My feet slap against the metal grating underneath me, its smooth surface filled with an uncomfortable heat, suspended as it is above the lake of magma far below. One of my clawed hands is still in front of my face, two digit extended in a pose of concentration, while behind me trail my five lightsabres, two a stark blue, two a blazing green and the fifth one sitting somewhere in between, having an aquamarine sheen to it.
But beyond the heat, I feel a rumbling in the grated floor and the strong humming sound of my weapons is drowned out by snarls and growls as the horde of mutated Gamorreans hurdle towards me, trampling medical equipment and scientific experiments heedlessly underneath their thick legs. Yet they are not the only danger and I swerve sharply to the left as a screaming blasterbolt cuts inches in front of my face.
The group of mercenaries is laying down a hail of suppressive fire from up on their ramparts, shooting with heedless abandon and hateful jeers, apparently not to concerned with hitting the horde of pig-men below. Not surprising, considering said pig-men had torn one of their friends limb from limb mere minutes ago.
Camaraderie is usually not something a Sith's forces are known for.
Two of my lightsabers flow up and to my side and begin spinning rapidly, until they resemble to disks of glowing plasma, their circumference wide enough that my entire (admittedly diminutive) body is shielded from the hail of bolts coming from above.
There is a stagger in their constant firing rate when Maya unleashes with her own hand cannon, her shots far more measured and precise. She may have styled herself as a pilot after leaving her adopted Clan, but she had been raised a Mandalorian and skills like that have a hard time fading away. Her aim was steady and accurate: three shots rang out heavily, the dull thump of her heavy blaster easily distinguishable from the screaming whines of the mercenaries' standard rifles. Three impacts, barely audible, immediately follow as some of Plageuis' men sag in on themselves, smoke rising from their newly made corpses and the rain of fire focused on me lessens in intensity as more than a few of them swing their weapons around and begin firing on my Cathar friend instead.
From the very periphery of my vision, I can just catch her diving behind a medical slab as blaster fire shoots down overhead, but then I have my own fight to worry about.
Despite the multitude of glowing plasma beams surrounding me, the Gamorrean horde doesn't even slow down its charge in the slightest, the few in front practically leaping towards me with outstretched hands, their pasty white flesh stretched taught as their black nails glint dangerously in the reddish glow illuminating this dark cavern.
I spring forwards in a combat roll, ducking underneath the grasping arms of the boar at the front of the group, my lightsabers following close behind. As I move between the enormous pig-man's thick legs (just barely managing to block out the smell as I did) my two lowest blades make twin sweeping cuts at my sides, biting deep into his knees, leaving charred flesh in their wake. A painful shriek harms my ears, but following the flow of the Force, muted as it is by the cloying miasma of Dark Side energy lingering here, I keep moving.
There is no hesitation or falter in my step as the boar crashes to the grating behind me. Instead, I immediately jump back into a backwards flip, thus avoiding an overhead strike of another Gamorrean, allowing it to crash into the metal platform with such force, the steel itself bends under the impact.
But it leaves the pig wide open and still gracefully following every motion of my body, my lightsabers coming up in sweeping arcs, scoring five glowing lines across the boars front, nearly taking off both his arms and bifurcating his squat snout.
My evasive jump then smoothly transitions into yet another combat roll as I move across the Gamorrean whose knees I had cut, using his shoulders as a platform to speed away with a corkscrew jump. As if on strings, my five lightsabers follow my every move, coming up and fanning out in a beautiful, deadly flower of pure death, each one slamming straight through the pig's massively muscled neck.
As my clawed feet slam back down onto the grating again, so too does the boar's head. As I brace myself, my lightsabers move back into position behind me, fanning out akin to the plumaged tail of the Starbird after which I had named my unconventional style. Standing solidly again, I slip into a stance, feet spread wide and my arms raised in position.
My left hand is lifted high and splayed open, showcasing my pronounced clawed fingers. Right above the wrinkled palm is the hilt of one of my lightsabers, spinning madly under my fine-tuned command of the Force, the blade become a disk of pure plasma, deflecting another half a dozen blaster bolts in the space of a few seconds.
With my 'shield' up, I do not pay the mercenaries up upon the ramparts any mind though, trusting Maya to deal with them. Instead, my whole focus is on the Gamorreans whose vanguard I had just driven back, if only for a moment. Yet the death of two of their comrades in the span off less than five seconds doesn't seem to deter the other transformed Gamorreans, who shoulder their dead kin out of the way with careless rage, brutally trampling their brethren underfoot.
Seeing the mass of mutated flesh and distilled rage barrelling towards me, my free hand shoots forwards in a shoving motion, the Force welling up around me and following my command. The idea is that, given how they've shown an utter disinterest in anything other than demolishing their prey and reacting to conflict, I can bowl down their frontline, have the others crash into them, and cause a pile-up large enough, inter-Gamorrean violence is bound to occur.
A flawless plan, given the heat of the moment: simple and effective. A flawless plan indeed, right up until the moment it doesn't work, of course.
