Hey guys and gals, I've been kicking this idea around for a while and Rogue One gave me the push to finally write this story, as always feedback is appreciated.
The Final Voyage of the Rapier
The galaxy was an old place. Over the centuries a thousand civilizations had risen and fallen. Though the infinite wonders and horrors experienced as these people discovered, invented and destroyed in the endless cycle of history shook the very foundations of civilization at the time eventually they, as all things do, faded to the annals of history. As is so often the case history became myth and in time the myth too was lost. On this day a long forgotten myth had returned to bring ruin upon the galaxy. Leviathans of the deep void had come to Helska and only a lone star destroyer stood between this most distant outpost of the empire and complete annihilation.
The Imperial-class Star Destroyer "Rapier" drifted listlessly as flame and precious oxygen was vented into the hard vacuum. In the places were the hull was not open to space it was scorched and pockmarked from the endless battering it had endured. Twisted and ruined metal marred the clean and orderly lines the craftsmen at Kuat drive yards had given it as it was shaped into being. The entire command tower had been ripped away along with its senior officers and its shield generators. The sight of this all dismayed Acting Lieutenant Commander Luke Skywalker as he docked his tie fighter with the rest of the fighter wing in the bay of the Rapier. Or perhaps it was acting commander now. The casualties of the last ten days had been so catastrophic and the temporary promotions so prolific that he wasn't even sure what rank he had anymore these days. The only thing that was sure was that he was the Commander of Air Group by default for as long as he lasted. Outside of that information was limited and frequently wrong. He had no idea what was going on with the attached Ground Forces Brigade they had deployed to the surface or really what the state of the ship was. Maybe though just maybe their latest attempt to break the enemy blockade had been more successful.
Luke grimaced at the thought of the enemy and the hands off nature of the automatic docking system gave him more time than he really wanted to reflect on their situation. They had arrived mere days after the Rapier had taken up its station. Back then he had been nothing more than one among the countless promising graduates of the Imperial Academy. An exceptional pilot and a mediocre officer, he had jumped from sub-lieutenant to what most would consider to be the absolute highest rank he would ever achieve over the course of ten days. There was an old toast for young officers that came to mind "To bloody battles and bloody victories" it went. A sentiment only those who had never been in battle could come up with.
The Empire had certainly been handed its share of bloody battles at Helska. Shipping had suddenly stopped arriving at the same time that communication with the wider galaxy had been shut off. For three days merchants and shuttles had been sent to contact the nearest naval base, before they had returned with help, if they had even made it that far, the enemy had shown its face. What could only be described as a leviathan had appeared from unknown space. It was absolutely enormous, almost a time and a half larger than the Rapier and completely organic, it had been attended by several smaller ships and a significant fighter wing. They called themselves the Yuuzhan Vong in their broadcasted demand for surrender. The blubbering and weak hereditary governor had capitulated immediately leading to the Rapier and the Vong to combat drop troops on top one another at the same time in an attempt to control the capitol. Afterwards the ground forces had been on their own. The only rumors had filtered their way back up to the ship had been of strange and terrible organic monstrosities.
In the last engagement the leviathan and the Rapier had traded blows at close range until finally, the Vong had been forced to retreat. A victory but at great cost Luke thought to himself as he finally exited his Tie-Fighter. "I saw the bridge was gone" He said to the Deck Chief "Is the XO commanding out of the emergency bridge?". The crew chief looked dead on his feet and spared only the briefest of moments for Luke, "Reserve bridge is gone, dunno who is in charge now".
In a move that would have gotten him chewed out at the academy, Luke simply sat down on the floor out of the way of the bustling deck crew and pilots and closed his eyes. He needed a moment to think things through but when he nearly fell asleep the second he sat down he realized that he felt as tired as the Deck Chief looked. He stood up again and began to move to keep from falling asleep. He picked primary damage control as the most likely place to start. It was only at secondary damage control that Luke found a semblance of order. "Who is in charge?" Luke asked.
An Ensign he did not recognized looked at Luke's rank insignia, it seems like your are sir!"
