Devron leant back idly studying the stormtrooper helmet as his new freighter shot through hyperspace en route to Praesitlyn. Deciding to do something more constructive than sit on his bridge and listen to music by Nictation 666, Hungry Flamethrowers and Breeding Frenzy, he switched the helmet recorder to “Play” and listened to the words carefully this time.
“We know that Praesitlyn has a single Super Star Destroyer, fourteen ISDs, twenty-five VSDs, ten Dark Talon landing craft, ten Lancer frigates and twenty Dreadnaughts, with all but the SSD finished. Each capital ship also has a full complement of fighters and personnel. Our Sith spy determined that much. She also found out from one of the Generals she talked to that the massive fleet was going to strike a Sith base.
“The second General she talked to was much more revealing, but it was later discovered that he might be giving her slightly falsified information. For that reason, she has brought him back here for interrogation, where she can use her methods to pry the right information out of him. From the second General, though, she learned that the fleet is going to be brought on Morvogodine in little over a month.
“They apparently believe that this planet is just an outpost, and that Morvogodine is a major base. However, due to the tentative nature of the information, we have to assume that they intend to attack Toxtenkopp. He also told her that the Queen was staying on Praesitlyn for an indefinite amount of time, and that the Grand Admiral himself would be coming in about thirty days.
“Based on this information, and also taking into mind the reported prowess of strategist General Zal, we realise that we have an insufficient fighting force to neatly decimate this fleet. However, we have the advantage of first strike, and so we are sending two fleets out to take control of the Domus System.
“One fleet, commanded by Admiral Sienar, will reach Domus Prime at roughly 0530. Sienar’s fleet consists of two Imperator-class Star Destroyers, flanked by three Victory Star Destroyers. The second fleet will leave in little over an hour, at 1250. It will reach the planet around 1530 tomorrow. This is commanded by Admiral Auscan, and consists of four Lancer-class frigates, twenty Sienar Fleet Systems DX-9 stormtrooper transports, one ISD and one Star Galleon, carrying numerous Nen-Carvon Mobile Command Bases, Nen-Carvon Floating Fortresses, AT-ATs, AT-STs, Ubrikkian Chariot LAVs, and Juggernauts intended to overwhelm the enemy’s ground forces in conjunction with the two-thousand-stormtrooper force carried by the transports. We believe that this will force the Grand Admiral Riddler and the Queen, Sailor Coruscant, to reconsider their choice to attack Toxtenkopp.
“Toxtenkopp will be guarded by a force of eight ISDs, twelve VSDs and forty Sith Dreadnaughts arrayed in a web around the planet. Once the fleet drops out of hyperspace, if they choose to leave Domus Prime under our control, our ships will surround them and engage in battle.
“That’s the full strategy, stormtrooper. Go and inf-“
The recording ended where he cut it off. Alarmed, Devron glanced up at the wall chronometer. 0503. ‘Oh, just great.’ Reaching up to the hyperspace lever, he dragged it back to the Sublight position. The swirl of blue and white around his screen reverted to pinpricks of light as the hyperspace engines gave way to the sublight engines. Hanging dead in space, Devron powered up the comm system and got on a secure tight-beam comm channel to Admiral Flirrh.
“Admiral Flirrh, this is General Devron Zal. Come in immediately. Urgent. Repeat, Admi-“
“This is Admiral Flirrh. What’s going on, Devron?”
“A fleet is coming your way. An Imperial fleet. It’s coming in two waves. The first wave is going to hit you at 0530.”
“You mean, in a little under a half-hour? Or tomorrow?”
“Little under a half-hour. It’s got 2 ISDs and three VSDs in it. The second fleet arrives at 1530 tomorrow. It’s got four Lancer-class frigates, twenty Sienar Fleet Systems DX-9 stormtrooper transports, one ISD and one Star Galleon in it. Be prepared for some major fighting. Also, if you’re still alive when the second fleet comes, destroy the Star Galleon first, whatever you do. It has all sorts of ground assault vehicles in it. Then, go after the Lancer frigates. Once they’re gone, deploy all starfighters you have left to get the DX-9s. You do realise that surviving this assault isn’t going to be likely at all, don’t you?”
“We barely made it out of the last one with no capital ship casualties. The Impies ran off with their tails between their legs. Of course I realise it.”
“Alright. Good luck.”
The comm channel clicks off. Frowning, Devron shut down the comm and reacquired the coordinates for Praesitlyn, which only took a second. Engaging the hyperdrive again, he began to think.
It probably would not do much good tactically, but if he sent a small fleet in, the cocky Impies would assume that the rest of the fleet was off helping their capital world out. It would take a bit more manoeuvring than normal, but if he gave orders to both ship commanders to pop out of hyperspace on each side of the planet, well out of sensor ranges, then they would not be detected. The smaller fleet would go in first, and all the Sith ships would swarm towards it. As soon as the last Sith ship cleared the equator, leaving one half of the planet devoid of protection, the other, larger fleet would jump in, scaring the Imps out of their neatly pressed dress slacks, Imperial Officer Gray and Imperial Admiral White. Then, the larger fleet would move to join the smaller fleet; but instead giving them a chance to jump on one solitary ship if it goes alone, all the fleet would circle around in a group. Safety in numbers.
