An even longer time ago, in a galaxy just as far away...
The tunnel seemed completely devoid of distinguishing features; making it most likely an original construction tunnel or some such thing. What did stand out however was the large volume of cables roufhly routed along its path; not just apparent as being more recent than the tunnel itself, these were clearly much newer additions as they showed little to no signs of age without even a layer of dust.
Mischa looked closely and they appeared to be a mix of power and data feeds of increasing volume the further they descended
Kelly's gaze trailed the cables curiously before she turned to the astromech in front of her, "ADIN, any idea what these cables are for or where they're leading towards?" "It looks like they're in high usage, ma'am," ADIN replied in the usual series of beeps and chirps that the droid was capable of in its current body. "That is, the cables are relaying large amounts of data and have maximized their power input." "High usage and new condition," Kelly analyzed the information, "that must mean there's something technological up ahead. Probably something bigger than a few computer consoles. Stay alert for more traps like these energy fields."
Continuing to descend the ancient tunnel, the group followed the cables through to a large room. All the trails of modern technology appeared to congregate in one corner here amidst a sophisticated construct of consoles and displays.
The room itself was largely of a modern - almost industrial - style, though it had clearly been built into the surrounding rock and still gave glimpses of the occasional ancient statue beyond it's modern conversion. "Eller" (There) Keelah pointed towards the consoles as they entered the room, seeing clearly that it was the most significant point in the area.
Kelly nodded in the direction of the consoles as Keelah pointed at them, "ADIN, go see if you can slice in and find anything. HK, make sure we've got a secure perimeter. Look for any other entrances and exits to this place."
Once the two droids set off, she took a brief look at the entrance they came through even though she knew she would not be able to see when Mischa and the Knight arrived. Her glance then turned to Keelah and Laesa as she asked, "Sense anything in here?"
"She is here..." Laesa replied cautiously, with a nod of confirmation from Keelah, "...and she is angry". As if on cue - like she knew they were talking about her - Lizbeth's haunting laughter once again reverberated around them. It was not quite as before though, this sounded more physical. Laesa instinctively drew her blades upon hearing the voice, "Lizbeth, let us help you!" she called out to nowhere in particular as her fellow clone was still nowhere to be seen; the laughter intensified, "My poor deluded sister... I am not the one in need of saving! No... that is all of you!" As she spoke; Lizbeth appeared on the far side of the room next to one of the large obelisks that had been seen all around the temple. She cast a powerful dark energy upon it which seemed to bring the obelisk to life as it began to glow with a deep purple aura which swirled around it, growing in intensity. Before anyone could react to her appearance, the obelisk erupted with a crackling stream of lightning with struck Laesa... and pulled her in. Helpless to fight the pull of the obelisk, Laesa whipped through the air and faded into the purple mist. As she drew closer to the obelisk, she faded from existence, until nothing could be seen of her. The Obelisk settled into a a gentle pulse of energy as it now contained everything that was Laesa; it was some form of ancient mind trap, not unlike those used by the Rakata. Only this one seemed to empower Lizbeth as her form briefly pulsed with a mirror of the aura surrounding the mind trap since it consumed Laesa. With a wry grin she turned towards Kelly and Keelah, activated both of her lightsabers as she did, "Who's next?"
Kelly reacted instantly, not to attack but to push down the barrel of HK's rifle, knowing that it would be a futile move. She shook her head at the droid and stepped forward towards Lizbeth. Though Keelah was by all means a strong Force user, the ease with which Laesa was neutralized made Kelly realize that the only way to get out of this was, for the moment, to buy as much time as she could.
"Well, there goes my weapon against you," she lowered her rifle, taking care not to look to the tunnel entrance in the slightest to betray the surprise of Mischa and the Knight's eventual arrival in stealth. "I might not be as powerful as you are, but I'm not stupid. I know when I'm outmatched. The problem is, you're not exactly making a good deal here. You want to kill us all, right? That's...well, that's not exactly the most convincing argument for surrender I've heard. Look, I've got no desire to die, my droid follows my orders and is happy as long as he gets to blast people, and Keelah here is only after knowledge and secrets. Give us a good offer, and we'll join you and spare you the time and effort of hunting down the others."
