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PostPosted: Sun Jul 18, 2010 4:42 pm 
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The Sacul.
In Orbit Around Terminus’ Third Moon.

“You’re positive they received the abort signal in plenty of time?”

“I am” Sacul’s image nodded in response to Face’s question, “They received and acknowledged the signal. However, they gave no word on whether they had succeeded in breaching the Freighter by that point” She shrugged, “They may have been too deep within the freighter to extract in time”

“Or they may have chosen to remain aboard regardless” Deven offered from where he leant against the bulkhead”

“Possible” Face sighed.

Upon reaching orbit in the Wraith, Face had ordered Katrin to scan for the Infiltrators recovery signal. Finding none and witnessing the Pride Of Tatooine jumping out, Face had ordered a rendezvous with the Sacul Where Sacul had filled them in the best she could.

Fortunately, the Republic and Terminus forces were too busy with each other to bother with pursuing a single transport and both the Sacul and Wraith were able to rendezvous in orbit around Terminus’ third moon.
Leaving Corran, Myn, Void and Lowbacca on the Wraith, Face, Deven, Katrin, Rrowv and Kai had transferred over to the Sacul.

First order of business was to work out what had happened to the Infiltrator team.

“It makes sense” Corran’s voice cut across the comms, “Both Jaina and Oddball are close to Jenna and I imagine Jaden struck up a solid friendship with her during the time they were making their way to Rhen Var. Makes sense that they’d do their best to go after her as fast as possible”

Face nodded, “I guess we should have anticipated that they’d do that. We’ll have to get after them as fast as possible” He sighed, “Which brings us to our next order of business. What now?”

“Well, obviously we use the information we got from Treth to go after them” Deven said, “But we don’t know what forces might be waiting for us”

“True” Face conceded, “Plus they’ll hear that Treth was picked up by the NRI and will prepare for an assault force” He frowned, “Stealth might get us there, but we’re going to need more than we have to handle whatever is there”

“Maybe we can get a force of our own,” Kai said without looking up from the navi-computer. She glanced at Sacul’s image, “Sacul, what’s the nearest fleet?”

“The Ninth, under Rear Admiral Gilad Pellaeon” Sacul answered.

A thoughtful expression crossed former actors features, “We’ll provide Pellaeon with a copy of the data we got from Treth and ask him to spare some ships”

“You think he will?” Deven frowned.

“He will” Corran answered, “Pellaeon is a shrewd and intelligent commander. He’ll spare what he can, especially if there is a chance we can capture the Prime Councillor”

“Okay” Face smiled, “We’ll send him the data and ask him to spare what he can. And we’ll meet him…” He pulled up a star map on a holo-projector, “A few systems out from Gamorr, here at Stein’s Folly”

Deven grinned, “Let’s go get the kids and end this”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Treth Construction Company Offices.
Terminus Prime.
Terminus.

“Loran was here,” Showolter muttered.

“Sir” The aide accompanying him frowned.

“Garik Loran” Showolter said, “His fingerprints are all over this. Both Treth’s office and penthouse are hit before our own teams do They question Treth and scare him so badly he refuses to speak to us and then slip out from under our noses with a minimum of interference. Yes, this is Loran’s style alright”

“But he’s on our side” The aide shook his head, “Isn’t he?”

“He is” Showolter nodded, “Which means he has some reason for undercutting our op like this. And it better be a good one”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Highway Seven.
Liberty District.
Coruscant.
Two Days Later.

The speeder truck moved carefully along the highway, its driver –wary of the dangerous load in the back- paid extra attention to other road users and avoided any unnecessary roughness.
Not only was the cargo at stake, but so was the mission. Any unusual driving activity would draw the attention of the traffic authority and that was attention the strike team codenamed ‘Cleansing Fire’ didn’t need.

Not yet anyway.

Up ahead, the ground highway curved around the squat flat-topped pyramid upon which sat the massive transmission dish of one of Coruscants planetary shield generators.
Above, the skyways also curved around the building. The entire building was a no fly zone for air speeders, the energy beam for the shields would fry an air speeder just as quickly as would flying straight into the shield itself.

That was their target.

The driver, known only as Colton to the rest of his team frowned as the traffic ahead slowed to a stop. Easing the truck to a stop behind a flatbed hauler carrying a battered old Luna Shuttle, Colton reached his right hand up over his shoulder and tapped three times on the panel separating the cab from the cargo area.

The panel slid to one side and the head of the Teams leader Hawke emerged.

“Trouble?” Hawke asked.

“Possible” Colton shrugged, “Looks like hold up somewhere ahead”

“Are we close enough to the primary target?”

Colton nodded, “Yes, and the secondary targets. Though secondary Beta is just outside our range”

Hawke scowled, “Perhaps the follow up effects will take care of that for us. Still, I want us closer if possible”

Colton started to nod, but then stopped, “Uh oh”

“What?” Hawke demanded.

“I think they’re onto us” Colton answered, indicating ahead where Coruscant Security personnel were moving down through the traffic weapons at the ready and sweeping radiation detectors left and right.

“Dammit” Hawke muttered seeing several fighters and light transports overhead, “They’ve got air support too. Probably running full scans too” He chewed his lip for a moment, “I guess it’s time. I need two minutes to activate”

Colton nodded and grabbed a blaster rifle from the passenger seat, “I’ll buy you that time”

Hawke smiled, “I’ll have Lori and Dace join you. Good luck”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lieutenant Gavos Shan of the Coruscant Constabulary felt a growing sense of unease as he watched the scanning teams move down the lines of traffic. As he stood next to his speeder at the hastily assembled roadblock he tried to ignore the angry shouts of those who were being held up and instead focused on why he had ordered this.

Following the trail from the late Ov Brin, Shan had slowly pieced together what he needed.
He’d tracked where the mysterious container had been transferred. From there, he had managed to pull the faces of four unknown individuals –three males and one female, all human- from security cams at the transfer point.
The Ids had come up empty, but the radiation signature at the location told him that they had worked on whatever had been in the container before loading it onto a ground travelling speeder. They’d also found intricate plans detailing the Liberty District Shield Generator Facility, hinting that the facility was the target for a strike.

To this end, Shan had requisitioned scanning equipment and ships and ordered roadblocks on all the main ground based highways leading to the facility. They couldn’t cover them all, so Shan had focused on the major routes, discarding any that a heavily laden vehicle would have trouble travelling along as well as routes that passed too close to security checkpoints.

Whether that gamble would pay off remained to be seen.

But then everything went to hell.

Up ahead, one of the CC Officers moved towards a large and battered speeder truck. As he began to indicate that the driver should open up the rear of the truck, the driver instead kicked the door open and shot the Officer in the face with a blaster rifle.
Even before the headless body hit the tarmac, the driver was spraying laser fire at the other officers and seconds later he was joined by two more blaster wielding figures. A male with another rifle and a female with a heavy concussion rifle.

As Shan dropped behind a speeder and drew his own blaster, he recognised all three from the partial Ids they’d pulled from the cams at the transfer location.
Popping up from behind the speeder, Shan tried to ignore the terrified civilians running past him in panic as they tried to get clear of the combat zone and sighted in on the driver.

He fired three shots; all three missed, but forced the driver behind cover.

“Taggart!” Shan yelled to his second, “See if you can flank their position”

“Yessir!” Taggart nodded, and signalling three men to follow him moved off to try and move behind the truck.

Bringing up his blaster and firing again, Shan was happy to see the driver take one energy bolt in the throat.
Even as the fatally wounded man collapsed choking on his own blood, the woman opened fire with the Concussion rifle and two speeders blew apart, taking two of Shan’s men and five innocents with them and sowing shrapnel across the area.

A second later, she too was cut down as Taggart’s team opened fire from their new position.

Bringing his blaster in line with the final shooter, Shan prepared to fire. He never got the chance.

A white flash blinded him and a wave of heat briefly touched his body.

Then Gavos Shan of the Coruscant Constabulary felt no more.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

At almost the same instant the five joined Type 7 Nuclear Warheads within the speedertruck detonated.

The initial waves of heat and radiation claimed one hundred and fifty-seven thousand lives across the surrounding seven kilometres in the first second. Many of them –including Gavos Shan and his men- were in the open and were vaporized. Others inside buildings and other structures were burnt and carbonised were they stood. None of them were even aware of what was happening.

Outside the immediate blast zone, thousands of beings spared from an immediate death were blinded by the flash of detonation and thousands more were cursed to die slowly and painfully from radiation poisoning.

Even as flesh burnt and metals and even stone began to melt, the shockwave was unleashed. Everything in an area of six and a half kilometres was reduced to rubble, entire buildings shattering and crumbling. The shield generator and the building on which it sat disintegrated, as did Highway Seven. Below the blast point, the canyons of buildings, which formed the foundations of the district, likewise crumbled under the blast wave.

Debris was hurled by the blast for kilometres around, causing horrific damage outside the blast zone. Earthquakes were triggered by first the blast, and then the effects of most of an entire district collapsing in on itself. But the damage paled to what was occurring in the Liberty District and the areas ringing the devastation.

As the subsurface buildings collapsed, it triggered a domino effect; the weight of buildings collapsing on buildings below caused those buildings to collapse. And so on. As the Liberty District began to tumble into an abyss, buildings that still stood at the edge of the blast zone –many with living beings still inside- collapsed. Many tumbling and sliding into the abyss,

Thirty thousand souls were lost in the immediate follow up as hundreds of buildings collapsed.

To the west, the eastern banks of the Liberty Reservoir -its waters already boiling- crumbled and billions of gallons of fresh water poured from the reservoir and into the great sinkhole that was once the Liberty District.

To the north, the Mon Mothma Star port was swallowed by fire as its entire fuel reserves ignited in a huge conflagration that caused the power cores of a dozen parked star cruisers to detonate.

For hundreds of kilometres around, thousands of buildings suffered massive amounts of damage as earthquakes wreaked havoc across eight districts. Skyways and highways collapsed claiming more lives.

Fully one quarter of Corscuant went dark as the power grid struggled to cope with the damage suffered to the network, a situation not help by the EMP wave caused by the blast which shorted out multiple substations and transmission conduits.

Much of Coruscant was shielded against the effects of EMP, but even the toughest shielding wasn’t proof against all the effects and a panic swept over Corscant as news screens and commlinks went dead. All across the Republic and beyond, anyone and everyone with even a small amount of force sensitivity felt a feeling of anguish, pain and terror sweep over them as thousands of lives were snuffed out.

Though comms and the holonet would be restored within a few hours for most of Coruscant, one thing was clear. Coruscant had been attacked.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mariska Savage’s Apartment.
Republica One-Twelve.
Senate District.

Lyn Kargin picked herself up from the floor, and winced as her shoulder popped painfully. Bracing herself as another tremor shook the building, she noted that this one was nowhere near as bad as the one that had hurled her from the bed.

“What the blazes in going on?” She muttered, “Lights” She called out.

The room remained dark.

Frowning, she moved to her terminal and hit the power button. Like the lights it too refused to function.

Forcing down a growing sense of unease, she moved quickly to the windows and threw open the curtains and immediately let out a gasp of horror.

The transparisteel window had cracked, but that was only a small issue. Outside was chaos. Dozens of floors below, she could see the Reikkan Plaza where people seemed to be running around in panic, dodging the debris and the injured alike.

And off in the distance, where she could see between the buildings, the sky was burning.

Right where the Liberty District should have been.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Office Of The Chief-Of-State.
Imperial Palace.

“Does anybody have any information?” Vorsk Kel’lya snarled.