I am fairly skilled in telekinesis, my powers in that regard significantly above that of the average Jedi, though I'm not on the level of some feats displayed in Legend. Still, that simple shoving motion should have sent even the heaviest, most mutated Gamorrean boar flying straight off his feet. Instead, the first four or so in the horde jerk back slightly, a shudder in their barrel-like torso and a brief falter in their rushing gait the only evidence to my Force move.
Despite my centuries' worth of experience, I cannot help but be taken off guard when the horde displays such a blatant level of Force-immunity, a rare trait in this Galaxy to be sure. Combined with the small space of our battlefield and the impressive speed the mutated pig-men managed to build up, it means that single second of hesitation almost proves to be disastrous.
The boar in front, who should have taken the brunt of my Force attack yet without a (new) scratch upon him, takes advantage of my obvious surprise to leap forwards, his drooling maw gaping wide, showing off his gleaming twisted tusks, going straight for my outstretched arm.
He'd have no doubt bitten it clean off… if I hadn't twisted my hand, one of my free lightsabers hadn't suddenly shot off, before speeding straight into my awaiting palm. The moment smooth, comforting metal met my rough skin, my grip tightened and I thumbed the activation button-
-sending a blade of pure light straight down the Gamorrean's throat and out the back of his head.
'Well, even if the Force is out, superheated plasma still seems to do the trick', I thought dryly to myself, before turning on my heel and taking off, trying to circle the still charging horde of Gamorreans.
Now that it was clear I wouldn't be able to affect their movements directly and create some breathing room for myself, my only hope at not becoming their lunch was to remain as mobile as possible.
I ducked underneath medical slabs, jumped over haphazard wiring and tubing and vaulted over charging or leaping Gamorreans, my five blades following behind me as if they were leaves caught in my slip stream. Every move, every gesture, was immediately followed by one or more lightsabers immediately leaping to my command and any Gamorrean that reached too close would soon find their reaching arms short a few stubby fingers. A slide made across blood-slicked grating made sure to trail my lightsabers in such a way they swiftly bit into knees and shins and calves. A Gamorrean who tried to claps me in a deadly bear hug from behind was blasted back as my lightsabers shut off, positioned themselves at the small of my back, and suddenly ignited, moving like an exploding star.
Every stumble, every move, every jump and every gesture corresponded to one of my five blades moving in a smooth dance around me and its brethren, following the whispers and will of the Force, seemingly positioned at all times in the perfect spot to deflect a blaster bolt or take off a limb (not that the latter seemed to really dissuade my crazed attackers).
Between my speed, agility and the multitude of lightsabers, I must have resembled something of a demented, plasma-based blender gone wild.
There was purpose to my movements (other than avoiding being turned into a flattened pancake of course) as I kept out a keen eye on my surroundings. As I did, I quickly took in the situation of my comrades. Maya was still hunkered down, behind an overturned desk this time, a hail of blaster fire slamming into her cover. Thankfully, it didn't seem that she had been injured beyond some scorch marks skirting a few of her armour-plates. It was no Beskar, but it seemed to have done its job at least, though it probably couldn't take much more abuse.
Still, the Cathar had given as good as she'd got, half a dozen more mercenaries now slumped down on the ramparts above with smoking holes in their bodies.
By contrast, Dagg's fight with Jokh was going far worse.
The large Houk had already been in poor condition, having clearly been tortured during his imprisonment, and he had no armour. Meanwhile Jokh was still fresh, armoured in crude but thick plating and managed to tower even over the Houk, a feat usually reserved for only the largest of humanoids like Wookiees or the whale-like Herglic.
As a result, the fight was going badly. Every blow from Dagg barely seemed to phase the enormous Jokh, yet a single retaliating punch from the laughing madman would send the Houk flying. By now, the unfortunate ex-prisoner was positively covered in weeping cuts and massive bruises, though to his credit he still worked himself up to his feet every time. I had my doubts how long he could keep that up though. If not for Dagg's wild swings with his large axe forcing Jokh back and the fact that the immense man was clearly toying with the desperate Houk, it all would have ended a lot sooner and rather grisly for my ally.
I would have liked to jump to his aid, but I had my own adversaries to contend with, such as the two pig-men that now charged at me from both sides with a mad rage in their beady little eyes. Boxed in as I was, with a large vat filled with a… something to my back and the rest of the mutated horde in front of me, I took the only available avenue left to me: I jumped up.
I had timed it exactly right, thanks to listening to the Force in order so that I cleared the two leaping boars at the very last possible second. Between their madness and their momentum, they had no hope of stopping in time and the two massive Gamorreans slammed into each other with a sickening crunch, goring each other on their twisted tusks.
The brutal display was topped off my me coming back down again, landing on their tangled form with a clawed foot on each head, two of my lightsabers following my descent and shooting past me, burying themselves deeply in the nape of their thick necks, immediately and finally putting them out of their misery by snipping their spinal cords.
The two Gamorreans underneath me slumped to the floor as my lightsabers swung up to their resting position behind and above me as I stared down the approaching horde of Sith spawn. Given how Plageuis had granted them a significant resistance to Force powers (derived from his experimentation with Yaddle, no doubt) I couldn't simply create an opening for myself in the charging crowd. I'd need to stay on my toes and find another way around (or through) them.
