Two Weeks Ago: Hoth
Despite the best cold weather gear the Empire could afford, Lord Anodyne Vao was losing the battle to make her teeth stop chattering. Hoth on a nice day was one of the most inhospitable planets in the known galaxy, and this was not one of those days. It had been a hour since the engines of their speeders had seized, frozen solid from the cold. Even with the help of the force the cold and wind blown ice pellets had slowed their pace to that of a infants crawl. An hour, it had taken them to hike the half kilometer to their current location, of which was the shattered edge of a crater, overlooking the mostly intact wreckage of the Republic cruiser once known as “Utopia”.
The “Utopia” along with hundreds of over vessels had been lost in a battle between Sith and Republic forces some thirty years prior during what was now being called the Great Galactic War. Since that time, it had been a three way race between the Sith, Republic and pirates to salvage anything of use from the lost fleets. Darth Tarek had been one of the most rabid Sith in regards to the lost fleets. Convinced that an ancient Jedi artifact known as “The Gateway” was on board one of the ships. The “Utopia” to be exact. Why he suspected this, Anodyne did not know. What she did know was that the only reason she had been chosen for this mission was because her familiarity with Jedi and their Artifacts.
“Will you quit with the infernal racket!” Darth Tarek growled at her through gritted teeth. “I can barely hear myself think.” The red skinned true blooded Sith finished with a glare aimed at her, his yellow eyes ablaze with the same anger that always seemed to fuel Tarek’s every breath. Anodyne did not cower to his attempt cow her into submission, but she did notice that the cold did not seem to be bothering him at all. “How are you......” Anodyne managed to say between the chattering of her teeth that still continued despite her best efforts to lock her teeth together. “My anger burns within me like a fire, Lady Anodyne.” He said, using her lower rank as Lord/Lady to insult her. “I question how come your passions do not burn so bright inside of you. Perhaps you are still more Jedi than Sith?” He said in final insult before stepping off of the craters edge, dropping into the white fog that filled the crater and obstructed the view of the landing below.
Anodyne stood there a long moment, staring at the exact spot where Darth Tarek had disappeared into the fog. “My passions are my own” Anodyne said to herself as she took a step off the edge “And trust me you arrogant prick, they burn hotter than any flame you will ever know.” She thought to herself as she fell into the white abyss. As she fell she gave herself over to the force, and her passions the cold that minutes ago was biting through her flesh to the bone a distant memory.
The floor of the crater came quicker than Anodyne expected. But with a little effort through the force her landing was as soft and graceful as that of a wrix cat of Corellia. The floor of the crater was for the most part calm, its depth shielding it from the wind above. The only storm to be found at the base of the crater was that of Darth Tarek was who standing in front of a open exterior hatch that lead into the ships interior. Anodyne noted that Tarek had his lightsaber in hand, though it was not ignited. Her force sense was blaring like a beacon in her head, warning her of some sort of danger within the ships hull. “Looks like it was opened recently” Anodyne said in a whisper as she stepped up next to the red skinned man to survey the entry way better. Someone had clearly cleaned away a thirty year old snow drift that had built up against the ships hull. Beyond the open doors, hardly a trace of snow was to be found, but more importantly, the ships emergency lighting was illuminated. “Pirates” Darth Tarek snarled as he stepped forward towards the open hatch.
Before Anodyne had even realized she was doing it, her hand shot out and grabbed the larger man by the shoulder and stopped him dead in his tracks. “Stop!” she whispered in warning. She thought the man was about to have an aneurysm when he spun to challenge her, but he suddenly stopped, feeling the same ebb of power through the force that spurred Anodyne to stop Tareks foolish advance. “Jedi” they both said at the same time, Anodyne drawing her double bladed hilt from behind her back as she said the word that had become a curse to her when once it had meant something much different to her. They now approached the entryway as a team, Anodyne guarding the flank of the more experience Sith in front of her. The danger before them realized, Anodyne was able to turn her attention through the force from alarm to one of investigation as she tried to identify the location and possible numbers of the Jedi within the ship. One thing she did know, was that if they felt the Jedi, they for sure sensed them as well, especially Tarek who was making zero effort to hide himself in the force, while Anodyne tried to keep herself as small in the force as she could to minimize her being detected by the Jedi.
Once inside of the ship, the doors of the hatch slide shut cutting the interior of the ship off from the harsh elements of Hoth. Anodyne cursed as the door cycled and locked itself. A quick examination of the doors controls confirmed what Anodyne already suspected, the door had been closed and locked from another location. “The bridge.” Anodyne said as she turned and began to follow Tarek who had come to the same conclusion as her without having to look at the doors controls. “One or more of the reactors must of survived the crash somehow.” Anodyne said as she hovered her hands over a vent in the wall that was pumping out warm air into the long hallway. Emergency lighting was a function that usually ran off of battery power, but life support such as fresh air and heat or cooling were a function reserved for a ship's reactor, or reactors if large enough to multiple like Utopia was. “They are looking for something.” Anodyne said mostly to herself.
