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Saga Imperial Chronicles - Full Stop Arc Complete 2.11.2017

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by GigaMach, Dec 4, 2016.

  1. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    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.
     
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  2. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Full Stop - Part 1

    Approaching coordinates,” Commander Reidus Kain called out to his wingman, Fen Dolan. “Prepare to come out of Hyperspace.” The onboard navigational computers of their respective V-19 Torrent fighters did the heavy lifting, decelerating both ships in near perfect synchronicity. To the naked eye, it looked as if the two single-pilot craft appeared out of nowhere, then proceeded at standard flight speed through space. “Target point is dead ahead,” said Kain. “Do you have visual on our frigates?”

    “I don’t see them, or any other ships,” replied Dolan. “Maybe it’s behind that planetoid?”

    “Well, if they were in distress, they might have lost engine power and been pulled in by it’s gravity,” said Kain. “I’m going to call it in.” The Commander engaged his communications array. “Commander Kain to Absolute, we’ve arrived at coordinates. No sign of our frigate. Are there any developments?”

    “No Commander,” came back the voice of the Absolute’s communications tech, scratchy and distorted as the signal was pulled out of hyperspace burst transmission and decoded back as a comprehensible sound for the pilot.

    “Understood,” said Kain. “There is a small planetoid nearby, possibly a stray moon or asteroid. We are moving in to have a closer look, to see if we can find the source of the distress call.”

    “Roger,” replied the comms tech. “Report back at standard intervals.”

    Kain and Dolan flew their Starfighters towards the grey, lifeless ball floating in space. It was bigger than it had appeared at first glance, but closer inspection revealed it to appear to be a natural space body, pocked by small craters, contrasted by rocky protrusions and mounds spread haphazardly across the whole. There were no signs of life, but as they flew over the horizon, they saw something made of metal and machinery resting alone on the surface. It looked to be a crashed Imperial frigate.

    “There she is,” said Dolan.

    “Sure looks like it,” said Kain. “But something is off. Why would it be here?”

    “Maybe they had a problem with their hyperdrive,” suggested Dolan. “Maybe the nav-computer steered them into this thing.”

    “I don’t think that’s it,” said Kain. “Look there. Carbon scoring. This ship was in a fight.”

    “Could be old scars,” said Dolan. “Most of our frigates are repurposed from the Clone Wars.”

    “No way,” said Kain. “Nothing that came from the core worlds would be allowed to look like that. These are recent, and I’ll bet whatever did it was what brought her down. Keep your eyes open. I’m calling this in.”

    Kain sent his transmission back to the Absolute. “Captain Sarcune, I think the frigate was attacked.”

    “But why were they there? The ship was headed back to Coruscant,” wondered Captain Sarcune aloud. The captain was an older man, short and stocky, with a bald head covered in his Captain’s cap. He had a voluminous but well trimmed beard, the black hairs giving way rapidly to gray. His steely-blue eyes were still piercing, but the wrinkles around them belied a deceptively soft appearance at first impressions. That had worked to Sarcune’s advantage on more than one occasion.

    “No idea, Captain.” said Kain. “Shall we try to hail them?”

    “Yes, Commander,” answered Sarcune. “If there are any survivors, maybe they can explain what happened.

    “Yes sir,” answered Kain. “Dolan, attempt to hail the frigate on the standard Imperial channels.”

    Dolan acknowledged the order and began to carry it out. Kain surveyed the wreckage. Something gnawed at him as he looked. It was the same sensation he used to experience as a young boy, looking out over the waters of the ocean near his hometown on Baktooine. While the surface was calm, he knew, as did all the people of the planet, that the deep hid terrors which crept dangerously close to the top of Baktooine’s food chain. It was said that Baktooine’s people conquered the sky long before they conquered her sea.

    “This is Imperial fighter craft V19003,” said Dolan into his comms. “To frigate designate Bold Born, do you copy? We are responding to your distress call.” Dolan repeated the line as the two pilots made pass after pass. “I’m not getting anything, Commander. I think the Bold Born is a corpse.”

    Kain grit his teeth. “Alright, I’m going in for a closer look. Stay up top and keep me in your sights.” Kain dropped in closer and made a slow pass. As he approached the bridge, he saw a flash of light coming from the view-port. He wasn’t sure if it was a reflection or something else. He turned for another fly-by, this time slower on the same path. As he watched, again he saw the flash, but this time it happened three times in rapid succession. Someone...or something, was signaling him. “This is Kain to Absolute. I have visual on possible survivors signaling from the bridge.”

    “Absolute to Commander Kain, that’s a copy. We’re preparing to jump to your location.”

    “No!” shot back Kain. “Not yet, Captain Sarcune. Something isn’t right.”

    Sarcune’s voice came back over the comms. “What is it, Commander?”

    “I’m...I’m not sure, Captain. It’s a hunch.” Kain shivered, remembering the words his mother used to tell him as they looked out over the sea. ‘Watching and waiting, the lord of the deep. Mindful and vigilant your eyes and mind keep.’ If there were survivors, why hadn’t they answered the hails? “I’m going to try to board her.”

    “No, you’re not!” shot back Sarcune. “We’ve got men for that. You don’t want the Absolute, fine. But I’m sending over a team. They’ll be on site shortly. Meanwhile, try and gather more intel."

    “Understood. Kain out.” He made another pass at the bridge. Again, the lights. He slowed to a crawl, and saw the silhouettes of men, waving their arms from inside the ship. “Hold tight, boys,” he thought to himself. “We’ll get you out of there.” His curiosity gnawed at him, but he knew Sarcune’s order was sound. Sometimes, having to view everything from the air didn’t offer the best perspective on a situation.

    The time seemed to move too slowly as the two V-19s flew their patrol over the unmoving frigate, until a new ship appeared in the sky near the Imperial pilots. It was the troop landing craft promised by Captain Sarcune. A newer ship, the tri-winged Sentinel landing craft was delivered shortly before the TIE fighters, as it had a hyper-drive of its own, and could be delivered by the assigned pilot.

    “V19002 to Sentinel 01. Good to see you. This is Commander Kain”

    “This is Sentinel 01. Good to see you as well, Commander. This is Sergeant Marten. Lieutenant Bondi sends his regards. We are moving in to boarding position now.”

    Hearing Bondi’s name offered a little comfort to Kain, despite his continued foreboding. Lieutenant Tyron Bondi was the leader of the Absolute’s marine regiment, and another veteran of the Clone Wars. He’d been trained alongside Clones, and saw some action during the closing movements of that war. For some reason he never made known, he had been reassigned to the Absolute just before Order 66 had been enacted and the traitorous Jedi had been eliminated. Kain remembered that Bondi had received the news of war’s end with the Separatists with a stoic indifference. The man was tough, and all business. A good man to have around if you were in trouble. Less so if you were looking to make trouble.

    The landing craft approached the frigate, and magnetically attached to the hull over one of the emergency egress ports. While the Sentinel and her crew were more than able to forcefully board a large capital ship, in the case of an ally, it was best to enter as unobtrusively as possible, to avoid collateral damage.

    “Bondi to Absolute. My team is in. No sign of survivors aft. There was a fight here. We’re moving towards the bridge.”

    Kain chewed his lip as he listened to the steady reports of the marines. They moved up the frigate, and past each bulkhead, no survivors, more signs of battle...but no bodies. The frigate was on reserve power, so movement past the blast doors was slow going.

    “We’re at the bridge,” came Bondi’s voice over the comms. “I can hear the men inside. We’re going in.” Kain held his breath. The silence over the comms was maddening, until finally the Marine lieutenant spoke. “Bondi to Absolute. Captain Sarcune, we’ve secured the crew; Seven men, including the Captain. He wants to speak with you directly, Captain Sarcune.”

    “Acknowledged,” came back the Absolute’s reply. There was silence, and Kain listened intently. While he did, something flashed briefly in his peripheral vision.
    “Hey, Dolan! Did you see that?” asked Kain.

    “See what, Commander?”

    “It looked like...I don’t know. It seemed big, but…”

    “Are you alright, Commander?” asked Fen.

    “Yeah. yeah, it’s nothing. I’m just tired and spooked. We’ve been out here too long.”

    “Roger that,” said Dolan. “Let’s get these guys out and go home.”

    “Captain Sarcune,” came a scratchy voice. “This is Fordice. Captain Kroy Fordice of the Imperial frigate Bold Born. Please listen to me carefully. Whatever you do, do not jump to hyperspace past this planetoid. It’s a trap. And we...all of us here now, including your men, are the bait.”

    “What are you talking about?” asked Sarcune. “What happened to you?”

    “The Bold Born was on her way back to Coruscant, to pick up another shipment of TIE fighters for deployment. As we prepped for our jump, our nav computers informed us that the hyperlane we’d come to you on was blocked. Some sort of disturbance which wouldn’t be cleared before we were due back. We were instructed to take an alternate route, so we consulted the charts and found an older hyperlane that hasn’t been used since the Clone Wars. But it seemed to allow us to bypass the normal routes, and still get back on track to avoid...penalties.”

    Sarcune grunted his understanding. Since the war, the Empire had become an efficient machine of industry, but at the cost of leeway. The Emperor’s regime did not allow for error or complacency. If you were asked to achieve a goal by the Empire, it had best be achieved, and the closer to the core one got, the more eyes were on you to produce results. The Absolute, patrolling the Outer Rim, had escaped some of the more critical scrutiny, but the Empire’s reach was lengthening. Wilhuff Tarkin, known during the days of the Republic as a critical and effective leader, passionately wielded the power Emperor Palpatine had granted him, though you couldn’t tell by looking at the man. His cold, skeletal mask of a face hid all but the basest emotions. In many ways, he was as cold and purpose driven as the Jedi he’d despised. The recent shipment of gear and men was a clear message – The Absolute was part of the Empire, and thus, beholden to it. Sarcune tugged at his beard.

    “All seemed fine,” continued Captain Fordice. “But in a flash, we were unexpectedly out of hyperspace, and almost to the moment, under attack. It was a slaughter – We had no time to put up our defenses, and before we knew it, the Bold Born’s weapons and engines were offline, and we were driven down to this rock. Our attackers boarded, killing everyone they could. Twenty-three men. We…the survivors, we were pushed to the bridge, where we locked ourselves down. We were able to send out a distress call, but as soon as we did, they destroyed our comms. That’s when I realized they wanted us to send the call, to draw others in…”

    “Who?” asked Sarcune. “Who attacked you?”

    “Battledroids, said Fordice. “Seperatist Battledroids.”

    “That’s impossible,” said Sarcune. Every Seperatist droid was shut down at the end of the war by the general command. Perhaps these are pirated droids, reactivated by some group of mercs or dissidents.”

    “I don’t think so, Captain Sarcune,” replied Fordice. “We considered that as well, but there were no demands. No one making threats. These droids are on a kill order.”

    “They left you alive,” countered Sarcune. “And then left, it seems.”

    “True,” said Fordice. “But again, as bait, I believe.”

    “So why haven’t they attacked our rescue party?” countered Sarcune.

    “I don’t know,” conceded Captain Fordice.

    Kain was listening to the back and forth between the captains on his comms unit, and a cold chill ran down his spine. Kain had remembered a story from his childhood. An old story, from when the men of Baktooine had crossed her seas in shipping vessels that skimmed the water, rather than airships that flew over it. How the great dark beasts would cripple smaller ships and circle them, allowing no escape, while waiting for another, larger ship to come to the rescue. Then both would provide a feast for the creatures. So stranded ships became anathema to the sea-faring folk of Baktooine. Better to lose one craft than two, or worse. Until airships were crafted out of need, the seas were the fate of only the desperate, the criminal, or the foolishly bold of Baktooine.

    “Captain, this is Wing Commander Kain. It may be that we’re not big enough prey.”

    “What’s your thinking, Commander?” asked Sarcune.

    “I’m thinking we’re stuck here until we can destroy the hunters,” replied Kain. “I can almost guarantee that if we try to get the men off the Bold Born and jump back to the Absolute, we’ll be attacked before we achieve hyperspace. Something or someone is watching, and very possibly, listening to every word we’re saying even now.”

    Sarcune grit his teeth. If it was true, then trying to coordinate a strategy with his men at the crash site would prove problematic. “What evidence do you have for this idea, Commander?”

    Kain considered the question. It was a feeling, related to a memory. A memory of a children’s story. But it was more. There was something tugging at his senses. He could see, clearly, what would happen if they tried to jump back to the Absolute.“Captain, I’ll get back to you. I urge you to hold your position until I’m able to contact you again.”

    “Understood, Commander,” answered Sarcune. He refrained from saying more, but he decided that if he didn’t hear back from Kain in twenty minutes, he would have to jump to them, trap or not.

    “Dolan, meet me on the Bold Born. Let’s touch bases with Bondi and see about getting these men home.”

    “Roger that, Commander,” answered Dolan, and the two V-19’s landed on the nearly dead frigate.

    Fifteen minutes later, one of the V-19’s lifted off. Dolan’s voice crackled over the long-range channel to the Absolute. “Absolute, this is Fen Dolan onboard V19003. I’m returning ahead of the rescue craft. They’re loading the survivors now.”

