Domus Prime:


Chapter VIII

There was a soft knock on the door and Jester looked up, sorrow still clear on his face. “I told you to leave me alone”, he called out, but the door opened anyway.

He looked up from his seat at the table, and saw her standing there. “Tamira, please, I just want to be alone right now. I have too much to think about.”

She walked over to where he was sitting, and took the seat next to him. He was just as she remembered him, although she could not remember him ever having a black eye. She reached out a gentle hand, pushing back a strand of unruly hair from his face, even as she fingered the chain around her neck.

“Jester, would you like to talk about it?” the Queen asked. 

“General Zal?”

“Yes?” He turned around from gazing out the forward bridge viewport, a smile evident in his eyes as he guessed what would come next.

“The fleet is now fully finished and is at your command, sir.”

A smile slowly spread its way across Devron’s face, as he comprehended the majority, the sheer military power placed before him and waiting for his word of command. For a few moments, his head nearly spun with the complexity of it all, every single turbolaser, starfighter and tractor beam about to be brought to bear on the hapless Imperial and Sith idiots. “Perfect.”

“What is our first move, Admiral?”

At this title Devron’s gaze locked on the crew officer in the right-side pit, curiosity dominating his face. “What?”

“Admiral. We, the bridge crew, are calling you that now, as a sign of respect.” The whole crew nodded their heads in confirmation, displaying their trust. “All the other Star Destroyers and support ships have taken to calling you it now. You are Admiral Zal.”

“Thank you,” Devron responded, unsure of what else to say to display his surge of emotion. All these trained officers, trusting him with their lives, following him straight to Hell with a smile on their faces if he so ordered it. “Thank you. Anyway,” he began, falling back into procedure because of anxiety, “run the coordinates through the navcomp and slave the other ships to them. Assemble into a cluster warhead formation, with Lancers in front and us in the middle. Set up five ISDs slanting to either side, with each of the following ISD’s noses pointing towards the outside corner of the one in front of them. Set a VSD up on the inner side of the third, fourth and fifth ISDs, and have them also lined up nose-to-outside-corner. The trailing two will have one on the inner side of them, and the first one will have one on the outer side, also. Three VSDs will be trailing us to complete the nineteen.

“Set up a Dreadnaught on the outer side of each ISD, and have them in the nose-to-outside-corner setup. Two more Dreadnaughts will follow the first five on each side, and three Dreadnaughts will be side to side in back, on each side… After the first seven, you put a Dreadnaught on the inside corner of the seventh, and line two more up on the inner side of that one to complete the Dreadnaught count. So, when that happens, the back row will be Dreadnaught-Dreadnaught-Dreadnaught-VSD-VSD-VSD-Dreadnaught-Dreadnaught-Dreadnaught. Array the Lancer frigates in front, in a half-circle formation starting in front of our SSD and ending on either side at the outer side of the second Dreadnaught in the outer row.”

“Yes, sir. Before I send the orders out, come over here to verify that what I have is right.”

“Alright.” Devron walked over there and studied the formation plan for about three seconds. “Perfect. Send it out and save it in the ship databanks. This is a good formation we’ll probably use for a lot of attacks.”

“Are we going in as one, sir, or are we still breaking one group off?”

“We’re breaking one group off, but if we run into a task force outside the sensor range, we want to be ready with a nice, tight formation that can split easily and follow orders. See how this formation can break easily?” he pointed at the screen, indicating his meaning. The other crewmembers gathered around, appreciating the way their new Admiral treated them as equals. 

“If we run into trouble, the ten Lancers can split off in all directions, and the SSD can surge forward, like an explosive charge in a bullet sending the outer case flying and the main portion shooting out. The whole left side can peel off to the left, and vice versa for the right, and the whole fleet can converge on one hapless target, or two, and blast it into the flames of Hell. It’s also easy to break a few off from, because it’s symmetrical. If four ISDs and six VSDs drop out, we can move the rest up a bit and pull some Dreadnaughts and VSDs off the back rows to fill in. Then, we hyperspace again to the specific spot outside the sensor range where we wait, and they do the same, but instead of waiting, they hyper in and engage.”

“Yes, sir,” a few people acknowledged, understanding perfectly. “But, what about the landing craft?”

“They’re going to fill the back row in two rows of five, but when we reach the first spot, break the fleet, and hyper to our two different spots, the landing craft will remain at the first stop. They’re too valuable to lose. They make up about half of our planetary assault force.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Any other questions?”

“No, sir.”

He pulled himself out of the crew pit, walking to one of the exit doors. “I will be back shortly. I’m going to the armory to get some weapons and prepare myself for the ground assault. The bridge is in your hands. If you need to ask any questions about what to do from now to hyperspace, if I’m not back, you can contact me on a commlink, standard frequency.”

“Yes, sir.”

Devron made his way to the armory and tried to minimise time browsing, knowing full well that the crew on the bridge were not going to screw up at all but wanting to see the assembled fleet before launch. Grabbing a hovercart from where someone left it coincidentally, he loaded a CR-24 flamer, four flashbang grenades, three frag grenades, an A280, a TC/21-C carbine with hip holster and an SNP-32 sniper rifle inside. Pulling about twenty clips down into the cart finished it up and Devron took his selections to the door, entered them into the computer and headed for a turbolift back up to the bridge.

