Chapter 4


Gravestone


"No, no, no, no…No!" Yelled Koth as he slammed his hands on one of the Gravestone's consoles in frustration as the ship went out of Hyperspace. "Damn Hyperspace drive needs another fix. We blew a motivator."

"Better get that damn thing fixed." Said Xigolo as he looked at Koth as he got out of the pilot seat. "Before the Eternal Fleet finds us and pounds us into dust."

"Agreed." Said Koth as he looked at everyone. "But before that, can someone explain to me how the hell she found us!?" He then pointed to Senya, who just scowled at Koth. "And why isn't she trying to kill us!?"

"*Sighs* To make a long story short, Senya and I met some time ago." Explained Lana. "She and I talked and we both left our separate ways. We both realized Arcann's way of ruling would only bring ruin and destruction to not only Zakuul, but the entire galaxy. And she just so happened to be on Zakuul when we made our rescue mission for Darth Imperius, so I called her in and she came to help us. End of story."

"End of story!?" Yelled Koth, anger, and betrayal in his face. "This woman tried to kill me multiple times and you never told me you knew her!?"

"The reason I did that was because you betrayed your station." Said Senya, completely devoid of expression on her face aside from the scowl she gave to Koth. "Killed your fellow Zakuullians. And evaded attempts by knights to bring you in, often violently. By all rights, you were a traitor, and it was my mission to hunt you down like the criminal you are."

"That's not helping your case!" Yelled Koth as he turned to Lana, scowling. "We're supposed to be a team. And something like this really hampers our efforts to be a team. How the hell can I trust you if you kept something like this from me?"

"I kept this from you because this is how I predicted you would react!" Yelled Lana, a scowl on her face as well. "And so far, you're proving my prediction to be true!"

"Uh…" Said Xigolo as he raised his hand. "Can you guys stop and fix the hyperdrive so we can get out of here before the Eternal Fleet comes and kills us all? I don't want to die because of an argument."

"Agreed." Said Xildroll as he barged into the conversation. "This is getting nowhere, and we don't have the time needed to waste on such trivial matters without jeopardizing the ship and our lives. So, drop it! You can waste time bickering about this when we're not running for our lives." Lana, looking at Xildroll, nodded, calming down.

"Of course, Darth Imperius." Said Lana. "My mistakes. I'll see what I can do in fixing the hyperdrive."

"Oh no." Said Koth. "I'm fixing the hyperdrive. You sooner cause a hyperdrive malfunction before you did anything good. I'm doing it. Need something to release the stress anyway. Blizz, help me with the hyperdrive." Blizz, seeing an opportunity to fix something and get away from all the force users, went with Koth to fix the hyperdrive engine. With them gone, Xildroll looked at Senya and asked what caused her to defect.

"Like I said back on Zakuul, not all of us agree with Arcann's way of ruling." Said Senya, a hint of sorrow in her eyes. "Contrary to what you believe of him, Valkorion was a benevolent ruler to the people of Zakuul. He made us what we are today. Allowed us to travel through the stars and colonize other worlds. He made the Eternal Empire to what it was prior to Arcann's take over. That was the Eternal Empire I swore loyalty to. Not Arcann's version." Xildroll stayed silent as he processed this. This meant that she wouldn't be too happy with him inflicting many civilian casualties on the people of Zakuul. Same with Koth. He'll have to minimize collateral damage in order to ensure they won't double-cross him or anything similarly stupid. Not that it was on his agenda.

From what he could tell, the Eternal empire outnumbered the Sith Empire forces by a significant margin, both in numbers and in technology. Even at their height, the Sith Empire wouldn't rival the Eternal empire forces in anything. That was a blow to his pride, but one that he must accept as fact. No, to win against the Eternal Empire, he must fight a different way. He must have the people, from all corners of the galaxy, rise up against the Eternal Empire and join up with him to beat them back. Arcann, however, gave him an opportunity to gain people from his own empire. How delightful.

