Log:Sith Empire: Red in Flame
It has been a long and arduous road to this day. Just three decades ago, Coruscant stood as the hub of all things, the center of galactic power and politics, and even in the shifting sands of today, its importance is formidable.
The orbital defenses had to be cleared. Footholds secured. Defenses toppled, and the bridge crossed. Now, in spite of all the obstacles set before them, only the Citadel remains.
The air is thick with the smoke, ash, and dust of the superlaser seige cannon's firing. The shattered plate of the mega blast door that once protected the entry to the Citadel is cracked like an egg, and a first brigade of red-armored stormtroopers have already poured through it from the bridge, most mowed down by the defenders inside, a last glut of the remaining garrison all gathered on the ground floor in what is now clearly just an attempt to make the cost dear rather than actually repelling its capture.
Outside, the next wave of the assault is forming, shiny red armor dulled by the layer of dust covering it as lines coalesce in a wedge. Behind the point of it stands Darth Ferren, his heavy cape hanging still in defiance of the elements, looking at his crack squad of Councilors and a Mark member with something like pride. "The beginning ends today." The red blade of his lightsaber springs into life, illuminating the dust motes in a cloud around it. "Into the breach."
They had each had their part to play, Tamsin not least of all. But, perhaps there was some air of the final act, the third leg of the journey, the last breath before the plunge, that kept Tamsin's back straight, her weapon poised, held at a low ready, her position not far behind and to the left of Ferren. As always, she wore her helm, and that mask that obscured her face. But a glance at her features was not required as she stepped forward, moving without hesitation to follow behind the Darth. Once more into the breach indeed.
Standing firmly beside the Councilors in the dark red plating of her Sith Empire stormtrooper armor, SN-6428 holds a classic E-11 carbine in both hands. Her right hand reaches forward so that her thumb can press the activation, powering on the cooling unit with a high-pitched tinny and readying it for live first. It's been modified, painted a darker black than usual, with some darker red in places to be more thematic for her station.
Light layers of dust and ash cover her armor, as it does the rest, though it doesn't give her the appearance of stagnation or anything else dust would be symbolic for. The blackened ash almost compliments the polished red armor, giving it an even more sinister appearance than usual. Her head turns from Darth Ferren toward the citadel as though sizing it up, and finally to those standing beside her. The Marked's voice comes through the helmet's modulator as she says, "Councilors, I hope you have your hair the way you like it because any that survive here tonight will see you in their nightmares for the rest of their lives."
The last time Xavier had stood on this bridge was many decades ago; a path so far back that it starts to blur into the mottled mess he calls his memory. But the Citadel stands tall and jagged; imprinted on his mind as clear as the first time he saw it.
Now he stands with the other Councilors, Mark, and troopers looking up at the structure from under the cowl of his robes; brown eyes sharp and brows knitted tight together. "Honestly thought the next time I came here, it would be to burn the place to the ground," he noted as his hand rises up to flick his cigarette away. "The day is still young, mmm?"
From the folds of his black robes comes his pistol: and old slugthrower that clanks and claps as he check the rounds. Satisfied, the weapon rests to his side and booted feet step forward. On they march, indeed.
A flick of his gaze in Midne's direction is all that it takes to convey 'there will be no survivors.'
"We have engineers ready - to stabilize it?" Tarq's words are quiet, and he's stretching, a quick a touch of calisthenics, jumping and moving his legs, shaking out his appendages and shadowboxing a few times before unclipping his 'civilized' weapon, and flipping the switch. A crimson beam extends from one emitter, and one emitter only. "We know - how it - can /be/."
A similar team, a similar place, and less than a year ago, but that explosion from just one part of the Citadel could have taken out all of them.
His workout and a limbering-up spin of the blade complete, he sweeps his cape back behind him. "Dust has not been gentle, but am fit for nightmares." More quietly, he adds, "Let others go first, yes? Some distract, that we may succeed."
Imani is present in her armor, helmet on, weapon out, stationed somewhere in the middle of the crimson clad cavalry. "It's a good thing I wear a helmet, because no one said anything about needing to get my hair done before this." Honestly though, even if she had her hair done, it wouldn't look all that different from how it would right now if she took her helmet off. The degree of tousled might be higher, but probably not by much.
