Space Around Druckenwell, Bridge of the Black Hand “The RTO Navy is nearly defeated, sir. Druckenwell’s shield generators are down and our troops will begin their landing operations shortly,” an aide informed Speyburn who stood in front of the holographic globe of the battle. Everything had gone exactly as planned. The RTO was on the brink of defeat and because the Republic cowered behind their Kattan Doctrine, no aid would be coming to help the Vehns. Soon, he would be named Chairman of the RTO and remake the economic union in his own image. That had been the entire point of his war. To climb to the top and usurp power away from the Vehns, a family that had never won the support of the people, a family that was only in power because the RTO member worlds were too afraid to speak up against their rule. “Finish off the remnants of the fleet. I want to begin landing troops within the hour,” Speyburn instructed. “Aye, sir,” the aide replied carrying out the order. Rear Admiral Horatio Quorro ignored the searing pain that tore across his face, wiped the blood away from his eyes, and clutched the railing of the bridge of the Rowena, the flagship vessel of the fledgling RTO Navy. He had done his best these past few weeks to keep the fleet intact despite mounting losses and the demoralizing feeling of retreat. Now, the final battle for the future well being of the RTO was occurring right before his weary eyes and there was not a damn thing he could do to stop Speyburn. Not one thing. “Status report!” Quorro yelled over the sound of consoles exploding, the screams of the wounded, the silence of the dead. “Fighter wings are reporting heavy losses. Our bombers are returning to Druckenwell. The few ships of the line that aren’t licking their wounds are holding steady but they are concerned about the flanks,” a junior lieutenant cried out, voice wavering in fear. Quorro couldn’t blame the man for being afraid. This was the worst war to have ever struck the RTO. Nobody had been prepared for this conflict. Not even leadership. That either said that everything was going well or something major was about to happen, well, something major did happen and now the galaxy would witness whether or not the RTO would survive another day with the Vehn family in power. Adding to the man’s fear was the fact that all of the senior command staff, save for Quorro, were either dead or wounded. Chain of command had gone right out the window. “Keep fighting. Close the gap with Speyburn’s fleet, make every broadside count!” Quorro said. “Sir, that will put many of our ships within range of a boarding action. Would it not be better to ru-“ “Damn it man, I gave you an order! You will close with those ships or I will find someone else who is better suited to the task.” “Aye, Admiral,” the young lieutenant replied. The fleets of the RTO gave one more collective heave into the heavy formations of Speyburn’s forces. One last act of defiance, one last act of heroism before the end, and that was all that Quorro could ask of his men. The vessels of the RTO exchanged fierce broadsides with Speyburn’s forces, locked in a struggle to the death, and though they packed the heavier punch, they were outnumbered. Maker, if this is the end, let there be no finer end than taking these bastards down with me! Quorro thought as he clutched his command chair, the bridge giving another sickening heave as battle was once again joined. “Concentrate all firepower on the Rowena. Bring that schutta down!” Speyburn instructed as consoles exploded from missile impacts and heavy exchanges of turbolaser fire. “I’ve got you right where I want you,” Speyburn growled as the Black Hand and the Rowena exchanged blows. “Don’t finish her off. I want to kill Quorro myself.” “We can’t hold on much longer, sir!” the young lieutenant said. Quorro gave a dismissive wave of his hand. This was a fight to the death. Speyburn was going to get as good as he was giving. “Shields are down. Hull breaches on decks nine through thirteen. We’ve got a fire in the main hangar, Maker, we’re burning up!” “Tell me something I don’t know,” Quorro grumbled. “Make ready the starboard turbolasers for another swipe!” There was a long pause. Quorro hadn’t heard the young lieutenant cry out in pain, so he must not’ve been dead. “Lieutenant?” “Sir, I’m afraid it is over. We’ve got a massive fleet emerging out of hyperspace on Speyburn’s left flank.” “What?” Horatio hissed. “Reinforcements, sir, come to finish us off.” “Who are they?” “The Hutts, sir,” the lieutenant replied. “They wish to speak with you.” So this is how my death is to be handed to me. By the slimy slugs of Nal Hutta! I suppose they are contacting me to gloat on my defeat. “Put them through,” Quorro commanded. Moments later, a hologram burst into view, distorted by the battle but still