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A Cold Day in Hell (Sena Lassiter)

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#1
Joycelyn Zambrano

Joycelyn Zambrano

    Darth Vornskr the Second

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 "ETA from lightspeed in point-five. Hold on."

 

Joyce's hands flicked the switches of their civilian craft as they dropped out of lightspeed over the desolate ice-planet of Hoth. Their ride was not exactly comfortable, but it was inconspicuous and they were able to mask the more sinister aspects of their intent.

 

"Our area codes have cleared. We will not be disturbed."

 

A geological survey for the Academy of Mindabaal, that was the cover they had gathered. It was not too difficult once they had been able to plant some of the Ember's more intelligent, but less forceful, members in the Academy during the One Sith's hold on Mindabaal. The expertise these Vahla would bring back to the fleet was invaluable in the long run. Not everyone could march on the front lines. Some would have to bring new science to the Fleet.

 

She stood up from her seat and looked back into the ship. Her hands clamped on to the rail marking the separation from the Cockpit to the hull. The door between then was open, as it was wont to be on small vessels like these. Joyce's copilot, an gruff old voidfarer named Jace, took the controls to guide them down towards the surface. He flew because his loyalty was beyond doubt. He had devoted his entire life to the Ember, the Vahla, and the Migrant Fleet. Jace had no other life, so he had no reason to betray them.

 

"We'll reach the surface in ten minutes, Lassiter."

There was a shred of respect in Joycelyn's tone, though it was well hidden within her usual tone of 'not taking orders lightly'. Still, she had proven she was willing to listen to an authority if it was a matter of mutual interest, or if it was for the service of Vahll.

 

"Have you ever been here before?"

Joyce moved towards the wardrobes to cover herself in layers of heat-preserving cloth, made ready for their landfall in advance.

 

Lassiter


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#2
Lassiter

Lassiter

    Darth Drethi - Sword of Vahl

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Joycelyn Zambrano

 

Meditation was such a simple method of practicing your ability to use the force, yet it was the one that Lassiter had struggled the most with. It required patience, and patience was a virtue she had not considered worthwhile until very recently. Considering herself perhaps a bit too important to fly, which was to say that she did not know how, Sena had opted to stay back in a cramped crew quarter looking to prepare herself for the struggles that was certain to follow once the Sword and her apprentice had gotten themselves acquainted planetside. 
 
Eyes fluttered out of trance at the beckoning of her name, a statement of arrival and a question that begged an answer. Slowly rising from her seated position the master approached the wardrobes to gather her own survival equipment for the mission that laid before them.
 
“Ten minutes is good, the captain should be pleased.” The redheaded half-vahla gave her apprentice a nod of affirmation. “I have luckily enough never been to this godforsaken hellhole, but after knowing what Bolo told us I know I should have figured it out sooner rather than later.”
 
Fire, the opposite of ice. They had not chosen this planet for any other reason than because of the message it would send those that wished to escape the grasp of their goddess and guide Vahl. It was a bold move, Sena would give them that, but a foolish one nonetheless.
 
“If all goes as planned we will be able to catch them by surprise and cut down their key members before anyone is the wiser.” Stealth had always aided Lassiter in her pursuits, she would always strive to teach her apprentice the same ideals no matter how insistent Joycelyn seemed to strive in order to prove that a non-silent approach worked just as well as any other approach would.
 
They could be compared to a dagger and a warhammer. One was sleek and quiet, the other was blunt and packed a punch. It was a match that worked surprisingly well at times.
 
“Remember the plan?”

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#3
Joycelyn Zambrano

Joycelyn Zambrano

    Darth Vornskr the Second

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The plan, sure she knew the plan. Bust in, kill everyone but one, find out what more they're up to and bail, right? There was always more to it than just that, and she did remember. While a very direct person, Joycelyn was not stupid enough to completely neglect subtlety. She threw Lassiter a quick look as she straightened the whooly sweater that would go under her outer jacket and draped the scarf over her shoulders so she could later tuck it in.

