Domus Prime:


Chapter IV

Aboard the Sith Dreadnaught, Dark Claws, late that night, two figures conferred in the near-darkness.

“Master.”

“Yes?”

“Our mental block against the General Zal has failed. The Queen, Sailor Coruscant has learned of our planet’s name.”

“Very well…”

“What are we going to do about it?”

“We’re going to appear like we don’t know about it, then when they start in like the foolish, naive people that they are, suspecting that just because we don’t fire doesn’t mean we can’t. When they reach a predetermined point… we strike against them.”

“And in the meantime?”

“Let General Zal out of his coma, but watch through his eyes. Maybe the complacent Jedi fools won’t think to scan his mind.”

“Yes, master.”

…Devron nods his head to the beat of “The Ultimate Doom” by the Flesh-Eating Jedi, all the time typing rapidly in his datapad to feed data into the holoprojector. A beautiful-looking capital ship, nearly as long as a Star Destroyer, begins to form. Smiling, Devron decides where the bridge should go, and starts to type in the commands…

His eyes snap open, and his memory of creating ends as a memory of knowing that the Dark Talon capital ship was about to begin production. 

His eyes scan the sick bay ceiling. All his memories are returned save for fuzzy images after the bomb went off. Raising a hand to his forehead, he notes a scar there. 

Reaching over, he touches the summoning button. A few seconds later, the doctor tat has been tending him rushes in. “You’re awake! I’ll go summon the Grand Admiral immediately. He has been hoping you would pull through.” He leaves, and a nurse comes in with a glass of cool water. Devron takes it and drinks, enjoying it.

On the Dark Claws, Darth Cyani smiles, her blood-red lips curving upward in triumph. So far, nobody suspected a thing. She doubts anybody ever will, since observation has shown that they have never probed his mind.

She fingers a black and red orb hanging just below the base of her neck. 

Thoughts of the battle to come make her smile wider. Then, the moment of contemplation over, she returns to seeing what Devron sees, to hear what he hears, and to compile it all into a file for the oncoming battle.

An hour later Cyani withdrew from Devron’s mind as he went to sleep. She had not yet become adept at reading dreams, and she did not want to watch nothing but blankness all night.

In the medical bay, as Devron drifted off to sleep, a dream infused itself into his mind….

…He sits in a small room. A desk is in front of him, and a book that is in flames but is unharmed rests on it. Devron frowns as an instinct borne of the dream whispers to his brain: ‘Open the book.’

He looks at the book. “Knowledge” is stencilled in the front in Basic. Reaching out his left hand, Devron peels back the cover. His arm bursts into painless flame, reducing it to charred flesh and bone as he opens the book. When the book is open, his arm hangs limply at his side, dead.

Quickly, he starts reading. Every letter etches itself into his memory…

Devron woke up ready to begin a new day. He reached his left arm out to grab the summon button.

His arm did not move.

Frustrated, Devron attempted to reach out again. His arm still lies dead against the bed.

Memories of his dream came back to him, along with the knowledge of what the Sith were doing. He got up and moved to the computer, and began typing up verbatim everything that the Sith are doing in preparation for what the book referred to as the Battle of Toxtenkopp. Devron refrained from looking up at the screen, knowing that the Sith who sees and hears what he does would instantly know what has been pushed to the front.

Around the Palace, a number of computers suddenly received a message:

“The Sith are everywhere…

I had a dream last night, and in that dream I opened a book titled Knowledge. Opening it cost me my left arm, and I will need a prosthetic replacement for that. But, let us get on with the text of the book. 

The Sith prepare for the Battle of Toxtenkopp several ways. A Sith apprentice, Darth Cyani, lurks behind Devron’s mind. She sees everything he sees and hears everything he hears. 

The Sith have an ambush tactic for the Battle. Their ships will lurk behind several sensor shadows and on the ground, so that first sensor readings indicate their seeming defencelessness. Then, when the attackers from Domus Prime reach the gravity well of the planet, the Sith will pounce from all directions at once.”

Jedi Nay knew that the staircase down to the dungeon had to be close to where she was, but she had only been one of the Queen’s handmaidens for a few months and still had a tendency to get lost whilst wandering through the overly large Palace.

Finally she gave up on searching the conventional way, and reached out with her Jedi senses, blushing when she realised that it was just around the corner from where she was standing.

Sighing to herself, she climbed down the narrow and dimly lit stairs and soon found herself in the General Zal’s workroom. His assistant, Ami-Kin, was sitting behind the recently cleared-off desk, using a datapad for some research.

