Verse entered the atmosphere of Arda I on the borrowed Imperial ship. It was a little larger than her personal ship; able to carry the rest of the crew she had gathered for this mission. She knew enough about each of them to know they were capable. When first requesting to lead this mission, she had stated that she wanted to take the Arda system back under Sith control, and keep it under control. In reality, she saw this as her chance to prove herself, and move up in ranking. It shouldn't be too hard to take over this barren planet; and it could be useful to the Sith empire as an additional base, perhaps where experiments they wanted kept hidden could be performed. Verse was many things, but she was not daft.
She had personally flown the ship here, since she was a pretty skilled pilot and did not trust anyone else, not even droids. She could feel, through the Force, the other three Sith sitting in the small common room just outside the cockpit. She recognized her own apprentice; Sola. She had not taken Sola on a mission since what happened on Dathomir. Perhaps Verse was giving Sola a chance to prove herself. Whatever it was, Verse could tell that Sola was relieved her master did not intend on killing her or kicking her out.
Verse flew the ship with ease below the surface of the planet and into the long caverns and tunnels. Her entire focus shifted to making sure she didn't hit any protruding spires. After a good few minutes, Verse finally landed the ship in one of the largest caverns. The maps were not very accurate anymore, since the caves had been blown up as the Rebels made their escape. New tunnels and caverns had been created. Some of the old ones had remained somewhat intact, but all the old equipment was gone. Now, it was mostly empty.
If her calculations were correct, the sensors from the old base had been reinstituted, but a weaker capacity. They could still hide their presence, but it took a lot of power and there was not much left over to detect incoming ships. She figured there was likely a watch tower on the surface, but she hadn't detected a nearby one in their vicinity. However, it was still likely the entrance of the ship did not go unnoticed, which was fine by Verse. Let them come. That was what she wanted.
She stood up in the cockpit and walked into the common room. "Grab everything you need," she said. Looking around at the fellow Sith, she was likely not the oldest, but that did not mean she was any less capable of leading a mission. If anything, the one person she knew she could trust the most (which still wasn't a lot) was Sola. The girl was strange, but extremely loyal.
Sola stood in the corner of the common room for the entirety of the flight. She watched out a tiny transparisteel window as they exited space and flew through the intricate caverns and tunnels. When Verse walked into the common room, she gave a small nod, fingering her lightsaber. She always had it on her; she had learned that the hard way.
She still felt the overwhelming urge to prove herself to Verse, who had been insanely forgiving. At least, that was how it seemed from an outsider's point of view. In reality, Verse knew Sola was telling the truth, and that was all that mattered. She was not a girl of many words, and her face displayed her emotions like an open book. She was ready to assist her master in anything she may need today.
Zactar sat hunched over on a bench of the imperial shuttle, right hand holding a datapad and left elbow resting on the corresponding knee, hand covering the mouth in contemplation. He was perusing brief personnel write-ups on his companions for this mission, getting a very basic idea of their tendencies. This would be his first time working with these particular Sith, with the common goal of sweeping the Arda system under the Sith's protective wing. While not a terribly resourceful planet, the system's galactic location posed somewhat of a benefit to the Sith, especially considering its proximity to both FWA and Sith controlled space.
Their plan was not a complicated one and had been executed by Sith on many planets prior: eliminate the leadership of the planet and replace it with Sith-controlled leaders. If they had any political ambitions, perhaps some of the Sith on the day's mission could rise to the occasion and assume control. Zack was sure more than one of them was keen on the rank of Master. Either way, their work today would be towards a worthwhile cause for the Sith Empire in the long run.
Despite the planet's dangerous flying conditions, their pilot handled their course with impressive ease, setting the ship down gently in a large cavern. When the young Sith emerged from the cockpit with purpose, Zactar powered off the datapad in his hand and set it down on the bench next to him with a smirk. "That's quite some flying, Ace." he said, standing up and checking that his saber was securely fastened on his belt before heading to the ship's exit for fresh air.
Meanwhile Celeste had grown used to all kinds of company. She had always been good with people, not just because she led a company and knew how to deal with difficult customers, but also because she had strong connections to other Imperials and lastly, she had overthrown a planet of savages and literally bend their wills to her own satisfaction. She was not only persuasive, but also a skilled talker, but the funny thing was that throughout the whole flight, they hadn't been exchanging many words. Their small group was completely heterogeneous, all of them coming from different backgrounds and that's why she had used the time to contact both, her uncle back on Kalist IV to catch up with the latest news on their company, and also Kat, who had remained on Rattatak. Celeste was hoping that she wasn't doing anything stupid and she would regularly check on her for that purpose, but she had left the planet with a rather good feeling. She was confident that it would all work out somehow.