"I see." Said Xildroll. "I hope you know that your emperor was a monster that tried to devour all life in the galaxy." Upon hearing that, Senya sighed.

"Yes, I heard from Lana that our Valkorian was also your old emperor as well." Said Senya. "I refuse to believe it, but I sense that it is true."

"It is, Senya." Said Lana. "Valkorion and Vitiate are one of the same. Whatever good things Vitiate did as Valkorion was only to ensure the loyalty of the people of Zakuul to him. He saw you all as pawns to play with. Nothing more."

"Even still, I refuse to believe he's as monstrous as your old emperor was." Said Senya. "I knew him well. He would never be that cruel."

"Not well enough apparently." Said Lana with a scowl, something that Senya returned. Shaking his head, Xildroll asked Lana for a moment of her time and the two quickly left for a quiet place to speak, leaving Senya along with everyone else on the bridge.

"So…," Started Xigolo. "Any of you up for looting Asylum when we get there?" That caused Senya to scowl at him while causing Mako to hit her head in annoyance.

"Why the hell did you say that to a Knight of Zakuul?" Mumbled Mako as Senya glared at Xigolo, who just shrugged.


Meanwhile

Xildroll


"You didn't suffer any permanent injuries during that last fight, Lana?" Asked Xildroll as the two walked inside a large room on the ship. Judging by the cantina and old music player in a corner, it was a recreation room.

"No, nothing that can't be healed with the force." Said Lana as she sat in an old chair. "I suppose you have many questions."

"I do." Said Xildroll. "How are Acina and Azshara? Are they safe? Did they change in any way or form?" Lana nodded.

"Acina hasn't changed for the most part." Said Lana. "Since taking the title empress, she's been more…precautious. Not unwarranted, mind you. She's adopted several policies that have angered many traditionalists in both the Sith and the military. She rarely attends meetings in person, typically attending them via holograms, and she mostly drinks from purified waters on Dromund Kaas. Whenever she is in person, she's always protected by around two dozen or so Imperial guards with Sith completely loyal to her. Your old apprentice, Xalek, is in charge of them." Xildroll hummed at that. That sounded like Acina. Being a person of logic and science, she always took steps to prevent things from going awry for her. Even more so after the Dread lord situation stealing items she was supposed to guard, ironically being the very thing that caused them to meet and their love to blossom. "But aside from that, she's still the same person. Just a bit more cautious, given that she's the new empress of the Sith Empire." Xildroll nodded at that.

"What about Azshara? Have you heard anything about her?" Asked Xildroll. Xigolo said that she moved from system to system, doing whatever she pleased. It left him a bit nervous about what had happened to his favorite Togruta during his long absence. Lana frowned at that before speaking.

"It's complicated.' Said Lana. "I don't know what Xigolo told you about her, but she moves from system to system, performing various acts of generosity to people whenever she can. Acina has tried to get her to work for the Empire solely, but Ashara refuses every time she meets her agents. If it wasn't for their mutual connection with you, I have no doubt that the first refusal would have ended with the agent ending up dead." Xildroll nodded at that. Acina, while not xenophobic, was still a Sith and would deal with anything against them accordingly.

"Will she come back once she discovers I'm still alive?" Asked Xildroll.

"I don't know." Said Lana, truthfully. "She's become distant to us all after you disappeared. Hopefully, she will. We need as much help as we can get and she's a powerful force user." Xildroll nodded at that.

"So, this port we're going to…Asylum. Both Khem and Andronikos are there, correct?" Asked Xildroll. Lana nodded in confirmation.

"They are. The moment Xigolo told them that you're alive and that we're going to break you out, they agreed to help us." Said Lana. "They're at Asylum with Koth's crew, gathering both supplies and whatever manpower they can get from Asylum. I'm sure they'll be happy to see you again. In their own way." Xildroll nodded at that.

