Tal Eran decides that the best plan is to use some clever smuggler tricks to sneak close to the mystery vessels on low power to see what is going on; he’s done this before and knows what he is doing. The others agree, and the Skylark glides silently and smoothly to within viewing range of the vessels and what they find is surprising.
The fighters are a mixture of Star Sabers and Stingers (all stock army surplus ships easily bought), but the other 2 ships are more alarming; the smaller of them is a Quartermaster class freighter that Tersha immediately feels is immensely dangerous, whilst the other is a 400 metre long hammerhead shaped warship bristling with both heavy turbolaser batteries and point defence laser batteries. There is also what appears to be an ominous main gun mounted forward as well, though no missile emplacements nor an excess of hanger areas. Given what she feels, Tersha thinks there is likely a bomb within the Freighter, such is the dire feeling she gets from it. It is quickly decided that if so, it must be made safe, and so Tersha and Jaric Morandin volunteer to secretly board the ship to take it out of action, accompanied by T3-X2 on bomb disposal duties. The others will remain aboard the Skylark, ready to dust off if the alarm is raised to avoid themselves being caught like sitting ducks by the other ships. It is understood that in such an event, the boarders will have to fend for themselves for the duration.
The boarding trio enter the freighter by umbilical link after Tal slides up close to the freighter, and proceed to explore the vessel. The others on the ship await as tension rises. Sadly, the alarm is raises when the boarders encounter a pair of guards and an engineer at the entrance to one of the cargo bays; the enemies are all human and dressed in the Sadukkan fashion with black headscarfs around their foreheads. The 2 armed men are dropped quickly but not before one gets a shot off that alerts the rest of the ship; the engineer is stunned by T3. As the alarm is raised, the ships all start to power up quickly, and the Skylark immediately braks the connection to the freighter and starts to make an escape.
Back on the freighter, Tersha takes up a defensive position at the entrance to the cargo area as Jaric and T3 enter, seeing the 6 Super Heavy fission warheads within the bay. T3 immediately gets started to examine the ordnance, whilst Jaric stands watch. Tersha immediately hears the approach of a number of people in the corridor and steps out to engage, with 5 armed men suddenyl locked in a short range and deadly battle with the Miralukan Jedi. At about the same time, a secondary entrance point at the end of the cargo bay is opened and a force pike armed man enters, also wearing a headscarf but with a silver slash across it. He challenges Jaric by calling him a Jedi Heretic and awaits the Jedi. Jaric closes with him and kills him with casual passionless ease, before heading back up the way the man entered by, for he feels a dark presence from the bridge area.
In space, the Skylark manages to get its engines working quickly before starting to escape, with MDK-1 heading towards the Ion cannon turret and Meshara Raaril heading towards the blaster turret. Hana Lightfoot and Xiola Blu (the 2 Padawans) tale up position at the comms terminal whilst Fowmaral sits in the co pilot position offering his Force Fuelled advice to the pilot. The Skylark makes a run for it, chased by the 6 fighters, and soon a desperate battle is underway, with the experienced and gifted pilot twisting and turning in an attempt to avoid the weapons of his pursuers. One fighter is badly damaged and forced to retire, as the great capital ship powers up surprisingly quickly, moving to secure the bomb ship with a tractor beam.
Aboard the bomb ship, Tersha starts steadily dropping her fanatical attackers, whilst Jaric slowly enters the bridge area to encounter another force pike armed man and an elegant woman dressed in fine clothes, armed with a long curving Sadukkan sword. He immediately feels her redolence in the Dark Side, and when she tries to Force Choke him this is confirmed. He Rebukes her atatck, before the 3 engage in a furious melee. The man is killed quickly, but the woman is a different prospect, for her Force enhanced sword cuts deep and moves as fast as a lightsaber, and soon the 2 of them are bleeding and injured from numerous wounds. At this time Tersha has disposed of her 5 foes and makes her way to the bridge to the direction of the force echoes she can feel, and she also engages the mystery woman, though it is Jaric who finally ends the woman with a skilful blow. They are also mindful of the ship now being held by the warship in a tractor beam, and prepare themselves for what is likely to be a counter attack. In the meantime, they secure the last of the ship, taking 5 engineers prisoner (T3 shot one dead who tried to use a restraining bolt on him).
In space, the swarming fighters are starting to add up around the Skylark, and it seems only a matter of time before one gets a lucky shot in, when Fowmaral warns Tal for evasive action, seconds before a flight of 6 Republic Aurek fighters drop out of hyperspace close to them. Tal immediately raises them on comms to announce who he is, and makes for the safety of them. The Aureks immediately take their toll on the older stock fighters, as the other 6 fighters of the advanced scouting mission and the 2 Foray class blockade runners with them also drop out of hyperspace. In moments the enemy fighters are defeated with no Republic losses, and attention turns towards the imposing form of the formidable capital ship. Tal advises the Republic commander in charge that if they atacked as they are they may win but it is not guaranteed and any victory is likely to be pyrrhic. At this point, the capital ship stops its tractor beam and in a surprisingly quick time jumps into hyperspace, conceding the field. The Republic vessels secure the area and fly patrols until the rest of the fleet arrives, with the host of 36 ships arriving about a few hours later.
The Republic confiscate the Bomb ship and its contents, but the Jedi take custody of the prisoners to take them to the correct authorities at Sadukka. The party are pleased to hear Kayla Pek‘s welcome voice over the comms, as she is flying one of the 3 Chela class heavy fighters that form part of the advance scouting squadron. She and her comrades leave immediately to jump to Sadukkan space to make sure it is clear (dangerous, but that’s the military for you), with the Skylark opting to follow shortly after, taking the prisoners with them. Captain Leontis Vaxxos thanks them for their help and will seek them out to thank them properly when the fleet arrives in Sadukkan space.
Over the 2 day hyperspace journey through the Megaeron Cluster run, the party interrogate the prisoners, discovering that they are indeed part of the Dark River movement, and were led by a Lady Amphira (the woman Jaric killed). She commanded their cell when they were called, and with the way the organisation is run, it is very hard to chase up the chain of command to find out more information, as they do not know other cells, or indeed who ultimately leads them, other than someone called the “Lord High Protector”. They know that the warship they have is called the Salakunya (Pure Defender is the loose translation) but have never been aboard it. The plan was for the ships to wait until the Republic fleet arrived and then for the Bomb ship (which has powerful shielding and short range powerful engines) to charge into the heart of the fleet and detonate. The lady and her crew would have escaped long before then aboard the 2 life pods, and in the resulting carnage, the Salakunya and the 6 fighters would have done more damage against the fleet, seriously damaging it if not destroying it outright.
No more can be gleaned from the fanatics, other than that they were all selected from their mid teens and trained in secretive moving camps. With this to ponder, the Skylark and her crew arrive safely within Sadukkan space at the fringes of the system, where a Forey class blockade runner and 6 fighters (including the Chela’s and Kayla) await. There are also four of the Sadukkan Interdiction ships present, waiting to welcome the fleet. Kayla can speak freely now, given she is in command of her flight of fighters (though not the Foray), and she advises that the way is clear for the Skylark to head towards Sadukka 2, the centre of the system. With promises of catching up when duty allows, the party prepare to arrive at their destination, where an uncertain future and a clever and implacable foe awaits…