When he reached the bridge the fleet was half assembled into formation. Several crewmembers not currently at work coordinating things turned and saluted him. After returning the salute Devron pushed his cart up to the forward bridge viewport and stood next to it, watching his fleet assemble.

“Admiral, the fleet is fully assembled and we are on line with the entry vector.”

“Engage hyperspace.”

“Yes, sir.” The officer turns to his console. “Engaging hyperspace in three… two… one… now.”

The stars blurred into lines then started swirling around the SSD as it leapt into the hole from realspace into hyperspace. The fleet followed, each taking their own separate hole and travelling their own paths, still staying in formation. After he watched hyperspace swirl around him for about three seconds, Devron sat down on the floor with his back to the wall, set his weapons in a half-circle around him and began snapping clips into them, levelling them at a spot on the wall and pretending to fire the trigger before setting it down. 

The fleet moves toward Stopping Point One, inexorably coming to send the forces of evil to their deaths. 

“Catherine?” 

She smiled and nodded at him. “I thought I should come back early.” 

“How in the bloody blue blazes did you get back here?” 

“I got a ride.” 

Jester started to his feet, not sure if he wanted to hug her or drag her from the room without another thought. “Riddler has to know about this.” 

“That can wait for a moment, now what happened?” Sometimes Jester really hated it when she gave commands; it was awfully hard to refuse his Queen. She gestured to his black eye. 

“Just a little argument between the Riddler and I. Some old wounds were reopened”, he sighed slightly, remembering, “A few hot words were exchanged. And we both crossed the line, but he struck first. I didn’t think that he would.” 

“What’s this?” Catherine said as she picked up a piece of metal off the ground. She turned it over in her hands, thinking that she should recognise the design. 

“Memories, of a person I no longer am, and never want to be again.” Jester looked away from the medal, its presence gave him pain. 

She felt the pain flowing out of him, felt it burning within. “How can you let this hurt you like that?” 

Jester turned angry eyes on her. “I don’t let it! You’ll never understand.” 

“I have lost friends too”, Catherine said softly, her eyes shining as she remembered faces and people she had left behind. “I have had to sit here and do virtually nothing while my people died”; had to do things she had always regretted, had to say goodbye to those she loved. “I know what you are going through.” 

Jester looked at her, his eyes beginning to tear, “I can’t handle it. I want to forget.” He sobbed uncontrollably, the visions of so many deaths haunted him. And they gave him great pain. 

“I know”, Catherine placed his head on her shoulder, “I will help in any way I can.” And they sat there for a moment, helping each other, hoping to forget. 

The Nuovo Futura lay dormant yet wonderfully lit against the backdrop of space from the young Domus Sun. Along with the thirty two other craft in the Phantom Fleet, the Futura was to play the most important part in the Battle of Domus Prime.

Inside the traditionally grey hulk, Admiral Merei and his crew prepared the final calibrations on the Futura. Merei sat in his command seat and opened a three-way channel to the lead Corellian Attack Cruiser Argyle III and the lead Imperial Star Destroyer Phantom Striker.

“Commander Hosken of the Argyle III and Commander Lynch of the Phantom Striker, this is Admiral Merei of the lead ship of the Phantom Fleet Nuovo Futura. I trust that you have all begun the final preparations for the battle.”

Lynch answered first. “Yes Admiral, although we have discovered that we are short of twenty three TIE Fighters.”

“I sent those TIEs to the Beta Fleet under Admiral Sienar’s orders a week ago,” replied Hosken. “He felt that the Beta Fleet needed a stronger TIE force.”

“I need those TIE Fighters Commander, now I am carrying twenty three dead pilots with me.”

“The pilots have also been transferred to the Beta Fleet.”

Lynch replied in hostility, “Well, I’m glad there’s someone here to tell us these things.”

Merei took control of the conversation. “Gentlemen, I am forwarding both of you the final settings of all fleets including our own, and what we have discovered of the enemy fleets from Sith contacts. I suggest you go over them carefully so that our fleet is in top condition. Report back to me when you are ready.”

“Right away Admiral. Hosken out.”

“Lynch out.”

Merei closed the frequency and opened a new one with the lead Victory Star Destroyer Imperial Blade. The VSDs in the Phantom Fleet were used mainly to carry the TIE Interceptors and Defenders.

“Commander Peed, how are the TIE fleets progressing?”

“They are still under final testing, Admiral. There seems to be something wrong with one of the release strings in the hangar bay. As a result we lost two Defenders and six Interceptors, not to mention about fifteen droids.”

Merei sighed. “Commander I want the TIEs to be ready in the next three hours. Understood?”

“Yes, Admiral. Peed out.

Merei sighed again and opened a new frequency with the lead DX-9 Stormtrooper transport commanded by Stormtrooper Commando Skaye Raye. “Commander Raye, this is Admiral Merei of the Futura. How are you progressing?”