Kenth Hammer and Elegos Ak’la exchanged glances, “Information is still coming in” Hammer answered, “But from what we’ve got, there’s been an explosion in the Liberty District. Massive damage there and in neighbouring districts” He frowned as he examined the terminal in front of him, “Most of our lines of communication are down so information is slow. No data yet on cause, actual damage or casualties”

Kel’lya glanced at the military advisors sickly pallor and wondered if Hammer had felt what had happened through the force.
With one hand he flattened the hair at the back of his neck and looked at the Caamasi Senator, “Any word on the other Advisory Council members?”

“Pwoe and Niuk Nuiv are still aboard the Guardian with Supreme Commander Girdun for their tour” Ak’la answered, “I’ve heard nothing regarding the others. Considering the situation out there…..”

Kel’lya nodded, “It’s a panic and we’ve no communications”

“Got it!” Hammer suddenly exclaimed, “Sirs, I’ve established communications with the Mediator Class Cruiser Avalon. She’s about to pass over the Liberty District in a few minutes, she’d going to give us a birds eye view” He indicated the holo-projector, “I’ll patch it through to the holo”

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Mediator Class Battle Cruiser Avalon.
Coruscant Orbit.

Commander Eldo Davip felt a growing sense of unease as Coruscant spun lazily below them. They’d all heard something had occurred planet side and something had briefly knocked out their sensors, but only know were they beginning to understand something terrible had happened.

“Liberty District coming around now, Sir” The navigation officer called.

Davip looked out the forward viewport. A glow seemed to be emerging around the planets edge, “Isn’t Corscant Prime behind us?”

“Yes Sir” The Nav-Officer frowned.

“Then what…..Oh!” Davip gasped.

Next to him, Jhementi let out a sickened gasp, “Emperor’s Black Bones!” The Calamarian Officer whispered.

Around the bridge, others added their own exclamations. Davip did not silence them; he was too shocked by what he saw.

Below them, the Liberty District was a black scar on Coruscant. One that burned with flame.

The Liberty District was no more.

In its place was an inferno.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Terah Estate.
Mos Eisley.
Tatooine.
One Day Later.

Octavia had been enjoying what had been a pleasant lie in, enjoying the peace and just revelling in the lack of need to be up and about.

It was not to last. Blake charged into the room and threw Octavia her robe, “Octavia, get up, you need to see this”

“Can’t it wait?” She groaned, sitting up and pulling the robe on.

“No” Blake said, grabbing her hand and dragging his still half asleep wife towards the family room.

There they found half the Terah family gathered around the holo-projector and as she watched, the last traces of sleep vanished from Octavia’s mind.

“My stars” She whispered in shock, “What happened?”

“There’s been some kind of explosion on Coruscant” Zan Terah answered.

Octavia nodded stiffly as they watched what was obviously a news report. A camera droid was flying above what appeared to be a massive crater on Coruscant. Buildings were toppled here and there and flames raged out of control.
Even as they watched, one building tumbled over in a cloud of smoke and dust.

Running from the room, Octavia dashed to the bedroom and retrieved her comlink. Turning it on, she switched to the frequency to the Ackbar, but before she could speak it began trilling for her attention.

“Terah here” She said into the mouthpiece, “Piggy, tell me what I’ve just seen hasn’t happened”

“You’ve seen it” Piggy sounded surprised, “Holonewsies” He said with realisation, they got the news out faster than High Command could send it to us”

“What happened?” Octavia asked.

“A bomb” Piggy replied, “Someone detonated a nuclear device in the Liberty District. Massive devastation, they still don’t know how many lives were lost. Probably never know. The main target appears to have been one of the planetary shield generators. Coruscant now has a massive gap in its defenses”

“Any orders from command?”

“None yet. Just await further orders, things are pretty confused”

“Okay” Octavia nodded, “All ships are to go to alert status and vector for a jump to Coruscant”

“You think the Neo-Seps may attack the Capital?” Piggy sounded like he’d already come to the same conclusion.

“I do” Octavia grabbed a shirt and pulled it on, “Send a shuttle down for me. Have it come straight to my family’s estate. We’ll jump out as soon as I’ve conferred with Rear Admiral Pellaeon”

“Understood. Ackbar out”

Octavia turned to find her pants and found Blake standing in the doorway looking sadly at her.

“You’re leaving again?” He asked evenly.

“I have to” Octavia answered carefully, “I’m needed”

“I know” Blake nodded sadly, “I’ve come to terms with that. Just be careful okay?”

“I will” Octavia smiled as they embraced.

“Mommy” Tavi peered into the room, “Do you have to go?”

Octavia dropped to one knee and took her daughter in her arms, “I do sweetheart,” She answered.

“Is it because of what we saw on the holo?” The little girl asked.

“It is. Some bad people caused that and they may hurt even more people if we can’t stop them”

Tavi tearfully nodded in understanding, “Will you be coming back?”

The worry in Tavi’s voice nearly broke Octavia’s heart, “I will Tavi, I promise”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Nobility Class Star Destroyer Ackbar.
Tatooine Orbit.
Fifty-Five Minutes Later.

“Report!” Octavia called as she exited the turbolift onto the bridge of the Ackbar. Though still clad in the shirt and pants she’d worn on Tatooine, putting her uniform on was farthest from her mind.

Piggy looked up from where he was conferring with Ryan Montjar, “All ships report full readiness. We’re ready to jump as soon as we have a course”

“Good” Octavia smiled, “Do you have the Chimera yet?”

“Aye Ma’am” Vekker on communications responded, “I have Rear-Admiral Pellaon waiting to speak to you. I’ll patch it through to the aft holo-comm station”

“Thank you Lieutenant” Octavia nodded and moved towards the aft holo-comm station. Hitting the receive button, she was gratified to see Gilad Pellaeon’s face materialise into view.

“General Terah” Pellaeon’s image nodded, “I take it you’ve heard about what has happened at Coruscant?”

“Yes” Octavia replied, “I’m ready to jump my forces out to join you as soon as you give the word”

“Negative, General” Pellaeon shook his head, “If the Neo-Separatists make a follow up strike against Coruscant -and it seems likely that they will judging by the scout reports I’ve seen- your battle group won’t be joining us”

“Sir?” Octvaia began, but Pellaeon held up a hand to forestall further words.

“I have another task for you and your people” The aging officer explained, “I received a transmission from Garik Loran. He and his team have the location of the Neo-Separatist leader and they’re heading out after him. He requested any forces I can spare and I’m sending you”

“Yes Sir” Octavia tried to hide her disappointment at not being part of the main battle.

“You’re to rendezvous with Loran and his people at Stein’s Folly in three days” Pellaeon continued, “I’m also dispatching an additional task force to meet you there. With your vessels, Commander Nay’lon’s forces and the ships I’m sending you, that will put you in command of about three hundred and fifty ships”

“A significant force then” Octavia nodded, “Should I expect a large enemy force wherever it is we’re going?”

“According to Loran, it’s likely you’ll encounter a force similar to your own including at least one Super class sized vessel”

“Lovely” Octavia muttered.

“I’d send you more General” Pellaeon sighed, “But if the Neo-Seps do strike Coruscant, I’ll only be taking a portion of the Ninth myself. The rest will be tied down protecting this sector” He paused for a moment, “I am trying to sort out reinforcements for you from another source, but I haven’t heard back yet”

“Understood” Octavia nodded, “Any particular orders?”

“Just use your best judgement of the situation” Pellaeon smiled, “I have full faith in you, General. Chimera out”

Octavia sighed and turned away from the holocomm, “Helm, lay in a course to Steins Folly. Communications, broadcast our hyperspace destination to the rest of the task force”

“Peri Hazen frowned and looked up from her sensor displays, “Begging the General’s pardon. That’s out into the periphery”

“It is Lieutenant Hazen” Octavia nodded.

“But that’s away from Coruscant” Hazen blinked in confusion.

Octavia smiled, “Quite right”

Hazen shook her head in confusion and returned her attention to her screens. Piggy moved to stand next to Octavia.

“We’re not going to Coruscant” Piggy asked quietly.

“No” Octavia sighed, “If there is to be a battle at Coruscant, we are to miss it”

“Why?” Her second in command asked, “Unless….Pellaeon has a different task for us”

“He does indeed” Octavia smiled, “Remember that big ship that left the system whilst we were attacking that Rakatan shipyard” She frowned, “Oh, never mind, you weren’t there”

“No, but I did take the time to review the logs from that battle” Piggy grunted, “Ship like that won’t be alone”

“I know” Octavia said, “We’re meeting additional forces at the Folly, plus Pellaeon is trying to rustle up some additional reinforcements. But he can’t make promises”

“So what’s the plan?” Piggy asked.

“We meet Face and the others at the Folly and then we go kick some ass” Octavia grinned.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Geers Estate.
Tralus.
Corellian System.

Dru Kargin felt the chill in his gut growing as he continued to view the reports coming in from Coruscant.

The Liberty District gone, leaving only a radioactive sinkhole that continued to burn and proved a nightmare for the rescue crews. Thousands upon thousands dead or missing, at least ten times that number likely to suffer a long painful death from radiation poisoning and injuries.
Coruscant itself in a state of confused panic. The Republic fleet anticipating an attack against Coruscant and scrambling to position in readiness.
Every single line of communication to the capital jammed up and overloaded as people across the galaxy tried to find out about friends and family on Coruscant.

And his daughter somewhere in the middle.

“Dammit Lyn” He muttered, “Just give us some sign that you weren’t caught in that blast. That you were somewhere else on Coruscant”

On one hand, he understood the lack of contact. The communications system outbound from Coruscant was no doubt filled with people contacting loved ones letting family now how they are.
Nobles, politicians and the rich would have course get priority. Lyn’s cover identity would put her fairly low down on the list, so she may simply be stuck waiting.
Even his intelligence network was struggling to get word out. The Coruscant team had lost four members in the disaster along with the holotransmitter they were using to get messages out. Until they could sort out a replacement, information was coming to him slowly.

On the other hand though, it was a fathers natural right to worry.

“C’mon Lyn” He continued, “Just give us something, so we know you’re okay”

“Dru!” A voice said from behind him, “Tell me our daughter isn’t on Coruscant”

Dru whirled around in his seat. Standing in the doorway was his wife Lori, her face pale and tears running down her cheeks. The cold feeling in his stomach increased, how long had she stood there? How long had she heard him muttering?

His mouth worked as he tried to find the words, “I…I….”

“Tell me, Dru” Lori dropped to her knees in front of where he was still seated and gripped his legs, “Tell me she’s okay, tell me she’s okay”

“I can’t” He whispered choking back his own tears, “I just don’t know”

Lori collapsed against his legs sobbing, fearful that their daughter wouldn’t be coming home. Dru managed to hold back his own tears, but the fear was still there.

And it was growing.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2011 6:26 pm 
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Collected News Reports.
Four Days Later.

Coruscant News

Disaster control efforts continue in the Liberty District as Emergency crews maintain their efforts in the aftermath of the bombing a week ago. Efforts are hampered by the continuing firestorm that rages in the area as well as the constant tremors that consistently cause new collapses in the district. Heavy radiation close to ground zero is also hampering efforts.

Sources close to the Emergency Brigade Commander speculate that the chances of finding survivors are almost non-existent.


Mon Calamari Reporter

With the recent terrorist attack on Coruscant Mon Calamari Security has stepped up his efforts to prevent a repeat of the bombing here.

Colonel Kel Dav had this to say.

“What happened on Coruscant will not, I repeat, not happen here. You have my vow on that”


Skye Informer

Following the bombing attack on Coruscant and the decision of Chief-Of-State Kel’lya to reinforce the core worlds and leave the rim to fend for itself, perhaps it’s time to ask the following question.

