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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-10, 08:47 AM Thread Starter
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Considering their prominence in the modern galactic sphere one easily forgets that they are neither natives to the known regions of space nor even the farthest of stars reached by the old republic. Coruscant is the oldest planet know to house the humans yet are neither actually natives of the Coruscant system nor even the known galaxy, their ancestors traveled the gulf of the vast gaping unknowns of beyond the rim aided by forces unknown while most documented sapient, sentient species were still learning to make fire. The average citizen of the Galactic Empire is only vaguely aware of the human race's immigrant status, and fewer understand it's importance. In spite of their curious origins they quickly achieved prominence within known galactic space earning fame for their talent as pilots, scouts, and ship builders. Exactly what their reasoning for leaving their home systems has been lost with time; perhaps they sought to carve out a slice of a prosperous new world or perhaps to flee a terrible foe. The humans of old were apparently in no particular rush to preserve the reasons for their flight, the frustrating absence of information has driven the historians of the former republic and the newly formed empire to desperation. Too many records were lost in the early Sith wars and even those that remain can only paint a vague picture of the history of mankind some 200,000 years in the past.

The tales of vast riches and dangerous exotic races within the western corners of the galactic rim told by smugglers and vagabonds is the making of myths and dreams but cannot be purely dismissed as the ravings of braggarts and madmen. Riches, wonders, and dangers do lie beyond the rim, it is arrogant and foolish to assume that they do not. Why the unknown regions remain unmapped and unexplored is a matter of some debate, some assert economic reasons, others cite the existence of abnormal waves of gravity and other special phenomenon that interfere with any probes and expeditions, still others tell stories of ships and fleets that go into the depths of unmapped space and never return. At the moment the Galaxy is too entrenched in the growth pains of social unrest for anyone to pay the unknown any mind but the unknown has a nasty habit of sitting in the shadows sharpening its fangs.

It is not unheard of for ships or debris to find its way into mapped space from the unknown regions, though often such events go unwatched and unappreciated. Whatever worlds on the edge of the known parts of the galaxy live in fear of the shadows within the unknown regions, shadows that as of late seem to be growing.

The exact details of what exists within and beyond the edges of known space is a subject of heated debate in the various colleges and centers of learning within the colonized parts of the universe. However one thing remains constant; the unknown regions are just that, unknown, uncharted, and unexplored. However recent events have forced the universe to become aware that though the unknown regions may be unknown they are neither passive nor patient. On the third day of the second month three years after the battle of Yavin one of the dangers from beyond the rim decided to make itself known in a galaxy already at war with itself.

On the third day of the second month three years after the battle of Yavin that the Eurantis Hulk made itself known.

It was on the third day of the second month three years after the battle of Yavin that two galaxies at war found themselves on the path to peace or annihilation.

Force save us all

-Diary of Ralabar Tonard


The insurrection of the rebels had previously been little more than an annoyance and the dreams of a few brave individuals. The rage of the oppressed was far from uncommon but the prospect of imperial re-education was sufficient to keep the majority of its peoples in line, however this was changing in light of the battle of yavin. The Death Star was ostensibly the physical manifestation of the Emperor's unstoppable might. While thousands of smaller ships and soldiers could have been made for the same costs the sheer terror that such a device of destruction could bring was worth the cost. The Empire was ruled by fear, and it's crown jewel was a moon sized weapon of destruction. With the destruction of the greatest weapon of fear in the Emperors arsenal at the hands of a teenage devotee of a supposedly extinct mythical order the power of the empire was waning. The planets seemed to be aligning in the rebellion's favor. Though they no longer had the financial and political backing of Bail Prestor Organa the universal rage at the destruction of Alderaan had provided them with the sort of poltical capitol that they needed to make their dreams a reality. It would ironically be the words of a deceased imperial officer that gave Leia Organa the idea for the rebel propaganda.

Any time is the time to visit Alderaan! How can one not enjoy a planet where peace and beauty are common preoccupations, and art and learning are the popular pastimes?

Vid-links that mimicked the commercials of pleasure cruses and were aired on any channel poorly guarded enough for the rebellion to hack it. Suffice it to say that most citizens, even those content with the empire were astounded at the destruction of Alderaan. The rebel fleets and bases were still as frustratingly haphazard and ragtag as ever but their numbers had swelled, not enough for open conflict but enough that they had gone from being the idle fears of imperial paranoia to the greatest single threat to imperial supremacy.

The Emperor made his displeasure at this wave of rebellion and dissent clear through the establishment of numerous draconian policies and a military buildup unseen since the fall of the Republic. His dissolution of the Imperial Senate was simply been the first step of many in the struggle for ultimate and unquestioned supremacy. The imperial military now consisted of a record number of Imperitor class star destroyers and a small handful of the executor class or "super star destroyers". Ships that had been on their way to being decommissioned or repurposed were suddenly being tossed onto the front lines in an effort to destroy any shred of rebellion that could be sniffed out. The military and economic might of the most powerful empire even seen was united to a singular goal, the destruction of the rebellion and the capture or death of the last of the Jedi.

After three years of searching a single blaster bolt to the front of a probe sent to the fringe of the Ivax Nebula along the Ison corridor was drawing the war to its inevitable progression. Lord Vader himself had been dispatched with his "Death Squadron " to personally crush this rebellion. Vader, eager to make up for his failure to protect the first death star had taken to the task with gusto. The turning battle of the rebellion, it would seem, was to set to happen over a useless scrap of land that neither side particularly cared to own.

Hoth is a miserable patch of ice and silica in the southern gulf of the outer rim. It is a cold and inhospitable world in which even the most basic of resources is hard or impossible to find without specialized equipment and a lot of luck. Sparsely populated only by the heartiest and most primitive of creatures, it is debatably the least desirable planet to live on. No sane merchants or civilized trade routes pass by it, there aren't even any substantial mineral deposits other than iron and fossil fuels neither of which have been particularly valued by the space-faring Empire and Rebellion in the light of plasma reactors and plastisteel. A common joke between rebel troops stationed on the planet was that Hoth was too unpleasant and insignificant for the emperor to even bother putting on a map, let alone mounting an invasion. It was this remoteness and undesirability that was the primary factor in the rebellions decision to use the echo base on Hoth as a primary base for the rebellion after the battle for was a security based on obscurity and it was this remoteness that Vader planned to exploit in his assault of Hoth, any ships that left the surface were easily identifiable as enemies. Who else would bother to be on this miserable speck of ice and silica?

The only thing that the rebellion had going in their favor was their forewarning that the attack was coming, sooner rather than later. On days like this Luke wondered if he would have been better served doing what his Uncle wanted and growing up to be a moisture farmer on Tatooine where his biggest worry would be about beating Fixer in a race around begger's canyon. He was longing for the days when his hardest work consisted of repairing the aftermath of tusken raiding parties shooting moisture harvesting equipment. In the past week he had nearly been eaten, survived the cold of Hoth by sleeping in Tauntaun intestines, been haunted by a disembodies vision of his former teacher, and fought off ATATs by the dozen. He could not afford to get sloppy, arrogance was the fastest way to die in a dog fight, Jedi awareness or no.

His day wasn't over yet, he still had to pilot a lightly shielded craft through the most violently powerful and rigorously organized fleet known to man, commanded by a vile sith lord hell-bent on the capture or death of Luke himself, without leading them to the rendezvous point.

The life of a Jedi was nothing if not busy.

Hoth had been his home for the past months, like so many worlds had been before. It seemed that the empire was determined to rob him of everything. They had taken away everything from him, his adoptive parents, his mentor, his father, and now they once again were taking his home. He idly wondered how many people he would never see again as the cold wind whipped at his face. How many people would die in the snow bravely fighting for a cause that would not even be able to give them names when all was said and done? At least he wouldn't feel bad about the lack of burial this time.

"The snow will bury them all soon enough," the maudlin thought ran through his mind as he strapped himself into the boxy form of his X-wing and took to the skies swooping round mass exodus of rebel ships. The brief rush of speed and gravity associated with interatomspheric flight gave him a giddy rush as he swung his upward through sky. The gravity compensators indented to protect him from super-luminal speeds never did seem to operate properly when he was flying under the protective bubble of a planets atmosphere, he would have to see to that later.

Brilliant blots of light arced from turbolaser batteries and ships in a hail of fire and destruction as the imperial gunners struggled to track the myriad of ships fleeting for their lives. The clouds bucked and weaved as angry bolts of plasma tore through the heavens destroying ships, land, and men with a cruel impartiality. The empire was trying to force the rebels down a corridor of gravity well generators and tractor beams. Fine, he thought, If they're going to toss us down the Sarlacc's throat we'll make it choke as it tries to swallow.

If the Ion cannon did its job maybe most of the rebels would get out of this alive.

He felt the slight bucking kick of acceleration as he burst past the oblong shapes of the rebellion transport ships and took to the stars. There was a perverse beauty in the bursts of light that shone through the glowing orange light of shields colliding with Hoth's upper atmosphere. Luke spared it a moment before he slipped into the cool serenity that he associated with the guiding hand of theforce and joined the fray.

His ship swam through swarms of imperial tie fighters bobbing and weaving through the angry waves and deadly green bolts. Luke sunk his mind into the forc in the force and felt the flow of the skies. Luke was born to fly, it was in his blood. He was a pilot, like his father before him. He was avian predator, a Corellian Hawk, and it was time to hunt his prey.

The x-wing was an old and discontinued design but it was far from an inferior one. The boxy tie-fighters were mass produced for their speed and their firepower but they lacked the maneuvering and shielding of the x-wing. Piloted by a normal pilot an x-wing was expected to take out three tie-fighters before it died, the commanding officers were know to claim that "a rebel pilot isn't allowed to die till he's given us the three he owes us and then another three more for good measure." Luke had paid his dues, and he intended to pay them for a long time to come.

The timer on his fighter flashed twice signaling the firing of the Ion cannon, warning the rebel fighters to move out of the way. There would only be a matter of seconds to move out of the way, not necessarily enough time for all the fighters to avoid the shot and definitely not enough time for all the transports. However the escape plan was born out of desperation not efficiency, it was better to be destroyed in the blast than to spend the rest of ones short life in the delicate care of imperial interrogators.

However as was customary for the rebellion the more suicidal the plan the bigger the payoff. The over-charged burst from the ion cannon swept over the star-destroyers, neutering their gravity well net. The fight was no longer hopeless but far from over. The rebel fighters would still have to defend the hyperspace window for long enough for their slower transport ships to escape. The bays of the Star-destroyers opened, disgorging waves of sleek matte black fighters.

Luke put his fighter into a dive and twisted left, "This is blue five, tag them and bag them."

The Tie-fighters were keeping in strict formation swerving to circumvent the fighters and go straight for the transports. A wing of fighters headed for an skipray blast-bloat that had been too slow to avoid the Ion cannon, pelting it with laser-fire. It's shields flashed and died under the weight of the attack, but not before managing to take two fighters down with it.

"Blue five this is green two, watch your six."

"I see them two."

The remaining three fighters swung round and tried to out-flank Luke. Luke pulled back on several levers and his fighter spun on the spot, flipping up and over the advancing fighters. Luke briefly imagined the looks of surprise on the imperial pilot's faces as he depressed the trigger on his own laser-cannons blowing their ships to kingdom come.

He wasn't afforded time to savor his victory however as the warning klaxon informing him of an incoming missile sounded abruptly. With force-enhanced reflexes he twisted the control stick and grabbed the throttle, his engines screamed within the confines of his cockpit as his ship rocketed out of the way of the errant projectile.

He spared a glace at the display to his right, there were still substantially more foes than friends in the surrounding region, but more foe lights had blinked out of existence than friend lights. The rebellion may not be winning the battle of Hoth but the pilots of the rebellion all had too many grudges with the empire to allow them anything but a hollow victory soaked in imperial blood and the plasma-scored bones of starships.

A bright white burst of light accompanied the silencing of green six, he had never know the small Sullustian personally but the feeling of loss that every rebel death conveyed way amplified by the force. Ememy movement caught Luke's attention and he thumbed the comms "We need some y-wings on the frigates coming in from vector 7 mark 1.5.6"

Time slowed to a crawl as a horrid burning as slashing feeling swooped up from the base of his spine to the tip of his nose as though the force itself was crying out in pain. The comm-chatter that had previously been with the garbled shouting and frenzied warnings of battle was suddenly silent and the ships both imperial and rebel stopped and looked out into the distance, in a disbelieving battle pirouette. The fighting waned as every pilot and gunner turned to look at the bizarre form crawling through the depths of space, tearing its way back into reality.

A swirling rainbow of coursing and coalescing energy ripped through time and space screeching through the vastness and silence of space, outlining the a truly massive form. It could have been called a large asteroid or a small moon, but the rock face was covered with a haphazard collection of derelict starships and oversized weapons batteries and propelled by the largest set of engines that Luke had ever seen.

"The what the sith is that?" someone yelled over the rebel communications bandwidth.

"We can find out after we get the hell out of here," responded someone else, "I'm up for being inquisitive when we aren't being shot at."

The logic of this statement seemed sound as Luke suddenly found himself in the middle of a dogfight between the trigger-happy newcomers and the imperials while still reeling from the pain in the force itself. The rebel ships gladly used the distraction caused by the arrival of the colossus. Many ships moved out of the range of the gravity well generators and use their FTL drives to speed to the relative safety of other systems as tie fighters and turbolasers became otherwise occupied.

The imperial navy dealt with the newcomers with the tact and flair, a powerful volley of turbolaser fire and torpedoes rocketed at the newcomer. The unknown ship responded in kind with an irregular flow of projectiles, plasma, powerful energy weapons, and a virtual torrent of shoddily build smoke-belching fighters.

Turbolasers gouged deep wounds in the sides of the hulking behemoth, venting clouds of plasma and debris, yet still it came unflinching and uncaring. An angry cloud of metal and smog burst from the belly of the new ship, raining death wantonly on Imperial and Rebel ships alike. The waves of new fighters wantonly and brazenly charged into the ongoing battle with reckless abandon.

Antiaircraft batteries made short work of the small fighters yet there eternally seemed to be more coming. The imperial star destroyers had unwittingly committed themselves to a war on two fronts. Worse yet they no longer had the advantage of greater numbers. Two unlucky star destroyers and handful of escort ships found that their shields were hard pressed to compete with the constant flow of kinetic force, crumpling under the weight of thousands of impacting projectiles.

The newcomers didn't even really seem to be aiming at anyone in particular, shooting down their own allies with equal gusto as their enemies. Archaic fighters pulled past at speeds and turns that defied rebellion was forced to essentially give up trying to fly in formation, as primary preoccupation of every pilot rapidly became avoiding a head on collision. Luke, dodged, bucked and weaved as best he could, barking quick warnings whenever he could manage one.

His fighter bucked to the right as a bullet managed to pierce his fighters engine manifold.

"R2 I need that left motivator working again!"

The small android responded with an indecipherable series of frenzied series of moans and bleeps, none of which indicated anything good.

"It's what?" asked a frustrated Luke, barely avoiding the blast of an incoming fighter as he targeted another.

A slightly slower series of whoops and trills followed.

"Are you joking? There's nowhere we can land to fix that! I need the engines working now!"

His ship barreled forwards in a turbulent spin towards the nearest star-destroyers, "R2! Any time now."

Luke tried to calm down as his heart started to pump faster and faster. R2 would get the ship working before he crashed into the side of the ship. "We had managed in worse conditions," he told himself not entirely convincing himself any more than he did his furiously twittering droid.

