skinned, eyeless monsters. Other alien races were being torn apart and eaten by packs of the mutants.
"Sir, I see a military distress flare on that building to the west," said Rex.
Anakin adjusted course for the flare and spotted Gregor and Echo on the roof of the skyscraper, shooting at monsters climbing up the side. Anakin extended the ramp, the force field preserving the shuttles atmosphere as the doors opened.
"Echo, I am going to use the force to pull you two aboard," she shouted into her comlink.
"Thank you, Commander!" Echo shouted back. He then turned to Gregor, saying something to the Commando and he too got ready. Ahsoka then pulled them both on board and shut the loading ramp immediately afterward.
In the cockpit, Anakin opened up a channel to the Devastator.
"Admiral Yularen, the planet is lost," he said to the Admiral. "Commence Base Delta Zero as soon as we are at minimum safe distance."
"Sir, are you sure you want to issue that order?" asked Yularen.
A Base Delta Zero was the most extreme variant of Orbital Bombardment and only used as a last resort. It referred to having a capital ship in orbit bomb the entire surface of the planet until everything was dead.
"Yes, Admiral, commence Base Delta Zero immediately, leave nothing alive," Anakin commanded.
"Understood sir," said the Admiral, realizing the depths of the situation.
The Devastator opened fire on the planet, once again reducing the great city to rubble and ash. Any ships that tried to leave the planet were destroyed by the starfighters, led by the Tuskens Bane. No one onboard the shuttle was happy about it but they knew the virus couldn't be allowed to spread.
Several hours later, the turbolasers of the Star Destroyer stopped firing. After docking the shuttle, Anakin walked to the bridge.
"Sir, I have completed the scan," reported the chief gunnery officer. "The entire city is in ruins, firestorms rage across the planet, and no ships have escaped. Unfortunately, the pathogen is still in the atmosphere, so we cannot land on the planet." Then, Lieutenant Appo walked up to Anakin.
"Sir, we have finished analyzing the debris of an ore hauler we destroyed," the Lieutenant reported. "It is registered to the Dashitt Mining Colony on Shola. The navicomputer shows that it was supposed to take a course that wouldn't take the ship anywhere near Taris."
Shola was a volcanic planet even more uninhabitable than Mustafar. The mining facility was the only area where life was possible. The Colony had declared neutrality at the onset of the war. This coupled its lack of tactical and strategic insignificance had left it unaffected by the war. But the planet was five sectors away from Taris, which according to business databanks, did not have any business relations with the colony. It was doubtful that the mining transport was here by coincidence.
"Sir, we have received a transmission from Coruscant," said the communications officer from the crew pit. "The Jedi Council is ordering us back to Coruscant for debriefing."
Anakin turned, knowing he would have to placate the council but not willing to let the lead go unanswered.
"There is a Neimoidian shuttle in the hanger," he told Ahsoka. "It will get you to Shola so you can investigate the facility. Take Echo and Gregor with you and see what you can find at the mining colony. Do not engage the enemy, if you find anything, contact us and we will arrive as soon as possible."
"You're no fun anymore, Skyguy," Ahsoka teased, heading to the hanger bay immediately afterward.
The Neimoidian shuttle was neither fast nor durable, and its weapons were limited to anti-personnel use, so it wasn't the sort of vehicle Ahsoka would have preferred. But if Shola was under Separatist control, the Sheathipede-class shuttle would fool the people down on the planet, hopefully. They had just breached the atmosphere and were approaching the facility itself.
"We're there," Ahsoka announced to the others.
The Dashitt Mining Colony was a giant repulsorlift platform not unlike the famed Cloud City of Bespin. Unlike Cloud City, however, this platform mined lava instead of gas and was constantly covered with ray shields to stop debris from striking it. Suddenly, a ship came out from behind them and struck their stabilizers.
"Hang on everyone!" shouted Ahsoka.
The ray shields didn't stop the shuttle from flying through and crashing into the side of the platform. Ahsoka then blasted the windshield off the cockpit and jumped through it along with her two companions just before the enemy ship fired a missile. The Jedi and the pair of clones backing her up barely made it out of the room and into the hallway before the explosion.
"I told Gregor there's never a dull moment with you, General," said Echo.
"So, you have made it to Knighthood in the time since we last saw each other," said a voice on the intercom that sounded familiar. "Of course, unlike Naboo, you won't stop me this time."
"I figured this was something you were behind, Vindi, though I thought you liked the Blue Shadow Virus, not the Rakghoul Disease," replied Ahsoka.
