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Joined: 20 Jun 2004
|Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2005 4:01 pm Post subject: The Final Mission: Book Six: Clear Skyes, Dark Hearts.
|<Emergency Report. Coruscant Daily>
This just in. We have early reports of at least three nuclear blasts in the vicinity of the Brionelle Memorial Military Academy on Chandrilla. Details are sketchy, but rescue forces have reported high radiation levels and massive devastation to the nearby capital city of Hanna. The devices are believed to be somewhere around the 30 kilo-ton range.
Casualties are estimated to be in the thousands. Numbers are sure to rise as radiation-poisoning takes hold.
A senior military source has informed us that retreating Imperial forces have begun employing ‘scorched earth’ warfare on Corulag, Brentaal, Metellos, Velusia and Rori. A mixture of orbital bombardment and chemical and biological warfare has been employed on these worlds as the Imperials retreated off world in the face of superior Republic forces.
Casualties are, as yet, unknown.
<Military Communication 78950004>
<To: Admiral Sien Sovv>
<From: Commander Lucy Clarke. CO Seventh Infantry Battalion (Raging Eagles) Deployed on Mustafar>
We need reinforcements on Mustafar! The Empire brought a pair of Victory Star Destroyers low into the atmosphere and blasted the main facility, then deployed four full regiments of infantry.
The Star Destroyer Freedom burnt up in the atmosphere thirty minutes ago. We no longer have orbital support.
We are heavily outnumbered! Please, I beg you send help!
We will hold out as long as possi….oh! NO! Here they come again!
Transmit the message! Transmit! Transmit! Tra……..
We have just received this special report. New Republic forces supported by elements from Hapes have defeated Imperial forces on the fortress world of Anaxes. The once great ‘Defender of the Core’ is now in the hands of the New Republic.
A single bright spot of hope in these dark times.
<Bothawui News Central>
This just in…..A large fleet has just dropped out of hyperspace on the edge of the system and an invasion….or worse looks likely.
Citizens are instructed to report to the nearest shelter and seek refuge. All military personnel are to report to their stations immediately. All leave has been cancelled and militia troops are asked report to their nearest facility.
The entire rim is down! Contact has been lost with our facilities on Naboo, Rodia, Zhar, Eriadu, Sullust, Sluis Van, Bothawui, Obroa-Skai, Telos, Mon Calamari and Nar Shaddaa.
Reports are a complete collapse of the holonet has occurred, but we fear the worse.
We have reports of massive space battles taking place in the Duro and Kuat systems. We have yet to confirm these reports, but we will do everything in our power to…..what…are you sure?
Breaking news, a large fleet of approximately forty vessels have appeared in system. We do not yet have an identification of who they are, but at least two Sovereign Class Battle Cruisers have been identified.
I hope all our viewers will join everyone here in praying that they will not visit upon Fondor the same level of destruction seen upon Bilbringi.
Please you have to help us! The Imperials are killing everybody! They are herding everyone -men, women and children- into pits and slaughtering them! They have already killed my husband and daughter. I have hidden myself and my son, but I know they will find us soon!
I have two shots left in my blaster, whatever happens they won’t take us alive!
<Mon Calamari Mail>
Elements of the Third and Second fleets successfully liberated Mon Calamari this morning. In what has been called ‘a total victory’, all Imperial forces on planet and in-system were completely destroyed before they could initiate a scorched earth retreat.
Though damage was suffered to the shipyards, sources state that they will have them up to full capacity within the month.
<Lianna News Service>
The battle in orbit is over. New Republic forces have emerged victorious over Imperial warships in what is already being touted as the greatest victory of this war.
Of the seven imperial warships that entered the system three days ago, only one successfully retreated compared to only two Republic losses out of six ships.
Unfortunately among the dead are General Carlist Rieekan and former Rogue pilot General Wes Janson.
No wait….Wes Janson has been found alive aboard the wreckage of the cruiser Star Sailor along with thirty surviving crew members . Though luck or the force several decks of the Star Sailor retained their atmospheric integrity despite the horrendous damage unleashed upon the cruiser.
Planetside, damage and casualties were fairly light. The local academy suffered only minor damage despite repeated bombing runs.
With me now is Tela Kadorto, who helped organise an evacuation to underground shelters and her children Jaren and Mira.
<Intercepted and Decrypted by the New Republic Corvette Sea Fox>
See the wheels you have set in motion. Your great empires fight and destroy each other. Planets and people burn and civilisation teeters on the brink of destruction. Your arrogance and greed have brought you to this point.
Soon a Dark Age will come and we will be the light of redemption.
Excerpts from ‘The Fall of Civilisation’ by Joto Eckels.
Halley Kadorto wrenched the control yoke to the side and threw the X-Wing in a roll. Inertia pressed against his chest, the X-Wing shuddered as the power levels of the upper port engine hiccupped and a flash of laser fire blazed though his previous position. The first he could ignore, the second was serious and the third was definitely his primary concern.
Throttling back quickly he forced the pursuing TIE fighter to shoot past him. A quick burst of blaster fire shredded the Imperial fighters engines and sent it spinning out of control. As he throttled back up, the engine fluttered and Halley frowned.
“R5, can you do something about that engine?” Halley called to the droid riding behind him. The astromech gave the equivalent of an electronic shrug and set to work on repairing the damage caused by an unlucky hit.
A quick glance at his screens told Halley that the situation had changed little from the last time he had looked. The remnants of both fleets had closed to attack range and were pounding heavily on each other. Weaving around the various star ships were the fighters of both sides.
The battle had long devolved into a melee with wing mates now longer able to remain together and support each other. Halley had lost track of his own wing mate Jenna Tarn, but occasionally she caught sight of her Eta-2 Actis Interceptor as it weaved in an out of the battle.
Seeking out a target, he located a lone TIE Interceptor that was harassing Rogue Four.
“Rogue Four, this is Rogue One. Hold on, help is on the way”
“No problem, Rogue One” The voice of Malvina Kalasa replied, “He’s really good at hanging on even if he is a terrible shot”
Bringing his fighter to full speed Halley dropped onto the interceptors aft and blew it away with a sustained burst. Debris flickered off his shields as Rogue Four’s X-Wing dropped onto his wing.
“Thanks Leader” Malvina said.
“No problem Four” Halley replied, “Now lets find some more targets”
Vice-Admiral Paul Moon of the Super Star Destroyer ‘Smoke Jaguar’ staggered as the opposing Star Destroyer unleashed a storm of laser and ion energy against his ship.
Something with in the massive ships hull exploded sending a shudder though the vessel.
“Report!” He shouted.
“Secondary fuel storage just went up!” The damage control officer shouted, “We have structural damage along the midline. Breached sections sealed and purged”
Moon nodded, the battle was simply becoming one of attrition. The winner would simply be the one who still had the most functional ships. As he looked out of the view port he saw a pair of the Skye Battlemasters approaching from starboard.
Moon cursed, he needed room to manoeuvre.
“Helm!” He shouted to the crew pit, “Lay in a course along the following route” As he rattled off a series of numbers the helmsman paled.
“Sir!” The helmsman protested his face turning sickly white, “That course will take us close to the atmosphere”
“I gave you an order lieutenant. Do you wish to be relieved of command?”
“No sir” The officer returned to his console, “Plotting course as ordered”
A more controlled shudder ran though the deck as the Smoke Jaguar’s engines increased thrust and began moving the massive vessel closer to Skye.
Moon smiled and began working on the next step in his plan.
Admiral Archer Christifori of the Star Destroyer Challenger frowned as the Smoke Jaguar accelerated for the planet.
“What is he doing?” Christifori asked out loud.
“Maybe he plans on bombarding the planet” The comm officer responded,
“Damn! Lay in a pursuit course. Signal the Rostok, Gauntlet and Storm Hammer. Tell them to assist us in stopping the Smoke Jaguar”
Archer leaned back in his command chair as the Challenger dropped in behind the Super Star Destroyer.
Jenna Tarn let out an involuntary yelp as another flurry of laser fire cut across her vision. Pulling back on the controls she brought the Clone Wars era fighter around and dropped her crosshairs over her tormentor. She triggered a burst of blaster fire that warped the thrust nozzle of the fighter’s port engine.
The Imperial fighter wobbled off on a new course as its pilot tried to regain control. Before he could do so however, another burst from Jenna’s weapon’s reduced the fighter to scrap.
“Scrapper, find me another target” Jenna called to the R2 unit nestled in the Eta-2’s hull. The astromech whistled in response and began scanning, but before he could find a new target Jenna felt the force surge in warning.