Khem, when they first met, didn't like him at all, wanting to devour him like any other force user and only followed him because of his force bond with Xildroll that prevented him from harming him in any shape or form, but later on Khem began to respect Xildroll, seeing him as a worthy master for him and a worthy successor to Tulak Hord, his old master. Though he despised him showing mercy to those he thought didn't deserve it, aka the weak or Jedi, he respected him enough to allow it to happen without too much complaint.

His relationship with Andronikos, his copilot to his old ship, was a bit more positive than Khem. The two got off well. Andronikos liked the fact Xildroll keeps his promises, even to his enemies, as well as his ruthlessness against his enemies when it's been proven that it would be better off to just fight instead of wasting time with negotiations. Xildroll had earned his respect, eventually his friendship as well, when he helped him get his revenge on his former crew that mutinied on him, even letting him be the one to execute the one that led the mutiny in the first place, and helping him find the one that had led him into an Imperial ambush during his time in the Republic Navy. It was him that Xildroll last had contact with his crew. He told him to take the ship and leave to get reinforcement while he helped Maar in defending his ship from the, at the time, unknown enemies. Even as they talked for the last time, Xildroll could sense the frustration in Andronikos's voice as he was forced to leave his friend behind. No doubt there will be plenty of good reunion moments when they reunite.

"After we got to this Asylum, what is our next step?" Asked Xildroll. "This ship is impressive, but we need more than just it to win against the Eternal Empire." Lana nodded in agreement at that.

"There's a planet in Eternal Empire space." Said Lana. "Remote enough that Arcann won't find us there. At least for a while. I've already pulled a few strings and several transports loaded with troops and materials are ready to go to that system to set up a base once we've determined it's safe as I believe it is. Our mutual friend, Theron, has also pulled a few stings to have some republic forces on stand by to help assist in constructing our new base." Upon hearing the name, Xildroll recoiled in surprise. He remembered Theron Shan, an SIS Republic Agent. They had helped each other out in stopping Revan, his ancestor, from reviving Vitiate in a foolish attempt to kill him for good. Though they failed, Xildroll developed some respect for the SIS agent. He may be a republic spy, as such Xildroll will be fine in killing him should the need arise, but he had earned the Sith's respect during their ventures together.

"That's good." Said Xildroll. "After we land on this planet, we'll focus on building our base and our forces. We'll need many in order to topple this Eternal Empire." Lana nodded at that. "But first, the Eternal Empire. I need to know everything about them if we're going to win against them." With that, Lana explained everything she knew about the Eternal Empire. Their history, their military, and their culture knowing that Xildroll would want to know everything about them in order to come up with a game plan.


Few days later

Asylum


"Here we are. Asylum." Said Koth as they approached a spaceport that was bristling with activity. He was currently flying their warship to a dock that looked like it can fit in, but Xildroll wasn't too sure. It looked like it would be a tight fit. Xigolo, however, didn't care and just waited patiently as the Gravestone made it's docking procedures. It was a tight fit to be sure, nearly destroying a docking crane, but the Gravestone managed to fit in the dock and was now in the process of being repaired of what damages it sustained from the Eternal Fleet as well as enabling its small crew some brief respite.

Exiting the Gravestone, Xildroll saw a sizable group of humans coming towards their ship. Suspicious of them, Xildroll was about to draw out his lightsaber when Koth stopped him.

"Relax. This is my crew." Said Koth as a big buff human came up to them, a smile on his face.

"Koth, it's good to see you made it out in one piece and with a massive ship to boot." Said the human as Koth looked at him with a smile.

"Not just any big ship, but the Gravestone itself." Said Koth, causing the human to widen his eyes in surprise. He then looked at everyone around him, including Senya, who caused him to shuffle around nervously. When they all nodded in confirmation to what Koth said, the buff human smiled at Koth.

"Well, I'll be. If that thing is as powerful as the legends say it was, then we got a sure shot in kicking Arcann off the throne and getting things back to the things they used to be." Said the human, causing Koth to nod in agreement.