“Hello” she said softly, not wanting to startle the girl. Remembering that Ami-Kin was a Jedi Master lead Jedi nay to blush again, for surely she would have noticed her approach. Oh well, she thought to herself, better get on with what I came here for.

“The Queen is worried about her people outside in the city”, she said hastily, noticing the understanding in Ami-Kin’s eyes. “She knows that since the invasion, many of them are now without shelter, and she wonders if any of General Zal’s devices could be adapted to the reconstruction of the city.” 

Vaguely, she gestured over to the corner, where a battle droid was struggling slightly with a broom, trying to clean up the shards of broken glass that littered the floor.

“I will see what I can do”, Ami-Kin said, pulling a different datapad from a drawer and displaying several different holograms of droids that Devron had been working on before the invasion. “But most of his work is in weapons design, so I am not sure if I will be able to her the Queen. Please apologise to her for me, and tell her that I will try my best. Until Devron is well again, that is all we can do.”

Jedi Nay nodded, and returned to the staircase with a slight smile on her face.

‘Only a few months on the job and already I’m issuing orders in the Queen’s name’, she thought with a small smile as she headed back to her position outside the Queen’s chambers.

The Queen tossed fitfully in her sleep. In her dream there was nothing but darkness, and she could not use the Force as she was accustomed. There was only the Dark Side, and it threatened to consume her even as it suffocated her in its embrace. She reached for her locket, only to find that it was not in it’s normal place. She cried out for help, but no one heard. 

Outside the Queen’s chambers, two of her handmaidens sat and talked in whispering voices about all that had come to pass recently. The Invasion, their trip away to the Hoth System with the Queen whilst Catherine had been left to fight for Domus Prime, even the sudden promotion of Jedi Nay and the disappearance of Catherine had surprised them. The Queen had said that her Head Handmaiden was on important business on the other side of the planet, but the two girls knew better. They suspected that Catherine had probably eloped with the handsome Grand Admiral, who had not been heard from since he left with his Super-Star Destroyer a few weeks ago.

Jedi Nay had left a few moments before to speak with Ami-Kin, and so she was not there to notice when an evil presence entered the Queen’s chambers. 

Only the Queen knew of the secret passageway into her room, and she had never had opportunity or need to use it since becoming Queen. 

The door opened silently, and two black robed figures emerged from the passage, waiting for their eyes to become adjusted to the light before moving forward.

“No”, it was a command issued from the Queen, and they stopped, unsure as to whether they had been sighted. “Please”, she continued, “Do not leave me here. Riddler, Jester, Devron, Everyone, do not leave me alone. I cannot bear it. Help me please.” She threw her arms about wildly in the bed, and the two evil ones smiled at each other, realising that the Queen was only dreaming.

One stepped forward, and with a practised thrust, injected the Queen with the contents of a syringe. Her thrashing stopped abruptly as the drugs took affect.

“Quickly”, she murmured to her partner, who lifted the Queen over his shoulder and carried her from the room. The Queen’s handmaidens were sure to check up on her soon, and they had to be far away from the Palace by then.

She placed the syringe back into its slot on her belt, and withdrew a note from the place next to her lightsaber. With an artist’s care she studiously placed it on the Queen’s pillow, before stepping into the passageway and closing the door behind her. 

An hour later, undetected by all who were supposed to be watching, a Sith Infiltrator left the Domus System. Had the people of Domus Prime known that their Queen had been kidnapped, perhaps they would have been paying more attention, but it was late, and most had yet to recover from the invasion that took place only a few months ago.

Sometime later, Jedi Nay opened the door to the Queen’s chambers to find the bed empty. She looked around quickly, trying to see with either her eyes or her Jedi senses where the Queen was. But she could not find her.

Jedi Nay was not worried yet, but she stepped cautiously into the room to see if her eyes were deceiving her. There was no one in the room.

Fear leapt up into her throat, and she looked for any sign of where the Queen could have gone. It took a few moments before she saw the piece of paper, scrawled in a handwriting she did not recognise and written in a script she could not read. There was something malevolent about the note, and she knew that it meant something terrible even without being able to read it.

Jedi Nay knew that she had to go for help, but to whom? The Grand Admiral was away on some top-secret mission, and Devron Zal was still incapacitated. For a moment she considered asking Ami-Kin, but for one night she had already asked too much of the Jedi Master. With a sigh she realised that Jester would be the only one that she could go to with this, and so she walked quietly from the room, a look of calm control on her face.

“How is she?” the blonde on the left asked with a gentle smile.

