“Come in, Admiral.” The voice, dark and threatening, came from inside the small chamber the open door revealed. “I wouldn’t want my door destroyed, now would I?”
Devron stepped forward, motioning for his troops to follow with weapons at the ready. Together, they all stepped through. The door slid shut behind them as silently as it had opened.
“Only you, Devron. Don’t be a coward.” Another door in front of them slid open quietly.
Devron walked through the doorway, which also slid shut quietly before him. Before him, a large hallway stretched forward, with adornments and paintings all around depicting the Sith and the Empire, their greatest victories and best men. One picture, titled “Battle of Demil I,” displayed a fleet of six Imperial Star Destroyers tearing apart five Star Cruisers and five Nebulon-B frigates. Another one, to Devron’s left, showed one Sith with a double-bladed lightsaber killing off endless waves of Rebel troopers. The caption read, “Darth Supernova – 283 kills.”
“Welcome to my main hall, Admiral.” The voice, again the same dark, threatening voice without the slightest mechanised tinge to make it sound like it was coming from a speaker, echoed across the hall.
“Who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
The voice laughed coldly, without humour. “So diplomatic, Admiral. If I was in your position, I wouldn’t call it ‘the pleasure of addressing’, though. I might say”, he seemed to think about it for a minute, “‘the honour of addressing’.”
“Alright, then. Who do I have the honour of addressing?”
“Darth Ravage. Who else?”
Devron’s eyes narrowed in anger. “You’re him, huh? The one who led the attack on Domus Prime, kidnapped the Queen herself…”
“Kidnapped the Queen?” Ravage’s voice took on a sarcastic hint of astonishment. “Why would I do that? I merely kidnapped the handmaiden Catherine. Oh, that’s right! I nearly forgot. How stupid of me, Catherine is the Queen.”
Devron frowned, his face contorting into a mask of surprise, confusion and understanding all at once.
“She never told you, huh? Never told her General of the Royal Forces? That’s strange. She told everyone else that was important to her. She told your Grand Admiral Riddler, I believe. She also told his apprentice. Jester, is it? No matter. All her handmaidens know, all the high-up military powers in the Royal Forces know. Everyone from Colonel up to Admiral. Strange she never told you.”
Devron, while unwilling to believe the Sith, started to be poisoned with a feeling of betrayal.
“Could it be, she doesn’t trust you? Maybe so. Maybe she was afraid you would go and tell someone. Someone that you were willing to give up your loyalties for. Someone who offered you more than she ever would. This someone, she had blonde hair, didn’t she? And beautiful blue eyes, a nice figure, did her name start with an ‘A’? I think it did. Started with an ‘A’, hmm, oh yes. ‘Andora’, wasn’t it? No, that was her cover name. Her real name was actually Alanine Nilmian, but she went by Cyani. Darth Cyani. Do you know her?”
Devron set his jaw in anger at the unseen speaker. Speaking through his teeth, he replied, “Devron Zal, General, RN/P/S-23.”
“Familiar words! That’s what you told her. And then, you killed her. At least, you thought you did.”
“I killed her, Ravage. I blasted a hole through her frickin’ head.”
“Did you, now?”
Across the long hallway, the door swung open. Revealed there was a small figure in a black bodysuit with streaks of red, the bodysuit hugging her curves as she started to walk the one hundred or so metres down the hallway towards him.
“Nice to see you again, Dev.”
Devron shook his head in disbelief. ‘Ravage wants to wear me down. He wants me on his side. Have to resist.’
Cyani, upon reaching him, wrapped her arms around the General, hugging him tightly. He stood there stiffly, trying as hard as he could not to notice. She loosened the hug and stood next to him, her head resting on his shoulder and her arm around his back.
“You never killed her, Devron,” Ravage’s voice began again. “You were too attracted to her to kill her. You merely stunned her.”
Shaking his head in denial, Devron replayed the scene through his mind again. “No,” he insisted, the sound coming out relatively weak.
“No. I blew a hole through her head. I blew a hole through her Sith-spawned head!”
“Then how could I be here, Dev?”
“You’re not! This is all some… some illusion! Ravage is playing games with my mind!”
“That’s what you want to believe,” Ravage replied. “A part of you still harbours some loyalty to your Queen. ‘Her Royal Ignorance,’ didn’t you call her that?”
“I didn’t mean it.”
“Oh, sure, you didn’t mean it. Of course you didn’t. Who could resist Catherine? Her beautiful hair, her stunning eyes, her lovely figure…”
Devron fired a flurry of blaster bolts into the ceiling. “Quit probing my mind!”
“When you saw Andora, though,” Ravage continued, choosing to call Cyani by the name Devron knew best, “you knew that she was just like Catherine, but better. And, more willing. Look at her. She loves you! She wants to be with you, to have you love her. Go on, look at her, how devoted she is to winning you from Her Royal Ignorance.”