 

"Yeah, I remember."

 

She knelt down and started fastening the straps of her boots with forceful pulls, grimacing a little with each. it was funny how rudimentary shoelaces were, even at this time and age. Yet they were seemingly unavoidable if you wanted a good fit.

 

"We go inn quietly, leaving no trace." Pull, pull,  "We scope out the place and enter through the path of least resistance." Tie, shift leg. "Make our way, quietly, to their boss and take him out." Pull, pull, tie. "And we get out."

 

She wrapped the scarf around her neck and jaw, slightly muffling her words.

 

"Minimal resistance, maximum results."

 

She picked up the SK pattern Ripper she had claimed in her service to the One Sith, made sure it was ready and loaded, then slipped it into its holster on the outside of her thigh.

 

"We have gone over it a hundred times."

 

The jacket came on and zipped up, her lightsabre slipped into a front pocket for easy reach and safe carriage; a vibrodagger was strapped to the front of her chest, and two nice little thermal detonators were packed into a satchel dangling from her belt. She came well armed, more like a trooper or bounty-hunter than a Force-user. Again, they were that sort.

 

"We will be fine."

 

As she put the warm cap on her head, hiding the black hair beneath snowy white and grey clothes, a wicked smile spread on her lips, partially obscured by her scarf.

 

Lassiter


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#4
Lassiter

Lassiter

    Darth Drethi - Sword of Vahl

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Joycelyn Zambrano

 

So she remembered, good. Lassiter fastened the jacket she wore by her waist and continued to grasp at the hems of her gloves to fasten them as well. She hated the cold, abhorred the wilderness that was the Hoth wastelands. Perfectly content with letting her apprentice retell the details of the plan she continued the preparation with as much care as she needed. Few things would strike her as ironic as an Ember dying of cold, and she had no intentions of giving the refugees that kind of laugh. It was what they wanted and Sena was not one to grant them that.
 
At least it was a good summary of the plan.
 
Minimal resistance, maximum results. Like a toxin applied in your victim’s sleep.
 
“Indeed.” Sena nodded. “Though I know better than to expect this to go well.”
 
Occupational hazard.
 
“Backup plan is simple, and quite frankly all the more easier.” The master took a pause from fastening the laces to her boots to grant her apprentice a confirmative look. “Kill them all.” She grinned. “If they cannot be brought to see reason, or if they resist, we are not beyond making examples to still the minds of others.”
 
“I trust you to be able to take care of that, yes?”

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#5
Joycelyn Zambrano

Joycelyn Zambrano

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"Not one. In fact, I would prefer it."

 

She pulled the goggles down over her eyes. Protecting one's eyes from the wind, the cold, and most importantly, the sun, was paramount. The light would bounce off every surface around them and if their eyes were not protected, they would be blinded.

 

"Landfall"

 

The copilot, Jace, spoke out as their transportation touched down in the snowy landscape, under the cover of two massive snow-dunes and in the shadow of a knife-like ridge of black rock. The elderly Vahla stood up from his seat and leaned on the frame, much like Joycelyn had done before: A habit passed down from him to her, from pilot to pilot.

 

"Joycelyn, Esteemed Sword. May She look over you."

 

Joycelyn nodded and turned to the mural on the left side-wall: An icon, a painting of Vahl in flames. It was a simple piece, not made by a great artist, but one of the devoted of the Ember, a budding talent with colour and shape.

 

"And you, Jace."

 

The Vahlacanthix knelt down in front of the icon, lowering her head and closing her eyes in a short and silent prayer to the Goddess.

 

Mother Vahl - Watch over me.

Give me the strength of your example.
- The guidance of your flame.

- Forgive my weaknesses,

And may the sins of the unwilling

be cleansed in fire and blood.

Mother Vahl - Witness me.
 
She stood again, brown eyes turning to Lassiter, and then to the exit.
 