“She sleeps” Jedi Nay replied, her heart sinking at the thought that until she knew what was going on, she could trust no one. “It would be best if you do not go in there again until morning.”

The two girls nodded, and Jedi Nay left to find Jester. 

She knocked on the door with a smart rap, and was not surprised when she heard no answer. She remembered all she had been told about this one, and reached out with the Force to jolt him awake.

From within the room there came a muffled cursing, and she knocked again, knowing that she now had his attention. The door opened, and there stood Jester, his hair ruffled, and his pyjamas crinkled with use. He did not look happy at the fact that he had been awakened. 

Jedi Nay pushed past him into the room, ignoring the mess that awaited her. “Is this room safe to talk in?” she demanded.

Jester shook his head, trying to wake himself up, still amazed at the young handmaiden’s sudden appearance in his rooms. 

“I guess so. Who don’t you want overhearing?”

“Whoever wrote this note.” Jedi Nay handed it over to him, and he looked at it in subdued fascination. Turning it over in his hands he looked at it from every angle, hoping to deny what he knew was true.

“It is from the Sith.” Jester said at last, and looked at the handmaiden in surprise at her gasp. “Where did you get it?”

“The Queen has disappeared, and I found this in her room. I fear that something dreadful has happened, which is why I came to you to find out what this says.”

“The Queen is gone?” Jester said to himself, ignoring her question for a moment. “That’s impossible. How could they get into the palace without our knowing?”

“How they did it doesn’t matter. We have to get her back. Which is why I need you to read me that note.”

“I can’t”, Jester said to her, wondering why she had expected him to be able to read it. Perhaps the Jedi had heard that he had been partially trained in the use of the Dark Side. “The Riddler could translate it for you, but he is not here. There must be another way.”

Even in the dimness of the room, Jedi Nay could see the worry on his face, and something else that she could not identify.

Abruptly, Jester walked from the room in a determined manner, and Jedi Nay had to rush to keep up with him. “Go to the library”, he commanded her, new authority showing in his voice. “Perhaps the Queen has a book there that could help you understand what it is they want.” Jedi Nay nodded slightly, and was certain she heard him murmur, “We must not show any sign of weakness at this time. We are still too vulnerable.”

“What will you do?” Jedi Nay asked him, wondering where she found the strength to stand and carry on so calmly in the face of this disaster.

“I will find a way to conceal this turn of events from the people.” He turned and stormed off, and she could only note in surprise that he was headed off towards the chambers of the nobility, most notably the Countess Tamira of Chikara, before Jedi Nay set about her own task and ran towards the library. 

Tamira could not sleep. Something was keeping her awake, and try as she could, her eyes remained open and her mind was as alert as before. She had even tried counting Ewoks for a period of time, but that had failed, as had sitting and trying to write an account of what had happened to her.

She sighed, and for a moment she thought that she was waiting for something to happen. But she had no reason to expect anything to happen, everything was all right now, she had gone back to being herself, the Lady Tamira and the Queen’s friend. 

Even so, when there came a knock on the door she was not surprised. However, she was surprised when she realised who was standing outside the door.

“Jester, what are you doing here?” Tamira gasped, worry beginning to creep up on her normally peaceful world. The Queen had told her that Jester knew about their switch, but that did not explain why he had turned up on her doorstep at this awful hour of the morning looking as if he had just saved a Gungan’s life.

“My Lady, something has happened, and I need you to take up the role of Queen once more.” he began, noticing her audible gasp. 

“Why isn’t she here to tell me?” 

Jester noticed that Tamira’s eyes were almost violet, and he stored that information so that he could tell her apart from the real Queen later on. 

“We fear she has been taken prisoner by the Sith. If the people knew this, there would be widespread panic, and we will become vulnerable to another attack. There absolutely must be no sign of weakness on the throne of Domus Prime.” Jester trailed off and he looked up at Tamira to see understanding and tears in her eyes.

“And you want me to pretend to be your strength once more, while you go and look for her.” It was not a question, and Tamira sighed in response to her own statement. “Very well, but I am doing this for her, and so that one day I will be able to live as myself. You have one month, after that, I will tell them what has happened. I’m not suited to the role of Queen. But I must play my part.”

“Thank you”, he said, and the two of them left to go to the Queen’s chambers, where once more Tamira would get her chance to play Queen.

In the medical centre, Devron heard footsteps and sprang out of his seat, knocking it over intentionally and falling on his back. The footsteps stopped for a moment then resume for a brief second before the door swings open. Jester and the Queen rush in.

