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 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2008-12-16 08:46am
Jedi Council Member

Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2198
Location: Scotland
Well, sorry about that. Nothing especially terrible happened, unless a bout of 24-hour flu counts, but I set myself an overambitious target to begin with. The battle's likely to be a multi parter.

A Squelch of Empires ch 7

Port Alcaris

The map of the local area was fleshing out nicely, Lennart and Brenn both thought; watching the image assemble itself in one of the holotanks that wasn’t actually supposed to be on a destroyer’s bridge, stars flashing into place as they were triangulated and classified by the probe droid web.
As the light came in, they classified the stars by type- a little white dot turning yellow-white, orange-red, blue-white as appropriate, showing spectral class, planets with a high degree of confidence; the detailed data that would have been there in a proper military nav map was missing, the system travelogue nonexistent.

Each system’s file could be brought up with the laser pointer- there were more ergonomic ways, but Lennart thought he looked silly with a pupil-scanner monocle.
The individual ships they were aware of, too, showed up; not surprising considering how ridiculously bright the drive plumes they gave off were, and that they were being scanned for by a synthetic aperture two hundred light years across.
Years out of date, but they gave some idea of the traffic, a rolling estimate, not the single snapshot they had had of this system.

It was, indeed, a naval base with large numbers of high power flares coming and going frequently. It was obvious now, dammit. There were a couple of other systems- three, actually, within the initial radius that the probes were working through- that showed some of the same flares; forward stations? Probably.
‘Data’s coming in faster than I can think about it.’ Lennart admitted. ‘Can we track one drive flare, across time and between systems- get some idea of how fast and how often they move?’

‘Minimum ten years out of date, but possible.’ Brenn said, pointing at one of his programmers, telling him to get on it. ‘The rough numbers are bad, for us that is. There’s so much merchant traffic I have to wonder how cheap ships are to these people, and how poorly set up some of their planets are that they need this kind of trade traffic to survive.’
‘Either that or their drive to payload ratio is very high, and what they would call a tramp freighter is half a kilometre long.’ Lennart pointed out, hoping that it was true. ‘Lots of traffic means lots of yard space, lots of need for escorts- what sort of military presence are we looking at on a permanent basis?’

‘Assuming the military drive flares are the bright blue-white ones- skipper, you can read this just as well as I can.’ Brenn said.
‘I hope not, because I want you to tell me that I’m wrong.’ Lennart said. ‘Within this million star, hundred inhabited world patch, I read eighty military drives, eight of them comparable to Venator class or better.’
‘Freeoow.’ Brenn whistled. ‘A comparable slice out of an Imperial sector would have a Carrack and a couple of corvettes at most- and just by eyeball I can tell that the presence doesn’t vary much over time. Sorry, Skipper.’

‘Well, on the bright side, I think we’ve just redefined ‘target rich environment’.’ Lennart said. ‘We are going to have to trade as far as possible on individual superiority- and bluff like absolute bastards.’
‘We’re in the inferior position, then?’ Brenn asked, for confirmation.
‘You know my opinion on most of the captains and half the admirals in the Starfleet; they couldn’t find their arse with both hands and a scanner globe.’ Lennart said, bluntly.

‘If they could all push their ships and crews to the limit of the technology, or at least as far as we can, the Empire could win, but we’d be in for a long, long string of highly mobile running battles, and the potential to screw up is just too high. With the men and the commanders we actually have, and the force here to tempt them…
A military solution is going to be the last solution, particularly as I’m not absolutely certain what the problem is. At least if there’s this much trade traffic, they ought to know somewhat about making deals.’ Lennart said.

‘Which also could cut against us.’ Brenn pointed out.
‘Yaahh.’ Lennart agreed, reluctantly. ‘Well, we’re hardly short of sharp businessmen ourselves. I’ll need to, no, it’s obvious. Who would you say our best scrounger is, Danvin Vilbord?’
‘Actually, I’d have said Chief Mirannon.’ Brenn said. ‘Vilbord’s probably the next best, and I can never remember her name, Mrs Aldrem.’

‘Right. Who else do you think on first contact team? Also, where? Talking to them under the shroud of their orbital defences, I think not. I don’t expect they’d be any readier to come on board us than we would go over there, into the noose. I want somewhere nicely, hideously inhospitable, deter both sides from playing silly buggers. Find me a rock.’
‘Shouldn’t be a problem, planetary formation doesn’t seem to have been affected by the physics changes, which is in itself slightly inexplicable…how about that moon there? That looks interestingly awful.’ Brenn suggested, bringing up the image of a dirty lump of ice in orbit around the outer gas giant.

‘Also interestingly far away from their mainworld and it’s orbital defences. That may or may not be a good thing, eavesdropping and espionage have their uses, but- no, I don’t think they could make it there in any reasonable amount of time. Give me somewhere they can get to within the day.’
Lennart was carefully unspecific, letting Brenn use his own judgement as to precisely where and precisely what; making him do all the work, he might say, but it was nav’s job, so the captain could concentrate on other things.

Chiefly, the reaction of the insystem force, the parts of Task Force wormhole that had been sent back to deal with the bioswarm. Parts? Where had that come from, and why would they be only a part?
Another alien whisper, or simply good tactical sense?
Actually, anticipation.
‘Skipper, message from the probe- ships at the mouth of the wormhole. Stronger force than here- three, four times as many.’

Not a good thing. What to do, hold the rest of Deep Field there and let them reinforce the covering party? They would add some firepower, but- yes, let them do that and then bring them through.
This is also, Lennart thought, a strategic target. Burning the skin off that planet and smashing the orbitals would be an essential first step to gaining a foothold on this side of the wormhole. In theory, we’re cut off. In practise- so are they.

‘Contact, blip in a probe droid and broadcast, the fleet. I want to brazen this out.’ Lennart said, and had to stop, sit down, hold on to the arms of the command chair to stop his head from reeling.
Brazen. That had been the keyword. A momentary glimpse of an impossible, shattered landscape, a river of blood and a mountain of skulls, battle and glory, proof and validation of his life and meaning through triumph as a warrior. A sense of the divine reaching out to embrace him, the arms of a fiery, angry god.
An open invitation to glory, to carve an empire for himself, to stamp his name and his face on the alien stars.

It would have been emotionally effective if it hadn’t been so…cartoonish. The bile and adrenalin and the look them in the eye, smell their fear, lick their blood, so ridiculously animalistic, brutality as the only form of violence; that made no gut connection with a man who commanded a starship.
The sheer power of it, though, the feral energy- in itself to him, that was self defeating; but how many would have fallen, been overwhelmed before their common sense could come to their rescue? How many ambitious Starfleet captains, underexperienced and glory-hungry, frustrated with the shortage of targets in their own universe, would have accepted?

‘And get me a bucket of ice cubes. I may need to stick my head in it from time to time.’ Was all that he said. What do we need to defeat this? Men of sense, or fanatics? People who already have something in that place, devotees of the Emperor, of the new Order; or balanced, rational professionals who reject emotionalism and extremism?
How many balanced, rational professionals do we have to go round? How many wielders of the Dark Side, come to think of it- and how corruptible are they, how liable to transfer their allegiance? Do I want to be involved in any experiment that could provide an answer to that question?

‘Headaches getting worse, Skipper?’ Brenn asked. ‘That one, by the way.’ Picking a large rock- a conglomerate object on the inner edge of the asteroid field.
‘You have no idea.’ Lennart said, socially- but then realising that, indeed, the nav did seem unaffected. ‘Your vulnerability index is fairly high- low 400s. Nothing getting to you?’
‘Having a head full of numbers seems to help.’ Brenn reported. ‘Movement at the wormhole.’

Tantadem and other units of Task Force Quaestio Obscura

Speed, Lake was thinking, get them through and moving before the other side has time to react. That includes the inquisition as well as the enemy.
Nine capital ships, twenty cruisers, sixteen light cruisers- most of those Astartes and hardly answerable to him- ninety-four escorts, just under half of those Astartes also.
Sending a bomber out, loaded with the usual gunnery-exercise target beacons to mark the mouth of the wormhole, had been a calculated risk. The risk being that the time that would take, someone might countermand him.

The only exception to the rule of fastest and lightest last was supposed to be his own flagship. He half meant to pass through last, but- that wouldn’t work, it wouldn’t be leadership.
In practise, he meant to do whatever worked, but in theory it would be grounds for a charge of cowardice.
Ideally, one of the Battle Barges would make the most effective and survivable tail end charlie- but they were barely under his command, and unlikely to accept going last. He needed a heavy navy unit there anyway, to herd the rogue traders. Gloria Draconis? Too slow, and anyway he wanted the big Retribution battleship’s firepower up front.

The shock and disorientation of passing into that calm, eerie space meant that they would not win a battle with anything like an equal force; that much was terrifyingly obvious. To run the gauntlet- the formation was wrong. A line wouldn’t work.
‘Globe formation around the mouth of the wormhole. Flag will direct you to proceed individually, once you have achieved transit proceed to warp as soon as feasible.’
‘In case of contact with the enemy?’ the inevitable query came- from a source he wasn’t expecting, Rhodryk Ney, Fleet-Admiral and Lake’s nominal second in command.

No, of course; Rod was getting in with the question first to let him field it more easily. Throne, how paranoid a man can get through dealing with the Inquisition. Suspecting old friends and colleagues. Well, Rod always had been a prickly bastard.
‘If your people can see and think straight enough to shoot, return their fire- return only.’ Lake said, with what he knew to be unwarranted optimism. Even if there was the potential of peaceful contact, somebody would be bound to start shooting. ‘The object is to break past them, punch deep into their space, get them chasing and reacting to us.’

‘Absolutely not, no, I forbid it with the authority of the Inquisition.’ voice on the command circuit- originating from the Sebastocrator, so that would be Iaeialeia’a. ‘How dare you suggest that the glorious forces of the Imperium behave like skulking Eldar or irradiant Orks, or worse yet draw inspiration from the blasphemous tactics of Chaos.’
‘While I respect your authority,’ Lake said after taking a deep breath and commending his soul to the Emperor, ‘I have to wonder if your colleagues concur in your declaring subtlety to be illegal?’

There was a moment’s silence on the command circuit, then a howl of laughter from the Remuneration- Shuvalov, a similar minded but more extremist man, far from averse to sowing dissention among his colleagues; and he sounded like a hyaena. ‘Well said, Admiral. Why can the mind of Man not be at least as devious as our enemies?’
‘Devious is only one syllable, one twist of thought away from deviant.’ Iaeialaia’a retorted, deliberately acting against type to see how many of the puritans he could get agreeing with him.

The argument went back and forth for a few more moments, Lake trying to ignore it and think about what to do with the purely military side, when the sensorium became aware of a turbulence in the wormhole.
He barely had time to say ‘Ident-‘ when the scanner picture dissolved in a flood of dissonance. Over there, space seemed to have caught fire; the radiation of a sun had been formed into a hula hoop and was gyrating about his ship, and a set of gravitational anomalies comparable to neutron stars were dancing a slow and stately foxtrot past the bridge windows.

Emperor’s bones, the wormhole’s snapped and whiplashed us all into the eye of terror, was Lake’s first thought.
‘According to my auspex materialis, we seem to have been encased in a block of ununpentium-dysprosium-protactinium alloy. As this would constitute a miracle of the highest order, I think we must conclude that either we are far more blessed than I had previously suspected,’ the chief techpriest said dryly, ‘or our auspicea are being affected by the enemy.’
Of course, techpriests could do irony; it was carbony they had a problem with.

‘Flag, this is Limitanei. The machine spirit of our auspices has become deranged, we have plain sight of from ten to fifteen of the enemy, they are moving away from the mouth of the wormhole, almost on top of us, opening fire.’ It was scratchy, crackly, voice unrecognisable and words difficult to pick out.
Plain sight. Hah. The Mk VIII eyeball, his crew had no chance of matching that- did they?
‘Ground force units, get your forward observers up to the obs dome, use your instruments, tell me what you see.’ Lake barked into internal comms, got crackles back. That was obviously affected too.