He closed his eyes and breathed, picturing the voice of Ben from days long passed, "Ok Luke, find your center. Don't see when you're going to need to pull up, feel it."

He breathed in and out, trying to ignore the fact that random debris, shrapnel and errant bullets were bouncing off his ship with increasing regularity. He had to let go of his fear, let go of his worries, let the force take over. R2 screeched an affirmative noise and Luke abruptly pulled up on the controls as he opened his eyes.

Luke's shields flashed brightly as the x-wing skimmed the surface of the Star-destroyer's shimmering defense field. He gave himself a second to realize exactly how suicidal it was to be coming this close to a star-destroyer in a rebel fighter but he would just to have to trust in his luck at this point. A decision that he soon came to regret as the warning klaxon signaled that someone had a target lock on him.

Another explosion rocked the back of Luke's ship. He jerked forwards abruptly, whipping his head forward into the targeting readout and rendering him unconscious. Span wildly towards the now unshielded jagged rock face of the behemoth newcomer and into one of the massive deep gouges cut by turbo laser fire.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-10, 08:48 AM Thread Starter
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Admiral Ozzel flinched as an anti aircraft battery just managed to track and destroy one of the fighters making a suicide run on his ship. This was pure madness. He had suspected that Lord Vader might kill him for his failure to anticipate the use of ion cannons to break a hole in their gravity well barriers and allow rebel ships to escape but now he was certain that if these crazy newcomers didn't manage to kill him then a death by Vaders hand was guaranteed.

To be fair nobody could possibly expect him to have been prepared for this situation, the Officers Academy did not have a class in mysterious giant asteroid ship warfare. Tactics for fighting a ship as large as a moon didn't exist, much less those to counter one that could attack by surprise.

The tie fighters were better equipped than the trash heaps the moon-ship carried; they were smaller, faster, and better armed. However tie pilots are not trained to be suicidal, and these enemies seemed to think that the idea of crashing through enemy ships, even though there was a great chance of dying in the process, was great fun. There were even some initial video reports suggesting that some ships didn't even have weapons attached, they were just high-speed battering rams. Even the new advanced defenders and interceptors were talking heavy losses, for every one they killed there seemed to be three more.

Any attempts at disrupting their communications had proved to be futile. Not because the imperials were incapable, far from it, what little communication occurred from fighter to fighter was conducted on unsophisticated radio technology, they weren't even encrypted. However it appeared that less than half the fighters had any sort of communications device and on top of that comm-chatter was not the series of commands and battle information heard on imperial or rebel channels, but rather a disjointed series of giggles, trash talk, shouts, and grunts. The creatures spoke basic, or some bastardized derivation thereof, in short bursts but only when they were taunting their opponents.

The pilots were less interested in actually winning the battle than making big explosions, using loud guns, going fast, yelling various phrases like, "Dakka dakka," or "Waaarrggghhh", and more importantly bragging about how they could do all of the preceding actions better than anyone else. Ozzel doubted that they even listened to what anyone else was saying, they were far too busy making things go boom and bragging.

However the fight as a whole seemed to be going in their favor, so long as the capitol ships managed to stay out of the range of the larger ship dealing with the smaller craft was dangerous but manageable. He had lost the rebels but it might be possible to avoid a total loss. He could only assume that this was some pirate force from the outer rim trying to make it's mark by taking out a fleet of star-destroyers. When this was over, presuming that he survived, he was going to have strong words with the naval command about more powerful fleets on the fringe to deal with whatever faction was creating moon-ships.

"Sir," an ensign was approaching him with a data-pad.

"What is it ensign?"

"We might have a problem sir."

"You don't say?" Ozzel waved his hand at the scene in front of him, "If you can narrow this clustered mess of insufficient prior warning on the part of Naval Intelligence down to one problem I dare say I will be having a fantastic day."

"Sir... I meant."

"I know what you bloody well meant, now spit it out."

"Sir what we first assumed was simply dud ordinance may actually be boarding torpedoes. We've already started to receive reports from the closest ships, to the new player... but it doesn't sound good."

"Bloody hell!"

This was a serious problem, while the average imperial class ship was usually filled with 9,700 storm troopers at full combat readiness, Lord Vader had ordered all but a few hundred off each ship in the hopes of crushing any ground resistance he may encounter. Now Ozzel would be facing boarding parties with little more than a handful of storm troopers and navy personnel who hadn't seen any real action outside of the firing range.

"Sound the alarm, warn all ships to prepare to repel boarders and for the love of god grab any pieces of armor and weapons from the armory that you can find. If I must be known as the man who let the imperial navy lose at Hoth then I'll be damned if I let myself lose Darth Vader's flagship. Use speeders and land assault equipment if you have to.

As he looked out at the hateful mobs of enemy fighters he wondered if it wouldn't have been easier to simply fly down to the planet and allow Vader to kill him. It would probably be less painful than trying to fight off these newcomers.

Who knows, maybe a stray enemy might get lucky and kill him before he has to even admit his failure to Lord Vader? The ensign running communication to his left waved to get Ozzels attention.

Ozzel sighed, it appeared he would not be so lucky.

Storm trooper sergeant Kor'en Fisk raised his hand in a fist and his squad ducked into cover at the noises of giggling, stomping, and heavy breathing that heralded the coming more boarders. Fisk might even find the lack of stealth and tact employed by these sithspawned greenskins funny if they weren't so hard to kill. Of his squad of fifteen only eight remained. And most of his men had been killed by slug-throwers of all things. Storm troopers were not supposed to die from slug-throwers; it was undignified.

Baurtal had been cleaved in half by what looked like a piece of torn up bulkhead tied to a pipe and wielded like and axe. Zam had been lost to what would later be described by onlookers as a set of jaws and teeth barely supported by spindly red legs that smelled like the bad side of a dead womp rat and moved like lighting. His own helmet had been shattered by a blunt axe that had come inches away from opening his skull.

And then there was that nut-job with the flamethrower; the last time they had been attacked two of their attackers had been burned alive by a third who got too impatient about using his weapon on, "Da whitiez". This psychopath had then proceeded to burn and melt everything in sight, taking out two members of his squad eventually causing his own demise when he hit one of the oxygen recycling lines.

The saving grace of the green bastards was how painfully slow witted they seemed to be. These creatures were the worst sort of non-human scum that he had ever encountered. There was something unnatural about the sheer joy that these things seemed to take in wanton destruction, the pure power that they found in their apparent hedonistic exhibitions of nihilism. The Avenger's point defense batteries had apparently not been enough to ward off all of the incoming fighters and a few had managed to crash through the hull on decks 3, 5, 8, 9, and 11 and had brought some of the most hateful and violent creatures imaginable on board. Combat on board of space ships was not unheard of but the stormtroopers were trained as an offensive force. With the exception of the odd team of rebel saboteurs this sort of thing was unheard of.

Decks 3 through 5 were lost to the massive green boarders and Commander Ferdas was forced to use explosive decompression to keep the boarders from reaching either the engines or anything above deck 5 or below deck 3. However they at least knew what the creatures they were fighting against looked like and bled like. The knowledge that they could be killed by blaster fire was no small comfort to the small contingent of stormtroopers trapped on the aft of deck 4. They were holed up in a med bay that was feeling increasingly less like a place of healing with time.

Fisk held up his fist in warning as the heavy stomping of the green-skins reached his ears. He and his squad took up positions on either sound of the door, waiting for his signal to attack. Oh by the gods of old how they wanted to attack. They wanted to make every single one of these brutish bastards pay for what they had done. In spite of this burning desire Fisk was no fool, the incoming mob of hostiles sounded like it numbered in the thirties or so. They were in no shape to take on those odds.

The fearful screams of some poor captives being tossed around a passing mob in reached made Fisk wince as he group rumbled past him uproariously laughing at their captive's fear and discontent. The pleading was unbearable.

One of the weapons specialists holding a heavy repeater rifle signaled to him, please let me take the shot.

Under normal circumstances Fisk would be begging for a fight, but the med bay was full of wounded. He signed the negative, can't risk the wounded.

A scream echoed from the corridor and the stormtroopers had to resist the urge to run as a human arm was haphazardly tossed into the room. It would be hard to say which was more sickening, the brutish laughter of the green men or the teeth marks on the arm. Oh gods, he thought, they have a taste for human flesh. Ande retched inside of his own helmet, sick dripping out the front of his visor. Hopefully the smell of the sick would be covered up by the already putrid smell of the green men.

The gun happy weapon's specialist tried to get to the door but was stopped dead by the vice like grip of Fisk on his throat.

"There was nothing we could do for the captive," Fisk hissed through his teeth as he pressed down on the soldier's larynx, "Nobody could survive that much blood loss. Fighting now is just going to get us all killed. You're a soldier, act like it!"

Minutes passed in silence as the gurgling laughter got quieter. Kor'en Fisk only relaxed the his grip when the sounds and smells of the enemies had long since passed beyond the med lab. The sputtering specialist dropped to his knees clutching his neck and wheezing apologies.

"The next time you disobey an order and nearly get me killed I won't waste time keeping you alive, I'll just slit your throat."

He turned to his second in command and pointed to the vomit covered trooper, "Get him cleaned up, now."

"Yes sir."

"I want someone to work on getting us patched into the communications net, I want to know what the hell is going on and I want to know it now."

"Yes sir."

The med bay was a mess, survivors were hiding in whatever cover they could find as the med techs struggled to save those they could and silence those they could not. He looked down at a female med-tech crouching behind a cabinet. Her hand was shoved into the mouth of one of her patients to stop him from screaming. The unfortunate man had lost a leg to a boarding torpedo, and there had not been time to administer proper treatment. Her hands were red with blood where his teeth had dug down.

He ducked past the overturned table that they were using for an ad-hoc barricade at the door and approached the quietly sobbing med tech, "It's going to be fine."

He pried the mans jaw open and removed the woman's hand, she was shaking with pain and adrenaline, "What's your name?"

"Elle," she whispered.

He smiled in what he hoped was a convincing way, but only managed a slightly craggier grimace, "You've been very brave Elle now I need you to go over to another tech and get this hand bandaged. Can you do that for me."

She mutely nodded, seeming to notice her wounded hand for the first time.

"Good," he motioned her over to one of the less catatonic techs.

He needed everyone capable of holding a blaster to do so. Lord only knew how long they would be able to hold out.

Luke awoke to the frenzied warbling of R2 and a splitting headache. Numerous questions were spinning through the malaise of pain he felt but he could only articulate a confused, "where am I?"

R2 was at least forthcoming with answers, though he was a bit lacking in clarity. From what he could understand from the excitable droid not only had they crashed into the innards of the aggressor ship. Luke resisted the urge to ask about salvaging the x-wing, he could already see that the fact that either he or R2 survived was a small miracle. Trying to get anything more out of his ship felt like tempting the fates.

"Ok R2 it looks like we're going to have to find another way off the ship," he said as he unbuckled his restraints and grabbed the pack of survival gear under the seat, "Can you get out?" Luke strained to see the top of his fighter in the dank darkness of the ships interior.

A negative warble, the couplings that fastened the droid in place had fused in place when the cockpit had crashed through the side of the ship. Luke could see the bright blue sparks firing from the fried relays that were responsible for couplings.

"Can I cut these without causing you any damage?" Luke said as he climbed on top of the wreck of his fighter.

An uncertain warble, there was no way to know if the lines were active or not any more, the interface port was totaled.

"We don't really have a choice do we?"

A mournful whistle came from the little droid.

"No," Luke laughed, "I'm not leaving you behind"

The droid was becoming more and more human by the day, much to the chagrin of the droid maintenance staff of the rebellion.

An amused tweet was all Luke needed to hear before thumbing the activator on the smooth silver cylinder he carried at his side and slicing the couplings with two humming sweeps, freeing the small droid.

The shifting weight of the droid caused a creaking noise that suggested to Luke that the wall that caved in after the fighter burst through was somewhat less than structurally sound and that at any moment the place where he was standing could be vented out into space.

"Come on R2," Luke said as he made his way to the nearest thing looking like a door, " We've got to get out of here."

The entire ship felt wrong to Luke somehow. There was a greasy feeling in the force that permeated the halls of the ship and a constant sense of danger that made Luke want to get out of the ship as quickly as was possible. This place was somehow wrong. He didn't know why but he had the distinct feeling that it shouldn't be allowed to exist. The flow of things wasn't quite right.

It was an endless maze of corridors and caverns; the second Luke felt that he was starting to get his bearings straight the scenery changed entirely. The architecture was chaotic at best. Long elegant swooping corridors opened on rocky spires and industrial super-complexes. There seemed to be no logic governing the construction or continuing existence of the rooms. On more than one occasion he saw architecture that appeared to be breaking the laws of physics.

Luke was in a state of constant vertigo as rooms with shifting geometries and unnatural angles tugged at the borders of his sanity, dark whispers caressing his ears speaking empty threats and dark promises. Yet he saw neither crew nor droids. Surely they must have noticed that a fighter breached the side of their ship? And yet the only noises were the shifting of pistons in the distance and a dull throbbing hum that permeated the whole ship.

It begged the question constantly on his mind, who is running this ship?

In a time that felt like hours but might only have been minutes his wanderings were abruptly interrupted. Out of the corner of his eye something shifted on the far wall. Was it an eye? No nothing... there was nothing.

This entire place was getting to him.

But as he reached the end of a long bridge something caught his was something on the other side of the hatchway hunched over the carcass of someone large and green. It was pawing great hunks of it into its oblong mouth with razor sharp claws, mewling with pleasure.

Great wet smacking noises accompanied each large bite of green viscera that the creature took. It had an unnatural look of joy at every bite of meat that it tore off of the creature. It could almost have been a man, in the dark the face looked almost human, but the extra set of arms and odd huched body tended to suggest otherwise. In fact as Luke focused his eyes on the creature more closely various insectoid features became more and more pronounced on the creature. However the creature remained unaware of Luke, content to continue munching on the green humanoid figure.

Must be some local predator, he moved closer with the quiet foot falls of a cat eager not to disturb the creature, And what is it eating?... is... is it's food... moving...

Luke realized with horror that whatever the creature was feeding off of was still alive and trying to scream out curse words, though a large rent in the creatures throat prevented it from doing anything other than a rude gurgle. The green man's mouth contorted with the effort of forming insults even as the creature removed the green man's lungs, his recently severed hand still contorted in a rude gesture of defiance.

R2 whined nervously and Luke quickly motioned to silence him palming his light-saber and standing, unmoving and silent, to reach out to the force and search. The cool and calming wave of awareness associated with becoming one with the force washed over him, bringing all things to the forefront of his mind. He needed to understand.

His mind focused on the creature and he reached out a tendril of awareness out to the creatures mind. Hunger, a terrible hunger, a hunger that had devoured worlds and galaxies filled the creature and commanded him to do its bidding. Worse yet as he struggled to free himself from the mind of the creature he felt as though the he were trapped in the jaws of some great beast. The phantom jaws tried to grip onto him, grabbing at his mind, searching for his flesh, thirsting for his blood. The grabbing gnawing claws playing at the corners of his mind were enough to make a man go mad.

Luke screamed in pain and willed the tendril away with all of his might, banishing the teeth from his mind.

Luke would never know whether it was his cry of pain or actually brushing the mind of the creature that would incite it to action. But the creature reared up, made a loud high pitched screech, and flung itself at Luke in a wild and whirling leap. However the creature, fast as it was, was little match for the blade of a light-saber.