“It is the Gateway that they seek.” Darth Tarek said, something Anodyne had totally expected him to say. As usual, she rolled her eyes when he mentioned the Gateway. It was his obsession and he was wasting his life chasing something that even the Jedi Council couldn’t prove existed. “I told you” Anodyne said beginning her usual speech to the obsessed zealot. “The Gateway is nothing more than fable among the Jedi. For thousands of years master after master have searched for relic and all died no closer to finding it than the one before them. Do you really think your going to find it here in a crashed out hulk of a ship on Hoth?” Anodyne said trying to speak reason into the bull headed Sith in front of her. “Think?” Tarek said almost amused. “No little turncoat, I know I will find it here.” He said, conviction in his voice while yet again throwing a insult her way. She found herself trying to use the force to make his head explode, but no matter how hard she squeezed with the force his head would not explode. “If you're trying to give me a headache little Sith, you need not the force to do it. Your pathetic presence alone gives me a migrane.” Tarek threw at her in final jest before stepped through a pair of doors and onto the bridge of the Utopia.
Stepping through the doors after the red skinned Sith Lord, Anodyne found her mood brightened considerably as soon as she set her green eyes on the pair of Jedi standing in the middle of the room awaiting their Sith guests. She could not help but smile as she felt Tarek’s mood darken through the force, clearly he did not see the irony of the whole thing. “Master Cross, how unexpected it is to find you all the way out here on the far side of the galaxy.” Anodyne said in an unusually bright tone as she stepped up next to Tarek. She allowed herself to steal a glance at the Sith Lord and wishes she could freeze time so she could take a holoimage of the look on his face. To Master Cross’s credit, his face remained as stoic as Anodyne remembered it back when she was his padawan a lifetime ago. The pink skinned twi’lek to his left did not share his ability to hide her emotions, as was clear by her wide eyes and jaw that looked like it was about to hit the floor. “A little old to still be a padawan aren’t you Aritana?” Anodyne said in the same mocking tone that Tarek had been using with her all day. Anodyne could tell she had struck a nerve with the twi’lek padawan by the way the younger girls lekku twitched.
“Darth Tarek” Anodyne said as she turned to the seething sith lord to her left. “Allow me to introduce to you Master Cross. He’s probably going to kill you today.” Anodyne continued in a courteous tone yet still managing to convey to Tarek just how much she had come to hate his guts since being assigned to this crusade of his. “And his padawan Aritana. She is the little whelp who got me expelled from the Jedi and set me on this whole falling to the dark side thing.” Anodyne turned her attention back to the Jedi “So Master Cross, is this where you demand we leave, we refuse and we all ignite our lightsabers and try to cut each other into tiny pieces? Because let me tell you, I have waited ten years for this day.” Anodyne said each word with a growing degree of anger as she recalled the memories of her expulsion of the Jedi Order.
“It doesn’t have to be like this Anodyne.” Master Cross began to say. “You could come with me, and together we can.......” Cross continued to say, but Tarek had heard enough as the Dark Lord signaled by igniting his lightsaber and springing into the air at the Jedi Master. “Enough!!” the Sith said as he brought his blade down only to have it easily deflected away by Cross who then delivered a crushing kick to the Siths rib cage that sent him crashing over the communication station. “Told ya so.” Anodyne said as she turned her attention to the twi’lek who already had both of her lightsabers ignited and who was standing in a defensive position waiting for Anodyne to make the same foolish mistake Tarek just had. Ten years ago when Anodyne was just a acolyte on Korriban she would have rushed in, saber hacking and slashing like a storm. But years of training to be a Inquisitor had taught Anodyne to be patient.
Circling her opponent Anodyne ignited both sides of her double bladed lightsaber, spinning the twin crimson blades before her like a staff before striking like a viper with a quick thrust meant to skewer Ari’tana through the face. It was an attack that the twi’lek padawan easily deflected and countered with a spinning back handed flurry that forced Anodyne to backflip away from the attack. To Anodyne’s disappointment the twi’lek did not take the bait and follow her retreat, something that would've allowed Anodyne to catch the less experienced defenseless in mid air. Master Cross had always stressed patience in his training with Anodyne. Something she always resisted, but it seemed to Anodyne that his new padawan took to his teachings. Something Anodyne knew was that it was possible to be to patient, to be timid as your attacker pressed their attack, and it was a fault she hoped to find Ari’tana possesed, and one Anodyne hoped to exploit as she came back at Ari’tana with a standard double bladed attack that struck high, then low then high again. The attack pressed the twi’lek back and when the girls foot caught on overturned chair, she nearly lost her balance. Though the misstep was brief it was the opening that Anodyne needed as she hit the twi’lek with a strong force blast that sent the Jedi padawan flying across the bridge and into a smashed computer console, its exposed wires tangling themselves around Arit’ana’s limbs, momentarily trapping her.