There was a flare of light, Limitanei’s lasers and plasmas firing, the faint traces of magma-bomb warheads streaking from the marines’ heavy cannon- and marks in the sky, flashes of impact; not the ripple of void shielding, smaller whiter bursts. War, then.
The other side seemed to agree as red and blue bolts of light poured into Limitanei; a short, whirlwind bombardment from a dozen sources- evidently they were not affected by their own harrowing of the machine spirits. Then a constellation of small blue-white spiralling flashes and they were gone.

Bastards, Lake thought, although mentally nodding to his opposite number. That was what I had planned to do to them, but they got their move in first. Now we have to chase them down, through our space.
‘Tech, the auspices? And who was nearest- can we send a signal?’ Lake asked.
‘Only by blinking the navigation lights, Admiral. Our sensoria and casters are…no longer being affected, but most are in shock. It will take some time to console them and bring them back to their proper selves.’

‘Obs dome, what do you see of Limitanei?’
The voice that came back was unfamiliar, probably Army. ‘Looks dead, your navalness. No lights, no movement. Circling slowly.’
Drifting, in other words. ‘Contact- blinker to- Greenfoot and Mangala Vallis, tell them to assist Limitanei.’ Lake ordered.
And what the frak do we do now? Falling back- abandoning the transit plan entirely? Doing that would be accepting strategic defeat. More than ever we need to know about these people.

Divide. Again. Part of the task force on hunter duty, part on blockading this side of the wormhole, part on passing through and probing them. First order of business, find out who came through that in good order, make the best use of what derangement- resistant spirits that they had.
Second order, send the resistant through, and if anybody was still crazy enough to pick a standup fight with entities who could do that, good luck to them. Split the rest between a wider englobement of the wormhole and a pursuit squadron.

‘Comms first. I need to be able to coordinate.’ I’m not going to like a lot of what I’m about to hear, Lake thought. Hopefully, hopefully, what they did will cause an end to complacency and infighting. And grox might fly.

“They” were the rest of Deep Field Recon- Strike Group One, moving to join their flagship over Port Alcaris. The force included the Spoliator-III Fleet EW ship Glacier, the Imperator-I Disenfranchiser, the Imperator-II Pragmatist, the LRE Venator conversions Visitant and Venturer, the four Meridian class heavy frigates Silverblue, Ntah, Danieri, and Rainberg, and two fleet tankers.
They had a lot to report about the enemy, including an extremely low resistance to jamming, a high ability to operate on manual, and significant damage to one of the two fleet tankers accompanying the force.

‘Admiral.’ The mechanicus Technomancer in charge of the auspex pit reported. ‘We have achieved function, you can communicate.’
‘Good.’ That meant they would no longer have to rely on the slow, ancient blinker code. ‘Who is reporting in?’
‘Of the capital ships…Gloria Draconis and Pilgrim Militant are still responding by blinker only. Sinus Iridium reports full function, Kastaghan is unresponsive, no statement of condition from Limitanei.
Sebastocrator’s techpriests are reporting that their captain believed it to be some form of power leeching attack, and ordered weapon power transferred to sensorium; their auspices are destroyed. Coruscani Praeteritans and Destined Necessity are reporting full function restored.’

Sebastocrator. Iaeialeia’a. Typical. An Avenger, one of the later grand cruisers, unsophisticated but with row upon row of massive plasma and laser cannon, a superb close quarters brawler- and almost undeployable because of that maniac’s presence.
‘Technomancer, do you sense a pattern in this?’
‘Including the cruisers, yes.’ The techpriest reported. ‘The ships with relic or alien sensoria and targetators recover more quickly. The only ships claiming to have been unaffected are the Buccaneer, with dark age relic auspex, the Lions of Caledon’s escorts, and’- with slight smugness- ‘Mangala Vallis.’

From one problem to another. Relic or alien- or very new, very high quality. To send the most resistant ships would mean loosing the Astartes and Mechanicus on an unsuspecting universe. Essentially guaranteed to start a war, not that they needed any help.
‘Admiral. A message.’ An astropathic transmission- from one mind’s eye to another; astonishingly quick, dated only twenty minutes before, from the Lord Ravensburg.

Apparently, they had found the ship that had sent the pod back through the wormhole and summoned the others.
He watched the amazingly small- barely a destroyer- alien ship go through it’s dance of death, wave of green after wave of green burn into and shatter the Tyranids.
‘Transmit this to every ship in the fleet capable of receiving it, and tell them-‘ what? For a moment the terrible temptation to say ‘act accordingly’ hovered on his tongue.

That would result in a starburst of separate behaviours, an uncoordinated, incoherent response. Against a threat of this magnitude that would be suicide. The alternative was trying to retain control of this zoo of viewpoints- and how could he work for the Imperium, if those who considered themselves the voice of the Imperium were pulling in so many different directions?
Continue with the plan? What else was there that would work? Their defensive wall had been ruptured easily, and the intruders hadn’t even bothered to pick a fight. It was obvious that Limitanei had been hit with mech-anima destroying weapons, not the heavy cannon that had been used on the ‘nids.

Couldn’t keep them out. Driving those already here out…a possibility. The idea of trying to take the offensive in these circumstances seemed insane, but with the leadership he had to deal with, that sounded like a plus point.
Here, the intruders were ready and prepared. Had they sent their best, or was this an ordinary line outfit? Was there better waiting for them, or worse? If there was a soft underbelly, an unprepared side to them, it would be deep in their space.
To meet them here, to fight at the wormhole and chase down the intruders, would be to meet them at their strongest. Even when you had enough raw power that it was still a winning option, it was never a smart one.

“To fight is futile; the enemy is behind us, our supply lines are cut, what lies ahead of us is madness and confusion. There is no choice, we attack.” Well, it would look good in the history books, if any of them survived to contribute.
‘Tell them we carry on.’ Lake said, heavily. Looking down the fleet list, sectioning them off into the units that could withstand or recover quickly from the harrowing of the machine spirits, who would go, the units that performed moderately well, who would hold the mouth of the wormhole- hopefully- and the units who could not, who would return to Alcaris.

‘The ships on this list are to return to reinforce Port Alcaris, the ships on this list are to form a distant blockade around the mouth of the wormhole, the ships on this list are to proceed into alien space, make one random passage in warp, attempt to make astropathic contact, and coordinate from there, or if that fails operate independently for a period of one month before making for the fleet rendezvous.’ He handed the lists to the chief techpriest.
There would probably be a battle on the other side. Certainly. Still had to go through expecting trouble. ‘Rod, take command of this side of the wormhole. We-’

‘We will face the enemy,’ the silkily menacing voice behind him said, ‘with the full strength of the Imperium.’
Of course. Kuroda, the change- allergic witch hunter. Lake hadn’t dared give orders to have him kept off the bridge, because that in itself would have been a highly suspicious act.
‘You would overrule my judgement, and commit the blinded and the lamed?’ he said, turning to face the inquisitor. ‘You think this,’ pointing to the now restored scanner image of the tumbling, scarred Limitanei, ‘is strength?’

Leiji Kuroda’s character was evident in his face; thin and sharp, downturned mouth, dark, severely drawn back hair- the pinched, narrow face of a pinched, narrow mind, someone who had spent his life eating lemons.
However sharp his judgement, and to be an Inquisitor it had to be excellent, Lake didn’t trust him. His intolerance for the weak extended to not understanding or refusing to admit he understood the concepts of rest, repair and maintenance, and he had no faith that what Kuroda wanted and liked to see happen would be good for the Imperium.

He was willing to push men and machines to and beyond their limit, for no better reason than that otherwise, they might have to think about how to do things differently. ‘They exist. They will do their part. You-‘
‘I object to the senseless waste of a battle barge and a grand cruiser.’ Lake did not want to have to do this, could barely believe that he was doing it- but the alternative was to throw away two ships, at least, and also any chance of fighting this as it needed to be fought. Submit to this unprofessional fool and they were doomed.

‘Limitanei needs to refit. Sebastocrator needs her auspices replaced. Do you really think you can get the battle group through the wormhole, in one stream, without collisions, without delays, in good order with a fighting chance on the other side? Do you think the enemy, whoever they are, have any respect for your ideological decisions?’
How long had it been since someone openly challenged Kuroda’s authority, since he had had to do anything other than club people into submission with his rank and rosette?

His information had been wrong, Lake realised. That was beyond the margin of error, the sources must have been played false. Kuroda was not the best-of-all-possible-worlds Pollyanna he had been told.
When naked inquisitorial authority didn’t work, he preferred to shoot them instead. The last thing Lake knew was a searing pain in his throat as he was shot with a digital needler.
‘Move.’ Kuroda barked at the flag-captain. ‘Through the wormhole. Everyone.’

Covering Force, Research Station Bifrost

Thank kriff they’re gone, the admiral thought. It was only a handful of destroyers and frigates, but some handful. The pick of the Imperial fleet, in theory, some of the finest individual ship handlers they had.
Insufferable prima donnas, the lot of them, and the worst was the commodore- Lennart- in charge of that frankenship he had the nerve to still call an Imperator.
Unfair, really, he recognised, but the fortunes of war seemed to cling to some people and avoid others.

Admiral Mariot Themion was not a fortunate man, as far as combat went; he had been a junior officer during the Clone Wars, had seen which way the wind was blowing, and signed up with the New Order Party as soon as may be.
The party had delivered him rank, and responsibility, and authority, but not the supreme test. Oh, there were the biannual major exercises, and he was a full Admiral- he had found his rank in politics, but justified it in the war games. Still, it was theoretical prowess, no more.

He had been entrusted with military- territorial commands, easily come by in the organisational chaos of Oversector Outer, the huge arc along the rim of the galaxy; but not active ones, never a major campaign. A little rebel and pirate hunting, nothing that was a real test- he hoped, a validation- of his talent.
Now, this. Babysitting a project that had every prospect of causing a major crisis. Well, if it did perhaps he would finally feel as if his rank meant something; that he was more than a glorified personnel manager in a funny suit.

Part of his objection to the project was that so many of the individuals involved had better war records than he had. Somewhere between guilt and envy; Jorian Lennart in particular- the man had two battle cruiser kills, a medium and a light cruiser, two heavy destroyers and two line destroyers. Themion had shot at a frigate once.
He was in charge of operations on the far side of the wormhole, and the overspill from his mess would land on Themion’s desk. Or on his targeting team, more likely.

‘Admiral, message pod- from Glacier. Forces on the far side of the wormhole, the strike group ran the gauntlet, shots were exchanged.’ The flag bridge’s fleet com/scan coordinator reported. Slightly edgy. The bridge deck seemed to get colder. They had done this a hundred times, but those were only simulations.
Simulations can teach you everything about the job, they said at Carida, Raithal and a hundred other places, except how to cope with the stress and the fear that you feel when you know that this time, it’s real. Everything you came from and stood for, everything you are or could hope to be, is at stake.

Not the easiest thought in the universe to live with. ‘Take the group to blockade stations ten light seconds off the wormhole, call for backup from the 401st, assume general quarters.’ He ordered.
Calling for help as the first thing he did. Not impressive.
The project was under the auspices of Sub-Oversector Rishi, which was part of Oversector Outer, which was a bloated, unwieldy behemoth of an organisation that according to most observers was engineered to fail.

Territorially immense, poor, ethnically diverse- it was a ludicrously, impossibly large area to shove under one organisational heading, and desperately needed to be broken up into manageable pieces.
On the other hand, that lack of clear boundaries meant that he could call for organic support from half a galaxy away. The 401st Battlecruiser Squadron of the Ninth Star Fleet were an old formation, recently re-equipped with Bellator class fleet-wing heavies.