Sensing immediate danger though the force was an ability Jenna had only recently been taught by her father. Before she had been unable to sort immediate danger to herself from vague warnings about those around her. Thanks to the training she had received Jenna knew the current sensation was one to be acted on immediately.
Acting quickly she threw the fighter into tight spiral, seconds later a stream of blaster fire stitched a line of carbon down her port wing. A quick glance at her rear scope showed a TIE Interceptor tucked into her rear arc. She throttled back and brought her fighter into a long sweeping turn in an attempt to bring the fighter into her forward arc.
The Imperial pilot was having none of it instead hanging in her rear arc and unleashing another storm of laser energy. Jenna’s fighter bucked from the impact of at least two more hits.
Scrapper’s insistent squealing pulled her attention to her systems status screens. When she saw the result of the hits she unleashed a number of words that would have earned her a serious grounding if her parents had heard.
The power generator for the aging fighter was over heating and was in danger of shutting down….or rupturing and blasting the fighter apart.
“This is Rogue Two. I need assistance. Repeat, this is Rogue Two. I need back up here”
Static answered her.
Jenna looked at her damage screens and swore again. She’d learnt the art of cursing from a Yakuza who worked at the garage where Jenna usually appropriated speeder bikes. At this moment her entire repertoire was insufficient to convoy the sheer anger and frustration she felt.
Her communication system was destroyed.
She was on her own.
The Smoke Jaguar powered its way clear of the main battle and slid in close to Skye’s atmosphere. On Paul Moon’s command the Super Star Destroyer turned bring its heavily ravaged port side to the planet, using the atmosphere as an extra set of shields.
Behind it the Challenger was in close pursuit followed by the Nebulon-B frigate Rostok, the Mon Calamari MC-90 Cruiser Gauntlet and the BattleMaster class Storm Hammer. With them were the B-Wing bomber squadron Screaming Rancors.
The Smoke Jaguar settled into low orbit and prepared for battle.
Paul Moon paced the bridge as final reports came in. The Smoke Jaguar was now in a low orbit over Skye. Its remaining weapons were online and tracking the incoming Republic vessels. The main reactor was at full power and all backups were on line.
On the other hand shields were out, the entire port side was a ragged mess and the station keeping engines were struggling to keep the ship in orbit against the pull of Skye’s gravity.
Moon frowned in disgust as damage reports rolled across the status screen before him. His ship would require an extraordinary amount of credits to repair; he’d probably have to raid the accounts of several of his businesses in order to afford the expense.
He winced; maybe it would just be easier to scrap the entire vessel.
“Enemy vessels entering firing range” The weapons officer shouted.
“All weapons target the Challenger and fire,” Moon ordered.
The massive Demolisher tank rolled down the boulevard crushing the remains of the chariot LAV beneath its massive treads. The 100ton tank showed no sign of even noticing the obstacle as the air speeder was flattened.
A pair of AT-STs, four J.Edger hover scouts, a trio of Thrawn Class Hover tanks and a single AT-AT emerged onto the intersection. The faster hover scouts and walkers laid down a stream of energy bolts while the larger Thrawns and AT-AT moved into position.
The AT-AT fired its main weapon at the Demolisher and struck its right flank. Armour ran like liquid under the assault, dripping like wax down the tanks side. Inside the demolisher Don Carlos barely registered the damage, it would take at least another hit like that to penetrate the triple-metre thick armour and he wasn’t about let them have another chance.
“All units!” He called across the comms, “If you have a clear shot, take it”
In the turret the gunner achieved a target lock and opened up on the AT-AT with the Demolishers main weaponry. The tank bank of three heavy blasters opened up and traced an energy ribbon to the Imperial Walker. The AT-ATs left front knee disappeared in a brief flash and the walker began to list. In an attempt to stabilise the walker the pilots kicked out with what was left of the leg, their attempts resulted in the walker toppling through the front of a building where it lay with its legs protruding from the structure in an almost comical way.
Off to the left a lighter Badger tank rolled up and opened fire with its twin blaster cannons. One of the J.Edgers caught a flurry of bolts in the cockpit and spun out of control its crew cabin filled with fire.
Seeking vengeance the nearest Thrawn replied with its own lasers against the Badger. Energy bolts walked a line of devastation up the Badgers side and the lighter tank tried to reverse, but one of the Thrawn’s lasers had shattered the Badger’s right hand sidetracks. Slowly and painfully the Badger began to reverse despite the damage, but it was too late. Sensing a kill the Thrawn rolled forwards and unleashed another furious storm of energy. For a second the Badger seemed to hold back the attack, but then its hull seemed to glow and melt and finally the Badger detonated in an explosion that offered no hope for the crew.
Don Carlos said a silent prayer for the young men in the Badger and was about order his gunner to target the Thrawn when a swarm of missiles arced over the Demolisher and hit the Imperial tank. The hover tank disappeared behind a cloud of flame and smoke and when it emerged it looked more like a pets chew toy. Its armour was cratered and it was tilting to one side due to damage to its repulsors. With the fight gone out of it the heavily damaged Thrawn beat a hasty retreat.
A quick glance at his screens confirmed where those missiles had come from. He had a trio of JES missile carriers two blocks back receiving telemetry from his infantry units. The heavy artillery units were capable of launching up to eighty missiles in a single salvo up to a range of ten kilometres. Unfortunately they were also slow and lacked weapons other than their missile batteries. An enterprising infantry officer could capture one with little more than a crow bar to crack the hatch and a solid fist to knock out the single crewman. Because of this Don Carlo preferred to keep his artillery units well out of the battle.
A second after the retreat of the Thrawn a pair of 65ton Rommel hover tanks rolled up and opened fire on the AT-STs with their heavy blasters. One bolt caught an AT-ST in its ‘neck’ and literally decapitated it. The cockpit of the walker toppled free of the legs and smashed against the ground, its legs remained where they were, still standing. The other AT-ST found its right leg severed at the hip and spun to the road to join its friend.
Hardly missing a beat the two Rommel’s shifted their guns and began firing on one of the remaining Thrawns, seconds later other vehicles including Don Carlos’ Demolisher added their firepower.
The Thrawn may have well have been made of paper.
“This is Vapour Eagle One. Our target is that VicStar. Vapour Eagles follow me in”
As the other nine B-wings in Vapour Eagle squadron called in, Arctan Meeso allowed himself a moment of reflection. As an Iktochi Arctan had fought the Empire for a long time, ever since the battle to break the Imperial blockade of his homeworld of Iktotch.
Since then he’d made it his ambition to be a famous pilot like the legendary Saesee Tinn.
As the remaining Vapour Eagles called in, Arctan led them on a run at the Victory Star Destroyer Cataphract.
“Release Torpedoes on my command, follow up with lasers and Ion cannon when in range” He ordered.
Arctan watched the distance to the target count down in anticipation. At four kilometres the Cataphract realised it was under attack from more than the Dreadnaught that was harassing it. The Imperial vessels starboard turbolasers began firing at the B-Wing squadron approaching it. Unfortunately it had already taken some damage and Arctan was able to lead his people into a gap in the Imperial ships firing pattern.
As soon as his distance counter hit two kilometres Arctan gave the order his people were waiting for.
“Fire torpedoes!” He ordered mashing his thumb down on the firing button.
A pair of torpedoes vomited from the B-Wings launcher and arced in on the Cataphract joined by nine other pairs. The gunners aboard the Victory star Destroyer tried to shift their guns over to point defence in order to shoot down the incoming warheads, but where not fast enough. Eighteen torpedoes hammered into the unshielded hull of the Cataphract and exploded, shattering armour, rupturing bulkheads and smashing support structure.
As soon as they were in range the B-Wings opened fire with their ion cannons and blasters. Lasers stabbed into the hull and capitalised on the damage already suffered and ion bolts overloaded and shorted out circuitry. In response turbolasers stabbed back out at the B-wings in an attempt to exact a measure of revenge. Off to Arctan’s port side Vapour Eagle Six caught a bolt in the cockpit and her life flashed out of existence, the hulk of her fighter was picked apart seconds later by additional turbolasers.
As the triangular shape of the warship filled Arctan’s view he pulled up and away from the Cataphract, the main hull of the B-wing rotating around the cockpit. A quick glance at his screens showed all but one of his pilots following his manoeuvre.
“Vapour Eagle Eight pull up!” He ordered.
“Can’t. Flight controls gone” Vapour Eagle Eight responded, his voice thick with panic.
