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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2014-10-14 01:49am
by RecklessPrudence
Yes! Update!

Ah, that sucks about the accused-of-misogyny thing. And I can sorta see where they're coming from, but again, context - the Imperial Military is not a gender-equal one. It is something to think about for the future, but... I don't think this story reflects whether you are misogynistic or not.

In other news, I've been thinking about the hints you've laid about all the manual systems and limited automation being partially due to the Force (first- second- or third-order, but still due to the Force) and people's pride. What do you think about 4-LOM, before he got a memory wipe and lost all the progress he had made? A Force-sensitive droid - a Jedi, under Luke Skywalker! - would make for a major paradigm shift, and might go some way towards getting droids out of the near-total slavery they have been in for the last... twenty millennia?

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2014-10-14 08:02pm
by Eleventh Century Remnant
Right, let's see if this works this time, and what is inevitably going to have to be a long answer doesn't get eaten.

It's not so much the accusation itself that bothers me; the internet is a rough neighbourhood, drive by hatings happen all the time, and someone who's almost certainly not on the same moral wavelength or viewpoint, doesn't share the same bases and standards of judgement, can't say their opinion troubles me all that much. It's the implication of sloppy writing that really gets my goat.

4-LOM is interesting because he is the most notable exception, leaving aside the dubious Skippy the Jedi Droid, to the rule that the force flows through all, and only through all, living things. The vitalistic, organic- supremacist (hah) approach is far too much a part of the fabric of the universe to be removed without becoming very, very alternate, but the idea that one can approach the force through mind, that an unliving sentience can do it-

as a matter of the art of the possible, changing galactic public opinion, challenging all the vested interests who make money out of cheap droid labour, there's just too much hill to climb and too many rocks to roll up it. Especially after the clone wars, which added hate and fear to the sisyphean obstacle course of reform. If the clones had fought for the separatists and the droids had been on the side of the republic, maybe.

If there was a pocket empire or a planet somewhere, where the people were treated as badly as the droids, and come the revolution- maybe. One force sensitive droid, with an extremely shady past? A step in the right direction, no more. More important cosmologically.

(There is a bit of fanon out there that features a force sensitive sarlacc, of all things. Great in a stand up fight, lousy footwork.)

There were two female destroyer captains in arc 1 (which is about as many as there are in all of canon up to (pfui) disney, I think)- both of them avatars of board members, and they would be currently busy back in Vineland sector. Maybe I should have done more to keep things happening around about there, because it seems to be the ones who came in in arc 2 that are causing most of the problem.

The specifics. Severian- considering that she's been in for about four years longer than Mara's been alive for at this point, it's unlikely. There is a canon character- the female inquisitor who doesn't actually appear directly, but is heard of when she honey trapped Shandon Rythanor, got him to spill his guts to her and left him quite badly broken? Drayneen? She may be one of Severian's clone mothers. 'dark side subtle' sounds about right.

Simon, that was the first eight chapters of arc 1. Yes, she does try to seduce him- partly because she is under orders, more or less, to do so. It doesn't work, and it's not going to, because he is not interested in someone who "boils down to".

Rafaella is his anchor to the future- and when you get down to it what the hell are people supposed to mean to each other anyway? She is his descendant, and she has inspired him towards a a much more radical stance than he would otherwise have been willing to take. Which is actually the opposite effect that the blue skinned one expected, if you recall. She does have relatively little to do in a broadside gun duel; and if you think a raw novice does, you're missing the point. Politically, if she is a pawn, she is one who has given up on this 'square' nonsense and decided to move in tangential curves.

Rahandravell, who actually shares the same name as our much missed society battle captain (and of whom I can say that if I really was that much of a misogynist I would not currently be in possession of my intestines), she's the ex police pilot. Wants to believe that she is on the side of law and that their cause is just. She and Aron- both of them have kinks in their head, that more or less mirror each other and fit together quite well. If it wasn't for the pride and the discipline, he'd basically be a back street thug. He can think, when he realises he needs to, which he sometimes doesn't. Between them they add up to someone who's about as sane and well balanced as you can expect from a fighter pilot.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2014-12-26 10:48am
by Eleventh Century Remnant
I'd hoped to get the secoind half of the chapter up in time for Christmas, but-

Hull 721- arc 2 ch 33b

On the outer edge of the problem, there was time to think of the politics. Beyond the immediate, the crucible, there was the spin. Vader had an interest in the doings of Black Sun-he had a grudge to settle there- but he was chasing his primary obsession, playing asteroid belt games(very badly), it would be some time and a cold trail before he would surface, and notice. Unless it had become a running fight, it might be over by then.

His former flag captain, Piett, had a more minor and personal grudge, but just as intense for all of that. He probably could dispatch a pair of destroyers- but would even that be enough? For either of them? Olghaan's Swiftsure had a reputation as- a quote came back to Piett, about science.

Brilliance comes in two forms, and one of them expresses itself as fluency and thoroughness, working through the arguments and getting to the conclusion before anyone else could manage it- and that was the form most envied, because they could follow it, see how it was done, curse that they had not been first to it themselves.

Then there were the magicians, who leapt almost whole- formed to answers no-one else saw, and no-one could figure out how they did it.

Piett himself was one of the sluggers- and a distinguished one otherwise he would not have been where he was as Vader's squadron commander, recently elevated; ruthless with the lives of those under him and not noticeably generous in assigning credit downwards, but then who was, it wasn't a particularly just universe and that was the price of operating in the system.

Drekh, on the other hole, definitely descends downwards, and he now had a far higher perch from which to crap on his own subordinates or slighty less gooily to exercise power and patronage; Commanding Officer, Death Squadron was a platform from which to make and break careers across the Starfleet, really only limited in practise by how far his targets' bosses were willing to stick their necks out for them.

And by Vader's own demands for ruthless, total concentration on the main aim, of course, there was that. The late, unlamented Kendal Ozzel had been frightened into almost complete inability, reduced from a devious, backstabbing bastard to a quivering old granny, nervous, querulous, ditheringly indecisive.

Piett had been doing most of the work of keeping him alive, largely to act as a shield between himself and Vader. Who had, of course, noticed.

Put a joystick in Vader's hand and he stood very high among the magicians, but on big ships, in capital scale, it appeared that he did not believe there were any more opportunities for subtlety. Hammer on through any obstacles in his way- including his squadron commander if necessary.

Ozzel had completely failed to survive the demands of this, being shattered as a personality long before he was actually terminated for nonperformance and that moment, inheriting the job, had not felt like promotion. Much more like stepping up to the scaffold. There was no precedent- no successful precedent- of how to survive in post.

Use those powers of patronage, perhaps? Did Vader really care about the state of the Imperial Starfleet- not noticeably. Only results mattered, not things in themselves. Doing a good professional job- if he or anyone else on this patronage- wracked, orthodoxy- ridden, zampolit haunted force could figure out how- would be at best a very indirect and uncertain aid in survival.

The patronage, the ability to make and break he had, if it could not be used cleanly for survival then sneaky, devious and evil would have to do.

And here, perhaps, was an opportunity. Lennart was undoubtedly one of the magicians, a member of a tribe Piett and many of his colleagues despised. Worse, a renegade sorcerer of death; he used his successes to buy freedom from, rather than status within, the system- a top class man who wanted nothing more than to be an odd man out.

Piett, under the crushing pressures of working for the dark lord, most thoroughly and completely hated him for that above all else.

Could two objectives come together, here? Was it possible to serve a political end and attain some personal gratification into the bargain? Vader was likely to cut him more slack for an act of personal spite and vengeance than he was or doing something effective in war- and how did the politics of it stand?

Better yet if he could make it fit with the dark lord's own personal grudges and enmities; you could never quite be sure what he was going to do next, though, it would actually be easier- conceptually- to deal with a complete maniac than a being who had occasional flashes of rational concern, even brilliance.

It was an odd thing to say about a notoriously rage fuelled monster, but he did not hate anyone in excess of his own ability to work with them if he had to- the two beings in the universe he despised most, after all, were his boss and himself in that order.

Same question really, what he wants out of this is what I can get away with. Which, Piett realised with a sudden sickening of the ego, is going to be the renegade alive and intact, with details of the plot uncovered- but ah, hope reared it's head again, not necessarily for any longer than it took him to tell the tale,

After that- and especially because of that memo from the fleet engineer's office about changing the thermal transfer blocks- well, one of the things Executor had yet to do was work up to a live test with maximum firepower.

Which added up to the fact that he actually had to save the irritating bastard- assuming, that was, that he needed saving. What news was there from that quarter- he had blown up a what?