“This is Dankin Kast; Skaye Raye was injured at the Stormtrooper Headquarters when a loose girder crushed his leg. He has been discharged from the Phantom Fleet. I am now acting Commando for the Stormtrooper transports.”

“Its good to see that someone here has taken initiative. How are the transports coming along?”

“They are primed and ready for deployment. Our task crew has been very efficient.”

“That’s always good to hear. I’ll contact you when we are ready for the jump.”

“Thank you, Admiral. Kast out.”

‘Other than a few glitches’, thought Admiral Merei, ‘the Phantom Fleet should be primed in time for the assault.’ 

Stormtrooper Commando Adamik Grixxly kept a watch over the Sith base on Domus Prime with an eagle eye. He never trusted the Sith but he did trust his fellow Imperials. And if the Imperials were to cooperate with the Sith than he was too. He did not wear a helmet, as it was not regulation for Commandos. He patrolled the base with his macro-binoculars. A young Stormtrooper walked up to him and reported.

“Sir, the weapons deck is ready for your inspection”, filtered through the comm system in the helmet, the young man’s voice was decidedly mechanised. 

Grixxly followed the young Stormtrooper into the base and up a small flight of stairs. The base was only three stories high so a turbolift would have little use. Grixxly smiled when he saw the rows and rows of racks stocked to the brim with weapons of all sorts.

He walked slowly with his hands behind his back as the young Trooper read off a datapad. “First we have the standard BlasTech E-13s which have been upgraded from the old E-11s of the old days. They include a better range-finding scope and more storage for gas.” Grixxly nodded as he ran his fingers over the barrels of the black weapons. “Next up is the short-range combat pistol, JPSS-44 in make, standard backups for all Troops.” Grixxly was quite familiar with the weapons. He angled his arm around him and felt the same pistol attached to his belt.

“Continue Trooper”, he murmured thoughtfully.

“Here, we have the BlasTech DLT-35E laser rifle-” The trooper was interrupted by Grixxly.

“35E? I remember the 20A but I’ve never seen this weapon.”

“Yes sir.” the young trooper fumbled with the datapad as he tried to find the ‘next-page’ button. “Ah, here we are. The 20A was upgraded to the 30E after a power charge exploded and destroyed a whole weapons facility. The 30E now includes an accelerated power charger to cope with the heat.” 

Grixxly nodded as he raised his eyebrows and furrowed his lower lip. “For the Scout Troops we have the average T-002 Blaster. Nothing too special there. Moving along now we come to the Detonators. We have the High-Charge 32-A, this delivers a massive close range blast; the Time-Charge 1.0, this includes an adjustable timing control, anywhere from one second to twelve hours; the Wide-Spread AA-19, up to thirty metres in range; and finally the Remote-Charge 90-C, this comes with a separate detonator device that can receive the signal from up to fifteen kilometres in range. All these are BlasTech design and make.”

“Very impressive, Trooper. Very impressive.” Grixxly picked up a laser rifle and angled the butt up to his shoulder. He aimed towards the window, which was little more than a hole in the wall. He stared through the scope as the young Trooper nervously fidgeted with the datapad. Grixxly kept the rifle as still as he could as he stared at a Sith soldier through the scope. He knew the rifle was not charged but he pulled the trigger anyway. The vibrating click of the uncharged rifle made him grin. 

The Trooper interrupted Grixxly’s day-dreaming.

“Uh, sir, if you don’t mind, we need to continue.”

“Yes, yes.” Grixxly felt slightly embarrassed but didn’t let it show. The Trooper directed him to the third floor, where the speeder bikes were kept.

“These are just some of our speeder bikes, upgraded to 88-Z, still manufactured by Aratech. They include advanced guidance repulsors so that it can keep upright and on course even at the most extreme speeds.”

“Nice”, said Grixxly, “mind if I try one out?”

“Of course not sir, go for your life.”

Grixxly smiled and activated the repulsorlift on a bike. He silently pulled it down the stairs as it hovered in mid air.

Once outside he jumped on and activated the drive. He heard the turbines whine as he fed them power. He winked at the young Trooper and again murmured, “Nice.” Then he instantly sped off in a flash. He zoomed passed the Sith base at top speed as the turbines screamed and hooted. He came to an abrupt stop at the edge of the grasslands, then turned and sped back to base. He stopped right in front of the Trooper. “Very nice.” Grixxly hopped off and walked away to wait for his strike team to arrive. 

“Admiral Flirrh?”

“Yes?”

“Still no sign of hostiles, though they could be hiding in one of several sensor shadows.”

“Continue scanning. Send probe droids out if necessary, if any have come back from the scan of other planets.”

“Yes, Admiral.”

As Flirrh turned her eyes back to space, a fleet of four ISDs and six VSDs blinked into existence within the gravity well of Domus Prime. After a brief moment of orientation the small fleet powered up their sublight engines, marked by a blue-white glow off of the aft engines. The ships, painted Deep-Space Black, made their way towards her own small task force.

“Admiral Flirrh, our reinforcements have arrived.”

“Yes, I know. Power up sublight engines and move to where they meet us in the shadow of the planet. Then order them to shut down all exterior lighting and engines. Maybe the Imperials won’t notice them.” ‘And maybe some Wampas will move to the sunny side of Nkllon.’

