A/N: As always, thanks to those helping me write and plan out this story and checking it for continuality and logic errors.
This chapter was released at least 2 weeks ago to my Pat-re-ons (with them seeing a draft version around 2 months ago) and on the story's Discord server (in GDoc form) about a week ago.
Links for both are at the end of the chapter.

Hopefully, all the little mistakes have been found and removed.

This chapter has multiple POVs.


Phantom Menace 4

… …


(Vhonte Tervho's POV)

If someone had told Vhonte a month or even a week ago that she'd be fighting to defend a planet inhabited by naak-loving fools, she'd have assumed she was being paid an extraordinary amount. After laughing endlessly at the destruction of the so-called 'New Mandalorian' faction during her people's most recent civil war, she wanted nothing to do with anyone who held similar ideals. Yet, that was where Vhonte found herself, though as she watched the lead elements of the Great Gungan Army slip from the cover of the forest onto the plains that allowed clear passage all the way to the city of Theed over a hundred kilometres away, she couldn't say she disliked where she found herself.

Unlike many in this battle, she had no connection to those responsible for the call to arms. Instead, she had come for the promise of credits. Cameron Shan was an unknown, and a curious one at that. She had heard the stories of the Mando'ade Jetii, viewed the recording of his verd'goten, and even seen the skull of the great beast that Adonai Kryze had displayed, yet she knew nothing of him personally. Nor did she care to. She was primarily here for the credits, as were many others, though some few were here at the word of Torrhen Ordo or Adonai Kryze, or to see if the descendant of Naast be Me'suums was everything others claimed him to be.

To be clear, she respected all three to varying amounts, with Torrhen Ordo being the worthiest of respect. Unlike Adonai Kryze he hadn't aligned with the dar'manda who licked at the feet of the Tsad Droten, and unlike Cameron Shan, didn't try to claim a position of power among their people while standing with the lapdogs of the Republic. None were truly worthy of any loyalty from her, as none had been since Jango Fett had abandoned his calling.

Her father had served with Jaster Mereel in the Haat Mando'ade, and when Jaster had fallen, and named Jango his heir, Vhonte's father had been ready to follow him as Mand'alor. However, after the disaster on Galidraan – which had taken the life of Vhonte's father – Jango lost faith in their people. Once Tor Vizsla was dead, Jango withdrew from Mando'ade culture, becoming a feared bounty hunter. While Vhonte also worked for the Guild, she had never been Mand'alor, never abandoned her people as Jango had, and his actions had cost her much of her hope that one day their people might reunite under a strong leader and once again threaten the stars themselves.

Yet, if not for those events, Vhonte wouldn't be here now, helping a planet and people she'd have dismissed as deserving of being invaded free itself. Nor see that, when they had to, the Naboo were willing to fight for their home.

Vhonte would have preferred to have fought in the battle for the Lucrehulk, getting a chance to serve once more alongside Kal Skirata. Failing that, if she had the power to ensure it, she'd have gone with the strike teams to Theed, where the true battle for the planet would take place. However, she, along with Dun Marod and others, was tasked with integrating Mando'ade with the other warriors who would fight in the battle on the plains, and distract most of the forces of the Trade Federation.

Which, after discovering the initial Gungan plan, was a good thing.

Vhonte was shocked that any army would consider simply marching on an open field and engaging a numerically and technologically superior army as anything less than osik. And that was before considering that the Federation would have total air superiority if the Naboo fighters couldn't launch in time to engage the Lucrehulks.

Yet, that the Gungans knew all this and were still willing to march out to their deaths, to die defending their home, was something Vhonte and other Mando'ade could respect. That was why she and Dun had argued for hours with the Gungans – enduring their odd butchering of Basic that almost made her miss listening to a Hutt – to convince them to alter the plan.

They'd hoped to arm the Gungans with modern blasters, as over a hundred had been liberated from droids while moving through the mountains, but the Gungans had refused. They would face the battle with the weapons of their people, no matter how ineffective wooden spears may be against droids, riding beasts of burden into battle.

And yet, for all the primitive appearance of the Gungans, they had some technology. Shield generators were carried on the backs of large local beasts called fambaas, and behind them, dragged by the same beasts the Gungans rode as mounts, ammunition for their siege weaponry. Spheres of plasma, harvested from deep in the planet's core – which explained why the Trade Federation had chosen this world – would be launched at the droids, potentially disabling anything they struck. Up to, and including, tanks and troop transports.

The strike teams, or at least the majority of them, for Theed, would move to their target via submersibles that while appearing organic, were marvels of organic technology that allowed the Gungans to traverse the underwater tunnels that lined this world – even passing through its very core. From what she had been told, the core was inhabited by beasts comparable to the mythosaurs of her culture's history. Vhonte respected the Gungans' bravery for travelling routes controlled by such creatures, and if the chance arose to hunt these beasts, she would be interested in doing so. While she didn't enjoy game hunting as much as others might, the appeal of challenging, and killing an apex predator was never to be overlooked.

The Gungans were, even if they lacked modern technology, warriors, and that earned them Vhonte's respect; and that of the other Mando'ade, and the Lokella'ade that had also come to fight for Naboo. Haran, if not for the speech given by the Naboo's leader, and the unexpected warrior's spirit the Naboo displayed, Vhonte would've considered the Naboo unworthy of the effort to save them, credits be damned.

With their world in danger, the Naboo had stepped forward and placed themselves into the firing line, and all that started with Queen Amidala. On the way to the rendezvous, Vhonte had watched the Queen's appearance before Tsad Droten with Kal and others. That the same, small, seemingly insignificant child was the same as the one who spoke last night was something Vhonte was still finding hard to reconcile.

That she had, after seeing the failings of the Tsad Droten, decided to return home and fight was unexpected to Vhonte, and impressed her. That feeling grew as the forces called for by Cameron Shan answered the call to arms. Queen Amidala was willing to fight for her home, and her people, and after last night, it was clear her people would follow.

That speech, one that challenged the Tsad Droten, and all those fools who placed blind faith in Coruscant, was worthy of a leader; one who would fight on the front lines for their people. Vhonte held no love for the Naboo, but seeing how their leader had inspired them, the Gungans, and the others here to fight, Vhonte saw the spark of the Warrior still resided in the Naboo. Amidala's speech, recorded by Vhonte and others, would soon make its way throughout the Galaxy, and show the masses the flaws of the Tsad Droten. It would show them that they had been deceived; that the Tsad Droten only cared about themselves and not the people they claimed to serve.

Thus, while she was here for the credits, and that would be true no matter what anyone said, Vhonte would admit to herself that now she was motivated beyond the simple desire for credits. The veil of the false peace of the Tsad Droten was slipping, and Vhonte knew in her bones that soon the truth would be understood by the masses. This battle, for a minor, seemingly insignificant world, was a spark that would light the fires of war throughout the galaxy.

Vhonte looked forward to that, almost as much as she was looking forward to the credits and battles it would bring.

… …


… …

(Cam's POV)

As we moved through the hidden tunnels that led into Theed, I once more marvelled at the data coming to me through the HUD of my armour. Now, I'd experienced the dataflow from my team when I'd trained on Mandalore, but there it had been limited to just those seven others. Here, as we advanced quickly through secret passageways hundreds of metres below the plains of Naboo and the outer building of the capital city, I understood how powerful the Battlenet truly was.

I'd had something similar in my previous life, but here the data was coming in for everything. I could watch through the cameras of any warrior connected to the Battlenet – which included the Lokella for this operation – with ease. As we walked forward, a small display in the HUD showed feed from the armour of Osto and Bo as their assault teams neared their deployment positions, then from Naz as she moved with Sabe's unit toward where we'd meet them, before quickly switching to the datafeed from Vhonte Tervho as she watched the Gungan army assembled a few kilometres from the forest where she and the warriors with her remained; hidden from the sensors of the Federation by localised jamming equipment that wouldn't stand out unless the Federation did a detailed, equally localised scan of the battlefield.

At the same time, I could pull up the condition of any of the warriors in the battle, viewing their health, weapon loadout – including spare clips, grenades, and rockets – along with their location on a superimposed map of the planet. Or at least the planet near where they were. While I could look at other sections of the planet, there was no real-time feed coming into me as there wasn't anyone connected to the Battlenet, nor in range of a booster – which normally was just another warrior at another location – to carry their signal to my feed. Amusingly, I'd set the HUD's map feed to superimpose over my minimap. So long as the HUD map remained focused on roughly the same area as the Minimap, it acted as an enhanced map combining the Force, the Interface, and the Battlenet into one.

Haran, even just focusing on what my armour was relaying to me was a marvel. Beyond knowing my condition and setup – minus my Inventory as that was outside anything any could detect so long as I didn't access it – my armour knew the model of the various blasters and other weaponry being carried by Padmé and those with her - though I had already memorised most models and weapons in my training -; including the report that one of the guards under Panaka's command was taking medication for a rash. I'd rather not have known that, nor where the rash was, but that level of detail was incredible.

The HUD also prioritised targets based on preset parameters, with protocols to shift those parameters if a hostile was of a given species or group, or if they carried highly dangerous weaponry. It also had a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree field of vision that I could call up. However, I had that disabled as I found it, when combined with the Interface, to be a sensory overload. Once Naboo was free and I was away with Anakin to teach him, I planned to get used to the system, but for now, it was turned off.

"How much further?"

The question came from Serra as we slowed our approach. I knew we were under Theed now, so it shouldn't be too long. Serra, along with Drallig and Panaka, was leading our teams through the tunnels. Padmé, HK, R2, Simvyl, and others were behind them while my unit, which included three of those from my Institute team back on Mandalore, brought up the rear.

As I looked at Serra, I once more noted how odd it was to see her in almost full armour, the only missing section being her helmet. While Drallig couldn't force me to remove mine – not that I would've even if he could – as her Master, he had ordered Serra to do that, and she had acquiesced.

Many of the Mandalorians present hadn't been happy about that, with Bo and Naz coming and complaining to me about it. They argued that Serra had come as Mando'ade to this battle and that her removing her helmet was, to some, an insult, not to mention stupid. However, I'd countered by saying that until Serra was made a Jedi Knight – and thus considered a full member of the Jedi – or she chose to leave the Order, then she was under the command of Master Drallig. Neither girl had been happy about it, but they'd accepted my word on the matter and passed it along to others, and it seemed to have sunk in as no one had challenged her about it.

That was because I'd met the one most likely to do so last night, and made clear if he had an issue with my command, he could stay behind and forfeit his pay for the battle, or close his mouth and accept my orders. Normally, he'd have the right to challenge me for command over this, but given lead elements such as striking the prison camps around Theed had already deployed, that option wasn't available. Thus, the warrior from Clan Wrajud had shut his mouth, though Osto had warned me that the warrior and others might challenge me after the battle, especially if it resulted in defeat. I'd thanked him for the warning and was prepared to deal with the matter afterwards, though I made sure to keep an eye on the unit Wrajud was serving with.

"No more than five minutes unless the exit's blocked," Panaka replied, his voice barely above a whisper.

The tunnel had, so far, been empty. Even the various passageways that led elsewhere – which had me wondering why such tunnels were built – were deserted. Either that meant the Federation didn't know about them, or they did and were waiting for us to emerge to ambush us. In their place, I'd have mined the tunnels, or at the very least, placed sensors to detect movement if I knew of them. Since we'd yet to encounter any such threats, it appeared the Force was with us.

"Assault teams, report in." The command was said internally, travelling through the Battlenet. While I could've used eye gestures to send the commands, I found it easier and more familiar, to use vocal commands, and with all the seals on my armour, any reply or command given wouldn't sneak out. Something proved as neither HK nor R2 could detect when I was speaking within the armour.

Commands filtered in from the various teams around Theed. Most were still waiting in the bongos, below the waterline and hidden from sight. The few teams that had inserted via speeder were also in position, ready to begin the various attacks to draw attention away from the palace. The commands were filtered to Osto as well, as I knew once I found him, my focus would be entirely on Maul. My free hand gently touched one of my vambraces, reassuring myself that the various weaponry I'd had installed was there. Taking Maul down was going to be a fucking pain, though a challenge I absolutely relished, but I felt I had enough aces up my sleeve that I had a fair chance of achieving my goals.

My thoughts turned from Maul as one of the speeder teams reported that they'd met local resistance and been paired up with two Jedi. Pulling up their feed, I saw that one of the Jedi was Sia-Lan Wezz, which made me pause. I had no idea she, nor Rann I-Kanu, who I only knew in passing but had sparred with several times over the years, were on the planet. Still, learning they were here added new wrinkles to the plan, though thankfully the pair were far from the hangar, and thus beyond Maul's reach.