Pirate hunting did often involve attacking pirate bases, at least it did when the overall operation went well, and Piett considered that he knew something about siegecraft, at least on the tactical, backwater, quick and dirty scale.

Put it in those terms in fact, and they should have been able to do more than they had over Hoth; but the book answer had been good enough to wreck Ozzel. Deflect any bombardment, indeed- within the context of trying to take the base and its' squishier contents intact, certainly;

but there were a couple of rougher and more creative options they could have experimented with, that he had no intention of ordering because then it would have been his neck if he failed. Unless the squadron commander could in some way have been made to carry the can.

Well, he had not, and now he was being carried- down to the recyclers, probably; no funeral honours for failures. His family, such as the pompous buffoon had ever managed to attract to him, would be disgraced by association. Perhaps there was something in the bag of tricks that could have saved him; but for how long? It was no longer worth it.

Which left Admiral- Rear, presumably- Piett in command. Disperse to blockade duties, position the fleet- unconfirmed reports of defensive weaponry, of planetary protection weapons falling into Rebel hands; but a cautious move now, positioning to answer the threat, the sort of shifting overlapping cat's- cradle of orbits that the book actually called for, would be suicide to try to set up. Vader's temper wouldn't stand it.

Similarly with dispersing a fighter screen. It would take too long to land them if the destroyers had to proceed in pursuit. These were basic, basic mistakes, which made sense only because the alternative was impossible. There were, of course, variations- even the Imperial starfleet had more than a one move tactical repertoire. There was a set piece for a twenty- four ship blockade, but also for a twenty-one.

Who to send? As tempting as it would be to feed Lorth Needa to either of the maniacs, it would be more likely to be of advantage to keep him around as a scapegoat. How a grey mouse like him had ever got a command, least of all a crack ship as Avenger had been, was one of the galaxy's mysteries.

A perfect line of battle officer, without the tiniest shred of imagination, with a capacity for creative disobedience of zero point zero. He would undoubtedly fail to cope with whatever deceptions the rebels threw at him, and could be safely blamed.

Pryl of the Thunderflare, yes- there were very few female commanding officers in the Starfleet, for a couple of reasons; in the long twilight of the Republic, the peace and judicial and enforcement corps- as if multiple, overlapping, separate agencies hadn't been a warning sign in itself- had been tiny, and dwarfed by their duties to the extent that very few sensible people, of any species or gender, were determined and demented enough to join. Jorian Lennart being a case in point.

There was no inheritance; very few female officers in the old fleet, no continuity. Most of the clones had been male, of course, and Palpatine had less than no interest at all in removing glass ceilings. In fact he liked the sight of people battering their heads against them; believed, even someone as mired in the business of the navy as Piett could notice, in strife as a source of strength- in conflict as advancement.

It made life in the fleet quite interesting; presenting the facade of a unitary monolith, while at the same time fighting each other harder than they fought the rebels, most of the time. The theory was that the internal fight, backstabbing and double dealing, was good preparation for warfare- or was it the other way around?

From the point of view of moral dignity and integrity, there were much worse people to have to have as a patron than Vader; not necessarily from the personal survival aspect admittedly, but at least the dark lord did not need his ass kissed and ego stroked- or worse- by a continual parade of sycophantic minions.

Reacted badly when it was attempted, in fact. Perhaps he simply did not like being reminded that there wasn't all that much of his anatomy left.

For most people, by the time you realised your superiors were venal, corrupt, oleaginous egomaniacs, trying to haul yourself up over their dead bodies sometimes seemed less like backstabbing than trying to clean up the universe.

Except that you tended to get the slime on you while negociating the dissolving- carcass-strewn fields of bureaucratic warfare, and turn into more of the same; there was always that problem. Very few, if any, kept their integrity as they climbed the ranks, and the best at it were often the worst.

Pryl was uncannily good at that, a superb in- fighter, but one who had got away lightly on her own upward rise, to the extent that Piett suspected her of having a patron outside the armed services, likely in the Ubiqtorate, providing her with blackmail material. Or possibly the Inquisition. (In fact, she had been next on Adannan' s hit list; rumours, in this case well founded, of force sensitivity.)

She would do. And with any luck would be killed in the process. Who else? A three ship battle division should do- who and what else?

Protstenic was a sector fleet attachment to the death squadron, from a sector that stubbornly gave the lie to the ideas of galactic basic and standard. There were rich bands of localisms and outright parochialisms (arguably including 'parochialism' itself) throughout the galaxy, nonhuman cultures tend to hold to their own and Imperial official xenophobia was often no more than a recognition of existing reality, and usually a mutual hatred at that;

Human eccentricity, though, tended to concentrate in two geographical bands, in the outer rim where people and subcultures evicted from the cultural mainstream went to find room to be themselves- and in the inner rim, just outside the core proper, some of the earliest colonies that had been established specifically as colonies, that had deliberately gone their own ways but had the footing and precedent to defend them where they stood.

Protstenic was detached from the sector fleet of just such a place, the ship's name a nonsense word culled from a surrealist and anti- establishment fiction; the starfleet had reacted badly to the insult implied, and posted the ship to an attachment that should guarantee her demise, probably quite soon.

Which actually made it slightly more embarrassing that the ship actually had a fairly good combat record. Hm, Piett considered- could I be sending that lunatic an ally here? What will that ship's captain and crew do when the situation becomes political and the cracks in the monolith start showing? There can be too many wild cards in a situation.

The unofficial rulebook of the Starfleet suggested that putting them on the spot was the move, in a situation that would force them to either openly go renegade (and his gun crews could sorely use the practise; trying to get the massive weapon suite of the Executor to function coherently was proving to be an interesting challenge) or accept defeat and subordination, internalize their obedience to the system. After the situation had been suitably rigged, of course- which this one wasn't.

Was there anything that could be done about that, at the last moment? Yes- send a battle squadron. Not ideal, but the next most tactically useful of the attachments so it would have to do.

Third in the squadron, then, who? A reliable loyalist? If only there actually were such- there were, but only in Death Squadron proper, not in the attachments who were there to take up the heat and absorb blame for the errors.

Culverin, an older Imperator named for a very ancient species of projectile cannon, might be up to the task. Her captain was a small- ship man, used to fleet outriders, who persisted in trying to handle his ship like a corvette.

Which might have made him a good pick to send after a lunatic who thought his ship could be manoeuvred like a fighter, but perhaps only once the requirements of being an effective big gun firing platform had actually sunk in; things like fire arcs and dwell time and suchlike.

On the job training was coming to be a way of life in the starfleet, after all, and if someone didn't quite learn fast enough and got squished, the traditional view was that that just made more room for everyone else, and an instructive example to learn from and usually laugh at. Come to think of it 'brother officer' was a pretty sick joke in itself.

Piett had been a small ship man himself, back in the day, and would have appreciated a little more time to work up and become comfortable with the Executor but he wasn't going to get it. A spot of on the job training was probably imminent; even with detachments away, there should still be enough force in the squadron proper to stand off, and hopefully punish, any rebel attempts to rescue and relieve their command base. That could get interesting.

In the meantime, draft the orders- no, that was a small ship habit; a capital ship had a staff to do that sort of thing for him, the only reason to do otherwise would be if it was too sensitive to entrust to anyone else. Which arguably it was. Damnation, he had the rest of the squadron to manage- but telling them what they were actually to do would be the core of the exercise, Death Squadron's own orders were much less controversial, practically boilerplate.

Renegade destroyer in possession of highly classified and controversial data, task force operating under possibly illegitimate orders attempting to destroy the renegade; so much for the situation. Mission, to retrieve the information for Lord Vader. What to add after that, the temptation to put 'and then kill all the witnesses' was very strong- but regrettably likely to make them, or anyone with good antennae, start wondering if they might not be next. The fleet got more defections that way...

No, if they needed silencing do it afterwards. He had been complaining about the Executor not having had a chance to work up to full gun output. Leave that part out, for now. Best keep it brief, in general- given what the two colliding stars of the fleet were capable of, there would be another few rallies of that fight to play themselves out. Time was short.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2014-12-26 11:12am
by Acero
Better late than never! I still feel like this was a Christmas gift, thanks! I can't wait for more.

I must be slow this morning... who, or what, are the two colliding stars of the fleet? I would assume Vader and the Emperor as no one else is Vader's match... but I'm not convinced that answer makes sense.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2014-12-26 02:24pm
by Vianca
Acero wrote:Better late than never! I still feel like this was a Christmas gift, thanks! I can't wait for more.

