The other side of the Cargo hold was a fair distance away, and the moving red photoreceptors suggested that there were banshee patrols among the rows of droids. They crept across the hold, darting between the units, there footfalls were louder than anticipated and a nearby droid was suddenly alerted to them all. The droid opened fire on Rak, the shot flying wide as it stormed towards them. Rebeka hit it with a shot from her ion pistol, lowering its shields and causing some ion damage to its systems. Jace blasted it too, his carbine making short work of the droid. Another droid located the sounds and Jace, storming towards him too. Rak leapt out and fired, Lanyef following suit, disabling its shields. The droid drew its blade, swinging at Lanyef violently but missing him by inches. Rebeka hit the droid with a couple of careful shots, Jace doing the same and taking it down. They hurried and hid among the pods as more droids ran to investigate the battle.
They moved quietly across the hold, but not as quiet as with the exit in sight they were suddenly spotted by a Berserker. It hadn’t spotted Rebeka who popped out and fired, but the droid was spryer than its counterparts. Lanyef brought it’s shields down, as it charged at Jace, igniting it’s lightsabers and swinging at him, missing the Mandalorian, Rebeka hit the droid in the back with a few shots as Jace drew his own lightsabers and started trading blows with the droid, damaging it a few times. Rak blasted the droid several times as the Droid lashed out at Jace, Rebeka and Lanyef, catching both the Mandalorian and Arkanian with a minor burn. Rebeka reloaded as Jace continued to swing at the droid, Rak hitting it a few times, the droid damaged beyond its capacity to act any further. They hurried to the doors and left the hold, entering a cacophony of loud industrial noises. They were in a small factory constructing weaponry automatically, a collection of blaster rifles, Flechette launchers and swords, all Scourge weaponry. They located some signs that suggested the main factory and control room was to the right. They dodged from cover to cover, avoiding a few droids and entering the main factory. The factory was where the droids were being constructed, Banshee and Berserker parts moved on their conveyance, being put together by machines and moved away by labour droids, a sad pile of corpses in one corner suggested that they considered the people to be only containers for their power source, and unceremoniously discarded after use. The core of the factory was a glass container glowing ominously at its centre filled with the familiar cyan liquid contained within the droid brains. The control room was on the other side, and a few scourge droids were patrolling in here. They crept up gantries and around the outside of the room, reaching the control room without being detected. They slipped inside and found that the control centre was completely empty. Rebeka examined the controls and found that the droids couldn’t be deactivated from this position. While examining the systems, Rebeka came across some records that hinted at two new classes of Scourge droid, the Titan and Siren. The Siren class seemed to be an evolution of the Berserker class, focusing on synergy between the enteched mind and droid body, while the titan was powered by multiple life forces, rather than a single one. They also discovered the staff here was to leave and re-join Taivus on the planet of Nantuker, a system in the Corsair Outback.
“Looks like that’s where we’re headed next.” Said Jace, as Lanyef started copying the data to a datacard.
Suddenly the holoprojector sprung to life behind Jace, and Darth Taivus appeared before him, wearing his mask and robes as he had done before, but it was still Terrn they knew.
“It is good to see you again.” He said.
“It’s not good to see you again,” muttered Rak.
“The feeling is actually quite mutual. You are persistent, I’ll give you that.”
“It’s one of the words people use to describe us.” Said Rebeka.
“You should know by now.” Added Rak.
“May I ask what you are doing in my factory?” he stated, though he probably already knew.
“What do you think.” Said Jace.
“It’s an effort in futility, I have plenty of droids.”
“We figured you having fifteen thousand fewer would do the galaxy a favour,” said Jace.
Taivus shook his head, “You are prime examples of everything I wish to eliminate in the beings of the galaxy.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Said Rak.
“You only objected once you knew the truth.”
“We would have objected.” Said Rebeka.
“You don’t think it’s hypocritical, withholding the truth from us?” added Jace.
“It was regretfully necessary, loyalty is fickle, it can be bought with desires as well as money. There is no true loyalty; the four of you prove that with your disobedience.”
“We’re loyal to each other.” Said Rak.
“For how long? What is the price of your loyalty, I wonder.”
“I don’t know, we’ll see once we’ve killed you.”
“So that drives you now, but what about when I’m gone? What will keep you loyal after that? This is what I’ve been working towards for hundreds of years. The Artefacts I had you find were the key to realising true loyalty. My droids are just that, a mirror of obedience and loyalty. They will not run unless I order them to, They will take their own lives as I instruct.”
“That’s not loyalty, you can’t have loyalty if you don’t have a choice.” Said Jace.
“But the choice is what destroys that loyalty in the end. Ambition, Desire, Greed, time and again the choice of loyalty is overridden by a beings very nature, removing that choice is how you maintain that obedience.”