Pushing aside thoughts on the unexpected extra help – and wondering how they'd been doing since the invasion began – I waited, letting time tick away as we slowly reached the tunnel's exit. Once Panaka signalled we were there, I spoke through the Battlenet.

"Slannar."

No direct response of command came through the Battlenet, though within seconds details of warriors engaging battledroids filtered to me. Blue marks on the city map confirmed the engagement, and if I focused on those marks, details of the various warriors connected to the Battlenet were brought forth. Updates of warrior's conditions, be that ammo rates, strikes against armour, and the like appeared in a stream that, thanks to setting up the HUD earlier, meant they arrived in the same corner of my vision as Interface notices. Having the HUD overlay the interface meant I wasn't distracted by information overload in a dozen different points of vision.

"Assault is underway," I said, using the armour's external speakers for the first time since entering the tunnels. Unlike others, I wasn't using voice modulation, as I didn't want to blend into the masses.

A faint spike of concern and apprehension came from the Naboo with us – well, bar Panaka and Padmé. The former was focused only on protecting Padmé while the young queen radiated quiet determination; understanding that what was to come had to be done. The warriors with us, be they Mando'ade or Lokella, were battle-hardened and ready for what was to come, while the Jedi drew on the Force, releasing any concerns – which were mainly coming from Serra and directed toward me – into it.

Two battles were flagged for attention, and as Panaka worked to open the hatch leading to the surface, I reviewed the feeds, seeing the teams were engaging sentients. Given the hodgepodge array of species and weaponry, those were mercenary units, and I bit back a growl at seeing Trandoshans among the mercenaries, kriffing lizards. That there were mercenary units in play wasn't unexpected, but it was concerning to see them engage assault units so quickly. I sent new orders to the assault units engaged with the mercenaries to capture at least one from each group for questioning. Naboo had been gathered for shipping off-world, so if the Federation somehow destroyed the data of where those people had been sent and sold, the mercenaries might give up that information in return for their lives.

Regardless of how we learnt that information, Ferox and Validus had already promised Padmé the support of the Lokella to find and free her people. Padmé had been grateful for their help, and for the offers that they and Osto had extended to help train Naboo's security forces once the planet was free. It would cost the Naboo to hire instructors, but it seemed that Padmé understood that after this battle, Naboo couldn't entirely go back to how things had been before.

Light filtering into the tunnel let me know the exit was open, and as Panaka, HK, and Drallig led everyone upward, I sent a signal to Naz. She was with Sabé's unit and would bring them to the meeting point close to the hangar and entrance to the set of passageways that would lead to the palace.

Emerging into Theed, my eyes were instantly scanning for threats, my main lightsaber in hand. The HUD and my minimap were giving an insanely detailed map of the combat going on in the city, but it seemed that, for the moment, we'd emerged undetected.

Looking over the section of the Solleu River we'd emerged next to, I scanned the buildings on the far side. Detection located groups of droids and sentients moving around; however, I frowned as I realised that the sentients weren't from anyone connected to the Battlenet. Pulling up the details, I passed orders to the nearest units to engage and subdue what I believed to be another team of mercenaries, with the same intent to capture at least one for questioning.

A bongo rose from the river, and the rest of my team moved to cover them as Sabé, dressed as Amidala as seen in the Senate, emerged behind Naz. Others came with her, providing protection for Sabé; none of them aware that they weren't escorting the true queen.

Around me, I could feel the Force shifting, a growing conflagration of energy making clear it knew a critical moment was drawing close. Maul, if he was still expecting to engage the Jedi or me, would be nearby, yet no report had come in of a Force user in the field. There was no chance he didn't know that the city was under attack, or that there were Jedi present. Outside of myself, none of them were making any effort to hide their Force Presence. Qui-Gon had wondered why I was doing that when we'd entered the tunnel, though he'd not given voice to his curiosity. Provided he survived, as he likely would, I already had reasoning as to why I did so that should hide my foreknowledge of Maul's presence from him during the debrief.

My eyes drifted toward the hangar, the headquarters of the Naboo Security Force, and the main power generator that was attached to it. That area was expected to have droid patrols; however, none had moved to engage us. Given a unit half a klick away, in the general direction of the palace, was battling droids, I suspected the defenders here had been pulled away to handle them.

My gaze then shifted toward Jafan's Spire, and I reached out with the Force, searching for any hint of Maul. That was the direction Drallig and Serra were heading, and it should be clear, though I couldn't be sure. While Detection wasn't sensing him, the vision of the Jedi fighting him played on my mind; something that had been increasingly common the closer we'd gotten to the city.

Drallig and Serra would be fine freeing the prisoners at the Spire, especially as there was a unit of Mandalorians there to help. Yet until Maul was located and engaged, my concerns for her would continue to bother me. Haran, I might even still be concerned for her if she didn't fight Maul as this was the first true battle that she'd fought in. If a mistake was going to be made, the odds were that it would occur when she was first put under real pressure.

As Sabé reached Padmé, messages came in through the Battlenet, continually updating me on the situation around the city. Before a quick meeting could take place, I sent instructions to teams around the battlefield, altering their assault plans. Beyond a receipt of orders, no response came, but that was enough. Additional support was being sent to three units who, while well-armed, had lucked out and encountered tank squadrons not long after the order to attack had been given. With time, I knew all three would eliminate the tanks, but I'd rather not risk their lives needlessly.

"Master Drallig," I said, getting his attention as the meeting began. "Your support units are waiting here, and here." A small map of our location was projected from my vambrace. It marked the primary route to Jafan's Spire and the location where the two support units would meet them.

"Very well. May the Force be with you." After nods from myself and Qui-Gon – who along with Obi-Wan had been escorting Sabé to complete the illusion that she was Amidala – he moved off. After a brief moment, where her eyes found mine even under my helmet, Serra went after him.

"How far to the passageways?" Qui-Gon asked. My helmet stayed toward the meeting though my eyes tracked Serra as she headed away. When she and Drallig slipped through the first archway on their path, taking them perhaps ten metres from us, I relaxed ever so slightly. They were heading away from where Maul should be, though with so much of this battle changing I couldn't trust that he'd be waiting for us at the exit of the hangar as he had in the other timeline.

"The other side of the hangar," Panaka replied, and after a nod from Sabé, turned to take the lead. I moved quickly past him, the grip on my lightsaber's hilt tightening as I moved toward the large domed hangar. To reach it we first had to slip over a promenade that ran down the edge of the river to the Virdugo waterfall. In the other timeline, there had been a tank waiting at the end of the promenade, taking shots at the fighters as they took off. Here though, resistance units had reported four tanks on the promenade, along with at least three squads of battledroids.

Reaching the edge of an intersection that opened onto the promenade, I reached out with the Force, quickly sensing nearly three dozen droids waiting. Sticking my arm out, I used the vambrace to gain a visual and confirmed two tanks and twenty droids guarding the entrance to the hangar, and the passageway that led to the Naboo Security Forces headquarters. The other Federation forces had been called away to deal with the various assaults taking place in the city, but this lot had remained behind.

At the far side of the promenade, as in the other timeline, a local resistance unit was waiting, and as before, Padmé sent them a signal with a light. After they confirmed the signal, a speeder with an attached heavy repeater slipped into view and opened fire on the droids.

Their fire glanced off the tanks, doing no damage to them, but five B1s fell before the Federation forces reacted. As the tanks turned, their turrets bearing down on the speeder, the resistance unit slipped away; taking cover behind the wall of the building they'd emerged from.

Heavy blasts from the tank slammed into the building, shattering the stone with ease. As Padmé and Panaka led the rest across the promenade, I rushed forward. The resistance fighters had risked their lives to give us an opening, and I planned to make sure their move didn't cost them.

The faint roar of my blade as it ignited drew the attention of four droids near me. Before they could turn to see what had caused the noise, I was on them. The Force accelerated my movements, making it hard for their processors to track my movements, and after barely three steps, I was moving past them; the remains of the droids sliding to the floor; edges glowing where my lightsaber had slid through their frames.

Two more droids turned, detecting that something was amiss, but a flick of my wrist sent them crashing into the side of one tank. While that did nothing to damage the tank, it took out the droids and gave me room to leap. I twisted in mid-air, bringing my blade down on the barrel of the tank even as I used my other hand to send a Force Blast at another group of battledroids.

The barrel clanked against the hull of the tank, rendering its primary weapon inoperable, though I was still moving. Another jump carried me to the top of the other tank. The command droid there, realising my intent, dropped low, pulling the hatch closed behind him. However, I landed before the hatch could close fully and my blade slipped into the darkness within, burning a hole through the droid's head.

As I pulled my blade back, I used my other hand to rip the hatch from its hinges, tossing it behind me into a group of battledroids. With the access clear, I pulled a grenade from my belt, started the timer, and dropped it down. It bounced down to the trio of droid gunners, even as I leapt away, avoiding fire from the few remaining battledroids.

I planned to land on the first tank and finish that off, but a warning from the Force had me alter my jump an instant before I leapt, and as I landed – my lightsaber coming around to destroy three battledroids – a rocket slammed into the rear of the remaining tank. The rear hatch exploded, and the tank lurched forward, the repulsor-lifts holding it up failing as the front edge dug into the tiled ground of the promenade.

Looking at where the rocket had come from, I saw my unit in action. The Battlenet reported the rocket had come from Thun Dur's back, and as the last battledroid fell, he slid a new one into the launcher.

With the small droid force destroyed in less than half a minute, I jogged back over to the others.

"I believe the intent was for a silent insertion," Qui-Gon commented with an amused smirk.

"For you and Queen Amidala, yes," I replied as I gave Sabé a nod, keeping up the deception. "However, my unit is tasked with helping the pilots launch and then securing the generator." Officially, the reasoning there was that the pilots would need flight control – which was situated above the hanger – and prevent the Federation from attempting to destroy the generator, thus damaging a large part of Theed. "The more droids we draw to us, the less you should encounter as you approach the palace."

Qui-Gon nodded, accepting my logic. Both he and Drallig were surprised I'd given myself a seemingly minor role in the battle. Perhaps they felt I'd try to take part in a bigger battle, claiming more glory for myself. That I hadn't, had most likely eased their fears about my motivations for assembling the force helping to free Naboo.

I turned to Sabé and bowed. "May the Force be with you, your Majesty."

"And with you, Master Jedi," Sabé replied. The HUD could detect the faint variance in her tone that confirmed she wasn't the queen, but that was only because I'd been around her and Padmé for some time planning the battle. Otherwise, the slight variance between Sabé's tone and Padmé's would be ignored by most as something caused by the situation.

"Oya!"

I blinked, caught flat-footed by Padmé's comment. While it fit the situation perfectly, and amused the Mandalorians with us, I hadn't realised she'd picked up any Mando'a. Before I could give her a response, she followed Sabé and the others to the hangar. My unit moved as cover for the pilots while I hung back. I needed to be ready to move the moment Maul was sighted.

Qui-Gon and Panaka reached the hangar entrance first and quickly slipped inside. Padmé, Sabé, HK, Obi-Wan, and Simvyl moved next, along with the handful of Naboo security also acting as the decoy defence team for Sabé. Behind them, a four-warrior unit led by Naz came. They'd be the security for Padmé in the palace, with HK breaking off with Padmé as well.

However, as Thun Dur and Andeeld Krhul covered the pilots as they slipped inside, I felt the Force shift.

The HUD flared as it detected movement in a nearby building. Reacting to the warning going through the Battlenet, my unit moved, facing the new threat. Trusting the force, I leapt from my cover, and a moment later the pillar I'd been using exploded as a powerful plasma bolt slammed into it.

As the pillar groaned, and began the process of falling, I landed and rolled, the tiles behind me exploding as a series of blaster bolts slammed into them.

As I reached fresh cover, the Battlenet was already relaying into my HUD. Three snipers had taken up position over the small square we'd crossed, and had the unit pinned down. Huzu Cadora had taken a hit in the chest, knocking her from her feet though the only damage from the bolt was the scorching of the paint on her beskar. Other than the embarrassment of that, the unit was fine, and she and the others were already returning fire.

Yet, as their fire forced the snipers to pull back, I growled as a new group emerged into the square. Trandoshans were my least-liked species – even the Vong were worthy of more respect in my mind – yet that was what the group was composed of.

That they were here while groups of Naboo were being sold into slavery wasn't surprising, but I'd have rather avoided the walking handbags and furniture. Biting back a snarl, I reached out with the Force, gripping one of the lizards by its neck. As it frantically scratched at the sudden lack of air, I yanked my arm to the side, slamming it into one of its brethren.

The pair were assaulted with blaster fire, their bodies twitching delightfully as they succumbed to their wounds. Yet, just as I was about to savour the chance to remove more reptiles for the galaxy – and once more insult their god, The Scorekeeper – I felt the Force shift, warning me of a greater danger.