I lowered in my stance as the distance rapidly shrunk, prepared to leap off and start cutting down the horde at the knees like spinning top made of superheated light when Maya suddenly called out.
I glance up at the ramparts, haven almost forgotten about the mercenaries entirely given the hectic game of life-or-death tag I had been forced to play with the mutated Gamorreans. One of mercenaries indeed has a large, roughly-shaped tube of metal on his shoulder, looking through a flimsiplast targeting screen down below towards Maya's cover, which was already beginning to look the worse for wear thanks to the continuous fire rate of the other hirelings. Two others are huddled behind the mercenary in the front, in the process of taking more ammo for the rocket launcher out of a heavy casing.
A single glance up from the mercenaries on their ramparts to the charging Gamorreans shows that I'm running out of time and out of options.
"Maya! Grapple me!"
And with that, my lightsabers deactivate, the five handles slipping in my left hand, barely fitting between my rough claws. At the same time, I raise my free hand, my focus now no longer taken up by keeping up my Form VIII (which could turn me into Tapani salsa within the blink of an eye if I wasn't extremely careful) and directed instead fully towards the bazooka wielding mercenary high above me.
His fingers pushed down, depressing the button worked crudely into the side of the large tubing, sending off a spark of electricity and information towards the firing mechanism, which unheeding of its terrible purpose, fulfilled its task as the payload inside the elongated barrel began to accelerate at a maddening pace…
Yet before it could reach the end of the barrel, my telekinesis finally took hold of the man's weapon, pulling the barrel away from Maya and towards myself. The sudden twist combined with the kickback of the weapon's discharge meant the mercenary was blasted straight off his feet, stumbling down next to his comrades.
The rocket sped towards me, trailing a path of smoke as it screamed through the air, on a direct collision course with me, and thus the remainder of the mutated Gamorrean horde, still close to two dozen strong even after my pitched battle with them, many of them sporting glowing cuts along their thick bodies or missing fingers, tusks or even entire limbs. The missile crossed the subterranean cavern with speed and ease as I stared up at it in defiance, not even bothering to give the nearing pig-men so much as a glance, even now that they had charged close enough, I could feel the heat (and smell the stench) of their breaths.
My faith was rewarded when, during this chaos, my large ears caught a faint, metallic 'thwip!' sound and a grappling hook shot into view, just barely missing my torso. Without hesitation or wasted movement, my clawed hands grab a firm hold of the intertwined steel cords making up the cable as Maya presses the rewind button on her spool immediately after firing her grapple gun. The large hook shoots back towards her at immense speeds, carrying me along for the ride.
Which is a rather bumpy one considering I bodily smack into some of the surprised Gamorreans as I desperately cling on for dear life, getting thrown around as the hook shot rewinds.
Then the 'ride' is interrupted completely as an explosion rings out behind me, the heat and pressure slamming into my small back and lifting me up as if I was a mere kite caught in a storm. Fire and death whirl around the cave in the wake of the missile impact and the entire platform shakes on its foundations, letting out a tortured groan of distressed metal that rings out ominously through the volcanic cavern.
I can't really pay a mind to it all, the momentum of the explosion sending me crashing hard into the unforgiving grating. Between getting caught in the edge of the explosion and having the air slammed out of my lungs by a sudden, but intimate meeting with the floor, I'm completely out of it, barely capable of pushing myself up on trembling arms as I gasp for breath.
My ears are shaking and my vision is blurry and swimming, but thankfully, it seems the massive explosion caught everyone off guard as there is a brief lull in all the fighting. Well, sort of, I consider as I look at the towering Jokh. Dagg is leaning heavily against a nearby medical table, breathing just as heavily as I am yet looking far worse, pretty much covered in a thin sheen of his own blood. Jokh certainly is showing the signs of battle as well, his armour missing several plates while others show deep indents and cuts, signs of where Dagg managed to strike true with his pilfered axe. More significantly though is that the explosion seems to have shattered one of the large vat close to him as the entire left side of his body is impaled with a multitude of thick glass shards.
He seems worryingly unbothered by it.
Thankfully, the Gamorrean horde, while certainly unusually durable and completely impervious to pain in their berserker state, didn't seem to share their boss' penchant for seeming immortality.
About two dozen boars had been left after our deadly game of tag and all off them had descended upon me in a tight wave of sheer, alchemically enhanced rage. Which meant that the missile had impacted square in the middle of their group, catching them all in the explosion.
The nearest ones were gone, reduced to atoms. Those further away from the epicentre of the blast were horrifically maimed and covered in severe burns. The parts of them that remained, that is. Those on the outer edge of the explosion had been thrown to the ground like me, but most of them had been facing towards the expanding blast and many of them were screaming in pain as they clutched bleeding noses and throats, ringing ears and molten eyes.
The least affected from the explosion had been the remaining mercenaries, though they too had been taken off guard by the explosion and shaken by the blast. Even so, the one with the bazooka was already working himself back to his feet with a grimace of pain, briefly clutching some torn muscles or broken ribs from his sudden tumble.