Steeling himself, Devron looked down at Andora. She looked up at him, only an inch or two separating their faces. “Look into her eyes. There you will find love, desire, lust, and willingness…” It was true. Devron ripped his gaze away, focusing on one of the far pillars. “Why do you deny yourself what you want most? I can tell you do. I can sense it.”
“Yes, though. You know it is true.”
“It is, Dev,” Andora said, moving in front of him. “I do love you. And I think you love me too. You told me.”
“I didn’t mean it.”
“You did, Devron. Deep down, you did.”
“She knows. Go with her”, the soft voice commanded him.
“Come on, Dev. Come to my room with me. I have something to show you.”
“Submit, Devron. Do what you want to do.”
“No!” Devron brought his EKX-10 up, smacking away Andora’s hand. Then, depressing the trigger, he strafed Andora in anger, firing a continuous stream of blaster bolts into her and through her.
His EKX-10 beeped, the power pack drained. Andora’s body lay dead before him, barely recognisable. Changing out power packs, Devron ran for the door and tried to open it.
“It’s locked, Devron. You cannot escape.” Devron brought up his EKX-10 again, levelling it at the door. “Go ahead, Devron. Blast through my wooden door. The bolts, you know, will go through. You might kill a couple of your troops.” Devron stopped short, frowning yet determined to get out. “Come through the other door, Devron. Face me in lightsaber combat.”
‘Yeah, I’m really that suicidal.’ Spotting a pair of hinges, Devron depressed the trigger, strafing the hinges and blowing them away. The door fell in towards him, causing him to jump away. His troops were sitting down in there, talking amongst themselves. They stopped when Devron runs out. “Yes, sir?”
“Come on.” Devron strafed the hinges on the other door, also. It fell away, and Devron charged out, his troops following.
“Any other doors besides this one and the way out?”
“Time to move on to another building. Order the Y-wings to bomb this one.”
Charging into the ground vehicle bay, Devron looked around. “Pick a vehicle! Make sure it has weapons. There might be resistance between here and the Imperial / Sith base closest to us.”
Devron jumped into the driver’s side seat in a Merr-Sonn ML-22 Military-Issue Armed Landspeeder. One of his friends, Lieutenant Serol, hopped into the gunner’s seat. Powering up the speeder, Devron drove out of the bay heading for the familiar Toxtenkopp Imperial / Sith Base 2A, the closest base, followed by the rest of his troops.
Ace held his blaster before him in one hand as he slowly followed Jester into the corridor, carefully checking in every direction before moving. For some reason Jester closed his eyes, moving patiently down the hallway to where Ace had taken place in a firefight with that trooper.
Ace found himself staring at Jester, trying to understand the Jedi ways.
Jester opened his eyes again, a strange glint there as he fingered his lightsaber and held it ready for action.
“There are three coming this way, about to run around that corner.” Jester gestured, and Ace looked at him in surprise, not understanding how he could have known that. “Ace, I sure hope we can trust you”, Jester whispered to himself.
They all took cover behind various obstructions and in the doorways that interspersed the hall. For a long moment they waited in silence as the somewhat spooked troopers walked towards them, listening to what they were saying.
“If we find any, destroy any resistance. Apparently we are supposed to simply capture the Jedi and high-rank officers, though no one has told us how to manage that. We’re just troopers, we couldn’t defeat a Jedi.” The soldier sounded petulant despite the mechanising of his voice in the helmet.
“Look, sir”, one of the other’s replied, “We heard voices in a room down here. We have to investigate.”
“I’m sure they are unaware of our presence.” It was hard to tell if the highest ranked trooper was sarcastic or sincere.
“I agree”, the shortest of the three nodded enthusiastically, then sobered, “unless whoever shot down that trooper back there let them know we’re already here.”
“Anyway, we proceed to that room.” Not taking any care to muffle the loud noise of their steps, the three soldiers made their way to the War Room.
Ace looked at Jester as the Jedi concentrated in preparation for battle. Jester nodded to the pilot and without hesitation, for this was surely a test of his loyalties, Ace made the first shot in this fight, surprising the three troopers. The one on the left went down instantly, never seeing who had shot him.
The other two troopers turned around, raising their weapons. Ace dodged, almost as it he was trying to hide from the fire they would offer, even as Jester activated his lightsaber and attacked from the other side of the hall, cutting down the nearest trooper across his mid-section.
Ace looked back out of his doorway and fired again, this time striking the third trooper’s arm, disabling his useless arm, but he still was able to bring his blaster to bear on the pilot. But before he could shoot, Jester stabbed his lightsaber down through the trooper’s stomach and drew it back, looking down on the dead trooper with hatred burning in his eyes.
Ace somewhat nervously walked over to Jester, who stood unmoving, his lightsaber still ready for any other assailants who might come. “There will be more”, this pilot said, “these are only the scouts sent after us. We must move quickly.”