The Dark Side flared to life, and I quickly realised the location it was coming from. The same one where I could sense Serra and Drallig; directly beyond the Trandoshans. At the same time, reports came in of the units in the hangar coming under attack by droidekas, far more than in the other timeline.

Biting back a curse at this happening at the same time, I relayed orders to my unit. Andeeld Krhul, Thun Dur, and two of the Lokella with us were to move to help the Queen's teams. Huzu Cadora, Ginia Aran, and a Rodian named Vreet Tha were to support me in removing the Trandoshans and snipers and then securing the area.

While I could've called them with me to engage Maul, that wasn't the plan. Bo, Osto and a handful of others knew my intentions though, and as I slipped from cover, the Force accelerating me toward the remaining Trandoshans, I sent them the signal.

As I reached the first walking handbag, far beyond him, I saw flashes of green and red. My blade slipped through the lizard, removing his head. I turned, ducking under the meaty arm of one of its companions.

These things wouldn't keep me from reaching Serra. While I might not be able to prevent my vision from coming to pass, and thus save Drallig, there was nothing in the galaxy that would stop me from saving Serra from Maul.

As anger rose within me, I fought to remain in control. I couldn't make the same mistake with Maul, that I'd made when I'd fought Vosa.

… …


… …

(Vhonte's POV)

Vhonte watched as the reports from snipers in the forest and sensor probes buried in the plains during the night came regarding the size of the Federation army. She knew the droid army was going to be large, but what was approaching dwarfed the initial calculations. Given the rising dust cloud as the tanks and transports inched ever closer, she knew they were in for a real fight.

That dust cloud had been creeping ever closer for about an hour after the Gungans had stationed themselves about three kilometres from the forest. The Gungans knew they were in for a fight against a superior force, and, in a display of courage she could respect, had marched out anyway. Yet knowing you're outnumbered and seeing the massive droid army approach were two different things.

Many sentients would panic, possibly withdraw from the field of battle, or even abandon their posts, yet the Gungans stood. Through the Battlenet reports coming in, she could tell many were nervous, understandably so, but they stood their ground. Vhonte had fought in hundreds of battles in her time, even a few planetary wars when the Tsad Droten had chosen to turn their backs and ignore the suffering of others. Yet, she'd never face an army the size of the one the Federation was deploying.

Twenty thousand Gungans – some barely old enough to complete a verd'goten – stood ready for battle against an army that had them dwarfed. Over a hundred tanks and their carried squads of droids were being tracked, and Vhonte had no doubt there were more still to arrive, while four times that number of transports moved behind them. Based on the size of the larger armoured transports, and the smaller skiffs where the number of battledroids was confirmed, Vhonte placed the Federation army somewhere near two hundred thousand droids.

With that many enemy combatants, and an army that was willing to stand and fight it, Vhonte had found herself reviewing the battleplan several times since the first reports of Federation forces had come in. The Gungan warriors deserved better than to fall to droids in a battle of, in the grand scheme, minor importance. While some would die, the more that survived, the happier Vhonte would be.

A signal had come from Cameron Shan, announcing the assault on Theed was underway, and updates over the Battlenet confirmed the Federation forces in the city were far lower than initial reports had suggested. Why the Federation had felt a need to send such an overwhelming force to wipe out the Gungans, Vhonte didn't know, but at least it meant Shan's plan was working.

"Phase One." The words were spoken in Basic, as many in the battle couldn't speak Mando'a, and carried over the Battlenet. The various Mando'ade and Lokella'ade that were hidden in the forest confirmed receipt of the order and readied their positions. Vhonte's attention, though, was on the Gungans. She saw the orders reach the ears of the generals commanding the Gungan forces.

It took a few seconds, but the large Gungan force slowly moved. At the centre, four fambaas activated their shields, covering around half the Gungan force as the height of the beasts allowed the shields to extend further. The edges of the long battleline however didn't engage their shields. As planned, the groups there, and the four other fambaas outfitted in the plains with shield generators, turned.

As one would expect, the large beasts took time to turn, and the Federation army sensed, as expected, a chance to attack. Their tanks rolled forward, taking lead positions, and the squads they carried with them hopped off. As soon as the tanks were free of external droids, they opened fire.

Powerful bolts of plasma slammed into the Gungan shields, sending shockwave ripples cascading over the surface. While those attacks had no effect, those that targeted the retreating flanks of the Gungan army did. Vhonte cursed as Gungans died, being either directly struck by the blasts or being tossed around as the bolts tore huge chunks out of the plains.

Thankfully, the four fambaas at the flanks, along with over ninety per cent of the Gungans with them had already slipped behind the edges of the active shields, limiting the deaths in the opening salvo. That was due to signal jammers the Mando'ade and Lokella'ade had attached to the fambaas. Those prevented the tanks from getting target locks on the large beasts, though it did nothing for targeting their frames.

The droids had seemingly not concentrated their fire against the exposed flanks, which was a critical mistake Vhonte would never have made. Nor had they deployed snipers to target any commander in the Gungan army they could locate. Though if they wished to make such mistakes, Vhonte was more than happy to allow it and, when the later phases of the battle took place, to show the droids how a battle should be fought.

Once the last of the flanks of the Gungan army were behind cover, and they understood they weren't going to succeed in penetrating the active shields, the tanks ceased firing. The transports then slipped forward, oddly passing the line of artillery. If they weren't committed to drawing in the droids, Vhonte would've ordered rocket barrages and snipers to target the now unprotected transports as they began disgorging their contents.

"Shab'ni."

The curse slipped from her lips as reports from the Battlenet viewed the droids inside the armoured transports emerging. Two racks slipped out, with each holding dozens of droids, and then they were slowly lowered so the other two racks to extend and all the droids were then activated. Watching the count come in was an odd experience for Vhonte. Outside of astromech and smaller droids that could be programmed in certain useful ways, she had no love for droids. Save perhaps the akaan beskar'adof Naast be Me'suum that Cameron Shan had restored and rebuilt with help from Bo-Katan Kryze, though that was a droid of legend with feats worthy of respect.

Individually, the Federation's battledroids were nothing. Yet, seeing over two hundred thousand of them deployed in one large force was something to respect. With so many combatants, they required if not respect, then consideration of the sheer volume of fire they could bring to bear.

A silent prayer was offered to Kad Ha'rangir: The ancient Mando'ade god of destruction, war, and change. Vhonte didn't place much stock in those gods, but with the size of their enemy, she would take any help she could. This battle, along with the ones currently raging in Theed and the one that should soon commence in orbit, would mark a moment of change in the galaxy. Not just for the Naboo and Gungans, or even the Tsad Droten, but perhaps, just perhaps, for her people.

It had been centuries since they'd gathered to fight a battle as impressive as this outside their civil wars. To many she'd encountered in her travels, while they respected Mando'ade, they didn't truly understand the power her people could project if united in a common cause. Yes, those in the Naboo system were but a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions of her people spread across the stars, but they would help change the course of history.

As the unexpected moment of reflection on what this battle might well mean faded – at least beyond the credits she was getting paid for it – Vhonte refocused on the task at hand. The plan expected a large droid force, even up to this size, though she hadn't expected it to be called on. The change to Battleplan Variant Seven was sent to the unit commanders spread throughout the forest. The Gungan side of things, at least until Phase Eight wouldn't change, so there was no need for worry that the Gungans would have to adapt on the fly.

So long as droid fighter cover remained absent, Vhonte had little concern that they wouldn't win the battle. If the Federation deployed even a dozen Vulture droids as cover, then things would get concerning as they could've fire-bombed the gap between the Gungans and the forest. There was no tactical logic to not achieving air superiority if you could and Vhonte doubted even the Neimoidians, who only seemed to care about credits, were that tactically deficient.

Since there was no sign of such cover, Vhonte suspected Asta Ordo's assault had not only gone as intended, but that she, Kal, and those with her still held the Lucrehulk they boarded. Vhonte would've preferred to fight at Kal's side, as while they disagreed on many things, she deeply respected the man who was like an uncle to her and one of the rare sentients to whom she owed a life debt. Learning he was present for this battle had been a surprise for Vhonte, but a welcome one as she'd thought he'd retired from frontline work to raise his children after the death of his wife.

The real key regarding air cover would come when, or if, Naboo starfighters launched from Theed. Ideally, a squadron would carpet bomb the rest of the droid army, cutting them off from escape before accelerating into orbit. If that didn't happen, then contingencies were in place, and once launched, those fighters would move to engage the Vulture droids. The Naboo pilots knew they would be horribly outgunned and outnumbered, yet none had chosen not to fight, and that was worthy of respect.

A signal in her HUD alerted her that the Gungan flanks were now in position. "Phase Two."

As the droids formed up in front of their tanks, the shields at the front of the Gungan army were deactivated. Before the energy had even been fully cancelled out, the four fambaas at the rear activated their shields.

A snarl slipped from Vhonte's lips as she saw the rear rank was too far back. Their shields, as they reached the ground, didn't cover the front line of fambaas, instead stopping fractionally short of the beasts' tails. The plan had called for them to cover the lead fambaas, as now, as the four beasts turned, they were exposed; along with a considerable number of Gungans near them.

The Federation's command droids spotted this and the Battlenet alerted her to the droids shifting formations. The tanks moved forward, slipping into the gaps in the Federation's lines, and resumed their attack. Vhonte cursed whichever di'kut screwed up as a dozen Gungans died under the renewed assault. One of the fambaas stumbled as an explosion rocked the ground near its feet, and Vhonte readied a change in the battle plan. Thankfully, the large beast didn't topple, and a few more steps took all but its tail under a shield.

The tanks continued their barrage even as the front rank of fambaas slipped by those with currently active shield generators. She smirked as she saw the Gungan general from the front-rank gesture animatedly at the general for the rear rank. She made a note of that to speak with General Ceel after the battle, perhaps even share a bottle of Ne'tra Gal with him over the failure of his supposed commander.

What deranged logic had made the Gungan leaders decide that Jar Jar Binks should be the senior general was beyond Vhonte's reasoning. And as Ceel moved past Binks, the latter cowering in his saddle as if wanting to be anywhere but on the battlefield, Vhonte wondered if anyone would complain if Binks met an unfortunate end due to blaster fire once the true battle began.

As Ceel moved his fambaas into position – just inside the shields of the Bink's unit – the Federation's tanks ceased their attack. Even when they focused their fire on one specific shield, they couldn't make it fall, though the Battlenet reported that the shield had lost around twenty per cent power by the time the attack ended.

Instead of sending the order for Phase Three, Vhonte waited. If they moved now, then the tanks would quickly open fire and inflict casualties on the Gungans. What she wanted, and got half a minute later, was the droids forming up in front of the tanks once more.

"Phase Three."

The fambaas with Binks deactivated their shields, and a second later Ceel's shield activated. The droids didn't try to shift for their tanks, choosing instead to advance their ground troops toward the Gungan lines. That was a relief for Vhonte as while the shields could stand against the cannons on the tanks, each of them was rumoured to have missiles in their disk-shaped base. Those would, if outfitted even remotely correctly, have the firepower to cause chaos in the Gungan ranks, possibly even piercing the shields. Whatever the reason for the Federation not trying that attack, Vhonte was happy to let them make another mistake.

Blaster fire from the droid ground forces came in, but the Gungans were able to fall back in formation, those closest to the droids using large shields to cover themselves and their squadmates. Several large shields were attached to the rear of carts, and those covered the ammunition for the Gungan's artillery – which had yet to return fire – and the fambaas.

While the droid's blaster fire was nullified, Vhonte was glad they'd tried. The delay between the lead droids – all of which were marked with yellow stripes as the Jetii had said, four of whom were perched outside the hatches of their tanks – issuing the orders and them being carried out, was factored into the Battlenet. Those droids, along with any that relayed the orders, were filtered to the nearest sniper team until each had multiple targets. Vhonte had the senior droid assigned to her. While overall command for the droids was with the Lucrehulks in orbit, targeting those relaying the commands on the ground would cause chaos in the droid ranks once Phase Eight commenced.

However, there were still several phases to move through before then. Until it was time to attack, Vhonte kept careful watch. There was a chance the droids would alter their tactics before the Gungans had slipped back into the forest, or that the Federation wouldn't take the bait and advance into the treeline. The plan would adapt as needed, and as the droids passed the first marker for Phase Eight, Vhonte allowed herself a small smile.

Regardless of what happened between now and Phase Eight, the Federation army had entered strike distance and wouldn't emerge from this battle without significant casualties.

… …


… …

(Cin Drallig's POV)

Drallig slid to a stop as he rounded the corner of one building in Theed. In the path he and Serra were to take, stood a figure. Whoever they were, they wore a black cloak, one reaching almost to the ground. At Drallig's side, Serra tensed, her main lightsaber flying into her hand. Drallig's hand hovered near his, as he watched the figure. The Force was shifting, but it was unclear to Drallig as to why, bar that the figure intercepting them was the reason.