For all the sheer possibility of it, and the far less limited money, material and political will, the age of Empire had not proved to be the age of the supercapital. Behemoths like the Mandator had remained in service, beached and laid up examples refitted and commissioned, but there was a very good reason why the Imperator class were the mainstay of the fleet.
To put it simply, the best of the new breed, Executor, threw almost a hundred and twenty times the firepower of an Imperator- and was five hundred times the size and mass, four hundred times the cost, and nowhere near a hundred times the survivability.

For their size, weight and operating budget, a group of sixteen hundred metre Imperators moved faster, threw more fire, could collectively absorb more punishment, and cover far more territory than any large ship.
Time and again on major exercises, the battleships and battlecruisers of the fleet were carved apart by fast destroyer wolfpacks. They were, in many ways, the natural instrument of decision.
The Tectors and Allegiances had been one attempt at a solution, but they had often proved more useful as part of the hunting packs, not sheepdogs at all.

Bellator was the first real attempt to change that; the first true capital ship class with a better power to weight than the line destroyer, and in many ways an overgrown destroyer design themselves.
The manual was still being written, and it looked as if it was about to acquire another chapter. Themion just hoped they had enough time to assemble a sufficiently heavy blocking force before whatever was on the other side came through the wormhole.

In the event, they didn’t. Kuroda had shot the man with the plan; he had simply ordered ‘go’. That produced chaos. It was not the phased, reasoned deployment Lake had intended, but a mad shuffle as ships jockeyed to fit, cut each other out, brushed shields and torched each other with drive plumes- rush hour traffic with an Imperium battlefleet.
Some resorted to overthrust to pass through quickly, some waited to let others pass, some wanted to let squadron formations form- order, counter-order, all the Inquisitors screaming at each other.

Discipline broke down. To be first through was to meet the enemy’s fire at it’s strongest and most accurate; to be last through was cowardly, and also, if the enemy were winning, nothing more than lining up at a shooting gallery. Everyone was trying to squeeze into the middle.
The situation was not helped by Tantadem’s captain and technomancer murdering, with a hand cannon and a dendrite mounted lascutter, Inquisitor Kuroda- it would have been, but they were ten minutes too late.

The first heavy ship through the wormhole, behind the initial diamond of Falchions, was the Vengeance class grand cruiser Sinus Iridium. Much of her electronics fit had been retrieved from a dark age relic; the molecutronics passed modern understanding, but even if the servitors didn’t know a deceptive jamming pattern when they saw it, the hardware did.
The blizzard of subspace ripples, tachyonic deceleration scatter, plain gravitic-electromagnetic distortion washed over the Imperium cruiser; was analysed by logis engines a hundred times the age of her crew; was, largely, rejected. Sinus Iridium saw, plainly enough to report, what was ahead of them.

Around, actually; ships could emerge from the wormhole facing in any direction, the way to blockade it was to englobe it. To one side of the nearest star- and far away, they were out in deep space and among unfamiliar stars- there was a large ship, about the length of an Emperor, but wider, flatter, and it was in the process of breaking up- no, sortieing fighters. Tiny things, but in their thousands. Three other ships- the whole making the four corners of a tetrahedron- smaller, similar shape, cruisers to the large one’s battleship. Clusters of escorts around each, and covering the widest of the gaps between them. In tonnage a fraction of what was about to come through.

Themion looked at the unfamiliar behemoth; nine kilometres- and solid, easily the volume equivalent of a Mandator. The force he had here, his own command ship Conductor class, a Defensor fast battleship and pair of fleet-wing Procurator battlecruisers, and their escorts, should be able to deal with a Mandator. In theory.
Didn’t the recon report that had come with the first pod suggest a very low power to weight- huge ships but without the powerplant to match, low offensive potential? He hoped so, because the report in the second pod indicated there was a lot more than this to come. If the rectangle-with-embellishments decided to make a fight of it- and, ah, it had.

Sinus Iridium actually had no choice; the last order Kuroda had been able to give, before having his head removed, was to engage. Fight or be shot for cowardice; defend the glorious Imperium, or be shot like a dog.
The least they could do was to make a proper job of it. The grand cruiser hauled herself into beginning a sequence of S-turns, sweeping the arc of her broadside heavy batteries across the sky, and opening fire first of all on the Conductor- class Torchbearer.

An awesome sight, and most of the bridge team flinched, but scan was perfectly calm. Much of it was a fireworks show; flash and glitter, without lethal substance. Enormous variety; sub- infrared arc masers, pulse-wave, jacketed and open plasma weapons, electrothermal, electromagnetic and electrogravtic mass drivers, thrust-and-drift chemical burning rockets, conversion beamers, short-pulse, long pulse, beam lasers in every colour of the spectrum- an absurd zoo of death.

What the kriff kind of situation produces that random grab-bag of weaponry? Themion couldn’t understand it. He was a wargamer, the one thing he was absolutely certain of was that victory lay in efficiency.
Turn off conscience and human concern, play the numbers ruthlessly, figure out what worked, and do it to the greatest possible extent. The eclectic barrage pouring out of the Sinus Iridium made no sense. An entire civilisation couldn’t possibly all fail to do that; somebody had to have the sense to do the figuring. What sort of physical or ideological deficiency spawned this- were they such novices to space combat that they did not know what worked, and were using a little of everything?

Or- more likely- they faced a variety of enemies, what worked best on one wouldn’t work as well on the next, and now in the face of something new and unfamiliar, they were trying everything at once. When they figured out what worked, they would shut down everything else and route power preferentially.
That explained the situation. He would have to see how this played out.
‘My compliments to the captain, and he may manoeuvre and return fire.’ Themion ordered graciously.

Sinus Iridium had not paused, overdriving her engines at a fearful rate, endangering her manoeuvre thrusters swinging the heavy ship around; but she did have to run straight and level to get a good clear shot with the lance batteries.
The heavy ordnance hammered into the shields of the Torchbearer, an astonishingly accurate grouped salvo that lashed into the after end of the heavy command carrier-battleship’s hangar bay, the shielding there a complex, erratic surface being flickered and gapped continually to release the fighter complement.
It was not in the best condition to resist, and in fact it failed to do so, one panel locally overloading.

The flower of molten, vapourised material expanding out of the belly of the ship was clearly visible to even the naked eye from the Sinus Iridium; accompanied by the little glittering dots of burning TIE fighters caught in the blast.
The flag-captain had the sense to roll Torchbearer so the upper surface bore, allowing him to drop the shielding and vent the bay, flush the broken, burning craft out into space where it no longer mattered if their onboard bombs cooked off; and also expose his own primary batteries.

Vengeance, it seemed, was going to be green. The wall of light- what, all one type? The Sinus Iridium’s captain wondered- burnt through space around the grand cruiser- inaccurately.
The gun crews and predictors were finding it difficult to believe something that size could move that slowly. The majority of Torchbearer’s fire passed across Sinus Iridium’s bow, and too much of the rest arrived together.
Void shields were a powerful but brittle defence. The older type Sinus Iridium mounted would fall easily, but they would swallow up the hit with them, blink it away into the Warp.

A slow, sequential barrage would put them down and keep them down much more efficiently than a single time on target salvo- which was what hit Sinus Iridium. Half the generators burnt out, some permanently, but the ship more or less rode it out.
More was coming through the wormhole; finally the second large ship, the Coruscani Praeteritans- the Glittering Past- was emerging, and immediately exchanging fire with the Defensor-class Judicious.
Good, the Sinus Iridium’s command crew all thought, we might not be completely doomed.

Then the second salvo- more ragged this time- hit. Torchbearer carried an older model of 70 teraton turbolaser; longer-barrelled, heavier, slower tracking, designed for a longer maximum range and a longer barrel life than the new 827’s. Unfortunately for the Sinus Iridium, she carried twelve hundred of them.
This time, a broad oval of a fire pattern, and the grand cruiser was caught in it. There were clumps of hits that arrived too close together to do more than collapse a single shield, but there weren’t enough courses of shielding to stop it all.

Only a tiny proportion of Torchbearer’s fire actually landed, passed through the shielding and did damage; five solid hits. Enough to cripple the grand cruiser, leave it half molten and burning- mercifully the lance turrets had survived, they could still fight. Just not necessarily survive. Time for plan B.
‘Immaterium! Now!’ the captain screamed at the navigator.

The warp drives kicked in, the grand cruiser fading out as another cluster of shot passed through them; and as the adrenalin that had sustained them drained away, the shock started to sink in.
They were maimed, in an alien universe beyond the reach and the word of the Emperor, with part of their being left behind; friendless, in this strange clarity, with native blood on their hands.

Their drives found little purchase in this calm xeno- Immaterium; surge and struggle as they might, it was like walking on illuminated ice- trivially easy to find a path, difficult to move along it.
Illuminated- the quiescence lent a terrifying clarity. The metaphor extended itself well- it was exactly like being on ice, exposed, under floodlights in an immense flat frozen plain- the navigator and astropaths were all cringing, certain that half the galaxy could see them writhe, struggle, flail and slip.

Coordination between those who survived the waiting warships at the wormhole’s mouth would be unexpectedly easy, if it could be done at all. The lack of power here, the lack of pressure on the soul, moving from sea level to a mountain top in an instant.
It was a weakening and a disorienting thing- we might still be there yet, dithering and writhing, without the needs of battle to alert us, the captain’s thoughts ran.
Discipline might easily break down in such circumstances- if there had ever been ‘such circumstances’ before. Faith and works? Well, His Majesty was a universe away, but there was definitely work to do, repairs to be made.
That might save them; sweat was unlikely to be as effective as adrenalin, but it would have to do.

If the enemy had known them, if they had their tactics set to begin with instead of improvising, there was more than enough raw firepower there to ripple down void shields and take a ship apart in seconds.
They learned fast, too, the captain of the Sinus Iridium thought. What do we do, he thought, if we are the only large ship who makes it through the gauntlet?

"I beseech thee, In the bowels of God, think it possible that you might be wrong."
-Oliver Cromwell to Parliament, 1647
"It is good to keep an open mind; but not so open that your brains fall out." Attributed to James Oberg

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2008-12-16 12:09pm
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A great chapter, as always. Are you trying to aim for symmetry, with both sides having ships stranded on the other side?

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 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2008-12-16 02:36pm
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Not specifically, [guilty admission mode;] I don't actually plan that far ahead, not with this one anyway. I haven't been posting in the GE vs IOM thread because I'm too busy trying to work it all out. [/guilty admission mode]

Dumb luck on one side- blundering into Port Alcaris- and idiotic mistakes on the other- Kuroda- seem to have resulted in that.

In all seriousness, the IoM shot itself in the head with the tactics on this one. Lake intended to form a globe around the wormhole mouth and send ships through in quick succession, shave the margins down enough to get the force through in a mutually supporting formation in the least possible time.

Kuroda shot the admiral and ordered them through while they were still forming the globe. Even the best spacers are not immune to command's screwups. I have to admit, this scene horrified me as I was writing it; it just fell into place with a sort of hideous inevitability.
Of course the admiral was going to take the effect of a fleet EW ship into account, of course the Inquisitor was going to react badly, of course the Admiral was going to be less than careful about talking back- individual ships may do well, but the formation's screwed.

Oh, yes; Amberley, Orelius and the Lucre Foedus (with Amberley's yacht in one of the bays) are in there somewhere. They're not that dumb, but are they that lucky?

Besides which, I wouldn't call Deep Field Recon stranded; sitting on a major strategic target, yes. They are still likely to attempt peaceful negociations, and may manage it to some degree- until the fallout from the Battle of the Rishi Mouth reaches them. I do want to have some kind of meeting of minds between the two sides, even if it is brief and ends in blood.

"I beseech thee, In the bowels of God, think it possible that you might be wrong."
-Oliver Cromwell to Parliament, 1647
"It is good to keep an open mind; but not so open that your brains fall out." Attributed to James Oberg

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2008-12-16 07:28pm
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Amberly's not dumb, and I'm pretty sure she'll find a way to get in under the cover of another ship and hit Immaterium as soon as she can.

