I tell you I've never seen anything like it in my entire life.
Groups of men getting tossed around like ragdolls, creatures twice the size of me getting cleaved in half, a couple of the bigger smellier ones with the oversized metal fists came at him yelling bloody murder and firing those big guns.
Not even five minutes ago I watched them rip part of the bulkhead to shreds with their fists. He took them down as though they were nothing!
People ask me if I'm suicidal to volunteer to be part of the crew under Vader's command, I say that your suicidal not to be.
-Fin Matta, assistant deckhand
"That's the last of them sir," the battered ensign said to Vader as he clutched his broken and bleeding arm to his side. It was impressive that the ensign was even standing, let alone attempting to complete his duties. The crew of the executor were demonstrating an utter devotion to obeying Vader, not the fearful obedience he was used to but the sort of dogged loyalty that Anakin has command during the clone wars. Vader was unsure how do deal with it.
The boarding actions of the green-skins had been repelled but it was at no small cost. The empire had suffered heavy casualties, over half of which had ended in fatalities or crippling injuries so far. Another quarter were looking liable to become fatalities if they didn't get access to more bacta than the fleet currently had supplies of. The medical crew had actually had to resort to amputations and euthanasia of some of the injured for lack of medical supplies rather than allowing internal bleeding or gangrene to set in.
The crews were in shambles, imperial naval crew while not totally untrained were reliant on the use of storm troopers to repel any sort of boarding actions. Up till now any attempt to board a star destroyer had been a purely theoretical issue or the sort of thing that naval crews laughed off. Of the boarded star destroyers only a pittance of the crew remained. Most of the command staff hand managed to survive but those responsible for the sort of grunt work and repair jobs necessary to undo the damages done to the fleet were in short supply.
On top of that a massive amount of military hardware and support vehicles had been abandoned on Hoth due to the need for the rapid deployment of troops to repel boarders. There would be no way that he could reclaim them without substantial time and effort.
"Pathetic, what an idiotic waste of Imperial resources. A simple act of conquest now becomes a needless and costly battle. Tell me Veers, does this seem like wisdom to you?"
The General, half standing and half leaning on a control panel, looked up from applying synthetic skin over a burn wound, "Wisdom my lord? How does wisdom apply to our current situation? Certainly this new enemy is an act of providence rather than poor planning?"
"This assault was broken not by the new enemy but by weak and arrogant leaders. You know as well as I that Ozzel brought us out of hyperspace too early. We had no chance to set up gravity well generators or a proper blockade. We were forced to commit so many ground troops to take a pitiful group of stragglers that we left ourselves open to this," Vader waved around at the destruction visible outside the viewport and the giant ship in the distance, "We have been crushed by savages Veers. This will not do."
"My lord, Ozzel is my superior... admiral ozzel is..."
"Finished, I have no doubt that were we not to have pulled out early we would have suffered monumentally high casualties from the rebel forces, even without the aide of these barbarians. Bring Piette and Ozzel to me, now."
"Of course my lord," Veers hobbled his way back to a comm net, depressing the button that paged the admiral.
"Fools, all of them," Vader squinted out into the distance. His visor tinted the world red but allowed him to see far beyond the usual limits of human eyesight. The massive ship in the distance was still spitting out random bursts of fire in every direction. Smaller ships were moving to the immobilized and damaged Star Destroyers closest to it, vultures and scavengers the lot of them.
Vader looked over at the ensign. The man, in spite of bleeding profusely from a compound fracture was still standing at attention, waiting for Vader's command. Whether it was shock or loyalty Vader could not be sure but if he continued to stand there bleeding he would no doubt lose the arm. Mollycoddling his soldiers was not in Vader's repartee but even he had his moments, "Ensign."
The ensign looked up eagerly, "Yes milord."
"You are bleeding on my command deck."
"Go and get your arm fixed, I need loyalty not suicide," Vader pointed to the door where one of the emergency medical droids was stitching up a tactical officer's face.
The ensign almost looked disappointed, "Are you certain you don't need anything sir."
Vader looked at the ensign in consternation, "Nothing that cannot wait for five minutes while you get that arm set in plaster. Go, that's an order."
Foolish boy, hero worship will get you nowhere, it was strange to have his crew looking at him the way they were. It was respect on their faces, not fear. He remembered that look from his past life, from the clone troopers he commanded. Still loyalty meant little in the long run, order 66 had taught him that much, it is nice to have it though.