Slowly, the figure lifted its head, revealing a red-skinned Zabrak. Dark, foreboding lines at sharp angles marked its skin, and Drallig felt his hand grip his lightsaber, sensing the rising threat of the Dark Side radiating forth from the Zabrak, corrupting, twisting the Force as it tried to break it into a beast of burden.

Two gloved hands came up, pulling back the hood, exposing the horns of the species, however, Drallig's focus was on the Zabrak's eyes. Bright yellow pupils ringed in red stared back at him, the sign of one corrupted by the Dark Side of the Force, of one who'd given in to their baser, more emotional needs.

Drallig sensed the Zabrak's disdain in the Force. As if he and Serra were not the prey this Dark Sider sought. However, Drallig had no intent of allowing this corrupt individual to escape. There was a reason the Zabrak was here, and Drallig understood that the Force had guided him and Serra to this place to confront him.

[Master?] Serra's voice came into his thoughts, meaning she understood the Zabrak was a danger.

[Be ready,] he replied. He took a step forward, letting his robes slide from his shoulders. As they hit the ground, he unclipped and ignited his lightsaber. A moment later he heard both Serra's blades snap to life, and for the first time since chasing her to Naboo, Drallig was glad she was wearing armour. Yes, it was mainly durasteel instead of beskar such as that worn by many Mandalorians and Knight Shan, but against the clear threat in front of them, he would take what he could.

The Zabrak's lips twitched as if amused at their challenge, and as its robes slid to the floor, Drallig felt the Force shift again; the Zabrak once more exerting its will upon the Force. Drallig slid into a Soresu stance, knowing he needed to get a grasp on his opponent's style. He would expect Juyo, as that was the most aggressive of the forms, but until that was confirmed, he wouldn't be certain.

The Zabrak ignited its lightsaber, the callous, vibrant red blade common to the Sith surging into vibrant ruby life. What caught Drallig's eye was that extended hilt; one large enough for two hands to hold at considerable distance from each other. Knowing what he did about various lightsaber hilt designs, he surmised that the Zabrak preferred wide powerful strikes or used a double-bladed lightsaber. Given both Knight Shan and Serra had recently trained against training droids deployed with such blades, he wondered if perhaps the Force had alerted them to the threat of the Zabrak. That, however, was a discussion for after the Dark Sider was defeated.

[Trust in the Force to guide your actions, and look for your openings,] he said to Serra as he moved forward, taking the lead as they approached the Zabrak.

The Dark Sider sneered, once more showing disdain for them, though it didn't ignore the challenge Drallig's movements presented. Serra slipped to Drallig's right, hoping to flank the Zabrak, and jerked forward. The move was a feint, and as the Zabrak glanced at her, she pulled back and Drallig moved.

With elegant ease, his feet shifted, and he struck at the Dark Sider. However, the Zabrak was skilled, and its blade came up, blocking Drallig's strike. In the second before they disengaged from the bind, the Zabrak sized Drallig up, and Drallig felt the Zabrak now considered him a worthy fight.

Wanting to maintain the Dark Sider's focus on him, as the blade broke apart, Drallig rotated his wrists and pushed forward. The Zabrak blocked the thrust even as Serra moved in. Drallig knew the attack was too obvious, but as the Zabrak pushed his blade back and moved to defend against Serra, Drallig pressed forward.

The Dark Sider blocked Serra's attack, almost dismissively pushing her away, and then turning its blade with speed and grace to catch Drallig's attack before it could land. The Zabrak's lips twitched, and Drallig sensed that it was disappointed as if their attacks so far had been simplistic, predictable.

While pushing at the Zabraks' blade, Drallig slid one hand from the hilt, planning to use the Force to unbalance his opponent. However, before he could summon the Force to his aid, a warning echoed. He pulled back, creating just enough distance that as the second end of the Zabrak's blade ignited it failed to catch anything.

The Zabrak advanced, its blade moving rapidly. Drallig blocked a flurry of blows, each seemingly more aggressive and powerful than the last. The Zabrak stared at him and Drallig felt his presence pulse in anger. The Force moved around them, and Drallig placed his trust in it, letting it flow through him and guide his blade, catching the Zabraks' rapid flurry of angered strikes as much as needed to deflect and redirect them away from himself.

Yet, even as the Force guided him, Drallig knew he was being forced back; not by a Dark Sider, but by an actual Sith.

Drallig, like the rest of the Order, had believed the Sith were gone, that the last two were defeated and killed not long after the New Sith Wars. It seemed that, perhaps, that had not been the case. The question would be if this Sith served the same Order of Two that the last Sith encountered had, or if he was, perhaps, a member of a return to the older Sith orders that held hundreds, if not thousands, of members – rivalling the Jedi for numbers at various times in history.

Why this Sith was here, Drallig couldn't say. However, if, by the will of the Force, he was able to subdue it, Drallig intended to question it extensively as to the location of the other Sith before removing the threat the Zabrak posed.

The Force flowed through Drallig, guiding him as needed, and he allowed it to use him as a conduit to enact its will. Yet, for every strike deflected, for every blow avoided or countered, Drallig felt a gathering in the Force. The Sith was younger, stronger, and fuelled by its rage, attacking him with impressive speed and agility. Every time their blades connected, Drallig felt shockwaves – both physical and within the Force – rush through him, and each attack brought another small shift from Drallig, another centimetre of ground surrendered to the Sith.

To anyone watching, this engagement would appear as nothing more than a blur. Time had slowed for the pair, as the Force empowered them during this furious duel. The Sith's blade trailed over the ground, sending a wave of superheated dirt toward Drallig. Yet, before that even made it halfway toward him, not only had Drallig shifted to entirely avoid the dust, but he'd also defended against three dozen attacks from the Sith.

His attention on resisting the Sith's onslaught, Drallig almost missed the faintest of shifts within the Force that came from Serra. Without taking his eyes from his opponent, Drallig knew where Serra was, and wanting to give her a chance, he altered his actions. While each blow from the Zabrak was defended, the slightest of shifts in when and where his blade connected with the Sith's had them both turning.

As he sensed her closing in, Drallig backstepped a powerful slash, slipped to one side, and brought his blade around to strike at the Zabrak's hilt. The Sith reacted as Drallig expected, bringing his upper blade up, and pushing away Drallig's attack.

Yet, the opening that should've been created for Serra never materialised, and as Drallig batted away a return attack from the Sith, he was forced back. That created enough room for the Sith to pivot and intercept Serra. Drallig's Padawan unleashed a flurry of blows with her two sabers, coming in at angles that forced the Sith to continuously move. Yet, throughout Serra's assault, Drallig never sensed the Zabrak being truly pressed by it; almost as if he knew she couldn't harm him and was simply toying with her to prove a point to Drallig.

Wanting to assist his Padawan, Drallig moved forward. Yet, before he could take more than a step, he stumbled. Something had collided with his leg, and as he recovered almost instantly, he understood that during its last defensive move against Serra, the Sith had dragged its blade through the tiled ground, sending sections of it flying toward Drallig.

So concerned for his Padawan, Drallig had missed the faint warning from the Force of the action, and it prevented him from reaching Serra as the Sith turned her attacks back against her. Drallig moved again, wanting to reach his Padawan, yet he felt the Force move again. Before he was sure what it meant, he was lifted from his feet and sent hurtling back.

Turning in the air, Drallig dragged his blade along the ground, using the friction of the deep gash he left to slow himself and prevent the Sith's Force attack from slamming him into a wall. Steadying himself, he willed the force to aid him, and rushed forward, back toward the fight.

The dust from his blade scorching the ground remained almost stationary as he moved, his limbs straining as he willed the Force to push his body to its limits. Yet, even as he neared the fight, he knew he was too slow.

Serra was blocking each attack from the Sith, her body moving faster than he'd ever seen it do before. He sensed her determination, her desire to protect; to not allow the Sith to escape. Yet, for all that focus – of which Drallig was immensely proud – it was clear she was being forced back with contemptuous ease by the Sith.

Drallig understood the Sith was far beyond Serra, perhaps even himself, and as he rushed forward, he was reminded of facing Master Windu when he first developed Vaapad, when he'd come close to losing control of the power flowing through his strikes. Yet, whereas Vaapad was firmly rooted in the light, the Sith was thriving on the fury in itself, and, as much as Drallig wished it wasn't so, inside Serra. The Sith was using that rage, that fury to subsume the will of the Force to its desires, bending the Force to its will as it drove Serra back.

The Sith, sensing his approach, decided it had toyed with Serra long enough. The Force moved with it as the speed and ferocity of its attacks increased. Drallig was able to watch every shift in the Sith's body, every angle the two ends of its lightsaber took, yet for Serra it was too much.

A blow landed on her forearm, yet the Sith's blade was forced away. Drallig sensed the surprise at the strike not removing the limb and offered a small thanks to the Mandalorians for Serra's beskar bracers. Yet, the bracers could do nothing to prevent, after the Sith had swatted aside her blades, the Zabrak driving a knee into Serra's gut.

Serra doubled over, the blow driving the wind from her lungs, and her grip on her lightsabers weakened. The Sith's blade flew out, sending sparks flying as it sliced through Serra's shoto, though by the will of the Force and Serra's quick reaction, she retained her hand.

Yet, before Serra could attempt anything, even to recover from the loss of air, or Drallig was close enough his blade could do anything to distract the Zabrak.

Sensing the Sith's intent, Drallig called on the Force for aid. As the double-bladed red lightsaber came hurtling up to take off Serra's head, Drallig thrust a hand forward, sending every ounce of willpower he could with a powerful Force blast.

The blast slammed into the pair, and while Serra was only knocked to the side, the Sith was sent hurtling away.

Drallig raced to her side, sliding to a stop as he reached her. Yet, before he could check her condition, he felt the Force move. Even as he braced, the ground around them exploded and he was sent soaring away, showered in dust from whatever remained of the tiles they'd just been standing upon.

As he tumbled in the air, Drallig called on the Force for aid once more. Letting it guide him, he landed on his feet, sliding back to disperse the residual momentum the blast had imparted.

A warning from the Force accompanied a reddening of the dust around him. Knowing the strike would be too powerful to directly intercept, Drallig brought his blade up at an angle and moved. The main attack of the Sith's lightsaber slammed into the ground, sending more dust into the air, even as Drallig's blade came around, blocking the other blade.

Drallig held that blade in place trying to gain the bind, then sensing the pressure against his blade shift, leapt back, avoiding a sweep from the other end of the Sith's double-bladed weapon.

Using the small gap his jump had generated, Drallig glanced at Serra. She was slumped against a wall, and while he was too far away to see her condition, he could still sense her within the Force. Any further thoughts of his Padawan were ripped from his attention as a wave of darkness rippled through the Force, coming from the direction where Serra and Drallig had come from; from where Knight Shan was located.

Drallig knew that provided he survived this battle, he would need to speak with Serra and Knight Shan. The bond between them was greater than he'd known, perhaps going so far as to violate the Jedi Code. Any further concern with the bond between the pair was pushed aside as he sensed, entirely unexpected, delight from the Sith.

Drallig blinked, shocked to understand that the Sith wasn't here to help the Federation or target Queen Amidala, but was here for Knight Shan. When had Shan encountered the Sith, or what had he done to draw their attention? Such questions would have to wait though, as Drallig saw the Sith refocus on him.

As Drallig moved to engage the Zabrak, he knew that Shan had a small chance to defeat this Sith. Force, Drallig wondered if he could stop the Sith, and accepted, as his blade once more clashed against the Sith's, that today might well be when he became one with the Force.

If that was his fate, then he would accept it. However, before it came, he would do everything he could to defeat the Sith and protect Serra.

The Force answered his call for aid, and Drallig pushed forward, his blade moving with renewed speed and determination. The Sith blinked as it was forced back onto the defensive, and Drallig allowed himself a small smile at catching the Zabrak off-guard.

Sensing the Sith's intent to overpower his attacks, Drallig shifted. As a powerful, enraged counter-strike missed him, Drallig reached out with the Force. A second later, as his blade slapped away another attack from the Sith, he felt Serra's blade slide into his hand.

Moving even as the blade ignited, he slipped the arm low, and as the blade blocked an attack from the other end of the Sith's lightsaber, Drallig caught a whiff of burnt flesh.

The Sith stilled, anger burning brightly within it. Wanting to fuel that rage, hoping it might cause the Sith to overcommit, Drallig smiled. He was unsure how the battle would go, but he had drawn first blood and had every intention of that not being the only wound he left on the Sith.

… …


… …

(Vhonte's POV)

"Phase Seven."