“Yes, Admiral.” Unheeding of her thoughts, the navigation officer ordered sublight engines at twenty-seven percent power. Slowly, the Star Destroyer begins creeping farther into the planetary shadow. 

In the Flammen System, around the same time, the Freedom and Liberation fleets gathered outside the sensor ranges of Toxtenkopp, preparing to do battle. On board one of the capital ships, orders were being given as to how the fleets would act as they moved towards their target.

“Alright, order the Freedom Fleet to disengage and move towards their entry vector.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Also, run a passive scan for any hostiles. We need to know how much time we have.”

“Yes, sir. Running passive scan.”

“Sir, the Freedom Fleet acknowledges orders and is breaking off.”

Devron turned back to the window, idly twirling his safetied TC/21-C carbine on one finger. As he watched, four ISDs and six VSDs – a force identical to the Domus Prime backup force – removed themselves from the larger fleet and jockeyed around slightly for position until they were all assembled and waiting for the confirmation.

“Freedom Fleet looks good. Go for hyperspace.”

“Yes, sir. May the Force be with you.”

“You too. Freedom Fleet out.”

As Freedom Fleet disappeared Devron unhooked his commlink from the belt. “Welcome aboard Liberation Fleet PS-471854,” he said into the open channel, which was set to broadcast in every room of every ship in the fleet. “My name is Admiral Devron Zal, and I’ll be your commanding officer. 

“The flight to Toxtenkopp will take approximately eight minutes with a five-minute flight to outside the sensor ranges, an approximate three-minute lay over, then a three-second hyperspace jump into the gravity well. Weather over Toxtenkopp is overcast, with a high temperature of sixty ships and a low of no ships at all. 

“Please remember to keep your seat backs and tray tables in the upright and locked position until we reach our optimum hyperspace rating of 1.5. Once we have reached optimum rating, you are free to move about your ship.” By now, some of Devron’s bridge crew were laughing softly, and not a single one did not have a smile.

“Once we reach Toxtenkopp you may take a tour around the famed Toxtenkopp Battle Space, where we will be engaging in a real life battle with Sith and Imperial ships. For the strong of heart, you may be boarding the Starfighter Roller Coaster, which takes you into the middle of a mass of Imperial starfighters and lets you blow them up with real laser cannons. The finest in entertainment, though, will be found on the ground, where after space is secured, the ground forces will drop in and blow the living ichor out of every single Imperial down there. If you feel tired, you can stay at one of five fabulous Toxtenkopp Imperial and Sith Hotels, which will be run by a large garrison of Royal Forces and waiting for you to come and have a pleasant night’s stay.

“We at Liberation Fleet Spacelines realise the large number of spacelines out there, and we thank you for choosing Liberation Fleet as your spaceline. We hope that when your situation calls for travel with the off chance of getting killed, you will again choose Liberation Fleet Spacelines as your spaceline of choice.”

Laughter and the occasional cheer of approval flowed over the comm and added to the same atmosphere aboard the SSD’s bridge. Smiling like a three-year-old on Fete Week, Devron raised his comm to his face again. “Engage hyperdrive. Let’s go get in position to nail those Sith freaks.”

More cheers ensued as the fleet launched into hyperspace for their five-minute journey.

“Coming out of hyperspace in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Disengaging.”

The tunnel of hyperspace formed back into realspace, bringing Devron’s fleet with him. Far off in the distance, Toxtenkopp’s sun appeared as just another star, though brighter and a bit bigger than your average star. One more time, Devron flipped his commlink back on for transmitting one more message. 

“Alright, everyone, here we are. Suspense time. By now, Freedom Fleet will have poked their noses in-system, and the Sith ships will have screamed bloody murder at it and charged, lightsabers held high. It’ll take about three minutes for the last of the Sith ships to cross the axis. When that happens, Freedom Fleet will broadcast a broad beam distress call. The Impies will naturally want to read it, and they will, because it’ll have no codes. Just your run-of-the-mill distress call. They know, like we do, that there’s nobody around from here to Fondor, so they’ll laugh. Then we’ll pop in, and they’ll scream.

“This, right here, is going to be one of the most important battles you will ever fight. If we take Toxtenkopp, we take about eighty to ninety percent of the Sith. Most of the other ten-to-twenty percent are at Domus Prime, battling our own relief force.

“We have, gun to gun and soldier to soldier, more force than they do. But that’s not a guarantee of victory. It all depends on how hard each of you fight. As I’ve said before, it’s the people that count. Without the pilots, no starfighter would move off the hangar bay floor. Without the grunts, no ground target would be taken from the Sith. Without the bridge crew, every Star Destroyer, Dreadnaught, Lancer frigate, Dark Talon capital ship, or any other capital ship would hang dead in space. No gun would fire, no bomb would drop, no hostiles would be killed.

“It’s been about two minutes by now. In just over a minute, you will be fighting. Not just fighting for the Queen. Fighting for the welfare of the galaxy. Fighting for freedom. Fighting for liberation from tyranny. I’ll tell you right now – the fight will be long and bloody. We’re not going to win freedom from tyranny today. But we’re going to make it a lot easier in the long run if we win today.