“Too late!” The B-wing slammed into the Cataphract and punched its way through four decks before its fuel and remaining torpedoes detonated.
The resulting explosions were enough to break the spine of the VicStar. Its turbolasers went quiet and its running lights extinguished, the Cataphract began to Drift.
Arctan silently lead his remaining pilots on a long sweeping course to find more targets.
Deven Tarn twisted his body to avoid the lightsaber swing that was meant to bisect him and nearly lost his head as Darth Shiva brought her other arm around with her second saber in it.
Ducking the killing blow Deven bought his own lightsaber up and blocked yet another attack from Shiva. As his attention was distracted Shiva snap kick at Deven’s stomach, he folded around her foot as the air was smashed from his lungs and he tumbled back from her.
While he lay panting Shiva turned her attention to Corran Horn and began defending against his attacks. Utilizing a blistering whirlwind of attacks the female Sith lord began driving the Jedi Master back.
Deven scrambled to his feet wheezing and coughing. As he did so he tried to work out who Shiva was. Her style was annoyingly familiar though the use of a second saber enhanced the style and her sense in the force –once he’d sorted though the hate and anger that resided there- was so familiar that he was distracted.
“We’ve met somewhere before” Deven muttered, “But where?”
Dropping that line of thought Deven leapt to the attack in the hopes of catching Shiva unawares as she battled Corran.
Despite his silent approach he was nearly caught unawares when Shiva reversed her grip on one of her sabers and stabbed backwards with it forcing Deven to abort his attack or be run though. Deven swung his saber to block and for a moment the two red blades –Deven’s and Shiva’s- locked together.
Disengaging her saber from Deven’s and aborting her own attack on Corran, Shiva leapt up and away, landing close to the throne.
“So far I am unimpressed Jedi” Shiva said mockingly, ‘This whole thing is little more than a farce” The unmoving yet beautiful features of her mask betrayed none of the disgust her face showed.
“Glad she’s enjoying it” Corran muttered to Deven.
“I had expected more” Shiva continued, “Neither of you are a match for my Jar’Kai technique. You Corran Horn, a master of Soresu should have provided a challenge and you Deven Tarn, your grasp of the Niman style is laughable”
“Well, that’s my self-esteem destroyed” Deven said affecting a saddened look.
“Don’t listen to her Deven” Corran hissed, “She’s just trying to get to you”
“Doesn’t matter” Deven grinned, “I stopped listening at an hour ago”
“I’m glad you can still laugh at your coming defeat Jedi” Shiva said in a tone that hinted at annoyance. Corran felt the surge in the force a second before Deven did and leapt out of the way. Deven jumped a split second later and barely cleared the heavy wooden table Shiva had thrown at their backs with the force. He’d barely cleared the table when an equally heavy wooden chair slammed into his back.
With a grunt of pain Deven tumbled to the floor aware that at least two ribs were either cracked or broken. Before he or Corran could move Shiva had once again leaped at them. She landed on Deven’s back with both feet and drove him to the floor. Pain shot through his shoulders as the heels of Shiva’s boots dug into his flesh.
Deven sprawled on the floor and his lightsaber went spinning from his hand. Leaping from Deven’s back Shiva snapped a kick at Deven’s head and blasted him into unconsciousness.
Corran cursed. Shiva had moved far faster than he’d expected and now Deven lay unconscious on the floor awaiting the killing blow from Shiva.
To his surprise Shiva merely stepped away from Deven’s still form and moved towards Corran.
“It’s just us two now Master Horn” Shiva said contemptibly.
Corran said quiet and cast a look to Deven.
“He’ll keep” Shiva laughed and approached Corran lightsabers ready.
Archer Christifori tumbled to the deck as the smoke jaguar unleashed another attack against his own Challenger. A console exploded in the crew pit and its operator spun away screaming and holding her torn face. As a medic ran to help the unlucky officer Archer climbed to his feet and regained his composure.
“Report!” He shouted.
“Port weapons at fifty percent, starboard weapons…starboard weapons are gone. Multiple breaches on at least thirty decks. Starboard shields are offline, remaining shields at seventy-three percent!” The damage control officer called out.
“Helm!” Archer shouted, “Roll us one-eighty to port. Put some shields between the hull and the smoke Jaguar”
“Aye sir” The Duros manning the helm nodded.
“Guns, target the Jaguar and fire with everything we’ve got”
As the Challenger began to roll Archer tried to take stock of the situation. The Challenger had taken a savaging from the Smoke Jaguar, but the SSD was in just as bad a condition. The massive warships entire port side was little more than a mass of shattered armour, twisted superstructure and half-melted bulkheads. What was left of its weaponry, though powerful enough to inflict damage against the Challenger, was a shadow of it pre-battle complement.
Just then Archer caught sight of an explosion towards the Smoke Jaguars bow where one of the B-Wings from Screaming Rancor squadron had just dumped a torpedo.
Off to one side the gutted hulk of the Mon Calamari cruiser Gauntlet drifted, an unlucky salvo from the smoke Jaguar had penetrated the hanger of the cruiser and set off its complement of fighter fuel and munitions.
Somewhere aft the Rostok and the Storm Hammer where engaged with a pair of Star Destroyers that had rushed to the Smoke Jaguars assistance leaving the Challenger to stop the far larger Super Star Destroyer.
Archer racked his mind; he had to end this, but how?
Paul Moon staggered as the accursed Challenger unleashed another broadside against his ship. A few hours ago, it would have been inconceivable for the smaller vessel to even harm the Super Star Destroyer, but the effects of the mines and subsequent attack runs had left his once powerful ship badly damaged.
“Lower!” He shouted to the helmsman. “Get us closer to the atmosphere and restrict the attack paths of those fighters”
The helmsman didn’t answer and instead concentrated on moving the warship closer to Skye’s atmosphere without surrendering to gravity and actually plunging into said atmosphere.
It was a dangerous manoeuvre for such a large vessel. At the relative speeds between planet and warship, and its angle of approach, hitting the atmosphere would be akin to flying a fighter into the side of a space station. The stations armour might give, but you wouldn’t recognise what was left of the fighter.
Finally the helmsman succeeded in moving the Smoke Jaguar into a lower orbit, but not without cost. Groans and tremors shot though the ship as planetary gravity and tortured engines fought for control.
Another shudder ran though the ship as the Challenger fired again and Moon lost his patience.
“All weapons target the Challenger and fire! Leave them dead in space”
Turbolaser fire seemed to connect the two ships and the Challenger seemed to shudder in space as the Smoke Jaguar’s attack cut deep. Secondary explosions tore holes in the hull and the Star Destroyers weapons finally went silent.
“Report!” Archer shouted as two crewmen helped him up from where he’d fallen into the crewpit.
“Weapons are offline. Shields are offline. Internal comms are inoperative and we are leaking atmosphere from multiple sectors. Another attack like that and we’ll be free floating atoms”
Archer nodded. “Do we still have engines?”
“Yessir” The officer on the helm answered. I can plot us a course out of here. Hyperspace is a no-go though”
“That won’t be necessary” Archer shook his head, “Signal the evacuation and slave all helm commands to this console”
“You have your orders”
“Yessir” The man quickly carried out his orders. Seconds later the abandon ship message began broadcasting across the ship. All across the ship surviving crewmembers ran for the nearest escape pod or shuttle and climbed aboard.
As the bridge crew began to filter though the doors to the bridge escape pods one of the ships marines noticed Archer remained where he was.
“Sir, you should be leaving too,” The trooper said with concern.
“No Major, My place is here on the bridge of my ship”
“Go Major. Make sure the crew are safe and if you see Deven Tarn give him a message for me”
“A message Sir?”
“Tell him to make sure the Imps get kicked into the next century”
“Yes Sir” The Marine saluted sharply before turning and leaving the bridge and leaving Archer alone.
Archer waited several minutes until the computer informed him that all escape pods and shuttles were launched before engaging the engines of the Challenger for one last manoeuvre.
Paul Moon frowned in disgust as the Smoke Jaguar struggled to escape Skye’s gravity well. The elation he’d felt at seeing the near death of the Challenger had cheered him, but that had faded as his ship began to struggle.
“Increase thrust” He ordered, “Break us out of the gravity well”
“Ad…admiral. The Challenger is shifting track!” The sensor officer shouted out.
Of course it was. A mortally wounded Star Destroyer was no match for his own ship despite the Smoke Jaguar’s damage. Why did the officer sound so worried? Moon glanced at the display showing the course of the Challenger, saw the line bend…..