I must be slow this morning... who, or what, are the two colliding stars of the fleet? I would assume Vader and the Emperor as no one else is Vader's match... but I'm not convinced that answer makes sense.
Indeed and Acero, that is Black Prince STAR-Destroyer and her opponent.

Good chap, Remnant.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2014-12-26 04:40pm
by Acero
Yeah, the two destroyers were my other guess. I wasn't convinced I was correct with that thought as Piett seems far to egotistical to consider anyone a "star" other than himself. Thanks Vianca.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2014-12-26 09:54pm
by kbird
Excellent as usual, very interesting to see the other side of Hoth. Be pretty interesting to see if Executor gets to do a full work up of her guns...

Can't wait for more!

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2014-12-31 02:06pm
by Simon_Jester
Managed to miss this; glad I caught it!
Acero wrote:Yeah, the two destroyers were my other guess. I wasn't convinced I was correct with that thought as Piett seems far to egotistical to consider anyone a "star" other than himself. Thanks Vianca.
I don't know; the man actually seems to be rather aware of his own limitations and interests, as ECR is portraying him. He may well recognize a tactical wizard when he sees one, knows that there are things he'd like to be able to do with his own ship that he lacks the experience or the knowledge to do (yet), and so on.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2014-12-31 02:36pm
by Acero
Simon_Jester wrote:Managed to miss this; glad I caught it!

I don't know; the man actually seems to be rather aware of his own limitations and interests, as ECR is portraying him. He may well recognize a tactical wizard when he sees one, knows that there are things he'd like to be able to do with his own ship that he lacks the experience or the knowledge to do (yet), and so on.

You are right, of course. I shouldn't try to read these these chapters while I'm at work as it's far to easy to only read the surface material and not really get the depth. I took my first impression of Piett from the following two lines:

" ruthless with the lives of those under him and not noticeably generous in assigning credit downwards" and "Piett had been doing most of the work of keeping him alive, largely to act as a shield between himself and Vader."

After taking the time to reread this chapter without any distractions I can see your point. That's what I love about ECRs work, the depth of the characters and the universe he portrays. Can't wait for more.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-18 05:15pm
by Eleventh Century Remnant
"I like deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."- Douglas Adams

Hull 721 arc 2 ch 33C

What had been a critical advantage was rapidly becoming a hazard. It was predictable, as predictable as a mountain pass in the rumpled mindscape of the logic of the situation. An obvious place for an ambush, in other words.

Hiding in the atmosphere of a gas giant was an advantage from the point of concealment, but not under heavy and approximately accurate fire. A near miss would burst on and shower energy down from the clouds, turning a clean evasion into a hit. Worse, the ship was shaking as if caught in tractor beams, being pulled and tumbled by the blasts-

Not critically, not so much as to threaten to breach the hull directly, but enough to buffet, to load the shields with more heat than was convenient, enough to slow down and blur the sensor picture as the systems compensated for the jitter, to add an extra random factor to their gunnery; the advantage of cover had turned into the disadvantage of fighting in a maelstrom.

Two moves worth considering; go down or go up. Break for the deeps, closer to the beyond- chemistry temperatures and pressures at the heart of the planet, back beneath gunnery depth and go into cover again. That or come out shooting.

At this point it could, should have depended on what the rest of the galaxy was doing, whether the larger context made boldness or deviousness the better course. Which, in the boiling clouds of a bombarded gas giant, it was hard to get the big picture with on board sensors. The fighter wing had an ear out for that, though- a part of the point of putting them there- and it seemed that the main force's assault on the Rebel base had begun.

That made it a good moment to break and run. With deviousness and subtlety, as far as was possible. Selling Olghaan a dummy would be tricky at this point- they had been jousting long enough for a reasonable assessment of each other's capabilities. How to fake an ascent, in a way that wasn't obviously fake and that he couldn't afford to ignore?

Even a momentary misdirection may be enough for a salvo to connect. Overlapping- sheathing a real break from cover in a fake- would be pointless against reconnaissance by fire. Offset in time- come up a couple of seconds behind the decoy? Enough angle to miss, to pass through an open cone of shot, the sort of purely tactical dodge that was not misdirection, just footwork.

No, too easy to adjust fire- so right now blur the issue, cease fire and use the flaring, blazing atmosphere to make a wider tangent; how much of Olghaan' s tactical picture was derived from the exchange of fire itself- could he hold a target as effectively sensor- confounding as their new coatings made them, against a background that could have been made for confusion?

There is an interesting gap in the possibilities; in fire, obviously, tactical tracking is good enough. Against a quieter background, at escape staging depth, the more subtle end of the sensor fit, the electronic intelligence gathering systems, could track a destroyer. How long might it take to switch from one to another?

The machinery, perhaps, generously, milliseconds. The systems can cope. The clashing of mental gears in the wetware is where opportunities lie. Wait for a particularly wide and obviously speculative salvo, use the opportunity it presented to go full deceptive, cease fire and fade away with the bloom, a few seconds' time should be good, were the rhythms real?

There were salvo fire patterns built around and intended to defeat common evasion strategies, after all- and there was the further odd wrinkle that even at the same scale, killing the enemy was tactics and not being killed was strategy- but were either of them that interested in common patterns?

Ah. A pause. The sequence came in a flash; an attempt to force the issue, he knows he's not getting killing hits, a three or four seconds hold to inspire us to make some break for it, a full converged sheaf on the data point; or where he expects us knowing that to stunt to.

Too useful to ignore- and there had been a half formed plan for a suitable decoy that would have been convincing in the tachyonic but now did not have time to come to fruition, so his timing was good- data point, there, best move looked like the side profile of a tulip- however Olghaan's brain works, his head is going to default to ruthless efficiency, he'll expect a more angular move that the orders for it can be issued in the time we have-

Almost certainly wasn't aware that Lennart could sketch a course on the tactical display and the helm crew could pick it up and go with it; perhaps not quite eliminating the need for a thousand words, but much more quickly conveyed.

Very few people would say that space combat, like air combat of old and blade to blade long before that, happens faster than the conscious mind can follow and only training and instinct are enough. Fighters, perhaps, but there are mockers who doubt whether anyone prepared to climb into a TIE fighter could really be considered self aware- and the trance like state of total focus, which some compared to being under anaesthetic, could be argued as inability to follow.

Lennart, who was at least officially aware now that he had the Force, had a different take on it now. Four thousand gravities was certainly enough to exceed conscious grasp- subconscious too, probably; and it was possible to throw a star destroyer around like a fighter, if you trained and exercised together for long enough.

The question was whether Olghaan, who had no taint of the force but a crew rigorously trained and exercised in a book that had been practically written into their nervous systems, could react fast enough to be effective; at a guess the more set piece the situation he was presented with, the more effective he would be.

With twenty- five thousand years of experience to draw on, the book was very large and covered very many eventualities, it was just that the edited highlights most people thought of as the Book was a rather too heavily abridged selection. Lennart had spent many an exercise working through the more obscure and far- out possibilities, largely for bureaucratic defence. Unlikely Olghaan had done the same.

Deception plan one would have been to lob a core fragment- perhaps the eldritch gizmo, if it was still lurking in a corner somewhere- up in an escape pod, create at least some false tachyonic that he could not afford to ignore, in case it was a triple bluff; the pause was good enough to attempt it anyway.

The first part of the move looked like an upwards falling leaf; a spin on the rise, which should put the salvo he was expecting on their port bow- and there was a quick surge as the ship's bow swung back towards it to ride out the expected shockwave; was that an anticipation too far? No; it would be a few thousand kilometres depth of broken atmosphere before the bolts shed all their energy, but the hole they carved was enough.

The signature of a solid hit would be unmistakable; Olghaan would know, within one human reaction time, that he hadn't. What electronic warfare could do was confuse the resonances, baffle his interpretation of how much he had missed by- it was close enough to the thinner upper atmosphere that it was more directly relevant, now.

Screaming neutrinos would be a good name for a band; probably had been at some point in the last thousand years. Not likely to be authentic, though- if they were it would be impossible to listen to them without special instruments, like thousand ton tanks of repurposed cleaning fluid. And when you get to the age of most naval captains, you start thinking that might be a good place to put their fans, too.

Mental digressions like that are part of being human; the trick of being a professional on top of that is to keep them in their place and get on with what you were supposed to be doing. Point being that the enormous clouds of neutrinos emitted by the heat sinks were an obvious and direct response to the shielding taking a hit, a more diffuse cloud for a near miss.

Unless you were quick enough to flange it and emit from the wrong place, in the wrong direction at the wrong intensity to mislead the enemy's fire correction. Faster than they could realise they were being had, anyway. And hopefully helm and electronic warfare were coordinating well enough that the next salvo would fall further away instead of accidentally being directed onto your new position.

