De Imperatoribus Galacticis

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The Duchess of Zeon
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Re: De Imperatoribus Galacticis v.1 [Revised]

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-10-30 10:53am

De Imperatoribus Galacticis

"On the Galactic Emperors"

Chapter the Twenty-First.

(As continued from Chapter the Twentieth.)

Imperial Starfleet
Dantooine System.

Approximately twenty-nine thousand Imperial starships of 150 meters length or greater appeared in vast waves within the Dantooine system. Ordered rank after ordered rank they came on, the greatest of their number being Star Destroyers, at the least of the Victory-class, and many more of the Imperator-class. With the newest arrivals from the Kuat Drive Yards rushed directly into the fleet, it now numbered among heavy ships at twelve Executors, four Superiour-class, twenty Shockwave-class, and three hundred and fourty-six Allegiance-class Star Cruisers, supported by fifty Communications Cruisers of the 6km type, and backed by the thousands of ISDs and thousands more VSDs that made of the bulk of the fleet, and then after them, countless lighter craft of every type, manned by every nation of the galaxy.

They were facing more than fourty-two thousand Vong ships. The numbers were larger than predicted, and they brought up the Imperial commanders short for a moment, especially since they had received intelligence from Imperial-aligned forces scouting through Vong territory on the outer rim that there were still more Vong forces in transit to the battlefield. This put real pressure on the Imperial Starfleet to win the battle as quickly as possibly, a pressure that both Elise and Pellaeon darkly felt. It just provided the motivation, however, as the Vong fleet quickly began to deploy against them, indeed, with an admirable professionalism that showed that they had been expected, to say the least.

Looks were deceiving, despite this apparent great numerical superiourity on the part of the Vong. For though their fleet was great in numbers it was, however, made up in the great majority by ships of the lightest types which could still be called capital vessels, in the 200 meter range. The great striking core of the Vong fleet had been annihilated at Talfaglio, and it was not going to be restored, not in time for this battle. Worse, yet, all of the Vong commanders who had experience fighting the Imperial Starfleet were dead, and this battle would also be the first in which laser heads for the Empire's missiles and torpedoes would be available, intended to guarantee that despite the dovin basals at least some of the firepower of a missile warhead would always get through. Many War Coordinators had also been destroyed, and this gave the light Vong ships a further disadvantage against the FTL torpedoes of the Strike-class frigates.

The Vong did what Vong do best. They attacked immediately, using their greater numbers to sweep huge numbers of ships to each side of the Imperial formation which was still coming together, a vast double-envelopment in space. Their remaining heavy ships anchored the centre, and the coral skippers which were disgorged—more than two million five hundred thousand—furthered the reach of the great grasping claws of each Vong flank. With dovin basals at full power even the lightest ship could keep the enemy from escaping, and so the Vong planned to create a vast globe around the Imperial Grand Fleet, keeping it from escaping to hyperspace and then pummeling it to death with ranged fire and continuous fighter strikes.

It was an excellent, even admirable strategy. As the Vong moved forward they even sowed a gargantuan minefield around the Imperial Starfleet to reinforce their firepower. They came on fast, at maximum acceleration, sweeping through space at distances of light minutes apart, but in perfect coordination. The Imperial Grand Fleet, scrunched together in tight order in the centre, was almost irrevocably surrounded and it was still moving at a glacial pace, having yet to engage the enemy, still forming ranks, still preparing for the combat while the Vong were already about to achieve their conditions of victory. Supreme Overlord Shimmra had ordered them to attack vigorously, and they were doing just that, pressing home a vast envelopment strategy without being challenged, taking the Imperials off balance with their fearless intensity.

Marvelous. There was no other word to describe it. These Vong commanders were not skilled in fighting the Galactic Empire, but they were the best warriors the Vong had to offer. Their coordination was lovely, their drill and deployment excellent, their tactics flawless. One could almost hear the war-drums beat as the Vong ships closed in on their goal. The Imperials continued, however, to calmly order their ranks. They did nothing to stop the Vong evolutions. Their blood up by such a flawless performance in the battle so far, no great consideration was given by the Vong to the possibilities of what this stood for.

Elise watched the development of the Vong tactics and smiled. It was a cold thing, devoid of the emotion that had been lost to her by the constant trials, the death of loved ones and the death of innocence by betrayal. But she was indeed pleased, in a most genuine sense, with what she saw. It reminded her of a hobby of her's, and a single word left her lips as she watched the details of the Vong fleet distribution spread out upon her holoproject. “Arbela.”

Without one more thought she proceeded to bring up her nominal superiour, Grand Admiral Pellaeon, via holographic projection. “Sir, displace the light ships to either flank and order them to guard those flanks down to the last ship. Let the Strike-class frigates split to either flank as well and use their torpedoes to weaken the enemy flanks and disorder them for the lights in their defensive efforts.”

Pellaeon nodded curtly. “That makes sense, though they will be very badly pressed; we cannot afford a long fight if they must hold against that sort of huge numerical disparity on their own. What do you propose for our main force in concurrence with that?”

“Hit them right in the centre. Straight ahead, full acceleration, ram our battle-line right down their throat. I know you were Grand Admiral Thrawn's Flag Captain for a long time, Sir, but neither of us is the esteemed old Grand Admiral. Let's do what we do best. Hit them on the head with a hammer and then crush them. If we succeed in clearly away their remaining heavies than we can split our own heavies in two and encirclement each flank of the Vong formation. Instead of one Vong encirclement, we'll create two Imperial encirclements—with the firepower to totally annihilate those light ships.”

“It's a simple plan, Elise, but it's also very bold. If we get caught up on their heavies..”

“But you know we won't, Sir, they simply don't have enough firepower for a sustained encounter with our concentrated Main Battle Line. But we've got to do it now, before they've closed the sphere down to the point where their flanks can be mutually supporting with their centre. They're to spread out yet for that, but the moment they complete the encirclement they're start to tighten it. We've got to go forward now, and with everything we have right at their centre.”

Pellaeon thought for a moment. A short moment. She's right. Not even the two of us put together are as subtle and brilliant as Grand Admiral Thrawn. We'll just have to crush their centre, and if that works out alright, we can finish off the rest of the fleet; it will give me more than enough time to decide whether or not to risk a division of the main body to encircle the enemy flanks, after all. That was that, then, and it was time to begin—Elise was right, time was of the essence.

“Alright. We'll do it. Preparing your Task Forces of light ships at once, Elise, and we'll make a coordinated effort of the centre as soon as they've been deployed. I'll be dispatching all the fighters and the heavy strike craft to the flanks as well to reinforce them; as long as the flanks hold we don't need them here, so order your Starfighter commanders to report to overall central Starfighter control for further instructions.”

“At once, Sir.” Elise turned away and began to issue orders, bringing the vast squadrons of the Imperial Starfleet into line, drawing the Star Destroyers tighter together whilst the light craft were flung out in vast hordes toward to the left flank and the fighters and assault transports and even armed shuttles were sent to follow them. At the same time that she was doing this Pellaeon was doing the exact same thing for the right flank. His orders to the Admiral in Command of the Light Squadrons was simple, and grim: “Hold, Admiral. You're detached now from direct orders to the main body; just deploy on the flank—and Hold. We will be coming back to your relief in good time.”

“Understood, Sir.” The Old Imperials who had come from the Milky Way did not hesitate at that kind of order. They were not the desperate survivors of many years of retreat; they were confident, and they did not fear that such an outnumbered engagement would lead only to their own deaths, where it might have in the years after Endor. The main strength of the fleet would return and crush the enemy. It always had, and it always would. Their tradition was Victory. But they were not idiots, either; not the men who had gone out from a fleet with Lord Vader to ride herd upon them: With great care were the light forces positioned for what would be a very desperate fight, a fight to the claw it might be said, which would try them most greatly. The odds against the Imperial light forces would be very long; at least six-to-one. But they would have to hold at those odds for some time while the centre made its crushing move, there was simply no way around that. And the Old Imperials would do it confidently, and in so doing, infused their confidence into the rest of the motley Light.

The Vong were, on the other hand, rather relieved that their enemy was finally responding to them, and with such a conventional tactic as deploying the screening forces to meet the light forces ot the enemy. It would do nothing to keep the Imperial Starfleet from being encircled, nothing at all, and so the Vong ships were orderd to hold their distance, coming just in at extreme range where they would have the advantage. At the same time, the lack of movement from the main body was troubling, but the Vong commanders now assumed that it was being held back for a great thrust against one of the flanks to break out, and planned to bring up their own main body forces to drive home a flanking attack against the Imperial battleships in turn when that move was made.

Elise's image flickered back to life on the bridge of the Hand of Thrawn. “The left flank is ready, Sir. I await your orders.”

Pellaeon double-checked his own holoprojector and nodded once. “The centre advances. Full power—all shields forward, maximum energy to weapons. Hit them hard, and keep on hitting them, Elise.”

“That we shall most assuredly do. Over and out, Admiral.”

The transmission cut off again and Pellaeon looked forward at the mass of the enemy centre, pathetic compared to their own. “All squadrons—full acceleration. Attack!”

What followed was the most marvelous of military engagements possible. The whole of the Imperial centre seemed to rush forward, accelerating at more than four hundred gravities. The distance was closed with great rapidity, indeed. Steadily the strength of the Empire bore down upon its enemies, the light forces on either side shifting to provide maximum flank coverage, even as the frontal attack posture of the Imperial main body meant that it would devote the very extreme maximum of its firepower directly upon the enemy centre, made up of ships not so well designed, not able to retaliate with such a great intensity of fire.

Battle was joined on the flanks first. The Strike-class frigates let loose with their salvoes of FTL torpedoes at great range. Without War Coordinators, without the great number of dovin basals and anti-missile batteries of the heavy ships, the lights were particularly vulnerable to this sort of attack, and the frigates, which could scarcely be retaliated against, did a horrific execute despite their weakened numbers from the aftermath of the end of Third Coruscant. The Vong light closed in splendid formation, but as they entered the range of more conventional missiles, they no longer had it. The Strike-class ships had broken them right up, into more disparate and disorganized elements that were slowing, now at the extreme of their own range but quite vulnerable to both those torpedoes and even the rest of the Imperial weapons, which were in truth just as good for ranged fire as those of the Vong.

It was just as great a battle as those that had come before it, or perhaps greater, but it had an entirely different character. It was a rapidly moving battle. Fleets shifted and clashed and shifted and clashed again. The maneouvring on the flanks was very great, a confusing morass of small engagements, for the light forces of the Empire would charge the Vong ships, and the Vong, per their orders, would fall back, bombarding the Imperial light with everything they had at long range while the Imperial ships aggressively tried to close the distance, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. Already the laser warheads were doing good execution among the Vong light, but their true effectiveness would not be firmly told until the main battle was joined.

Indeed, already were the light forces beginning to be savaged by the greater Vong numbers racing in and around them, able to fire at them from multiple directions and to control the scale of the engagement. Due to their sheer numbers the Vong were soon tempted to close the range despite their orders, and though they paid for it in blood they were still able to quickly gain an advantage over the Imperial light forces which could not be easily counterbalanced. The situation for the lights would be very severe for the whole battle and it could only be a matter of time until the Vong forces totally overwhelmed them, but the longer that this time lasted the better, for that was the time in which the main body would either win the battle or see the whole thing crashing down. The Vong had engineered an all or nothing situation; total victory or total defeat, and both sides were now playing that game to the hilt.

With the main bulk of the Imperial Starfleet rushing forward at maximum acceleration, all heavy guns dialed in forward, barreling down upon the corresponding Vong force, there was not much time to be had until their true effectiveness was discovered. The range was counted down inexorably; the Vong stood their ground, and at the maximum range, the great volleys of missiles and torpedoes were salvoed from the heavy ships, pounded out every half-second, filling the sky by the hundreds and hundreds of thousands in each and every volley, racing in again the Vong fleet as the Imperial heavies rode their trail down toward their foe. In a minute at most energy range would be gained.

“Fleet signals,” Pellaeon began. “Stand by for emergency flank deacceleration, I repeat, all fleet commands prepare for emergency flank deacceleration in fifty seconds.” The order was rapidly relayed as he watched the range steadily decrease. The Vong were firing back, of course, the massed defensive batteries of the fleet—and the main batteries firing flak bursts, since they were not in range of the enemy yet—taking out hosts of the incoming missiles. Some got through, and some damage was done, but none of the ships were slowed, their inexorable progress maintained. Conversely, the enemy was having great difficult with the missiles which shot out countless beams of energized light. The dovin basals could scarcely bend them in time, and when they did, they usually just succeeded in guaranteeing that more of the beams hit a particular Vong vessel or another—sometimes the beams from one warhead hit several, after all—causing further damage, not preventing it.

Only now did the Vong begin to realize that they were in trouble, and by now it was far to late. Their comprehension was limited by the fact that their forces on either flank were having very good success in pounding the Imperial flanks in turn to pieces. Two segments of the Imperial fleet were well on the way to being annihilated, as so many fleets before them had been annihilated by the unstoppable progress of the Vong's warriors throughout the galaxy. These were well-drilled guardships and patrol craft, but they were scarcely prepared for the fist which was coming down upon them. Here, in the centre, the last reserves of heavy ships. And striking toward them was the spearhead of the Imperial fleet, an inexorable race against time which must lead to collision. And so it did.

Elise on the Conquérant had already ordered weapons free; Pellaeon did the same moments later. All the fleet gunnery officers had their targets dialed in and were simply waiting for the range to be achieved. The range was achieved, and from tens of thousands of very heavy turbolaser batteries the main body of the Imperial Starfleet engaged their enemy with the maximum vigor. The recoil of the vast numbers of heavy guns on the Conquérant shuddered through her hull with a great thrum, and great green sheets of energy could be seen racing out toward the Vong fleet as plasma welled back at them in far lesser numbers. Every half-second the batteries fired, far faster for the small guns, the biggest of them boasting salvoes in the tens of gigatons, the whole energy release on an absolutely stupendous scale. With their flanks for the moment protected the Imperial ships had fully concentrated their shields all-forward for the upcoming clash.

They were vulnerable to fighter attack, but on the flanks the Vong fighters were hung up by the hundreds of thousands of their Imperial counterparts, and the blastboats and assault transports and other such armed craft which had been flung into those flanks most desperately. Their missile capacity, at least, was used to very good effect, for all of them were now equiped with laser warheads and at close range the salvoes from the blastboats and assault transports and other such armed craft, though scarcely comparable to the effect they'd have on less manoeuvreable heavies, were still doing very great damage to the clustered Vong light, and even sometimes their attack craft which got caught up in the mix of the melée. It was not enough. The Imperial lights were being encircled, crushed. But none of that would decide the battle.

“Fleet signals: 'Commence emergency deacceleration!'” Grand Admiral Pellaeon ordered crisply, a bark of surety upon his flagbridge on the Hand of Thrawn.

“Transmitting: 'Commence emergency deacceleration',” the comms officer reported dutifully, signalling it as a general fleet signals. Laser comms were used to deal with the enemy jamming, which was intense even if their fire was not.

Abruptly the Imperial Starfleet's main body began to slow noticeably. They were pushing hard, the maximum output from their engines vented by the energy control vanes to slow rapidly without reversing direction. With their main guns concentrated foreward, an intense fire began to tell against the Vong ships, and it was a very deadly one indeed. The hammering of the guns, through the hulls, the tremendous light and radiation show of the engagement, the shuddering of impacts upon the shields. But very little damage was done to the Imperial main body yet.

The same was not true of the Vong. Due to the design of their ships, not optimized for a head-on engagement, due to the weakness of their heavy units in firepower against the great concentrations of it on the main Imperial ships, and thanks to the increased effectiveness of the Imperial missile weapons, a wave of cumulative advantages favoured Sule's Navy. These came together, and magnified each other, such that the firepower of the Imperial Starfleet being directed against Vong fleet was on such a scale that the Vong were outgunned at least four-to-one, and closer to five-to-one. It was like every Vong ship had a Battle Division of counterparts matched against it. The qualitative advantage of the Great Ships of the Imperial main body, and Sule's decision to build them in such numbers, showed through splendidly.

Solid Pellaeon! There was really nothing more to it. The Imperial Main Body was deaccelerating quite rapidly now, the seconds seeming long but in truth short, as the speed of the two foes was matched, as the Imperials showed their intent to bear very close in. There would be nothing elegant about this battle, to be sure, but the damage to the Vong ships was already showing. Dovin basals overwhelmed, laser energy stabbing past them to cut deep into the armour, heavy turbolaser bolts pounding down into the hulls in places as the defences of some Vong ships were overwhelmed and then they were hammered into dust and radiation, great bursts already flaring up from the Vong ships which were lost.

Solid Pellaeon! Forever loyal to his fading cause, since the great Imperial defeat at Endor which saw the death of the First Emperor. He was redoubtable, and this was all that mattered. Elise's advice was the last given; he did not need anymore, nor was anymore possible. It was now for the Admirals to deal with the particular issues of their own forces in close combat; to send ships back which had suffered damage and then cycle them back forward as they recovered their shields. But even this was not necessary, yet, with the shields doubled forward. The Imperial forces in the centre had suffered scarcely a scratch even as their flanks were being chewed to pieces by the Vong, but this condition was not due to inaction but rather the great preponderence in fighting power over their particular foe that they now possessed.

What had been going through Pellaeon's mind, what he had conceived of as they closed with the enemy and as the energy weapons began to fire with such great intensity, was a simple issue of physics, that a dovin basal takes time to work; it relies on gravity, and gravity is limited to the speed of light, and must counteract the existing energy in an object which is already driving it forward toward another destination. The dovin basals, quite simply, had to work by drawing the enemy's fire into them through a terminal orbit around the gravity field, to create a cocoon of gravity which encapsuled the Vong ship, at just the right distance to protect its own hull from danger. But at a certain point the dovin basal has a grave limitation inherent in its design; this the Imperials had been drawing closer to fully understanding, and here they did.

Pellaeon, after all, was the man who had fought the Rebel fleet at Endor at point-blank range. He recalled how at that distance the Rebels had gained an advantage, and now he intended to do the same, here. At exceptionally close ranges, our weapons firing with the greatest speed may not be pulled into the dovin basals before they impact with the enemy hulls, and we can target very precisely, at specific points of their ships where the gravity defences will be at their weakest. It was the work of a blacksmith. Hammering, hammering out a bloody forge. Put the ships alongside each other and let the individual guns, not the battery directors, go to work with their fine sensors, to aim at specific points upon the enemy ships, to avoid their defences with waves of precision fire that would strike home and gore the hearts out of the Vong ships.

Thus it was that the necessary orders would be given.

Pellaeon looked over the plot, at the two sides so close, at the doubled-up shields still holding redoubtably, at the pounding that the Vong were already taking. They were launching additional fighters now, ones which hadn't been available at the start of the battle—those on patrol, which needed to be brought in and refueled and rearmed, or which needed minor repairs—these would be able to attack their unprotected flanks soon enough. The advantage of doubling the shields up was gone, so they might as well close to a range at which the fire would come from everywhere at once, anyway. More and more of the Vong ships ahead were exploding, torn to shreds by the awesome strength of the Imperial force; several ships would concentrate on one Vong vessel, rip it to pieces with their intense fire, and then move on to another, rolling them up.

The Vong, of course, were closing, trying to bring their side batteries to bear as well as the coral skippers and assault craft bore in on the Imperial heavies. The only course was forward, and redoubtable Pellaeon was more than audaciousness enough to take it, in that stern and steady way which had mastered the Imperial fleet through countless retreats and heartbreaks and losses and never, ever, let it break and shatter and crumple entirely; Warlords defected and pretenders came and went, but there was always his solid core, and now he would call on the steel of that steadiness one more time.

Pellaeon took one last look at the holoprojector and the tactical plot upon it, filled with thousands and thousands of indicators clustered into larger formation groups, trying to get a feel for a battle almost to large to be managed by mortal man, save in the most careful of ways. The lights on the flanks were in an intense, desperate fight, as desperate as Mystrela's sacrificial battle at Talfaglio. They were unable to worry about the centre, just trying to hold, to fight for their lives, buying time inadvertantly, for it was war to the tooth and the fist at that point, as much as it could ever be in space. Thousands died a second, and the hellish meat-grinder of heat and radiation and sheets of missiles blotting out the stars continued unabated, wreaking a terrible slaughter upon every side, but steadily telling more upon the weaker Imperials, compressing their forces and crushing them.

The time was right; it could only get worse from here. Pellaeon turned away, and spoke firmly: “Fleet Signals: 'Shields to general coverage. Engage the enemy most closely.'”

The comms officer on the flagbridge looked back to Pellaeon. “Engage the enemy most closely?” He repeated.

“You heard me, Commander, now send it, man!”

“At once, Sir!” He turned away flustered, and also a bit surprised, and immediately the message was flung out to every one of the heavy ships in the centre.

Commander Hallsburg received the orders grimly. They appeared at first to be quite deadly sounding to him, surely not in a line appropriate to how well the Imperial Starfleet had turned out so far. But he was penitent with his past transgressions to the Dignity of Imperial Folly—and so he dutifully relayed them, and in haste. “Admiral, Grand Admiral Pellaeon has signalled. It's a very simple general fleet signal.”

“Read it off to me, Commander,” Elise replied immediately, legs crossed, fists gloved, as she stared at the developing tactical plot on the flagbridge of the Conquérant all the more closely for that she was waiting to hear Pellaeon's order.

“'Shields to general coverage. Engage the enemy most closely,'” Hallsburg read off calmly.

“Now isn't that a nice play on words,” Elise chuckled to herself, unperturbed by it, though her eyes narrowed in her gaze toward the plot. “Very well, then. Commander Hallsburg, standby to dispatch general orders to all Task Forces under my command.”

“Standing by, Admiral.”

“General Orders, all fleet-force units: 'All ships to bring their shields to general coverage. All ships should strive to engage their enemy counterparts most closely, and all Admirals should take measures to insure that this is done; only the threat of collision should be the judgement on nearness to the enemy. I want all Star Destroyers, if possible, to close within one kilometer, I repeat, one kilometer of the enemy.'”

“Understand, Admiral.” Hallsburg translated and transferred the orders into the fleet signal system and sent them off personally, wondering at them but at the same time a man contend that he still lived, and that he had indeed influenced the course of battle before. Here, he trusted; for what was madness in one place might be genius in another, and the instincts of every crewer of the great ships, if worried, also realized the steely, blooded logic of the movement. It was in their sinews, and with the shifting of energy to cover the whole of their hulls, the fleet responded, moving forward at a glacial pace across the last few thousand kilometers to come right in against the Vong, obliging them to close combat, broadside to broadside in a general melée, as the combat was already upon the flanks, but under so very different circumstances.

Coral skippers and assault craft raced in to attack the Imperial heavies, so far still nearly undamaged. With the shields now essentially weakened all over, they stood a better chance of doing some real execution upon the Imperial Starfleet's main body. But they were met with a most intense of fires, the great artillery of the warships pounding out to surround them in flak, to impale them on light bolts and sweep away the small craft in the flash of whole ships being vapourized by the vast energy output of the main guns which could bear upon, and were dutifully directed against, them. The fire of the Vong heavies began to tell, now, but they were still very badly outgunned, even with their broadside batteries able to engage.

For a few minutes the battle seemed much more odds-even, and the Vong fought on with renewed confidence, pounding away at the Imperial fleet, suffering the greatest of blows and dealing them back in turn. The hulls of the great ships, birthed at Kuat by doomed Mystrela's indefatigable efforts, were burned and scarred and pitted as heavy plasma bolts struck through weakened shields, but even as they suffered this damage, the ships of the Vong fleet were still being blasted apart at every turn. They fought on, not giving an inch, inflicting the maximum damage, all of their energies and effort put into reversing the tide of battle on this sector of the front, to make it the rout of the other sectors. And for those four minutes, it might have seemed like they were succeeding.

Ominously, though, through it all the Imperial ships did not accept merely close combat. No, they closed in closer and closer still. They kept coming beyond all sanity, beyond what seemed to be all logic, adhering to the logic of a bloodier and grimmer time. And thus they were rewarded for their dogged persistance, for their resolute character. Crews calmly worked to repair the damage; gunners calmly laid their guns upon their targets and brought down the heaviest fire they could manage; the officers remained calm and collected, directly all the efforts with unflappable persistance. Closer, and closer, did the ships draw, until one after the other the squadron commanders gave the necessary orders, they seperated, weaved their way into the Vong fleet, and each Captain in turn made his own decision, and put his ship alongside that of the enemy.

Quite often two Imperial ships were put up against only one of the enemy, for the Vong heavies had been outnumbered coming in to the fight, and they were further outnumbered now that some of their number had been already lost. Worse yet were that the greatest ships of the Imperial fleet were scarcely matched by the Vong. Even the heaviest of their own cruisers did not compare to the firepower of an Executor, and might scarcely match a Superiour in strength. And now, from the intensity of the fire of those ships and all the others came a new and still more ominous development. Independent fire was ordered. Firing instructions were distributed to the individual gun crews. They aimed for the weakest points in the gravity fields and began to fire.

Now it was no longer necessary to overwhelm the dovin basals. It happened crazily. Many bolts still got sucked into them; some went straight ahead and impacted with the unprotected hull. Many more were carried by the dovin basals at crazy and bizarre angles, the gravity wells fighting their moment, so that they struck and splattered across the hulls of the Vong ships at wild angles, scoring them badly with heat damage but their kinetic energy at least partially negated. Others were turn apart by the gravitic forces as they fought, splashing energized particles across the hulls or seeing them sucked willy-nilly into several off the dovin basals. It was an insane mess of refracted light and released radiation through which still came on the missiles of both sides, the countervailing fire of the Vong.

An insane mess, but one which was suddenly doing a great and horrific execution amongst the Vong ships. For every one of those bolts which got through touched an armour unprotected by shields, which was decent enough against thermal energy and radiation but not at all against kinetic energy, and it was thus the bolts that got through entirely unaffected which did the most of the damage, those which scattered madly just scorching the armour, but still preparing the way for direct penetrating hits which did the utmost in damage. The Imperials were laying their guns on now by visual sensors, due to the intensity of the jamming, but at this range it did not matter, and even helped, for the skilled gunners picked out the points where their bolts had already done the most damage and hammered them again and again, driving their fire deep into the hulls of the enemy through those shattered, unprotected areas, every shot laid on against them, chewing apart the Vong ships almost from the inside out.

Oh, yes, did the Imperial fleet suffer to. Ships were now being lost amongst it, and others gravely damaged, but they coolly fought on, and as they did, the officers and men steadily began aware of flare after flare around them. The flares of intense bursts of radiation, of light and heat and crazed energy from the neutrino surges of the dying dovin basals. In a drumbeat of death the Vong heavies were going up everywhere, exploding faster than their deaths could be counted and recorded. The centre of the Vong fleet was dying, and with its death the whole tenor of the battle changed, even if those Imperials in the desperate actions on the flanks did not yet reap the rewards of it. Dantooine had been arranged by the Vong to be a massacre, one way or the other, and that steady drumbeat of explosions in their centre was the warning of who's massacre it was to be.

Vong-occupied Outer Rim,
On the Worldship of
Supreme Overlord Shimmra.

Jaina and Miat breathed heavily of the peculiar and dank air of the worldship. They had cut through the tower quite easily, praise be to Han, and got into a room—depressurized of course—and the forced the entrance in another; now it was closed and they were removing their restrictive spacesuits, stripping down to very no-nonsense black jumpsuits, for sake of ease of movement, far removed from the Jedi robes to which Jaina was used to. But of course, at least in the case of Miat, her hair was long enough these days to seem almost as a cape for her; she loosened it and let it fall down in drapes upon her back and cast a dangerous smile to her compatriot.

“Let's go. We've got a lot of walking to do, and a lot of fighting.”

“Of course,” Jaina answered, and then paused and asked Miat directly: “Can you feel him now? How close he is? He seems very close.”

Miat reached out for Jaina's mind. They met, and in the closeness that had already developed their connection became all the more strong, and all the more swift. They reached out together, then, in the fullness of the union of what was at once together, and individual. In power that union flared, flared up gloriously. Together, their minds, forever and a second; time had no meaning as they lanced out together, minds seeking, souls seeking, even as their bodies were still against each other, almost as dead.

There he is! Jaina thought with delight, and it was delight that Miat shared.

Rather less than six kilometers walking distance.. Miat countered, getting a firm mental feeling for the path. The opposition was impossible to divine, but it was not necessary to, and indeed, Miat had a bright and airy sense about her for the first time, in that mental presence, in the happiness of her whole being. It was supine, and cosmic, at once, a combination of the highest airs of the being and a relaxed, carefree determination, and it suffused Jaina.

Then let's go! We can be there in thirty minutes. It was almost heady, dangerously so.

Longer, Jaina, for we will have to fight—and when we fight, we will fight together.


Their vision refocused on the world around them. The link faded, a bit, and spread out; it was less intense, and Jaina was herself again, though she still felt Miat's presence so close, their minds together to offer warning or succor in what would come ahead. Jaina did not even notice that she had neglected to try and speak to her brother in captivity. There was just Miat, the Goal, and between them... Something else. Nothingness. They advanced on into the next room, walking airy, gently about the rock of the old worldship's hull, not as though they were going to battle at all, but as two lovers on a stroll.

Into another room after that, and then a corridor, and then down, did they walk. They covered the distance at a jog, lightsabres deactivated but held ready. And then they had their first encounter with the Vong. A repair party and some guards, nothing more, going to check the hull breach. It was over in a heartbeat. They stared in shock at what they saw, and then the warriors rushed forward. Miat reacted first; she raced up into them, dodging under the thrusts of their poisonous staffs, her lightsabre not even activated...

And then it was, a blaze of violet-white light cutting out as the top of one of the warrior's heads spun off dizzily across the room, scorched brain-matter revealed as he toppled forward. In a twisting motion Miat was already driving the blade into the waist of another of the warriors, gutting him right through and severing his spinal cord. They both toppled dead before they had even touched Miat, and she even had enough time, as her hair flew out wildly behind her, to make the laziest of gestures toward the workers. When she did, a great wall welled up, formed out of the air being compressed in front of them, and slammed into them with a force that crushed bone and jellied their internal organs. They collapsed, dying like swimmers who had been depth-charged, their insides shattered without a mark upon them.

Jaina did not see it, for she was already moving into action herself. One of the warriors was coming up behind Miat swiftly, ready to stab into the thin material covering her back with a surely lethal force and inject a lethal poison besides. She brought her lightsabre against his staff with such force as to batter aside the blow, and then dropped down and thrust the blade up, driving it into the joint between his thigh and his groin, the energy blade penetrating and then forcing its way, burning aside a tunnel of vapourized flesh up through his whole body cavity, mortally wounded in a vicious heartbeat. She flicked off the blade. The fourth and last of the warriors now came down over her to strike her while she was low, her lightsabre turned off to free it from the man she'd just slain. She leaped up, propelled by the force, so fast that his downward flung blow to did not connect with her and all, and hanging for a long moment, braced against the ceiling of the corridor, she activated her lightsabre and brought it right down through the warrior's head as she returned to the ground behind him.

Miat was standing there, her blade already shut off, smiling. Jaina straightened and smiled back—then glanced to the workers and gestured slightly. “They resisted?”

“They're Vong, they always resist,” Miat replied simply, and then turned and continued to walk on forward on the path down which they were striding, as though the battle had not taken place. Jaina shrugged, acknowledging that Miat's words were hardly anything except the honest truth about the people they were fighting, and followed.

Alarms were sounded. Miat did not care, and Jaina found herself with the woman, also uncaring. It was just an irrelevancy. They were like a force possessed, beyond the worries of stealth or even speed, walking in haste but scarcely running through the ship, guided by the sensation of where Jacen was, nothing more, but needing nothing more. Several times they had to backtrack as, through the corridors, the sensation got farther away, not closer, and then Miat ran back to from whence they came, but otherwise there was no haste, just confidence. The Vong closed in, and it had not been much longer, ten minutes at most, when they confronted a dense mass of warriors ahead of them, and more closing in from behind and the sides.

Miat stopped, and held up her hand, indicating to Jaina in thought and gesture that she should stop also. One Vong advanced from each direction. “Jeedai!” The elder of them called. “We would fight you!”

Miat gave no response, and instead whispered: “They seek to delay us with the strategy of 'many champions', so that even if we slay them all we shall lose many hours in the many contests. We must use the strategy of 'masses aide individuals', and get inside of them, where their blows will strike each other.”

Suddenly Miat launched herself into the air, forward with incredible speed, her body actually spinning several times, a complete blur in the air, as she flew over the Vong warrior who had challenged her, feet still in the heavy vacuum boots as they collided with his face with an incredible force, knocking him right off, nose grusomely crushed and spurting blood as she landed beyond him and turned at once, thrusting her lightsabre down even as she activated it, drive the blade outright through his brainpan. It surprised even Jaina, how fast it happened, but she recovered before the Vong and was off after Miat in a heartbeat.

The man who had tried to challenge Jaina chased after her, but it was a sprint that the Vong warrior could not win. Ahead, Miat Temm was crashing into the Vong—literally. She threw out a wave of compressed air ahead of her, which bowled through them, crushing bone to gristle and bursting organs. The Vong formation was split into a V by that use of the force, and she was in their midst in but a mere moment, the energy blade of her lightsabre singing with its electric crackle through the air, singing as it cut down Vong after Vong. Jaina followed Miat into the mass of the warriors before it closed up around her, blade skittering off armour and seeming to find, almost as if guided by a higher hand, the places where it could fit through, the chinks that they were so ruthlessly exploiting.

They fought back-to-back. The Vong were all around them, but none of them could prevail within the sweep of those blades. Wounds instantly cauterized by the heat were still viciously fatal: the explosion of gas inside the body from the vapourized flesh wreaked havoc on the internal organs, and it seemed that the two Force users, unlike those before them, were guided each and every time to the exact spots by which they dealt their swift and fatal blows. Soon a great pile of bodies lay in a circle around them, forming a wall for their defense that just made the task of the remaining Vong harder, trying to somehow deal home a fatal blow at close quarters. It was to close; to close to use their bugs which normally served as ranged weapons in those sort of fight, and to close to avail of their staffs all that much.

It was close enough only to die under those flicking, waving blades. At last they had killed so many that they could scarcely continue to kill, from the piles of the freshly dead around them, the stench of the organs oozing out of wounds and of the peculiar smell of burnt flesh overpowering all around. There was the most brief of cessation in the fighting. The two, sweating, looked to each other, and Miat brushed aside a lock of hair from Jaina's face, and they smiled to each other for a brief moment, as though it had been a grand dance, and turned back to the mangled wreckage of the lives of the Vong which rotted out before them. At a gesture from Miat it exploded outward with great force, bodies and parts of bodies propelled with great speed into the rest of the Vong warriors who still lived around them, striking, killing, ripping through armour and impaling with the great energy that had been put into that gesture of death through the force.

They burst out of the hail of the dead and struck with their sabres. The grizzled, scarred face of the old warrior, the brilliant readiness of the youth fresh to his armour and equipped with a newly minted staff, neither of them could stand against them; not the wisdom of the old nor the strength of youth. Like heroes of old, they struck down everyone who entered the path of their blades. These were no unequipped primitives, no simple soldiers. They were Vong warriors, who had stood their own ground against countless Jedi before. But Jaina and Miat fought as possessed, and perhaps they were. Every detail before their eyes was perfect, nothing which they could see could they misinterpret; they found the place to strike fatal blows, and struck them, each and every time.

At last the commander of the forces was reached, and he for a moment stood against Miat's sabre, blocking the blows with a proficiency that surprised even himself, that he had survived for a heartbeat where his men had not. But then Jaina finished killing the last of the lesser warriors, and turned together with Miat against the man. He knew his doom was upon him, and he struck hard while he lived. His living staff struck out and ripped with its fangs along the length of Miat's cheek and up to her ear, nearly ripping it off, even as Jaina struck a solid blow that relieved the man of his head, a look of triumph frozen forever on his face, that he had drawn blood and given poison where, in the end, he could not secure triumph from his Gods.

Jaina deactivated her lightsabre and looked to the bloody wreckage of the left side of Miat's face. The woman smiled at her, charitably and also ghoulishly.

“Cauterize it before the poison spreads,” Miat said simply, forcing the words through her mouth and seeming to ignore the pain. She steeled herself, as Jaina looked wide-eyed, and then, understanding that it was true, that there was nothing that could be done except this rough healing upon the field of battle, she reactivated the blade of her lightsabre and brought it to Miat's cheek. There the flesh sizzled and burnt, and with it burned the poison of the Vong, until there was a line of a burnt, cauterized scar across the whole of the left side of Miat's face, and her smile was the grimace of death.

“You will be alright?” Jaina asked, half-tentatively. “I mean..”

“I will be fine. Let's go, before we have to cleave our way through another battalion.”

“A battalion!?” Jaina turned back and looked in shock at what she saw. The whole of the broad transport corridor was filled with bodies as far as she could see, stacked three high or higher in places. Blood pooled throughout the corridor and oozed its way down it toward them, and body parts seperated from bodies were stacked and nestled amongst the bodies at crazy angles, wound up in streamers of entrails.

“By the force..”

“They cannot stand against two who fight together with the surety of Purpose in their heart. Legions of dead march at our back, Jaina, and no Vong warrior can withstand us when we march with that power of righteous vengeance into their vengeance.”

“Righteous vengeance.” Jaina looked back to Miat, a dangerous tone in her voice, and then stopped short as she looked at that horrible burnt scar, her heart quailing at the sight of it. “You are close to the Dark Side.”

“No! Not at all; I am not a Dark Jedi, not one of those pretenders. You know me better than that, you have looked into my heart, and the lust for power is not there. I only want myself to be alone; and to do that I must cleanse the dead of Coruscant from my back. And this is how I shall do it.” Furious eyes, now: “Are you not with me, Jaina? Do not fear this thing—the vengeance is soon to be completed. Even as we save your brother we come closer to its execution.”

“To Shimmra.” Jaina swallowed. “I'm not going to let you die.”

“Don't worry about that. We're going for your brother now.” With that she spun and started forward, the flash of that scar erasing in her regret every feeling left in her that might hold Jaina back from following. She rushed headlong to catch up with Miat Temm, who walked resolutely forward into her own destiny, not yielding from the course she had chosen, and sure in the philosophy which guided it, in the tangled weaves of the Force, which were now revealed by turns of the blade.

They strode on. Death seemed to swirl around them, and those who approached them entered their doom. Several times patrols closed in on them, which had been going to reinforce the battle they just left, only to be hacked to pieces in seconds. Miat and Jaina now fought and struck purely as one, and the Vong feared the cross of their blades before them, the whipping of guided energy about to stab them in every place that they could not defend themselves. None of these warriors were good enough to stand against them, and they paid the price for their lack of skill—and yes it was only epic skill that could hold its own against them for even a moment—with their life's blood.

