My dear readers, Naintarlow checking in.
After a longer wait than I would have liked, here is the next chapter, and we are finally starting the story for real with the Attack on Darvannis as the first major move of the story.
I delved a little into how the Force works inside the game, how you like the explanation. It's just the bare minimum, for now, trying not to overwhelm you with lore and game mechanics and have the story move forward too.
I want to thank everyone for their support so far, especially Agent94 who makes my day with his extra-long reviews.
As usual, the story was beta'd by Panzer_Hippo, appreciate the help a lot.
if any of you are interested, feel free to join our SAO discord server, where among many things this story idea came to life in the first place: Ht tps / discord . gg / z9Pz3Jzc7y
Now on to the story.
Chapter 3 Rage of a Sith
Stars. Distant suns, hundreds, thousands, even millions of lightyears away. Their light finally had reached the small earth in a remote corner of the galaxy after lifetimes, maybe even after the star it originated from was no more. Yet even long after their death, their effect was felt on the universe.
Maybe that was why he found himself so fascinated by them.
Or because they looked cool. In the mind of a ten-year-old Kirigaya Kazuto, the two honestly meant the same.
"Kazuto, don't stay out for too long or you will catch a cold." his mother warned him as she finished putting away the dishes, calling out to him and interrupting his stargazing as he laid on the veranda.
"Sure," he mumbled, barely paying attention, his eyes fixed on the starry sky up ahead and trying to find as many different formations made of stars as he could.
With his young mind, he wondered if there was any life out there among those stars he looked at with so much fascination. What would they be like? Would they be friendly, maybe similar to humans, or completely different? Would they be like the aliens in Star Wars or like in Star Trek?
He wondered what he would do if he met one of them. Would the alien become his new best friend? He would be the coolest kid in his grade if he had a cool-looking alien as his best friend. And then everyone would have to do as he says if they wanted to meet his alien friend.
Then his alien friend would bring more alien friends with him who would be friends with him of course and soon he would be the most popular kid within the whole school and nobody could call him nerd or brainiac or even dork. They would have to be friends with him or have a lot of aliens angry at them.
His plans of conquering the school, the country, and at last the world through morally questionable friendship were interrupted when the door opened and his little sister poked her head out, an adorable pout on her face.
"Geez, big brother. Did you forget today is movie night? Come back and watch movies with me." she pleaded and with a regretful sigh, Kazuto decided to shelve his plans of world domination. His sister could be a pain in his behind, as he heard Grandpa describe her at one time when she didn't get her way.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." he said as he stood up, mournfully looking at the stars that shined above indifferently to his plight."What are we watching anyway?"
At his question Suguha brightened up as he pulled a DVD case out behind her, showing it proudly to him. Of course, that meant she thrust the object into his face, making him unable to read what was on the cover.
"Since you like those space movies so much I graciously decided we can watch star wars. We can even start at the beginning and watch all other episodes as well," she admitted proudly, her eyes closed as if she was waiting to receive praise for her idea.
Instead, Kazuto only felt dread as he grabbed the case and looked at it carefully, a pit on his stomach opened as he suddenly got a very bad feeling about this.
"Sugu," he started to say, hesitantly, wanting to believe the best of his clingy but still lovable little sister, that it was just a genuine mistake and not ignorance of the highest order."You do know that even if it says the first episode, that's not where we should start, right?"
His hopes had been dashed when in response she frowned and tilted her head to the side.
"Of course it is, everything starts with the first episode, silly big brother. It wouldn't make sense to number them any other way," she explained with the stubbornness of someone who knew nothing of star wars yet dared to state the opposite.
"You should start with the original trilogy, with episode four." he raised his voice passionately, something unusual from the normally laidback ten-year-old."It is the very movie that started that adventure a long time ago, in a galaxy far away, everything that is star wars came from the beginning that is A New Hope. The prequels are fun and all but they are only there to fill in the blanks of the original, so they must come after watching episodes four to six. There is no other proper way to experience Star Wars in its glory."
"But that doesn't make any sense." she stubbornly refused to see the light much to his despair."Next thing you tell me that the sequel trilogy is not a thing"
"That outrageous piece of fanfiction would never stand on the same pedestal that is reserved to the original trilogy. Even the prequels stand above them." Kazuto interrupted her with a hollow voice, a literal dark cloud starting to form above his head.
It seemed Suguha's limited patience reached its limit because she simply got red as she frowned at him before abruptly turning away from him, an angry pout forming on her face.
"Well if you are like that, then you can't come to watch The Phantom Menace with me. Serves you right to be a big meanie, stupid big brother." with that she marched away, closing the door behind and leaving him out but he didn't care at the moment.
He fell to his knees, his belief in his sister completely shattered. Her sister denying the proper order to watch Star Wars seemed like the greatest sin in his young mind, an affront to everything he stood for.
Kazuto simply looked back at the night sky, the stars shining relentlessly, still uncaring about his plight but simply gazing at them managed to calm him down and a lazy smile spread on his face as he reached up a hand, as if wanting to grasp the stars themselves.
"Someday, I want to go up there." he murmured to himself, a solemn promise forming within himself."To see the stars and all they can offer, I will be going there one way or another."
At that time he didn't even realize how quickly his life would change in a few weeks when he would find out the truth about his origins and the subsequent self-isolation from his family and people in general that he would not break out for many years. But even as he fell into the wonders of computer games, as he began to basically devour every article that was talking about a new level of virtual technology that was being developed by a newly discovered genius, one thing would not change.
At the back of his head, at the oddest times, he would remember that promise he made under the stars on that night.
"From a certain point of view, I got my wish didn't I?" Kirito wondered out loud with a somewhat bitter smile as he looked at the sky."Though I never imagined it would turn out like this."
