Chapter 49: Treachery on Korriban

The 187th and 189th Legions had been very pragmatic in their withdrawal from Ahto City. They retrieved as many troops as they could without risking more than they would gain. Naturally, this led to a few stragglers being left behind. The few stranded clones did not surrender but instead fought like madmen intent on taking as many as the Separatists as they could before they were killed.

The current opponent faced by Commander Zako and the hodgepodge of rank-and-file and elite troops that had rallied around him was a lone 187th Republic scout speeder. The scout speeder was an odd vehicle—heavier and slower than speeder bikes but lighter than tanks such as the IFT-X. If nothing else Zako saw it as the GAR's answer to their failure line of walking coffins known as the clone scout walkers. The repulsor speeder could even tread where AT-RTs may have otherwise gotten stuck. Though the biggest drawn in Ahto City was that the scout speeder sported enough blaster cannons to be a serious threat yet was small enough that it was able to maneuver through the winding and sometimes cramped city streets.

"Does anyone have any grenades left?" Zako called out.

After a pause from the troops, the ant-like Zelt, Lieutenant Krunch called out, "I think we're gonna have to do this the hard way, Commander!"

The scout speeder managed to catch a Nephran soldier out of cover and the rain of blue blaster bolts cut the sentient crustacean into pieces of gory soup.

"Yeah! Come get some, lobster!" the ARF trooper operating the faux tank speeder hollered in bloodlust. Despite being abandoned and alone, the cloned man was having the time of his life. In no other battle up to this point had he been presented with such a diverse array of Separatists to shoot at.

"No more deaths. I'll distract him." The beetle-like Skeg Sleg Shalk unleashed his wings from their protective shell in his back and took to the air, ranging down fire at the scout speeder from above. The ARF trooper instantly responded with his own flurry of blue blaster bolts.

"I'll flank," the Kemlan Zarl Klost responded before activating his black armor's stealth camouflage and disappearing.

When they felt they were free of the speeder's gaze, Zako and Krunch popped their heads out of cover. The Zelt drone just started spraying at the speeder. The vehicle's design left the driver exposed. Zako patiently tried to line up a shot with his newly acquired ZMG-8 blaster rifle from the fallen Scorpanid soldier from earlier in the battle.

"Come on. Come on. Give me the shot," Zako muttered under his breath. His cybernetic eye was able to link with the scope of the Gothic-made rifle easily, this should have been easy.

Klost's camouflage dropped and he popped back into existence as his UH-2 blaster rifle sprayed purple bolts at the speeder from the side. The speeder swiveled and turned in a half circle to get its cannons to bear on the flanking special ops Kemlan. The move was such a swift and fluid respond that made Zako wonder if that particular ARF trooper was secretly a Jedi or something. But now he had his shot and depressed the trigger.

There was a crack as the purple bolt hit the clone's armor. Zako could see the driver went limp through the rifle's scope.

"Nice shot, Commander," Krunch said.

Just as Zako was about to lower his rifle the clone suddenly sprung back to life and drew his sidearm from its holster. With pinpoint accuracy the ARF shot back at his would-be killer and a searing blue bolt smashed into Zako's armored chest plate and sent him crashing on his back.

Klost opened fire again, this time scoring several hits that finally killed the clone. With its operator no longer among the living, the scout speeder started lazily drifting until it hit the side of a wall.

"You alright?" Krunch asked.

The Skeg landed near the Kemlan with a loud thud. Zako let out a sigh he didn't realize he'd been holding in as he grabbed Krunch's hand and was pulled back up on his feet. Klost was a good fighter. He was glad he made the shot before the Kemlan had been cut down. They needed good fighters now more than ever.

Things had finally quieted down. They couldn't even hear any blaster bolts or rockets going off in the distance anymore. The only sound in his ears was that coming from the smoldering hole in his chest armor. What a day it had been.

"I need a nap," the commander said to himself. If anything, he felt he had earned that much.

"We're here," SSA-719 said, turning away from the readout.

The Sheathipede shuttle exited out of hyperspace in front of the planet commonly known as Korriban.