Vhonte waited and watched as half of the Gungan army still outside the forest turned and slipped under the cover of the trees and the shields coming from the fambaas already in the forest. This was the last Phase before the battle would truly begin, and while it had taken longer than she'd have liked for the Federation to take the bait and close before Phases Five and Six, they'd committed to the assault.

The only flaw in the plan had come from General Binks when he shabla Phase One and left General Ceel's half of the army exposed to the Federation attack. That had cost the lives of over a hundred Gungans, but looking back on it, Vhonte suspected the slight mistake had worked to their advantage, giving the droids a false sense that the Gungan army wasn't as organised as it appeared.

That Binks had seemingly forgotten the plan that she, Dun Marod, and General Ceel had gone over with him a dozen times this morning, had her continually questioning the logic of making that particular Gungan anything but a figurehead. Still, the Gungan Bosses had left him in place, and once the battle was over, she hoped they understood the folly of giving Binks any true power.

As the last fambaas slid into the forest, disappearing into the shadows within, Vhonte waited, watching what the Federation did. So far, they'd continued to approach cautiously. Around sixty per cent of their droids had advanced with about a third of their tanks on the Gungans, with them only slowing or stopping once during Phases Five and Six.

The rear forces were split into two groups. About two-thirds of that group had closed halfway to the rest of the army along with most of the remaining tanks. The rest remained behind, guarding the troop transports. That had been one of the few times Vhonte had to compliment the enemy as it was precisely what they should do. Of course, because of that, it had been factored into the plans for Phase Eight.

The fact there were still clear gaps between the three elements of the droid army was another thing that worked in Vhonte's favour. As did the fact the droids in the front element, while moving in formation, were keeping close to the tanks. It had allowed them to fire when Phases Four through Six had been enacted, though Vhonte had been surprised when there'd been no attempt to attack during Phase Seven.

After watching the gradual withdrawal of the Gungan army, they may well have been waiting on air support to bomb the forest. That, thankfully, had yet to materialise, but with all eight fambaas that had walked out with the army, plus another four that had stayed inside the forest, all having activated their shield generators, the forces arrayed within were protected from such attacks.

Now the droids were left with three options. The first was bombarding the shields in the hopes they might fail. While the shields had shown strain under early barrages from the droids' tanks, inside the forest, the generators were working in tandem to produce their protection. That offered increased power to the shields and all but ensured the droids wouldn't punch through any shield without focusing every piece of artillery they had on it.

The second option, which Vhonte had already deemed unlikely given the droids had continued to advance as the Gungans withdrew, was for the Federation to turn and leave the field of battle. If they did decide to withdraw, then they'd have done so already as reports of battle in Theed must've reached the controllers in the vessels in orbit.

The third option and the one Phase Eight was designed for, was for them to keep advancing toward the trees. While there was a lack of logic in pressing an attack toward a clear defensive position, the sheer numbers the droids had, along with their orders seemingly being to destroy the Gungan army, meant it was the probable next step the Federation would take. And the one Phase Eight, and the various delegations of firepower Dun Marod had suggested, was designed for.

A predatory smile came to her lips as her HUD reported the front rank of droids advancing. That was corroborated by reports through the Battlenet from other locations of the Federation Army moving forward. Behind the front lines, tanks lifted their barrels and, as Dun had expected, fired deeper into the forest.

While their bolts destroyed trees when struck, it revealed the domes of the shields the Gungans had in place, and the tanks soon relented their assault. Sections of destroyed trees fell through the shields, showing their weakness to slow-moving objects. While a handful of Gungan positions inside the forest were destroyed by large sections of trees raining down, none struck a fambaas or a shield generator, removing one concern of this lull in battle that Vhonte held.

The Battlenet reported the edges of the droid army moving out, to flank the shields. Just as expected. Vhonte's smile turned dangerous as the bulk of the droid forces resumed their march forward, trickling over the Tracyn Briik. A quick check with unit commanders confirmed all primary and secondary targets were marked, awaiting her order to commence the battle. Shifting slightly, Vhonte lined her rifle up with the droid that was issuing – or relaying at least – the orders for the army.

Slow, rhythmic breathing was all Vhonte heard as her scope remained zeroed on her opposite number among the droids. She watched, still disbelieving that, with the connected network that must exist between the droids, the need for verbal relaying of orders was needed. Mando'ade hadn't been fighting like that since before the time of Te Kandosii Mand'alor four thousand years ago, yet the Federation, in a frankly di'kut display of intelligence, had decided their droid army needed to have orders relayed verbally.

Through the Battlenet she had complete access to every connected warrior on the battlefield, along with those in Theed – who were currently engaged heavily throughout the city while Naz Vizsla escorted Amidala toward the palace – yet the droids didn't, failing to use an inbuilt advantage they had. That made it another flaw in the Federation's doctrine that Vhonte and others were exploiting.

In one corner of her HUD, a number slowly rose, indicating the percentage of the lead element that had crossed the Fire Line. Thirty per cent soon became thirty-five, and then forty per cent. At the same time, a counter beside that slowly dropped, indicating how close the vanguard of the droid forces was from entering the forest.

At fifty per cent of the element having crossed the Tracyn Briik, they were ten metres from the forest. Gungans and others stood ready, at least five metres inside the treeline, ready to strike on her command. In various points, high in trees and using other natural elevated locations, snipers looked down their scopes, their spotters marking out the next set of targets. Those with rockets stood ready to unleash their first volley, striking the tanks in the lead element while Dun would have his finger over the trigger to show why the marker was termed the Fire Line.

Fifty-two per cent crossed the Fire Line, and they were eight metres out.

Fifty-five per cent, and six metres.

Fifty-eight and three metres.

Sixty per cent and one metre.

"Phase Eight," Vhonte said into the Battlenet as she squeezed the trigger of her rifle.

The bolt flew from the forest, travelling ten kilometres to strike the droid commander squarely in the chest. As the frame slumped into the tank, the field between the lead and second elements of the Federation army exploded. A wedge of earth, encircling the lead element, was torn from the ground. Those droids and tanks caught on the line were eviscerated, sections of tanks flying outward, striking nearby allies as everything along the line was engulfed in flame.

A second and then third bolt from her rifle targeted other command droids, joined by fire from other snipers. Rockets slammed into the lead element's tanks, depriving the now cut-off group of most of their fire support. Rockets then slammed into the second element's tanks; arcs of blue and white cascading across the hulls of the tanks as their systems failed and they crashed into the ground.

Not given a chance to process what was happening, large boombas from the Gungans slammed into the ground, spitting waves of blue plasma that fried the systems of any technology caught in their explosive radius.

As chaos fell on the droid forces, Vhonte sent signals through the Battlenet. The first was for fire to concentrate on any remaining active tanks in the lead element. If those broke into the forest and slipped through the shields, they could wreak havoc on the Allied forces. The second signal was to two groups of twenty warriors codenamed Galaar element.

… …

(Dun Marod's POV)

Dun Marod allowed himself to smile as the speeder he was on shot out of the forest. Two more speeders emerged just behind, and as he received confirmation that Validus' speeders were also moving, he chuckled. He might not be able to feel the wind on his face as they raced out of cover, surging toward the Federation's lines, but for the first time since the civil war, Dun felt alive.

As much as he enjoyed training new generations of warriors, he missed the battlefield, and the chance, perhaps, to die a death worthy of a warrior. Now, while he'd have preferred his return to battle hadn't occurred with another civil war for his people – the fourth in his lifetime, and sixth in the last century – he'd been content to die then.

However, it seemed his fate wasn't to die at the hands of a fellow Mando'ade, for which Dun was relieved. His people should be fighting others, proving their worth against sentients across the galaxy and reminding everyone of the might of the Mandalorians; not fighting over the scraps left behind after over a millennium of fragmented rule.

Dun didn't expect to die today; there was no honour in falling to such droids. The only advantage the Federation Army had was superior numbers, but as any good warrior knew, such an advantage was only critical when the commander was sufficiently skilled. The battledroids were designed to enforce Federation dictates, not fight major battles over planets.

That fact had been proven as the droids continued to advance on the Gungans, not once deviating majorly from their programming, which showed their controllers weren't skilled in warfare; something that Vhonte and he had designed their battleplan to take advantage of.

The Fire Line had destroyed close to Dun's highest projections, and severed the Federation Army in half, with that front element being pounded from fire inside the forest. Other Mando'ade, along with the handful of Lokella'ade that understood heavy ordinance were targeting the second element, destroying or (preferably) disabling every tank there while turning the droids to slag.

The Gungan boombas were remarkably useful for this. While the smaller hand-held balls were only capable of taking out unshielded droids, those launched from their catapults would disable a tank if they struck cleanly. Haran, even a partial strike was shutting down dozens of systems in the repulsor-lifted platforms.

As they neared the rear transports, Dun opened fire. Those with him in the skimmer, and those in the others did likewise. Droids were taken out with ease, while tanks were targeted with every piece of ion weaponry available. It had taken some work, but with support from Vhonte Tervho, Cameron Shan and Osto Ordo, Dun had convinced other Mando'ade to share their ion weaponry with the Lokella'ade; with the promise of reimbursement for any piece of ordinance used. That was going to cost Cameron Shan significantly as the Fire Line had taken most of the heavy explosives brought to the planet, but, as the transports began to turn, hoping to retreat, and the ion fire shifted to them, the purpose of sharing around the weaponry became apparent.

Attempting to take most of the tanks and transports intact was a brave call, but the thinking had been of the reward doing so would bring. The Federation would have to pay to recover each vehicle, and if they didn't others in the galaxy surely would. While the credits each warrior was getting from Cameron Shan for this battle were worth the effort, none would turn down the chance at a larger score, not even Dun who had little personal use for a large credit haul. Save perhaps, upgrading the weaponry of his armour.

As the first transports lost power and dug into the green fields, Dun examined the Battlenet. The front droid element was rapidly falling with the Gungan artillery shifting focus to the second element. There, smaller, secondary explosions had ripped through the formations of tanks, depriving them of fire support from each other, making them easy targets for those targeting them.

As another droid fell due to Dun's blaster, he allowed himself a small smile. While the droids were unworthy of being considered a worthwhile enemy, seeing so many disparaging forces ally together under a unified command lifted some of the melancholy that had held Dun's heart for decades. He didn't know if this alliance would last past the liberation of Naboo, but seeing so many Mandalorians from across the stars rally under a single banner was something he had long thought impossible.

However, if the chance again came to fight in such an alliance, Dun would be the first in line. While the Lokella'ade and the Gungans weren't Mando'ade, they were warriors. Haran, even the Naboo were proving that beneath their belief in peace and discussion if they had to, they would fight to protect what they held dear.

While the skimmer he was on slipped between the droid lines, those onboard targeting every droid and transport as they could, Dun wondered if the offer to train the Lokella was still valid. They fought for a worthy cause and working with them might bring Dun the chance to die in a battle worthy of his skill.

… …


… …

(Cam's POV)

I barely suppressed a scowl of annoyance as I slipped under the powerful – but to me – slow attack of a vibroblade. The lizard that didn't know he was nothing more than a pair of walking boots attacking me was the last of the squad I'd run into. Yet even as I cut down his companions, more mercenaries had emerged, including the return of the snipers from earlier.

While the incoming fire wasn't able to wound me, there was still a kinetic element to the bolts. Something that was proven when I stumbled as a sniper's bolt caught my shoulder. I'd been occupied removing the head of a Weequay and knew the armour could tank the blow, however, I had forgotten about the effect getting hit would have. Once I'd recovered from stumbling with a slight adjustment, I'd launched the Weequay's head toward the sniper dumb enough to hit me.

Watching the grey-skinned female duck before the head exploded inside the room she was using for cover had brought a smile to my face even as I ended the life of another annoying lizard. My lightsaber flicked out, deflecting another bolt back to its source even as I thrust my beskad forward with a passing step, grinning at the look of realization in the lizard's eyes I stepped past, ripping my blade through to send his steaming guts splattering to the floor as he tried in vain to hold them in.

Turning even as the walking belt fell to its knees, my lightsaber removing a hand that tried desperately to grasp at me, I moved forward. The HUD let me know the locations of the snipers – the grey-skinned lady having shifted rooms while I'd been finishing off the Trandoshan – and I raised my beskad, extending two fingers.

Bolts flew toward me as I walked forward in the square, though they never made it to me, slamming into the Force Barrier I'd raised to cover myself. Already the warriors with me were targeting the snipers as the last of the nearby mercenaries fell. I took a step forward, readying myself to rush to where Drallig and Serra were engaging Maul.

Fear rushed through the Force, knocking the air from my lungs and I fell to a knee as my barrier faltered.

"Serra."