The halves of the creature fell to the ground with a fleshy thump, the arms still blindly and wildly grabbing as the nervous system tried to reconcile the fact that the creature was dead. Ichorous green blood sizzling on the ground and melting metal and rock.

There was no time to rest and examine the creature however, even as the body hit the ground the scraping of claws and the mewing guttural screeches of alien voices heralded the coming more creatures. He could only presume that whatever dark malevolence guided the mind of the first creature would guide its fellows.

Luke yelled a quick summons to R2D2 and ran down the least ominous corridor in sight, praying that he would be able to outrun the screeching voices and find some way to escape.

The last of the rebel prisoners caught at the hangar of echo base fell to the ground dead grasping for breath as a livid Darth Vader stormed from the destroyed control room that served as a makeshift interrogation chamber. Snow troopers quickly moved out of his way, eager to avoid his wrath.

Nothing, the rebels had left nothing that he could use to find out where they were. Of the handful of men who stayed behind to delay him most had died using a suicide bomb to keep the imperials from getting anything from the record rooms, and those few who were left were simply those unlucky enough to not make the transports.

His fury did not abate when TR 1104 reported that the fleet had not made contact with them in the last thirty minutes and that due to a total lack of air support that a number of rebel transports that were realistically stoppable had escaped. Somebody was going to die… probably painfully…

Vader stormed over to a holocom unit and typed in his personal override code and waited. Around a minute later than Vader was willing to wait later an ensign picked up the call and stuttered fearstruck, "Mmmhnmemy luh…luhr… my lord what can I do for you!"

"Ozzel, now!" said the grating metal voice of a furious Vader.

"I'll try midlord!"

"You'll what?" Vader radiated rage.

"Of course milord whatever you want!" The ensign furiously gestured into the distance and a few seconds later the tired face of Admiral Ozzel popped into view.

"Yes Lord Vader?"

"Where was my air support Admiral? Are you actively aiding the rebellion in plain view of my eyes? I doubt that even you are that foolish."

Ozzel sputtered, "No my lord.. I would never… I'm as loyal as…"

"Then why are there no tie fighters above my head admiral? Or did you manage to cripple the rebel fleet in the skies above me? From what I hear there is a battle going on up there, I presume that the support that could have stopped my left flank from dieing is responsible for capturing the ship carrying Mon Mothma and the entire rebel command?

"Milord we've been fighting for our lives."

"How does that happen to the most elite fleet in all of the Empire? Is a fleet of unarmed frigates and one man fighters too much for the Executor to handle?"

"We aren't fighting the rebels."

"Then who are you fighting?"

"We don't know sir, we've never seen them before. Their spacecraft are manageable dangers, but we lack sufficient manpower to repel boarders. We've taken heavy casualties; three star destroyers destroyed and another four are just barely repelling boarders. One of our star destroyers broke off and is chasing after the ship we suspected Skywalker. If we can't get them out of our ships soon then they will be able to break through to the Executor and finding Skywalker becomes a moot point."

"I will be returning soon Admiral, if you manage to survive this battle we will have discussion about your various failings, I hope your affairs are in order" Vader disconnected and turned to the nearest trooper, "Order the men to get to the transports, we're returning to the fleet."
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-10, 08:49 AM Thread Starter
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CHAPTER 2

The charred smell of sweat and burning flesh is one that sticks to the soul of a man. To this day I can't be in a room with someone smoking a cigar without seeing the face of one of those torch wielding green-skinned bastards. I damn near went off meat for my entire life. We lost too many… far too many…

Orks... they're a menace that we should wipe from the face of the galaxy. Not the only menace mind you, the battle at port maw showed that worse times are ahead... but I'll always hold that special little burning bit of hatred for the Orks.

There are days where I truly miss fighting the rebellion. At the very least their madness was at least partially understandable. They were at times not entirely unreasonable in their demands. Moreover they understood the most important truth. War is a last resort of desperate men.

Till the coming of the Rock we had all assumed that there wasn't any sort of sentient sapient species that would choose to fight and kill just for the hell of it. Even the Mandilorians has some sort of "warriors code of honor" that they were aspiring to, screwy and self-serving as it was... they had it...

If the greenies ever had a code of honor that they were aspiring to I never saw it. The slave camps... the stories... bad as you've been told these things are, they're worse.

To this day I wonder if they knew or even cared that we were the most elite and feared of the imperial special forces, that worlds quaked at the mention of our fleet, that we were lead by the most fearsome and powerful of the Sith, and that we were but a fraction of the military industrial might of the empire.

The scary part is that I think knowing that would have made fighting us seem even more appealing to them.

One day we'll kill them all. I swear it.

- Excerpt from the journal of special forces storm trooper grenadier Irving Naorr'tal TG 2555 five days before his death at the battle of Korrag

Star destroyers are utilitarian military platforms designed little or no consideration for esthetics. The Empire had never seen fit to include any sort of decoration or unnecessary accoutrements on such a vessel, the military spending budget did now allow for luxury. Even so, starship personnel serve for weeks if not years at a time and even the stingiest of skinflints concede that without some sort of relaxation and unwinding space that mutiny and mental instability would plague military vessels. Simply put the higher risk and higher stress that a job is the greater the need for a space in which one might unwind.

To remedy this starships often contain some form of relaxation centers. Relaxation centers were small spartan rooms with comfortable chairs, a pazzak table, and a bar that served drinks with little taste anf few other redeeming qualities. Hundreds of such centers were spread throughout the various decks of a Star Destroyer. Center R-312 on the 12th deck of the executor was such a room. Tt was not filled with it's usual clientele of off duty officers and wasted storm troopers, as would normally be it's customary clientele. The sentients currently making themselves at home in center R-312, that is to say utterly destroying everything not bolted down or amusing them right that second, were below the usual imperial standards of decorum. The bartender droid was struggling to mix drinks as fast as the bellowing horde could guzzle them down.

The green skinned interlopers crowded round the small holographic Dejarik board sitting in the middle of the room. The nobs and buttons had proved to be too complex for them to understand but at the moment The crowd were fixated on the little men fighting on the board whooping and howling as the green pieces ate, beat, and dismembered the glowing blue holographic critters.

They were all so enthralled by the Dejarik board and the funny metal man who gave booze from a tap on his chest that the tossing of a small ball through the door went briefly unnoticed for a few seconds. However something small and shiny, especially something that beeps and bounced could not long go unnoticed by the Orks.

After watching his favorite Dejarik piece getting destroyed Pidwhip, one of the smallest of the invaders, lost interest in the game and noticed the smooth silver ball with the flashing red button. He smiled a malicious smile and leapt for the ball squealing with glee, unintentionally drawing the attention of everyone else in the room. The center of the room became a squealing mess of little men fighting over the ball closely watched by a drunken laughing circle of boyz.

Pidwhip felt the clawing of the others on his back and their kicking as they tried to wrench the ball away from him but he held on for dear life, staring intently and lovingly as the flashing red light. He counted the flashes as he ignored the feeling of angry fists cutting into the soft flesh of his back.

One flash, the onlookers were starting to take bets on which of the little ones would end up with the ball.

Two flashes, the large brute who bet his favorite severed head on Pidwhip yelled out, "Don' lose or I boit ya head off maggot."

Three flashes, two of the men fighting above him had fallen to the ground and stopped moving, their necks twisted at odd angles.

Four flashes, he wondered what he would do with the ball once it was his.

Five flashes, the device began to click and whirr.

Pidwhip never had the chance to regret that he never got to see a sixth flash. There was a burst of light and a rushing associated with a small scale atomic blast.

A squad of imperial storm troopers piled into the charred remains of the rec room occasionally shooting the dead bodies to make sure that they were really dead. After the room had been checked to their satisfaction the lead trooper turned to one of his subordinates and nodded.

The subordinate nodded and thumbed the switch for his build in communicator, "Sir, area clear of hostiles. Deck 8 has been reclaimed. We need orders sir."

Ozzel stood at the holographic readout in the middle of the room, watching the red dots move about the ship with impunity. His hands were charred from an overloading consul but the med-droid was having a devilish time getting Ozzel to stop waving his hands and receive treatment.

His command staff scurried about trying to relay his orders, "There's a group of them heading for the deck 12 starboard weapons locker, don't let them blow the damn charges or they'll take out axillary environmental controls!"

The insane tactics of the green menace had proved to be effective. While no reasonable creature could be expected to pile into a torpedo thirty men deep and get fired at the launch bay of a star destroyer, nobody was accusing these brutes of being reasonable. Hundreds of the great smelly green brutes were in raiding parties on the various ships, even the Executor was fighting a number of shipboard firefights. There had even been one particularly brash bull male who had slaughtered his way up to the bridge.

The sky above Hoth was now littered with spaceship hills and metallic debris

far as the eye could see. It was fast approaching the point were the point defense gunners were unable to differentiate between the shattered remains of fighters and the fighters themselves till they started firing.

The battle had become a race for the imperial ships to stay out of range of the weapons batteries on the enemy ship. Their eager enemy, artfully named "the rock" by tie pilots, boasted a number of weapons batteries that, while primitive, irregular, and relatively short ranged, cut through the imperial star destroyers like butter. Thankfully the imperial ships were faster than the rock was.

Bright green bolts fired endlessly at the green behemoth, angrily and impotently pelting its sides. Turbolaser fire had proved to be only moderately effective at mid to long range versus the shields of the aggressor ship. The stalemate would not last forever. Ozzel knew his time was limited but all efforts would have to be focused on repelling boarders. God save his soul he needed Vader to get back, even at the cost of Ozzels own life.

The crew deserved as much.

Retreat was anathema to the Imperial Navy playbook. Simply put, the Empire did not choose to engage enemies that it was not absolutely sure of victory against. In part this was to maintain the facade of invincibility and an omnipotent capacity for war, and in part it was because the Emperor had such a low tolerance for bad news. Imperial officers running losing campaigns were often removed, reassigned, or re-educated for their failures. Within the naval structure operating under the command of Darth Vader the punishments for failure were often immediate, painful, and permanent. Yet Captains Vo'ko of he Iron Fist and Santo of the Baron's Ilk were willing to risk the wrath of Vader this time, all he needed to do was actually capture the fleeing rebel ship and their futures were secure.

If they could manage to capture the fleeing Millennium Falcon chances were that Vader would overlook their indiscretions, it was a chance they were willing to take. Chasing down a single smuggling freighter was preferable to risking a boarding party of greenskins. A fact that Han Solo was becoming increasingly frustrated by with every passing moment, though his mood was being helped along by the aid of a particular princess.

The falcon rocked under laser fire, "They're on us, Chewie check the deflector field. She can't take much more of this."

His hirsute second in command barked out a quick confirmation, they could reroute some power to the rear shields but it wouldn't be enough for them to win in a straight up confrontation.

"Yeah well we can still outmaneuver them."

Warning klaxons sounded at from the display closest to Leia, "The star destroyers are converging on us."

"Yeah... lets just hope that they're watching us and not each other."

C3PO emerged from the back of the ship squealing frustratedly, "Captain Solo they're practically upon us."

"Just stay braced!"

Solo spun his ship and rocketed between the two wedges. So intent upon capturing the ship were they that they fired their tractor beams the second that the ship was in range, missing it entirely but managing to capture each other. The two wedges intersected with a crunching of plastisteel and a bloom of fire.

Leia let out a whoop of joy, "They collided."

Han smirked, "That was kind of the idea."

"The tie fighters haven't abandoned the chase Captain Solo."

"Damnit Han can't you get this bucket to fly any faster?"

"Listen your worship, if you want to get out an push be my guest."

Chewbacca let out a long grunt and smacked his chest.

"You said it Chewie. We can argue about this after we've gotten the hell out of here. Prepare to make the jump to lightspeed."

"Han, those imperial fighters are getting closer."

Han flipped some switches on the control panel to his left, feeding energy into the secondary buffer panel, "Enough of this dodging, we're making the jump to light-speed."

Chewbacca gronked an agreement and continued the flight prep.

"Just you watch now princess, this is the fastest ship in the galaxy. Hold on you imperial suckers!" Han pulled back on the throttle, starting the jump to light-speed only to have the engines sputter and cycle to nothing.

Leia looked at Han furiously, " Watch what Han?"

C3PO jumped in eagerly, "If I may sir, I was trying to tell you earlier that I noticed that the Hyperdrive motivator had been damaged. Its impossible to go to light-speed!"

Chewbacca groaned frustratedly.

"We're in trouble"

Leia looked at the readout on the right, "Tie fighters are coming in again, break right. Break right Han!"

The ship swung abruptly to avoid the angry green bolts of energy. Han pulled at the controls wildly ducking and swooping, "This is going to be a little tougher than I figured here."

"What do we do now flyboy?"

"You and 3PO fly this thing, me and Chewie will have to repair."

C3PO looked up in horror, his golden eyes flashing, "But Captain the optimal projections give you a margin of time that can barely allow for a favorable resolution of …"

"Co-pilot seat or airlock 3PO, what's it going to be."

"... pilot seat, please."

"Come on aft Chewie," Han rose from his seat and grabbed a tool belt off the back of his chair, "Just keep this thing headed in one direction Leia, that ought to keep us just out of their range. Me and the Wookiee will do the rest."
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-10, 08:49 AM Thread Starter
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Imperial landing craft are desiged with one thing in mind, the rapid insertion of a ground attack force on a planet. This allowed a beachhead to be made and a landing zone secured for the more ponderous craft carrying the larger artillery and support vehicles. With this design in mind they have a sleek form and large amount of atmospheric shielding for fast entry without burning up. They were not, however, designed for rapid scale withdrawal.

It was always assumed that any imperial fleet would have destroyed any space defenses and set up gravity well generators so that rapid retreat would be unnecessary. They were reliant on their total naval superiority to assert their land victories. A fact that Vader was becoming more aware of with time.

If Vader ever got around to it, he would probably torture the man who missed this particular tactical flaw. Every detachment of ground troops, including ground crews for the artillery had been shoved into the troop transports and sent up to re-take the fleet. Several hundred small to mid sized personnel transports had not gone unnoticed by the enemies.

They were taking heavy casualties before they had even reached the fleet. The escort gunboats that had accompanied the invasion force were powerful but slow, far too slow. The gunboats would simply have to catch up, if too much time was allowed to pass even more of the fleet would be disabled or destroyed.

Vader impatiently growled as the transport bucked hard to port, barely managing to grab one of the guardrails. His barely controlled rage flowed off him in waves, projecting his displeasure. This was supposed to be his crowing victory, the military achievement that would allow him the political stability for what he wished to achieve.

His repeated failures to achieve the Emperor's goals were dangerous, his own substantial talent in the force afforded him a great deal of latitude but even that only went so far. The sith were, by nature, mercurial and unkind in failure. Vader had not even delivered the news of the fall of the Death Star in person, preferring to deliver the news via transmission.

Vader was used to attempts on his life but recently the quality and skill of the assassins had been improving. The styles used by the assassins resembled ancient force kata. Schools of dark learning still existed on the fringes of the galaxy, but none had pressing reason more than Palpatine to do so. Then again when did the Sith need reason to destroy those who were potential threats?

Vader was not so foolish to believe himself impossible to replace, he had no doubt that some of the force sensitive agents employed by the emperor were seduced with promises of Vader's place in society. Vader had tutored apprentices in secret over the years, Palpatine would have to be foolish not to have done so himself. Vader feared for his own place, and feared that without a significant victory he would lack political capitol to seize power from Palpatine, should such a time overt confrontation was, as of yet, not in the interests of either Vader or Palpatine.

The ship heaved and yawed, soldiers grabbing onto the combat webbing to steady themselves.