Above him was the dull orange sky of a fictional planet, recreated into a virtual game that was his prison for more than a year by now. No matter how many worlds he visited, no matter how many times he saw a different sky, even if he intellectually knew it wasn't the real thing, he couldn't help but be awed by it.
Then the effect was broken as a broken fighter sailed above him, doing a nauseating-looking corkscrew before landing in the ground, instantly exploding.
After that, the sky lit up with various lights, or lasers more like as various ships, from small fighters and cruisers of both Sith and Republic make and the occasional dreadnought clashed against the waiting defense mounted by the Eternal Fleet. Finally, the Alliance arrived in force and the battle of Darvannis started in earnest.
"Took them long enough." he heard Sinon mutter in front of him. She was down on one knee, using a piece of wall to stabilize her rifle as she systematically started sniping everything that tried to come their way and looked even remotely unfriendly.
The two of them were under the shade of a recently destroyed control tower, its remains to their back and various rubble blocking the sides leaving the enemy with only one direction to try and come after them, which afforded them a pretty defensible position. Kirito didn't even have to uncross his arms, those idiots droids employed by Zakuul had no hope of escaping the Mandalorian's sight.
After a successful landing, the strike team split up into two groups, each after one of the control towers, to take them out of commission, for their main force to be able to engage the fleet overhead without worrying about the considerable planetary defenses making mincemeat out of them.
On paper that was the plan. In truth, Kirito simply charged forward by himself, toward one of the towers and taking on everything that stepped into his path, with Sinon hurrying after him and watching his back. Thanks to the element of surprise and the ferocity of the Sith Lord, they met little resistance on their trek to the tower, where Sinon quickly destroyed it with a large pack of explosives that was prepared beforehand, while Kirito kept the defenders distracted.
As an explosion rocked the tower and forced the top half to topple over, a similar event went down the other tower, where the trio of Klein, Asuna, and Liz dealt with their assignment. After that, they were told to hold their ground, until the main force arrived and the Pathfinder, along with a couple of transports broke through the blockade, carrying soldiers, players, and NPC alike so the ground battle could start in earnest.
It wasn't a bad tactic, though there was a chance of the enemy sending so many troops that even with the superior position, they could be easily overwhelmed. Fortunately, it seemed the AI that commanded the forces around here had either deemed them unimportant as a threat to commit more forces against them, or the Zakuulian military was stretched far thinner than they were led to believe.
It could even be a ruse and they wouldn't know any better.
"Should we really wait here for them to gather enough troopers together?" Kirito asked into his earpiece, far too laidback for someone fighting for his life a few minutes ago and still in the middle of a battlefield." We are sitting ducks out there, cover or no cover."
Sinon didn't even turn around at the sound of his voice, after staring silently at the sky for so long. The only evidence that she heard him was a momentary pause of her hand as she pulled the trigger before she resumed killing the approaching troopers without the slightest hint of mercy.
"Kind of you to finally join us." Klein's dry voice greeted him, gaining a small smirk as he imagined the exasperated look on the man's face. "Next time I would appreciate it if you waited for orders before rushing off in a blaze of swords. Would help with keeping an orderly formation a lot." from the background of the trooper he could hear the hiss of a lightsaber, grumbling that sounded like Asuna, and the sound of blasters firing repeatedly.
Instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed at the slight scolding he got from the second-in-command, Kirito simply shrugged. It was not the first time his insubordinate playstyle was brought up and knowing himself well enough, he would receive a few more as well.
In the end, as long as he showed results, not a lot of people could complain about him, that was the beauty of being one of the frontline players.
"Come on, we had to use that element of surprise while it lasted. Also, it made more sense. Out of everyone, I and Sinon are the most used to working with the others, so even with the two of us we barely had any trouble dealing with skytroopers and the odd Zakuulian Knight." he informed the trooper with a small smile.
In front of him, Sinon couldn't help but let out a soft snort, obviously listening to the conversation, as no doubt Asuna and Liz did too. From the actions of his sniper friend, she didn't buy his excuse at all and it seemed neither Klein.
"Cut the crap! We both know that it wasn't even on your mind when you charged forward." he rebuked him without the slightest hint of hesitation but the man didn't sound angry, just a little frustrated."You were always the one to go after your own head, but please for the love of the Force or whatever you believe in, try to at least make it look we are working together. Otherwise, Asuna will have both of our heads."
In the background, he could hear the angry muttering of said Jedi, and Kirito had to force himself to hold back a wince. That woman had one hell of a lung on her and it made even him slightly hesitant to cross her. Her dressing-downs, especially toward new recruits who were a bit unruly and just a bit too much awe was legendary.
Interpreting his silence as a silent plea not to sic the rather violent Jedi on him, Klein simply chuckled as the sounds of battle in the background intensified.
"To answer your question we need to establish a sort of landing zone for our troops to land and the two towers seem ideal. So you just sit tight and hold on until reinforcements come raining down from the sky." the trooper answered, Kirito snorting in amusement before both of them turned to face their enemies.
Stepping away from the wall he was leaning against, he raised one hand toward nearby rubble, a large piece of a nearby wall specifically, and concentrated.
One of the most complicated parts of the game's system, yet a fundamental part of it was the Force. Lore wise, it was an energy field that encompassed and connected all living beings, some even went so far to call it a living entity, some simply classified it as energy to be used. Both the Jedi and Sith Order trained to use it according to their own philosophies, for a variety of purposes.
In the game's point of view, it was another matter entirely. Essentially it was the equivalent of magic and quite a few people were skeptical at how Argus, the developer of the game, would go about making a virtual reality game based on the Star Wars franchise and incorporate its most important asset. Quite a few beta testers had reservations when they first entered into this world but all of them were left flabbergasted by its complexity and sheer genius.