"A dead world," Dr. Destroyer said flatly. The Ithorian was not wrong. Korriban had been a barren, economically depressed, forgotten world for over a thousand years. No one came to Korriban. And those that were unlucky enough to be born there rarely had the money or means to leave.

"And you never thought to hide your lab here?" Vex asked, bored. "While you preform whatever monster movie experiments for whatever reason."

"Korriban does not have the supply chain that I had on Tatooine," Destroyer accepted the inquiry as serious, and then added. "I perform important work. The galaxy is changing, constantly in motion. Countless species are threatened by extinction if their genetic code is not preserved."

"And then you alter that code and change it so your experiment spits acid," Sledge added cheekily.

"You must take some fun in your work, or there is no point," the Destroyer stated. "Besides, I always retain the original blueprints."

"So you can go back and change them again later," Sledge said.

"You disapprove?" the Ithorian asked.

"Just seems kind'a unnecessary given the amount of work," Sledge admitted honestly. What was the point in trying to lie to a Force-user? "Especially since most battles are settled with capital ships. Like what Vex so inelegantly said. War beasts with alterations seem more like content for cheesy battle holovids than actual warfare."

"There are many ways to win a war," OOM-9 said. "Fighting unconventionally can have many advantages."

"Let's just hope these star maps aren't leading us to some ancient, useless superweapon," Sledge said. "From what you guys told me, the Dark Reaper campaign didn't go so well."

"If anything, it seems Anakin Skywalker is the Republic's superweapon," Vex added. "He's the one that destroyed the Dark Reaper, right? Does that Jedi ever lose?"

"Maybe, if he runs into you," SSA-719.

"Aw, you're sweet, Red."

The shuttle landed and the group disembarked. Sledge felt uneasy as her boots tread onto Korriban's soil. "Wow, this planet really is dead. It's a wonder the atmosphere is still breathable."

A second later and she was hit with a light breeze. There was plenty of cloud cover to protect against the heat of the system's star. It was actually rather nice out. Sledge found herself wondering if her unease was the display of the wrecked world before her or if it was all in her head given Korriban's reputation of being so constantly aligned with every historical Sith empire.

"Looters have had thousands of years to pick over these tombs. Hopefully the star map is still here." Destroyer looked around. The star map had to be here; it was just clouded by the saturated gloom the planet projected through the Force.

"If the tombs have been picked apart over millennia, why are we starting here?" Vex asked. As she looked around she stopped at HK-47, the old assassin droid looked as if he might have been manufactured on a planet such as this.

"All of the settlements on Korriban have long been ravaged by war or social unrest," OOM-9 said. "We are more likely to find undiscovered artifacts in the ancestral tombs."

"Or out in the wastes," SSA-719 added. "Purposefully hidden away from civilization."

"Because anything that's in the cities is just charred rubble," Sledge grumbled. "What a world. Maybe the Sith really were as bad as all the old history disks say. They make the ancient Sith empires seem too evil to actually function."

"Perhaps that is the truth." OOM-9 looked around. "Perhaps that is why the Old Republic always endured in the end. It can be difficult to discern history from propaganda. But now the Republic will fall to the people of the galaxy, rather than some empire ruled by the traditional enemies of the Jedi."

"Odd to hear that coming from you, General," Dr. Quartz said. "It is the droid armies that will defeat the Republic and the Jedi."

"We are an extension of the will of the people. The droid army would never have come about without them. The Jedi no longer protect, that is why I was created by the Trade Federation in the first place. We protect the weak and are the scourge of the corrupt."

"You're sounding like a recruiting advertisement, OOM-9," Vex said. Scourge of the corrupt? He does realize his boss is Nute Gunray? Vex pondered. In her mind the general really needed to work on that. But then, she supposed he wasn't a general for nothing. Someone need to spew the chest-thumping speeches and that was definitely not her cup of tea.

"If the fighting youth are attracted to the truth, then all the better," the command droid responded.

"This will take a while," Dr. Destroyer informed the others. "Korriban has no future, and is bathed in the shadows of the past. It is difficult to pull the star map out of this mire."