The break in her confrontation with the Jedi padawan gave Anodyne the chance to see how Tarek was doing in his fight with Master Cross, and from the blood the was flowing from the many gashes on Tareks face, it was not going well. Anodyne cursed her self, torn between having her revenge against Ari’tana after ten years, or between helping Tarek and hoping the pair of them could defeat Cross before Ari’tana freed herself. That slim hope was dashed with Cross hammered Tarek down to a knee, sending the Sith Lords lightsaber spinning away. “Vith” Anodyne muttered in her native Dathomiri tongue as her former master raised his blade to deliver the killing blow to the fallen Sith Lord before him. Despite her hatred for Tarek, Anodyne knew there was no way she would be able to defeat Cross and Ari’tana alone. And in that instant she made her decision, extending her none saber hand in Cross’s direction and hitting her former master in the back with a stunning blow of force lightning.
Force lightning was a terrible weapon to deploy even against the worst of foes Anodyne knew. Experiencing its effects was part of her Inquisitor training on Korriban, and even a brush with the dark power was enough to temporarily immobilize a person. Anodynes attack had hit Cross full on, seizing the Jedi Masters body in mid strike. Anodyne stuck As the last arcs of lightning sparked across her former masters body. In one fluid motion Anodyne pirouetted on a single foot, deactivating one of the two blades of her double bladed lightsaber and transferring its power to the single remaining blade allowing it to grow 1.5 its normal size in length. With only a single blade, she was now able to grip her lightsaber hilt like normal lightsaber as she rounded and delivered her strike that severed her former masters body in half at the hip.
This left Anodyne looking over the severed half of her former masters body and looking into the wide opened and shocked eyes of Darth Tarek, frozen in place with his mouth gaping open. Anodyne cocked her head to the side, a bit puzzled when he did not move after a few seconds, but then a smile grew wide across her red lips as realization of what just happened hit her. And then as if on cue, Darth Tareks head slid off of his neck and hit the floor with a thud. Anodyne let out a single laugh as she glanced down at her lightsaber. Though it had not been intentional she had not only cut Master Cross in half with her strike, but also severed Tareks head with the same strike. “The longer blade!” she thought to herself as she looked for a answer as to how this happened, not that she was bitching. Perhaps she had meant to kill both of the men with a single strike, or had the force had guided her to divert the extra power into a single blade to do the deed? Anodyne shrugged, it didn’t matter now the deed was done.
Anodyne started to turn to go deal with Ari’tana when from under the simple brown robes of Master Cross a glowing blue light caught her eye. It was not there before, that much she was sure of as she knelt down and uncovered the glowing object. “No way....” Anodyne said as she picked up the object and held it in her hand. To her amazement it was nearly weightless, about 10 inches in length and with 8 sides in the shape of a diamond. Back in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant Anodyne had seen holos about the much fabled object, but never did she believe it was real. “The Gateway.” she said to herself as she found herself staring into the object as if she was seeing a entire galaxy within its glowing blue edges. A sob from behind her snapped attention back to the know. She cursed her foolishness, stashing the Gateway away in a utility pocket of her survival suit.
“You, you killed him!!” was the first thing out of Ari’tana’s mouth when Anodyne approached her. “He was your master to” the twi’lek whimpered as she dropped to her knees in front of Anodyne. “All Master Cross ever did was hold me back” Anodyne said “And by the looks of it, that is all he ever did for you as well.” Anodyne said just before delivering a kick to the side of Ari’tana’s head that sent the twi’lek sprawling across the floor unconscious. “You and I have unfinished business.” Anodyne said out loud to the unconscious twi’lek as she bent down and collected the girls lightsaber. “But right now more important matters must be addressed.” Anodyne added before standing up and opening up communications via her commlink. “Iveta, this is Lady Anodyne. Extraction for one at the coordinates I am uploading to you know.” Anodyne said into the comm link. “Just one?” a feminine voice said over the channel. “Plus baggage. Tell the boys back at the base to ready the carbonite unit. I have some warm cargo I wish to put on ice.” Anodyne said as she toed Ari’tana with her boot to make sure she was really knocked out cold. “As you command Lady Anodyne. Extraction within ten minutes.” Iveta said back over the comm. “Make it five, I’m freezing my ass off down here.” Anodyne said before closing the channel, her thoughts already turning to The Gateway and its potential possibilities.