Keelah looked to Kelly in disbelief, though stayed her blade nonetheless while Lizbeth simply narrowed her deep golden eyes on the Imperial, "A good offer?" she countered with an entertained smirk on her face, "Now where would the fun be in that!" she laughed as she launched one of her blades towards Kelly. The deep purple blade spun rapidly through the air in a sweeping arc; however before it could reach its target, it was intercepted by another - lighter purple - blade thrown by Keelah. The blades clashed just above Kelly's head before returning to their respective owners waiting hands. Lizbeth turned towards Keelah, "Now this one knows how to put on a good show, I can see why she likes you!" she grinned, launching herself at the Sephi and crashing down on her waiting defense with both blades. Keelah recoiled but was no stranger to lightsaber combat; utilizing the same shadow strike ability as she had shown earlier against the living statues, she appeared to phase in and out of existence through a constant purple blur which appeared to swirl around Lizbeth - Keelah appearing in flashes all around her foe who was still able to sense Keelah's moves and parry each stealth attack. As powerful and unpredictable as this unusual technique had proven, it was not enough to gain the upper hand against Lizbeth which meant it was only a matter of time before she would gain the upper hand against Keelah and force a turn of the tables.
"If it's a show you want..." Kelly raised her rifle, aiming a precision shot at Lizbeth. She knew that the bolt would simply be deflected, but she fired anyways as a distraction to stall their inevitable loss for as long as possible. After the first shot she made for the nearest cover she could find to avoid her own attacks being redirected at her but continued firing at every opportunity. She did her best not to impede her allies, as the point was to harry Lizbeth in order to help Keelah stay in the fight for longer.
"Exclamation: Finally! A meatbag to shoot!" the HK enthusiastically joined in as he followed the example of his master, using his sniper rifle to aim for Lizbeth as she dueled with Keelah.
Lizbeth deflected the blaster bolts from Kelly and HK as expected while Keelah continued to warrant her full attention. Seeing the opportunity presented by the additional distraction Keelah darted around Lizbeth through the shadows once more, swinging her blade down across Lizbeth's arm with the intention of disarming her from one of her blades. The strike however ricocheted right off the spiny growth on her arm, causing Keelah to recoil as she had not expected the blow to resisted as such.
The brief stagger brought a smirk to Lizbeth's lips; Keelah quickly recovered and once again faded to move through the shadows, but the split second delay was all Lizbeth needed. She pulsed brighter as she drew on more of Laesa's energy, reaching out and grabbing the Sephi by the throat before she could completely fade - not a Force choke - but a physical grasp on the girl. Lizbeth's strength was augmented beyond anything natural for her frame, as she held Keelah out in front of herself with one hand; raised from the floor her legs kicked fruitlessly as she dropped her lightsaber and grabbed Lizbeth's wrist with both hands in an effort to free herself, while still attempting to fade back to the shadows.
Keelah's efforts were all in vain however as she could not release Lizbeth's grip. She gagged and wheezed as the breath was choked from her body, soon loosing so much of her focus that she could not even keep up her efforts to fade anymore. Lizbeth continued to swing a blade in her other hand to deflect the incoming bolts as she glared into Keelah's eyes- savouring the moment death claims her.
That moment did not come to pass however, as Mischa seized the opportunity and came in close behind Lizbeth - still under the combined protection of her stealth field generator and the Knight's additional masking of their presence. Drawing close, she swung her vibroblade down as hard as she could into Lizbeth's shoulder; causing her to scream out in pain as the blade penetrated her flesh. Lizbeth's grip on Keelah failed as she staggered forward and down to her knees while the Sephi girl dropped to the floor beside her. Keelah was clearly too weakened and dazed to act and Mischa knew that a counter attack for which she had no defense was imminent, opting instead to return to stealth - even without the aided protection from the Knight now as she had revealed herself to LIzbeth - and make for cover.