Of more concern were his buddies, several of them already menacingly (if somewhat shakily) bracing their rifles against the railing, prepared to open fire upon my prone form. I would have dodged, or preferably gone on a counter-attack of some kind, but the explosion meant I was still rattled.
Besides, keeping up Form VIII is very Force reliant and requires a deep mental focus and great physical exertion. As a result, it is very draining, especially in my old age. 300 years ago, I would have absolutely wiped the floor with every adversary here, but I was beginning to feel the limitations of my body, even with the Force as my ally.
I manage to sit up, calling one lightsaber to my free hand from the small collection still desperately clutched in my left as I feel the Force flow back into my limbs, giving me energy and granting them strength. Yet, even as I straighten, I can see that the mercenaries have locked onto my prone form with angry snarls and grim smiles.
It's too late.
They press their triggers, the muzzles of their rifles light up in an angry reddish glow and beams of death streak towards me-
-until I hear a mighty roar, as if there was a Vorn Tiger at my back and Maya charges towards me, carrying one of the metal slabs on her shoulder as a shield. She takes a great leap, slamming the mass of metal down onto the grating in front of us, erecting a make-shift barricade just in time for the blasterfire to impact it in a rapid slamming of energy.
Maya stumbles underneath the onslaught, before regaining her footing with a bestial snarl as she braces herself against the upturned table, keeping it in place and shielding us from the mercenaries' fire hail. For now, at least.
We're both panting heavily as we lock gazes, the same thought shooting simultaneously through both our minds.
This table won't stand much of a chance if they launch another rocket at us.
"Hold this, for just a little longer." I say with some difficulty as I crouch low, closing my eyes as I try to listen to the Force.
I lift a claw on my right hand and two more lightsaber hover up from the group clutched tightly in my left, none of the blades extended for now.
"Not like I was planning not to, ba'buir." The Cathar pilot snarks back at me, clearly struggling for breath as her arms are trembling, but even as she complains she angles her body so that her shoulder is planted more firmly against the slab of metal, clearly intending to hold it up for as long as I need to get us out of here.
Or until we get blown to smithereens.
Whichever one comes first I suppose.
I ignore her, but then again, I'm ignoring everything. One by one, all sensations are driven out, smell, hearing, touch. Every kind of input demanding for attention, for a bit of my focus, gets ignored. Instead, all of my being instead reaches out to the Force. Even here, in this dark pit filled with a Dark Side miasma clinging to every surface, the Force is there, for it is everywhere.
A cooling, ever-present presence. I can feel it flowing up to the very edge of my being, pool within the very essence of what and who I am. It wraps around me like a blanket, tendrils of something far greater than any one being, now here and with me. An ally. A friend. My eyes and ears.
There's a welling feeling of anticipation, a building pressure and my thumb-claw slowly shifts above the activation switch of my lightsaber. Wait for it…. Wait for it…. Just… wait…
In a single smooth motion, I rise to my full height as I make a commanding gesture with my left arm, the two lightsabers that had been hovering at my sides suddenly speeding away in wide twin arcs. Their blades ignite, the two weapons turning into spinning disks of plasma as they curve outwards from our huddled position. Despite the fact that my vision is obscured, their aim is unerring and both blades strike true, for while I am blind, the Force sees all.
The right blade cuts through several thick support beams, severely weakened and twisted in places from the force of the earlier explosion. The entire structure shudders as beams collapse under their own weight along the glowing cuts my blade had made. The left blade arcs upwards and cuts through several thinner support structures at exactly the right time that the entire rafter shudders and shakes. Most importantly, it cuts through several key connections holding up the platform that the mercenaries are perched upon, making the entire thing suddenly twist and lilt to one side as gravity asserts its hold over it.
The mix of hardened humans and aliens cry out in surprise as their footing is suddenly destabilized and in the midst of all this frenzy, I take a simple step to the right outside of cover (ignoring Maya's horrified "Ba'buir! The fuck are you doing?!"), my right arm extending behind me, still holding the third lightsaber.
Only now do my eyes open, instantly zeroing in on my true target, and as if it were a throwing knife, my arm whips forwards, the smooth hilt of the lightsaber seamlessly leaving my reaching claws. It shoots forwards with far greater force than my small body should have been capable of creating, it's path narrow, straight and true.
I can see the rocket launcher wielding mercenary's expression, see his face shift in horror, his eyes widen in shock as he tracks the blade of plasma. It cuts through the air and the errant bolts of blaster fire with ease, flows past the mercenaries in its way and impales its target: the heavy casings with ammo for the rocket launcher that his buddies had been in the process of emptying.
The blade meets the thick metal plating and sinks through with ease, the plasma contacting the dangerous payload inside.
"Oh… fu-" is all the lead mercenary manages to get out, before the entire side of the cavern is engulfed in flame and pressure and sheer heat. The explosion this time is loud enough I briefly go back and once the thick cotton-like feeling in my ears finally fades away there's an annoying, persistent high-pitched tone that remains.
I had quickly ducked back behind Maya's make-shift cover, helping her brace against the wave of pressure that slams into us. Despite making the heavy desk take the most of the immense impact, to the point its metal begins to warm up to uncomfortable levels, the sheer pressure-shift is enough to register as a thrum in both our lungs and we need a few seconds before the world feels like it makes sense again and we're not just made out of vibrating body parts.
