Hello! My name is Nas Helewa, and I'm excited to share my pulp-styled Star Wars fan fiction with you. Beginning after the end of the Clone Wars, Imperial Chronicles follows the crew of The Absolute, a Star Destroyer on the Outer Rim, as they attempt to bring law and order to a war-torn galaxy. What do I mean by "pulp-styled"? I mean short, regular entries - Quick reads that are aimed to keep the story moving, but certainly don't shirk depth, when necessary. There are lots of characters, most of which are new, though there will certainly be some crossover as the story progresses. This is an ensemble cast, whose interconnecting lives will confront both heroism and villainy, sometimes in surprising forms. Full Disclosure - To avoid claims of plagiarism, which I do understand is taken very seriously - Please note that I've been posting chapters of this story at a personal blogger page, which can be found in my sig. Those posts are ahead of these as of this writing, and also offer some insight into the creative process and some other more personal ruminations. Without further ado, I present the first part of my little attempt to bring something new to a galaxy far, far away... Prologue - Trial by Fire Captain Sarcune watched lazily as the two Imperial supply ships approached his Victory-class Star Destroyer, The Absolute. Sarcune had been commander of this ship and her crew since it’s inception into the Imperial fleet, and for as long, they had been stationed along the far borders of the Outer Rim, many hyperspace jumps from the center of the Empire on Coruscant. Before the Empire, Sarcune had commanded a Venator-class Star Destroyer in the Clone Wars on the side of the Republic against the Separatist threat in the same area, and right up until the sudden end of that war, had held his little corner of space against them. “Captain, the supply ships are requesting permission to come alongside,” called out the communications officer. “Permission granted,” said Sarcune gruffly. He was not happy with the “upgrades” the Empire had sent him, but he was not one to question orders. The supply ships maneuvered into position, and once parallel to The Absolute, their payload was dispatched - A fleet of brand new Twin Ion-Engine fighter craft: TIE Fighters, the newest weapon in the ever expanding Imperial military machine. In the docking bay, Wing Commander Reidus Kain watched as the first of the crudely shaped crafted rose up past the atmospheric force-field. Upon entering the hangar bay, Kain sneered at the horrific howl made by the fighter-craft’s engines. “Sound like the thing’s going to come apart mid-flight,” he thought to himself. Kain had been training on the TIE simulators ever since the Imperial Navy had decreed that the TIE was the Imperial weapon of choice moving forward, but the simulator had conspicuously left out the distinctive sound of the craft. “I kinda like it,” said Solay Vardis, one of Kain’s best pilots. Vardis was young and small, her long hair black tied up neatly into a smart bun. “Looks like it’ll be fun.” “If you say so,” said Kain. “Personally, I was pretty happy with my Torrent.” “That old thing?” joked Vardis. “I bet these new TIEs can run rings around your Torrent.” “Sure,” said Kain, “Right up until I get a lock on one with my cannons or missiles. No shields means good-night.” “That just means we have to stay frosty,” said Vardis, laughing casually as she walked away quickly. Kain suspected she was more nervous about the TIEs then she cared to admit, but he didn’t want to challenge her enthusiasm. “I’m with you, Commander,” said Fen Dolan, another of Kain’s pilots. Dolan was about Kain’s age, and joined the Republic Fleet about the same time during the latter half of the Clone Wars, both volunteers from Baktooine. While Kain had excelled through the ranks to take on the Wing Commander title, Dolan, while a solid pilot, did not have the same intuition or leadership skills as his superior. But he’d stayed alive, and kept his comrades alive in the process. Kain considered him one of his most trusted pilots. “Well,” smiled Kain. “How about we put these new TIEs to the test?” “What do you have in mind,” asked Dolan. Before Kain could respond, he was interrupted by an icy voice behind him speaking in a core-system accent. “Commander Reidus Kain?” the voice asked. Kain turned around to face three men standing at smart attention, dressed in dark black flight suits, and holding large, full face helmets under their arms. “Yes, I’m Wing Commander Kain.” “Very good, sir,” said the lead pilot. His blond hair was