Inward, toward the Smoke Jaguar!
“Acceleration!” The sensor operator called.
“Damn Archer Christifori!” Moon shouted, “All batteries, track that Sith Spawned Gravel Maggot and pay him my kindest respects. Cut that vessel open and spill her guts into space”
“The Challenger isn’t tracking us!” The sensor operator shouted, “No active sensors at all; it’s like she’s a dead ship” The officers face twisted in horror, “Sir! I think they mean…I think they mean to…” He couldn’t seem to get it out.
Moon read the meaning in his voice though and watched as the track of the Challenger continued to point at the large icon that was the Super Star Destroyer Smoke Jaguar.
Crewmembers stopped what they were doing and slowly turned to look at the main sensor screens where the Challenger was growing steadily larger.
“By…the…pitless…..stars..” Somebody whispered,
Moon turned to the weapons officer, “Fire!” He screamed, “All guns, full broadside! Fire, damn you all, fire!”
It was the Vice-Admiral’s last command, given on what was effectively a dead ship.
The Smoke Jaguar’s navel grade turbolasers speared out brilliant shafts of light, drilling into the bow of the Challenger in a vain attempt to turn it from its course. Fragments and molten globules of armour swirled out from the critical wounds and what little atmosphere remained burned in quick flashes before being dissipated to vacuum.
Several turbolasers blasts punched though the bridge viewport and gutted the Challenger’s bridge ending the life of Archer Christifori mere seconds after he had locked the Challenger onto this last final course.
The weapons discharge did slow the Challenger by a small fraction and push it aside by perhaps half a degree. Over greater distances, that tiny change would have resulted in kilometres of difference. In fact, left to itself, the Challenger would have eventually caught the edge of Skye’s atmosphere, ripping the vessel apart and scattering it into a debris field.
Would have, except that the Smoke Jaguar stood in its way.
Over twenty million tons of star ship under a constant acceleration tends to build up a formidable amount of kinetic energy, enough to completely and instantly obliterate both vessels in a perfect environment. Such was not the here, as the Challenger hit the Smoke Jaguar around two kilometres forward of the command tower and nowhere near square on.
Even a glancing blow, however, imparted enough energy to shear away a full third of the Challenger and snap the back of the Smoke Jaguar. The SSD actually folded slightly as the Challenger smashed into and though its spine. The engineering section containing the Imperial warships massive engines, twisted twelve degrees off the regular axis of the warship; it would be the first part of the Smoke Jaguar to strike Skye’s atmosphere, thirty seconds later.
The Challenger, its drive flare finally extinguished for good, deflected off the atmosphere, the impact all but crushing the gutted hulk before it spun off into the dark embrace of Skye’s solar system. The Smoke Jaguar’s death was nowhere near as quiet. Its drive section now dragging in the atmosphere, the SSD shuddered and pulled around so violently that a new rent opened in the forward third of the vessel- the hull fracturing as it was subjected to stresses it was never meant to bear. And as the entire ship fell into Skye’s atmosphere, tumbling, the unshielded armour glowing red and trailing out behind a fiery tail, the warship finally broke into three large pieces.
The bow section dove in at the steepest angle; the heat melting its armour into white-hot slag. What was left by the time it hit the planet struck the ocean far south of the continent of Kurita Prime. It’s impact flash-boiled millions of gallons of seawater and raised a fifty-meter tidal wave that swept around the world. By the time it reached Kurita Prime, fortunately, most of its power had been lost and it amounted to a single rogue wave only two meters high, enough to flood the streets of two coastal cities, but with zero loss of life.
Not so lucky were the small townships of Midwestern Muran, a timber producing community on the continent of Myer. Thousands of acres of forestland and the buildings of one village were flattened by the shock wave as the middle section of the Smoke Jaguar flashed by and buried itself in the heart of the Iron-back Mountains. The quakes that resulted caused even more destruction and woke up Mount Mordor. The eruption of the dormant volcano spilled lava over more forest land and, though too far from the local townships to threaten them directly, rained heavy ash over them for four days and prompted the abandonment of two smaller villages.
That left only the drive section of the once mighty Smoke Jaguar, the section that had held the command tower and the engines. All commands now silenced forever, the ruined section tumbled though the upper atmosphere longer than the others, shedding a wide debris field. Its bulk finally plummeted to Skye and struck in the deserts of Kurita Prime, far from any inhabited area and eventually forgotten. As to its detritus, some of it would remain scattered in a permanent orbit over Skye, a hazard to satellites and small craft. The rest fell out of the Sky over the next few months in a brilliant display of shooting stars that children wished upon.
Joined: 20 Jun 2004
|Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2005 2:04 pm Post subject:
|Garik ‘Face’ Loran peered gingerly around the corner into the corridor. Up ahead Soria Onasi gave the all-clear signal and Face and the rest of the scout unit filtered from the stairwell and onto the fiftieth floor.
Moving into the sparsely decorated corridor they all took up positions as Face and Franklin Hesht moved to Soria’s side.
“Well, we’re on the right floor” Soria whispered, “Which way now?” She asked looking at Hesht who was the guide for this operation.
“Down this corridor” Hesht gestured down the corridor they currently occupied, “It bisects a wider corridor some distance down and the shuttle pad is to the right down the other corridor”
“Good” Face nodded, “Lets get to it and hope we haven’t missed the appointment”
The squad moved quickly, but quietly down the corridor wary of the presence of Imperial troops. So far they had encounter and easily dispatched a single half-patrol, but they remained alert for others. It seemed, however, that most of the troops originally station in this tower of the citadel had been reassigned either to city defence or to the assault force headed for -and by now defeated at- Python Base.
Silently they made their way though the structure searching side rooms and cross-corridors for any Imperial presence.
They were about a dozen meters from the corridor Hesht had mentioned when they heard voices and footsteps. Soria silently waved everyone into position and not before time, because at that moment a dozen burly looking individuals –whose appearance screamed mercenary- walked into sight followed by Supreme Admiral Lon Sur.
Lon Sur strode along in the wake of the mercenary Grave Walkers –nine human males, a female human and a Gamorrean- trying to hold his impatience in check. Next to him Loran Beckett practically swagger as he attempted to assure Sur that nothing was going to happen.
“Trust me Lon” Beckett grinned, “I checked myself, this entire tower is empty apart from a patrol on the seventeenth and one on the eightieth. All the troops were reassigned by your own orders. Nothing is going to go wrong”
Sur bristled at Beckett’s lack of respect, “This entire invasion has been going wrong since the beginning. Ever single step of the way I have been opposed. The sooner we are on my shuttle the better”
“Trust me” Beckett repeated, “Nothing can go wrong”
Three seconds later a grey blur tackled the point man and it all went wrong.
On Soria’s order the Noghri Ravikcham tackled the Imperial’s point man and hauled him into a side corridor. Before the Imperial’s could respond Face and the others opened up with their blasters cutting down another.
Laser fire filled the corridor as the two sides moved into cover and exchanged fire. Kal Rosk was the first to die; a flechette round caught the Shistavanen in the chest and tore his torso open, gore spraying the corridor. In response Sharon Omizuku and Julus Dank combined their firepower and cut Kal’s killer apart.
As the firefight continued Face saw Lon Sur and a large man make a break for a side corridor.
“Sur’s making a run for it!” He shouted, “Franklin! Is there another route to the landing pads?”
“Not on this side of the Imperial’s” Franklin Hesht replied, “We have to go past them”
“Wonderful” Face grunted sighting down the barrel of his blaster, “Just wonderful” He pulled the trigger and brought down one of the Imperials. At least he thought they were Imperial’s, they were dressed more like mercenaries although they definitely had training.
A scream sounded out from behind him as another of the scouts fell, seconds later two more of the mercenaries including the lone woman fell. A second later Ravikcham struck again with blinding speed diving on one of the mercs and driving his dirk up though the mans ribs and into his heart.
Unfortunately the female merc they had discounted as dead rose up on one shaking hand and blasted the Noghri at point blank range. Ravikcham rolled over and let out a shuddering sigh, meanwhile weapons fire from five different directions hit the woman and turned her into an unrecognisable mass of burnt flesh.
The remaining mercenaries broke and fled in a different direction to Sur and the big man. Face shifted his arm and with a single perfect shot brought down one more merc. The Gamorrean with the mercs waddled squealing in terror and got as far as a side corridor the rest had ducked down before a blaster bolt shattered masonry in front of it and encouraged the dim-witted creature to stop.
The Gamorrean lost his nerve and dropped to the floor with its hands over its eyes.