“Well, sorry you worked centuries for nothing.” Said Rak. “That must be frustrating for you.”
“You’ve always been short sighted, hasty. That ignorance doesn’t absolve you of your crimes. Each of you made this possible. Without your desire to explore the galaxy and earn good money, your father Rebeka would still be alive. Without your desire to murder Sith, Jace, Darth Phage would still be alive, and the people of the Meera Station would not have suffered an attack by Lykat. Between you, you have killed more people by your actions than soldiers have done in the war, so who’s really the scourge when you think about it.”
“Definitely you.” Said Jace.
“I wonder which way Stoe Rinn will see it.”
Rebeka worked at the computer, figuring she could trace the call.
“What are you planning on doing?” said Jace.
“By your actions I received data to improve my droids.”
“That data was given to you under false pretences.” Said Rak.
“We were helping the Republic.” Said Jace.
“And even then your loyalty to the Republic only went so far. Regardless the data you gave me allowed me to design a new prototype or two. I thought that I would test it on someone…appropriate.”
A figure detached itself from the ceiling, landing heavily on Rak. A scourge droid wearing Dark red robes, and one of the dark sisters’ masks was welded to its face. It had huge clawed hands and clawed feet.
“Pain and pain and pain some more, the sirens screams will shake you four. Blood and rage and strength of fist, I will deliver deaths sweet kiss.” It said, in the voice of Kelly Rinn, former sister to Ruthe and the first person they met on Meera. Then she screeched in agony. The scream was chilling, but only further angered the four of them. The Siren lifted Rak from the ground by his head, her claws crushing down on his skull with vicious pressure. He tried to struggle from her vice grip but was unable to slip out. Rebeka tried to fire, but hadn’t reloaded after the last fight. Jace fired on the droid, blasting at it with a pattern of fire that would normally have wrecked a Banshee or Berserker, but the Siren moved fluidly, swinging Rak violently about as she avoided the bolts. She was shielded they noticed, Lanyef taking it down with an ion blast that was as ineffective on the actual droid as the others. Rak struggled out of the Sirens grip, the droid slashing at him with its claws. He staggered back, firing off a shot before having to reload. Rebeka managed to put holes in the droids robes as Jace opened fire with a barrage from his carbine, but despite their combined fire the droid remained only grazed by the amount. Lanyef hit the Siren with another shot as the droid leapt upon Rak and Rebeka, slashing violently at them with her claws. Rak blasted the droid desperately as it sliced at him, burning the droids frame in several places. Rebeka and Jace between them taking the droid down in a shower of sparks and Kelly giving one last shriek as she was freed from her torture.
Taivus had observed the battle throughout, and seemed unmoved by the loss. Jace destroyed the droid fully before turning back to the Sith.
“Is that the best you’ve got, Terrn.”
“No, I’m far from done. This isn’t your fight any longer, even if you shut down this factory, I can start again elsewhere. I don’t expect any of you to understand, and I’m certainly not looking for your approval. You were tools, agents with a singular purpose, and despite our differences, you were relatively successful. But like the rest of the relics I sent you for, your time is over. Don’t interfere with my plans, I won’t warn you again.”
“We’re not looking for a warning.” Said Jace.
“Goodbye Old Friends.” Said Taivus, hitting a control on his wrist. Alarms blared, and suddenly the whole factory was waking up, the droids within begun activating while the shields protecting the facility shut off, heat levels begun to rise and the gravitation supports begun overheating. They had to get out.
“We need to leave, now!” warned Jace, The hologram fizzling out as warnings flared.
“It’s a shame we can only kill him once.” Muttered Rak.
“Wiley! You need to get those people out of here, now!” called Jace on the comm as they half ran half staggered as the whole facility whined and buckled.
“I figured that when the floor started going vertical!” he replied.
They ran back through the factory, droid parts sliding and collapsing towards the control room. The floor buckled under Jace’s feet as the control centre broke and melted into the lava, nearly taking him with it. They hurried to the exit; Jace being caught by a Berserkers lightsaber as it barrelled past him and fell in, screeching as it melted into the river. They hurried through the cargo hold as the thousands of scourge droids woke from there standby. They’d really kicked the hive. They hurried across the floor as recharge pods and droids flew past, grabbing at Rak and Lanyef as they went by. They made it to the offices before they were running on the walls, the whole facility now plunged into the lava.
“We made it out okay, but the whole pad is in the river now!” called Wiley.
“The vents!” called Rebeka as they leapt over the corridors, automatic doors opening under their feet as they fled to the vents. Rebeka jumped the large corridor without much trouble, Lanyef nearly falling to his death, but Rebeka caught the Arkanian, pulling him back up as Rak made it across. Jace followed last and all of them darted into the vent. They leapt out of the vent onto the shore as far from the lava as they could manage, Jace using his Jetpack to jump to safety as the rest of the facility plunged and hissed into the lava, taking with it the army of droids.