"So glad we ditched the battle to wander around a bunch of rocks," Vex complained as she kicked one near her armored boot.

"We must be swift," G0-T0 reminded her. "According to the galactic records I have studied since being pulled from Raxus Prime, Korriban was taken over by the Commerce Guild—therefore making the planet a target of the Republic. The Jedi Eeth Koth and his troops took control of the planet in a battle that was overtly costly to the Republic compared with the value of conquering Korriban."

"Wait, what?" Sledge stammered. "The Republic is in control here?! Are you guys crazy? We ran as fast as we could into enemy controlled territory?"

"Eeth Koth and his troops have long departed," G0-T0 explained. "It is public knowledge that Korriban is overseen by a small occupying force."

SSA-719's head whirred as it twitched on his slender neck. He would need servicing at some point in the near future. The sand and dust was getting to him. "We should have retaken Korriban a long time ago then if the Republic garrison is so small."

"Your assessment is incorrect, Captain," G0-T0 lectured. "Keeping control of Korriban has been a drain on the Republic's resources."

"We win by doing nothing in this case," SSA-719 said with disdain. This was not how the security battle droid preferred to do things.

"That is correct," G0-T0 said as if he were teaching a class on military warfare.

"That's no fun," Vex chirped.

"I agree," SSA-719 said. Vex playfully knocked her forearm against the security droid's.

"Which is why you two make better frontline cannon fodder than command units," G0-T0 sardonically stated.

"They wouldn't have left any Jedi with the occupational force, would they?" Sledge asked. The last thing she wanted right now was to get into a fight with a Jedi with so few soldiers on their team. "This place is pretty dead. Seems like a waste of a Jedi to assign them here. I only ask because, you know… Dr. Destroyer."

"I have not sensed the presence of any Force-sensitives here," the Ithorian said. "If there were any, they'd have an even harder time detecting me. I have spent most of my life hiding from the Jedi."

A blue Delta-7 interceptor by the name of the Azure Seraph flew low over Korriban's mountainous terrain. The narrow shadow it cast was easily swallowed up by the other shadows plaguing the near endless mountain ranges of Korriban. The pilot of the craft had sensed a disturbance in the Force, one that was very skilled in hiding itself. Unfortunately for the mystery entity, the pilot of the Azure Seraph was looking for someone trying to hide from the Force and was already hiding himself from creating ripples in the Force.

The pilot was known simply as Alec, a human Jedi Knight. Alec had no surname, as he an orphan when the Jedi Order found him. Alec was an odd Jedi. He was well respected by his peers and the Jedi Council for his mastery in the Force and martial arts, yet he was a loner amongst his own kind and his attitude regarding the Jedi Code were viewed as unorthodox. He was able to be quite charismatic, and had won over a huge assortment of contacts throughout the galaxy that had aided him in his missions, including outlaws, bounty hunters and mercenaries. Despite his good standing in the galaxy at large as well as within the ranks of the Jedi, it was known to some that he was prone to flights of paranoia and often chased after conspiracy theories.

Alec was originally looking for a rogue Jedi named Karae Nalvas, who had left the Order several years before the Clone Wars started. Nalvas had not made such a ruckus upon leaving the Order as Dooku had done, and unfortunately for Alec, had apparently not aligned himself with the leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, making him much harder to track down. Alec was also searching for his former Padawan, Saren Valek, who had been seduced by Karae Nalvas into leaving the Order. Long had Alec assumed the two former Jedi would never be so foolish as to travel to somewhere as obvious as Korriban, a traditional bastion of the dark side of the Force throughout galactic history. But their trail had gone cold and Alec was running out of reasonable options. But now his search was put on hold as he went to investigate the mystery entity that had arrived on the planet.

The Jedi instructed his astromech droid to take control of piloting the ship. Alec then took out a red, plastic orb and unscrewed the top. Inside the spherical container was a brown, sugary beverage known as Coca-Cola. He proceeded to add cherry flavoring and shook the orb to saturate the beverage with the new additive.

A small, bluish hologram appeared in the cockpit.

"Master, you really shouldn't drink such things."