Do we wish to remain part of a Republic that puts the few above the many? We joined the Republic ten years ago when it was economically viable, but do we want to continue supporting a government that does not support us?


Financial Bugler

In the wake of the Coruscant bombing, the markets took a major body blow with a further slip expected today.

With fears of additional attacks as well as further Neo-Separatist strikes expected, market confidence is in serious decline.

With the Galactic Index at a seven-year low and still dropping, economists are asking, what can be done to restore confidence in the markets?


--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Mediator Class Battle Cruiser Avalon.
Coruscant Orbit.

Eldo Davip scowled as he went over the various readiness reports. With the Guardian still out of action due to the monumental error of judgement that had resulted in a complete burnout of numerous power conduits when they had tried to power the reactor back up following the shutdown in preparation for members of the Advisory council visiting.

Eldo didn’t want to think how tense things were over there. The Guardian was dead in space and would be a huge sitting duck if the Neo-Seps launched an attack. He guessed the situation wouldn’t be helped with Supreme Commander Girdun and councillors Pwoe and Niuk Nuiv looking over the shoulder of Admiral Kwi-Nam.

In fact, some of the commanders here in orbit were forwarding reports to him as well as Admiral Kwi-Nam. Evidently, they had no confidence in the Admiral’s ability or usefulness in any battle.

“Commander!” The sensor officer called, “Hyperspace signatures detected! Enemy ships incoming!”

“Red alert, go to battle stations” Davip called.

“Go to battle stations” Jhementi repeated, “Prepare for combat”

Davip turned to the sensor officer, “How many?”

“I…uh…uh…” The man stammered.

Realising he was going to regret the answer, Davip repeated his question, “I said, how many?”

At last the sensor officer looked up from his screens, “All of them, Sir”

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They came out of hyperspace in an explosion of white light. Thousands of ships, from the smallest fighter to the largest destroyer. Corellian corvettes to Lucrehulk Class Battleships, Munificent Class Star Frigates to Dreadnaught Class heavy Cruisers and Subjugator Class Heavy Cruisers to Imperator Class Star Destroyers.

The largest ship was a massive Sovereign Class Super Star Destroyer. The Mist Lynx, personal ship of Separatist Supreme Commander Randolph Deegan and the flagship for the assault fleet now bearing down on Corusant.

As the elements of the Republic’s Third fleet and the Coruscant Defense Fleet rushed to get into a defensive formation, the Neo-Separatist force began to spread out across local space. The intention was to encircle the vessels of the Republic fleets as well as Coruscant itself. And with the almost five-to-one advantage the Neo-Separatists held over the Republic force, encirclement was a simple prospect.

Still, Coruscant was the most heavily defended world in the galaxy. As well as the one thousand-five hundred ships of the Third and the CD Fleets, Coruscant was surrounded by an extensive minefield and a dazzling array of hundreds of Magnetic Accelerator Cannon platforms, turbolaser and ion cannon platforms, Twelve Golan IV Defense stations and the dual layer shield grid that Coruscant was famous for.

Though, in the case of the shields, the recent bombing in the Liberty district and subsequent power failures had left a gap the size of a small moon in the shield grid.

That gap was a great big vulnerability though which the Neo-Separatists could directly attack the surface should they break through the defensive line.

The war had finally come to Coruscant.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Alpha Facility.
The World Of Nystera.
Edge Of Wild Space.


Jenna stood and watched impressed as the small Strike Cruiser styled vessel descended stern first on Repulsorlifts and using massive grasping claws, began anchoring itself to the side of the chasm.

For the next hour she watched as the cruiser-turned-fortification anchored itself securely to the cliff face and was soon joined by three more.
All were Self-Deploying Colonization ships, designed to be landed on a world were they would deploy safely onto the terrain and provide living quarters, defence, protection for the elements and power generation and supply storage.

Jenna knew the tech was only a few years old, but as far as she knew it hadn’t been released for commercial use yet. Apparently, Dass Jennir had some very good connections.

As the second hour passed, bridges were deployed to join the four structures, as were conduits, power lines and Structural armatures. Hatches opened to reveal heavy turbolaser batteries and missile launchers and comm arrays emerged to reach for the sky.

During the third hour, a fifth vessel, this one a thick saucer also descended from orbit. It continued to the base of the chasm and settled onto the valley floor. It too was soon connected to the others by transit tubes, walkways and power lines.

By the fourth hour, she’d finally grown restless and decided to have a wander. Over the last few days she’d apparently proven herself trustworthy. Sure she still had that twice-damned prisoner restraint bracelet, but her guards had been scaled down to the dapper gentleman, otherwise known as the Black Knight.

As he quietly walked behind her she looked over her shoulder, “So, do you actually have a name I can call you by? Or shall I just call you Black Knight?”

The man pursed his lips in thought. Despite the fact that the terrain here was better suited for hiking boots and tough clothing, he was still impeccably attired in his black tailed suit, crisp white shirt and tie, mirror black shoes with spats and top hat.

“My name” He began, “Is Edwin Toyama. I was born forty-seven years ago on Coruscant. I came from a well to do family, one that had played the stakes well during the time of the Empire. As such we were very well off. I had a cultured upbringing, with special emphasis on manner and appearance”

“Ok, ok” Jenna interrupted, “I don’t need your life story”

“I just felt since I know so much about you, Miss Tarn” Toyama said, “You should know something about me”

“Fair enough” Jenna sighed.

“I also committed my first murder aged seventeen” Toyama continued, “Of all my victims, her death was probably the most memorable”

Jenna shuddered.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

SDC-3.

“Looks like we’re planet side at last” Jaina said with relief.

Oddball nodded wearily, “Finally, we can get out of these damn suits”

“Any longer and we’d have been struggling for air” Jaden tapped the indicator for his air supply, “Same with the food dispensers”

“Yeah” Oddball laughed, “Just think, suppose something had gone wrong and the ship had got trapped in hyperspace. We’d have had to resort to cannibalism and eat Jaina”

Jaina frowned at Oddball, “Why do you keep thinking up creepy disaster scenarios that always end up with you eating me?”

“If you don’t like it” Jaden grinned and exchanged a look with Oddball, “Stop looking so tasty”

Shaking her head in disgust, Jaina carried on stripping off her EV suit, “Now we’re here does anyone actually have a plan?”

Jaden shrugged as he dropped the torso plate of his suit, “Standard stuff. Recon the area, pinpoint defences, find where Jenna is being held and identify any high ranking bad guys on site”

“Do we split up or stay together?” Oddball asked.

It was Jaina who answered, “We split up. We can cover a lot more ground in less time”

“And if we run into trouble?” Jaden frowned.

“I think that may be the least of our troubles” Jaina scowled, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed how thick the dark side is on this world”

Jaden nodded, “I have”

“Meaning?” Oddball interjected.

“Trouble” Jaina sighed, “Big trouble”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stein’s Folly.
Edge Of Explored Space.

Stein’s Folly, a system of small planetoids on the edge of known space, was a perfect example of ambition over common sense. Twelve years ago, Reginald Stein, the owner of a Corellia based mining company, had received a tip that the lifeless rocks of the system possessed huge quantities of unmined minerals and ores.

Stein had poured incredible amounts of credits into setting up mining facilities on the systems seven planetoids. Even after the first planetoid had turned up dry, he’d continued pushing credits into mining the other six rocks.

Seven years and one disastrous planetoid implosion later, the last of the planetoids had proven devoid of anything that was worth the cost and effort that had gone into the operation, the management board of Stein’s company finally voted him out.

Stein’s company had been sold off piece by piece in an attempt to recoup the losses and Stein himself had died a poor, broken and lonely man.

As for Stein’s Folly –as it became known-, the system had on multiple occasions become a refuge for pirates, smugglers and Imperial leftovers.

Right now the system was empty, its last occupants –a group of pirates- had left the system to head closer to more profitable trade routes.

It would not remain empty for long.

The first ships to emerge from hyperspace were a trio of Enforcer Class Picket ships and an equal number of Corellian Corvettes. Behind them an instant later came an array of Nebulon-B Frigates, Lancer Frigates, Ranger and Correlian Gunships, multiple classes of Mon Calamari Starships, Victory, Republic and Imperator Class Star Destroyers, the Dodonna Class Carrier ‘Hood’ and the Ackbar.

Also present were seven Ceaser Class ‘Ship Killers, essentially Magnetic Accelerator Cannons with engines, bridge and engineering modules and a handful of defensive turbolasers.

All in all, nearly three hundred and fifty vessels emerged into the system. That number increased considerably as starfighters launched to take up CAP positions.

Standing on the Ackbars bridge and once again in uniform, Octavia watched the holotank projection as the fleet deployed into holding positions. As ready reports came in, she felt a thrill as she considered where she’d been only a few months ago, holding the rank of Commander and commanding the Ackbar in its role as a test bed vessel in an out of the way, almost forgotten system.

Now she was a General, commanded a fleet of hundreds of vessels and had taken part in some of the major battles of the war. She also felt a fair measure of pride that Gilad Pellaeon had entrusted her with this mission. If the information Face had provided was accurate –and she could never doubt it was- then this was an incredibly important mission.

Capture the big bad guy and stop his plans at the last moment. That was how it always went in the holofilms.

“General” Piggy said as he moved to stand next to her, “Fleet reports ready and holding position”

“Piggy” Octavia smirked, “How many times must I tell you that you can still call me Red? Just because I’m a general doesn’t mean I’ve changed”

“Understood General” Piggy replied, but Octavia saw his mouth turn upwards slightly in a smile.

With a smile Octavia shook her head, “Our ‘guest’ still kicking up about the accommodations?”

Piggy nodded, “He is, and his credentials checked out. He is Malcolm Irelon or New Republic Intelligence”

“I’m sensing something there” Octavia frowned as a yeoman handed her a datapad.

“Indeed” Piggy continued, “According to the report I got, Malcom Irelon is currently operating independently and without authorisation. Any claims that he’s operating with full jurisdiction are false and it’s been recommended we either bung him in a cell or send him to the nearest NRI Base in a shuttle”

“Has he said why he’s here?” Octavia asked without looking up from the datapad.

The Gamorean nodded, “Says he’s trying to stop Jenna Tarn from betraying the New Republic”

“What?” Octavia looked at him in confusion.

“I asked Colonel Moor about it. Apparently this Irelon has some sort of vendetta against Jenna Tarn. Even went as far as using an NRI identity to get onto Hapes and try to embarrass her during a diplomatic function”

“What makes Kasen think Irelon has a vendetta against Jenna?” Octavia asked.

“Irelon seems to think Jenna was responsible for his soon Regis being kicked out of the Lianna Military Academy” Piggy replied, “Seems she also put Regis in the med-bay following a particularly vigorous academy Smashball tournament”

“Some bad blood then” Octavia mused, “What’s your recommendation?”

“Keep Irelon where he is” Piggy suggested, “Less likely to cause trouble where he is”

Octavia smiled, “Agreed”

“General!” Lieutenant Peri Hazen called, “Vessels detected entering system. IFF is unknown, but profile of one ship matches the Sacul”

“Good” Octavia turned to Vekker at the communications station, “Have a flight pair from Rogue Squadron dispatched to escort them in” She turned to Piggy, “I think we’re finally close to getting this show on the road”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Super Class Star Destroyer Guardian.
Courscant Orbit.
Seven Hours Later.

Admiral James Kwi-Nam stumbled as the Guardian shuddered from the barrage of missiles exploding against the shields. Behind him, Heol Girdun grabbed at a console to keep himself up and somewhere further back, Councillors Niuk Nuvv and Pwoe fell in a surprised tangle of limbs.

“Return fire” Kwi-Nam screamed.