Shandon Rythanor was doing well- head not showing any obvious signs of professional damage and confusion, which it could very easily have been. After action report- may they actually need one- would likely be vague as stang, though; he seemed to be in some kind of mad conductor trance, gliding through his job surely too fast for conscious thought. Or was it only now that I have to keep an eye on him that I am consciously noticing, Lennart wondered.

Another full thirty- gun salvo ripped by- on their starboard quarter, where their own ascending bank and the deception jamming had placed it. Score one for rock and roll, then. A pointer to where Swiftsure would be- until they snapped out of bombardment platform mode and started thinking about a normal close quarters dogfight, if there was such a thing.

As they came up, the situation would transition from this almost aquatic game of catch to a more even, more straightforward fight- or would have if either of them had been capable of simplicity instead of feeling it beneath them. Must clear the upper atmosphere as quickly as possible, put Olghaan on the back foot long enough for that- a few dozen seconds, an age in a fight like this.

Not viable. Just have to go with it. Ob asking the helm team to roll for bearings; made sense, now was the time, a hammerblow- another random thought, swordfighting and ego; how it so often fell short of what physically could happen and fell back to being a matter of mind, how it was possible to tell, with the wit to see and make sense of it fast enough, that someone, despite having a lethal weapon and the ability to wield it, wasn't going to score, because they had been beaten mentally.

Ships were not people, the mechanisms of victory and defeat- well, look at Shandon; he should be broken if any of them were, but because he was part of something much larger than himself he was managing to function very well despite his own personal pains and failures. Drawing strength from each other and the procedures that held them together- In a way, a ship really was the last word in crew served weapons. Couldn't defeat them in the same way.

Only the captains were supposed to stick out; and Olghaan was arguably beaten, but not defeated. He would go on until something positively stopped him, doing what he could for his ship and his crew. It had been an appallingly messy campaign so far- had his pawn sacrifices brought him anything useful? Arguably, they had- this situation.

It was a much more even stage of the fight than any so far- climbing out of a burning, turbulent atmosphere against a ship already at speed in high orbit- but even that wasn't necessarily enough to make it a fair fight, not if he and his gun crews had anything to do with it.

Their own salvo spat out, a green nova at the source, muzzle flash being absorbed and irradiated by the hot hydrogen around them- how well would it have been anticipated? Closely rather than tightly grouped- enough spread in the pattern to catch a cunningly minimalist evasion, not necessarily keep up with balls to the wall, but Olghaan wasn't that kind of ship handler.

If he sensed he was being pigeonholed he probably would change tactics, an unfamiliar move being better than a losing move any day. He probably reckons that having maimed or vapourised most of his support we should be getting cocky and overconfident; reckons we might take a long shot, grouped predicted salvos that he can evade and gain a superiority in hit probability to.

Cunningly minimalist is about right- what has happened so far has been his failure to keep up with our elaborate schemes, but now we are through the undergrowth and facing the enraged hippopotamus- oh, good. A hit. Enough to pierce the skin?

No point sending up salvo groups that would be too small, trading a high probability of hitting for a low probability of damage; six points of attack, convergences that each should just go through the shielding. One hit off the bow turret set- he had sideslipped and swung his ship's tail out to starboard, then; and a very heavy neutrino flare- more than shielding, that was internal damage, a heatsink letting go.

Or was it? The edges were too sharp, even for that much of a high energy event- it was a bluff, a release from the reactor. Shandon looked at Lennart for confirmation, saw the shake of the head. Olghaan wanted to play wounded, did he? Another flicker of the moment, a temporary, mistake inviting dip of the blade- the bolt cluster may have done no more than minor damage, possibly to auxiliary power, the base load was still there.

The engines would have hiccuped, though- after the failure of that evasion his move would have been? With that kind of flare to balance off? Pointer on the tactical map, draw his guess at Olghaan's move, with the split second timing they were working in not enough to spell it out, let the crew grasp it-

Which of course they did, ten years counted for a lot, the opportunity costs sacrificed alone- none of the galactic upheavals managed to touch this, though, none of them affected the essential that was his crew. Perhaps that was the reason of six million species, one alone controlled a majority of the galaxy; humans would fight for nothing more than each other.

On the reverse of the medal, the only object of war being the protection of your fellow warriors made some remarkably silly conflicts possible- like, if they would agree to pause long enough to argue about it, this one. My people, Lennart thought, in the last analysis this is all about 'My people'.

So who does a loyal Imperial officer think his people are? All of mine are here on board, but where are his, is there anything he has that I can launch a strike against to put him off balance, where are the hinterlands of his soul? Assuming direct broadside fire doesn't settle the business first of course. Why is he bothering to take the stand that he has?

Partly because we've been shooting at him, and even in an ambitious imperial that should usually be enough- no matter how much the domestic enemy may be your own rivals, being under HTL fire had a way of making all of that seem minor. This has purely been a contest of skill, with motive left far behind.

Over a sim board, I dare say he might win. Ruthless efficiency and all that. A ship is more than the sum of it's parts, though- in some cases, in this case, it is the exponent. I and my people can win, precisely because they are my people- if we play to our strengths, which argubly we are not right now. This is the sticky bit, giving away an advantage he might take.

Already switched sensor modes; so he was firing on the basis of tactical judgement, was he? Preparing for the rough and tumble and given up on deep filters and tachyonic precision- which meant he was doing very well on guesswork alone.

The engines whined briefly- a bolt cluster dropping close; the same system, a few points that they believed Black Prince might occupy, a small number of groups of shot above surge and shield breaching capacity; he had done that before we started doing the same to him, Lennart realised.

This may not be a battle of wills after all- both of us are too stubborn and too determined to give up before our ships are in pieces around us. May be all we have in common. That is a matter of skill, not will- chances are that one or the other will land a killing blow before the other is morally beaten. This situation is his best chance.

Although we do have an advantage- that one's going to hit. Close- just outboard of the gun line. His next move after realising he's scored? Full volley on- it's worth the chance of a round. Can't give off false sign like he has without too much impairment to our ability to actually avoid damage. Take it and roll with it- full two rolls to port, flashing our engine plume across him, and watch his own close volley blast and miss go by.

His salvo size is wrong- that would have breached and done critical damage to an unmodified Imperator, scarred his at least, didn't exceed surge on my ship. Not that that matters in one way, he has more than enough guns he just needs to fire five groups instead of six, but it does suggest he didn't get earlier or hasn't got a good read of our capabilities. So tactical is ahead of sensors over there, eh? Hm.

He now thinks we're tumbling- we are, but not out of control- creating a major transient that yes, we are using as a canvas for elaborate jamming- maybe too good to come from a ship that should have been in a state enough to be sent tumbling out of control; it's hard to tune a signal emitter from flat- backed on the deckhead. With tactical reading and deciding a step ahead of their input, shouldn't matter.

Another slightly ragged salvo sent upwards, getting to the stage where that was a sure guide instead of a loose bearing in the fog- take advantage of the last shreds of concealment, take advantage of the deceptive paint job, never stop taking advantage-

could have hit, should have hit, but those little sidesteps, those elegantly minimalist evasions; there are cracks- it's not as seamless a performance as ours, helm and jamming are a bit out of phase with each other, there are times when they begin to emerge from the trailing edges of their own confusion shadow, when it moves more drastically than the ship itself-

Naturally, lieutenant Aldrem's heavy axial battery is coming closest to scoring consistently, and they're landing sometimes one, sometimes two out of four- two is a crack in the envelope, a point of long term degradation, wearing down to collapse; need three to do damage now.

Plan C; let's do something similar but not quite the same as a previous trick. If we produce another plasma column now, he'll be expecting us to ride it, use it as auxulliary propulsion to clear the danger zone as fast as we can. Which we can do- part of the way. Then fold back to a normal envelope, fall off the column- possibly fire the decoy at that point- and roll out to firing position, a long reach closer to open space.

Begin to organize it and damn, what are his tractors doing? Fishing for us and preparing to impose us on our own petard, tighten the plasma stream up behind us until it becomes a threat to our engines, that's what. Counterspoofery?

Hm. Starting to use them as active sensors, gravitic searchlights; good idea under other but not these circumstances because gravity gravitates, we can interact with and spoof that- has he thought that far ahead or is this a snap idea, was there another layer of trap?- find out the pointy way.

Grab one of the tractor beams in an emitter and pull. And wait a second- a salvo flashed down it. Only a first order then. Black Prince's emitter crews had already begun building that thunderhead of plasma, were letting it go now; play it- move the mass over into the tractor beam, and launch the eldritch gizmo- the intended decoy- up it.