In layman's terms, those players with the Force-sensitivity core skill, which meant the two Jedi and two Sith classes were the only ones who had access to the Force system. Though there had been rumors about a special quest that could award the specific skill to non-Force-user classes but not even Argo, the best in this business heard anything definitive, nor it would make much sense since other classes focused on other skills to compensate for the lack of Force skills.
Rather than just a set of skills that the player could activate on a specific command, the Force was much harder to actively use, especially in battle. The NerveGear that captured the brain's commands to the body and redirected into the virtual body had another function. It read the brain signals with great precision and it allowed it to capture and translate commands that weren't simply sent into limbs but ran much deeper. In layman's terms, it managed to record and somewhat replicate the Will of the player.
For a player to use the Force, first they have to learn to use it and it was a very different task. It was like moving a fifth, completely new limb, that reacted and worked differently for every person and there was no definite guidebook. It did have a few passive skills and various Force powers that you could put points and training into, to strengthen and master it but it was not as easy as pushing a button on the keyboard and making your character deliver the action like in the old days of computer MMO's.
Basically, the system interpreted the will of the player, what they wanted to accomplish, and their focus on the action. Then it accounted for the stats and skills of the player and calculated if the action would happen, its strength, and how successful it would turn out to be. In theory, the will of a player could override the system, causing effects that their character shouldn't be able to cause but so far no one managed to exert their willpower on the system to such a degree. At least not without drastically negative consequences.
Precise control over this system didn't come overnight and even now, he knew players who had a lot of trouble with it. That was probably the reason why the non-force user classes were quite popular despite lacking the franchise's iconic space magic.
Fortunately, Kirito fell into the category who spent hours dedicated to perfecting their craft, getting familiar with each and every aspect of it. Thus it enabled them to force their powers to new heights and most importantly made it very easy to use the Force in the middle of a battle, not just outside of it.
Therefore it barely required any concentration on his part for Kirito to mentally grab and raise the large pieces of rubble around them before launching them at the enemy that tried to approach them.
The Droids were either too dumb or too slow to get out of the way and became nothing more than junk under the heavy pieces of metal, while the few Knights among the group continued to march without hesitation.
Still, they were further delayed which gave Sinon more room to do her magic, so Kirito wrote it off as a victory.
"They are stubborn and surprisingly resilient, I have to give them that. At least they keep the fight interesting," he commented with a grin as he stepped next to the sniper's position, hands out of habit grasping the hilt of his sabers, even though the nearest wave was still far away.
His partner didn't react visibly to his sudden movement, calmly shooting down a couple of foolish knights who abandoned their large human-sized gold shields in favor of trying to reach them faster.
"It took a lot longer for you to break out of that this time," she said at last and Kirio couldn't help but frown angrily at her words as he understood their meaning. "These episodes are getting more and more frequent and longer." there was no accosement in her tone, only a cold detachment, something the sith lord could appreciate.
"Don't worry about it. I'm handling it," he replied stubbornly, keeping his eyes on the slowly advancing group of Force users.
Both of them were careful not to say out loud the underlying issue as if talking about it simply would make it all the more real. Kirito was honestly fine with it, he liked to put the issue into the back of his head and forget about it, not like he didn't have other things to worry about. But it couldn't be ignored forever, the price of power that he was forced to pay.
Unconsciously his hands tightened their hold on his lightsabers, mouth forming into a silent snarl as the murderous rage that shimmered under notice once again erupted. Maybe it was the promise of a coming battle, or simply just Sinon bringing the matter up but it took a lot of willpower to stay his hand, forcing his body to relax. That rage, the urge to fight had always been there to some extent, ever since that first encounter when they learned the game was no longer a game but it was getting worse, harder to control.
Idly, he wondered was it an after effect made by the Force system, forcing the values of light and dark on them to keep true to the lore of the franchise, or was it simply an unforeseen after effect the deep scans the NerveGear took of their brain patterns to accurately translate their will to something that would affect this world? He knew full well it was nothing but idle musings, questions that he probably would ever find answers for but it was a nice distraction. It helped keep back the urge to kill, to rip, and main.
His willpower will run out at some point, he was not fooling himself to believe otherwise but right now they had more pressing concerns on their hand. Concentrating on them helped reinforce his resilience and keep that part of him at bay.
But it seemed his casual words weren't enough to convince Sinon of that. She shot down another Knight that tried his luck before looking up from her scope and sending a brief glare at him that he felt even though he wasn't looking in her direction.
"Don't lie to me. By the time you reached the ground, you were already far gone. It was hard enough to keep the others away from you, less you accidentally turned your swords at them. It's getting worse, don't deny it." she told him, returning her attention to her sniper. Her tone was as cold as ever and he could only hear the barest hint of frustration bleeding through it. But for Sinon who prided herself at her calm attitude, it was the equivalent of screaming in rage.
Sometimes the passive skill to sense the stronger emotions of the people around him was more of an annoyance than a help. It would be much easier not to sense the worry she felt for him, it would make him feel less guilty at least.
His 'condition', if it could be called that, was something he kept very close to his chest. Not even the others on the strike team, maybe with the exception of Argo, were even aware of something not being quite right with him.
Sinon was the only one who was aware of it and knew everything regarding it and even that had been unintentional. A particularly messed up op, the two of them cut off from reinforcements, they were in dire need of help so he acted. He let loose, knowing at the end of it he would have to explain it to her.
Surprisingly she took it well. She questioned him thoroughly, making sure that he was able to control it and it would not make him a hindrance to the Alliance, to her, then with the pragmatism that she was famous for, she simply told him that she would keep an eye on him. She would be watching him, looking after him, whenever he got overwhelmed.
And in the end, she solemnly vowed that if he ever fully lost control, she would put him down before he could go on a rampage.