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 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2008-12-17 05:58pm
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The other side seemed to agree as red and blue bolts of light poured into Limitanei; a short, whirlwind bombardment from a dozen sources

ECR- what are the red colored Imperial weapons. I get that the blue energy weapons are ion cannon, but turbolasers should be green right?

Also, as Lennart is now flag rank, does he have a subordinate Captain for the Black Prince, and who is the new Exec?

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2008-12-18 08:05am
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Heavy ion cannon do seem to be red; at least, the V-150 was. I suspect I may not have been giving the IoM Navy sufficient credit for damage tolerance here- a Battle Barge is a big ship and likely takes a lot of putting down.

I'm going with the theory that turbolasers are ramp-up, speed of light (or very near lightspeed particle beam) weapons, and the visual trace is just that, a tracer- colour may be determined by the blaster gas compound.

Black Prince mixes her blaster gas so they're all green, but each battery is firing a slightly different shade, distinguishable through targeting gear, to aid in spotting fall of shot. Imperial Starfleet standard issue is green, but other ships may use their own signature colours- Mon Evarra was firing purple tracer, remember?

Jorian Lennart has managed to avoid that terrible fate- he's a COMM2, Commodore Second Class, a permanent appointment but still in charge of his own ship. Exec, haven't finished deciding- probably a transfer in, a deserving senior divisional officer from Jorvik.

"I beseech thee, In the bowels of God, think it possible that you might be wrong."
-Oliver Cromwell to Parliament, 1647
"It is good to keep an open mind; but not so open that your brains fall out." Attributed to James Oberg

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2008-12-19 01:24am
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Maybe the IoM ships have had the simple misfortune to flip circuit breakers their crews don't even know they had in that extreme power surge of the Ion barrage. It's easily fixable, just time consuming to find and clear the breakers. In all seriousness, the Battlebarge might have suffered worse than a comparable normal ship due to its Servitor compliment who would be dispatched just as effectively as the systems they would be maintaining.

Inquisitor Kuroda-may the demons of Chaos feast on his soul for this-really did make two major mistakes. First, he killed a flag officer in the middle of a major operation thereby ruining all shots at organizing the situation. Secondly, he killed the man in front of his crew, forgetting that while it conveys many things, the Authority of the Inquisition does not make one invincible. I agree with the hideous inevitability comment on the grounds of 'WH40k is full of such moments.'

I also note that we have our first real 'stand back and let the captain do his job' kind of Admiral here. He's seemingly competent on one point-He needs to hold the wormhole no matter what so calling for reinforcements preemptively just ensures that any leaks get plugged faster and the spills can be mopped up without degrading his guard. Even if that wasn't his logic, it was a smart move. He's not an impressive admiral, but I'd say he seems solid enough to handle the job that's been handed to him so far. Although he needs more stringent gunnery training programs that go a bit further outside the box for this assignment. Waste of good Hypermatter.

As for the Imperials now adrift in the Rishi Maze, I have to wonder how many of them are now without sufficient Astropathic or Navigator components to their crews to operate effectively. After all, while one direction empowers the powerless to disastrous effect, won't the other de-power the empowered? And of course, lurking at the center of the Galaxy is a black cancer that can HEAR THEM. Palpatine will likely be able to read the tone their mail if he cares to listen to it. Other Force Users will likely be drawn to this like flies to honey, unless the intruders are buttoned up right-quick.

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 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2008-12-19 01:49am
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Oohh, Vehrec just opened up a whole new avenue of bad for the IoM! Inquisitorious, anyone? Perhaps Darth Vader senses "a disturbance in the Force, one I have not felt since..."

Possibly, just possibly, Inquisitor=Sith Sushi!

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 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2008-12-19 05:46am
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Vehrec wrote:
As for the Imperials now adrift in the Rishi Maze, I have to wonder how many of them are now without sufficient Astropathic or Navigator components to their crews to operate effectively. After all, while one direction empowers the powerless to disastrous effect, won't the other de-power the empowered? And of course, lurking at the center of the Galaxy is a black cancer that can HEAR THEM. Palpatine will likely be able to read the tone their mail if he cares to listen to it. Other Force Users will likely be drawn to this like flies to honey, unless the intruders are buttoned up right-quick.

I thought of that as well; given the apparent differences in Warp power between the Immaterium and the Force, everything in 40k that crosses over should be nerfed by orders of magnitude. Which will no doubt prove nasty for them.

On the other hand, now I just had a vision of Palpatine's potential power in Milky Way . . . or Vader's. :twisted:

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 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-06 10:37am
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A Squelch of Empires ch 8

I will not be a back seat driver, I will not be a back seat driver… Admiral Themion was muttering to himself, loudly enough that his staff noticed.
They had taken an unlucky hit at the start of the battle that had cost about three hundred of the ship’s fighter complement- about six percent of the total. The damage was under control, and the rest were hungry for blood.

The fighter complements of all the ships of his task force were doing the same thing, hovering close around the wormhole as the first line of interdiction.
That had proved to be practical as soon as they got their first real look at the enemy’s subcraft. They were farcical. Gargantuan, flabby things, solid enough but pathetically slow, pathetically poor shots and pathetically lightly shielded. Well armed, but they seemed to be poorly computerised if at all.

His ships didn’t need to keep their TIEs close as a defensive screen, they could deploy forward, strafe and torpedo the enemy ships as they came out of the mouth of the wormhole- they couldn’t see down the wormhole, something else that COMM2 Lennart had to take the blame for. Aside from whatever he had done to start an intercosmic war.
According to the physics bods at the research station, it was possible to make a ‘transparent’ wormhole- and it had been, but this one had been throttled down to opacity. Stop the enemy simply sitting there and scanning, force them to actually physically come through in order to find out anything.

Then again, if they had advance warning, they probably wouldn’t have bothered. They? Well, that definitely was an admiral’s job- trying to figure out what the enemy was up to.
Their ships, even when they were nearly identical one with another, the electronics- either they refitted their ships as often as a woman changes her wardrobe (the admiral, a man with four ex-wives, mentally grumbled) or they lasted long enough for multiple generations of equipment to come and go.

Their signatures were not consistent, their emissions were all over the place, they had widely varying standards- some behaved like moles in an arc lamp, thrashing around helplessly, others with lethally cool precision.
Which was more than could be said for the third unit of his formation, the procurator battlecruiser Irreversible. She had exchanged shot with the third large ship to come through, some kind of fleet carrier.
At first they hadn’t recognised it as such, because it put out ships that the sensor interpretation team classed as in the corvette range. Huge things.

These people had a serious case of the gargantuans, if even their subcraft- and the target put out a mere thirty-two- were around a hundred metres long.
The drawback of carrier operations was always time. A corona of TIEs gave a sensor baseline, a controlling presence and a striking reach, but the time to launch them all and retrieve them again- operationally, they were the signal of someone or something which meant to stand their ground and fight to the finish. Couldn’t do hit and run with a fighter screen out.

Not unless you were the Alliance, with their old style hyper capable fighters which could come and go independently- or some of the crack elements of the fleet, equipped extensively with Assault, Avenger and Starwings.
Those things were certainly big enough, but they showed little sophistication- which was, strategically, a good sign. Fighter combat was attritional, continually needing new units; in theory, in a state of change, light combat units were going to be closer to the current state of the technological art than things which lasted decades- centuries?- in service.

So they were a civilisation in decline, were they? Strategically, turbulent, thrashing, dangerous to get too close to in their death throes. Or vulnerable, ripe for the picking. The penetration group on the far side were responsible for deciding which.
The force here was under pressure- the handful of destroyers on the far side, against similar opposition, had sailed past them. Typical.
Irreversible had been menaced by a swarm of the largest and least efficient missiles in the now- known universe, and had turned into the attack, opening her main gun arcs and presenting the smallest cross section.

Which had proved to be a spectacularly bad move when the fourth and fifth large ships came out together. Irreversible’s captain had lived up to his ship’s name in the worst possible way, freezing under the torpedo volley- which was actually easily shot down, but he had got behind the decision curve.
That pair had been sister ships, as identical as any two of them were and evidently used to working together; they had firewalled their engines and taken the opportunity to try to double up on Irreversible, who had reacted too slowly.

Themion had ordered Irreversible to move back to the assigned blockade point, mechanically in time but the command team reacted too slowly. The incomers sprayed a huge shower of broadside fire at the battlecruiser, largely ineffectual- the shielding dealt with it easily- and a shot each from some kind of bizarre electrogravitic- kinetic spinal mount, large enough to be structurally obvious on a seven kilometre ship.

The torpedo volley had been dealt with pathetically easily- they were very easy to hit, and loaded with warheads designed to take on ships of the size which fired them, so they were very explosive indeed.
The bombers were almost as bad. Very well armed, but some of them appeared to have hand traversed defensive turrets, nothing fast tracking and firing enough to hit a TIE. They were meat. They did more damage by blowing up and taking Imperial fighters with them than their own defensive turrets and missiles could.

Irreversible had beaten back the missile and bomber attack and seemed not to be able to figure out what to do next. The spinal mount shot had been the real danger, and one of them missed, but functioned as it was intended to, exploding short in a huge blast pattern of some sort of plasma to exotic reaction.
Athega, the flag sensor coordinator thought; it was showing the same processes- or like them- as the hyperenergetic exotic star. Something worth looking into, see if there was a parallel that could be exploited.

It was a miss, and more use as a flashbulb as anything else, but the other one- Irreversible tried to jam it as if it was a missile, which it wasn’t. They succeeded in fooling the fuse but neglected the simple precaution of getting out of the way.
The nova cannon round impacted on the starboard brim trench, the shielding absorbed most of the impact and flared out leaving a gash in the hull as if it had been torn there, ripping the side of the hull open.
Worse, the shell, what of it wasn’t glowing vapour, scattered unexploded submunitions deep into the hull of the battlecruiser.

Irreversible wanted to withdraw to repair damage and remove the unexploded pieces, and it was a right move in and of itself but it was impossible to spare her from the firing line.
Themion angrily ordered them to remain on station, and do what they could. His flag was still preoccupied with the second large ship to come through- differently styled from the rest, same general shape, brighter, hotter burning engines and more advanced systems in general. Better sensors, for a start.

It was still far slower and far larger a target than they were used to, and now that they were starting to settle down and focus the gun crews were doing well. The thing still, obstinately, refused to die.
It’s shields bounced back ridiculously quickly, it had some kind of repulsor zone that prematured missiles and torpedoes, and when bolts did reach it’s structure it reacted like wet resin- smouldering, shrivelling, contracting and cooling into a new shape, not being blasted away.

Whatever form of translight drive they used, interdictors couldn’t stop it. Shooting at them helped, it slowed them down, hard to say how exactly given that the ones that had made it away- which he had the uneasy feeling that he would have to answer for- had shown no signature that the sensor crews could understand.
Firepower, killing them before they could get away, seemed the only solution, and this bizarre beast was just refusing to die- and buying time for the rest in doing so.

It was returning fire mainly on the smaller craft, the shell of cruisers, destroyers and frigates that accompanied the big ships; evidently it had the same kind of main gun that targets A4 and A5 had presented- the rest, they were up to A17 by now, few of them.
The heavy electrogravitic cannon ships being the front line, shock action, break the blockade? Was that good sense deploying like that- or just dumb luck? From the way the rest of the force was handling itself, he would have said luck.

A2 managed to fire a shot at one of Judicious’ escort destroyers, yawing round- presenting fresh undamaged surface to do so, so no manoeuvring loss- to line up the heavy gun.
The target- a Venator- made the same mistake as Irreversible, jamming it like it was some kind of missile, which would have worked, but the alien turned it’s own laser batteries on the projectile and detonated it.
The blast, a blue-white ball of light, lasted at least ten seconds, before fading to reveal a very surprised destroyer, slightly charred- shield depletion and paintwork.