"I'll drink what I wish, B4R-B." The human took a satisfied swig. Adding his own cherry flavoring always tasted better than the official version of Cherry Coke.

"Coca-Cola originates from Mygeeto. Regardless of where you personally obtained it, you are supporting the Separatist economy with your consumption of their sugary drinks."

"If I don't drink this, someone else will. A few drink sales are not going to win the war for the Confederacy."

B4R-B was an advanced artificial intelligence that had been recently assigned to Alec in aiding him in his mission. The Jedi Knight understood it to mean that his days of operating independently from the Order were coming to an end and that his assignment would soon be scrubbed in favor of fighting against the Separatist droid armies. He found the AI to be absolutely obnoxious. If nothing else, he knew this attitude was a common one amongst his peers in the Order.

"Considering that you've engaged in no prominent sorties with the Confederate military, at this current point in time you could be deemed an asset to them rather than the Republic," the AI went on.

"That may change depending on what we find when we reach our destination," Alec said confidently.

"The probability of Count Dooku coming to Korriban at this time is so minuscule that I cannot give a statistically probability," B4R-B said.

"It may be one of his acolytes. He is rumored to have many Force-sensitive minions," Alec retorted. Clearly the AI was not going to let him drink in peace and quiet.

"Yet my original statement still stands. Even if you were to face an agent of Dooku, you haven't engaged in prominent sorties. The way you consume those drinks, you'd still be an asset to the Confederacy."

"Don't you have anything better to do?"

"I do not, Master. My abilities have been woefully underutilized ever since I was activated."

"I think you're going to have to put that on the Republic for handing you over to the Order. And then the Jedi for handing you over to me. It's a wonder they haven't lost the war already."

"That's not funny, Master."

"I wasn't joking." Alec looked over the ship's instruments. "We're closing in. Time to find out who our mystery guest is. Taking all bets on who it is, B4R-B: Count Dooku? Nute Gunray? Jabba the Hutt? Sheev Palpatine? Some long lost Sith resurrected from the grave?"

"Considering what General Skywalker discovered on Rhen Var, a resurrected Sith may not be out of the question," B4R-B answered.

"Naturally." There were a lot of crazy things out in the galaxy, and Alec had not survived so long by not considering the unexpected.

EEK-176 was not prepared for the Republic to take such a poor risk. Unless the Republicans could match the Confederates one to one on an open plain, it was within the realm of reasonable assumption that Dantooine was free of the Republic's domination. But that had not been the case. Another Republic fleet had dropped out of hyperspace and had begun landing ground forces on the agricultural planet.

Reports from the 8th Fleet's computers alerted EEK-176 to the fact that this newly arrived fleet was composed primarily of the Republic's older Dreadnaught-class heavy cruisers. The Republic troopers that touched down from the few Acclamator assault ships onto the grassy plains were not clad in white armor, but gray. They were not clone troopers, but rather birth-born human recruits. That taken into account with the abundance of the less successful Cord-class starfighters chasing around the Vulture droids and Stag Beetle fighters lead EEK-176 to believe that this was a defensive force that had been pulled away from its previous assignment in order to shore up Dantooine.

"Such incompetent planning," the brown and white command droid commented as he viewed the spectacle through a pair of electrobinoculars. "There are almost no clone troopers left for the humans to reinforce. They can't possibly think they can retake Dantooine from us with an army of this size."

Redeploying the armies of the 8th Fleet into battle once again was an easy affair. Battle droids were more than happy to fight, after all. The biggest change was that the Dantooine militia that supported the Confederacy had come out to support them, during the fight with the clone army but largely saw no action. Now they had been caught right in the middle of the battle with the Republic's standard human troopers.

The militia troopers were little more than enthusiast civilians sporting hunting rifles and pistols. What really made them stand out was the mounted cavalry they brought with them: sickle-backed mantises and grauls. The majority of the mantises were a glossy red and black color, but others were green, gray, tan, yellow or even blue. The mantises' hooked forelimbs were the thing of nightmares for the herbivores that grazed on Dantooine's grassy plains. More terrifying yet was the fact that they were intelligent enough to be trained as mounts and war beasts. The graul were huge, bipedal monsters vaguely similar to the rancors of Dathomir or Felucia. They were the apex predator of Dantooine.