Her judgement was sound in doing so, as Lizbeth was quick to stand and turn towards Mischa's direction; unleashing a torrent of crackling lightning with a roar of anger at being injured. The lightning swept across that corner - where fortunately nobody else had been positioned - erupting in a sea of sparks and smoke as it impacted the walls. Mischa had managed to make it to a spot of cover behind some crates with just enough time to avoid the lightning however, her presence was revealed to Lizbeth now and as she peered back over the crates, she saw Lizbeth closing in on her.
The Knight assessed his situation but decided that with Lizbeth already aware of there being hidden assailants, finishing her off directly from stealth would be unlikely to succeed. Nonetheless, he gave the impression that he was trying such a thing as he used the Force to raise the lightsaber that Keelah had dropped, swinging it at Lizbeth telekinetically and snapping the blade to life in the last possible second so the sound would give it away as little as possible, making it a convincing attack. As the lightsaber activated he simultaneously swung his whip while standing on the right side of his former apprentice, seeking to wrap the flexible cord of plasma around her wrist. He had seen enough of the fight to understand that the growth was impervious to the damage his whip could inflict, which was exactly why he lassoed the arm. Pulling on the lightwhip, he maintained his telekinetic grip on Keelah's saber, holding it in a blade lock with Lizbeth's weapon to occupy both of her hands. This created an opening for the others to attack. Kelly seized the opportunity immediately and opened fire, as did her HK droid. Knowing that the assassin droid would aim for the head to go for the kill, she instead went for a non-lethal hit, shooting for the hand that was currently holding a lightsaber, which also happened to be the one without any form of protective armour. She fired two times, once at Lizbeth's left wrist, then again slightly away from it should she attempt to withdraw from the blade lock.
Lizbeth snarled angrily at the intervention of her former master; his lightwhip indeed having the desired effect of lassoing her otherwise protected wrist. However her offhand focus was not so drawn by the free floating blade that she dropped her protective barrier, so the first of the bolts fired from Kelly and HK were deflected still. As the Knight pulled back on the lightwhip - forcing Lizbeth off balance - she swung her blade viciously across the telekenetically wielded lightsaber, sending it clattering across the floor. In doing so she inadvertently allowed Kelly's second shot to graze her arm as she focused on protecting her head from the sniper shots of HK. With increasingly intense pulses of energy from her feed off Laesa's energy, Lizbeth reached out and pulled a large bulkhead from the ceiling which she launched straight down with incredible force on top of the Knight's position; forcing him to release his grasp in order to move away. Mischa continued the ranged distraction by firing small flurries of bolts from her less powerful rifle; not enough to penetrate Lizbeth's barrier, but enough to be a nuisance and cause her to continue focusing on it.
Unable to unfurl his whip with the time he had, the Knight let go and rolled back as expected, the distraction giving Lizbeth a second of respite, though the weapon did not shut off and was still attached to her wrist. As he moved away, her old master shielded the hilt of his whip in a bubble to prevent it from being overly damaged by the weight of the collapsing bulkhead, though he dissipated the defenses when the main force of the impact had struck, allowing the hilt to be stuck underneath the debris. This was intended to keep Lizbeth leashed at least long enough for the Knight to summon Keelah's weapon to his hand and rejoin the fight with the violet blade ready to parry his opponent's lightsaber. Meanwhile, Kelly instructed HK to keep up the fire before emerging from cover. She began to make her way over to Keelah, keeping her rifle ready and maintaining her body in a low profile with a semi-crouched position, trying not to attract Lizbeth's attention. "You alright?" she asked the Sephi. "Any idea what that pillar thing is? When Laesa disappeared into it, there was a glow around Beta- I think it gave her sister's strength to her or something."