We both walk away from the overturned desk, which somewhat ironically remains standing upright on its own power now, apparently having fused solid to the grating underneath thanks to the heat that had washed over it.
"Where's Dagg?" I ask Maya, desperately looking around for our ally, before spotted him on the furthest side of the platform, away from the explosion but dangerously near toward the edge hung precariously above the lake of magma far below. It seemed that the two behemoths had barely paused in their slugfest even with the base seemingly going up in flames, though thankfully the fight finally seemed to swing in the battered Houk's favor.
Dagg managed to take advantage of Jokh's distraction by slamming his immense axe straight in the gargantuan man's stomach as the villain looked towards the explosion that had claimed the remainder of his men. However, the mysterious base commander showed there was truth to the whispered legends that were told about his supposed immortality as he merely glanced down at the horrific wound in his gut with a deep, maddened laugh.
Before all of our disbelieving eyes, he grasped the axe head and tore it from his ruined flesh. Holding it in place, contesting Dagg's strength and desperate grip with a chilling ease, his free arm came up, before his fist larger than my head slammed down in a blur, striking the handle of the axe and snapping it clean in two.
"Well, look at that. That would've killed me, ha! Good effort!" the man laughed loudly, letting the ruined remains of Dagg's weapon fall carelessly to the floor, before cracking his knuckles.
His grin was almost visible through his beskar helmet.
"But not good enough." He continues in a low, gleeful whisper, one thick arm coming around in a blindingly fast backswing, catching Dagg fully in the cheek and sending the Houk to the floor, the sound of bone breaking audible throughout the cavern.
"Go! Go help him!" I shout to my Cathar friend as I spot another pressing concern: apparently even an explosion going off right in their face wasn't enough to dissuade the surviving pig-men from continuing the fight.
Maya nods and then we're both off, she to help our ally and me to finish off the remaining Gamorreans who have worked through their pain and confusing and are already pushing themselves back to their feet again, even when any other being would have collapsed into a coma from the sheer trauma.
Then again, these are Sith-spawn. Primitive ones perhaps, but the creation of Sith Alchemy and Sorcery nonetheless. Of course they would operate under different rules than anything else in the galaxy.
The first one I reach is missing half its face and is already on one knee when he spots me with his remaining, bloodshot eye. Which he also loses quickly thereafter as I send a blade straight through it and into his skull, killing him instantly.
A quick death is the best mercy I can give these beings now, corrupted and twisted as they have become through Dark Side energies.
Three more mutated Gamorreans die in similar fashion before the remaining four have fully worked themselves to their feet. Despite their horrific injuries, the thought of surrender doesn't even so much as enter their addled minds as they let out hoarse screeches and roars, making a beeline towards me.
I'm down a lightsaber and a lot of energy, so I won't be able to use my Form VIII to its full potential. Then again, they aren't at their full potential either, so it all balances out. Two of my lightsabers flow up and hook themselves back to my thick leatheris belt again while the remaining duo falls into my awaiting hands.
The first Gamorrean who reaches me is still in relatively good shape, suffering burns but still having all of his limbs intact. Until he lifts both his arms high above his head for a double-fisted hammerblow and I dash forwards, crossing my blades in an X in front of me, cutting through both his knees.
He bellows in rage and pain as his legs collapse underneath him, but another X movement of my arms and his throat is cut so deeply his entire head comes rolling off. I barely pause, moving past him and meeting the two Gamorreans that are reach me next. They are very close together and instead of approaching them, I instead thrust one of my arms forwards. Not at them, I know I cannot affect them.
But I can affect the flooring underneath their feet.
The metallic grating groans and buckles and then simply collapses right as the boar in the front slams his full immense weight into it. His foot crashes straight through, quickly followed by his leg as he crashes into the floor. The second Gamorrean is taken off guard and can't stop in time (though I doubt he would have even if he did have the time), crushing the stuck one's head underfoot in a gristly display of blood and gore.
The… obstacle suddenly thrust underfoot means that he falters in his reckless charge and he too crashes into the flooring, his head not even a meter away from me. He tries to push himself up, but this is made somewhat difficult as it seems I had previously cut off one of his arms below the elbow, the scorched stump slipping on the slick grating.
Moving towards him, I slam one lightsaber into the nearest ear, its brilliant blue blade emerging out the other without resistance. I don't even need the bellowing roar of the final of Plageuis' experiments to know that the remaining Gamorrean is charging towards my back. Spinning on my heels, I pull my lightsaber from the dead pig-man at my feet, twisting my torso and whipping around my arm, practically sling-shotting the deadly blade from my hand and straight through the dead centre of the charging Gamorrean's small forehead.
I easily step to the side, allowing the still moving corpse, carried by its earlier momentum, to stumble and crash past me, my focus instead on the blade of light still in the air. I take hold of it and pull it back towards me. It twirls and spins as it does, turning into a disk of plasma and instead of falling into my head, it instead sails narrowly overhead in the blink of an eye.