    Dolan’s V-19 Torrent swung up from the crippled Bold Born and slowed to a near stop as the nav computer determined the direction of the jump, and the hyperdrive engines spun up. “Commander Kain, see you back at the ship…”

    Dolan’s sentence was barely finished when a flash of fire erupted from the space above the Bold Born. Before Dolan’s ship could make the jump, it was knocked to its side, then exploded into nothing. Kain watched the fulguration from the bridge of the downed frigate, his hands balled into tight fists. “There’s our proof,” he whispered. He was looking at the source of the attack through the bridge viewport. From this angle, it was a giant orb, surrounded by a crescent of metal. A droid command ship. But something was different. From the hull jutted spiked protrusions of discolored metal, making the ship look to be bristling, almost organic. Antennae of some kind, perhaps. The chill came back. The ship was like a dark beast, floating in sight, but out of reach and untouchable. As Kain stared at the old ship, it disappearing in a flash – First it was there, then it wasn’t. “A cloaking device!” he thought to himself. But that didn’t seem right, even in light of the evidence. Whatever had happened, Kain knew it was still watching, waiting for his next move. Kain resolved to make it a good one.
     
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  3. Venator77

    Venator77 Jedi Master star 2

    Registered:
    May 2, 2013
    A very interesting story. I can't wait to see how everything goes against the droid control ship.
     
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  4. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    I'm not sure they count as "short," but interesting and exciting to read, for sure. Kain is a carryover from the Old Republic? It will be interesting to see how he adapts to the new regime...not entirely on board, given his reaction to the Absolutes. And I'm trying to decide if Bardox is simply an egotist who believes his own fabulosity, or if he is some sort of secret plant from the Imperial Security Bureau (like how the old Soviet Union used to have Propaganda officers, to make sure everyone toed the line.)

    So how will they get out of this one...
     
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  5. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Thanks so much for the feedback! Venator88, the conflict is imminent! Mistress_Renata - Yeah, looking over these on the page, I guess they aren't "short". If it's worth saying, they get shorter...? Ha-ha! I like your observations on Kain and Bardox - You may be on to something! I'll leave it at that. :)
     
  6. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Full Stop - Part 2

    Reidus Kain transmitted the bad news to Captain Sarcune and the Absolute. “We’ve lost V19003. We’ve lost Dolan,” said Kain over the Marine’s comms. “Something attacked before he could jump.” Kain waited for a response, but none came. “Captain Sarcune? Acknowledge?”

    The marine communications tech, Booker, spoke up. “I think we’re being jammed, Commander Kain.”

    “Whatever attacked us thinks we’ve said enough, I guess” said Bondi.

    Kain spat and tightened his grip around the communications unit. He shook his head, but said nothing. The whole deck was silent, save the sound of the air-ventilation fans.

    “You were right, Commander,” said Fen Dolan, very much alive, putting down the comms unit he’d used to speak his deception. “Sorry to lose my ship. But better that than my life.”

    “I’m just glad whoever is up there fell for the auto-pilot,” said Bondi. “That’s a droid command ship, no doubt, though seems to be modified,” said the veteran marine.

    “Yeah,” said Kain, straightening. “But where did it go? It seemed to just disappear.”

    “I don’t know of any visibility cloaking that the Seperatists developed during the war. At least none we ever encountered,” said Bondi. “I’d heard rumors of the Republic working on such a thing, but the best we achieved was scanner invisibility, and that just with small ships. The hyperdrive engine alone creates such a huge signature…”

    “That’s it!” cried Captain Fordice. He turned to his navigator, once of the few survivors of the initial attack on the Bold Born. “Bell, is the hyperdrive navigation system still intact?”

    “Yes, Captain. But with our drive down, what use…”

    “Scan for a jump through the point where we saw the droid command ship appear,” interrupted Fordice.

    “Yes, Captain,” answered Bell. “What destination?”

    “Just beyond the current system,” said Fordice.

    The navigator ran the calculations through the computer. He frowned, and ran the calculations again.

    “What’s the problem, Bell?”

    “I’m not sure, Captain Fordice,” said the navigator. “I’m getting an error. Possible the nav-computer was damaged in the attack. But it’s giving me an alternate route that seems indistinguishable from the requested one.”

    “Lengthen the jump destination,” said Fordice.

    Bell did as instructed. “Ok, the difference is more clear now. There is definitely something in the way, but the nav computer can’t identify it. And it seems erratic. The computer is throwing me errors I’ve never seen before.”

    “Shorten the jump destination back to the original distance. Redirect slightly and recalculate. Disregard any directions that shows as clear. Mark all directions and coordinates that give you the error, if it can be reproduced. Once you have reproduced the error, scan in a line from the initial error point to the second, then follow that line and scan again for the error. I believe we will find a path of errors in this way.”

    Kain understood what the Captain’s hunch was leading to. The navigational computers and related sensors were some of the most sophisticated, sensitive pieces of equipment in the whole of the known universe. Without them, extended, uncharted hyperspace travel would be impossible. Without precise calculations, you could fly yourself through the heart of a star, or bounce too close to a supernova. A fast trip to a quick end.

    “You think the droid ship is in hyperspace,” Kain said.

    “I do,” replied Fordice. “And I think it’s orbiting this planetoid, which is itself orbiting the old hyperspace lane.”

    The whole of the bridge watched in silence as Navigations Officer Bell made calculation after calculation, sometimes making notes as he worked. Then, Bell spoke. “Captain Fordice, I think I’ve got it.”

    Kain and Fordice leaned over Bell’s seat and looked at his readout. “See here,” he said, pointing to his screen. “This is where the ship first appeared. And here is the next place I found the ‘error’. It was difficult at first, but I re-entered the size of our by about five times, just to get the general area, then narrowed it down.” Bell smiled, evidently pleased with himself.

    Fordice wasn’t amused. “Fine, that’s a line. Did you verify this the way I asked?”

    Bell turned back to his screen, sobered. “Yes, Captain. Three more points.” He drew his finger along the screen, showing the trajectory of the errors he’d discovered. “And then it disappears behind the horizon of the planetoid we’re on.” He readjusted his screen, and pointed again. “Then, the errors occur again here.”

    “Looks like your hunch was correct, Captain,” said Kain.

    “Indeed,” said Fordice. “But what good will it do us? And it doesn’t explain why the Bold Born was pulled out of hyperspace in the first place.”

    “The two must be related,” spoke up Bondi. “I remember hearing rumors of tests, a weapon that could hit ships while in hyperspace. The problem, if I recall, was always power. The size of a weapon that could do such a thing would have to be enormous, just to contain the power generator capable of such a feat, while providing enough shielding so as not to kill the men who controlled it.”

    “Kill them? How?” asked Kain.

    “Radiation poisoning,” answered Fordice.

    “Right,” said Bondi, shaking his head. “Maybe that’s why all the droids. Anything that can drag a starship out of hyperspace must produce close to the same power levels as we’re talking about.”

    “But could it fit on that droid command ship we saw?” asked Fordice?

    “Maybe eventually,” said Kain. “But the technology isn’t there yet. As far as I know. It would have to be huge.” Kain pointed at their feet.

    “The planetoid…” said Dolan. “We’re standing on the weapon.”

    “Well, one part of it,” said Captain Fordice, following Kain’s line of thought. “Probably just the generator core. The droid ship does the dirty work. This thing just messes with whatever is traveling the hyperlane. Including, I’d wager, our communications.”

    “If it’s a machine, we can destroy it,” said Bondi. “We just need to find a way in.” His white-suited marines nodded in assent. Their armor, reminiscent of the Clone Trooper armor from the war, was a little less sleek, a little less symmetrical to Kain’s eyes. Like the new TIE fighters the Empire had delivered to the Absolute, these troopers looked rougher than he’d remembered the Clones looking; and these men weren’t clones. They were conscripts and volunteers – Men who were taking part in the Empire’s defense, rather than biological weapons bought for war. It was a different time, and Kain was, by and large, glad to be a part of it. However, remnants of the war remained, and if this situation was any indication, the effects of the war would be felt for years to come. The scars might never fade from the galaxy, but Kain was determined that no more innocents should feel the pain of those scars.

    “We have to destroy it. Now.” Said Kain. “We have the tools, and the men to do it. Somehow, the droids allowed the marines to land unscathed. I don’t know why, but we can’t lose that advantage.”

    “No,” said Captain Fordice. “We need to find a way off this rock, and report the incident to the Emperor. He will decide if this weapon should be destroyed or not.”

    “It’s not a matter of one or the other,” said Kain. “To get free, we need to destroy this outpost. If a leftover Separatist weapon, it should be shut down already.”

    “Indeed,” retorted Fordice. “And why isn’t it? The shutdown order was sent when the war ended. If these are Separatist droids, why weren’t they shut down with the order?”

    “Perhaps the hyperspace weapon scrambled the order,” said Bell “Our signals travel through hyperspace to reach all corners of the galaxy.”

    “Right,” picked up Kain. “And if this weapon is somehow able to interfere with those lines, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the shutdown order was also effected. And if so, these droids are operating on the last orders they received, and have been since the war ended. Regardless, we need to disable or destroy whatever it is that can pull our ships out of hyperspace. If not, we’re basically leaving an undetonated mine, and that’s assuming we could even get off this rock without disabling it.”

    Captain Fordice shook his head, but didn’t voice any disagreement. Bondi spoke up, ready for action. “If this rock is indeed the power source of the hyperspace weapon, there must be a way in. Can we scan for that?”

    “We should be able to, if the ships sensors are intact,” said Kain. Then, so as not to give any hint of insubordination, he turned to Captain Fordice.
    The Bold Born’s Captain stood in contemplation, as if he was trying to decide his next move. After a moment, he raised his head and spoke to one of the other survivors of the crash. “Ensign Piek, scan for heat sources on the surface of the planetoid.”

    “Yes sir,” replied Piek. “I scan multiple. They seem to be venting heat into space.”

    “Of course. A power source the size we expect would need to release massive amounts of exhaust to keep from overheating,” said Fordice.

    “Can we shut them up? Maybe we let this thing blow itself up,” suggested Dolan. The pilot was growing restless listening to strategy. He wanted to be in the sky, but remembered his ship was now part of the ether.

    “Even if we could stop all of them up,” said Bondi, “We couldn’t be sure we could get away before it blew, and that explosion would probably take us with it. No, there has to be a way in to the control room. Is there anything else showing on the scan that looks like a door?”

    “Not particularly,” answered Piek. “Just a minute.” Piek entered some new parameters into his scan. Shortly, he had what he was looking for. “There. I scanned for material inconsistencies, figuring there must be a landing bay of some sort. There’s your door.”

    Everyone looked at the readout. “That’s on the other side of the planetoid from us,” said Bondi. “It’ll take some time to get over there.”

    “And who knows what kind of resistance you’ll face, if the droids catch wind of what we’re doing,” said Dolan.

    “Now, I have a thought about that,” said Kain. “The fact that the marines were allowed to land unmolested plays into the theory that this installation is indeed an old Seperatist weapon, and the droids, still acting on old orders, also have old databases. The ship the marines flew in on is new – Made after the end of the war. The droids may not have been able to register it, and as such, we might have the leeway to at least get to the hangar doors. Once we try to break in, though…”

    “Then it’ll be too late for them,” said Bondi. His marines grunted in agreement. “Good. We’ll take the landing shuttle to the door and get inside. Once we do, we’ll look for the power source and see if we can’t shut down this deathtrap.”

    “Bondi, how long do you think it’ll take to get in?” asked Kain. “With communications down, it’s only a matter of time before Captain Sarcune brings The Absolute to check on things himself, despite the danger.”

    “Depends on what we find,” said the Marine. “We’re leaving now.” Bondi and his team spun on their feet and headed to the shuttle.

    “I should go with them,” said Dolan.

    “No,” said Kain, “You’d just get in their way. We’ve gotta let Bondi and his men do their jobs.”

    ***

    On The Absolute, Captain Sarcune paced the bridge, tugging at his beard. His communications officer had informed him that Commander Kain and Lietenent Bondi were no longer reachable, despite best efforts. An Imperial ship was out there, waiting to be rescued. Sarcune trusted Kain and Bondi, but he couldn’t leave them out there alone for much longer. Sarcune turned to his second. “Mark the time. In twenty, we’re jumping to Kain’s coordinates. I want full battlestations at the ready. Even if it is a trap, whoever springs it will be sorry they trifled with The Absolute.”
     
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  7. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Full Stop - Part 3

    The marine landing craft skimmed the surface of the planetoid. Bondi looked out the viewport, and noticed lumps of dirt and stone that seemed to protrude up from the surface at unnatural angles. The marine craft passed close to one such mound, and Bondi noticed twisted metal, curled underneath the protrusions. The planetoid was a ship graveyard, and the corpses had been buried, probably by the killers themselves. How long had this installation been operational? How many ships had it pulled out of hyperspace to a certain doom, since the war had ended? Bondi rubbed his neck, feeling the scar that ran along his jaw. Here was another scar from the war.