Obligingly the gunnery officer followed the command and the Guardians turbolaser batteries thundered into life.

At least some of them did.

The Broadside Missile Cruiser that had slipped through the lines and fired on the Guardian should have been destroyed in a single barrage. Would have –but for the continuing power distribution problems that left the Guardian with but a tenth of its firepower and only a quarter of its shield power.

Despite the fact it massed less than a fiftieth of the Guardian, the Broadside Cruiser shrugged aside the barrage, it’s shields holding back the wave of energy.
It’s continued survival did not last long however, a pair of MC-75 Mon Calamari Cruisers –responding to the intruder in their lines- fell upon the Broadside, their heavy turbolasers tearing the smaller ship to pieces.

Shame coloured Kwi-Nam’s cheeks. The Guardian was one of the most powerful ships in the fleet and he was forced to rely on smaller ships to protect the Guardian. Further more, because the battle line had shifted out from Courscant towards the Neo-Separatists original arrival point, the Guardians reduced speed had left them lagging far behind the rest of the Republic forces.

“Admiral Kwi-Nam!” Pwoe shouted, “I demand you do more to protect us”

“I cannot” Kwi-Nam turned a stare on the Quarren, “Incompetence has crippled my ship”

“The only incompetence here was yours Admiral” Girdun narrowed his eyes, “As much as logic states I should not do this during a battle, I must” He straightened up, “Admiral James Kwi-Nam, I hereby relieve you of command”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Delta Facility.
The World Of Nystera.
Edge Of Wild Space.

After some wandering Jenna and the Black Knight found themselves conducted to a cavern somewhere beneath the disk shaped SDC vessel that sat on the valley floor. Despite the matter of hours that had passed sine the ships had landed and deployed, the excavation shafts were already penetrating deep into the maze of catacombs and tunnels beneath the surface.

Jenna was surprised to see that the cavern was actually an ancient underground facility. Millennia of disuse and lack of maintenance had left bulkheads rusted and buckled, ground water leakage mixed with high mineral content had created rocky protrusions and the lighting had long ceased to work. But the construction was obvious.

“What is this place?” She asked aloud.

“From what I can gather from my research” Dass Jennir’s hooded form looked up from where he was examining an ancient console from over the shoulders of a pair of techs, “This was an underground facility devoted to creating weapons for the armies of this world”

“Didn’t do them any good” Jenna sneered, “Looks of this world, the weapons they made were no good”

“Rule of the galaxy” Jennir laughed, “There’s always someone bigger than you. In this case, their own weapon turned against them”

Something –a stray memory- clicked into place, “The Vortex” Jenna whispered.

Jennir nodded or at least his hood bobbed as if he nodded, “Yes” He said with curiosity, “The Vortex, the Storm bringer. Other than its name in legends and a smattering of ruins on a tiny handful of worlds, little evidence remains of this civilization in the greater galaxy”

Jenna sensed intense suspicion roll of Jennir, “One would ask how you learnt that name”

“I don’t know, I don’t…” Jenna shook her head, “An old story I heard once” Sensing that he didn’t quite believe her, she moved the subject on, “What are you looking for in this…..” She made a gesture that took in the decayed surroundings, “This tomb”


“What do you think?” Jennir asked casually.

Jenna frowned at the question, “I don’t…..” A feeling of sick horror washed over her, “You can’t. You just can’t!”

Jennir sighed, “I guess expecting you to be agreeable and supportive while stable was too high a hope” He glanced at the Black Knight, “Take away her medication”

“What? No?” Jenna whirled as the Black Knight moved towards her. “You can’t take my meds! Not now, not when I’m thinking clearly” She gathered the force to push him and the trio of guards –one of them bearing a Ysalamiri- moving towards them.

The next instant her arm blazed with electric fire as the prisoner restraint bracelet triggered one of the higher stun settings. Her arm a pit of agony, Jenna screamed and collapsed moaning to the ground.

Dimly she was aware of hands digging in the pockets of her jumpsuit and finding her various medicine containers.

“Nooooooo” She moaned and swiping weekly at those around her, “You can’t take my meds. I need my meds. I do crazy things without my meds”

“Lock her up for a while” Jennir ordered, “Let’s see if she’s more useful when she’s less mentally stable”

Still weakly protesting, Jenna slipped into unconsciousness.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Super Class Star Destroyer Guardian.
Courscant Orbit.

“Admiral James Kwi-Nam, I hereby relieve you of command”

The blood thundered in Kwi-Nam’s ears, drowning out every other sound on the bridge. To be relieved of his command was the ultimate insult. It was a dishonour that he would never live down, a stain on his career he’d never be clean of.

His fury building, he stared around the bridge at the shocked faces of his crew. Councillors Pwoe and Niuk Nuiv watched with guarded expressions, but made no protests against the Supreme Commander’s declaration, despite the fact both had recommended Kwi-Nam for command of the Guardian.

Though he heard not the words, Kwi-Nam saw Girdun turned and gesture to two of the bridge guards, indicating that Kwi-Nam should be taken into custody.

At that moment, Kwi-Nam made his move.

In one swift –and mostly instinctive movement- Kwi-Nam drew his blaster and fired. The energy bolt impacted Heol Girdun in the side of the head, burning a neat hole just forward of his right ear. The laser flash fried his brain before exploding out the side of his head on a gory shower.

Even before Girdun’s body had begun to fall, Kwi-Nam turned and dropped the two guards with two more shots from the blaster.

“Admiral Kwi-Nam!” Pwoe shouted, “What is this madness?”

Taking three steps forwards, Kwi-Nam pistol-whipped the Quarren to the deck.

“Madness!” Kwi-Nam screamed, “Madness! The only madness was his!” He gestured to Girdun’s corpse.

“You will kill us all!” Niuk Nuiv Chattered angrily.

Rather than respond, Kwi-Nam shot the Sullustan in the face before swinging his blaster back towards Pwoe.

“Do you think you’ll kill us all too, Councillor?” Kwi-Nam demanded.

“No…..no….no” Pwoe stammered, his facial tentacles squirming in a display of terror.

“Good” Kwi-Nam smiled and shot the Quarren through the throat.

Sweeping the blaster around, he stared at each and every member of the bridge crew as they stared up at him in shock from the crew pit.

“Anyone else have an objection to my command?” He roared.

“Emperors Black Bones” Someone shouted.

Kwi-Nam span around, blaster ready and ready to shoot the one who dared speak. Instead he found the men and women in the starboard crew pit turning join the man who had spoken in staring out the forward view port.

His anger smothered by confusion, Kwi-Nam turned to face out the view port himself and felt a mix of horror and despair well up in him.

Bearing down on the Guardian was the bulk of a Lucrehulk Class Destroyer, it’s hull breached and burning from the numerous hits it had taken from the two Victory Star Destroyers that pursued it and the sporadic turbolaser fire from the Guardian herself.

Working his jaw silently, Kwi-Nam continued to stare out the view port. Even as the bridge crew fled their stations.

Even as the Lucrehulk struck and smashed through the Guardian’s meagre shields.

Even as the spherical central core deformed and collapsed as it smashed through the Guardian’s hull.

Even as the Lucrehulks stern kick up and over, the massive engine block coming up and over, shedding the curved arms of the outer docking ring and descending back towards the command tower.

As the still glowing engine nozzles grew larger and larger, Kwi-Nam brought his blaster up in one last, gasp of defiance.

Then he and almost three hundred thousand men and women -like the Guardian- died.


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Command Bridge.
Mediator Class Battle Cruiser Avalon.
Courscant Orbit.
The Battle Of Coruscant – Day One.

“We’ve lost the Guardian!”

Eldo Davip barely glanced in the direction of the call. It was unnecessary. The destruction of the Guardian had been difficult to miss; the collision and subsequent explosions had lit up the entire area.

Fortunately, the Guardian hadn’t been playing a major part in the battle due to its ‘technical issues, so it’s loss wouldn’t have too much of an effect on the tactical situation.

“Except we have nothing to offer the Neo-Seps as a target,” He muttered.

“Sir?” Jhementi frowned.

“Nothing” Davip shook his head, “Any lifeboats detected from the Guardian?”

“Some, the Whirlwind and Pyro are moving into position for recovery” Jhementi answered.

“Have the Triton and Macabre move into support” Davip frowned at the screens, “Is it me or is….” He stumbled as the Avalon shuddered, its shields easily shrugging off the torpedo barrage that had hit, “…..Or is the Neo-Seps formation shifting?”

Jhementi nodded, “As if they’re expecting a strike from the rear?” The Mon Calamari officer shrugged, “The Fourth”

On cue, the elements of the Fourth Fleet dropped from hyperspace at the rear of the attacking fleets formation. Though still heavily outnumbered, their formation allowed them to overlap firing arcs and do a significant amount of damage.

“Signal the Fourth’s commander” Davip ordered, “Instruct him to exchange two more salvos and then begin to pull back. Let’s see if we can’t spread them out a little”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ready Room.
Nobility Class Star Destroyer Ackbar.
Stein’s Folly.

“How accurate is this information?” Octavia asked without looking up from the datapad she held.

“Depends on which part your asking about” Face answered.

Octavia looked up frowning with annoyance, “Well, all of it”

“The part that says that the Prime Councillor –aka Dass Jennir- is on this world and that big ship, the Merciful Hand, is in orbit” It was Deven who replied, “Well, that’s fairly reliable, for the most part”

“For the most part?” Octavia scowled.

Ignoring the scowl, Deven continued, “As for the location of this world” He glanced at his own datapad, “Nystera. That’s kinda in the air. The star charts for that region are pretty sparse, not much data recorded. IT does match what we got from Treth, beyond that though……” He shrugged, “It’s a bit vague”

“So you’re asking me to commit over three hundred vessels and four times that number in starfighters and thousands upon thousands of crewers on vague?” Octavia demanded incredulously, “Why is that region so poorly explored anyway?”

Face grimaced, “There’s a handful of charted systems in that region. The few planets that are out there and not reduced to asteroid fields are pretty much scraped down to the bedrock. A five hundred year old survey report suggests that the planets may have been subject to some major planetary bombardment, but no follow up was ever done”

“Great” Octavia muttered, “So we’re going in cold, blind and stupid”

“Wouldn’t be the first time” Face laughed, “We’re Wraiths right?”

“You forget one thing Face” Octavia sighed, “I’m not a Wraith anymore. I’m responsible for a heck of a lot of lives”

“Once a Wraith, always a Wraith” Face smiled.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Mariska Savage’s Apartment.
Republica One-Twelve.
Coruscant.
One Day Later.

Lyn was feeling lost.

As a result of the bombing in the Liberty District and now the massive space battle in the system that had raged for just over a day now, security on Coruscant was at an all time high.

Travel was restricted to essential and military personnel only and data clerks didn’t fall under either of those. Also the Government refused to accept that the planet was at risk of bombardment –despite the huge gap in shields- and so far Kel’lya had refused to allow the shelters to be opened.

This of course left Lyn in her apartment with nothing to do other than watch the holonews or look out at the fire still burning on the horizon.

The situation was made worse by the fact that she was sitting on a wealth of data she was unable to transmit without access to the holonet and with the backup couriers unable to get the information of planet, even if she could reach a safe drop.

She hated this. She had no control over the situation. All she felt she could do was wait for either Republic Security to finally stumble on her information gathering and drop the hammer on her or wait for the Neo-Seps to bring the entire building down.

Her anger built to a peak and with a snarl of rage, she grabbed a vase from the table next to the window and hurled it at the furthest wall where it shattered.

“Sithspit!” She shouted.

Biting back her anger, she took a slow deep breath and allowed it to bleed her rage away.