They strode on. They looks to each other were gentle, and Jaina's held a trace of worry, as each time she saw that grieviously scarred face, and she feared that what she had done was not sufficient to keep the poison from spreading within Miat. But Miat showed no ill effects, none whatsoever, and simply continued, onward, their pace a comfortable jog through the corridors, to seize lifts and override them, guide them to other levels, and then proceed onward in turn. At one point an ambush was attempted at a hatch. Here Miat simply sliced through the hull as Jaina fended off the attacks, and struck them from behind, slaughtering them all outright before Jaina could even get a hand in the battle from above. She dropped down, standing amidst the bodies, smiled and dipped her head.


It was incongruous, even mad, and yet she scarcely cared. They were on a different level here, in a universe of their own, a universe guided by death. So did they carry on, closer and closer to Jacen, his presence burning painfully bright in her heart, and yet sundered from him, somehow, in a way she did not understand. But each time that this troubled her, she looked to Miat, and the scarred but yet pleasant expression on her face, reassuring, calmed and comforted Jaina and gave her the will to carry on without doubt and without fear.

Another group was assembled before them. It was as numerous as the one before, and had more veteran warriors in it beside. There were many, many of Shimmra's top aides behind this group of warriors, men who necessarily had to be powerful and skilled at hand-to-hand combat themselves. They were accompanied by the second in command of Shimmra's bodyguard, who looked on with clear admiration at the Jedi whom they now faced. There was a moment of silence. There was no effort at a challenge, and after a long minute the staff of the Second of the Guard was produced, and with him, all the other veteran warriors behind him, though his, he tucked under an arm, and instead for the moment held his hands up, ready to slap them together, to give the signal to attack.

He expected to have to fight, on his own—to do personal battle with these firebrand enemies--and doubted that the men converging from every side would do more than perhaps, just perhaps, tire the two. Here, surely, where the greatest champions of the heretics, the technologists, and if they were defeated.. Well, it would be a hard fight, but perhaps that wouuld finally end the reversals of the Vong, and win back the favour of the Gods. Thus did he steel himself for the bloodshed of his warriors which would soon spill out as an offering to their ultimate victory, many fine warriors who, it seemed, would becoming a burnt offering to the fate of the Vong conquest. There could be no other way of things, could there?

The Vong warriors waited for the signal from behind them. This time they would attack—and Miat seemed content to let them. She didn't even bother standing at the ready; she rested slightly against Jaina, leaned up against her, holding her lightsabre at the ready but not yet activated. Jaina did the same, and they seemed to enjoy this strange and bloody moment, in bloodstained jumpsuits and with blood-flecked hair and skin, together in the midst of death, and thus oh so very alive. Jaina, even a day before, could not have imagined herself like this, so carefree in the midst of slaughter, even the slaughter of the Vong. Yet things had changed, and her Will overpowered these petty concerns, and waxed with Miat's. The Second of the Guard clapped his hands together twice.

At once the Vong rushed in from every direction seeking to attack and cut down Miat and Jaina, a great mass of them charging forward, loosing their poisonous bugs to fly out and strike ahead of them. Miat, despite the horrible scaring upon her face, managed a sly wink to Jaina, and that was that. They spun out from each other, lightsabres flicked on in a half-second's effort, the blades growing up to their full length and already being used to cut down the bugs. In a few seconds of spinning, dancing effort that was, the Second of the Guard admitted to himself, absolutely beautiful, they had slaughtered dozens of the things, and then the Vong loosed no more, for their warriors were upon those two angels of death, and the killing again began with a breathless earnest. Uncertain Gods ruled over this field, but they were surely thirsty on this night.
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In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Re: De Imperatoribus Galacticis v.1 [Revised]

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-10-30 10:54am

De Imperatoribus Galacticis

"On the Galactic Emperors"

Chapter the Twenty-Second.

(As continued from Chapter the Twenty-First.)

Durrano Sector
The Great of the Dashkarbat Dynasty.

“I assure you that I am fully in charge here, Commodore. There is nobody else you need to speak to,” Guri said, smiling politely. The Imperial across from her had no idea what she was, of course, but that was the whole point. No Old Imperial would treat even an HRD as the equal of a human. Guri, on the other hand, was more than an equal. This stalwart servant of Hamner's certainly fit the bill as one of the officers Guri had dealt with before, flattering and insinuating her way into usefulness and power for her master. But those days were now long gone, and the Imperial was the Suppliant.

“You have significant forces in both the Durrano Sector and the surrounding sectors which refused to acknowledge the rule of the Warlord Tienyz, or revolted from it after his actions at Third Coruscant as your own sector forces did. Those forces could be an important component of the destruction of Sule's fleet, Madame, and you can't ignore the great value that would have. Sule has proven himself no friend of the Durrano Sector, but Hamner Davion is the legitimate Emperor, by legitimate rank, and he is prepared to deal on far more favourable terms with you.”

“Independence. If you want our fleet, you will give me independence for these sectors. We no longer trust the central government and no longer desire to be associated with it.” Guri replied, calmly, with a smile. “You are an Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary, are you not... Your Excellency? That means you have the power to grant us what we want, for the full support of our fleet, which will surely be given without hesitation if you agree.”

“I will not deny that, Madame, but you can scarcely ask for such a thing as independence. The galaxy has been united for twenty-five thousand years. There have been great wars and periods of centuries of chaos, but always, always, the galaxy has been restored to unity. Establishing a seperate nation is an unthinkable effort. Do you really think that a few sectors can resist the power toward centralization from the great populations of the core?”

“Your Excellency,” Guri purred, “I do not presume to argue with your history lesson. No, I do not think that our independence will become a permanent thing. As you said yourself, the Republic has been destroyed and refounded on several occasions, and before the Republic there was the first unification of Xim the Despot, and the short-lived confederacy of the Hutts and the Corellians which followed him in turn. All of this is the ancient history of our galaxy, and it is true, that even when flung apart, the nations naturally coalesce into one once more. So why not give us what we want? It is scarcely a matter of concern for a man who shall have the whole of the Core and the Colonies uncontested, for they are the true jewels in the crown.

“What does it matter if there are some independent nations in the Inner Rim for a few hundred years? It shall in the end be just a footnote, a minor detail of galactic history which will be the concern only of historians in another one or two thousand years. The man who establishes permanent rule over the core—which we both desire to be Hamner Davion—shall have his name remembered for a hundred thousand years, and when the great strife of the past century is ended, the man who has ended it shall see his name ranked with that of Xim, gloried and storied and feared all at once. He will not be denigrated for having broken up the galaxy, for that simply will not happen—what is torn asunder always coalesces. That is the way of things.

“You wil be giving us what we who live now desire most, and for the future, no doubt the independence will be lost by the desire of those who are born, and grow up, and live then, and desire unification with the rest of the galaxy when its troubles are over. Or else they shall be born into folly, and provoke a war, and see the inexhaustible resources of the Core crush them entire. But either way it does matter to us; we think of the living, not those who are not yet born, and the living desire independence, and desire to maintain it for as long as they live. Let the future be the future, and be content that it shall end as the past has ended before it.”

“Your arguments, Madame, are certainly sound,” the Commodore and Ambassador replied after a moment, rubbing a hand across a gray-sideburned cheek in thought. “But it has grave implications in the propaganda war which must necessarily accompany this forging of alliance. Sule's partisans will certainly accuse His Majesty of dividing the galaxy up for his own personal gain, of putting his aggrandizement ahead of galactic unity. And there are many who will listen to such accusations; your fleet is important to us, Madame, but not so critical as that we need it at the price of alienating the populace of the Core.”

“Our support alone may be regarded in that way, but what if I could promise you far greater support than just that which I can myself draw upon, Your Excellency?”

“I would have to say I agree with the particular reservation that this support must indeed be in ships, and troops, and material, noticeably far greater than what you yourself offer.”

“What if I said I can end the Vong threat to the galaxy for good? That I can even provide the former Vong ships to you to reinforce your ranks? Would you go ahead and give us independence then.”

The Commodore barked in laughter and shook his head. “Madame, those are grand promises upon which you cannot deliver, so do not think to make them.”

Coldly, did Guri reply: “I can deliver on them, and we will not ask for an Imperial Rescript declaring the independence of our sectors until they have been delivered upon, Your Excellency. Is that sufficient for you?”

“Tell me how. In detail.”

“That is not for me to do,” Guri replied, now again with a sweet smile, leaning forward across the table toward the Commodore, prettily, like living sugar. “Let me bring in the man who will explain this little effort of our's for you, in detail.”

“Go right ahead,” the Imperial answered, only slightly flustered.

Guri leaned back and pressed down on the activation key for an intercom set into the table controls next to the holoprojector. “Send in the special prisoner,” she ordered simply.

Hamner's Ambassador was not a stupid man. He tensed at the words 'special prisoner', and waited expectantly.. It only took a few minutes, as a matter of fact.

He was rewarded for that nervousness with exactly what he feared, and at the same time anticipated, since it meant that Guri was deadly serious. Surrounded by a whole squad of eight guards with stun prods, hands chained behind his back, legs shackled, Nom Anor was led into the conference room. The Vong had had one eye ripped out by Guri and a secret bio-weapon removed from behind it, and it was with his one remaining eye that he gazed from Guri to the Old Imperial.

“What may I do for you, Guri?” He asked, smiling mirthlessly.

“Tell the Ambassador about your plan, which you so loved to elucidate upon to me in an effort to gain your freedom. Tell it to him in detail. If he approves of it, you have earned your freedom indeed. Well, when it succeeds, that is.” A soft laugh.

Nom Anor bowed his head, and looked to the Ambassador. He did not seem to mind standing. “Well, if you don't mind, I shall begin then.”

A grunt was the reply he got, continued a moment later. “Go ahead.” What was said next would decide a great many things...

Hapan Star Cluster
The Planet Hapes
Hapan Royal Palace

The Imperial Admiral bowed deeply before the Hapan throne. “I am Admiral Harlann Quir, Your Majesty, and I have arrived from His Majesty the Emperor with tidings of alliance. Our foe is a common one; we must stand opposed to the scheme of the Warlord Sule to cement total Imperial power. I hold full powers Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary to conclude alliances and sign treaties.” A pause, and another bow. “Your Highness Princess Organa. My powers extend to concluding treaties with the standing Republican resistance forces under your control which have been operating in conjunction with the Hapan government. I offer terms for you as well.”

“You would do well to remember that the Vong are the foremost threat to us all, Ambassador, and choose your words wisely on that account,” came the thin, reedy, ill voice of Teneniel Djo, a frail and emanciated figure upon the Hapan throne. “I am not going to harm the effort against them, and even now it is a known fact that the forces of your so-called 'Warlord Sule' are locked in mortal struggle with the main Vong fleet. There will be Stab-in-the-Back from the Hapan Star cluster.”

“Our fleet shall of course avoid the main body of Sule's fleet for as long as he is engaged in combat with the Vong. Let him fulfill his own propaganda! He has declared himself the defender of the galaxy, that he will ignore even his own power base for the sake of the defending the galaxy; let me do this. I do not propose any attack on Sule's fleet. I instead desire your cooperation—the cooperation of both Your Majesty and Her Highness—in an advance upon Coruscant.”

Coughing. She slumped back in the throne, Teneniel did, a horrible and pitiful sight, but still fully in control of her faculties it appeared, as she continued calmly. “Ambassador, I have no desire in deploying my fleet against a world held by the civilized peoples of this galaxy, and diverting it from the task of liberating thousands of Vong-occupied worlds which has been ongoing from the moment of Sule's great success at Talfaglio.”

“Let us be realistic, Your Majesty. There are thousands of planets under the control of a—granted, very populous and very wealthy—group of sixty-three planets.”

“Sixty-four. You discount my homeworld, Ambassador.”

“Forgive me, Your Majesty,” he bowed promptly. “But we know little of the situation upon Dathomir in the Milky Way. My gravest error.”

Teneniel just waved her hand tiredly, indicating for him to continue, which he promptly did.

“Though each planet of your cluster, Your Majesty, is surely as wealthy and populous as a core world, you still would have the gravest of times in gaining control over such a vast expanse of space permanently. It will not be easily done. It will not be easily controlled after you have succeeded, which I acknowledge that you shall; you need free shipyards, connections with the great commercial web of the galaxy, to make your efforts lasting.”

“And what would the price of these be? To bow before the Imperial throne? To see our military power steadily subsumed into that of the fleet of the Davions? I am not a fool, Ambassador. The Hapan Star Cluster has suffered enough under the power of the Empire. The Republic left us alone to our de facto independence, and we trusted them for it. The Empire occupied us, and we would expect the same treatment from you. I shall, for the sake of my nation, hold what I can and make it a part of my country and if you do not like that we shall have the resources to put up a much harder fight than you got out of the last time around, that you may be assured of.”

“Independence is not off the table.” Harlann noted that the Princess Organa was strangely silent, mulling over his words; at the last statement, however, she spoke up.

“Independence is not off the table? Then what do you suppose to provide of us, Ambassador? For the Republic, for Liberty? Our own enclave, like the Empire?”

“Of course not. We know that the people of the galaxy have the right to choose. His Majesty is quite willing to submit his continued right to rule over all areas—save for the Milky Way and Remnant Territories, of course—to a plebiscite. There shall be a yes-no vote on the rule of Hamner Davion as Emperor, and if he loses it, then a constitutional convention will be called, including both Imperial and Republican factions, with the goal of drafting a galactic constitution which shall be submitted to a second confirmation plebiscite upon its ratification by the members of the convention. All of this is detailed in an Imperial Rescript of which I have made a copy available for you, Your Highness.”

Leia calmly turned her attention to a padd held by one of her aides and brought it up, reading through the contents of the formal Rescript calmly. On the throne, Teneniel Djo had closed her eyes, and it seemed to all in the room that she had fallen asleep. Harlann waited rather nervously at this, for it was not at all clear what she would say. Their own archives suggested that this delusional primitive would be easy enough to convince with a few promises of glory, but it had not turned out so, though he still had hope. He had more hope in for convincing Leia, for the situation of the Republicans was at the moment really quite desperate and there was little for them to do but cooperate with one or the other of the Imperial factions; surely they would support the weaker as a rational matter?

The wait pressed onward, and the attendants looked to be ready to empty the room so that Teneniel Djo could be taken to her private apartments for a medical checkup and rest. But then there as movement. Her eyes did not open, but she waved her hand slightly, and the attendants stiffened and stepped back. Leia gasped softly, and Harlann looked to her, thinking for a moment, and realizing abruptly that it was quite possible that Teneniel was in some form of Jedi trance. His own body stiffened neigh-imperceptibly, then, and the whole of the room settled down to a tense waiting, save for Leia, who continued to study the Rescript and make her own considerations on the situation quite silently.

Only silence did reign in those long minutes. Nobody could be sure of what was precisely going on, and more importantly, over what the Queen would say when she recovered from her state of trance, or rest, or whatever had precisely possessed her, which none fully understood. It was unsettling to the Imperial, to the Rationalist in Harlann, and he waited it out by force of will. A decision needed to be made here, one way or the other, so that the appropriate planning could begin. To distract himself, he looked from time to time at Leia, trying to divine her thoughts as well, but not succeeding with that elder trained diplomat.

Teneniel stiffened, herself, and straightened, eyes slowly opening. Her face was a mask of Royal Will, devoid of emotion and filled with intensity as she stiffened and seemed in a moment of surety to regain her old vigour. In a moment of sudden, coiled effort, she sprung to her feet, eyes blazing coolly at Harlann, and rigid silence filleed the room, everyone anticipating the Sovereign's words, and Admiral Quir unable to help the impulse to quail under that gaze.

“No. That is not how things are supposed to go. Now OUT!--and begone from our space in twenty-four hour's time!”

Harlann only smiled grimly, clicked his heels, and bowed in mock politeness to Teneniel. “Your Majesty,” he said, and then spun on heel and marched out of the throne room.

As Teneniel slumped down, breathing heavily, her attendants rushed in close to her in worry, but again her hand waved them off. “No, no. I have rested long enough. There is only one thing I want you to do.”

“Your Majesty?” Several asked at once.

“Prepare to dictate instructions to Fleet Command... Secret orders of a strategic magnitude. Clear the Hall for them.”

In the confusion, as the non-essential attendants and suppliants were forced out, nobody noticed that Princess Leia had already left. As Teneniel began to issue the rambling instructions, punctuated with dates and specific deployment orders, but changing in a heartbeat to long dissertations on the suitability of one person or another to a certain post, or a critique of their failings and inner thoughts, the staff, used to these sorts of things in the months of her illness, dutifully took the core of what she had written and transcribed it into the necessary form for the high command of the Hapan military to act upon.

Through the corridors of the palace Leia hurried toward the shuttle landing bays, where Harlann was now heading himself, though at a more relaxed pace, to return to his VSD and plot his next move from there. Leia passed him through the corridors of the palace, which she had learned to navigate far better than he, upon what was his first, and most likely last, time within the Hapan Royal Palace. So it was that the aged but still pleasant figure of the Princess was waiting for him, as though she had not hurried at all, outside of his shuttle.


“Your Highness,” Harlann answered, and bowed. “Is there something I can do for you? I am not in a great hurry, after all, for we shall be gone in six hours, let alone twenty-four, but I am scarcely welcome here now, thanks to the temper of the Queen.”

“As a matter of fact, there is something you can do for me—for the Republic, Ambassador.”

“Yes?” His face could not hide his ambition.

“I am pleased to inform you, Ambassador, that you have an ally in the forces of the Republic, as long as you are prepared to accept, on the basis of your powers Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary, certain stipulations which desire to insure that the Will of the People is met.”

It was desperate, but Leia knew that she had to play the one card that seemed left to the Republican cause—they would Divide and Conquer, allying with the weaker of the two standing Imperial factions to shatter the greater, and then turn against their so-called allies in the next move, and fight to the bitter end to triumph over them and thus guarantee the ultimate and final refounding of the Galactic Republic. There was no other chance left, and where the power of Sule made them retire and seek refuge, to prepare to form another Rebellion, the division between Sule and Hamner offered a chance that they would likely never have again, to win the contest in the field instead of having to rely on a second guerrilla movement which might not win for decades—or forever.

Harlann smiled. “We are all looking out for the interests of the people of the galaxy according to our own viewpoints, Your Highness, and I have no desire save that to accomadate their will in a fashion which is preferably non-violent. Furthermore, I assure you that we have no desire to do anything save to advance upon Coruscant, and thereby regain the symbol of governance of the galaxy; we will not force a battle with Sule's fleet while he is campaigning on the Outer Rim against the common threat to us all. My promises to Teneniel Djo apply just as much to the Republic in that regard.

“Of course, I shall have to hear your stipulations before I can offer up a formal arrangement for us to sign, but I am quite certain that they can be accomadated satisfactorily.”

“I agree completely, Ambassador.” Leia smiled, and hid within herself the plots for the future which now turned in her mind, the shivers at the idea of this desperate hope bearing fruit, and buried deeper than those in turn, the fears for her family which she had to hide for the greater sake of the success of democracy throughout the galaxy, and the last chance to rekindle its dying embers. “My stipulations are really quite minor, I assure you....”

Imperial Starfleet
Dantooine System.

Elise clutched at the armrests of her command chair and watched, and watched. It was a sight hideously beautiful. The flares of the ships going up around them were continuous. The bridge windows were reflecting with real light, not with holographic projections, at this distance, and they had to automatically tint themselves at each flash, for each was like a supernova, a brief artificial sun, as another Vong ship was destroyed in a sleet of radiation. The flashes of the exchange of energy fire and the detonation of missiles provided smaller events which were constantly lost in those great and energetic detonations happening all around. Dozens of Vong ships were being destroyed a minute for the loss of one or two Imperials in the same period.

Fire flashed around everywhere as the effects of defeat compounded themselves, as the Imperial advantage grew and grew and the firepower of the Vong forces collapsed precipitably as they suffered more and more damage. Steadily the Vong were destroyed. They could not go forward or back; they were trapped at close quarters, and those who tried to escape were particularly savaged by fire from all sides, hulls shattered, dovin basals knocked out, joining the great number of wrecks fortunate enough not to go up with an atomic fury as those great flares had, as tens of thousands died in an instant and ships were wiped out in powerful detonations of their own stores of munitions or fuel, turbolaser bolts striking home everywhere, all around, leaving devastation in their wake and guaranteeing the victory of the Centre.

Elise pushed herself to her feet, watching as the unabated fury of artillery and missile fire from the Imperial ships, the vast cannonade of high-energy particles, maintained a crushing, brutal tempo which was bearing home against weary and damaged ships. Each time one of the Vong ships was destroyed, or clearly crippled, the fire of several Imperial vessels turned to another Vong ship which was already under the fire of several vessels itself, and the intensity thus doubled, the lifespan of that ship was correspondingly reduced. There was nothing to be done about it now. Victory coursed through Elise's veins, and she could taste it, feel it. Here it ends!

A family avenged. A friend avenged. And the trillions whom they represented, the innocent dead, to be avenged also. Here, the great power of a barbaric people would be shattered upon the Plain of Mars, their fleets crushed, their warriors slaughtered, and their Worldships open to attack. The Empire would leave nothing; the name of Yuuzhan Vong would be wiped from the history books, their race would be extirpated to the last hunted survivor. The carellons would ring with resplendant music, with the sound of the ages, hailing the victory of the defenders of civilization, welcomed to their bittersweet reward by the martial crescendo of cannonades. One last push had done it.

The Vong had other ideas. They now gambled with one last desperate tactic. To cut short the stirrings of victory in the hearts of the Empire, their most damaged ships went forth with a brave sacrifice, pressing in to ram. They closed, those cripples, moving at their best speed. But with distances of only a few kilometers between the ships, they were at a serious disadvantage, for they could not accelerate to any appreciable speed to speak of in such a short run-up to a collision. Thus the only real danger was from dovin basals impacting with bare hull, undefended from their grasping, hungry gravitational energies by the device of the energy shield, upon those ships where (and there were many) the shields had failed over the course of this combat in some place or another.

This threat was quite genuine. In quick success five, then six, then seven Imperial ships were lost to the ramming efforts. Some of the Vong ships even survived halfway intact do the device of the dovin basals protecting them from an actual collision, though they were all crippled, for the absorption of so much matter as to tear the guts out of a heavy line-of-battle ship was sufficient to overtax their dovin basals, and so even those which seemed to miraculous survive as cripples prolonged their existence for but a few seconds or minutes. They made their presence felt, however, and the Imperials responded instantly, hardly unfamiliar with kamikazis, that most familiar foe of the Milky Way.

Elise was torn back to life when she saw the spectacle begin to unfold, and her orders were issued promptly and without hesitation. “All ships defend themselves with tractor beams as a last resort. Coverage is to be provided by other ships of a ship's particular squadron when it is targeted for a kamikazi effort. Any Vong ships which try to close the range should be assumed to be acting in a kamikazi role, and the maximum firepower should be directed upon them!”

“Transmitting orders now,” Hallsburg called out dutifully, and they were punched out to the fleet commands in a stacco of laser pulse transmissions, relayed ship to ship through the now appreciably weakened jamming of the Vong fleet.

Pellaeon had already issued similar orders. Everywhere they were executed at once, and most of the commanders of the fleet's heavy ships were Old Imperials, well used to the necessity of defending against kamikazi attacks. They had, in many cases, already reacted, and though there were some ten ships lost to the kamikazis initially, over the rest of the course of battle only another five followed them do their doom, and none more powerful than an Allegiance-class; all, in short, acceptable casualties for so great a victory as was continuing to shape up in the flash of high-energy flares and the pulses of radiation from the continued and constant death of more and more of the last Vong heavy force.

After this momentary respite the rest of the battle was a tale of woe for the Vong. The torrents of fire only increased on the survivors and the disparity in firepower increased and increased, until it had developed almost exponentially, and the drumbeat of death, the flares of the ships dying all around, reached an immense roll which resounded in radiation throughout the Dantooine system. And then it was over. The Vong had refused to run. They had stood their ground until the bitter end, and fought hard. The Imperial fleet was attrited for it, but their heavy forces were still in good shape. Many had lost their shields and suffered damage, but few had been destroyed, few had been crippled, and most could be repaired by their own efforts or by the efforts of the repair ships holding back at Ord Mantell in the fleet train. The battle in the centre was finished, but on the flanks the situation could not have been more serious, nor more dramatically reversed.

On both flanks the Imperial light were on the verge of collapse and general destruction. They had fought hard and they had paid the price for it correspondingly. Both forces had lost more than 70% of their strength by the time the main body in the centre had completely annnihilated its opponent! But somehow those tattered remnants had kept fleet coordination together, and had kept on fighting. Losses among the starfighters were nearly as bad; more than 55% in all; and the whole situation was one of despair and doom, for the jamming guaranteed that they had little idea of the situation in the centre of the fleet. Sule's allies had paid dearly for his victory, but they were about to be relieved, and avenged. The solid Old Imperials had held the line, just as they asked. Nothing less had been required of them but to fight to the death, and with the grim efficiency of rigid obedience, they had refused to break, to sway, to fall back, no matter how hard they had been pounded by the greatly superiour numbers attacking them.

Pellaeon's image swelled to live on the flagbridge of the Conquérant, cool, grim, serious, in short, entirely unaffected by the greatest victory he had just won in his entire military career, unless one counted Talfaglio, which Pellaeon would never presume to dispute with the memory of Mystrela di Kuat. He still had men in mortal danger, and that was the critical issue for him now. Half the battle was won, and they were in the most perfect position imaginable for the second half, but that second half would still have to be fought.

“Elise, I want you to take your segment of the main body about as once. Recharge your shields as much as possible as you swing around behind the Vong left flank, but your first and most important goal is haste! We can't leave the Lights on the line for much longer, so we must get in position to block the Vong retreat before they are completely annihilated. I'll leave the rest to you—I have my own situation on the right flank to deal with, of course,” he concluded, and then the hologram immediately cut out.

Elise didn't wait a moment in proceeding to execute the orders. She spun on heel to look back to the communications deck. “Commander Hallsburg—Fleet Signals! All Taskforces under this flag's authority! 'Fleet pivot to port, course fourty-eight point eighty true, elevation six degrees. Execute immediately at full acceleration. Stand by to execute negative parabolic from gridpoint K-17 on my further signals. All ships devote maximum energy to shield regeneration and stand by for resumption of combat.'”

“Transmitting, Admiral” came the command back, swiftly.

Elise was rather pleased, Hallsburg's attentiveness to detail and duty had improved further ever since the very difficult communication situation around Coruscant at the third battle of that name, and she was now seriously considering putting him in for a promotion to Captain, and the XO's position on one of the Communications Cruisers. It was certainly a reward for someone who had been good and then forced themselves, it appeared, to get even better than that.

But now there was not much time for such musings. As the command was obeyed, her half of the main body of the fleet, replete with and led by six Executors, swung about, still very much in disorder from the close action but the Taskforce commanders having to reorganize the squadrons under them on their own, for Elise cared only about speed and left them the lesser duty of restoring order and discipline and the advantage of unit cohesion. But that was their task, and they performed it admirably even as the same feat was replicated by Pellaeon's portion of the fleet. Heading out at maximum acceleration they cleared away steadily to each side, and within three minutes had passed the field of jamming and were even with the desperate fights occuring still to the rear.

At this point the Vong had a full understanding of what was going on in those forces, and independently attempted to extricate themselves. But the time had come for the parabolic shift to be executed. Elise issued the order, and then went and sat back down. At once the fleet began to pattern their course into a broad arc around an artificially designated point in space, swinging end behind the Vong forces who were now trying to pull back and avoid just precisely this incoming double-envelopment, the complete reversal of what they themselves had been in the process of attempting.

Disengagement from combat was not something that happened quickly, though it might be done without great effort if the enemy was so exhausted, or lacked the moral will, to sustain the action when it was attempted. The Vong expected their opponents in the Light, on the verge of annihilation, to be in just this position. They were, however, not. Their commanders acted with an instinctive understanding of the situation, and as the Vong tried to get away, they clung tooth-and-claw to the retreating Vong squadrons, their outnumbered forces hitting hard despite their damage, and despite the damage still greater which they took, the savaging of the battered survivors of an already neigh-decimated force. There was no hesitation, for it was a gamble, to win or lose it all, to hold the Vong in place long enough for the two halves of the main body with the heavy artillery of the fleet to come up behind the Vong forces, to throw out their grav wells and hold them here in real space and pound them into annihilation.

These Yuuzhan Vong had met the match for their warrior's courage in the solid adherence of the Imperial officers to their instructions and the obedience of those officers by their men in turn, so that when the order was given to hold, none dared nor thought to retire from battle, but instead fought in their places, and held their ships in formation like rocks, every one solid and unrelenting in its place, attacking when attack was impossible and fighting to the end, not because they were fanatics, but because they obeyed and were ruled by Law, and it was their immuteable Laws which commanded obedience, and obedience to those powers that decreed: HOLD! And so they had held their ground. But there was something fundamentally beyond that in their spirit, an irreproachable elan.

Their casualties were greater than seventy percent, but of course this did not matter. Five hundred years before there had been a war fought on Earth, by an army steeped in a tradition of conquest. They had lost. The Imperial Army of the Emperor of the French, Napoleon III, had fought with outdated tactics, had been outnumbered due to their poor system of mobilization, and had scarcely won a battle in the whole war. But their were stories, and they were entirely true, of units of the French infantry which had been ordered to attack into the face of murderous fire from the Krupp howitzers and Dreyse needle-guns of the enemy, time and time again, until their units had lost not less than 90% of their strength, until mere platoons represented what had been regiments, but their eagles were still born before them, the orders of the highest ranked survivor still obeyed, and lines still formed. Some of the men begged their awed generals for a chance at one last charge of the bayonet, to win by dint of superhuman effort or join their comrades in the grave. Not even when nine out of ten men were killed or wounded had regimental cohesion failed them. They were soldiers, not mere warriors.

So to were the officers and the sailors of the Imperial Starfleet. They had stood their ground to the point where they had suffered the insufferable, endured the unendurable, and now they attacked and pursued despite having just suffered those great losses, having seen the annihilation of their comrades and their units. This sort of fighting spirit had an inestimable power in battle. Here it entangled the Vong as they presumptiously attempted to retire without continued combat, and forced them to hastily form rearguards and shift the order of their withdraw, such that they could no longer quickly extricate themselves, fully aware that as they were forced to take the time to do this, great fleets were bearing down upon their rear of their respective formations, threatening them with annihilation from the big guns of the Star Destroyers. Those ships were now racing to approach their maximum range, and the turrets were swinging out and preparing for action.

Even so, the Vong still had one last hope: There were still thousands of ships in transit to the field of battle, and if they arrived at the right time, they might yet serve to carry the day. And so with this knowledge to motivate them, a surer thing than the intangible that drove the Imperial light to attack, they fought on in good order and braced themselves for the coming onslaught.

They did not wait long.

Vong-occupied Outer Rim,
On the Worldship of
Supreme Overlord Shimmra.

It was like a fine poem, a perfect piece of swift, energetic dancing. An artwork of motion. And every movement contained death. The Vong warriors fought seriously now. Whereas at first they had desired to capture the Jedi, now they tried to kill them. But they fought that those two, whatever they were, had a resiliency greater than that. They drew on their inner strength, and they danced a dance of destruction. Their sabres were guided, their blows precise, their movements an art of efficiency. Here they were much more hard-pressed, but they also did not stand in one particular place, but instead moved together, acting in concert, moving together and fighting together with warnings and encouragement given through the higher power of the mind.

Their sweat flowed freely and mingled with the blood of their enemies upon their bodies. They were always together, never more than three feet from each other and usually far less, even with their bodies touching, each covering the other as necessary. They wreaked a carnage which seemed impossible for two mortal human beings to achieve. They thrust the contained energy of their blades through the smallest gaps in the armour of their foes, and resorted to the force to turn the air around the Vong, whom they could at least not affect with such arts, into a weapon against them and a shield to defend themselves. When the press began to great, the effort of a sudden wall formed out of the air, compressing and slamming into a number of Vong, drove them back and dealt fatal blows to many in the process besides.

They kicked, and sometimes they punched, or struck with the hilts of their sabres, as the Vong warriors moved in. They fought, and fought, with every artifice available to them, and their opponents died. Sometimes they struck home, too, and neither of the women was unwounded by that point, though the ugly severity of the scar upon Miat Temm's face remained by far the worst blow. Yet here, steadily, their opponents still were gaining upon them. The fight was a swift thing of beauty for the two, but it was a fight in which they were slowly being overcome by an enemy which had not just these thousands, but millions of warriors standing on behind them. If they stood and fought, surely they would be overcome, yet they were a hundred feet from their goal and so they did just that, and fought on.

A chorus of dead provided the unheard crescendo of the battle. They were not the souls that the two reaping angels delivered to the hells below, but those haunted shades who had suffered and now shrieked with vengeance, the hot blood of enemies slain in battle by their champion and her partner a signal release, the release of a blood debt, of a primal law. Entrails scattered through the mess of mangled and rent bodies, and they pushed forward through the press, toward the waiting group of Vong warriors who did not press forward, toward the elite men led by the Second of the Guard, who waited patiently for the two dealers of death to reach them. Warrior after warrior fell, struck down, relieved of the contents of their torso, vital organs punctured by blazing heat, decapacitated or rendered useless by the removal of several critical limbs.

This is the real thing, now, Jaina, Miat thought brilliantly. They want us dead, and they're to find out how hard of a task they have to reach that point, with the two of us together!

Jaina did not reply, though a trace of a grim smile touched her lips as another wall of compressed air was flung out from a gesture of her's, driving back their foes further, just to have them rush on again, over the shattered and dying near-corpses of those who's innards had been pulped by the move. The situation was desperate, and Jaina did once doubt what Miat had said. Her love for the affair was a dangerous, deadly thing, but Jaina could not resist being caught up in the romanticism of it. Two against thousands!

It was almost like being awed with something that you yourself with doing, an experience, a feeling that Jaina could not quite fully place, but yet was experienced and enjoyed to the full, a propelling vigour in the heat of battle. It drove them on through the fight, and fight onward they did, even as the intensity of the combat, the nips of the enemy amphistaffs, came closer and closer to the point where the damage would be done, where they could not keep up, where they would be overwhelmed. The point had not happened yet, though, their heartless victories continued in a sort of black beauty which could not be denied, but was a thing of the moment, a thing which could not last.

It did not last. Miat finally overextended herself, pushing on to hard, just a bit further ahead of Jaina than was safe and allowed for the two, partenered in all things as they had become, to defend each other. The Vong pressed in immediately and Miat soon found herself fighting nine or ten at once.. No, twelve or fourteen, it began, even as she hacked several down, for others took their places and more still pressed in. She fought them with incredible vigour, and with such confidence that Jaina, striking down her own foes all around in the heat of the most intense press imaginable, did not realize it until she felt the searing pain through their link of Miat taking a serious and bodily blow.

Jaina felt something pour through that she could not describe. A rage hideous and powerful, an anger at the injury that Miat had taken, an irrepressible force of lustful madness. There was nothing, and then there was everything, and she drew on it and struck out. Dark energies flowed from her body forth against her opponents, and struck them down and down, and killed all around her, save for the object of her desperation, save for Miat Temm. There was an intensity to the strike, and ease of the kill, that was astonishing, but Jaina instinctually understood the reason for it in that same moment. The Vong lacked the force—and the force was precisely what allowed one, when it flowed through their body, to withstand these forces which she had only unleashed once before, the dark energy of the Sith. The Vong had no defence for a power that sapped their life-force, for they lacked a connection to the greater life-force which extended to even a non-sensitive being a measure of resistance, and to those skilled in the force, a greater measure.

Thus it was that even the touch of Jaina's force-lightning was death for the Vong. Death, and more death, for she did not simply release it once in a paroxysm of rage, but let the pain and anguish of Miat's wound through the link flow into her and, for as long as that pain lasted, she struck out again and again. Even the skill of the elite warriors did not matter, for any Vong died at the touch of that dark power. The Second of the Guard realized it at once and turned back and away from the power with the rest of the men, lest they fall also to that dark touch. It was like an ancient Goddess walked against them, reaping, and their stories and tales left the Second with no doubt of the horrible power and fate behind this one, who was most assuredly the twin of the one they held, for their could be no other with those forces at her back.

Abruptly Miat's pain cut off. Jaina thought her dead, and in the intensity of her rage at that thought, drew forth with greater power still. A vortex seemed to appear around them, and the dark energies she flung out scorched and scarred their way across the very worldship, shattering and burning through the rock of the hull, smashing the corridor, and still killing and killing. It was a thing of eldritch power. Warriors in the prime of their lives were struck down at great distance by the awesome force; the thud bugs they tried in one more desperate effort, and they had to few to count anyway, were all destroyed in a heartbeat as they were flung on toward Jaina. The malestrom was only ended by the exhaustion of the feeling of rage within Jaina, to the mellowing down to grief that followed, sputtering out in fits and starts until the unleashing of dark energy stopped entirely.

There was only silence. Nothing else came, through corridors filled with blacked and cut-through dead, all of them dead, every one dead, not a living soul amongst those piles of bodies. Jaina dropped to her knees, lightsabre deactivated, panting in desperate grief. She gathered herself together, and drew herself forward to Miat's body, looking down at her horribly pale, almost translucent flesh, and bowed herself forward over the other woman, clutching at her body and drawing up her head to plant a kiss of grief against her cold lips, uncaring of the presence of that hideous scar.

Miat Temm's eyes snapped open at the touch of Jaina's lips, wild, brilliant in their mad fire.

Jaina lurched back, her own eyes wide open, and she inhaled sharply in a gasp to look upon Miat Temm, fully alive. Her mind clutched for an explaination, and.. “You.. You're drawing on the force to staunch your pain and your wound,” came out at last in a desperate rush of words, a confused jumble filled with the dark thoughts inside of her.

“Shh, Jaina, shh. Control. I am alright, and so are you. I will be fine.”

“You're wounded!” Jaina snapped. “There is nothing you can really do, the way that you are holding back your pain and the effects of that injury! You can't, Miat! Not forever.”

“It doesn't need to be forever. We won't be here forever,” Miat said with a dry laugh, and began to push herself up to her knees, a hand reaching out casually for her sabre which was flung into it by the force in a heartbeat. “You have cleared the path for us, Jaina, now let us go to your brother. We scarcely have the time to waste, after all, as you yourself have said.”

Jaina inhaled heavily a few times to calm herself and nodded. “Alright.” A pause, and her eyes, suspicious, looked around as though she hadn't really seen the destruction around her the time that she had gazed about before. Her look filled with dread at the realization that this was the work of her own hands, something that she could not describe, at the feeling of the dark power coursing through her... The power that was all her's, from her, for her, for her purposes and strength. She looked down to Miat, and could not find the words to speak. She did not raise her voice against the woman, and thus did Miat push herself up and smile softly, even sadly.

“You are on a very lonely path, Jaina, as am I—but it is a path that will free us from the madness of the spirits and from the whole of the galaxy. It is the path of immortality.”

“Immortality is found through the force,” Jaina snapped back automatically.