That promise, that death threat hanging over his shoulder reassured him more than anyone else and he began to appreciate her quiet companionship more and more. It felt to have who he trusted with his secrets, though only to an extent and who had done the same.
Though at times like this, when he felt her worry was completely unneeded, her worry was more annoying than welcome. Still, after a long minute of silence before he sighed, silently accepting defeat in this debate.
"We were cooped up for too long, that is the only reason that I lost control so soon and so violently. And like it or not, we need all the help for this offensive. The defenses are even stronger than what our scouts reported." he explained softly and he wasn't exactly wrong.
The past month he barely got even the chance to farm and work on his levels, he was constantly forced to either oversee the training of new recruits, guard supply lines or prepare for this very battle. It left him just a little bit frustrated.
"You should really talk with someone about this, someone with more knowledge of the subject." she responded after a while, carefully weighing her words."I know that Sakuya had been looking into similar topics, maybe she could offer you help or advice."
"I refuse to beg a Jedi for advice. I will be fine on my own," he replied flippantly without a moment's hesitation. Meanwhile, the surviving Knights almost reached them, he could easily make out their spiky golden helmets reflecting the harsh light of Darvannis sun, most of them carrying a long lightsaber pike and enormous shields.
Despite the situation, he welcomed the coming battle, where he no longer had to think about complicated manners, only concentrate on ending the enemy in front of him.
At his side, Sinon chuckled softly as she stood up from her position and put away her sniper rifle. At this range, it would soon be more of a hindrance and instead, she checked her ammunition for her other weapon, before putting on her helmet.
"I should have known that would be your reaction. I wonder if your reaction is like this because you have gotten too immersed in this game, to the point you really act like the sith you say you are or because she dumped you," she added with obvious mirth.
"For your information, it was I who dumped her, not the other way around and that has nothing to do with it," he replied but couldn't help the embarrassed blush that appeared on his face as he looked away.
He and Sakuya had a thing between them, not long after the alliance was formally formed and they were sort of good for each other for a whole month before their ideals started to clash so much and both decided to end it before either did something they would regret. In the end, they parted cordially and remained friends, in the sense that both did their best to avoid being with each other without others around and their past relationship was taboo for everyone to bring up.
Kirito was more than aware that he and his approach to relationships, both platonic and romantic, was not the most healthy But after more than a year that was spent constantly waging war against a superpower that easily dwarfed both the Republic and Sith Empire and have to do many things his moral compass didn't agree easily, people needed their coping mechanism.
For some, it was pretending that everything was alright, some others found joy in bitching about almost every aspect of star wars they disliked or design flaws they found in the work of Kayaba Akihiko. He, on the other hand, along with a handful of others simply embraced the whole world that was all they had for a long one and a half years.
Their new reality, whether they liked it or not. The end was still far away, their victory was uncertain. It was doubtful that even if they defeated Zakuul they would be freed from this virtual prison, after all, they had nothing but the words of a madman for it. It was easier to block out the world outside, all the things waiting for them, everything they missed, and do their best to cope in the middle of a galactic war.
With a hiss, a pair of red blades appeared at his side. Kirito kept his weapons lowered as his mask slowly expanded and covered his lower face. The Knights were almost on them, they could hear their yells as they encouraged themselves and fellows and demanded Kirito's and Sinon's death.
"I will be fine, as long as I have enemies in front of me," he promised her solemnly, his eyes trained forward. "I will keep it under control but if worst comes to worst..." he trailed off, both of them aware of what he was referring to.
"I know." Sinon agreed solemnly.
The two of them readied themselves for the upcoming fight. Kirito's eyes flashed red as he charged forward to meet the enemy head-on and Sinon's jetpack roared as she took to the skies to support him from above.
They made a good team, it was plain and simple. They understood each other well enough to cover each other, to know what the other was planning. They had each other's back, there was nothing else to it. No complicated feelings, no reasons that made everything more difficult than it would need to be.
They simply worked well together.
"Looks like the party is just starting," Kirito spoke up suddenly, the sith lord indicating toward the sky.
Sinon followed his eyes and she was surprised to see a large hammer-head class cruiser painted in blue and bronze colors slowly descend from the atmosphere, despite the smaller fighters harassing it. She focused her helmet's optics on it, making out a couple of smaller ships following in his wake as well.
Thanks to the strike group, most anti-air turrets were out of commission, what remained needed to be aimed manually and they simply weren't enough by themselves to bring down the large ship or stop it from descending toward the battlefield.
The Alliance's very first cruiser, the Pathfinder, reached Darvannis.
He watched the Pathfinder slowly descend with a muted awe. Even if he watched cruisers, that one in particular doing it countless times on various battlefields, the effect on him was never lessened.
Tsuboi Ryoutarou grew up with Star Wars, his father, even his grandfather an avid fan of the franchise and by the time he could remember, he was watching the various trilogies, cartoons, and other shows on his father's knee, cheering at every space battle and crying at emotional scenes. As he grew older and he began to play video games, the first ones he tried were of course star wars games. And a part of him never let go of the dream of once again sailing among the stars and taking a stand for what was good.
So it was natural that when SWTORO was announced he was the first out in the shops to buy it, along with his friends. Unfortunately, he didn't get invited to the closed beta but upon the official start of the game, all of that ceased to matter and he dived in without a second of hesitation, to relive his childhood.
Then a month later everything changed, and ever since then, his wish came true in a certain sense. He only wished that the price to pay it wasn't that steep.
Klein suddenly shook his head, banishing those thoughts. He could stand and gape at cruisers whenever he wanted but not in the middle of a battlefield. He peeked out of his cover and raised his rifle, sending a couple of well-aimed shots at a droid that managed to get too close, killing it instantly.
"Heads up, girls! Reinforcements incoming," he called out to his two comrades as he pulled a thermal detonator off his belt and threw it into a cluster of droids, the grenade destroying them with extreme prejudice a moment later.