When the wedge of stormtroopers begins to move forward, Ferren is there with it, just behind the first rank. His face is set in stony silence, eschewing a mask in favor of an expressionless slate of his own.
As soon as they step through the breach, the fire begins.
Stormtroopers in white line the lobby on both sides, huddled in ranked rows behind makeshift cover assembled from building debris. Multiple E-WEB turret emplacements are set up, and they spin to life as the Sith troops begin to pour in.
The air is thick not just with dust but an ungodly level of blaster-fire. The dispersal of the particulates makes it seem as if the very atmosphere has turned red.
Tamsin was, if nothing else, an expert at defining what posed the greatest threat to the team, as they moved through the cracked door and into the interior of the citadel. She moved with purpose, not trying to hide her intentions, only wading forward, weaving her way through blaster fire and falling bodies to engage the stormtroopers standing in her way. Three strikes and two fell, and still, she moved ahead. There was no way back. Not now, not ever.
As SN-6428 comes through the breach, she starts to take a cover position but is struck by one of the blasts from the First Order side of things. It strikes the Mark in her left bicep. She grunts and raises her E-11, immediately firing back with two bursts of fire. The first blast shoots low, as she didn't account for her injury while raising the blaster. She corrects her aim and fires another three-shot burst, which the enemy anticipated, having narrowly avoided the first. SN-6428 presses herself to the wall and glances down at her wound. She doesn't have the precognition of the others with her group but that's where the armor comes in. Flexing her arm to test it, it seems to still function, so she presses on.
Just before reaching the threshold where the main doors have been blown open, the heavy click of a hammer being pulled pierces the air with a fatalistic snap. Once across that invisible line, Xavier's lack-a-daisy demeanor falls and he is a blur of action. A quick, effortless sidestep dances around a blaster bolt that whizs past him followed by a trio of rapid-fire shots to answer in kind.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Right shoulder, sternum, head.
The white armour shattered in three precise points and the newly-made corpse within clatters backwards from the impact.
This is a combination of 'the best of the best' the First Order has with 'those that remain,' but their efforts as the Sith pass through the gate are exceptional. Tarq follows in Ferren and Tamsin, and as the massed stormtroopers open fire, he leans forward and dashes up towards one with more emblems on his pauldron. There were two of them - Tamsin got the other. Even as she kills hers and moves on to the next, Tarq's jumps over a low swing that would have caught him through the knees.
His lightsaber humming and buzzing like a swarm of angry, angry bees, Tarq continues spinning while crouching low to the ground, and the follow-up scythes right through the senior stormtrooper. He stabs sideways without looking and another trooper falls with a neat hole through his armor and liver.
The Kuati doesn't look back to see that Midne got hit, though he can sense the pain distantly. Taking his eyes off what's right in front of his eyes would be a fancy way of getting shot to pieces.
Imani is a slender dark smudge of a person compared to the colorfully clad troopers she arrived with, and she's fast enough to evade the fire that rains down on them as they enter. Not inhumanly fast, but still, pretty speedy. The speed doesn't assist in a successful attack, however, the first thrust of a blade glancing off the hard material that encases the trooper, though the second slides in between plating to do just enough damage to almost kill them. Almost.
As the stormtroopers in red flow through the breach and are promptly mowed down by the stormtroopers in white inside, it becomes easy to see how a chokepoint like this can be wildly defensible. Two E-webs turn on the invaders bearing lightsabers, and Darth Ferren, at the head of the charge, is caught in the blast from one, knocking him bodily to the floor and probably saving his life in the process. The other turns its withering fire on Tamsin.
Around the far perimeter of the room, the fire intensifies as the white-armored troopers recommit to selling their lives as dearly as possible, leaning into the chaos of the moment and simply firing as fast as possible towards the mass of attackers.
One wave has been crested, but, this was the First Order, and there was always another wave behind. At least here, in the center of all things. And so, the blaster fire continued, and this time, as Tamsin strode forward, she was not so lucky, as a bolt of blaster fire hit her square on the chest, sending her flying back, down into a pile of bodies. Well, that was to the good, at least it would, hopefully, make her more difficult to pick out amongst the debris on the floor. Pain exploded across her flesh and into her mind before she bent all of her focus on pushing it aside and doing what needed to be done to allow her to proceed with the group.