The militia's mounted cavalry were a more effective phycological weapon against the Republican troops than anything else. From the panicked shouting, the enemy humans clearly were not expecting to face such monsters.

The presence of the droideka-esque bio cannons had prompted the Republic army to move quickly to keep the CIS heavy artillery units from getting within range of the parked Acclamator assault ships. This of course led to the human troopers coming face-to-face with large mantises and huge monsters. EEK-176 took note that the GAR was deploying in the same way they would on an open field. Walkers and repulsor vehicles supported by masses of infantry with artillery bringing up the rear. There were enough anti-air tanks that EEK-176 called the E-STAP bombers away. There was no need to risk them when the battle droids held a substantial numerical advantage on the ground. Yes, the bombers would be put to better use returning to space to assist the 8th Fleet in its own battle. Yet even in orbit, the Republic was impossibly outnumbered. Conferring with the other top officers via the network and EEK-176 had reached the conclusion that they should aspect yet another Republic force to reinforce the one they were currently destroying. It appeared the Galactic Republic did not want to lose yet another agricultural world.

A MAF exploded overhead, gunned down by a pair of LAAT/i gunships. The gunships in turn drew anti-air missile fire from a squad of baron battle droids on the ground. One of the gunships was overcome by the missiles and dropped out of the sky while the other was strafed by a trio of passing Scarab starfighters, which in turn broke formation when assailed by a lone Cord-class starfighter. Such was the nature of large-scale battle. EEK-176 urged his AAT forward, closer to the frontline fighting.

An arcing red comet landed square in the middle of a platoon of Republic humans. Most were vaporized but a few of the unlucky ones had their bodies and limbs sent flying independently of each other. The bio cannons weren't in range of the Acclamators but the advancing Republic ground forces were a free buffet.

His AAT fired its full weapons suite as it came in range. Scores of B1 and B2 battle droids were gunned down by the Republic troopers that did their best to hold the line against the droids while making room for the grauls and mantises that were nearly on top of them. The local militia not on mounts did their best to stay behind the droid platoons and act as snipers. The Republic's tanks and walkers were too busy attending to their Confederate counterparts to spare any shots against the large animals.

"Shoot the riders! Shoot the riders! Shoot the riders!" Despite the whine of countless engines and the servomotors of battle droids and the roars of the grauls, EEK-176 still managed to make out a Republic officer barking orders to his troops. Two of the graul riders fell to infantry fire but their mounts continued to follow the example set by the other grauls and kept going for the Republic infantry. The sickle-backed mantises leaped forward, propelled by their wings, and landed in the ranks of the GAR troopers. Within seconds the discipline and order of the human troopers had fallen apart as many were rend into bloody pieces by the large insects. Despite their size, the mantises were spindly and fast and made for difficult targets. Fire directed against the battle droids was cut in half as too many of the troopers turned to try and deal with the mantises now in their own ranks.

It was over, nothing could save them now. EEK-176's slender skull slightly tipped in approval as the fighting turned from a battle to a slaughter.

A starfighter screeched overhead, as if a giant had thrown a large pink dagger from very far away. EEK-176 could see that it was a Delta-7 interceptor. The slender craft shot down a Scarab and a Vulture droid before sharply turning around and spraying the Confederate ground troops with blue bolts… bolts that eventually found the commander's tank.

Sustaining multiple hits, the AAT bucked and died under EEK-176. The commander and the pilot droid operators drew their weapons and vacated their dead vehicle. The pink Delta-7 swung back around and started mowing down the squads of baron battle droids that tried to shoot it out of the sky.

Up ahead a B1 battle droid clad in green jungle camouflage took aim at the annoying inceptor with an E-60R rocket launcher but was gunned down by enemy infantry fire before he could unleash his payload.