And here is the fruition of my earlier mad dashes and erratic movements during the opening stages of my fight with the Gamorrean horde. Because I am now positioned just so that Yaddle's immense tank, its surface scorched and its glass cracked, is right at my back. The lightsaber crosses the distance near-immediately, slicing through the abused glass tubing, viscous liquid hissing and bubbling around its superheated blade as it cuts straight through the multitude of hoses and tubing snaking from the top of the tank towards Yaddle's huddled body.
Plageuis' deceit is made apparent immediately when on the heels of my blade, various liquids begin being pumped from some of the smaller tubes. A poison of some kind, no doubt.
'He was never planning to let her leave this place alive from the very start.' I think bitterly to myself, having suspected this the moment I set foot in this cavern but not seeing a way to circumvent the Dark Lord's scheming.
I recall my blade to my hand, deactivating both and slipping them up my sleeves. My left hand comes up, 'grasping' at the edge of the smooth cut my lightsaber had made in the thick glass, before ripping it away. Much of the glass shatters and the liquid that had held Yaddle suspended oozed out like a waterfall, but I've torn away enough so that my second hand can come up and cradle my pseudo-sister in a careful telekinetic grip, freeing her from her prison.
Yaddle is slick and worryingly clam and cold against my skin as I embrace her, but I have no time to dwell on this. The base is still set to self-destruct and after the battle, we don't have a lot of time left. Holding Yaddle in a bridal carry as best I can, aided by the Force, I run back towards the entrance through which we first entered this cavern.
"Maya! Dagg! We need to leave now!" I call out, but I receive no answer.
As I round the ruined remains of Yaddle's prison, I see why, my run coming to a sudden halt at the sight. Dagg is still lying prone where Jokh had backhanded him to the ground, one arm already hanging listlessly beyond the edge of the platform.
Maya had clearly fought her hardest, judging by the sheer amount of blaster-holes that littered Jokh's body and scored his armour, but it still wasn't sufficient to bring down the towering titan, who really did seem to have some sort of immortality. He had managed to get his hands on the Cathar Mandalorian, one massive hand wrapped around her neck as her feet kicked at the air.
He pulled the struggling pilot closer to him, his tone dark and gleeful as he chuckled.
"Tell me, little kitty. What are you going to do now?"
Maya's answer was to hook her clawed fingers underneath the edge of Jokh's large helmet, lift it upwards enough to slam the gauntlet of her other hand into the slim gap between the metal and the monster's flesh, and fully open the gauge of her flamethrower.
It was the first time that Jokh made a sound of genuine pain, his roar of agony shaking the cavern as he threw the Mandalorian away from him. She landed roughly, but the giant of a man paid her no more attention, instead desperately grasping at his gleaming helmet, thick fingers scrabbling over its smooth surface.
Finally, they found the release catch and he tore the thing off with a roar of pain, letting the helmet fall to the grating underneath with a heavy clang. It was the first look we got at the face of the base's commander and what I saw horrified me, and not of the horrific burns covering his head.
A wide, flat forehead, yellow eyes sunken deep and a mouth filled with sharp, needle-like teeth. It was a type of face that I had met only sparingly even during my immense lifespan yet one that I could never hope to forget. Suddenly, Jokh's immense size and baffling immortality made a lot more sense.
"Gen'Dai…" I whisper under my breath.
But no, that wasn't possible. I could see Jokh's guts in the massive gaping cut Dagg had managed to make in his belly and the massive man was positively covered in his own blood, weeping cuts and smoking blaster marks littering his gargantuan body. As a species made up almost solely of formless musculature and nerve bundles, a true Gen'Dai would lack either the guts or the amounts of blood that Jokh was clearly showing.
Besides, the very fact that we could still see the wounds in the first place was another indication that I wasn't looking at one of the Gen'Dai, as they would've healed such wounds already with ease.
Looking closer, I see that what I had earlier dismissed as part of the massive burns covering Jokh's face are actually part of a large network of tendrils, snaking their way over and into his skin in a thick, intricate pattern. The truth becomes apparent, but is no more comforting.
We aren't facing a Gen'Dai. We are facing part of a Gen'Dai, grafted onto whatever Jokh had been before Plageuis had gotten his hands on him. But the immortal species were rare and clearly a lot of biomass had gone into making Jokh the towering juggernaut he now was, which meant that Plageuis had to have access to a source.
If he had gotten his hands on him… If he found a way to take away a part of him and graft him onto another organic, then said being would probably be lost to the madness inherent in the new flesh.
Yet another worry. Yet another crime to lay at Plageuis' feet. But ultimately something that had to wait, our immediate survival a more pressing concern.
"YOU BITCH! I'LL TEAR YOU IN HALF!" Jokh roared as he strode towards Maya, who had managed to work herself up onto one knee, but who was hopelessly outmatched as the giant raised both of his massive hands far above his head, ready to deliver a devastating killing blow.