“General Zal, are you okay?” Jester sounded concerned.

“Yeah. I’m fine.” Devron reaches out to Jester for help with getting up from the floor, holding out his right hand that contains a printed note saying, “Check datapad for message by me. Urgent. Don’t say anything.”

Darth Cyani raised her eyebrows as Devron toppled over. ‘What was that all about?’ She wondered, pressing her blood-red lips together. 

Devron reached up to his friend for assistance. After his friend pulled him up he looks at a piece of paper and back at Devron, his face quizzical. “What happened?”

“I dozed off and when I heard footsteps, I jumped for some reason. Must have been the sound. Anyway, go back to your quarters, and do something. Get on your datapad maybe. No reason to stay around me.”

His friend started to protest, but Devron drew himself up. “That’s an order, Colonel. Leave me.”

Another quizzical look, then a salute and the person left followed by the woman in the strange clothing.

Cyani frowned, a perplexed look playing its way over her dark grey eyes. ‘Intelligence is wrong. Again.’ She withdrew from Devron’s mind to type up a quick message to Intelligence, chewing them out for another slip.

Devron threw himself onto his bed relieved and worried at the same time. On an impulse, he prays to a random god. ‘Please don’t let Cyani find out…’

Jester looked over at Tamira, before glancing around the Queen’s chambers. “Can I borrow a datapad for a second?”

Her violet eyes flick over to him for a moment, then back to the wardrobe. She carefully looked for something suitable to wear that day. “Sure.”

Jester picks up a datapad and accesses the palace mainframe. 

PALACE MAINFRAME–WELCOME

Access message programs

ENTER NAME AND PASSWORD

Jester

******** *******

PASSWORD ACCEPTED. JESTER’S MESSAGE PROGRAM OPENING…PLEASE BE PATIENT. HAVE A NICE DAY. 

When the program was open, Jester was able to access the message left for him from a General Devron Zal. As he read the words and the complicated thoughts behind them, Jester’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “Well, well, well”, he murmured.

Jedi Nay had sat there for most of what had been left of the night, searching through the books, trying to find one that contained the Sith alphabet and language. Although she had seen several written in the ancient scrawl, there had been none that would give Jedi Nay the vital clue she needed to unravel what had happened to the Queen.

She was lost in her thoughts, and so did not hear the door to the library open. However, it closed with a whoosh and Jedi Nay looked up, startled that anyone would be here so early in the morning.

“Hello”, he said warmly, carrying a few books and datapads with him. “We haven’t met have we? I’m K. You must be one of the Queen’s handmaidens.” 

She nodded. “I’m Jedi Nay.”

He smiled at her, and moved to put several of his books back onto their shelves. “So what are you doing here at this time of morning? It’s not like the Queen to work her people so hard.”

“Oh, I’m not here under the Queen’s orders. I need to find some information, but I don’t know where to look.” She make a small gesture of helplessness at the large room, with its many bookcases overflowing with information.

“I know what you mean”, he said with a small smile, “but maybe I can help.”

For a moment she debated whether or not she could tell him about what had happened, her common sense suggesting that she leave now, whilst her heart reminded her that he had the access code to the library, therefore he must have the Queen’s trust. 

Jedi Nay sighed. She was still so new to all of this, and the intrigues of the Palace were still a mystery to her. Maybe when Catherine returned she would explain it. Although Jedi Nay had yet to meet the Queen’s head handmaiden, she had heard much about her, and wanted to meet the girl who inspired such awe.

She took a deep breath and held out the note to him. K looked it over, a frown of worry cresting his brow, and when he looked up, his eyes were full of alarm.

“Where did you get this?” He asked, barely more than a whisper.

His concern was catching and she was surprised at the calmness in her voice as she ignored his question and asked one of her own. “Can you read it?”

He nodded, and began to speak. 

“Riddler,

The Darkness rises, as you see. Without your Queen, the future of Domus Prime will belong to the Sith. Submit to the Dark Side, and we will spare your planet. 

Your Queen, however, is destined to become one of us. Enjoy the time you have left in this life, it will not be for much longer.

Darth Ravage.” 

“But that’s impossible!” Jedi Nay burst out, her eyes meeting K’s in a horrified glance.

“You must come with me and read this to the Jester. He will know what to do.”

“And then you will explain what is going on?” he asked, although he was certain that he had now reasoned most of it out.

Jedi Nay nodded, and the two of them left the library, running to the Queen’s chambers where they would meet Jester.