Miat simply leapt to her feet, and laughed merrily, mockingly at the idea. “From a certain point of view it is, but only from that point of view—and it is one that I hardly find admirable, though I suppose the one who came before me did.”

“What do you mean!?” Jaina leapt up as wel, and looked on grimly to Miat. “You have brought us together down a dark road!”

You have chosen your path, and if it is a dark path, it is only dark because it is lonely, Jaina. Now come on!”

Chastised, Jaina followed Miat in obedience, on into the special prison block where they knew Jacen to be. There was no more opposition. It was deserted of living Vong, who now fell back and tried to cordon the area off rather than dare contest with what was surely the power of a Goddess—or two. It bespoke of ancient things, of the making race of the deities and of the age of heroes and of myth, and it frightened those who were superstitious, which was almost all of the Vong, universally, with their bloody Gods.

They strode together, Miat drawing on the power within her to ignore her wounds, and Jaina's introspective silence slowly gathering an understanding of what she had inside of herself. It did not seem like the 'dark side', it seemed like simply an inner energy, something drawn from a different source than the force, no merely a part of it, an evil part; it seemed that there was no such thing there, just that which was within her, and served her. This understanding came to her in the walk of silence, and by the time they had cut their way into the prison block it possessed her with curiousity and wonder and fear, so far that had it not been for Miat Temm's snapped warning--Jaina, be ready-- in her mind that she would not have seen the waiting amphistaffs of the guards.

They struck together, and only had fourteen opponents to deal with. Fighting as one, they made short work of them, and save for a cut along her jumpsuit they had not a touch on them for the result of that fight. The bodies of the warriors who had faced them were gored and ripped apart by the sabres, often from the inside out, pieces of their bodies scattered around as they slumped to the ground, dead, their bowels loosing in death and adding to the stench of the end of a living being as blood was left to dry all around their squalid forms, and with it fried bits of things worse than blood.

Ahead, then, was only an Inquisitor in their path. He steeled himself for death, knowing he could not stand against them. Jaina walked forward, and then ran, kicking him aside and not even bothering to kill him. She stopped short, at the cell in which she now knew her brother to be, and looked on for a silent moment. The rage coursed again.

It was only a half-thought thing, but the Inquisitor's body burst into flames as though of its own volition, and the screams of his death as he was burned alive filled the chamber as Jaina cut through to reach her brother, scarred and mutilated as he was, looking up silently, with a mask of death upon his face. It was not the happy reunion she had imagined. There was only silence, and horror upon Jacen's face. She floundered for words, and at last, smiled sadly and simply handed him the lightsabre off her belt that Miat Temm had crafted for him.

He took it, and then spoke his devastating words, overcoming the feelings of pain in his tortured body in a way that would have pleased the Vong, but for entirely different reasons: “My sister, you walk a lonely path.”

Jaina's eyes widened once more, and she sunk to her knees in bitter horror at the calm and condemning countenance of her mutilated brother.

Then Miat Temm stepped up behind her, and looked into Jacen's eyes. “Yes she does, Jedi, but I walk it with her, and,” she added with a wry grimace of humour: “I scarcely think that you have failed to learn a few lessons of meditation in this place, yourself. Now, shall we not speak of..” A heavy breath, there, and her voice was softer: “What we both must do, and Jaina also?”

Jacen snapped on the lightsabre his sister had just given him. Neither Miat nor Jaina made a move, and he did not, certainly, make one himself. He just held it activated. “Speak, then, and speak quickly--for we do not have long, and I cannot trust one who has touched my sister so.”

“Very well, I will begin. But remember—Jaina has taken her own course, and has her own purpose, and if you find truth in my words you cannot turn her aside from it simply because of your fancy for your own kin.”

A calm look, from Jacen, a look of a man who had suffered worse than death and who's gaze could contain oceans of emotion, seas of endless depth and understanding. “I know. Our destiny is in our hands.”

“If we choose it to be,” Miat replied, and then she began to speak words of philosophy, surrounded by implements of torture and death, and with impending death looming over them. But they were words that had to be said, and so of course they were.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Re: De Imperatoribus Galacticis v.1 [Revised]

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-10-30 10:55am

De Imperatoribus Galacticis

"On the Galactic Emperors"

Chapter the Twenty-Third.

Imperial Starfleet
Dantooine System.

The gallant sacrificial last attack of the Light had mercifully ended, and on a successful note. As they at last were repulsed and pulled back with more losses than before, but their squadrons and their honour intact and glorified, the two halves of the main body were entering range, and the grav wells had been established to prevent the escape of the Vong force.

Pellaeon studied the tactical situation for a moment, satisfying himself of the success of the Light forces and now their long-deserved disengagement, after an attack which he had not ordered, nor could he countenance, but, the Lights, having done it anyway, had made themselves praiseworthy in every way. That would not help the dead, but now it would help the living finish this war at last.

“Instructions to Starfighter Command: 'Recall all starfighters for refueling and rearming,'” Pellaeon ordered once he had satisfied himself that the Imperial Light was safely away from the action such that it would no longer need the protection and assistance of the Starfighter forces. They might well be needed in the upcoming engagement. In the meanwhile, the range was racing down toward the shortened distance at which the Imperial main body elements might engage with the full force of their heavy artillery.


“Fleet Signals: 'All squadrons commence fire on squadron-designated targets; all ships are to adhere to squadron-directed firing.'” Elise settled back, pushing aside an emptied cup of coffee, and crossed her hands in her lap. She watched the comms crew send the message and then settled into the chair at a slight and slumped angle, feeling rather tired, if still alert, as she stared at the great holoprojector before her, the dimunative figure of the woman who even simply her own section of the fleet controlled and directed one of the greatest assemblages of firepower in recent history.

The turrets swung out and locked into their targets. The missiles were prepared for rapid firing. Then from each squadron in turn came the fire orders, and at once great volleys were loosed. Energy washed out from the fleet in thunderous salvoes, the concussion of the guns firing, recoilling into the hull, reverberating noisily right up to the bridge of even the Conquérant. At their high sublight velocities the turbolaser bolts vied with the continuously accelerating missiles, in unending sheets of energized matter that rippled out from thousands of ships, to reach among their targets and detonate, and detonate again, each wave filling space with hundreds of thousands of brilliant spheres of fire and lances of laser energy.

Firing flak bursts, now, against the Vong light, the great number of detonations continuously obscured the enemy in the visual realm. The glowing contrails of the missiles and the brilliant burning of their main engines vanished at once into the brilliance of energetic fire and radiation and the invisible rays of the laser-heads which might light up at crazy refracted angles as they passed through a debris field or explanding cloud of plasma with a destroyed ship. The turbolaser bolts produced a green fire, what seemed more like a singular moving mass-wave of energy than any individual bolts, unless it was see head on; and then it was most deadly, and the result scarcely mattered.

At the designated point the containment fields eroded and collapsed. That was all there was to a flak burst; it happened automatically when the containment field collapsed, and so to create a flak burst once simply set the strength of the containment field so that it would decay and collapse at the right moment which had been calculated by the gunnery computers. Teratons of energy were thus loosed, creating constant energetic little suns which glowed briefly, for a second at most, as they filled up in a sphere of roiling plasma that burnt everything it touched, even the strongest rock. The sheer output of the hundreds or thousands of guns upon thousands of ships meant that there were two million such little suns every half-second, hundreds of millions a minute, detonating in the Vong light squadrons.

The fire was now coming on the Vong from both directions, with Pellaeon and Elise on the outside, pinning the Vong light in two portions, two fleets with the now retreating Imperial light in the centre. The Vong had to many problems to pursue them; they had finally, indeed, broken off the engagement with those brave men in their brave little ships, but it had been to late for them. The Imperials had got the range for their heavies, and it meant that this great emission of firepower had been prepared, and was being laid down, bracketing their enemies entirely. Whole squadrons of Star Cruisers took a single Vong light frigate under fire; they put thousands of flak bursts around it, and when they had finished a few seconds of fire they were ready to move on to another target, for it was no longer there.

Everywhere the Vong ships were dying. The lightest were simply vapourized in a mass of flak bursts, innards torn out by the piercing laser heads. The heavier ships survived as burned hulks, weapons and dovin basal projectors burned off their outer hulls, engines disabled or exploded outright by the backwash of plasma. The scale of the destruction could not be underestimated. It was entirely possible that within a single minute of action more than one thousand Vong ships had been disabled or destroyed. At this rate the Vong fleet would cease to exist in another twenty-five minutes, and escape was out of the question, for the Imperial grav-well equipped ships were spreading out, entrapping the Vong, guaranteeing that even if they did go to hyperspace within the sphere of gravity that the end result would be to just get dragged out, still in range of the Imperial guns—closer, in fact.

This state of massed slaughter continued for six minutes. The firing of the guns was constant, pressing the limits of their cooling mechanisms and capacitators, so soon after a hot action had already been fought. This was a massacre, but the utmost of effort on the part of the crews and the machinery was required to keep it that way. The weakness of the Vong ships in the flanks was made worse. Though they still had a numerical advantage over the Imperial fleet, there was simply no way that a 200 meter Vong frigate could stand up to the broadside of a 17,600 meter Executor, and such broadsides were fired every half second; by dint of that alone, each Executor was destroying a significant portion of the enemy fleet, switching fire from ship to ship literally as fast as the gunnery officer could manage with the aide of the powerful banks of computers.

The anatomy of the destruction of a fleet was played out in all its grim power. The Imperials were bringing their fighters back in, which was scarcely a respite for the Vong, who did not have the time or resources to bring their coral skippers back in for refueling and rearming under this sort of slaughter. Without the Imperial Starfighters to provide coverage for their heavy ships, however, there was one thing they could do, and so the order was given and, desperately, the coral skippers were sent out as kamikazis.

Light frigates and the sort made much better kamikazis against large targets, as they could easily repulse the intense fire of the CIWS guns. The coral skippers were much worse off. They were small enough to be destroyed by rapid and intense barrages from countless small guns, and they could do questionable damage without heavy loads of prepared explosives. But they might do enough damage to buy the two Vong fleet elements enough time to get through the enemy grave wells, to escape from the centre of what had become a murderous trap. Or... For the lately arriving reinforcements from the Outer Rim to get there and salvage the situation.

Those six minutes passed with agonizing slowness, and then the first ray of hope crossed into the minds of the Vong commanders. With a flicker of pseudomotion five hundred fresh Vong ships were yanked out of hyperspace by the grav sphere set up by the Imperial projectors. They were the advanced elements of the reinforcements, and over the next three minutes another five thousand ships followed them. In the same time, however, an additional almost 2,800 of the Vong ships existing in the light fleet had been crippled or destroyed. The Vong fleet coming in, however, was much closer to the Imperial forces—particularly, to Elise's half of the fleet—and most importantly contained another 1,000 heavy ships in its numbers. They also began to promptly launch waves of coral skippers which were hurtled out at Elise's forces.

Yuuzhan Vong were realistic enough when that realism was forced on them by the grim necessity of a losing battle. The commander of the reinforcements at once ordered the force of light enganged by Pellaeon to close and make suicide attacks on that portion of the Imperial fleet; he would only have a chance to extract one half of the light forces, and that would be the closer one, so the other half must sacrifice itself to keep part of the Imperial fleet pinned up so that his plan could work, and that was precisely what he instructed as his ships raced in to close to gunnery range with Elise's immediately.

Elise had about eight thousand ships under her command in all. The smallest were several thousand VSDs, the rest were larger, though some of them were not high quality ships at all, but the retrofitted and jury-rigged Star Destroyer and Star Cruiser-scale warships of numerous minor powers, frequently representing hundreds of nations that had just two or three such vessels for prestige purposes. Still, they had already destroyed close a third of the Yuuzhan Vong Light force that had existed when the main body of the fleet engaged it (it had been stronger, but of course had lost many ships in the long fight with the Imperial light), and though Elise was now outnumbered about two-to-one she still held an advantage in firepower.

“We'll get between them,” she said to her chief of staff, pushing herself up from her command chair in a moment of abrupt alertness.

“Place ourselves between two fires, Admiral?”

“We've got guns on the starboard side of our ships the last time I checked,” Elise snapped back with some of her old impetuousity, suitably chastising her Chief of Staff. “I'm not going to let them combine against us—or escape!--save by running straight through the main body of this fleet.” A pause, and brief calculation: “How long until the starfighters are rearmed?” It had surely been ten minutes since they had been recovered by now.

“All of them, Admiral?”

“All of them. They won't have the kind of effect we're going to need if we send them out in penny-packets.”

Her COS brought up the data from the sectional commander of the Starfighter forces in a moment on the long bank of consoles around the holoprojector. “Fourteen minutes, Admiral.”

“That's good enough.”

“It'll take another three to launch.”

“I'm well aware of that,” Elise replied, teeth gritted. “We'll just have to stand the attacks of their coral skippers until then without starfighter support.”

“Understood, Adm..”

The collision klaxon sounded. “Kamikazis inbound!”

Elise darted forward and grasped hard onto the rail around the holoprojector, just in time, too, as a brace of a hundred or more coral skippers burst through the outer screen and raced in the last half-second of distance at high relativistic velocity toward the Conquérant. CIWS took out more than sixty, even with such little warning. The remaining fourty-seven rammed into the shields of the great Executor-class ship within a quarter-second of each other. She rattled all around Elise, and several negligent officers had their hands wrested loose from what they'd grabbed and were sent flying across the flagbridge.

Despite that, her Chief of Staff had already moved to the communications bank from the moment he could stand and was relaying Elise's orders promptly, without a moment of hesitation from his own doubts, and they in turn were immediately transferred by the men manning the control banks for the fleet comms, secure in their shock harnesses.

But the report came up from the command bridge just a heartbeat later: “The Captain reports shock damage only, Admiral.”

“About what I expected,” Elise said, loudly, and with a laugh. “They don't have a clue about the kind of kinetic shielding we've got—anyone remember the Executor Incident?”

“When the rebels programmed the hyperdrives of three ISDs to make their jump directly into the Executor on her maiden voyage, Admiral?” Came the shakey voice of Commander Hallsburg.

“That's exactly the one. No hull damage—only a temporary loss of shielding. Expect more of that shaking, though, because there's more coming in.” She turned around and stepped back lightly to her command chair, settling into it and strapping herself in. None of the following explosions rocked the hull nearly as much, for more power had been routed into the kinetic shields as the danger of energy weapons fire faded and that of ramming attacks magnified.

As the Vong Light raced to escape under the cover of waves of coral skippers launching kamikazi attacks, the Imperial forces under Elise's command swung to interpose themselves between those desperate, savaged ships and their freedom in the form off the supporting squadrons coming up fast and already salvoing off missiles into Elise's fleet. The big guns continued to fire, rippling sheets of energetic flame racing across the void to detonate into those millions of points of light and heat and energy that shattered more and more of the desperately escaping Vong ships, now in clear and obvious danger of being cut off.

Despite the combination of kamikazis and missiles the CIWS and kinetic shielding of the Imperial heavies was scarcely burdened. Tens of thousands of coral skippers had already been knocked out, and close to equal numbers of missiles, and those numbers just rapidly increased. Out of a thousand, a hundred might get through to close range, and of those perhaps fifty hit the hull of a ship, but even a VSD could survive that and had a chance to continue fighting without any damage or risk if she could be shuffled to the centre of the formation to recharge her kinetic shielding in time. The losses thus ended up being trifling—so far. The Vong fighter strike from the reinforcement fleet was rapidly coming in.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Lights, their squadrons so depleted that where once there had been nearly fourteen thousand ships there were now rather less than three thousand five hundred capable of manoeuvring and holding station, had formed together the remnants of either Flank into a single action group and were, with great elan and renewed vigour, pushing up on the Vong Light which was under intense fire by Pellaeon's segment of the main body, and in a hopeless position. It turned out to be immensely fortunate that their bravery and confidence in victory was such that they were willing to take such mad risks, for those Vong light ships now sold themselves dearly.

“Admiral—the Hand of Thrawn!”

Elise looked as an image she would never forget was abruptly brought up on the holoprojector. It might have been replayed, it might have just been caught real-time, but none of that mattered. What did matter was the bravado of the display which came on, the suicidal madness. Ten Vong frigates hyperdrive rammed the Hand of Thrawn almost simultaneously, on the verge of snapping into hyperspace—to be inevitably dragged back out by the mass shadows thrown out by the Interdictors—but it didn't matter, because they never quite got there. Instead, they collided with the Hand of Thrawn in such a show of light and energy as even Elise, experienced in these great battles, had not seen before. It held the attention of the flagbridge for a moment, as the Hand of Thrawn disappeared into the immensity of that energetic event...

And then sailed splendidly out of it, hull untouched, every battery firing as rapidly as it could, kinetic shields still up. Applause broke out.

“Kriffed to the nine hells!” Elise exclaimed reflexively, in a way she hadn't sworn on a command bridge in more than a decade. “The Executor Incident, indeed!”

Then a second group of eight ships, some of them larger, slammed into the Hand of Thrawn at the same speed. Again she vanished into the cloud of radiation and energy and debris, and the bridge held its breath again, if perhaps not as greatly as before. And again, she appeared, unarmed, though in an acknowledgement of the burden it had placed on the starboard kinetic shields, Pellaeon's Flag Captain 'rolled the ship', presenting her other broadside to the Vong kamikazis. Her batteries did not even cease-fire, but instead a seamless switchover of the engaged turrets took place, tracking and continuing to engage for as long as they could bear as new batteries were in turn unmasked and commenced to fire throughout the roll.

The same sorts of ramming attacks were taking place against all six Executors in Pellaeon's force. More than a hundred and twenty Vong ships had expended themselves in this fashion—out of a force of about 7,800 left intact when the ramming efforts had begun—and they had not even scratched the paint on a single one of the great battlecruisers! And one of that, of course, counted the close to 150 similar such ships which had been destroyed by the excellent gunnery computers of the battlecruisers even as they raced in on the verge of lightspeed. Many more at the same time were destroyed by the guns of the Executors alone in the fleet proper, and of course all the other ships were firing continuously at their maximum output as well and wreaking a similar harvest.

The Superiour-class ships with Pellaeon's force—Elise had been assigned the weaker but more numerous Shockwave-class ships—were holding up nearly as well on their own, considering that unlike the cavernous docking bays of the Executor-class, these 8km heavy cruisers had a mere 144 starfighters, devoting much more of their internal space to the massive generators to power heavy shielding and countless ranks of hundreds of turbolaser turrets bearing batteries of the heaviest type. What that meant was that several hundred of the Vong Lights were lost in these efforts already—without a single thing to show for it!

It was a splendid showing by the grand ships of the Kuat Drive Yards, and Elise felt an overpowering emotion as she recalled that it was Mystrela's family who had created the yards, and guided the engineers, and overseen the construction of those vessels. Something of her spirit, of the toughness of the Kuati family spirit, lived on in them as they held up so well under the greatest test imaginable.

For her own fleet, things were going much better. There had been a dozen light destroyers lost at most to the incessant kamikazi attacks of the much smaller craft and the missile barrage of the enemy reinforcements. But now the armed coral skippers of the reinforcement wave had arrived, and they dove in to attack, unopposed by any Imperial Starfighters at all. What the Imperials did have to take them on—CIWS fire—they spewed out and back at them in great hosts of tiny energy bolts which served to flood the heavens in endless fire at close range. Moreover, since the batteries on the starboard side of the ships were not yet in range of the enemy reinforcements, they were all commenced to fire on close-in flak bursts as an anti-starfighter measure.

Nothing could be seen, or even detected, through that hail of energy thrown up off the starboard of the fleet. The bolts were a virtual carpet of energy as they detonated, a continuous wall of energy put up between the Imperial forces and the oncoming coral skippers. It seemed that scarcely twenty percent of the original numbers of the strike got through that murderous wall of fire death, but as soon as it did that twenty percent, tens of thousands of coral skippers, raced in, firing everything they had at keeping at close range to avoid such an intense and coordinated fire again falling upon them.

There were now less than seven thousand light ships left in the Vong force trying to escape out of the range of Elise's heavy artillery. Worse yet, they were coming straight in against the Imperial guns. But the reinforcements now had the range, and their plasma bolt cannons opened up with an intense barrage against the Imperial force, turning to present their broadsides. Elise was forced to immediately switch her fire to those ships, firing fully contained bolts in massed broadsides at the heavies. That brought a respite to the missile fire of the Vong reinforcements as well, but scarcely much of one, and it had done no good at all for the fighters. More ships-VSDs, ISDs, allied Star Cruisers--were being lost now from the efforts of those fighters, but not a single one of the great ships had been touched, and it was that striking arm of the fleet which truly mattered and was doing the true destruction.

Now the Imperial Lights were fully engaged yet again, more than three thousand of their number blasting away at the largely unprotected sterns of the Vong Light which were trying to ram to destruction Pellaeon's element of the Grand Fleet. They had a very great success, considering the distraction of the Vong Light and their by now total lack of starfighter support, and combined with the totally unabated massed fire of Pellaeon's squadrons their numbers had been further reduced to less than five thousand ships, and many more were lost as the gunnery computers of the Imperial vessels now had the exact ranges and patterns of fire necessary to cover the whole route of ships engaging in a hyperdrive ramming effort with turbolaser bolts, and were doing so. The weapons were sublight, but the ships still were, too, and the Imperials had experience with intercepting superlight weaponry with only sublight counterfire, and, of course, superlight sensor systems, which were now fully utilized.

Then Pellaeon's fighters were ready, and they were launched in wave after wave, racing in against the Vong Light, attacking with masses of proton torpedoes and heavy anti-ship rockets, wave after wave of hundreds of thousands of every type of starfighter available in the arsenal of what had been the Milky Way Empire. Most of the light ships still fighting were damaged in some way or another from the long combat and the constant barrage of flak bursts around them, such that they were unusually vulnerable to massed starfigher weapons. A malestrom of slaughter had developed.

Against Elise the Vong lights were now making a last deseperate death ride to try and break through, to preserve their numbers for the defence of the Worldships which were the homes of the Vong people. As they closed in, flak bursts were no longer necessary—the firing solutions were perfect, and full scale very-heavy turbolaser bolts plunged into the light ships, most with their dovin basals already badly depleted, and did horrendous damage. Countless of their number dropped out, crippled, more were destroyed, and still they had to pass through Elise's force. As they began this run, yet another weapon was directed against them. Tractor beams were used to slow many of the fleeing light ships, or in the case of the Executors with their huge reserves of power available for the tractor beams, throw up reverse energy fields of sufficient strength to stop the Vong light ships dead, their acceleration bleeding off into such energies that despite their anti-gravity systems the crews were instantly turned into pulped goo.

Into the wall of fire! The Vong charged through it, being fired at from every side, by every weapon in the Imperial arsenal. Countless hundreds of ships were annihilated, struck by hundreds of light bolts all at once, rent asunder by medium-level fire, or simply vapourized by the intersection of several of the heaviest bolts against their weak hulls.

Despite it all, somewhat less than three thousand of the Vong light ships managed to get through, most of them damaged. The slowed ones, not entirely crippled, were now giving the sole attention of the heavy portside batteries, and their massacre followed. For the Light which appeared to be on the verge of escaping, however....


“Starfighter Command reports sectional starfighter forces are ready for launch, Admiral.”

“Starfighter sectional command is now ordered to launch all starfighters with orders to engage in a general purpose of the fleeing Vong elements,” Elise said, and clenched onto the armrests of her chair and smiled savagely. Immediately the starfighters began to erupt from the hulls of the ships in her forces in great hordes of tens of thousands, racing after the fleeing Vong ships loaded to the teeth with capship killing torpedoes and rockets.

Her main batteries on the starboard side were still ignoring the fleeing light forces and instead concentrating on the heaviest ships of the Vong reinforcement fleet, and that concentration of fire was beginning to show upon them, as well, even as it was doggedly returned by those Vong ships now locked into even a rescue effort which was absolutely hopeless. It did not take the Vong commander long to realize that those starfighters had doomed any chance of the Light to escape, and he cut his losses and ordered a general retreat, having sacrificed 90% of his coral skippers and 600 of his ships for a few dozen Star Destroyers.

Now, to, the Vong Light entrapped by Pellaeon were almost totally destroyed. But at the same time they had battered the kinetic shielding of the heaviest ships in his force so much that at last a few of their number got through. In a hideous display of pyrotechnics and with the instant death of hundreds of thousands of Imperial Starfleet personnel, one of the Superiour-class Heavy Cruisers went up in a violent flaring explosion, erased from the galaxy with the loss of every crewer aboard her in a half-second of heat and radiation as multiple relativistic kamikazi-frigates got through after her shields had been battered down by many others beside.

Two more got through the Executor-class Tonnant's kinetic shielding before her captain could complete his roll to present the kinetic shielding which had been recharging on the protected side of the ship, following another fourteen or so ships which had slammed all along those shields to batter them down for the last six, and then those last two which made it through. The result was devastating: One hit far forward, blowing off more than four hundred meters of the bow, and another punched through her superstructure as it was presented to the enemy during the roll, at the weak point of the hangar bays right below. It ripped through the whole of the superstructure and the hull there, annihilating all of the Tonnant's hangars—less severe than it could have been, for all her starfighters and armed craft were launched at the moment—and literally blowing a hole straight through the middle of the ship. But an Executor was built with her strength in the V of her flanks, and so no critical structural components were lost, and the ship completed her roll, recharged shields presented to the enemy, and immediately commenced to fire again with 75% of her main batteries operational.

Compartments vented to space or filled with deadly gasses were sealed off. Damage control teams were assembled out of all surviving nonessential personnel and sent in to reinforce the designated damage control teams already moving into the affected areas. All droids with secondary damage control capabilities were immediately dispatched. No gunners left their posts as long as the batteries were operational, and if fire or poisonous gasses threatened their position, the turret was sealed to its own internal air supply and the gunners continued to fight their guns, even cut off from the rest of the living ship and surrounded only by the dead. The transverse and longitudinal armoured bulkheads served to prevent a spread of the damage from the immediately affected areas, and all fires were quickly brought under control.

On the outside the Vong lights under Pellaeon's guns were all but finished. The fleet continued the maximum fire into the, the starfighters continued to attack, the Imperial Light behind them were likewise firing with the maximum rapidity that the gunnery of their battered ships could manage, and a hail of fire was coming in from every angle against ships far to weak to stand against it. The last minute was punctuated by what seemed a great rolling sequence of flares as the last hundreds of ships went up within mere tens of seconds of each other, half a minute at most, and then it was over on that side of the battlefield.

Elise's fighters closed the range. They tore into the remaining fleeing Vong Light. Hundreds of thousands of fighters here, too, all fully armed, their warheads overhauling and exploding among the Vong, sending pulses of laser energy in every direction, around the dovin basals, piercing deep into hulls. Steadily the ships fell behind as they lost more and more power, and then the starfighters raised on to attack other Vong ships with missiles and guns in turn. The attacks continued this way with the Vong gamely fighting back, destroying thousands of Imperial Starfighers in the process; but this lasted only for so long. With the reinforcement fleet retreating, Elise's gunners soon lost the range on it, and switched their fire back to the remaining Vong light.

In another four minutes it was over. Two hundred of the Vong Light escaped; the rest were destroyed. The battle of Dantooine was over. It had seen the destruction of 54,000 vessels greater in length than 200 meters, and 43,000 of them had been Yuuzhan Vong—with the majority of the Imperial losses falling among the light and less important ships. The offensive power of the Vong had been broken forever, but the heart of their dark nation still lived.

CINCF Flagship
Torpedo Sphere Ulaumai,
Coreward Hyperspace Trajectory

Hamner Davion had mustered his top commanders around himself in the briefing room. Each entered and bowed in turn, and then he activated the holoprojector. What need not be said was that much of the presentation had been prepared by Harlann Quir, waiting with the self-proclaimed Emperor and now the second highest ranking naval officer in the force. Rano Inaras was not altogether that pleased about the swift promotions of the old Captain, but he had the Emperor's ear and that was that. Inaras, after all, could scarcely go back now. The briefing was quite tense, for their forces consisted of little more than 9,000 ships, and many of them were new, this cruise serving as their shakedown run, or jury-rigged patrol vessels made out of the hulks of old Milky Way warships.

But that wasn't going to be all of their fleet. Moreover, they had a great preponderence of firepower in the Torpedo Spheres of the fleet, numbering in their hundreds, and in a set-piece battle these would still be very useful. It was a set-piece battle that Hamner Davion intended to fight, at least after his move of strategic aggression had been completed, the move that they were already on. The destination of the fleet was of course Coruscant, and many other fleets were moving in unison in to combine with it. There they would make their stand, all for differing reasons, but animated by a common desire to halt Sule.

“Greetings, Gentlemen,” Hamner began.

“Your Majesty,” they rumbled back, and then fell silent as he began to speak.

“The situation is simple. We're arriving at Coruscant with sufficient force to take the planet—even through the planetary shields—by coup de main. We've got more than enough Torpedo Spheres with us to crack the shield, that's one advantage of our fleet composition, and we've been able to draft many ground army contingents from the Milky Way territories to use for the assault. The conquest of Coruscant will raise popular legitimacy in our favour in the way that no other act could, and will provide a unifying purpose to the fleet, to hold it against Sule's counterattack.

“We're expecting around ten thousand Republican warships, five thousand from the Durrano Sector and their allies, and another four thousand from the Hutts, all Corvettes or larger. In total we should have at least twenty-eight thousand warships awaiting Sule at Coruscant, and probably somewhat more than that; a fleet close to numerically comparable to that he went into battle with at Dantooine, though greatly inferior in firepower. We expect that Sule's fleet will have been seriously attrited by the fighting at Dantooine—the battle is over, and we know he won, but we have no idea of the actual damage to his main force—which will certainly aide things in give us a better advantage in fighting to the victory against him.

“Because of the unreliability of our allies, the plan is simple. We're going to stand our ground at Coruscant and fight defensively, to attrite Sule's fleet and gain control of the planet while we work politically to make additional sectors renounce his rule and steal his support base out from under him. To do this the fleet will fight supported by whatever additional fighter squadrons we can bring in and station at the system defence bases around Coruscant, or capture intact, and the same for all of the orbital and surface anti-ship defences. Minefields will also be used; in short, we are turning Sule's tactics at Third Coruscant against him, gentlemen, and that doesn't require any genius from our part, just great firmness.

“Are there any questions?”

Rano Inaras was the only one to speak up, of course. “Your Majesty, I beg pardon, but what of the Vong forces? We were given to understand that this Nom Anor fellow who served on the Imperial Council after the failure of the Imperial Restoration of Palpatine believed that he could lead a communitarian rebellion among the Vong lower masses which might deliver into our hands several thousand additional ships at least.”

“We are not going to count on those, Grand Admiral. It is simple; no-one in the galaxy shall stand the thought of Vong warships over Coruscant. Their presence would give three time's an advantage to the enemy as they give to us by the great popular sentiment they would provoke against us. They do provide a useful strategic reserve if Nom Anor succeeds, but nothing more than that, at least for this battle. Part of the real reason that We supported recognizing the independence of the Durrano Sector and its Confederates is for the chance to gain a propaganda victory by being the architect of overthrowing the Vong from within; this would greatly help to collapse Sule's popularity at having handed the Vong many military defeats.

“That, and the long-term uses of those ships, made the agreement worthwhile, but we must have no expectation of relying on them in the upcoming fight. We must trust to our fresh forces, whereas Sule's have just been in heavy combat and suffered great damage and losses; and we must trust to the steadfastness of our men and of the defences we shall throw up around Coruscant from the moment we take the planet.

“That is all, gentlemen. We are going to arrive in six hours.”

Vong-occupied Outer Rim,
On the Worldship of
Supreme Overlord Shimmra.

Jaina pushed herself to her feet. She rocked back naturally against Miat, settling against her, leaving her weight thoughtlessly in the woman's arms. Though wounded, Miat held her readily, and smiled down to her and whispered something in her ear, a hand stroking through the long locks of her rusty red hair, before her eyes turned back. Back, to silent, tortured Jacen. Back to a man forged in pain, who had resisted the worst temptations imaginable which had been offered to him to embrace that pain, and had come out of the forge with clear views of his morality, but a certain understanding of something deeper than that; it was to the later that Miat Temm now appealed with her explaination, which was given both to Jacen and to Jaina, for the later had walked the course without fully understanding it, and now she would be told her destiny.

“A long time ago, there was a Sith Empire. It was an imperfect creation, a melding of the natural cults of the Sith people—who understood what the Jedi had by then already entirely forgotten—and the Jedi Heretics who settled among them. These Jedi heretics would ultimately be the undoing of the Sith cults, and with them, the knowledge of the ages, which has since then been maintained by many others in various forms, but never by the Sith themselves—for they have been corrupted and lost to the universe by the melding of their teachings and those of the Old Sith.”

“By Evil, in short,” Jacen replied simply. “Those Jedi heretics you speak of..”

“Well, when it started out,” Miat smiled warmly, “They had the best of intentions. They did right up until they passed on from this world, and after all, they defeated the corrupting factions within their ranks when they committed their great sin.”

“Great Sin?” Jacen began, mind racing with history, with the Sith Empire as a legendary force in the Unknown Regions.. And with a dark and gathering suspicion.

“I can sense that you feel a path correctly; yes, the Vong are creations of the True Sith Empire, when it passed beyond this galaxy and into others after it had been driven away by the Jedi Order. The Gods the Vong worship are their twisted memories of the Sith responsible for creating them.” A pause, and her voice grew more severe: “But those were the doomed Sith, those corrupted by the teachings of the Jedi. In a civil war they were overthrown and destroyed by the Sith who held true to the original teachings of the first cults. And then the Sith turned inward, and attained their goal, such that they are no longer.”

“Why did they not destroy the Vong also, if what you say is true?”

“Because they were merciful people, and could not bring themselves even to annihilate these abominations, created by the twisted ignorance of their factional rivals who thought that they could shape the whole universe to their philosophy. Just as you Jedi have tried to shape this whole galaxy to your philosophy of nothingness.”

“That's dangerous territory upon which you walk,” Jacen said, but he deactivated his lightsabre, then, and offered a somewhat more meek smile to Jaina, who then looked up to Miat with serious eyes.

You are alright, yes?


“I have a question, Miat,” she whispered, straightening herself slightly, an arm wrapped around the older woman. “Why would force users create a people blind to the force?”

“Because they desired to destroy the force.”

Silence once more reigned. Neither Jaina nor Jacen could entirely comprehend that simple statement, so brutal in its analysis and yet so alien to their own point of view. But Jacen grasped the logic of it quickly enough:

“The force comes from all living things—but it's not in the Vong. Nor any of their biological machinery; and this is what they convert planets to, killing the force biosphere by biosphere... I am not sure if your history is true, but you have convinced me of that. The Vong could indeed have been created for the purpose to which you propose, as a grand virus to spread across the universe, shattering the bonds of the force and slowly, inexorably, killing it.”

“You are beginning to understand, then,” Miat smiled.

“But why!? It makes no sense for someone to destroy the source of their own power..” Jaina looked accusing to Miat.

“That is what I desire to do, Jaina, for it is what will give me true immortality.”

That had their attention. “True immortality is in the force,” Jacen said—the statement intended as more of a question even though it was not phrased as such.

“After a fashion, it is, yes. Souls seperate from and merge with the force, being recreated endlessly; there is no true immortality in it, just the immortality of Unity with the Whole, and perhaps of reincarnation. The soul goes on but the distinctiveness of the individual is impermanent, a shifting nothingness which even in the most tainted of force users lasts for only a short time.”

“Tainted? I have encountered the souls of Jedi Knights and Masters who have been anything but tainted.”

“Oh, come now,” Miat countered: “Yoda in his arrogance stepped close to the dark side, as did Qui-Gon and Mace Windu and Obi-Wan Kenobi many of the other old masters. Your Grandfather embraced it. That is why they retain a shred of their individuality for a while after death—because they have tasted another path, however corrupted it is, and exist as ephemereal shades out of that knowledge for a while before they, too, are submerged into the force, and their souls reincarnated.”

“And the souls of the Dark Jedi—you seriously say that they linger on for centuries or millennia because of their closeness to some other knowledge?”

“Yes, Jacen.” A pause, a breath taken. She was expending a great deal of energy to ignore the wounds that she had suffered, but Miat Temm did not mind now. “But they are still just ephemereal shades, not the true form of immortality of the unique individual which may be gained.”

Jaina was ready to take the plunge, and so she turned, and looked straight on to Miat in fear and questioning. “Then how is this immortality of your's gained?”

“By removing the force from yourself, entirely.” Miat laughed, then, gripped in the revelation. “The end goal of the cults of the True Sith was not power or conquest of others, but to conquer themselves--to drive the force out of their bodies, out of their souls, so that their souls would exist forever as unique and distinct individuals, never to be submerged and remade, reincarnated through the power of the force! They chose to be eternally seperate from the rest of life in the universe so that they could exist in eternal individuality, their existence as distinct individuals never ceasing.

“And that, oh twins, is the choice that you have made—Jacen, you to lead the Jedi Order,” a fond smile to Jaina: “And you to reestablish the True Sith cults. That is how balance shall be at last restored to the force after many thousands of years of chaos. The two evils shall be annihilated, and everyone who wishes to progress forward into the force must make the dreadful decision, to have their existence washed away that their soul might be born anew in the Unity of the force, or to pursue a lonely eternity of their own existence!” A hacking cough, and she grinned brightly to Jaina. “We have no good choices, my dear, but we shall have at least the same comfort as the shades of the dead in Hades.”

“Why should I turn to such a horrible path?” Jaina asked morosely. “What has come over me that I should turn to it?”

“Your own decisions,” Miat replied simply. “You availed yourself of the powers of the Sith before we even met; when you escaped from the Vong when your brother, here, was captured, and Anakin fell dead. I did not choose your path—you chose it for yourself before you met me. I just came to you, and made sure that you would not avail yourself of the path of the Dark Jedi, which leads to madness and failure, to submerge in the force and the horrid penury of the soul for one's crimes, to the dissolution of All. You have made yourself into a Sith, and I but stand as the voice to insure that you are a pure one.”

“But it is such a lonely fate! How can you think of existing for the aeons in which the universe shall persist, that whole time, existing as a thing in itself, unable to interact with all that is around you?”

Miat laughed merrily. “But, Jaina, you can do anything you Will in that state; you cannot affect that which is not your Will, but if desire to speak to someone, and they desire to speak with you, that interaction is there; it will never fade, the power never to disappear. Your Will is your reality, but so are the Wills of all others, either for eternity or until they submerge into the force, and that is the interaction you shall have, the interaction with that which Wills to be with you.”

Jaina nodded, a bit shakey as she digested the implications, and the first grave and dreadful thought came to her, about what that meant. “But those who choose the other path—they are submerged into the Force, they will never be able to Will again to interact with you.”

“That is true,” Miat agreed in a grave voice. “Those who have gone before, those who shall come after; they are your compatriots in the halls of immortality. So are those who still live. But those who die and choose to go into the force, you will never interact with them again. Their souls shall be reincarnated, but they will not remember you.”