Should he lose the fleet in addition to the battle the Emperor wouldn't need to have him killed secretly, he could do so with the blessings of the imperial government. None of that however would matter if the incompetent twerp of a pilot kept hitting every bit of debris in their way.

Vader stormed towards the cockpit, ripped open the door and bellowed, "Boy, what are you doing?"

The young pilot winced and tried to speak but all that came out was a pathetic whimper.

"Speak!"

"Tu, tuh, trying to avoid the fighting milord!"

"The Avenger is that way is it not?" Vader pointed a gauntleted hand to the most hellish of the dogfights.

"…mi…milord… do you mean to?"

Vader grabbed the unfortunate pilot by his jacket and looked him in the dead on, his hollow black eyes reflecting the terrified face of the pilot, his angry worlds punctuated by cool metallic rasping breath "Go there now! We need to retake that ship and get its point defense working before we can even consider making a counter offensive. It will give the Executor a window of opportunity to maneuver. Fly there now and there is a chance that the enemies will kill you, but refuse to go and I will promise you that you'll wish they had."

The pilot promptly moved the ship to Vader's desired course. The shuttle bucked and rocked with every bit of impacting debris stray projectile, inertial dampeners and shields struggling to compensate.

Death could come at any moment however the only fear in the pilots mind was fear of gantleted fists and the steady metallic whoosh of a rebreather only inches behind him.

"How are the repairs going princess?"

Leia re-entered the cockpit of the falcon and sat down in the pilot's seat next to C3PO, sighing frustratedly, "I don't know, the two of them are back there yelling at each other about hydro-spanners and illuvial dampeners."

The ship rocked abruptly causing C3PO to start screeching wildly, "Oh, oh, oh dear. The Imperials are upon us again! This is the end your highness. Oh, and I haven't said goodbye to R2"

Leia looked out the window squinting at the distant shapes, "That isn't counter fire... look out there."

"Asteroids. The sky is filled with asteroids. Oh no!"

"Here comes another," the ship rocked violently, "Han you and Chewie get up to the cockpit right now."

"It just doesn't seem fair, what with all the other problems we have," C3PO looked out the window in terror, "Will the deflectors hold?"

"Not if we hit one of the big ones."

Han and Chewbacca returned to the cockpit smelling of ozone and engine grease, "What's going on here?"

Leia pointed, "Look."

"Fantastic, more good news. Where are the imperials?"

"The ties are closing on us. If we swing clear of the asteroid field we'll run right into a Star Destroyer."

"Ok Chewie and me will take over the controls."

C3PO looked up in relief, "Fine with me."

"Ok Chewie, set course 271."

Leia eyes widened as she looked at Han, "You aren't actually taking us into the asteroids are you?"

Han laughed, "The imperials would be crazy to follow us into there wouldn't they? Hang onto your tiara princess."

The falcon barreled into the asteroids, dodging and weaving with deceptive grace through the treacherous rocks. The ship moved with such speed that the inertial dampeners struggled to compensate for it making the people in the cockpit feel oddly stretched and pressed.

"Han, you don't have to do this to impress me," said Leia in a voice of astonishment.

"Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is appropriately 725 to 1."

Han whipped around with a manic glint in his eye, "Never tell me the odds."

Leia screamed as they came face to face with an asteroid the size of a small mountain, "Watch out!"

The Falcon's rear shields flared as the tie fighter's guns came to life. The pilots of the tie fighters were apparently less willing to risk their own lives with the field, immobilizing the flacon being the best way of getting out of it. Not so unwilling as to risk the wrath of Vader however.

"They're following us? Those guys are crazy," Han pulled the falcon into a fast dive and pulled out at the last minute, forcing a pursuing tie fighter into the face of the rock.

"This is insane Han!"

"What are you complaining about princess, you said you wanted to be around when I made a mistake. Well this could be it sweetheart."

Leia groaned, "I take it back Han."

C3PO wailed as the ship bucked.

"We're going to be pulverized if we stay out here much longer Han."

"I can't argue with that."

C3PO nervously tapped his hands on this chest, "There must be some alternative."

Han smiled, "I'm going to go in closer to that big asteroid."

Leia did a double take, "Closer?"

"But sir... we'll crash."

"No, I'm just going to skim the surface, let's see how good these boys really are."

The falcon dipped down and started to run along the surface of the asteroid, flying mere feet from the jagged rocks and silica, forcing its pursuers to follow it's suicidal path. The fighters were, if nothing else determined in their purist.

"Han this canyon is too narrow and it's getting narrower"

Han smiled, "That's the idea. We've still got those ties on us"

C3PO looked at the narrow opening in the distance with mounting horror, "We can't fit through there!"

"We can if we go sideways," Han grabbed the controls and spun left, "Hold on tight."

Leia and C3PO screamed as the ship spun on it's axis, threading the thin opening of the canyon. The pursuing tie fighters, unable to fit through the narrow opening burst into green balls of flame on the canyon wall.

"We're alive!" whooped a greatful C3PO.

Han looked at C3PO annoyedly forcing the droid to hastily add, "...not that there was any doubt Captain Solo... Sir."

"Han I'll give you this, life with you is never boring. What about the tie fighters."

"The ones following us hit the canyon walls, any others that will be looking for us won't find us for a while. Guess it's time to look for a landing spot. That cave looks pretty good."

C3PO looked confusedly at Leia, "Why a cave your highness?"

Han answered, "Me and Chewie still have to repair that hyperdrive, or did you get excited and forget about it eh' Goldenrod?"

Leia smiled, "I just hope you know what you're doing for a change."

Han sighed, "Me too."

There are a number of sounds that a human recognizes instinctively as danger, the rattle of a snakes coils, the roar of a predator, the roar of fire, yet over the years we have not needed and thus lost a great number of the auditory receptors that prehistoric man once used.

We have no need to hear the great saber-toothed beasts of yore, yet the need for survival remains so we have, over time, adapted to learning the new sounds that herald pain and suffering. We recognize the sounds of a cocking gun as a peril whereas a caveman would be intrigued by the clicking snap and come to investigate.

Subtle clues can alert us to panic, senses that we are unaccustomed to using often register within our mind as a sort of "second sense" or a strange presence. Green-skins as a far more primordially driven species than we are far more prone to react to auditory or olfactory cues than any human ever would be. The smoothly cool snap-hiss of a lightsabler was not a sound that the green-skins milling around the had yet learned to recognize as danger. It did not take them long to commit the hum and the ionized smell of air into the mortal peril sections of their minds.

Upon landing in his private hangar, Vader and the contingent of private guards and elite storm troopers quickly crashed their way through the aft side service entrance to a seldom-used service tunnel and made their way to the main hangar killing every green-skin in their path. Here and there groups of stormtroopers gladly joined the counteroffensive, eager to reciprocate prior treatment. There was no doubt in anyone mind, the greek-skins needed to die.

There are very few times in imperial public record where a fight involved Vader spearheading a fight, and there are fewer still where those with Vader survived long enough to tell the tale afterwards. This was by the emperor's choosing, by keeping Vader in the shadows it made his power less known and more imposing. It also meant that Vader was limited in this ability to gain a military following. Watching a force user fight is impressive in a way few other warriors are and the retaking of the Avenger became a thing of empire navy the first time since the clone wars Vader had an opportunity to take his rage out on someone deserving of his ire and capable of giving him a challenge. Vader lived for these moments, his anger coursed through his veins focusing all things going on round him to a crawl. The dark side guiding his every hateful stab and crushing sweep.

One, then two, then three, then more began to charge at him with wild and inaccurate sweeps and shots. And as quickly they fell in front of his feet coating the floor with a slimy coat of blood and ichor. He smote them with blade and bionic fist, cutting a path through the middle and leaving the stragglers behind him for his retinue.

Vaders scarred and twisted face curved into a smile behind his mask. "These were the things that dared defy me? I would crush them beneath my boots!" He though about how they had foiled his plans to capture the rebellion, to bring peace to the galaxy, and to be reunited with his son and his amusement bled into rage, "Pitful creatures, I will smite you."

A mad greenskin wielding an oversized flame spewing contraption incinerated three troopers as it advanced on Vader screaming incoherently. A group of small and bitter looking green men follwed behind covered in whatever odd bits of weapons and armor they could carry on their small frames. Children perhaps, thought Vader, a strange race indeed that brings children to battle.

Vader dodged the ark of flame as he smote the nearest of the small men doubling back for a killing blow on the flame wielder. The battle progressively turned in Vader's favor as troop transports entered the hangar and delivered payloads of angry imperial troopers. Still loosing seemed to phase to green-skins little, the live green-skins started using piles of their own dead as cover from the angry imperials.

Just as the greenies looked like they were about to make a "Taktikul Retreet" and fall back to the corridors and other floors to regroup a reverberating booming clanking resounded from the main access corridor. Five of the largest meanest and most heavily armored greenies piled into the hangar led by the most massive amalgam of greenskin and metal that the imperials had yet seen. The big one grabbed the nearest ork running away from the fighting, lifted him, and smashed him into a gooey mess on the floor, "You lot wanna' ave' summut ta run from, den run from me! I'll squish any uv ya who get sum fresh ideaz bout' leavin! Boss Fragneck will teach you propa"

The greenies seemed to think that in a decision between dying at the hands of the whitez or squished to death in a most decidedly unorky way that they would rather die swinging a blade. The newcomers proved to be far more of an obstacle than the general mob was on their own, their very presence made the mob with more ferocity than ever. Greenskin and stormtrooper alike fell to the ground like flies in the swirling melee, blaster and projectile fire hit friend and flow alike as the groups took and lost parts of the hangar.

The armored newcomers made their way through the crowd towards Vader, crushing and shooting indiscriminately. Apparently this sort of a battle was a wonderful lot of fun for them. They laughed and joked as they killed their way to the funnily dressed man in black.

"Choo tink' bout da darkie wid da litestikk?" Asked the furthest to the left.

"Dancy little ponce e' iz!" Replied one of the middle ones.

"Iz' shiny gob wud look mighy fancy on me wagon though dough!" Laughed the larger one as he tore a storm trooper in two.

"Sure," commended the one on the right, "But den what wud we do wid the pile of udda gobz choo keep putting on there. Ya takez every whitey gob what you tinks is shiny den you gonna run oudda trukk to put gobz on."

"Daz tru'," replied a pensive left.

"Letz kill im' anyways!" Yelled another, "Youz can get a bigga wagon! Maybe a red one!

This seemed to be a plan that the whole group could get behind as they lumbered their way to Vader.

Vader was not amused by their antics. He was less amused however when his lighsaber sizzled and hissed against the barrier of energy indicating a personal forcefield on the closest of the armored greenskins. He was outright irked when one of the orks grabbed him from behind in it's oversized fist turned to it's compatriots and said, "Oy, its got buttons on its chest! Duz dat mean wut we can flip a switch and turn it off?"

That was not the wisest decision the creature had ever made but it was certainly the last. Even a novice of the Sith arts can tap into a massive amount of energy when truly and completely enraged. Vader was no novice. And at the greenskins joking comments about his prosthetics let forth a flow of twenty years of self loathing and hatred for the worlds continued existence. Vader stopped thinking, stopped planning, and simply became his loathing.

Vader reached out toward the face of the thing holding him and clenched his fist. The upper half of the creature crushed into a flat mush of flesh and metal as the creature imploded. The another of the warlord's retinue of the creatures let out a furious yell and charged at Vader. Vader allowed the bellowing beast to get within arms reach before he drove his fist through the unprotected forehead of the creature, felling in with a single blow. He turned dumbstruck green-skins and with his left hand, still covered in the purplish mush of brain fragments, beckoned.

"We'z gotta brain boy ere eh?" Laughed the warlord, "Looks like iz' ead will have ta end up on me bosspole after all."

"Come and take it then you insufferable worm."

"E'z gotta attitude too. Well then," the massive green-skin cracked his neck and flexed his mechanical claws, "Letz hava bitta fun den. Frag the git."

The remaining three of the retinue charged at Vader, pistons and servos enhancing their already inhuman dodged the first ones claw only to catch a burst of flame out of the pistol of a second one, searing his cape and causing his armor to smolder. Fighting the pain of the burns on his back Vader sent a gout of force-lighting into the third, causing him to fall on the ground convulsing.

The flamethrower green-skin screeched incoherently and charged over his fallen comrade, an oversized axe in hand. Vader swung up with his blade expecting to cleave the creature in twain but upon meeting the axehead his lightsaber simply blocked it and sputtered angrily. Vader was startled but there would be time to figure out what materials the were used in the creation of the axe later. The ork was strong and angry, but Vader was the better swordsman. Vader jumped back to avoid another sweep from the claw user and then leapt over the two green-skins and stabbed them in the back, causing thick dark blood to come oozing out of their backs that sizzled on his blade.

"Oh I likes you," The warboss said as Vader turned to him, "You'z gonna be fun to kill."

Vader glared. He didn't have time to play nice with this useless creature, "I doubt it."

The greenskin laughed heartly, "Why'z dat?"

"Because you're standing in front of a tie fighter's guns."

"Eh?" The greenskin looked left and the gunport to the empty fighter to the left of him. There wasn't anyone crewing it, but Vader needed no crewman. He reached out with the force and depressed the firing stud, blowing the oversized creature into a smoldering pile of ichor and viscera before moving on. The fighting would continue for a little over an hour. In that time Vader would leave no doubt in any soldiers mind to why you do not piss off Vader.

Luke knew he was being followed. He didn't know by whom, and he didn't know why but it was indisputable that it was happening. He was being followed at a distance by something or someone. There was little he could do about it other than keeping a wary eye out and trusting in the force. It wasn't one of those ghastly creatures from before, he didn't feel the grawing hunger that came with those creatures, but that hardly meant that whatever followed him was friendly.

He walked for what felt like days but might only have been hours though the corridors of the ship. It had taken Luke longer than he liked to find a safe place to stop and catch his breath, the remnant of what he though might have been a mess hall. It was hardly a fortress but it had doors that can be barred from the inside, which is as much as Luked could hope to find in this mase of a ship. Luke had more or less lost hope of finding his way today. He sighed and tried to get his bearings. So far he could identify at least three distinct types of interior architecture that seemed vaguely human in origins and another four that were distinctly not. There was no plan or logic to this ship, whatever sort of insane creature would design a ship like this and fill it with as many vile and murderous creatures as could be found was some sort of sadistic loon.

He was hesitant to rely on the force at the moment, the creatures that pursued him earlier appeared to be attracted to an excess use of force energy. Leaving him alone, hopeless, and effectively blind in the middle of the dark insides of the closest thing to hell he had ever experienced.

"Well what now artoo? You have any ideas?"

The little droid rocked backwards and forwards on his wheels warbling and tweeting his confusion.

"Yeah," Luke started hitting the back of his head against the wall, "Me either…"

"Still," he said as he rooted around in the emergency pack of rations around his waist, "We could be in much worse shape. We're alive and it seems like the rebellion got away."

It could always be worse, he reminded himself. Though how it could be worse for him he was unsure. Still he had found a measure of relative safety and the barred doors ought to keep whatever it was following him away from him. Luke could not be sure if it was safe to sleep in this room but there was nothing for it, he had no stim shots to keep him lucid and without at least some rest he would be useless.

"R2 I'm going to take a nap," Luke said as he took his jacket and bunched it together to make a makeshift pillow, "You keep watch and wake me up in a couple hours."