    “One minute to destination,” said the shuttle’s pilot, Marten. Bondi was snapped out of his reverie.

    “Gear up, Imperial Marines!” he said, putting his helmet on. “We’ve got droids to kill.”

    The shuttle had taken ten minutes to reach the hangar door, and had faced no resistance. Bondi considered it may have been a result of the pilot’s skill as much as anything – He’d kept the craft low, skimming the barren landscape. If indeed they were dealing with old Separatist Battle Droids, Bondi knew that their sensors could be confused by hugging the surface.

    The shuttle swept its rear wings up into as the landing gear lowered, and touched down next to the large, unmarked metal circle that lay silent before them. The marines disembarked, and engaged their life support packs. The airless planetoid’s gravity was low, and the marines had to recall their training to avoid tumbling out of control as they bounded across the ground.

    “Spread out, and find the release panel,” commanded Bondi. His men obeyed, scanning the perimeter of the door. Soon one of the marines, called Sims, called out: “Found it, sir.”

    The squad converged on Sims. Bondi turned to his tech-specialist. “Get this door open, Booker” said the Lieutenant. Without a word, Booker knelt down and got to work, pulling a cable out from the hacking tool on his wrist and plugging into the access panel. The rest of the marines stood in the darkness, scanning the horizon in each direction. From their position, the Bold Born was out of sight. Only the Sentinel landing craft stood out against the darkness and the jutting mounds of dirt and rock that Bondi suspected were all downed craft.

    “How much longer?” asked Bondi.

    “Just a moment. I’m past the first lock,” said Booker.

    No sooner had he breathed his last word, than Sims called out an alert. “Contact!”

    The squad spun. Rising from the ground, skeletal battle droids appeared about 100 feet from the hangar door. They were colored tan, with long, beak-like heads. Separatist grunts from the Clone Wars. As they rose, the droids began to fire on the exposed marines.

    “Drop!” commanded Bondi. The squad dove to the ground to minimize their target profile. “Open fire!”

    The approaching battle-droids shuffled forward in a line, typical of their type. They seemed exceptionally robotic, it seemed to Bondi, like they were just off the assembly line. Their fire was also erratic, but constant. The marines picked their shots and brought down the droids, but a new group was rising up behind them to take their place.

    “Guess we’re registered as a threat now!” joked Booker between shots.

    Bondi called back to the landing craft’s pilot. “Marten, take off and get a view of that droid hatch. See if you can shut it!”

    “Yes sir,” answered Marten. The armed landing craft lifted off behind the marines. Some of the droids redirected their fire towards the vehicle as it swung around to face them. Marten opened up the forward blasters and took out three droids in one shot, knocking over two others, which picked themselves back up and continued to march forward, blasting away. Marten flew the craft over them towards the point that another squad of droids was emerging. These droids began firing at the landing craft immediately, and Marten could hear the reverberation of the blaster bolts hitting the lower hull shielding. The handheld blaster fire wasn’t enough to do any real damage, but Marten was smart enough not to feel overconfident. “I’ve got the hatch in view, sir. Looks like a service elevator. The door is wide open.”

    Bondi looked up. Beyond the last couple battle droids being put down by his men, he could see the Sentinel hovering over twenty more droids, all firing up at the lander. Bondi rose, and instructed his men to do the same. “Forget the hangar,” he said. “We’re going in the open door! Move.”

    The marines pushed themselves to their feet and bounded across the distance, using the low gravity to their advantage. The opened fire on the battle droids as they approached, dropping them quickly. “Hold that elevator, marines! Booker, can you override the controls?”

    “On it!” said Booker. He charged to the access panel, then activated the hacking tool on his wrist, tuning to the door’s channel like he had at the hangar. The initial locks were the same sequence, so he was halfway done as his squad and Marten in the lander finished off the droids on the surface. The elevator began to lower again to retrieve another set of droids, then froze in place. “Got it!” called out Booker.

    “Good!” said Bondi. “Trank, place your mine!”

    The demolitions expert ran up, kicking droid parts out of the way. He knelt down and placed an EMP mine in the center of the elevator platform. Imperial marines didn’t regularly carry droid-popper grenades anymore, but EMP mines based on the same tech proved to be useful in shutting down weaponry and machinery in a more focused way. “Done!” he said, retreating back to his squad.

    “Booker, deliver our present,” ordered Bondi. “Marten, get the shuttle back a safe distance and land it, but keep her warm for dust off on my command. We’re gonna lose comms for a bit, but we should be able to raise you when we’re done. Stay alert.”

    “Yes sir,” said Marten, and the landing shuttle peeled away above the marines, to get out of range of the electro-magnetic pulse blast radius.

    Booker sent the order for the elevator to continue its descent trough his hacking tools. When it reached its destination, Booker let Lieutenant Bondi know. “In place,” he said.

    “Trank, open the gift.” said Bondi.

    Trank activated the mine, and a wave of energy erupted from the elevator hatch. The squad’s comms went down, as did their internal targeting displays. Life support was unaffected, as it wasn’t governed by electronic computations, though the measuring gauges went offline. Bondi used hand signals to direct his men to approach the hatch. They peered into the darkness below. Bondi signaled Trank to drop a concussion grenade into the hole, and Trank complied. The men stepped back from the hatch, and while they couldn’t hear the explosion, they felt the effects. Bondi then ordered his men to enter the orifice, so each marine stepped over the brink. The lower gravity again worked to their advantage, as they dropped a hundred feet and landed as if it was ten.

    The lower platform revealed a devastated room of fallen droids. It looked like there were another fifty or so that hadn’t yet been deployed, now scrapped by the EMP and explosives. Bondi took no chances. He held two fingers to his head, indicating he wanted the squad to verify the droid’s were done. The men walked through the fallen ranks, popping any droids in the head that hadn’t had their heads separated from their frames by the concussion grenade. Bondi then pointed at the far wall, where the shadow of a door was barely visible. The men moved to it, but Booker’s hacking tools had not yet come back online, and the door itself was powered down. Bondi tapped Sims and Cord, his point man, on the shoulder, and the two big men attempted to pry the door open. As they did, the lights in the room came back on – The EMP effects were wearing off, and the facility was resetting the room. Sims and Cord stepped back.

    Bondi approached the door and touched the panel on the right of it. The door slid open noiselessly, revealing a short hallway separated by a translucent blue atmospheric shield. Bondi stepped in first, and his men followed. They stepped through the shield and out of the hallway, into a dimly lit, empty corridor.
    Bondi removed his helmet, and drew a tentative breath. The air was stale, smelling of oil and ozone, but it was breathable.

    “Alright, marines,” said the Lieutenant. “We’ve got to find the control center of this abomination. Comms are still down, but they should reboot soon. Looks like there are two directions we can take, so we need to split up. Booker, Cord; you’re with me. Sims, Trank and Peele, you go that way. I’ll bet that’s the way to the hangar we were trying to get in before. Secure it. I don’t want anything chasing us out of here.” Bondi looked directly at Trank when he said, “Anything.”

    “Understood, sir,” replied Trank.

    “Alright. Keep an eye on your arrays. When possible, we’ll reestablish communication. Otherwise, meet back here in 30.”

    The marines saluted, and then Sims’ team moved off in one direction, while Bondi and his men went the other. Bondi put his helmet back on, and saw the flicker of electronics coming back to life as the effects of the EMP mine wore off.
     
  8. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Full Stop - Part 4

    Captain Sarcune kept one eye on the timer, and one on his bridge. He held his hands behind his back and stood up straight, showing no emotion. The crew of the Absolute was busy, making battle-station prep for a conflict they weren’t sure was coming.

    Sarcune played back in his mind the conversation he’d had with high command. The holo-image of Governor Tarkin was projected large in the command-room; a purposeful show of power, mandated by Imperial code. Sarcune and his first mate stood before the looming blue ghost, knowing full well that Tarkin looked down on them from his own side of the conversation. Sarcune was not intimidated by the charade, but remained respectful of Tarkin. He’d met the man once, after the end of the Clone Wars. All the captains of the Imperial Navy had, before being dispatched throughout the galaxy to bring the new order of Emperor Palpatine. Sarcune had been struck by the man’s ability to cut to the chase. He didn’t mince words, and Sarcune respected that. But there was something missing from Tarkin, and Sarcune discovered what it was soon enough. Tarkin saw only the game, not the players. As long as the game was won, to Tarkin, all the players were expendable.

    “Report, Captain Sarcune,” said Tarkin, his gaunt features sharp, even in hologram.

    “Governor Tarkin, as you know, we’ve responded to a distress call. The frigate Bold Born was apparently attacked on the edge of deep space, along an old hyperlane,” said Sarcune. “Unfortunately, it was only after sending a rescue team did we discover that the Bold Born’s distress was a result of an attack, and the forces involved are as-yet unknown. We believe they have attacked our rescue team, and are jamming our communications with them. We are preparing to jump to the coordinates, and are girding for a fight. I believe we’re stepping into a trap.”

    “Indeed,” said Tarkin, crossing his arms. “I agree with your assessment, Captain. When will you move in?”

    “Within ten minutes, Governor.”

    “Very good. I await your after action report, Captain.”

    “And if it is a trap? If we are overwhelmed?”

    “Then I imagine I will receive no report, Captain,” sneered Tarkin. “Or are you asking for something else? Reinforcements, perhaps?”

    “If the Governor deems fit,” answered Sarcune.

    “I do not,” said Tarkin. “You are a part of the Imperial Navy, and The Absolute is an Imperial Star Destroyer, provided, even recently, with the latest in Imperial technology and resources which I suggest you use. If you cannot handle some Outer-Rim renegades with your formidable forces, be certain, you will be avenged. But I will not commit extra resources to an as-yet undetermined threat. Now, do you believe you cannot handle this threat on your own?”

    Sarcune’s lip twitched imperceptibly. Tarkin’s rolled r’s betrayed his core-world heritage to Sarcune, as did his pride. “No, Admiral. I believe the Absolute is more than capable.”

    Tarkin dropped his arms. “Very good, Captain. I agree with that assessment as well, otherwise you would have been relieved of command long ago. Is there anything else?”

    “No, Governor,” answered Sarcune. “Not at this time.”

    “Very well, Captain,” said Tarkin, and without so much as a wink, the hologram went down.

    Sarcune remembered the promises he made to the Republic when accepting his commission as Captain of the Absolute. He had vowed to protect the unified worlds against all threats, both from without and within. He’d renewed his commitments to the whole of the Galactic Senate, when the war had concluded, and Palpatine had declared the Republic an Empire. The government may have changed, but the people were the same. The need for protection and defense was still clear. Sarcune remembered his vows as he prepared to rescue his men, and took shallow comfort in the notion that today, his mission was clear. Tomorrow would worry about itself.

    He turned to his first-mate. “Make sure all flights are on stand-by. I want to launch a sortie as soon as we drop out of hyperspace.”

    ***
    Solay Vardis oversaw the pilot prep. With the absence of Kain and Dolan, Captain Sarcune had named her acting Wing Commander. There were twenty pilots assigned to the Absolute, including Bardox, Krix and Tallsun, the three new men who had arrived with the new TIE fighters. Vardis addressed them all in the ready room.

    “When the Absolute comes out of Hyperspace, two wings will launch, with one at ready. Wing Alpha will consist of Jan, Fedar and Cole in the V-19s. Wing Beta will be Junto, Lars and myself. Junto and Lars, you’ll each be in the Y-Wings. I’ll take one of the new TIEs. Bardox, Krix and Tallsun, you’ll be on standby in your TIEs as Wing Gamma.”

    “How come you get all the fun?” asked Junto. “Those two Y-Wings are ready for the scrap heap.” Lars laughed in agreement.

    “Because, I’ve flown a TIE, and they’re more than you can handle, Junto,” shot back Vardis. “Anyway, you need the shields. I don’t.”
    “I resent that,” scowled Junto.

    “The rest of you are also on ready alert. We don’t know what we’re up against. It could be nothing, but we’re going in guns hot. The deck crews have been instructed to have all fighters ready for launch, so you’d best be prepared if and when the call comes down from the old man. Any questions?”

    “I have one, acting Wing Commander Vardis.” It was Bardox. He stood in the back of the room, Krix and Tallsun standing on either side of him. Vardis noted that the three of them always flew in formation, even when they weren’t in their ships. She also noted the emphasis the tall blond man had put on the word ‘acting’.

    “Go ahead. Bardox, was it?” said Vardis.

    Bardox sneered. “Yes. Why aren’t all the pilots going out in the TIEs? They are the newest ships of the fleet, approved by the Emperor himself.”

    “Because, Mr. Bardox, the men have not yet become accustomed to the new TIEs.” Replied Vardis.

    “Did they not participate in the prescribed training regimens before the ships were delivered?”

    “They did,” said Vardis, “Of course they did. We all did.”

    “Then why, acting Wing Commander Vardis, are we not following the lead of the Emperor? Why are we holding to any of the old ways? Why keep to relics of the past when we face a bold new future?” The rest of the room shuffled uneasily. Some of the newer pilots shook their head in agreement. Vardis’ cheeks flushed red.