When champion Verse entered the common room, she had deactivated her communication devices and shifted her focus back on the blonde. The champion was rather young, but Celeste had been even younger when she started leading the company and a few years later she had been elected as Rattatak's senator. Age didn't say anything about success. And Verse had already proven herself as a skilled pilot, which was why Celeste had welcomed her back with a warm smile on her lips. "I agree. Good job. I hope the rest of this mission will continue as smoothly as the flight" she optimistically said to the trio in front of her while getting up.
Verse figured Sola would likely not speak a word to anyone the entire mission unless absolutely necessary, and she found this both amusing and reassuring. She did not react when both Zactar and Celeste complimented her flying skills. This, she already knew. She gave a brief nod in their direction before heading towards the exit. "The plan is simple," she said. "There are approximately 30 rebel representatives here. Not all of them are trained in fighting, but do not underestimate them. We do not need to make a scene unless absolutely necessary. Get in, and get out with the Arda system under Sith control."
She paused a moment at the base of the ramp, waiting for anyone to ask any questions or doubt her. If no one said anything, she would lead the way forward, using the map as a guide through the tunnels. The Force reached out ahead of her, feeling for anyone should they be hiding waiting to ambush them.
Sola watched the others with a perceptive and wary eye. She did not speak as Verse explained the plan. For the four of them, this would be simple, unless the rebels still here played some kind of trick.
The dark side enveloped her like a dark cloak; she knew the other Sith could feel it. Verse was impossible to read, but she knew most others were a mixture of disgusted and curious when they looked at her scarred face and felt her close connection with the Force.
She stepped down, right behind Verse. She may have hated everyone, but she hated Verse the least. The woman had taken her under her wing, albeit coldly. But that was the way of the Sith.
Zactar stood tall near the exit, crossing his arms as Verse briefed them. Thirty diplomats didn’t sound like much of a threat, but it would be foolish to disparage the rebels. It was their guile, after all, that helped them earn victories over larger, better armed foes. Though many cocksure Sith would make such a mistake, the little Zack had read about his companions told him they likely would not make such an error. The champions before him were fairly accomplished in their own rights and he’d looked forward to working with them. The acolyte was still a mystery on him, but this mission would help him learn more.
Verse seemed determined more than anything; all business. Celeste was strikingly beautiful to say the least, and the intelligence behind her eyes betrayed the innocence of her smile. Sola was surprisingly young and appeared to be a perceptive one. Good, Zack thought. He always found it better to listen than speak. The Rebels aside, it would be even more dangerous to underestimate the Sith women and their drive towards this conquest. As was the case among anyone strong in the Force, Zack could feel their fiery auras radiating out from them, much like his own did.
He confidently marched down the ramp from their shuttle, his heavy boots clanking along the way. He didn’t have any questions about their purpose here but scooted up next to Verse to view the map over her shoulder, getting an idea of the distance to their targets. They’d have a bit of a trek ahead of them considering how far they had to land from the Rebel’s sensors to avoid detection. This group seemed quiet, but as the resident senior, Zactar hoped they might make some small amount of chit-chat to keep themselves entertained along the way. Once they’d started down the cavern, he spoke up.
Celeste had to admit that her fellow champion, Verse, seemed more than determined to accomplish the mission's goal in no time. Thirty rebels were admittedly few, but they were still outnumbered quantity wise, which would be something they had to keep in mind in regard to their strategic advances. However, Celeste was confident that they wouldn't encounter lots of resistance and that's why she left the ship elegantly and confidently at once.
She had never worked with either of them before, but she was extremely good and reading people, which was why she didn't have to question the loyalty of the other champions, but she knew that she would watch Verse's acolyte, Sola, carefully, as the young ones usually tended to be the most impulsive ones and overhasty approaches could not only endanger the mission, but also their lives.
She nodded to signal not only her understanding, but also her agreement with Verse's outline before letting her attentive gaze wander across the scenery around them. When champion Hakka spoke up, she couldn't help but the scoff slightly amusedly, as she hadn't expected that this man would be the first interested in some smalltalk. However, she assumed that he was only looking for a way to make their journey on foot a little more pleasant. "To be honest, I wasn't brought to the Sith. I was rather born into their structures. My parents had always been loyal followers and so my path was already set. My uncle trained me and over the years I started internalizing their doctrines" she explained, her voice soft but the gaze still attentive and her muscles slightly tense while she expected more answers from her companions. It was unlikely that they had been seen while landing, but shenknew that they couldn't let their guard down.