cut short, and slicked back against his scalp. He stood tall and straight, clean shaven, and Kain sensed something like pride radiating from him. It was “like” pride, but it was something else, and Kain couldn’t decide what it was in the moment. Arrogance? No, not that either. “I’m Thufil Bardox. These are my comrades, Krix and Tallsun, reporting for duty.” “I was not informed of anyone joining my crew,” said Kain, squinting at the men. Bardox handed him a readout screen. “Here are the transfer orders, signed by Governor Tarkin himself.” Kain took the screen from Bardox. Even though the man was his same height, Kain got the sense that Bardox was looking down at him, even as he as reporting to a superior. “I see, “ said Kain, handing the readout screen back to Bardox. “Very well. Are you familiar with these new craft?” “Yes sir,” said Bardox. “Very familiar.” “Good,” said Kain, stroking the stubble on his chin. “Perhaps, once the transfer is complete, you might show us how they perform?” “Indeed,” said Bardox. “Sir.” “Good,” said Kain. “That is all. Report to the crew chief to receive your bunk assignments. I will call on you when we’re ready.” “Yes sir,” Bardox, Krix and Tallsun said in unison before turning on their heels to leave. Kain leaned over to Dolan and whispered, “I’ll tell you what I have in mind.” *** Two V-19 Torrents exited The Absolute’s large hangar bay, followed by four TIE fighters. Kain and Dolan piloted the older Torrents, while Bardox, Krix, Tallsun, and Vardis flew the new TIEs. “How does it feel, Vardis?” asked Kain over the group channel. “Good. A little sensitive,” answered Vardis. “Feels like the stick is responding to my pulse.” “Yes,” said Bardox over the comms. “The TIE is practically an extension of the pilot. It will do whatever you want it to if you know how to ask.” “Right. Except shield you from incoming blaster fire,” said Dolan. “Don’t get hit,” said Krix in monotone. “And if that can’t be avoided?” shot back Dolan. “Then die with honor for the Emperor,” said Tallsun. Kain felt a shiver crawl up his spine. It wasn’t pride or arrogance these new pilots brought with them to The Absolute from the core worlds. It was zealotry. “How about no one die for anyone today,” said Kain. “We’re out here to put the TIEs through their paces, and since our new teammates know them so well, I was hoping we could see what they can really do. Weapons off. When we reach safe distance from The Absolute, Dolan and I will cut starboard. Vardis, Bardox, Krix and Tallsun will cut port. Captain Sarcune will give the order, and we will then turn to engage. A successful lock is a successful kill in this exercise. Understood?” The flight all answered their assent. Shortly thereafter, an alarm sounded letting them know that they had reached their divergence point. The two Torrents cut to starboard while the four TIE fighters peeled away in the opposite direction. The three newcomers maneuvered their TIEs as one, but Vardis was still getting the hang of the controls, and she lagged slightly behind, slightly out of formation. On the bridge of the Absolute, Captain Sarcune watched a sensor display illustrating the six fighter craft moving away from each other. He waited until the two teams were too far away to see each other against the sea of stars, then commanded his comms officer to give the order to engage. Kain spoke to Dolan directly on a secure channel. “Here we go, Dolan. Let’s run a pincer maneuver. We’ll swing wide then catch them in a crossfire. Did you notice the way Bardox and his cronies group together? I’ll bet they fly that way the whole time, offering a larger target. Keep an eye out for Vardis. She’s the real threat.” “You got it, Commander,” answered Dolan. “We’ll show these guys how we fly on the outer rim.” “Don’t get cocky, Dolan,” said Kain. “Alright, let’s do it!” The two Torrents split up, heading back towards the combat zone. “I think I see ‘em!” called out Dolan. “So do I,” said Kain. “But I can’t tell if it’s all four of them. Keep your eye’s peeled, but close on the targets.” Kain and Dolan sped towards the TIEs and engaged their targeting computers. As they drew closer, the sighting reticles began to steady. “I only see three, and they’re going to see us any minute and scatter! Get your lock!” “I don’t think they will, sir! Those cockpits have terrible peripheral in the middle of those hex-foils. We’ve got ‘em!” called out Dolan. Suddenly, an alarm sounded in Dolan’s cockpit. He’d been locked by a TIE diving in from above - the fourth. At the same time, the three TIE’s in formation