    “It’s not a political choice – It’s a practical one,” came a voice from the back of the room. It was Captain Sarcune. “We serve the Empire by fighting well, fighting intelligently, and remembering our history. These pilots have history with these ships. Not everything new is better by virtue of its newness.”

    “Indeed,” answered Bardox, bowing his head slightly. “And not everything old is better, simply by virtue of its longevity.”

    “True,” said Sarcune. “Any fool can age. It takes a special kind of fool to grow old while willfully disregarding acquired wisdom. How old are you, by the way?”
    Bardox’ answer was interrupted by a klaxon. The Absolute was about to jump to hyperspace.

    Sarcune addressed the room.“Pilots, we are bringing back our own. Remember your training, and watch out for one another. Wing Commander Vardis, I leave it to you.” With that the Captain turned and left the ready room.

    “You heard the Captain,” said Vardis. “Let’s do this…”

    “For the Empire!” shouted Fedar.

    “For the Empire!” echoed Bardox, Krix and Tallsun in unison.


    “For the Empire,” said Vardis.
     
  9. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    I finally have a chance to get caught up on this. I like Bondi & the Marines, competent & using their heads. And Tarkin just assumes that the trouble is coming from Rebels? Hmph! No wonder a handful of snubfighters was able to take out his weapon.
     
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  10. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Full Stop - Part 5

    Lieutenant Bondi, followed by Booker and Cord, moved quickly down the corridor. The Imperial Marines checked each door, and found a mess hall, kitchen, barracks, and medical center, all of which seemed sterile and unused.

    “What is all this for?” asked Booker. “Droids don’t sleep.”

    “I imagine it was for maintenance personnel or visiting supervisors,” said Bondi. “Looks like they haven’t had visitors in a long while, though.”

    The three men continued to the end of the hallway. As they approached the last door, it slid open to reveal an elevator. The men halted on instinct, and raised their weapons. Nothing emerged to greet them, but Bondi couldn’t help thinking of the open door as a gaping maw, the elevator shaft a throat.

    “Sims, you copy?” Bondi tried to raise the other team on the communications. His own electronics had rebooted from the effects of the droid-popper EMP mine.

    “I read you, Lietenant Bondi,” came back Sims’ voice, scratchy in the helmet speakers.

    “We found an elevator, which we hope will take us to the command center. What’ve you guys got?”

    “We found the hangar, as well as the droid-weapon storage and repair facility. We encountered a little resistance, but no losses on our part. The hangar itself was empty. If there were any ships here, they bugged out a long time ago. This place is a shell.”

    “Understood,” said the Lieutenant. “Hold your position. We’re going down. Bondi out.”

    Bondi, Booker and Cord entered the elevator. Before anyone could push a button, the door closed behind them and the box began to descend.

    “Did you do that?” asked Booker.

    “I thought you did,” said Cord.

    “Both of you, shut up,” said Bondi.

    They three marines stood ready as they descended into the planetoid. Bondi couldn’t tell how fast they were moving, but he noticed the atmosphere was getting noticeably hotter, and what was at first a barely audible heartbeat-like pulsing sound became louder. At first, he thought it was made by the elevator machinery, but soon realized the noise was originating from beyond their immediate surroundings.

    The elevator finally came to a stop, and the door opened to another corridor, this one much shorter, leading to a single door at the opposite end. The pulsing sound was more intense, as was the heat. Bondi felt sweat bead on his brow, and wondered what portion of it was caused by the heat, and what portion caused by his nerves.

    “Let’s go,” he said, leading Booker and Cord down the small corridor. The elevator door closed behind them, and the door they faced opened, letting in even more heat. The marines stepped though into a large room. Readouts and interfaces covered a full wall to their left. Directly in front of them, a large solid blast shield was raised. The steady, rhythmic thump-thump seemed to emanate from behind it. To their right, a small alcove, with some more computer equipment. There was a medical droid, who looked up from his readouts, and then turned to approach the marines.

    “Greetings. I am BX-22. Welcome. May I ask your identity?” it said as it crossed the room.

    “I’m Lieutenant Bondi, assigned to the Imperial Navy Star Destroyer Absolute under Captain Sarcune. What is this place?”

    “Why, this is Facility 4985, also known as Anvil Station. I am not familiar with an Imperial Navy. Has Count Dooku established an Empire from the Separatist Alliance?” asked BX-22.

    “Are you in charge of this facility?” interrupted Bondi.

    “Oh no. I am just an attendant for Dr. Capra.”

    “And where is Dr. Capra?”

    “Follow me, please,” said BX-22. He led the marines towards his workstation. “Dr. Capra has not had visitors in some time, and our conversations are…limited.” BX-22 engaged his console, and a large cylinder rose up from the floor. It glowed from within, and as it came into full view, Bondi reeled in disgust. The cylinder was a bacta-tank, and inside floated the emaciated figure of a humanoid. He was naked, but covered head-to-toe with wires and tubes that seemed to be growing out of him and dripping to the floor of the tank. A breathing apparatus covered most of his face, save the eyes, which were open, but seemed to be unusable. They stared off into the distance as if dead.

    “I present Dr. Stoff Capra,” said BX-22.

    “What the hell is going on here?” growled Bondi. “What is this man doing in this tank? He looks dead!”

    “Oh no, he is not dead. I have made sure of that, per my orders,” said BX-22. “As for the rest, you may ask him yourself. I have initiated communications. He can hear you now.”

    Bondi looked around the room. On the wall that held the door they walked in through was another door, set off near the corner. Under the large blast shield was another door, which looked as solid as the blast shield. Bondi leaned over to Cord and spoke quietly. “Get in touch with Trank. I want him down here with his explosives. If comms won’t work, go get him.”

    “Yes sir,” said Cord. He moved off towards the elevator corridor. Bondi turned back to face the emaciated Dr. Capra and BX-22, standing dutifully next to the bacta tank. Bondi noticed that the tank looked especially cloudy and jaundiced. The figure inside…this Dr. Capra…did not seem rejuvenated in the least. Bondi had been inside a bacta tank before, after one particularly harrowing mission during the Clone Wars. The power of the tank to restore one’s vitality was phenomenal, and he’d emerged feeling like a new man. There were side effects, however. A feeling of euphoria, and near invincibility. There was a temptation to return to the tank, and he’d heard that elite athletes used them before competition, as well as after.

    “Dr. Capra. Can you hear me? My name is Lieutenant Tem Bondi of the INSD Absolute. I need to ask you some questions.” The body floated in front of Bondi motionless. Bondi approached the tank and knocked a gloved knuckle against the curved glass. “Hello. Dr. Capra. Can you hear me?”

    “It is not necessary to bang on the glass, Lieutenant Bondi,” said BX-22. Bondi ignored the droid.

    “Wake up, Dr. Capra!” yelled the marine. There was no immediate answer, save for the steady pulse from whatever was behind the blast shield. Bondi turned to Booker.

    “Booker, I want you to see about shutting this place down,” he whispered. Booker nodded and moved to the control console on the other side of the room.

    “Did you know that Wookies have poetry?” The voice came from a speaker array set up near the bacta tank. The tone was deep, and slightly modulated. It seemed stronger than the gaunt body in the tank.

    “What?” said Bondi. “Is that you, Dr. Capra?”

    “It is Dr. Capra,” answered BX-22. “He is coming back to us now.”

    “Back?” asked Bondi.

    “They do,” said the voice, answering its own question. “Rhyme and rhythm are not lost on their species, though most cannot hear it. They don’t care. In fact, often their poetry is about that lack of concern for what those outside their own people understand about them. They have pride, but no arrogance.”

    “Dr. Capra,” interrupted Bondi. “You can hear me?”

    “I can….hear everything,” said Capra’s surrogate voice. “I listen, and have been listening. For a long time. I think. I always think…”

    “What do you mean? What is this place? Who are you?” Bondi’s questions came rapid fire. Capra was not visibly moved.

    “The faster information travels, the less bound it is to the present,” said Capra. “You know this. Or perhaps you don’t yet. Or forgot.”

    Bondi turned to BX-22. “What the hell is he talking about?”

    “I’m not sure, Lieutenant,” said the droid. “The longer he has been here, the stranger his speech has become. I have not been programmed to understand the psychology of such a thing.”

    “How long has he been here?” asked Bondi.

    “Dr. Capra has been at Anvil Station under my care for ten years.”

    “In the tank? The whole time?” Bondi was incredulous.

    “Yes,” said BX-22. “It was for his protection. The radiation would have killed him long ago if he were not in the tank.”

    “From the power-source,” said Bondi to himself. He turned back to Dr. Capra. “Who put you in here? Did you enter yourself?”

    “In here…I have always been in here. No, that’s not true. I have memories of being not in here. Or are they memories? I cannot leave, so they must be….”

    “Who. Put. You. Here,” Bondi was growing frustrated. Time was of the essence, and Capra seemed to pay no heed to it.

    “Dooku,” said Capra. “Count Dooku put me here. And Dr. Renfro. I put myself here. By believing in Dooku.”

    “Dooku is dead,” said Bondi. “Has been long dead. Who is Dr. Renfro?”

    “I know of Dooku’s fate,” said Capra. “I heard. The celebrations. The false belief that war was at an end. But I cannot end. He won’t let me die.”

    “Who won’t let you die?”

    “Dooku.” Said Capra plainly.

    “It is true,” said BX-22. “My orders are to keep Dr. Capra alive, and I have followed my orders.”

    “Who gave you those orders?” asked Bondi.

    “Count Dooku himself,” said BX-22. “He was very explicit. Anvil Station cannot function unless Dr. Capra is alive. And if Anvil Station does not function, then I am obsolete.”

    “And what is Anvil Station?” asked Bondi. “This facility? Why is this man necessary? He can’t even leave the tank. What does he do to keep it running?”

    “The radiation from the power source is too much for a human to be exposed to for so long. He has to be protected. The bacta tank shields him from most of the radiation, and heals him from what does get through,” explained BX-22. “As for what he does…”

    “I am the nexus. The fulcrum,” said Capra. “It is beautiful, the calculations. Numbers do not lie. Dooku lies. Men lie. I hear them lie. They end and begin, and pretend they are forever. I hear their end. The Mandalore. The First Order. The Republic. The Jedi. The Empire. All are out of time. All will end.”

    “What are you talking about? How will the Empire end?”

    “When Alderaan ended… the music was what I missed most,” said Capra. “They make such beautiful music. Listen!” Through the speakers, a song played, but it was inundated with static, popping and hissing through Capra’s voice speakers. “Through hyperspace, the old songs will remain, though never a new one. Not after Alderaan is gone…”

    “Alderaan?” asked Bondi. “Alderaan is just fine.” The man in the tank was clearly delusional.

    “Lieutenant, look at this,” said Booker. Bondi turned away from Dr. Capra and walked over to the marine, who was staring at a control readout.

    “What am I looking at, Booker?”

    Booker pointed at a continuous readout, being updated in real time. “These are hyperspace calculations, being made faster than any nav-computer I’ve ever seen. These numbers here are coordinates, and they are iterating only slightly on each cycle. Look.” Booker touched the screen, and a visual representation of the calculations came into view. “It’s a hyperspace loop, orbiting this planetoid. I think that’s our droid ship. And see here. This is the hyperspace lane we came in on, and the planetoid is orbiting that. Much slower.”

    “The river flows both ways, and within are those beholden to the time on either side,” said Capra behind them. “I hear them pass. And they hear through me. And they pick and choose, based on what they know. There has not been much they know for a long time. At least, a long time to them.”

    “That is true,” said BX-22. “There has not been anything for a long time. The Republic stopped using this hyperspace lane. But Anvil Station still stands, and our orders remain. So we waited…wait, patiently. Oh, but it was difficult to keep Dr. Capra alive. Concessions had to be made. Exceptions, where possible…”

    “What do you mean, ‘exceptions’?” asked Bondi.

    “Well, the food ran out, you see,” said BX-22. “We had to make due…”

    Bondi looked at the bacta tank, and the nourishing bath’s strange color sent a chill down his spine. “With what did you ‘make due’?”

    “It might be best if I show you,” said BX-22. “Follow me, please.”
     
  11. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    This has just gotten seriously creepy!
     
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  12. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Full Stop - Part 6

    Captain Sarcune watched through the viewport of the Absolute from the bridge. The light-tunnel of hyperspace swirled around the Star Destroyer. Sarcune marveled at the illusion. The human eye was only receptive to so much of the visible spectrum, and what men saw in hyperspace was just a fraction of the forces swirling through it. Information, energy, and power – Somehow, the ancient civilizations of the galaxy had figured out a way to send men and their vessels through hyperspace long ago. In doing so, they had made the galaxy smaller – More accessible to all, yet somehow, still divided. Ideology, race, custom – The worlds were laid bare for all to see, and yet, there was war. The nature of all creatures, it seemed to Sarcune, was to take or keep. The Emperor knew this. Sarcune knew this. Despite thousands of worlds, somehow there was not enough for everyone. The powerful, like Dooku and his allies in the Trade Federation, the Banking Clan, and the Techno Union, had sought to separate themselves from the Republic, to deregulate their businesses, in an attempt to make even more credits for themselves. They had instigated war upon the galaxy, and the Republic, under the leadership of the Senate and the Jedi, fought back. Yet, as the war was being won – After Dooku was killed during a rescue of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine - the Jedi had revealed themselves for who they truly were. Warmongers.

