Four thousand years before the rise of the Galactic Empire, the Republic verges on collapse. Weakened by a devastating war with the Mandalorians, the Republic suffers another blow when Revan and Malak, Jedi heroes of the Mandalorian War, fall to the Dark Side and return as conquerors at the head of an invincible Sith Armada.

While the Jedi were able to destroy Darth Revan, Malak continues his war of conquest, crushing all resistance. The Republic fleet is decimated, and the Jedi are scattered - fallen in battle or pledging their service to the new Sith Master. In the skies above the Outer Rim world of Taris, a Republic transport has been ambushed by the Sith. Overwhelmed, the Endar Spire will not hold out long against the attackers.

It is here, however, that the story only begins...

Part One

The Endar Spire

"Move, move!" He herded the soldiers to their positions, tossing them blaster rifles or giving them a push on their backs to hurry them along. Lines of them passed by his eyes, a blur of red and yellow uniforms. The deck buckled beneath his feet and he struggled to keep his footing - only the long years to training and battle had given him those reflexes. The less-experienced crew settled for bracing themselves against walls or grabbing what they could to help them along.

The stench of fried electronics and blaster discharge was familiar - too familiar. Damn the Sith! Before they knew what hit them, the Spire's shield generators and guns were off-line. It was executed with such terrible grace that he knew right away who had orchestrated it. If could put his blaster to Saul's head right now...

He herded other survivors to the escape pods. Chances were those Sith fighters would use them for target practice, but he had to take the chance. No man left behind and every effort to save what could be saved...the unspoken honor code of a soldier. Too bad that honor was as much as lost cause as this ship.

"Commander Onasi! Commander!" A petty officer's shout cut through the noise and chaos. Carth snapped his head up to look over at him.

"Report!"

"Sith boarding parties on decks twelve, five, and three. They're heading for the bridge! Reports of blaster fire in crew quarters, too."

Damn! There wasn't time to do anything but retreat at this point. He waved the petty officer ahead. "All right, send the order to Bastila - tell that Jedi that she's getting into one of these pods and no arguments." He secured the terminal, turning around and giving it two quick shots from his blaster to destroy it. At least he could hope the Sith wouldn't get anything valuable from this raid aside from yet another Republic ship. Pushing his way in the opposite direction from the throng headed for the escape pods or the bridge, Carth ducked down a side corridor.

Things weren't looking good. Dead Sith leaned up against the walls. An equal -- if not greater -- number of Republic uniforms were among the bodies on deck. Two utility droids that had been trying to repair the damage in this corridor were useless wrecks, circuits ionized and parts scattered. The only light came from the emergency panels and small fires that the suppression systems were too damaged to put out.

He saw movement ahead and pulled up the blaster. Red light crossed with green meant a blaster fight. Carth dropped behind a cargo crate for cover before trying to see what was going on. One Sith was dead on the deck, the silver helmet shot through at close range. Two others were trying to hit a Republic soldier who dodged the blasts and countered. Dropping behind a bulkhead, the soldier pulled a frag grenade from his belt and threw it with one hand, jamming the hatch override with the other. The door dropped just as the blast and screams hit.

That's when the man turned around. Ensign Trask Ulgo was barely out of cadet stripes, but he'd already see too many battles. 'Commander? Thought you were headed for --'

Carth shook his head, cutting off Trask's question. "Trask, you're with me. We're going to make a quick sweep of the crew quarters and grab anyone who's still alive, got it?"

"Aye, sir."

Carth slammed the button to the main corridor and charged out with Trask at his heels. The grinding noise of sirens and the muffled sounds of explosions were making his insides ache. The halls were scarred with blaster scorching or vibroblade cuts. There were more corpses, more ruined droids, and no reason to stop.

Trask took point as Carth watched their backs. Screams from the fallen and the clash of combat added to the noise. The Sith were advancing. They worked their way through the quarters, finding only empty rooms or a soldier shot dead before he'd even had time to reach for his blaster. Carth was just about to give up and order Trask to turn around so they could reach the pods when he heard a shout.

"Found a survivor, sir! Says her name's Kairi. She's all right!"

He didn't recognize her. She was a dark haired and dark-eyed woman built like a bird, barely tall enough to come up to his shoulder. Carth knew all the soldiers on the Spire after these months. This woman must have been one of Bastila's assignments. Their Jedi "advisor" came aboard with quite the entourage - mostly other Jedi, though. She wasn't dressed in robes, though, and there wasn't a lightsaber on her belt.

"You one of the Jedi?" Carth asked.

She shook her head. Civilian. Well, better than nothing. Trask tossed her a blaster he pried from the corpse of a nearby Sith and tossed it her direction. Carth just hoped she was more likely to shoot the enemy than them or herself.