"You got that right, especially now that we have him." Said Koth as he pointed at Xildroll, who walked up to both Koth and the other human. "Sith, this is Len Parvek. He was part of my old crew back when we were in the military. The only one to stick by me when I made the decision to defect." Xildroll nodded at that before Len, who smiled at him.

"Normally I'd be skeptical of being allied with someone that's affiliated with a government like the Sith Empire, but Lana vouched for you and so did Koth, so I'm willing to trust you." Said Len. Xildroll could sense that Len was being honest with him, but he also sensed the underlying threat beneath all that cheerfulness. Try anything against the average citizen of Zakuul, anything at all, and there will be consequences. He liked that.

"I'll try to make sure that trust won't be unfounded." Said Xildroll as he crossed his arms behind his back. With a nod, Len then went back to speaking to Koth. As the two conversed on what to do while the Gravestone was in Asylum, Xildroll looked around the gathered crew for his old one. Lana had told him that they were here on Asylum and he would be relieved to have more friendly faces around so as well as people that he can trust.

Sure enough, he spotted a Dashade and a human man coming over to him. The Dashade was wearing various metal plates that were attached to vital sections of his body and had a vibrosword on his back. His red eyes were filled with hunger, showing an insatiable need to murder those that use the Force, but was holding it back through sheer force of will.

The human, on the other hand, was dark-skinned that complimented his brown eyes well. His heavy blaster-resistant armor still allowed quick movement and was armed with two heavy blaster pistols on his hips. The human, upon seeing Xildroll, smirked as he and the Dashade walked up to Xildroll, who let a small smile grace his hidden features before he extended out his hand to the human, which they took.

"It's good to see you, Sith." Said the human, his rough voice showcasing satisfaction and relief at seeing the Sith before him, to which Xildroll nodded at.

"The same can be said to you Andronikos." Said Xildroll before looking at the Dashade. "Same to you, Khem." The now named Andronikos and Khem nodded their heads before Andronikos spoke.

"Yeah, sorry about not being there to spring you out." Said Andronikos as he let go of his Sith friend's hand. "Had to perform a job for Lana in order to get her and her team past Zakuul's planetary defense grid. And Khem had to cover my back in case any bloody Zakuul knights were around."

"No offense is taken." Said Xildroll. "I'm just relieved to be out of that Carbonite prison they gave me."

"Carbonite, huh?" Said Andronikos in amazement. "Guess they really didn't want you to escape, huh? Either that or they wanted a trophy or something." Xildroll just shrugged at that before looking at the Gravestone with Andronikos. "Nice ship, by the way. Overheard the talk between the Zakuulians. That thing really packs the punch we need to take on the Eternal Fleet?"

"I've seen its main gun in action, Andronikos." Said Xildroll as he looked at the ship. "I assure you, it's got firepower that surpasses what my Silencers can accomplish." Andronikos whistled at that.

"Well, I guess we got a real good shot at taking down the Eternal Empire." Said Andronikos before looking back at Xildroll. "Much as this conversation is good and all, let's hit it back to my temporary home. Need to get that stuff out of there anyway and onto that ship. Can't stay in one place for long, even a place like this." Xildroll nodded at that.

"Lead the way." Said Xildroll. With that, the three men left the area for Andronikos' temporary home, something that was noticed by Senya and Xigolo.

"Hm, figures he left to go somewhere safe with his crew." Said Xigolo before looking at Senya and Lana. "So, what's the plan while the ship is here? Play a few games of cards?"

"I have to contact my network. Tell them of the good news. It won't be too long." Said Lana before she started walking away. "And try not to get into trouble, Xigolo. We don't need to draw attention. More than we already did." Xigolo nodded at that before looking at Senya.

"Anything from you?" Asked Xigolo. Senya nodded at that.