Keelah looked to the obelisk and nodded her agreement with Kelly's suspicion. Whilst still visibly strained and recovering, she had gained at least some of her composure and reached behind her back for her secondary weapon. Enough that when Lizbeth's attention was held by the inadvertent pinning of herself via the leashed lightwhip, she would not be prepared for the bolt from Keelah's bowcaster. The bolt struck Lizbeth through the left thigh, forcing her to drop to a bent knee as she screamed in agony at the unexpected hit. It seemed that Lizbeth was faltering; with one arm leashed to the pinned lightwhip and forced to her knees, she appeared to be at her most vulnerable.
Wary of the strength of her opponent, Kelly continued to keep her distance, though she inadvertently ended up closer to Lizbeth by moving over to Keelah. She did not seek cover this time though, seizing the opportunity to raise her rifle and open fire when she had the chance, going for the other leg to fully cripple the enemy. She left HK to attempt any lethal shots, which the assassin droid nearly scored if not due to Lizbeth's timely fall that caused the bolt to go flying by over her head. The Knight, more adept at close-quarters combat, decided to close in. He swung Keelah's lightsaber with a single handed blow, one that would be easy to counter. That was the point of the attack, to occupy Lizbeth's blade while he pivoted to the left, balling his other hand into a fist and swinging his entire body along with it to arc around the lightsaber and strike her wrist. The metal gauntlet combined with the power of the Force would likely break the arm upon impact or at least cause a tremendous amount of pain, forcing Lizbeth to drop her remaining weapon.
Lizbeth screamed out in agony as the Knight's fist impacted her arm. The momentum pushed through her remaining defenses and she dropped fully to the floor; bracing herself on all fours. As the group encircled her, Lizbeth - panting heavily - began to laugh, "It does not matter what you do with me, the Darkness will consume us all!" With that she thrust her head back revealing true degree of her corruption through blood red eyes and black veins pressing the surface of her flesh. With this move she pulsed even brighter as she drew all she could on Laesa's strength; so much so that the obelisk pulsed with her. Lizbeth's move unleashed a cloud of dark energy which erupted from her form and swirled around the room. Seeming to recover from her injuries in the process, Lizbeth stood with supernatural defiance while the dark cloud encompassed all of the others - draining their life force to feed her own and forcing each to the floor in crippling agony - not even the droids were immune as their chassis' slumped...
As Kelly dropped to the ground she fired her rifle as an instinctive last resort, the shots going wild as the weapon fell from her grasp. Across the room from her, the Knight was also not immune to the drain despite his best efforts to block it out, and he bent down on one knee with a grunt of pain before collapsing entirely. Turning his attention away from preserving his own life, he mustered all that remained of his strength to levitate Keelah's lightsaber and hurl it at Lizbeth in what he knew to be a futile last stand.
Whilst also forced to her knees like the others, Keelah saw Kelly make her desperate shot and reached out with all the strength she could muster to guide the rifles aim. The shot was true and the bolt flew straight at Lizbeth's chest, though it passed right through her - as did Keelah's lightsaber projected by the Knight. Lizbeth's ritual appeared to be drawing so much energy from the collected group - including the imprisoned Laesa - that it was transcending her to an existence within the Force. With Lizbeth's maniacal laughter reverberating around the room as additional torture to those forced to their knees, it was suddenly interrupted the disembodied voice of Laesa, "No...". Lizbeth snarled in anger, and was visibly strained as the pulsing energy surrounding both her and Laesa's mind trap intensified exponentially to bathe the entire chamber in a bright white light as Laesa's voice continued, "I will not let you do this sister..." "No!" Lizbeth insisted, "How is this... possible?!" "You showed me the way when you used this power against me dear sister" Laesa calm voice replied, "And now you leave me no choice but to use it against you..." As Laesa spoke through the ever intensifying light, a direct shaft of pure energy linked directly between Lizbeth and the obelisk. As it did so, Lizbeth's partially phased form began to change, softening in appearance as she faded away... and Laesa faded back into view, standing where Lizbeth had.