“Easy Lyn” She muttered, “You’re above this kind of anger. Just sit here and wait the battle out, I’m sure RepSec has something better to do right now than worry above me hacking a few files”

With a sigh, she turned back to the window to see if she could see the orbital battle up above.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Alpha Facility.
World Of Nystera.
Edge Of Wild Space.

She lay, curled up in the darkest corner of the cell.

She could feel them now, the dark demons crawling at the back of her mind, scraping their way through her sanity.

With an effort that burned her very soul, she struggled to push back the darkness. With a moan of pain, her efforts met with success and for now her demons slept again.

Rolling in a sitting position, Jenna sighed and massaged her throbbing forehead, once again remembering how someone had cut open her head and taken a surgical laser to her brain.

And now, they’d taken away her medication. Which –she realised- had been keeping her far more balanced mentally then she’d realised.

Glancing up at the cells single, rather pathetic light, Jenna sighed. She already tried rage, screaming at the top of her lungs and pounding on the door. She tried pleading, begging them to return her meds

Now she was just wallowing in her own self-pity. Most of her concentration was focused on keeping the madness at bay, clinging to the last tenuous threads of sanity.

One niggle in her thoughts though, was why had they bothered keeping her regularly medicated if they were just going to make her cold turkey like this?

What did Dass Jennir plan for her? What was he planning for the galaxy?


----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Sovereign Class Star Destroyer Mist Lynx.
Coruscant System.
The Battle Of Coruscant – Day Two.

Randolph Deegan, Supreme Commander of the Neo-Separatist forces assaulting Coruscant, watched his screens as the icon representing one of his ships –the Lucrehulk Battleship Von Luckner- winked out. In exchange for its destruction, the Von Luckner had claimed three Republic Corvettes and a Mon Calamari Cruiser.

So far the battle had proceeded as Deegan had planned. His assault force had surprised the defending forces and due to the superior numbers held a dominant position in the system.

Deegan had deployed his forces carefully, careful to maximise his firing arcs, but also careful to not give his forces too much of advantage. He wanted to stretch the battle out as long as possible. Republic reinforcements were on the way –at least three fleets worth- and the more he could tie up here, the better.

He needed –more accurately, the Prime Councillor needed- the Republic to be looking toward the core rather than towards the Galactic Rim.

The destruction of the Guardian had gone better than expected. He’d planned from the start to remove the Super Star Destroyer from the table and had had agents infiltrated on board to sabotage it. Instead they’d reported that the ship had been partially crippled by the incompetence of its command staff. An unexpected boon.
Without the Guardian to support them, the Republic forces were currently at a major disadvantage.

He gave another screen a glance. This one showed the estimated arrival times of Traest Kre’fey’s Fleet Group One, Jesmin Ackbar’s Sixth Fleet and Gilad Pellaeon’s Ninth Fleet.
The first set of Republic reinforcements –that of Kre’Fey’s Fleet Group One- had left Borleias a few hours ago according to his sources.

“Which should have them arriving anytime...” Deegan thought, “Now”

On cue, the area of space close the largest of Coruscant’s moons lit up with multiple hyperspace exits. Hundreds upon hundreds of them. General Kre’fey had arrived.

“Cutting it close” Deegan mused, “Typical Kre’fey”

Kre’fey had indeed cut it close with his fleet’s hyperspace reversion. Within moments of dropping into real space, Kre’fey’s forward lines were exchanging salvos with Deegan’s forces in that area.
Already three of his Recuscant light cruisers were disabled and one of his Strike Cruiser retreating with its hull breached in a dozen locations.

The losses had no significance. His fleet still far outweighed the Republic forces in sheer numerical superiority. At the moment he controlled the battle and as long as it stayed that way, the more ships the Republic would have to send here.

“Still have to keep them honest” He thought, turning to his Executive Officer, “Have Group Seven make a run at Coruscant” He ordered.

“They won’t last long” His XO, Commander Linda Danvers pointed out, “Anything that gets past the Coruscant Defence Fleet will get chewed to pieces by the mines, the MAC platforms and the turblaser batteries”

“I don’t expect them to last long” Deegan replied, “Just make the Republic think Coruscant is our overall target”

Danvers nodded and relayed the order. Minutes later a dozen starships, mostly light cruisers, but including a Providence Destroyer raced free from the Neo-Separatist lines. Surrounded by a cloud of supporting starfighters, they hit the Republic lines like a thrusting spear. As the lead elements of both sides made contact, space lit up with a storm of energy.

As the Republic formation broke up to engage, the Providence and four of the other ships broke through the gap and pushed towards Coruscant. In the space of three minutes several ships from both sides were left as drifting wrecks and numerous starfighters were reduced to scrap.

The Providence stripped of its escorts and holed in a dozen places, pushed clear of the Republic forces and ran towards Coruscant. Before it had even covered half the distance, no fewer than seven MAC platforms opened fire. Hull plating and superstructure twisted, warped and came apart under the multiple impacts and the Providence began to break apart. Its death was almost anti-climatic. There were no explosions, no gouts of flame as the Providence just came apart.

“And that accomplished what?” Danvers asked.

“It lets them think exactly what we want them to think” Deegan smiled.

------------------------------------------------------------------

“Emperor’s Black Bones!!” Someone said aloud, “Look at the size of that fleet”

Luke didn’t know who uttered those words, but he shared the sentiment. Dominating the system were thousands of starships, all broadcasting Neo-Sep IFF beacons and vastly outnumbering the Republic forces, even with the arrival of Fleet Group One.

The sensations coming through the Force from Coruscant were almost overwhelming. Fear, anger, terror, loss, agony, the sensations were thick and cloying.

“Luke” Mara’s voice came across the comm., “Coruscant, look at it”

Out just beyond the battling fleets, the orb of Coruscant hung in space; it’s heavily built up surface discernable at this range. As was the blackened, still burning scar that marked the remains of the Liberty District.

“I thought we’d left these types of acts behind with the Empire” Mara continued.

“As long as evil and the Dark Side continue to exist, we’ll never be free of such barbarics” Luke answered. He switched frequencies to broadcast to everyone under his command, “Knaves and Bravos, go left, Wild Knights go right, Sabres are going down the middle. Strafing runs all the way through; don’t focus on a single target. We’ll blow straight out the other side, and then all squadrons are free to pick targets of opportunity”

As the chorus of acknowledgements chattered back across the comms, Luke kicked his XJ into combat speed and aware of Mara and the other Sabres dropping into formation with him, chose a course that took them through the centre of the Neo-Separatist formation.

<Incoming starfighters> the words flashed up on the astromech translation screen in conjunction with the toots and whistles from Artoo, <Multiple classes detected>

“Thanks Artoo” Luke nodded, “Increase power to the forward deflectors”

Dutifully, the little droid shifted power from the rear shields to the forward ones, doubling their strength. At the same time, Luke switched his lasers to single fire.

As the cloud of enemy fighters approached, Luke dropped his crosshairs over a Vulture droid at the lead edge of the cloud. He was still outside of optimal firing range, the limit of the targeting computers ability to hit the target.

But he didn’t need the targeting computer. Allowing the force to guide his aim, Luke triggered a burst of laser fire. The Vulture manoeuvred to avoid the fire, but instead of taking the lasers bolts on the nose, it took them to the belly, the high-powered energy coring through armour and rupturing the power core.
The subsequent explosion tore apart the vulture, three more fighters and sowed white-hot shrapnel into a dozen others.

Luke wasn’t the only one firing. The other Jedi pilots under his command were also firing. The storm of energy sent out by his pilots obliterated the centre of the Neo-Seps fighter formation, leaving a large gap in the midst of the first wave.

As the Jedi starfighters blasted through the disrupted formation, the droid fighters turned to pursue and trap Luke’s forces between them and the second wave and where promptly torn apart by the concentrated fire of the Republic squadrons that had been following Luke’s squadrons.

As the first wave of Neo-Separatist fighters collapsed into disarray, the second wave of Republic fighters moved to occupy the enemy fighters as Luke drove his people deeper in the Neo-Sep fleet.

With the Neo-Separatist flank is disarray, the starships of Fleet Group One –supported by seven full wings of Y, B and K Wing Bombers drove in like a thrusting spear.
The Ralroost was –as usual- at the forefront of the strike and it’s heavy turbolasers tore into a Recuscant Class Cruiser, blowing through the shields and vaporizing hull plating.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Bothan Assault Cruiser Ralroost.

Admiral Traest Kre’Fey suppressed a feral grin as the Recuscant Crusier dropped out of sight, listing heavily and shedding escape pods rapidly. All across this area of the battle, his own forces were cutting deep into the flank of the Neo-Sep fleet.

Within the space of a few salvos, several more Neo-Separatist vessels were destroyed, disabled or forced into retreating. Even so, superior tactics and surprise would only get so far; the Neo-Separatists still enjoyed a horrific numerical superiority.

“Looks like they brought their entire navy here” Kre’Fey murmured.

“Sir?” His Xo, Karsk Tre’Lar, looked to him in surprise.

“Just thinking that the Neo-Seps have brought pretty much every ship they have here” Kre’Fey answered, “I really do think this could be the final battle”

“If their ships are here, where are their ground forces?” Tre’Lar asked.

An instant later, a Grawlling Troop Carrier broke apart under the Ralroost’s fire, it’s contents of LAAT’s and Battle Droids spilling into the void.

“That answers that question” Ter’Lar deadpanned.

Kre’Fey nodded and leaned towards the gunnery officer, “Focus our forward turbolasers against that Fintail”

Obligingly the gunnery officer shifted the Ralroost’s forward fire against the distinctive looking Corporate Alliance vessel. The smaller vessel with its long ventral fin shuddered under the assault and began to pull away, it’s captain reinforcing the weakened shields on the Ralroost’s side. Coming up on the Fintail’s other side, the Nebulon-B Frigate Talon opened fire on the now weak port side shields.

The Fintail seemed to shudder and contort as the high-powered energy stabbed deep into the ships superstructure. Wracked by internal explosions and corkscrewing around it’s own axis, the Fintail came apart under the sustained fire of the Ralroost and the Talon.

Nodding in satisfaction, Kre’Fey glanced at his screens, “Looks like they’re making a run for Coruscant”

Sure enough, a dozen ships including a Providence class Destroyer made a run for the planet. They broke quickly through the Coruscant Defense Force lines, losing most of their group in the process, but inflicting a lot of damage in the process.

Finally, the heavily damaged Providence broke clear of its attackers and pushed on towards Coruscant, but had had barely covered a fraction of the distance before being chewed apart by Courscant’s orbital MAC platforms.

“Probing the defenses” Ter’Lar scowled, “But why send such a small group to do it? Their entire force could just roll over the Coruscant Defence Fleet and sweep aside the planetary defenses, maybe suffer twenty-thirty losses”

“So why aren’t they?” Kre’Fey said in understanding or Tre’Lar’s point, “There’s some other plan at work here and I don’t relish finding out what it is”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Beta Facility.
The World Of Nystera.
Edge Of Wild Space.

Jaina didn’t know what had happened on this world millennia ago to leave such a stain in the force, but it had to have been big and delivered with an incredible amount of malevolence and hate.

She wondered what was here on this world that the Society and the Prime Councillor was seeking.
Whatever it was, it was probably better off left where it was. Though that scenario was becoming increasingly unlikely. The Neo-Seps had deployed a fair sized garrison and excavation facility to this world, whatever they were after; they were determined to get it.

“And I get the feeling” Jaina thought, “That them getting ‘it’ would be a very bad thing”

She’d learnt that the section of the facility –the Beta facility- she was moving through acted as the main garrison building for the Neo-Seps on planet. Near as she could tell from hacking terminals, when it had landed and joined with the other Colonisation Ship, it had disgorged nearly two regiments worth of troops and mobile armour to the surrounding area.