"Yes." Said Senya before giving Xigolo a datapad. "Once Darth Imperius is available, tell him to meet me in these coordinates. Tell him that it's vitally important that he does so alone." Xigolo looked at the datapad a bit before nodding.

"Understood." Said Xigolo before downloading the data into his own datapad. Senya then nodded in thanks before staying silent when she noticed Koth coming to them.

"We got a situation." Said Koth with slight urgency. "My best engineer, Tora, she hasn't come back from a supply run in the free zone."

"And I'm guessing this free zone is a dangerous place?" Asked Xigolo, having next to no information about Asylum and its various locations.

"It's a black market zone." Explained Senya. "Rival syndicates fight over each other on who controls the biggest shares of the area as well as profits."

"And they fight with blasters." Said Koth. "So, I need someone to go and find her. My crew and I are just too busy to deal with the Gravestone in order to send out a search party for her." Xigolo sighed at that.

"And I take it that Mako and Blizz are too busy with helping your crew in making sure the Gravestone doesn't turn us all into dust." Said Xigolo. Koth just nodded at that, causing Xigolo to sigh again. "Alright, just give me the location of this free zone and time to resupply. I'll bring back this Tora in one piece."

"I'll send you a picture of her." Said Koth as he brought out a datapad. "Course I'm not sure you really need it. She's quite…loud shall we say." Xigolo just scoffed at that.

"Terrific." Said Xigolo before receiving the information he needed. He then left to go find some ammo and rockets for his arsenal, having a feeling that he's going to need them when the time comes.


Meanwhile

Andronikos' temporary apartment


"Alright, got to get all this stuff into this Gravestone and we'll be good." Said Andronikos as he looked around his apartment. Truth be told it wasn't anything special. Just a standard living cube for one individual that contained that standard equipment for one person. In that room were several crates of what Xildroll could only assume to be weapons, both of the legal and illegal variety. Seeing the boxes and Andronikos had everything already pack, Xildroll decided it was time to ask several questions. He already received some answers from Lana and Xigolo, but he wanted Andronikos' take on the situation in the wider galaxy.

"Andronikos, before we do so, let me ask you some questions. What going on in the Empire and Republic?" Asked Xildroll. Upon hearing that question, Andronikos sighed, having a feeling that this will be asked.

"Let me tell you, Sith, it ain't good." Said Andronikos before leaning on a wall. "I'm pretty sure that both your bounty hunter friend and Lana filled you in on the general details, so I'll do my best to fill in the gaps. They told you about the tithes to the Eternal Empire and how they're squeezing both the Republic and Empire dry?" Upon seeing Xildroll nod, he continued. "Well, I ran some supply runs and protection for the Empire in the more affected worlds and let's just say it's a mess. People are fighting each other for rations and pirates from all over the galaxy are hitting Imperial bases and worlds, sensing their weakness. The core worlds of the Empire are doing fine for now, but even they're feeling the pressure. Bloody leeches those Zakuulians. They don't even need those resources in the first place. From what I've seen of their worlds and Zakuul, they blasting don't need those resources. So, they're just doing this to just bleed us dry. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised they're doing this just to see two galactic governments die from a slow decline and public riots." Xildroll just nodded slowly at that before looking at Khem Val, who just stayed silent.

"And what of the Republic? Do you know how they're faring? I heard Saresh got herself a puppet chancellor to rule for her." Said Xildroll. Andronikos scoffed at that.

"That bitch. If she was the chancellor when I was in the Republic military, I would have shot her." Said Andronikos. "Bloody woman is everything wrong with politicians and then some. Don't know if they told you, but that woman, back when she was chancellor, got Elara removed from Havoc squad. Just for failing to kill Arcann in a mission that got their squad leader killed." Upon hearing that, Xildroll was in shock. Elara Dorne, a former Imperial that defected to the Republic after witnessing one too many war crimes committed by the Imperial Military. She joined Havoc squad when the opportunity presented itself and the commander proved himself a noble soldier that earned her respect and love if the rumor mill was to be believed. She's proven herself time and time again in Havoc squad to be a reliable and patriotic soldier for the Republic. She's had plenty of opportunities to betray them and she never took them. He even, on one occasion, tried to convince her to rejoin the Empire, but she refused, staying loyal to the Republic rather than returning to her birth nation. And Saresh removed her from that prestigious position.