    With the galaxy destabilized and the Clone Armies at their disposal, the formidable Jedi had attempted a coup. But one of their own had stood up to them, and the clones themselves were loyal to the Republic – They could not be turned. The clones had saved the galaxy from allowing a small group of elites, who wielded their power almost unilaterally at times, from taking control. Palpatine, the gentle, peace-seeking leader of the Republic, had been scarred in the attempted coup – Hideously deformed by forces against him. The Senate, seeing an opportunity for a quick restoration of order, and seeing in Palpatine a man who knew firsthand the consequences of war, named him Emperor of the newly formed Galactic Empire.

    Hyperspace swirled about the Absolute, and Captain Sarcune knew he was only seeing a fraction of what was really out there.

    “Captain, one minute until we drop out of hyperspace,” said the navigations officer.

    “Understood,” said Sarcune. “All hands to battle stations!”
    ***

    Bondi followed BX-22 through a door into a small corridor just off the main room. The corridor curved sharply, and entered into another room. As they entered, lights flickered on to reveal a large machine of some sort that Bondi didn’t recognize in the middle of the room. The air reeked. A mixture of chemicals and rotten meat. In one corner of the room was a large chest. It seemed out of place.

    “What is this thing?” asked Bondi, motioning to the large machine.

    “It’s a rather ingenious device,” said BX-22. “Dr. Renfro designed it. He must have anticipated our needs. I must say, he is a unique person. Very different from Dr. Capra, but equally as brilliant, in his own way…”

    “What is it!” Bondi demanded.

    “Oh, yes,” said BX-22. “Well, Dr. Renfro called it a rendering machine. We are able to break down proteins into their base elements and use them for nourishment in the bacta tank. For Dr. Capra, of course. We put the protein cubes inside, which we have kept in cold storage.” BX-22 pointed at a large metal door, and Bondi recognized it as a walk-in freezer.

    “It stinks in here,” said Bondi.

    “Does it? I suppose that’s true, based on the chemicals I can detect in the air. I don’t have olfactory sensors in the same way as you do, of course…”

    “What were the ‘exceptions’ you mentioned earlier?” asked Bondi.

    “Oh, yes,” said BX-22, tentatively. “Well, you see, the food supply ran out. Not the protein cubes we used for Dr. Capra – I was able to regulate those well before the rest of the food. But the maintenance crew and officers, they ate all their rations rather irresponsibly…”

    “What maintenance crew? Were there people stationed here? Is that why there are living quarters above?”

    “Yes,” said BX-22. “A small crew. Three mechanics, a computational engineer to maintain the battledroid’s A.I., and two officers who reported directly to Count Dooku. They were left here to maintain Anvil Station, and await further orders. But those orders never came. They intended to leave the base after months of no contact, but I thought that would run counter to my orders to keep Dr. Capra alive. I had the droids destroy their shuttle. They made it look like a malfunction, per my instructions. The men tried to look for a bug in the system, but of course there was none…”

    “But they did get off away from the base eventually,” said Bondi. “We didn’t find any indication of the crew above.”

    “Well, I made sure to clean up after they were gone.”

    “So they did leave?” asked Bondi, moving to the chest in the corner. He lifted the lid, and found neatly folded clothing. A mixture of jumpsuits and more formal military wear. He picked up a jumpsuit and noticed a hole in the chest, scorched on the edges from blaster fire, and stained with blood. Bondi clenched his jaw, dropping the lid of the chest.

    ‘Not exactly,” said BX-22. “Like I said, their food ran out. They did not ration their supplies in the most efficient manner, despite my recommendations. I believe they thought that more supplies would be forthcoming, perhaps via the Anvil-Hammer systems, but the hyperlane stopped being used, so there was nothing to catch.”

    Bondi listened, walking quickly to the large freezer door.

    “Eventually, they had the idea to take from Dr. Capra’s supplies. I could not allow that, for obvious reasons. I had rationed his supplies to last for years, providing the minimum to keep the vitals active and the all-important brain functions working. They were able to take some, cutting off months from my calculations. If I had allowed it to continue, I would have betrayed my mandate. Fortunately, what they took I replaced easily, thanks to Dr. Renfro’s device, and my own adaptations to it.”

    “Replaced with what?” asked Bondi, grabbing the handle of the freezer door and pulling it open.

    “Replaced with the men themselves,” said BX-22.

    Bondi looked into the freezer. The missing crew of the frigate Bold Born lay inside. They were stacked up like sacks of grain, frozen, waiting to be rendered.

    Bondi slammed the door and spun towards BX-22, his blaster raised in rage. BX-22 reeled backwards, raising his clawed hands. “I was obeying orders,” said the lifeless droid. “And I must say, I am very good at my job.”

    The lights in the room dimmed, and the rhythmic beating of the power source, which Bondi had tuned out, grew louder and faster, until it was a staccato pulse, almost unbearable to listen to.

    “What’s happening!” shouted Bondi.

    “Anvil Station and the Hammer have become interactive,” said BX-22. “Perhaps your friends have arrived.”
     
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  13. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    SOYLENT GREEN! Seriously creepy...I hate when I'm right [face_sick] . I can see the first reaction of Bondi & co. being the desire to blow BX-22 to bits, but the activation of the station puts a new spin on things. How will they get out of this? Or will they? [face_hypnotized]
     
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  14. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Full Stop - Part 7

    The Absolute came out of hyperspace with the planetoid in sight. As soon as they did, Sarcune gave the order for Wings Alpha and Beta to launch, and noted that they had not been “pulled” out of hyperspace like he’d feared, based on Captain Fordice’s report of what had happened to the Bold Born. Perhaps the threat wasn’t as dangerous as they’d anticipated. Three V-19 Torrents, two Y-wings and Solay in her new TIE dropped out of the Star Destroyer’s bay door and slid into escort positions around The Absolute. The ships moved in unison towards the planetoid.

    “Status report,” said Captain Sarcune. “Any hostiles detected?”


    “None yet sir, but there is a massive power surge coming from the planetoid.” Said the scan-tech officer.

    “A weapon of some kind?” asked Sarcune. Before he could get a direct answer, the thought was interrupted.

    “Contact!” shouted the communications officer. “Alpha Wing reports contact!”

    “Confirmed!” said the scan-tech officer. “Massive contact on our starboard!”

    “Starboard batteries, lock and fire! Route energy to starboard deflectors!” commanded Sarcune.

    “Starboard batteries have no lock! Contact lost!”

    The report was punctuated by numerous impacts against the starboard deflectors as blaster fire pummeled The Absolute.

    “Contact! Leeward!” shouted the scan-tech. “We lost starboard contact! Incoming fire!”

    “Reroute deflector shields!” shouted Sarcune. Too late. Blaster fire from the droid command ship slammed into The Absolute. Explosions erupted from her, and the bridge was rocked by the force.

    “Leeward batteries heavily damaged!”

    “Contact! It’s behind us now, going for the engines!”

    “Raise deflectors to full, and route all available power to them. Reroute power from all batteries, and cease fire until we have a positive lock. Put me in contact with all Wings in flight!” Sarcune’s brow furrowed. Another barrage struck the Absolute, hitting the rear, shaking the Imperial Star Destroyer to its core.

    Outside The Absolute, Solay Vardis had seen the strange droid command ship as it seemed to appear, disappear and reappear, firing each time. She watched helplessly as The Absolute was pummeled on all sides by one, single ship, changing position impossibly fast. Two of the V-19 Torrents had been destroyed in the first barrage, and one of the Y-wings in the second. Three fighters – three men – lost in moments. Wings Alpha and Beta had broken formation on her order at first contact, but they could not zero on the command ship, and even as she heard the call from The Absolute, another threat loomed – The droid command ship had launched fighters of its own. Solay could barely answer the hail as she maneuvered into firing position – A droid fighter had locked onto her remaining wingman in his Y-wing. She pulled the trigger on the control stick, and green fire spit from the bottom of her TIE fighter’s bubble-like cockpit, tearing through the droid fighter. Another droid fighter swept in from above her and to replace the one she destroyed, hounding the Y-wing pilot, but seemingly ignoring her. She didn’t have time to think about it as she ripped into the droid fighter with blazing jade-colored energy. Her TIE fighter screamed with her in triumph as they fought for their lives.

    ***

    Lieutenant Bondi ran back into the main room, where Booker was trying to make sense of the new readouts on the computer displays. “Talk to me!” said Bondi.

    “It’s incredible, sir,” said Booker. “These calculations…From what I can make out, a droid command ship is slingshotting around this planetoid, somehow able to essentially pivot in hyperspace, stop, fire, and move again. It’s incredible. No nav computer I’ve ever heard of can do these kinds of precise calculations through hyperspace in such a relatively small area.”

    “It’s true,” said BX-22, walking in through the room behind Bondi. “Dr. Capra had attempted to create a computer capable of processing the calculations he devised, but it was taking too long. Which is why Dr. Renfro was brought in. His…unorthodox methods…were exactly what was needed to put Anvil Station, and its counterpart above, The Hammer, into action.”

    “Sir,” interrupted Booker, “From what I can see, that droid ship is attacking an Imperial Star Destroyer. It’s gotta be The Absolute!”

    “Capra,” said Bondi. “Capra is controlling that droid ship, somehow.”

    “Yes, and no,” said BX-22. “It is indeed his mind that is running the numbers – He came up with the formulas, after all. But he is not directing the Hammer. That is left to the Hammer’s Captain, XN-Zero. He is unique as well. Quite formidable.”

    “A command droid,” said Bondi. “So, that ship relies on Capra for their calculations. What happens if we end Capra?”

    “I was afraid you might suggest that,” said BX-22, shaking its mechanical head. “As I stated before, that is something I cannot allow.” From the ceiling, two sentry-droids dropped to the floor, igniting their electro-rods which crackled with power. “My orders are to keep Dr. Capra alive, and that is what I intend to do.”

    ***

    Reidus Kain pushed the accelerator on his V-19 Torrent to the max, dropping the foils into attack position and pushing the machine to its limit. Above him, The Absolute was under fire from all sides, seemingly by a single ship! At regular, rapid intervals, the droid ship pressed its relentless attack, disappearing and reappearing before anyone could get a lock. Kain, however, focused on the Vulture droid fighters. As he approached, he locked on two and fired his missiles. The explosive projectiles found their mark, but Kain couldn’t enjoy the victory. Three Vultures bore down on him. He twisted the stick and dove towards the surface of the planetoid. The droids pursued, and Kain rolled out of the way of their blaster fire. When he reached the rocky surface, he spun the ship so that the cockpit barely skimmed the planetoid, while the Torrent’s foils pointed towards space, in this way hugging the ground to confuse the droid’s sensor-lock. Kain’s perspective gave him the impression of the planetoid surface whizzing past above his head.

    “Dolan, you copy?” asked Kain. He was using the private channel to Dolan’s helmet, which was not being jammed by their mechanical adversaries.

    “I copy,” said Fen Dolan. “We’re ready and willing.”

    “I’ve got three on my tail,” said Kain. “On my mark…” Kain flew directly towards the wreck of the Bold Born. He could see the open hatch he was flying for on top of the crashed frigate. As he manipulated his fighter-craft and flew past, he called out, “Now!” Blaster fire erupted behind him through the hatch, creating a wall of death. The vulture droids flew through it, and one took a direct hit to the control pod, spinning and crashing to the planetoid’s surface in a fiery crash. Unfortunately, the fire had little effect on the other two.

    “Get back!” shouted Fen to the men with him. The bridge crew of the Bold Born, atmosphere helmets covering their heads, withdrew into the frigate as Fen closed the hatch. He looked over his shoulder in time to see one of the Vulture’s spinning to investigate where the fire had come from. Fen slammed shut the square egress port and dove back into the interior of the dead ship. They’d done what they could, little as it was.

    Kain now only had one Vulture to deal with. He twisted the Torrent again and pulled away from the planetoid, then twisted back around the way he’d come. The Vulture followed and Kain slowed, allowing the droid-fighter to close in. He routed power to rear deflectors, then accelerated. The Vulture pushed to match his speed. Kain stopped trying to dodge its fire, and proceeded in a straight line, which manipulated the droid into doing the same. At the last second, Kain pulled back on the stick and twisted away from the planetoid, narrowly missing the second Vulture poking around the corpse of the Bold Born, looking for meat. The Vulture pursuing Kain couldn’t react in time, and the two droids twisted together in a metallic mess, tumbling off the side of the downed frigate and exploding on the planetoid’s surface.

    “You alright, Commander?” asked Dolan over the comms.

    “I’m fine. Just introducing our new ‘friends’ to each other,” said Kain. “I’m going back up. The Absolute is in a bad way. Let’s hope Bondi and his boys can pull off a save, or we may never leave this rock.”