Loyalty would not save Ozzel. He was a petty man prone to blaming others for his own mistakes and fond of the power that came with his position. He entered the command deck with an air of cowed submission, flaked by a retinue of storm troopers and Captain Piette. Ozzel seemed to be on the verge of tears when he greeted Vader, "Greetings lord Vader."
"I salute you lord Vader," Piette looked somewhat less nervous than Ozzel, but only marginally so.
"We have moved beyond the gun range of the enemy sir," started Ozzel, "Tactically now we are..."
Ozzel did not finish, a great force had started to compress on his wind pipe. He stood in stock still, standing on tip-toe pathetically trying to liberate himself from the invisible grip, sputtering and pleading.
"Admiral Ozzel," shouted Piette in surprise and horror as he took a step towards his commanding officer.
"Stand where you are Captain," stated Vader in an icy tone, "Admiral Ozzel the power that clutches in about your throat is the force, it is my anger forth to end your life."
Ozzel's legs kicked about wildly as his body twisted and flailed about, hopelessly trying to free itself from the steely grip, "Lord Vader... please...no..."
"It is pointless to merely punish someone so useless, you have failed me for the last time admiral," Vader looked impassively at the admiral as his body gave up and went motionless, his skin purple and stretched where about his neck.
The captain stood at attention like a bolt of lightning, "Yes my lord!"
"We must decide upon our next move."
Vader stared distastefully at the body of Ozzel as it was taken off the bridge of the Executor only half listening to the reports from storm trooper squads filtering through the comm-net. The Avenger and five other star destroyers had been retaken but another three were beyond recapture. Two Star Destroyer had chosen to self destruct rather than allow themselves to be overtaken. It was a pity, Vader needed more commanders with that sort of dedication.
Worse still their main advantage over the enemy had been lessened. The sub light engines had taken a beating on virtually every ship in the fleet and anti personnel ammunition was starting to run low. Even the Executor had suffered severe damage to its primary and secondary systems that would need to be overhauled. The massive enemy ship could soon overtake them. He needed to end this fight and he needed to end it now, "Piett, I trust that you will not fail me as your predecessor did?"
"No sir," said Piette as he nursed a cut on his hand.
"The send a message to the fleet to pull out, we're retreating."
"Retreating Milord?" Piette was astounded, he had half expected Vader to insist that they go down fighting. He knew that a good portion of the fleet still hungered for revenge. Vader was not known for restraint even in the best of times.
"We're going to fall back to the nearest Imperial Starport. We were unprepared for this and we are beaten and broken, I plan to heal our wounded and fix our fleet" Vader stared out the window at the raging battle and at the behemoth beyond and let fourth a guttural grinding iron gowl, "Then I plan to personally come back and rip that ship apart with my bare hands if I have to."
The imperial withdrawal was fast if a bit chaotic, the fleet commanders were not about to disobey an order that they had been praying would be given for the past ten hours. It only was a matter of a few minutes and a bright flashing of lights before the triangular forms of the star destroyers warped into the nothingness of hyperspace leaving the swirling mass of greenskin fighters and the dying husks of star destroyers left behind.
"I wanna check on the vector guidance system Chewie. Maybe that's where the problem is," Han Solo yelled from underneath the drive pod. His indefatigable first mate groaned from the effort of manipulating the delicate circuitry of the hyperdrive system with a fine claw. The system simply refused to work.
"Hey how's the transition ring looking?'
"It would be fine if you'd just let me work," Leia said frustratedly fidgeting with a hydro-spanner.
"No need to be so touchy. Looks like I'm going to have to shut down everything but the emergency power system."
"Captain Solo... I'm almost afraid to ask, but does that include shutting me down too?"
"Nah 3PO, I need you to talk to the Falcon. Find out what's wrong with the hyperdrive, you and her speak the same language."
The ship shifted and shook.
"That is the third such disturbance we've experienced since landing in the cave captain. It's quite possible that this asteroid is not entirely stable."
"Not entirely stable ah?" Han's voice dripped with sarcasm, "I'm glad you're here to tell us these things 3PO. Chewie, take the professor here and plug him into the tech station, see what's wrong with the Falcon's systems."
Chewbacca led the protesting golden droid to the back, laughing at the Droid's ranting, "Really, there are times where I just don't understand human beings. I'm only attempting to preform my function in the most eccentric able and officious manner..."
Leia confronted Han, "He's doing his best to help you know."