“Which we will. I have hardly any doubt of it. We might lose a few ships and a lot of soldiers, but that’s okay. Death in battle for a good cause is one of the highest honours someone enlisted in the military could have. Don’t get me wrong – if I had it my way, the Imperials scattered everywhere would die at the snap of my fingers, and no friendly blood would be shed. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t work that way. Losses will be mourned, but they will be honoured too. I will personally see to it that the Battle of Toxtenkopp War Memorial will be put up, honouring each of you who die in service this day as a part of furthering freedom. Because we will further freedom. We will win. And we will win big. The Royal Forces are the dominant force in the galaxy now, and it will dominate!”

The bridge erupted into a mass of emboldened shouts and cheers. Outside, one Star Destroyer began flashing its exterior lights as a way of cheering silently. Others follow suit, and soon, the space around the SSD was a flashing array of lights, silent applause for the heartening words.

After the bridge quieted down and the lights stopped flashing, everyone settled in, battle senses heightened.

“How much time has elapsed?”

“Three minutes, twenty three seconds, sir.” The comm officer brought up a clock on one of the strategy screens installed. The clock counted time from three minutes, thirty seconds.

The clock goes on to count three minutes, thirty-five seconds. Then three minutes, forty seconds. 

“Four minutes, sir,” the comm officer told him unnecessarily. ‘Probably too much tension’, Devron thought.

“Attention to all ships who can hear! This is Freedom Fleet! We have been ambushed by Sith ships! Anyone who can help, please come to Toxtenkopp immediately!”

“That’s it! Engage hyperdrive!”

The astrogation officer shoved the lever to the hyperspace engine setting, nearly tearing it out of the socket with his anxiety. The slaved fleet launched into hyperspace as the clock stopped at “00:04:06.32”. 

Five seconds later the fleet was yanked out of hyperspace by Toxtenkopp’s gravity well. Devron picked up his tight beam comm. “Liberation to Freedom, engage sublight. Meet you halfway.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Engage sublights at full speed and move towards Freedom Fleet.” Devron set his commlink to transmit to his own fleet. “All starfighters deploy. B-wings and Y-wings, make runs on the Sith Star Destroyers’ shield generator balls. A-wings, stay up near your home ship’s bridge and protect its shield generators. X-wings, deploy to destroy enemy bombers and missile boats. E-wings, destroy all enemy starfighters. Lancer frigates, move into concentrations of enemy fighters and target all within reach. Try not to bunch up in one spot. When we come together with Freedom Fleet, all the Sith ships are going to be with them too. All ships, target Star Destroyer numbered one on tacscreens and surround it. Blow it to Bakura. 

“Meeting with Freedom in ten seconds. All starfighters deployed and following orders.”

“Liberation, break and follow specific tasks on my mark. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Break up and go do your junk. Freedom Fleet, surround Star Destroyer number one with us and blow it to Bakura.”

“Yes, Admiral.” 

‘It’s a beautiful thing’, Devron thought. As the Lancer frigates spread out, the SSD surged forward to take on the enemy ISD. Both sides of ISDs, VSDs and Dreadnaughts split away from the SSD and spread out like a flechette swarm, coming to envelop the ISD with all guns blazing. ‘Perfect.’

“All guns facing toward the ISD, target carefully. We don’t want friendly fire. All guns facing outside, target any ships necessary in order to stay safe.”

“Sir, shields for targeted ISD are at forty-three percent and failing rapidly – a percentile every second. Computers predict hull integrity to degrade even more rapidly than that as compartments are exposed all over the ship. No losses so far. Worst ship is the Dreadnaught Pandora’s Box, with shields at ninety-two percent. Our shields hold at ninety-nine percent.”

“Good.” Around the bridge, the A-wings roamed in patrol, buzzing around like a swarm of protective swetbuz flies around their hive. B-wings and Y-wings flew in on attack runs, trusting their allies’ gunnery officers to not shoot them as they loosed torpedo after torpedo against the already doomed ISD.

“The ISD’s shield generator balls have been destroyed. On a related note, B-wings Blue and Gold report ISD 2’s shields gone, and are going for ISD 3.”

“Sir,” the defence officer reported, “analysis reveals that the Imperials are stealing our strategy. Several ships are converging on our SSD.”

“ISD 1’s hull integrity at fifty-two percent and failing rapidly. One of our gunners hit its reactor. It doesn’t need our help – it’s gonna explode in a couple of seconds.”

“All ships: surround ISD 2. ISDs Freedom’s Nectar, Thanatos and Silent Stalker and Dreadnaught task force Elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air: come to the SSD as proof against any attacks. The Imperials want to swarm the SSD. All other ships, surround and destroy ISD 2.” Off in the near distance, the doomed ISD 1 finally erupted in an explosion, the reactor meltdown becoming too unbearable.

ISD 3 and 4, the former with only one generator ball, and VSD 1-9 converged on the SSD, throwing bolts of green fire into its shields. TIE Bombers and Interceptors came in on attack runs as the A-wings valiantly defended against any attacks.