"That whore of a Twi'lek." Growled Xildroll. "Remind me to have her be placed as a slave when next we see her."

"I'll be sure to remind you. I'll make the call. Know a few that like Twi'leks and like them old." Said Andronikos before getting back to business. "Things are just as bad in the Republic as it is in the Empire. Heck, I'd even argue it's even worse. At least the Empire has a rational head in charge that isn't trying to start wars like the Republic does. *Chuckles* You know things are bad if the Sith are the rational ones and not the Republic." Xildroll just scoffed amusedly at that before speaking again.

"I assume Acina has you as a contact for the criminal elements of the galaxy." Said Xildroll, causing Andronikos to nod.

"Yup." Said Andronikos. "Figured I owed you for all the good times we had together so I'm unofficially an ally to the Sith Empire. I do what I can to help out the Empire. Protecting their supply convoys. Killing a few undesirables here and there. Even give information to them about some pirates that are getting a bit stupid. For a price of course. Got to keep a reputation, after all." Xildroll nodded at that.

"How's the criminal underworld doing?" Asked Xildroll. "The Hutts in particular."

"*Scoffs* Hutts played it smart and immediately surrendered to the Eternal Empire when they showed up in their territory." Said Andronikos. "They even fought for the Eternal Empire against both the Republic and the Sith Empire in their territories, backstabbing them in the process. Even rescinded whatever assistance they gave to the Republic when the Eternal Empire came knocking on their doors. Anyway, normally as long as there are galactic governments around criminal cartels and pirates will always thrive, but this one. This Eternal Empire knows what they're doing. It's hard to steal or attack their stuff without getting blasted apart and what few successful attacks there are on Eternal Empire assets get either destroyed soon or are just not profitable with the amount of death and income lost from attacking them. And there's nothing that gets a pirate moving than a hit in their income. Maybe, you'll get some allies there." Xildroll nodded at that in agreement, already thinking of ways to get some of the Hutts on his side as well as some pirates as well. He then continued his questions to Andronikos and Khem.


Meanwhile

Xigolo

Free Zone


"Figures this was going to happen." Said Xigolo as he holstered his blaster and looked at the various dead gangers all around him. After getting all that he needed, Xigolo went to the Free Zone in order to find this engineer and get her back with Koth's crew. Sure enough, the moment he was spotted by the thugs of the various syndicates in the Free Zone opened fire on him, forcing him to do what he does best. After half an hour of fighting, Xigolo managed to kill over a hundred thugs before arriving at a door that was barricaded heavily.

Looking at the barrier before him, gauzing the number of explosives he needed to blast it wide open, Xigolo brought out a few high explosive rockets from his person before aiming down at that door. Smirking to himself, he then fired them all at the barricade, blowing it wide open.

"Always loved making a flashy entrance." Said Xigolo before going right through the entrance he just made. Upon entering the next room, he saw a handful of thugs pointing blasters at him with a few others pointing their blasters at a blue-haired human, who looked rather bored at everything that was going on. Xigolo was about to shoot all the thugs when a rather big one raised his hand up to prevent everyone from shooting.

"You could have just knocked, you know." Said the big alien, a Weequay, a big buff one from the looks of it, looking at Xigolo with annoyance. Normally Xigolo would have made a dry remark at that, but the voice of the Weequay and the old Republic armor he wore with that insignia made him widen his eyes in shock.

"Tanno Vik!" Said Xigolo in surprise as he looked at the member of the old Havoc squad that he thought was dead for years when he went on that ill-gotten mission to kill Arcann during the war against the Eternal Empire.