He, Asuna, and Liz took a stand in the remains of the control tower they brought down. Asuna was in front, the nimble Knight easily sending back any blaster bolt sent her way and dealt effectively with any Eternal Knight that wandered too close. Liz was behind him, in a deep meditative stance, occasionally picking up large boulders from the earth and sending them sailing toward the approaching enemy forces but mostly kept her concentration on Asuna, healing and buffing her up constantly.
Klein was close to her, using a large piece of intact wall as cover. He was her guard, responsible for eradicating everything that tried to get close to the mostly defenseless Jedi and providing cover fire to Asuna whenever it looked like she would be overwhelmed.
It was a simple strategy, optimized to keep them all safe. Thankfully the terrain and the remains of the tower were excellent to fuel the enemy so as long as they could keep up with that pace, they wouldn't be overwhelmed. Nonetheless, the promise of their main force arriving was something that relieved all of them.
Asuna simply nodded in his direction to show that she heard him before she refocused on the enemy in front of her, blocking a thrust from the Zakuulian Knight that rushed her. Her moves were precise and elegant, none of the wild, unpredictable swings that Kirito was known for. She was also fast, to the point sometimes Klein had trouble even following the path of her single blue blade.
Liz only grunted to show she heard him, too immersed in the Force to properly acknowledge him.
When the game first started he made a Sith Warrior account, since who didn't want to swing around a lightsaber at least once in their life but he soon found out that he barely had any aptitude nor patience required to learn to effectively use the Force system so after a week or two he switched over to Trooper and after the game became something else, he decided to make most of his class. Something he didn't regret one bit since he found himself flourishing even in deadly combat.
"Strike team alpha, this is Pathfinder Group one, please confirm your coordinates and landing zone." a deep, familiar voice rang in his ear suddenly, which brought an instant smile to Klein's face as he retreated behind his impromptu cover.
He immediately pulled out a rectangular device from his bag and activated it, a large antenna extending from it. It was a simple amplifier that was used to help their signals get through even through natural interferences and low-level jamming.
It was a useful thing but also expensive and a bit of a pain to lug around with all the equipment. But Klein's opinion on the matter was unchangeable: anything that could help his team to get out of these frankly suicidal missions alive was okay in his books.
"Agil is that you?" he asked with surprise at hearing the familiar voice, a roguish smirk appearing on his face. "Since when do you leave your comfy little bar to join us, idiots, on the thick of the fighting?" he heard laughter on the other end, apparently the men in hearing distance found his comment especially funny.
"Can't leave all the fun to you, can I?" he replied jovially, taking the teasing for what it was."Where are you? The Bulls and I are ready for some action."
"Well then hurry up before we kill all of these scrap heaps." Klein answered jovially."We are holed up in the remains of the comm tower east of the main compound. Most of the anti-air turrets are offline but a few of them are manually operated so watch out for those as you descend. And send a few of your men toward the other tower a few clicks to the west, would you? Kirito and Sinon are holding their ground over there."
"What do I hear? Our almighty dark lord of the sith needs help?" Agil asked back with a barely controlled chuckle. Agil, Kirito and Klein worked together a time or two and the lone wolf attitude of the youngest out of the three of them was legendary among the alliance.
"Perish the thought. Knowing him, he wouldn't even ask for reinforcements even if he faced the entire Eternal Fleet by himself." the trooper replied with a slight shaking of his head.
"Yeah, that sounds more like him. Alright, the bulls are en route to your position, sending a smaller group to pick up Kirito and Sinon. What's our ETA?" Agil asked someone on his end. There was a muffled answer that caused him to groan in annoyance."Sorry Klein, looks like you have to hold out for a while, our ETA is 10 minutes at the minimum."
Klein withheld the urge to growl at it. While they were holding out well so far, he knew well enough how quickly the tide of battle can change. Still, there was no use lamenting about it, only to grit his teeth and simply adapt to the situations.
"Roger that. Do hurry up though," he answered at last.
"Will do. Stay alive in the meantime." with that, the connection was cut off.
Instead of wasting time to put away the amplifier, Klein simply left it there as he grabbed his rifle and peeked out of his corner, immediately shooting a couple of skytroopers who tried to flank Asuna who was holding back three knights at the same time.
"Liz, shield Asuna, now!" he cried out and trusting in his orders followed, grabbed a thermal detonator from his belt, and threw it toward the Jedi Knight who was suddenly surrounded by a translucent bubble.
The detonator exploded, killing one of the knights, injuring and heavily scorching the armors of the remaining two who fell back, crying out in pain. Asuna remained uninjured and a moment later as the shield disappeared she quickly used the opportunity and cut down the knight closest to her.
She swirled around, intent on finishing the fight but Klein took aim in the meanwhile and simply killed the last enemy with a headshot.
"Thanks for the assist, Klein." the chestnut-haired girl said with a relieved smile as she jogged back to his side, before shooting a concerned gaze to Liz who stopped glowing herself and was panting heavily."Liz, how are you holding up?"
It took a moment for the consular to be able to speak but she sent a weak smile to her friend as she climbed up to her feet and grabbed the lightsaber that hung from her bell.
"Tired, exhausted but nothing more. It will be a while before I can use my powers to a degree like that but I am good to continue fighting."
Asuna's face was grim and Klein thought she would tell Liz to fall back and leave the fighting to them. Which would have been alright with him if they had more people other than the three of them at the moment but if she said she could still fight, they could hardly afford the loss of manpower in favor of security. At least until reinforcements arrived.
The commander's and her second-in-command's eyes met and both of them knew without needing to say a word on their course of action. They will both cover Liz as much as possible.
"The pathfinder broke through the blockade and the ground troops are en route." Klein decided it was the best time to inform Asuna of the new development."The main force heading this way with a few I sent in Kirito's way. Due to interference, they won't be here for at least ten more minutes."