That weapon made no sense; if it hadn’t detonated, it would have torn the light destroyer apart. Why did they even use warheads on it, why not just lob lumps of cheap, inert matter? Were they just fans of explosions?
Ah, of course. The shielding they use, one massive impact would be wasted, but a flaring microsun lasting seconds, that would burn through their own defences more effectively. Easier to hit with, too.
‘That thing is soaking up far too much of our fire; all ships concentrate on target A2. Until destroyed.’ Themion ordered, knowing the risks, knowing that everything else was getting a free lunch.

Inevitable. That individual ship was by a large margin the most dangerous. Wasn’t manoeuvring like a flagship, though, there was little or no attempt to form a coherent battle formation.
Jamming was still effective against the majority, and there seemed no attempt at data sharing; that was the window Themion was looking for. Between them, his four capital ships, eight cruisers and twenty-four destroyers threw almost a third of an exaton a second. Nothing could take that kind of punishment, surely?

As the foul xenos ceased to bombard the rest of the group and turned towards it, the command staff of the Coruscani Praeteritans knew it was all up for them.
So much to see and learn, a whole new universe of possibilities richly blessed by the Omnissiah, possibilities that they may now never see- as the infamous Wall of Green descended on them, they had time to notice that among the heraldry sported by the alien warships, the dominant symbol was something very like a cog.

Against that weight of fire, almost anything would have gone down. An Executor class dreadnought could absorb that kind of heat for long enough to return fire, a Mandator would last a few seconds at least.
An Ark Mechanicus was not in the same league- not even in the same order of magnitude- for energy density. It burst in a viridian nova, the vapourisation of the hull a mere fringe of contamination.

‘All ships return to sectoral targeting, flag to Irreversible; evade in the direction of blockade cardinal point four. Judicious, manoeuvre to replace Irreversible at blockade point two.’
Exchanging the two ships like that took Irreversible on a tangent out and away from the maelstrom. In any other circumstances, it would have been possible to jump her out for damage control and bomb disposal, but not against this lot. Losing one of his largest ships was not an option.

He couldn’t fathom what they were trying to do. They were fighting, disconnectedly, individually, many half blind- and their own losses among the fighter units were fearsome, but no capital ship loss, not of anything larger than a frigate so far. Reposition the cruisers and destroyers to cover the holes in the firing pattern left by the moving capital ships.
‘Signals, have you noted anything that could be a datalink among them? Can you identify a flagship?’

Two ships came out of the wormhole together- literally, they must have collided on the other side while manoeuvring for entry.
One was impaled across the other’s bows- more evidence that whoever or whatever was supposed to be in charge over there wasn’t; the largest looked like a carrier, it had the same gridwork sides, the smaller of the two had it’s prow impaled through the bays on one side. They were wriggling to get free; an easy target.

There was worse to come. The taxonomy was unclear, but there were large ships, medium-large ships, large-medium, medium, medium-small and just plain small, the last about the size of a line destroyer.
Two came out one just after the other; one of the medium-large, about nine kilometres, and one of the large-mediums, about seven. The large-medium target seemed to be blinded, and was hit on the starboard quarter by a salvo; she turned into the attack, meaning to present her bow- and something else came out of the wormhole, engines flaring at full overload power. The larger ship, more angular, caught the smaller dead amidships.

Sebastocrator rammed the Armageddon- class battlecruiser Kuovalik at full thrust, leaving the battlecruiser crippled and burning and tearing pieces of her own spine off- but not even slowing down, accelerating away in fact and blasting the wreck with her engines, but pointing- where? One of the blind ships, this time lashing out in frenzy that could only do more damage to her allies than to the forces of the Galactic Empire.

The cruiser division that closed in to deal with her were met with frighteningly effective fire- at least as good as one of their own- from a peculiar wedge-on-wedge, which got the range quickly and lashed out with laser fire at the bridge tower of one of the Senator class fast pursuit cruisers.
They could see, and they could identify vulnerable points; that put them at the upper end of performance. Themion was about to order another mass converged fire, but held off this time.

It was a relatively small ship, different from the rest but no sense overplaying it, when there was so much else that needed blasting. There had been leakers already, something that Themion was sure he would somehow be made to answer for.
Every prospect of there being more. Another of the long-snout electrograv cannon ships came through, lined up on the damaged Irreversible, which turned to bear, both sides got their shots off.

The flare-bomb didn’t need to be aimed all that precisely to score; it blew up, searing and illuminating Irreversible- which put a long burst from everything that could bear into the alien cruiser.
That ship was yawing round to use the broadside weaponry, faster firing- did those things have a ridiculously long reload cycle, or did they just fire one shot? No, they had ammunition for a prolonged fight carried on board. That became obvious when the target took a hit in the magazines and the store of flare bombs exploded.

The blast did a lot of damage; flared down the shields on many of the alien ships, but loaded more and worse onto the heat-absorption shielding of the task force, eliminated far too high a proportion of the TIE fighters- committing them to battle in an environment like this was just butchery, Themion thought, a waste; official doctrine, though.
Irreversible had had a couple of turrets detonate, hit by the flare; some of the embedded submunitions looked as if they had cooked off, and the battlecruiser was burning.

Two more ships came through; one the equal in size of any they had seen yet, one which- well, they have some sense at least, Themion noticed, as it, looking hardly military at all- greyer and blockier, some kind of stores ship or armed merchant- emerged, scanned, flipped end for end and dived back down the wormhole pursued by a green curtain of light.
So at least one ship had observed what was going on. They were not devoid of sense. Did they separate something just before re- entering the wormhole, a spy-boat or a courier? Possibly.

The new large target turned on Irreversible, and most of the rest seemed to follow, or at least to parallel- that would make it the likely flagship, then, Themion thought.
There were a set of flares on the bridge shields, and he felt a pressure around the stomach- one of the marines picking him up and physically throwing him in the direction of the turbolift.

The large target, as befitted a flagship, seemed to know what they were doing, spraying fire at the Imperial flag- more torpedoes, as if by reflex, they must know they were of little use. They were firing everything anyway.
Themion, protesting, was bundled into the lift- standing orders- as the large contact, the Gloria Draconis, moved towards the largest enemy that they could see.

At last, and by the simple expedient of signalling ‘follow me’, the forces of the IoM had managed to organise something effective- damned overreacting marine, now above all he needed to be up there, pitch nose down so the bridge structure was no longer obvious, that was all that needed to be done.

Actually, what really needed to be done was to wait for reinforcements.
Gloria Draconis, leading the charge towards the strongest of the enemy vessels while the most damaged ships broke out in the direction of the weakest, found herself surrounded by four brilliant blue spirals of light, which resolved into warcraft.
401st Battlecruiser squadron, recently re-equipped from Praetor medium hunter-killer battlecruisers to Bellator heavy fleet wing, waded in almost instantly, shooting at everything they didn’t recognise as Imperial.

Well, not belonging to the Galactic Empire anyway- the closest large target was Gloria Draconis, which was converged on by four heavy warships. Almost up to the same firepower standard as the officially battleship Defensors, they carried a surprisingly old school mixed battery arrangement, the different rates of fire essentially enforced a rolling barrage.
Which was just the trick for knocking down multiple layers of void shield.
Gloria Draconis’ main batteries described an arc of light, sweeping from the Torchbearer to meet the Bellators, but too late, as four rolling waves of green light sliced into the Retribution-class battleship.

The old monster had significant damage tolerance, could take a pounding comparable with it’s size even if it couldn’t give one. Admiral Ney had time to give the order to scatter, to run back to the wormhole if they could or fade out for the warp if not, before the shields failed and the millennia-old battleship was torn to shreds by four battlecruisers fresh from working up.

The rest was coda. Some fled in translight, some fled back through the wormhole, many fought and died. One large ship, slab-sided and deeply armoured, charged the flagship of the 401st trying to draw attention, buy time for the rest to escape.
Same double-headed eagle insignia as all the rest, this one carrying the additional emblem of the eagle holing a sword and shield in it’s claws, the ship generally painted black with a few highlights; it moved slowly, picked it’s target then fired off everything it could- was that not the ship that had been ionised by the deep field group?

If it was, they were flying on manual, with unpowered instruments- to carry on, to throw themselves into this maelstrom without as much as a working sensor, weapons and engines all in local control, was dedication beyond sanity.
The battle barge Limitanei did at least succeed in drawing fire away from the rest of the battlegroup; the 401st and Torchbearer all combined fire on her, but it was like blowing through a solid lump of durasteel- pounding work, trying to batter the thing to the point where it stopped fighting back.
Well armed, too, railcannon of some kind- one of the escorting destroyers took a shot through the main reactor vessel. Destroyed.

The Deathwatch battle barge died fighting, and died hard. The marines had finally let Themion back onto his command bridge; at he looked at the molten, tumbling wreck, the ironic thought occurred to him that there was probably money to be made in the scrap metal trade. The intelligence services would be happy too, so much to pore over and sift through.
No doubt, they would have a great deal to ask of him. Somehow, he felt utterly unconcerned about that. For the first time, he felt that he had earned his rank.

There had been leakers, some of their ships including one of the very largest had weathered the storm and escaped deeper into Imperial space. A plan- move in closer, they had lost too many TIEs for forward interdiction. Two point, two poles, leave one ship running free to intercept the emergents.

Establish a repair base at the wormhole station, send Irreversible there- probably a constructive total loss but they had to try.
The 401st, keep them on station for now- scatter the squadron’s corvettes and hyper capable small craft, create a boundary, try to pick up the leakers. Use the heavy battlecruisers as chase element, if necessary, if not prepare them to follow through and reinforce Deep Field Recon.
There would be repercussions, kriff there would be analysis pieces being written on this action for years. Let it happen.

Tentatively, half blinded by the clear and quiet light, the astropaths and navigators called out to each other. Calling the roll, checking who was alive and who was dead.
Admiral Rhodryk Ney had died when the Gloria Draconis was coned and melted down by the 401st BCS, there were no navy officers of flag rank left. The most senior survivor was the flag captain of the Tantadem.

Of the inquisitors- Kuroda was dead and damned, Hernan-Gellmann was in a coma; as powerfully psychic as he was the transition had dealt harshly with him. Tamborini had tried to escape from the dissolving Retribution class battleship and been evaporated himself by one blast wave or other.
Shuvalov may be a prisoner but was certainly not in contact, Iaeialeia’a had died doing damage to the forces of the Imperium.
Chiang still existed, and he was ranting, the only other survivor was Vail, whose yacht was around here somewhere, running silent.

Of the ships, all scattering in different directions and fading like stars at morning, Sinus Iridium was severely damaged, Tantadem not much better, Kastaghan and Limitanei dead on the field- structurally there but unable to move.
Mangala Vallis, the sinister Destined Necessity, and Buccaneer were more or less operational, but the nova cannon ships had been converged on and pounded in preference to any other target.
There had been small victories, too; one enemy ship damaged and burning, one rammed by the light cruiser Awantibo and apparently destroyed, and whatever damage the Limitanei had inflicted.

A strategic victory? Hard to say, hard to call the death of so many servants of the Imperium any kind of victory at all- where had it left them? Here alone, in this thin, fragile warp that starved a being’s soul?
What could they hope to do, turn pirate? What was there to gain, what was there to do except fight and die and hope to leave some kind of mark on the enemy?

Apparently, there were native psykers. At the very least, one. One at the heart of the galaxy, as if in parody- the navigator’s apprentice on the Indifundibulum was the first to go mad, bashing his brains out against a bulkhead screaming of the Black Astronomican. He would not be the last.

From the diaries of Commissar Cain;
Well, after that there was relatively little doubt who was going to be the man on the spot. I just hoped it wasn’t the spot at the centre of whatever the xenos used as a gunsight.
Hardly anyone else in the force had any diplomatic experience at all- neither had I, really, considering that the only time I managed to get involved in diplomacy it turned into a genestealer hunt- but I was the fool who had opened his mouth.
No two officers from any one regiment, that was Stone’s decision, so I could have Jurgen to cover my back (despite the problems I expected that to cause) but not Kasteen, whose instincts I trusted.