The Courscant skyline was a thing of beauty, it represented the height of technology and might of the empire. A city that encompassed an entire planet the capitol a million races from a billion worlds. And still it was not enough, Palpatine wanted more… no he needed more…

Power is what matters in life, power is life, without power a man is nothing. He who controls life and death can change the world into what he wishes to.

The rebellion would soon be crushed, word had reached him that his forces on Hoth would soon smite what opposition was left.

Fools, fools that cannot see the glory of Palpatine, that can never and will never reach half the majesty he has reached. Palpatine has power that none before have mastered and none shall master after... but there will be no after. Palpatine will rule forever or no one will rule.

And as of late he found that his mind wandered more and more to what he had not accomplished. He found himself hatching plots to cause a public outcry to destroy various species simply because the idea that it was within his power amused him. He had started to seriously consider the prospect of destroying key portions of the empire, gassing entire worlds, just to undermine the rebellion.

A well though through plan is a goal in and of itself. Do not feel guilty for allowing yourself to prove your own mental worth. It is not for others to understand your brilliance only to obey.

Power is an addictive high, the second that you feel that you have reached its zenith something else catches your eye and you will find yourself grasping for everything at once. Palaptine had joined the Sith when Plagus had promised him the knowledge to control the universe and a whym. Force knows that he had delved to the darkest reaches of the force in the search for power. But it wasn't enough… it was never enough…

Why should it be enough Palpatine? There is so much more to learn life is change and with every change there is a new power.

Had he not achieved all his dreams with toppling the senate and becoming the sole power in the known universe? How could he possibly want more? But still want more he did, with every labored breath, with every beat of his twisted and blackened heart, and every hunched step of his broken body he wanted more power. More than that he wanted immortality, he wanted to command forever; it was his obsession. The deepest corners of his subconscious

Why should death rob the universe of such a talented individual as you? Have you not brought order to a chaotic world? How can you regret the seeking of knowledge for no knowledge should be taboo.

Indeed, why should he feel guilty? He smiled darkly. He was Emperor Palpatine, the man who destroyed the Jedi order and united the galaxy underneath the banner of it's true master. And who would stop him? He was a god trapped in a mortal shell and it was about time the universe remembered it.

A man who doesn't plan for failure is a fool.

Yes... Vader may fail in his task. If Vader failed it would be time for the Emperor to resort to more drastic measures. Power was needed to rule the empire, and it matters not from whence such power comes.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-10, 08:50 AM Thread Starter
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CHAPTER 3

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."

"Sorry milord."

"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.

"Captain Piette."

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.

It figured.

"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.

"No."

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?"

"No."

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."

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-10, 08:51 AM Thread Starter
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"Han get up here!" Screeched Leia.

"What happened," Han said, barreling into the cockpit closely flanked by Chewbacca and C3P0, "What's wrong?"

"Your highness are you alright," tittered C3P0.

"There's something out there in the cave, I just saw something."

Chewbacca groaned skeptically.

"Maybe you were dreaming," offered Han.

"I was not dreaming you simpleton," Leia pointed, "See it left that goop smeared on the canopy."

"Listen," C3P0 had his head cocked and his eyes slightly out of focus, "Her highness is right... listen."

The faint sound of leathery wings and the dull screech of something living was just barely perceptible over the hum of the ship. There were a great many somethings clustered around the ship, fluttering and groaning. Whatever they were, they couldn't be anything but trouble if they god in the Falcon.

"I'm going out there," Han said in consternation.

"Are you out of your mind," Leia looked up nonplussed.

"Look princess I just got this ship back together," Han said pulling a rebreather out from under his seat, "I'm not about to allow something to tear her apart."

Chewbacca groaned in agreement pulling out a similar mask and his bowcaster.

"Ok, Han. Then I'm going with you."

C3P0 looked out the window at the smog in the cave and the goop on the window, "Pardon me sir but I think it might be best if I remain inside to guard the ship."

Han looked back at C3P0 in amusement, "Suit yourself 3P0, come on princess."

The cave was damp and musty. Foul smelling smog filled what little air was trapped in the cave. The ground, wet and squishy, made an odd squelching noise as the ramp lowered from the Falcon. It was odd to walk on and stranger to listen to.

"This ground sure feels strange," Leia said, "Ugh, doesn't feel like rock or soil. It's too squishy and slick."

"There's an awful lot of moisture in here, it's pretty warm for a cave too."

"Han I have a bad feeling about this."

"You're not the only one. Chewie keep your bowcaster ready," Chewie barked an affirmative, he was ready to go at a moment's notice.

"See what it was you heard Leia?"

Leia shook her head and bent under the ship, "It sounded like it was right up on the hull."

A leathery winged creature chose that moment to come screeching out from beneath the falcon, causing Leia to scream and Han turn and yell, "look out," before firing at the creature with his blaster. Chewbacca moved as though to stomp on the creature to crush it's ribcage and ensure it's death, but was stopped by Han, "It's alright I got it."

"What is it?"

"Just what I though," Han sighed, "A mynoc. Chewie, check the rest of the ship and make sure there are no more of them attached."

"Mynoc?"

"Yeah, they stick to a ship and chew on the power cables."

Chewbacca nodded and sniffed at the now dead creature on the ground, looking intently at the bulbous sucker on it's bat-like frame. It was an ugly and ratty creature, but few things that live in space are bred for their beauty. Esthetics count for little in a vacuum. Mynocs were a common pest in space, they latched onto the bottoms of ship and ate through the hull to get to the power lines. They were simple parasites, rarely more than a nuisance but in the Falcon's current state could possibility be deadly if they interfered with the hyperdrive.

"You can go on back inside we'll clean them off."

"Look out!" Leia shouted, another Mynoc had flown off the wall and was swooping towards Han's head. Han flipped his blaster at the creature, shooting wide and hitting the cave wall. His second shot killed the creature, it's body hitting the floor as a new quake started.

"Whoah, what?"

"Hold onto me," yelled Han as he grabbed Leias hand and leaned on the support strut of the landing ramp.

"These quakes are getting worse."

"That was no quake... it started when my first shot missed and hit the cave wall."

Leia looked at Han uncomprehending, "Do it again."

Han shot the wall again and another quake started. His face turned ashen, "Everybody in the ship right now."

"Han what is going on?"

"I'll explain in the ship just go."

The ground shook and heaved, tossing mynocs off the ceiling and shaking the crew as they made their way into the cockpit and buckled in. Han was silent and stern looking as he completed the pre flight check and lifted the ship off. The ship throttled along the cave at breakneck speeds, soaring towards the exit.

"Han, the imperial star-fleet is going to arrive soon, why are we going out of hiding?"

"Princess I've got no time to discuss this in committee."

"I am not a committee. Han you can't make the jump to light-speed in an asteroid field!"

"Sit down sweetheart we're leaving," Han pulled back on the throttle and tossed Leia further back into her seat.

C3PO looked out the window and gasped, "Look, the cave entrance. It's closing."

Leia blinked, "The cave is collapsing. The entrance is closing!"

"That's no cave entrance. It's a mouth see."

"We're inside of something?"

"The mouth is almost closed," wailed C3P0, "We'll certainly perish."

"Not if I can help it," Han Solo was not about to die in the mouth of some creature at the edge of space. It was simply wrong, when he went out, if he went out he intended to do so in a blaze of glory that people would talk about for centuries to come. Han bit down on his lip and pulled auxiliary power away from life support and into the engines, its not as though we'll be worrying much about breathing if I miss the exit.

The Falcon swooped towards the ever closing lips of the great beast, skimming the edge of the great worm's teeth as it stretched it's neck and gnashed it's fangs in an effort to crush the evasive morsel that had fled it's gullet. The beast was great but the Falcon was swifter, effortlessly dodging the clumsy creature. It screamed silently into the void, cursing it's luck as it sunk back into its lair.

Han's pulse returned to normal as Leia turned around to the fidgeting droid. C3P0 was clutching at his face in abject terror trying to force the fear away from his eyes, "You can take your hands off your photoreceptors 3P0."

"Oh we've escaped that ghastly creature," C3P0 shifted in his seat, pulling at his harness nervously.

"With no room to spare," Leia said venomously in the direction of Han, "Han what was that thing?"

Han looked out the cockpit at the pit they just left. The dust kicked up by the beast's rapid motion was still hovering motionless, a still frame of their near death. It had been close, too close. "They call them space slugs, it was probably dormant when we woke it up."

"Only you Han could pick an monster's esophagus to park in." Han rolled his eyes and bit back a sarcastic retort. She was correct after all, fate did seem to conspire against him.

Chewbacca laughed heartily and Han scowled, "Look I got us out didn't I?"

A warning klaxon screamed and the readout on the shields flashed, aborting any argument that may have been brewing between Han and Leia. Han groaned, "TIE fighters! The imperials picked us up again."

"Oh, they're firing!" C3P0 wailed, "Why can't I be living the sort of placid existence for which I was designed?"

"We can't go to light-speed here!" Leia reminded Han, more affirming the fact to herself than stating a new piece of information.

"We have to outrun them. Everybody hold on. Hit it Chewie."

The falcon shot forwards with a renewed burst of speed, the new batch of TIE fighters were less eager in their pursuit of the Falcon than their predecessors. They were less than eager to face their deaths on the face of the many asteroids in the field. Still there were many of them and only one falcon.

Han was lucky enough to keep them out of gun range till the edge of the asteroid field where he discovered an entirely new problem, or rather two new problems. Two massive star destroyers, still leaking plasma and scored with distended sections caused by the rapid decompressions of colliding with each other, were sitting and waiting for the Falcon like a hunting pair of predators.

"Oh hell, we'd better get out of here or we're about to lose it all. Ready for light-speed Chewie?"

Chewbacca moaned as he flipped the switches, he was as ready now as he was ever going to be.

"All right. Bye bye star-fleet, keep in touch," Han smiled manically and once again pulled on the faster than light controls. The ship bucked under laser fire as he counted down to ignition, "One, two, and three."

The faster than light engine sputtered and died. Han and Chewbacca looked at each other in horror, "Uh oh."

Chewbacca groaned mournfully and Han punched the controls, "That's not fair!"

The angry screeching blasts of laser fire flashed on the shields as a tie fighter made a pass on the ship. Shaking the already terrified crew even further.

"No light-speed?"

"No princess I was just feeling lonely and wanted to meet up with my best buddies in the imperial navy's fighter pilot pool."

C3P0 piped up with his usual pessimistic fervor, "Sir we just lost the rear deflector shield, one more hit on the port and we're done for."

Han closed his eyes and exhaled. There was only one option for them now. It was crazy but there was no other choice."Chewie bring her about."

Chewbacca barked in confusion, Han couldn't possibly be saying what Chewbacca thought he was.

"I said bring her about I'm diverting all power to the forward shields."

Leia stared at Han as though he had suddenly sprouted a second head, "Hold it... Hold it, you're not attacking them are you?"

"Inspiration is my specialty," Han smiled roguishly, "Extend the landing claw Chewie."

"Sir, the odds of surviving a direct confrontation with a Star Destroyer are..."

Leia cut the droid off, "3P0 shut up."

"The imperials have their deflectors at full power," continued the droid, "They've cut their speed though."

"Yeah," smiled Han, "They're getting cautious. Got any objections Leia?"

"No, I've already been an imperial prisoner remember? Run, fight, do anything you want except surrender Han."

"We're on a collision course!"

"No not quite Goldenrod," Han turned to his first mate, "Hang onto the landing claw Chewie."



They were dead. Vader was going to kill them. They knew it. They had the Falcon within inches of their grasp and then it had simply disappeared. Vo'ko of he Iron Fist and Santo of the Baron's Ilk had been chatting and toasting their victory as the small ship appeared out of the asteroids again and failed to jump to hyperspace.

Now it was simply gone, vanished. Like some sort of ghost. No ship that small had a cloaking device and yet there was no other explanation for how it had done its miraculous escape.

Things could be going better for the Empire today.



The ExGal society was something of a running joke in imperial academic circles. The ExGal society was a loosely connected collection of scientists, ship owners, and dreamers. Due to cuts in funding from the galactic senate since the clone wars their activities had been limited to little more than discussing the possibility of extragalactic life while sitting on rim world outposts and sending out probe droids.

Hyperdrive is a quick way to travel, but not instantaneous. Travel in between systems can take hours or days at a time depending on the power of the hyperdrive engines. Traveling from one side of known space to the other could take as long as a week depending on the ship. Hyperdrive while theoretically indefinitely fast is highly dependant on both the mass of the ship and the power of the engines. None of which can function without exact spatial data and drift charts to stop a ship from ending up in the middle of a sun by accident. It's one of the main reasons why things like gravity well generators and energy nets can blockade off a planet, the trajectory by which a ship can safely escape a planet is often limited to a few dozen vectors in any one direction.

In theory the discovery of new routes and new civilizations was profitable, though as of late it was as practical as entering the Corellian lottery as a way of resolving ones debts.

The majority of the members were either humans who wished to stay out of the eye of academic prominence within the Empire and thus avoid military conscription towards some project or another or non-humans who had found themselves unable to find employment in the anti-xenos atmosphere of the imperial universities.

The 21st year following the inception of the empire was not any different than any other year at ExGal. The higher ups were scrambling to scrounge up corporate funding as the senate no longer existed to provide the scarce grants that kept the company running. Funding meetings were always boring affairs, painfully so when it was a Bothan in charge of the meeting.

Rantan Fey'lin was a bothan who got too ambitious for his own good in one of the pangalactic corporations in the galactic north. He had attempted make some extra money by providing information to the competitors in exchange for the offer of a high ranking position. He was caught before had the chance to provide them with the plans that they had asked for resulting in him being jobless and blackballed.

Ralabar Tonard was unsure how Rantan had managed to achieve a high position in the ExGal, but he suspected blackmail. Nobody had ever been able to prove it but the previous head of accounting had been far too eager to hire someone so clearly untrustworthy. The hiring of Rantan was done before Ralabar left his academy on Mon Calamari to take over the head scientist position at the ExGal head office.

It was days like this that Ralbar regretted ever leaving Mon Calamari.

Rantan cleared his throat, "We are now operating on a budget roughly half what we were planning on. The Micran coporation pulled out yesterday for some reason. "

A collective series of groans came from the table.

"Yes that means that we are going to have to cut back on the number of probes we are sending out this year."

"Have we applied for any funds from the Empire," asked a pudgy little man with long ears and a pinched nose.

"Dllr nep ron barth natta nob ram la," screeched an angry looking sullustian.

"We cant' know that," chimed in the leggy Twilek that all the men on the station couldn't keep their eyes off, for the life of him Ralabar could not think of her name, "Not every scientist that gets funds from the empire ends up working on military projects. The possible economic and social benefits from our research have to out rank any sort of military applications."

"Like hell they will," butted in the Equani, "Have you forgotten the Nharl system or Alderran. I will not be used like that."

"It's a moot point anyway. The empire will never fund us," burped the froglike creature from the fourth moon of somewhere or another, nobody ever lasted at the station long enough for him to learn their names. It jabbed its finger at Ralabar, "The Mon Calamari has published more theories on the subject on this than any of us. And has that saved him from getting cut his funding cut out from below him."

Ralabar couldn't disagree with that. It was no secret that his funding was rapidly reaching its terminal point. People simply didn't care if there was life in other galaxies or not. There are hundreds of sentient species within the Empire, why should it matter if they could find another six? Even so it seemed distasteful to have that pointed out to him.

"Yes," purred Rantan, "Well that is true, however I promise that I will do my best to ensure that we find a sponsor within the next quarter. Even if I have to resort to a more… unconventional solution."