No, no time to prepare. Swiftsure was firing more slowly now anyway, realising both ships were unlikely to erode, waiting for a good chance- saving energy? That was an insult, really- should be going at it hammer and tongs, especially now. What does he gain from such a ruse? Sparing wear and tear on the guns is hardly a high priority objective now, surely.

He can't keep up a pretence for long enough to be convincing, not without giving away far too many actual opportunities. Should realise that we think that by now. Then again he is not infallible- if I had the time to think that our chase through the depths gave him earlier, I think I would have remembered to sow the low orbit space with mines.

Link to the fighters, use them as forward observation and targeting- shallow enough now to get reliable data through the haze of jamming and atmospheric distortion, possibly left it a little late on grounds of sheer pride and ego; no matter, making the attempt now- Olghaan would be aware of it, helm coordinating and sliding into evasion, Lennart scarcely noticing his own nod of assent and directing glance-

Less response than expected; slower, more spaced apart than should have been- enough to get lucky with, but not enough to hammer on fortune's doors. The data confirmed; Swiftsure was lifting to a higher orbit, shifting to a more defensive style. More to it than that, it looked as if they were trying to calculate a hyperspace jump.

What could they possibly be meaning to do that they would have to calculate from scratch? What shift n the strategic background had derailed their tactical plan?

Olghaan had just realized that he had another problem, and had had to pause for thought. Very few people in his position had much in the way of friends, but friends and contacts are not necessarily the same thing, and it was certainly possible to be well connected with the rumour and scuttlebutt network without necessarily being well liked.

A large siege platform exploding had attracted attention; the rumour of three destroyers detaching from Death Squadron to come and set the situation to rights was not a healthy thing to hear. They were acting on Vader's orders, but that could mean almost anything, as long as it was not good.

The tracks of three inbound destroyers from the last predicted rally point of Death Squadron brought the situation from a loose and distant constraint to an imminent challenge. This was their fight, they had bludgeoned and blundered and bled this far against a cunning, devious enemy and were finally shaping the situation to their advantage, and now someone else came to stick their noses in. It was more than frustrating, it was cassus belli.

They had finally burnt through the renegade's bag of tricks, and now this. Worn him down, paid a price of most of their supporting vessels to do it- of ships of force, three wrecked and two with broken confidence and will, then the frigates were a disaster in themselves. And now this? Vader diverting a handful of minions to serve his own agenda?

A fool listens to their impulses, and no more. Olghaan wanted very powerfully to finish this fight then turn on the new arrivals- but the tachyonic bow waves were too close, too strong. It was almost too simple to be a good plan- but why not learn from the enemy? Hold Lennart down for a moment and plot a jump- not far. Just to the other side of the planet.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-18 08:41pm
by Simon_Jester
Good to see this; I've got a sick wife to tend to and this represents an interesting shift in state of mind for me. I... think, never trusting my own art criticism skills that far... that this really does a decent job of representing the "duel of the masters" scenario we've been looking forward to- the fast, skittering, second-by-second, blow-by-blow process of evading this and landing that and dodging the other thing and outwitting the enemy again and again.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-19 04:41am
by InsaneTD
Indeed. This is a great duel and I'm loving it. Keep looking forward to each new chapter.

Will this be put into the cleaned up section once it's finished?

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-19 01:13pm
by Vianca
Now that is a nice update and why am I thinking four grav projectors might be used, right now?
Bad news for Olghaan, Death Squadron wants Black Prince alive, their info on a certain problem is too good not to let them look into it furture.
On the other hand, bad news for Lennart, he really does not want the Black Prince becoming attached to the Death Squadron.

Funny, nea?
Both sides might want to get rid of these ships as fast as possible, in a way that will not back-fire on them or their ships.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-20 01:37am
by RecklessPrudence
I had something I wanted to say after the last part, but read it too late, it would have been a minor necro, so I didn't say it. Now do you think I can remember it?

Should've written it down...

Still loving this story!

Maayyybe try and get it published as official, now that the rules have changed? Or the Star Wars Legends or whatever they're doing, to still publish stuff they don't want in to new canon, but still want out there?

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-20 08:27am
by Eleventh Century Remnant
I'm the last person who can complain about minor necroes, at this rate; go ahead. (There is a final deadline now; what, March 2017 when the domain lease runs out. Must work to get it all together before then- including bringing Squelch back from the dead. And trying not to let Ignatius turn up in it.)

Publication still seems very much like a distant dream, if even that solid; if I wanted commercial success (and I do, dear God I need the money) I should be looking to doing a Fifty Shades of Gray, filing the serial numbers off, redoing the background and making something that was not quite so obviously Star Wars fanfiction- but I doubt it would hold together if I did, apart from anything else. Far too much a creature of the background it sprung from, which includes SDN as I found it not necessarily as it has become, even if it then proceeded at right angles to reality.

I'm starting to think there's quite a lot of Mymosh the Self Begotten in all of us- Stanislaw Lem wrote that story as an affectionate satire-tragedy on aspiring writers, I think, and he hit the mark dead centre. I'm sure I've referenced it before, part of the Cyberiad, and one of those tales that really is potentially life changing if you think about it too much.

Given Disney's attitude to copyright, I do not see an open door down that path; they're the ones who keep getting the laws changed and the period extended to protect their intellectual property rights- and if the technically minded fans weren't important enough to throw a bone to under LucasArts, they sure as hell aren't now. Even if this would have been it; there are other good candidates out there.

I did like the John Carter of Mars movie; but I understand now why it was so poorly advertised- the tag line, a star wars for the new generation, doesn't make sense if the company's actually going to be getting hold of Star Wars. Although the repulsor sound effect was exactly the same...crossover?

Even C&C seems out of reach, given that the mod for the forum seems to have last posted just over three years ago- and was not best pleased with the amount of editing she had to do for arc one anyway. I doubt another one would be appointed at all, really; a bit late in the day for that. My vote is for Imperial Overlord if it does happen.

It's a big galaxy; there should be numerous other people and interests willing to stick their oar in- if not necessarily in the time they have, or against the other involved parties. Actually it occurs to me that controlling the HoloNet- and thus the news cycle- has prevented more minor brushfire conflicts getting out of control, more small incidents blowing up into large ones, than the Republic could ever have kept the lid on, and actually does make some sense of the Empire's claim to have brought peace to the galaxy.

Of course you then have to balance that against most of the murder and mayhem being committed directly by the Empire.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-20 12:17pm
by Simon_Jester
Something to that. Instantaneous communication across galactic distances, plus near-instantaneous transportation, lead logically to the idea of the massive interstellar flash crowd, of everyone with an axe to grind spontaneously "piling in" towards every crisis that draws their attention.

I work in a public school, and the ability of teenagers equipped with social media on personal electronics to rush toward, crowd around, and create a mass audience for a disturbance is astounding. And actively life-threatening if the disturbance is the result of someone's medical emergency...

You've speculated that people in the Galaxy Far Far Away must average smarter than we are just to make sense of their own technology- but there's got to be a limit to that, and if even a few percent of the ships and people that could potentially respond to a strange event do so, the crowding would get beyond absurd in short order.

At which point imposing a censor- or even just a time-delay- on the news cycle can indeed become a mechanism for peace and order in the galaxy. The censor doesn't even have to do anything except selectively sit on stories they deem likely to draw large amounts of immediate interstellar attention. Sure, they can be released- later, after the smoke clears.

[Naturally, no tyrannical government would settle for such an arrangement, and would exert far more control than that over the content of the news, not just the timing.]

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-23 11:38pm
by RecklessPrudence
Ah! Remembered what I wanted to say.

Earlier Jedi traditions, before the Ruusann reformation, seem to have had a healthy relationship with the Light, not attempting to cut themselves off from all feeling, from living, as is the problem with the Late Republic Jedi. If Lennart could find info on them, he might be happier. But there is something else that could work better, even if it is orders of magnitude harder to find detailed info on.

It's really unlikely that Lennart could possibly have this knowledge, considering much of it was lost the the Late Republic Jedi (although tantalising remnants seem to have remained), but if he could find out about it, I wonder how he'd feel about the Je'daii? They seem to have been the last Force-using tradition to have a healthy relationship not only with the Light, but also with the Dark. Different kinds of relationships, too. The Je'daii's take on the Dark seems to have been that you can't let it guide you like you can the Light, you must not, in fact, as it will lead to... well... all the stuff we've seen with the cackling electrocuting Palpatine of the OT, as opposed to the clever operator of the PT. Rather, you have to muzzle it - or perhaps ride it, is a better analogy. Use it's power, but do not let it run away with you. Like with a particularly independent, stubborn, and genocide-happy horse.