Asuna nodded grimly but the tension in her shoulders slightly eased up. The promise of reinforcements was more than they had a minute ago.
She turned around, her eyes moving around the battlefield. The corpses and remains of knights and droids littered the part of the complex that was a large hall at some point but with no walls or ceiling above it, it was nothing more than a patch of land. The remains of their enemies would linger around for a while which would hinder the advancement of their enemies, though it also limited their own mobility.
Still, with Klein who acted as a literal bullet sponge if needed to be, and Liz who was mostly used to fighting defensively with her lightsaber, they had good odds to hold out until the main force reached them,
They would better hurry up though, as at that moment a fresh regiment of droids were slowly advancing their way, which meant that their battle would continue.
"Klein, how are you doing with grenades?" she asked quietly, not taking her eyes off their enemy.
"Not that good." she could hear the frown in Klein's voice even though the modulator of his helmet."What I was able to carry thanks to the limited inventory is almost gone. Most of them I used up during the breach of the tower and the following firefight. Unless Agil and his men bring supplies with them I have to make every one of them count. On the ammo side though, I could keep firing for a long while."
She stiffly nodded. She figured that was the situation but it never hurt to make sure.
"Alright, let's adjust our tactics. Klein, move over there and ready yourself for a long firefight. Take out as many of them before they can get here." she said, pointing toward a slightly elevated ground, that conveniently had a small cover provided by a fallen pillar.
"Roger that. I'm no sniper but I will thin them out for now." Klein saluted sloppily before grabbing his rifle and mowing over to said cover. It would make him more exposed for a possible airstrike and make it harder for him to move away but thankfully the ships were more or less preoccupied with their attacking fleet.
"Liz, I will take point in the melee. Concentrate on the knights, if you see an opportunity, take it. Watch my back and fall back to Klein's spot if it's too much." the young Jedi continued, her very presence commanding respect.
She always had a charisma that even back outside helped her make people see her way and it proved to be an invaluable skill here, with all the hard-headed gamers doing their own thing. Especially a certain sith who wore so much black that it was worrying.
"You can count on me, Asuna." the consular nodded with a determined expression, clutching the hilt of her saber.
"Then let's show those tin cans and fanatics what the people of the Alliance are made of." Asuna declared, pointing her lightsaber at the incoming troops, a challenging smirk on her face. "Everything this world can throw at us, we will beat it together. So do your worst."
Of course, those who invoke the law of Murphy should expect said law to never disappoint them.
As if summoned by the Jedi Knight's words, a shuttle sailed over their head, not one of their own but a Zakuulian model, its cargo hatch opening up and a large object was thrown out of it.
It was a large metal cylinder that impacted the ground just in front of the three members of the strike team, a slight tremor running through the ruins of the tower as it settled down, pointing toward the sky solemnly as if it was a monument of some kind.
Suddenly the cylinder opened up with a hiss, transforming into a large battle droid with four insect-like legs and two very big machine guns at its side. Klein even spied a couple of rockets on its back, making the trooper a bit nervous. Then, at last, a red eye lit up in its middle, instantly focusing on them.
"All systems operational. Targets acknowledged. Primary objective: destroy." it said in a mechanical voice as its attention jumped from one to the other before settling down on Asuna.
"That doesn't look good." the pink-haired girl noted nervously before the droid began to move toward them.
"We can take it." her commander replied but even in her voice, there was a faint note of worry. Clearly, that droid was high-leveled and judging by one look at its armor, will be hard to beat.
Most times a player had no indication of the strength of the enemy and mostly had to guess it based on where the enemy 'monster' was found and the general difficulty of the area. Even then, it was not a foolproof way to tell it. Thus, most alliance members who were fighting constantly, over time developed a sense, or more like a gut feeling to be able to guess if the enemy in front of them was stronger than them or not.
And all that feeling told the three of them that it will be a very hard fight indeed.
"Agil, you guys better hurry up," Klein muttered before grabbing one of his last grenades.
If one thought of using a lightsaber in real life, what would be one thing that almost every nerd in the face of the planet would love to try with it? Aside from fighting someone who also had a lightsaber, let's keep it within the boundaries of reality.
Most people would say reflecting blaster shots with their brand new lightsaber and Kirito would have to agree to it, before loudly laughing his ass off at the sheer naivety of it.
During the beta, right after he earned and obtained his very first lightsaber, he immediately looked for an enemy with a blaster and attacked it, simply to try and imitate the movies, casually slugging away blaster rounds shoot at him, maybe even try and direct it back to the sender.
It should have been possible in theory. His lightsaber did have the property which enabled and raised his skill at deflecting lasers. He also gained a passive skill recently, reflection training. It was simply the skill to redirect blaster bolts shot at him, and as he trained more at it, he could even start aiming where to send it properly
With the intoxicating feeling of the lightsaber in his hand, and the sheer arrogance born from his success with the vibroblade so far, Kirito carelessly approached an escaped slave nearby, on Korriban that had a beat-up but working rifle in his hands. He expected he would master the skill with the same ease he absorbed various lightsaber forms that were taught to him, along with a relatively small amount of Force training.
He had been very wrong in that assumption.
Before he could even raise his blade he ate a blaster bolt straight into his chest, blowing him back. The second killed him and then he had to spend a whole minute as a Force Ghost, cursing in the place he died before he could respawn.
He thought it was a fluke. He assumed he got this in the bag, he would get a feel for it a few times.
Six other deaths and a half of a day spent boiling in his anger after having rage quit, told him otherwise.
It took him three whole days, a lot of time spent on online forums, talking with other beta testers who decided to go the Force user route before he figured it out.