Right up until I mentally took hold of the axe head he had previously discarded, lifting it off the grating and sending it flying straight into (and almost clean through) the back of his knee. Unable to support his massive weight, Jokh's leg collapsed underneath him, sending him down to his knee in a thundering crash, something which Maya immediately took advantage off. Jumping out of her crouch with catlike grace, she landed with one foot on Jokh's raised knee, before using it as a springboard to lift herself higher. Pulling in both her legs, she unleashed a devasting mule-kick right to Jokh's chest, using the force of the kick to launch herself away in a backflip, managing to catch his exposed chin with the tip of her plated boot as she did.
Destabilized as he was due to the slab of metal nearly bisecting one of his legs, the massive man was thrown back from the Mandalorian's attack. Instead of falling to the floor, he was instead caught by Dagg. The Houk had managed to work himself back to his feet during Jokh's fight with Maya, his entire form utterly battered but his spirit still unbroken. Catching Jokh by the base of his neck and his belt, Dagg used the massive man's momentum against him by rolling him onto his shoulder, before lifting him high above his head with a roar of monumental effort.
Jokh struggled mightily, but held by his back as he was, he couldn't reach the panting Houk, who steadily made his way towards the very edge of the platform.
"PUT ME DOWN! YOU FILFHTY MAGGOT, PUT ME DOWN!"
Dagg's answer was grim, but satisfied.
"As you wish."
And with those words, he threw his arms forwards, letting go of the massive madman. I briefly caught Jokh's look of utter shock as he briefly sailed through the air, before his descent accelerated and he fell into the lake of lava far below, his vengeful roars echoing throughout the cavern.
He did not die fast.
"That's… for my little brother… bitch…" Dagg panted, having fallen to his knees out of sheer exhaustion.
"Maya, get him up, we haven't gotten much longer!" I shout, already moving towards the elevators.
The Cathar quickly nods, throwing one of the Houk's thick over her far slimmer shoulders and guiding him away from the edge of the platform, panting heavily underneath Dagg's large frame yet soldiering on. From the corner of my eye, I saw as the half-dead Dagg swooped up Jokh's discarded helmet before they managed to lurch towards me, struggling to keep up with me.
I was no master of Battle Meditation, but I tried to aid them with the Force as best I could. Thankfully, the turbolift to the surface was still operational, though the trip up was spent fretting in agonizing uncertainty.
Most bases of various organizations usually have a voiced timer for self-destruct sequences. However, some 400 years ago some smarmy little Sith shit had had the clever idea to deactivate the mainframe's voice modulator when he had set his own base to blow. A simple trick, but it had still taken me off guard enough it had nearly costed me my life if I hadn't seen him speed away from the base like a Toydarian who still owes someone money and knew something was up.
The blaring feeling of alarm and danger I got from the Force had helped too.
Thankfully, whatever timer Plageuis had set for the base's destruction had likely taken into account the difficulty and logistics of moving all of his experiments from the subterranean cavern to the surface (as that was the only thing in this base that he considered worth the effort, the personnel on the surface could be atomized for all he cared) giving us enough time to reach the upper levels.
We had to dash (or in Maya's and Dagg's case, stumble) through a few hallways, meeting no opposition, as it seemed that any possible opposition that could have stood in our way had been turned into a vast collection of corpses instead. Many of them sported cuts or stab wounds instead of blaster marks, and despite our haste we collectively did a double-take when we rounded a corner and saw two security guards and one base personnel pinned to a wall, courtesy of what seemed to be a maintenance pipe having been shoved through their guts.
It seemed Vrassk had taken great care to gather as many Jagganath points as he could on the way up to the hangars, where we found the Trandoshan hunter waiting for us alongside the still terrified prisoners. The large lizards had thrown Plageuis' forces into a respectable pile (it was nearly twice as tall as I was!) and was now meticulously checking the bodies, taking off their weaponry and checking it with an expert eye, before tossing most of it over his shoulder in disinterest.
Sitting opposite the calm Trandoshan, the captured civilians sat huddled together, staring in absolute and mute horror at their fellow prisoner.
Seeing our approach, Vrassk rises smoothly to his full height, giving our battered group a respectful nod, before amber-coloured eyes look at Yaddle's huddled form in my arms with interest.
"Vrassk, have you made a ship ready?" I ask immediately, a sinking feeling in my gut when the lizard man looks at me before shaking his head, letting out a series of hisses and clicks.
"Says all ships are dead. Systems fried." Dagg translates between heavy breaths, his lisp from before further worsened by the beating he had received at Jokh's massive fists.
"So then how are we gonna get outta here ba'buir? Don't think we can run for it-" Maya's question, her tone snarky if not for her exhaustion, is cut off by a deep rumbling from far below our feet, the entire base shaking on its foundations. Seems the countdown is nearing its end.
"Agreed." I say grimly, staring from my allies, to my 'sister' still unconscious in my arms.
A melancholy feeling comes over me as I stare at her still face, far too pale to be healthy. I glance from her to Maya and Dagg, the two of them having followed me into the depths of this forsaken place without hesitation. I glance at Vrassk, a tall and terrifying protector, standing over a score of defeated foes and still guarding the civilians I had put in his charge.
"People. It pains me to say this, but it seems our adventure has come to and end. I wish to say that it has been a great honor-"
I trail off in slight confusion, interrupted by a steadily growing noise, a rising pitch, the heavy thrum of… engines? A shadow falls over me and as I turn around, I'm shocked to see the Unfettered Destiny… on a direct collision course with our little group.