Jedi Nay stopped short when she arrived in the Queen’s room to see the Queen standing before her. She stepped back in surprise, not noticing the shock on the Queen’s face, or the Jester’s smile.

“See. I told you no one would notice the difference.” Jester murmured to the Queen. Although no one ever had mentioned the idea of a replacement Queen to him before, and how many times had Jester seen Catherine around the Palace while the Queen was holding court? 

“What difference? Is this some kind of joke, Jester? I have been up all night, trying to understand this stupid note, and now the Queen is alright. I thought she had been kidnapped or something dreadful.” Jedi Nay vented her feelings without a care, but K had foreseen a need for privacy and closed the door behind them.

Jester stepped forward, and made a dramatic bow. “My Lady Handmaiden”, he said lightly, “what you are about to be told is known to only a few others on the planet’s surface. I’d like to introduce you to the Lady Tamira, a member of the Queen’s Court who looks remarkably like her, which is really strange considering that there is no family relationship between the two.”

Jedi Nay looked up at the Queen again, and noticed for the first time that the sparkle was missing from her blue eyes, and the sadness in the curl of her lip. For a moment she blinked, and then she realised that the Queen’s eyes were not really blue at all, rather they were altered by some form of lenses.

“How very odd.” Jedi Nay murmured, and Jester then laughed. But he sobered quickly as the meaning of her outburst sank in.

“The Queen has been kidnapped then?” he asked, a mixture of worry and stress in his voice.

Jedi Nay nodded. “Tell them”, she told K, and once again he read out the message.

“This is very bad”, Jester said then, sitting down on the end of the Queen’s bed. “I need her help if I am to help Devron break free from the Sith’s grasp, and the Riddler has not yet answered any of my messages. We need help.”

The others only nodded mutely.

When the Queen first awoke, she thought for a long moment that she was still in her dream. 

There was nothing but darkness around her, and she shuddered at the feeling that the walls were closing in on her. Although she was not claustrophobic, there was something sinister about her location. It was cold beyond words in this place.

She knew at once that it was not Domus Prime. They would have taken her as far away from her home as possible to prevent discovery. But who were they? And where was she?

The Queen stood up and moved to a wall, hoping to at least find out something more about her surroundings. When she reached out to it, it struck her like fire, and she pulled her hand back quickly, ignoring the pain that was now flaring up her arm. She moved back to the place where she had originally been lying, and sat back down.

‘Oh well’, the Queen thought, ‘there is more than one way to skin an Ewok.’ 

She reached out with her Jedi senses, and nothing happened. She tried again with the same result. It was as if someone had thrown a blanket over her mind, she could not touch the Force at all, and its loss struck her harder than the burn on her hand had.

She could not touch the Force. She couldn’t feel it, study it, or call for help from it. In all of her years she had never felt so alone, and she whimpered slightly as she pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. 

There was nothing else for it. The Queen reached for her locket, hoping that in the proper form of Sailor Coruscant she would be able to save herself, but her locket too was missing. 

“Everything is gone”, the Queen whispered, not sure how to react to the loss of everything she was used to. Even in the Palace it was never this dark. She hugged her knees tighter, and tears started to fall down her cheeks. 

Pausing only to leave a quick note telling anyone who came in looking for him that he was in the Dungeon, Devron hurried off to plan a strategy for the battle.

Devron typed frantically in his datapad setting up false bases, fictional ships, making sure that everything was wrong in the readouts. Occasionally, for Cyani’s benefit, he mumbled something about the “chunky obsolete computers” that were placed down here.

Five minutes later, he finished the fake accounts and accessed one of his false accounts. A hologram of the planet Fondor popped up, the dull orange-grey swirls of the gas giant mingling with the ring around the planet of the same shade. Three small pictures appeared around the planet. One, in the upper right quadrant, was a small Nebulon-B frigate. The one on the upper left quadrant was of a small factory, and the one in the bottom left quadrant was of a small person. A bar below the planet displayed all green, showing that Fondor was completely loyal to Her Majesty, Queen Sailor Coruscant. Devron accessed the small Nebulon-B. A chart popped up on one of his wall-panels. 3 Dark Talon capital ships, each with 5 AT-ATs, 10 AT-STs, 48 Miy’til assault fighters and 12 TIE Bombers.

Devron accessed the next planet. Tieos. This planet had 2 Victory-class Star Destroyers, each with only 2 AT-ATs, 10 TIE Interceptors and 4 TIE Bombers.

Last planet. Cathar. No capital ships, but ten AT-ATs, twelve AT-STs, thirty AT-PTs, and twenty complements of trained Royal Forces Regiments. 