Bolts slammed into the ground around me as my focus slipped and the Force Barrier fell as I understood where the rush of pain had come from.

One bolt crashed into my helmet, jerking my thoughts back to my location. With the rage I kept buried inside rising, demanding I strike back at those attacking me and my loved ones, I looked to where the bolt had come from. Snarling under my helmet, I extended my arm and clenched my fist.

The section of the building the sniper had been in imploded as I crushed it with the Force; the sniper inside had no chance to escape as the walls around him pulverised his body.

I blinked as I released my hold on the building and watched the debris tumble down what remained of the three-story building. Serra had been hurt, though not critically, and in that instant when I'd felt her pain, I'd lashed out. I'd regained control quickly afterwards, but it was a concern at how easily I could still lose control.

I'd done the same as what had happened with Vosa, and when Fay fell against the Vong, even though I thought I'd gotten a handle on my rage. Yes, I hadn't released it into the Force as a Jedi was meant to, but doing that was difficult when I remembered everything that had happened to me vividly. It was why I'd yet to even enter the same room as Vosa.

I had thought I'd gained control over that rage, to harness it only when I wanted, yet in an instant, when someone I cared deeply for had been hurt, I'd lost my focus. Though I didn't regret what I'd done to the sniper.

Refocusing on the battle around me. Time moved slowly as the Force Enhanced me; letting me watch bolts crawl forward. Stepped forward, I moved away from another sniper's bolt. That sentient and the droid squad that was emerging into the square to engage us were no longer my concern.

Maul was on the battlefield.

A second droid squad appeared this time directly in the direction I was going. I was among them before they could process it, my lightsaber craving its way through half of them in the time it took one to mutter a concerned "uh-oh."

I rushed past the remaining droids without bothering to finish them off. They weren't my target. Maul w…

My thoughts were rattled as the ground around me exploded and I was sent tumbling.

My helmet slammed into a wall, though the systems inside prevented me from getting concussed even as I shook it to clear the cobwebs. The HUD revealed I'd run directly into a unit consisting of two tanks and a dozen droids. They were likely moving toward the squad I'd left behind in my race to reach Serra and Maul.

I pushed myself to my feet, only to stagger as pain slammed into my gut, doubling me over.

Understanding Serra was hurt, perhaps fatally, I felt my control slip, and as I recovered and looked toward where the tanks were, I extended an arm. Brilliant crimson lightning, twisted and fuelled by my rage at Serra's pain, surged from my fingertips. Any droid caught in the fury's path was fried, falling to the ground in a blackened mess as the lightning slammed into the first tank.

The vehicle shuddered, sparks erupting across its frame before smoke slipped from the seals, and it fell to the ground.

The other tank fired, forcing me to shift focus. My palm opened, and the shell fired at me exploded, engulfing the barrier I'd generated in pulsating flames. As the flames receded, the few remaining droids with the tank paused, and while they couldn't see it, I smirked.

Focusing my anger, reining in my rage, I surged forward.

Another round exited the barrel of the tank.

A faint flick with my free hand forced the explosive downward. The round slammed into the ground, detonating as I leapt, the Force boosting my height far above the explosive shockwave that devastated the few remaining droids.

Surging over the peak of the shockwave, I bore down on the tank. My blade sunk through the barrel and embedded itself in the hull. Growling, I used both hands and wrenched the hilt to one side, leaving a deep, super-heated wound in the tank's hull. The sounds of the droids inside reached the armour's microphones even as I leapt again.

Landing behind the tank, I reached back with one hand and tore the hatch from its hinges. A thrust of my arm then sent a Force Blast inside the tank, shattering the droids and controls.

As the machine shuddered and then crashed to the ground – its repulsor-lifts failing – I turned. The Force propelled me forward as the tank exploded.

Somewhere just ahead, Maul was fighting Drallig. Serra was injured, but alive, which was perhaps the only reason I retained control of my rage. As the seconds ticked down until I reached my target, I did what I could to focus my anger, to not allow it to dominate me.

Around me, around Theed, the Force was flaring wildly. Whatever I was rushing to was, I understood clearly, a pivotal moment in the direction the galaxy would take. I'd changed the timeline enough that, if I didn't defeat Maul, then the original future was lost. That everything I'd done to prevent that future from coming to pass would be for nothing.

… …


… …

(Asta Ordo's POV)

While she understood the need for patience, after over a week of being forced to deal with the Neimoidian crew of the Saak'ak, Asta was fast approaching the end of what patience she had. It wasn't necessarily that the Neimoidians were snivelling, cowardly osik that would do whatever they were told for fear of their lives being threatened, or that they refused to even consider resisting. More it was that she knew a battle was raging below, but that it wasn't time yet for her and the warriors with her to do their part.

They'd heard the reports of the droids moving to meet the assembled Gungan army – which had been a surprise as the locals had managed to assemble nearly twenty thousand warriors – but since then, information had slowed to a trickle. She could see the plan being used by those on the surface but hadn't commented beyond ordering Captain Dofine to not send orders to alter the droid's instructions.

Dofine was perhaps the only Neimoidian that Asta didn't hate spending time around. That was because, unlike his crew, he appeared to have a backbone. Or at least enough of one to glare at her or whoever was keeping watch on the bridge when orders were given. The rest of the crew simply cowered and complied, sapping much of Asta's enjoyment of her new command.

The only ones onboard who hadn't accepted the new chain of command had been the remaining mercenaries. Those brief insurrections were handled appropriately, and having the crew place the bodies into the onboard incinerators ensured they remained docile. Asta knew that the Naboo, the Jetii, and the Tsad Droten might have issues with the summary execution and burning of captured combatants, but Mandalorians didn't. Leaving alive those who could be a threat in an active warzone was jare'la.

Yet, news of her actions here would reach the Naboo, the Jetii, and possibly even the Tsad Droten. However, the only reactions she was curious to see were those of Shan and Keto. While Keto's opinion was less important than Shan's, not least as she'd submitted to her Jedi Master's orders to not wear her helm, she was the first Jetii to become a Mandalorian in centuries. Shan's reaction though would go some way to determining if his path remained with the Jetii or if he would fully embrace the Resol'nare.

A beeping from the droid control station drew her focus back to the present, and she offered a silent prayer to the ancient gods that they could finally do something.

"Reports coming in from the army," the Neimoidian at the station began, a threat of panic in their voice. "Gungans have detonated a large section of the plains. Ten per cent of the army lost. The army is split by the explosions. Command and control failing."

Dofine had turned as the report came in, fixing Asta with an intense glare that might've concerned Asta if she'd been an adiik. "I assume this is the work of your people?"

"Fire coming from the forest," the control officer continued, stopping Asta from responding quickly. "Gungan and standard blaster fire."

Asta shrugged once the control officer was seemingly finished. "I honestly couldn't tell you if I wanted," she finally responded to Dofine, giving the Neimoidian a wide, shit-eating grin. When the reports of the Gungans marching out onto the plain had filtered in, she'd spoken with Kal and Baston. Kal, who was holding the power core, had detailed the basic plan he would work with. Baston, who was overseeing the transferral of the Saak'ak's computer core to transportable drives, had chimed with other suggestions. So far, everything that had been reported was in line with what they had expected.

"Reports of tanks and droids being disabled. Speeders assaulting the transports."

Asta grinned at the latest report, knowing it may well have cost her several casks of ne'tra gal with Kal as the veteran warrior had suspected Vhonte would push to capture as much of the Federation's army as possible. Asta had expected them not to pursue it simply because of the increased risk, but given many of the warriors on the planet below were fighting for credits and not for House Ordo, House Kryze, or a personal connection to Cameron Shan, she wasn't surprised to lose the bet.

Not long after taking the vessel, Asta had spent time reviewing why the Federation had targeted Naboo. The Naboo themselves were, to Asta's disgust, naak lovers. Yet, unlike the di'kute in their domed cities who claimed to be Mando'ade but were little better than osik-beetles clinging to the rear of the Tsad Droten, the Naboo had a backbone. They, led by a queen barely older than one who'd completed their verd'goten, were fighting for their home. That was worthy of respect.

The information the Federation had on the Gungans was exceedingly limited, dismissing them as primitives barely worth the cost of tibanna to exterminate them. As the droid army struggled to engage a Gungan army a tenth its size, it seemed that the report was – at least for Asta – amusingly lacking.

Watching the droids be led around like an adiik by their parent was enjoyable. It was made better by the fact that Dofine could see what was happening, but she prevented him from relaying new commands to the droids. To make sure the officer at the control station wasn't going to try anything, Nia Vizsla had her blaster pointed at the back of the Neimoidian's head. Given the original officer had tried to do that not long after the Saak'ak was captured, which resulted in their skull being split by a beskad from behind, and that their blood still marked the console, it was hardly surprising the current officer was only doing what they had to.

"However, it does sound like more than the work of just the Gungans," she said to Dofine, enjoying sticking the blade into his anger at not being able to do anything about the disaster for the Federation unfolding below. Of course, once she'd learnt about the transports lifting off from the capital, Theed, and other settlements, and what – or more accurately who – was onboard, she was going to take any chance she could to goad the Neimoidians.

"What other dastardly actions have you lot got planned?"

Asta's smile grew, and she leaned forward. "Nothing the likes of what you were doing. I hadn't realised that the Federation was so short of credits they needed to loot a planet and sell the inhabitants into slavery." Dofine looked away, suggesting he was unwilling to defend his actions, though that might be Asta misreading the alien.

When the first new transports had come up from the surface, Asta had ensured they were diverted to the Saak'ak. The Naboo and Gungans were fighting for their freedom, and when they won, they deserved to return to their cities and not find them looted by the Federation. Yet, when those transports had arrived onboard full of citizens from the planet below, it had taken considerable effort for her not to exterminate every Neimoidian onboard. And to ensure her warriors didn't do likewise.

Moving the understandably confused and scared Naboo, including children under ten, to comfortable quarters, and ensuring they were fed and treated by the vessel's medical droids had stemmed some of that anger. Though Asta had promised the others that, once the planet was free, the crew of the Saak'akwould answer for their crimes.

Dofine held her gaze for a moment before turning back to the viewscreen. Asta watched his fingers twitch, the anger at being unable to do anything on what had formerly been his vessel easy to see. Sensing the moment would soon be at hand, she slipped her helmet on, relieved to be back in the sealed protection of the armour and away from the odd smell of the Neimoidians.

With the battles in Theed and on the plains underway, it wouldn't be long until their phase of the liberation of Naboo could begin. Somewhere in the system, close to the planet and running silent was a small, modified cargo hauler. The pilot, a freelance hunter - of both bounties and big game - was waiting for a signal from her or the Naboo pilots. Once received, he'd relay it to the fleet. Currently, they should be at the very edge of the system. The hyperspace coordinates were fed to them by the gunships that had helped sell that the Naboo Royal Cruiser had carried Queen Amidala and not her and her warriors.

If all had gone to plan, then Torrhen and Adonai would be with them. Throughout the last civil war, engineers from both Clans had been working to bring long-mothballed warships online. However, Anzur Varaud had surrendered, giving over control of most of the factories and foundries under his house's control before the largest of those warships could be readied. Meanwhile, the accursed Kyr'tsad had been crushed.

Now, Asta knew that members and sympathisers of Kyr'tsad remained. However, with their bases slagged, their resources taken, and any ships they held destroyed or stripped for parts, no trace of their operations remained within Mandalorian space. If any wished to still follow their twisted ideals, they had been declared aruetiise by Torrhen, Adonai and Anzur Varaud.

Yet, even if the group were gone, Asta remained concerned they might return. While Adonai trusted Pre Vizsla, and Torrhen was accepting that Pre had not followed in his family's past, Asta couldn't bring herself to let go of her worries about the head of Clan Vizsla. Yes, he had proven himself in battle several times over, even saving her life during a skirmish on Hrthging, but his brother had founded Kyr'tsad, and it was the symbol of their house – the Darksaber – that was used as the rallying sigil of Kyr'tsad. Until that blade was found, and then crushed in the forges, she could never truly accept the group was gone, nor that Pre wasn't in some way involved with them.

"Captain! We've got reports of fighters launching from Theed!" The panic in the officer's tone sickened Asta, but knowing that her call to arms was almost here, she sent an alert through the Battlenet. Confirmation came in from Kal, Baston and the other team commanders scattered throughout the ship.

Dofine glanced at her, wondering what she knew of the intent of these fighters. "Flight vectors?" He asked the sensor officer. As Dofine spoke, Asta sent a command to Baston. The signal to the fleet was away and now it was just a matter of time until they arrived and ended their façade.

"Four banking toward the battle on the plains. The remaining sixteen are rising. Computer predicts an eighty-five per cent chance they are moving to engage us."