Despite its name as a passive skill, deflection worked more like an active skill in the sense that you had to concentrate on it. Since it was a Force skill, you needed to reach within and bring it to the surface. In other words, the system had to recognize your will and activate the Force subsystem. After that, you simply had to focus on defending against incoming attacks and the system assists would kick in, leading the user's blade in the path of oncoming bolts and other attacks.
Of course, even knowing it, it was still harder to execute. The system assist was barely noticeable, nothing more than a simple tug at his hands, so you needed to pay close attention to it or eat a blaster bolt regardless of skill. With leveling the skill or as some called it, getting a feel for it, the proficiency would rise, making the user able to deflect more shots at the same time, more swiftly and in time, even send it back.
Like with most things, using that skill with two blades at the same time raised the difficulty level considerably, which was another reason why dual wielders weren't all that popular among the players. After all, people preferred not to get shot at, and with two blades, coordinating each of them was a challenge, especially when even the system got confused and sent the blades in each other's way.
But now, after spending more than a year developing and using this skill, Kirito could appreciate the freedom and defense it provided to him.
"Don't fall asleep on me, idiot!" Sinon grunted, breaking him out of his idle contemplation as she sent a small rocket from her gauntlet to a group of droids advancing on them.
She didn't even wait to see if she took out all of them as the rocket exploded, whirling and letting out a couple of shots at another squad of skytroopers. Her armor was full of scorch marks, the legendary beskar holding out under the punishment so far but nothing was truly indestructible and it would give sooner or later.
Either the armor would give or its wielder would simply die due to the small but numerous wounds that get through the gaps in her defense.
Kirito didn't bother to answer her, only grunting in confirmation, all of his being concentrating on defending against the numerous shots shouted at the two of them.
His blades were like two windmills, spinning at an incredible speed in his hands, both of them doing a flashy and overly complicated dance on its own as they moved between his front, his sides and even reaching past Sinon to be able to counter against every projectile that would kill them with a lucky enough shot.
Not long after they spotted the Pathfinder breaking through the blockade and they started to feel relieved, Murphy's law came into effect.
As unlucky as they could be and as minuscule as the possibility was, the tower ruins they used as cover were soon obliterated. A recently shot down fighter, a Republic make from what little Kirito managed to gather, fell just a few meters from their position, forcing them to scatter unless either player preferred dying in the resulting explosion.
Without the convenient wall to their backs and the ruins' ability to funnel their enemies to one direction, the two found themselves out in the open, quickly attacked by various squads and soon surrounded by all sides. Of course, they refused to surrender, nor would it be an option against the Eternal Empire. Most of the time they didn't take prisoners.
Thankfully for them, most of their enemies who remained were skytroopers, who preferred to shoot from afar. There were one or two knights that lived through the kill zone Sinon made with her sniper previously, but they kept their distance and waited for them to slip up.
It allowed the two of them to take a last stand of sorts, determined to either fight until reinforcements could arrive or at least take as many of these bastards with themselves as they could.
Kirito focused on defense, his blades, and arms a flurry of movement, creating a safety net that kept Sinon overpowered by dozens of blaster shots at once. As proof of them working together so long, the Mandalorian perfectly caught his rhythm, using the brief openings in his defense to launch her attacks and keep most of their enemies at bay, without getting into his way.
Despite taking over at least two dozen droids so far, their enemies' numbers didn't seem to deplete at all and both of them knew it was only a matter of time until one of them slipped up and made a mistake that would cost them their lives.
"Having fun so far, Sinon? I'm having a blast." he joked with a savage grin on his face. An unlucky shot caught him straight in the face and while his mask saved his life, it was destroyed in the process, leaving his face that was full of small scrapes and soot now open.
He quickly threw one of his blades, the red saber, a spinning bringer of death as it cut straight through four of the droids before it was recalled into the hands of its owner who continued his deadly dance without the slightest hint of slowing down.
"Of course I am." she replied with a laugh as she activated her flamethrower, making a ring of fire around them to keep back any of the more brave droids."This date is just like I always envisioned it in my dream. How did you know?"
"You know me. A regular casanova, I am," he replied with a laugh as he once again whirled around, blocking several more shots that were aimed at his partner's back. If this was their time to go, they would go out laughing, that was an unsaid promise between them.
They seemed to hold up for the moment but only one mistake was needed for their story to reach its end. And it finally happened, just as the two finished their banter.
It was just a stray blaster bolt, sent without aim by a droid that was caught in the edge of Sinon's rocket blast, several of its system's sustaining damage but still working condition.
It was a lucky shot. Either Kirito miscalculated its path, disregarded it as not even coming close, or maybe he didn't even notice what with the two or three dozen other shots sent at him. It didn't change the fact that he couldn't stop it properly. It was the first mistake, the one that sealed their fate.
The stray shot caught his off-hand, causing him to drop his off-hand saber, grunting in pain. At any other time, he could have simply fought through the pain, called his weapon back, and continued fighting but not this time. He was against too many opponents, he was forced to change to a one-blade guard, limiting his momentum. He was also exhausted and he simply couldn't concentrate enough while fighting to call his lost blade.
"Kirito!" Sinon quickly noticed his predicament and turned to aid him but that lapse of attention was her undoing.
One of the skytroopers raised their arm and shot a small rocket out of it but it was not an ordinary rocket. When it collided with the bounty hunter's back it exploded with an intense wave of sound that went through her beskar armor without much resistance. She let out a cry as the sonic rocket completely disoriented her as well as damaged her ears, resulting in the debuff sonic disorientation to slow her down.
The droids used the opportunity and began to pepper her with their blasters, sending her to knees, her health points steadily descending thanks to the shots that found the small gaps in her armor.
The Sith Lord let out a cry of rage, seeing his partner down, and rushed toward her but one of the Knights made their move and charged the distracted Kirito, who could only hastily block the slash that would have taken his head off without any resistance.