Now for the strategy. Devron issued orders for the 2 VSDs and all the Royal Forces goodies to group at Fondor. When they reached there, the troops and other toys will be distributed evenly, then the fleet will launch for Toxtenkopp. 

Orbital bombardment would be the first thing, aimed at military targets. TIE Bombers would sweep in to pick up what the turbolasers missed. Then, 3 Royal Forces complements would sweep down to take control of the planet, and the other complements would follow to establish a garrison.

Devron smiled and typed in the message addressed to Jester and the Grand Admiral. Then as he glanced up at Fondor he typed “Fake Strategy” into the message line and sent it off. After everything was shut down, he finally went into his room to sleep. If all went well, hopefully Cyani would not think to check any other sectors for any sign of Royal Forces activity. And besides, what would be the chances she would check the Sluis sector? And look at Praesitlyn?

Not much. 

The Grand Admiral Riddler, wearing his snow white uniform with the gold braiding on his shoulders, was busy working on the bridge of his Super-Star Destroyer, the Apocalypse. He was far from the Domus System on a mission of high importance.

A week ago, he had received word that the Sith were operating a secret warehouse on a distant planet, using up most of its resources, in which they developed bombs, ships, and other fancy weaponry inside.

The Grand Admiral had decided to go and end production. 

Suddenly, the titanic ship rocked! The Riddler was thrown into the crew pit and the ship lurched forward. There had been no warning, and no sign of what had happened. Amid the chaos and confusion, the Riddler got back to his feet, looking around angrily for the source of this disruption to what should have been a routine flight.

“What in God’s name was that?” The Riddler cried, but no one had a chance to answer him as the bridge was thrown into darkness. He reacted instantly, ordering, “Emergency illumination!”

As someone responded to the command, the bridge was then bathed in blood red light. Another explosion rocked the Super-Star Destroyer, and a number of consoles started displaying damage reports. Still there was no sign of the source of what had happened, though the Riddler knew that it could only have been the Sith.

One of the crewmates yelled to him, “Sir, we have lost 42 decks! There’s been a massive explosion in the cargo hold. Reactor leak! Huge decompression due to hull breaches. We have casualty reports coming in from where ever people can still report!”

The Riddler moved to a console and typed a few commands of his own. The future of the Apocalypse was not looking good.

“The reactor core is going to go ballistic in three minutes. When that happens, the ship will explode and take out everything within a five-kilometre radius of it. All hands, abandon ship!”

Around the ship, people began to evacuate their stations, heading to what safety they could find on the ships or escape pods of the doomed Super-Star Destroyer.

The Riddler paused only to key in a short message to the Queen back on Domus Prime from one of the communications consoles.

QUEEN SAILOR CORUSCANT, 

MISSION FAILED, HUGE LOSS OF LIFE. UNEXPLAINED EXPLOSION. APOCALYPSE LOST! ABANDONING SHIP. 

GRAND ADMIRAL RIDDLER. 

The message typed and sent; the Riddler ran to the nearest of the remaining escape pods and jettisoned himself away from the Apocalypse and into hyperspace. 

The Grand Admiral spared a final glance for his flagship as it exploded in a gargantuan eruption of fire and energy. The escape pod only just made it into hyperspace before the blast wave engulfed them.

Jester sat in the Riddler’s quarters, pouring over an old book that was written in SithSkript. The events of the previous morning, the kidnapping of the Queen and the discovery of the note in the ancient language, had made the Jedi in training realise just how much he still had to learn. But as he studied the book and tried to decipher the language that the Riddler had only just begun to teach him, he found looking for a distraction.

His commlink beeped; the unusual noise in the silence of the Riddler’s rooms startling him. A familiar voice greeted him, speaking sharply with repressed emotion.

“Jester, it’s Jedi Nay. We have just received a distress call on one of the high-security communications bands. It’s keyed to the Queen, but we suspect it’s from the Grand Admiral.”

Jester blew out his breath sharply. He had not noticed that he had been holding it. “I’ll be right there.”

Jester had to walk down all the stairs to the War Room since no one had taken the time to repair the elevators since they were damaged in the invasion. As he walked in Jedi Nay gestured to one of the consoles, and he saw there a flashing message that a distress call was awaiting the Queen’s attention. 

He was not sure what Jedi Nay had been waiting for. “We need to authenticate this”, Jester said. As though his instruction had been the permission she had been waiting for, Jedi Nay reached down to a safe that was out of site and unlocked it, removing a slip of paper.