Han was about to say something pithy when the ship jerked and tossed Leia into Han's arms. The two stared at each other briefly unsure how to react. After a few seconds Leia protested, "Hey, hand's off."
"Just looking out for my crew Leia," Han smiled a devil may care smile but made no motion to movie.
"Han let go. Please," Leia scowled at Han.
"Don't get excited," Han said as he let go of her wrist.
Leia looked back with a look of contempt, "Captain, being held by you isn't quite enough to get me excited."
"Sorry sweetheart," Han put up his hands in a gesture of surrender and headed to the back of the ship, "I just haven't got the time for anything else right now."
C3PO stood at the back of the ship, his finger plugged into the interface port muttering to himself, "Really what a mess, where is R2 when I need him."
Han ducked into the room, "How's that hyperdrive coming 3PO?"
"Oh," the fussy droid looked around surprisedly, "Captain I don't know where the Falcon learned to communicate but she has the most peculiar dialect."
"Don't knock her."
"Oh, no, no no. She's very intelligent, but she can be so rude at times."
Han laughed, "It comes from hanging around with me and Chewie, you're liable to start doing it yourself."
C3PO looked horrified at the prospect.
"What did she say?"
"I believe she says that the power coupling on the negative access has been polarized, I am afraid that you will have to replace it."
Han paused for a few seconds the spat out, "Well of course I'll have to replace it."
C3PO stuttered, "I'll go and see about the transition apparatus sir. I must admit I never saw myself doing this kind of thing."
After waiting for C3PO to get out of hearing distance, Han smiled and walked into the room where Chewbacca was intently going over the power relays to life support, "Hey Chewie, I've been thinking. We better replace the negative power coupling."
Luke awoke abruptly to the smell of cooking meat, the sound of a roaring fire and the frenzied warbling of R2D2. Meat? Why did he smell meat?As luke woke up and tried to shake the feeling of cobwebs out of his head the world around him started to come into focus. Seated in the middle of the room were two figures roasting some small animal with many legs on a spit over the fire. Luke looked round at the doors but they were all bolted shut just as he had left them.
He looked at R2 who simply warbled confusedly. R2 tried to approach only to have a stone tossed at his head. The droid sat in the corner sullenly staring at the strange two creatures and their fire, his blowtorch at the ready.
"You wake," stated the airy voice of one of the cloaked figures, "That is good. It is not in our nature to seek out your kind mon'keigh, but seek you we must."
"Uh, thanks," Luke said nonplussed, "How did you... how did you get in the room? I thought I locked the doors."
The second of the figures giggled wildly, "You did, but doors only lock out those who aren't already inside the room."
"I don't remember seeing you and I could swear I checked every inch of the room."
"You didn't and you did," said the first.
Cryptic answers that seemed to ring with honesty, Ben Kenobi would have liked these two, "I don't suppose you plan to make that any clearer do you."
The second giggled again and prodded at the cooking flesh, "It catches on quickly doesn't it."
"You speak basic? So you're from one of the core worlds."
"We don't speak basic."
"But... I can understand you," Luke blinked.
"You listen to our meaning but you are not hearing our words, listen closer," Luke closed his eyes as they spoke again. The two spoke in an alien language that Luke had never heard before in his life but their long flowing words superimposed meaning upon the sounds, "Mon'keigh you are too impulsive. You assume because you can communicate you understand and presume we must learn your ways to be heard."
"I'll try not to do it in the future," Luke said trying to get a grip on the appearance of two people from seemingly nowhere with a campfire.
The giggling one started juggling stones from the ground, "I like this one. Eager to learn, eager to listen. Like they were in times past."
"Indeed, but what is it to us," The first one removed it's hood showing the stretched and elegant features on a distinctly female face, "And for that matter what is it at all."
"I'm Luke Skywalker," Luke did not like being discussed as an "it." The two were so cold and impersonal that he couldn't resist adding, "A Jedi Knight," in the hopes it might prompt greater politeness.
Luke blinked, "I beg your pardon."
"You have a role yet to play," The juggling one cocked his head, "You cannot who you are until after it has come to pass."
Luke rubbed the bridge of his nose with the palm of his hand, trying and failing to wake himself up from the insane dream he was sure he was in the middle of, "I don't suppose you're going to explain what's going on here?"