The only nerf-herder factor was that the smaller fleet might be fundamentally screwed if the Sith ships press the attack, but it was doubtful. His whole fleet had improved ion drives, giving them superior speed. Still, Devron did not like the chance.
It would take about a standard minute to circle the planet. ‘What if the smaller fleet engaged sublight engines and moved at top speed to meet with the larger fleet, also moving at top speed?’ he thought. That would only leave the smaller fleet vulnerable for thirty seconds, while also scaring the Imperials. Perfect.
The only thing Devron hated about this whole move was leaving Admiral Flirrh to die there. No matter how much he tried to convince himself that the mission is paramount, the mission comes first, he could not push her and Domus Prime out of his mind. And what would the Queen say? She would certainly order backup.
Fine; he would plan out backup. Five ISDs and six VSDs would take a somewhat considerable chunk out of the fleet, but not one that would endanger it. ISD to ISD, the Toxtenkopp force was outnumbered by only one, but the SSD made up for six ISDs. Plus, the VSDs of the Royal Navy outnumbered the Toxtenkopp ones by seven.
Devron smashed his hand against the table in anger. ‘I hate taking these freaking Sith-spawned chances’, he thought, ‘the mission above all else.’ He took one ISD off of the Domus Prime future defence force and added it to the Toxtenkopp force. ‘Anyway, after we take Toxtenkopp over, we can send a task force out to reclaim Domus Prime.’
Smiling, Devron began to write up a formal set of plans concerning these new assaults.
Raith Sienar silently walked down the access ways that led to the Command Bridge of his outpost Skye Ravager. As he reached the entry to the bridge he whispered something in the security guard’s ear and he jogged off down the opposite way. Raith entered the bridge and heard the customary “Admiral on deck!” cry from his first officer. The crew jumped up at once and signalled the Imperial salute. Sienar seemed to hardly notice it as he stepped down to the command seat.
“Commander, I take it we have reached the Domus Sector?”
“Yes sir, would you like me to open a channel to the Sith?”
“Yes, contact Darth Assault, he is on the Sith base at Alpha Nine Epsilon.”
“Frequency open, sir.”
“This is Admiral Raith Sienar of the Imperial Outpost Skye Ravager.”
“Ah, yes Admiral Sienar, I am pleased to see you arrived to the Domus Sector safely.”
“Lord Assault, our Alpha Fleet, commanded by myself, will be arriving at Domus Prime soon. They will begin the attack. We have a Beta Fleet coming in tomorrow, commanded by Admiral Auscan, which will be the main strike force. It will send out the ground troops to the Queen’s palace. We have penetrater troops that should be able to sneak in without a problem. Once in they will capture the Queen and take control of the palace. Numerous Imperial Walkers will also be deployed by Beta Fleet to keep the public under control as well as a compliment of over two thousand Troopers. Many Mobile Command Bases will be deployed to accompany the troops. Our ground forces are the strongest they have ever been since the Battle of Hoth. The Star Galleon in Beta Fleet must reach Domus Prime first as it carries most of our ground forces. All of our Imperial Destroyers have a full compliment of TIE Fighters, Interceptors, Defenders, a few new prototypes and six specialised TIE Droid Fighters.”
“Excellent work Admiral.”
“Lord Assault, may I speak to you in private for a minute?”
“Of course Admiral, contact me when you’re ready.” The communications signal fizzed out and Sienar went down to his office.
Once there he contacted Assault on a secure frequency.
“Yes, Admiral. What is it that you would like to discuss in private?”
“We are expecting the Domus Prime Royal Forces to launch a full-scale retaliation. This is why we have a third, Phantom Fleet, commanded by Admiral Merei, stationed on the opposite side of the Domus Sun. It consists of six ISDs, four VSDs, nine Corellian Attack Class Cruisers, four specialised Coruscant War Freighters and ten DX-9s. They will show themselves eight hours after the second fleet arrives. General Zal’s forces will never expect such a twist in the battle. They will regret ever planning to attack Toxtenkopp. This attack will cost me greatly, Lord Assault. I am in urgent need of Credits if I intend to keep this fleet operational.”
“Of course, Admiral. I can transfer the credits to your account immediately. I think 1,350,500 RC will be enough to keep the fleet in its top condition. One more thing, how secure do you want this information to be?”
“This is just between you, me and a few of my most trusted men. The Phantom Fleet and Admiral Merei have been told to keep this information under a priority one secureness level. A tiny leak could disrupt the whole attack.”
