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Old 08-28-2006, 10:20 PM   #20
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Chapter 19: Heat of Battle
“Masters, we have engaged the enemy. We have strong reason to believe that one of our own has betrayed us.”

“Certain are you, Jedi Andros?” Yoda asked.

“Yes. They have been countering our aerial maneuvers with the same precision as the Avalonian fleets. I can be certain that they are Rashikians or mercenaries.”

“Then one of our worst fears may be realized. We may lose the Avalonian fleet,” Master Windu replied.

“Not necessarily,” Andros replied, “I have received word that Jedi Miklos has engaged the ground forces and they are pulling back. Also we have been able to break through the space defenses and take out the enemy fighters. Besides, she won’t give up…”

Andros thought about the communications that he had sent to the Council on Coruscant. Surveying the space battle, he could see that the enemy fighters, a mixture of rogue Avalonians and Commander Trask’s fleet, were becoming desperate with the exception of the few battle droids that had been sent by Count Dooku. He caught sight of Anakin’s fighter and three heading at him at an angle he couldn’t possibly see from. He said, “Anakin, three from above.”

Anakin’s fighter pulled up at a steep angle and did a graceful flip to bring the three round about in front. Andros watched as Anakin took out the three fighters with the deadly accuracy that gave him his reputation with the Republic. Andros heard over the comm, “Thanks.”

Anakin’s mind was on the space battle. In the beginning, they were faring badly because the enemy seemed to have the upper hand. He figured that it was just as Andros told him, that someone turned against them. He felt a slight anger at the traitors but he remembered that this was not really his fight. The only reason he was giving it his all because of her, Lady Ashira. His master was down there too fighting but something about Lady Ashira that inspired a sort of loyalty though she tried to discourage it constantly. That and she was like a mother to him since she watched out for him. Little did he know that it was a result of a promise she made to his mother when he left Tatooine. Then she was Senator D’Avignon.

He was jerked out of his train of thought when Andros warned him of three fighters coming to attack him. He pulled his fighter up in a steep vertical and then looped back around behind the three and took them out. He was grateful that Andros was watching his back. He liked the elder Jedi and his brother. They were opposites of each other but when they were put together, they made an interesting combination. Anakin raced his fighter through the hordes of fighters. Behind him formed a small vanguard of Avalonian fighters, Belosian. If anything, Anakin knew that the Belosians fought like there was no tomorrow.

Straight ahead was a huge cruiser ship. It was the command vessel of the enemy fleet. Anakin knew that their main quarry wouldn’t be there but if they could take out the main ship, the enemy forces would have to pull back. Andros agreed with that course of action and was maneuvering the Ebon Hawk into position. The stock freighter was out maneuvering the best the droid and Rashikian army had to offer and was blazing away at the gun turrets. They headed for the main control and observation deck firing everything they had.

The ground forces were unrelenting and seemed to have gotten a second wind with the arrival of Miklos and his troops. They charged in full of zeal with the healers running to take their positions with the others. The first lines of warriors charged with blades drawn. Bringing up the rear were the archers volleying their arrows ahead. Their angles were carefully calculated since the retreating forces were being met by the Haida women and the other tribes, full force.

Miklos met up with Moira who informed him that her people were bunching up the last of the enemy. The droids that were there were nearly piles of scrap. Miklos nodded his acknowledgement and continued to fight. The dirt clung to his skin and he could smell the blood in the air. To be honest he didn’t want to know who had died and who had grievous injuries. To him the war was a distasteful thing that haunted his mind at times. He knew that it haunted his sister. There were nights when he would pass her quarters and hear her whimper in her sleep. Fighting there in that battle, he felt as if he were exorcising those demons for her or rather making it one less battle for her to dream about. He put on a brave face and plunged ahead.

He didn’t have to go far for once they crossed into the valley near the Haida encampment, they came across the herders and their allies. Seeing that they were outnumbered, the Rashikians and Outcasts surrendered. They knew that they had signed on to a fool’s battle, even those that were in the space battle overhead. When this was over, they would be sent back to the far reaches of the Unknown Regions, with some heading for the Outer Rim to wait again until another war happened, at least for the Outcasts, the equivalent of mercenaries and bounty hunters. The Rashikians would go back to plotting to take over the system, a feat that was impossible since the last great campaign decimated their numbers four millennia ago.

Miklos watched as the enemy surrendered their weapons. He figured that the old ways that have stood for over a thousand years still maintained a precedence even with the scoundrels. He figured Ashira to be right when she once said that in spite of everything, Avalonian people always adhered to honor. It didn’t matter that they had blasters and speeders and the like, it mattered what a person could do without it. Thinking of that, his thoughts were diverted to Ashira. She was still out there somewhere and he couldn’t sense her at all. It was as if she had cut him off from her mind through the Force. Either that or she cut herself off.

Moira noticed Miklos staring off, not really paying attention and went to him. She followed his gaze out towards the mountains. She didn’t say anything for a moment. Seeing that he still wasn’t paying attention she said, “Nekang freed the herds but I think that this battle is far from over.”

“She cut me off and more likely my brother too,” Miklos replied. How he knew she was speaking of Ashira, he didn’t. He just needed to say something for he was disturbed.

“How does that saying of yours go? It is the will of the Force.”

The sparks flew and the heat increased as Ashira clashed her blade with Dragus’ lightsaber. She didn’t care at the moment how he managed to learn how to use a lightsaber. What did matter was that she disarm him and take him in. Her blade was smoking from the heat from the repeated clashes but she wasn’t worried for the blades were made to withstand the power of a lightsaber. That was what made them famous throughout the Republic though it took the equivalent of a Jedi Master to be able to wield them effectively. Dragus swung low and she blocked. Impressed Dragus said, “Impressive. I didn’t think you were strong enough to stand against me, much less with a master’s blade.”

“You’ll find that I’m full of surprises,” she retorted and swung and parried against his lightsaber. She relied on the Bushida techniques that Petronius had been training her since she could hold a lightsaber. Deep down, she knew that it wasn’t going to be enough but she let her heart take over.

Dragus countered her moves with relative ease. He thought that she was toying with him by just using the Bushida formations. He wanted to see her use all of her skills since he had heard from Dooku about her abilities. He decided to taunt her, “Bushida formations? Can’t you do anything better?”

Ashira recognized the attempt. She wearily retreated slightly and gazed with a semi-bored expression at him. That made him angry of course and he came at her harder. She countered by reacting faster, so fast that her limbs seemed like a blur. They kept at it until he hit her across the face with a backhand that sent her spinning. He grabbed her from behind only to be given a kick to the face. Ashira backed away and held her position. She said, “At least the old ways hold up in combat.”

“We’ll see,” he replied and charged. Again they clashed with much more heat than the previous clashes. Miraculously they avoided the acid spills from earlier as more smoke filled the air as they clashed. They actually neared the edge of the hangar and it was standing near an outcropping. At one point, they turned away from the edge and headed back in. Dragus could tell that she was faltering and used the opportunity to knock her blade away. As he did, he sent out Force Lightening straight at her.

Ashira’s senses were not dulled from all the fighting. She rolled out of the way just as the lightening struck the ground leaving a scorch mark. She gained balance in a crouched position and was ready for the next round that Dragus sent her way. She imitated the way Yoda had done when he faced Dooku at Geonosis and channeled it through the Force. She couldn’t hold it however as a sudden burst sent her back towards the edge where she hung on. Her first thoughts were that she was in a good fix. She looked up and saw Dragus looking at her. He was grinning at her and he said, “Now I will avenge the family honor,” and he raised his lighted lightsaber.

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