EEK-176 and his three pilot droids advanced towards the fallen weapon. While his squadmates provided covering fire, the commander retrieved the rocket launcher, snapped it up towards the sky and locked onto the Jedi starfighter. The purple rocket homed in as if it had been bestowed with sentience and an unrelenting, maniacal need to kill. At the last second the Delta-7 did a sharp roll and the missile missed, though EEK-176 saw something fall from the fighter, as if the rocket had grazed the fighter and scraped something off.

As the tiny dot continued to fall towards the grassy surface of the planet EEK-176 saw that it was not a piece of the fighter, but rather it's pilot. A small flash of pink erupted as the being fell and landed on the head of one of the rider-less grauls. The beast howled in pain as the blade had gone deep enough into its skull to touch brain. As the first graul stumbled and fell the Jedi leaped toward the second one, latching onto its face and stabbing it in the eye with her lightsaber. The graul tried to clumsily swat at her with a massive hand but the Jedi leapt away and came spiraling down towards one of the sickle-backed mantis riders. The rider tried saw the Jedi and tried to pull his large bug backwards but was too late. The pink blade of energy came slicing down and took the mantis' head off. The decapitated body thrashed about and ended up in a crumpled heap on the grass, gravely injuring the rider. The battle was so intense that no one paid the agonized cries of the mantis rider any mind. He had been taken out of the battle and that was all either side was concerned with at the moment.

EEK-176 recognized the pink lightsaber, as well as its owner. What a day this was turning out to be! He was going to be graced with more than a succession of victories on an agricultural world. The command droid wirelessly called in a hefty amount of elite forces to deal with the new target while ordered the rank and file troops to push onward. Rather than deal with the rocket launcher's reloading switch he passed the weapon off to a subordinate. EEK-176 doubted he'd be able to hit this particularly slippery Jedi with a rocket launcher.

The battle droid platoons broke into a run to close the remainder of the distance between the two armies. It was an easy enough task considering the Republic troopers were still preoccupied with the grauls and sickle-backed mantis troopers.

The command battle droid was finally within speaking distance of the Jedi, who had gone from hacking away at mantis legs to deflecting blaster bolts now that EEK-176 had given her priority.

"Sia-Lann Wezz, I never thought to encounter you on Dantooine of all places," EEK-176 said as he fired his blaster. "A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. Now we can finally finish what we started on Naboo a decade ago."

"Naboo was a long time ago and I had to deal with so many of your kind. You'll have to excuse me, droid. I seem to have forgotten your number, if I ever knew it."

Sia-Lan Wezz was on Naboo when the Trade Federation had invaded, studying at the Royal House of Learning in Theed. Wezz joined the Naboo resistance that attempted to topple Federation control. Overall, she had proven to be a more annoying nuisance than the Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn had been, even if she ultimately wasn't responsible for the Federation's ultimate defeat.

"This is not how you operate, Wezz. Tell me, who do I have to thank for the Republic sending more to the slaughter? If the Republic keeps sending under-prepared armies one at a time I just might win the war today."

Dr. Destroyer was finally able to sense the location of the star map and led OOM-9 and the others through a series of winding underground caverns. The journey would have been in the dark if not for the frequent blaster bolts that lit up the caverns as they fought off bat-like avian creatures known as shyracks. Even impeded by the local fauna, they made good time and soon stood before the crown jewel of their quest.

"Could have been worse," Sledge conceded as the star map opened. "I was half expecting this thing to be all way down near the planet's core."

"It's worse," a voice answered. They all recognized the voice, though not the exact identity of the speaker. Such was a problem when it came to clones.

Just as the Confederates raised their weapons, searching for their would-be attackers, Veronica Vex exploded in a haze of red and black.

"What the hell?!" Sledge was knocked forward and scurried to regain her balance.

Streaks of blue came from the front and above as troopers from both the 187th and 189th appeared on the ridge ahead of them and opened fire as the Confederates scrambled for what little cover they could find.

"Vex?" SSA-719 called out. She didn't reply. The cyborg was lying face first in the dirt, a portion of her torso blown away and leaking an oily black fluid. But above her hovered the spherical droid G0-T0, firing on the OOM-9's squad from behind.

"Traitor!" SSA-719 roared, his voice laced with static anger only a droid's vocoder could produce.