“I will keep this information secure, I assure you of that. I thank you for your good work, Admiral, I look forward to the attack. The Sith will be victorious and you will get your Empire back. Once again, I thank you Admiral.”
“Good luck to your men, and may the battle be fought for a greater cause.”
Again, the signal fizzed out and Raith Sienar sat back in his chair in pure anticipation of what was to come.
Raith looked at his timer. It was 0515. He got up and went down to the docking bay. His droid Charlie followed him as well as a pilot and copilot. Once there, Sienar and the pilots got into a small shuttle and set the course to the lead Imperator Star Destroyer, Stormstriker. Charlie wished him luck and went back to the bridge take command of the Skye Ravager.
The shuttle set off and in no time they were on the ISD.
Raith Sienar made his way onto the bridge and greeted his new first officer. A young female named Careesa Morvan. She directed him to the Captain’s seat but he preferred to stand. He walked up to the viewscreen and saw the other ISD and the three VSDs waiting for his command.
“Orders, Admiral?” asked Officer Morvan.
“Send my coordinates to the other ships. 44-Omicron-231, in orbit of Domus Prime.”
“Yes sir”, she waited for the ships to respond. “Awaiting order to take off, sir.”
Raith paused and savoured the moment. He loved this job. “Engage to Domus Prime.”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
In one glorious movement, the whole of Alpha Fleet angled towards the set coordinates. At once they engaged the hyperdrive and became nothing more than a heap of light particles, zooming through the infinity of space.
The Riddler sat in the War Room, trying to work out a strategy that would work against the coming invasion. His mind was a jumble of images, he could not help but think that he needed to confront something, and with that thought, he stood and walked to Jester’s room.
As he arrived at the door the Riddler straightened his jacket and lightsaber and knocked on the door.
“Who is it?”
“World class boxer Riddler”, he spoke lightly, but was still surprised at the vehemence that was obvious in Jester’s voice.
The Riddler sighed, then proceeded to open the door anyway.
“I told you to leave.” Jester was sitting at a table, nursing his now blackened eye.
“I’m sorry about earlier.”
Jester stared at him for a moment in silence before replying. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have said anything, but, how could you forget about what happened to us?”
“I didn’t forget, I’ve chosen not to bring it up. That whole campaign was a success overall, despite the poor tactics.”
“I have always remembered that. I wake up in a cold sweat, dreaming about my last mission, the ambush. We were the only ones to survive out of over a thousand. And what did they do, they gave us these goddamn metals to congratulate us on our heroics.” Jester reached out his hand and retrieved a shining medal from across the room using the Force.
“I know,” the Riddler looked at Jester and then pulled an object from under his shirt, “I always wear mine. It always reminds me that every mission and every battle has a real person there, ready to fight and die. I’ll never forget that, don’t you forget either.”
“I never want to remember again.” Jester’s hand began to shake a little and then the metal was crushed in his hand and he threw it across the room.
“Let’s just forget any of this happened.”
Jester looked at the crushed medal in his hand, and then at the Riddler’s. He wore it proudly as a reminder, whereas Jester thought of it as a burden. The Riddler’s words made sense, but it was still complicated for Jester, it was still a nightmare.
“Alright, forget our confrontation. But I’ll never forget this, no matter how hard I try”, Jester sighed, thinking of what he was going to do, not only for himself, but also about Rhea, “I need to be alone now, and you need to go and save the planet again.”
“If that’s possible.” The Riddler stood and left the room, leaving Jester to think, and hopefully forget.
Raith Sienar sat at his new and unfamiliar desk on the office of the Imperial Star Destroyer Stormstriker. He brought up a display of the Stormstriker and studied the readouts:
“Kuat Drive Yards Imperial I Star Destroyer
Capacity: 36,810 on-board personnel, 275 gunners, 9,700 ground troops, 72 TIE fighters, 43 TIE Interceptors, 12 landing barges, 20 AT-ATs, 30 AT-STs 15 Imperial landing craft, 8 Lambda-class Imperial shuttles, 5 assault gunboats, and numerous personnel transports
Weapons: 60 Taim & Bak XX-9 turbolasers with LeGrange computer assisted targeting, 60 Borstel NK-7 ion cannons, and 10 Phylon Q7 tractor beam projectors
Defences: 2 KDY ISD-72x deflector shield generator domes and titanium reinforced alusteel hull.”
He then brought up a display of his own Standard TIE Fighter.
“Sienar Fleet Systems TIE/Ln Space Superiority Starfighter
Capacity: 1 pilot and 65 kilograms of cargo
Weapons: 2 Sienar Fleet Systems L-s1 laser cannons
Defences: Titanium alloy hull and Quadanium steel armoured solar panels.”
He was about to study the TIE Interceptor when the commlink fizzed on and Officer Morvan’s voice broke his concentration.
“Admiral, we have reached Domus Prime and have brought the Fleet out of lightspeed. What are your next orders?”