Verse showed no outward reaction to Zactar's question or to Celeste's response. She kept walking forward and didn't look at either of them when she gave her own response. "I was kidnapped from Arkania," she said vaguely and without emotion. She glanced back down at the map, and then to her acolyte. She knew it was likely Sola would not say a word, but she eyed her apprentice with interest. Her eyes met Sola's and Verse raised an eyebrow. Verse knew Sola's backstory and it was not one for the faint of heart.
Sola had been silent up until now. As each of the others explained how they came to be Sith, she wondered if she should tell her own story. When Verse raised an eyebrow at her, a small, dark, smile, crept across her face. "My father was a Sith and my mother a Jedi. He killed her in front of me and then trained me. When I was eleven I killed him." she said as if talking about the weather. Verse knew her history, and in much greater detail, but she knew even saying it like this would stun the cruelest Sith.
Zactar listened thoughtfully as Celeste responded to his query. So many Sith walked around silently seething all the time that he was just happy to hear responses at all. He was somewhat envious to hear that Celeste had the privilege of being raised with the Sith. Being a late comer himself, he was always trying to make up for lost time. "Ahh, very nice. Early start. Shame I didn't have similar, coming from Serenno..." he mused. Verse answered with all the thoroughness he expected, almost leading him to a chuckle. He was careful to internalize his amusement though, so as to not offend his companions, and responded with a downward nod of understanding.
Sola's response was more difficult to hear, especially considering her age, but such was the life of many Sith. He listened to her with a deep exhale. Zactar himself had brutally murdered his father with a hydrospanner, though he was already in his twenties at the time. It was clear from the body language between Sola and Verse that this information was not often given, so Zack felt some measure of appreciation for learning it. He supposed he should share his own experience since everyone had spoken.
"I understand, young one. My father met his bloody end at my own hands. I had found some success as a small business owner and he wanted to take it from me, as if I owed it to him." He gritted his teeth. "But that was long ago now. The Sith have showed me a brighter future - one that we'll share with the galaxy..." he trailed off in thought with a slight grin on his face.
Celeste had been very interested in the responses of the fellow Sith, but after Verse's story, she had already lost her smile and given her a slight sympathetic look. She assumed that the champion wouldn't be exactly fond of pity, that was why she didn't comment on it, but she couldn't fully hide her sympathy. Next came Sola, the apprentice and admittedly her story was even worse. Again, Celeste held back with both emotions and comments and let Zactar react.
Celeste had to admit that none of the stories surprised her. Sadly, they were all rather usual she would have said. In contrast to them, one could have concluded that her childhood and upbringing had been rather easy and pleasant, but she had grown used to learning that most of her fellow Sith hadn't had that much luck. She had always been gratefull, because she had grown up in a wealthy, powerful family and and least her company had been inherited, but Rattatak was her very own success.
Zactar's conclusion brought a slight smile back on her face, but instead of dwelling on their unpleasant pasts, she decided to maneuver the conversation to elsewhere. It would be better for the mood, if things would get lightened up again. "Isn't it interesting that despite our different pasts, we are now here on Arda I, pursuing the exact same goal? The Empire will highly profit from our doings here and I can literally sense that this will be fun" she answered optimisticly and yet with a cheeky smile. It wasn't necessarily her goal to kill. She was always convinced that diplomacy was the highest principle, but they would soon learn whether the rebels were able to negotiate. Well, admittedly their terms were rather indisputable, but if they would choose to surrender, Celeste would vote for mercy. She herself would deal with them. Meaningless bloodshed could often be avoided.
Verse thought Celeste had gotten off easy, compared to the majority of the Sith not just in their company, but in the entire order. She supposed the past was a deciding factor in one's future. She could not help the boredom that crept up on her. She was not one for chit-chat and despite her total control over her emotions, she found it got boring quickly when she had to respond to everything with a cold expression.
She glanced over her shoulder at Celeste. "It will be fun if we succeed," she said, letting a smirk cross her face before she turned back to the datapad. "We're nearing the encampment; stay alert," she added, unhooking her saber. She had a feeling that, despite their small numbers, the rebels would want to fight the Sith back. They were stubborn like that.
Sola fell back into her observant silence. When Verse told them to stay alert, she pulled out her saber, her thumb resting over the trigger. She supposed Verse would give the rebels a chance to surrender first, but if they refused, she would not hesitate. Her time on Naboo had helped her control her emotions a little more, after having to stay undiscovered on a planet that is against the Sith.
She kept her eyes on the tunnel ahead. There were many places for hiding amongst the rock formations, and she kept her eyes peeled.
Zactar smiled warmly as Celeste's optimism brought them back from their darker pasts. She was right! This would be fun. Whether it ended with the smiles and handshakes of diplomacy or the cauterized carnage of lightsaber combat, it would be a worthy adventure. He sincerely hoped the rebels would go quietly. He was a capable killer, but diplomacy always served to gain more for both sides. Verse's response pulled Zack's awareness back to the here and now and reminded him to watch their surroundings. Though the four Sith together would be difficult to combat, ambushes always had deadly potential.