After catching their breath they heard Wiley on the comm asking if they’d made it.
“We’re fine,” said Rak, “did you make it?”
“All fine here, we were about to head back to the colony.”
“Hold Orbit until we get there, we’ll give you an escort.” Said Jace, and after a few moments they got to their feet and made the walk back to the Dawnstar.
They returned to space unharmed, and met up with the shuttles. They took them back to the Hearthfire to move them on to safer areas and get them all some food, while they updated the allies on what they had learned. While Rebeka’s tracking data was only a partial success, the planet of Nantuker was where the initial workforce regrouped with Taivus. Their conversation with the Dark Lord had been broadcast throughout the cluster, and while it had removed much of the doubt about their allegiance, it was suggested they keep clear of Stoe Rinn, who was grieving for her daughter and was not in any state to be addressed by them. The Dawnstar crew remained with the refugees to help anyone injured for the rest of the day.
The following morning they debriefed with the allies. Stebe and Nacene were the only two attending, Stoe still distraught about her daughter’s fate. The four of them explained about the facility as well as what they found in detail. Conversely Stebe and Nacene explained how the war was going. Hapes was now in the hands of the queen mother once more, and a few more worlds had rallied and been retaken, but the majority still remained in scourge hands.
“What about Taivus’ location?” asked Stebe. “Have you learned anything about that?”
“Yes.” Said Rebeka.
“As a matter of fact we did.” Added Rak. And they explained there next lead.
“Nantuker is the gateway system into the corsair outback. It’s the next target of our campaign,” explained Nacene.
“The force is with us then that our paths converge once more.” Said Stebe. “Our next goal is to force the Scourge into the Rimworlds and keep them there. We’ll need to contact Admiral Krin and organise an assault on Nantuker as soon as possible, and find the information you seek.”
The next phase took a week to prepare. The assault on Nantuker’s Capital City of Kian was to be led by Stebe and the Dawnstar crew, while the fleet engaged the forces surrounding the planet. The city was a major barracks for the scourge, and was going to take the combined Indrexu, Republic and Hapan forces to liberate. Rebeka refined the weapons of her friends during this time, as well as installed a vocabulator in Jurl, warning the droid not to speak to Jace for the time being. It had been on her mind since Phage’s illusion, but imagined Jace might have a problem with it if he knew. An hour after the plans were drawn they were engaged with the scourge forces, there sudden attack was graced by fortune as it seemed only a small fleet was currently orbiting the planet. The Dawnstar joined the rest of the landing forces heading towards the planet, dodging and whirling through the atmosphere as interceptors and harrowers tried to shoot them down. Stebe got them to land in a large square not far from the scourge command centre, a repurposed city council building now flying scourge banners. They hurried to group up with the rest of the forces, engaging the enemy at the command centre. The Scourge had set up a temporary bunker at the entrance, a heavy repeating blaster spraying the allied forces with blaster fire as Lanyef fired on a trooper with his ion pistol, realising his mistake as it harmlessly jolted him. Rak fired on another two troopers, taking both out with his shots. Stebe used the force to inspire those around her as the battle continued to rage, scourge droids and troops falling on both sides. Rebeka threw a grenade into the throng of droids and troopers as Jace killed another couple of troopers with well-placed shots. Lanyef tried to ionise a couple of droids, but they stayed low to avoid the fire. Rak moved up, blasting another droid as Rebeka made a dash for the scourge lines, activating a light shield as she ran. Jace threw a couple of grenades into the lines, dispersing several troopers and droids. Lanyef took down the shields of two droids he was aiming at, Rak aiming at the vulnerable droids as he moved to support Rebeka. Stebe ordered the allies to press the attack, closing on the entrance to the command centre. Rebeka made it across unharmed, crouching in the scourge cover as Jace used his jetpack to jump over behind the droid lines, destroying two droids. Lanyef stayed in cover, firing on another droid with his ion pistol as Rak blasted one of the droids to parts. The allies stormed the scourge lines, taking out droids and overwhelming troopers, a few still falling under the blaster fire. The gunner in the pillbox was killed by a lucky shot. One of the droids drew a sword and swung at Jace, the mandalorian returning the favour by pounding the droid as Rebeka got inside the bunker and took over the heavy repeater. A further droids shields were brought down by Lanyef as Rak joined the allies in there charge. Rebeka let rip with the repeater, decimating one droid under her heavy fire as Jace took out the droid in close quarters with him. Blasting at the remaining droid on their side. Lanyef destroyed it as Rak attacked the final droid, destroying it. The allies spread out to attack the forces close to the entrance as Stebe led the four of them into the command centre.