“To be sundered from my family forever..”

“To keep them alive forever!” Miat countered. “If you believe, as I do, that the Force is not a true and worthy life but instead a horrible melange, a gestalt which ends all that matters about you, then your memories of them are the only part of your family which will survive forever, and is it wrong to preseve them? I think not.”

“So it is..” Jaina sighed heavily, and looked to her brother, standing there stiffly.

Jacen spake thusly: “Your words are not spoken in falsehood, though they may be deluded. At any rate, I can only judge by seeing if you seek the power and the evil of all the Dark Jedi who have gone before, or if your declaration of being Sith is indeed different from what they have claimed and done. And I do not want to let my sister follow your path until I know these things.”

“You cannot decide for me!” Jaina snapped.

“No, no sister I cannot,” Jacen answered, keeping his eyes level. “Nor do I believe that Miat's evaluation of what happens when one dies, and goes to the force, is accurate—though her alternative may well, I admit, be a legitimate one. But I will need to see proof.”

“You will see it,” Miat promised. “And then you and Jaina shall fix the two errors.”

“Detail these two errors.”

“Of course.” The proud witch straightened and recited the list as a judgement from the heavens: “The Jedi have suppressed knowledge of the true path of the Sith nearly since the start of the Old Republic, to maintain a monopoly on the knowledge of the force. This is their fault; it must be wiped away. The Sith and Jedi must coexist as the two paths which lead to immortality, each of a different kind.

“The fault of the Sith is thus: That they combined the desire of the Jedi for Unity with their own philosophy of Individuality, and so sought to master the galaxy, and in the case of the rebels among the Old Sith, the whole of the universe, through the device of the Vong.

“These two faults are what had to be rectified, and your grandfather set in motion a path of events that led to this point, to you two twins, who must take over and lead the two paths.”

“Then what of those who desire to follow neither path, yet are still sensitive to the force?”

“They can exist safely, at low levels of power, without becoming corrupted. But they can never be allowed to gain true power, power which would lead inevitably to corruption into a mingling of the paths, and it is a mingling of the paths which has brought this evil upon us. You 'New Jedi' who have learned on the laxity of your uncle must be kept from the true powers of the force for this reason; you Jacen, must leave them and refound the Jedi Order on its oldest principles, according to vigorous application. And you must never let the Jedi Order be involved in the affairs of state again.”

“And for me?” Jaina asked.

“You must give those who cannot stand the thought of Unity with the Force their alternative. Within my stealthship are the materials of the eldritch knowledge of this path, which shall lead you down and upon it. You must teach them to reach a level of ability, so great that the force can be expunged from them in one great effort.”

“What happens, though, to those who expunge the force from themselves like that?” Jacen asked.

Miat smiled wryly. “The expungement is short-lived, for in the moment that it is done, the force already begins to try and creep back into them. That is why the Vong are failing; their lower classes are becoming corrupted with the force. The efforts of the schismatics of the Old Sith were doomed to fail, because you cannot have living unlife surrounded by life; the life will creep back in and win out. So at the moment you expunge the force from yourself..”

“You must die,” Jacen concluded grimly.

“That is correct.”

“Then how will you show me the validity of your path?”

Jaina's eyes widened, and she looked accusingly from her brother back to Miat, who had a peaceful countenance on her face, one that held a horrible truth in it; but her eyes met Jaina's, and she spoke gently:

“Remember to want me around, Jaina, please never forget.”

Jaina mastered herself, and nodded tightly, swift and simple. “I will.”

“Then help me to reach Shimmra, Skywalkers, and I shall do the rest. The abomination ends here.”

There were sounds at the entrance to the prisoner block. Miat at once stepped away, her request, or command, hanging on the air, and brought up her lightsabrer and activated it. Jacen at once activated his, and then at last, grimly, Jaina followed. The three advantaged as a wedge toward the sounds, and were confronted by the press of an investigating group of Vong, from the elite guard of the Supreme Overlord, entering the room.

They ran forward, and met the Guard in battle. They were better than the warriors that Jaina and Miat had fought, but now they had Jacen with them, and the three Jedi together were worse again by many times than simply two. Swarms of thud bugs were sent against them, and their powers shattered them all in the air, as Jacen cleaved his way through many of the warriors with the certainty of the righteousness of this killing now fixed in his mind as a holy commandment; Jaina and Miat, regardless of the distractions of their use of other powers, followed suit.

Steadily they pressed forward, unstoppable, killing all in their path. They advanced into the guard, into the thick of fighting, into the blocking and thrusting and parrying and slashing with their lightsabres that ended in one stroke, perhaps two, in death for so many of these best of the Vong warriors. The press was so great that the bodies of those they killed frequently remained upright, and yet they fought on through them, becoming in the meanwhile covered in the blood and entrails and torn flesh of the dead Vong who's bodies they brushed alongside, forcing the living back with the swirling of their blades, those same cuts ending their lives, forcing the path open, the path toward Shimmra. Together, united, they were unstoppable, and bore down upon the ruler of the Vong, the dead coming to claim their own vengeance with an escort of twins, in an irony that the Vong might have appreciated it, were it not their own doom bearing down upon them with each bloody and burning stroke of the lightsabre's blade.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Re: De Imperatoribus Galacticis v.1 [Revised]

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-10-30 10:55am

De Imperatoribus Galacticis: The Apotheosis of Miat Temm

They left behind them a trail of destruction. Shimmra did not escape in time. He could not, with those furies in the midst of his guards. But there was another reason why he stood his ground, as those force users steadily advanced through the midst of his guards and slew them with great blows of their sabres. There was not far for them to go, as the last men of the guards flung themselves against the strength of those sabres, wielded in such hands as they were.

The last and best warriors of the guard stood at the entrance to the room in which Shimmra stood, his command facility, mad jester at his side, waiting with amphistaff in hand. The room was broad and expansive, showing the readouts and situational reports of the dire status of the Vong empire in the galaxy crumbling around them after the initial successes of their conquests. These ancient warriors tried to force their way in against the three with their skill, and indeed they held their own, but only against two. Miat Temm fought her way past them and the twins checked them from pursuing her or striking her in the back.

She was freed of the continual rivers of gore which had been scattered through the corridors, the stench of shit and blood and tattered flesh, all the horrors of mass death at close quarters. Jaina and Jacen had pinned the first and second of the guard, respectively, and were now fighting hard with these skilled warriors, who were pressed to their utmost simply to stay alive against their skill, but managed it, skill pitted on skill, strength on strength, with an admirable quality to their barbaric honour and stubborn, desperate resistance. The duels continued without letup; all the severe blows blocked, the minor ones accumulating in scars and lightly torn clothes, staff against sabre.

But the upper hand, ultimately, in those duels was not in doubt. If not in the short term, in the long term, in endurance, Jaina and Jacen would win. The Guardsmen fought on for a different reason entirely. They knew now that their master faced only one. They hoped that she would be dead by the time they also died, and thus he might have a reasonable chance to gain a victory over them and end this threat which might splinter the Vong into warring factions in the face of a powerful military.

Miat stood, feet slightly parted, at the ready, and smiled vaguely toward Shimmra. “My name is Miat Temm, Supreme Overlord, and I challenge thee to single combat.”

Shimmra, massively tall, physically imposing, well muscled and an excellent fighter with the amphistaff, nodded his head slightly, and prepared his own fighting stance. “Your challenge is accepted, Jeedai.”

“I am a Lady of the Sith, and I would appreciate that you remember it,” Miat replied, with a trace of haughtiness, and then she struck, daring to take the offensive against the stronger.

It was as thought time had stood still. They parried their blows and did not touch each other with a whisper of the staff nor sabre; they met each thrust of the other with a parry. Lightsabre hummed and amphistaff hissed, and the weapons were swung two and fro, matching against each other with a crackle of energy on many occasions, moving so fast as to be scarcely discerned. Shimmra, big and powerful and armoured, could not quite keep up with the darting swiftness of even the wounded Miat Temm. She moved like a dancer, and each thrust was barely met to be parried, but, oh, was it parried!

Shimmra held his ground, and by his great strength he thrice disarmed Miat, but at each time that she lost her blade she summoned it back to her before he could strike her down, and met the next swing of the staff gamely, already back in the game, once more striking back. Blows jumbled into blows, the intensity of the duel becoming a thing in itself, something greater than the individual components of each strike and each parry. They fought, and fought, and neither could gain a hand on the other.

Around and around the room they moved, Miat shifting with her greater agility to avoid the blows of Shimmra's staff, or to find a better angle at which to attack, and the great Lord of the Yuuzhan Vong resolutely moving with her, never letting the advantage be had, not unused by any measure to the effort of more agile opponents against the power of his barbaric strength and energy behind the staff. Miat moved, and leapt upon the organic consoles surrounding the room, and leapt down upon the Lordly countenance of Shimmra; but he met the swift and vigorous effort, born of the hidden strength of the force, with a powerful counterstrike that sent Miat tumbling to the ground. Yet she was up in an instant, seeming unharmed, and the duel continued with the same mad intensity as before.

Neither of them seemed pressed in the mind, even if their physical bodies were sweating, were stretched to the edge by adrenaline and forced along with outside powers to the very limit of their biological potential. They remained calm and silent, entirely focused on each other, allowing no distraction to enter the mind of the other, met in the honour of single combat, two Wills striving to overcome each other, without the distraction of mass or treachery. But there was treachery in the air.

Here, then, with Jacen and Jaina locked in their own duels, the only observer was Onimi, and he was silent, even his madness struck by the honour of the duel in a war where there had been no honour beforehand, and would be none after. But though he recognized what he say, and some fundamental part of him was in awe of it, he himself was cowardly, manipulative, and treacherous, and his worries as he watched the duel were entirely for himself; Shimmra was little more than his champion, and though he would have liked a surer way of things, here on the field of honour Onimi knew that his word would not prevail against the barbaric simplicitly of the savage warlord.

They continued through what might have been minutes, and what might have been hours, trading blows as great as they had at first. Battling at the top of a world, they strove to claim goals within themselves. Neither one desired what the other had; they were drawn to battle to, in the end, conquer themselves, to master a challenge which lay on their own paths, not to dispute the victor of a single path. And so the duel extended to such epic length, and intensity, for their own motivations filled them and drove them on entirely, without restraint, to the utmost of the height of their strength and knowledge and skill to be used and expended on this singular duel.

Lordly blows continued without end, the masterful strike of sabre and staff blocked by erudite parry. They fought and struggled in mind as well as in body, and here they were matched as well, and it seemed that the duel might last forever, save that there might be, perhaps, some issue of advantage, so minor, that it would sooner or later give one the triumph after an innumerable duration to the struggle, a duration they both seemed willing to accept.

That they might have dueled forever would sooner or later be put to the test, and the issue closed against. They were not perfectly matched; for the strength of the living is limited by the body even where the mind continues to struggle on. It would be a matter of exhaustion, and will, and there would be nothing to come between their struggles by that account, at least, for neither one would presume to countenance such a thing, Shimmra least of all, for here was the duel of a millennia, and Miat not one iota less, for she was battling for her own immortality.

At last Jaina and Jacen, battling hard, had put paid to the commanders of the Guard and struck them down with their lightsabres, with great and mighty strokes that had seen finish to those old and loyal veterans, those skilled warriors, nearly in the same instant—so close were the twins on their seperate paths still matched to each other, in skill and knowledge and strength. They were finished, and they might have turned themselves to add their sabres to Miat's in her lonely struggle, but even as she fought on, blow-to-blow with Shimmra, she peremptorily dismissed their effort.

“This is single combat, and a single combat I shall have!” She thus proclaimed, and so there were three observers instead of one.

To this, Shimmra spoke again, stirred to it by the Kingly act: “Lady of Sith, the Gods will take kindly to you for your honour of the rite of challenge!”

She did not reply, save by the effort of her lightsabre, and this effort also did Shimmra meet, expecting nothing less. But there were words in her mind: For when I have conquered you, Lord Shimmra, the conquerors of your Gods shall welcome me to the halls of the immortal dead.

Time passed and the battle was not abated. Wounded as she was, Miat Temm was drawing on the whole strength of her life-energy; she might as well be 'burning bone' as the old phrase went, past the point of the sinews of Will and Energy and mentral strength, drawing on the core of her essence for the motivating force to continue, and to conquer.

A thunderstorm of blows were exchanged in combat that seemed without end. But now there were wounds on both; burns and poisoned cuts. It was storm rolling through the minutes without ceasing, where those wounds were inflicted and the duel wound down by the exhaustion of those within it. Miat Temm was pallid like death, and Lord Shimmra fought with his left hand, right arm hanging limply, useless and scorched. Yet the situation was not entirely undone for Shimmra, for he was just as skilled with his left arm as his right, and he fought on thusly; and thus also did Miat Temm fight on, as though she could ignore her whole physical condition and struggle by spirit alone.

Now, though, the most slight of advantages had become tangible for Miat Temm. Though Shimmra regularly trained with either hand holding his staff ready, or fighting with two hands upon the staff as well, he had not fought with only his left hand before; his experience with this sort of fight was only training, for only a madman intentionally hobbles himself in a real fight. Thus it was that for all his great experience in countless single combats, Lord Shimmra had never fought with his only his left hand in a true battle, and that lack of fundamental familiarity with the act when blood flowed and bone was sundered was the smallest hint of an advantage by which Miat slowly gained ground.

Another great flurry of strikes and parries, of blows and blocked blows, and it seemed that Miat Temm had regained her strength from the beginning of the duel; yet it was actually Shimmra who was falling behind, more and more pressed by an agile opponent when he had but one hand with which to fight. And so they fought on, Shimmra tired by the constant and extra effort required to defend himself from Miat's agility, with but his one hand, and Miat looking like so much of a corpse, her heart scarcely beating, scarcely breathing, existing on the use of the force to drive adrenaline through her body in greater and greater amounts, like a cape buffalo, it's heart rent asunder by the impact of a heavy bullet, crashing on to gore a hunter by virtue of the adrenal gland alone, dead to the world, by alive to a doomed foe.

Finally there was resolution. The great blows of Shimmra's last effort came, valiant and powerful despite them from his left hand, a flurry of strikes to at last end the desperate struggle. Miat Temm staggered to her knees as she fended them off, as though she had died with that last effort, and Jaina gasped in horror, for her body was indeed that of death. But then, as the last blow skittered to the side of her on her blade, she lunged up with a fury's cry and swung the blade of her sabre so fast that it was just a burnt afterimage on Jaina's retina as it passed sizzling through the air...

...And struck the head off of the Supreme Overlord of the Yuuzhan Vong.

A look of surprised crossed Shimmra's face, and his lips moved without speaking as his severed head fell to the floor and rolled crazily about. Miat Temm watched it for a moment, her gaze flicking back to the collapsing body of Shimmra, ending in the usual squalor after such a noble effort. Then she fell to her knees, and deactivated her lightsabre, panting.

Jaina made to rush forward, and Jacen held out a hand: “Jaina!” He cried, as though he was losing his sister; and in that moment, he was.

But she broke free and ran on to Miat Temm. Miat heard her footsteps, and dragged herself around to face Jaina, still living.

Then Omini struck.

Cackling in mad rage and delight, he unleashed a salvo of force lightning into Miat Temm's battered body, and she shuddered and colvulsed and her flesh burnt, and her hair caught fire as she was struck in the back. The lightning coursed through her body and destroyed her physical form, all save the last act, for in her will she sustained herself by one last, great effort, eyes as clear and intense as ever and looking with longing to Jaina.

She was thus avenged. Jaina met that look, with tears in her eyes and with horror, and with rage. She leapt up, her lightsabre at once drawn and activated, and moved in a blur through the air against mad Omini. Jaina struck him with her boots upon the chest, and drove him down to the deck of the control room, landing upright atop him.

At once he turned his force lightning upon her, but here she was, rested and prepared for a fight. She battered it away, diffusing it, fighting through it, as she brought her lightsabre down, battled and delayed by the force lightning, but inexorably pressing her body down, the lightsabre forward, through the resistance of the lightning and the effort that it took her to disperse it, and thus did she drive the energy blade right Omini's skull, and put down that mad mind, and with it his twisted powers, crushed forever in the shadow of the master he had manipulated, who had fallen with an honour above his race, whilst Omini had none.

Jaina turned back to Miat. She deactivated her lightsabre, and rushed forward to fall to her knees beside the shattered body of the woman, hugging her tightly. It should have hurt Miat, but it did not. She simply smiled.

“Now I carry the dead of Coruscant through the gates of death, to their deserved rest in the heart of their vengeance,” she spoke softly, contentedly, and then added a moment later: “Please don't forget to want me, Jaina.”

“I promise—never!” Jaina nearly screamed, sobbing.

Jacen felt the power rising up, and raced forward to his sister. “Jaina! Jaina! We've got to go—NOW! Something is happening..!!”

Jaina looked down to Miat with querrelous eyes, and Miat smiled back one last time.

“Go. The exit beyond.. The Supreme Overlord's personal shuttle bay. ..Go, go there and swiftly, and flee from the system with your father. And.. Remember, Remember, and we shall meet again.”

Jaina hugged Miat Temm fiercely against her one last time, and rose up, and then paused, and reached out with the force to do one last thing—she drew Miat Temm's lightsabre to her hand, and holding her own and Miat's, gave in to her brother's pleading shouts and led the way, running through the far exit and racing down the corridor there, as fast as they together could run.

Behind them, Miat Temm continued to breath for as long as she could force herself to, continued to survive for as long as she could manage it, giving Jaina as much time as she could to reach one of Shimmra's shuttles, and activate it and fly it clear with her brother aboard, this time, using the desperate knowledge of how to pilot Vong craft that she had learned during her last, equally desperate escape. And this did Jaina do.

Miat could feel her presence move away, then, at a pace greater than a dead run, at the pace of a ship accelerating clear of the Worldship itself. Relief filled her, and she ceased her efforts, and turned inward to the last task. Her eyes closed, she slumped down, even as Vong warriors now pressed into the chamber to the see the dead bodies of the Guards, of Omini, and of Shimmra... And the woman in the middle of it all, who looked quite dead.

A convulsive shudder passed through the force there, and Miat Temm removed herself from it forever, and then, denied its powers, her body could no longer hold out, and she died.

A force storm had begun, emanating out from her dead body. It consumed first the Vong Warriors who had entered the room, destroying them all in the grip of its power, and then spreading out, twisting and crumpling the worldship and gaining steadily in size and power and the swiftness of its expanse.

Jaina could not muster the words to speak. She just piloted, dead to the world, dead to any purpose save the last request of Miat Temm.

It was Jacen who sent the pleading order into the mind of his father: Father, father, we're both alright—Jaina and I are both alright—but there is a force storm building, and you must go now! We shall make it out on our own ship.

Redoubtable Han acted at once, filled with incredible relief, and remembering his earlier great escapes. The moment he heard those dreadful words, 'force storm', he turned his attention to escape, at Miat Temm's stealthship, under his guidance, bolted out of cover and raced for the stars, the navcomp already have a course into hyperspace laid in. The moment it was safe, he commenced the runup, and as he did he looked to the sensors to see in awe the majestic sight of a whole Vong Worldship being absolutely consumed by the power of a Force Storm.

“For you, Chewie!” He shouted, and then: “For you, Anakin, my son!” And then he pulled the lever on the hyperdrive and the Stealthship shot with a flicker of pseudomotion into hyperspace and unto safety.

It took Jaina just a moment longer as the force storm continued to grow, threatening to engulf the other four Worldships in the system, and, indeed, the whole of the system, Jacen realized; though his sister did not care. She laid in the plot, and then looked back one more time at the awesome funeral pyre of her love, and then she to, bound by duty and by a promise, and perhaps, even, driven by hope, drove her craft into hyperspace and safety, to leave the countless trillions of abominations upon their Worldships to their doom, condemned to be the fuel for the funeral pyre that marked Miat Temm's Apotheosis.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Re: De Imperatoribus Galacticis v.1 [Revised]

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-10-30 10:56am

De Imperatoribus Galacticis

"On the Galactic Emperors"

Chapter the Twenty-Fourth.

Imperial Starfleet
Ord Mantell System.

The level of activity in orbit of blasted Ord Mantell was no less intense than it was during the height of a great battle. On the hull of every damaged ship there were men working vigorously, using arc-torches and wielders, bringing in massively thick plates of armour which were patched onto torn and rent holes in the sides of the great ships. Ruined internal structure was removed where possible, and systems restored where possible. When they could not be, when there were holes left inside the hulls of the ships, huge mobile piping systems were extended from repair vessels, through tiny gaps cut in the hull which would then be closed and patched themselves, and then great quantities of ferrocrete were pumped through the pipes and into the ruined sectors, filling them with the strongest artificial rock known to science to prevent the existing damage to the ships from being exploited by further enemy fire.

Wherever there were spare parts for the batteries they were used, replacing as many guns as possible among the number of those which had been knocked out. The fleet train supplied additional tibana gas and missiles, and replacement fighters were piloted in by droids in droves of tens of thousands. Additional ships were arriving, too. Many were not even finished; the Stardrive Yards sent droids and their own employees with them, and ragged crews of conscripts. The Drive Yards workers continued to work in hyperspace, so that men in magnetic boots were climbing carefully along the hulls of the great starships even as they flickered out of the mottled reality of hyperspace and back into realspace at Ord Mantell, and others worked inside the ships, finishing critical components. The crew slept on the metal floors with blankets hastily issued to them as they had left.

With the Vong threat eliminated, the remaining defenders of the Imperial Remnant had been mustered by Pellaeon, entirely stripping the area. Every single armed ship with a hyperdrive was ordered to muster at Ord Mantell from the Imperial Remnant, and they did. The few ships set up to guard the supply lines of the Grand Fleet were also mustered in to boost its numbers, and Sule made a general call for every loyal sector, the threat of the Vong removed, to send all the reinforcements in their possession to boost the warfleet of their rightful sovereign. Not enough heeded the call, for in the events happening, much of the galaxy waited and watched to see the victor, and would not willingly risk their necks for either side. Those who had already fought and bled and seen their comrades die with the fleet, though, did stay, and would fight hard; they had triumphed under Sule's command, and that was motivation enough.

Even the Tonnant was going to fight. Her captain had slept five hours in the past six days, and was running on stimulants. He oversaw every detail of the desperate repair effort to make the great and vital Executor ready. Armour for the repairs was not available in sufficient thickness; they sandwiched many pieces of lesser thickness together using ferrocrete between the layers. Damaged sections of the ship were restored, and those that were destroyed, entirely cored out by the kamikazis, were simply flooded with ferrocrete. Forward, every sector that could be repaired was, and they located how far the structural strength in the internal superstructure of the ship remained intact. Then they cut off everything beyond that point, and wielded layers of armour to the superstructure at that point to form a truncated bow, and then filled the burnt-out superstructure behind it with more ferrocrete.

As many batteries as possible were restored; the main gun firepower and CIWS of the ship were both restored to 85% of their original levels. Full shielding and full engine power remained available. Where power feeds were truncated due to the areas that they had served being missing, creative engineers spliced in the power feeds for ground-based turbolasers ripped out of the prefabricated base assemblies carried by all Star Destroyers, and installed them by wielding the ground turbolaser turrets onto the hull in any place where they thought the structure could handle the stress. Necessary piercings for the power feeds were simply blasted into the bulkheads, and then sealed to prevent a catastrophic emergency decompression in those areas by filling the piercings, after the power feeds had been drawn through them, with a plug of ferrocrete.

All repair personnel and all ships' crewers were working eighteen hour shifts. Where more bodies were needed, they were provided by the crews of undamaged vessels. Droids were worked unceasingly, any that could be remotely programmed to perform repair functions. Due to the lack of available transport assets, many droids were simply tied to large cargo pallets which were flung from one undamaged ship to a damaged one by tractor beams and then immediately put to unceasingly work. Because of the lack of sleep by everyone involved in the efforts and the great strain of the work, the number of industrial accidents were many, including fatalities. But this was treated as a battle; safety was irrelevant, speed was everything.

On the Tonnant the bulk of the professional workers were shipyard men who'd been trained in the Milky Way and originally worked at the Federation Antares Shipyards and were organized in the Dockyards & Ship Labourers Local 515. They were being asked to make a ship which would require two months of dockyard time combat ready at 90% combat systems functionality within six days. They went at it with a particular pride of craftsmen ordered to do an impossible job, in an impossible period of time, and they were close to making it. They only had thirty hours left until the deadline and they were actually two hours ahead of schedule at the moment, without having suffered a single fatality to their own workers yet. It was ugly work, hardly the sort of job you'd want to do normally, not clean, not to spec, nothing, just grab a piece of armour and slap it into place, or pump ferrocrete into a shattered compartment which might still hold the charred remains of bodies. But it was the job, and they were going to finish it.

Most of them probably didn't give a damn about the war, and many, despite the bonuses, were probably angry at having to leave their homes and end up so close to a dangerous combat zone. Now, though, it didn't matter; certainly the overtime they were being paid continuously helped, but there was simply a pride in the unified action which drove them on. How could they not be pleased at the results of their effort, taking that blackened behemoth larger than a city and restoring her to life in under a week? It was just one of the countless examples of workers from every part of two galaxies who were thrust in to work side by side with the military personnel and the tireless droids, and came out doing splendidly, and they were the people responsible for making hundreds or thousands of ships ready to fight again, and bringing new, unfinished ships just arrived up to sufficient operational capacity that they could be sent into battle. And it was not just happening here. At the yards, many ships were still being finished, worked on as quickly as they could, and there was a real hope that some of them might be ready to rendezvous with the fleet shortly before it arrived at its destination.

The destination was rather familiar to the Imperial officers. It was, of course, Coruscant. Even now Pellaeon was monitoring reports from the surface which were still getting through. Hamner had used his Torpedo Spheres to blast down the planetary shields which had been reestablished and had landed significant numbers of conscript troops. The people of the planet, loyal to their saviour, fought back vigorously, and the Imperial forces left as a garrison boosted that national resistance, such that there was a very tough fight on the surface. But the fleet in orbit only grew and grew, which meant that there was no hope for anything except a naval battle. The question was how soon, and on this, Sule had been adamant to strike quickly. It was a position on which his staff tested him, but he remained firm. Now with scarcely more than twenty-four hours to go, the final plans were being made.

Sule, Martina, Pellaeon, Elise, the director of the Ubiqtorate. This was the last meeting, containing only the officers and personnel of the highest rank, the real decision makers of the Empire, of which Martina was counted as one in reality even if not in title. There was no need for the worries of the underlings, now, they just had to face the facts of the situation and go ahead and deal with them. They had crushed one enemy, and immediately another had presented itself. Fighting on two fronts across a whole galaxy would have to be the accepted price of the decisions that they had already made.

“Well, we know that Hamner and his coalition have mustered close to thirty thousand ships at Coruscant. The surface of the planet is soon to fall to his armed forces, and he is exerting every effort to improve the strength of the defences which he seized, and repair those damaged during his coup de main, Your Majesty,” Pellaeon continued in a calm but grim tone. “We shall be very lucky if we are even able to put together a fleet of close to twenty-four thousand ships by the time we confront him. Our losses were very severe at Dantooine, even if the were arguably worth the magnitude of the victory that we gained. In short, Your Majesty, we shall be going into battle again badly outnumbered.

“Our primary advantage is in firepower. We shall have at least parity with Hamner's fleet and possibly a minor margin of superiourity over it in terms of output. This, of course, assumes that the Tonnant is able to rejoin the fleet; even as damaged as she is her batteries are a not insignificant fraction of our total fighting strength, despite the complete loss of her hangar bays. I am reluctant to force battle, Your Majesty, but I will not again advise you against it—there is a sufficient chance of victory that I would adjudge the decision to attack or delay to be your's alone. If you maintain your course of pressing home rapidly, the fleet will be with it, and it will not have a hopeless task on its hands.”

“I do intend to proceed, Grand Admiral Pellaeon. There is nothing to be gained by letting Coruscant fall to Hamner's troops and the blow to our prestige and the unity of the nation which would result. The gallant stand of the people of Coruscant for the past five days is a great unifying symbol of support for me. If they are allowed to fall without the aide of my fleet it would seem as though I had betrayed my staunchest supporters,” Sule answered, his tone equally grim to Pellaeon's. “Grand Admiral, I understand the doubts over the past days, the efforts which have been made to dissuage me from my chosen course of action. But I cannot abide by them. We will see nothing good come out of the abandonment of Coruscant for our cause. To relieve Coruscant will be to uphold the popular trust in me—the belief that my subjects have guaranteed security—and guarantee the revival of the Empire. To fail is to simply promote continued factional strife even if Hamner is ultimately defeated.”

“Your Majesty, I will not dispute your political analysis of the situation and what it mandates. I just mean to make clear that there will be a real uncertainty in the upcoming engagement. The danger of defeat is quite present, and I merely regret that the political situation forces our hand.”

“It's a valid regret, spoken to a man who has seen it in his own career on the field,” Sule replied with a gentle rebuke, half-veiled, at most. “But War has always been linked to the political, and we who decide to transfer between those two spheres of public life must recognize that, and even stop to regret it, for such has always been the case and surely always will be the case. Now it is our place but to endure the reality of the situation and make the best of it.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.”

Sule turned his attention to Elise, and smiled warmly at her restored sense of presence, collected and alive-seeming once again. “Elise,” he said, most informally, “What's the status of the repair efforts on the fleet?”

“Miraculous,” Grand Admiral Kalar-Leben replied. “There's no other way to put the progress that we've had. There will not be any damaged ships that we're leaving behind. We're getting them all safe for combat action in one way or another. Not, hardly, up to full combat readiness, but enough so that they can fight and be worth their weight in a fight, instead of just holding the fleet back. The repair crews have been allowed to innovate in every way possible to improve repair times, and combined with a lot of sweat and hard work and lack of sleep, we've managed to do it. Some ships will actually be finished ahead of schedule, and though I would ask for a six hour delay to finish some of the rendezvous preparations on the ships that are being finished up at Kuat, Bilbringi, and the Remnant yards, among others, I can't think of a reason to delay our efforts further than that.”

“A six hour delay is something I could live with,” Sule said after a moment of thought, charitably. “Very well then. What are we going to do with the repair crews?”

“Some of them we'll try to get off in time, for the others.. Well, there are going to be a great number of civilian repair personnel who are going to have little choice except to go into battle with the fleet. They can be organized under Naval officers and kept ready for damage control. To quiet any murmurings I suggest offering ten thousand credit bonuses for all of those forced to stay.”

“Done.” Money was the lubricant of war, and though it might soon become a problem if they didn't win back Coruscant, for the moment there was enough of it for such expenditures, particularly when the issue at hand was one that they hoped to have settled decisively, by a single great clash, in less than a week. That damaged maximum output of all resources toward a favourable decision, nothing more, nothing less, and this was what Sule was now doing.

“Alright then. That just leaves the matter of starfighters. We're producing a lot more of them than we are capacity for starfighters in the fleet, especially with bay damage to the Tonnant, which of course means the loss of thousands of fighters for the fleet right there. But many of the starfighter designs we're having built have hyperdrives, and I've prepared orders for a rendezvous of the hyperdrive equipped fighters with the fleet for the attack on Coruscant; we may have as many as eight or nine hundred thousand such starfighters moving in with the fleet in addition to those in our bays. They'll suffer initially, and it will strain our support capacity to cycle them through the hangars in addition to the onboard capacity starfighters, but that is not an inconsiderable resource right there.”

“Good. Are there any problems with that?”

“Just one. Most of the pilots are reservists, or outright retired, that we've managed to put together. They have experience, though possibly not with the particular types they'll be flying now, but we they've also essentially been promised their pay without getting it, and in fact the terms of their service are nebulous. I recommend a bonus for them as well.” Elise paused, and then added. “In fact, I suggest that we offer a bounty for any armed ship which arrives at the rendezvous point for the remaining fleet elements ready to fight. We can issue an Imperial Rescript providing them with blanket Letters of Marque in case of capture, and it scarcely matters if Hamner knows the concentration point—we would actually gain an advantage from him trying to ambush us there, away from the fixed defences and minefields he's establishing at Coruscant.”

“I don't have a problem with that either, Your Majesty,” Pellaeon interjected, his aged face managing a wane smile. “Elise is right. Hamner would be giving us a better chance if he was waiting for us at the concentration point. We already have stealthed frigates there to report on any arrival of enemy forces, so there is no danger of an actual tactical ambush, and doing battle away from the defences would noticeably reduce the efficacy of the lighter ships of his fleet against our heavies. If we can pick up a few hundred armed vessels by publishing the concentration point I don't think there's any risk in it, and we will gain at least those ships if nothing else.”

“It will be done,” Sule nodded in the affirmative. “If you're both in agreement on that, then, it's clearly not so much of a risk as the actual action of pressing home a battle right now, and so I see little reason to hold back. Martina?”

Martina Tienyz was unusually silent since the great battle of Dantooine, and from her expressions and mannerisms, Elise had been wondering about something, but held her tongue as well. Now, though, Martina smiled and nodded once to her husband. “No, I have no objections.”

A nod followed from the Ubiqtorate Director.

“Very well then. Our final course of action is set. The fleet leaves Ord Mantell for Coruscant in thirty-five hours. Admirals, begin the final necessary preparations.”

“Your Majesty.”

“Your Majesty.”

I want this finished! Sule thought, sick of the mass bloodshed of the past months, the betrayal and the infighting. It was time to force one decisive encounter to settle the issue of the galaxy, and his own reign, once and for all, and thankfully in that Hamner appeared to be obliging. If he is not, we shall force him to be.

Vong occupied space
System TRI-4565321

It was a dead system, containing a few lifeless planets and a couple gas giants, and many more comets. It was the perfect place for a rendezvous, and that was what took place there, as Jaina brought the bio-ship alongside Miat Temm's Stealthship as piloted by Han. She had been deathly quiet the whole while, and did speak to Jacen; her grief was a private thing, and private did it remain.

As they established the uncertain connection between living and metallic ships, Han was the first to cross it, and sighted his son at the other end of the airlock set. It was a miracle brought to life, wonderful, lovely, perfection in every way. It was his son, battered and aged and having suffered greatly, but still alive. That he could never forget Anakin, still, his eldest son was alive and in it he found a surge of hope back within himself. The elder Solo embraced the younger.

Jaina stood back, watching, silent. She felt distant from this place, from her father, but she was still pleased at having rescued her brother, at having engineered this reunion. It would make up for what she was going to do, to an extent, to her thoughts which were upon Miat, as she had promised, more than anyone else, and the increasing feeling of lonely distance from the world around her.

Her father at last noticed her, indeed, it seemed somewhat spurred by Jacen at last stepping back and speaking softly. “Father, I.. Well, I doubted I'd ever see you again.”

“I had my doubts, too, Jacen.” Han swallowed. “Lots of them. But it worked out in the end.” He looked over to Jaina, then.

“Hi, Dad.” A wry smile, she searched for something to say, and in the end managed some of her own flippancy. “I told you it would work.”

Han laughed. “Never has a parent been happier to have been upstaged by their daughter!” He exclaimed, and then, in a lower voice: “Where's Miat Temm?”

Jacen spoke before his sister could, mercifully. “She died. Overlord Shimmra had this sort of force-mad jester. After she struck Shimmra down.. Well, he fried her with force lightning. Then Jaina..”

“Killed him,” she said coldly. “He stabbed her back after her duel with Shimmra, and didn't deserve anything else.”

“I won't disagree,” Jacen amended. “And, no, Dad, I'm not sure if it was the jester's death or Miat's which caused the force storm. But what I do know is that it happened, and five Worldships were destroyed.”

“Yeah, I saw that too,” Han nodded, almost somewhat relieved to be away of the awkwardness with his daughter, and perhaps normal in his behaviour only from the shock at having his son back. “I guess that pretty much finishes the Vong. From what we know of them, they'll have a civil war over who shall take control of their government now, and they've been completely crippled in their fleet, and now just lost a significant chunk of their population, too. Something which couldn't have happened to better people..”

“Well, they were still people,” Jacen started.. And then shrugged tiredly. “Though I'm sure Jaina might debate that. Their lack of the force does raise questions..”

“And it doesn't matter anyway. We didn't cause it, and the Vong had it coming. Thus is war,” Jaina said, cooly.

“That's true,” Han agreed after a moment, when he realized that Jacen seemed to accept Jaina's words and didn't presume to quarrel over them. “And, well, it's in the past now.” He paused for a long silence, and then added. “Well, I guess I regret having treated Miat Temm with all that suspicion. It all worked out in the end, after all.. Except for her. Another toast to be raised, when we get back home.”

“She never minded, Dad,” Jaina answered softly. “After all, she could only expect as much, behaving as she did around someone who had the experiences you've had in the past decades, and natural wariness. She said as much to me, so don't feel guilty about it or another.”

“I won't.” A moment later: “So. Are you going to junk this overgrown asteroid..?”

“No. I'm taking it somewhere, Dad. After I.. After I get some things of Miat Temm's off the stealthship. But first, I need to ask a favour of you and Jacen.”


“I want you to go to Coruscant and get mother out of the Republican fleet there. It.. Well, it really needs to happen, Dad. Something very unfortunate could happen if you don't convince her to leave. Or take her by force, if absolutely necessary.”

“Those are some strong words,” Han said after a moment, and then looked back to his son. “What do you say about this, Jacen? Can you feel whatever,” a gesture to Jaina, “She feels about this issue?”

“Well, there's a grave risk of death for mother. We've been monitoring the general broadcasts, I'm sure you have, too. I.. I do think that Coruscant is a place she shouldn't be right now. There are decisions which are going to happen there which could have consequences she's not prepared for.”

Han sighed, and shook his head. “Well, alright then.” A soft mutter: “Save one family member, then straight off to save the next.” A moment later, and louder: “Jaina, are you sure about not coming with us and all?”

“Absolutely, Dad. I have to go take care of some business... Pay a debt to someone, and do something which needs to be done for the sake of the galaxy.”



“Then can you at least tell us where you're going, Jaina?” Han asked, faintly exasperated out of worry if nothing else.

“To talk to Baron Fel,” Jaina replied, and began to turn away to go retrieve Miat's things from the Stealthship.

“Wait!” Han strode forward and held out his arms for his daughter.

Reluctantly, Jaina turned back, and smiled rather sadly as she allowed herself to be embraced. A wane look touched her fast, and she spoke, quietly: “Thanks, Dad.” The hug was held for a moment, and then she stepped back and headed into the Stealthship. It didn't take her more than fifteen minutes or so.

Jacen and Han were waiting for her at the airlock when she returned, her own and Miat's possessions stuffed into two duffle bags; she had nothing else now, save for the Vong ship, and didn't need it, either. “Well, Dad, Jacen, I guess this is where we say goodbye.”

“Yes, it is,” Jacen replied in a quiet voice, feeling the tension of the moment, and also the sadness.

“For a while, anyway. You'll be back to us in a few weeks, after all,” Han spoke in a rather more jaunty voice, as of old, then.