Luke sat there starting at the two, who seemed just as content to sit in silence as answer his questions. They were an odd pair to be sure. The female, hooded and cloaked, was a mess of beads and bangles. Her proud face was marred by a single scar across her left cheek and there seemed to be an aura of morose restraint to her. Her companion by comparison was positively giddy, under a dark cloak he wore a fabric of swirling and shifting patterns, his face covered by a grinning mask. He was juggling a good dozen small rocks effortlessly without ever breaking eye contact with Luke.
The three sat in silence till Luke could bear the silence no longer, "Who are you and why are you here?"
The woman's strangely reverberating voice made the sound of a giggle strangely ominous, Luke felt a chill run up his spine, "You have not earned the right to know my name yet human and my companion sacrificed his name long ago."
Luke did not enjoy being talked down to but doubted that pressing the matter would accomplish anything. She looked at him as though he were something smaller than she, like willful pet who refused to play by the rules of the house. He recognized the look well, it was the same way that imperial commanders looked at non-humans. Still there were limits to his patience for such obvious bigotry, "I must call you something."
"You mon'keigh and your insufferable need to categorize everything. Very well if you must call me anything you may call me Aneoni and my companion the Harequin. Though the rest of your mortal ilk seem to prefer to refer to us with expletives and gunfire," she brushed her knee as though rubbing off something filthy, "useless worms that they are."
Luke blinked nonplussed, "Gunfire, they hunt you?"
She smiled wickedly, "We do respond in kind, young one. None may 'hunt' the children of the first ones with impunity lest our wrath smite them with greater measure. Our race weak but not so broken as to allow mortal filth like you to do as you will with what is ours."
"Other mortals you say," a change of subject seemed wise, "other humans like me?"
"I had forgotten your name for yourselves, in inelegant word for an inelegant people."
"Inelegant we may well be but are we here?"
"There is hardly a scrap of the universe where your breed has not reached. Why should the vermin not be on this pathetic scrap of rock," she narrowed her eyes, "You spread like a plague and breed like vermin. It's a wonder you have the spare time necessary to fight in between all the rutting you have to do to breed enough of your kind to fight in all your needless wars."
The woman could keep her opinions and shove them as far as Luke was concerned but the presence of humans might mean the presence of a Hyperspace worthy ship to escape in, "We are skilled at multitasking alright. Now about the other humans can you tell me where they are?"
"Yes I could," Aneoni said as she pulled the now cooked creature off the spit and started tearing off strips of it and eating them.
Luke waited in silence listening to the sounds of her chewing. Luke groaned impatiently and realized his error, "Will you take me to them?"
"Why should I?"
Luke thought for a few moments, "Because you'll be rid of me if you do?"
The Harlequin laughed out loud, "I knew I liked this one."
Aneoni pulled a bag from her cloak and whispered soft words in her singsong language. Her hand drew a complex symbol in the air, thin blue lines of smoke following her finger glowing with crackling energy. A searing sensation, softer than the one Luke felt when the ship appeared above Hoth but no less unsettling shot up his spine as she closed her eyes and plunged her hand into the bag.
"What are you..."
"Do not interrupt," ordered the Harlequin in a voice of command.
Ok then, let the lady draw in the air I can do that. Luke was unsure of what was going on though he could not help feeling uneasy as the woman continued. Aneoni reached her hand into the bag as the symbol flashed green and vanished and pulled out a slender chip of bone. Her eyes opened and focused on the bone, apparently reading some deeper inscrutable meaning that Luke could not find.
"Yes. I will lead you to them," stated Aneoni in a voice of clear surprise.
"Oh... that's good," said Luke, unsure if he actually wanted to use this guide.
"But you will take us with you to Dagobah when you leave this ship."
"...uh, how do you, how could you possibly know... what do you know about Dagobah?"
"It's where I need to be."
"Uh... ok then... you don't... You don't have a way off this ship do you?"
"If I knew that boy, do you think I would still be in this vile place?" Said Aneoni in a voice of contempt gesturing at the old and abused furniture and various claw marks from strange creatures.
"No, I suppose you wouldn't."
"I might," chimed in the Harlequin.
"You are a twisted creature Harlequin, of that there is little doubt," said Aneoni as she rose to her feet.
"Wait as second, I haven't agreed to your terms."
"Yes you have Mon'kiegh, you simply haven't realized it yet. Now come, viler creatures than the many armed hungering ones lurk near here and I wish to reach your brethren before the Hurd start looking for Kuruk stragglers upon which to feast."