Laesa took a deep breath and stumbled forward slightly as she recovered from the ordeal; the bright pulsing energy slowly fading around her form, and settling back to a discreet soft pulsing from the obelisk. She moved first to Keelah as the closest, helping her back to her feet and waiting for a confirmation nod that Keelah was ok before moving on to Kelly - while Keelah checked on the Knight. Looking up, Kelly would see Laesa still bathed in a soft aura of light, stood before her with an extended hand and wearing a soft reassuring smile, "It is over agent, are you alright?"
While Laesa checked on Kelly, Mischa got back to her feet and crossed the room to check on the droids; both of whom seemed low on power, but otherwise fully functional and set to recover.
"Thanks for the save," Kelly took Laesa's hand and pulled herself up. For a brief moment, before she had fully recovered from the attack, Laesa suddenly found that she could see through Kelly. For once she could sense her emotion; beneath the exterior of strength and determination, of courage and lust, lay something cold and lonely. She had the odd feeling that this was not her first time in a place like this temple and memories of that life flashed before her: a little girl with a dagger in her hand, the blood flowing from the ceremonial blade down her arm...a young teen, hovering in the centre of a dark chamber surrounded by hooded figures...an athletically built woman, kneeling in front of- and as soon as it came it was gone, replaced only by the emptiness that was there when they first met.
Kelly did not seem to have any visible realization of what Laesa had just experienced as her gaze simply turned to the strange obelisk. "So Beta's trapped in there now? She won't break out like you did, right?"
The Knight returned to his feet on his own, giving his gear a quick check for damage. As he saw Keelah approach, he seemed to move away at first, though it soon became clear that he was merely walking over to retrieve her lightsaber, which he had thrown at Lizbeth during the end of the fight. Picking up the now deactivated weapon, he handed the hilt back to the Sephi with an open hand.
"Hope you don't mind me having used this."
Keelah took the weapon with a soft smile, "Ta's vee' eithel tanya lle ume" (It's just as well that you did) she replied, her tone clearly implying her meaning where her words could not be understood. Mischa returned to Kelly's side as Laesa looked back to the obelisk - a proud smile and a hand on Kelly's shoulder accompanying her arrival - "She can not escape..." Laesa reassured the agents, "...I was only able to because she drew so strongly on the connection which bound us through it." Mischa looked from Laesa to the obelisk, "Well even if she may be secure in there now, I'm not certain that simply leaving her there is wisest course." she glanced towards the Knight, seeing him hand Keelah's lightsaber back to her, "I suspect he - for one - might have other ideas" she then looked back to Kelly, "What do you think?"
Kelly nodded in agreement, "It's a big risk to just leave her here in case someone else comes across this planet and releases her. I'm not sure where we could take her, though. Returning her to the Black Site or handing her to the Sith would probably result in someone trying to unleash her for their own purposes, and that'll almost certainly end up in disaster. I don't think the Jedi would attempt anything like that, but it would mean giving the Republic a classified secret project. Not to mention after our successes at infiltrating the temple, I'm not exactly confident in the Order's ability to protect the obelisk." "As much as I do not wish to admit it, that last point is a valid one," the Knight joined in. "The Jedi are not what they once were. The Shadow Guard may have the resources, but I assume that is out of the question; even I won't trust that Senator with something of this power. Leaving her here may be our best option. Before Lae...Lizbeth's betrayal, she erased almost all record of this planet from the Jedi archives. I see the Empire knows just as little from the fact that you had to send your droid to access our databases. We've all seen the horrors she can inflict. If we agree to keep quiet about the location of this world, no one will find her." "We can't hide a planet forever," disagreed Kelly. "It's only a matter of time before it is rediscovered and its inhabitant unleashed." "We won't be able to contain her forever," argued the Knight. "All of us know that the Treaty is just a respite for both sides to gather strength. When the war resumes, whoever possesses the obelisk will try to use it and the other side will try to obtain it. There will not be long before open war breaks out again, but this planet may remain undiscovered for decades, centuries, perhaps even millennia."