G0-T0 ignored the security battle droid and instead exchanged fire with HK-47, though both combatants were able to endure the blaster fire of the other.

"Enough of this nonsense!" Dr. Destroyer bellowed. "I will not be impeded by such vermin!" The Ithorian ominously reached out with his hand towards the clone troopers. But instead of the expected screams of agony, they were meant with the sound of the Ithorian exerting himself into a strained state.

"What is this?" the Force-sensitive demanded.

G0-T0 activated his cloak and disappeared from sight. The clones suddenly stopped firing.

"I could ask you the same question." A glow of orange and blue came up from the front, from a tunnel off to the side. Two Jedi, one wielding an orange lightsaber and the other blessed with a searing blue blade. Alec and Barriss Offee.

"It's over, droids. We have the high ground," Commander Krane called out to his opponents.

"Give up now and we won't turn you into scrap metal," Commander Black added. "Yet."

Dr. Destroyer reached out with his dark powers once again and still found himself doing nothing to the clone troopers. He understood now. The Jedi were blocking him, particularly the human male with the orange lightsaber. He had been so preoccupied with the star map and clouded by the general mire that was Korriban that he hadn't sensed them before.

He reached out with his invisible power and tried to attack the Jedi themselves, but found they were reached and put up an effective barrier. Hunting after rogue Force-sensitives for so long, Alec was well prepared to defend against such dirty tricks, and though she was under immense strain, Barriss Offee was also holding out against him. So long as they could cancel out the powers of the Ithorian, the battle was won.

"Your tricks will not save you here, Ithorian," Alec said.

"How did you idiots get here so fast?" Sledge asked.

"Isn't it obvious? Who's the real idiot here?" Krane asked training his rifle, trying to get a shot at the woman hiding behind a large rock.

"Come out, G0-T0 and I'll destroy you," SSA-719 threatened.

"I believe you mean come out or I'll destroy you," the invisible turncoat corrected.

"I know what I said," the security droid said.

"There's no logic behind your treachery," OOM-9 said.

"Unfortunately, logic has nothing to do with it," the invisible G0-T0 replied. They could hear the direction his voice was coming from, but couldn't get a bead on where exactly the droid was.

"You're the reason why the Republic has been so swift in following our steps," Quartz sneered from inside his metal mask.

"You are correct, Doctor," G0-T0 admitted.

"They reprogrammed you when they took you away on the ship," Sledge guessed.

"Quite the contrary," Commander Krane explained. "My engineers uncovered and unlocked his true programming."

"I had been given an impossible order, to calculate a means by which the Republic could be saved. With my programming restored I am compelled to preserve the Republic."

"Mocking Query: And which foolish meatbags would choose to put their survival in the hands of one so fat?"

"You do not know the indignity of being compelled to save something you do not believe can or should be saved. It is beneath me," G0-T0 said. "To clean up this mess of a war caused by the Jedi and the Senate, another catastrophe caused by mismanagement and waste, and not even the threat I was originally tasked with solving."

OOM-9 saw his error in not fully examining these old droids they had uncovered. But to come across one with programming to save the Republic bordered on the ridiculous.

"Enough talk," Commander Black barked. "It's time to end thi—"

The room exploded in a roar. A large creature had ambled through the tunnel where the two Jedi had emerged.

"What the hell is that?" Sergeant Shock opened fire, prompting the other clones to follow his lead.

The monster reached out for the Jedi first, who had just enough time to dance out of its way.

"A terentatek," Alec said. "Of course it would be drawn to so many imbued with the power of the Force."

"Go!" OOM-9 commanded. Now was the time to run.

"They're running!" Black shouted. "Forget the creature! Get them!" Naturally, after taking fire from the clones the terentatek turned its attention on them.

SSA-719 scooped up the broken form of Vex as he ran off alongside the others.

The Confederates ran back the way they came and followed the trail of dead shyracks out of the tunnel system. By the time they reached their shuttle, the clones nor the Jedi were anywhere to be found. Held up by that creature.

Once inside OOM-9 started up the shuttle and took off as quick as he could. There was no telling if the clones or Jedi had brought any air support along with them.