Even the Late Republic Jedi knew something about both the Je'daii and the pre-Ruusann Jedi, although they seem to have considered them misguided, and focused upon their downfall in the Force Wars, or the reasons for the Reformation, for study, some information remained. Considering how hard Palpatine repressed the knowledge of the Order he was destroying, rather than the Order that was around thousands of years earlier, and how Luke in the EU was finding stuff from before the Late Republic Era when he was rebuilding the Jedi, it's possible that Lennart could find the older, less known info.

Hell, even finding an earlier form of the Jedi Code would be good - rather than:

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

It used to be:

Emotion, yet peace.
Ignorance, yet knowledge.
Passion, yet serenity.
Chaos, yet harmony.
Death, yet the Force.

Which is a much healthier philosophy, as it doesn't deny what makes you sapient and lead any Padawan feeling emotion, or feeling passionate about something, or having trouble understanding something, to know that they are failing as a Jedi - they're not even managing to do the basic tenets of the Code, for the Force's sake!

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-24 11:12am
by Eleventh Century Remnant
My first thought on that is "so, what was the logic behind the Ruusan Reformation then?" Thinking of the timing of Ruusan makes it much easier to understand it- it occurred at the end of a major war, the Light and Darkness War- which I cannot hide from the characters because I have referred to it in other circumstances; claiming that much of the Republic Fleet's hot-war doctrine, their plans to fight the Clone Wars, were based on prior experience which would have been the LDW.

So, having established that much and that here in the events of that time may be clues, thin ones but enough to give a thread to follow, let's see what direction they go in. (Rafaella, incidentally, may be instrumental here.)

The Late Republic Jedi tradition makes more sense as an adaptation to that time of great stress and passion, just given the sequence of events a tragically mistimed one. It makes sense to grow that psychological carapace during the war, but how traumatised must they have been to choose to retain it afterwards?

Considering how that ended- in mutual decapitation thanks to force wierdness- it is possible that the leadership was not there to do anything other than take the times as they came. The carapace fossilised, the Jedi remained as they had become essentially cloistered servants of the Republic government, and they never really experienced lives and existences that made a return to the pre- Ruusan state worth the trauma of ripping the carapace off.

When Mace of all people- through Vaapad traditions he is probably the closest of them to the je'daii- says that the Jedi are peacekeepers and ambassadors, not soldiers, he is speaking in the terms of the late republic jedi- in which he is correct, but what terrible violence you have to do to the language and the meaning of the words to make it so.

That was the use the late Republic had for them, and it was only in their minds that they were not, really- they chose to base that on considerations of motive and intention, whereas in their actions they are quite clearly warrior, shading to bounty- hunter, verging on assassin.

Also, when thinking of going with the traditions of the past, it might be worth considering why they are extinct. You could argue that the career path of the late Republic jedi is essentially pointing towards the dark side anyway; that given what they have to do, aggression at another's bidding, only the all but solipsistic rigidity of their modified creed preserves them.

Tython was a unique setting, a sweet spot; only the astrography of it made a healthy balance possible, by the sounds of it. The galaxy at large is too turbulent, the sheer span of the force in the later days supplies enormous leverage to pull people to one side or the other; I expect it is not that as the je'daii became the Jedi that they chose not to maintain inward balance, but that they could not. What swims in a pacific lagoon isn't necessarily going to float in the Roaring Forties.

The main thing that would occur to Jorian Lennart is that once the needs of short term survival are dealt with, it is pointless to repeat the mistakes of the past. Learn from them by all means, but Entropy got them all in the end- some lasted far longer than a human life, there is a window for survival in there, but the late Jedi order fell into exactly that kind of hole and look how it turned out.

Especially as it is, currently, a time of war, and he is already the semi- renegade captain of a ship of the line. Corellia had it's very own, somewhat more involved and activist, splinter group Jedi tradition, and given time he would likely build on that; but peace and serenity are really not him.

How many of those traditions would really work with only one practitioner, anyway? Without being in the society of the like- minded? (I do like the idea of a particularly independent, stubborn, and genocide- happy horse, although it does remind me of Charles Stross' take on unicorns.)

The only two other people on board who are active practitioners (potentially) rather than sensitives are Rafaella and Mirannon; she may accept a traditionalist concept, but he would not. He's more likely to set out in search of the Ductile Side of the Force. (I am trying to rewrite the jedi/sith code as he would approach them, for a laugh, and have got a few precepts so far.

.1; there is you, there is the universe, there are feedback loops between.
.2; one of those is not simple, at least. Try for three out of three.
.3; you don't have special abilities to sit back and do kriff all.
.4; if the force is making you do what it wants you to do, you're a poor workman blaming his tools.
.5; efficient, elegant, effective. See point two.)

And so forth, eventually, probably.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-24 02:06pm
by Vianca
I don't know anything about a horse, Remnent, but I do know of HK-47.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-02-25 11:32pm
by RecklessPrudence
I don't know about the balance being impossible to maintain elsewhere - I mean, Kyle Katarn uses both the dark and the light, after Falling and clawing his way back up. It might be more difficult, but Katarn successfully taught others how to let the Light guide them and tame the Dark. Sure he had a few failures, but so did Luke teaching the more traditional Light-only (but not shutting off the rest of your amygdala) methods.

So it's not just down to Katarn being Katarn, others can pull it off... and if I recall correctly the New Jedi Order was phasing in Katarn's teachings to their normal curriculum, before the prequels came out and the NJO lost a lot of what made them unique in favour of trying to recreate the Late Republic Jedi, with all their flaws.

Idunno. Just think that a balance is necessary to function as a whole individual, not just one or the other. But at the same time, you can't treat your darker impulses like you might your more beneficent ones.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-05-28 03:58pm
by Eleventh Century Remnant
At a time that now seemed very long ago, there had been five line destroyers in the attacking force. Four of them had been if not exactly expendable then at least their survival was not mission critical.

If I have done one thing definitely wrong, Perad Olghaan was wasting time thinking, it is in not being more careful in the pawn game. Partly in believing it to be a pawn game at all. Edrossaia blown to unexpected and embarrassing pieces, by an almost unbelievable trick shot;

Ineffable lamed, paralysed, poisoned and limping away, still ascending slowly from the depths of the planet; Forntarch Rampant badly damaged and in retreat to the fleet repair ships,

Falcata in theory escorting Ineffable clear and keeping off the unexpected predators of the planet, but the tone of her replies had changed, he could no longer count on their loyalty, Harridan openly in defiance and retreating.

Four other ships of force involved- one commanded by someone Olghaan knew well, as well as anyone did. Thrawn was in the vicinity, undoubtedly also on the scent of the secret information. By their obsessions, you shall know them?

Thrawn had chosen not to gather reputation as a great rebel fighter- oh, superb record of success against them, but he seemed to regard the entire Alliance as inconvenient unfinished business, not an actual threat, more of a sideshow from the great matter of setting the galaxy to rights.

There was always the suspicion of a deceit disguised by an enigma- that behind those unreadable red eyes he was up to something, he was much better connected than it seemed, was pursuing an agenda of his own; on one level, who wasn't, but he was clearly going places. Gave the impression of holding his relatively low official rank only until they invented a new one for him.

He wouldn't be here chasing something this off the wall unless he felt there was something to it, that it could be put to use. He was dangerous enough to consider that it had just become a three sided game.

In fact, Thrawn had his prize- sometimes the incalculable factors do come up triumphant- and was now considering how much to do to obfuscate the issue. Proof like this could and perhaps should be employed quickly, even in politics there was shock effect, and getting to the Emperor first may make all the difference.

What use could it serve- more than mere survival, that was certain. If the reports were sufficient, accurate and documented, would this be best used to demolish the minister of justice, Hethrir, as a renegade and a traitor, or to blackmail him? Who were the alternative candidates for the job? Anyone worth intriguing on behalf of?

It was not likely that anyone capable of reaching those heights would be particularly just; the best that could be hoped for, of those who had ascended through the trials of high politics, was that they not be a counterproductive, disruptive, ambition crazed living wrecking ball. Such as Hethrir had clearly become.

It certainly wasn't a job he wanted himself. Mainly because he would be bored to tears doing it. War as the extension of politics- war as gut, pre- rational politics- that, yes, he was good at, but pure politics without something to steer by, some kind of arrow of order, would be exactly as fulfilling as being lost in a million mile wide swamp. A being could go mad, living like that.