Looking at it for a moment, Jedi Nay said lightly. “I authenticate… Zulu, Bravo.” The voice address system responded after a moment, and the console screen changed to show the message that had been sent to the Queen. For a second Jester paused to wonder why Tamira was not here pretending to be the Queen. But she was probably busy attending to matters of state in the throne room.

“The message is authentic.” Jester’s voice was flat as he read aloud the note from the Riddler. He paused as he read the final sentence. “The Apocalypse has been destroyed. All hope is lost.”

There was silence in the room. A number of the leaders of the Royal Forces were gathered in the War Room at the time, and they all looked uncomfortable at this terrible news. It was Jedi Nay who asked the question they were all thinking. “Is the Grand Admiral alive?”

Jester shook his head. “This was sent from the Apocalypse. He may have gone down with the ship, or he might have evacuated. Damn it!”

Jedi Nay’s eyes widened as she realised that the Riddler would not have received the emergency messages that were sent off that morning from Domus Prime. “He doesn’t know that the Queen is missing.”

In the dungeon, Devron hammered one fist down on his desk in frustration. Why could he not get rid of the Sith woman who was lurking behind his eyes and ears? It was worse than a session in the Interrogation room, he hated not being able to run things. 

Message upon message glowed red, purple or orange on his viewscreen set for message reception, indicating Confidential, Secret or Top-Secret. Nearly all of them were underlined in green, meaning Urgent. And he couldn’t do a thing about them.

Another message glowed with a green line under it. The subject read, “Riddler to Queen: Tragedy over Myrkr.”

‘How’d I get this?’ Devron wondered, but as he began to ponder it, a thought popped up in his mind.

Myrkr.

Ysalamiri. 

Sith. Force.

“You’re dead, Darth Cyani!” Devron yelled in triumph. Accessing his HoloNet capabilities (which he got from some shady sources), Devron ran a quick search for “Ysalamiri, Domus Prime”.

Soon, a match popped up. Quickly, he looked at the site. 

Ysalamiri for Sale

1047 Senn’She Street, Nt’li’kir City

Message Address: gotal_Madrak-Litir»nt’li’kir_city.dpr 

Quickly Devron typed up a response. After sending it off, he left a quick note saying where he was and what he’s doing for anyone who came looking for him, and headed off for a small outdoor Cantina.

“How much do you want for your ysalamiri?” Devron spoke quietly despite the noise in ‘The Turbolaser Turret”. Perhaps the Gotal sensed his desperation as he pressed for the bargain.

The Gotal, Madrak Litir, frowned in concentration for three seconds. “2,100 credits”, he said finally.

Devron handed over a credit paper, after signing it for 2,100 credits. In response the Gotal set an enclosed cage on the table with a small thunk and slid it over. Devron opens the door and peers in. Staring back at him is a small, furry face, silver beads for eyes and golden fur stretching the length of its body. A ysalamiri.

“Thank you.” Devron shook the Gotal’s hand in the traditional manner of sealing a bargain and hurried back to the Palace.

Darth Cyani screamed in anger and frustration as her “eyes” went blind and her “ears” became silent. Withdrawing herself from Devron’s mind, she launched into a rage, tearing her desktop datacomp off of her table and smashing it into bits using the Dark Side.

After she cooled down, she lay back on her bed to think. Soon, though, she faded from consciousness and succumbed to sleep.

The Riddler’s escape pod was piloted through hyperspace at top speed. He was naturally incredibly upset over the loss of life on his ship, not to mention the loss of his ship itself. 

He hoped that the Queen had gotten his message and at this time was arranging for rescue crews to go out and search for survivors. Somehow, though, he doubted there would be many save for those who, like him, had made it to the escape pods. 

It had to be the Sith who had done this. Before he had left Domus Prime, his engine crew had disappeared while on shore leave and he had been forced to replace them at the last minute. At this point he guessed that this event had been part of the same plot that had destroyed the Apocalypse. The replacement men were probably covert suicide Sith Agents, some of the most dangerous Sith to deal with.

The Grand Admiral considered the amount of firepower it must have taken to blow the ship to pieces. If strategically placed, even small charges could have disrupted the Reactor and caused significant damage. 

A loud beep interrupted that thought as the escape pod pulled out of hyperspace above Domus Prime. The Riddler guided his ship down and was hailed over the commlink.

“Unidentified craft, this is the Domus Prime Security Checkpoint. You are travelling in a high-security sector. State your business within two minutes or prepare to be fired upon.”