At this Dofine turned to her, making her chuckle. She could tell how much he wanted to launch the alert Vulture droids and order the trio of Lucrehulks to move, but he understood that, if he wished to continue breathing, such a command had to come from her.

The Federation's databanks had held specifications of the Naboo fighters, and while they were designed for form over function, from what Asta had learnt from those files, the Naboo fighters were still capable. While not as heavily armed as she would like, or as shielded, they were fast and nimble. Yet against the sheer number of Vulture droids even one Lucrehulk could launch, twenty fighters didn't stand a chance. And that was before considering the shields and firepower that each Lucrehulk had as supposedly unarmed cargo haulers.

"Well?" She said with a smile that Dofine couldn't see. "Aren't you going to launch defence fighters?"

Dofine held her gaze, wondering what exactly she was up to. Regardless of whether he determined anything or not, he soon turned to the sensor officer. "Hox, bring us closer to the planet and order the Vuutun Palaa and the Luuhan to move back to maximum control range. Nirtam, divert active squadrons to defend the fleet and launch alert fighters from all vessels to assist. Dremon, plotting firing solutions on the Gungan forces. Itab, if a need arises, assume control of planetary droid forces if the other vessels report connection difficulties from moving to higher orbits."

"I would suggest only assuming control of droids in the other cities," Asta offered. Dofine looked at her, wondering about her reasoning for helping. "With the fighting going on across the planet, it would make tactical sense to take control of the less critical ones, allowing the other vessels to focus on Theed and the battle with the Gungans." She moved forward, placing a hand on the back of Dofine's chair. "Unless, of course, you wish to focus your attention on protecting the Viceroy, in which case, assume control of the droids in Theed."

Truthfully, it was better if the Saak'ak maintained control of droids across the planet for what was to come. However, Dofine was intelligent enough to see through her logic there and would do the opposite, thus she gave him the more tactically prudent suggestion. How he responded was up to him.

The Neimoidian held her gaze, trying to determine her motives, which was another small mark in his favour. It wouldn't save him from the Reckoning coming for helping in the invasion of Naboo, the looting of its treasures and helping with selling the people into slavery, but it was something to count in his favour.

"You heard her," Dofine spat out as he continued to glare at her.

As the crew took on her advice, Asta laughed. While she couldn't feel the massive vessel move, a report from Kal stating more energy was being drawn from the power cores confirmed it. She let him know this was intended and to be ready to execute the next phase of the plan.

With little to do until the fleet arrived, Asta used the Battlenet to access datafeed from the lead squadron of Vulture droids under the control of the Saak'ak. Like most Mando'ade, she disliked droids, finding them an unworthy substitute for true warriors. The only droids safe from that determination were the basilisks of legend – though perhaps not for much longer – and the akaan beskar'adof Naast be Me'suum that Cameron Shan had recently brought back online with help from Bo-Katan Kryze. That droid was one feared and respected by all Mando'ade, though each time she considered Cameron and Bo-Katan, she wondered when the pair might seal their relationship and unite their clans.

That was a matter for another time though, and as she watched the datafeed from the Vulture droids, she found some grudging respect for their designer. They were fast, agile, well-armed and shielded and moved in swarms that would overwhelm most fighters any species in the galaxy might deploy. Yet, as she watched, even massively outnumbered, the Naboo fighters were not only holding their own but inflicting damage on the Vultures at a three-to-one ratio.

While that was impressive, the Naboo were outnumbered close to twenty-to-one, and that was before the support wave of vultures reached them. Though she could admire their determination to fight and die for their home, their freedom. It proved the choice of Houses Ordo and Kryze to answer Clan Shan's call to arms was the correct one.

The Neimoidians were enjoying watching the Naboo die in what they regarded as a pitiful attempt to attack the Lucrehulks. Asta, however, watched stoically, her armour recording the face of every Naboo pilot who died. While she didn't know if the Naboo would return to their path of peace once they were free, on this day, they showed that, even if they had failed to prevent their planet from being invaded, they would fight to free it. That inside them beat the hearts of warriors. When the day was over, and the battle decided, their names would be remembered by all.

As she watched another Naboo fall in defence of their home, Asta considered their young leader. Queen Amidala had pleaded her case to the Tsad Droten, yet they had ignored her. Bending, instead, to the demands of the very group responsible for invading her world. While that had forced Chancellor Valorum from power, it had also lit a spark in Amidala.

Returning to fight for her people had inspired others to do likewise. Yes, most of the Mando'ade who had answered the call did so for credits. Amidala's speech to the assembled fleet before they had departed for the planet showed the fire within her, and Kal had remarked that while a politician, she had the heart of a warrior. Something that her people were showing they, too, possessed.

"Acquire firing solutions on the battle on the plains."

"Belay that," Asta snapped, her hand gripping the hilt of her beskad on the chance the weapons officer tried to enact it. She relaxed slightly as she saw Hox jam the muzzle of his rifle into the back of the Neimoidian Weapon's officer's skull. A squeak of terror escaped the Neimoidian and Asta grunted in annoyance at such weakness. "Just because I've let you deal with a false threat doesn't mean I'm going to let you do anything more."

Dofine blinked. "False threat?" she leaned forward, removing her beskad from its mounting at her side. "What have you done?" He asked as the blade caught his eye.

"Captain! Vessels dropping out of hyperspace near the planet's moon!"

Dofine's attention snapped to the viewscreen. "Display!"

Asta walked behind his chair, dragging her blade along the edge, letting the scrapping of metal-on-metal echo around the bridge. While it affected the Neimoidians, her warriors were all inside their armour, the sound muted and seen as little more than a hint of the carnage to come. As the screen shifted from images of the minor fighter engagement to display the arriving fleet, a smile that would've stopped the hearts of several of the Neimoidians came to Asta's face.

At the same time, every Neimoidian on the bridge – and throughout the ship – who wasn't either a senior officer – and thus carried ransom value – or important, died. Their bodies scorched as her warriors executed them and took true control of the Saak'ak.

"What is the meaning of this?" Dofine screeched as he leapt from his chair. "Ho…" his words died as Asta moved forward, the hilt of her beskad slamming into his skull. At the same time, the other senior officers were stunned or rendered unconscious similar to their captain.

She watched his body slump, the arm cracking as it caught and twisted awkwardly. The HUD confirmed it was broken but otherwise, the prisoner was alive. "Finally," she muttered to herself. Moving forward, she pushed Dofine away and eased herself into the command chair. It wasn't a wonderful fit, being designed for Neimoidians, but at least the ruse was over and true command of the mighty vessel was hers.

"Status?" she asked through the local Battlenet.

"Control of the vessel's droids confirmed," Nia Vizsla reported as she sat at the droid control station. "Awaiting your signal."

"Helm ready."

"Weapons primed, awaiting firing solutions."

The reports from Hox Brahl and Mun Xath confirmed the bridge was theirs. Reports team commanders confirmed the rest of the ship was secured, with all organic crew dead or incapacitated. "Open a channel to the Ne'tra Tal'ade," she said, the large command vessel at the centre of the combined fleet, a relic of a bygone era but still a terror of the battlefield, dwarfing those around it.

The display shifted, half showing the approaching fleet while the other showed her the command deck of the Black Blood Warrior. "Riduur, Adonai," she said to the two figures shown on the Ne'tra Tal'ade's bridge, her voice carried by the external speakers of her armour.

"Riduur. I assume the vessel is secure?" Torrhen asked with a slight smile. Neither he nor Adonai currently wore their helmets. From the way they stood, however, she could tell each had them under their arm.

"It is, along with any crew of value and those the Federation had taken from the planet."

Adonai growled. "What?"

"It seems that to recoup costs, the Federation was not only looting Naboo but selling the people into slavery." Both men bristled at the statement, their anger at the actions of the Trade Federation easy to see. "While we couldn't stop those sold before our arrival, nearly two thousand Naboo and Gungans are onboard."

"Do they know your vessel will soon go into battle?"

"Yes husband, they do," Asta replied, rolling her eyes at Torrhen; not that he could see the gesture. While Torrhen was a great warrior and an even worthier mate, he had a gentle heart and tried to protect those in danger when he could. "Many have chosen to help us man this vessel, and are now following the commands of my warriors."

"While we're pleased to hear that, perhaps we might keep discussions about their fate, and that of any prisoners you have, until after the battle," Adonai suggested. "What forces do you command?"

"This Lucrehulk was designed as a command vessel. While she has limited control of the droids below, over four hundred Vulture droids are at my fingertips. Along with firepower that likely breaks the Tsad Droten laws."

Adonai laughed. "That will be something I'm sure Alor Cameron and Queen Amidala will enjoy throwing in the face of the Senate. Assisted, I suspect by the new Chancellor: Sheev Palpatine of Naboo." Asta's brow rose. When the Senator for Naboo hadn't returned with Amidala, she had considered him a coward. However, it seemed he had used the chaos to become the new leader of the Tsad Droten. Not the actions of a warrior, but one of a shrewd politician. Asta would be wary of the man if she ever met him.

"The Saak'ak is ready for battle," she said, shifting the topic back to a relevant matter.

"Then let the battle commence." The signal from the Ne'tra Tal'ade ceased, returning the display to that of the approaching allied fleet.

"All stations, execute," Asta said through the Battlenet.

With full control of the Saak'ak her HUD reported the ship slowly turning, bringing her arsenal to bear on the other Lucrehulk. The droids under her command suddenly began turning on those around them. She knew that on the planet below, that might not matter and wouldn't save the droids from destruction, but in space, watching Vulture droids suddenly shift from targeting Naboo fighters to other droids, was a glorious sight.

However, a moment later, it was replaced by another.

The main cannons of the Ne'tra Tal'ade opened fire, slamming their power into the shields of the Vuutun Palaa. As the captains of the other Lucrehulks called out for orders from Dofine, the Mando'ade dreadnought pushed forward. Around it, the fleet added their firepower, swatting aside wings of vulture droids.

Asta allowed herself an amused smile as her HUD reported the Saak'ak's batteries opening fire.

For the first time since the Dral'Han, the galaxy would be reminded of the might of the Mandalorians, and the power of a dreadnought built by them.

… …


… …

(Serra's POV)

With a groan, Serra lifted a hand to her head. It was hard to focus and there was a ringing in her ears. Yet, all that failed to matter as her vision cleared and she saw lightsabers clashing not far from her. Green whirled around, engaging a far longer blade of red and she blinked, her mind refocusing as she realised her Master was engaging the Sith.

Wiping her forehead and eyes, she stood slowly, ignoring the blood on her sleeve as she watched the Sith. She'd known he was Sith before she'd arrived on Naboo, known that if she didn't do something, Cam would die to the Zabrak's blade. The visions the Force had granted her had been clear in that. Yet, she'd not expected her Master to chase after her; or at least, not arrive here before she and others could help Cam defeat the Sith.

She knew her feelings toward him, and others like Bo, were stretching the Jedi code, but Serra knew that Cam was important. There was a darkness growing in the galaxy, a fact proven by her Master currently engaging what may well be the first Sith seen in a millennium. Serra wasn't sure if Cam was the one who'd bring light to the galaxy, but she knew he was important to prevent darkness from swallowing every flicker of light.

Now, Serra didn't place any focus on the dealings of the Senate, or indeed the wider Republic, but she knew enough to see that there were big problems. Potentially ones so massive that repairing them before the darkness engulfed the galaxy might be impossible. If that was the case, then Serra knew that order and peace would need to be restored. While she felt she had a role to play in that, she knew Cam had a greater role.

Her visions of the future, of which she'd spoken to no one as she didn't know who to trust with them, showed her at his side. Perhaps not as close as others, and if that was the case she could accept it, for the greater good. However, Cam and another – a Human with blond hair if her visions were accurate – were critical to saving everything.

Serra understood that visions couldn't be entirely trusted, but she felt that within what she was being allowed to glimpse were paths the Force wanted the galaxy to take. That Cam had to survive Naboo. Which was why, as her Master forced the Sith back with a move she'd never seen before, she was glad he was here.

Without Master Drallig, she would already be dead, and Cam would probably also die at the Sith's blade. However, it was also clear that the Sith was challenging her Master, the Order's Battlemaster. While she wasn't sure if or how she could help, she wouldn't stand by and do nothing.

Using the wall behind her to steady herself, she stood and reached out a hand to summon her remaining blade. The shoto blade had been destroyed before she'd been knocked back, and without it, she felt as if a piece of her had been lost. She could still sense the crystal, so once the Sith was defeated, she would recover that and rebuild the hilt, but not having it in her hand, not feeling the Force flow through her and the blade as they moved as one, left her empty. Until then, she'd have to adapt and use her remaining blade, which had been closer to her Master than her when she'd recovered.