“True enough,” Jaina acknowledged, not adding what else came to her thoughts. I will be back, at least to speak to mother.. But I'm not sure for how long.

“Good. Take care of yourself, Jaina,” Han said simply. “Though I guess Jagged's dad isn't the most dangerous Imp to visit—just be careful, come in flying that contraption, that you get the recognition codes right.” He chuckled, and hugged his daughter again before he allowed Jaina to drift away from him.

“May the Force be with you, sis,” Jacen said, and smiled a wane smile of his own.

Jaina nodded tightly at Jacen's words, not speaking in mention of Jagged Fel's name, and the turned to the airlock and headed through it into the Vong ship.

Father and son headed one way, onto their own paths, and Jaina the other, onto her own path. She manipulated the breaking of the docking seal the moment it was safe, and then headed up for the control center of what was, in Vong terms, essentially an equivalent of an Escort Shuttle.

She took her time in preparing to leave. There were many things that she wished to contemplate, now that her father and her brother had reluctantly left on the task to which she had given them. There were things which, alone, she had to think of. But first, duty. Up to the bridge of the confusing biological craft. An inanity passed her mind—ships like this might soon be so rare that the wealthy would buy and preserve them as relics, half dreaded, half admired. But that didn't matter now. Perhaps that was precisely why she had thought of it.

Jaina settled down onto the bridge, inputing the course had she had learned those months before. She was going, of course, to the Hand. It was not for a reason she could really fully rationalize, or justify, but there was a trace of guilt in her having taken this course and dragged Jagged Fel and Shawnkyr along with her; she owed something to them, and their help. But it was not just to free one's self of a debt to wider society, justifiable in itself, that she went. She was going to insure that the final piece of the puzzle came together—that the galactic government of the future would understand its role in the scheme of things just like the Orders would have to understand their's.

The key to the success of the orders would be that they must abstain from the political affairs of the galaxy. The Error of the Jedi had been that they had gotten involved in politics, and in doing so, they had gained the desires of politicians, to protect their turf, to grasp onto their power tightly and never let it go. They had strangled out all competing schools, and in doing so guaranteed that those strong in the powers of the force but disagreeing with their ideology were given nowhere to turn, and in the end could avail themselves only of the perverted madness of the Dark Jedi. In this had they sown the seeds of their own destruction.

Now the galaxy had been cleansed of these errors in fire and blood. The Jedi error was gone; the Sith error was in the process of being destroyed. And when it is finished here, we must also think of a government which will travel back from whence the Vong came, and crush it out there as well, Jaina realized. That was the last piece she needed, really. There had to be a group in charge who would see to it that the error wasn't just driven out of the galaxy, but stamped from the whole wider universe as well, that there was nothing left of it anywhere. She must set in motion the final execution of the imbalance, the destruction of tens of thousands of years of errors built onto each other, evils created from evils growing in turn. That required a distasteful thing, but one she was not unwilling to do. It was the only sure way, and so it would be done.

The course was put in. It was settled upon, and after a last moment's reflection of this dead system, which she had never seen before and would never see again, she activated the hyperdrive of the Vong ship and raced into the mottled reality of hyperspace, into her course for destiny at the Hand. Her mind was not on it, though, it instead turned to the events which had happened on the Vong Worldship, to the things she had said and felt. Uncomfortable things, which had burned hot and then died swiftly with Miat Temm. They might not ever come back to her, for they were wrapped up entirely in that enigmatic character... And for all that her path was now firmly set, it was also unsettled. Jaina knew that she would have to work her way through many doubts.

But I will keep my heart open, and if she returns, then half of them of them will be wiped away. Jaina wiped a few traces of tears from her eyes and smiled wanely. So it would have to be.

Outside, the galaxy was abroil in war, but a different kind of war. The two competing forces could understand each other, and fought fundamentally for the same thing. Political power. Neither side would be denied it, and so they would meet on the field.

It was a war cleaner than the senseless mad savagery of the abominate Vong. But it would end up just as deadly to those who fought in it, if perhaps glossed in more of a shine of honour. The clash which would decide it was not long off, and so Jaina made haste.

CINCF Flagship
Torpedo Sphere Ulaumai,
In orbit of Imperial Centre

Fires burned on the surface of Coruscant once more. The lights all across the planet were shut down, and there was nothing to be seen of the great and batered Coruscating Gem of the Galaxy, save for those fires, when Rano Inaras looked down upon it. He knew that a bloody conflict was being fought there, and it was not one that showed any signs of abating any time soon. If it anything, it had grown more intense, for there was some very bad news in the air. Sule was coming with his fleet, and he had made his intent public.

A glance showed the holonet communication which had gone out, also relayed countless times through subspace:

Citizens of the Galaxy!

Our national capital is once again besieged and threatened by treacherous forces. Rebels against my authority have combined, and made war upon the capital, and landed troops upon it. They have done this as a stab-in-the-back to the cause of national unity against the Vong threat. But I, loyal to the cause of national unity, ignored this grave threat until I had crushed the Vong fleet in main force battle over Dantooine. There is no threat from the Vong remaining.

Unfortunately, the conflicts of the galaxy are not over. Central order must be maintained, and it is against central order that these rebels have struck—they are the new Seperatists! Hamner Davion, proclaiming himself Galactic Emperor, is nonetheless engaging in a course which has made promises of independence to many peoples, instead of fighting to uphold galactic unity, and with it the prosperity and safety of our civilization from an endless plague of devastating wars.

I now strike with every weapon in my arsenal to save the galaxy from this fate. My fleet will make war upon that of the Seperatists, and by the blessing of Fortune shall we have our victory. No effort will be spared in making it come about, and in doing so providing the people of the galaxy with what they simultaneously need and desire: Peace!

Since this is the desire of every living being who has suffered through the strife which has now lasted for nearly a century in our galaxy, I ask you all to make my cause your's, for they are one in the same and it is only the Seperatist-sympathizer who presumes to suggest otherwise. Attached to this transmission are the necessary coordinates for a rendezvous my fleet will be making with other loyalist fleet elements. This is proof that, firstly, I have absolutely no fear of the enemy who is Hamner Davion and his reproachable 'allies', all desiring independence. Let them come on—we shall show them off!

But secondly it is an invitation for the galaxy as a whole. Come, I say, and fight alongside me and my fleet! If you have armed ships, take them, and arrive at these coordinates, and we shall provide you with an Imperial Rescript detailing your rights under Letters of Marque from my person. You have nothing to fear from participating in the general combat, and the peace of the galaxy to gain—a quicker and more bloodless peace, the greater the preponderence of firepower which we can concentrate against the enemy! I do not desire to have a dubious struggle out of this, but to make a single, decisive blow with swuch overwhelming strength as that the forces of the Seperatists are crushed outright before us by such a mass of strength that they cannot effectually resist.

We shall fight together, Emperor and Citizen, because I am but the representative of your Will, and I desire nothing else than to see your wishes met. The wars of the galaxy shall end here—at Coruscant we shall direct our strength, and I will see to it that after this one battle we do not need another. There will be no protracted war. I am putting my effort and my life up to the challenge, and intend to succeed and end this affair; failure is not an option; there is no contingency plan here, just the watchword—Victory!

As always, if you join my fleet, you may expect to see my flagship in the front rank. I do not shirke from doing battle with the enemy, as some rulers do, and I am willing to put my own life on the line for the desires of my people, for the desires of the galaxy's people. Fight by side, and by it gain at last a final peace for the sake of your children, and your heirs who shall follow them! This is the price and the sacrifice we must make for that peace, one last great struggle, and those who join me in it will be remembered forever as those who brought the galaxy renewed happiness and prosperity after so many years of chaos.

I know that your will has spoken. Now I shall enact it. There is nothing for me to do but put my fleet to the test, and exert my utmost to see that I have brought to you what our shattered celestial lands desire. There shall be peace for the galaxy, and it comes by the strike of my fleet—we shall have it through no other way than victory!

Rano was not sure if he was pleased or worried. On one hand, it was ideal, the enemy was charging right ahead into your fixed defences. On the other hand, the solidity of those defences, the firmness with which they might be held, was very much in question. The Hutt forces were unreliable at best, Guri—whoever the hell she was, some kind of advisor of the late Tranjak-sar's, no doubt, who had seized effective power by bribery and blackmail after the sunder--was clearly intent on preserving as much of her fleet strength as she could, for obvious reasons. And of course the Republican forces were under the command Admiral Ackbar, whom Rano had to grudgingly admit was a better commander than he was. The problem being that it left an entirely discombobulated chain of command which effectively left power in the hands of Hamner Davion and Princess Organa, neither of whom had particularly much experience in directing large fleets, though perhaps they would at least manage to properly resolve the chain of command disputes which would inevitably erupt even during the conflict.

On the other hand, the defences they were building up were very extensive indeed, certainly rivalling those that Sule had arranged for Third Coruscant. A circuit of the defence lines would show hundreds of millions of mines, and more were constantly being laid. There were also prefabricated defensive fortresses, and every available space facility was being utilized to house additional fighters which were shipped in to boost the numbers of the fleet. Prefabricated garrison bases were also being deployed to occupied sectors of the planet so that their turbolasers could be used to boost the firepower of the fleet from the surface, if necessary, and in this they were aided by any other sort of surface-based weapon which could be obtained and emplaced.

The primary danger there was that, of course, the surface of the planet was not yet secure. There were many areas still entirely in the hands of the population and the loyalist troops, who were fighting hard to make the conquest of Coruscant as difficult as possible. And now this message, which the fleet could hardly succeed in getting through to the people of the surface, had caused them to redouble their efforts at resistance, hoping that soon their relief would arrive from space, their Emperor and Saviour coming once more to repeat his efforts on their behalf, to chastise those who had torn through the peace of Coruscant just months have the horrors had begun, when the refugees had just started to return.

Rano noticed someone approaching. He turned, and then bowed low. “Your Majesty. Welcome. What may I do for you at the moment?”

“We desire a progress report on the status of the defences.”

“Of course, Your Majesty.” Rano turned back to the console he'd be looking over the message at—Hamner saw it and frowned slightly, though he was already quite aware of it even so—and then Rano replaced it with a holographic projection, on the main projector of the bridge, showing Coruscant and the rings of defences around it.

“As you can see, Your Majesty, we are nearly complete. Everything will be finished by the time that the projected arrival of Sule's fleet is at hand. Indeed, because of the delays he plans to try and gather as many supporters together as he can, we should able to reinforce particular spots which at the moment are acceptable, but not ideal, in terms of the strength of the defences. The Torpedo Spheres are, as you can see, positioned to provide support for the outer line of defences, and the Republican heavy ships are concentrated to repulse a concerted attack. The most grave issue is that the planetary surface batteries are very uneven due to the continued resistance in certain areas. So the enemy can avoid fire from the planetary batteries over certain portions of the planet, and they are likely to know which of those areas to attack at due to communications with the surface which will probably be unable to stop.”

“We trust that you've reinforced those areas of the defences appropriately, Grand Admiral?”

“To some extend, Your Majesty. But I do not desire to have an even defensive perimeter, just one that looks that way. If the enemy can punch through in a spot or two, so much the better—we might well be able to counterattack from the flanks and cut off a portion of their fleet. That could give us a sufficient advantage to make a counterattack.”

“We have no desire to risk our position with a counterattack.”

“Your Majesty, please, but a moment for me to explain,” Inaras said, dipping his head submissively. “You see, if we can destroy a heavy striking portion of their fleet, we shall have them at not just a preponderence of numbers, but also a minor—but very real—advantage of firepower in the fleet alone. At the moment we do not have that, but we're close enough to it that if we can destroy a segment of their main body without great loss, we shall be able to undertake offensive operations with a serious expectation of tactical victory here.

“That would be worse than anything else for Sule. If his fleet is crushed in this military engagement, he has nothing. We just need to hold Coruscant—he needs to take it, or at the least, when failing, have the bulk of his fleet intact. This is a much more difficult task, and if we can shatter his fleet, well, it's over for him. The main problem is of course the level of risk, which is why I don't advise it unless we can succeed in cutting off a portion of the fleet and destroying it, but if we do, it is certainly not only possible but logical to counterattack.”

“The logic is sound, but if we overextend ourselves and this fleet is defeated by Sule's forces, we will never get it back. Even if we retreat in good order ourselves, the alliances we have formed for this battle will be shattered, and not even the greatest of Harlann's efforts shall secure them. Thus, the decision to counterattack will be Our's alone, Grand Admiral, and do not forget that.”

“I will not, Your Majesty,” Rano replied, bowing again even as he stiffened inside at the mention of Harlann Quir. Still, he mastered it, and asked a moment later: “Beg Pardon, Your Majesty, but do you think the situation on the surface will improve enough that a more equitable placement of surface defensive cannon can be achieved before the projected arrival of the enemy fleet?”

“It is unlikely,” Hamner snapped back. “You will just have to plan on the assumption that no more territory is secured on the surface.”

“Of course, Your Majesty,” Rano replied hastily.

“Very good, then. We shall be leaving now to attend to matters on the planet.” Saying nothing more, Hamner Davion turned away, grimly aware that the situation on the surface was nothing like he had expected, or hoped for. But all the problems that it would cause were, ultimately, not fatal ones. Maybe even, as Rano had pointed out, they would turn out to the advantage of his cause. Still, the were problems, and they had to be dealt with. That, and they provide a pleasant enough distraction from the impending arrival of Sule's fleet, Hamner mused as he left.

Imperial-Chiss Condominion
In Orbit of the Hand

Jagged Fel and Shawnkyr were very near to awed, even if Shawnkyr herself did not show it at all. Before them was the greatest fleet of the Condominion that they had ever seen. It was mustered in countless ranks, some eight thousand strong. It was all the old might that Thrawn had arranged to be sent out here, and it was surely impressive—there were not less than 5,550 destroyer-rate ships in the force. Close to fifty ISD-III types, with special accomadations for extensive fleet command stations, just like the old Chimaera, formed the largest ships of the fleet. After them, however, were the sorts of ships which, though old, were very much serviceable—they had been in service in many cases for a decade at most, then mothballed for two decades, and now in service here for a quarter of a century at most.

There were fifty-five hundred Venator-class Star Destroyers mustered here, all of them nearly twelve hundred meters in length, the ships which had fought the Seperatists in the grand conflict which had been the foundation of the Empire. By modern standards they were woefully underarmed for their size, but they were well protected and well armoured, and each of the ships, moreover, had a capacity of four hundred starfighters. This meant that the Venators alone of the fleet held two million, two hundred thousand starfighters altogether. And that was where the Chiss contribution to the Condominion came in—all of those were front rate starfighters based on collaboration between Chiss and Imperial engineers, combining the elements, like Jag Fel and Shawnkyr's attack craft, of the best of Chiss and Imperial engineering, of the TIE Defender and the larger Chiss attack boats. They were manned almost entirely by Chiss pilots, even though there were no Chiss capital ships in the ranks of the Starfleet, they made up for it with their contribution in starfighters and in personnel.

There was more to the fleet, of course. One hundred and fifty Dreadnought-class heavy frigates (or patrol cruisers), six hundred Strike-class frigates; an equal number of Corellian Corvettes of the Imperial battle-ready escort design; three hundred each Nebulon-B and Nebulon-B II frigates; two hundred and fifty each of the Lancer-class escort frigates and the Interdictor gravwell frigates of the 600 meter variant. In total the starfighters carried by these additional support elements of the fleet, and the ISD-IIIs of the commanding Admirals, brought the starfighter strength up by another hundred thousand. It was no mean assemblage of firepower, but it existed now without a target, for it had been mustered to fight the Vong, to strike home against them at last, when the local enemies had been dealt with, the recruits trained, these old reserve ships brought out of storage here in the Condominion where they had been sent by Thrawn, and prepared for the long-awaited war.

But by the time the mailed fist of their countrstrike had been ready, there was no longer a threat, and it was the job of Jag Fel and Shawnkyr to inform to the elder Fel this fact, which seemed to speak almost of the wasted utility of having assembled the fleet. But not quite. Jag Fel had, in his months in the galaxy at large, formulated certain opinions about the contest for the Empire, and as he saw this fleet and realized it had no purpose, it occurred to him that it might well hold the balance of power for the fate of the whole galaxy, that at long last it could insure peace and stability, even as the Venators had been built for that purpose so long ago.

Their ships cleared all the necessary codes and entry querries, and they were soon given top priority to approach the flagship of Baron Fel. The comptroller of fleet approach switched them over to the docking clearance director on the Victrix, Baron Fel's flagship, and they were guided in by tractor beams to the forward shuttle bay, as the main bays were already stuffed to the gills with similar fighters. Immediately an officer of Baron Fel's staff met them and ordered them to prepare to report to the Baron even as he directed a team to download and transfer the contents of their logs and databooks on the two fighters. The meeting was in thirty minutes; it gave them just enough time to go to the pilot showers, dry off, and find sets of dress uniforms for the meeting.

The room they entered thirty minutes later was almost entirely empty as they came to attention and saluted. Elder Fel looked to young severely, and then nodded. “Sit down, my intrepid scouts.” There were two others in the room, a severe looking short-haired Chiss woman in the uniform of a Vice Admiral of the Imperial Starfleet, an a pugnacious looking human man who appeared to be in his early sixties and was wearing the identifying uniform of a high-ranking member of the Ubiqtorate. Jag Fel had seen both before, but never in this sort of circumstance, and Shawnkyr never had at all.

This, then, was as small as Baron Fel could pare his staff down to when he needed, and essentially it consisted of the decision-makers of the Condominion. Baron Fel himself was dressed in the uniform of a Space Marshal of the Imperial Starfighter Corps. He was relieved to have his son back safe, but didn't exchange any words. That would come when business was over, not before.

“We've been reviewing your records from your starfighters exhaustively over the past twenty-five minutes or so,” Baron Fel began. “To stay that your record is exhaustive is to put it mildly, but it also seems to suggest that the Warlord Sule has effectively crushed the Vong forces—which we were receiving reports of—while, on the other hand, the Jedi have succeeded in taking out some central aspects of the Vong governing regime. What sort of effect do you think it will have on them? It's unclear how that situation ended from your records, we have communications transcripts saying that the raid on the Worldship was successful, but do you have anymore evidence than that?”

“No, Sir,” Jag Fel replied, speaking for the two of them. “We were ordered to bug out by General Solo following our diversionary operation, and that was that. Of course, we first sent a message, as per those instructions, to Sule's fleet regarding the disposition of certain Vong reinforcements which had left the system before our raid. From what we picked up by monitoring communications on our way out, a battle was fought at Dantooine which resulted in a crushing victory for the Imperial Starfleet.”

“A Imperial Starfleet,” Baron Fel grunted. “We have not decided to acknowledge the legitimacy of Sule's regime in any sense, young man, and please do remember that. I know that you fought in support of his forces and his allies on several occasions, but that alone isn't going to dictate our policy. At any rate, do you agree with the analysis that the Vong have suffered significant reverses?”

“Absolutely,” Jag said, taking the rebuke with a patience he didn't really feel. “Indeed, I would go so far as to say that their main fighting power has been decisively crippled and it's quite possible that their civilian population has suffered heavily as well. I don't think they're a factor in the galaxy anymore.”

“Lieutenant Shawnkyr?”

“I agree with the squadron leader's assessment,” she said simply.

“Very well, then.”

“The assessment may, however, be disputed,” the Chiss Vice Admiral began, then, casting a respectful if cool look to Baron Fel. “Some of the most critical evidence they have provided us is only circumstantial, from communications records, and may well be falsified by the senders for security or strategic reasons, or simply propaganda.”

“That is so,” Baron Fel answered. “Though it is clear that the Vong are militarily defeated at least to the point that the Warlord Sule feels comfortable with launching an assault on Imperial Centre in the developing conflict over galactic control with the Warlord Davion. At any rate, all of this information suggests that we should wait and conduct more reconaissance to see if a general offensive against the core of the remaining Vong holdings is called for in this circumstance, or if instead the Vong have been sufficiently crushed that we should resume the husbanding of our strength.”

“For what, Your Lordship?” Jag asked of his father. “We now have a fleet of more than eight thousand ships mustered, and millions of starfighters. Everything I have reported upon suggests that the Vong are crushed—that the invasion forces of the Milky Way that the Grand Admiral sent forth so long ago have come back and done the job we were intended for. Now we have this reserve force in the galaxy, and is it not time that our thoughts turn inward to the use of it in insuring the reestablishment of Peace and Order? Is that not now our duty as Imperial officers?”

“It may be. But we do not really know which side to support. We should wait and see which of the Imperial factions comes out victorious and then decide which one to align with,” the Chiss Vice Admiral—The Baron Fel's Chief of Staff—spoke for him then. “If we align with one at all. They will have to be evaluated closely for legitimacy.”

“Legitimacy has come to rest with the people, now, and Sule unreservedly has their support. If the Empire is to be restored at all, it must not fall upon the lines of succession, but rather with a generally popular Emperor, and that means we must support Sule fully,” Jag Fel pressed.

“Silence! That is not a decision I am prepared to make now, young man,” Baron Fel spoke sternly to his son. “You are not in a position to dictate policy, no matter the successes and adventures you have been on during the past months. We will await the development of events before deciding on our course of action, and that is final.”

“Very well, Sir. I apologize for my presumptiousness,” Jag replied softly.

“The apology is accepted. You're both dismissed.”

As they left, Jag's thoughts were on Jaina, and he wondered what she was doing now.. And if she had even survived her reckless mission to the Vong Worldship. It was a bitter thought, and he almost wished that he had not returned home.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Re: De Imperatoribus Galacticis v.1 [Revised]

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-10-30 10:56am

De Imperatoribus Galacticis

"On the Galactic Emperors"

Chapter the Twenty-Fifth.

Imperial Starfleet
System TRL-789252.

It was another desolate place. Three stars all orbiting each other, two massive blue supergiants and a green star scarcely smaller, casting their pallor across a great expansive of space in an entanglement of gravity. There had been a mining operation here, once, two thousand years ago. It had removed what valuable trace elements as were profitable from the tangle of protoplastic clouds surrounding the supergiants, planets which could be never formed in this gravity regime, and then left, and that was the only time that sentient beings had been here in the past five thousand years. There were many systems like it, for there were a host of uninhabited systems for every one of the fifty-five million or so inhabited ones in the galaxy, and the resources of those were far, far from being tapped. It was, in short, a place for a fleet rendezvous, and nothing else.

Ships had indeed come. Not enough, not enough by far, but there were now 21,000 regular force vessels in the Grand Fleet—many of which were not technically finished ships, but were going into battle with shipyard workers onboard. There were another twenty-five hundred civilian armed ships which were of capital strength which had arrived to Sule's call to arms, but many of these ships were very badly underarmed and scarcely protected at all against enemy fire; there were many more which were not capital ships at all, but a host of tiny modified transports of a hundred and thirty meters or so and less in length. They would, of course, be used anyway, for the enemy was thought to have around thirty thousand ships. The risks taken would be compensated for, either to the living, or the relatives of the dead, and that was that.

With the fleet mustered here, it would only be a short fourteen hour hyperjump into Coruscant, and battle. There was nervousness and drinking, and lots and lots of work, for though the crew might have their usual off-duty periods on the fortunately undamaged ships, those coming straight out of the yards or which had suffered damage at Dantooine were working their crews continuously, as hard as whip-bearing slave drivers, to make further repairs and thusly improve their chances in the battle ahead. There would be time to rest ahead. Just enough for men exhausted by days spend on eighteen hours work, six hours exhausted sleep, to collapse into bed for ten hours or so to get the rest they needed for the upcoming battle. Until that time, they were worked unceasingly.

This was the rough edge of combat. There were no spit-and-polish legions here marching into battle with their equipment gleaming. These were veterans, fighting in ships patched by ferrocrete and with random plates of armour bolted and wielded on at points of damage haphazardly, just good enough to do the job. Exhausted men with several days' growth of beard—normally unacceptable in the Imperial Starfleet—worked, sweating even in the climate-controlled locale of the deep interior of a ship, manhandling equipment into different sectors, making internal repairs, checking for microscopic fissures in bulkheads that might have been caused by shock damage, which in the battle to come could cause progressive decompression if nearby sections were vented to space.

At least the droids did not tire. But they were being worked very hard, as well, twenty four hours a day, and would go on working even as the men rested before their arrival at Coruscant, and their fates. They were certainly being worked nearly to destruction; there was no time for maintainence, unless the droids broke down, at which repair times repaired them as quickly as possible, or junked them for parts. They were kept up at the maximum pace, and though most made it fine, some did not; and for those computer-beings there was no mercy shown, for the living demanded their own existences of them. This was the reality behind industrial war.

And industrial war it was. Everything was a computation of distance, of time, of production rates, of the gathering and direction of forces. The speed at which Sule assembled his fleet was pitted against the speed at which Hamner Davion oversaw the erection of the defensive barriers around Coruscant. Each ship brought onto line counted for something, and it was repeated thousands of times over, to be matched against the minefields and prefabricated orbial batteries that Davion was having brought from everywhere they could be purchased, built, or jury-rigged, and was likewise also thrusting in almost-finished ships courtesy of the Mon Calamari Stardrive Yards of his Republican allies. Battle had not been joined by the starships, but here the Quartermasters were already fighting hard.

Yet the industrial factor was not the only one. Had it not been for politics, Hamner Davion would not have the force to contest control of the galaxy with Sule at all. Had it not been for politics, indeed, none of this would have happened at all. And for that most historically minded of Admirals, Elise Kalar-Leben, there was a real political consideration—which was simultaneously an intensely personal one—which had to be discussed with her closest friends, as much as she bitterly detested being the driving force behind the suspicion and idea now in her head. Yet in such a state as an Empire, some intensely personal matters are also ones of constitutional interest, and this was one of those points of intercession.

Thus it was that she traveled on her own Escort Shuttle through the fleet, looking at the vigorous activity; the time-expired veterans of the Starfighter Corps, recalled by promise of bonuses, drilling with their new TIE and Gunboat models, trying to get as much flying time in the new types as they could before battle; the repair work or finishing touches being still conducted upon the damaged or new starships. Cargo shuttles and lighters shifting supplies from ship to ship in a last ditch effort to make sure every vessel had a minimum of what it neeeded for the upcoming battle. And it would all be over in hours, and they would be racing through hyperspace to fight and quite possibly die. One moment this system was home to millions, the next moment it would again be dead, silent and timeless against the desperate rush of sentient effort.

Yet for all that astronomical time dwarfed their efforts, historical time was very vivid and very important to what drove Elise's considerations in this trip to the Despot. There were trillions of lives which might hinge on what she discovered, and certainly the stability of the galaxy. It was a high duty, and yet an uncomfortable one, when it involved one's closest and indeed, these days, only friends left alive (for Harlann was dead to her). In this morose sort of mood Elise arrived on the Imperial flagship, and headed at once for the suites occupied by the Emperor and the Empress, scarcely pausing long enough to acknowledge the abbreviated piping-aboard ceremony practiced in the austere and practical Imperial Starfleet, and brushing off every offer of assistance. The message soon got out to Sule's Klingon bodyguards; Elise was coming. And, as they had every time before, on the specific order of the Emperor, she simply brushed past them and on inside.

“Elise, what can I do for you?” Sule looked up from his desk, where he had been using a stylus to some Rescript or another, with a bit of surprise. He certainly hadn't been expecting a visit like this, and though Elise looked better than the last time this happened she still seemed to have that bloody-minded moroseness about her that had rarely left in the past months.

“Hi, Sule. I need to talk to Martina. Where is she?” She asked softly, but in a voice which indicated she wasn't taking no for an answer, even from the Emperor.

Sule held up his hands and chuckled in mock surrender. “She's bathing at the moment, as a matter of fact. But a husband knows better than to try and keep his wife's friends away from her, so if you don't think she'll mind your going on back there to talk to her, go right ahead.”

“Thank you,” Elise managed to reply, even as she was heading straight back into the depths of the Imperial suite, stripping off her gloves and outer jacket as she did and tossing them on a couch like she was perfectly at home here, which as a general rule, she was.

It didn't take her long to get back into their sleeping quarters—a quick glance around at the holos and the big four-poster bed showed that not all that much had changed since the villa days back on Terra—and then she pushed her way into the bathroom...

“Aiee!” A moment to recognize who it was: “What the HELLS are you doing here, Elise!?”

Blank look: “Relax. It's nothing I haven't seen before..”

“That's not the point!”

“Okay, okay.” Elise backed up and waited behind the door as Martina got out of the tub and swathed herself in rather luxuriously large towels, before sitting on the edge of the counter. “Come in, Elise. I'm sure this is important.”

“It is,” Elise answered as she stepped back inside once more and leaned against the doorjam. “Okay, I've had some suspicions—maybe it's just an intuition thing, or maybe some of the things you've been doing lately, like the fact that you've suddenly developed a taste for that raw Japanese squid dish which you previously hated, and I know that Sule is just the type to be completely one hundred percent oblivious to these sorts of things, he's nice enough, but you know military men...” She trailed off, looking at the expression on Martina's face.

“You're pregnant.”

Martina bit her lip, then nodded. “Yes.”

“Look, I know the obvious reason why you didn't tell Sule..”

“He does have far to much on his mind as it stands.”

“A lot of which would probably be relieved if you stopped this crazy insistance of following him to every battle! It's stupid enough that he goes when we don't need him, though at least he's a bit of a symbol, a morale-booster to the fleet if you will; you're just being, well..”

“I love him, Elise. You should know well enough what that means.”

Elise gritted her teeth. “Martina, 'together in life and death' is all nice sounding when you're married, or to your family, but I assure you.. There is a life after your relatives die. And you know I speak from experience there.”


“That was very cruel of you.”

“It was very cruel to myself to bring it up, if you suffer the same, well, so be it,” she answered softly. “The fact of the matter, though, is that in supporting Sule to the Imperial throne, you need to start acting like a dynastic scion. Your child is the heir to the throne; if Sule falls in action because of his damnfool insistance to fight at the front, then it won't just be your emotions which suffer and your soul which is saddled with guilt, but you'll be condemning this galaxy to another twenty-five years of civil war.”


“My family would still be alive if Palpatine had a legal successor. There would have been no Republic, no Imperial Civil War, etc, etc, onward and onward. Trillions of people would have lived. The Vong invasion would have been repulsed at the border by the military forces of a single Oversector. Your blood must run cold in affairs of State! And it is worse than that.

“You have a responsibility to the life inside of you, now. You can't just go off to battle, even if you don't care about the whole rest of the galaxy, and expose your child to risk out of this overdone romanticism when said child is not capable of making any sort of decision on the matter at all. This is not the field of chivalry, this is not some honourable combat. Industrial warfare does not make distinctions, particularly on ships at a range of thousands of klicks. You must seek safety.”

Martina's voice was almpost hoarse as she whispered back to her close friend. “But where? Where is a secure place..”

“Kuat will harbour you. In the worst case scenario, leave Kuat on the approach of the enemy and seek refuge at Hapes; monarchies do not turn Empresses over to the grasping hands of usurpers and republicans.”

“There will be no worst case!” Martina replied with a bitter snap of her voice. “I am doing this for the sake of my unborn child only; do not ever speak of that worst case again. But if you think it just, I will indeed go to Kuat.”

“The Kuati people are noble, honourable, and valiant,” Elise said, thinking of someone now dead, and then added with a trace of a ghostly whisper: “Without exception, at least after I took out the trash.”

“Well, you are biased on account of Mystrela, but I will trust your word all the same. How much time do we have?”

“I suggest you should be ready to depart these quarters for the hangar bay with an escort in ninety minutes. That should be enough time for you to pack with some help.”

“Yes. Alright then.” A pause, then: “Can you explain things to Sule? I don't think I can really stand to; once he knows, well, we'll have enough time to meet for our goodbyes, but..”

“Of course, Martina, think nothing of it.”

“Thank you. ...Take care of yourself, Elise, in the battle ahead.”

“I've faced longer odds before,” the old frigateer replied with a grin. “See you in a week or two.” She turned, and headed out, to the scarcely more pleasant task of informing Sule.

“Elise, how'd it go?”

“I got a shriek out of 'er,” she answered with an effacing grin, eliciting a laugh from Sule before she continued on to the serious matter at hand: “But now I've got something that I need to tell you, on Matina's behalf.”

Sule set down his forms and looked attentively, perhaps a bit concerned, to Elise. “Go right ahead, of course.”

“Martina is pregnant. You're going to be a father.”

Elise went to retrieve her gloves and jacket, grinning, as she waited for Sule to process the information and then returned. “Snapped out of it yet?”

“Shut up, Elise. I.. I.. Well, it's great news, but..” A pause. “Shit. Shit. This seriously complicates things...”

“I'm aware of that, and it's already solved. I know you're to much of a stubborn ox to leave with her, but I've got Martina to agree to seek refuge at Kuat for the duration of the battle.”

“How did you manage that?”

“Underhandedly, like most all of my interpersonal interactions. You should try being a street kid sometime, it creates a really fascinating perspective on life.”

“I'm a bit old for that.”

“Yes, so don't press any further,” Elise replied. “Suffice to say, she's going, don't question it; be nice to her when she comes out, okay? Don't get all gloomy like I do.”

“Of course.”

“Well, then, I think everything is set—you let the guard know, right? Make sure they detach a good contingent as her escort. I'm going to speak to the Captain of the Despot immediately to get this arranged. She'll have to ride in a blastboat, for I don't intend to risk the Empress in anything less well defended, and we'll give it an escort of two gunboats. Can't spare anything more than a penny-packet like that, and she's always been very tough about traveling conditions, at least.” A fond look.

“Good enough. You seem to have the situation well in hand, then. I'll leave the arrangements to you and the command staff of the Despot, and inform the guard immediately. How soon will she have to leave?”

Elise made a show of checking her chrono. “Ninety minutes, with the flight clearing thirty minutes after that. We're leaving here in three hours and eight minutes by my watch.”

“Alright then. I'll get right on it.”

“Okay, then by your leave, I guess I'll be going to take care of things.”

“One thing first, Elise.”


“Thank you, Elise. This will give me a good night's sleep tonight.”

“You're welcome, Sule. Always.” Elise turned and left.

Imperial-Chiss Condominion
In Orbit of the Hand

Alerts sounded on every ship in the mustered fleet of the Condominion. Fighter squadrons were scrambled. Patrol squadrons were directed to intercept the incoming target. Shields on vessels were brought up in preparation for attack.

“Condition One! Condition One! General Quarters! General Quarters!”

All of this commotion was caused by the arrival of a single ship. It was an entirely unexpected arrival, to be sure, but the more important thing was that the single ship in question was a sixty-five metre long Vong bioship, of a heavily protected and armed assault transport type. It could well be a scout heralding the commencement of a Vong attack. Possibly a regular fleet engagement, possibly a kamikazi effort to break up another fleet threatening their battered position. Either way, it was bad news that they had found The Hand and had, in an instant, forced Baron Fel onto the defensive...

By the time he had gotten to the bridge, the situation had changed someone. Vice Admiral Kyshalara'abjh-Heral, his Chief of Staff, was looking through glowing red eyes at a report which made, even with her alien features, appear quite definitely incredulous. “Baron Fel, that ship out there is transmitting a regular Imperial identification code. It's old, but it checks out.”

Another pause, then: “The pilot is requesting permission to talk with the flagship and speak with you in person, Your Excellency.”

“This could be an assasination attempt,” Baron Fel mused out loud.

“That's what I thought, too, Baron.”

“Well, let's see about visual communications. All squadrons are to hold fire until further notice.”

“Of course.” She transmitted that order, first, then: “One moment, Your Excellency.” Kyshalara got to work on patching through the communications from the outer squadrons which had received the message directly into the flagship. It indeed only took a moment, and then...

Baron Fel froze in surprise.

“Baron Fel, I wish to speak to you in person—immediately. This matter is very urgent,” Jaina Solo spoke in a grim voice, and then added coldly: “And you may consider this request to have come from.. Lady Vader.”

It was a nasty thing to call herself, Jaina knew it. But it was the sort of declaration that would have an immediate impact on any Imperial veteran, and she knew what she had to do in this situation. The war would end, and the government thus instituted would ignore the orders and provide a counterbalance for them. It was that, or more countless centuries of evil and chaos, and this act would be the final step in the process which halted that, however grim and distasteful it was.

Baron Fel, for his part, was not sure what to make of the situation at all. But he did know that, whatever Jaina Solo was calling herself, this was clearly important enough to warrant the requested meeting. “Stand by docking instructions from my staff,” he replied, and then added: “Lady Vader.”

“I will be waiting.” The transmission blinked out.

She did not have to wait long; fifteen minutes at most. The instructions were duly transmitted, no feelings of treachery or hostility could be detected, and she duly brought the bio-ship in to the main hangar bay of the ISD-III type that she ended up docking with, her eyes not failing to notice the great host of Venators all around, providing an explaination for where at least some of that fleet of ships had gone when they had been officially mothballed by the Empire.

There were more important things to muse on, though, by the point at which she docked. An honour guard had been assembled, and they rendered her the sort of short and austere but very prestigious ceremony that Lord Vader himself might have tolerated; Baron Fel was clearly not trying to telegraph anything but welcome to her, even though she knew that in his own plans and heart he probably had no actual desire to respect that dread-claim that she had made, for sure. But she would give him other reasons.

The entry portal on the Vong ship opened. A company of Stormtroopers had been assembled, and a band, along with several senior officers. The band played the Imperial March as Jaina strode down onto the hull of the Destroyer, wearing one of Miat Temm's black capes, swirling about her, hair falling down behind it loose, the lightsabre at the belt of the jumpsuit worn below the cape giving no doubt at all to her identity. Several officers approached and bowed.

“Lady Vader, this way, please. Baron Fel is awaiting you,” the ranking officer—a Captain—said, bowing again and turning to gesture toward the exit.

“Of course. I am in a hurry, Captain.”

The Captain hurried to lead her to Baron Fel, that was for sure. The Reputation of Darth Vader was not something that would easily fade from the galactic consciousness.

Baron Fel, his Chief of Staff, the head of the Condominion's Ubiqtorate. The same group that had greeted Jagged Fel and Shawnkyr on their return only two days prior. But now they were not so stern and demanding. Now, as they saw that figure of black and red stride in, there was a thread of tension that ran hotly through the room. Baron Fel, though, was not a man easily intimidated.

“Lady Vader,” he said courteously. “Please, sit.”

Jaina sat at the far end of the table from Baron Fel, looking down to him cooly. “Baron Fel,” she began, his name like a declaration of intent. “You have mustered a fleet here for use against the Vong.”

“That is correct, Lady Vader. But we do not have accurate information on their dispositions, or the degree of damage done to them by the forces of the Warlord Sule...”

“The Emperor Sule. You will refer to him as Emperor in my presence from now on.”

“Of course, Lady Vader,” Baron Fel replied in a voice which suggested that, though he would not dispute the point here, he had no intention of putting its implication into effect anywhere else. “By the Emperor Sule's forces at the Battle of Dantooine,” he concluded.