With the Gamorrean’s surrender silence reigned. Six merc corpses littered the floor with one further up the corridor; in exchange five of the scouts were dead.
As well as Kal and Ravikcham, Julus Dank had taken a fatal wound and Pter Clarke and the Duros Jesup were dead.
“What’s the plan?” Sharon Omizuku asked as she kneeled over Julus’ body.
Soria thought for a moment, “Omizuku and Kimura, you’re with me and Face, the rest of you go after the remaining mercs”
“Lets end this” Face added.
Lon Sur gasped from lack of air as he and Beckett emerged onto the landing pad and into the rainstorm outside.
“That’s your ship?” Beckett asked as his anger rose.
“It is” Sur replied as they headed towards the StarViper sitting on the pad, “Can you pilot?”
Beckett ignored the question, “And how were my men supposed to have escaped even if we had reached here without trouble”
“You would have been compensated” Sur answered, “Can you pilot?” He repeated.
For a moment Beckett was silent, “Yeah, I can pilot,” He said finally.
“Good” Sur nodded as he opened the main hatch, “The sooner we leave this forsaken planet the better”
Minutes later the two were strapped into the cockpit and Beckett began powering up the fighter. Suddenly the doors to the pads opened and four of the earlier attackers burst into the rain filled air. Sur had recognised Garik Loran earlier during the ambusher and now he finally had a solid chance to eliminate the former actor.
“Kill them!” Sur shouted to Beckett.
“Them!” Sur screamed, “Kill them!”
Face had just charged heroically (ie:blindly) out onto the landing pad when the crushing realisation of the situation crashed down on him, seconds before a slightly more physical weight crashed into the back of him and tackled him to the rain soaked floor.
As Face and his assailant skidded across the ground the air above them crackled with energy as a pair of heavy blaster bolts cut though the space they had just vacated.
The pair of them skidded to a stop behind one of the small structures taking them out of the line of sight of Sur’s starviper.
The weight disappeared from Face’s back and he rolled over to find Soria Onasi already peering around the corner of the structure.
“Thanks” He muttered,
“No problem. Truth be told, I couldn’t be bothered with thinking up an excuse for why you got killed on my watch”
Face stared at her for a moment trying to determine whether she was joking or not, “What about Omizuku and Kimura?” He asked.
“Over there” Soria replied gesturing towards another one of the small structures. Both Sharon Omizuku and Taisuke Kimura were hunkered down and behind the structure and both appeared to be in one piece.
“Do you happen to have a cunning plan for this?” Soria asked.
Face looked around the landing pad and began taking in details. The pad itself was on the east side of the tower, which placed it on the side facing the unfinished third tower. A temporary walkway ran out to a large crane that was probably taller than the uncompleted tower and stood a good thirty floors above the landing pad they were currently on.
At that moment a crack split the sky and a fork of lightning cut down between the two towers. Tendrils of energy from the lightning caressed the crane tower and in the rain Face actually saw the natural electricity arc between girders and down the steel cable hanging from the crane. He glanced around the corner of the structure and noted that Sur seemed content to just hover his ship on one spot and shoot at anything that moved.
A Desperate and insane plan formed in his mind. He quickly relayed it to Soria who paled and looked at him in shock.
“You’re insane!” She said, “But lets do it” She quickly relayed the plan to Omizuku and Kimura who both reacted in the same way she had.
“This is gonna get pretty interesting” Face grinned.
“Define ‘Interesting” Kimura grimaced.
“Oh Sith, oh Sith. We’re all going to die!” Omizuku deadpanned.
The death of the Smoke Jaguar was the hammer that broke the Imperial’s spirit. Halley Kadorto watched in mute fascination as the remnants of the once strong Imperial fleet began to break up.
The first ship to jump was a heavily damaged Enforcer Class Cruiser. It turned away from the two assault frigates harassing it and jumped to hyperspace where, due to damage to its navicomp, it clipped the gravity well of Skye’s second mood. The Imperial vessel was dragged back into hyperspace and the inertial dampeners failed with the sudden shock.
Every unsecured object and individual on the ship was flung into the nearest bulkhead at nearly six-tenths speed of light. The internal structure of the ship simply collapsed and the Enforcer began to break up.
A pair of dreadnaughts, one of them leaking drive plasma, tried to leap into hyperspace on intersecting courses. To Halley’s horror both vessels collided at a speed that was just under lightspeed before they broke the barrier into hyperspace.
There was no chance of survival, both dreadnaughts simply vaporised into a cloud of ions.
The Star Destroyer ‘Despoiler’ attempted a jump of its own bursting into hyperspace and dropping back out a heartbeat later as its drive engines tore apart from the stress. The Despoiler began to slowly drift as internal explosions began to consume what was left of the engineering sections.
Nine more ships -four Star Destroyers, a trio of Corvettes, a Nebulon-B Frigate and a Strike Cruiser made successful jumps to hyperspace, leaving behind a single Star Destroyer, a pair of Lancer frigates, a pair of Victory Star Destroyers and seven other vessels of assorted sizes.
The remaining Imperial warships gathered together surrounding by what was left of the Imperial fighter elements, less than a wings worth.
Halley looked at his sensors and noted most of the Imperial ships were in any condition to fight. The Star Destroyer Night Lord had a massive though-and-through hull breach big enough to get a corvette through; Halley couldn’t help but wonder how the Imperial warship even held together.
The Republic/Skye fleet faired little better. Only eight ships remained, but most were in better condition than the Imperial forces. To Halley’s surprise the Nebulon-B frigate ‘Rostok’ was marked as temporary command ship.
Halley frowned; he would have expected the Skye commander Hanse Ward to take command of the fleet. Another look at his sensors gave him the answer, Ward’s command vessel the Storm Hammer, was little more than a gutted wreck as was the Star Destroyer that had engaged it. The Storm Hammer stilled moved under its own power but it did so at a speed that was painfully slow.
“Rogue One, this is the Rostok. Sandra Barcley commanding”
“This is Rogue One” Halley responded bringing his X-Wing around. As he turned he tried not to look at the hulk of an A-Wing that drifted by, a crater where its cockpit should have been.
“Good to hear you’re still in one piece. Would you like to do the honours?” Sandra Barcley’s voice sounded weary.
“No thank you. You’ve been up here longer, I’ll leave it in your hands”
“Will do and thanks for the help. Rostok out”
Halley switch frequencies, “All pilots report your status” He called out.
As the pilots under began reporting in a cold pit settled into his stomach. One voice was conspicuous by its absence.
“Rogue Two, report in. Rogue Two respond. Jenna, do you read?”
Commander Sandra Barcley nodded to the comm officer to cut the transmission and as he did so she took a deep breath before giving her next order.
“Hail the Night Lord” She ordered.
Seconds later a defiant, but tired voice began to speak, “This is Commander Cray Stansill of the Night lord. Do you contact me to gloat?”
“Not to gloat, but to ask for your surrender”
“Surrender! Surrender!” Stansill’s voice filled with contempt, “I think you over-estimate yourselves”
“I could simply send my bombers on another run. I don’t think it would take much to finish off that wreck you call a ship,” Sandra snapped.
“You threaten me! Very well, all weapons fire” Stansill seemed to pause, “Ensign,
I gave you an order!” The comm was suddenly filled with the sound of scuffling followed by a single blaster shot.
A different voice then began speaking, “This is acting-captain Hansel Morton. Do you promise to treat us fairly if we surrender?”
“I do. I offer you my assurances that you’ll be treated fairly under the articles of war”
“What about my fighters? We don’t have enough hanger space for them all” Morton asked.
Sandra thought for a moment, “Instruct them to land on the plains four miles south of Python Base, power down their ships and await further instructions”
“Very well. I’m instructing all our ships to surrender. Thank you”
As the comm officer terminated the connection Sandra slumped into her command chair and sighed, “Signal all our ships to cease fire”
“Sir!” The sensor officer called seconds later, “Four ships are failing to acknowledge the cease fire!”
The sensor officer punched up a screen that showed a single friendly being pursued into Skye’s atmosphere by three Imperial fighters.
“Damn! Signal Rogue One tell him we’ve located Rogue Two and she’s in trouble”
Halley cursed under his breath. He was about to blast away to help Jenna, but a glance at his damage monitor told him that would be a bad idea. His damaged engine was barely holding together during his current manoeuvre and he wasn’t about to test them in any case.
Instead he hit his comm, “Blade One, can you send somebody out to help Rogue Two?”