"Everybody DOWN!" my roar echoes around the hangar as we all throw ourselves to the floor, the Destiny's pass close enough its rounded tip knocks over Vrassk's pile of corpses (which elicits a surprisingly heartfelt hiss of anguish from the Trandoshan).
Before my disbelieving eyes, the Destiny slams tip first into the flooring of the hangar. It's weight, momentum and far more durable plating mean that it digs a furrow deep enough it kicks up the back of the ship, which rises ponderously until the entire starship is balancing upright on just the tip of its nose. As it begins to teeter over towards the other side, the smaller engines on its left side briefly burst to life, turning the fall into a twist, meaning that the ship manages to crash back to the ground belly-first, with its nose pointing towards the hangar's exit.
In the deafening silence following the massive bangs that had accompanied the Destiny's entrance and 'landing', the rampart on its side opens with a hiss before quickly lowering. My large ears pick up the sound of small feet pattering over a metallic surface and within moments, a somewhat dizzy looking Anakin is leaning out of the hatch, a massive grin on his face.
"Well? You gonna stand there forever or are we gonna get out of here!?"
"Spinning is a neat trick indeed." I say with a low chuckle as I stand back up again, once more gathering Yaddle in my arms.
Another rumble in the base, more severe than before, breaks the moment of levity and without further prompting our odd little group makes a mad dash towards the ship, Anakin having already run back to the cockpit.
The Unfettered Destiny is already moving, her thick belly scraping over the hangar floor, crushing equipment crates and turning some of the base's personnel into smears by the time the hatch finally closes behind us.
"Vrassk, you know how to operate a gunnery?" I ask the tall Trandoshan.
His hissed response is completely lost on me, but thankfully the nodding gesture is universal.
"Very well, I want you on the guns, just in case Plageuis has any more surprises waiting for us. Dagg, you need rest: take the other prisoners to the common room, it's the second door on your left here. I'll place Yaddle in my room. Maya-"
"Help the kid fly this tub, already on it." The Cathar says, visibly pushing her fatigue away with nothing but willpower before she rapidly moves to the front of the ship.
Dagg and I quickly see to our respective tasks (or, well, I do, Dagg is understandably somewhat slower in his movements) before I join Maya and Anakin in the cockpit. Through the windows I can see two things.
One: freedom, lying just beyond the edge of the hangar's forcefield.
And two: death, as the inside of the hanger is being shaken to pieces as the base nearly tears itself apart. It won't be long now until catastrophic failure cascades throughout its systems and this entire region of the small moon goes up in flame and debris.
"Punch it." I call out, only to receive twin "we are!" from my pilots as the Unfettered Destiny finally gets enough speed to lift her belly up from the floor, thankfully ending the screeching noise that had been loud enough to make my teeth ache.
Even with inertia dampeners in the ship which is meant to prevent us from being turned into putty every time we breach atmosphere, I can still feel our sudden take-off in as a shove in my gut, a pressure against my shoulders pushing me back.
Anakin and Maya are calling out to each other, communicating as they guide the ship towards escape. Part of it is highly advanced technical mumbo-jumbo, checking intakes, gauges, pressures and what not.
If the situation weren't so serious, I would have asked them if we should reverse the polarity, that always seems to do the trick.
The other half…
"Ship! Ship! Other Ship!"
"I see it!"
"Ahh! Piece of the ceiling! Piece of the ceiling!"
"I said, I see it!"
… well, the other half was much more understandable.
Debris and obstacles fell and moved in our way and I could feel that the base could blow up at any second, rumblings far below on the subterranean levels turning into a staccato of deafening blasts as various sections blew up in short order.
Said staccato increased in speed and noise as the explosions consumed the lower level of the base and quickly began travelling upwards to us. The floor bulged, heat visibly began to rise, before the ground was ripped apart, fire billowing forth in great blooms of death and destruction-
-and I get thrown flat against the backwall of the cockpit as Maya slams one of the larger levers forwards as far as it'll go, the Unfettered Destiny letting out a deep protesting groan as all of her subluminal engines were suddenly pushed to their max. A second shudder hits us from behind, sending me face first into the back of Anakin's chair as the explosion seems to engulf our tail-
-and then the engines finish spooling up and start producing their maximum power and we accelerate even further, once again throwing me against the earlier backwall of the cockpit, and down to the ground as both Maya and Anakin pull back on their steering sticks with all their might, throwing the Unfettered Destiny into a nearly vertical climb, trailing smoke but having finally cleared the edge of the explosion.
We did it.
We're safe at last.
Anakin lets out a whoop of joy while Maya slumps deep into her seat with a heartfelt sigh. Their brief celebration is interrupted by my voice coming from behind them, still down on the floor.
"What now, ba'buir?"
"I threw up."
"… for fuck's sake."
Fun Fact: The sound of a TIE Fighter engine was created by combining an elephant bellow and a car driving on wet pavement.
AN: Sorry, I hadn't realized it had already been a year. Jeesh :/