Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 4 - Return to the Front

Ev, Jolee, Bastila, and Juhani sat strapped into the small passenger compartment of a Razor-class drop-ship. The sleek craft was hardly any larger than a standard Republic snub-fighter; twice the size, at most. If any of the four Jedi had been taller than average, they would have been sitting knee-to-knee on the two narrow benches across from each other.

The engine hummed as jungle treetops whipped by beneath them. Ev noted with approval, glancing through the small port-hole beside her, that their pilot was level-handedly skilled with terrain-hugging flying. Not far ahead of them, she could dimly sense the pilots of the two strafing squadrons that jetted on ahead of them.

Bastila nudged Ev's shoulder with her own when the two officers in charge of the mission slipped into the passenger hold from the cockpit. Ev hardly needed the physical call to attention from Bastila, having received her mental nudge a moment earlier.

The lithe Miralan woman in navy green slid to the right side of the doorway and the Cerean brigadier general ducked in and squeezed into a space to the right of the door. He wore the customary crimson of the army.

“We are nearing the Sith fortress and the drop zone,” the Miralan announced, Captain Anrilam, steel-faced. Her green skin was decorated with a line of small, geometric tattoos over the bridge of her nose and her hair was pulled back into a long ponytail with tight severity. “Do you have any questions on procedures?”

“I haven't got any,” Jolee said while Juhani answered with a polite, “No.” Both Ev and Bastila silently shook their heads.

“Good,” Captain Anrilam nodded briskly.

General Mrir-Sum-Tal cleared his throat.“Before you disembark, I wish to review the parameters of your mission,” he started and ran his free hand absently through his thick, dark mustache while holding to the grasp hold on the ship's hull with the other. “The Sith's forces here on Ruuria are concentrated on the outskirts of the Ruurian capital city in a sizable fortress, cobbled together around a collection of munitions and other like factories. They have erected their own flimsy barracks, but their command center is housed in an existing flight control and communications tower. To our best understanding, there are anti-air gun turrets around and scattered throughout the perimeter. Their walls and physical defenses will be easily breached, being of a conglomerate and temporary nature as they are. However, the base is guarded by a substantial force of Sith ground soldiers—we estimate our own troops should be more than enough for them—and a force of Dark Jedi of undetermined size.”

“There's no more than two squads worth of them,” Ev observed pensively through lightly lidded eyes. “They're making no effort at masking their presence.”

“I certainly hope you four are,” Captain Anrilam murmured darkly.

Ev opened her eyes and caught the Cerean general's wide-eyed look of surprise.

“Sir,” Ev added, in an effort towards politeness.

“Well, that is good to know,” Mrir-Sum-Tal commented curtly, recovering from his surprise. “In any case, those Dark Jedi are your second priority. Your first is to cut the power to their gun turrets and communications generators in order to ensure the safe grounding of our troop ships. You have twelve standard minutes to do this before the first wave arrives. They are already en route behind us. Is that enough time for you?” he asked, almost incredulously.

“As we discussed before,” Ev replied, “Twelve minutes should be enough to knock out at least a significant part of the air defenses. Any more time than that would be a danger to us, dropped in the middle of, potentially, a full brigade of Sith troops.”

The general let out a short sigh. It was obvious Jedi made him nervous—one redeemed Sith Lord, in particular. The navy captain, on the other hand, gave no hints of anything besides steely dedication to their mission.

Suddenly, Ev caught waves of fear, confusion, and rage emanating from somewhere ahead of their present location. The strafing runs on the Sith base had begun.

“Good,” the Cerean man nodded curly, “You must maintain comm silence until the first wave of our troops has landed.”

“Yes sir,” Bastila replied quietly, sensing his need for affirmation.

“You will be coming in in the wake of the Halberd and Firaxen squadrons. They will not return for a second pass until you are all safely on the ground,” Captain Anrilam explained. As with the general's narrative, none of this was new news to the Jedi drop team. “You will be performing a mid-altitude drop. Your repulsor-packs are outfitted with emergency chutes, should the repulsors fail. The parachute can be activated by the red tab on the left side.”

Juhani checked for the red tab on her own back, running her fingers over it.

“We will be reaching the drop zone in one minute,” a voice rang in from the cockpit.

“Understood,” Anrilam called back.

Above the roar of the engines, Ev could make out the thunder and whine of battle drawing nearer.

“Prepare for the jump,” the Miralan woman boomed, her voice cutting through all the noise. General Mrir-Sum-Tal was the first to react, slipping back through the doorway into the cockpit. The ship turned its nose up and began to climb in altitude.

“On your feet, Jedi,” Anrilam ordered and all four obliged. Standing nose-to-nose, they held onto the bars on the ceiling above them. Meanwhile, the benches they had been sitting on sunk into the floor to the sound of churning gears. Ev shrugged out of her repulsor-pack and set it aside where the general had been standing moments before.

“Open the side hatches,” the Miralan woman barked.

The walls beside them hissed open and began to slide away. Wind roared at the openings, threatening to tear them out of the hold prematurely. They turned to face the open hatchways, careful not to elbow one another in the nose or lose their footing; Bastila and Ev on the left and Juhani and Jolee on the right. Verdant jungle raced by below them, little flocks of birds fleeing in their path.