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#6
Lassiter

Lassiter

    Darth Drethi - Sword of Vahl

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Joycelyn Zambrano

 

Chances were of course that they were walking into a trap as well, in which case the two executioners would have to improvise a plan, though it was fair to assume it was heavily built upon Plan B. With the last few touches of getting herself equipped done and over with Lassiter would eventually turn to look at the co-pilot that came to offer his best wishes. While the Ember might have been an organisation built on destruction and death there was nothing to say that Sena had to act as if those around her were anything but her equals. She was the Sword, she was above them in the hierarchy, she was the prettiest, but hearts and minds were still won by making people feel as if they counted even when you didn’t really believe them to be as such. He was expendable by numbers, invaluable by experience. Much like the artist that had drawn the small mural on the ship’s walls, he was part of the reason certain individuals were willing to look past the chaotic surface of their organisation and still consider joining.
 
If they had all been like Sena the likelihood that the Ember would have survived this long hadn’t been very likely at all.
 
Unlike Joy however, Sena wasn’t very big on prayer. She had always been one to seize her own potential, never outright rely on someone else. To live with the belief that maybe it was Vahl that had helped her all these years was a concept that was hard for her to buy. Not because she didn’t want to as much as because of habit. Regardless she would bow her head and close her eyes whilst facing the symbol.
 
In the name of my duty as the Sword I will bring thy cleansing flame to those who deny you.
 
It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
 
Strapping the goggles to her face and approaching the loading ramp Sena hit the switch to open it up. The cold air filled the bay in an instant and for a second Sena felt a shiver run up and down her spine.
 
“Await our signal before sweeping in for extraction.” Sena commanded the co-pilot. “Red sheen is hot extraction, purple for soft.”

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#7
Joycelyn Zambrano

Joycelyn Zambrano

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To Joycelyn, prayer did not mean to give up the autonomy of her power nor her actions. She invoked the name of Vahl, and fully believed the Mother's burning hand to shield her, but only if she was strong enough in her conviction and in wielding the Force. Her whole life, the priestesses had told her that Vahl looked upon the brave with favour, but all who lived near an open flame knew that it burned a careless handler. Joyce opened her eyes and stood with a slow exhale.

 

"Yes, ma'am Sword."

 

Jace always had this look on his face. He had travelled more than most would ever imagine possible and he had seen all sorts of people kneel in front of the icon of the Goddess and wage war upon the Galaxy. He had seen swords go to their graves before Lassiter was born. He had grown jaded to the figures, but held on to the faith of their kind as the only thing left in a galaxy much changed since he first set out. 

 

The cold air flooded the cargo hull, but Jace stood still in the doorway, eyes narrowing just a little in reaction. Joyce turned her back on the elderly Vahla and pulled the scarf over her nose. Even through her layered clothing, Joyce felt cold when she stepped outside in the snowy hellscape. The ship sealed behind them. There in the shadow of a hill, the world looked like an ocean of blue hues, but the peaks that rose past their horizon shone like clear gems on display. Joyce checked her compass.

 

"Lead the way, Sword of Vahl."

 

The Sword must have become to Joycelyn's cheeky tones by now, but somewhere deep inside, the Vahlacanthix knew it irked her master's pride. Deep down, she respected Sena, but it was covered in many layers of cheek, sass, and jealous aggression. There were three paths for them to take: The long way around, the short way across, or the dangerous climb over the hill. Each had its advantages and dangers. In this, Joyce was but the apprentice and opted to listen to her senior.

 

Lassiter


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#8
Lassiter

Lassiter

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Joycelyn Zambrano

 

‘Ma’am Sword’ and the cheeky nature of Joycelyn’s affirmation of subservience. They were words, but sure enough much like her apprentice had come to figure out over the course of her training Sena found that the longer time they had spent the more she had come to appreciate the directedness of Joycelyn’s actions, but that would never substitute for the elegance of a plan gone off in silence. It was always best to leave your enemy wondering what had happened, or preferably unaware anything had happened at all. It was something that Sena had first come to appreciate during her time with the Exchange, but the Ember had been the ones to truly drive her into working on it and letting it define her. 
 