Nobody can see it, but SN-6428 grits her teeth angrily behind the cover of her crimson helmet. One of the First Order troopers readies his rifle to fire at Darth Ferren when the Councilor hits the ground, an opportunist taking the opportunity to finish off an enemy. That earned him the full attention of the Marked. Upset and looking for someone to take it out on, she fires a burst of dark red bolts at the trooper, the first striking another, unfortunate and lower ranked trooper that happened to walk in the path of her fire, and the second missing slightly high. 'Shouldn't have aimed for the head', she groans to herself. Regardless, it took the opportunist's attention off the Darth and on herself, buying him time to get back to his feet.
There is chaos around him but even more within as a good start goes immediately, noticably, inarguably sideways. Quakes of pain erupt from all side, pelting his mind and threatening to break his concentration. Gritting his teeth, Xavier draws in a hiss and his slugthrower goes silent. His hand extends outwards, palm flat and fingers splayed, to grab at one of the heavy barricades through the tight grasp of the Force. An audible yell of exertion, sweat beading on his large forehead, and a hard, HARD jerk of his entire upper body sends the massive piece of what was once part of the Citadel slamming in the direction of one of the E-Webs currently shredding his teammates.
When some of the E-Webs' rapid rotary fire hits Tamsin and Ferren, the Kuati beelines for the guns, ducking and weaving and spinning like an athlete carrying the ball downfield. Which isn't all wrong, the ball is just a lightsaber and the goal is death for whoever's playing the part of the goal.
This is a strained metaphor. Let's try again.
There are two E-Webs. Xavier's strength of will and concentration has silenced one for the moment. No one can land any shots on him as he runs towards the line of fire from the second turret, vaults up and across it, and slides in underneath its barrier. There's a flurry of swings, and the gun falls silent with its gunner in pieces. A horizontal chop finds no purchase, as the First Order troopers try to keep their distance.
One moment Imani is on her feet, the next she's thrown forward by the force of the blast that hits her in the back. Her armor is damaged, the flesh beneath is damaged, and for a moment she's still to assess whether or not she's still alive. Yep, she's still drawing breath, she's still able to move, and so she does. Perhaps not as fast as she was, but fast enough that -- again -- after a failed first attack, the slender blade of her weapon snakes beneath the weak points in a trooper's armor to fo significant, but not quite lethal damage.
The E-web breaks down harder under Tarq's assault than a metaphor while Imani is hit with more damage than even flex-tape can handle. There's a lot of death and destruction in this room, and the persistent dust remains lit with a constant hellish flickering glow as the blasterfire darts through it.
Darth Ferren struggles upright, his deformed chestplate smoking where the E-web blast mangled it, coughing but otherwise expressionless, his lightsaber still held firmly in his hand as he squints through the dust, smoke, and screams.
The other E-web is momentarily dislodged from its firing pattern, a cursing stormtrooper hauling the gun back into place from where the rubble dislodged it. The rest of the defenders continue to fire, but the slow stream of red stormtroopers is beginning to result in a stable number of them inside, though there is a bit of a mound of bodies at the breach now that must be tripped through to reach the interior.
Tamsin, who was still on the ground with the rest of the bodies, was perfectly content to remain there. After all, it was, as much as one could manage, the most defensible position. Plenty of meatshields who could no longer try to avoid her grasp if she needed to use them. The saber was, for the moment, tucked away, as Tamsin did what she did best, and tended to herself, so that she would be in a better position to tend to the others. A dead doctor was no good doctor, right? Oh. And and to make ehrself fit to return to the fight, that too.
SN-6428's still blasting at the troopers, though more tactically now than angrily. The E-webs are mostly dealt with, but there's still a lot of small-arms fire. The Marked takes aim at the more priority targets, but in the mass of bodies, she has a better line of sight to some than others. The first, like before, she misses just slightly, her salvo of blaster bolts instead striking another, lower ranked trooper some distance behind, and her second burst of bolts glances off the trooper's armor harmlessly. It scuffs the armor, but he won't be alive long enough to worry about the bill.
He can't help it anymore. Xavier looks over his shoulder to the carnage behind him. It's certainly not pretty but also nothing he hasn't seen before. The blood. The limbs. The wounded and dead. A deep breath draws it all into him and attempts to quell that spiralling chaos in his mind. The screams. The static and long, long corridors or shattered glass.