I was there when the call came in, a signal from the enemy force- a voxcoded voice speaking toneless, received-pronunciation Gothic at nineteen million leagues an hour.
It took me back to my childhood, listening to the ‘street auctioneers’ on one or other shady corner selling something that needed to be got rid of toot sweet because it had fallen off the back of an up-hiver. I suppose I could have ended up doing that myself if I hadn’t found my way into the service of the Emperor. I wonder if he was as surprised as I was?

Hardly anyone else could make out more than one word in two; the navy were hopeless, the marines- well, the mind boggled at sending the Deathwatch to talk to xenos. Letting their first real face to face with the Imperium be through the Lions of Caledon didn’t exactly score highly on the commonsenseometer either. A device which does not actually exist, and if it ever does will certainly not have been perpetrated by the cogboys of the adeptus mechanicus.
Of the rest of the Guard, the 405th Trans-Arcturian Rifles were hivers, mostly leg infantry, but they spoke a bizarre patois of their own, only the officers could understand gothic.

The hard core of the first brigade had the opposite problem, they were from a hive world too but most of them spoke a dialect of high gothic so rarefied it needed a spacesuit- the 307,954th Ganymedan Armoured.
They could see Holy Terra with the naked eye from where they were, and it showed, arrogant as they were. We couldn’t make head or tail of them, but they hardly lowered themselves to talk to us anyway so that was less of a problem than it could have been.
We already needed translators for half our own regiments, never mind guard to navy to mechanicus to astartes, so in theory the xenos should just have been a minor hiccup.

I really should have kept my mouth shut. And if I had said nothing all the times I should have, I’d be one snip removed from a sister of silence. As the gabble came through, most of us didn’t think it was gothic at all; familiar sound but making no words, a rush of noise.
‘Pah, foul Xenos! They babble at us in their own graceless tongue.’ Was the general response.
‘No, they don’t, it’s gothic. They’re babbling, but it’s gothic. Something about the fifth rock, meeting, trade and friendship, I can make out most of it. Not diplomatic language, not flowery enough.’ And everyone on the bridge was looking at me.

Both sides agreed to an armed standoff, our battlegroup to park itself at some special point behind the planet and a damned long way away, theirs to park themselves in front of it and just as far.
Giving the advantage to them, if they could move faster than we can, and I got the impression that whoever we were talking to was aware of that and wanted to see what we thought about it.
Not a lot, truth be told. The navy wanted point blank, the xenos agreed to it so casually the navy promptly changed it’s mind again, decided they were trying to bluff us, and succumbed to a fit of paranoia.

The admech, just to annoy everybody, agreed on the Imperium’s behalf- and did so in binary, which was probably unwise as they got back a long stream of burble that they mostly sat back and went glassy- eyed over.
The outsiders had chosen a place that it wouldn’t take us long to get to- and while our amateur xenologists thought about it all, I tried to put the picture together for myself and got nowhere.

On the planet;
‘Well, the garrison base is up, hardly friendly but it was all we could do in the time.’ Lennart said, yet again wondering if being here was all that bright an idea. On balance, this was the point of maximum decision, but he felt distinctly uneasy about leaving the ship. ‘It could take us fifty years and fifty billion dead to find out what we want to know by assault and interrogation, a simple face to face across a table could prevent all of that.’ He added, trying to convince himself.
‘Could also cost them fifty quadrillion if we find out how to deal with them and their Force. If they have any sense of duty to their civilisation, they’ll tell us nothing except at needle-point.’ Brenn disagreed.

‘That puts a whole new construction on that word, thank you very much.’ Lennart said. ‘I’ll never be able to think of Aleph-3 doing embroidery without wincing, now.’
‘You know that’s how she usually does it anyway.’ Brenn pointed out. ‘This is just both sides temporising, trying to put off the moment. At least we have that much in common, but you know we’re not going to be able to pretend to be peaceful for long, some idiot’s going to start shooting.’

Lennart could see where he was coming from- but had to fight down a flash of temper, they seemed to be coming thick and fast these days. ‘So work backwards. Why do I think this is worth it?’
‘Partly, the Force. I’m not saying it’s affecting your judgement-‘
‘It is, but I can still hold it back.’ Lennart interrupted. ‘Go on.’

‘That’s our time limit. We can function here, but not easily and not indefinitely, and there are other ships and other units which are going to be decisively more vulnerable.
You’re choosing to gamble that we might be able to con or ooze the locals out of information and equipment that would make our survival here easier- and possibly, ultimately, conquest. And that they aren’t going to be fast enough on the uptake to realise that any peaceful exchange makes war easier once things go sour.’ Brenn suggested.

‘Or they expect to get more out of us than we get from them.’ Lennart acknowledged. ‘The blocking group can do naked force, Themion ought to be good at that, we get the fun job of challenging their subtlety. Seeing how well they lie and cheat. I offered them the chance to match wits with us and they seem to have risen to that.’
‘And how good a job are you going to be able to do with the force nibbling at your hindbrain?’ Brenn challenged, directly.
‘That’s part of what I want to find out.’ Lennart said, choosing to keep his temper. ‘You want the job, don’t you?’

‘It makes more sense.’ Brenn gave his opinion. ‘I can do the diplomacy, sham or otherwise, but more importantly the rest of the strike group don’t answer to me. The force will be nibbling away at their sanity too- you need to be there keeping them balanced and in check, not at arms’ length away from whatever the locals send.’
‘I wonder- you’re right, in theory.’ Lennart admitted. ‘It is the force. It makes you want to matter. I wish the jedi hadn’t been so heavily classified- I’d love to know how much of their training revolved around teaching the youngling to resist the impulses of the force.

Sorry, digressing. In fact, thinking about it, how does this sound- I do the first session, the one where we’re all feeling our way. I want to do this because I want that first hand, eyeball to eyeball impression- I need the context to think about what happens after that.
You can take over from there- if they’re anything like us, if the normal rules of organisational ossification apply, the man at the top is the figurehead and the reaper of benefits, the exploiter of the underlings who do all the actual work.’
Brenn started nodding, then realised he was talking to his commanding officer.

Lennart grinned briefly, then carried on, ‘Of course they might do things differently, but we don’t know, it all depends on their sense of time and order which are things we need to know about anyway.
I do the ceremonial-figurehead part then leave the nuts and bolts to you, and- smell something?’
‘Hm?’ Brenn looked surprised.

The standard garrison base was, as had been all too often proven, not impenetrable. Modular, prefabricated reinforced duracrete, it was heavily resistant to all surface combat weapons and most fighter weapons, mounted it’s own antivehicle and antifighter weapons in the usual template, and had garage and hangar space for a mechanised batallion and a fighter squadron.
It had a theoretically good sensor fit for direct and remote surveillance, but it was line grade, commando-type sneakies could get in and out fairly easily. Native- or alien- sneakies?

Whoever it was, it was someone with a much better intel and much faster response time than the locals, and that meant- ‘Third party.’ Lennart meant to draw his sidearm- knowing that he was in danger of blowing his own toes off, found that he had reached for his lightsabre instead. Instinct? He had no martial instinct, not up close and personal.
He wasn’t smelling smell, he was scenting the Force- or at least the local equivalent. Synaesthesia. In those terms it made a little more sense. Good work, brain, he thought.

Who else was here? He was afraid to use the abilities this universe suggested to him- if between so many sides some better balance was possible, well and good, but it probably wasn’t. One or other would reach out to claim him, or try to.
Possibilities were suggesting themselves, some glowingly destructive- no, he thought, that simply isn’t me, even if I can throw lightning bolts potent enough to sinter the side of a medium-weight hill, I can’t imagine myself doing that. I don’t give a kriff who or what else can, it just isn’t me. (There was a red and brass intruder-thought again, claiming to despise sorcery, to be able to show him how to be strong against it…that was a temptation, but no, not at that price.)

Countermoves, learning how to oppose that, I need to learn how to do- experimenting is going to be painful, he realised. Blocking and suppressing the force, using it- after, always after, never let it get ahead of your thought processes.
Kriff, I am turning into a light sider, he thought. Use the force for knowledge and defence, never for attack? Isn’t that straight up jedi order doctrine?
Better than falling to whatever lives around here, anyway, he thought.

Judiciously, he chose to sniff; cautious, ready to draw back. Brenn, of course, with his midi count in the 400’s and possibly a force user in his own right here and now, and…I am doing him no favours by holding him back, he thought, he deserves his own slot, his own command.
The troopers, manning the base and the detachment of his own legion- and he felt justified in thinking that, looking at the disparity of mind, as different as a stagnant pond and a rushing stream.

I have warped their minds, he realised, and in a generally good way- removing some of the load, unburdening them and letting them open up. The sensor and survey team, the boarding-batallion company, and the teams from special ops- including, inevitably, 17- Blue as well as 2- Red and 1- Black, minelaying.
Do I want them close by to support and guide- and 17-Aleph-1, who had army captain’s rank as a spec ops specialist and was nominally in charge of the combat-scout elements of the detachment, was not a fool, may be a marginal sensitive himself, apart from the obvious.

What did she smell like? Lennart wondered, and put his mental nose to her. Confusing; kaleidoscopic, potpourri. A confusion of confusions, identities and perspectives dancing around each other like a small solar system- functional multiple personality disorder, all of them beholden and dancing to the glowing sun of her sense of duty.
In a peculiar way, she was almost perfectly honest, acted according to the lights of each of her as the individual little bundles of meaning and knowledge saw fit- and this was nothing more than voyeurism.

Abuse of the force for personal ends; point to the dark side, he thought- and minus several million for good sense through not looking for the stray other presence. Focus, kriffit.
There was something out there- where? Near, worryingly near, or was that not real proximity? Did someone you were thinking of- and vice versa- appear larger in the mind’s sinuses?
If so, then they were trying to read him.

Also, they were within the base at least, and using the force to be so.
Insofar as he could follow it, their technique was far from perfect, it was a dignified, strangely gentle reluctance to get involved with- her?- surroundings, a ghosting through like something departing.
Aren’t they supposed to blend in, identify with the environment? Become the ground, the walls- do the exact opposite? Whoever they were, they were noticeable by their silence- a good listener, but broadcasting nothing.

I’ve just gone and made myself painfully obvious, too, Lennart realised- no control at this level of power. Little conscious control at any level, even the quietness of the Empire.
‘Scanners go active, anti-infiltration units to full alert. We’ve got intruders. Stun them if you can, but take no chances.’
‘Acknowledge, we-‘ there was a crackle of blaster fire, a few hisses, a strange surge of mind- psychic decoy, Lennart guessed. ‘We see them, they’re retreating-‘

‘Team 17- Blue close on main conference room.’ Lennart snapped, out of format as an order but intelligible enough. They might be able to cope with the alien psychic, but-
what was their plan? Assassination, hope to drive away the unfamiliar by killing off it’s emissaries? No, the mind he had touched wouldn’t be that daft. Might come to that as an eventual conclusion, there were hard patches in there, but not without thought.
If this xeno- this alien, where had that word come from?- was listening in to him, trying to get a sense of him before making contact, then he could flush it out of cover by shouting at it. No, her.

Lennart chose to relive a moment of grief and loss, the death of a woman who had meant a great deal to him, and he to her, although he hadn’t known it at the time. The extinction of a future- the end of an identity and a branch of possibility, a promise shattered.
Nothing out of the ordinary, alas, just his share of the misery that fell to everyone sooner or later. No potent thing in itself, to anyone not involved, but amplified through the power of the here-and-now Force-
He broadcast that back down their tentative contact, there was a scream that trailed off into a whimper, a howl of fear and surprise and a crackle of blaster fire.