“Y-wing squadrons Green, Red, Yellow, Blue and Gray, come back to protect the SSD’s shield generators. All other craft, perform as ordered.”

“Sir, our shields are at sixty-seven percent, and ISD 2’s hull is at twenty-two percent.”

“Keep on ISD 2 until it explodes, then have the ISDs, VSDs and Dreadnaughts come and start destroying ISD 3.”

“Yes, sir.” About three seconds later ISD 2 roared into flame and the fleet came around to help its SSD.

“All ships, target ISD 3.”

“Agh!” A scream burst over the comm. A flash of light on a console enlightened Devron as to who it was.

“Dreadnaught Fire, report!”

“Shields gone; hull at twelve percent, compartments breached, engines hit, reactor melting-” A burst of static then silence. Off to the right side, an explosion confirms why.

“Damn it”, Devron swore.

“ISD 3’s shields have been taken out, but the enemy Bombers are getting ideas. ISD Sailor Coruscant’s Locket has only one shield generator ball left, and out of its five A-wing squadrons, one remain.”

“This is getting worse by the minute.”

“Sir, ISD 3’s hull integrity is at sixty-eight percent.”

“Good.”

Green bolts penetrated the third hostile ISD from all directions, reducing its shield integrity by two percentiles a second. Torpedo hits peppered the ISD also, as some Y-wing and B-wing squadrons decided to help out. As the ISD exploded in its throes of death, a B-wing pilot skirting the explosion heard a scream coming from the bridge. Dismissing it and making a mental note to see a psychiatrist after the battle, he took another TIE Bomber into his sights.

Aboard the SSD, Devron was having second thoughts about not calling the Grand Admiral over to command the fleet. 

“Sir, Sailor Coruscant’s Locket is not going to make it. Only forty-five percent of her hull integrity remains, and the shield generators are gone.”

“Admiral, this is General Nythe of Sailor Coruscant’s Locket”, a new voice came over the comm, and Devron nodded before replying.

“Report.”

“Sir, we’re doomed. Give me the ship.”

“The Locket is yours, General.”

“Thank you.” General Nythe cut the comm transmission off and a second later his sublights powered up. He changed course for the fourth ISD, not reporting a thing. Devron saw what he was doing and smiled. “He knows.”

One of his officers suddenly spluttered. “Sir, Sai-“

“I know. Be quiet.”

Silently, Devron watched as General Nytan’s ISD, now breaking out in flames, ploughed into the side of the fourth ISD, whose shields could not handle all the kinetic energy and shut down. Both ships exploded in a huge ball of fire, enveloping several Sith Dreadnaughts near them and about two squadrons of fighters.

Back on the SSD Devron nodded with a smile, his eyes blurring just slightly. “Beautiful.”

After a second, his officer spoke up again. “Sir, half of the hostile ISDs are gone now, thanks to that manoeuvre. We have sustained losses of that ISD, plus three Dreadnaughts and three VSDs. Our own shields are at seventy-eight percent and holding.”

“Good. Go for ISD 5.”

“Yes, sir. ISD 5’s shields are at forty-three percent. One shield generator remains.”

“Good. Swarm it.”

“Yes, sir.”

As one, the fleet spread out wide with the SSD at the middle and rushed for the ISD. The ISD stood unwavering, several Sith Dreadnaughts and VSDs rushing to aid it. Fighters flew in, taking initiative to destroy the last shield generator ball on the ISD and take out the VSDs’ shield generators, too. Devron noticed this on his tacscreen and responded in kind. “Capital ships, modify order. Surround the entire group there. Take them all out. Target at will, and shoot carefully.”

“ISD Freedom’s Nectar reports one shield generator gone.”

“Tell them to hold on and keep fighting.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Go for that last ISD standing. All capital ships swarm. Give me a status update on force strength.”

“Imperials have just that one ISD left, with no shields, seven VSDs, and twenty-five Sith Dreadnaughts. We have the SSD, six ISDs, fifteen Dreadnaughts, twelve VSDs, and eight Lancer frigates.”

“Good.”

Devron turned to watch out the front bridge viewport as again, the swarming took place. Most of his other capital ships in the fleet converged in, already hurling turbolaser bolts at it. The occasional fighter swooped in on attack runs, letting loose proton torpedoes before peeling off and dodging laser fire all the way back to the safety of the nearest capital ship. The hostile ISD returned laser fire, throwing it in all directions in a futile attempt to break free. Still, the attacking swarm of capital ships fired its turbolasers into the hull of the ISD. The captain of the ISD powered up his sublight engines and began limping forward, slowly attaining a moderate speed.

“Sithspawn. Evasive manoeuvres! Turn to the right and pull up! Order the ships nearest us to get out of the way!” 

Admiral Entron looked out the forward bridge viewport. Ahead of him, the massive enemy fleet came rushing in at him from all sides, turbolasers pounding against his naked hull. The B-wings responsible for killing his shield generators flew off, only to return moments later throwing proton torpedoes into him with a company of Y-wings.

“Shields gone! Hull sixty-one percent!”

Making up his mind on the instant, Entron turned to his navigation officer. “Are the sublight engines working?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Set course for that enemy SSD and engage sublight engines at full.”