She’d also been able to learn something of the other facilities. Alpha, the saucer shaped ship on the canyon floor, was the primary Command Facility and was the control centre for the main dig site.
Gamma was the planetary defense facility and as well as boasting a planet based ion cannon array also served as a launching platform for four wings of droid starfighters and two squadrons of regular piloted starfighters.
Delta was little more than a fusion power plant, providing power to the rest of the base. It also mounted a large-scale shield generator that blanketed the area.
Gamma housed the living quarters for the base personnel and the command computer for the droids.

She hadn’t been able to get past the firewalls and other safeguards that prevented her from accessing further information, so she was still running somewhat blind.

Moving into a maintenance corridor, Jaina made her way towards the access tubes at the far end. As she did so, she reached out with the force to try and find Jenna and get a pinpoint on Jaden and Oddball. The effort though, was like trying to move through jello, the darks side miasma that shrouded the world interfered with her force sense. She wasn’t being blocked, but it seemed to deflect her efforts, like light through a prism.

She was so focused on her efforts she almost missed the door opening to her left. As it was, she barely spotted the equally surprised guard in time and batted his blaster rifle away before he could target her. An open palm strike against his jaw snapped his head back and sent him stumbling back into the room he had just been leaving.

Stepping quickly after him as he fell to the floor, she followed up with a strike to his throat that crushed his larynx and left his dying with a strangled rasp.

As the man died and Jaina struggled to get her adrenaline-boosted body under control, it occurred to her that this had been the first guard she’d directly encountered her entire time here.

She remembered how easy it had been to bypass the various security systems and avoid patrols and a sick feeling came over her.

“They’re expecting us,” She whispered.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Skye Royal Palace.
Nashira.
Skye.

“The information is accurate?” Trinity Oslo-Tarn glanced at Jonah Levin.

Levin nodded, “Yes Highness. Gilad Pellaeon himself sent us the request and the information”

Trinity frowned, “A nuclear weapon detonated on Coruscant and the Republic capital under siege and the Prime Councillor himself on some secret mission on the edge of the known galaxy” She sighed, “I think our schedule has just been accelerated”

“Agreed” Levin agreed, “What about Pellaeon’s request?”

“Can we spare anything to send?” Trinity asked, “Or is everything already tied up?”

“Most of our navel forces, even with our recent deliveries, are tied up with Operation Byzantium” Levin answered, “We can maybe spare a couple of frigates, maybe a cruiser” He hesitated for a moment, “We could send the Immortal’s Hammer?”

Trinity chewed her lip in thought, “So far the Republic is barely even aware of the ‘Hammer’s existence. They suspect, but they can’t prove it nor can they tie it to us. We send it to support Terah and there are going to put two and two together very quickly”

Levin shrugged, “Maybe. On the other hand, they’re going to find out sooner or later, better they find out when we can control the situation”

“True” Trinity conceded and began to pace the room. She sighed, “Okay, signal the Immortal’s Hammer, instruct Admiral Thrawn to prepare to head out and have a shuttle prepared to take me up to the Hammer”

“Ma’am?” Levin frowned.

“I think it’s almost time Jonah” Trinity smiled, “I’ll accompany the Immortal’s Hammer into battle and then from the we’ll head to Coruscant where I’ll make my announcement to the Senate”

“You’re so sure the battle at Coruscant will be over by then?” Levin scowled.

“It will” Trinity nodded, “I understand the Neo-Sep objective there. It’s not an invasion or a true assault, it’s a sacrifice. The Neo-Separatists have gone there to die”

Levin was confused, “What?”

“They’ve attacked Coruscant precisely to stop everyone from looking at what the Prime Councillor is doing at the Galactic Rim” Trinity laughed, “The Republic will win at Coruscant, but they will lose so much that they’ll be unprepared for the next phase of the Prime Councillor’s plan”

Her face took on a predatory grin, “And that’s when we shall move”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Chief Of State’s Office
Imperial Palace.
Coruscant.

Vorsk Kel’lya growled as he read the reports coming in.

The rescue and recovery efforts in the ruins of the Liberty District were progressing slowly. Very few survivors were being found and fires still burned across a hundred square miles. The current number of confirmed fatalities had recently reached seventy thousand.
The fires themselves, along with unstable footing, radiation and the odd collapsing building were also posing an immense risk to the Emergency Response teams. Already, a dozen lives and hundreds of druids had been lost in the effort to save what was left of the district.

Damage to the surrounding districts was also significant, with repair bills expected in the trillions of credits.

Add to that, the assault fleet up there above Coruscant skirmishing with the Coruscant Defence Fleet, the Fourth Fleet and Traest Kre’Fey’s Fleet Group One. So far the Neo-Separatist’s had made only token pushes towards Coruscant, but it was clear that sooner or later they would push hard.

The lose of the Guardian and with it the deaths of Heol Girdun and Councillors Pwoe and Niuk Nuiv had taken his direct link to the military and had reduced his support in the Advisory Council.
Already his opponents were putting together a coalition of votes to try and unseat him or at the least reduce his power.

It was all coming apart. His destiny was slowly slipping from his grasp.

He had to stop that from happening.

And soon.


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Command Bridge.
Devastator Class Star Dreadnaught Merciful Hand.
Nystera Orbit.
Edge Of Wild Space.

“General Hertzog!”

Krin Hertzog did not immediately look up as the sensor officer called across the bridge. Instead, waited long enough for the young officer to think about calling out again before turning slowly. More than likely the sensor officer was just reporting another electrical storm of the sort that had been lashing the planet below them.

“Report” He said eveningly.

“Sir” The man swallowed, “Long range sensors have detected an hyperspace event at the edge of the system”

Hertzog felt a trill of surprise. THAT was interesting, “Give me details,” He ordered, striding across the bridge to stand behind the sensor station.

“A single vessel dropped from hyperspace, Destroyer type,” The officer replied as information was returned by the sensors.

“Just one?” Hertzog frowned, “Class? IFF?”

“IFF is definitely Republic. Class is comparable to a Victory class, silhouette indicates a Nobility class,” The sensor officer answered, then scowled, “Wait, launch detected, picking up an ion burst. No sensor profile on smaller vessel”

A chill ran up Hartzog’s spine, “To far out to pick up or shielded?”

“Maybe, I don’t know” The officer said apologetically, “We’re too far out to be certain”

“What’s the larger intruder doing?” Hertzog pressed.

“Just sitting there” The man replied, then started as alarms rang out, “We’ve just been lit up. Active scans”

“Interesting” Hertzog, mused, they pop out of hyperspace within our sensor range, alone, release a small craft and then scan us. What is Terah up to?”

“You’re so sure it’s Terah?” Conner Black asked moving up to join Hertzog over the sensor station.

“Has to be” Hertzog smiled, “Nobility class Destroyer. Alone. Every move completely against the book. A single undetectable vessel launched –my money is on the Sacul. It’s Terah”

He turned to the comm station.

“Open a channel to the Sacul, project it on the holostation” He ordered.

“Open sir” The comm officer nodded.

“General Octavia Terah, this is General Krin Hertzog of the Neo-Separatist Navy, commanding the Star Deadnaught Merciful Hand. I applaud the efforts that brought you here, but you must know that I cannot allow you to leave this system, communicate it’s whereabouts nor do you have any chance of fighting your way free”

Octavia Terah’s holo image flickered to life above the holo projection pad, “General Hertzog, I’m sorry I missed you the last time in the core” She smiled tightly, “However, I think the odds aren’t too bad on my side. We have one ship a piece, granted yours is bigger, but I have plenty of tricks up my sleeves”

Hertzog returned the smile, “On the contrary. Perhaps you haven’t taken a look in the orbit of the third moon?”

There was a second as Terah looked away, presumably at a screen displaying the several hundred vessels that had been waiting there for his order.

“Interesting” Terah shrugged as she returned her gaze to him, “However, I wasn’t exactly expecting an easy fight, so I brought a few friends of my own” She signalled to someone out of view.

“Multiple hyperspace contacts!” The sensor officer called, “Enemy vessels entering the system. Multiple types and classes. Approximately three hundred to four hundred vessels”

Hertzog ran the numbers. He had seven hundred vessels under his combat –not including starfighters- and including the Merciful Hand, which gave him a two-to-one advantage. Even so, he wasn’t going to relying on numerical superiority. Terah had displayed some extremely unorthodox and devastating tactics so far in this war.
If he underestimated her, she’d simply smash his fleet regardless of the odds.

“I look forward to this General Terah” Hertzog said coolly, “I won’t be arrogant and assume I’ll win this battle. But I will make you pay a dear price for every solar kilometre you move deeper into this system”

“Wise words” Terah gave a curt nod, “So be it”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Sacul.

“Wish we could help Red” Kai said aloud.

“No can do” Face shook his head, “Not our task. Octavia will handle Hertzog and his fleet and we’ll go straight for the target”

“I know” Kai sighed, “Just don’t like the idea that Red’s forces are so outnumbered”

“Trust me” Face smiled, “Octavia has a few tricks left. How soon can you get us planet side?”

Kai glanced at her screens, “Fifteen minutes. Could go faster, but we might start leaving a trail and that enemy fleet is still firmly between us and the planet”

“Sacul” Face said, “Anything you can do to improve our speed without giving our position away?”

Sacul’s image flickered to life, “I can remodulate our shield frequency to suppress our ion signature at higher speeds. Trade off is we’ll be more venerable if someone takes a shot at us”

“Do it” Face ordered, “And we’ll hope your shield modification stops us being seen”

There was a pause of several moments and the shield display flickered and went from green to red.

“Done” Sacul said, “Just don’t get me shot”

“We’ll see” Kai grinned as she increased the Sacul’s speed.

Up ahead, the planet grew larger as did the fleet that was coming around from behind the third moon. More unnerving was the massive Dreadnaught –the Merciful Hand- that was just leaving the orbit of the planet itself. Fighters were already boiling out of the ships hanger bays.

“Uh oh” Sacul’s disembodied voice entered the cockpit, “They can’t see us, but they must have detected our launch. They know or at least suspect we’re here”

Face nodded, “They’ve deployed those fighters as a screen. We either go out of our way or we go straight through” He thought for a moment, “Fine. Switch the shields back and switch us to full combat mode. We’ll go straight down the middle”

“Done” Sacul nodded, “And done” Alarms rang out across the Sacul as shields went to full combat mode and the ships full complement of weaponry came online”

A few seconds later Deven pushed into the cockpit and settled into the empty weapons control seat, “What happened to us going in all quiet like?”

“Plans change” Face replied looking over his shoulder, “We’re going in hot. How’s the gear check out for when we hit the ground?”

“Green light” Deven answered, “Of course, none of it will do us any good if we don’t get solid ground beneath our feet”

“That’s down to our pilot” Face nodded, “And she has my full confidence”

Kai gave a weak smile, “Thanks boss, put it all my shoulders why don’t you?”

“You do work best under pressure” Face reassured her, “In any case, the odds are so steep, there’s no else I’d trust to get us through in one piece”

“What are you saying?” Kai returned Face’s earlier grin.

Recognising the hole he’d dug, Face grimaced, “I’m saying that you’re the best person for the job, the best pilot to get us there and you’re damned heroic looking too”

“Damn straight” Kai nodded and pushed the Sacul to full throttle sending them straight in at the planet and the mass of starfighters.

“Is it too late to make a will?” Deven muttered.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Devastator Class Star Dreadnaught Merciful Hand.

“We’ve found the Sacul” Conner Black pointed out.