There was a flash of feedback, a surge of pain and loss for the suicide of a species and the long slow death following the act, the grief and misery of being plunged into a colder, darker universe- a triggered memory.
Lennart’s legs folded up under him, he sat down on the deck with a bruising thud, Brenn had to help him and hold him up. He would have sliced his own eyebrows off with the sabre if it had been active.
Was that favour for favour, was she still there? No. ‘Fifteen neutralised, six of them wounded, two of our own.’ Aleph- 1 reported.

‘They seemed more dangerous than that.’ Lennart said.
‘Overconfidence and shock. They seemed traumatised by something- that and they were light, flashy close quarters troops. I don’t understand their load, what sort of mission it implies.’ Aleph- 1 reported. Their bizarre self-illuminating colour- scattering kit, it could hardly be called camouflage unless they were intended to fight in nightclubs exclusively, made no sense.
Maybe they were; most of them were carrying vibroswords or something like. They had been literally blindingly fast- but antiflare and pattern fire from heavy rifles did the job anyway.

‘Get one of the demo teams in to do a sweep, get them up to the ship, strip them, analyse them and their gear and hold them in solitary. They’re not entirely human, are they?’
‘Similar body plan but different in the details, Commodore. Smell very different. Kit’s different in style from the locals we know about. Are you sure you won’t need us more here, sir?’ Aleph-1 added, objecting to being sent away.
‘Very well, let Indigo-9 take them. Investigate, not interrogate.’ Lennart decided. ‘We could use another point of view.’

"I beseech thee, In the bowels of God, think it possible that you might be wrong."
-Oliver Cromwell to Parliament, 1647
"It is good to keep an open mind; but not so open that your brains fall out." Attributed to James Oberg

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-06 12:34pm
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Eldar Harlequins? I suppose it makes sense, but I wonder how they got there, on a rock that's as cold and blasted as they come. Hidden webway gates make the most sense. And yes, they do have an almost fantastically ridiculous set of weapons, don't they?

The Mechanicus making their own little first contact via the sacred language of Binary is a pretty nice touch in my opinion. Poor Cain, he might want to look into that New Tanith officer maybe. Someone he's at least met.

Battlebarges die slowly, wherever you may find them. And I can't say if he's doing a good job or not, but Themion will probably get at least a good hearing if the inquiry isn't waited too heavily against him. No major errors, but he's not made any really smart moves either. It does bear out the calling for reinforcements being the correct move at the time however.

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 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-06 01:57pm
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It was a little confusing when Themion was grabbed by the Marines. I wasn't sure if that was IOM or Impies side for a moment.

And I'm hoping Amberly was the one who sumersaulted back thru the wormhole.

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 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-06 02:08pm
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Hooray for the Bellators. Another great post.

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A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-06 07:16pm
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The webway gate- I presume that Eldar farsight isn't one hundred percent accurate. They will have the usual, inevitable problems of guesswork compounding on guesswork, lack of time to fill in the details, wishful thinking- of optimistic and pessimistic flavours, as well as more local factors like the perils of the warp, human and other psykers trying to mislead them- or detect them and hunt them down.

Putting a webway gate on an unremarkable, overlookable rock in a system that later turned into an Imperial naval base seems like a good move, establish a watching point and error-check the predictions against reality from time to time. This business was an unforeseen bonus.

I can never look at the Harlequins' load without thinking two things; "All right, you're a blur. Is that blur bigger than the burst radius of a mortar round?" and "Look, they run around trying to stab people with fishing lines, how sensible can they be?" Pity the poor Farseer who got to take them along as escort. They got her in, but...

Amberley's actions in this are rather important. To be honest I think Ciaphas rather undersells her; not that he means to, but most of her action happens off camera, but we know that she is rated highly enough by her peers to be officially trusted with bringing down a renegade inquisitor. There has to be quite a lot of steel to her, and I wonder if she isn't as self- deprecating and prone to hide behind masks as he is.

When her rogue trader friend Orelius' ship Lucre Foedus, with her yacht on board, passed through the wormhole, between them they worked out that it was at best a pyrrhic victory and at worst a bloodbath.
She sent the Lucre Foedus back through the wormhole to the units of the force still there, with a warrant in her name countermanding Kuroda's instructions, and took her own yacht further on, jumping into the warp- such as it is on that side of the wormhole- and intending to push further into the Galactic Empire.

So, as will become obvious soon, there are units of the task force still on the IoM side, and whatever negociations there are are only going to last as long as it takes word to come back from the mouth of the wormhole to Port Alcaris. Just for reference, SpecOps teams Black-1 and Red-2 are protonic and seismic demolition specialists.

Themion nearly being kidnapped off his bridge by his own security detail is just something that occurred to me; if the bridge shields go down, evacuate the command personnel, as a standing order. It doesn't work, becuase by definition it removes the command of the ship at a critical moment, earlier than would otherwise be the case, and probably does more harm than good. It would have been rescinded, certainly by the time of Endor.

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"It is good to keep an open mind; but not so open that your brains fall out." Attributed to James Oberg

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-06 08:34pm
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Am I safe to assume that the Black Astronomican is Vader? :) Will he make an appearance? Will Palpatine send him to find out the cause for the disturbance in the Force as I assume that the battle caused? :)


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 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-06 08:38pm
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Far more likely that the black Astronomicon is Palpatine. He spends his time meditating on the Force, sleeps for only a couple of hours a day, and generally wraps the entire galaxy in the dark side.

Vader is far more self contained-you can't see him until he's close, but he has a bit more strength overall even if he is crippled so he can't actually bring much of his power to bear.

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 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-06 10:06pm
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ECR- nice update. In this version of events, is Lennart's force-user status officially sanctioned? Who would have approved him as a unaffiliated (ie non-outright darksider) force-user and does he have to report to a 'higher up' force-user in some manner?

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-06 10:20pm
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I'm with Vehrec on this one it's gotta be Palpantine. Good chapter ECR I shudder to think of what the Empire could use those Nova cannon for and if they can figure out void shielding... The Rebels are even more fucked!


"Our Country won't go on forever, if we stay soft as we are now. There won't be any AMERICA because some foreign soldier will invade us and take our women and breed a hardier race!"

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-06 10:53pm
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Astronomicon has gotta be Palpatine. He's the AWACS, and Vader's the F-15. Now-dead Inquisitor Vehrec (did I remember his name?) and his ilk are WWII Brewster Buffalos by comparison.

The only people who were safe were the legion; after one of their AT-ATs got painted dayglo pink with scarlet go faster stripes, they identified the perpetrators and exacted revenge. - Eleventh Century Remnant

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"Yeah, well, fuck them. I never said I liked the Moros." - Shroom Man 777

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-07 06:10pm
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The black astronomicon (sp?)- the dark shadow at the heart of the galaxy would be Palpatine, who will be most interested in this turn of events.

Essentially, as far as this fits into my continuity at all, it occurs sometime after the refit, and in something of an attempt to sweep the whole business under the carpet, Black Prince and her commander got shunted off to the rishi maze to act as base defence and hypothetical scout element for a wild- ass, blue sky project that wasn't really expected to achieve anything within the century.

Oops. I know- we are clearly into the realm of utter fantasy here; inter-universal bridges are a minor matter, positively realistic compared to the idea of any defence or defence funded project coming in ahead of time and under budget.

Officially, Jorian Lennart was a recruitment possibility for the dark side; an agent of said dark side turned up, tried to recruit him, and was killed rather explosively. Something else will have happened- that's a story I need to tell in the other thread- but I think you can assume that he is officially affiliated to the dark side, having apparently done what dark siders are supposed to do and rebelled against his master, and in record time too :lol:

Putting the books and the comics and all the rest together, Palpatine seems to be running something of a mad-dog strategy, using a broad spread of different management techniques and showing enough different faces to prevent his minions knowing what to expect next. Some he manages intensively, some he gives enough rope to to hang themselves.

Said agent of the dark side was Special Assistant to the Privy Council, Kor Alric Adannan- NOT Air Commodore Konstantin Vehrec, who is busy retraining and reorganisng the fighter fores of his sector, and whose midi count is low enough to stay out of that kind of trouble.

The Alliance to Restore the Republic I was essentially writing off as an irrelevance to this tale, but this is their teritory, waytohellandgone in the back end of nowhere, and I suppose there is a measurable chance that a stray Cobra or Sword- or, Force forbid, Astartes Gladius- might blunder into an Alliance outpost.

That really would not constitute a meeting of minds, would it? Athough the rebel intelligence reports afterwards would make interesting reading.

"I beseech thee, In the bowels of God, think it possible that you might be wrong."
-Oliver Cromwell to Parliament, 1647
"It is good to keep an open mind; but not so open that your brains fall out." Attributed to James Oberg

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-09 01:30pm
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How will the Tau react on a AT-AT's?
They have mechs. :twisted:

Nothing like the present.

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-21 08:56pm
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Relatively short this time, because, frankly, I'm wound up to high doh at the moment and don't have the peace of mind to write much. 2009 has been a year of malfunctions so far, car, computer, household appliances, a swarm of breakages and failures. I feel on a permanent caffeine jitter, waiting for the other- or the next three or four- shoes to drop. It's not mcuh more than a bridging segment, even if an important one.

The Tau may not make it to the party; consider time and distance. I've glossed a few things so far, assuming the Lucre Foedus made it home, made it to someone capable of analysing and making sense of what she had come across and putting a battlegroup together with almost indecent haste- an extraordinarily fast performance for the Imperium; but now, even if we're not in minute to minute, certainly hours count.
A message drone from Admiral Themion on Torchbearer can pass through and reach Lennart long before the survivors from Imperium Task Force Wormhole make it back to Alcaris, maybe a minute for the drone, two to three days with usual warp variances for the IoM; astropathic message...roll the dice. Could be there already, could echo the wrong way and take years. Probably hours.

The Tau would be lucky to get a task force there in under a year, and that's once they become aware of it. They're hopelessly far behind the pace of this. How the AdMech are going to react is reather more important; without concern for the wider implications, as you can see.

A Squelch of Empires ch 9

From the diaries of Commissar Cain

What I wanted was a Warlord Titan to hide behind. I had to settle for a cup of tanna.
‘Here you are, Sir.’ Jurgen handed me the bowl which I drained in one gulp. The barren rock we were standing on looked just like any other forsaken wasteland to me, apart from the small problem that it wasn’t supposed to have an atmosphere.
The navy and the mechanicus were doing cartwheels over trying to explain how a dead rock had acquired air on less than twenty-four hours notice, and throwing big words at each other, I was more worried about the instant xenos fort.

Granted that they were probably connected, and that the air vanishing as suddenly as it arrived would be a death warrant for most of the light infantry; what was do do about it?
Invite them aboard one of our ships instead- well, that might work, if the navy had been willing to take that chance. Go aboard theirs- good, if they had been willing to take the chance. Trust to biowar kit and pray, was what most people seemed to be doing.

We were all standing on the cleared, mirror-smooth rock around their fort, in front of what looked like the main entrance, wondering whether to go in or not; it was basically a pyramid- I wasn’t the only one who went weak at the knees at that sight- inside high square walls.
Looked like they were made out of rock, but there was one shinier expanse that must have been some kind of gate, turrets on each side; well, whatever was going to happen, it would keep the morale of the troops up- it badly needed some help after that firepower show- it we did it with style.

I strode up to the huge, sloping gates, followed by Jurgen, the guns on the wall tracking us- which wasn’t really a surprise considering what Jurgen usually looks like- and knocked.
There was a long pause and then they slid open, soundlessly and as smooth as you like, opening on to a courtyard and something standing there, roughly Warhound height.
Their equivalent of a Titan, I guessed; quadrupedal and boxy, with a head like some kind of animal. Apart from the guns. Flat sided and- it actually took me a second to figure out what was wrong with it.

