Dance of Death

Recon had found another camp like the one they just cleared. They wanted to take them out before they could get away and warn their friends.

The transports reached orbit, jumped, then came out of hyperspace twenty minutes later. The forward window was suddenly filled with the pirate moon that was their next objective. Beyond that, curving farther than Cartog could see, was the gas giant the moon belonged to. The ships had barely returned to real space before they cut power and went into stealth flight.

The transports glided forward. Cartog heard the gentle hiss of thrusters firing as the pilots nudged them toward their targets. They swam through turbulence as the ship descended through the moon’s atmosphere. It used to make Cartog throw up. Anymore, he liked it. Three of the transports peeled off to attack the camp from the air. The other three, including Cartog’s, approached from behind hills on the camp’s other side. Over their comms, the mission commander gave the order to go in.

Sestra smiled. He unhooked his lightsaber from his belt. “Two minutes!” Cartog shouted to the squad. Their job was to rappel inside the camp after the transports had softened it up, then kill any resistance from inside while the other two transports landed troops and attacked from the outside.

Sestra started chanting. Cartog’s heart pounded. He’d wasn’t religious but he knew when to ask Fate for its favor. Cartog asked over and over again, Protect my dogs, protect my dogs, protect my dogs. They were the only family he had.

The transport moved up.

“One minute!” Cartog shouted.

They moved into position over a burning, smoking wreckage of what used to be a prefab huts and pieces of small, fast boats. There weren’t many bodies he could see. Cartog looked at Sestra. The Sith was deep in a trance. Cartog grit his teeth and opened the port side hatch while Jeran opened the other side.

Sestra finished. He raised his hands up and swept them before the squad. Cartog smelled blood. Everything turned red. Cartog wished his could forget what happened next.

The Jackals went mad. Sestra laughed. All of them, Cartog included, screamed. They howled like animals as they went down their ropes. None of them could kill fast enough. They slaughtered the wounded. The helpless. Good old Jack killed someone with his bare hands. Cartog bashed someone’s head in with the butt of his rifle. Over and over again.

Sestra leaped down from the transport without a rope. He followed them in, soaking in the carnage. When an enemy fell, he lifted the body into the air using the Force. Red light rushed inside it, and it would come back to life, eyes glowing. The Jackals would kill it again. Sestra would laugh. As the bloodshed raged, he soaked it in. He breathed in the red haze that seemed to cover everything.

A firefight that should have been over in ten minutes turned into a dance of death that lasted an hour. By then, the pirates’ bodies were so shot full of holes they couldn’t get up anymore, no matter how much Force power Sestra used on them.

The spell ended.

Cartog stood in the middle of the blasted camp. He and the Jackals looked at each other. Hardened soldiers and soulless killers dropped to the ground and wept. He had to grab Seria, a former slaver and drug killer, to keep her from sticking herself with her own knife. Cartog felt like a shell. Two years ago, he watched his family get gunned down before his eyes. He felt the same emptiness now that he had then. Somehow, it kept him sane.

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