Xavier hums to himself under his breath: slightly off tune but only slightly so. It gives him something, at least, to focus on. A pinpoint mentally. Drawing up his pistol, he quickly advances on the stormtrooper behind the remaining E-web, striking him hard in the helmet and dazing him enough for Tarq's assault.
Tarq's lightsaber slices through E-Web's base to make sure it won't be used again, and then he is sprinting to the second gun. The cursing stormtrooper stops wearing for a moment when the bullet strikes his helmet, and even as he starts to say "You-" Tarq stabs him from behind straight through the chest. The trooper has time to look down before Tarq kicks him off the blade, then gives this turret a quick slash, too. Then he starts trying to work around the perimeter, but it's all he can do to keep up with the horde. May his flanking support the troopers still coming in at finishing them off, and at least draw attention.
Imani adjusts her grip on one of her knives and tries to strike again. Again that first blow is met with a screech of blade against armor, an unpleasant sound, especially when you're trying to kill someone. There's some quiet muttering to herself about needing to practice more with this particular weapon as she drives the other blade down to finish the job on the trooper, and again the second strike hits home, doing just that. She straightens to search for more targets, to see if the others are alive, that simple motion making her hiss with pain. Her back is gonna need some attention.
It's CitadelTrooper's last stand in here, and the white-clad defenders are giving it all they've got. Fewer and fewer of them are left standing every moment, though, while the red-armored troops continue to pour through the breach, lending support to the Sith strike team at the vanguard.
Of the initial breachers, Ferren and his crew are the only ones still alive, and when Ferren stalks forward, still smoking and coughing from the E-web hit, to carve another stormtrooper into two convenient halves, he is blasted yet again, taking a hard hit in the abdomen and dropping to one knee. It's becoming clear how his cloak got so tattered.
Still, though, the tide is teetering on the edge, about to turn. Only a critical mass of defenders remain before the entry falls and cleanup efforts begin through the corridors. Only a few remain between the Sith and victory.
And then, she was up. Rising like a dark cloud of unhappy at this turn of events, Tamsin rose from the pile of bodies she had been using for cover, the hilt returning to her hand as she drove forward into the fight. She could feel the injured around her, but they would simply have to wait. Apologies, Darth. She made for one of the marked (not Marked) white clad storm troopers, putting the man down like a dog who should have known better than to bite, but she could not quite get the reach to attack the second, even if it did put her in range for retaliation.
SN-6428 continues her performance of blasting at soldiers. While hoping to aim for the ones in charge, there are just too many bodies between she and them. She starts to press her way through the ranks of her own, taking shots at those in charge of the First Order troopers as she goes. She's yet to deal with one personally, but her assault at least helps to thin out some of their rank-and-file.
Eyes closed, Xavier is moving through the space on senses alone, weaving around the blaster bolts burning horizontal lines in the air as they come less... and less... and less... A surge of danger opens his eyes once more towards the trio marching for a final stand. Though uninjured, Xavier is feeling the burn of fatigue and he rallies himself with a had grip on the slugthrower's handle.
"Najjic!" The trained voice now projecting loudly over the din towards the other man nearby; attempting to catch his attention then gesturing to a pair of the new arrivals left after Tamsin's onslaught. No further words are needed.
Xavier closes the distance as quickly as he can, drawing the attention of his target in attempt to keep them from firing on those injured beyond. Xavier stops, braces, and thrusts both hands palms-out towards the formidable Stormtrooper. Ablast of energy lifts the target off of his feet, slams him into the wall, then throws his battered body in Tarq's direction.
Tarq hears his name, and turns to see Xavier approaching one of the super-troopers. He runs along the edge of the room towards the other, neatly beheading him on the run. As Xavier slams the trooper backwards with the Force, he drops to his knees from running at full tilt to slide by him as the trooper rocks off the wall. His approach with the blade was off, and he has to twist it up as he leans further back to catch the trooper through the midsection. When he hits the ground, it's in two pieces.
Momentum still carrying him, Tarq pushes a foot down, pivots and slides up to his feet. He pumps his fist once back towards Xavier - and all the other assembled Sith, Mark, Councilors, and regular troopers. "We're through! Keep moving!" That command? Definitely for everyone /but/ the Councilors, Mark, and Ferren himself.