Jester deactivated his lightsaber, turning to the pilot. His eyes were suddenly unreadable, as was his tone. “Ace, you did great”, he said, “We’ll discuss this later, but right now I think we need to find the Grand Admiral.”
A hesitant smile was exchanged, and Ace looked around the corridor, even as the other soldiers who had been with them left for the War Room to maintain a base of operations there.
“I’m glad to be help”, Ace said, “Lead the way.” Even as they moved through the Palace, Ace found himself looking back over his shoulder often, not sure who he was more worried about: the Sith and Imperials, or the Jedi who was supposedly on his side.
K hid from view as a few scout troops hovered in the area. He began thinking about the situation.
‘There has to be something I can do. I was never taught to fight, but I’ve seen it done. I just have to remember these troops are trying to hurt my friends and I. I have to help them. I need to use one of my teachings as a weapon let’s see, I remember when my master tried to teach me about survival in the wild, yes, that would do nicely. I’ll try that.’
K felt the power of Ettall Makt flowing through him as he directed its power into the air around the unsuspecting troops. He remembered the teachings about starting a fire when circumstances did not allow for any markings to be made. As he concentrated, the air around the troops began to heat at an exponential rate.
“Getting a little hot in here”, one said to the others, but by then it was too late. A ball of blue fire burst up around the troops, engulfing them and their screams in its deadly heat. As it collapsed in on itself nothing remained on as a sign of what had happened. Nothing was left of the troops, nothing. It was if they had simply ceased to exist.
K sat back and gasped at what he had done. He felt empty inside, yet a power filled him. A rush of energy and adrenalin that made him feel invulnerable. The emptiness was still there though, he wondered if it would ever go away. Taking a life just did not feel right to him.
‘I just have to remember they would have killed too. Right, just keep telling myself that. Maybe I’ll pick a little less explosive method next time. That might help.’
So with a mixture of ecstasy and dread over what he had done, K ran to find the Grand Admiral and Jester.
Jester suddenly fell to the ground with a cry of pain.
“What is it?” Ace helped him back up on his feet, looking incredibly confused.
“I don’t know”, Jester murmured, more to himself. “A very strong tremor, but somehow different. It wasn’t really the Force, it was slightly altered. I can’t explain it. I shouldn’t leave my mind so open.”
Ace wasn’t quite sure what to say, he knew so little about the Force. “You gonna be alright?”
“Ya, I’ll be fine… Let’s just find Riddler or Cath- the Queen.” Jester regained his composure after a moment and they continued in their search. Jester sensed something again, but decided that he did not want the pilot with him as he checked its source. “Wait here”, he said.
Jester looked around the corner while igniting his lightsaber. “Nothing.” But suddenly a figure appeared before him. Jester was surprised and began instinctively to attack, but then he saw who it was and stepped back with a gasp. “K! How did you-?”
“Just a little trick I know.” The other grinned slightly. “I’m glad I found you, we have to keep moving. I’ve ‘lost’ some troops back there, but be sure that more are to follow.” And with that the terrific trio headed off to continue their search.
As they made their way quickly through the Palace, Ace found that he could not keep track of the twists and bends in their path and he was soon lost. He only hoped that these two knew where they were going. They ran up a particularly long flight of stairs and Ace found himself standing in a small corridor at the top of a tower. Nervously he checked the status of his blaster and thought about the current situation.
“There’s the Grand Admiral’s rooms”, K said to Ace as they walked to the open door, all ready for any form of resistance within.
“Damn it, where is he?” Jester swore as he realised that the room was empty. Ace noticed somewhat belatedly the blaster mark on the opposite wall. He remained by the door to guard their backs.
“Is there any other place he could be?” Jester shook his head, not knowing how to answer Ace’s question. At the time of an invasion, the Grand Admiral could be anywhere. Almost the only thing they could be sure of was that he would be defending his planet for the Queen.
“Here’s something”, K said, gesturing to the clothes left discarded. “The Riddler is wearing his full dress uniform. I am sure of it. What do you suggest we do now?”
Jester suddenly realised something, and his eyes went unfocussed as he concentrated for a moment. K tapped the wall as he waited for an answer. Jester grinned as he sought out his master using the Force. “I know where he is.”
K also smiled. “Great.”
Ace suddenly gave a yell from the bottom of the stairs, spoiling the moment. “We have company!”
Jester grabbed his lightsaber and both he and K practically flew back downstairs. “Who and how many?” he asked as they moved, not caring for caution.
Ace’s voice sounded puzzled. “I don’t know who, he or she is at the end of the corridor, running towards this place.”
“Only one?” K murmured, “That is strange. Who can it be?”
Jester sighed. “We have to find out.” He reached with his Jedi senses somewhat reluctantly, pressing aside the feeling that he would need to save his strength for later.