Perhaps Hethrir had? No, the sign was there from the beginning that he had always been like that. Who were his deputies who might succeed him, and were they vulnerable to accusations of involvement, and what good would it do my interests if they were, Thrawn considered.

What I want from the Imperial Ministry of Justice is essentially that they keep up appearances, that they do not cause the armed forces to waste time and energy smashing down threats that never should arisen in the first place, and would not have if the ministry had managed to keep the people docile.

The one thing a ministry of propaganda must do is pretend it doesn't exist. When they go around announcing 'hi, we're the ministry of lying to the people, and we'd like you to believe this' then...only a very broken down and abused people could be made to believe it, and beaten people were very poor tools to achieve anything of importance with.

Justice was usually better propaganda, peace and stability- and not the pretend versions- better guarantors of Imperial loyalty than flimmery the corrupt republic had taught people to see through anyway.

Sometimes Thrawn felt himself to be more imperialist than the Emperor, more committed to it as an institution than the being who had made it. Palpatine took risks and played games with politics and governance that would be terrifying, unthinkable to anyone else.

Such as provoking the revanchists into open rebellion. The Alliance had been spawned by deliberate provocation on Palpatine's part, Thrawn was certain. It had been a calculated risk, a gamble of statecraft that the Chiss certainly would not have taken, had said so, and that was one reason he was still officially merely a rear- admiral.

Had Hethrir been another one of those gambles? An inverted act of xenophobia, allowing a non human minister of justice so that he would- inevitably- become corrupt, overreach, disgrace himself and his cause and his people? Almost too obvious. If I bring him down, though, that advances the cause of the nonhuman and near human, that gives the sign that they could be trusted to police their own.

Palpatine is not going to appreciate going public before going to him. None of those involved are going to be eager to tell him, except a known madman and Lord Vader, who may have connected private business that, if I read this correctly, he will want to make a fait accompli of before reporting it.

So the order of business is? Grey Wolf is more or less fit and responsive now, we are combat capable, delaying Vader may be the only sensible objective that can be achieved by violence. Unless it was worth saving Jorian Lennart, or knowing him contribute a decisive factor to his saving himself.

The strike force led by Olghaan was fighting for Hethrir and the conspiracy's ends, and was evidently unaware of it. This was something that would have to be covered up, then- in the interests of the illusion of Imperial competence, which was worth defending against the day when it was no longer an illusion.

How could that business be brought to a soft landing- in whose interest, and to whose definition of soft? Olghaan was good, but perhaps a little too conscious of the fact, and skill alone was no substitute for good strategy. He had allowed himself to lose perspective, instantly falling into the thinking mode of a duel between two crack ships, and only then exercising his wits enough to decide to cheat.

It would have been more effective if he had applied his deviousness to the operational context of the situation. When all you have is a hammer? No, that was completely and painfully wrong- Thrawn, who had considerable experience in the matter of primitive survival methods, was well aware of the truth.

The hammer is the ur-tool, the ancestor of them all. To make any of the other tools, to make a knife or a pair of pliers or a chisel or a cogwheel or anything, almost anything at all, starts with beating something into shape with a hammer; to start making the tools that make the tools that...if you wanted a hyperdrive, (and he had planned that far ahead), at the root of its genetic tree, at the base of the phylogeny of craft, there is a hammer. Percussion is the beginning of civilisation.

There is also the civilisation- accelerating effect that simple tools, even simple weapons, require complex thinking to get the best effect out of. Whereas if all one has is a zap gun, function straightforward and built in and requiring no further thought to consider how to apply to best effect then, yes, mental tunnel vision- barrel vision?- may very easily set in. Olghaan had started with a zap gun.

On the other hand, he had been useful in that aspect. He had delayed and derailed the investigation, prevented the other loose cannon, Lennart, from prematurely detonating the political bomb before it could be delivered to its' target. His ignorance of the context had served a useful purpose.

The only reason not to simply let things play out between them as it may was what would happen next, what would happen afterwards. Both of them might, in the future, prove useful- to a degree. Olghaan as long as he did not start thinking too much; trying to defeat his opponent on his own home ground, and marshal a squadron while doing so, had been an expensive decision.

Trying to defeat his enemy on his enemies' home territory had been hubristic; playing to his own strengths, inviting the arch- deviant to a straightforward open space fight against odds, would have been a surer guarantee of success. To a large degree he had outsmarted himself.

Lennart, on the other hand, had thrown an operations plan together at the last minute, being his usual opportunistic self, and probably missed the operational context just as badly. Both of them could be useful to the Empire, if they could be held back from killing each other.

To that end, Vader's detachment could provide useful distraction, but they would not listen to his orders, nor would it be a good idea to leave that much of a paper trail of attempting to do so. His presence here would be noted and he would need to justify himself afterward. Not least to the dark Lord, who would want to know.

On those grounds remaining covert may be wise; but it would cost in the long run. Drop in, ah. A probe droid; overt, accompanied by a spray of semi- covert droids- all after all being expendable, and would be; one droid would attempt to make contact with other imperial forces, the others would form a sensor web, exactly the thing someone preparing to make a precise tactical entry would arrange.

He would be well on his way to Coruscant by then, drive systems permitting, having left behind an easily explicable illusion of presence that should disrupt the situation enough to cause thinking to occur, and reach a less wasteful end.

Black Prince was rising out of her maze towards open space, and the hope of catching the stern of Swiftsure disappearing over the horizon; relatively few scars to show for it, but future deeply in doubt.

There had been a brief 'This is too good to be true, what now' command conference; in which logistics had ultimately carried the day, getting the wing on board, remarked and losses replaced from reserve being an essential next step, if there was any more fighting to be done.

'No matter how much I may have happened to enjoy that,' Lennart said, 'How do we put this fight to use? Which side are we, in fact, now on? Ideas?'

'Small bow waves, jagged- probe droids incoming, relative 229.' Rythanor announced, adding 'Most of the people we have reason to personally dislike are within the system; being officially loyal may make it easier to stab them in the back.'

'No realistic possibility of the revanchists winning the galactic war, unless the Empire chooses to screw up badly enough to lose. Which this does have the comprehensive appearance of a screwup and then some. Are we still credible as Imperial loyalists?' Lennart wondered, choosing not to add that he had his doubts. 'Do we actually want to be loyal to an empire that would let us off with the damage we've done so far?'

Wathavrah replied, 'The Empire hasn't got much of a future if it keeps getting rid of people like us. Which it unfortunately does tend to- and wouldn't we be asking to survive on the basis of force alone? Swiftsure's trying to turn the situation on us- do we need to play it that way?'

'Shandon- what else apart from the probes?' Lennart asked. Tactical intuition spiking.

The com- scan officer put up the area situation map, faster than words to explain it all. They were too far off Grey Wolf's course to detect her, but there was a shimmer there that marked experience driven suspicion. The tender was far behind, space around the Anoat system was crowded with symbols, the local area the same- enlargements of both popped up.

Filter for HTL, and three contacts emerged bright and clear, on inbound paths. Hm. How big a bluff can we run here, Lennart thought. How well briefed will they actually have been, on a business organized at short notice, and how clearly will they be thinking with the black fear behind them?

Or is he? Vader wouldn't care about a minor trivial matter like Imperial infighting when there were matters of the rebellion, or did he think of them as matters of the Force, to deal with? Was it not as- more?- likely that it was Piett's idea? (Looking at the markers around Anoat, Ozzel's name was gone. An ugly thing, but no surprise, Ozzel had burnt out and should have transferred out if he had any sense of self preservation left at all. Evidently not.)

Yes, it made sense- apart from anything else Vader would know that his word alone would be enough.Piett would send ships in Vader's name, but in practice in the name of the grudge, he might. What else was happening there- Xam Lennox had blubbed it, got his ship frazzled by a planetary defence ion cannon.

Lennart felt slightly guilty about that; he had always suspected that Lennox had got the assignment to the Death Squadron - translation; caught the blastbolt- meant for him. Possibly at the personnel stage, when someone who actually possessed brains realised that of the two similar sounding officers, both with fairly good records, perhaps the assignment to the showpiece unit would be better given to the man whose crew didn't trail disciplinary actions behind them like a comet's tail.

Still, unlike Ozzel by this point, his overall record was free enough of cockup that he might survive one blunder. Whereas Piett's? Perhaps- if the rest of the operation went sufficiently badly.

The probe droids and the Death Squadron detachment would arrive within a minute of each other; this could be interesting. 'Stay on condition one, retrieve and rearm all but two of the wing- our probe droids from phase one; I want them back, tell them to group together at, give them no more than four rv points and send two shuttles out to retrieve them.