A moment of silence, then an answer. “Yes, sir.”

Entron turned back to his bridge viewport and stared out of it at the black SSD. “Those Royal Cretins had the right idea with the Kamikaze run. We’re dead anyway. We take the SSD down with us.”

Silence echoed around the bridge. Not a sound challenged or enforced his orders, but slowly, the ISD gained speed, heading right for the SSD. Futilely, the SSD commander attempted to get his precious ship out of the way by twisting his ship around and moving up, but Admiral Entron was having none of it.

“Angle us up one degree. We’re going to go right through the SSD’s mid-section.”

The ship moved slightly up in response to his orders, the nose pointing slightly above the SSD’s mid-section. ‘By all laws of inertia’, Entron thinks, ‘that SSD is going to move to where we want it to. Nothing to stop it now.’

“Collision in 3…2…1…” 

“Turn sharp left! Angle nose full down!” Devron cried in anger and frustration

Space outside the nose of the SSD started to move up and to the right, indicating compliance. A second later, it hits.

The bridge of the SSD was rocked by the impact. Devron grabbed onto the rail of the forward bridge viewport to steady himself, as other crewmembers get shaken around and manage to keep from falling. A loud tearing and screeching sound reverberated through the SSD’s hull as the rogue ISD ploughed its way inside and across, tearing itself and its target up. Damage reports added to the noise, overlapping each other into a cacophony of sounds. 

An explosion heralded the destruction of the ISD, and also anchored its claws into the SSD, ripping at its mid-section. Then, silence save for the damage reports and alarms proclaiming a hull breach all through the Star Destroyer.

“Shut those things off! Someone pull up a damage assessment schematic on the tacscreen. Order all ships to converge on the VSDs one or two at a time. Keep us out of the battle until we can decide how bad off we are.”

“Yes, sir.”

A side-view exterior schematic of the SSD appeared on the screen. Glancing at it showed a large chunk ripped out of the mid-section. Two secondary hanger bays, gone. Compartments 647-1068, gone. One thousand, six hundred and twenty-three troops, gone. Turbolaser emplacements 34-49, gone. 

“Engage the enemy. Keep a watchful eye on that, though. Are the compartments sealed off to prevent loss of air?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Draw half power from sublights and add it to shields. If any more crippled ships come charging at us, pump all power to particle shields. That should stop them, and a few laser blasts will be a lot less worse than a VSD or a Dreadnaught. We run a risk of getting torn in half.”

“Yes, sir. Engaging enemy.”

“Admiral Zal, this is ISD Rays of Light. VSD 6 is destroyed. The fleet is moving on to VSD 7.”

“Thank you for the update, Rays of Light. Phantom Shadows is joining the battle.”

“Yes, Admiral.”

A group of three VSDs clustered in, firing all their turbolasers at the swarming fleet. Devron’s fleet fired back at them, scoring hits on VSD 7’s hull and the others’ shields. “All B-wing squadrons, come disable VSD-” Devron glanced down at his tacscreen, “9 and 12’s shields.”

“B-wing squadron Gold, confirming.”

“B-wing squadron Green, confirming.”

“B-wing squadron Blue, confirming.”

The rest of the confirmations from all 15 squadrons flowed in, followed by the real things as a veritable swarm of 180 fighters attacked the two VSDs, tearing their shield generators to pieces with their torpedoes. After about thirty to forty seconds, the squadrons started tossing the rest of their payloads, plus a few laser bolts, at the trio of VSDs. 

“Capital ships, fire at will. Careful not to hit any of our own.”

“Yes, sir.” A moment later, seemingly ten thousand green turbolaser bolts funnelled down to the cluster of three VSDs; only barely targeted as to not be friendly fire and to actually hit the VSDs. The VSDs’ commander, obviously an idiot, kept the VSDs in a cluster for “protection,” firing indiscriminately outward.

When the first VSD underwent an explosive breakdown and blew into pieces, the other two, clustered right next to it, exploded in the heat energy of the first. The B-wings rushed away at around 180 MGLT as the VSD cluster erupted into a ball of fire as big as two ISDs.

“Admiral, this is E-wing Gray One. Our sensors indicate all enemy fighters destroyed, sir.”

“Good. All E-wings and X-wings, start attacking the Sith Dreadnaughts. In fact… A-wings: go with them. We have no need to protect our shield generators anymore. Go score some kills. B-wings and Y-wings, work double-time on destroying the shield generators of the last three VSDs and then go for the Sith Dreadnaughts. Lancer frigates, you have the choice of joining us attacking the last three VSDs or just skipping the VSDs and going to the Dreadnaughts. All other capital ships, split into groups of ISDs, VSDs and Dreadnaughts. Each group, take out one of the VSDs, then move on to the Sith Dreadnaughts. We will be attacking the Sith Dreadnaughts. Make it happen.”

“Yes, sir.”