"Inputting the completed coordinates," OOM-9 told the others. "Thanks to that traitor G0-T0 feeding them information it's a real race now."

"I need help with her!" SSA-719 said as he tried to stop Vex from leaking everywhere. "I'm not a medical droid. Dr. Destroyer, I could use some healing Force powers over here."

"Considering what she looks like on the inside I recommend Dr. Quartz assist you."

"One of you get over here!" the security droid barked.

"Let me take a look," Dr. Quartz grumbled.

"What was that thing?" Sledge asked.

"Terentatek," Destroyer answered. "It is a creature that prefers to feed off the blood of Force-sensitives. It must have been drawn to so many of us in the same location. They are known to wander Korriban, though they have not any Sith to feed on for quite some time. If it were just me, I'm sure we would have passed undetected by it. But those Jedi were more concerned with being hunters than elusive prey."

"And what was that back there?" Sledge went on. "Since when can you not perform?"

"That Jedi with the orange lightsaber is not like others. He was quite efficient in blocking my attacks on their internal organs."

"You couldn't just… ramp up the juice?"

"Cease this line of questioning, unless you want to experience what I am capable of," Destroyer growled.

"Enough," SSA-719 said. "Dr. Destroyer, if you could tell me if you detect any life readings out of her." He motioned at Vex's body.

"Very well, Captain."

Sledge found the old assassin droid staring at her. "No, HK-47. No one is going to screw around with your innards on this trip. They've got to play with hers now."

"Amendment: Apparently you are not all meatbags."

Sledge let out a sigh and rolled her eyes. Vex stank of oil and burnt circuits. SSA-719 seemed at least concerned with her well-being but Sledge was more worried about the smell and all the black fluids sloshing around the deck. It was going to be a long ride.

The shuttle was able to transcend Korriban's atmosphere and disappeared into hyperspace, headed towards their final destination and the secret the star maps had been hiding.

Author's Note: The Republic scout speeder comes from a 2011 Hasbro toy line, The Shadow of the Dark Side Collection. I'll use material from all sources, be it the movies, video games, novels, comics or even the toy lines. The scout speeder is a cool little vehicle and a simple search can show you what it looks like. Like the AST that I use so much in this fanfiction, the scout speeder looks like it fits in perfectly.

As for the whole Korriban/Moraband issue: for my story I will just refer to the planet as Korriban and omit the name Moraband entirely. The old Lucas/Filoni power dual behind TCW never really seemed to respect or even try to blend anyone else's work on Star Wars and just did whatever they wanted, so I don't really have much respect for their creative choices and in this instance I've chosen to ignore their choice entirely in favor of all the other sources that have had this planet's name as Korriban. Star Wars has always been full of discrepancies regarding its world building but they never even tried to create a cohesive universe. Moraband could have been a whole other Sith planet, which is really needed since the various Sith Empires have such a small astrography and need some more base "starting off" planets with which to pull resources and recruits before trying to take over the rest of the galaxy and challenge the Galactic Republic.

The Jedi Knight Alec first appeared in the roleplaying adventure Clouded Paths in the Living Force Campaign.

Also, Coca-Cola is an in-universe thing in Star Wars these days. This is something I'm able to work with, unlike Moraband. So now the super obscure Jedi Alec likes to drink Coca-Cola.

The sickle-backed mantis appears in the novel Yoda: Dark Rendezvous starting on page 21. Though they only appear in a hologram as Count Dooku makes a point to Asajj Ventress about the nature of the Sith. They are described as a glossy red and black mantis, but there is no indication as to what their size is. Given that this is a science fantasy universe, you could find bugs of all sizes. The easiest way to describe the size I chose for them would be comparable to the mantis from the game Ark: Survival Evolved, meaning a human could ride on the back of one. This allows me to take an obscure reference in a novel that last a couple pages and turn them into mounted calvary for fun and variety.

Sia-Lan Wezz first appeared in Shadows of Coruscant in the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook and has made other appearances in Peril on Naboo and Battle for Theed as well as Star Wars: Purge.

Shyracks and terentateks appeared in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.