“I’ll tell you what,” Sienar said. “Let’s wait for them to make the first move.”
“As you wish, Admiral.”
Raith got up and walked slowly back to the Command Bridge.
Smiling with pleasure, Devron grabbed the hyperspace lever on his new Action VI freighter, the newly christened Stormtrooper’s Redemption. As it blinks yellow under his hand, gloved black with the bodysuit under his stormtrooper armour (also painted black), he pulled back on it. Responding to the change in engines, the freighter lurched out of hyperspace into realspace, one hundred and ninety-five kilometres from the nearly finished Super Star Destroyer orbiting over Praesitlyn, in the middle of its finished fleet of supporting capital ships. Viewing it now, his heart leapt with joy at the loveliness of it all, the sheer beauty of the Star Destroyers and other ships stationary in orbit, the blue-white glow of their ion engines not present to accentuate their hulls, painted Deep-Space Black. As a tribute to a small act of creative thinking, the front fourth of each Dark Talon planetary assault capital ships was painted blood-red, as if they had just torn into flesh.
Each name was stencilled on the side of the bridge in white lettering. As he took his freighter past one of the Star Destroyers slowly, Devron’s eyes located the name on it: Grim Visage.
As he sat back for the ride to the SSD, he considered his fleet. ‘Some would say it looks like a Sith fleet,’ Devron thought to himself, the thought looping around in his head for a few minutes before being forced out. ‘Oh well. Sith-looking or not, the fleet is as beautiful as any woman, in its own sense…’
“Freighter Stormtrooper’s Redemption, this is Super Star Destroyer Phantom Shadows,” the comm station told Devron, sounding suspiciously like a mechanised General Kyte voice. “Please state intentions.”
“This is General Devron Zal running a suicide mission to plow into the SSD’s bridge and kill one General Kyte. What do you think, you Sith-spawned mutation of Hutt genes and Ewok blood, all in a package fat enough to have its own sector code and ugly enough that even the Yuuzhan Vong won’t look at it?”
Laughter erupts over the comm system. “We really should get you to a counsellor, Zal. It’s not healthy when you have enough self-esteem to think of yourself as thin and as beautiful as you said you were. Especially when you say that you have Ewok blood…”
“Yeah, I love you too, man.”
“You’re not getting my Zanthraa Heavy.”
“Then give me a docking space.”
“Alright. Secondary Bay 1X looks empty.”
“Be there in a second.”
His freighter shook slightly as it was grabbed by an array of tractor beams. The beams drew him in towards the Super Star Destroyer’s secondary bay. Allowing the beams to carry him in, Devron shut down all his engines and waits.
In a matter of minutes the beams set the starship down lightly on the shining floor of the hangar bay. Stepping out of his craft Devron saw General Kyte waiting at the end of the entry ramp for him, two bottles of Zanthraa Heavy in his hands. He handed one to Devron as they began walking toward a turbolift.
“So, what’d you gather from your stay at the hotel?”
“Well, to sum it up, Toxtenkopp’s going to be surrounded by Sith ships in a defensive web, and some of the ships are going to occupy Domus Prime. That’s the bad news.”
“What’s the good news?”
“Their fleet’s less in strength than ours is by a good percentage. Plus, the only real ties we left on Domus Prime are Grand Admiral Riddler and the Jedi Jester, and both can escape the planet with relative ease. Both probably will, because Grand Admiral Riddler will naturally want to take command here, and the Jester is apprenticed to the Grand Admiral, so he’ll want to come also.”
“What if they don’t come, preferring to try defending Domus Prime?”
“Hopefully they won’t be killed, and I’ll have to take command of the Super Star Destroyer.”
“I thought only Admirals could do that.”
“So, I’ll be promoted.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
They stepped into the turbolift. Devron pressed the button for “Bridge” and the turbolift jumps upward. “I don’t know.” Frowning slightly, he took a gulp of the Zanthraa Heavy. “That’s good. Anyway, remember the time I was defending us against real Sith, not battle droids with stun weapons?”
“I had to retreat.”
“So? They were overpowering you.”
“That’s the thing. I’m not sure I’m ready for a real command.”
“Hell, man, you’re more than ready. You’re good enough for a Sithspawned Grand Admiral position.”
“Whatever you say. Look, you’re better at tactics than the Grand Admiral himself, if you’re having a good day and he’s half-asleep. Commanding men in a real combat situation is just one step beyond that. Besides, if you hadn’t retreated that day, we’d probably have lost a lot more of our planet than we really did.”
“Maybe you’re right. Thanks.”
“Look, if a jar full of Hutt slobber like you doesn’t have enough faith in himself to command this fleet, who will?”
“Definitely not a pile of bantha dung like you.”
“That’s ‘Mr. Bantha Droppings’ to you, Hutt Slobber. We have to be politically correct now, don’t we?”