Ralabar's left eye gave Rantan a glare. Rantan had been pushing to merge the ExGal society with some unnamed corporate interest. He wasn't quite sure what Rantan's angle was yet, but it couldn't possibly be anything good for the ExGal society.

However as of yet he couldn't figure out who would want to take them over. Nobody was offering them funding, he knew that wasn't something that Rantan made up. Why would someone want to take control of what the corporate world though was a failed venture?

The meeting quickly dissolved into a shouting match. Scientists did not do well in groups when the decision of who's project got to remain in the budget. Ralabar briefly considered allowing the Bothan and Sullistian who were at the end of the table to actually get into a fistfight before the situation resolved itself.

A frustrated looking human threw himself into the room sputtering and shouting, "Here.. they… here… now… NOW…"

"Ry'yan, please tell me you have chosen to interrupt our meeting," demanded an angry Rantan.

"They're here sir! They're finally here!"

"Whom."

"An extragalactic species sir! The Imperial Command is in an uproar over it. The head office is trying to stifle the reports, but there are reports and videos all over the holonet."

You could have heard a pin drop in the conference room. Then what Ryyan had just said sunk in and pandemonium erupted. The entire room began to cheer and shout. The Twilek on the end of the table had picked up the Sulistian and they were spinning about in a sort of wild victory dance.

"How? When?" begged an eager human.

"I'm not exactly sure when, but they came during an imperial military engagement against the rebellion. The newcomers came out of nowhere and apparently started fighting with the imperials…"

"Defending themselves more likely," muttered the second of the Twileks.

"…and there's more. They won. And not just won supposedly Vader fell back to the Raltan outpost with his tail between his legs."

"What!" Squaked the Equani barely concealing his joy.

"Good god, " murmured one of the humans to Ralaban's left, "We're never going to run out of funding! We're going to be bathing in credits!"

"It looks like were going to have to do some research. Is anyone from the society near to the first contact zone, " posed another board member.

This was going to prove to be a highly eventful year for them. Indeed Only Rantan looked alarmed at the prospect of the ExGal organization having virtually unlimited funding, he sat sulking in silence.

An act that did not go unnoticed by Ralaban

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-10, 08:51 AM Thread Starter
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CHAPTER 4

They were fearsome fighters, larger that wookiees, meaner than a rancor, capable of taking a full clip of blaster shots to the chest, willing to die for their cause, unwavering in their pursuit of their enemies, willing to fight a superior enemy with inferior technology, willing to go into battle with little more than a large axe and bit of cloth protecting them, able to tear through bulkheads and ceramite armor, and insane as hell.

But damn were they stupid.

-Unknown Y-wing pilot at the battle of three moons.

It's a little known fact that there is a blind spot on a star destroyer's sensors about ten yards from the garbage chute. The section of this ship is nonessential, shooting at it accomplishes nothing, and hiding on it is just short of suicidal. Few people would be crazy enough to think of clamping their ship onto that section of the hull, let alone do it. Han was, in most circles, not considered the most balanced pilot. It had served him well and saved the Falcon numerous times in the past, and god willing in the future.

The four figures in the cockpit sat in silence watching the sensor readout. It wasn't that they needed to be silent, the void of space rendered all noise to nothingness, but somehow sitting in silence allowed them to believe that they were more well hidden. The readout at the front of the control panel hummed and beeped regularly, keeping an eye on the oversized warships.

"Look! Here we go, they're breaking up," Han's eyes were bleary from staring at the monitor for so long.

"What does that mean Han?"

"It means that what we've been waiting for is about to happen," Han started ajusting the controls.

"Oh no!" C3P0 wailed.

Han turned to his first mate, "Chewie go aft and stand by the manual release for the landing claw."

C3P0 leaned back in his seat to allow the massive wookiee to pass, flailing his hands and "Your highness I must point out surrender is a perfectly acceptable alternative in extreme circumstances."

"Leia," Han scowled at the princess.

"The empire may be gracious enough to re-consider its attitudes an-" C3P0 never finished, Leia had suck behind him and flipped his manual cutoff switch powering the frantic droid down.

"Sorry 3P0," Leia sat back down in her seat, looking back at the now innert droid embarassedly.

Han shrugged, "Ah, the nap will do him good. He's been through a lot."

"What'd you have in mind for our next move genius?"

"Well if the fleet follows standard imperial procedures they'll dump their garbage before they go to light speed," Han pointed to the massive airlock just above he Falcon, "We just let loose and float away."

"With the rest of the garbage?" Leia's brow rose, "Well, well you're actually thinking instead of reacting. What do we do then?"

"Then we've got to find ourselves a safe port somewhere. Got any ideas?"

"Where are we?"

"Uh, the Noad system. Let's see what the databanks say," Han turned on a small screen at the front of the cockpit that linked into the navigation computer flipping throuhg the profiles for local systems.

"The Noad system," Leia repeated to herself pensively, "There's not very much around here."

"No, no there... wait a second," Han flipped back two systems on the computer.

"I'm getting pretty good at that."

"Lando," Han turned to Leia.

"The Lando system?"

"Lando's not a system he's a man, a card player, a gambler, a scoundrel," Han waved his hand dismissively then looked at Leia knowlingly "You'd like him."

"Oh thanks," Leia gave him a withering glare.

"He's on the planet Bespin," Han read aloud, "That's pretty far from here but I think we can make it on sublight engines."

Leia looked more carefully at the monitor, "What does that say? Cloud City? It's a mining colony?"

"Yeah, floating Tibana Gas mine. It's suspended in the atmosphere."

Leia arched a single brow, "How did one of your friends get into an honest line of work?"

"Lando conned someone out of cloud city," Han said as though it were the most obvious thing in the world, "We go back a long way lando and me."

"Can you trust this Lando?"

"Of course not," Han looked at Leia in incredulity.

Leia rolled her eyes, "No, of course not."

"But he's got no love for the emperor."

Han looked up as the ship started to shake from the decompression of the trash in the airlock above them. He flipped the intercom lazily, "Chewie, here we go. Stand by the claw."

Chewbacca growled an affirmative over the intercom, he was ready whenever Han needed him to go.

"Well will you look at that, just like you said," Leia said in a voice not entirely devoid of sarcasam.

"Looks like a zero gravity scrapyard doesn't it? I wish the taxpayers could see this," Han waited for a count of ten then tapped the intecom again. "Detach the claw partner."

The ship jerked then simply floated away, it's escape covered by the rubbish and debris of the massive star destroyer. Leia continued to talk to herself in tones of incredulity as the Star Destroyers lazily drifted away into the distance, "It's working, what do you know? You do have your moments Han."

Han stretched his arms and cracked his neck, "Clean living and a pure heart triumph again."

"The Fleet's accelerating," Leia said as she checked a readout.

"Yeah, just like I said."

"Now if our luck will just hold out."

"Quit talking like that, it's a piece of cake from here on in. We hit Bespin, Lando fixes the Falcon and we head for the rendezvous." Han said for his own benefit as much as Leia's, "Stand by Chewie."

Leia looked out the window for a while then finally said, "At least I get to find out if it's true."

Han looked up from plugging the flight path into the computer, "If what's true?"

"All that stuff about honor among thieves."

Han glowered at Leia, "Why don't you buckle in and give it a rest."

Luke had a sneaking suspicion that Aneoni was taking the longest route possible, but there was nothing to be done. It wasn't exactly as though he could do much more than follow the seemingly unnatural speeds at which his guides moved. Their grace was almost unnatural, they didn't seem to walk so much as glide over the ground. R2D2 was following behind the three, his servos sounding out a high-pitched whine as the little droid forced himself to move at the same speed as his human master. Luke felt guilty about how hard this was on R2 but he would have to make it up to his companion later.

The Harlequin stopped abruptly and motioned for silence with a finger over the mouth on his mask. The mask, luke had thought he was hallucinating at first when the expression on the mask shifted from a wide smile to a toothy sneer but he had quickly figured out that whatever material the mask was made from was somehow able to shift with the mood of it's wearer. The porcelain facade of the mask was curved into a face with squinting eyes and puckered lips, a cartoonish stage whisper of silence that would have been comical in any other situation. Luke was uneasy, the past two times that his guides had motioned for silence he had heard the sounds of some massive creature shifting in the tunnels ahead. His day had been complex enough without adding the element of yet another fanged beast.

Luke stood motionless, hardly willing to risk breathing. Even the usually chatty R2D2 was silent, his glowing photoreceptor dimming noticeably. Luke opened his mind and tried to reached out with his senses, feeling for whatever it was that had spooked his guides. He didn't have to look long, the gritty feeling of rage was moving closer and closer.

"It's them," whispered Luke to Aneoni, "The ones who attacked the Imperial Star-fleet."

"Indeed, though Kuruk rarely stray this far down. They prefer to live on the outer shell of the hulk where there are fewer predators," She rooted around to the pouches at her waist, "I doubt that they will stray into the hunting path of a screamer killer..."

"The path of a what!" Luke hissed out in horror.

"Calm yourself, it has been dead for a week now. Your fellow mon-kiegh may be inelegant but they are skilled at killing all manner of creatures. It's markings and smells are still powerful warnings to other predators and the Kuruk fear larger creatures than they," she pulled out a green flask, "Still it would be wisest not to risk ourselves unnecessary."

The Harlequin's mask curved up into an impossibly wide grin, "No sense of fun."

"Not all of us have your wanton disregard for our own mortality," Aneoni tossed the flask down the tunnel. The glass shattered and a wide plume of bilious purple smoke swirled around, filling the tunnel leading to the oily feeling in the force. Aneoni's eyes flashed brightly and she held out her hand muttering in her exotic tongue shaping the smoke with her will into a massive creature of chitinous sinew and claws. It was slightly opaque but no less terrifying.

The searing sensation shot up Luke's back once again, this woman's powers were impressive but somehow were inherently "wrong." The force, even it's dark side seemed to flow from it's user, the power wielded by Aneoni was more imposed upon the world around her. She did not seem to use the energies around her so much as force energies to exist where previously there had been none. It was perhaps foolish but after looking at the large claws and hungry look on the creature's face he couldn't help but ask, "That is just an illusion right?"

Aneoni smiled, "Even an illusion can kill if you believe in it strong enough, the mind forces it to be real. You know as well as I the power of the mind over the weak minded."

Luke did know, but Ben Kenobi had been emphatic in his assertions that the use of such powers was only to be used in cases of extreme need. Luke was not eager to fight but the eagerness and ease with which Aneoni tapped into her font of power was unnerving. She was perhaps not a Sith but she was dangerous, of that there was no doubt, "How did you do that?"

Aneoni eyed Luke loftily, "It is not for your kind do know. I agreed to take you to your kin, not to reveal the secrets of mine. Do not mistake my intentions, I dislike you and your breed but helping you is... necessary."

Aneoni seemed determined to assert her dislike of all things human, and of Luke in particular. Luke had essentially tuned such comments out as they increased in venom and spite but her conviction in the necessity of helping him was confusing. Aneoni often said things that were impossible for her to know but no less true, "And why is helping me the only option?"

"I never said that," Aneoni started marching again with her unnatural grace, her construct walked down the hall roaring in the direction of the approaching horde, "There is always more than one option, often more than one way to the ideal outcome but at the moment aiding you seems to be the most practical option in the long run even if it was not my first choice."

"I'm almost afraid to ask, uh what were..."

"The other ways of reaching our goal?"

"Well, yes," Luke ducked under a beam that was hanging from the ceiling, "Not to put too fine a point on it but what were the other choices."

Aneoni smiled, "We could just as easily have killed you in your sleep. It would have achieved the same end."

"Right," Luke's hand moved in the direction of the light-saber hilt at his belt.

Aneoni stared him down in mild amusement, "Calm yourself, for the moment that path has been closed. The Harlequin's will was for you to live and his powers of divination gulf my own. I would see you dead just as soon as I would save your life but fate is in your favor at the moment."

"I'll keep my hand on my saber all the same. Luck has a way of changing."

"I would be disappointed in you if you did not. But do not mistake fate for luck or chance, it would not do for you to allow yourself to die so early into the events unfolding," Aneoni smiled, "You still have much to do."

"You expect me to ignore the fact that you think killing me would achieve your long term goals?"

Aneoni laughed a cruel and biting sound that was both haughty and joyous, "I expect you to realize that we had hours to stab you to death in your sleep."

Luke was not altogether comforted by that pronouncement.

The three came into a wide room with a high ceiling and broad fresco of a two headed eagle. It was a spacious room with no obvious signs of habitation, but too little dust on the floor to be totally unused. Whoever used the space had gone to great pains to maintain the illusion that they lived elsewhere. There was one thing that they could not change however, the sensation they left behind in the force. It was a living space, of that Luke had no doubt.

"So.. what do we do now?" Luke turned around confusedly leaning on the door and looking back out the corridor they entered from, "There doesn't seem to be... anyone here at all."

"Truer than you know mon'keigh," spoke the haughty voice of Aneoni in increasingly fainter tones.

Luke turned around abruptly to look into the great hall as he felt the searing sensation he associated with Aneoni fade. The two had simply disappeared, leaving Luke alone in the wide and empty space of the hall.

Once again Luke found himself lost, alone, and confused in the bowels of the massive ship. Luke turned to R2, "I'm beginning to hate that woman."

R2 had little of substance to say in return.
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-29-10, 08:52 AM Thread Starter
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"Sir I can't repair a ship with materials that we simply don't have," said the Deck Chief for the ninth time to Admiral Piette. The two were seated at a large table covered in charts, reports, and data tapes detailing the damages taken by Vader's fleet at Hoth.

Piette sighed and silently agreed, there was little that could be done but he still felt compelled to ask, "Is there nothing that can be done that is not already being enacted?"

" Listen Admiral. In theory every Imperial spaceport is prepared to dry dock and repair a fleet so that it can return to the front lines in less to a week. It looks simple, to the point of childish, to do when looking at the Empire's statistics on the average amount of time needed for a ship to receive dry dock repairs. Things often do when a Empire produces an expense report for how much money they actually need to spend to get what they want," The Chief pulled up a detailed report on the extensive damages suffered by the Corsucul Rider, "They're full of it. There are few places short of Kuat that can power out star destroyers in a matter of hours and days rather than weeks and months. Border world facilities are given the bare minimum for their needs, we serve as listening posts rather than mainstream maintenance. Raltan is often well stocked with the best in scanners and long-range communications we are not the Kuat shipyards. We will do what we can but please understand I'm not a miracle worker."

Raltan barely counted as a blip on the Imperial radar, the station was decked out in the bare minimum crew and supplies possible. Simply put there was nothing in the Hoth or Dagobah systems that was worth the Empire taking notice of, so they chose to ignore any defensive measures that might be taken.

Piette knew that there was a second issue that the chief was hesitant to discuss. The deck crew jobs on Raltan had previously been considered to be a nice boring way for servicemen to work their way on keeping their heads down for long enough to earn a nice pension and have some benefits in their old age. It was a dumping ground for the children of the well to do and politically connected, a place where the leaders of tomorrow might gain sufficient "military experience" to be politically acceptable for a bureaucratic job in the future. The average workday for someone on maintenance usually consisted of going to the hangar, looking at a tie fighter for a few hours, watching the pilots take it out for a test flight, and refueling it when it got back.

However in the past twelve hours that had all been shot to hell and back. The prize fleet of the Empire had limped its way back with its tail between its legs, beaten, bruised, and seven star destroyers short of what it should have with it. The initial communication between the chief engineer of Raltan and the military governor of the sector reflected the overall sentiments of the crew.

"There goes my pension."