spun and dove below the V-19 firing lines, but not before Kain had drawn a lock on the one closest to him. “Damn, I’m done!” cried Dolan. “I think I got one of them before they got me though.” He switched his comms to the group channel and called out “Good kill! Dolan breaking off.” Kain didn’t answer, but twisted the stick and dove after the TIEs. Over the comms, he heard Krix and Tallsun acknowledge a good kill on themselves, and was glad Dolan had made his lock before being eliminated. However, as the TIEs accelerated in front of him, two broke off one way and two broke off the other, Kain couldn’t tell which ones were still alive and which ones were “dead”. On instinct, he cut right, losing sight of the two that had cut left. As he pursued, one of the TIEs began to slow. “I’m breaking off,” came Krix’s monotone. Kain realized he’d lost sight of one of the “live” pilots, but didn’t let it phase him. He swung out past Krix’s TIE, whose deceleration seemed designed to block Kain’s target sights for a few moments longer. No matter. He closed on the escaping TIE as it swerved and spun, trying to evade the lock. The TIE was fast, Kain acknowledged to himself. It also presented a smaller target, which the Torrent’s lock-on computer was having a hard time pinpointing. But Kain was able to anticipate the TIE’s swerve and just about lined it up in his sights, when something made his skin crawl. With the flick of his wrist, Kain, broke off his attack and dropped into a rapid deceleration. As he did, the TIE pursuing him screamed past above him. Before it had a chance to adjust to Kain’s new bearing, the Torrent accelerated into pursuit and drew a lock on the TIE. “Another one down,” called out the triumphant Commander. “Fah!” spat Bardox. “Good kill. Breaking off.” But Kain wasn’t listening. He had reacquired the last TIE visually, and adjusted his pursuit. But the TIE was turning in a wide arc. Kain attempted to follow, but the Torrent couldn’t cut as sharp as the small TIE, and soon, the TIE was coming up behind Kain. “I have you now!’ called out Vardis. “Do you?” replied Kain. He disengaged his forward thrusters and immediately engaged his landing thrusters, spinning the Torrent around on it’s axis until it was facing the oncoming TIE, but still speeding away from it. As Kain’s nose swung around, he drew his lock on the TIE. “What?!” Vardis cried, stunned by the maneuver. Before she could react, the alarm sounded in her cockpit, indicating a successful lock. She was out. “Yeah!” came Dolan’s voice over the comms. “Nice flying, Commander!” Kain fired his landing thrusters again and spun back around, pointing his nose back in the direction of his flight path. He reengaged his main thrusters and swooped around towards the direction of The Absolute. “That was some...adept flying, Commander,” said Bardox. “Your skills are most impressive, I must admit.” “You’ll find I’m full of surprises,” answered Kain. “Out here on the rim, we’ve learned a thing or two about survival.” “Indeed,” answered Bardox cooly. “Nice flying, Vardis,” said Kain. “That dive and first kill really caught Dolan and I by surprise.” “Actually, sir, that wasn’t me.” replied Vardis sheepishly. “That was Bardox.” “Well, well,” said Kain. “You seem to have your own surprises, don’t you?” Bardox didn’t answer. “Alright, wing. Let’s head back to The Absolute for debrief.” “Belay that,” came Captain Sarcune’s voice over the comms system. “We’ve received a distress call from the frigates that delivered our new TIE fighters. I need you to fly out there and investigate ahead of The Absolute.” “The frigates?” asked Kain. “Didn’t they make the jump back to the core after dropping off our supplies?” “I believed so as well,” answered Sarcune. “Which is why I’m sending you ahead to investigate.” “I suspect a trap, sir,” said Kain. “So do I,” replied Sarcune. “So just get close enough to see what’s going on and then report back.” “Yes sir,” answered Kain. “Alright, receiving the location now. All pilots, on me. The distress call is not far from our position. Punch in the coordinates and prepare to make the jump to hyperspace.” “That’s impossible, Commander,” said Bardox. “The TIE fighters do not have hyperdrive engines.” “Are you kidding me?” said Dolan. “That’s right,” grunted Kain. “Alright, Dolan and I will investigate. TIEs, return to The Absolute and remain on standby. Dolan, let’s go.” “Good hunting, Commander,” called out Vardis. As the TIEs flew back to The Absolute, the two V19 Torrents rapidly disappeared into the distance as they made the jump to hyperspace.