As the fleet of swoops and speeders jumped the final hill between them and the Imperial / Sith base, a Royal Forces AT-AT lumbered around on patrol for any residual Imperial forces, its crimson-painted head swinging back and forth. It spotted them and fired off a couple of shots high into the air above it in greeting. In response, Devron fired into the air with his EKX-10, slicing the air above him with the fully automatic cryo-cooled rifle. The greeting done, the AT-AT plodded off, deceptively slow, searching for more Imperials to kill.
A trio of scout walkers came around the corner of the building, their heads coloured crimson, as Devron brought his speeder to a halt at the once-guarded front troop entrance. Once his company mobilised at the front door, he opened it and ran inside.
Blaster fire echoed down the corridor. Devron broke out into a flat run, coming around the corner to find himself behind a steadily retreating pack of Imperial stormtroopers. Quickly retreating, he explained to his comrades. “Stormtroopers. Retreating. Wait here and we can bottleneck them.”
“Yes, sir,” some responded, all of them setting up their weapons. Devron and most of his remaining troops lay prone on the ground in order to startle them, while a heavy repeater gunner self-attached onto Devron’s squad stood just behind them, his BlasTech KN-44 braced against his hip and both hands.
A white flash of armour announced the arrival of the Boys In White. Immediately as they clustered in the corner, the heavy spinning repeater whined loudly as its barrel spun rapidly, letting out a deadly incessant stream of blaster bolts which cut the ranks of the stormtroopers down in a second.
Devron and his troops got to their feet, changed out power packs as necessary, and headed around the corner to meet up with the other troops of the Royal Forces.
“Thanks for the assistance, Admiral. Nice bottleneck ambush there.”
“Thank you, Colonel. Did you grab a map off of the data stations scattered around here?”
“Yes, sir.” The Colonel hands Devron a flimsy-plast map, which he took and studied. After half a second, he flipped the map upside down, giving him a more accurate perspective. “That’s better. Now left is left.” He analysed the map a bit more, reading the text upside down and trying to divide his now-40 some troops up into groups equal to the threat. “After we go down this flight of stairs, two men break off to explore the storage bay. Come back when you have the place searched and motion/IR sensors watching it. When we reach life support, two men do the same in there. This hallway leads down, past several crew barracks to the armory and command room. All of you go, save for one trained medic and all the injured to take a brief stop in this medical bay in order to make use of Imperial-quality medical supplies.” Though Devron hated to admit it, the Imperials, with a better line of credit previously, would have gotten the best medical equipment that credits could buy.
“Also, three other men to the docking bay, to make sure that there’s no Imperials trying to escape. Plant motion detonators on every ship, so if one tries to escape, boom. Make them have an eight-digit deactivation code, so that we can remove them in case we want any of the ships. I’ll go along with you – I want to see what the Imps have at this base. There might be something fun to play with after we get this base cleared out. Which brings up the question, Colonel – how many hostiles are left?”
“We believe around 30 or so. Most of them came out to engage us when we dropped.”
“Good.” Pulling out his commlink, Devron called in requests. “Platoon leaders, report in. Give estimates of remaining hostile activity.”
“Base 1A, estimated 50 or so left.”
“Base 3A, clear.”
“Base 4A, clear.”
“Base 1B, clear.”
“Base 2B, clear.”
“Good. All those brought down on crimson dropships, report to your dropship and transport back up to your capital ship. All those brought on dark blue dropships, set up a garrison in the base you’re at. Toxtenkopp is ours.” With that, Devron shut the comm down. “Alright, let’s take down this base. Linior, Seqitt, Orili, come with me to the hangar bay. Ln’takt, Iriden, to the storage bay. Nuril, Collun, to life support. All else to the barracks and beyond. Be sure to make a stop in the armory and outfit yourselves with the best the Empire has to offer. Move out.”
Devron and his three companions walked the hundred metres to the hangar bay. They came out of the hallway to be surrounded by a typical factory-pressed Imperial hangar bay. Bright, unshielded white lights shed their harsh light down onto the shined metal floor plates, each exactly point-eight metres square and held in place by twenty rivets into the ground below. The tops of the rivets showed up as little circles one centimetre in diameter and spaced four centimetres apart exactly. Two back ladders led up to a catwalk and rack overhead, where TIE Fighters, Bombers and Interceptors rested dormant. Below the catwalk, parked on the metal floor, were Dx-9 stormtrooper transports, Gamma-class assault shuttles, Skipray blastboats, and another, strange make of ship. Devron searched his mind for the name. ‘Sith something-or-other. Didn’t it start with an I? I… In… Interrogator? No… Infiltrator. That was it. Sith Infiltrators.’
“Sir?” one of his companions whispered, pointing. “Motion. Didn’t look like a stormie.”