Once upright, and as her Master blocked a flurry of blows from the Sith, Serra called the Force for aid, allowing it to heal and numb her wounds. The speed at which Master Drallig and the Sith were duelling was impressive, flickering in and out of her ability to track

She felt she could make a difference, but she had to pick her moment to re-engage, otherwise, it would only lead to her and her Master falling, leaving Cam alone to face the Sith.

If Master Drallig could sense her thoughts now or was able to focus on them, she suspected he would be pleased. When he'd first taken her as his Padawan – one of Serra's proudest days – he'd spoken of her greatest failing; that of rushing in without thinking, without analysing a situation. She knew she still did that, particularly where her friends were concerned, but she felt she'd improved greatly at tempering that failing in herself. Master Drallig had spotted her improvement as well, commenting on it regularly after their spars. Now, she still lost to him, as was to be expected of any Padawan or young Knight, but she felt she would be able to push him within the next few years. As Master Drallig said, her heart was in the right place, but she needed to temper that desire, that emotional failing, to rush in with wisdom. To place herself under the will of the Force and allow it to guide her as needed.

Taking that moment to centre herself, she understood fully that the fight she was about to rejoin was beyond her. Perhaps it might even cost her life, but it was the right thing to do. That the Force wanted her here, at her Master's side, to engage the Sith. As Master Drallig moved back, avoiding a strike from one side of the Sith's double-bladed lightsaber, she waited and watched, seeking the moment the Force wished her to return to the fray.

Cam was approaching, and she could sense the rage in him. Part of her was delighted that the rage he displayed, which echoed out in the Force, was because he'd sensed her in danger. However, the way he seemed to not release that anger, that fury; instead drawing on it concerned her. Years ago, he had taught her that emotions could help a Force user, but she'd been uncertain of those lessons for a while. Yes, emotions like love and joy could empower a Jedi, but the risk of sensing one you cared about could easily lead to passion, anger, and rage. As she sensed in Cam.

Perhaps it was that danger, that difference about him, that had drawn her to him. That had allowed them to become friends and more. Yet, she couldn't help but fear what it could lead to if he failed to control his emotions. She would do what she could to guide him, to help him learn, but she understood and accepted that perhaps he never would fully gain control over his emotions. And that, whatever the future brought, they were tied together in the Force.

Sensing movement in the Force, she let the second of reflection pass and moved forward. Soon Cam would arrive, and with her and her Master, he would defeat the Sith. All she had to do was survive until he arrived, and then ensure he emerged victorious from the battle.

With the Force on her side, she moved forward, sensing her moment. The Zabrak had its back turned, focused on the rapid, flowing strikes her Master was unleashing. Her lightsaber ignited as she drew the Force into her, and called upon it for aid.

As time seemed to slow, as she was able to see individual flakes of dust seeming to hover in the air, the blades of the pair she was rushing toward moved in a blur. Master Drallig was attacking with controlled aggression, his blade seemingly being in three places at once. Yet the Sith was matching his attacks, almost dismissively so.

She almost stumbled as the Force shifted around them, as the Sith bent it to its will, and turned her Master's attacks back on him. While she closed in the pair, and Master Drallig gave his all to block the Sith's renewed furious attacks, Serra sensed something in the Force. Something dangerous, powerful, and familiar. Somewhere there, or perhaps deep within herself, a whisper told, almost demanded, that she take control of the Force. If she wished to save those she cared for, she had to use her power to defeat the Sith.

Leaping into the air, her blade rising high, she ignored the call of the Dark Side. It wouldn't, it couldn't grant her what it promised. Her leap reached its arc, and as the blades of the two other Force users clashed ferociously, she fell: her blade aiming for the Sith's skull.

However, as she neared, the Sith sensed her approach and turned. One of its blades blocked her strike, and it grinned at her. As her feet touched the ground, she understood that the Sith was unimpressed with her attack and that he was stronger than her.

Drawing on lessons with Master Ti, she slid back, letting the Sith's strength guide her in a way she wished. Like with Cam, she understood she'd never match the Zabrak in strength – and perhaps raw power – but instead had to rely on her other attributes. To flow and move with grace and speed, to slide around a larger, stronger, more dangerous opponent.

In the milliseconds that had passed since she landed, she moved. Her body shifted to one side, using the Sith's aggression to turn her even as her blade slid down the Sith's: aiming for his hilt. The Zabrak turned its wrist, avoiding her attack and flowing into one of its own; yet she was ready. With the Force flowing through her, guiding her, she leaned back.

Her vision turned red for a fraction of a second as the Sith's blade swooped overhead. Flickers of plasma in the blade were clear to her as it passed by, but a few stray ends of her hair burnt was all the damage the attack inflicted. Even as the Sith's blade passed over her, her blade was moving, coming up and around and the Sith was forced to lift a leg to avoid losing it. She understood her attack had missed by a wider margin, yet the fact the Force was with her renewed her conviction.

Before the Sith could attack her in turn, Master Drallig re-engaged, drawing the Zabrak's attention. Her Master had sensed her attack, and while he knew it wouldn't touch flesh, he used it, and the slight distraction she created, to his advantage.

The Sith had to block a flourish of strikes from her Master, though as their blades moved and Serra readied herself to rejoin the battle, the Zabrak turned the tables. Quicker than Serra could follow, he turned a defensive parry into a thrust, forcing her Master to surrender momentum. The Sith's twin blades whirled around, seeming to make the very air bleed, and her Master was forced to parry, deflect, or avoid every move the Sith made.

That was the moment Serra was ready again, and with the Force guiding her blade, attacked. The Sith sensed her approach and pulled a hand from the hilt of its blade. Master Drallig, sensing the shift in the force, leapt back, his blade moving while airborne to protect him from a savage thrust of the Sith's lightsaber. The ground where her Master had been standing exploded, ripped apart by the Sith crushing the tiles with the Force.

The Sith's blade came around rapidly, but with the Force as an ally, Serra was ready. When the blades clashed, the energy within each battling for dominance, Serra was shifting, turning. Her blade slid off the Sith's, and she went low, batting away an attack from the other end of the Sith's lightsaber, and then thrust forward.

To avoid being stabbed, the Zabrak was forced back. Its blade came down, slapping hers away contemptuously. However, she'd felt this coming. Rolling her wrists, her blade turned around the Sith's and flicked forward. The attack failed to land, but she was already moving, sliding back to avoid the other end of the Sith's lightsaber.

Her blade came around covering her from attack, and as it was jarred back by the ferocity of the Sith's move, one hand slid from her hilt and crashed into the Zabrak's shin. Any joy she felt from landing a blow against the Sith was short-lived as the Force seemed to buckle in on itself. Before she could brace, she was sent hurtling away, a tidal wave of Force energy slamming into her.

Rolling to control her tumble, she steadied herself just in time to have her vision turn red.

Her blade moved rapidly as she gave herself over to the Force, letting it guide her where she needed to go. Her body shifted, adapting to the will of the Force, sliding to one side to avoid an attack from the Sith even as her blade moved around and deflected another.

Behind the Zabrak, she sensed her Master moving, rushing to her aid, but her focus remained on the Sith, herself, and the Force. If she didn't, then her Master wouldn't rejoin the fray before her life was extinguished.

Shockwaves rippled through her bones each time her blade met the Sith's. The attacks came in faster than she could process, yet with the Force as an ally she was able to evade or deflect the strikes. Yet, she knew she was being driven back, losing ground and energy with each move, each clash shaking her very core. And under it all, still present and ever offering, was that small nagging voice, begging her to reach out and take the power she needed, and in her desperation, she couldn't deny the whispers. She was slowing, struggling to meet his attacks, to simply survive. Even with the Force guiding her, it wasn't enough. She needed more time, more skill, and more power.

As that realisation came to be, the Sith's blade slipped past her defence. Plasma crashed against metal, and sparks flew. She pulled her arm back, the controls on her vambrace ruined by the Zabraks' blade. If not for the beskar of the gauntlets, she'd have lost her hand.

The Sith grunted in annoyance at being denied her limb and attacked with renewed fury. Every strike she blocked felt as if it was cracking her bones, every evasion was so close what remained of her robes were gone, the durasteel of her armour melting from the lightsaber as it grazed across the surface.

Another attack broke through, crashing against her foot. Again, the beskar she had saved her limb, as it did a third and fourth time. Serra was growing desperate, adapting by necessity the beskar she wore into her defence. She knew it couldn't last, that eventually, the Sith would strike her somewhere not protected by beskar, but he was now moving so fast she simply couldn't move fast enough to keep up with even half his attacks.

Pain lanced through her side, and she stumbled back, avoiding a swipe of the Zabrak's lightsaber that would've taken her arm. She hissed, understanding why it hurt. Either the super-heated durasteel or the plasma of his blade had burnt her stomach. Her blade came around, seeking to block the Sith's next assault, but she was slow.

The strike against her blade staggered her, a hand slipping from her hilt to stabilize herself. Another strike against her blade, and it was jarred from her hand, the blade diffusing moments after the hilt slipped from her gasp.

The Force screamed a warning, and trusting it she leaned back. The heat of the Sith's blade flashed past her neck, seeping through the underweave, and making it clear how close she'd come to losing her head. As she kept moving, desperately avoiding strikes she saw one of her braided ponytails fly away, the Sith's blade having caught it in the last attack. Even as she processed that, something jammed into her gut.

She stumbled back, falling to a knee. Glancing up she saw the Sith looming large over her, a satisfied look in his eyes as his blade swirled around. Accepting her fate, her head dropped. "I'm sorry." The words slipped from her lips, hoping her Master and Cam understood she'd tried. That she'd only come here to help.

The red blade swooped down, overpowering her vision, only to be snuffed out by a vibrant green.

Looking up, warmth filled her heart as she saw her Master's blade blocking the Sith's. Determination in the set of his face and eyes. Her Master thrust out a hand, knocking the Sith back. He glanced at her, relief clear in his eyes, before rushing to re-engage the Sith.

She pulled herself to her feet as the pair clashed. Their blades moved rapidly, flying around and turning the air around them into spheres of green and red, shifting to white where the blades clashed together. Serra's eyes widened as she felt her Master drawing heavily, moving at speeds on par with any member of the High Council. The Sith, however, was matching her Master strike for strike.

Attacks of Djem So were countered and then returned with movements that she'd never seen, and it pained her to admit the Sith was good, if not brilliant. He standing his ground as the Jedi Order's Battlemaster used every nugget of knowledge he had gained over decades serving the Force and the Order.

Yet through it all, she sensed the Force shifting, twisting, twirling. The outcome of this battle was already decided, and as she realised the victor, she found herself racing forward. Her lightsaber flew into her hand, the blade igniting as the missing part of herself returned to her grasp.

Barely a metre from the pair, the Force lurched violently, and she stumbled, slipping to a knee.

Her eyes widened as the pair stopped, the red light of the Sith's blade piercing out from her Master's back. She watched in horror as Master Drallig's blade fell from his grasp, the hilt falling so slowly as time seemed to stop.

Looking deep into her master's eyes the Sith seemed to be taking satisfaction in his victory and in the next second the blade was ripped free of her Master's chest and, with a brutal back swipe, slashed his body in half. As Master Drallig's body slumped to the ground, his head turned to her. For a moment where time seemed to stop, his eyes found hers and with his last thought, he reached out to her.

Her mind did likewise, not wanting to lose the person closer to her than any other; someone she considered a father. Yet, before she could reach his thoughts, the light faded from his eyes, and she felt him become one with the Force.

The Zabrak stalked toward her, its blade scraping the ground, sending dust flying around menacingly. Serra looked at him, seeing the coldness, the contempt in the Sith's eyes. Not only did he not consider her a challenge, but he was also already looking beyond her. Toward his true target. Toward Cam.

Serra's gaze returned to the lifeless body of her Master, of his lightsaber that lay unpowered next to his dead hand. He had taken her in and trained her for over five years. And this Sith, this monster, had ended his life simply because she had come to this planet, and Master Drallig had followed.

Finding the voice inside her, the one offering her power, she stood. Her hands opened and the twin blades flew to them. Her blade and that of her Master.

The Sith paused, its eyes widening slightly as she took control of the voice, of what it offered.

The Zabrak had taken her father. He would not take the only person left that mattered to her.

With the rage of her loss, and the threat of what was at stake, swirling in her, the Force reacted to her. It did as she wanted.

The power flowed through her as she rushed toward the Sith.

He braced, readying himself for her assault.

The anger, sorrow, fear, fury, everything whirling around inside her became focused on the Sith, and with it corralled she screamed a challenge at him.

And the Force screamed with her.

… …


… …

A/N: If you have them, enjoy the holidays, and say goodbye to Battlemaster Cin Drallig.

He was a good Jedi.

... ...

As always, this story is crossposted on Questionable Questing, Archive of our Own, and Royal Road.

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