“No problem Rogue one, Blades Three and four, you heard him. Get going”
A second later a pair of A-Wings raced passed his position and headed out in pursuit of Jenna and her attackers.
With a sigh Halley switched to his command frequency, “Ok everyone. Unless you’ve got damage that prevents you from heading into the atmosphere, return to Python Base. Take it steady and watch your entry angle”
As a chorus of acknowledgements came back Halley switched to the frequency that connected him to python Base.
He needed to inform Trinity Tarn of her daughter’s situation.
Jan Bal watched Trinity Oslo Tarn’s reaction to Halley Kadorto’s news. Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the rail than ran around the holo-map and her face paled.
“I should never have let her go” Trinity whispered.
“You never let her go in the first place” Trinity’s own mother and ruler of Skye, Queen Marthe Oslo said quietly, “She made her choice and acted in a way that left you unable to counter her efforts”
Trinity simply nodded.
“In any case” Marthe continued, “She has far to much of her parents in her. She will be fine”
Trinity nodded again unable to summon up the confidence of her mother.
Jan had to agree with Marthe’s statement. He’d personally followed the careers or both his stepson and his daughter-in-law, both had faced incredible odds at various times in their lives and both had come out intact. He was confident that Jenna Tarn would be fine.
On the holo-map display an explosion signalled the destruction of an AT-AT. The holo-graphic representation toppled over and settled against a building. As it did so a jolt travelled up Jan’s spine and he reached out and grabbed the rail for support.
“Jan, are you alright?” Trinity’s voice filled with concern.
Jan didn’t answer and instead shuddered as another jolt travelled up his spine and sight off fireworks in his brain. As he toppled to the floor he was barely aware of someone shouting for a medic.
It all went black.
Jenna Tarn winced as what was left of her shields sparked from dozens of minor impacts on her forward shields. Leading her pursuers through the debris cloud left by the smoke Jaguar had seemed like a good idea at the time. Now it seemed like a bad idea on par with eating an entire four-litre tub of mint ice cream on her own.
Especially since she hated mint.
From behind laser fire punched through her rear shields and traced a line of damage across her fighters wings. One laser struck Scrapper in the R2’s domed head and decapitated the droid in a shower of sparks.
With only a single thought of sorrow for the loss of her droid Jenna rolled her Eta-2 around a large chunk of debris that used to be a turbolaser from the Challenger and arrowed the fighter into Skye’s atmosphere.
An explosion lit up space behind her as one the Imperial fighters chasing her failed to turn around the hulk of the turret. The other two continued to pursue her into the atmosphere.
Sensors showed the hull temperature quickly climbing as Jenna cut through the atmosphere. Behind her the two imperials ceased firing in order to concentrate on following Jenna.
Paint began to blister and bleed fire as she headed through the atmosphere at an angle that was far steeper than safety dictated. One of the pursuing TIE’s flashed into a fireball as its angle of re-entry became far too steep to prevent burning up.
Jenna’s screens began to flash red indicating engine shutdown in less than thirty seconds. Before she could work out a solution her fighter cleared the worst of the re-entry and Jenna found herself looking down on the biggest, blackest storm cloud she had ever seen.
It took her a moment to realise where she was, right above the city of Nashira and the storm currently hitting the capital. On impulse Jenna reached out with the force and tried to find her father using the techniques he had shown her.
Her impulsive action almost got her killed.
The remaining TIE Fighter fired and hit her engines, overloading them. All power failed and the fighter began to spin as it began an uncontrolled plummet towards the surface.
Panic began to bubble up in Jenna’s gut and tears began to form in her eyes.
“I’m twelve years old” She whispered, “I shouldn’t be doing this. Mom and Dad were right, I’m too young for this” She raised the visor on her helmet and swiped a gloved hand across her eyes, “No! I can do this”
Jenna and her stricken fighter dropped into the storm cloud and she found herself hoping that lightning wouldn’t strike her ship and end any thoughts of survival.
It took ten terrifying seconds to pass through the cloud, rain hammered at the battered fuselage and each lightning strike only heightened Jenna’s anxiety. As soon as she cleared the cloud Jenna used what was left of her Eta-2’s rudders to roll the fighter so that its ventral surface was between her and the Imperial fighter and then she pulled the ejection lever.
With a sudden thud the canopy blasted clear and a heavy combination of wind and rain battered Jenna and for a moment she began to have second thoughts about this plan.
Even if she could change her course of action she had no time. A mere second after the canopy had blasted clear the explosive bolts under the pilots couch ignited and fired Jenna clear of the wrecked fighter with enough force to send the fighter back up into the path of the Imperial fighter.
The Imperial pilot tried to turn away from the impending collision and succeeded in avoiding all but a glancing blow. The collision imparted a new spin onto the pilot less fighter and inflicted moderate damage to the TIE’s port wing.
As the damaged fighter struggled to rise back into the clouds, a pair of A-Wings flashed down and blasted the stricken fighter.
“Where were you eleven minutes ago you rank-weed sucking, scruffy looking, sons of murglaks?” Jenna screamed, “I hope you…..” Any other insults she would have said where cut short when her command chair came apart to reveal the parachute built in and a heartbeat later, the chute opened and arrested her rapid descent.
As she began to slowly drift towards the city below Jenna took not of what was happening. A number of buildings were clearly burning and Jenna could see numerous flashes of laser energy as both sides exchanged fire.
Having never used a parachute before Jenna had no real idea how to change the direction of her descent. She aimed the best she could towards a rooftop that looked relatively flat.
“Sure hope I don’t land in the middle of an Imp patrol,” Jenna thought.
She could feel the rain saturating the flight suit she wore and she felt one particularly cold droplet trace a path between her skin and flight suit all the way down her back.
She shivered and took another look at her landing spot. She frowned, now that she was closer to the rooftop, it didn’t look as flat as she first thought.
She looked again and cursed.
The rooftop definitely was not flat, now she was closer to it she could clearly see that it was a sloped roof leading down to a flat area. In a slight panic she began tugging on the cords in an attempt to change her direction, but succeeded in doing little more than twisting her self around so that she was know drifting backwards.
With a grimace she understood the problem, the wind was strong enough to be a hindrance especially since Jenna was inexperience with parachutes.
The roof rushed up at her and she tried to bend her legs in an attempt to absorb the impact. She only partially succeeded. Jenna hit the roof and began sliding down its rain-slicked surface. Her rapid descent down the roof was cut short as her chute caught somewhere higher up and left her hanging high up on the roof.
Without thinking Jenna hit the release on the chute harness and continued her rapid journey down the roof. All attempts to slow this new descent were ineffective.
“Wait!” She shouted, “I’ve changed my mind! I was happy where I was! Put me back! Put me back!"
She slid down the roof at a rapid rate towards the flat area. She hit the lower roof hard and felt a massive spark of pain as something in her right leg just snapped.
Jenna came to a few moments later. She couldn’t remember screaming but her throat was raw from doing so. Salty tears ran down her face and her leg felt like it was on fire.
Biting back pain and fighting back the tears Jenna carefully eased up the right leg of her flight suit. The sight of blood running down her leg made her feel faint, but it was the sight of her fibula protruding from her flesh that finally overwhelmed her emotions.
“MOMMY!” She screamed in pain, fear and anguish, “DADDY! HELP ME!”
She was twelve, she should be doing something more suited to her age, not laying on a roof in the middle of the biggest storm in decades AND the biggest city battle in centuries with her leg broken.
She alternated between sobbing loudly and sniffling quietly for close to ten minutes before she heard the footsteps. She looked up in surprise and saw a storm trooper standing before her. Despite her pain she tried to reach out to him with the force in the hope of influencing his mind. To her surprise she sensed no threat from him, instead he seemed shocked.
“Help me” Jenna whimpered.
The storm trooper whipped of his helmet and revealed short blond hair and youthful features.
“I’m Jonah Levin” the Imperial said, “I don’t have any medical supplies other than some tranquillisers and a couple of bandages, but I’ll do what I can”
Jenna nodded, only whimpering slightly as Levin manipulated her leg.
“Now this is going to hurt” Levin said, and with out warning he pulled her leg sharply and reset the bone the best he could.
In response Jenna screamed and punched him in the head before blacking out.
Jonah Levin rubbed his head where the girl had punched him and administered the tranquillisers before strapping her leg as tight as possible.
Movement behind him caught his attention and he spun around, blaster at the ready. The other two members of what was left of his squad entered the roof area.
“59884, you’re not supposed to administer aid to enemy pilots,” The squad leader said with contempt.