“So I see” Hertzog nodded as he watched the screens as the Sacul charged in at his fighter screens, “Trying to get planet side I presume” He turned to the Flight Controller, “Any fighter that gets a shot is to take it, but only a single pass. They are not to pursue”

“I don’t understand?” Black frowned, “We’re letting them through?”

“We’re going to lose a significant number of fighters as it is during one exchange” Hertzog scowled, “I will not waste fighters that I may need during the battle. However, the special squadron is to detach a single flight pair to pursue the Sacul and bring her down”

He looked towards Black, “If they reach the surface, it won’t be in one piece”

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Command Bridge.
Nobility Class Star Destroyer Ackbar.

Octavia watched the holotank surrounding her as her fleet formed up around the Ackbar. She’d deployed her fleet with the larger, heavier Star Destroyers and Mon Cal Cruisers forming the forward line. In amongst the formation were the smaller Cruisers, Frigates, Dreadnaughts, Gunships and Corvettes. With overlapping fields of fire, her forces could combine firepower with each other as well target multiple targets. Starfighters and bombers swarmed around the larger ships and sat behind her main formation were the Fleet Tenders and the Fleet Carrier Tripitz.

She’d also had the Ceaser Class Ship Killers positioned throughout her formation. Her hope was that the bulk of larger ships would allow the Ceasers to be overlooked until they were in position to do the most damage.

“The Sacul is coming under fire,” Piggy pointed out.

Octavia nodded. As soon as the Merciful Hand had deployed its fighters as a screen, She’d known Face would have opted to blast his way through. It was a gutsy manoeuvre and she wished she could help, but there was no way she could get any ships or fighters there in time to make a difference.

“The Wraiths are on their own on this one” She sighed, “I wish I could help, but I can’t”

“We just have to trust them to get though intact,” Piggy grunted.

“I know” Octavia agreed, “How soon till we’re in weapons range?”

Clarini, the Ryn at the weapons station, “Lead elements of enemy fleet will enter weapons range of our forward line in seven minutes”

“Good” Octavia turned to communications, “Lieutenant Vekker, Signal all ships to open fire on targets once they come within range. Fighter squadrons are to break and engage”

“Not using the tactic you used in the Core?” Piggy asked, “From the reports I read it worked well” He paused, “Though I doubt it would work a second time against Hertzog”

“Exactly” Octavia smiled, “The first time I won because Hertzog was handicapped by the incompetence of his superiors. His fleet was sent out to engage mine and they came rushing in blindly. Gave me chance to throw a surprise in their way” She indicated the enemy fighter squadrons, “Hertzog is clearly anticipating that tactic again, his fighter screen is deployed in a way that they can spot and deal with any ‘package’ we sent out”

“So the plan is?” Piggy asked.

“For the minute, do some damage, draw them away from the planet” Octavia shrugged, “After that, still working on it”

“We weren’t expecting this many ships” Piggy pointed out, “Considering how many ships have been reported in the assault on Coruscant” He glanced at the screens, “Three minutes to weapons range. Fighters with engage in two”

“Strange” Octavia said aloud.

“What?” Piggy glanced at her.

“We’re out here on the fringe of unknown space about to fight a battle just as important as the one raging at Coruscant now” Octavia replied, “And I have no idea what’s so important about that damned planet”

Piggy nodded, but said nothing in return.

Refocusing on the battle itself, Octavia tapped some commands into her holotank console, “Weapons, I’m sending you two targets, designated A1 and A2. On my first mark, fire all weapons at target A1. Single salvo. On my command shift targeting to A2 and again fire on my mark. Single Salvo, but hold back the MAC for three seconds”

“Aye Ma’am” Clarini nodded.

“Fighters have engaged” Piggy stated, “Several bomber and escort squadrons from both sides have broken clear and are moving on targets. One minute till capital ships are in range of each other”

Mentally counting down the time, Octavia watched the holotank images of the two targets she’d designated. The first one –A1- was a standard VicStar Deuce comparable to the Ackbar in size, but well below it in strength. The other –A2- was a larger Imperator Class, once the pride of the Imperial Navy and a match to the Ackbar in conventional firepower.

A single salvo should be more than enough to take out the VicStar. The ImpStar was tougher and would be able to survive one salvo, but Octavia was counting on it being too badly damaged to continue the fight.

Other ships in her fleet began to exchange fire with the opposing force, but Octavia held her order for a few seconds more.

“Fire” She called out even as the closest of the two targets –the ImpStar- opened fire on the Ackbar. Even as the Ackbar’s shields glowed under the assault, the Nobility Class Destroyer unleashed its full complement of forward weaponry.

The hypersonic MAC slugs reached the target first, the first two battering the Victory Star Destroyers shields aside and allowing the third to strike the hull. The slug punched through three feet of solid naval grade armour, transected the entire vessel and burst free via the hanger bay.
In its wake, came numerous secondary explosions including one shuddering blast in the hanger bay caused by the ruptured fuel storage.
Even as the lasers and missiles launched by the Ackbar, savaged the bow and upper hull of the VicStar, it began to twist and contort, writhing in it’s own destruction.

Octavia stumbled slightly as the Ackbar trembled under the Imperator Star Destroyers assault.

“Shields at seventy-three percent” The damage control officer called.

“Gunnery” Octavia called, “Switch to target A2”

“Targeting shifted. Target acquired and locked” Clarini nodded, “Ready for your order”

“Fire” She instructed.

Again, the Ackbar spat out a sheet of energy that tore across space. Unlike the VicStar, the Imperator was able to absorb much of the devastating energy with its more powerful shields. The salvo of missiles that followed the turbolasers in did penetrate the shields in several areas, but the Star Destroyers stronger armour shrugged off most of the damage.
The trio of MAC slugs that came next hit the remaining shields, but two of them simply hammered themselves flat, indicating that the Destroyers shields had been upgraded over the standard Mark IIs. The third slug shed most of its power as it punched through the shields, but still possessed enough kinetic energy to penetrate the top three layers of armour and impart a lateral spin to the Destroyer.

“Target is returning fire” Peri Hazen called out.

Octavia gripped the edge of the holotank console as the Imperator fired its weapons at the smaller Ackbar. Turbolaser fire lit up the shields and the viewport darkened in response to the light show outside, even so Octavia found her self squinting against the harsh display.
The explosions of dozens of missiles against the shields sent a shudder through the Ackbar, one that became more noticeable and violent as a number of missiles breached the shields and impacted against the hull.

“Report!” Octavia called.

“Shields at seventy-three percent. Hull breaches on decks seven and eight, sections four through six. Turbolasers twelve, fifteen and four are offline” The damage control officer replied.

Even as the DCO gave his report, Octavia was turning to Clarini, “Return fire!” She ordered.

The Ackbars second barrage was more devastating to the Imperator, its weakened shields unable to shrug off the devastating fire. Explosions and fire erupted down the Star Destroyers port side and its hull was torn open in dozens of places. All three MAC projectiles tore through the Destroyer leaving gaping rents in the superstructure, but despite the damage the Star Destroyer again returned fire with its few remaining turbolasers, stripping more power from the Ackbars shields and then both vessels were passing each other.

“Keep up the fire from our starboard weapons” Octavia ordered Clarini, then she turned to Vekker, “Signal the Dragon and Casstilo to pick that ImpStar up”
She turned to Piggy, “Any word on the Sacul?”

Piggy shook his head, “Nothing since they hit the fighter screen”

“All we can do is hope” Octavia sighed, “By the way, signal Cobra Group to make their move”

“Done” Piggy nodded, sending the command.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Across the fleet, seven Ceaser Class Ship Killers slipped from behind the shadow of their larger cousins, their massive Magnetic Accelerator Cannons crackling with barely restrained energy.

Within moments all seven had picked out targets and fired. Two of the Ceasers combined fire against a Providence Class Destroyer, holing it twice amidships and leaving it drifting and leaking drive plasma. Five more vessels, an Imperator Class Destroyer, two Recuscant Class Light Destroyers, an Enforcer Picket Cruiser and an antique Corvette were also destroyed or crippled.

I wasn’t all smooth sailing. In return, she lost the Star Destroyer Vladivar, the Frigates Rostek and Bellabub and the Dreadnaught Leopard. Off to starboard, the Star Destroyer Jagdpanther erupted into flame down its port side as the survivors of a TIE Bomber wing broke through the Republic fighter screen and launched their payloads against the Destroyer.
The Jagdpanther began a slow list to port as its engines began firing intermittently, a possible sign of serious damage to either the engines or the control lines.

Octavia frowned, “Communications” She ordered, “Comm the Jagdpanther, get me Commander Amis online” As Vekker obeyed the order, Octavia turned to Piggy, “Have the Panzerjager and the Marder move to cover the Jagdpanther”

“I have Commander Amis on comms’ Vekker called.

Octavia flicked the setting on the her comm headset, “Charles, what’s your status?”

“Bad” The voice of Commander Charles Amis answered, “Several missiles penetrated all the way to our control lines. Backups are coming online, but we’re out of the fight”

“Understood” Octavia acknowledged, “Pull back as soon as you can. In the meantime, I’ve got support coming your way”

“Appreciated Ackbar, Jagdpanther out”

Piggy listened to something on his headset for a moment, “Message from the Sacul” He said, looking up, “They just entered the atmosphere”

-----------------------------------------------------------------

The Sacul.

Kai threw the Sacul into a tumbling roll in an attempt to avoid the incoming attack. She was partially successful. Of the two-dozen concussion missiles that had been launched at them, only three actually scored solid hits, shredding armour and rocking the ship violently. The rest exploded around them, bouncing the Sacul hard.

“Keep it up Kai” Face grimaced through gritted teeth as another red patch was splashed on the Sacul’s status display, “We get to live a little bit longer” He glanced at another display, “Sacul. How long till shields are back up?”

“I….I” Sacul answered with uncharacteristic hesitation, “I don’t know. That turbolaser strike that clipped us just before we hit atmosphere knocked out half my damage control and repair systems” Her voice sounded exasperated, “I ‘think’ the shield emitters are intact, but I can’t be sure”

“Sacul’s right” Deven said without looking up from the engineering station, “According to the systems power is going through to the emitters, but they either aren’t there or they just aren’t actually getting power”

The Sacul bucked again from a near miss.

“How soon till you can get us down?” Face asked turning back to Kai.

“Two minutes” Kai answered, “Assuming they stop shooting at us. If not, we may get there sooner, but in more pieces”

Face grimaced, “Can you give us more engine power?”

“No can…no can do” Sacul answered, with a minor hiccup as something exploded a few dozen metres off the bow, “I’m already giving you all I have”

“Damn” Face hit a button for the internal comms, “Rrovv, Void, keep those fighters off of us”

“Trying our best” Void hissed in return, “Damn things are fast”

“Just keep them honest if you can” Face sighed and winced as the Sacul shook with another hit.

So far Sacul had been unable to identify the class of the dagger like fighters that still pursued them towards the surface. They were fast and well armed for ships of that size. Shields were negligible; a solid shot from Void in the dorsal turret had left one trailing smoke.

They persistent, Face gave them that, under normal circumstances they would have posed no threat to the Sacul, but they hadn’t managed to get through the defensive line cleanly. A pair of Light Cruisers had opened up on them as they’d raced through the fighter screen, breaching the shields in several places and buckling armour.

“Sithspit!” Deven shouted, “Break left now!” He shouted.

Reacting without conscious thought, Kai threw the Sacul into a roll to port. An instant later, a flash of high energy cut through their previous position, an ion cannon bursting from a battery on the surface.

One of the pursuing fighters disappeared from the sensor screen.

“Good timing” Face glanced at Deven, “Good reason I’m always glad to have a Jedi on this…..”