“I see it.” Devron pulled his sniper rifle off of his back, wishing briefly that he had a real Xerrol Nightstinger. Maybe the armory had a few he could “borrow”. One for use, and one for display. The very sight would make his friends jealous: Xerrol Nightstingers ran upwards of twenty five thousand Republic credits. Maybe because of the technology. Raising his scope to his eye, Devron sighted through it to find the man.
He was dressed in a black cloak. That was all Devron that Devron saw, as the thing moved toward one of the Infiltrators. As the man turned to enter the ship, though, his cloak billowed out, revealing…
“Sith!” Devron snapped off a shot, only to have the Sith man spin, rip his lightsaber out, ignite it and deflect the blade into a far wall in the space of a half second. Then the Sith ran into the cockpit and raised the ramp, his disappearance followed by a low whine and a greenish tint.
“Sithspawn! You three, go back.” Devron charged for the Infiltrator, his sniper rifle on his back and his EKX-10 drawn. He fired a spray of bolts at the activated ship, the shots dissipating harmlessly. In response, the Infiltrator began to lift off, its landing gear retracting. Devron, recognising the uselessness of running, skidded to a halt and swiped a gaze over the hangar bay. A row of four Sentinel shuttles waited expectantly at the right-side wall, ‘No weapons.’ On the left, Gamma-class shuttles rested on their landing gear, ‘More than one required to crew.’
There. A Skipray blastboat. As the Infiltrator began to orient itself, Devron ran up to the Skipray, literally hurling himself into its pilot seat. He flipped switches rapidly, effectively routing weapon systems to his pilot station, closing the door, activating shields and weapons and initiating emergency power-up. The required systems roared to life, the red lights along the control panel flashing green. Devron strapped himself in, gripping the piloting console tightly enough to turn his knuckles white.
‘Looking for some fun, Devron?’
‘What the-?’ Devron thought to himself, surprised at the sudden voice in his head.
‘Darth Ravage, at your service. Come up with me.’ The Sith Infiltrator roared past his powered craft, the pilot waggling its wings in acknowledgment.
‘Be right up.’ Devron kicked the throttle to full and the craft beneath him responded in kind. With a roar of ion engines the Skipray lurched into the air, wings engaging into flight position and repulsorlift drives working in conjunction with the engines to shoot him out of the bay, a couple of seconds behind the Infiltrator.
Which was not there. Devron scans the sky, trying to find the elusive craft.
Ravage smiled as he turned to the right sharply, throttled back and turned around just as Devron flew out of the hangar bay, unknowingly in front of his attacker. Powering up the dual proton torpedo launchers on his modified Infiltrator, he shoved the ion drives to full and launched into pursuit.
Devron’s warning systems screamed at him as the Infiltrator behind him powered up ion drives and acquired a lock. Reflexively and with a few curses to accompany it, he wrenched his control grips around, throwing the Skipray into a tight, rapid barrel roll to the left and angled down. The inertial compensators struggled to keep up as the ground spirals around his cockpit. The lock broken, Devron broke off the roll, shoving his control stick skyward to meet the belly of the Infiltrator. He jammed his fingers down on the laser triggers, firing a volley of laser bolts at the Infiltrator.
As the Skipray broke his lock, Ravage mentally revised Devron’s abilities, putting him up an inch. Then, a ripple through the Force alerted him, and he calmly did a snap roll upwards, pointing his nose spaceward and successfully evading the blaster bolts headed at him.
The laser bolts missed, flying off in a different direction to the Infiltrator. Ravage had his ion drives towards him, though. Devron angled to follow, switching over to dual proton torpedoes. If he could just get a lock and send a salvo off…
A change in Devron’s sense alerted Ravage to the proton torpedo tactic. Smiling, he decides to show the parasite just how skilled he, Darth Ravage, was in the usage of the Force. He let his Infiltrator maintain heading, waiting for the lock.
‘That’s it, Ravage. Just one second more.’ The yellow colour of his targeting cross turned bright red, accompanied by a steady beep alerting him to a lock. Devron pressed down on the firing triggers again, letting loose a duo of torpedoes towards Ravage’s ship.
As the proton torpedoes came flying at him, Ravage got a steady grip on both of them with the Force, making both fly wide. Then, he nudged a crucial component into its ‘Unarmed’ position, dropping the lock on his craft. Deprived of their lock, the torpedoed respond to Ravage’s will, regaining lock on Devron’s Skipray and rearming themselves.
“Sithspawn!” Devron yanked the stick down and to the right, snapping his Skipray around to try and evade the torpedoes. Simultaneously, he smacked his Decoy button several times, letting loose countermeasures. One torpedo got confused and flew off aimlessly; the other chased him and steadily gained.
‘Time to finish him off.’ Ravage brought the Infiltrator around, switching to quad lasers and depressing the triggers, sending a steady stream of bolts to greet Devron’s Skipray.