The turbolift stopped and the two friends stepped out and headed towards the forward viewport. “Just imagine yourself in this position, looking out over your fleet as they decimate the Sith ships with no losses.”
“Yeah. Speaking of decimating, I’ve got a couple things to show you and General Parks. We oughta talk over my strategy and look at the raw information again, see if I overlooked anything.”
“I doubt it. But, it’ll be an excuse to assemble in your tactroom, flirt with the Queen a bit…”
Devron turned around to face Kyte, trying to look angry. “Look, you pile of bantha dung, the Queen’s mine and mine only. Got it?”
The smile on General Kyte’s face flickers, but only for a second. “Lying jar full of Hutt slobber.”
Devron’s face broke out into a wide grin. “Caught me again. Where’s Parks?”
“Probably in his quarters, watching dirty holos.”
“Wrong again, Kyte-on-a-string,” comes a voice behind them.
“How was the stay in paradise, Zalifer?”
“Just peachy. Can’t you tell?” Smiling, he indicated his suit of stormtrooper armour, black with red symbols on each shoulder plate. “I even got a complimentary set of armour and a free planetary breakfast.”
“Joyful. Tell me again where we’re going.”
“In my tactroom to discuss strategy.”
“And flirt with the Queen,” General Kyte adds.
“Alright! This is better than I thought.”
A few minutes later, they sat down on a wide couch to discuss strategy in comfort, most of the joking and friendly insults disappearing to be replaced by work seriousness. Devron spoke first. “Alright, I’ve already done the first thing, which was to send four ISDs and six VSDs to Domus Prime to defend against an invasion force. Let the Imperials tell you about it.” He set his stormtrooper helmet down on the table and activated the playback mechanism on the recorder. After the recording was finished, he waited for responses.
“Sounds like a good move,” General Parks commented. “That should be enough to, at least, cut down the Imperial fleet for when we go back to retake our planet.”
“I agree,” General Kyte added. “That leaves enough to take Toxtenkopp over. What’s the strategy for that?”
In response Devron activated the holoprojector embedded in the floor and set the display to show the planet of Toxtenkopp. As the lights dimmed the planet view switched to tactical mode, displaying a grid over the planet, major bases, and sensor range from the planet. Devron grabbed a handheld display modifier and walked next to the planet.
“Alright. The defence web over the planet will probably look something like this,” he told his friends, simultaneously touching buttons to put the defence web over the planet. “That extends the sensor range another nine hundred kilometres. As you heard from the helmet, as soon as our force arrives, the ships are going to swarm them. So, we’re going to divide our force into a small group of three ISDs, one Dark Talon planetary assault ship, and three VSDs – and the other, larger fleet, with the rest of them. The two fleets will come out of hyperspace here – and here,” Devron continued, pointing with his remote/pointer stick at two spots outside sensor ranges. Instantly, the small holographic representations of each ship appeared where he points.
“These places are outside sensor ranges, and are along the equator of the planet and opposite each other. The smaller fleet will hyper into the gravity well first, which requires only a two-second jump.” The display mimicked this and all the ships in the defence web began swarming towards it. “When the last of the ships have crossed the poles, the second fleet will hyper in, and star towards the first fleet at full speed. The first fleet will also power up sublights and move toward the second fleet. The two fleets will come together in about thirty seconds.”
“Why are we doing that?” General Kyte inquires.
“It’ll scare the pants off of the Imperial stuffed shirts, the armour off of the stormies and the cloaks off of the Sith. It’ll also leave them wary of a third fleet poking their noses in-system.”
“Ah. Is that your whole strategy?”
“Damn good strategy, Zalifer,” General Parks commented. “Only six days left.”
“‘Damn good strategy’ is about the only way to put it,” General Kyte smiled. “Why don’t we go get something to eat planet-side?”
“Imperator Bar and Grill?”
Together, the three friends headed towards Devron’s freighter, looking forward to a good dinner.
The Queen sat on the floor, meditating carefully. She was more than slightly worried about Devron’s long absence, but as no one officially knew she was here, she could not just go up to the super star destroyer and ask them.
‘I knew asking him to spy on that woman was a bad idea’, the Queen muttered, trying to find her focus. She stood abruptly, picking up the nearest item, which just happened to be some of the furniture, and threw it against the wall where it smashed, leaving a rather large dent.
Then just as abruptly she sat down again and took a deep breath, closing her eyes.
Without thinking, the Queen reached one hand up to her locket, and suddenly she could hear a number of voices.
‘Her Royal Ignorance’. Well, Devron was playing a part, surely he was allowed to insult herself occasionally.
And he did not mean it, did he?
‘You’re in love with me remember’.
No, this could not be. Whose side was Devron on, anyway? Could he really be letting his heart get in the way of his duty?
She did not dare finish the thought, pulling away from it and hiding it from conscious thought. She did not want to think about Devron, she could not. Right now, her duty was to Domus Prime, as always. As she had promised.