No insignia, no scrollwork, no brass and gold, no heraldry. As plain and drab as a munitorum standard lasgun, and as grey and angular as a munitorum standard ration bar. Probably about as edible.
It was designed for some kind of animalistic style, I decided; fear effect as much as actual practical use. Looking around, no-one visible- evidently they were no more certain what was going to come through the gate than we were about what was on the other side. Hoping the gesture was somehow universal, I put out my hand towards it to shake.

Give them their due, whoever they were, they had a sense of humour. The animal-walker leaned back and shuffled it’s feet slightly, lifted one huge, round adamantine forepaw off the ground, looked down at it quizzically; flexed it’s toes, swayed and creaked as it held out it’s “hand.”
The delegation behind me were unreadable, some recoiling in horror, others pressing forward to get a closer look; not exactly in the best of order.

Ahead of us, behind the thing, there were gates in the face of the pyramid- and a smaller door set into the larger, there was a group of people there. Well, they looked like people anyway.
I know better than to trust first appearances, but they looked more like us than some of us did. Same shape, same range of height- much more uniform and much more drab than our trail of guard, astartes, navy, mechanicus.
About two dozen of them; they pulled pyramids out of thin air, they used hound-shaped tanks, and they had something against colour and detail. Not all that much to go on.

The hound put it’s paw down- and I could spot the heads of two more sticking round the sides of the pyramid- and the delegation started moving towards us. Blacks and olive greys, escorted by white armour.
Most of us were in dress uniform, medals and ribbons and all sorts, I was no exception; I did wonder briefly whether to salute with my trusty chainsword, decided it just might possibly get me shot.

They were watching and trying to make sense of us, as we were watching and trying to make sense of them. Half of them seemed to be an escort detail in carapace armour holding unfamiliar, stubby guns, the other half were uniforms- mostly a sort of olive grey.
As we got within face- reading range, I tried to figure out who was deferring to who, spot who was in charge; it seemed to be the tall thin one whose uniform didn’t seem to hang on him properly, and who wasn’t worrying about the men behind him.

He was looking over all of us, looking slightly worried as he tried to figure out who the frak we were; I walked up to them, the rest of the delegation trailing, and introduced myself.
No mean feat; I’ve started ork Waaghs in the face with more confidence. Depending on how things went after this, I could be turning myself into the biggest traitor and bogeyman since Horus, letting xenos from beyond reality run rampant all over the Imperium, or the biggest fool and faintheart since Max von Straab.

With my reputation on the line, feeling like something from comic opera in my longcoat and looking far more like the figurehead of the Imperium than I felt, I really wanted something portentous or at least coherent in return.
I actually got a baffling burst of verbal incontinence- they all spoke hive-kid fast, words tumbling over each other, and their language to each other sounded like it was designed to be spoken like that, a continuous blur of sound.
What did that mean? They didn’t look too different about the mouth and jaw- was it just culture? They talked faster; did they think faster?

‘You would be the negociating delegation?’ I figured out that their leader said, although it came out like ‘ydbthngshdlgn?’ He looked at me figuring it out, with a puzzled expression added ‘rlgnzmplqrt,ey?’
After that I really wasn’t sure if they actually were speaking low gothic, but I decoded it as ‘Our language samples are adequate, weren’t they?’
‘Yes, you just have the tempo- you’re speaking so fast I can hardly understand you.’ I said. Not necessarily a good beginning to understanding. Where did they learn Gothic from, anyway?

‘Good, I thought we might have to resort to charades.’ He said, managing to slow down to a more comprehensible degree- and I could hear Lachlan behind me trying not to laugh. ‘It’s a prefab, we could have run up something more civilian but it wouldn’t have come furnished…’ he waved at the building behind him.
‘Commodore Jorian Lennart, Deep Field Recon, Imperial Starfleet.’ He introduced himself.
‘Commissar Ciaphas Cain, Imperial Guard.’

‘Nomenclature is going to be a problem, isn’t it?’ He said, with a twisted grin that worried me. When it came to dealing with the unknown, the Imperium had sent the best soldiers it had within reach, and me. They had sent a mad conductor. Intelligent enough, but definitely at a slight angle to reality.
I wished Amberley was here, she would comprehend him exactly. Which was worth bearing in mind, he was probably a lot sharper than he seemed. I was also slightly envious that he could get away with a ‘no-technique’ technique, just being himself. I’m not sure I can even remember how to do that.

‘How do you want to go about this?’ he asked.
Now there was a question. Interesting that they even bothered to ask. I decided I had better start thinking of my audience- the numerous and ranking representatives of their arms of the Imperium standing behind me.
‘We are under your guns.’ I reminded him, gesturing at the quadruped quasi-titan. ‘A dangerous gesture to offer to the holy Imperium of Man.’ I said, trying to sound menacing while also trying to convey privately that I didn’t really mean it. Not yet, anyway.

‘And vice versa. Actually, I was afraid that, looking at the sheer bloatedness of your shuttles, we might need combat walkers to get up to your eye level.’ He pointed out.
Some of the mechanicus waved mechadendrites angrily at that, he noticed. ‘Variety- how many separate organisations and factions within your empire do you have here?’
‘Most of them.’ I acknowledged, admitting that there were such things- not that it wasn’t already searingly obvious.

‘You are social animals, yes? Community, group structures, identities, rivalries, in groups and out groups-‘ he said, and watched me closely while he read off the list of possibilities.
I have a good poker face, but he had a better eye; I had the feeling that he was reading my thoughts, watching what I thought as he brought the possibilities up. Was he a psyker? Jurgen was lurking somewhere behind me, it being probably unwise to present him officially. Most of our own delegation had a problem there.
‘Us too.’ He admitted, as if he owed me something in return.

Before I could start introducing them properly, he interrupted with
‘I see that some of them don’t have much truck with the concept of other people’s property.’ One of the younger Mechanicus acolytes was climbing up the leg of the mechanical beast, headed for the pipework- strewn underbelly. ‘Tell him to stop it, would you?’
Oh, frak. What could I do, climb up after him?

‘Oi, cog-heid.’ Lachlan yelled at him. ‘Get doon frae there, ya eejit- time for that later.’
The acolyte twittered something, a stream of high pitched gabble and binary. I wasn’t convinced, if he had the utter lack of sense to pick now for a moment to indulge his technosorcery fetish there was no guarantee that even an Astartes sargeant yelling at him was going to bring him to his senses; Lachlan evidently thought so too, and threw a bolter magazine at him.

It hit the overenthusiastic techpriest on the head, and he fell off, bounced off the armoured foot of the walker. Lachlan picked him up by the ankle and held him upside down while shaking some sense into him; the aliens looking interestedly- some sickened, some fascinated- by the machine parts built into the man, visible from his robe hanging down over his head.
‘Are they all cyborgs, the robed ones?’ the commodore asked, curiously uninflected tone. He was trying to contain his disgust, and thinking almost audibly, they’re different, they don’t do things the way we do, can’t expect the same from them.

Well, tolerance like that should only weaken them, at least that would be the official party line- but without tolerance those arrowheads let loose would be devastating.
How in the holy name to explain something as complicated as the Adeptus Mechanicus, to someone who barely spoke gothic? From his surprise I had the feeling that they didn’t do things the same way at all- which meant that…

I think what happened to me then is generally known as culture shock. I realised that I was standing next to someone who might be just as dangerous as a Power of Chaos in the flesh.
If they were a genuine alternative way of doing things, if they had a workable, livable model of how things could otherwise be and the firepower to back it up, then we were in trouble.

The Eldar, for all their strangeness, were no alternative; they’d imploded. The Necrons don’t seem to have much of an active mental life- they don’t communicate, for a start. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be like them, although looking at the mechanicus, maybe I was being overoptimistic there. And that was a thought I could feel my hindbrain deciding to have nightmares about later on.
There had been Tyranid-worshipping cults, not even genestealer related, idiots who had believed that the great maw would come to free them of their lives of toil, called themselves the Blessed Rapture; I heard this from a colleague in the commissariat on Eligabab who had been part of the expedition to smack some sense into them.

Orks? There were humans who had sold out to the green tide- and been thoroughly stomped on for it, by their new masters and the Imperium as well. Life would be even worse under them, if possible.
The Tau were a problem precisely because they seemed to offer an alternative to the Imperium’s rule of work and pray, pray and work, from now until the end of time; and they were well aware of this and played on it for all it was worth. The truth was much less appealing, but try convincing a bunch of xeno-lovers of that.

Something else, something that promised a life more than just toil and tears in a cause most never saw- no matter how false the promise was- could spread like wildfire.
Most people never understood how much worse the alternatives to the Imperium really were, they just saw the burden, never the point of it all. A New Order might be even more dangerous than the powers of chaos.

I had known this intellectually all along, but standing next to them and looking back at the group of servants of the golden throne with me, I felt myself thinking how desperately strange we all seemed- these beings whom I had known or been round something like almost all my life.

Perhaps the best thing I could do for the Imperium was to take the commodore’s head off, right now, and let negociations collapse. Probably less painful in the long run than being blamed for how things might turn out. One sweeping upward stroke-
I noticed him looking at me as if he was well aware of what had just crossed my mind; further into the hangar, I could make out the dim outline of things pointed at my head. Probably at least another dozen I couldn’t see.
‘You might have a point.’ He said, as if we had both been saying what we were thinking out loud. ‘Just have to see how things go, won’t we?’

As the delegation got themselves in order, the outsiders moved in first and left us standing in the gateway to the inner hangar, giving us a moment to confer.
‘Ma gun’s twitching. There are eldar aboot here somewhere.’ Lachlan whispered to me.
‘How closely were you watching that? I think they might be the least of our concerns.’ I said; while there were a lot of things I didn’t feel comfortable with around the Lions of Caledon, their take on things might just be what we needed.

‘I didn’t understand a word, but they seem to think they have the situation under control.’ Colonel Caffran put in, following us. ‘What do you mean, eldar?’
‘Sanctification’s a no’ canny process, ye can bless an’ bind most things to the glory o’ Man, but when you do a really guid job on wraithbone it tends tae evaporate. One o’ the reasons I hang on tae it, in fact, it tends to twitch whene’er there are pointy-ears aboot. Whit do ye mean, least o’ our concerns?’ Lachan said, wondering where I was going.

‘What can they do?’ Colonel Caffran said, rhetorically. ‘Special ops and assassinations, maybe, but we’re all already on guard against that. All they can really bring to this is secrets and lies.’
‘Which is no different from diplomacy as usual.’ I agreed, based on the last time I had got involved in something like this, and relieved that he was quick enough to pick up on that.
‘So what are we trying to achieve?’ Caffran asked. ‘I don’t recall the admiral being all that distinct about objectives.’

‘Give away as little as possible, and secure as much as possible for the future and the glory of the Imperium, no different from business as usual.’ I said, carefully not being explicit about what kind of business and expecting them to get the hint.
‘Aye, weel, I take your point, but if this is business as usual, ah reckon we’re walkin’ intae a blind canyon an’ about tae get ambushed.’ Lachlan said. ‘Ah suppose this really is the least shite option?’
‘Ask me again in two hours.’ I said, leading the way into the bay.

"I beseech thee, In the bowels of God, think it possible that you might be wrong."
-Oliver Cromwell to Parliament, 1647
"It is good to keep an open mind; but not so open that your brains fall out." Attributed to James Oberg

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-22 12:28pm
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An AT-AT extending a hand! Hilarious!

Can't wait to see how this plays out. I know all about the crush of real life though, so no hurry. But very nice update.

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-22 04:03pm
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A wonderful update, as always.

Whoever says "education does not matter" can try ignorance
A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way. Well, the answer to that is 'survival as what'? A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult! - Chief Judge Haywood

 Post subject: Re: A Squelch of Empires (crossover) PostPosted: 2009-01-22 06:32pm
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fractalsponge1 wrote:
An AT-AT extending a hand! Hilarious!

Can't wait to see how this plays out. I know all about the crush of real life though, so no hurry. But very nice update.
That was not an AT-AT, nor an AT-ST. I think it was some kind of droid?

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