The second moved closer and peered intently at the unconscious girl. “Sir, this is a member of the Skye Royal Family. She’s the little princess from the briefings”
“Are you sure 47749?” The squad leader peered at the girl, but couldn’t remember the briefings himself and so decided to take 47749’s word for it. “You’re right. We’ll take her in as a prisoner, I bet we’ll be well rewarded” he turned to look at Levin, “And as for you 59884, you’ll be lucky to get mine sweeping detail after I report you for adding the enemy”
Levin didn’t answer straight away and instead swept his blaster rifle up and cut down the other two storm troopers in a blaze of laser fire.
“I resign my commission” He sighed, “Effective immediately” He turned to the unconscious girl and picked her up in his arms. “I don’t know your name kid” He said quietly, “But I’m damned if their going to use you as a bargaining chip of any kind. Now lets see if we can’t find your friends”
General Shin Yodama had just been thinking that things were quiet when the fighter dropped out of the sky. It hit the road thirty meters ahead and exploded, its last concussion missile triggered and launched seconds before the explosion consumed the craft.
The missile hit the Champion XT battle tank on its prow and the blast buckled armour and lifted the front of the tank into the air. The tank seemed to sit on its haunches for a moment before crashing back down.
Seated in the command chair Shin offered a thanks to the god of seat restraints a heartbeat before the tank hit the ground and his pine did its best to crush itself against his skull. Chips of tooth enamel ground between his teeth and his restraints cut into his body.
It took him a moment to collect himself.
“Damage report,” He shouted,
“Minor damage to forward armour” The damage control officer repiled, “I think we may have slipped a tread too”
“Higgins” Shin shouted to the pilot, “You alright?”
“Ye..yessir” Higgins replied shakily. Had the armour breached he would have been the first to die “Oh man, I gotta tell you, I give that episode a sphincter-factor of about 9.5”
“I would have given it a ten” Shin deadpanned.
To Corran Horn the entire universe had been reduced to himself and Darth Shiva. They fought throughout the dark recesses of Shiva’s throne room, a ballet of lightsabers, twisting spinning, attacking, each searching for the one opening that would give them the advantage over the other.
Shiva’s arms were a blur of motion as she constantly attacked, Corran though forced onto the defensive fought comfortably and made the Sith lord fight for every advantage.
As if angered by her inability to penetrate Corran’s defences Shiva snarled in rage and gathered the force around her. Corran had less than a heartbeat to prepare himself for the hammer blow of the Dark side that struck him a split second later.
He stumbled back against the wall ill prepared for Shiva’s next attack that should have bisected him.
Should have, except it didn’t.
From out of nowhere Deven suddenly lunged at Shiva, lightsaber thrust out in front of him and blood running from a cut above his left eye. Shiva back-pedalled to avoid the attack, but Deven succeeded in scoring a glancing blow across Shiva’s stomach. With a hiss Shiva flipped away, deactivated her lightsabers and vanished into the darkened areas of the chamber.
“You okay?” Deven asked Corran whilst still watching the shadows Shiva had retreated.
“I’m okay” Corran responded, “She’s a match for both of us and she could pick us off separately without too much trouble”
“And she knows how to use the Dark side to fight” Deven added.
“This is bad” Deven sighed.
“We’ve had bad before”
“This is worse”
“Worse! What? Worse than Hoth?”
“Yup” Deven nodded.
“Worse than Gremfield?”
“Definitely” Deven nodded again.
“Worse than Sekar IV”
“Worse than when you accidentally ate meat surprise and you had to spend two weeks in the med-bay after having your stomach pumped”
“Yes” Deven nodded, “Worse than that and for the record I didn’t eat it, I fell in a vat Janson had set up in the cargo bay”
“Right” Corran nodded, “Back to the current situation. Got any ideas?”
“None that would work. You?”
“If we can eliminate the shadows we can limit the places she can hide. From there we just attack together and try to disable her”
“Eliminate the shadows huh?” Deven grinned, reached to his belt and produced a flare, “I always carry a spare one of these after that little incident on Sekar. Quick tip: Water and flares don’t mix”
Without further conversation Deven ignited the flare and threw it into the centre of the room. The flare cast a white glow on everything in the room and the shadows retreated and became less oppressive revealing Shiva standing close to what look like a door.
“So, afraid of the dark are you Jedi?” Shiva laughed. “Allow me to shed a little light on the proceedings”
She manipulated a set of controls and the door behind her began to rise into the roof revealing glass doors. The glass in the doors was not the transparisteel one might have expected, but was in fact of a far more delicate nature with images that depicted scenes of what were clearly Sith Origin.
“Cute pictures” Deven muttered,
“Cute isn’t the word I’d use” Corran muttered in return, his face wrinkled in disgust.
Shiva looked outside for a moment at the storm raging over the city. A flash of lightning lit up the sky and illuminated the images in the glass.
Corran shuddered as one particular image caught his eye, that of a student beheading her master. The look of sadistic glee in the student’s eye was rendered in perfect detail as she committed her act, but it was her face that shocked Corran.
He turned to Deven expecting to see recognition on the younger Jedi’s face. As it was Deven’s complete attention was focused on Shiva and he showed no sign of even noticing that particular image.
“Shall we do this?” Deven asked focusing on Shiva intently.
“Let’s do it” Corran answered.
The two of them began to move quickly toward Shiva, lightsabers at the ready. As one they split apart and moved to opposite sides of Shiva forcing her to split her attention.
“Yes, come little Jedi” Shiva said in a voice with contempt.
Deven leapt to the attack first, Corran a second later. Shiva easily defected Deven’s attack, but was almost too slow in blocking Corran’s lateral slash at her head. She spun away from the attack and nearly impaled herself on Deven’s next attack. Instead she reversed the spin and tucked herself under Deven’s blade. Bringing both her own lightsabers together scissor like she trapped Deven’s blade high up and snapped a kick at his knee. Deven pulled his blade clear and leapt away to avoid what could have been a crippling blow.
As he leapt away Corran moved into the attack on Shiva with an overhead blow that threatened to split the Sith lord in two. Stunned by the ferocity of the attacks Shiva barely twisted out of the way. As she spun she brought the lightsaber in her left hand up and watched as Corran shifted his attack in a new direction and sliced the top of the lightsaber off in a shower of sparks and unleashed energy.
Once again leaping away to put distance between them Shiva looked silently at the remains of the lightsaber in shock.
“I’m impressed Jedi” Shiva spat, her expression hidden behind the mask, “You truly do have skills”
“We aim to impress” Deven grinned.
Corran was about to warn Deven about the dangers of overconfidence but Shiva spoke first.
“Then it would seem I shall have to fight you separately” Shiva turned to face Corran, “We shall continue later Master Horn. But for now I must deal with the weaker of the pair”
Before Corran could respond he felt a surge of the force behind him. He tried to turn to face this new threat but before he could do so an object hit him in the back of the head with enough force to blast him into unconsciousness.
Deven watched as Corran crumpled to the ground. It had happened all too fast for Deven to have stopped the projectile Shiva had grabbed and hurled with the force and he’d had no time to shout a warning.
A quick probe with the force revealed that Corran was unhurt other than a fairly impressive lump developing on the back of his head. Deven began attempts to rouse Corran with the force but Darth Shiva interrupted his attempts.
“Leave him Deven” Shiva said in a voice that oozed with contempt, “For the moment he is unimportant”
“What did mean by saying you would eliminate the weaker one of us?” Deven asked, “Corran was the stronger by far and he’s the one on the floor”
“You misunderstand me if you believe I meant to kill the weaker” Shiva said in a tone that had Deven thinking that she was sneering under that mask, “Corran Horn will be unconscious until I deal with him. As for you I have an offer”
“An offer?” Deven replied sarcastically, “What kind of offer?”
“Join me. Become my new apprentice. Darth Hades had power and ambition but he was too weak to use the Dark side and prevent his body from decaying”
“Oh, it was the Dark Side that caused that?” Deven laughed, “I was under the impression that he’d caught something off you” He deadpanned.
“Ah, yes. The infamous Tarn wit” Shiva seemed unimpressed, “But again I offer you the chance to join me and rule the galaxy by my side”
“Well, I appreciate the offer and everything, but I have far to much too do. In fact, next week I’m organising my sock draw”
A feeling of anger rolled off of Shiva and Deven again got the feeling that he knew Shiva from somewhere.
“Think of your family Deven” Shiva snapped, “Your wife stands to rule just one world, with my help she could rule dozens. And as for your lovely daughter….”