The shield readout flashed with the impact of some of the laser bolts, most flying wide. Growling, Devron smacked his Decoy button a few more times, finally throwing the last torpedo off. Then, arming his torpedoes again, he twisted his ship around, avoiding the green bolts that fly past him.
Ravage noticed the torpedoes armed again and shook his head. “Haven’t you learned your lesson yet?” he asked nobody in particular, dropping the strafing of bolts and closing in, hoping to get a better lock…
As Ravage flew toward him, twisting his ship around in order to avoid the lock, Devron turned to face him, the yellow pre-lock flashing in and out of existence as the Infiltrator danced around. Devron got an idea, smiling tightly to himself. ‘This guy’s a Sith, isn’t he?’
Ravage notices the change in Devron’s sense as he grabbed onto an idea. Then, clearly through the mist, Devron’s thoughts screamed out ‘Sithspawn! Left!’ Ravage quit jinking his Infiltrator around, watching the space around the left of the Skipray.
‘Sithspawn! Left!’ Devron thought, simultaneously triggering the rest of his torpedo batch to go out cold. Ten torpedoes flew towards the advancing Infiltrator.
Ravage noticed the victory sense a split-second afterward and ripped his gaze to where a salvo of torpedoes flew out him. “Aagh!” Ravage screamed, recognising that it was too late to do anything but eject. He reached down to the ejection lever and practically ripped it off of the base.
The top blows off and a seat flew out a half second before the torpedoes impacted.
Devron turned to the right, avoiding the ball of fire as Ravage’s Infiltrator died in a great ball of shrapnel and fire. The seat flew up, outward, which Devron recognised as an ejection seat. Slowly, throttling down to about three MGLT, he took his Skipray around for a look. A couple of passes revealed the body strapped into the chair, but Devron could not be sure what was up.
‘He has to be dead. Even with that vacsuit on, nobody could survive that. He took some shrapnel and fire.’
Devron accelerated again, inputting hyperspace coordinates into the navcomp. That done, and the little light beside the hyperspace lever changing from red to green, he opened a tight beam transmission to General Kyte.
“Take charge of the troops from the SSD. They’re nearly finished there. Call the dropships up when they’re done and set course for Domus Prime.”
“Where are you?”
“In a Skipray. I chased Darth Ravage out here and killed him.”
“And where are you going so soon?”
“Off to save the Queen, the beautiful Queen of DP.”
A brief chuckle came over the comm. “You, my friend, need to cut back on your movie intake. May the Force be with you.”
“You too, Kyte. Later.” Devron shut down the comm, taking one more pass by Ravage’s chair before engaging hyperdrive.
‘Did something move?’ he thought in surprise as he pushes the lever to the ‘hyperdrive’ position. ‘No, that’s not possible.’
The Skipray registered Class One on its speed readout, replacing MGLT with Class. Frowning to himself and trying to dispel the dark feeling held inside him, Devron settled back for the day long hyperdrive trip.
‘This time, it’s just me vs. them. Just like old times. SpecForce, in hostile environment, grab Queen, Tamira, the Grand Admiral and Jester, and pop out. Odds are probably a hundred to one.’ A smile played its way across his face. ‘Definitely not fair. Give them another hundred people.’
Jester’s eyes widened in surprise as he recognised the one running towards them. “It’s her!”
“Who?” Ace looked confused.
K took another glance at the figure and smiled as he recognised the unique costume she was wearing, a white bodysuit with a black skirt, decorated with bows. Looking at it he was curious as to how she was able to run so agilely in boots with heels like that. He found himself wondering where Catherine was, surely it would be better for her to be present at this time? Jester and K exchanged a glance, wondering what to tell Ace.
“It’s the Queen. What is she doing here?” K wondered aloud. After a moment he nudged Jester, waiting for a response. “Hey, are you awake?”
Jester shook his head and smiled. “Yeah.” Then his eyes glazed over again, and the woman running towards them seemed to pull a long weapon from thin air.
Ace and K exchanged a worried glance, and Ace tightened his grip on his blaster. Suddenly he saw what the Queen was running from. “Troopers! Many of them!”
Jester grabbed his lightsaber and ignited it, and for a second Ace thought he saw a blue haze around the Queen. She seemed to fly the last few metres between them. “Get the Queen to safety”, Jester demanded of Ace, even as the Queen shot him an almost angry look, “I will take care of these troopers.”
The stormtroopers started to fire on the four of them, and Jester used his lightsaber to deflect many of the bolts. And yet even standing in the open corridor without cover, none of the shots seemed to even come close to their targets. Ace glanced at the Queen and saw a look of fierce concentration on her face.
Ace fired his own weapon, hitting one of the stormtroopers. He took his aim and double-tapped the trigger, narrowly missing another. Jester managed to deflect a number of bolts back at their shooters, and they fell where they were.
K, having no weapon, stepped over to the Queen and spoke to her in a low voice. “Your Majesty, we must get out of here.”