Nuvo Vindi was a Faust scientist who, early in Ahsoka's apprenticeship, had recreated the Blue Shadow Virus as a biological weapon and tried to infect Naboo with it, until she and Anakin had stopped him. Like the other high-value prisoners the Republic had in custody, he had been freed through unknown means by his Separatist allies.
"The Blue Shadow Virus was not as beautiful as the Rakghoul Plague," Vindi proclaimed. "Rakghouls are the ultimate evolution of sentients, so I blessed the plague's ancestral homeworld, Taris, with its return. Of course, first I had to see that it worked and the miners here were excellent lab rats". Then the door at the end of the hall opened, revealing dozens of Rakghouls behind it, with only a force-field separating them from the hallway. "Skywalker and Kenobi aren't going to save you this time, so you and your friends will experience the joy of mutation. It only takes one bite."
"Don't be so sure, after our last meeting, me and Anakin started learning force heal so we wouldn't be so vulnerable, sure I'm not as good as Barriss or Luminara, but I know enough to cleanse myself and my friends of any poisons or pathogens we might get infected with," Ahsoka retorted.
"Then you will be food for them!" shouted Vindi as the shield deactivated.
The Rakghouls rushed in, stampeding towards Ahsoka and her friends. Gregor switched to his Grenade Launcher attachment on his rifle and fired, killing twelve Rakghouls with the explosion and creating a hole in the floor that separated them from the Sithspawn. Ten Rakghouls fell down the hole into the lava below before the rest stopped.
"How dare you murder my children!?" Vindi screamed. "You may think you're so clever with your little trick but you will pay for what you've done!"
"Nice to see you haven't changed, Doc, you still care more about diseases than people, I see," snarked Ahsoka. She then opened a door and started down it along with the two clones, cutting five Rakghouls apart shortly after entering the hallway.
The facility had numerous things cluttered about the floor, including numerous bones that had obviously been gnawed-on, and shredded clothes. There were also numerous bloodstains on the walls. The Rakghouls had certainly left their mark on this colony. They then entered a room and spotted a pair of Rakghouls, chewing on something. The monsters then noticed and rushed at them. Ahsoka drew both of her lightsabers and swiftly beheaded both monsters.
"Sir, look what I found," said Echo, holding up a Neimoidian Miter.
That was strange, there wasn't any Trade Federation investment in this facility, and if he was with Vindi, why was he dead?
"I see you have found Mr. Canay," said Vindi over the intercom.
Ahsoka scowled, Sib Canay was a Trade Federation member who tried to blackmail the planet Pantora into joining the Separatists by blockading the planet for supposed trade violations. In addition to financial extortion, he kidnapped the daughters of the Chairman of the planet's parliament as another method of blackmail. Ahsoka had, with the help of her friend Senator Chuichi, rescued one daughter held on Canay's flagship while Chairman Papanoida and his son rescued the other one from the thugs hired to kidnap them on Tatooine. The only reason Ahsoka didn't kill the Neimoidian then was because it would have caused a diplomatic incident. Canay's superiors, predictably claimed ignorance and laid the blame entirely at his feet before calling off the blockade.
"Canay was desperate to show he was still useful to Confederacy," Vindi said over the intercom. "He thought financing my research and development of the Virus would get him into Dooku's good graces. But I only aligned with the Separatists to get funding for my research. After he had outlived his usefulness, I decided to put him in the facility and watch him get chased down and feasted upon by my children. It was most enjoyable watching him squirm, then get ripped apart and finally eaten."
Ahsoka cringed, she didn't like Canay and the galaxy was better off without him in it but she didn't believe he deserved to be fed to a pack of mutant cannibals.
"You have made a grave mistake, Vindi," Ahsoka snarled. "I was planning on taking you back to Coruscant so you could be tried for what you have done. The last time we arrested you, you escaped to successfully murder two entire planets. Even if we imprisoned you again, you would undoubtedly find a way to continue hurting others from behind your cell."
Ever since she was framed, she came to hate people who betrayed their associates. She didn't like Canay, but Vindi's betrayal of him elicited her sympathy.
Ahsoka and her friends were halfway to the control center when they saw a massive figure down the hall, completely encased in armor. Several dead Rakghouls lay crumpled at his feet, one of which had its head crushed beneath his boot, while another was still squirming in his grip as he held it with outstretched hand. He violently tightened his grip, making the creature's head explode into green goo and bone fragments. He then looked in their direction.
"I was hoping you had survived," he boomed. "Taking care of Vindi and retrieving his virus is a task beneath me. I was hoping to kill some more Jedi and clones but I was never expecting to run into ones that belonged to Skywalker. In case you don't know me, I am Durge."