The fleet moved to carry out orders. The fighters flew ahead of the slow, lumbering capital ships as they moved to intercept, targeting their assigned hostiles. Soon, the B-wing and Y-wing commanders reported VSD shields down, and flew to take out the Sith Dreadnaughts. The SSD moved to intercept a cluster of five, turbolasers targeting and firing at each of the five separately. Return fire dissipated on the strong shields, only serving to waste the Dreadnaughts’ energy. 

“ISD fleet reports VSD taken out.”

“Come destroy these Dreadnaughts.”

“Yes, sir.”

A few seconds later, both VSDs and Dreadnaughts reported mission successful, with no losses. Turning around, the whole fleet converged on the twenty-one remaining Dreadnaughts. 

A standard hour later, all was over.

“Fleet strength report on the tacscreen, please.”

A picture of the cluster warhead formation appeared on the screen, those ships that had been destroyed blanked out of the picture. 

“Eight Lancers, five ISDs, ten VSDs, thirteen Dreadnaughts, and a damaged SSD in a wroshyr tree,” Devron mumbled to himself. “Dreadnaught Water, go retrieve the Dark Talon troop carrying capital ships. All fighter squadrons, come in for rearming, refuelling and rest. Dropships on Star Destroyers and Dreadnaughts, run pre-flight checks. Get all ground vehicles ready to drop to the surface. We’ll be going soon.”

“Yes, sir.”

Making sure all of his weaponry is on his body, Devron looked around at his bridge crew. They looked exhausted but victorious. “Be alert. We may need turbolaser bombardment from above. If we do, we’ll call for it. I’m going down there to lead. If any ships pop in-system, contact me immediately and send a dropship down to pick me up.”

“Yes, sir.”

“After we win today, we’ll celebrate. Celebrate good, long and hard, because we will have Toxtenkopp. But we’ll be celebrating in hyperspace, because we have to go save Domus Prime.”

“Yes, sir!”

“I’ll be down with the rest of the troops. The bridge is yours, officers of the Royal Forces.”

“Thank you, Admiral,” they responded in unison. 

Devron nodded one last time at them, and snapped a salute off. They returned the salute, most grinning, some solemn with the occasion. After the salute dropped, Devron ran off to grab a drink or two of coffeine before the trip planetside.

Jester and the Queen walked hand in hand down to warn the Riddler of the impending invasion. Jester was more in control of his emotions by now, whilst her own were confused. She did not know how to save Domus Prime, she only knew that she had to. 

“We need to talk”, the Queen said to the back of the Riddler, who was hunched over a console in the War Room. She gestured for the other officers in the room to leave, and they did so gradually. When the Grand Admiral realised that she was not going to say anything else he turned around slowly, and the Queen smiled to him. She spared a brief glance for the now empty War Room then crossed the distance between them and embraced him warmly.

“I am back”, the Queen whispered to the startled Grand Admiral with a huge smile, her blue eyes sparkling. 

“We do not have very much time”, she said before he could get a word in, shock still registering on his face. “A small fleet from Toxtenkopp is headed this way, and there is only the three of us to stop it. Any ideas?”

The Riddler shook his head, trying to assimilate this new information and asked the first question that came to mind. “How did you get back?”

“Why does everyone keep asking that? It does not matter”, the Queen said, shaking her head at the thought of trying to explain exactly how the magic worked, “I am here now, and we have a planet to defend.”

“What about Devron’s fleet?”

There was a long pause before the Queen could trust herself to speak. “I am not so certain that General Zal can be trusted to come and save us this time.”

Sitting in cockpit of Otana, Ace Azzameen pushed a few buttons on the control panel above him. Dressed in the Alliances orange jumpsuit, he quickly checked all the data to be certain the ship was alright.

“Ace, are the shields charged yet?” The MK-09 type droid broke the silence. Ace’s trusted copilot and old friend turned his sight to the Rebel pilot. Ace looked back to him, giving a slight smile.

“They are at eighty-nine percent, Emkay. I’m sure they will be fully charged when we arrive at Domus Prime. By the way, how long before we get there?” Ace watched the stars that looked like lines while they were in hyperspace.

“About fifteen minutes Ace. I hope there will be some action for us, I can’t wait to blast enemy fighters with those gun turrets!”

Ace laughed a bit. Emkay was always ready for combat and he always wanted more. They had once held a rather heated discussion about tweaking Emkay’s aggression circuits.

“I’m quite sure there will not be any difficulties… I hope.” Ace looked worried. 

He did not want to fight unless it was absolutely necessary. The Empire had killed his father and his brother, and the pain this had caused, made him think only of revenge. Ace had let the pain go, forgot the revenge and began to fight for freedom, not revenge.

“Ace, what’s the matter? You usually are itching for combat when we enter new area.”

Ace slowly moved his sight to Emkay, the smile disappearing. “Emkay, I do not wish to fight until I’m on mission by Alliance. Like Aeron and Emon said, if I discover threat I should retreat than attack. That advice has been helpful.”

Emkay began to observe outside the window, turning his artificial senses to analysing the view. “I understand, Ace.” The computer made a noise that only the droid could detect. “We have arrived at Domus Prime.”

Ace leaned back into his seat. “Finally”, he said softly. 

Otana disengaged hyperspace and began to fly slowly towards Domus Prime.

On to Chapter IX!

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