She shook her head, her long brown hair flowing in waves caused by the motion. “I have to say and fight.” The Queen moved her hands along the tall staff she carried, almost as if she was about to start using it against the blaster fire.
“There are too many for us, let us regroup somewhere.”
For a moment she looked as if she would dispute this, and there certainly was a strange look in her eyes, burning with power. Then she looked at Jester who was still fighting and nodded. “Very well”, she murmured reluctantly, and allowed K to pull her away. Her eyes were distracted as K ran down the corridor back towards the staircase which lead up to the Riddler’s tower. “Who is that man?”
“I’m sorry”, K breathed, not noticing that she did not listen to the answer. “I’ll explain later.”
Jester closed his eyes and concentrated on the Force, letting it wash over him and guide his movements as he tried to stop the stormtroopers’ advance. He found himself grinning as he noticed a blue flash of light, so quick that he could have imagined it, strike one of the enemy soldiers and cause him to fall.
Then a bright flash from Ace’s blaster startled him for a second. “I ordered you to leave”, he shouted over the sound of blaster fire.
“I will fight, whether you like it or not! You will have to kill me if you don’t want me to stay and fight!” Ace grinned and fired again, taking down another trooper. He did not notice as a number of them fell without being actually hit by any of the reflected shots.
Within thirty seconds the nine troopers were dead, none of them having come close enough to face Jester’s lightsaber. He deactivated it as Ace looked at the dead troopers, holding his blaster at the ready.
After a moment of silence as shocked gazes met, Jester and Ace both started to laugh. They quickly followed the path that K and the Queen had taken, meeting up at the foot of the staircase that led to the Riddler’s rooms.
“Where have you all been?” the Queen asked, smiling at Jester.
“We’ve been looking for you. The question is, where have you been?” Jester said as he looked behind them to check for any further stormtroopers. If any had discovered this hiding place, they would be trapped here, there was no other way out of the tower that he knew of.
“I have been helping the Riddler”, the Queen murmured somewhat distractedly. “I will talk to you both about it later.” She turned and looked at Ace, blue eyes turning cold. “And you are?”
Ace tried to bow a little, “My name is Ace Azzameen. I am with the Rebellion, I have came to help.”
The Queen looked over at K and Jester, waiting for what they had to say on the subject. They both shrugged their shoulders. She sighed, and once again Ace had the direct impression that the eyes turned on him were staring into the depths of his soul. “Alright come with us and meet the Grand Admiral.” They all began to sprint down the hallway.
Jester lagged behind a little and the Queen reached a thought out to him, ‘Is everything alright?’
Jester kept looking behind them, making sure no one was following. ‘I had to kill again. It’s… It was different… I enjoyed it…’ His mind trailed off.
The Queen suddenly grew pale, and she found herself frightened at what Jester had just said. ‘You and I will talk with the Riddler about this when we find him. Come to the front with us, K will guard the rear.’
Ace heard a beep coming from his commlink. He answered it while running. “I’m here Emkay.”
“Ace, the situation looks bad if I can say so. There are many troopers outside the Palace. I had to take off, and I’m trying to find safe spot to land.”
Ace sighed. He looked back over at K and then Jester and the Queen. “I have already met the troopers, and I found the Queen. I’ll keep you informed. Take care Emkay.”
Emkay laughed back in Otana. “You know I will.” He turned commlink off.
Ace put the commlink back into his pocket and took his blaster in hand.
“More bad news?” Jester asked, shaking his head as if he were still not certain that he could trust Ace.
“Yes, more troopers are outside of the Palace. Are you alright?” The looks on the Queen and Jester’s faces showed that something was wrong. Ace became even more concerned.
Despite herself, the Queen found that she did not trust Ace, even though Jester and K seemed to think that he was trustworthy. There was something about the way the pilot seemed to act on his own despite the situation that all of them were in that worried her.
Ace was suddenly surprised to realise that he recognised this part of the Palace. The Queen pointed in the direction of the War Room. “The Grand Admiral is waiting for us there”, she said with a strange tone in her voice. There was something about her manner that made Ace suddenly wonder if she too were a Jedi.
Inside the War Room, a tall man dressed in a startling white uniform was looking over a map of the Palace and fingering a lightsaber. He smiled at the Queen, who nodded her head to him. “I knew that you would come”, he said, and Ace noticed as a strange look passed over the Queen’s face.
Dark brown eyes turned to Ace, and he suddenly felt fear wash over him. “I recognise that suit”, the Riddler said in a voice that was hard and cold, “You’re a Rebel pilot.”
“Yes, Sir, my name is Ace Azzameen, Sir.” The Riddler smiled at the pilot calling him ‘sir’. But then his smile faded to be replaced by icy intensity. “What are you doing here?”
Jester was sitting at a computer console, engrossed in what he was doing and apparently not going to help Ace. “I’m here to help you.”