Eyeing the acolyte with saber hilt in hand, Zack sped his pace to get to the front of the group. "May I lead us in? If they'd rather not negotiate, this armor can take the brunt of whatever we might not be prepared for." he offered with a quick double-rasp of his knuckles on the chest plate. He would keep his saber on his belt as they approached, trying to signal that a skirmish was only a backup plan.
While Verse and Sola both seemed to prepare for combat, Celeste kept her cool. She didn't had to ready her lightsaber yet, as she was very aware of the fact that her Force enhanced senses and reflexes enabled her to grab it in time if necessary. Those rebels were unlikely to be supported by Jedi right now, at least that was what corresponded to her estimation right now.
She couldn't keep herself from commenting on Verse's last comment with a smirk on her lips. "And I'm confident we will", she added because of that, before she curtly nodded in regard to her little warning. Despite her optimism, she was still attentive of their surroundings, but for now everything seemed quiet. When Zactar rushed to the front, she shrugged, shooting Verse a glance as she was the one to decide something like that right now. It was true that his armour could come in quite handy, but Celeste assumed that she was the only one actually versed in the art of diplomatic persuasiveness. Instead of wearing her Rattataki senator attire, she was wearing her new, black Sith uniform, but this didn't mean that she couldn't step up like a politician. She would still let the champion lead, even though she would be able to deflect the firs blaster bolts in no time herself.
Verse could tell that Sola was the most ready for bloodshed and Celeste seemed the most opposed. She kept her amusement under wraps, instead continuing down the tunnel. "There's a heat signature up ahead, stay on alert. Do not ignite your sabers unless they open fire," she instructed. Best to keep the bloodshed to a minimum. This rebel base was small. if they were smart, they would surrender.
She acknowledged Zactar's request, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye as he jogged up beside her. She turned forward again and shrugged. "If you want," she said in a softer voice as they continued to move forward. She would not try to stop him from sacrificing himself, heroic as it may seem.
Sola nodded, following verse behind her and a little to the right, ready to cover her back. Zactar took the lead and Sola raised an eyebrow. Awful heroic of him, wasn't it? She shrugged. His funeral. She knew the Sith were self-serving and was surprised at his gesture. She almost read more into it but figured he probably thought he was being smart and logical.
She kept her saber in her hand but left it off. Verse hadn't specified if it had to be out of sight or not. It wouldn't hurt them if a little fear quickened the diplomatic procedures.
"I'll just stay in front on the way in, in case of ambush. It would probably be in our best interest to have Celeste conduct the negotiations once we arrive." he added, continuing his pace to get about four or five meters ahead of the group. Zack knew the Sith women would be more than capable of defending themselves; his decision to serve as a vanguard was purely tactical. His armor offered decent protection but did make him slightly less maneuverable. If he took the brunt of an initial strike, the more mobile Sith would be able to quickly launch a counterattack. Essentially, Zactar would serve as bait for any rebels foolish enough to fire upon them.
He proceeded on with caution at Verse's warning of potential contact, hands held behind his back and senses opened to the Force glowing in the living things around them. As they continued, Zack felt the lifeforce that Verse's sensor had picked up; between some rocky outcroppings up and to their right, likely a scout or sniper. With the figure in Zactar's periphery, he gestured behind his back to the Sith behind him, indicating the rebel's position. The expected blaster bolt never came, and Zactar made no movement to indicate he had noticed the rebel. Perhaps they would reveal more information if they thought they were still hidden.
Celeste kept her lightsaber still concealed and she planned on doing so until someone would actually open fire. She let Verse and Sola go next, so that she formed the rearguard, which was actually interesting, because she was probably the one to attempt negotiating. However, as long as there were no rebels in sight, she was completely relaxed, but still ready to act appropriately if necessary.
The indicated heat signature soon turned out to be someone still hidden in sight, but even without Zactar's gesture Celeste could sense exactly where he or she was hiding. She took a deep breath and caught up to the rest of the group, attentively observing their surroundings while appearing unbothered at the same time. If the rebels thought they had an advantage or the chance for a suprise attack, it would only be beneficial for the Sith as they knew it better. They were all seemingly ready to act if necessary and until then, they could all carry on, hoping they would find answers to questions and also gather more information on their foes if they were inattentive enough to reveal some. Celeste wouldn't raise her voice unless the Arkanian would instruct her to do so. Even if her fellow champion was younger, she was in command in Celeste respected that as long as it wouldn't turn out to be against her own beliefs.