"For Emperor Valkorian!" the knight like a proper NPC declared his random and by now boring battle cry, further enraging him.
"Get out of my way, worm!" he roared and he reached through the Force to grab his torso and began crushing it.
The Knight let out a gargled breath as he was dangled into the air and dents appeared in his armor as it tried to squeeze its owner. But Kirito was so enraged with the insolent fool that tried to stand in his way that he completely forgot that he was not fighting just one enemy.
He forgot about the droids who were more than capable of exploiting an opening like the one he just gave them.
At least a dozen shots slammed into his back, a shocked gasp escaping him as his concentration was broken and he lost most of his health points in one fell swoop. The only reason that he survived that valley was the high level of his armor.
"No!" he tried to resist in a failing voice but he fell to his knees, his remaining weapon falling out of his hands as he seemed to lose all his strength. Such was the double-edged nature of the dark side.
It was said when you are about to die, your whole life would roll in front of you like a book or a bad movie. For Kirito he didn't see anything like that but even if he did it would have been boring, save for the last year and a half.
What happened instead he felt the world around him slow down to a painful degree. Unable to do anything, just watch as everything happened in slow motion, drawing out the pain and the feeling of failure.
He saw an Eternal Knight, armor dented and dusted, standing before him, pike raised above his head, its tip pointing straight at his heart. He might have shouted something but all Kirito heard was the beating of his heart, a heart that was inside some hospital, stuck in a slowly atrophying body that would soon meet its end, thanks to a large jolt of electricity that would fry his brain.
Part of him always wondered how he would die. What he would feel at that moment when his luck ran out, when his strength wouldn't be enough to pull out a miracle. Strangely, even now the thought of him dying, there was no feeling behind it. Like it didn't matter to him if he died or lived.
Under the arm of the Knight, he also saw the prone form of his partner, as the droid walked to her, taking careful aim. And for once, a strange feeling reared up inside him.
He was a loner, preferring to work alone, not responsible for the lives of other people. Yet Sinon was one of the few who he could stand working together with for a long time, maybe because he knew that he didn't need to watch out for her, that she would be doing fine.
Yet here she was, about to die and he for some reason felt responsible. If he was only stronger, faster if he wasn't afraid to rely more on the force. Guilt, he realized with a clarity of a dying man, he was feeling guilty. It was not a feeling he was accustomed to feeling.
Their eyes met for an instant, Sinon's helmet got knocked off and her face was revealed, scraped and dusty, probably not unlike his own. As their eyes met, he didn't see the desperation in those blue eyes but a determination. A will to never give up.
Her hand reached out blindly, toward her fallen blaster and even as the blue blade of his executioner began its descent, Kirito found himself raising his hand, once more reaching within. His will, that all but accepted death suddenly lashed out, commanding the Force, no, the system to perform one last miracle.
One strung push, one that would knock any enemy off their feet. He didn't even try to aim it at his would-be executioner, but instead toward his partner. Just one second, if he could give her a window like that to act, to get to her feet, she would be alright. She would live and at that moment, for Kirito, no to Kriigaya Kazuto, that was all that mattered. He didn't want to lose anyone else again.
His heart steeled, the Force gearing itself in the back of his mind, he felt as if time started moving once again normally but just as he prepared for his final act, everything erupted into chaos.
Something fell from the sky above, crashing into the ground with great force with a tremendous sound and stopping everything in their tracks. Then several more, smaller thuds followed, with the roar of an engine above their head.
Kirito, disoriented and weakened almost ended up on his face as the ground shook, could only watch with a detached sense of bewilderment as the blade that should have pierced his heart missed him entirely, the owner of the weapon gasping in shock as a blue blade of plasma burst through his chest.
His brain could barely understand as a burst of loud laughter rang across the field, accompanied by the renewed shots of blasters as well as the iconic sounds made by lightsabers.
"HAVE NO FEAR, MY FRIENDS, THE REINFORCEMENTS ARE HERE!" a familiar voice yelled out, his voice easily reaching him despite the general chaos of the battlefield."THE WALL IS HERE FOR YOU. TO HELP TAKE THE LOAD OFF YOUR SHOULDERS!"
Without conscious thought his head followed the sound catching sight of a mountain of a man in metallic grey armor, holding up a blaster fit to his size. He, along with a couple of soldiers, was standing before Sinon who forced herself to her knees, forming a protective circle around her.
Bewildered, Kirito looked around and he saw the skytroopers, as well as the knights, retreated as a shuttle touched down, a couple of soldiers, some wearing the standard republic or imperial armor and some wearing specialized gear and weapons jumped out, accompanied by a few Jedi, Sith and even the occasional bounty hunter or smuggler who brandished minimal armor but two blasters capable of a lot of damage.
They were here, the alliance's ground team finally reached them.
"It's not like you to laze around when a fight is going on, Kirito." an amused voice sounded next to him, just as he felt someone wrap their arm around him and help him into a standing position. The Sith Lord, his brain still lagging slightly behind, just looked at the youth near his age with short blonde hair and blue eyes, who gave him an amused smirk.
"What are you doing here?" the question came out without any filter, Kirito looking at the man in disbelief. He was wearing a mismatched set of armor as if it was welded into one from several pieces. Most parts looked like the armor of an Eterna Knight, with the addition of a blue ruse painted above his heart but he did have a brown robe hung over him, in a similar style to Jedi as well. The hand that wasn't assisting him was holding a blue lightsaber, its hilt having a practical yet regal look to it, and was also colored blue.
"Now is that the way to greet an old friend?" he asked back with even more amusement but Kriito didn't register the words, too surprised by the sudden development.
Eugeo, the former Eternal Knight, traitor to Zakuul, and the first ally the players found in this virtual hell stood in front of him.