There was a long moment of silence that was broken as Jester looked up and sighed. “We can trust him, Riddler. I assure you. He has been helpful.”
“Grand Admiral”, the Queen said, dragging the Riddler’s attention back to her. “You and I need to talk with Jester.” There was something in her voice that could not be refused and Jester stood.
“K, guard us and keep us all informed of what is happening”, the Riddler ordered, ignoring Ace for the moment. He then led the Queen and Jester from the War Room into a smaller chamber on the other side of the main corridor, some distance away from the nucleus of the Royal Forces. Ace followed and remained by K’s side.
Amid the pseudomotion of hyperspace flowing around the Skipray’s transparisteel windows as it shoots toward Domus Prime, a countdown meter appeared on the canopy, the holoprojector enlarging it and setting it in plain view. Numbers clicked slowly away, from sixty seconds down. Devron rested his hand on the hyperdrive lever, waiting for the zero.
His Skipray was wrenched out of hyperspace into realspace just before the final second ticked down, the hyperdrive control automatically putting itself in sublight mode. The points of starlight appeared on the background, swirling rapidly around the Skipray as Devron attempted to compensate.
“Unidentified Skipray, this is Star Destroyer Warcrater. Power down your engines and prepare for docking.”
‘Like hell I will.’ Devron threw all power from shields and cannons into his engines. His Skipray launched forward rapidly, quickly coming up to one hundred and eighty MGLT and a bit farther.
“Unidentified Skipray, power down your engines or you will be shot upon.”
Devron makes no response, instead watching for turbolaser bolts and TIE Fighters, keeping an eye on the rapidly expanding globe of Domus Prime. ‘When did they send an Interdictor here?’
A green bolt flashed past him, followed by two more. Devron checked his scopes. A wave of TIE Interceptors appeared, swarming out of the hangar bay ahead to greet him. All around, fire from the Star Destroyer occasionally flashed past, never scoring a direct hit, but brushing past his shields, wearing out the already powerless, weak shields. As the TIE Interceptors swarmed in, Devron started an evasive, spinning his ship in fast enough barrel rolls to make the average TIE pilot sick while diving down under the wave. The TIEs snapped off a number of shots at him, most missing. A couple of shots sink their teeth into his left fin, though, which threw his manoeuvre off and sent him hurtling towards the planet with no direction for a brief second. Finally, the onboard compensators kicked in, helping to stabilise him as he stopped his spin.
The TIEs, having regained the chase, began firing on him now, green shots flying every which way. Gritting his teeth, Devron threw the Skipray into a series of rolls to throw off their locks and randomly turned left and right, to keep the TIEs guessing. ‘Give me five more seconds…’
The digital distance counter to the planet’s atmosphere spun down too fast to read, Devron only being able to get a glimpse of fifty-nine-something point something-something as his Skipray hurtled toward the atmosphere.
One of the TIE pilots watched through his mask as the Skipray stopped his evasive for a half-second, maybe to look at something. ‘Good.’ He held down the triggers, strafing across the space where the Skipray is. A brief explosion ripped through the back end of the unshielded Skipray, as the speeding pilot fought to regain control a second before he hit the atmosphere.
“Sithspawn!” Devron yelled at the cockpit as his Skipray lurched with the blast of a few laser cannon shots. A damage readout appeared on the canopy, informing him calmly that the ion drives were shot. Another alarm went off as Devron entered the atmosphere, and he engaged repulsorlift drives, slamming the engage button into the console. His Skipray stabilised, but the TIEs pursue after him, firing brief clusters of shots at him. Devron yanked his control stick around, heading for the city by the Palace.
“Death Squadron, back to the Warcrater,” Death Leader called over the commlink. “I’ll pursue this Skipray alone.”
A chorus of “Yes, sir,” echoed over the commlink. Death Leader pulled his TIE Interceptor around to pursue the limping Skipray, resting his targeting cross on the rear end of the Skipray. With a satisfied smile he held the triggers in, preferring to watch an aerial explosion.
As Devron made it to the outskirts of the city, the laser bolts came, tearing into the back of his craft and ripping chunks away from it. His Skipray’s nose angled sharply down, and a calm, metallic voice came over his inboard sound system, repeating one word endlessly.
“No, I’m not gonna Sith-spawned eject!” Devron cursed at the voice, knowing full well that he could not regain any altitude. In lieu of that, the Interceptor continued sending high-energy laser bolts into his hull. The altitude meter indicated fifty feet to ground, forty.
‘This is suicide, and I know it.’ Unstrapping his seat webbing, Devron moved to the small entry hatch, opening it and watching the altitude meter. Thirty, twenty, ten…
At seven feet to the ground, Devron hurled himself out of the Skipray, taking his chance with the ground instead of being nearly killed in the crash, being found and interrogated.
Something tore under Devron, as his fall is briefly slowed before a crack-splat accompanied his final resting-place.