“They are gone, Baron Fel.” Jaina replied simply. “I saw the destruction of five Worldships with my own eyes, and saw Overlord Shimmra struck down with my own eyes. The Vong are no longer a threat to the united galaxy--and I put my emphasis on united!

“The galaxy is hardly united at the moment, Lady Vader,” Kyshalara ended up saying, if very politely to be sure.

“I am aware of that fact. It is a fact that shall be changed. The Galactic Civil War has lasted almost without interruption since the beginning of the Seperatist movement which led to the end of the Old Republic. The Civil War Ends Now.”

“To create such an end would require a great use of force, Lady Vader,” Baron Fel replied, still calm.

“Emperor Sule has mustered more than twenty thousand ships for an assault on the unified forces of the Seperatists and the Pretender Davion, along the Republicans and sundry other causes, at Coruscant. If you bring your fleet directly to Coruscant, you shall arrive in time to reinforce his cause and guarantee his victory. At that point, the galaxy shall be united.”

“Why should we back to the hilt this man, as you say?”

“Because he is the right man for the job, along with those other officers under him—and you are the right man to see to the fair government of the galaxy under his rule,” Jaina continued calmly. “There will be autonomy for the Condominion and effective independence for the Chiss, under binding terms of alliance, of course. But they must be drawn into the Empire, and your fleet must provide the striking arm of the Empire. This is a matter of pure necessity; I was raised by one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance, and I have come to these conclusions on my own. The galaxy must be brought under an orderly control. The people desire nothing else, and their very survival is at stake.”

“It is still a very grave course to undertake, Lady Vader, and you must understand if I can scarcely order it without time to consider it..”

“Baron Fel, there is no time!” Jaina snapped. “This fleet must leave soon, if you desire to have an impact on the course of battle at Coruscant.”

Baron Fel sighed heavily. “Lady Vader, what is your precise desire here, other than vague humanitarian sentiment?”

“It is time that the ways of the force belong to their practitioners, and not to the highest echelons of the government. I intend to sunder forever the connections between both the Jedi and Sith Orders and government, and power. They shall never again be connected. Force users shall serve the governments of the galaxy, but they shall be weak, and without the higher abilities which have, in connection with the places of power, caused only war and chaos. This is my intention, and I will carry it out as I see fit—and it is a government of yourself, and Emperor Sule's clique that I see as being best-intentioned and capable of carrying out the establishment of such a government, constitutionally, which by the creation and maintainence of a cadre of weak force sensitives, who are kept from knowledge, absolves themselves of the temptations of appealing to the vanity of the higher force adepts, who, in the service of power, become inevitably corrupted.”

“How are you sure that you can press this agenda with the Emperor Sule?”

“You will press it for me, Baron, and it will be the price, along with the autonomy of the Condominion, for your salvation of his own cause. He is an honourable man, and he will not ignore the directives of the ally who saved his aspirations.”

“You are very sure that is what we shall do, Lady Vader.”

“Do not underestimate the power of the force.”

“Very well. But it will take four hours to prepare the fleet to leave.”

“That is acceptable.”

“I'm not done. I have a stipulation for you. You are going to accompany the fleet. And you are going to aide it in coordination on its arrival, so that we have the advantage of surprise should the situation... Not be as expected.”

It was the terrible possibility that Jaina had forseen, that daughter would be forced to fight mother. But that was the reason she had sent her father and brother to Coruscant, and it was with a grim hope, and recognition of the necessity of the act, that she nodded once. “That is certainly an acceptable term,” she answered. “I will insure the safety of your jump into the gravity well of Coruscant, which I assume is your intent.”

“It is, Lady Vader.”

“Then let us begin our preparations.”

Allied Fleet, Coruscant Orbit
The R.N.S. Lusankya

“Wedge, is everything ready?” Leia asked quietly as she looked up to the plots on the bridge of the great Executor-class ship which General Antilles now commanded.

“It is, Your Highness,” he said with a tight grin. “Admiral Ackbar on the Guardian has finalized our dispositions. We're going to be the heavy hitters here, and it appears that the fleet strategy has evolved to hold us back for an entrapment manoeuvre—we're going to, hopefully, let Sule's forces break through the lines at one of the weaker points and then catch their striking fist in a pincer.”

“And then we can counterattack?”

“Hamner Davion has issued a directive limiting the order to counterattack to himself—I imagine you'll want to take that up with him.”

“I do, as a matter of fact,” Leia replied. “If our forces are going to be used for the pincer, then his own will have to execute the counterattack... And that's just what we want.”

“I won't argue with you there. If we can get the Imp forces to hammer each other to pieces every sour taste in my mouth is going to melt away in a heartbeat,” Wedge replied. “The trick is coming out of it just slightly on top... And keeping the survivors of both sides from kissing and making up when they realize that we have.”

“Just as impossible as everything else we've succeeded in doing, only more confusing.”

“A nice day at the office, by my standards.”

“Glad you're feeling confident about this. I'll be going to bring Hamner up on the holonet, then.” She turned away, and headed into a private room with communications equipment off the flagbridge, intended for the use of the commanding officer of a fleet for secure communications. It would work for her discussions with Hamner well enough. He had offered to let her review the battle from his command post, but she had declined—she could easily become a hostage there, after all.

Thirty thousand ships were mustered in orbit of Coruscant. They were facing an enemy far less numerous, but one that was strong in firepower, and contained many more heavy ships than their own force did. Even the last minute arrival of some brand new heavy cruisers from the Mon Calamari yards wasn't going to have enough of an impact there to make the battle a sure thing. These defences would help, but the best thing they'd be used for was the laying of a trap.

It took only a moment to bring Hamner Davion up on the holonet; or, more precisely, his head, for he had started to use the same holographic comms settings as Palpatine, Leia noted with some real annoyance and distaste.

“Your Highness,” he began politely, though. “What can I do for you?”

“Emperor Davion,” she replied with a cold politeness of her own. “I have been given to understand that you have issued a directive saying that you alone hold the right to determine when a counterattack, if any, shall take place.”

“That is correct, Your Highness. It is a serious decision, considering the firepower disparity we suffer from, and I do not think anyone else should make it.”

“Rescind it. We must have a counterattack.”

“We don't have the strength for one, Your Highness.”

“We will after we've trapped and crushed part of Sule's main body, and that's exactly what you've assigned the Republican forces the position to do.”

If we trap and destroy part of Sule's main body.”

We will.”

“Nothing is certain in War, Your Highness. But I will offer you one thing. If you can trap and destroy an important and significant portion of Sule's heavy warships, I give you my word that there will be a general fleet counterattack.”

Leia remained cool. “I want it in writing.”

Hamner chuckled. “Very well. I understand your lack of trust for me, and so I shall have a copy delivered—quickly, too, for I suspect that battle will be joined altogether quite soon, for the both of us, and it would be a shame of the shuttle was caught in the crossfire and lost.”

“That it would be,” Leia replied with a faux-sweetness. “I appreciate your willingness to oblige me on this matter.”

“You're quite welcome, Your Highness. Now, if you'll forgive me, I need to attend to urgent matters regarding the situation on the surface of Coruscant.” The transmission blinked out without a word further from Hamner Davion.

Leia turned and began to walk out of the room, thinking of her husband and her daughter, off somewhere against the Vong. Of all those in the Alliance who had died before.. And of how they had come, in short decades, to the point of this desperation, to ally with one Imperial faction to fight another, because of the Vong, because of how low the reputation of the Republic had sunk through mismanagement. It was a sad commentary on their best efforts, but if they had just one more chance, surely things could be corrected and the situation repaired. The Republic would live. It must.

All around, the preparations of the fleet continued unabated.

Coruscant Orbit
Imperial Frigate FPC-1167
Former USS Enterprise-E

William Riker knew that he was going to die in this battle. He didn't care, he was an old man, and old men died. There was nothing else to it. It was a pretty good way to go, anywhere; most of the crew was Milky Way, even if some were what he would have previously called traitors, and others the likes of Cardassians and Breen. He had survived the battles for the stations which had decimated the armies of resistance. With luck, Harlann would honour his promises. That was really all they had to go on, and in truth, it was a damn sight better than what they had been fighting on for the past two decades.

Two decades of terror. Two decades since the Empire came. And now they were in the Empire; or the shattered ruins of it, part of an innumerable collection of desperate factions standing firm to try and hold off the grasping hands of an Empire trying to rise up from the grave, to crush and strangle Freedom once again. There was nothing else to be done but oppose it to the last. William Riker knew that, and he wanted to the chance to take this last bite in the struggle for freedom if he could. So he had, on surviving the fight for the platforms, asked for one more favour from Harlann, and Harlann had given it to him.

He had given Riker command of his old ship. Of the Enterprise. In truth, it had not been that hard of a favour. There were many capable starship crewers in the Resistance forces, and the Imperial fleet was badly shorthanded of trained personnel. So most of the captured ships were now back in service under their former crews, so that the Imperial officers and men who had been aboard them beforehand could be dispatched to serve as the crews of newly finished vessels which lacked them. They only retained small Imperial-trained contingents aboard to handle the new systems which the Resistance men could not be reasonably expected to know the operation of.

For instance, the hyperdrive tug which had been more or less permanently attached to the Enterprise, nestled awkwardly behind her bridge. Or the mobile power generator which had been slapped down where cargo holds and luxurious quarters had once been; feeding power to the various weapons which had been added to the Enterprise, and most importantly to the shields. Of course, the majority of her armament was now in proton torpedoes, because they required the least power of any truly effective Imperial weapons to use, and thus would tax the ship the least, and require the least investment in new power generators to be bolted down.

As long as the shields held and their stocks of torpedoes lasted, they'd be a real fighting ship. After that, one shot from a very heavy turbolaser would easily shatter the ship into countless pieces. They had one good advantage—their intact warp drive. Because of it, Hamner had ordered all warp-capable ships to muster in the outer system. At the right moment, he intended to call for them to attack the rear of Sule's fleet. It would be a light distraction, only, for they had little firepower—but a group of ships attacking in the rear of a force often had a highly disproportionate effect, and that was what he was counting on. They would be aided by Hamner's own Strike-class frigates, laying in wait closer in, but under cloak, of course, with their heavy torpedo tubes fully stocked.

The Imperial Starfleet of Sule's was reputed to have been supposed to arrive hours ago. It hadn't, and they were still waiting for it. Everyone was, of course, very tense, and each minute of the wait seemed like an eternity or two. But there was nothing to be done for it. Battles, after all, required two sides, and one wasn't present at the moment. And even when they do get here, we're going to be waiting a while before we get our chance—but I guess it will be a nice lightshow watching these two bastards trying to kill each other, Riker thought, disdainful of Hamner and Sule alike, but acknowledging his dependency on the former in the state of sheer desperation to which the Resistance had ultimately sunk.

All of a sudden, they didn't have to wait any longer. The energy surge was overwhelming, like nothing Riker or any of his officers had ever seen before. The computer nearly overloaded at the number of distinct contacts it detected coming out of hyperspace.

“Sir—The computer is reporting more than eight hundred and ten thousand individual arrivals from hyperspace!”

“The hell!? Onscreen!”

An image of countless little specks of stars appeared. Except they weren't stars; they were the drive tails of an unending number of TIE fighters, Assault Gunboats, Missile Boats, Skipray Blastboats, and numerous other assault craft and small armed transports. They were as numerous as soldiers in an infantry battle, but these were fighting vessels which could match the power of a light starship of the old UFP. The magnitude of the battle was almost crushing, the sheer concentrated power of this stupendous galaxy, devoted to war.

“Second wave, sir!” The tactical officer switched the focus of the viewscreen of his own volition.

Executors...” Riker breathed quietly. “There's got to be, what, fifteen of them there?”

“Twelve, Sir. Three of those vessels are smaller and appear to be of a distinct class.”

As they watched, thousands of smaller Star Cruisers and Star Destroyers began to arrive in their ordered ranks. From the moment the ships arrived, Executor-class on down, they began to launch hoardes of additional fighters, a whole second attack wave of fighters to follow the first starfighter wave which was even now closing with the main body of Hamner Davion's fleet. The numbers of capital ships seemed limitless, twice as many as there had been in the whole of Starfleet, or more, gathered in one place—and that if you counted little explorers which were half the size of even the smallest Corellian Corvette. Most of them were far, far bigger, several times the mass of the Enterprise.

And in the centre, those twelve Executor-class battlecruisers, massing more than every ship ever built by the Federation combined. It was a humbling experience, a dreadful one, which seemed to casually inform them of their madness as it passed by, to unnervingly make them question if it was not pure desperation which had forced them to this point, but instead incredible luck that they had lasted to reach it at all.

“We're just gnats next to those Executors..” Someone breathed in a whisper.

“Mosquitoes,” Riker replied grimly. “We're gonna sting 'em hard.” But he didn't really believe his words, as he watched the two fleets grow closer, and settled back to await his orders, if and when they came.

The Grand Fleet
Approaching Coruscant
The Hand of Thrawn

The ordered hosts of the Empire had arrived at the field of battle. Two Emperors faced each other across an expanse of several light seconds. The massively concentrated bulk of Sule's fleet pressed on as a dagger straight forward the thinly dispersed defensive lines around Coruscant that Davion had put up. Their plan was simply. They would attack, break through, and then spread out and roll up the defences, holding the main body of the Executor-class ships and the other heavies back as a reserve in case a large enemy reserve succeeded in making a major counterattack.

They were under Condition One, General Quarters. Every station was manned, the damage control parties were assembled, all fighters had been launched and were heading out toward the enemy, and the fleet was now in the process of forming up for the general advance.

“First starfighter wave is five minutes from range, Grand Admiral,” one of Pellaeon's aides reported. “Second starfighter wave is eight minutes from range.”

“Very good. I want them to keep on a three-minute dispersal between the two attacks.” A pause, a glance at the plot. “Order those armed transports which are falling behind the first wave to participate in the attack of the second wave.”

“Aye-aye, Sir.”

“Sir!” His Chief of Staff approached and saluted. “The fleet formation is complete. All Task Forces are in assigned positions.”

Pellaeon nodded once. “Very well. Fleet Signals: 'Advance to missile range. Half fleet acceleration only. Prepare for missile engagement with the enemy at range.'”

“Understood, Sir,” his Chief of Staff replied, and turned away to have the orders transmitted in a general fleet broadcast.

Pellaeon waited, until he could feel the drives of the Hand of Thrawn begin to rumble with their awesome latent power, for the fleet to start to move forward enmasse, a body of tens of thousands of ships, with millions of starfighters out ahead of them, driving on slowly toward the enemy.

Now it was time for the next segment of orders: “Signals to all skirmish lines--'advance to designated scouting areas and commence operations to test the enemy defences.'”

“Understood, Sir!--Transmitting at once.”

Ahead, space around the great sphere of Imperial Centre, grimly dark, was beginning to light up with the massed energy fire of the defensive batteries as the first wave of starfighters entered range and accelerated on their attack runs against the outer defences. Hundreds of thousands of starfighters were coming in, dashing down through that fire with their deadly loads of anti-ship warheads, and more than a million more were following them in on their heels.

The Fourth Battle of Coruscant had begun.
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In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Re: De Imperatoribus Galacticis v.1 [Revised]

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-10-30 10:59am

De Imperatoribus Galacticis

"On the Galactic Emperors"

Chapter the Twenty-Sixth.

The Grand Fleet
Coruscant Approaches

Two great forces met in space over storied Coruscant. There was nothing barbaric about this match of arms; the two sides were nearly identical. Both of them had a core from the same organized government, and they had a leadership which was related by marriage. Both of them had a great number of ad-hoc contingents. This, then, was the face of a civil war. Two cavaliers faced each other across a black plain, to fight for control of a fiefdom. It was not greatly different than any other field on which two Emperors had met. Certainly, it would be bloodier than any such clash in some time, but the men were willing to fight, and so that became scarcely more than another detail of the whole affair.

Now did the fighters strike. The first wave was the focus of the heaviest of the defensive fire, and it was savaged for it. The number of fighters lost moving in to attack, and executing their attacks on the defensive lines, was very stiff. They salvoed off their warheads at maximum range—literally millions of them—and then beat a quick retreat. This first wave was just to soften up the lines in particular areas, and from whence the fighters would return to rearm whilst the Grand Fleet stayed safely at missile range.

By that time, of course, fire had shifted to the more numerous second wave that followed them in. Warheads were striking all around amidst the outer defences. Platforms and pickets were blasted apart in many areas. Heavy focused beams of nuclear energy from the detonating proton torpedoes sliced through armour and released bursts of heat and radiation deep into the centre of habitable sectors, frying the crew alive through the superheating of the atmosphere therein before it was vented to space. Weapons were disabled on other platforms and pickets, and shields battered. Some of them held, but the nasty fact of these screening forces was that they were not really meant to hold.

Clusters of heavier defensive platforms and torpedo spheres were stationed a bit further back from the picket lines, though. They provided simultaneously a covering fire for the picket lines, and heavy weapons to defend the minefields. These were what inflicted the heaviest toll on the starfighters, even as the two attack waves stripped away great swathes of the outer defences. Swarms of missiles and rapid-fire flak bursts pounded the great strafing swarms of fighters in each wave as they passed. They had but a minute, perhaps two, in which to inflict their damage, but in that time they killed tens of thousands of starfighters with their concentrated fire.

As the fighters fled in their masses back out of range, back to the protective bulk of the heavy artillery platforms of the Starfleet, missile firing was checked against them. Hamner Davion was preparing for a battle of extended duration. His opponents, however, were not inclined to oblige him. They had no intention of letting up, and their plan was focused on a maximum tempo to their offensive operations. Here Elise and Pellaeon agreed absolutely; though the later Admiral was by nature more cautious, he had learned by Thrawn's tutelage the importance of keeping an enemy off balance. It was, after all, how the old Chiss Grand Admiral had kept the Republic reeling and in full retreat despite having the advantage in numbers and firepower in all sectors.

So far the fighters of the defending allies had not been deployed in strength to directly engage Sule's own squadrons. Due to the larger number of ships Hamner had, and his ground stations, he had slightly more fighters than Sule's fleet, even with the large numbers that had jumped in independently. Furthermore, his rearmament times were better, since the hangar facilities on Coruscant were capable of, even with the great damage they had suffered in the past year, easily cycling through millions of starfighters. This allowed his starfighter forces to be effectively independent of his capital ships, and for the moment they were thus used only as a reserve fighting force. The pickets would suffer, but that sort of striking arm would not be dispersed, and this Leia had certainly agreed to.

The fighters returned to the hangars, being recovered from the very start in the first wave. These would have to be cycled through and then launched again as the second wave was in turn picked up, cycled through the rearming process, and likewise sent out, before the full strength of the fleet's fighter forces could be properly mustered for the main assault. Further delays would be caused by the fact that the fighters which had arrived via hyperspace would also have to be refueled, causing further delays in turn. In the meanwhile, only the armed freighters and patrol ships would be available for deployment around the fleet in picket formation, but the second wave, while the first was refueling and rearming, would be available for emergency deployment if necessary.

Even as these recovery and rearming operations were taking place, the fleet scout lines were racing ahead of the main body. They would have a dangerous, even fatal job, in probing the enemy's lines with gunfire and with sensors, and receiving counterfire in return. At least, though, they would have help with the minefields, and as the fleet slowed down to a relative stop at maximum torpedo range, that help was only minutes away. All ships were at general quarters, ready for action, though they had not suffered any fire against themselves yet, and they did not expect any significant opposition for a while. None of which was an excuse for laxness, and there was none in the fleet.

Minefields were a particular difficulty because of their nature. The standard mass-produced mine that Hamner had sewn the area with was a Class-C mine, meaning that in addition to a simple laser cannon and thruster-based manoeuvring acquisition system, it carried a large matter/anti-matter warhead and three concussion missiles bolted to it. It would automatically engage enemy targets in range of its laser cannon, and fire its missiles on command, or when it detected an incoming energy surge. The matter/anti-matter nature of the warhead guaranteed that it would explode if the mine was cleared through turbolaser fire, forcing the mines to be destroyed only at range, as the warhead was of sufficient power to cause damage to many small ships, or in great numbers a larger one. Within the limits of its small thruster banks, the mine itself could also attempt to close with an enemy ship before detonating. Each mine had a simple droid brain aboard to control these functions, and literally billions of them could be mass-produced in a month or so by the resources of an industrial world.

Of course, there was a second use that had been easily conceived of for the laser warheads built to destroy the Yuuzhan Vong. They were also excellent for clearing dense minefields, and that was exactly Pellaeon's intention in closing to this range. As he looked on now at the plot of the advancing picket ships, the fleet formed up and came to a relative halt at maximum range. Good order was maintained, and the fleet's anti-missile defences presented an imposing target even to the massed batteries of the torpedo spheres that were facing them.

“All fleet taskforces report readiness, Admiral. They're standing by for orders. Screening forces continue to advance.”

“Very good,” Pellaeon replied, looking neutrally out over the holographic plot for a long moment, judging the range before the screening/scouting forces would come under fire, the time it would take to clear the minefield.

“Signals to all Line Taskforces: 'Commence missile barrage against minefields in sector K-14 of the enemy defensive sphere.' Signal to special Frigate Taskforces: 'Commence torpedo attack on enemy defence concentrations in sector K-14'. That is all; transmit immediately.”

“Yessir!” The officer turned down to the sunken comms bank on the flagbridge and relayed the orders crisply.

“TFL-5, communications orders 'Commence missile barrage against minefields in sector K-14 of enemy defensive sphere,' relayed,” the comms tech replied crisply. Then, from another: “'TFF-5, communications orders 'Commence torpedo attack on enemy defence concentrations in sector K-14' relayed.”

Moments later, the officer heard what he needed to hear, and turned back to Grand Admiral Pellaeon. “Sir! Confirmation receipt from all Taskforces in Line and Frigate groups about their respective orders.”

Pellaeon nodded once, his attention focused on the holoprojector before him. Already the receipt of the orders was followed with their execution as the Taskforce Admirals transformed his general directives into battle operative plans. Immediately after that, general firing commenced.

Millions of missiles were sent sweeping out against the enemy defences in a matter of seconds. These all had laser heads, of course, and when they struck home in the minefields, they cleared away great swathes of the defensive mines, the spears of laser energy lancing out from them striking in every place, sometimes destroying many mines at once. They were attriting their missile stocks, of course, but it couldn't be helped, and very quickly there were huge rents torn into the defensive sphere of Coruscant.

At any rate, the effect from the firing of the superlight torpedoes was infinitely more drastic. There were only thousands of these, a few thousand at most, indeed, but their effect was very great. They collided with hammer-blows against the defensive platforms, washes of superheated gas and matter, of hard radiation and thermal energy, bombarding the shields of the platforms and the scarcely more mobile Torpedo Spheres with the most severe of intensity. And they kept coming, no limited salvoes here but a full-out offensive bombardment which reached a crescendo of intensity and then stayed there, relentlessly plowing its way through the defensive works which had taken a week to build up, and in some cases longer, and now were suffering the destruction of hours and hours of labour in mere seconds.

Death in space was the rule. When starships met in combat, the soft flesh shell of the human body was a frail and trivial thing again. Energy was exchanged at tremendous rates, and it carried death that the human body would be vapourized before, vanishing without trace into the intensity of the energy directed upon it. There was nothing more to be said; nothing to be done. When direct hits, of plasma or of directed radiation, touched crew compartments, the crew in those compartments died. The exception, of course, was from the near miss. The internals of the ships were subdivided extensively, and armoured bulkheads, as thick as the outer hull armour of the ship themselves, were strewn throughout those durasteel titans. Where the energy of the impact was dispersed sufficiently by the armour or by the internal transverse and longitudinal bulkheads, there would be survivors.

Some not for long. Vacuum killed as easily as anything else in this harsh environment, and indeed death from it was more painful than from the directed energy fire. The life and development of a human being might end in a minute of agonizing breathlessness. For the survivors, it was an issue of negotiating through sectors leaking air to those which were secure, when everywhere there were bulkheads sealing and airtight doors slamming closed. Many might have burns, or would be wounded by pieces of the hull and machinery torn loss by the shock of a nearby impact, against all possible effort to restrain it. Sometimes silently, sometimes shouting and desperate, under the direction of viciously swearing Chiefs, they made their way to escape, and then immediately to regroup and fling themselves into damage control efforts.

Others, of course, stayed where they were on worked on damage control. Corpsmen were always available to tend to the wounded, to perform triage, each and every person becoming in an essence a mere cell within the body of the ship. And tens of thousands of those cells, aboard the largest ships, might perish without harming the performance of the vessel in the slightest bit. Damage control was the first order, and for Hamner's men, there was a lot of it to be done. Marines joined in the damage control parties and thus aided in the continued ability of the ship to fight despite the lack of any conceivably boarding action (at least until, as it was hoped, ships of Sule's might forced to strike). In these moments they were worth their salt; the navy men who made a point of disparaging them were always glad to have them help with the dirty work of containment and control of fires, poison gas leaks, dismounted machinery and holes venting atmosphere to space.

Under the cover of this great and deadly barrage, tearing gaps through the defensive sphere of the Coruscating Gem, Sule's lights advanced. They were by far the most aggressive ships of the fleet; the second-ranking officer was one of their own, and most of the frigateers and corvette commanders remembered well that one of their own was now on the top. Elise Kalar-Leben had gone right from commanding a frigate flotilla to commanding all forces in the Gamma Quadrant without ever stepping foot on the bridge of a Star Destroyer, and it was remembered. As the senior of the surviving Commodores she had naturally succeeded to this position and proven able at it, but it carried with her a reputation for dash and for the elan of the light forces, perhaps to recklessness.

Certainly, she'd never deigned to try and reign in the lights under her command, and as most of these men who commanded the light forces of Sule's fleet were from the Milky Way Empire, they hewed to her example. The moment Pellaeon had loosed their leash, they charged in with their ordered ranks, racing to find the gaps, to elude the enemy fire, to penetrate deeply and forge a path with their ships for the fleet to follow. They were bourne in through a hail of their own side's missiles, great waves of them passing closely to the lights as they raced on in against the enemy. They had done splendidly at Dantooine and most of their comrades in the light forces had in fact died for that—but these men were of the highest calibur. They were like Pappenheim's Cuirassiers, willing to charge headlong into the Swedish guns not less than seven days; if a splendid failure was demanded of them, it would be delivered, and of success? So much the better.

Here they desired success. They lusted after it, and they directed their heartiest efforts into making good of their chance. Here, though, was not the hot of a horse's breath mingling with the desperate cries of men, the thunder of cannonade and musketry, the hammering of hooves upon the ground. Here the romanticism was in the quiet things, in the tight looks of the officers, fierce and determined, in the calm wisdom of the NCOs, in the silence and the quick, clear orders that were barked in crisp tones of surety. They were no less brave, however, and it would count, for at last Hamner Davion had been prevailed upon by his admirals to unleash his missileers.

There could not be a more awesome thing than to see those torpedo spheres open up. One moment they were like little planets, almost invisible in the black of space, as dots against the fullness of the globe of Coruscant. The next moment they were emitting torches, a blaze of rocketry in the night, each one firing a thousand torpedoes a second, blue lances of fire through the darkness. They came from many points around the planet, and converged on the incoming light from many angles at once. This was of course intended from the start; Rano Inaras had carefully laid out the firing plots to allow for the maximum concentration of fire with a simple thruster-shift on the part of the missile equipped ships and platforms. It created the ideal situation for overwhelming the excellent point-defence systems of the Imperial Starships of Sule's light, for the maximum number of converging angles would tax the defensive computers to the utmost.

Time was on the side of the attackers, but that advantage was steadily bleeding away as their closed with the utmost speed and acceleration. They would be, of course, in the deadliest range for only moments, but they would suffer badly while they were, and it was swiftly approaching. The defences tracked the incoming, and at maximum range the sheets of fire from the light guns commenced. Tractor fields were established around the ships, at wide dispersing, to create sheer fields which could break up the missiles before they hit. Soon a rippling of brilliant bursts of light and radiation shot through space. Countless thousands of missiles were destroyed.

But thousands carried on to strike home. They were dispersed across thousands of ships in turn, and a few impacts against the shields of many did altogether very little damage. Some burst through unscathed. And some unlucky ships suffered to be the concentration points of many of the homing warheads, and these were ravaged. Lances of nuclear energy thrust their way deep into steel hulls, puncturing bulkheads and dealing fatal damage to a whole series of deep internal compartments before at last a longitudinal, or transverse armoured bulkhead somewhere would hold, and stop the devastation. For a few unlucky ships, good hits after their shields had failed penetrated straight to their reactor compartments.

A few of those even survived, after a fashion, others held together long enough for some of the crew to escape. The others died in the same way that their enemies had been dying a moment before by the missile fire of the Strike-class frigates and of the great ships of the fleet. War was cruel, and even the victors must mourn their dead. Here, the victor was scarcely foretold, and at any rate even the charge of the light was uncertain. But they had soon passed beyond the point where the suffering of the light ships would be at its most intense; they rapidly closed to the point where the missiles of many of the outlying defensive posts could not bear against them any longer, and a small number of platforms and ships were firing against them. These, in turn, were under the fire of Sule's main body, and not holding up so well.

In close, the light ships manoeuvred to exploit the gaps being torn in the mindfields, even as those gaps were widened by the missiles with their laser heads detonating around, even as the FTL torpedoes raced passed them with dangerous closeness to ram home against their targets in the defensive concentration points. These gradually forced the slacking of fire against the lights by the level of damage they had inflicted on the platforms which could still bear their warheads upon the close-in and fragile enemies. Great craters from the impacts of these heaviest of warheads could be discerned on the large platforms and the torpedo spheres, rents of twisted metal which vented plasma and debris and the atomized remnants of living people into the orbital space around Coruscant, to a grave of vacuum and radiation.

Some of them had even been destroyed, but these were heavy, well-armoured platforms and ships for the most part, just slow to nonexistant in their ability to maneouvre. The smaller platforms were almost all gone from the concentration of fire against them; these heavier ones would persist for some time, grimly returning fire, everyone wishing for support but the officers knowing better: The reserves would not be released until they would be fighting the main body at close range. That was what the officers, of course, knew, and that was what the officers must live with even as they died and waited to die. But officers who knew this and could live with it stood their ground and in doing so inspired those among their men who's spirits were weak, and in so doing maintained a splendid resistance even though they were badly outnumbered in the strength of their firepower and the number of their vessels alike.

The minefields were, of course, silent, and fought to their own best as their robotic brains allowed. Their lasers were fired continuously at the incoming warheads, and they destroyed many. But they did not enough lasers to destroy enough to halt the incoming from detonating at lethal ranges. Their lasers served to attrite, but could not defend, and so steadily the minefields were being destroyed. As the droid brains detected their incoming death—if they were able to in time—they fired off a brace of torpedoes at the enemy. These were mostly aimed at the distant capital ships, as a matter of course, but the salvoes were ragged and the defences of those vessels were powerful, and redoubled in power when fighting in concentration. None of those warheads made it through, save a few by random chance, which did nothing.

These minefields were still, however, treacherous, and so it was with some care, despite their rush to come to grips with the enemy, that the light ships picked their way through, cannons firing with the maximum rapidity to clear as much of the fields as they could at close range, to knock out any incoming torpedoes and any stray mines not destroyed by the missile salvoes which were now opening up paths of attack for them in turn. Flagships led the charge, commodores emulating the example of 'our own' Grand Admiral and forging the paths for their flotillas to follow. This of course brought about the loss of several to the mines, or to massed torpedo salvoes from mines passed to closely in number; others were damaged and forced to drop out of formation, the commodores hastily changing their flags to the unfortunate receiving ships, which would at once accelerate to take the lead as soon as the beacon of the broad pennant was flashed out to the rest of the squadron.

Yet by this murderous loss to the unthinking mines, the penetration of the enemy defences was ultimately guaranteed, and the cost was in truth not so severe, if painful among those who had already lost more than eighty percent of their number less than two weeks before. Of the light forces, few would live through this battle, and worse, they had comrades on the other side. But what could be done, save to fight loyally, and trust that to the best would go victory. For this they persevered, and neither side could doubt the courage of those who forced open a path for the fleet.

Brother against brother, sister against sister, father and son divided in loyalties; this was the worst sort of conflict, where cousins fought cousins and friendships were torn asunder. It was the nature of all civil wars, and perhaps the sadness that came with civil war lent it such an air of savagery, of a general embrace of dispair and hopelessness that became universal with the commencement of such a conflict. Yet there was also honour in such a war, for both sides, holding such a common ground, could recognize the bravery of the other. There was no fear of one's deeds being lost; the courage of both sides would be universally respected, and here perhaps was the other aspect of ferocity in civil wars, the ferocity upon the battlefield, the intensity of the general combat. There was no fear of dying a forgotten death. If the Plain of Mars ever promised immortality for all those who came, victors or vanquished, it was on the field of civil conflict, and this just added to the strange madness of an action in which great numbers of millions of people would die in the name of a single man, so as to achieve his aspiration toward absolute power.

Yet it was something so common throughout history as to scarcely bear mention, even when it was in the process of happening on a level perhaps deadly than any before, unless one counts the first Seperatist conflict, which was really just the result of the aspirations of one man, and not two contestants. Before that, the Sith Wars would try this contest; Xim's great battles would surely come out higher. But that, of course, merely made this civil conflict one for millennia. The only question was if another century of strife would come from the end of it, or if one or the other of the contestants would succeed, now, in establishing another thousand years of peace over the galaxy. This was how the game of power had always been, and always would be.

Onset! Doubts had long been cast aside; certainly they had never even really been present among the brave frigateers. Now they passed through the minefields and at once they were hotly engaged with the defensive clusters of Hamner's lines. They took advantage of the weaknesses that had been created by the missile barrage, which was even now continuing, and they struck hard through them to inflict the maximum damage with their medium weapons and with their own warheads at point-blank range. The later in particular had a good effect, for coming from so close, with different acceleration patterns and different angles of attack, they often penetrated the CIWS of the defending platforms on account of their over-concentration on the heavy FTL torpedoes and the great computing power required for course prediction to allow sublight weapons to make successful intercepts.

The platforms of course still had many operational weapons with which to engage in counterbattery fire, and thus they did. The torpedo spheres swung around their big pole-mounted ion cannon and opened up on the light ships; a single hit from those massive, ominous weapons which had been designed for planetary surface mounting could knock out the systems of a small frigate for fifteen minutes. Both sides were thus well-emplaced to slaughter each other. The numerous lights were largely undamaged, but their battered foes were far, far more powerful, and even a crippled bear can rip through a pack of wolves, perchance they should meet and fight.

Battle having been hotly joined, the heavies now diverted their attention to support of the lights, the path having been forged forward. Grand Admiral Pellaeon at once ordered the shifting of the missile fire to regular warheads, firing against the platforms in support of the light ships. This order was obeyed immediately, and within a half-minute the fire-shift was almost entirely completed. For the moment, however, he did not issue orders for the fleet to advance along the trail that had been blazed. For the moment; for here, Elise showed her heritage as a frigateer and rallied to the support of the light ships with her typical elan. For Pellaeon, the message came only a heartbeat, it seemed, after the fire-shift had been completed, when the missiles were still racing in against their new targets, which braced themselves for further death among their ranks, including their own. Pellaeon received it, and in the quiet and clinical atmosphere of flagbridges, Elise made her appeal.

The hologram resolved itself, uncertain through interference and the poor quality of efficient battlefield transmissions visually, as they were focused strictly on numerical data wherever possible, that is to say, what was really needed. But it was still a formalism between high officers conferring, and the two Grand Admirals certainly rated it with each other. Thus, the one-fourth scale image of Elise, standing, not sitting, hands folded behind her back, held a certain degree of ceremony to it despite the impetuous look that she conveyed even with the rather dumpy look the heavy uniform gave her, to heavy on epaluattes for its own good.

“Elise, what may I do for you?” Pellaeon asked simply.

“I wish to go forward with my division immediately, Sir,” she replied. “We are ready for it; the orders have been issued and the preparations have been made. Let me go forward, and you shall advance in turn behind me, so that when I penetrate the perimeter, if the enemy causes any problems, you can come up to our relief. Once we are safely through, and have shattered the perimeter decisively, then we may form up into a joint battle order once again.”

There was some fear on Pellaeon's part about separating the two halves of the fleet for any reason, despite the great preponderence of heavy firepower that these elements maintained over the thinly dispersed enemy. Still, they would not really be seperate, just advancing in two waves, held close together, and only just far enough apart to make a trap... Not impossible, but most difficult. On the other hand.. There was the issue that Sule and the Despot were in Elise's formation. That made him nearly decline the offer, but he knew better about what Sule himself would want in this situation.

A sigh. Four or five seconds given to the final reflection. “Very well, Elise. Proceed ahead with the Taskforces under your command, and then I shall follow at a supporting interval of my own discretion. Follow the scouts through as quickly as you came—don't worry about getting strung out, we'll collect your stragglers if we must on the way up.”

“Of course, Sir!” She replied, dangerously cheery. “We shall commence the advance at once.” The holographic projection cut out, leaving Pellaeon on the Hand of Thrawn to turn his attention into forming his Taskforces into the supporting half of the fleet. There was both opportunity and danger from the act, but Pellaeon knew how to use them; he also knew that Elise herself was probably motivated by her desire to come up and support the lights of the fleet which had already suffered so heavily in their victory at Dantooine.

He finished issuing the orders, and turned his attention to Elise's squadrons. Something, however, did occur to him at the last moment. “Order Admiral Kalar-Leben to launch her starfighters and have them placed under the command of the overall fleet Starfighter forces,” he said. “I want them concentrated with those from our own fleet elements to bolster the striking power of this force in the event that a relief operation becomes necessary.”

“Of course, Sir—but it will reduce the staying power of the starfighters as a reserve,” his Chief of Staff reminded him politely.

“That's already limited by the need to shift squadron to squadron due to our excessive numbers, and at any rate, if we succeed in establishing ourselves beyond the perimeter, an offensive use of the starfighter reserve becomes acceptable, and that would scarcely entail a longer wait than their employment in a relief effort for the lead elements,” Pellaeon noted.

“Understood,” his Chief of Staff answered, and turned to issue the necessary orders for this as well. It only took a heartbeat to get back Elise's response, dutifully read off by the comms officer:

“'You can have the starfighters—I'm launching now—But I'm not slowing down to do it.'”

“Good enough,” Pellaeon chuckled silently, and looked on as the lead ships led by the Conquerant raced ahead to join the general engagement.

On the bridge of the Conquerant, Elise had given the order, and the fleet elements under her command had surged ahead at once. Flank acceleration had been ordered, and this meant that the huge battlecruisers at the core of the group actually essentially led the formation in, which was exactly how Elise had intended it. Their shields and armour could hold against far greater energies, for longer, and in passing through the fields of defensive fire Elise decided to see them soak up as much of it as they could to let the whole of her fleet elements enter the field intact; the battlecruisers could then fall back to the center and recharge their shields.