She couldn’t say it hadn’t worked. It had almost worked too well, if Sena would say so herself.
 
Then again, distrust and paranoia simply came natural to her.
 
“The dossier mentioned three possible entrances,” She said and looked at her apprentice. “Despite the dangers, I believe the hill is the way to go. It’s dangerous, but they won’t be expecting us to come at them from there.”
 
First step into the snow and Sena already hated this place. “Of course they had to pick Hoth.” She muttered. 
 
For this one, she would try to lead. Which was like putting a spymaster on a warhorse, it just wasn’t how these things worked under most circumstances. But today would be all about sacrifice, of that there were no real doubts.

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#9
Joycelyn Zambrano

Joycelyn Zambrano

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"I guess they don't like the heat." The irony was not lost on Joyce.

 

Joycelyn had expected such a bold strategy from Drethi. She was not afraid of taking risks in order to gain the all so important high ground. This was indeed one of the reasons the Vahlacanthix respected her as a person. If anything, Joyce was even more reckless in her strategies.

 

"If we're quick, we can crest the top while it's bright. The reflection will make us harder to spot"

 

She nodded as she spoke and quickly found their climbing gear. It was funny how little it had evolved. Joyce guessed, with all the antigrav technology, the need for newer rock-scaling technology was not big. It was still largely a manual task. 

 

With a smile she moved the ice picks in her hands to feel the fronted weight of the beaked instrument. In that moment, she could only imagine how it would feel to plunge it into a skull. It would probably get stuck, but the brutality it promised was scrumptious. 

 

Joyce craned her neck to look up up along the side of the hill. She exhaled in preparation, then bolted towards the wall. With a force-imbued jump she climbed several meters and plunged the pick into the ice to catch herself. They could walk or shimmy some places, but other places they would have to use the picks to climb.

 

Lassiter


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#10
Lassiter

Lassiter

    Darth Drethi - Sword of Vahl

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Joycelyn Zambrano

 

The thing that separated Lassiter from those that she chased was in the end how they embraced the different aspects of themselves. Those who could not accept their nature, who defied the goddess and spit on everything it meant to be Vahla had chosen to do so out of fear for what their faith might lead to without accepting the benefits of having a whole organisation, a family, behind you. Those who were made to return and accept their place in the Ember did so through re-education, those who still refused were sacrificed to a purpose higher than themselves. In that regard it was an honor to drive the will of Vahl herself onward, to smite those who opposed her or actively hindered her followers from partaking in what they were born to be or become.
 
It had taken Sena years to find her again, but once she had it would all slowly start to make sense to her. The bloodlust, the often disruptive or outright chaotic mindset, it was because of who she was born to be, to become the Sword, the bringer of justice upon those who opposed their journey home.
 
To die for this, was a cause that was worthy of dying for.
 
To that degree she considered herself proof that there were nothing more dangerous than those who have nothing left to lose. All Sena had was her lover as a final lifeline into the world of ‘sanity.’ Redact that and there was nothing but the Ember, and when nothing else was left but a cause, her devotion would be absolute.
 
Part of her feared it for what it meant to Ameli.
 
Part of her desired it more than anything.
 
The cliff that separated herself from their targets would cause her to do no more than perk her brow at her apprentice’s proficiency at scaling it. Memory served that she most certainly hadn’t taught her that, and with the way she plunged her picks into the wall she could only imagine they both thought of the same thing upon seeing it.
 
Sena was no stranger to brutality, it had served her well in her years before Vahl entered it, but as she aged she had slowly started to see the importance in subtlety. Once again, this was something she often pondered when asking herself why Joycelyn was her apprentice of all the Embers available. It was like matching a dagger with a warhammer, or a surgical cut to a gaping bullet wound.
 
Regardless, the redhead thrust herself into the air and thrust her pick into the wall of ice and with a single follow up she found herself on equal grounds with Joycelyn. Albeit, on the other side of the steep fall. 
 