    ***

    Lietenant Bondi and his comm-tech Booker fought for their lives, blasting away at the sentry droids, which dodged and leapt out of range with amazing agility, steadily moving closer. Bondi knew that either the droids would outmaneuver or outlast their blaster ammo at this rate.

    “Cord! Trank! We need backup down here!” called Bondi over the comms. “Can you hear me?”

    “Loud and clear, sir,” answered Cord. “Hold tight and take cover if you can!”

    The door of the elevator corridor exploded inward, sending steel slamming into the opposite wall, narrowly missing BX-22, who stood watching the fight. Cord burst through the still-smoldering doorway and trained his heavy blaster rifle on the closest droid, unleashing a rapid burst of energy bolts. The droid turned to face him, but it was too late. The red blasts shredded the droid’s torso. The bifurcated machine fell to the ground, still twitching. Cord ran up to the fallen droid and aimed his rifle directly at the ‘head’, opening fire and turning it into blackened scrap.

    “Look out!” called Booker. The other sentry had leapt up to the ceiling, and was preparing to drop down on Cord. Cord looked up, but couldn’t raise his blaster rifle quickly enough. The sentry plunged its vibro-rod through the marine’s shoulder, pinning him to the ground. It stood triumphant over the fallen marine, but it was long enough for Booker and Bondi to zero their sights. They overwhelmed the last sentry with blaster fire, sending it staggering, leaving behind the electro-rod, still stuck in the shoulder of the downed marine. Their barrage wasn’t enough to disable to armored droid though. It spun, and prepared to leap towards Bondi and Booker, but was blown sideways by a powerful burst from Trank’s specialized shot-blaster. Bondi and Booker finished off the sentry with multiple shots to the head.

    Trank moved in to check on Cord, who was squirming on the ground, reaching for his impaled shoulder. Booker followed Bondi over to BX-22, who was cowering near the bacta-tank which held Dr. Capra.

    “Please,” said BX-22. “Don’t kill Dr. Capra. It is my mandate to keep him alive. He is but a tool, and unwilling, in part. I know this to be true.” The pulsing of the power source continued to pound rapidly, like an adrenalized heart.

    “Is there any other way to stop the droid ship up there attacking us?” asked Bondi.

    “No,” said BX-22, shaking its head “There is not. You could disconnect Dr. Capra from the transmission device which would stop the Hammer from jumping, but it is tied to life support. He would die soon after doing so.”

    “Thanks.” Bondi raised his blaster and shot BX-22 in the head. The medical droid crumpled to the floor. Bondi turned to Booker. “Can you disconnect the man from the transmitter?”

    “I believe so, yes.” Booker said. He turned and moved quickly back to the control panel.

    “You have one minute. Otherwise I drain the bacta.” Bondi moved over to Cord and Trank. “How is he?”

    Trank looked up. “He’s in a bad way, but I think he’ll make it, if we can get him medical attention ASAP.”

    “I’m fine,” groaned Cord. “Just a scratch.”

    “That’s the spirit, marine,” grunted Bondi.

    The pulsing of the power supply suddenly slowed. The lights became brighter as power was no longer being drained by the transmission of energy and calculations to the droid ship.

    “I got it!” said Booker.

    “Good work,” said Bondi. “I’m going to help Trank move Cord to the medical bay up top. Try to raise The Absolute or the Bold Born…whoever is up there.”
     
  15. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    No idea how they are going to get out of this...
     
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  16. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Full Stop - Part 8

    Deflector power at 15-percent. Rerouting life-support to deflectors!”

    Captain Sarcune curled his lip and pulled on his beard. The Absolute couldn’t take much more, but they had no target to fire upon. The enemy had somehow been able to essentially act like a one-ship fleet, pummeling The Absolute from all sides. Apart from retreat, the only logical tactic was to either continue putting up diminishing defenses while waiting for an opening, or waste fire in a blind spray, hoping to get lucky. Sarcune did not believe in luck, but he believed in his men. And he believed in The Absolute.

    “Can we jump to hyperspace?” asked Sarcune.

    “Not without lowering deflectors,” said the nav-officer. “Primary power is too diminished. We’d certainly take direct hits.”

    “If we stay here, we’re dead anyway,” said Sarcune. “Plot a course. We need a new strategy. Recall all remaining fighters! Once they’re aboard, we jump.”

    “Course set,” said the nav officer. The Absolute was rocked again as blaster bolts slammed into the deflectors.

    “Where are our fighters?” demanded Sarcune.

    “Vardis can’t break off. She’s covering Junto, who is being pursued by Vultures!”

    “Put her on speaker,” said Sarcune.

    “Captain!” it was Vardis. The distress in her voice was tempered, but evident. “Get The Absolute out of here. Junto and I won’t be able to make it back without pursuit, and you need to get the ship a safe distance from that monster!”

    “We’re not leaving you alone out here!” roared Sarcune.

    “They’re not alone!” Reidus Kain’s voice broke over the channel. “Vardis is right, Captain. If you can get away, do it! No telling what Bondi and his men were able to accomplish, but as long as that droid ship keeps moving like that, it’s as if The Absolute is just target practice!”

    Sarcune clenched his fist, straining the skin, threatening to drive his nails into his palms. He was never one to run from a fight, and especially not when it meant leaving his men behind. There had to be a better way. But he considered the rest of his crew, and knew he had to make a tough decision or risk losing even more them. He resolved to give the order to jump, when he was interrupted.

    “Captain, the droid command ship! It’s stopped jumping. It’s at our starboard!” No sooner had the attentive scan-tech said the words than blaster fire from the droid ship slammed into the starboard deflectors.

    “Deflectors at 5 percent, Captain!”

    For a moment, Sarcune considered that this could be a trick to lure the Absolute into committing to a starboard attack. Regardless, he had no choice.

    “Reroute primary power to the starboard deflectors. Weapons, can we get a lock?”

    “We have lock! Proton torpedoes are ready to fire on your command.”

    “Fire all volleys!” shouted Captain Sarcune.

    The torpedoes launched from their tubes. Sarcune held his breath. The bridge joined his silence. For a moment, it seemed as if nothing moved. The crew stood frozen still, listening for a report from weapons control.

    “Direct hit! All torpedoes, direct hit!”

    The bridge exploded in cheers. Sarcune allowed himself a slight grin, but didn’t hesitate in issuing his next command, shouting above the din. Before he could get the words out, another volley of blaster fire slammed into The Absolute from the Droid Command ship. Despite no longer jumping from position to position, the damned ship was still able to unleash fury.

    “Deflectors are gone, sir!”

    “All starboard batteries, fire! Launch all standby fighters, and tell them to focus on that command ship! Ignore interceptors! Bring down that relic!” Sarcune abandoned his thoughts of flight. No telling if the abilities of the enemy were permanently crippled, but if not, this might be the only chance to crush this ghost of a past war. “Helm, turn us toward that ship. Let’s show them the face of the Empire!”

    ***

    Reidus Kain saw the explosions as the proton torpedoes slammed into the droid ship above him. His heart leapt into his throat, and he yelled out a whoop. A tingle down his spine brought him back into the moment. A Vulture droid screamed at him from the darkness. Kain rolled through the blaster fire, twisting his V-19 through cold combat space. Bolts of energy drained his deflectors, striking one of his thrusters. Kain felt the effects right away, as his maneuverability was cut in half.

    “I got you covered, Commander!” Solay Vardis’ voice came across the comms. She drew down on the Vulture and squeezed the trigger, twin bolts of green energy ripping the artificially-intelligent ship into useless scrap.

    “Nice shot!” said Kain. He was interrupted by communication from The Absolute’s Flight Controller.

    “New Orders! All wings, focus fire on the Droid Command ship. Reserve wings, launch immediately!”

    “Acknowledged,” said Solay Vardis. “All wings, this is acting Wing Commander Vardis. Commander Kain is back in the fight. I am relinquishing command to him.”

    Kain didn’t pause for formalities. “All wings, report!”

    “This is Bardox and Gamma Wing.”

    Kain was surprised to be pleased to hear the new transfer’s voice. Despite their cultural differences, he knew Bardox and his cohorts were good to have in his corner.

    “This is Stromb and Delta Wing. Welcome back, Commander!”

    “Stromb, what’re you flying?”

    “Delta Wing is pushing Y’s” said Stromb.

    “Delta, that Droid Ship is still wielding deflectors. You’ve gotta get close and pop their generator. Junto, join up with Delta Wing. Gamma Wing, cover them. Take out any Vultures who pursue. Vardis, you’re with Gamma.”

    “What’s your play. Commander?” asked Vardis.

    “My Torrent is done. I’m going back to The Absolute to trade up,” said Kain. “You all have your orders. Execute!”

    “Delta Wing, acknowledged,” said Stromb.

    “Gamma Wing, acknowledged,” said both Vardis and Bardox.

    Kain bit his lip and turned toward The Absolute, limping back under whatever power the crippled ship could muster.

    “Flight Deck, this is Commander Kain. I need a ship prepped and ready for immediate launch as soon as I land,” said Kain.

    “This is Flight Deck. Acknowledged.”

    “Commander Kain to Captain Sarcune. Dolan and the remaining crew of the Bold Born are still down there, on the ship, and I think our enemy knows they are. Lieutenant Bondi and his marines are on mission, probably responsible for our opening, but I don’t know their status.”

    “Understood, Commander,” replied Sarcune. “I’ll send backup ASAP.”

    Kain brought his V-19 up through the atmospheric shield of The Absolute and maneuvered into landing position. He popped the canopy and launched himself out of the damaged fighter, running to the Deck Chief, who was shouting orders to the flight crews. Kain realized that there were fires and wreckage strewn about. A wrecked Vulture Droid lay broken in a corner of the deck.

    “Chief, what happened?” asked Kain.

    “One of those droids got through our defensive battery,” said the Deck Chief, a middle-aged man with bulky forearms and a paunch hiding under his uniform named Alton Quincy. “Damn droid took out three fighters before we were able to put it down.”

    Kain looked around the hangar. The droid had destroyed the last two Torrents on the deck, as well as the last Y-wing. Upon closer inspection, Kain noticed something strange that lined up with an earlier theory.

    “The TIEs. There are two on deck, open targets. And between the destroyed ships,” said Kain.

    “What?” The Deck Chief was distracted. He didn’t have time to evaluate Kain’s reasoning.

    “Nevermind,” said Kain. “Point me at my ship.”

    “Pick one,” said the Chief, motioning towards the TIE Fighters. “They’re prepped and ready to go.”

    Kain shook his head, and ran toward the odd looking fighter. He climbed up the ladder to the top of the ball-shaped control pod, and dropped in. Just like the simulator, he thought to himself. He looked to either side. The large, dark panels which doubled as solar panels and heat vents for the twin ion-engines completely obscured his peripheral vision. “Ridiculous,” he thought to himself. He knew, from the simulator, that there were proximity alarms in place to make up for the obstructed line-of-sight, but it was a cold comfort. A quick systems check reminded him that he also had no shields to speak of.

    “Don’t forget this, Commander!” came a voice above him. A deck-mechanic was looking down at Kain from the hatch, handing him a black flight helmet.

    Kain took the new piece of gear, designed specifically for TIE pilots, and placed it over his head, sealing it to his flight suit. The TIE had no built in life support – The flight suit was what would keep him alive in the blackness of space. He connected the auxiliary cables to his chest plate and the internal displays lit up. The helmet synced with his TIE fighter’s control panel seamlessly. Kain started to understand the appeal. He felt like he was part of the TIE itself. He fired up the engine, and received clearance for launch. The scream of the engines wasn’t as intense within the command pod, and the controls felt intuitive, but very sensitive. He barely touched the stick, and the TIE lurched forward. He adjusted the pressure, and moved out over the bay shield. Pulling the altitude control, Kain dropped down through the blue atmosphere shield, then engaged the TIE’s forward thrust. Kain smiled inside his helmet, despite himself. He had grown accustomed to the feel of his V-19, but the power and speed he felt from the TIE was encouraging.

    “Wings, report!” he said over the comms. The Droid Command ship was erupting with blaster fire, spitting powerful bolts through space.

    “Commander! This is Vardis! We’ve lost two from Delta Wing! We can’t get near that thing, and it keeps sending out Vultures! We can’t keep them off our Y’s!”

    “Any losses for Gamma? Bardox?”

    “We are here all, Commander,” replied Bardox. “Vardis is correct. The enemy is overwhelming us. We need more fighters.”

    “I may have an idea,” spoke up a new voice. “This is Tallsun in Gamma 03. I suggest we change targets with Delta Wing.”

    “You took the words out of my mouth,” said Kain. “But we need an opening. Delta, pull back to point 3. The Droids are going to follow you. It’s a hunch, but for some reason they can’t see the TIE fighters. Reroute your weapon power to deflectors, and get as many of them to trailing you as possible. Delta, follow me. Captain Sarcune, can you hear me?”

    “I’m listening, Commander,” replied Sarcune.

    “For some reason, the Vulture’s don’t see the TIE’s, either because they’re too new, or too odd. At this point, I don’t care why. The Y’s are going to lead the Vultures around The Absolute and into our battery fire. Meanwhile, Gamma and I are going in to take down that Command Ship.”