She did, indeed, keenly desire to see the light squadrons relieved. It came, perhaps, from her memories of her abandonment of Harlann—a strategic necessity at the time, she granted now, but still galling—and the betrayal that had ultimately led to. These men ahead had suffered quite heavily, and they did not deserve to be left alone under the guns of the enemy, even as they performed their valiant task. Thus it was that the great charge of her fleet elements, taskforce after taskforce, loomed up ominously and abruptly to the allies around Coruscant, heading for the weakest points and also, coincidentally, to her own light. It would only take a few minutes...

The Allied Fleet
In Coruscant Orbit

“I should have considered Pellaeon's caution,” Harlann Quir mused. “Elise doing that is rather predictable, particularly now, but with Pellaeon about she is rather more dangerous.” Of course it made her betrayal of him hurt all the more, that she affected such loyalty to those under her command but notto him, who had served her faithfully as an XO and then Chief of Staff for so long. Now, though..

“This may be more of an advantage than we think it looks like, Your Majesty,” he said quietly, stepping forward to address Hamner Davion. “It looks as though Pellaeon's disposition makes a successful ambush impossible, but if we are able to delay Pellaeon, even briefly, we could hit Elise's exposed ships and deliver a decisive blow to tilt the battle in our favour.”

Hamner Davion was not stupid. “The Milky Way ships and the torpedo frigates?” He asked.

“Yes, absolutely,” Harlann answered. “Let us put Pellaeon between two fires; we send the Milky Way ships in a single concentration between the two fleet elements of Sule's forces, and have the torpedo frigates engage from his stern. Elise will not turn back at that, nor would any of the officers with Milky Way experience—but Pellaeon will take the threat more seriously, out of unfamiliarity. That will create the gap that we need.”

“As for the ambush elements, then?”

“Once we've got it set up, leave the details to Admiral Ackbar; he concluded the arrangements on the details of the ambush and we don't need to countermand him now, or worse, have one person's plans executed by another with a different style and way of understanding things. Inaras will complain, but he'll also execute the orders he needs to.”

“Of course,” Davion chuckled. “Draw them up for me and I'll send them on as a formal Imperial order immediately.”

“Done,” Harlann replied essentially at once, as he dumped the text of the order into a storage padd and put in a format command to put it in proper general-dispatch format. Then he handed it to Hamner, and the Imperial Claimant used the stylus on it to scrawl in his signature. At once it was taken away to be transmitted, and then the two men, leaving the tactics of the individual areas of the battlefield to others, concentrated their attention on the issues of grand strategy, and the developments on the battlefield ahead of them which were being shown.

Already, Elise's ships had pushed their way through the heaviest field of fire, the Executors drawn up in line-abrest formation serving to shield the myriad of smaller ships behind them. The former had held up perfectly to the missile fire of the defenders, already attrited as it was, and the later had been scarcely touched on account of the fleet disposition. As they passed through the rents in the minefields, a few ships were damaged and dropped out, and nothing more than that.

From that moment on, a slaughter began. The minefields were opened completely in that sector by the massed batteries of Elise's fleet. Then they shifted fire, and the embattled light squadrons abruptly had the pressure relieved as the heavy batteries of the main fleet force, the Executors and the Shockwaves, poured down their fire on the scarred and pitted defensive platforms and torpedo spheres. These bolts were heavy enough to kill them, with enough shots, and the number of sufficient shots quickly piled up in numbers as the guns fired enmasse every half-second, with the warheads following. Armour-piercing, directed energy, the torpedo fire of the proton torpedoes delivered lances of radiation deep into the hulls of the ships, hundreds of times over, whilst great chunks were torn from them by the fire of the turbolasers in turn.

Within a minute, the light ships had been relieved, and tens of Hamner's defensive posts and torpedo sphers were being destroyed by the massed fire of Elise's squadron. It looked altogether very bad for Hamner... But then the first half of the trap was sprung. Massed batteries of FTL torpedoes were salvoed from the cloaked frigates. The fire salvo came as a surprise and many got through to Pellaeon's ships. Their heavy impacts destroyed several lighter destroyers on the outer wings of his formation; but only the first salvo. The defensive computers were laid in for the second and the CIWS fire concentrated, even as the order was quickly given to orient stern-quarter batteries on the projected location of the frigates and commence to fire with flak bursts.

As this reaction was taking place, however, the Milky Way ships jumped in-- a motley collection from every power, a few big ones from the Dominion as the best, then a mix of Klingon, Romulan, Federation, Ferengi (large numbers there, in particular, as the Ferengi had not fought), Breen, and other such ships from countless minor nations. They had not even been counted in the lists of Hamner's fleet, so weak were they, but they had been modified extensively so that they at least had a chance here.

No, not really a chance, just a duty, Harlann sighed. He had ordered their position, but it was still unfortunate. These ships, which brought immediate alarm to the Imperial officers of Pellaeon's elements of Sule's fleet, could not stand up to such massed firepower even with all the modifications in the world. But they could provide precious minutes for Admiral Ackbar to decisively turn the tables, and if that meant they would all die, then they would all have to die, a speedbump to enable the greater plan of victory for the allies. Even as Pellaeon moved to meet both threats at once, Elise continued her attack—all the more aggressively, really, prefering to clear what was ahead of her as a response to the new threat behind. The crews of the Milky Way ships, for their part, pressed home their attack aggressively, for in getting close and striking hard and fast they felt they had their only chance of survival, however slim it was. Harlann glanced down to his chrono... Just about now..

The Conquérant
Irregular Coruscant Orbit

Behind them the Milky Way ships were rushing in to attack Pellaeon. They darted in close, striking as hard as they could. Loads of proton torpedoes were salvoed off at point-blank range, aided by the fire of a few light turbolasers. For defensive weapons they mostly just had their old beam cannon, some modified to fire multiple beams, one from each emitter, for CIWS work. Against this they forced the massed frontal fire of Pellaeon's main battle divisions, and they were paying for it rapidly. Even at point-blank range, where the squadrons could manoeuvre against targets which could not, and they could avoid the heaviest of the fire due to the danger of large friendly fire incidents from misses, they were still being chopped to shreds by the second, a hundred ships destroyed inside of one minute.

But that was one minute of delay for Pellaeon, and it paid now, in sudden and ugly surprise to Elise's taskforces, just after they had finished successfully clearing out the perimeter defensive concentrations. While their fire was still dialed in on the platforms that they were finishing off, and pounding the few retreating torpedo spheres into rubble, the big Star Cruisers of the rebel fleet arrived in two halves, like a shell slamming closed on Elise's fleet. Each one was led by the impressive bulk of an Executor-class battlecruiser, the Republic's two operational ships of that type, and that, of course, meant a general fleet action, for between those Star Cruisers and the Executors, Elise was actually outgunned, and it only grew worse from there—for several defensive batteries on the surface of the planet had been fully activated in this region by a great effort on the part of the troops and the engineers of Hamner's forces, and now also commenced fire upon Elise's force.

The general action was thus commmenced.

At once Elise's fleet came under intense fire. From every direction the heaviest of turbolaser batteries and ion cannons were directed at her main force, and immense jamming made everything except for direct-beam laser comms impossible the transferrence of orders. The six Executors in her force became, at once, the greatest targets of the enemy firepower; the Shockwave-class ships second. Fire was concentrated from thousands of ships against those few ships, less than twenty. None, of course, were destroyed outright, for the power of their shields, even weakened, was sufficient to repulse the fire of hundreds of destroyer-rate ships for at least a few minutes.

Elise was on her feet. Alone, and in direct command of this segment of the fleet for all intents and purposes, she knew that an instant reaction was required; particularly since the Emperor's ship was also under some of the heaviest fire. “We'll close with the starboard force of the Separatists,” she said, thinking even as she spoke and studying the holoprojector, hands folded behind her back, gloves to hide the cold sweat that sheened them. “Executor and Shockwave-class ships only.”

“We're going in unsupported, Admiral? Their starfighters are surely waiting for just this chance, and our own are concentrated aft with Admiral Pellaeon.”

“That's right, we're going in unsupported. We don't have a choice; not under this sort of fire.” The Conquérant shuddered slightly as if to emphasize the point as the inertial compensators were forced to deal with the kinetic impact of thousands of missiles and heavy turbolaser bolts all at once from a brace of large Mon Cal Star Cruisers which had concentrated their salvoes upon her. “Send immediately to Grand Admiral Pellaeon: 'Request Starfighter support most urgently; they should advance to the starboard axis of the fleet and be prepared to support the heavy units in close combat. Have them traverse the enemy blocking force and disregard same.'”

“Transmitting, Admiral,” Hallsburg replied tightly, teeth clenched. The atmosphere on the bridge was very clinical but it was clear that they couldn't stand this for long.

“Very well. Signals—exclude for Line Squadrons: 'All ships execute eighty-five degree thrust shift relative to port, and close with the enemy.' Line squadrons only: 'Follow me.'” She flung her hands forward, clapped them hollowly through the gloves once, and tapped up the comms link to the conning bridge. “Captain, put us alongside that enemy Executor in the starboard formation, and keep us there until we blow up or she does.”

“How close, Admiral?”

“So I can spit on her.”

“Understood,” her flagcaptain replied simply, and cut the channel.

She stepped away, just in time to catch Hallsburg declaring “All messages transmitted. Receipt confirmations coming in via laser relay comms.” A nod was offered, at that, and she moved to sit back down, taking a few long breaths to steady herself.

The plot before her, from the moment she turned back to look at it, had already changed rapidly. The Conquérant was pressing in against the enemy with great rapidity, and already the change could be felt in the hull; it was a change for the worst, as even with half of the enemy fleet cut off, the rest concentrated on her flagship in turn. But it was not for long. Despot, under Sule's urging, led up the second battle division, and covered her advance, flanking her ship as the great Super Star Destroyers of the fleet pressed down to take on the enemy.

“Watch yourself, Your Majesty,” Elise paged over the laser comms, “For an Admiral ought lead a fleet,” and there was agonizing silence before the reply came back:

“Don't worry about it, Elise. An Emperor should lead his men.”

Oh, well. There was no time to worry about that. “All line squadrons: 'Concentrate fire on enemy Executor,'” Elise grated out. “Take it out for us now and we'll reverse the course of this blasted action yet!”

One of the Shockwaves blew up. The atmosphere on the bridge became all the tenser, though Elise did not think it so bad; they had lost a Superiour at Dantooine, after all, and yet.. Well, the fire was very heavy. This was the whole of the remnant of the Republican Fleet, and months worth of construction at the Mon Cal yards, and many of the heaviest ships they had left behind in the Milky Way besides; and half that firepower was concentrated on a preciously small group of vessels which were now closing in, dangerously close with the enemy. So close that now they were deaccelerating, lest they past through... Deaccelerating toward their inexorably saught target.

“It's the Guardian, Admiral!”

“Oh well,” Elise answered. “We've killed ships dearer to us than that tonight.” It was really just breathed. Now all the ships were aligned, and the maximum firepower was being directed against the Guardian, only hundreds of kilometers off, thousands at most, and they'd be gone soon as the ships bore in close... Abruptly, there was a brilliant flash to the left. Elise's head snapped around. The viewscreen/projectors around the flagbridge showed the shattered remembers of a Mon Cal Star Cruiser, torn in two by a collision with the particle shields of the Indomptable, then flung around so that her bow was incinerated on them likewise. The short-range cannon of the Indomptable tore into the shattered hulk with an unnecessary and vengeful glee, with the excuse that they had no other target upon which to fire until it drifted passed them, and then again their gunnery was directed upon the living and not the dead.

Now, of course, Elise was worried about the Indomptable's shields. But the danger came not to that ship, but to another. The Pluton's Captain—with his Executor in the Despot's BatDiv—had been constantly exposing his ship to the maximum possible fire to divert concentrations on the Emperor's vessel. Unfortunately it had given away a bit of the formation to the enemy; now they were really pouring in the fire on both the Pluton and the Despot. And with those ships, along with the Conquérant, in the front rank, were now also the obvious targets for the very close Guardian, Admiral Ackbar's flagship, which was now under the most intense barrage of fire from ships combining to twelve times its strength in gunnery.

In rapid succession two events took place. First the Pluton lost her shields, and then the Guardian also suffered a temporary shield failure. Temporary it may have been, but the result that followed was astounding. Thousands of turbolaser bolts struck all over the hull of the Guardian, pounding at the twenty-one metre armour of the huge Executor-class ship. The same happened to the Pluton, and as the Conquérant nosed up in turn recklessly under Elise's command, her guns, briefly masked by the Indomptable, were at once freed to commence a vicious fire upon the underhull of the Guardian, collapsing the shields of her hangar bays as well and tearing into them with heat, plasma, and radiation before they could be sealed. Of the guns which were masked upon the Executors, independent fire was of course authorized, and Elise paid it no heed, each Gunnery Officer maximizing the capabilities of his batteries within the context of the orders; even on the Conquérant the guns of the starboard sternquarter were now engaged in a vigorous mini-duel with a Viscount-class Star Cruiser six kilometers off in that direction.

Then the starfighters struck. They had been hoarded, and now Hamner unleashed them. Thousands, no, tens of thousands, were sent against less than twenty heavy ships, and in those numbers they made their presence felt. Heavy attack rockets and proton torpedoes began to pound at their hulls by the hundreds of thousands. Wave after wave seemed to come in, firing as many of their warheads as they could before passing clear and seeking shelter from the admittedly murderous CIWS fire of the heavy ships operating in concentration as they were now. Thousands of starfighters were destroyed in a heartbeat. But the greatest damage was done to the Pluton; with her shields still down, the specific bridge defence shields had also now been knocked out by the starfighter salvoes, which had been directed against said. Like the old Executor at Endor, her bridge was destroyed and command of the systems lost for a few seconds, during which every Separatist ship in the area, smelling blood, poored the maximum firepower into her.

It was a credit to her executive officer that he reacted as quickly as he did. Control was regained, but by the time it was the upper superstructure and the docking bays were flaming wrecks, three engines were disabled, and a fifty meter tip of the bow blown off—and the fire wasn't slacking, but if anything, intensifying. Bolts and warhead shots were now penetrating deep into the hull, and many more starfighters were focusing on the ship, firing off tens of thousands of proton torpedoes at it at close range. These massed salvoes punched through the battered armour or plunged through superstructure areas; guns were knocked out, and finally great areas of the ship's exoskeleton were blasted away. Using their pinpoint targeting systems, the heavy ships now became to pour fire down on the internal bulkheads of the Pluton which guarded her primary reactor.

They were breached. This automatically triggered a reactor SCRAM. The ship lost most of its power, but from the countless secondary reactors enough power was found to continue to fight. There was no question of escape from this situation. The Pluton was doomed, but she held her position and continued to engage with every battery that had power, even as secondary explosions marked the destruction of magazines and secondary reactors and caused further damage, power loss, and general destruction to the interior of the great Battlecruiser.

Guardian, though, was in worse shape by now. During the minutes when the Pluton was dying her shields had been briefly reestablished, only to collapse again under such a massed fire as was inflicted upon her. When Pluton doggedly resumed to fire with her remaining operational batteries, it seemed like a moral last straw, to which the physical effects were shown just a minute, perhaps two, later. As the armour was overtaxed in the central sectors and the superstructure entirely destroyed, heavy bolts plowed deep into the hull and disabled several of the Guardian's engines. She continued to fight back; but soon her reactor's integrity had been compromised as well, and the pounding on the ship under its secondary power became to much. It seemed like the whole center of the ship had been destroyed, yet it clearly was not, even as explosion after explosion took place there, for there was still counterbattery fire somehow taking place. The engines were now dark, though, and the hull torn in every place. The Guardian, venting plasma and lifeless bodies and shattered bulkheads and armour fragments, spun out of formation, engines dark, only a half-dozen turbolasers still firing in lonely defiance.

Pluton received only a momentary respite. As the Separatist fleet milled about for a moment, in confusion at the loss of their flagship, she survived. But Rano Inaras quickly enough gained control of this portion of the fleet, leaving General Antilles and the pretender Hamner Davion with the other portion, engaged in hot but steadily victorious combat with the rest of Elise's fleet. Order was restored. New firing arcs were opened by the shifting of the fleet and its re-concentration, and the fire on the Pluton immediately reached the old levels of intensity. She did not last a half minute more before her hull was rent asunder in many places and the spinning, collapsing remnants of the great ship were blasted up to fragments, many larger than Star Destroyers themselves, joining the Guardian in her dark tomb.

“Clear out those Viscounts,” Elise ordered grimly, still sitting. “We'll cut our way through to meet the starfighters.” A pause, a moment: “Captain, take us out again—engage the enemy enpassant.” This was the most primitive of warfare, close-quarters fighting, 'follow the flagship' tactics; the level of jamming, and the nature of the trap, demanded nothing less. Conquérant shuddered around Admiral Kalar-Leben, shields dangerously on the verge of collapse, but she sat steadily and continued the series of orders: “All ships, follow me. Engage most closely!”

A ring of fire was formed around the Imperial starships. Starfighters were coming in from every direction. The squadron line forces under Elise's direct command charged into a group of nine Viscount-class Star Cruisers. Space was a blur of exchanged turbolaser shots. Shields collapsed and hulls were rent, as the great Executors tore through dozens of lighter ships, destroying every one of them, as they closed with their next most important enemies. Here they were held back, the Viscounts engaged closely with the aide of many lesser ships, and the starfighters continued to come on in waves—Hamner Davion had more than two million of them, after all, and he was sending all of them he could at the main force of Elise's that was now cut off.

But they had other things to worry about by this moment. Sule's fleet's own starfighters had been dispatched, after a delay on Pellaeon's part, but, granted, not a bad one. Then Pellaeon had pressed home his own fight. The great firepower of the fleet section under his command had dispersed the frigates by salvo-firing flak bursts across a vast areas to drive them back, and destroy many. The modified Milky Way ships had been crushed in the heaviest of fighting. There were only a dozen or so of them left, and they presented no hindrance as Pellaeon's fleet pushed through them to the scattered harassment of the remnants of the torpedo frigates to their aft quarter, not sufficient to matter any longer. Ahead, the fighters raced in to relieve Elise.

“Where are those fighters!?” Elise nearly screamed. The situation was impossibly bad; the shields of the Conquérant were down to less than 5% all over the hull, except for the special secondary shields of course, and the Despot was nearly as bad off. Indomptable had lost her shields entirely, and the only flicker of hope was when one of the Viscount-class ships before them had exploded from a lucky strike deep through shattered armour. A flare obscured the screen before anyone could answer her; a second of the Shockwave-class Star Cruisers had just exploded from this engagement.

The big eight-kilometer Mon Cals in front of them were fighting hard, two of them facing the concentration of the majority of the firepower of the fleet and suffering the hardest for it even as the rest were nearly untouched. The concentration of fire was showing in how rapidly those two ships were deteoriating, as fast as the Guardian had nearly, but in the meanwhile the Indomptable was being shattered...

“Six thousand more starfighters coming in!”

Elise looked to starboard and saw a great wave of rebel E-wings and K-wing bombers, the first salvoing a dozen or more proton torpedoes each—all of them directly at the Conquérant, as the K-wings followed them in with heavy shipkilling torpedoes of the design the Rebellion, with their fetish for starfighters, had developed and against which the Empire had never before faced. She simply waited. On the conning bridge below, her Flagcaptain ordered shields concentrated to starboard, as a thousand or more starfighters were swept away by the defensive fire of the Conquérant, vapourized outright by a sheet of flak bursts as the CIWS tore into the incoming warheads.

Enough hit to throw the Conquérant about in a wave of fire, Elise half-flung from her chair as the ship shuddered and shook about below her. The thrums continued through the hull, however, the guns continued to fire just as fast as before.

“Shields down!” Some officer who's name she could not then recall shouted.

Elise jabbed a finger down on the button to the conning bridge intercom hard enough to make it hurt. “Captain, get us closer! Another salvo like that will tear through our critical externals, I'd rather face the guns of those Star Cruisers.”

Grimly the Conquérant thrust forward. Despot was right alongside her, nearly as bad off, and indeed Sule drove the captain of the Despot on with an equal black fury, pounding through the shattered division of Viscounts ahead of them. The two Battlecruisers concentrated fire on one as a matter of course, and here they loosed their last missiles. Despot tore in dangerously close to the stricken Star Cruiser, firing the whole while even as the counterbattery fire from her mostly operational turbolasers struck back. Then a great spate of bolts ripped through the Viscount, and it too exploded in violence, the Despot so close that her remaining shields were collapsed by the fury of the blast against them.

Sule's voice crackled through to Elise. “Let's get out of here, we've opened a path,” he growled through the static. “Despot's sensors can detect the starfighters coming in ahead—definitely our's!”

“Captain, take us through the breach,” Elise ordered with another jab upon the intercom switch. All the ships of the squadrons had already been given the orders to follow the flagship; now the flagship had found the gap. At last, and to Elise's relief, the Despot went first and the Conquérant followed, their guns pounding at the remaining Viscounts from every direction.

Ahead was the awesome sight of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of starfighters attacking a brace of old MC-90s which had stubbornly stood between them and the Viscounts. The Star Cruisers were torn asunder by massed proton torpedo and heavy attack rocket fire. Through the plasma of the debris field came tens of thousands of Imperial starfighters in ragged, already rent-through formations, but there were tens of thousands more of those following in turn.

“Another Viscount!” Hallsburg shouted, ripping off his headphones as a wash of radiation feedback signaled the death to him before it even had to the sensor operators, one of whom shouted the same thing a heartbeat later. On the faces of the flagbridge crew was a mixture of hysterical glee and awe and dread all at once; but most of all, hope...

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Re: De Imperatoribus Galacticis v.1 [Revised]

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-10-30 11:00am

Then a brilliant flash, a second, a third, who knew, obscured the tumbling hull of the shattered and rent Viscount off to their port. A wave of radiation washed into the unshielded hull of the Conquérant, but of course the armour was more than capable of dealing with that as well, and it did, even as in the forward sectors of the dorsal hull there were melted sections of superstructure everywhere and venting plasma, possibly even fires being fed by the oxygen escaping from shattered sectors of the hull. But none of it, yet, had compromised their ability to fight..

Nobody was worried about that right now. “We've lost the Indomptable,” Elise's chief of staff said, glumly, grimly, shocked perhaps at the violent detonation of the ship, before its core could be shut down safely.

Despot is under an intense fire forward!”

Achille coming up in support!”

“Good for them!” Elise struck a fist upon her leg violently, and eyes wild with fire, watched the converging plot as the incoming starfighters reached point-blank range and unleashed a mass salvo on the second rank of Star Cruisers unleashing their own firepower into the Despot, at the exact same moment that the Achille commenced main battery fire against them.

Ten of the small Mon Cals seemed to be wiped away by that concentration of two fires against them, all at once, and then the path was clear, saving for the superheated cloud of irradiated plasma and debris. Through this raced the Despot, now free and clear, in an area where the ships of the Separatist fleet had been annihilated by the charge of Pellaeon's starfighters, Achille at her side. Conquérant followed, then Inexorable and the surviving Shockwaves.

With the jamming fields around them now partially cleared, Pellaeon appeared on the bridge of the Conquérant courtesy of holoprojection. “Elise,” he said grimly. “We've got to extract the rest of the fleet. They've taken down two Strident-class Star Cruisers but we've lost more than three thousand ships.”

“Of course. We'll form up on you as you come through. We'll swing through and take up a port-forward position on your forces to give us a few minutes to try and bring the shields up to some reasonable levels—both Conquérant and Despot have local area shields only at the moment, and those are scarcely holding.” Elise felt no particularly good feelings toward Pellaeon at the moment, in allowing himself to be distracted by relatively minor forces, but now was not the time for that. They had to get the fleet back into a cohesive formation and see if the battle could be sustained. Their losses were, well.. shaping up to be atrocious, but we've burned them back, too.

The arrival of Pellaeon's main body scattered through the shattered and sundered portion of Ackbar's old half of the fleet. Inaras couldn't keep the formation together as a second hammer of six Executors, this supported by three Superiours, struck through it, and it partially collapsed; but he was worried about other, nearly unengaged elements at the moment, anyway. These he was shifting to meet up with the other half of the fleet, and in doing so, cut off the rest of Elise's segment of the Imperial Starfleet which was in a hot close-quarters action that roiled around the position of the Lusankya in that fleet. Pellaeon saw it coming, and flung his fleet forward as Elise led her heavy ships around and then accelerated back into formation on the far side of the fleet, shield strength still dangerously low after such a short respite, only, and at once back into the action.

But, ahead, the trap had been closed. Nearly ten thousand ships cut off. Pellaeon saw it, and he knew that he had no choice. “General attack, all units,” he ordered. “Cut through them!”

Now the greatest fury of the battle before was exceeded; the greatest intensity of fire, redoubled. Thousands of ships clashed in a general close action as the Imperials sought to thrust their way through the blockade of the detached portion of the fleet, the massed starfighters attacking on the starboard flank, Elise's heavies on the port, Pellaeon's forces right into the centre. But they had been attrited and battered, and the forces facing them were fresh, with many more rearmed starfighters from the earlier attacks on Elise's fleet, cycled through the planet, coming up in support. A general battle raged along thousands of kilometers of space, thousands of ships within it firing upon each other in a great clash of arms at every quarter, with every battery which could be concentrated.

But Hamner's forces still had high stocks of warheads in their magazines. Sule's were expended. This now told, and so did the preparation of his forces and the superiour numbers of his starfighters. It was becoming dreadfully apparent that the blockade of the trapped ships could not be broken, those trapped ships being hammered apart by the Lusankya and the other Republican heavies around her, and with their destruction would come the total defeat of Sule's effort at this battle, and with it, his cause and his Imperial aspirations of hegemony over two galaxies. There was no avoiding it, and each minute, each thunderous exchange of broadsides, made that dreadfully clear.

The shields on the Conquérant and the Despot had collapsed again, and this time there would be no respite for those ships. Inexorable was not much better off; and Tonnant in Pellaeon's forces was showing the reduced effectiveness of her hasty repairs. The fighter bays were clogged to excess, and many of the civilian volunteers with their armed ships broke and fled at the intensity of the fire they now faced in trying to punch through Inaras' blockade. Many fighters were destroyed for want of fuel to manoeuvre, and warheads to salvo, and all of this had a cascading effect upon the ships which were fighting fit.

And yet... And yet... Just as at Königgrätz, a messenger had gone forth.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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Re: De Imperatoribus Galacticis v.1 [Revised]

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-10-30 11:01am

De Imperatoribus Galacticis

"On the Galactic Emperors"

Chapter the Twenty-Seventh.

R.N.S. Lusankya
Irregular Coruscant Orbit

They had docked with the Lusankya only by the greatest of luck, amidst the hail of fire directed against her by the desperately trapped ships of Sule's fleet. Both Han and his son were quiet, tense, as they navigated through the battle and to the ship upon which Leia Organa-Solo stood her ground and fought for the future of the Republic. Tens of thousands of ships and millions of starfighters held their places and fought bitterly over Coruscant. The scene could only remind one of the great battles over the battered world during the Imperial Civil War. No mere hit and run like the Separatist attack which had prestaged the declaration of Palpatine's Empire, it was a hard fought battle to the end.

Now it was clearly ending, though, even if it might be hours or days until the fighting stopped. A significant portion—nearly half—of the Imperial fleet, though a far lesser amount of its firepower, to be sure, was trapped, cut off from the rest by the coalition forces which at once defended and blockaded the planet (for a bloody conflict was at that moment being waged on the surface, with a dubious outcome, just as it was in the sky above). This meant, inexorably, that the Imperial fleet was being defeated in detail, that those trapped ships were being compressed into a steadily smaller pocket and pounded unceasingly, even as the ships of Inaras' squadrons were suffering heavily themselves in their effort to keep the bulk of the Imperial starfleet from breaking through to its trapped companions.

Han and Jacen could not quite understand why Jaina had sent them when the circumstances, it appeared, had turned out so victorious. But at last Han, with his usual suspicion, guessed on something that made sense enough. “It looks like Admiral Ackbar has already bought the farm, kiddo,” he said rather grimly, “That means that the Lusankya essentially carries the whole concentration of the old Rebel leadership that is left. If Hamner attacks this ship the moment Sule's forces have been defeated he could decapacitate the Republic; only Bel Iblis would present a threat then, and he's not exactly very popular these days, to say the least.”

“That's probably it,” Jacen agreed with some reserve. There was no telling what his sister was doing, now. He couldn't really feel her anymore, and it saddened him, though it seemed now to be inevitable. He did not doubt that she was right, he just doubted that all of it was possible. Save, perhaps... But he dismissed the thought.

They arrived on the flagbridge. It was a scene of organized chaos as Wedge Antilles directed the remaining Republican forces of what had been the starboard flank of the entrapment force against the killers of Admiral Ackbar. Elise Kalar-Leben—the curiously cheery lunatic of Leia's meeting with Sule—had swung her ships around to face this portion of the fleet, to screen Pellaeon's effort to break through. They were battered, badly damaged ships, now, and the Republican heavies on this side were hitting them with everything they had. Several of them appeared to be near destruction, despite the great bulk and power of the Executor design.

“Han... JACEN!!?” Leia Organa-Solo stared at her son in shock, a delighted shock as though he had been raced from the grave. The exclaimation made Wedge glance from the holoprojector for a moment. When he looked back, there was a small, tight smile at the moment of the reunion upon his face even as his attention was once more fully focused on the battle ahead.

Mother and son embraced, tightly. The moment seemed like it surely should never end, and for several minutes they just held each other, Leia crying in delight, delight at her son's return on the eve of what seemed to be the salvation of the Republic. It was the most perfect moment in all of her life and mind was fixated upon it as that, for all of the time that it lasted, a blessing, a miracle, the impossible effort of her daughter bearing fruit.

At last, though, she noted a conspicious absence, and asked quietly, as though a loud voice might bring bad news, “where's Jaina?”

“Diplomatic mission to Baron Fel,” Han replied laconically, telling all and nothing at the same time. “That crazy Jedi lady of Pellaeon's is dead, but she's fine. I guess she went to try and stop him from intervening in this mess.”

“About time my daughter did something diplomatic,” Leia smiled brightly. The moment was complete; no fear, no losses for this miraculous gain, indeed, even a potential danger removed. It was as storybook as their incredible victories had been before.

But when history repeats itself, it does so as farce.

Jacen gently interrupted the moment. “Mom, we've got to prepare to get out of here. Jaina.. Jaina sensed something very bad about this battle, before she left to go speak with Baron Fel. We need to get out of here, as soon as possible.”

“Hamner Davion is going to backstab us the moment he's finished off Sule,” Han clarified, as he'd worked out, and it seemed good enough for him.

It was completely out of touch with the moment, so it brought Leia up short for a moment, as she thought on the matter and on the danger which had just been prevented. “I'll go tell Wedge to prepare for the fleet to break clear the moment the battle is won,” Leia replied at last. “That's the only way I'm leaving, anyway.”


“Alright,” Han added at once, before Jacen could dissent. Why leave now, after all? He couldn't think of a good reason, Jedi warnings included. They'd bug out with the fleet, and the fleet to provide the firepower for their escape. He wasn't going to risk all of their lives in this mess of a combat, not now, not without the Falcon at least, and stuck in a little stealthship.

“Good. I'll tell Wedge right now to begin preparing a bug-out plan,” Leia said, her old determination fully restored as she walked over to the starfighter General.

“Wedge, we've got some trouble. Jaina has brought news through Jacen and Han that there's going to be some serious danger, either to the fleet or to my life personally. Han thinks Hamner is planning a double-cross. Can you get the fleet arranged for a bug-out if that happens? Not until after we've won over Sule's forces would be it be possible, of course, so we just need to implement it immediately post-victory if the slightly thing suspicious happens.”

“This battle isn't over by a longshot,” Wedge replied, frowning. “Though I can spare some of my staff to draw it up quickly, and we'll improvise beyond that if we need to. Damned shame about Admiral Ackbar—I'd trust him more with this. But we don't have a choice..” He sighed. “Okay.”

Then all hell broke loose.

Abruptly, a great number of additional contacts appeared on the holoplot behind the main body of the Imperial Fleet. Thousands of them.

“INCOMING! We are detecting close to six thousand destroyer type vessels! They're.. They're Venator-class destroyers, General! Coming in fast and broadcasting Imperial recog codes!”

Wedge Antilles looked to Leia grimly. “It looks like your daughter had another threat in mind, Princess.”

Leia was silent with the shock of the moment; and then, when her went to where those ships might have come from, logically, to fear.

The alternative, mercifully, never crossed her mind.

Coruscant Orbit
Imperial Frigate FPC-1167
Former USS Enterprise-E

“Incoming! -- Imperial transponders, on all of them!!”

William Riker somehow had survived. His ship was one of, what, a dozen, a hundred? that had survived; he wasn't sure. They were forming up with about twice that number, so far, of frigates, when death came around them in every direction.

Thousands and thousands of uniform red-and-gray ships that looked like products of the Kuat Drive Yards, but of an entirely new design. Or an old one. Bigger than the Victory-class, smaller than Imperators, but these monsters were tremendous in size and they were all around him, just dozens of kilometers off and driving in hard.

The Enterprise was out of torpedoes, but her shields had entirely recharged. There was only one hope—escape through the fleet as it charged past, because it was as clear as all hell from the transponder codes they were receiving that these guys weren't friendly at all, and the situation had suddenly taken on a dreadful and desperate tone for the Separatist Alliance. “Maximum impulse!” Riker shouted. “Take us clear for the outer system!”

The Enterprise accelerated even as the fleet around them realized that they had close to three hundred hostiles now essentially in their midst. The order was given to commence fire immediately, even as hundreds of thousands of starfighters were being launched. Eight thousand starships raced up to relieve Sule's fleet, and fling a second wave into the attack to break through Inaras' blockade around the trapped half of the Imperial fleet. They did so with a crisp precision and certain elegance, coming up fast even as the huge bays of the Venators unleashed 400 starfighters each; in total some 2,450,000 starfighters were launched from the whole of Baron Fel's fleet, pouring out in one vast stream which headed straight in against Hamner's blockade, all of excellent Chiss design.

For a moment nobody was shooting at the Enterprise; then it seemed like everyone was. For some splendid reason they did not die with the first broadside. “Return fire!” Riker ordered; there was nothing else to do, now that his hope of escaping without an exchange was gone. “Evasive manoeuvres, but get us out of this concentration fast!”

The Enterprise did indeed race clear. For a moment Riker's mind was filled with jubilation; somehow, again, they had managed to survive. Something of the Milky Way resistance would, at any rate, make it out of this terrible clash of great fleets. But then the rear batteries of the massed Venators locked in on the few of the straggling light which had managed to get through, and commenced with massed salvoes, no need for caution when they were to the stern of the fleet and there was no chance of a friendly fire incident, and every reason to fire rapidly to destroy them all before they got out of range.

Riker's jubilation vanished, of course, when he died, and the Enterprise died around him, in a brilliant flare of plasma and combusting anti-matter, torn apart by innumerable turbolaser bolts from the heavy batteries of the Venator-class ships now already quite distant up on ahead of the grave of the Enterprise, doomed to drift in shattered pieces and vapourized metal in orbit of a foreign star, forgotten in a clash of mass destruction and mass death which far outweighed the simple notation of the loss of another obsolete and tiny frigate. Other things were being destroyed here, far greater than that.

The Conquérant
Irregular Coruscant Orbit

“The conning tower shields won't hold for much longer under this kind of concentrated fire, Admiral,” Elise's Chief of Staff said quietly. “I suggest you evacuate to secondary control in the hull.”

“The shields are of such strength, Captain, that they make the conning tower much safer than even the interior of the hull.” Elise spoke, her eyes lit by the fires and plasma venting out from along the ravaged hull forward.

“But they're near collapse, and we can't spare power from anywhere else.”


“Admiral! Contacts coming in to our stern quarter—eight thousand ships exiting hyperspace! They.. They have Imperial transponders, bearing regular recognition codes for the forces under the command of Grand Admiral Thrawn. Just like our own.”

Elise's attention was now drawn entirely to the plot. There she brought in a highlight on the fleet which had just arrived, and appeared to be now cleaning up the remnants of the light ships which had ambushed Pellaeon to create the disastrous situation in which they were now in. They were also launching starfighters in absolutely staggering numbers, and that meant... “Venator-class ships,” Elise said after a long moment, and with a relieved mutter, almost a moan. “Oh... It's the Condominion's fleet. Has to be.” It was like all the exhaustion of the knowledge of doom had at last gone out of her.

“We're picking up the feed from the broadcast of the arriving fleet commander to Grand Admiral Pellaeon,” Hallsburg reported.

“Put it on for me.”

Elise watched as the two men spoke to each other. Pellaeon on one end, and Baron Fel on the other. Obligingly, Fel obeyed Pellaeon's command to bring his full strength up for a general frontal attack, with the faster starfighters forming a first wave to which the capital ships would be the second. And all the starfighters that there were... Even as the two men confirmed their battleplans, the numbers easily exceeded two million and continued to climb, until nearly two and a half million starfighters had been launched, and they were all of designs that Elise had not seen before; large and impressive snubfighters to say the least.

Abruptly their chance to relieve the increasingly attrited half of the fleet had been restored; they could break through the blockade with that kind of strength. And that meant that Elise needed to pay attention to the pressing situation of the ships under her own command; a fact which was confirmed the moment that Pellaeon finished his communication, for he then at once commenced a holo-communication to Elise's flagship.

“Elise, I want the Despot and the Conquérant out of the line now; your ships are barely in one piece, and the Emperor's life is in grave danger. Quite frankly, you're to badly damaged to contribute to the battle, and we don't need you anymore to break through. Get out while you can. Transfer immediate command of the remains of your group to Rear Admiral Qureson on the Star Lord. I'll integrate the trapped portions of your fleet element with my own when we punch through.”

“Of course, Sir—on all counts but the last. Qureson's command will be temporary. I'm transferring my flag to the Inexorable, and I'll reason control from there, including of my fleet element once the blockade has been broken.”

Pellaeon knew better than to argue. “Agreed,” he said with a moment's hesitation only.

“Very well, then, I'll attend to these matters at once.”

Elise immediately cut the channel and instead brought up—flatscreen communication only—the Captain of the Despot. “Captain. Turn away from the engagement immediately and make your way clear behind the protection of the Baron Fel's fleet forces. Your ship is near destruction as it is, and with the Emperor aboard you cannot afford to be in the line anymore. Ignore any command from him, no matter how it is worded, and if you are forced to explain yourself, tell His Majesty that he can take it up with Elise Kalar-Leben when the battle is over!”

The Captain came to attention and saluted formally, and stiffly. “Of course, Grand Admiral. I will withdraw at once.”

Elise cut the channel without another word, and then brought up Rear Admiral Qureson, on one of the surviving Shockwaves. “Admiral, you have command of the group. Both the Despot and the Conquérant are being withdrawn from the action now that Baron Fel has arrived. I am transferring my flag to the Inexorable. Once it is transferred I will retain overall command of the fleet element, and you shall report to me. Until then you are operating independently as the left-flank guard.”