Assessment, we may have to do it all again but this is going to be a running fight. Try another bluff as an opening, see how it goes from there. Olghaan hasn't gone away, he expects the incoming to be hostile to him and is planning to use some of our moves against them; which side they are actually on, they're detached from Death Squadron but I suspect duplicity.'

'Looking at the probe droids now, they're close enough to interrogate- and they're not hiding at all that they were launched from Grey Wolf. Advertising it, which is not accidental, he wishes all parties involved to know that he is taking an interest.

What his interest actually is, of course, wait a moment, how does he know? Admittedly we haven't been covert, but where and how could Thrawn have come by enough of the intricate details to be worth cashing in for political gain?

He's up against two ELINT- rigged ships, must be aware that we, at least, can see the droid and the lack of heavy presence behind it and tell that it is only a gesture. Which makes one wonder why he bothered.

Or has he actually made a mistake? Did he believe that we would be sufficiently distracted to skim over assessing the situation- no, considering the state his ship was left in, he can't do much; the effect he is trying to achieve is nothing more than delay, which he can do simply by sending probe droid to make us aware he's interested and stop to worry about him.

Which apart from being brilliantly minimalist, is actually worth worrying about. What could he be up to that is served by indecision and dithering on our part, what lies at the intersection of the vectors of motive? Trying to make political capital out of the information we found, the devious bastard.

Do I really care enough to stop him? What happens if I don't? Well, I wouldn't be in control of the facts, be out of the loop about how it's taken and what has to be done- which in my current mood may be a good thing, assassination of superior officers is starting to appeal as a lifestyle choice.

How do my prospects stand if I don't, though? Not much better than if I did start shooting at the Death Squadron? The degree of trust I can afford to have in Thrawn is directly proportional to the belief he has in my future usefulness, and inversely proportional to.the degree to which he is aware that I don't trust him further than I could throw him. Which I suppose with the Force might be a fair way if I bothered to practise first.

On the other hand, however good he may be, Grey Wolf is not; no more than above average, and in anything like a straight fight he has no chance at all. Is it a potentially productive thing to do- has he in fact thrown that drone at me so that I will do something daft like that. Attacking the investigating officer is going to look absurdly innocent, isn't it?

Bastard. Possibly literally. And here we go, is it worth kicking the wing out, having fighters ready and waiting? They aren't fully rearmed and reorganized yet- not at the moment. Three, two, one, oh how useful another minefield would have been, emergence.

The three picked from the ranks of Death Squadron, destroyers Thunderflare, Protstenic and Culverin, dropped out of hyperspace in a neat, equilateral triangle; Lennart wasn't impressed- they had come in slow and entangled, navigating as a unit. It was less efficient- traded the essence of good navigation, economy, for the mere appearance.

Better to arrive slightly ragged with a healthier fuel state, better yet to simply be good enough to manage the emergence to emerge in formation after sailing independently. How good would they be at the usual games of leapfrog, if they had had to resort to that? Or was It another bluff?

'Defensive EW, seventy focus, the new arrivals- fuzz Swiftsure's inevitable probe droids from the rest. Comms, patch me through.' A moment for the electronic handshake, then time to bewilder them, Lennart decided. 'Thunderflare this is Black Prince. How very triangular of you. What new dimension of tangential kriffed- upness do you come to add to the party?'

That was actually a good question. Captain Pryl had spent some of the trip thinking about that, and already realised there was very little in her orders to go on, that she was being asked to accomplish a very great deal by bluff and bluster, against a master bluffer at that. She had not got her command and career by letting herself be snow- jobbed, or by failing to use her wits when the situation called for them. Things were going to be strange and complicated; it was a blue on blue, of course it was going to be.

Even if it wasn't a mark of Piett's confidence in her, she fully intended to blackmail him afterwards into agreeing that it had been. This was an opportunity. Although now she was actually in contact it was looking less certain. She knew the name and reputation of who she was up against, and from the smaller ships scattering and two crippled and two damaged retreating outsystem, the fight was already mostly over.

Hadn't expected that. She had expected- had told her two colleagues who were not happy at having her set over them, and who would undoubtedly use it against her now- that the shape of events would make things clear.

There was a good chance this would end in shots fired, which presumably had been the point of sending three ships- three on one was an overmatch in most people's calculations, should have been able to force acquiescence without having to demonstrate the fact.

At the level the fractal- painted ship before her, and the oddly absent Swiftsure, operated at, the victory of the three was far from a sure thing. Obtaining data was inherently dubious- what was to stop them keeping a copy? Were they actually supposed to have it all removed from them? Boarding a destroyer was a very different business from storming onto a piddly corvette.

This really was starting to look like more of a snow job than she had wanted at first. Piett had been so intent on leaving out the part about shooting the messenger, he had been rather vague about what was supposed to happen. Being allowed to use your own initiative was one thing, but...

What did he, and Vader, want? Lennart was a hero of the Empire, wasn't he? In that case why was he not being trusted? Who had decided that it needed to be taken from him, how had he come by it, what was going on? Three to one odds no longer looked quite so decisive.

May as well attempt to begin in an official frame of mind. She had been sent, with a force, to do a job. 'The shape of order, stability, conformity. You are in possession of classified data that does not belong to you; in the name of the Empire, hand it over.'

'How old were you during the Clone Wars, Captain Pryl?' Lennart asked, com-scan was finding her and bringing her file up. Not very; early teens at the time, first major command was seven years ago, medium corvette, and fast up the ranks since then- helped by being mostly in frontier sectors, where the fleet was spread thin and worked hard.

Her file did have a few negative appraisals in it; tended to negotiate solutions to situations, sometimes at gunpoint which was how Imperial diplomacy was supposed to be done, but she had been overgenerous on couple of them, offering insufficiently harsh surrender terms, failing to employ the full might of the Empire.

They were minor blips in an otherwise glittering record, though. He could see why Piett had picked her for a cat's- paw.

'I never served the republic, if that is at all relevant. Vader's word, now.'

'So you wouldn't understand the context that makes this information, which was largely a matter of putting things in their proper context, so very likely to get whoever happens to be holding it shot at. You don't have to demand; kriffit, might as well tell the universe. Small problem then is that you would technically be in breach of about five separate official secrets acts punishable by death.'

Punishable by, mainly, the people who had sent her to collect the information. Hm. Did Piett actually know that? Did he have the faintest idea what was going on- she was not unaware of the force. Of the flowing currents of feeling. It had taken some time, research and self convincing that it was possible that she had; that the extinct Jedi were not the whole of the force.

That her intuitions, the fluttering in her belly, may be anchored in something, in a broader tradition that lay more fundamentally connected to the universe than the politics, and that it may be something both wonderful and terribly dangerous.

She could feel the way the wind of destiny was blowing, there was no other way to put it, and she suddenly cut through the cludge of official thinking to realise she was facing square into the wind on this one. That she had been sent to do a job that not only probably should not have been done but that would land her squarely in the frame. If he was telling the truth.

Which, she realised, he was. Not because he was a particularly truthful being- he was a swirling mass of confused polychromatic equations, polyvalent and perplexing; and neither alone nor powerless. She could smell the storm behind him.

And a thundercrash of danger. Not from him; from below and beneath, from the planet-

Olghaan knew that his improvised squadron had been battered and defeated; not that they had been told, been given a key to the Empire's palace of dark secrets. He still believed that there was a secret that must be kept. And now the situation had reversed itself.

The volley of heavy turbolaser fire hit the Culverin, blowing through her shields and crashing into her port side. Let's see how he coped with shepherding a cripple.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-05-28 04:18pm
by Andras
Heh-heh-heh. Oops. I really don't think the Lennart is going to worry too much about a crippled Death Squadron Destroyer.

I don't see this turning out well for Olgie.

(nice to see the update)

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-05-28 05:02pm
by Vianca
Why do I see Thrawn hitting his head on his desk after watching these latest sensor readings from his senor probe net?
Just what he tried to prevent.

Heh, the one that should be friendly, just proved himself to be hostile.
And the hostile, friendly.
Chaos all around.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-05-28 05:22pm
by Simon_Jester

Also, woo-hoo, another character I've heard of!


As written it's a bit ambiguous who put the salvo into Culverin- the shot is described in the same terms one would expect of a natural disaster, with the idea that it's Olghaan's intent rather abstracted out. Might do to add a bit.

Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Posted: 2015-05-29 01:32am
by InsaneTD
Wooooo! Update!

Interesting happenings all round, do also see Thrawn head desking after that. And I think Olghan's life is currently measurable in hours, if that.