    “Understood,” said Sarcune. “Execute your plan.”

    “You heard the Captain,” said Kain. “Delta, good luck. Gamma, follow me!”

    The TIEs turned towards the droid ship, which was still firing upon The Absolute. They faced no resistance, and in fact, passed some newly released Vultures without incident as they screamed past.

    “Target the shield generators…and fire!” called out Kain. The five TIE fighters spat out their green death, unobstructed by any resistance. The focused energy bolts tore a hole through the remaining weakened deflectors, then slammed into the exposed generator. The power source exploded into brilliant orange flame that died almost instantly in the airless space. Gamma peeled off as one, coming around for another pass.

    “Kain, pull your men back,” said Sarcune over the comms. “Proton torpedoes incoming!”

    “Acknowledged!” said Kain, leading Gamma Wing away from the capital ship. The torpedoes, unhindered by deflectors, exploded in a fury of light, sending shockwaves through the whole of the Droid ship. Kain and the TIEs turned to watch the destruction. The droid ship stopped firing, tilting off its axis. The center pod buckled, then cracked open like an egg hitting the floor, spilling flame and debris and droid-crew into space.

    “Well done, Commander,” said Sarcune with a sigh. “Delta Wing reports that the Vultures have ceased pursuit. Come back and clean ‘em up before they reset and default to a failsafe AI.”


    “Yes sir,” said Kain, with a smile. “Gamma, let’s have some target practice.”
     
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  17. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Full Stop - Part 9
    Booker found a direct interface on the side of the main computer console, and pulled out his extensible connection cable. It was a clumsy maneuver, as the interface panel was set low, below the keyboards and displays, so that mid-size astro-mech droids could gain access more easily. Once connected, Booker stood and interacted with a key set on his wrist gauntlet. A small display inside his helmet showed exactly what he was perusing.

    “Soldier?” It was Capra’s surrogate voice, coming through the speakers behind him.

    Booker spun to look. The sound was startling in the new silence, the pulse of the energy transmitter no longer filling the room. The bacta tank remained, and Capra still floated, motionless. But something was different. Booker couldn’t move closer to see, but Capra’s eyes were focused, looking straight at the Imperial Marine.

    “Can you hear me, soldier?” came the voice again.

    “I can, Dr. Capra,” said Booker.

    “Was it you who disconnected me from the Anvil?” While the timbre was the same, the voice somehow seemed clearer. Less distracted.

    “It was,” said Booker. He continued to work on gathering all the data he could, but was prepared for another attack.

    “Thank you,” said Capra. He said nothing more for a few moments, and neither did Booker, until Capra broke the silence again. “Soldier, I wonder if you would do me one more favor.”

    Booker looked at Capra tentatively. He debated for a moment on whether to answer at all, but Capra didn’t give him the chance.

    “I know that you are collecting my work even now. And I know that you are doing your duty. I know more than that. The memories are fading even now, probably a defense mechanism of a being living in time. But what remains is terrible, and I would desire to not see the visions come to fruition.”

    “Come to fruition?” asked Booker. “Your memories of what has already happened?”

    “No, my memory of what will happen,” said Capra. “Connected, as I was, to hyperspace, I heard echoes of transmissions from throughout the galaxy, since hyperspace began, and through to the last transmission. The properties of hyperspace, the speed – time is bent, and since a transmission is never truly taken out of the space it is transmitted through, they never leave hyperspace – and thus, have always been in hyperspace! It was overwhelming! But all I had was my mind, and time to process. It took me what must have been years to sort through the data, to see the idiosyncrasies in the echoes, and realize from where and when they were coming to me.”

    “So, what, you’re saying you know the future?”

    “I heard the echoes – the transmissions back and forth after the facts! Worlds destroyed! Empires and rebellions! And the talk – The mourning, the proselytizing, the rhetoric! Justifications and condemnations! Attempts at explanation, rebuttals, and opinions mixed with cold analysis, moving back and forth through hyperspace, beyond time. It’s too much! Too much for any one man! And I couldn’t turn it off. I could never turn it off…”

    “I’m sorry you were forced into this,” said Booker. “Dooku was an evil plague on the galaxy…”

    “Dooku was a liberator!” said Capra. “Or so I believed. He knew the corruption of the Jedi and the Republic first hand. He promised to set us free of their tyranny, so I offered myself for that cause. Whatever the cost. But I had no idea…”

    “That you would end up like this?”

    “Oh, this state was inevitable. My body was failing long before I allowed myself to be put in here. I saw this as a boon – To be able to continue my work, despite my body. No, I never anticipated the side effects – All I would know – The flood of information. It was so much, I couldn’t work the way I intended. I couldn’t develop the technology the way I’d hoped. And before Renfro and I could fix it, the war ended. Renfro never came back after leaving with Dooku, and Dooku was killed, taking the secret of this installation with him…”

    “So, what is this favor you want,” asked Booker. His readout showed that all the data had been backed up to his gauntlet, so he unplugged from the terminal and walked over to Capra’s tank, rifle at the ready.

    “I want you to end me now, before they get here. I’m dead anyway, if left alone. I just want it to be quicker.”

    “Before who gets here?” asked Booker.

    “Your superiors. The ones who sent you to find me. I have seen the true face of those who rule the galaxy now, and I want no part in their dominion.”

    “That’s not my call to make,” said Booker plainly.

    “That’s the problem, isn’t it? What I was willing to fight for…Freedom to choose, apart from the rulers who met in committee while people suffered and died against their will. We Separatists only wanted the freedom to rule ourselves. But it was a false hope. You don’t even know what your Emperor truly is…”

    A blaster shot rang out, slamming into the speaker broadcasting Capra’s voice, cutting him off with a small explosion.

    “That’s quite enough of that,” said a man dressed in a white cloak over a white uniform shirt and black pants tucked into black boots. “Please step back from the tank, Mr. Booker, by order of Governor Tarkin.” The small man was flanked by two imposing troopers, clad head to toe in black armor, holding blaster rifles in ready position.

    “And who are you?” asked Booker, standing his ground.

    “I am Dr. Renfro, of the Imperial Science Ministry. Dr. Capra and I have much to catch up on.”

    ***

    We are being hailed, Captain Sarcune,” said The Absolute’s communications officer. “It’s Governor Tarkin.”

    Sarcune glared out of the viewport from the bridge. Behind him, his crew was scrambling to deal with the multiple damage reports coming in from throughout the large ship. Sarcune could see the devastation across the bow, where the now-fallen droid command ship and her fleet of Vultures had laid into the Victory Class Star Destroyer. Above the site of the battle, Tarkin’s Imperial-Class Star Destroyer, The Sovereign, floated unscathed, having only moments before appeared out of hyperspace. Sarcune did not discount the timing – Within minutes of the droid command ship which had so dogged The Absolute being put down, Tarkin had arrived, as if he’d been waiting and watching all along. Kain and his pilots continued to mop up the now-still Vulture droids, and as he looked, a small shuttle left the landing bay of the Sovereign, heading down to the planetoid’s surface.

    “Put him through to my chambers,” said Sarcune, turning on his heel and striding off the bridge proper. His first-mate looked up, and Sarcune held out a hand. “You have the con – Make sure The Absolute is secured.”

    The auto-door slid closed behind him. For a moment, Sarcune stood alone in the darkened room. He drew a deep breath, then depressed the button on the holo-com. The translucent blue giant once again loomed over Sarcune, looking down on him with piercing eyes set deep within gaunt features.

    “Ah, Captain Sarcune,” said Tarkin, with characteristic coldness. “It looks like your mission was a success, if somewhat…messy.”

    “I lost a lot of good men today,” said Sarcune, trying to keep his voice even. “The level of resistance we faced was formidable, to say the least…”

    “Did you use the new TIE fighters you were assigned?” asked Tarkin plainly.

    “We did, but…”

    “But you still lost pilots? And how many TIE fighters did you lose?”

    “I’m…not sure, Governor.”

    “I believe you lost none, Captain Sarcune. And rightfully so, per plan.”

    “What plan?” asked Sarcune, seething.

    “The plan to recover Anvil station for the Empire,” said Tarkin. “The plan I made with Dr. Renfro and the Emperor. The plan which you completed. Well done.”

    “Tarkin!” shouted Sarcune. “I was on a rescue mission! And by my reckoning, we lost more men than we saved! If I had known…”

    “If you had known what?” interrupted Tarkin. “If you had known that Anvil station was active, and possibly waiting for you? You did, in a sense. You recognized the trap, and I acknowledged it. If you had known that the TIE fighters were sent at just the right time as to be a help on this mission? You knew that The Empire has designated the new fighter craft as the representative of our superiority, yet you chose to allow your men to fly their antiquated relics for reasons I do not understand. Yet it is your ship, for now, and your consequences to deal with.”

    “You knew the TIEs would not be seen by the droid’s sensors?” asked Sarcune, remembering Kain’s observations.

    “I suspected,” said Tarkin. “The droids were operating on old battle data for one, and the TIE was built to confuse tracking. They may have adapted sooner, but fortunately for you…”

    “But that still doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me our mission objective! This was never a rescue mission, was it?”

    “Watch your tone with me, Captain,” scolded Tarkin. “I do not answer to you, and it is only because of your exemplary service that I have told you this much. Or, perhaps you require an audience with the Emperor? Do you want to express your grievances with him personally? I could arrange that meeting.”

    Sarcune looked away from the hologram. And he hated himself for it. The thinly veiled threat had got to him, testing his resolve, and he’d flinched. He turned back to face Tarkin’s towering image. “No, Governor Tarkin. That won’t be necessary.”

    Tarkin stood silent for a moment, seeming to relish his victory of will. Sarcune saw it as only a victory of attrition. Tarkin had resorted to a threat. Credible or not, Captain Sarcune recognized that he’d backed the proud governor into a corner, and made a mental note. Tarkin wasn’t invulnerable, it seemed.

    “Very good, Captain,” spoke Tarkin. “Continue with your damage controls. I have sent a detachment to secure Anvil Station, as it is called, and will return your men shortly. I will also retrieve the survivors of the Bold Born and return them to Coruscant. As well, I will send over a portion of my engineering crew to help you with repairs.”

    “That won’t be necessary, Governor Tarkin. My men are more than capable…”

    “I insist,” interrupted Tarkin. “We will make sure you are able to make it to the Santeeg Shipyard for full maintenance and outfitting. That includes a full replacement of your outdated fleet of fighter-craft.”

    “Thank you, Governor,” said Sarcune, as politely as he was able to muster. He resisted the urge to pull on his beard as he spoke.

    “Very good, Captain Sarcune. Carry on.” The hologram disappeared as Tarkin shut off the feed. Sarcune stood again in silence. He drew a deep breath, shaking his head slightly, then threw back his shoulders and walked back to his bridge. There was work to be done.
     
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  18. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    Oh, I got behind on this! So excellent, GigaMach, so much great action! Where to start... Captain Sarcune's frustration with the disappearing command ship (I could just hear him thinking, "Dammit, I want to SHOOT something!")

    And well done, Kain, figuring out that the Droid ships wouldn't go after the TIE fighters and using it to defeat them.

    Capra's time-space discussion was so creepy; too bad Booker couldn't react sooner...Renfro had me thinking of Renfrew, the creepy guy who was Count Dracula's assistant. Although didn't Peter Cushing once play the Count?

    And Tarkin...typical. Lets everyone else do the work and then shows up to take the credit. Just. Typical.

    This is approaching the end, but it doesn't seem as if we're quite there yet? So there might maybeplease be a nice conclusion? :D
     
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  19. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Mistress_Renata


    Thanks so much for the feedback! It's true, next week is the wrap up of this portion of the story - i think it's a fitting conclusion, if not, maybe, "nice". :) Which suits the subject matter, I think. I love my characters, but they are still Imperials, and have to deal with the full consequences of what that means.

    Cushing didn't play Dracula, but he was Van Helsing against Christopher Lee's Count (Dooku) Dracula in the old Hammer films, which I love. Cushing DID play Frankenstein for that same studio, and if you get a chance to see the first of each of those series, I highly recommend doing so. Some of the later films aren't quite as solid, but fun nonetheless.

    Again, thanks for reading!
     
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  20. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    Full Stop - Part 10

    The Absolute limped towards the Santeeg Shipyards at a quarter power. Though still traversing hyperspace, the ship moved slower than if it was at full strength. The trip, impossible outside of hyperspace, was still going to take a long time. Three standard days instead of merely hours. Reidus Kain, for one, didn’t mind the extension. He sat at a table in the commissary with Fen Dolan and Solay Vardis, sipping a hard drink and staring at the wall. Yesterday, they had been fighting for their lives. Toay, drinks with survivors. Friends. It was a strange life.


    “You think Captain Fordice knew more than he was saying?” asked Dolan. The pilot had been with the crew of the Bold Born right until Tarkin’s own special-forces had rescued them. “I didn’t get a read either way.” Dolan had been brought back to The Absolute unceremoniously. The Bold Born crew had been taken to Tarkin’s ship, The Sovereign, first, and Dolan hadn’t heard any scuttlebutt until he’d been debriefed.