Even with the combined efforts of both all of the station crew capable of wielding a hydrospanner and what little remained of the fleets actual maintenance staff there was no viable way for the ships to be anything but dry-docked for the next week. Not that there would be much point in having the fleet finished anyway. The ships were flying with skeleton crews and could hardly be expected to go back into battle.

Star destroyers are awkward beasts of burden at best. The most basic of flying requires a crew contingent of over twelve thousand; the executor required ten times that much. The total remaining Navy personnel numbered just under hundred and-two thousand. A good thirty thousand naval crewmen were being transferred from the Executor to the other ships to replace the crew lost and it still wouldn't be enough. There were still a decent number of storm troopers and pilots scattered throughout the fleet, all of whom were doing their best to help with repairs, but they did were not mechanics and could only be trusted with the most basic of repairs.

Vader's entire command was crippled till the reserves from the 5th fleet managed to get out to Raltan. Ten days at a minimum. Vader had taken the news surprisingly well, destroying the display screen in a rage but not killing anyone. In fact Vader had been astoundingly limited in the direction of his rage, the death of Ozzel apparently being sufficient for his needs.

"Very well Admiral, if there is nothing new to discuss I hope you will forgive me but I need to oversee repairs to the fleet."

Piette waved towards the door, "Of course, I have pressing business elsewhere anyway."

The chief rose and headed towards the door, but stopped abruptly and reached into his pocket and pulled out a data crystal, "I had almost forgotten, Lord Vader asked me for the control codes for the inverse hypermatter-regulator controls on the station."

Piette rose his head, "He didn't inform me of any such desire."

The Chief shrugged dismissively, "He dropped it in conversation yesterday when we were working on one of the turbo-laser power plants on the Avenger."

"Ah," Piette could hardly be surprised by that, so dire was Vader's desire to get his fleet back into the skies that the Lord of the Sith deigned to do some manual labor himself. One could hardly fault his knowledge of the systems, he had designed a majority of them himself. The crew was initially reluctant to believe their eyes at the sight of Vader holding a tool in one hand and a schematic in the other cursing the shoddy workmanship of a malfunctioning turbo-laser turret but eventually came accustomed to his guiding hand, "Off the record, how are the crew reacting to having him around? I don't want them to be working themselves to death over this."

The Chief laughed, "You'd have a devil of a time trying to stop them sir. I don't think I could force them to stop working on a project with Vader if I tried."

"Pardon?"

"Admiral I've had to issue a standing order to my men not to use their scheduled rack time to help Vader with repairs," the chief tossed the data crystal onto the table, "I'd always heard that Lord Vader was imposing, I just never realized how inspiring he was."

"I had expected the Storm Troopers to have an increased respect for Lord Vader," Piette started surprisedly, "But you say your deck crew are going out of their way to help him?"

"I actually caught a couple of my gear-heads actually trying hack into the duty roster, they were actually adding additional shifts. My boys have fine minds but they aren't usually good workers." the Chief smiled, " I couldn't decide if I was proud of them or wanted to court marshal them for disobeying a direct order. I ended up having them locked in the brig for a couple of hours just to make sure they got some sleep."

"Chief, I need you to be totally honest with me," Piette was still not entirely sure they were discussing the same Lord Vader, "Exactly what are they saying about Vader."

"Still off the record Admiral?"

"You have my word Chief."

"Have you seen the recording yet?"

"Oh no, you don't mean that," Piette's eyes widened in shock and he tapped the activator to the holo-net terminal at the desk, "Dammit, dammit, dammit."

It was foolish for him not to have anticipated it, the officers in charge of maintaining controls over the flow of information and regulation holo-net access had died in the battle, but it had never even popped into his mind to encrypt the security camera recordings to only respond to his personal access codes. That was the job of the ten, now dead, officers of the Executor's branch of the Imperial Propaganda Office. It was all over the net now, everywhere. Recordings of Vader's battle, the ill fated fight with the Greenskin behemoth of a ship, all of it beyond Imperial control.

"How long has this been in circulation?" Piette massaged the tick in his forehead.

"Hours, I assumed it was your doing."

Piette rounded on the Chief, "And why would you assume that?"

"Well sir," the Chief held up his hands in a gesture of surrender, "I don't know who else has Ozzels holonet logon codes."

Piette looked back at the recordings and examined the publisher's information. It did indeed bear Ozzel's personal identification code, the password to which Piette was one of the few people privy to but it had not been Piette to upload the data. This was a nightmare, he was living in a nightmare. The Emperor would no doubt draw the same conclusions as the Chief and would blame Piette for Vader's increasing popularity. Piette bit down on his lip to resist the urge to scream with frustration, this oversight had maneuvered him into a position where his only option for safety was now to ally himself wholly with Lord Vader. An unpleasant prospect considering the Emperor's growing distaste for his most powerful servant.

Vader was becoming more politically viable. The fleet had come to respect Lord Vader at the battle of the Rock. Now, as they watched the birthing pains of the fleets resurrection they were quickly coming to love their commander. They too felt the burning hatred in their bellies for the greenskins, they too wanted to have their revenge, and they too wanted to make the greenies bleed. So did Piette if it really came down to it, but he wasn't to the point where his riteous anger overpowered his fears of the Emperor's private assassins.

"Thank you Chief, I appreciate your honesty."

"Don't mention it sir," the Chief stood at the door hesitantly biting on his lip, "Uh.. sir?"

"Yes Chief?"

"Something has been bothering me for a while about this whole situation."

Piette chuckled hollowly, "Many things about this entire fiasco are troubling."

"Of course Sir I simply meant that there is something that doesn't add up to me."

"Well? What troubles you?"

"It's like this sir," the Chief approached the table and activated the holographic display in the middle. A wide picture of the planet Hoth before the assault on Hoth jumped into the center of the table, "The fleet came in from 211 mark 34.5 right?"

"Yes," Piette stood and pointed at the point where holographic images of the fleet were appearing around the hologram of Hoth, "We took a standard path to the side of the planet the rebels were based on."

"More than that sir," The chief pulled a report off the table, "This outpost is poorly equipped to fix the fleet but we do have a more than adequate long-range scanner. Have you heard of the Uulan effect?"

"Vaguely, in a physics lecture."

"It's a gravity field that is caused by the interaction between a two gas giants and a star, makes it impossible for ships to travel through the system at faster than light speeds," the chief made the screen expand to show Hoth and it's surrounding systems, "It's essentially a natural system wide gravity well generator. Do you see where I'm going with this?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Sir, that ship traveled directly through system suffering from the Uulan effect," the chief pointed at a system to the right of Hoth.

"So they traveled slower than light-speed through a single system, what is your point."

"No sir, they didn't."

"Pardon?"

"We have a satellite in that system to monitor the effect. Those ships never entered the system."

"But that means..."Piette's eyes widened in shock.

"Yes sir, whoever these people are they either have developed some method of either improving their hyperspace drives to avoid gravity anomalies or are propelled by some system we are unaware of."

"Chief you did well to bring this to me," Piette frowned resisting the urge scream, "I will let the Imperial command know about this at once."

"Thank you sir," the Chief Saluted and left the room.

Piette looked at the display in horror. This situation could not possibly become more complex if he had tried. This new enemy was as alien as any creature he had ever met and they seemed determined to break every rule of combat and physics that he had ever learned. Such an unpredictable foe was less than ideal.

Piette had been ambitious, he had allowed Ozzel to dig himself into making poor commands so that Piette could take over his Admiralty but it was increasingly feeling like a wasted effort. Fate seemed to be conspiring to make him the de facto second in command of the Lord Vader, a man who he could not hope to supplant. Vader was quickly finding the remaining soldiers to be totally loyal to his every command. No man had not witnessed his re-taking of the star destroyers in person or through the holovid recordings distributed during debriefings, even the dimmest of Storm Troopers had gained a total and fiery need to earn Vader's praise and somehow be worthy of the fight of the Avenger.

The war with the Rebellion had been mostly political for the average empire conscript, they could care less what sort of trading rights the Mon Cal government may want or for the civil rights of wookiees. But the matter of the green-skins was a horse of an entirely different color.

They wanted them all dead.

"Hello? Luke yelled out, his voice echoing round the room."

Luke stared at R2, "There were just two people in this room right?"

R2 squawked an affirmative spun on his wheels in a confused manner. It had a half hours since Aneoni and the Harlequin had vanished without warning, Luke's patience had worn down. People weren't supposed to vanish, but then again people weren't supposed to make giant beasts out of smoke either. It was a trick, Luke through, another of Aneoni's I will not be part of whatever "mon-kiegh" game she has planned.

"Enough!" Luke yelled at the top of his voice, "I'm in front of the only door so I know you're in here. Don't play games with me, you can't hide forever and we have work to do."

"Hiding isn't part of the plan," A strong pair of all too human hands reached out of the darkness of the corridor behind him and dragged him into an alcove, the cool feel of a steel blade pressed to the nape of his neck, "Move and I ventilate you."

There are far too few worlds to express the feelings and thoughts that go through a mans head when someone has grabbed him by their hair and holds a 9 inch serrated blade to his throat. It is a surreal and terrifying moment. Invariably the man holding the knife will be either demanding something loudly or asking complicated questions that the man being threatened will have difficulty articulating answers to. Luke was quickly discovering that his throat knife logic was vastly inferior to his sans knife knowledge.

A half dozen large men came out from the shadows in front of him pointing nasty looking blasters in his direction. The lead, a large dark skinned man chewing a cigar, jabbed his finger towards Luke and turned with a look of fury on his face to R2.

R2 started warbling fearfully and the man with the cigar spat on the floor, "Tell that servitor to stop beeping at me or I will put a hole in it."

"This is really not necessary."

"Do I look like I give a flying frag? You shut your mouth or I will gouge your eyes out and let the Ogryn spend some "me" time with you prettyboy."Luke struggled to lift his head forward to see who was speaking, but the effort proved unnecessary. A thin and serious looking man entered the room followed closely by a massive man with an ugly large squashed in face carrying a massive club-like gun, "Now you ain't dead yet so you aren't totally useless. You wouldn't have gotten this far without a gun, where is it."

"I haven't got a blaster," Luke said evasively.

The colonel leveled a withering look at Luke, "Boy do not take me for an absolute fool. You have a weapon on you somewhere. Now you can either give it to me or I can let Shiv help you remember where it is."

Shiv twisted Luke's arm behind his back and pulled upwards, the knife never leaving luke's throat. Luke winced in pain and hastily spat out, "Light-saber. Belt."

The colonel cracked his neck as he paced in front of Luke, "Boy speak plainly or die quickly."

"The cylinder, the cylinder on my belt!"

"Eyes, grab it," Eyes, the long and lean man to his left, inched forwards and pulled the saber from Luke's belt. Luke felt hands fumbling with the clasps at his waist then the weight of the handle leaving his side.

Eyes looked at it for a moment and looked up at Luke, "The frag is this pretty-boy?"

"Hit the button on the left, point it away from your body," Eyes raised an eyebrow, thumbed the saber's activator, the blue stream of energy hummed to life. Eyes stared at the blade incredulously before prodding at a bit of the floor slicing through the metal and limestone with ease.

"Fragging hell! Colonel... do you know what this slag is? This is a fragging phase blade, it's what that psycho bitch with the Inquisitor used. Where the frag is the armory distributing these fragging things and why the don't we get them?"

Another of the large men turned to eyes and slapped him on the back of the head, "You've been in the Catachan Guard your entire fragging life and you haven't figured out we're the last ones to get the good stuff? What are you? Stupid as well as blind?"

Eyes turned back and made a rude motion with his fist, "Frag off Stonewall did I sound like I was talking to you?"

Stonewall approached Eyes squaring his shoulders, "Then you'd best stop wasting air talking in my direction Eyes, we'd all be happier."

"Stonewall, Eyes if you two pantywaist leash lickers are done having a lover's spat do you want to get back to the matter at hand?" The colonel bellowed motioning to Luke, "We have a prisoner at knife point for the Throne's sake, can't you two moron's turn it off for two minutes? Eyes turn that damned thing off before you make yourself a eunuch."

The two muttered apologies and went back to pointing their guns at Luke. The Colonel shook his head and turned back to Luke, "I swear no brains in them at all."

"Don't stop them on my account," Luke cleared his throat rolled his eyes to the knife at his neck, "I'm in no hurry."

The Colonel chuckled dryly and turned back to his men, "We don't know that he's with the Inquisitor. Inquisitor's boys don't take too kindly to people shooting their 'Lord' in the face with a plasma cannon and he doesn't seem to be particularly motivated to looking for a fight," he took a long draw from his cigar and blew smoke rings at Luke's face, "But that don't mean that he ain't dangerous and that he can't be useful."

He began to pace in front of Luke, sizing him up. He took in every part of Luke from his brightly colored fight suit, to the insignias on his clothing, and even to the survival pack loosely hanging off his side, "Who the frag are you and why are you dressed up like you were dressed for war by a Frenat whore on a Saint Brecknal's day shore leave?"

"Luke… Luke Skywalker… they, that is to say the two I ran into said that I could find other Humans here. I just wanted to find a way off this ship," The hand pinning his arm twisted painfully cutting him off. Shiv was apparently not interested in a long conversation.

"You and anyone else with half a brain on this Throne-forsaken heap of rock," The colonel leaned in toward's Luke's face, the smell of burnt tobacco and sweat assaulting Luke's senses. The colonel clearly hadn't bathed in a very long time. Luke's eyes watered from the effort not to gag as the Colonel shifted the cigar around in his mouth and asked, "You with the Orks."

"I'm not with anyone on this crazy ship."

The man holding him still gave a grunting bark of a laugh, "Aren't we all Pretty-boy?"

"So do we kill him?" asked eyes as his finger started twitching on the trigger, "You remember Anderson? I can't let another man die because we aren't careful."

The Colonel whipped around to Eyes and snarled, "I'm the one in charge Eyes, if we're going to kill him it's because I think it needs to be done. You going to make a complex situation more interesting my starting a fight on this?"

"I propose a simple solution Colonel. You let him live," said an arrogant voice from the shadowy part of he room beyond Duke, "And we let you do the same."

"Frag me…" Duke groaned and turned around to face the lean form and arrogant features of Aneoni, "That bitch isn't dead yet?"

A/N: there will be another update to this story this week as well as two for my other story which is a Bablyon 5 and Warhammer 40k crossover, if you like this one please check that one out.

Cheers. As always review and be BRUTAL.
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Chapter 5

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The ExInt, Experimental Intelligence and Reconnaissance Techniques Development Board, was a subsection of Imperial command with a large budget and very little oversight. Like most of the Empire's spec-ops units they were under the impression that they were the favorite sons of Emperor Palpatine and that their work was the direct desires and wishes of their beneficent leader.

Unlike the vast majority of the covert ops units they actually were the direct product of the wishes and desires of the Emperor. ExInt had a very simple mandate, torture xenos and rebel scum till they told the interrogator where more xenos and rebel scum were, capture the other xenos and rebel scum, and repeat the process till there weren't any more targets left. It was a mandate fully supported by their superiors and one of the few branches that to date had never been in danger of a budget cut. They also operated on internal sedition and rebellion when necessary, but it was on a far lower scale. Which was to Mika's liking, human's were so dull in interrogation. They rarely lasted more than a few days at best.