“Good job,” The master said and looked down at the ground below and then her apprentice. “I see you’ve put your hours in.” Head nodding in approval. “Most impressive.”
 
What was that, the Sword of Vahl actually complimenting someone? Much less Joycelyn Zambrano? Unthinkable!
 
Head then tilted towards a nearby tunnel. “This way should take us right up their backdoor.”
 
“You ready for this?”

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#11
Joycelyn Zambrano

Joycelyn Zambrano

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Why her? - Why me?

 

This had indeed been a frequent question asked to- and by Joycelyn. It seemed ill fitting to match two such different figures in a relationship of tuition. Joycelyn was not a sneaky person, if anything she was abrasive and reckless. It was indeed like matching a dagger with a warhammer. Though, perhaps Joycelyn could learn from Drethi's methods, and perhaps Sena could learn something from Joyce. What that would be was anyone's guess. In the end they would have to deal with being mooshed together by the will of the Ember and the Goddess.

 

The scalpel and the bullet.

 

Wait, was that a compliment? The Vahlacanthix gave the Sword a genuine look of surprise and almost lost her grip on the icepick, but righted herself in a poorly hidden fashion. The shadow of a smile brushed over her eyes - Of course they were hidden behind goggles.

 

"I was born ready."

 

Joyce climbed her way to the tunnel, trying to use the corners around it to mask her approach. She shifted her grip on the icepick when she stood next to the entrance, and brought it near the entrance. The polish on the pick's blade gave her a rudimentary mirror to look around the corner. Of course, it did not paint a good picture and she saw nothing, but props for creativity. Next, Joyce peeked her head around the corner to look down the tunnel herself.

 

"It looks ready. I'm going."

 

Perhaps a little too quickly, the acolyte rounded the corner and darted inside. She stayed to the right, her left hand lingering next to the holster of her ripper. Her eyes narrowed as she peered into the lightless structure and reached into the Force to sense the path ahead. 

 

Lassiter


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#12
Lassiter

Lassiter

    Darth Drethi - Sword of Vahl

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Joycelyn Zambrano

 

A grin did spread on the teacher’s lips at the surprise. It wasn’t that the compliment had any effect of the kind, but the fact that neither of them seemed to think the other had a particularly high opinion of the other might have been closer to the truth than either would have wanted to admit. Then again, perhaps Sena was just reading far too deep into what her apprentice was doing. Regardless of what the case was there would be more than enough time to ponder it when they were done. And right now, that was not it.
 
Lassiter took her time through the tunnel to give her apprentice a wide margin to show how she would have tackled this problem and let the ‘master’ gather valuable insight into how her apprentice worked. A slight grin tugged at her lips at the sight of what she was trying to do with the ice pick, and while credits were due where creativity sparked, it was still not going to do much in her favor.
 
Oh well, lesson learned. Sena herself had made more than a few mistakes on her path to where she was now. Ever tried to catch your own reflection on a rusted knife and wondered why you saw nothing? Yeah, it wasn’t her brightest moment. Not that any of the people around her at the time had lived long enough to ‘tell all’ so to speak.
 
The both of them entered the path towards the escaped lambs’ lair. The air began to reek of a stale sense of fear as the crackle of fire started to echo down the cold and callous tunnel system that was going to betray them. The sound of a child’s frightful sobs echoed down the hall. Upon hearing it Sena quietly snuck up to her apprentice, patted her on the shoulder and gently hushed her, motioning for them both to listen.
 
“It’ll be okay, the snow will keep us safe.” A mother spoke to her panicked child. “They will leave and forget all about us.”
 
It was almost enough to make you feel for them. Almost.
 
That was a future sister of the flame that they were corrupting and turning away from the goddess that cherished them all.
 
There was a harsh punishment for that.
 
Death.
 
“Let them think we got lost, strike when they let their guard down.” Sena whispered to her apprentice. “It will damage their cause the most.”

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