“Where is your repulsor-pack, Pell?” Anrilam demanded suddenly.

Bastila craned her neck to see. Ev could feel concern and fear flowing to her over their bond.

“It will just get in the way,” Ev replied firmly. With a whole fortress gunning for her and her companions, she needed every bit of mobility as she could claim to keep them alive through their drop and the first moments of their landing.

Jolee and Juhani glanced over their shoulders too. “Crazy kid,” Jolee mumbled, but his words were lost to the wind.

Suddenly, the jungle gave way to a vast clearing of pavement and military structures.

“Ten seconds to drop zone,” the voice from the cockpit came again.

Ev adjusted her grip on the handlebar above her head and edged forward towards the open doorway, counting down in her head.

“Now!” the voice commanded.

Ev and Juhani launched themselves out of the ship, followed only seconds later by Bastila and Jolee.

Ev opened herself up to the Force, letting it rush through her like an uncontrollable rapids tearing towards the waterfall. She embraced it but did not grasp at it. It was all around her and she was a part of it, as were her three friends. The Force was in the pollen in the air that rushed past her. The Force was in the plants and worms in the ground that she plummeted towards. It was in the men and women who aimed their blasters at her below.

Angling herself into a dive, her short-cropped hair whipped in her face and her clothes rippled around her. Two lightsaber hilts rattled and bumped against her hips. Pulling them into her hands, Ev ignited them as a deadly shield of violet and crimson between her and the approaching laser-fire. Losing all sense of identity, Ev dove deeper into the Force as she dove through the air. Her body moved to dodge and intercept the shots that would have injured her companions. She sensed Bastila then Juhani enter the web with her, the Force drawing on them more than they on the Force.

Ev's feelings told her the ground was near, and she Pushed out violently with the Force, all at once righting herself, slowing her descent, and bowling over all the Sith beneath her in a ten meter radius like a sea of silvery toy soldiers. There were yells of dismay, but she hardly noticed them. Giving another Push, Ev landed lightly on the ground.

Yelling, a masked Dark Jedi was already onto her, charging over the fallen soldiers. Ev met him head-on as Juhani burned in behind her. The Sith came in high with a powerful two-handed strike. Ev met him with her right saber, wincing under the weight of his blow, while swinging low with her left. He crumpled with a groan and fell away as her red lightsaber cut into his side.

The armored Sith soldiers struggled to their feet and to collect their weapons again. A few resourceful ones stayed in a crouch and began firing. Two more Dark Jedi advanced on them.

Juhani struggled out of her repulsor-pack and reached for her lightsaber. Ev swung in to cover her from a clever sniper. The shots refracted off her weapons into the crowd of Sith around them.

Bastila plummeted into their midst, imitating Ev's landing with her own twist. As she Pushed towards the ground, knocking some of the more unsteady Sith off their feat again, she flung her pack directly into the chest of one of the Dark Jedi. He groaned and stumbled back as well. By the time she touched the ground, her double-bladed saber was in her hands and glowing yellow. Jolee reached the ground just as the other Dark Jedi, a woman, reached them. Without a word, Juhani and Bastila spun in between Jolee and the woman while he freed himself from the pack. Ev continued to defend them from blaster fire.

Without looking, she knew the dark woman was defeated. Finding himself one Dark Jedi against four Jedi Knights, the man Bastila had struck with her pack hung back at the inner edge of the circle that surrounded them.

Ev reached out with her senses through the squads of soldiers surrounding them, searching.

“Who are you?” he demanded threateningly, but there was fear behind his voice.

Ev stepped forward with a grin and flourished her lightsabers threateningly. “I am Revan,” she answered confidently. Whispers erupted amidst the soldiers and Ev found what she was looking for: the grenadiers. “And you can either surrender yourselves and this planet to the Republic, or suffer the consequences.”

“Never,” the Dark Jedi spat.

Ev Pulled the pins from all the grenades within her reach. The sound of hundreds of tiny pins hitting the pavement went unnoticed as Firaxen Squadron came around for a second pass on the fortress.

“Jedi scum!” the lone Dark Jedi continued his curse. “Attack them!”

The soldiers surged forward, but they had only taken a few steps when every grenade in the courtyard exploded. It erupted in burst of flames and screams. Chaos and fear overtook the Sith. Bastila and Ev raised a shield in the Force to protect the four of them.

When the resulting blaze subsided, more soldiers and Sith rushed into the broad courtyard, and those that had managed to escape the blast without serious injuries charged with renewed vengeance. The battle was in motion.

There was a conspicuous power generator on the other side of the courtyard. No words needed to be spoken between the Jedi. Jolee and Juhani darted for the generator while Bastila and Ev distracted and destroyed their attackers. Ev reached out for grenade pins again in the wave of reinforcements as she beat back a squad of soldiers foolish enough to think they could take on two Jedi with only common vibroblades in their hands. Another explosion rocked the compound, accompanied by more screams.

Ev smiled grimly. They may not be able to get all the generators and axillary generators down by the time the troop ships arrived, but the chaos that the four Jedi would wreck on the fortress would be enough to ensure the incoming Republic soldiers a foothold in the battle.

Ev didn't like it, but this is where she was meant to be, back at the war front.

- Next Part -


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