Most fleets had at least five ExInt members spread throughout them, depending on how much Palpatine liked the commander he might even tell him that they were there. Vader's own fleet was no different. Truth be told, ExInt operatives liked working under Vader's command. He was a fair commanding officer and the sort of man who an interrogator liked to work closely around. No matter how long they stayed with Vader it seemed that they were always three steps behind him when it came to extracting information from a prisoner. Vader did not reciprocate their fondness, but the members of ExInt had never really been hung up on other people's perceptions of them. They were, after all, professional torturers.

Vader was one of the lucky few who were informed of the presence of the covert unit on his fleet as well as their assignments. This was mostly due to an incident referred to as the Bharzzak affair. Some years ago Palpatine had stuck a covert surveillance unit on one of Vader's ships to make sure that Vader was in his proper place and to root out any potential rebel sympathizers and, although it was more of an implied rather than stated mandate, to ensure that Vader wasn't misbehaving.

Vaders own internal security caught wind of some of the coded transmissions and Vader, assuming that they were rebellion saboteurs had dealt with them with his usual tact and flair. His interrogations were short and efficient; Vader never did have much patience for traitors and stowaways. It would not be till a week later that they broke the code on the transmissions and discovered that they were not rebellions. The severed heads of the team were mailed back to the Emperor with a letter of apology and a polite suggestion to limit their deployment.

Mika didn't really mind that Vader had done that. Navcovops was a rival of ExInt anyway. Mika was relatively green as a commanding officer, but the coming of the rock had resulted in a number of battlefield promotions. As the other three remaining operatives were greener than Mika he would have to do. It seemed that most of the fleet was having to do jobs that they wouldn't ever have expected themselves to be doing and he would cope just as well as one of those meat headed Stormtroopers.

Besides he hadn't has this much fun in ages. The greenskins they managed to capture proved to be delightfully fun to experiment with and even more delightfully difficult to kill. Hours passed before he finally managed to kill his first one and it screamed wonderfully.

It was a point of pride for ExInt members to see who could keep a prisoner alive for the longest after doing horrific damage to it. Mika's personal record was keeping a Mon Cal alive for a week after removing one of it's lugs, but he was sure that he would break it with one of these "Orks." Nasty smelly bastards though they were, they could manage to survive horrendous amounts of punishment.

He had even managed to transplant all of the organs out of one into another and as of yet the transplanted organs had not had complications. The donor had even managed to survive for a whole half hour without a majority of its internal organs.

God he loved these things.

He was now experimenting with transferring organs between two of the larger ones, they did seem to have all sorts of redundant organs. Kip was standing near the creatures head asking some question or another offering false promises of ending its pain. It didn't really matter whether the creature gave them any information or not. They ran through four or five of the creatures before they realized that the species must operate mostly on intuition or superstition rather than any sort of tactical combat.

The creature screamed in agony as he pulled something squishy and purple out from a sack below the knee. He would have to write that one down.

Kip turned the greenskin, "Name and Rank."

"Fook you.. AARrrrGGhhh..." Mike poked the red sack on the left leg.

"Name and rank."

"Oiz gunna rip yo head off and make a fookin drum out of yo' spleen!"

"Try poking the yellow pusbag we found under the second stomach."

"The one that spits those heinous smelling spores? I watched you pull that one on Anders."

"It did make the creature scream."

"Stop talkin' bout proddin me gutz ya smarmy little….AAraGRAha…"

"It looks like the purple one works quite well too."

"Just tell us what we want to know and we will end your suffering. What is the composition of your military forces? What are the capabilities of your battleship."

"Iz just one uv' da boyz. I don' make no taktikal decisions. I juz choppa diz and shoota dat'."

"That's a pity."

"Oh kill me already ya slodding ponce. If yaz don't I'z gonna rips off ya head and do the old onsie onsie."

"No… I don't think I will."

Kip turned to Mika, "I believe that you were postulating that entire arms could be grafted from one Ork to another?"

"No time to test like the present."

The sounds of plasma torch lighting and the eviscerated greenskin's infuriated twitching filled the room. Then the screaming started.

God he loved these things.

Rapid response trooper TR-145, Trikn Tans'on't, had been the slowest to answer the warning klaxons indicating a hull breach on deck 12 aft of the Conqueror. It had saved his life in the short run by allowing him to catch only the shockwave of the weapon used to breach the bulkhead rather than die in the actual explosion but had condemned him to capture and humiliation. He had been one of forty taken from his ship and only one of fifteen not to be selected by somebody named Ripsnip for some form of unspecified medical testing.

He doubted that the medical testing could be any less pleasant than the pits. The barbarians that had taken him were the worst sorts of creatures imaginable. They were brutal, foul-smelling, petty, and violent amoral beasts. They hadn't even bothered to ask him for name and rank when he woke up. They simply tossed him a knife and let some great toothed beast loose from its cage. When he had managed not to die in the beast's maw they declared him to be "ok fo' da arena" and knocked him out with a blow to the back of the head.

He awoke for a second time with a splitting headache in a dark pit of a room lined with sharp spikes. There were a good half dozen men, most of them Storm Troopers, groggily shambling around the room half-concussed. Trikn tried to ignore the sweeping sensation of numbness in the back of his ribs as he propped himself up to a sitting position, wincing at what were most certainly broken ribs. He tried to stand up entirely when a massive hand pressed gently down on his shoulder and a deep voice spoke tones of warning in a foreign tongue.

Trikn tired to shove the hand away and stand up but the man simply continued to hold Trikn down and repeat the same three syllables in a warning tone. He was about to yell at the man holding him in place when a voice from his right spoke, "I'd listen to him if I were you. There's a rather large spike above your head."

Trikn looked directly up and there it was, long and jagged looking, a barbed spear hanging down from the ceiling. What purposes it would serve other than injuring an unwary prisoner was something of a mystery to Trikn. Then again, perhaps keeping them alive wasn't the goal. He turned to the massive man behind him and had to blink several times to make sure that he wasn't hallucinating. The man was a seemingly impossible wall of muscle and sinew. Every inch of his rippling muscle seemed to be struggling to burst through his skin at every moment. Trikn's, "thank you," sounded a bit more awestruck than he meant for it to.

The man chuckled dryly and responded with a friendly sounding string of syllables and a gesture of spread hands and interlocked thumbs over his chest that Trikn could only assume was a symbol of friendship. A friendship that he became increasingly grateful for once he realized bestial that the screams and howls he was hearing in his head were not his imagination but were rather coming from the snapping jaws and glowing eye of the inhabitants in the neighboring cells. They peaked through the bars and eyed the humans hungrily but became cowed and fearful whenever the large man would look their way.

"What kind of place is this?" Trikn asked loudly.

For a second time a cruel voice from a neighboring cell yelled back in a thick Mandalorian accent, "This is hell boy. This is the arena."

"Arena?"

"Yes arena boy, are you thick? You fight. You win. You survive, for a while at least."

"They mean for us to fight each other then," Triken said darkly as he craned his neck to see the distant shadowy shape of the man speaking. His head swam and he laid back down, apparently the concussion has been more severe than he feared.

"Yes," said the man, his voice full of bitterness, "If your lucky."

The semi circle of armed men surrounding Luke whipped around to face Aneoni, pointing their blasters and glaring. There seemed to be little love lost between the two groups. Duke motioned to his men with his right hand and pulled a pistol out with his left, "I seem to remember shooting you in the head some time ago."

"You remember trying to," Aneoni's hand rested on the hilt of a blade at her side unconcernedly, "But you were foolish to assume that you had achieved your goal."

"I don't assume nothing when it comes to you xenos witch," Duke tapped his finger on his temple, "You tend to do odd things on the brain pan to a man. There's a reason we keep sanctioned bolt magnets within shooting distance of the leash, if one of em' gets funny the leash can send them to the throne or wherever it is tweaks go after they die."

"Charming though your colloquial references to casual genocide may be Duke we don't have time for our usual games."

Duke smiled and snapped his fingers, "You sure as shit don't."

The semi circle of men opened fire on the woman, the blasts of projectile and energy weaponry making an odd combination of barks and whooshes. The spot where Aneoni stood cracked and sizzled with the impacts, the woman seemingly melting into nonexistence. Duke's face fell and his eyes widened slightly, "It's a fragging illusion the bit..."

Whatever Duke had been wishing to say was abruptly cut off as he dodged a quick coup lancé from the rapier wielding harlequin, ducking his whole body into a tight roll as he unholstered a pistol from his side firing a long burst of laser-fire at the spot where the harlequin's after-image was still brightly swirling. The sound of shill laughter reverberated from seemingly everywhere as Duke struggled to sort out illusionary images from the real attacker.

The porcelain like face of the Harlequin's mask was curved up into a rictus of humor as three conflicting images of him danced round the room harassing the Colonel who, apparently having had enough of the Harlequins' games simply flipped his pistol onto full-auto and shot a wide spray in the areas where any illusions were. It was an inelegant solution but apparently an effective one as giggling cry of dismay sounded in the distance as one or more shots grazed the Harlequins' left arm.

"That wasn't very nice of you now was it?"

"Do I look like I give a damn?"

The Harlequin giggled as its afterimages shook and danced, playing with the injury as though it were great fun, "Oh how I love your kind, so full of fire and fury."

The semi-circle of men stood at the edge nervously aiming their weapons and waiting for a clear shot. Duke opened his mouth to say something but abruptly fell silent as the lithe form of Aneoni dropped from the ceiling, pinning him to the ground and pointing a slender but deadly looking pistol at his groin and a sharp knife to his throat.

Duke cleared his throat and motioned for his men to stand down, "I believe you said something about a deal?"

Aneoni leered back as she holstered this pistol, "Yes. In spite of your brutality… no not simply in spite of it, Because of it your brutality I do have use for you."

"Gracious of you."

"It is extremely," Aneoni walked towards the restrained Jedi, "Let the boy go. Now."

Aneoni's voice reverberated unnaturally on that last syllable with an air of dominance. Shiv's hands faltered then tightened harder around Luke's throat, "I only take orders from the Colonel. You can eat a..."

"Just do it Shiv," Duke's eyes were on the knife at his own throat, "If they were here to kill us they would have just ambushed us when our backs were turned. The bitch just wants to remind us that we're lesser creatures than she."

"But sir," Shiv was clearly not in the mood to surrender.

"Don't question my orders Shiv just do them."

"Yes sir," Luke shoved away from the dark skinned man and rushed to Aneoni's side. The woman was insufferable but as of yet had not actively pulled a weapon on him.

"We hoster our weapons on a count of three," Duke was managing to look surprisingly calm in spite of his own imminent danger, "You try anything at all and I don't give a damn if you do give me a Catachan how to do in the hangsies, my men will shoot you till you die then shoot you some more for good measure."

"I'd expect no less from you Mon'kiegh," she lifted off the Colonel holstering her pistol and knife within the folds of her cloak and giving a pointed look to the armed men round her. The close semi-circle of soldiers grudgingly relaxed their weapons but continued to eye Luke and his apparent saviors with open dislike and suspicion. Luke couldn't help but feel indignant for the undeserved hatred these men were leveling at him. Luke was feeling quite naked without a weapon.

The twitchy one called Eyes was still clutching Luke's light-saber loosely in his hand, apparently satisfied to have disarmed at least one of the three. It was probably beneath a Jedi to use his powers to rip the hilt out from his hands in a demonstration of power, then again he wasn't a fully trained Jedi and could be forgiven a few bouts of youthful arrogance now couldn't he? The look of abject horror and disgust on Eye's face as the hilt shot out of his grasp and into Luke's outstretched hand was far beyond the simple surprise that Luke had expected. Duke's expression hardened and his eyes became, if it were possible, even colder.

"Is there a point you dragging this heretic in front of us Eldar witch or are you simply demonstrating how easily corrupted by the dark powers we mortals can be?"

"Nothing so mundane. The manchild is our path to our greatest mutual desire," Aneoni waved a willowy hand in the direction of Luke.

"I doubt that he has a gorgeous set of brunette twins stashed in his robes."

"Don't be crude, you know of what I speak."

"I doubt that Pretty-boy over there will manage to get us off his monster of a ship."

"You would be mistaken. He will be the key to leaving this ship for both of us."

Luke had to resist the urge to immediately contradict her as soon as she said that out loud. Luckily Duke had many of the same doubts as Luke. In a voice of dangerous calm he asked the obvious question, "How do you propose to do that exactly boy?"

"Oh do stop trying to intimidate the boy Duke, he's well aware you wish him a slow and painful death. Put your distaste for mindcraft aside for half a second and think. I know it's difficult for someone as limited as you but actually use that pathetic excuse for a brain your corpse-god graced you with. We've stopped, that only happens when the Krork are about to invade an inhabited planet. The Krork are scavengers. They take ships and slaves by the thousands, at least one of the ships they're scavenging from the battlefield will have a working engine," Aneoni turned on Luke and in the tone of a bored schoolmarm prompting a petulant student for an obvious answer asked, "Can you fly a ship to some human controlled port where the Mon'kiegh can go on their way?"

Luke, still feeling a bit gormless about the whole situation nodded, "Of course I can." Considering how murderously Duke's band of ragtag fighters were looking at him Luke seriously suspected that answering anything other than "yes" would get a laser-blast to the skull.

"So will we all die in a pointless battle over your pathetic prejudices or will we manage to get off this ship and go our separate ways," somehow even when she was on his side he got the sense that Aneoni was talking down to him.

Duke bit his lip, clearly torn between the conflicting urges to get off the madhouse of a ship or to shoot all three of them squarely in the head. A couple of pregnant moments passed before he swore loudly, spat on the ground and cracked his neck, "Throne curse you and your entire race, I accept."

"You're welcome."

"You'll burn in the fires of hell one day xenos."

"But not today it would seem," Aneoni brushed her hand dismissively, "There is a price to our help human."

Duke's teeth gnashed together loudly, "Other than not shooting you you mean."

"Yes," Aneoni chuckled, "Oh calm yourself Mon'kiegh, this will be a task well to your liking."

"I doubt that very much."

"You may doubt my motives as long as you pay my price. Do you honestly think I could not find a way of securing passage of this ship for myself, the Harlequin, and the boy on my own? Think yourself lucky that there is a task I need to complete before I may leave this dreadful place."

Luke could not help blurting out, "If we could just get the hell off this ship why didn't we?" in utter consternation. The day had been well and confusing enough without being dragged into whatever historical territorialism was going on.

"Child, my help always comes at a price. Do not mistake me for your friend," she turned back to Duke, "I suspect you remember the great arena?"

"I'd be hard pressed to forget that horrible place," Duke shuddered slightly.

"Do you remember the prize slave of the warboss?"

"Gloryboy? I remember him. How anyone could live in that hell for as long as he has and not become a monster is a miracle."

"More than you know. I wish him freed and taken with us when we leave."

Duke tilted his head confusedly, "You want us to assault an Ork stronghold with a handful of men, two xenos, and a bolt magnet wielding a phase-weapon? To save a marine?"

"Yes," Aneoni ignored Dukes dripping sarcasm entirely, "Within the next five hours if possible."

"...Throne of Terra I hate you so much."

"If wishes were groxes we'd all eat steak sir," Eyes said, still eyeing Luke with open hatred. Luke responded with a cornelian hand signal he learned from Han some time back.

A pregnant moment passed in which Luke seriously feared that they were going to start fighting to the death a second time. Eventually the dark skinned man piped up. He was apparently eager to get off the ship, "We're going to need a patron if we want to get passage into the main city."

Duke sighed frustrated and looked longingly at his sidearm, seemingly disappointed that he would be resolving this situation diplomatically, "We're going to need the Leash aren't we."

"It would seem so sir."

"Looks like we're going back to the city boys. Remember to look broken and enslaved."

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