visible enough. “Your sovereign commands that you continue your fight, Admiral,” Queen Eleanor Vehn stated. “My lady!” Quorro exclaimed kneeling on one knee. “Make Naboo proud, will you?” Eleanor stated. “I shall, your majesty, I shall!” Quorro replied, tears in his eyes. Speyburn had the Rowena right where he wanted her. One more volley and she’d be his to take. Just as he was about to issue another command, klaxons blared. “Multiple ships coming out of hyperspace on both flanks!” “Damn it all, who are they?” There was a long silence. One of astonishment. “Who are they?” “The entire Naboo Security Force and,” the aide choked, had a hard time speaking. “And?” “The Hutts, sir. It appears they have decided to honor their alliance with the RTO. There’s another message coming through from Ord Pardron, sir. The Republican Sixth Fleet, the Bothans, are readying for war. We have overextended ourselves!” Speyburn felt a chill slip down his spine. One moment, victory had been within his grasp. How could he have been such a fool? He had underestimated the resolve of that little girl Eleanor. She had brought the Hutts here to defeat him. She had brought him to ruin. Damn the Vehns and their resourcefulness. Now, to make matters worse, Kerry Trieste and her brood were rattling their sabers. How could he have overlooked Bothuwai? Of course the Bothans would help the RTO. They loved a good economic deal as much as the next sentient. Money speaks, as the old saying went. “Shall we engage them?” the aide asked. Speyburn looked at the map. His forces were now slightly outnumbered. Victory could still be his, correction, would be his. This was just a mere wrinkle in the fabric of time. “You may engage.” The battle for Druckenwell had lasted four hours. Casualties had been enormously high on both sides but the RTO had emerged victorious. Speyburn’s fleet was in total disarray, their tightly packed formations had proven to be their greatest vulnerability as the heavier, harder hitting frigates of the RTO Navy, including the Hutt fleet, had a field day with the enemy. The flanks of Speyburn’s forces were rolled up and thrown upon themselves in a twisted confusion of men, droids, and material. Now, those forces were in full retreat being pursued by the Naboo Security Force and elements of the Hutt navy. Frozen bodies and millions of pieces of debris littered the well traveled lanes to Druckenwell. The cleanup would take months. But a new era had dawned for the Outer Rim. A lasting trust had seemed to have been formed between two former enemies, enemies who now understood that only together could they hope to aspire to the dreams of their citizens, dreams of peace and prosperity. Queen Eleanor Vehn stood on the bridge of the Hutt flagship Ylesia and lowered her head in deference to Diija, the Hutt who had made the wise decision to aid the RTO in its hour of need. “You shall be remembered in the many songs of my people,” Eleanor stated. “And you shall always be welcome as a friend of Nal Hutta,” Diija said. “I have the full permission of the RTO government to pass along the terms of our new relationship,” Eleanor stated, handing Diija a datapad. Diija laughed in that great way that the Hutts were known to do. He read the agreement out loud. “Nar Shaddaa is to return to its rightful place with the Hutts. Hutt space shall be restored to pre-Almanian conflict borders. All areas under occupation by the RTO are to return to the Hutts. In exchange, the RTO and the Hutts shall share all matters of military intelligence with one another and jointly defend the trade lanes from pirates. Free trade shall exist between our two governments. In the spirit of future cooperation, the RTO and the Hutts are to make every effort to maintain the peace and put diplomacy before war,” Diija paused and looked at Eleanor, “These terms are far too generous.” “Nothing less for a friend of the family,” Eleanor replied. “Besides, we benefit from your acceptance of them as well.” “Long have we been enemies,” Diija said, “do you think a peace can truly last?” Eleanor looked Diija in the eyes and replied, “I believe it can but only if we work together.” “You are a wise woman, Eleanor of the Naboo.” “I am only seventeen, Diija,” Eleanor responded, blushing slightly. “Then I look forward to many more meetings with you in the future. I expect great things from you.” “I fear you expect too much of me,” Eleanor said. “There is a season for everything. In time, you shall bloom and the galaxy will honor your name.” “I pray that I do not let my people down,” Eleanor said. “As long as you trust yourself, you never shall,” Diija replied. “You are far too kind,” Eleanor said. “I only speak what I know,” Diija replied. With that, the two bowed slightly to one another and parted ways. A new era had begun in the galaxy.