Another crisp salute. “I understand, Grand Admiral. We've been preparing here for any eventuality and we can take over force control immediately with my squadron staff. Good luck.”

“Good luck to you too, Admiral,” Elise answered and cut that channel as well. The ship shuddered and slewed to the starboard noticeably as she did so; but she managed to avoid from falling outright. Straightening, she looked around at the nervous, tense flagbridge crew that comprised her staff. “Turn it off and pack it up!!” Elise shouted. “We're going to the VIP shuttle bay; it's still intact. We're transferring to the Inexorable--NOW.”

Elise spun on heel and began to stride for the turbolifts at the back of the flagbridge. At once everyone on the flagbridge was coming out of their chairs, unstrapping and getting up, grabbing hardcopies of the fleet data and stuffing them into attache cases, just in case a data-link transfer was not possible on account of jamming or, god forbid, the loss of the Conquérant, and then heading right along with her. A half-dozen or so managed to get into the first turbolift down with her; the others followed in the rest of the turbolifts of the bank, and in more cars as they were shuttled in by the computer to respond to the demand.

Elise settled on the back wall of the turbolift, braced against the railing that ran around it with her hands behind her, gloved, gripping hard onto the surface as the massive ship around her shook. Then, in a heartbeat, there was a particularly violent shock, and the power briefly failed, before it started back up again, noticeably dimmer, and their trip continued.

“What the kriff was that?” Someone muttered to no-one in particular inside the car.

“That was the whole kriffing conning tower going,” Elise replied in a matter-of-fact voice. “I figure the last car got out with, oh, twenty seconds to spare. The Captain's probably dead, but,” a gesture to the computer readout which showed where the tubes were still functional to. “Either the Executive Officer or the Chief Engineer is now conning the ship just fine, and,” a wane smile. “I can feel us accelerating clear.”

A few seconds later, in a turbolift filled with much more relieved personnel, strangely, than it had been, they arrived at the VIP bay and the doors opened. Elise was the first out; the rest of the alternatively stunned and determined flag staff following her out of the various turbolift cars calmly, toward a group of three assault shuttles and five assault gunboats which waited, the former to carry them and the later as a meagre escort, kept on hand in this bay precisely for the sole reason that they might be needed to effect a transfer of the flag in the midst of battle, as was now the case.

The leader of the assault shuttle section was outside of his craft, pacing, when he saw Elise arrive, and came to attention, saluting crisply with his helmet tucked under one arm.

“To the Inexorable, as quickly as you can!” Elise shouted and gestured sharply with her right arm, brushing past him to stride up the lowered boarding ramp of the central assault shuttle in the group.

“Aye-aye, Admiral!” He replied, pulling on his helmet and toggling it into locked position as he ran up the ramp himself, and raced past Elise to the cockpit of the craft, even as she was busy strapping herself onto one of the acceleration couches which lined the spartan troop compartment of the assault shuttle. It took two minutes at most for the shuttles to be loaded. The hatches were closed immediately and they accelerated clear of the bay, onto the horrid spectacle of the heavily damaged Conquérant clawing her way free of the battle on only three intact engines, plus thrusters, trailing a field of debris and plasma, conning tower a blacked ruined, the whole forward superstructure smashed flat, armoured slopes cratered viciously as though the ship had become an asteroid.

Elise could only barely make out the Despot, and she indeed seemed to be even worse off. It was a sight that filled her with fear; but there was no time for that. The shuttle was racing up toward the Inexorable, which still had a little general shield strength length and was still on the front line. The fire was flung hot and heavy through here, and two of their assault gunboats were vapourized by a heavy turbolaser shot, but steadily they closed with the other great Executor-class ship. And then the most marvelous thing happened.

All around, space was flooded by Chiss-built starfighters, trefoil heat-exhaustion panels marking their long divergence from Imperial design, inspired by the TIE Defender only in the most vague sense, all of them with crews of two and a great and powerful engine capacity. They raced in to close with the Separatist fleet and begin their attack runs, innumerable quantities of the light snubfighters heralding the way for eight thousand capital ships to follow them on in. The tide of the battle was turning, but it was hardly decided.

Baron Fel's Flagship
The Cunctator.

Vice Admiral Kyshalara, from the harsh set of her face to the severe cut of her hair, was every inch the grim, proficient tactician. Not with the flair of Thrawn, to be sure, but she had in her the ability to certainly put forces in the places where they were needed, with the minimum in excess manoeuvring, and this was what she was accomplishing now, as she arranged the fleet to support the areas of Pellaeon's forces which needed to be supported, and concentrated the rest of it into a striking arm to break through the Separatist blockade of the rest of the Imperial starfleet. Having argued against this mission, she nontheless executed it to the best of her ability, with every hallmark of a true professional at the art of war.

For the moment, however, the heavy forces of the Condominion were not yet engaged. Her plans, being executed and constantly refined as they were issued, were almost noncommitally based on by Baron Fel; but they were not yet being executed, and it was Baron Fel's task which was immediate, and constant. The ISD Mk.III on which they were on was of the command ship type, with expanded bridge control facilities for a flagship. From these Baron Fel was now directing the operations of close to two and a half million starfighters which were engaged in a general combat with the Separatist forces. They had so far accomplished much, by his careful dispositions and instruction, but alone they would not turn the battle.

Instead, the Baron Fel was concentrating on weakening the blockade as much as possible. Each wave of starfighters raced through, loosing their warheads, and then passed cleanly through the whole of the blockade to sweep into the embattled Imperial ships beyond, clearing Hamner's starfighters which were hounding them, and launching local counterattacks on Separatist taskforces which were pressing particular weak points, strengthening the resistance long enough so that the pocket could hold out, and thus be relieved.

Brooding, looming over all on the bridge, however, was Jaina Solo. She paced back and forth, nervous Imperial officers wondering at her intention during this engagement. But she said nothing, and had done nothing since aiding Baron Fel in arranging the destination plots for the reversion from hyperspace before they had even left the Hand. She was simply There, and her mind was for herself and for no-one else. Equally concealed were her purposes, when she had turned against her family and aided the Empire; surely the stated purpose seemed insufficient? But perhaps it was not. The galaxy had been torn by war for nearly a century, and it yearned for peace. But peace would come only way, through the blood which was being spilled here.

The weight of the fire of Baron Fel's capital ships would soon be felt. They were now manoeuvring to take up the positions designated by Vice Admiral Kyshalara. All around the central core of Pellaeon's fleet, six Executors and three Superiours, were forming up close to six thousand entirely fresh destroyers. As each squadron in turn entered its designated position, it commenced to fire. Embattled flank-guards fell back, and fresh taskforces and flotillas took their place. Kyshalara's plan was simple and in a moment it was approved by both Baron Fel and then Grand Admiral Pellaeon. Elise's remaining heavy ships would initiating a cutting maneouvre across the left flank of the blockade force, while the combined forces of Pellaeon's heavy ships and Baron Fel's destroyers would commence a direct frontal assault. As Elise's ships drew the fire of the Republican heavies, the combined central force would punch through and relieve the pocket. Elise's remaining ships would then swing through the centre of the combined force and withdraw out of it to recover, save lucky Inexorable, sufficiently undamaged that she would assume the role of flagship for the pocket forces.

Then something happened which appeared, at the first onset, to change everything. One minute the ship was slowly making its way clear of the field of battle. The next minute, it simply blew up. The Despot's damage had gone out of control, and there had been scarcely enough time to commence an evacuation. The whole fleet saw it and was demoralized by it; they knew that it could mean only one thing, that the author of their cause, Sule I Tienyz, was dead. He surely must be, and it raised a host of issues which could not be solved in battle. The spinning debris of the Despot heralded not just personal tragedy for those lost, but perhaps for the whole of the galaxy, of countless more years of civil war, chaos, rivalry, and general death. For a moment everyone was in shock by the simplicitly of the event, when the ship had seemed at last safe, before it was overcome by the compiled and compounded damage which it had suffered. But gradually the great and tenuous severity of the situation forced Action upon the minds of the men who fought here today, and for none did it occur that there should be negotiation or surrender; but chaos was another threat entirely..

The shock of it meant it was taken matter-of-factly at first. “The Despot has been lost!” One staff officer exclaimed.

“She does not figure into our tactical planning anyway,” Kyshalara replied laconically.

“That.. That was the Emperor's ship.” Someone else said; and another person swore.

Jaina had stopped pacing, and remained standing still on the bridge. But it was not because of the news that she had heard, though indeed she had processed it and understood what it meant. It was because of something else.

”Jaina... Oh, Jaina.. Don't worry. This is the last piece... A ruler who grows up accustomed to the sanctity of the Orders. You know what to do, now. Bring to the fore a new generation, without the corruption of the old.”.

”Miat? Miat?! But; I can't see you, or feel you.

I'd just be a distraction right now; you will speak to me again, and many other things. But now—you understand what I mean?

Jaina mastered herself, silent the whole while, and impressed upon herself the need for exerting the greatest force of Will possible to control her own emotions in this moment and focus on the cause for which she had become devoted.

”Of course, I understand.”

”Good; the Emperor has a heir, an unborn son. Elise Kalar-Leben is the executor of his testament. Arrange what must be arranged.”

”The boy will need a tutor.. Miat.” She said the name just to say, it really.

”Vergere.” Miat replied, and seemed to fade away.

When Jaina turned about, the Baron Fel and Grand Admiral Pellaeon were having a heated discussion over the holonet. The situation was somewhat stabilized as Baron Fel's destroyers continued a massed barrage, but it was clear that the momentum had gone out of their attack and indeed out of the whole fleet. She strode without a second thought into the feed, standing next to the surprised Baron Fel.

“I have foreseen this,” Jaina said flatly, a term necessary enough at the moment. “The Emperor has an unborn son; there will be no civil war, no disputed succession. You men shall form the core of the Regency Council. If you do not believe me, contact Elise Kalar-Leben. She is the executor of the Emperor's will, and she knows of his unborn child.”

“Make the connection at once,” Grand Admiral Pellaeon ordered, and Baron Fel nodded his assent.

The Inexorable
Irregular Coruscant Orbit

Elise breezed her way onto the flagbridge of the Inexorable like a tempest, trailing staff officers in her wake.

“Signals for you from the Baron Fel's forces,” a young, aristocratic-faced female lieutenant with dark hair but bright eyes approached, and saluted, offering of a copy of the message on a stylus, which Elise read through in a heartbeat.

“Yes, we can do that immediately..” A pause. There was something familiar about that face... “What's your name, lieutenant?”

“Huavara di Kuat, Admiral,” she replied half in awe, and then added a bit sadly—for that matter, she seemed to be somewhat distracted the whole time: “I'm Director Mystrela di Kuat's grand-niece.”

Elise brightened perceptibly at that. “Stand next to me, kiddo, and hang on. We're going to cut the cloud, so to speak. Your Grand Aunt was a good woman and I'm glad to have accounted her as one of my closest friends.” A pause: “You joined up as a student-volunteer after she died, didn't you?”

“Yes Admiral, three years engineering school, so I was given a direct commission.”

“Good.” Elise glanced over to Hallsburg. “Got the comms set up and running, Commander?”

“Yes, Admiral!”

“Then patch me through to Admiral Qureson on the Star Lord!”

“Coming through, Admiral...”

The image of Rear Admiral Qureson resolved itself onto the screen before Elise as she settled down into the command chair, Huavara di Kuat grabbing onto the left side armrest to steady herself—for the Inexorable was still under fire—and obeying the eccentric request of her eccentric commander.

“Grand Admiral Kalar-Leben! It's good to see that you've made it through alright.”

“Thank you, Rear Admiral. You've received the instructions from Grand Admiral Pellaeon?”

“Yes, Sir, but... We have urgent news!”

“If it doesn't supercede these orders, it isn't urgent. Does it?”

A grated, nervous response: “No, Sir.”

“Then execute them at once. We're going to 'cut the cloud'.”

“Of course, Admiral,” Qureson replied, mastering himself, and snapping off a salute before he cut the channel peremptorily.

At once, the squadron began to advance on the left-right evolution in echelon to swing along the firing arc of the Republican heavies. The Inexorable, Achille, and the Shockwaves and a gaggle of destroyers and light ships which made up of the force was a poor excuse for the heavy assault group which had once existed here, but it would be sufficient. Immediately an intensification in the fire directed against them was noted, and it was replied to eagerly by the massed batteries of the ships, an electrifying and aggressive movement by this fleet element which to some extent revitalized the fleet through which rumour and speculation were now raging.

And then the news finally got back to Elise. Or, more precisely, she noticed herself as she studied the holoprojector, that something wasn't quite right...

“Where is the Despot?” She asked almost second-hand, concentrated much more thoroughly on the events ahead of her, where her ships were heading.. And on what appeared to be the lack of action from the central fleet forces. If that kept up for a while longer, Elise's exposed position would become untentable, which would not be good at all, and was her main concern at the moment; she was already contemplating sending an angry message off to Pellaeon.

“Admiral,” Huavara began, strangely gently. “The Despot was lost to uncontrollable internal damage as she withdrew.”

Elise didn't speak. Instead she just reached out and grabbed onto one of Huavara di Kuat's hands in her gloved own, grasping it tightly. “Strange, how fate works...”

Much, much more alert: “Get me Pellaeon, now..!”

“A message is already coming through from the Grand Admiral; he wants you on holonet, Sir,” Commander Hallsburg replied, his voice seeming to carry the cold sweat of his body with it.

“Put it through.” Elise did not even bother to take her hand from Huavara's. She couldn't. She just stared at the images of both Pellaeon and the Baron Fel. But there was someone else there, too, black-cloaked and red-haired.

“You are the executor of the Emperor's will, yes?” that third person, standing next to the Baron Fel, asked.”

“Yes,” Elise answered automatically, without even really realizing it.

“And he has an heir?”

A pause, fumbled, reinterpretated, but that was answered to.. And for a long time in the future, Elise would never know for sure if she had been under Jaina's influence or not. “Martina is pregnant, yes.”

“Well, then, it appears that you are a Regency Council,” Jaina said softly. And then, louder, firmer: “Now go fight.”

For the two Imperial officers it was a done deal. For Sule's friend, it was another matter entirely. She looked on into Jaina's infinite eyes, and for a long moment just stared. Then she nodded a single time. “I've already put my ships in motion. Support me, Pellaeon, and we'll carry the day.”

“Of course,” he answered with a bit of deference, for the exact political situation was now unclear.

But to that, Elise just added something harsh, other, irrelevant and vastly important as well: “Martina will head the council.”

Jaina nodded, and then cut out the transmission of her own accord. There was nothing more to say.

It was a glorious moment. The fleet, shocked at the death of their leader, was reinvigorated by the bold manoeuvre of Elise's, so exposed to fire as her ships were, and cutting such a daring, aggressive stroke through Rano Inaras' defences. Just when it seemed that the assault would turn into a futile, suicidal gesture through lack of support, the whole of the centre force advanced forward at battle flank acceleration. Inaras' blockade, without the support of the heavy guns of the Republican ships on the Left, was outgunned six-to-one, and that firepower was concentrated almost entirely in fresh ships with fully charged shields, against vessels battered and damaged by hours of combat and constant massed starfighter attacks.

As it thus came to pass, Sule's death served to preserve the aspirations of Hamner Davion for fifteen minutes longer than would otherwise have come to pass; though the confusion it briefly sowed in the fleet, before Elise's act—be it born of suicidal despair or a desire to honour the memory of Sule, or of some eldricht force, or of simple inertia from the orders having already been issued—galvanized the crews into action once more. Inexorable and Achille were under as heavy of fire as they had been before, but they survived, portside guns dueling with the Republican heavies all the way in. Nobody in the fleet could fail to miss it, who had access to any kind of sensor, and word spread quickly. Then the general advance followed.

Two fleets collided and the thunder of conflict followed at its closest intensity. The missile launchers of the Venators were fresh, and they provided a bountiful accompaniment to the engagement of the turbolaser batteries, even as Hamner's hoarded missile stockpiles quickly proved insufficient for the task before them. Quickly whole squadrons began to concentrate on enemy ships and begin heavy, directed fire upon them, and the Separatists would find a dozen vessels firing against one of their own, simultaneously, even as the big Executor and Superiour-class ships of Pellaeon's central force proved sufficient to destroy whole hosts of destroyers by virtue of the great power of their concentrated main batteries, fire going from one to the other and to other, smashing them all, sending charred hulks spinning off under the force of thousands of turbolaser bolts striking home within a fraction of a second, of continuous bombardments of tens of thousands of concussion missiles.

For a while the unequal contest was maintained by the desperation of the ships under Inaras' command to make something of their apparent advantage, which had evaporated so rudely with the arrival of the Baron Fel to aide Sule's cause. Rano Inaras was a competent commander, and he was duly blessed with an iron gut. He stood firm, directing the action from the Uluamai, right at the centre of the line, torpedo salvo after torpedo salvo issuing from her tubes, aided by the maximum rate of fire from the ion cannon. In this fashion the torpedo sphere, for a while, held off several cruiser formations with the support of the surrounding ships. But in choosing such a vessel as his flagship, Rano had made it impossible for himself to retreat.

It was also fairly obvious, by that point, from the electronic warfare analysis and from the positioning of that torpedo sphere, that it was an important command vessel. Thus it was natural that Elise made it her first target of priority.

Elise herself was sitting slumped forward in her command chair on the bridge of the Inexorable, holding Huavara's hand clasped between her own two gloved hands. She looked more like a broken down drunk than a Grand Admiral; but every command that she issued was perfectly competent, as she studied the holoprojector with a half-lidded gaze, observing what was happening and peremptorily issuing directives for the group of heavies under her effective control.

“All starboard firepower should be directed against that torpedo sphere,” Elise said, bringing it up in an expanded view on one part of the holoprojector image of the battlefield and highlighting it; that required but one hand to leave Huavara's, and then only for one minute.

“At once, Admiral,” Commander Hallsburg answered, sparing a glance to that dissolute, depressing sight, which nonetheless represented the whole courage of the star forces which now fought, bundled in that pallid and raven-haired form which, in this moment, seemed so old and nearly used up. Yet Elise had always persevered; she would not have even met Sule without that sort of dreadful, mordant, indomitable perseverence. It had dragged her out of the mud once, long ago, and here it preserved her courage and her competence.

Many of the bolts struck and blasted through lighter ships in the path. Some missed. Many more struck home, and soon Rano Inaras' flagship was under the heaviest of fires from the two Executors and their attendants, a third of their batteries concentrated on that single ship. It was clearly untenable, and Rano knew it; but he also knew that his flagship was to slow to escape. And so, showing the courage that the man was possible of giving forth, even though his honour had been betrayed by sweet words and the fatal flaw of lust, he stood his ground, made no attempt to pull his flagship back, or to seek shelter. In doing so, he gained another five minutes for Hamner Davion, a noble gesture that was empty to the vanquished and the dead, but recorded for history nonetheless.

For those minutes, Rano Inaras lived and the line held. One Shockwave under Elise's command was lost to the fire of the Republican heavy ships. The fire against Rano's flagship briefly slackened, but that reduction in the barrage against it was insufficient. The shields of his flagship soon collapsed and the massed turbolaser fire tore into it constantly. The hull was soon rent through, damage to every quarter. Critical systems failed, and the weakness of what was in essence just a heavily modified bombardment platform was soon shown. Once the powerful shields were gone, the hull was a thin shell that the great hammers that were the main batteries of the battlecruisers rapidly hammered to pieces. In one bright moment of radiation and plasma, it was over, and Rano Inaras (though not the poisonous woman who had seduced and strangled his loyalty, for such is the way of such people, when even their fallen victims may yet show honour) was dead.

With the death of Hamner's ranking commander, control of the fleet effectively devolved upon General Antilles and Admiral Harlann Quir. But neither of them could reestablish control of the blockading forces in time. This was not a battle to the death for many involved; in a hopeless situation they fled, rather than surrender, for there was no danger of the savage inhumanity of the Vong if they surrendered. The ships broke and tried to make their retreats independently in the most heavily affected sectors, and with that collapse, the situation was abruptly reserved for the two sides. Pellaeon and the Baron Fel rushed through to the relief of the ships trapped in the pocket, and Elise's quiet commands brought the dismissal of the majority of the heavy ships under her command, now all of them battered near to as badly as the Despot had been, save her own Inexorable, shieldless but effectively undamaged, which proceeded through the centre of the main fleet formation, shields recharging, to assume its command position for the survivors of the pocket. She had lost a fourth Shockwave, but she had done her duty, and now it was not the Imperial fleet cut in two, but the Separatist fleet.

Kyshalara's plan to gain a decisive victory meant that there was no waiting here, no pause in the intensity of the combat. Instead, the core forces of Pellaeon's heavies and the Baron Fel's destroyers immediately pivoted, passing through the battered ships of the pocket in a dangerous evolution, two fleets of thousands of ships interpenetrating with each other, traveling at thousands of kilometers per second and often passing by only hundreds of kilometers distant from each other. There were two fatal collisions, and several minor ones, the stars radiation which showed the death of their crews by carelessness or simple bad luck adding more to the horrible toll of the field. But it served its purpose; the Imperial fleet was reoriented against the right flank of the Separatists in just a few minutes, and charging on against it, as what had been the right flank-guard of the Imperial forces itself was being reformed into a scratch pursuit squadron under Pellaeon's directives.

The fighters were flung forward enmasse without time to refuel or rearm. Baron Fel knew that it would be a terrible price to pay on account of this among their ranks, but it had to be done. Everything counted on the maximum force being directed against this half of the enemy fleet, in the least amount of time. It was the half bereft of most of its heavy ships, thanks to Elise's early action, and thus the most vulnerable to the massed fire of the battlecruisers and the destroyers. With the pivot complete, onset commenced immediately, and Pellaeon guided the ships in close, where their cannonade began to have a devasating effect on the battered ranks of Hamner's ships.

Hamner, recalling the occasional success of weaker parties which had succeeded in closing to melee range, ordered his ships to press in closer, as close as the Rebels had put their fight to the touch at the Endor. Closing the gap, however, proved a terrible sacrifice as his ships rushed in against the organized formations of the enemy, putting out excellently aimed massed fire at close range, all concentrated against singular ships; the numbers of the right flank had been so reduced by that point that the issue of the battle was clearly not in doubt on this side.

But a vigorous counterattack from the left flank might have caused trouble. Here, only the ships which had been in the pocket remained, all equally damaged and battered as their foes, and under Elise's command, in the lonely Inexorable. This was not to be. The rats were fleeing the sinking ship; the rag-tag collection of people with grievances who had fought in Hamner wanted no part in a mad, desperate assault to expend their own strength, to dubious effect, with the goal of salvaging his cause and in the process quite possibly ruining their own. Thus it was that Elise's forces were now scarcely engaged, suffering through only a desultory bombardment at considerable distance. The Separatists were at the breaking point.

R.N.S. Lusankya
Irregular Coruscant Orbit

Disaster on every side. The blockade shattered and annihilated, ships fleeing the action, whole contingents breaking loose and fleeing, now, and Hamner's forces on the verge of collapse. Jacen realized now that his sister had failed—or, more darkly—or succeeded in her task in the Condominion, whatever it had been. He had suspicions, to, that she was close.. Close enough for it to mean only one thing, only one location. But they were suspicions and he did not voice them, not now.

“It's clear that Jaina saw that this was possible,” he said at last, breaking through the reverie of his shocked, even devastated mother. “And something happened in her mission to halt it; though I believe she is okay and alive.”

“Well that's good,” Han muttered. “Damn stab in the back,” he added softly, shaking his head twice and looking on at the forlorn hope of the fleet as the taskforces of Sule's advanced toward glory and victory and the prize of control over a whole galaxy.

“We must preserve the fleet of the Republic,” Jacen continued, addressing Wedge now more than his own mother. “We can hold the Outer Rim if nothing else.”

“You're right. We've got to break off now, before they can swing around and organize a pursuit,” Wedge concluded at Jacen's words, and he didn't waste a second after that. “All taskforces under our control—commence a general withdrawal en echelon by taskforce to work our way clear of Coruscant's gravity well. We should prepare for a hyper-jump to reserve concentration point JTRY-076, and final directives for the general withdraw of the fleet will be issued then.”

It was done. With the order to execute an organized retreat on the part of the left flank forces, they had preserved themselves, but doomed Hamner. There was no hope for his cause now, and as the minutes passed and it became clear that what Wedge Antilles had ordered was a retreat, even Hamner realized this, and he at once made preparations to escape. At the same time, Elise watched the Republican vessels and those aligned with them, and the others which had simply decided to retire in concert with them, or obeyed out of habit, and let them go. She did not have the ability with her battered ships to pursue, nor did she really have the energy. She sat slumped, gazing with mad eyes at the holoprojector, and simply watched them go as her ships held station, guard against a threat that was no longer present while Pellaeon and the Baron Fel pressed on for the honour of the victory.

Hamner Davion's
Imperial Flagship.

The two men raced, along with the Romulan ambassador (and functional spy chief of the group), to reach the shuttlebay, where a skipray blastboat was waiting with a pilot to take them clear. A mixture of stealth and speed would surely suffice to escape this disaster. But not everyone was going to leave this ship alive. Harlann Quir did not even think twice about it. After all, there were many, many people on this ship he held in higher esteem than the tool of his own ambitions, pitiful man that he was, and of those he had decided to take at least one.

Hamner Davion was very much surprised when the woman dressed in an ISB uniform stepped out from behind some crates of fuel cells in the bay, just twenty meters from the skipray blastboat and safety. “There isn't enough room for you,” he barked, forgetting his Imperial dignity in this time where survival was everything.

As he was distracted by the woman, though, Harlann Quir drew his blaster and in one swift motion blasted out the back of Hamner Davion's chest cavity. The pretender dropped dead, without even enough time for a look of surprise to form on his face. As his body relaxed into the usual human squalor, Harlann Quir looked over and smiled fondly; the Romulan ambassador at his side making no comment, save for, at best, a small smirk of amusement at how things had ended.

“Veli Kuisa, I do believe there is a seat waiting for you aboard.”

“Thank you, Harlann. Let's be about it, then, we don't have much time.”

“Of course.” Harlann bowed, stepped over the corpse of Hamner Davion, and followed by the Romulan ambassador, walked to the Blastboat, piloted by one of his own men, of course, and boarded it along with the ambassador, and Veli. At once the craft was sealed, and an accelerated emergency battle-launch was initiated. The blastboat was quickly lost in the background noise of the great battle going on all around, and, indeed, in the destruction of Hamner's flagship which followed little more than eight minutes later, as the pursuit forces fell amongst the broken and fleeing remnants of his forces like wolves upon sheep. With the usual pursuit of the swift light forces, the war at last ended.

The Inexorable
Irregular Coruscant Orbit

Many ships were destroyed in their efforts to flee by the pursuing lights. Hamner's fate was uncertain. The rest of those that failed to escape surrendered, of course, and it had taken a single, peremptory bark from Elise over the holonet to guarantee them the excellent terms which Sule would have guaranteed them. Soon there was nothing left to the battle. A few pockets of dead-enders being cleaned out by long range missile bombardments, and the surrender negotiations between Baron Fel and the forces on the surface. Bel Iblis had surfaced out of some nook or cranny of the Separatist regime to negotiate for them, and Elise had made a last suggestion, “co-opt him,” to Pellaeon and Baron Fel, and then shut down communications. She would take no more messages, nor send any, save for one.

For about twenty minutes she simply sat on the bridge of the foreign-seeming flagship, sometimes idly gazing at reports on the progress of damage control on the Conquérant, gloved fingers stroking in a somewhat unpleasant way across Huavara's bare hand. When Elise seemed content that the Conquérant would survive, she got up. “The Flag Captain shall be in charge of fleet operational details until further notice,” she said, and recorded it for the log. Her Chief of Staff assented, and took up her post, as she turned, tucking Huavara's arm under her own, like a gentleman leading a lady to a dance...

“Come on. There is something I need to do.”

“Ah.. Admiral?” Came the querrelous voice, uncertain of what Elise intended.

“I must send a message to the Empress.”

A dread silence fell, and Elise let it hang, and then at last broke it herself. “I want you there, Huavara di Kuat, so that I can look at your face while I write that letter, and imagine—no, delude myself, through a living picture--that I have more than one friend left alive in the whole universe; and she has just lost her husband.”

In silence once more, the two left the flagbridge.

It was a day later when Martina arrived from Kuat. She, to, arrived in silence; but the moment she was on the Inexorable she moved like a demoness through the corridors and the turolift connections, her guards barely keeping up, such that might reach the spartan quarters which Elise had received in the VIP section of the vast Executor.

A strange scene it was. Elise and Huavara were by that time quite drunk, and indeed there were kegs of Corellian Whiskey seeming to be strewn about the place; most, at least, were unopened.

“You sot!” Martina snarled, even as she choked back sobs. “I can't even join you, for the child, and when Sule has died the first thing you can do, the only thing, is drink yourself into a stupor?”

“It's an affectation of the lower classes,” Elise replied bitingly, seeming not drunk at all.

“And who's that, then? Some pretty lieutenant to amuse your night with while you wait for me, when my bed shall be cold and empty forever!?” The tears came freely, now.

“Huavara. Is. Mystrela's. Grand-Niece.” The clipped, bitten words were delivered harshly despite the betraying sympathy in Elise's eyes.

“Hullo!” Huavara spoke up then, equally composed as a drunk, though much more as an exertion of self-control than Elise's familarity with the whole concept. “We've talked a lot about you.. Elise says it's like old times. Care to join us?”

That, at last, broke through Martina's anger. Crying, she seemed to almost sag down, eyes wide and filled with a black despair; that, yet, a glimmery of hope broke through. “A friend and a ghost of a friend. Good company, I suppose.”

At last, Elise held the final card, and it sealed the deal. She produced a hypospray, with a half-crazed grin. “Doctors obey Grand Admirals. This will protect the baby.”

And so did two friends and the ghost of a third drink together; for two or three days, it scarcely mattered. They had been the center of the universe, and they would be again; but for those days, they were just two lonely friends, and the awkward ghost of the third. Empires wax and wane, states cleave asunder and coalesce, and through it all, the lives of the mortals in their grasp go on; where the states themselves ebb and flow like the tide, this thing has always been the constant of human society, and always will be.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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The Duchess of Zeon
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Re: De Imperatoribus Galacticis v.1 [Revised]

Post by The Duchess of Zeon » 2009-10-30 11:01am

De Imperatoribus Galacticis

"On the Galactic Emperors"


The Imperial Palace

The core hewed to the Empire, and with it, the stockpiles of the Deep Core. So, to, did most of the liberated territory which had been retaken from the Vong, adding great swathes of the mid rim, expansion region, and outer rim to the Empire. The Colonies and the Inner Rim mostly followed the same course. The Corporate Sector Authority kept its gains, but paid homage and tribute to the central government. The Chiss were independent, as legal equals in the governorship of the Condominion, but locked into alliances of military assistance with the Empire.

Teneniel Djo had pulled a masterstroke of a political manoeuvre: She had secured the recognition of all Hapan gains at the expense of the Vong, with the simple and terse declaration “We are fresh, and you are not”. Nobody wanted another war, and so diplomacy prevailed. The Empire and the Hapan Star Cluster had even collaborated in the dismantling of the Hutt territories in punishment for their collaboration with first the Vong and then the Separatist movement. That left, of course, the Separatists themselves.

Defeat had sapped Leia's ability for politics (some said, also, her estrangement from her daughter), and it was Bel Iblis who had concluded the terms, cynically. Pardons for all; the Separatist sectors of the mid rim, expansion, and outer rim along a vast swath of half of the outer galactic disk were formed into a federal republic, fully independent. They controlled Wild Space and the Unknown Regions beyond; nothing more, though they had, in the end, and reluctantly, participated in the division of Hutt Space lest their enemies gain so much more. A poisonous legend—a galactic Dolchstoßlegende, some fretted—was spread by Leia's partisans about the circumstances in which the Baron Fel had decided to commit to Sule's cause. But if that was going to cause trouble, it would cause it many decades in the future, not right now.

Only sixty-two percent of the territory of the old Galactic Empire had been unified by the Regency Council. But the number was pushed above seventy percent by the CSA, the Condominion, and the Chiss; and the last two counted as additions to the overall galactic family, their resources able to replace the lost trade with the swathe of the mid and outer rim under the control of the Separatists. Not less than eighty-five percent of the population and the industry of the galaxy were under the control of the Empire, however, and that was what really counted.

The situation in the Milky Way was more complex. There, Harlann Quir ruled as Emperor over a shakey confederation of the native races. For the moment his rule had not been challenged. There were other things to be done. In the past six months, Pellaeon's fleet had been better occupied with the grim but necessary task of suppressing the Second Yevethan Rebellion, and extirpating that mad species from the history of the galaxy for all time, killed down to the last member which could be found. Then the fleet had been directed against the communitarian rebels who had overthrown the remnants of Vong power, at the behest of Nom Anor. A short, swift campaign had broken their power, and the scheming Vong was left to rule over a few dozen billions of low-caste rebels clinging to a few forgotten backwater systems on the edge of the galaxy. The Empire controlled access to the Milky Way gate, and someday it would return; that was just a matter of time. But still other things were far more important than even that.

Today, the newborn Emperor, christened Sule after his father, had been legally crowned as the Galactic Emperor. He was guarded by a regency council consisting of his mother, Martina Tienyz; the Grand Admirals of the new regime, Kalar-Leben and Pellaeon, the Baron Fel, also Viceroy of the Condominion, and Vergere, the enigmatic force heretic who had been placed as governoress of the infant Emperor by the express directive of Jaina Solo during her mediation of the negotiations for the formation of the Regency Council. That, in turn, had only happened after long conversations between Vergere and Jaina, and these had resulted in a reordering of the affairs of the Jedi which few, even in the heights of the Imperial power structure, really understood.

Elise watched the proceedings silently, thinking of all that would have to be done, and shuddering each time the name Sule was mentioned. She could not help but think of her dead friend, even though it referred to his son; and now her god-child. Emperor Sule II, of the House of Tienyz. From time to time, though, she would glance over to Huavara, splendid in her uniform that bore evidence of her swift promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. I'll train you hard, kid, and make sure you live up to the family name, but your future is a bright one, she thought with a trace of motherly indulgence.

It would be a long and lonely future, but there was peace, and Martina, and now Mystrela's grand-niece; and these memories and challenges and her one equally-suffering friend, they were enough to make Elise think that indeed it was a future worth living. Not just for her, but for all the galaxy, the poor like herself and her doomed mother, who yearned for a peace which had at last come. Here, anyway; for there is still work to be done, elsewhere. Work to be done, indeed. The Vong had come to Imperial Centre; but from Imperial Centre, someday, would come great fleets, heading out to the Vong's home galaxy, to wipe the fatal error of the Old Sith from the face of the universe, and stabilize the balance at last.

Though, of course, only two people really thought of it that way, and one of them was dead.

Yavin System
Moon Yavin IV

Jaina didn't really know why she'd gone here. Geo-political reasons, perhaps, as it was on the ill-defined border between the new territories of the Corporate Sector Authority and the Hapan Star Cluster; or perhaps just sentimentality. The Jedi Order which Jacen had essentially taken control of as Luke turned inward, at the fate of the galaxy, to reclusively ponder with his wife at his side in empty and peaceful places; they had moved to Tatooine, to school themselves to discipline in the rigeurs of the desert. Jaina, for the moment, had no apprentices. The time for that had not yet come.

This was time for something else entirely.

Jaina stalked the halls of the remnants of some of the more distant, far-flung temples which vaguely survived intact, and she waited. The sun was rising outside, and hope came on the wings of a new day for the fourth moon of Yavin.


Jaina Solo spun around, and saw Miat Temm standing there, perfectly unblemished, as though the epic duel and the vicious murder after it had never happened, with a fond smile upon her lips and colouring her face pleasantly. In a moment, she had rushed to the woman, and hugged her—half out of her affection, and have to see if she was astral, as the spirits which her uncle had seen, and her mother, had been.

She was not. She embraced Jaina back firmly, and in that moment, Jaina knew that everything she had said had indeed been true. The tiny seed of doubt that remained was crushed, and so Jaina knew that she could begin. But with that out of the way...

“Don't ever leave me again.”

“We'll have eternity, just like I promised.” A moment, a pause: “It is, indeed, a very lonely life, Jaina. But hope sustains you from madness; and the hope that we shall have each other is more than sufficient for me, as I know it shall be for you. That, too, is after all a choice.

“And one I've already made.”

“So you have. Let's spend some time together, then, yes? We can deal with the plans, later; we have all eternity, after all.”

“Until the universe itself dies.”

“Eternity enough for me.”

Vong Home Universe
Twenty-five years later

“Your Excellency, we have entered firing range.”

“Excellent. Stand by for ignition,” Huavara di Kuat replied with cool, clipped precision. She bore the title of Grand Moff and the rank of Admiral in the Imperial Starfleet, and with the highest political title in the fleet she was its effective commander, and more importantly, the commander of its joint-operations unit, the centrepiece of the 'cleansing expedition'.

The Vong had come to their home galaxy, and reaped and slaughtered countless thousands of trillions of sentients. Revenge had been delayed by several decades, but in the end it had come. It had to come; no race would ever be allowed to forget the lesson of the punishment for the Vong, which would be left to spread out through every galaxy of their cluster, and perhaps beyond. Send everything you have at us, and then do it again, and we'll still drive you off—and then, and it doesn't matter how many years later, how long it takes—we'll counterattack. And that will be the end of you.

“Standing by ignition. All sectors report ready.”

The screen ahead flashed from a panoramic of space into a targeting diagram.

They had come to this galaxy with a great fleet, to explore it, to colonize it, to exploit its mineral wealth, but most of all, to cleanse what remained. It had been estimated that in the internicine wars of the Sith-formed life which had inhabited in this galaxy, perhaps ninety to ninety-four percent of its planets had been blasted clean and rendered uninhabitable. But that left six to ten percent, and that was millions of worlds which could still pose a threat, nevermind all of the little space-based habitats—or large ones—which still existed and had formed their own civilizations.

All of them would face the wrath of the Empire, unless the force adepts along for the ride judged them worthy to live. There would be no other criteria for survival, and the expeditionary force carried with it enough firepower to make that very much a reality, without exceptions, and without a real chance of being defeated. This was less of a military campaign, and more of a campaign of extermination: One that had been sanctioned as necessary by every moral authority known to the Galactic Empire.

Now, they had arrived, established their bases and supply dumps, and begun to hunt through the rubble in search of the threats that remained. A few battles had been fought, in which they had been entirely victorious, and a few stations had been destroyed without incident. But the survivors of this war-torn, lunatic galaxy, would not understand that their madness was being put down until today, for today, the first planet infected with the force-dead creations of the Old Sith would be cleansed, in the one way that the Empire knew to make it a sure thing.

“Commence Primary Ignition,” Huavara ordered, three clipped words, delivered without emotion in her distinct upper-crust accent, words that heralded the death of planets. The Empire always struck back.

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. -- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.

In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back. -- Red Banner / White Star, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.

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