Ahsoka bristled, Anakin had told her stories of the Separatist enforcer. Durge was a Gen'Dai, a rare race of invertebrates who had tremendously powerful regenerative capabilities who could live for millennia and wore suits of armor to give their bodies shape. Due to a tendency for their brain matter to degenerate, the peaceful, isolationist species often suffered from psychosis as they aged. Durge, however, had always been a violent murderer without a conscience. He served various Sith factions during the New Sith Wars, fighting against Jedi and Mandalorians during the thousand year period, killing many. After surviving the defeat of the Brotherhood of Darkness at Ruusan, Durge continued his private war against the Jedi and Mandalorians. He was apparently killed on Ord Mantell by Quantro, Yoda's predecessor as Grand Master of the Jedi Order, who died shortly afterward from his own injuries. It was later revealed that Durge had gone into hibernation to repair his extensive injuries. After the First Battle of Geonosis, Durge had immediately joined the Separatists for a chance to once again kill Jedi, and he was just as happy to kill Clone Troopers, who he regarded as Mandalorians on account of their template. He had a particular animosity against Anakin, who had defeated him with his own electrified bola on Jabiim. He had supposedly been killed during a dogfight at Felucia shortly before she had been assigned to Anakin. It was clear that he had survived and spent the time in another hibernative state recovering from his injuries. He then charged, blades emerging from his gauntlets.
Ahsoka and her friends started running away, firing their blasters at Durge in an effort to slow him down. They jumped through a doorway and Ahsoka used the Force to activate the forcefield, trapping him behind it. His right arm was halfway through when it activated, severing his hand. Durge's hand then started regenerating into talon-like fingers as he growled. They rushed down the hall and into an intersection, one sign pointed towards the landing pads, the other to the control room.
"Durge got here somehow and since our ship is wrecked, it looks like we'll have to use his," concluded Ahsoka. "Go to the landing pad and get the ship ready. I will deal with Vindi."
"On it, Ma'am," replied Gregor.
The pair of clones headed for the landing pad as Ahsoka went to find Vindi.
"So, you're here at last," snarled Vindi. "It's been far too long since we last saw each other, Jedi. You won't stop me this time. I am about to transcend mortality."
His body started twisting and growing. He sprouted spikes on his forehead and he grew to six and a half feet in height. The newly-formed Rakghoul then lunged at Ahsoka. She dodged his attack and he crashed into the repulsorlift controls. The monster charged at her again but this time she was ready and cut the former Faust in half down the middle.
"Primary repulsorlift projectors failing," announced the facility's central computer. "Collision with surface imminent. All personnel evacuate immediately."
It was obviously time to get out of there.
Ahsoka had reached the roof and was heading for the landing pad when Durge cut her off.
"I might have failed in my mission but Lord Tyrannus will be pleased when I return you to Skywalker in pieces" said the Sith enforcer.
He then fired ignited his flamethrower. Ahsoka dodged the blast, and then tossed a crate at him using the force. The crate smashed into him, shattering his helmet. He then charged at her. Ahsoka's lightsaber was stuck in his chest and he slammed her against the wall with his reforming hand. She jumped out of the way and recalled her lightsaber. She swiped at his left arm but he activated a small shield on it, blocking her attack. He proceeded to toss an electrified bola at her but she was able to cut through it. It was, however, enough to distract her for him to charge and knock her off her feet. He then picked her up in a chokehold, bringing her face to face with his brutish visage and chuckled "I will enjoy this." Just then, the structure started collapsing into the lava, momentarily distracting the Gen'Dai. Ahsoka used the force to call a cable attached to a shipping container, hooked it to Durge's belt and uppercut him, escaping from his grip. Thankfully, Gregor and Echo had started up Durge's gunship and extended the ramp for Ahsoka to jump onto. Ignoring the pain in her wrist, she made it to the ramp but Durge used extended his arm to grab onto her leg. Ahsoka called her lightsaber back into her hand and cut off Durge's fingers, freeing herself and dropping Durge into the lava. The Ancient Sith-follower screamed as his body was burned away, letting the lava into his mouth. Durge had finally been killed, his body burned into nothing, avenging countless Jedi and so many others who had been killed by the Gen'Dai assassin. The Republic team then left the planet in their new ship and set their course for Coruscant.
I wanted to make Durge more dangerous than before, I hope that I succeeded. Also, unlike every Resident Evil villain, Vindi found that injecting himself with the same virus he used on everyone else would not make him some overpowered monster that keeps mutating whenever it sustains critical injuries.