“Break again” Deven shouted.

Again the surface ion cannon fired again and again Kai rolled the Sacul to Port to avoid it.

“No!” Deven cried, “Not port!”

The same instant Kai rolled, the remaining fighter launched two concussion missiles at the Sacul. The first struck the rear shields, the explosion shredding the last of the protection. The second missile punched through and into the Sacul’s aft.

Armour buckled and shattered under the explosion, the starboard engine was torn to pieces by secondary explosions as the power coils ruptured and the Sacul was kicked up and over into a high speed, rapid descent tumble.

Almost thrown from his seat despite his restraining straps, Face grimaced, “Kai, Sacul!” He shouted, “Get us down now. Preferably in one piece!”

“Starboard engines gone, port engine is about seventy percent” Deven reported grimly, “Shields are gone. Could be more damage, but there’s a lot of damage back there”

Kai muttered something in Twi’Leki, “Sacul, if you can give me repulsors, I can get us down…..maybe”

There was a pause, “Done” Sacul replied. There was an explosion somewhere behind the ship, “Rrovv just nailed that other fighter for what it’s worth”

Face nodded as Kai righted the Sacul, they were still going down, but at least they weren’t being shot at for now, “Any good landing spots?”

“If by landing you mean somewhere to crash, then yes,” Kai answered, “As for a good one, there’s that plain running up to that fortress type place they’ve built. We do have to clear those funny looking hills first though”

“Those aren’t hills” Face could hear the grimace in Sacul’s voice, “Those are ruins, it’s a city”

“Just dandy” Face muttered, “Anything you can do to help Deven? Some Jedi trick?”

“Fresh out” Deven sighed, “In any case, I don’t know of any Jedi that could slow us down with just the force. I know I’m not that powerful”

“And Corran can’t do that particular trick” Face nodded, “Okay, we’re doing this old school” He hit the ship wide comm, “We’re going down people. Void, Rrovv, get out of the turrets and get into crash positions. Corran, Myn, Katrin likewise. Get yourselves secure” He hit some selections on his screens, “Sacul, anyway you can soften our landing?”

Sacul was silent as she pondered over the question, “I can send a burst of power through my Repulsors. It’ll burn them out, but it ‘should’ cushion our landing a little if we do it just before we hit. Retros will handle our forward momentum”

“Let’s do it”

----------------------------

Trailing fire, smoke and debris, the Sacul cut down at the planets surface. Through skill, the force or a combination of both plus a dose of luck, Kai managed to keep them from crashing into the ruined and stunted ruins, though the proximity of their passage ignited the vegetation that grew on the ruins.

Her hands tight on the control yoke, knuckles almost white, Kai fought to keep the Sacul level despite the violent trembling and the desire of the remaining engine to push them to starboard.

“Ten seconds to impact” Sacul called.

“Brace for impact” Face shouted.

“Five seconds” Sacul continued, “Triggering repulsor pulse”

Kai grinned as the Sacul gave a little ‘hop’, “Is this a bad time to ask for some vacation time?”

“Yes, it is….” Face started to snap, but was cut off as the Sacul belly flopped against the ground, still travelling in excess of several dozen kilometres.

Teeth chips ground against his molars and Face grunted against the pain of the restraining straps stopping him from being thrown from his chair. He tasted blood and struggled to focus as the entire ship threatened to shake every rivet from the hull.

He was nearly thrown from his seat again as the retros fired in an attempt to slow them down. Face tried to look out the view ports to see if they were slowing down, but the soil and dirt being displaced blocked any view.

“Sacul, I thought that pulse was supposed to cushion our landing” Face shouted above the noise.

“It did” Sacul responded, sounding pained, “If it hadn’t we’d have just stuck in the ground”

“Noted” Face gritted his teeth as several screens shattered under the battering the Sacul was taking.

A hammer blow struck the base of his spine as the Sacul hit something solid in the ground and kicked back into the air for a brief few seconds. As it did so, face caught a glimpse of their ultimate, unavoidable destination.

They were heading straight for one of the structures the Neo-Seps had deployed to the planets surface as part of their fortress. A solid wall of either adamantium or durasteel stood in their way.

“Oh sith” Kai muttered, “We’re not slowing down fast enough”

A desperate plan formed in face’s mind, “Sacul, do we have any missile launchers still working?”

“One” Sacul answered, “Can give you one shot, not sure how long it’ll last though and we can’t fire while we’re digging a trench”

“Open the bow hatch” Face ordered, “It’ll kick us up long enough to fire”

“And tear half the hull away in the process” Sacul replied, “Okay, ready when you give the word”

“Thanks Sacul” Face smiled grimly, “I need the missile to hit the walls at our projected point of impact”

“Got it”

“Now” Face shouted.

There was a bang and a horrific screech of tearing durasteel and the Sacul kicked up into the air again. As the bow came back down, a missile launched from the surviving forward launcher and then they hit the dirt again and lost site of the missile.

“Let’s hope this works,” Deven muttered.

Somewhere ahead there was an explosion and a flash of light, but they had to trust it was in the right place.

Then suddenly they were flying through the air once again for a heartbeat before the external view turned grey and with a bang, something struck the port wing and spun the Sacul into an almost one and eighty degree rotation.

Face caught a glimpse of shattered and warped bulkheads and walling and then the Sacul struck something solid and for Face, everything went black.


------------------------------------------

Alpha Facility.

Jenna lifted her head slowly as someone opened her cell door. Through the chaos of her jumbled mind, she tried to determine how long she had been in the cell.
Forcing her mind to focus, she turned her attention to the two guards who entered the cell.

“Get off me” She snapped as they dragged her to her feet, though she made no move to pull free.

Allowing herself to be dragged out of the cell, she came face to face with Viqi Shesh, looking as imperious as ever.

“Senator Shesh” Jenna nodded, then smiled coldly, “Ah, but that’s not true anymore is it? What is the correct title for a traitorous senator?”

To her credit, Shesh kept her anger in check, “The Prime Councillor has requested your presence at the dig site”

“Fine” Jenna muttered, “What’s he going to do? Try and recruit me again?”

“I don’t pretend to know what’s on his mind” Shesh answered as the two guards pushed Jenna forwards.

“Probably a good thing” Jenna thought silently.

She allowed herself to be led through the corridors of the facility dimly aware of a third guard somewhere behind her with a Ysalamiri. Curiosity drove her forwards, just as it had encouraged her behaviour after her recovery aboard the Merciful Hand.

Still, she did permit her unbalanced mind free rein as she imagined a variety of ways inventive ways of killing Shesh. As she walked the corridors, the means and methods became more inventive and more grotesque.

It was only when the metal lined corridor gave way to dark, age pitted rock that Jenna realised the level of sickness she was dealing with in her own mind, right about the point her imagination was working on turning Viqi Shesh inside out and dipping her in salt and vinegar.

Instead, she tried to focus on her surroundings. Even without the force, she still had good observational skills and if she had to get out of here in a hurry it’d be useful to have knowledge of the route. Dozens of well-lit tunnels split off from the main one, making her wonder how big the catacombs were.

She’d just noted that the lights that had been strung along the corridor were spaced exactly three feet apart, when a distant explosion sent a slight rumble through the area.

“What was that?” She said aloud.

“The Republic has sent a force here” Shesh mused, “Perhaps to rescue you”

A small trill of hope ran through Jenna, but it faded quickly. Why would they want to rescue her? She was too messed up, too unstable.

Continuing on, she was escorted to an elevator cage that descended them a few dozen meters to the bottom of a chamber. It reminded her of the chamber on Rhen Var with the Great Seal, but lacking the clean carved lines on that place.

Instead of a design carved into the floor, a massive stone cap had been set into a cylindrical tunnel at the far end. From the centre of the chamber, the Dass Jenner watched as engineers crawled all over the cap, drilling holes and planting explosives.

“What is this?” Jenna asked, “All this way and you’re going to just blow a hole in it?”

Jennir turned and glanced over his shoulder, “What I’m after is on the other side of that cap” Though he was -as usual- wearing his hooded robes, Jenna knew he had to be smirking.

“You had me brought down here to watch this?” Jenna said sarcastically.

“This and I wanted you to see what was beyond” Jennir answered as the engineers retreated.

Seconds later, the charges detonated, shaking the chamber and splitting the cap into three pieces, which tumbled free of the hole. Techs bearing powerful spotlights moved forwards and positioned them to illuminate the chamber beyond.

The room beyond was probably two, three times larger than the one they had just been in. Easily large enough to park a battle cruiser. A canyon split the room, intersected by a dozen stone bridges and a multitude of tunnels led off from the chamber.

At the far end of the chamber, something lay in the shadows.

Jennir indicated to the techs and engineers, “Get lights over there” He ordered.

It took some time; time when the guards grew increasingly nervous and Jennir grew more irritable with the reports of the battle above. But soon the lights were in place and illuminating the object.

A massive humanoid sat of the edge of the canyon, almost as if resting. It’s skin, once a gleaming shine was corroded and pitted by age and signs of battle from long ago. It’s left leg was severed at the knee and it’s right arm connected by a few strands of what had once been artificial muscle, but was now almost fossilised by age.

Its head, which had been modelled on a crested helmet of some sort of solider, had been caved in on one side as if something packing a lot of velocity had impacted it.

This was Jennir’s prize.

It was also the object of Jenna’s nightmares. The Vortex, the Stormbringer.

“It’s a droid of some sort,” Shesh muttered.

“More than that” Jennir responded, “More a living suit of armour, a living being interred within an impenetrable suit of durasteel or whatever they had back then” He laughed, “At one point in history, long before current records, this magnificent creation scoured life from the galaxy and then returned her to destroy those who created it. It was unstoppable”

“If it was unstoppable” Jenna cut in, “How did it end up down here wrecked?”

“Perhaps they managed to stop it in the end” Jennir shrugged, “Though obviously they were unable to save their civilization. Perhaps that final battle is what devastated the world and left the climate in such an unpredictable state”

Shesh was shocked, “How is this broken relic supposed to even help us?” She began pacing in exasperation, “You’ve led us on this quest, brought war to the galaxy for a pile of scrap metal”

“Viqi, Viqi, Viqi” Jennir sighed, “You must believe me, this is the key to everything” As he turned to face Shesh, Jenna caught sight of her lightsaber hanging at his belt.

“Only if we have time to do anything with it” Shesh shouted, “The Republic is here, in this system. How can we do anything with them breathing down our necks?”

As Jennir began to reply, Jenna made her move. With everyone distracted by the argument, Jenna had grabbed and pulled the blaster pistol from the holster of the guard on her left and shot him through the eye,

Before the second guard could reply, she spun and shot him too, grabbing his pistol as well. Bringing both pistols up, she put four shots through the chest of the guard with the Ysalamiri and then a full salvo through the ‘Miri itself.

As the force flooded back into her and everyone shook off their shock, she dropped one of the blasters and force pulled her lightsaber from Jennir’s belt and to her hand.

Igniting the primary blade, she deflected the remaining guards blaster shots then shot him neatly through the throat with her remaining blaster.

By now, Jennir had drawn his own saber and was moving towards her. She pre-empted him by leaping at him and bringing her blade down in an overhead cut to bisect him. He deflected the attack, but barely managed to block the fire from her blaster.

The blaster clicked empty, so she dropped it and with both hands on her lightsaber ignited the secondary blade and went on the offensive, spinning and twisting, trying to break the former Jedi’s defence.

“I expected this sooner Jenna” Jennir smiled, “I wondered how long it would be”

“Enough talking!” Jenna shouted, “This time you’ll die by my hand, for all the pain you caused me!”

At the far end of the chamber, ancient life stirred.


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