‘One fleet, commanded by Admiral Sienar, will reach the planet at roughly 0530’
The Queen knew of Admiral Sienar by reputation, and the only planet they would dare attack was…
Oh no. This could not be. She would not let it happen.
‘Plus, the only real ties we left on Domus Prime are Grand Admiral Riddler and the Jedi Jester, and both can escape the planet with relative ease.’
Would they really just leave the planet with no defences? This was not possible. There were too many people that needed protecting, to many lives that needed to be allowed the freedom to live. They could not just give up on Domus Prime, could they?
She would not let them. She could not. If nothing else, she would protect the people herself.
The Queen looked around the crushed cabinet, and found something to write on. She scrawled a few words there for Devron, just in case he came back, then tried to think her way through what she was about to do.
“It’s possible”, the Queen said aloud, hoping that she was correct, “But I will have to break a few of the rules.”
It no longer mattered to her. The rules were nothing unless she kept her promise. And she promised to protect the people of Domus Prime.
The Queen held her Crystal Staff in her hands, savouring its cool touch. She was beyond glad that Devron did not understand or know about the strength of her powers. That was one thing he could never tell the Sith.
“Coruscant Crystal Power”, the Queen whispered, and the air around her began to glow a soft blue colour as she remembered the first time she had tried this. Was it only three years ago?
Her mind focussed on the place she wanted to go, she closed her eyes, and issued the command as a whispered word. “Teleport.”
The world around the Queen disappeared in blue light.
“I’d better check up on her”, Devron told the others as he opened the door. He looked around in amazement at the smashed furniture, staring in shock at the debris.
It was Kyte who first saw the small piece of paper, lying on top of an unmarked table.
“Devron, it’s for you.” He murmured, passing over the piece of paper without reading it.
On it in neat small lettering were a few words, addressed to him.
I have gone home. I am so sorry.
It was not signed, but he did not need to witness her signature to know who had written this.
“Have any ships left for Domus Prime?” he turned and asked the others.
Kyte shook his head. “At a time like this, it would be suicide.”
Devron frowned. “And have no unauthorised ships left?”
“They would have contacted us if that had happened. What’s wrong?”
The light faded, as she looked around and found herself in her bedroom on Domus Prime. The Queen gave a loud cheer and jumped up, throwing her fist in the air, before allowing her transformation to reverse and her clothing to change back to its normal form.
It was at this point that she became aware of someone screaming behind her.
The Queen turned around slowly, and was almost pleased when Tamira fainted, stopping the noise as abruptly as it had started.
The Queen shook her head, slightly, as she helped the unconscious Tamira to her bed.
She walked out of the room then, telling Jedi Nay to watch over Tamira as she headed off to talk with the Grand Admiral and the Jester.
Devron took the note from General Kyte and read it, which did not take long. After a few minutes of just staring at the note in silence, General Kyte looked over at General Parks. Parks caught the hint and both retreated, leaving Devron to himself.
“Damn it. Everything’s going to hell. Only three days left before the assault, I can’t legally command the fleet because there’s nobody to promote me to Admiral, the Grand Admiral isn’t here, the Queen took off to where she’s not safe, and I can’t deviate from the mission to do a damn bit of good about it.”
He let the paper fall to the floor, just staring around at the room. Then, his berserker abilities awakening because of the heightened state of agitation, he ripped his BlasTech A280 off of his back, lined his sights on one piece of furniture, and pulled the trigger countless times, sending high-powered blaster bolt after blaster bolt into the chair, hurling curses at it also, venting his fury.
Five minutes later he stepped outside his chambers, the power pack drained. A squad of Royal Forces troopers stood outside, blasters in defensive position. They relaxed when they saw him. “What happened, sir?”
“None of your business,” Devron snapped, bringing his rank and power to bear in a way uncharacteristic of him. “Send someone to clean my room up.”
“Yes, sir.” The squad rushed off to fulfil his orders. Meanwhile, Devron walked up to the bridge of the Super Star Destroyer, staring out the forward bridge viewport at the reaches of deep space. Several crewmembers approached him but backed away when they see the barely restrained fury there, searing hot behind his eyes.
Finally, he walked back to his room, deciding to listen to music to maybe cool him down a bit. His room is clean and a new piece of furniture is in to replace that which was destroyed.
Picking out a music album, he put it into the player, turned the volume up slightly and lay back on his couch, waiting for the music to start. As it did he recognised the song the Tuebor Defensive Military adopted as their own song after one of the troops wrote it. Smiling slightly, he lets himself sing along to the song in a quiet voice.