    “Hard to say,” said Kain, still staring. He shook it off and turned towards his friend. “You’d know best having been with them till the end, and if you didn’t get that impression, I wouldn’t assume anything.” Kain attempted to deflect, but he had his own suspicions. Sarcune had been cagey in the debriefing, explaining Tarkin’s sudden appearance on planned reinforcements, but Kain hadn’t bought the story. However, he’d decided not to press the Captain. At least not yet.

    “We lost a lot of good men out there,” said Vardis. Her head was down, and Kain detected a slight, almost imperceptible quiver in her voice when she said it.

    “Hey, those boys gave their lives doing what they do best,” said Kain. “We were facing a force unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and we came out on top. That’s due to them as much as any of us.”

    “Indeed,” said Bardox, striding into the commissary, followed, of course, by Krix and Tallsun. “They are heroes of the Empire. Their sacrifice was not in vain.”

    “Empire?” scoffed Dolan. “This wasn’t about the Empire! This was about saving lives, and doing the right thing!”

    “One in the same,” said Bardox, unfazed.

    “When one part of the Empire suffers, the whole suffers,” said Krix, his monotone seeming somehow more robotic than even a droid.

    “Scrap!” spat Dolan. Kain put a hand on his friend’s shoulder, applying a firm grip.

    “Mr. Bardox, I don’t disagree with you, but respectfully…you’re new to The Absolute. Many of us have served together for years, since the end of the Clone Wars. We lost friends today – Comrades in arms,” said Kain, standing. He looked around the room. There were enlisted from throughout the ship, many just off their shifts, unkempt and filthy from repair work or maintenance. Bardox, Krix and Tallsun, their uniforms pressed and spotless, cut a sharp contrast to the rest of the beleaguered crew. Yet, Kain recognized that the three had contributed to the victory as much as anyone else. “Join us for a drink, if you will, in honor of them all.”

    “Certainly,” said Bardox. He turned to Krix and Tallsun, motioning them to get a glass. Vardis stood and poured from the bottle at their table – A dry, distinct brew distilled from Meiloorun fruit.

    Kain raised his glass, and addressed the room. “To all that give their lives every day to maintain peace throughout the galaxy – Friends old and new,” he nodded towards Bardox. “And to all who lost their lives – Our friends, and family of The Absolute. May they live forever in our memory.”

    “For the Empire!” called out Tallsun. The room was silent. Kain looked down at Dolan to his right. Vardis still stood, her teeth grinding together, gripping the bottle. Kain looked over at Bardox, and the two men locked eyes. Kain saw something in the pilot that made him pause. The man was hiding something, as he stood tall and proud, the glass raised in toast.

    “For the Empire,” said Kain solemnly. The room tipped back their glasses, and Kain tasted the bitter nectar move past his tongue, through his throat, adding fuel to the fire already burning in his chest.
    ***
    Booker, clothed in his dress uniform, exited Cord’s room in the medical bay. The wounded marine was recently removed from his bacta immersion, and had been smiling when Booker came to call, which was unusual for the large soldier. The two had exchanged some pleasantries, talking about trivialities like the upcoming release of the T-14 and the quality of the nutrient-rich medical–bay rations, before Booker excused himself.

    Before making his way back to his quarters in the barracks, Booker took the turbolift to the officer’s deck of The Absolute. The halls seemed deserted, the quiet after the storm. Two guards, in pristine white armor, stood at attention just outside the hall, their E-11 Blaster Rifles held across their chests. No one but an officer was allowed past without permission from an officer with rank. Booker approached them. “I’d like to speak with Lieutenant Bondi, please. I’m Booker. GK-4499”

    “Just a moment,” said the Stormtrooper. He raised his hand to his helmet and turned aside slightly. Booker couldn’t hear what the trooper said, but knew he was checking in to Bondi directly through his room com-unit. He didn’t know these men. Only the officers knew their names. Guards were purposefully kept apart from Star Destroyer crew, to maintain their detachment from personal influence as much as possible, and to keep them loyal to those they were protecting.

    “Go ahead, GK-4499,” said the trooper, his voice slightly distorted through the helmet’s external speaker.

    “Thanks,” said Booker, moving down the hall. He approached Bondi’s door, and knocked. An old habit – There was a ringer near the door that would have allowed him to more formally announce himself, but Booker had been raised in an old home in the countryside of Naboo, one that had eschewed technical upgrades for quaint tradition. The environment had stifled the tech-savvy Booker as a child – One of the many reasons he’d left home for the Imperial Academy as soon as it had been formed after the Clone Wars.

    The door slid open, and Bondi was standing in front of him. The older man was dressed in black pants and ship-boots, with a grey tank-top over his muscular frame. Bondi’s left shoulder and arm, exposed to view, was wrinkled and pink with burn scarring all the way down past his elbow. He looked disheveled, sweating, but strong. The man’s close-cropped black hair was peppered with grey, and his sunken cheeks were covered in similarly colored stubble. Grey eyes pierced Booker, and though Booker knew and trusted the Lieutenant, he couldn’t help but fear him as well.

    “Evening, Booker,” said Bondi. “Just getting a workout in. What can I do for you?”

    “Sir, sorry to bother you. I just got back from visiting Cord.”

    “Good. How’s he doing? I’llll be heading down there myself shortly.”

    “He’s well, sir. A little out of it from treatment, but that’s to be expected.”

    “Right,” said Bondi. “But, you didn’t come here to tell me that, did you?” Bondi stepped back from the door. “Come in, and tell me what’s on your mind.”
    “Thank you, sir,” said Booker. The younger soldier stepped past Bondi and into the well-lit room. It was small and sparse, but compared to the barracks, it was like a luxury suite. In one corner was a desk with a small rolling chair jammed under it and some pull-out drawers. The top of the desk was clear of any paperwork or decoration. When a button was pressed next to it, the bed folded down from the wall over the top of the surface. In the other corner, and filling most of the free space, was a small resistance bench and multi-purpose exercise rig, where perhaps an easy chair or bookshelf might be in anyone else’s room. Next to it, a large, well-worn heavy bag lay on its side, which could be hung from the pull-up bar. Booker knew there was a full-purpose gym for all the officers on board The Absolute, but apparently Bondi didn’t like working out with anyone else.

    Bondi motioned towards the desk chair. “Take a seat,” he said. Booker pulled the chair out and spun it around to face Bondi, who stood in front of the rig, his arms crossed. When Booker sat down, Bondi sat himself on the workout bench, arms still crossed. “Talk to me.”

    “Well, sir, it’s the operation. This Dr. Renfro had his goons shuffle me out of that command room with a quickness as soon as they arrived. After shooting out Dr. Capra’s speaker. Capra was telling me…strange things, sir.”

    “I read the report,” said Bondi plainly. He sat looking directly at Booker, his face blank. Booker wasn’t sure what to make of it, but continued.
    “Renfro stayed behind with Capra, and on our way up to the surface, his Death Troopers…they demanded I relinquish all the data I’d collected from Anvil Station. Every bit of it. They stopped the elevator in mid ascent until I complied.”

    “Indeed,” said Bondi. “And you complied.” It wasn’t a question.

    Booker knew this was all in the report he’d made, so this wasn’t news to the Lieutenant. But he was thrown off by Bondi’s seeming lack of empathy. The man was stone cold when he wanted to be. Booker felt like he was being tested, even as he’d approached the Lieutenant in the first place. He paused, and considered his next words carefully.

    “Dr. Capra…He knew they were coming. Said something about ‘the ones’ who sent us to find him.” Booker swallowed, and sat up straight, meeting Bondi’s gaze.

    “You didn’t mention that in your report,” said Bondi flatly. His expression did not change.

    “No,” said Booker, keeping his eyes up. “I didn’t.”

    “You withheld information from an Imperial debrief,” continued Bondi. “That’s problematic.”

    “Yes, sir,” said Booker. He started to feel uneasy. Bondi was a Lieutenant in the Imperial Marines. A veteran, committed to the Empire. This was a mistake, but Booker knew he couldn’t take it back.

    “Why did you do that, GK-4499?” asked Bondi. Still, the lieutenant remained a rock, sitting across from the nervous marine under his command.

    “I…I felt that the information was irrelevant at the time. In light of the rest of the actions we took, it didn’t change anything, and they have Dr. Capra now, so…” Booker trailed off. The two men sat in silence for a moment.

    Bondi uncrossed his arms and placed them on his knees. He looked away from Booker and sighed. “You’re wondering, Booker, why you were treated like an enemy.”

    “Yes. Yes sir,” said Booker. He felt his heart pounding in his chest, but Bondi’s relaxed tone set him a little more at ease. A little.

    “Rest assured, you weren’t treated like an enemy. You were treated like a soldier of the Empire under the Emperor,” said Bondi. “That’s all. These Science Ministry people…they deal in some deep, dark secrets. Important secrets. Why do you think they’re accompanied by those bodyguards?”

    Booker kept his mouth shut, but nodded slightly. Bondi reciprocated.

    “It’s understandable to feel like that, soldier. But we made a vow when we joined the Imperial Marines – Empire united over all. ‘Over all’ includes your feelings of comfort when you don’t know the full scope of the Emperor’s plans. Do you understand?”

    “I do, sir,” said Booker. He wasn’t lying. He did understand. His training was not inadequate in that regard. As a marine, he’d shown his loyalty to the Empire. A less dedicated man wouldn’t have graduated through the arduous labors that sharpened him into the soldier he’d become.

    “I know you do,” said Bondi, rising from his seat. Booker followed suit.

    “Thank you, sir,” said Booker.

    “You’re a good soldier, and you did good work. Don’t forget that,” said Bondi as they moved towards the door. Booker stepped through and turned to face Bondi, saluting.

    “Thank you sir,” Booker repeated. “I appreciate your time.”

    “Of course. Now get some rest, and try to put this behind you. We’ll be at Santeeg soon, and be able to get some R and R, but you needn’t wait to take care of yourself while we’re underway. You never know what tomorrow brings,” said Bondi, returning the salute.

    “Yes sir,” said Booker.

    “Good night, soldier,” said Bondi, then pushed the button that slid the door closed quickly and silently. When their view of each other was broken, Bondi tilted his eyes to the floor and shook his head, exhaling with an almost inaudible moan. He rubbed the scarring on his arm and turned back to his workout rig. He hoisted the punching bag and hung it in place, then laid into it with all his weight.


    Booker turned and walked out the hall, past the guards, and entered the turbolift. The doors closed, and he pressed the button which would take him to the barracks level. As the lift began to move, he put his hands in his pocket and gently gripped the palm-sized rectangular cassette hidden within – A copy of the data he’d collected from Anvil Station that he’d hidden from the Science Ministry enforcers. A copy he decided to keep hidden for now.

    Full Stop - The End
     
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  21. GigaMach

    GigaMach Jedi Knight

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2016
    And so, this portion of the Imperial Chronicles comes to a...ahem, full stop. If you've followed along, you may have noticed that I renamed the chapter titles, ditching the "Episode" monikers. I felt I was being a little presumptuous, and setting expectations beyond what I may be able to fulfill in a reasonable time, so...that's my reasoning, and I'm sticking to it. :)

    I finished this arc of the Imperial Chronicles some weeks ago, and just now got around to finally posting it here. I know exactly where it's going next, and have an end-game planned, but other writing projects that have been on the back-burner have moved to the front, so it may be a bit before I can revisit The Absolute. I do hope you look forward to it!

    Thanks to Mistress_Renata for her kind words and encouragement. It has meant a lot! And thanks to everyone else who has at least stopped in to see what's going on in my corner of the galaxy far, far away. I know we all have some piece of it, and love the parts we have taken hold of. I, for one, have been encouraged and humbled by the width and depth of the different takes presented here, and will continue to read more, so thanks for keeping it alive and vibrant.

    Best,
    -Nas
     
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  22. Mistress_Renata

    Mistress_Renata Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 9, 2000
    A very satisfying ending, GigaMach, with juuuust a few little threads left hanging to provide future plot bunnies. Booker's keeping secrets, Kain seems to be having a few questions about service to the Empire, Bondi isn't quite the ironman he seems, and Cord looks as if he's going to make it (I'm glad about that). I'm a Rebel girl, generally don't root for the Empire, but I was rooting for these guys (most of them). Thanks for sharing!
     
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  23. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    I've had this on my list of things to read since Mistress_Renata recommended it a while back, and now that I've read it I wasn't disappointed :) In fact I was drawn straight in by the prologue and your introduction of your OCs, but also by the way you hint at the changes that took place in the transition from the Republic to the Empire. This appears so clearly in the contrast between Bardox and his "zealotry" on the one hand, and the approach of Kain, Sarcune, Bondi etc who fought in the Clone Wars.

    I particularly liked Bondi and I loved the scene where he shoots BX-22 in the head. There was an Indiana Jones feel to that titbit!

    The whole concept of Anvil Station is supremely creepy and the dialogues with Dr Capra were quite disturbing. And then Tarkin shows up, and he's the creepy creepster we all love to hate.

    I'm hoping that this story will continue at some point -- after all, if Booker kept that data, he's planning to do something with it, isn't he?
     
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