He responded with all seriousness. “This is the Grand Admiral Riddler, Commander of Queen Sailor Coruscant’s Royal Forces. I have been forced to flee the Apocalypse and I am going to land by the palace. I would appreciate an armed escort to guide me in.”

After a moment a real person replaced the dry computer voice that had been addressing him. “Your voice pattern confirms who you are, sir. You are to continue on these coordinates and we will send you an escort.”

“Thank you.” The Grand Admiral guided the small craft down through the atmosphere and over the city walls. The Riddler was still amazed on how bad the city looked after the invasion, even after a month had passed. There was scaffolding, cranes and construction equipment everywhere.

The escape pod landed on the Palace landing platform and a squad of uniformed soldiers saluted him as he left the escape pod.

The Riddler walked into the Palace and through the courtyard where his former-apprentice Jester, Jedi Nay who was one of the Queen’s newer handmaidens and General Zal were waiting to meet him. He was surprised that the Queen was not among them, and neither was Catherine.

Jester walked up to the Riddler and shook his hand, the tension in his body slowly relaxing as he realised that the Riddler really was all right. “It is a great relief to see that you are alive.”

The Riddler responded with a wry grin. “The Sith tried but they couldn’t get me. The Apocalypse…” He paused, sounding regretful.

It was General Zal who asked the question. “Gone?”

The Grand Admiral nodded, but he did not want to tell his story more than once, so he asked, “Where is the Queen?”

Jedi Nay stepped forward and placed her hand on his forearm. The fact that she dared to do so said more than her gentle expression. “Come inside and we will talk.”

Setting his face grimly the Riddler nodded and they all walked into the Palace.

For an hour they spoke, explaining to the Grand Admiral and the General what they knew of what had happened to the Queen, her mysterious disappearance and the note left by the Sith. Upon hearing this, the Riddler became very upset, he held a very deep respect for the Queen, he had served her loyally for four years now. Over that time she had become a very dear friend to him, and he hoped that she felt the same way.

And when he realised that she had been kidnapped, the Grand Admiral just became angrier. He read the note that Darth Ravage had left in silent fury, and even as he stared at its painful message the delicate paper caught fire in his hands and burnt to ash.

With his new pet ysalamir sleeping on his desk, a sign on his door telling all Jedi that a ysalamir resided in the Dungeon and Sitholicon blaring out over his speaker system about killing all the Sith with a knife and a plate, Devron began working on strengthening his assigned forces on Praesitlyn. Typing commands into his datapad, he sent out order after order. 

Utilise seven of the ten orbital docks to build ISDs.

Use two others to build modified Miy’til space superiority fighters and Scimitar assault bombers.

Use the last one to construct a Lancer-class frigate.

Devron got on a comm channel to the governor of Bpfassh’s three orbital docks. Within 15 standard minutes, he had transferred 60,000 credits in exchange for use of the orbital docks to build three Dark Talon planet occupation capital ships.

Next, the troops: Praesitlyn had six troop training facilities and three construction yards. Bpfassh had four troop training facilities and two construction yards. More credits to the overtly neutral, covertly anti-Sith planet, and Bpfassh was cranking out AT-ATs, AT-STs and AT-PTs right alongside Praesitlyn. Bpfassh started to train Royal Forces ground troops, while Praesitlyn began on the Royal Forces Mechanical Regiments, to fill the AT-series vehicles. 

Meanwhile, he typed in orders to fleet leaders at Domus Prime, Cathar and Hishyim. 

Forty-five minutes later, Devron leant back in his chair, transferred the ysalamir to his lap, and began petting its golden fur absently as he surveyed the readouts. In about four standard months Praesitlyn would be home to the Toxtenkopp Assault Force: 10 Imperial II-class Star Destroyers, 2 Victory-class Star Destroyers, 3 Dark Talon planetary occupation capital ships, 2 Corellian gunships and 1 Lancer-class frigate, all fully stocked with as many troops, weaponry and starfighters it could hold. Domus Prime would be protected by one ISD and three VSDs, in case the Sith strike back.

But… no. Something else was missing. He leant back in his chair, contemplating.

Then, he had it. He accessed the HoloNet to get on the line with the Sluis Van orbital shipyards’ governor. Ten minutes, 300,000 credits and a lot of pleading later, Devron had his final ship being built. It would push the invasion back by a month or two, but it was worth it.

Worth every single hour.

Besides the military power, who could put a price on seeing the Grand Admiral’s face when his new present was prominent and orbiting around Praesitlyn, the biggest and most imposing ship of the assault fleet?

On to Chapter V!

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