“The Force has smiled upon you this day
The fate of a planet in your hands
And blessed be the soldiers, we
Who fight with all our bravery
Till only the righteous stand…”
“You see the distant flames, they bellow in the night
We fight with all our heart for what we know is good
And if you ever get shot, and cannot carry forth
Though you die, the resistance lives on…”
“We live in the trenches, we battle on the edge
Where the winds of Limbo roar, and the flames of Hell burn
The war rages on, and we might not be free today
But soon, someday we will emerge victorious…”
“Our energy will be spent at last
Our armour all destroyed
Our weapons will be all used up
Wounds are all we’ll be made of
But still, it’s true that this is victory….”
The song ended after that but Devron paid no attention, his pent-up emotions bleeding out of him and being replaced by calm serenity and a renewed will to win the day. Yes, he was probably going to assume command at the Battle of Toxtenkopp. Yes, he soon would probably be Admiral Devron Zal. Yes, he would win the battles.
Yes, he would dominate over all.
Armed with that confidence, he gets up and moves into his bedroom to change into his painted stormtrooper armour, now his Royal Forces uniform and accepted as such.
When he marched out onto the bridge in his armour, the crewmembers collectively let out mental sighs of relief. Their General was no longer under the hold of something else.
“General Zal, sir, I have gotten word from the construction crews. The Super Star Destroyer will be finished ahead of schedule, coming to a stop just a few hours from now.”
“Great. Much better than I had expected. Very well, then,” he told them, “we set into hyperspace tomorrow. Tomorrow, Toxtenkopp will fall, ladies and gentlemen of the bridge crew.”
As one, the crew burst into cheers at this bump ahead in schedule. Devron just smiled at his bridge crew and hoped he won’t be court-martialled too badly for taking control of the fleet illegally, as a General.
“I think he’s in the Level 43 rec room, sir. Either there or the weaponry range next door.”
“Thank you.” General Kyte got in a turbolift and headed down to Level 43, where his friend was – as expected – in the weaponry range.
“Honing your skills, nerf-lover?”
“You that bothered by the Queen’s leaving? You didn’t even insult me back.”
“No, I’m not bothered, I’m just preparing for the ground assault, Mr. I Had An Affair With Ten Banthas And A Womp Rat In A Sand Dune.” One of the holographic targets brought his blaster to bear on Devron. In response he leapt to the left, performing a tuck and roll and coming up in a jump, leaping toward a tree for cover. In the air, Devron snapped his pistol around to the offender and double-tapped the trigger, blasting a hole in the guy’s head. Once at the tree, he leant around it, taking out another guy. While all this happens, General Kyte reached slyly over to the difficulty indicator and set it on hardest.
A holographic door burst open and ten guys came swarming in with T-21 light repeater rifles, CR-24 flamers and F-2 fragmentation grenades. One guy levelled his flamer at the tree and let loose a burst, setting it on fire. With a curse, Devron rolled out from behind the tree, snapping off a double shot at the flamer wielder. The shots hit him in the chest, and he flew back with a cry.
A steady stream of shots came at Devron from a T-21. He levelled his pistol at the guy’s head and double-tapped the trigger again. Two neat burn holes appear through his head, and the guy collapsed.
Two frag grenades came bouncing at him, ‘Probably set for a four-second fuse’, Devron thought as he swatted one of them away, towards the enemies. Then, reaching out, he attempted to hit the other one back, having no chance to run.
The grenade exploded two split-seconds after his hand hit it, instantly frying his hand from the initial blast and shrapnelling / burning him to “death.”
He stands up and looks at General Kyte. “I’m dead.”
“Yep. Now the fleet’s mine to command.”
“Anyway, now since I’m dead, want to run through a building takedown together? You need to return to your own SpecForce roots. No fun being a stuffed-shirt General and not being able to have some fun occasionally.”
“Yeah. If I had my own army, I’d lead it into battle.”
“You can come down with me, if you’re good enough.”
“You’re going down?”
“What, you think I’m gonna stay up in my SSD when the fighting in space is over and watch live-feed from it?”
“Of course not.”
They reached the takeover building then, a small, shabby building in a corner of the weapons range. While Kyte dialled the difficulty level up, Devron grabbed a Sharpshooter SNP-32 sniper rifle, strapped it to his back, and picked an A280 from the weapons rack. Kyte grabbed a few grenades, the sniper rifle and an E-11.
“Let’s go.” Kyte held up a Merr-Sonn LD-1 LumaDecibel grenade. “Flashbang ’em?”
“Copy. You want right or left?” They spoke in hushed tones for fear of alerting the “people” inside to their presence.
“I’ll take left.”
“Alright, toss it in.”
Kyte pushed the activation button on the grenade. As Devron opened the door slightly, Kyte rolled it in, and both shut the door and held their ears.
The resulting blast, muffled by their hands and the wall, still got through at about the noise level of regular talking, and the white flash from the windows illuminated the ground around them. Standing quickly, Devron kicked the door in, and pivoted to the right, Kyte behind him and tracking his weapon to the right.