A disconcerting thud followed a shout on the deck right outside the room. Trask made the explanation short. "I'm Trask Ulgo, an ensign with the Republic fleet, and Commander Onasi is behind me.' Trask explained. The Endar Spire is under attack! Hurry up - we don't have much time."

Carth elaborated as they started back through the corridors. "The ship's a loss. The Sith already boarded." The sizzle of damaged electronics and the shriek of a utility droid brought them back to the present danger outside the room. "We're walking right into hell."

The maze of corridors and bulkheads was scarred and pitted, with only the sounds of the alarms as they made their way across the decks to the nearest escape pods. Trask moved recklessly, leaping over the piles of debris and wreckage in their path. Carth would have to lecture him on that later. Carth was in the middle with Kairi at the rear. At least she wasn't paralyzed with fear or hysterical. That would just make matters worse.

They were just about to the bridge, crossing one of the wide corridors when they heard. "Halt, Republic!"

Sith -- four of them in the concealing armor that gave them the look of cold and impersonal killing machines in a polished exoskeleton, more droids than sentients. Three had blasters and a fourth, the officer, carried a vibroblade. Just as the Sith was about to shoot them, the deck buckled beneath them, sending all parties sprawling to the deck, and the fight was on!

Carth managed to pick off the officer in two shots, Trask missed a shot, but the second one wounded one of them in the leg. However, they were so distracted that they didn't see the small sphere that landed at their feet that landed with a cross of an explosion and shattered glass. A plasma grenade hit right in the center of the pack, blasting them with a wave of searing heat and knocking them to the deck.

Carth looked behind him to see who threw it. Kairi just nodded at him. "Not bad," he commented as Trask set to work on the manual override of the bridge doors.

The bridge was in bad shape. The transparent plastisteel windows were starting to crack. It wouldn't be long before this area would vent to space. Bastila was not there, thankfully. For once, she must have listened to the advice of the Republic officers and got the hell of this crate.

The only ones a still standing on the bridge were two Sith duelists with short swords. They were dressed in light fiber armor to add to their freedom of movement, and their faces had a half-mask, which concealed all but their eyes. Worse, there was a thin sheen surrounding them -- energy shields. Trask tried to duck away, but wasn't fast enough. He raised his blaster to shoot them, and they rushed him, knocking him to the deck and set upon him like a pack of kath hounds taking down prey. One of the duelists caught him in the ribs, yanking out the blade as foamy blood spurted from the wound. Carth's blaster shots managed to take out the shields, and one of the duelists, but too late. Kairi's shots were less precise, but the second one was sent crumpling to the deck.

Kairi pulled an equipment pack from the wall, running up to Trask. She had to know that those wounds were bad. Even if they got him out of here, he likely wasn't going to make it. Carth swallowed hard and let Kairi do what she could while he ran for the only functional panel left.

"There are two escape pods left, and the Spire's going to fall apart in a couple minutes." He looked over at Trask and Kairi. "Let's get out of here."

Kairi pulled out a kolto bandage and clasped it to the one on his side, but Trask was gasping and bleeding in several places. She was trying to rummage through the kit with her other hand. Trask stopped her.

"No time for it," Trask said. "Get out of here. There's..."

Carth ran back. Kairi looked up at him, confused.

Leave no man behind. Carth pulled Trask to his feet, the wounded man leaning on his and Kairi's shoulders for support.

The door to the escape pods slid open, but someone was waiting for them. Everything about his appearance was designed to elicit terror. His head was shaved, and black dueling armor was perfectly tailored to his tall, well-muscled frame - covering from the neck down, but still light enough for full movement. Over his shoulders was a flowing cape. He made no move, but blocked the way to the bridge's escape pod. Another chilling sign of what they were dealing with; two of Bastila's Jedi entourage lay dead at his feet. The dark-clad man pulled something from his belt, smiling as a double-bladed red lightsaber flared to life.

Their half-second of hesitation was an opening for Trask. With a surprising strength, despite his wounds, he struggled from their grasp. "For the Republic!"

Kairi shouted and tried to rush after him, but the door slammed shut as soon as he stepped through. She banged on the heavy blast doors, but it was of no use.

Carth grabbed her shoulder and pulled her back. "He's dead already,"

Kairi shuddered, but nodded and the two of them ran towards their last chance of escape. Carth started working the computer panel, gesturing to her to get into that last pod. "Bastila's already left. No reason to stick around and get shot."

The ship rocked and shuddered again, and the power conduit behind Carth sparked dangerously. With a sharp cry, she plowed into him, narrowly shoving him out of the way before it exploded, sending white fire directly into her.

"Kairi!"

He knelt by her, mostly as a formality. She had to be dead after taking that shock, but a part of him hoped...Carth gasped. She was breathing - still alive! He scooped her up in his arms and strapped her into the escape pod before climbing in himself. Quickly, he set the launch, and they barely rocketed out of the doomed ship before it silently detonated behind them.