He wipes some sweat off his forehead. "Tamsin!" He's near the doctor; they were both fighting the heroes of the old guard. He's eyeing her bandaged wound. He doesn't know how to treat them, but after this long, he's getting okay at assessing how bad they are. "People torn up. Is reason we do not attack chokepoints, yes?" Except, of course, when you had to.
"Attacking choke points keeps it exciting," Imani counters unconvincingly as she shakes out pins and needles in her hands for a moment. This is what attacking choke points gets you, nerve damage. She rushes in to once again do a double attack, the first screeching, the second sliding up beneath the helmet to find the soft fleshy bits beneath. It's ugly, and there's a gush of blood that paints a red stripe down the front of the white armor, and over one of her hands. It's okay, it'll come off in the wash.
The defense of the Citadel, at long last, has been broken. The white-armored troopers are routed and what few are left attempt to surrender by throwing down their weapons. Others take off into the maze of corridors. But in a few short moments, none remain but the kneeling and the dead.
Among those kneeling is Darth Ferren, though after a moment and with great and ill-advised reserves of willpower, he once again pulls himself upright, seeming to almost inhale from his wounds. Still smelling of smoke and rust, he examines the carnage with pained satisfaction, nodding once to his cohort. "Well done." The lightsaber still hangs from his hand, clutching clawlike around the metal cylinder as he eyes the lift up. "I have business at the top. Do not touch me unless you intend to lose a hand," he warns anyone feeling particularly charitable and begins to limp towards the lift.
In the background, CT-2319 dithers, clutching his weapon and unsure whether to join those turning coward or guerrilla.
"You say that as if the whole reason we're here isn't to give me a chance to do some work for a change." Tamsin, though she had patched herself up, did not seem much put upon by her injury. What did you expect from a Firrerreo? They just refused to stay down. Certainly not now, when the end was in sight, and Tamsin broke away from Tarq, moving to make certain that Ferren had a clear shot to the lift. And no, she did not attempt to heal him. Then it was time to return to the real reason she had been recruited to the Sith. Because who did not love a doctor in the house?
As the action dies down and the rust-like smell of dissipating blaster fire fills the air a silence overcomes the area while Darth Ferren rises to his feet. SN-6428 steps closer to him, but not too close. It's more of a guard position. As the last enemy soldier still clutching a rifle aims it toward Darth Ferren, SN-6428 is faster. Her first shot is blocked! Another soldier jumped in front, attempting to save his idiot friend. He dies, the low-ranked lackey absorbing the full blast to his spinal cord. SN-6428 fires the final blaster shot of the battle, striking the First Order officer in his chest.
Breathing heavily, Xavier's eyes fall onto the remaining Officer who has enough strength left to stand yet hasn't kneeled or ran. With a slower, heavier gait the tall, dark man approaches, watching with utter disinterest as the Officer takes a shot from Midne which forces him to his knee gasping for breath.
Xavier stops in front of him, grabbing the helmet and yanking it off to reveal the face underneath. Eye to eye, the Hollow Man puts the barrel against the stormtrooper's forehead, pulls back the hammer...
Two shots later, the decision was made for CT-2319.
Imani eyes Ferren as he limps off, then turns to look at the mess they've created. "I hope I'm not on the cleanup team," she remarks, disengaging her weapons and then slowly cleaning off the lone weapon that's coated in blood. As best she can. It'll take more cleaning later. "If so I'm gonna need a rest first." A rest, some bacta, something.
At the top of the lift, the place is practically empty. The corridors, once a bustling hive of activity, the core of First Order planning, are now barren.
Ahead of him lies a throne room not dissimilar in structure or decoration to several others throughout the galaxy. In this one, however, there is not a single throne, but two. Ferren spends a moment considering this oddity, chewing back the pain from his wounds as he does, before moving in further. He does not take a seat. Rather, he accesses a control panel, dials in a few of the toggles, and steps back.
There in the air before him flickers to life an enormous blue image, much larger than life, of a hooded man, from the shoulders up. His features are shrouded in darkness, only a cleanshaven chin, thick lips, and the premonition of a nose visible beneath.
"Master," Ferren greets. "The Citadel is ours."