Six people were inside, rubbing their eyes from the flash of the grenade. Quickly and efficiently, Devron levelled his rifle at one’s head, double-tapping the trigger to send two normal-powered kill bolts into it. Spinning his aim around to level at another guy’s head, he blasted off another two shots. Kyte finished his men off and turned to help.
One enemy got a couple of wild shots off, which flew into the air well above the two shooters’ heads. In a few seconds, the room was devoid of enemies.
“Clear,” Devron responded. “I’ll take the right hallway. You take the left one. We’ll go upstairs and meet at the roof.”
Silently, Devron skulked over to the door on the right side. He kicked it open, took one step inside and looked around the hallway, the aim of his rifle tracking his sightline.
Four doors on the left side of the hallway, none on the right. Nobody in the hallway. Stairway to level two at other end of hallway. He stepped inside, shut the door, and kicked the first door on the side open.
Two people were inside playing a game of cards. They spun towards the intruder, fumbling for their pistols. Quickly, Devron levelled his rifle at the first guy’s chest, double-tapped the trigger and moves his aim to the other guy’s head, killing him too. Devron stepped outside the room, moving towards the next door.
The door in front of him burst open and one person stepped out, a grenade in his hand. More out of reflex than any conscious thinking, as the guy hurled the grenade towards him, Devron slid his left hand down from the barrel to the grip, wielding the rifle in a smashball stance. As the grenade flew towards him in slow motion, Devron swung his rifle barrel at it. His body moved inexorably slow as the grenade seemed to hang in thin air, the rifle connecting solidly with the grenade and causing it to bounce more or less in the direction of the hurler.
Time slammed back into normal speed as the grenade rattled off down the hallway, exploding a split-second later and throwing shrapnel into the guy’s back. As Devron hit the floor, putting his arms over his head protectively, the shrapnel flew mostly past him, a couple of pieces embedding themselves in his shoulders and arms, but not enough to slow him.
But people were swarming out of the last two doors now. Staying on his belly, Devron levelled the aim of his rifle towards one man’s head. Two taps on the trigger sent two extremely high-powered bolts out – responding to Devron accidentally brushing the rifle setting to the highest Kill setting – and blew the guy’s head into pieces. The body fell back onto his comrade and another two shots to the dead man’s heart penetrate through, killing the person directly behind him. Swinging his rifle around to target the last two men, Devron’s rifle let out four bolts in quick succession, lancing through the bodies of the last two before they could do anything about him and drawing the life force out of them, leaving the corpses that collapsed on the ground lifeless, without reason.
Not bothered by any of the deep thinking, Devron got up and sprinted for the staircase leading up to the roof. He opened the door wide, making sure there was nobody there, and ran up it, jumping three steps at a time.
Nobody was on the roof as Devron pushed the trapdoor open and jumped onto the roof. Thirty seconds later, General Kyte came through the other trapdoor. “You’re late, Kyte.”
“Some of ’em gave me trouble.”
“Tsk tsk, excuses, excuses. Grab yo snipa rifle and get ready to partay.”
Both men undid the sniper rifles from their backs and waited. A few seconds later, an airspeeder – all part of the holo illusion, though he couldn’t figure out where it came from – hovered overhead, letting a rope ladder down. Kyte climbed up the ladder first, and Devron followed close behind, setting his sniper rifle on his lap while he waited for the short ride to end.
Which was soon. The airspeeder took them up to the top of a skyscraper, setting them down before zooming off. Looking over the edge, Devron could discern police swoops and landspeeders in a blockade, and laser fire erupting from two sides.
“Over here, Kyte.”
Both friends locked power packs into their sniper rifles, powered up the scopes and moved slightly over the edge of the building, pointing their sniper rifles down at the shootout. Devron closed his left eye and peered through the scope with his right, putting one person’s head between his crosshairs. He sent a targeting laser out to find approximate range, and the scope sight adjusted automatically for the range. Adjusting his aim slightly, Devron slipped his finger inside the trigger guard and tapped the trigger twice.
Two high-powered, concentrated bolts flew out of the barrel and towards the man’s head. Keeping his aim on the doomed head for confirmation of the kill, Devron received it when blood splattered over three of his terrorist friends. Smiling with pleasure, he aligned his sights on the next guy’s head. After putting most of that guy’s head over other people again, Devron took a new target.
And so it went, both men rarely (if ever) missing, until the last man was killed and the holographic simulators shut down. Abruptly, Devron experienced a strange and passing sense of perception sickness as the thousand or so metres down to the ground below disappeared, leaving only about six metres.
“Let’s go see our scores.”
Leaving their weapons at the rack, Devron and Kyte walked to the simulator monitors, where several simulations in progress were being shown. Ignoring these, they turned their attention to another display, which read, “Capture and Sniper Situation-Final Score: General Zal- 23,800; General Kyte- 23,750”
“Pretty damn close.”
“Yeah. We done good.”
“Yeah. A couple of days more, and we get to do it for real.”
“I can’t wait.”