“You leave them alone!” Deven said coldly.
“Ahhh…..you can feel anger” Shiva laughed.
“I’ll never join you Shiva” Deven said evenly, “Not even if my life depended on it”
Shiva looked at the floor for a moment and seemed to sigh, “Very well Deven, it’s a shame really because you have the talent to be a most powerful Jedi, you just need direction. Oh, and your life does depend on it” She snapped her remaining lightsaber to high guard position.
The next few minutes passed as a blur to Deven. A sequence of attacks and blocks as each combatant dodged and evaded an attack before counter attacking and taking the advantage for a handful of seconds.
Somewhere along the line he found his position reverse with Shiva’s earlier one. His back was now to the glass doors and the storm outside, each lightning strike casting ghostly highlights on Shiva’s mask.
As Shiva began driving him towards the doors Deven knew he had to take the offensive. Thrusting forwards he locked his blade against that of Shiva’s and dragged her lightsaber out of position and left his flank open to a devastating and rib breaking kick from his opponent.
Grunting in pain Deven released the grip of his left hand from his saber and drove his elbow up into Shiva’s face. Tiny needles of pain attacked his elbow as the mask shattered under the impact and Shiva staggered away with a scream that was part pain, part rage.
Suddenly Deven felt himself hurtling backwards as Shiva struck back with a blast of the Dark Side that was as close to physical as possible without actually coming into contact with him.
Deven hit the glass doors behind him and smashed his way through the delicate imagery. Pain erupted as fragments slashed his skin on his journey though the glass. One particularly large fragment slashed down his face and turned it into an expanse of agony. He hit the rain soaked balcony outside the doors and slid across the slick floor until he came to a bone-jarring stop against the balconies safety barrier, the impact knocked the wind from his lungs and left him gasping for air.
He was aware that his lightsaber was no longer in his hands, but he couldn’t collect his thoughts in any coherent fashion.
Eventually his vision cleared and Deven began a quick examination of himself. The jumpsuit he wore was slashed heavily from ploughing through the window, as was most of the flesh underneath. He was covered in blood that was quickly being diluted by the rain that fell upon him, but none of the bleeding was serious.
His hand shot to his face and found a large gash down the left side that started on his forehead, descending down though his eye and ending at his cheekbone. A quick test confirmed that the eye was now useless.
His right leg suddenly exploded into agony as if somebody had just reset the bone. He looked down at the leg and discovered that apart from a few cuts the leg was fine. It took him a few seconds, but he realised that this meant that Jenna was hurt and she was nearby, within the city.
“She should be up in space” Deven tried to work the reasoning out in his head but before he could arrive at an answer, what was left of his peripheral vision caught movement at the doors.
Darth Shiva stepped through what was left of the doors. The lower half of her mask was shattered revealing a mouth and jaw bleeding from cuts inflicted by fragments of the mask breaking. The flesh that was visible seemed to possess a grey pallor, though it seemed unblemished and free of the decay that had plagued Hades.
“Just as well you didn’t accept my offer Deven” Shiva said, her now revealed mouth twisting in contempt, “You are still as weak as I remember, perhaps Jenna would make a more suitable apprentice”
“Touch her and I will kill you” Deven snarled, wincing in pain as Shiva grabbed a handful of his hair and pulling his face so he was looking straight at her.
“I’ve been dead once already” Shiva laughed releasing his hair and stepping back, “It’s very liberating. You might think of it as therapy”
“Who are you” Deven grimaced.
“You mean you haven’t recognised me?” Shiva actually seemed genuinely surprised.
“All I can think of is that you’re an ex-girlfriend, but I made a point of never dating Dark Side wielding psychopaths,” Deven said with a sharp laugh that set off another round of pain in his body.
“Actually I’m far closer to you than you think” Shiva reached up and removed the mask, revealing the face underneath.
“But you’re dead!” Deven whispered in shock, “I killed you myself. You’re dead!”
“Yes, dear brother. I was dead” Bel Tarn laughed, “But then, death is just the beginning”
Face charged from his heading place as Soria, Omizuku and Kimura opened up on Sur’s Starviper with a barrage of light arms fire that was more psychological than something capable of damaging the heavy fighter.
As the Starviper turned its attention to face’s compatriots Face ran across the walkway to the control unit for the crane that towered above the landing pad. Arriving at the control cabin ladder in a stop that was half controlled, half uncontrolled slide Face hauled himself up into the cabin and settled into the seat.
To his surprise the controls were in standby mode. Evidently the imperial’s had replaced the power units and reinitialised the systems ready for work to begin again on construction of the third tower.
After a quick test of what each of the controls did Face pushed on the stick that controlled the turning of the crane and began to swing the crane over the landing pad. A bolt of lightning split the sky and passed close enough to the crane to send a tingle through Face’s body and raise every hair on it.
“Better finish quick” He shuddered, “The last place I want to be when a bolt hits it dead on is in this cab”
Working other controls he changed the reach of the crane and brought it over the middle of the pad where the Starviper continued to hover and direct ineffectual fire on the others.
Face’s had hovered over the emergency release for the cable, but for a second he held back from pulling it, “I probably should say something witty” He muttered, “What the hey, Yippey-ki-yay Gutter Maggot!” He yelled as he pulled the lever.
The cable and hook descended rapidly from the crane towards the Starviper below.
Lon Sur was startled when something heavy slammed into the top of his ship.
“What was that?” He shouted.
“Loren Beckett looked up from the controls and shrugged, “I don’t know. Sounded like something landed on us”
“I know that, but what was it? Did somebody land on us?”
“Maybe. I’ll try and shake them off” Beckett threw the controls to one side and sent the fighter into a lateral drift. They had barely moved a handful of metres when the fighter was suddenly and none to gently, wrenched to a halt.
“What? What’s going on?” Sur demanded glaring at Beckett with his artificial eye.
“We’re caught on something. You’ll have to open the top hatch and take a look”
“Me?” Sur said in shock, “You expect me to expose myself”
“Actually, I’d rather you refrained from exposing yourself and instead stuck your head outside to see what we’re caught on” Beckett said unable to miss the obvious gag at Sur’s expense.
With a snarl of anger Sur un-strapped himself and standing on his seat, reached up and popped the top hatch. He stuck his head out and looked around, but was surprised to see a heavy cable linking his ship to the nearby crane.
He thought about trying to free the cable that appeared to be hung-up around one of the wings but decided against risking his life like that.
Then a bolt of lightning cut across his vision and Sur understood the full ramifications.
“Emperor’s Black Bones…..” he whispered in horror.
Then the lightning hit the crane full on.
Face had just leapt clear of the cab when the lightning bolt hit the arm of the crane. High voltage energy skipped its way down the cable and to the fighter as well as down the arm of the crane towards the cab. Whether typical Imperial greed had prevailed or because lightning strikes were rare, it was unclear, but the crane lacked lightning conductors or basic earth units to protect against high-voltage travelling down the crane.
Face broke into a run across the walkway, fully aware that it was made of the same materials as the crane and broke for the safe ferrocrete surface of the landing area. Behind him the control cab exploded in a shower of sparks as the electricity overloaded the controls, which had lacked even basic surge protectors. Face threw all his strength into a single leap clear of the walkway onto the non-conductive surface of the roof.
As he hit the rain soaked ferrocrete the walkway erupted into arcs of electricity and sparks and Face suddenly wondered if the pad had any kind of protection against lightning since the rainwater would help carry a current. Fortunately common sense had prevailed in the construction of the pad and various safety features carried away any threat of electrocution.
A split second later Sur’s Starviper exploded as the electricity overloaded the fighter’s fuel and energy cells after finding its way into the cockpit via the body of Lon Sur and his various prosthetic parts. The shock wave was powerful enough to pick Face up and threaten to throw him over the pads safety railings, but he managed to grab the railing as he passed over it and pull himself safely back onto the pad.
“And the quarterback is toast!” Sharon Omizuku yelled thrusting her hands in the air before Kimura wrapped her in his arms and kissed her passionately.
“You’re crazy, you know that?” Soria Onasi said helping Face to his feet, “Seriously, how did you make it past puberty?”
“With a mixture of stunning good looks, almost omnipotent acting abilities and the ability to do such things and remain the most handsome guy in the universe” Face grinned.
Soria gestured to Kimura and Omizuku, “Should we leave them to it?”
“Yeah” Face answered, “If two people can find happiness in all this, then there’s hope for the galaxy”
“I hope so” Soria said soberly, “I really hope so”
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