Luke was floored and scared in a brand new way, something that he had thought was no longer possible. He was able to set that aside and hide the shaking in his voice enough that people continued to obey him. "Well...hm, we...well secondary damage control is now the command center. I need a full status update, did we break through the communications jamming?" All the junior officers and enlisted personel looked from one to another, a couple shrugged and shook their heads out of ignorance. "Well check!" Luke exclaimed. A moment later their was a disbelieving gasp as an ensign checked, they had gotten through. "Quick!" Luke shouted "Before we lose this chance! Send this message!". He took a moment to steady himself before saying "This is Acting Commander Luke Skywalker to any nearby Imperial units. The Helska Picket is under heavy assault from an unknown alien species. We cannot withstand another assault. We will defend the planet and the innocents on it to the last man to buy you time to get here." He looked around the word, nobody ever wants to hear the words "Hold to the last man" but no one was really surprised to hear them and it was reflected in their faces. Unprofessionally he added "Help us, you are our only hope!"
Nobody enjoyed being summoned to an emergency meeting, least of all a Lord of the Sith. Vader reflected that while a lowly janitor or storm trooper might not have to deal with the problems discussed at such a meeting, whenever he was summoned the emergency in question was one that only he could handle. Then again, what was life without a few challenges. He had grown tired of chasing rebel ghosts, even the recent battle at Scarif had been a disappointment. Perhaps this would be exciting.
Governor Tarkin's suite on the Death Star was palatial Tarkin enjoyed commanding from it. At least the meeting room was devoid of decorations. It was functional and nothing more. Vader found Tarkin alone waiting for him, he felt the prospects for this meeting go up. Tarkin began immediately upon seeing Vader. "Time is of the essence Vader so I will keep this brief, Admiral Motti will take charge of the interrogation of the Princess and the hunt for the Death Star plans. We are under attack". Though he was hidden behind his mask Vader felt difficulty in hiding his surprise. Tarkin continued without waiting for a response. "We received a distress call from the Helska System. Helska is one of our most distant official outposts". Tarkin keyed the holographic display to play the message. A man clearly too young for the rank he bore across his chest came into view. He was blond with intelligent eyes looked as if they were almost swallowed up by the dark circles around him. He said "This is Acting Commander Luke Skywalker to any nearby Imperial units. The Helska Picket is under heavy assault from an unknown alien species. We cannot withstand another assault. We will defend the planet and the innocents on it to the last man to buy you time to get here." The young officer looked around before adding "Help us, you are our only hope!".
Tarkin shut down the display before the message could repeat. "Luke Skywalker is a recent graduate from the Imperial Academy. If enough of the chain of command has been neutralized to thrust him into command the situation is dire. From the data enclosed we have determined that the enemy they face is indeed a new species of alien. You are to take a task force and demonstrate that the imperial flag flies over all parts of the galaxy, no matter how distant". As Vader turned to leave Tarkin added "Another matter, Skywalker is from Tattoine, intelligence thinks he is a distant relative of the Jedi Anakin Skywalker. We are unsure how he slipped through the nets and into the Imperial Navy, he is to be brought in for questioning".
Vader felt as if the floor had disappeared beneath him. Luke was his son not a distant relative, he didn't understand how it was possible but the force told him with complete certainty that it was true. A thousand memories and emotions from a time long passed flooded through his mind. Rage was an old friend but now he felt...protectiveness? His son, the only thing left of Padme was alive. His son was in danger. HIS SON WAS IN DANGER! Rage, love and fear coalesced into a singular determination, the worthy purpose he had been seeking for twenty years. His son was in danger and he would tear the galaxy asunder before he let his son perish. He turned his head back slightly and said "As you wish" he said with deadly calm. As he left dozens of objects he had not even realized he had been levitating came crashing to the ground.
The engines had come back under rough control allowing the Rapier to maintain its position between Helska and the Vong. Beyond that the situation went down hill. As hours had gone by it was clear that the leviathan had been damaged enough to keep them at bay for a time. Limited rest shifts were put into action. Not everyone was needed to work at every moment because there was little that could be repaired with their mean. Out of the nearly 50,000 officers and enlisted sailors that they had deployed with only a bare handful were left. More than half of the ship compartments had been vented to space and most of the weapons were offline. Fighting on the surface was continuing but from reports it seemed that Imperial forces were holding their own. Major Heskel had taken command and was actually the senior officer in the System but was wise enough to leave command of the ship to the people who knew how to use it. His only orders were to prevent further landings of ground forces at all costs.
It was a task easier said than done. The sensors were trashed so thoroughly that Luke had been forced to post sailors with binoculars around the ship to keep watch while his sole sensor array was focused on the Vong ships. Luke and his ad-hoc command team had come to the conclusion that there was only one way to stop the next attack and it could only be done once. When the leviathan was seen moving, the remaining crew of the Rapier prepared for their last stand with heavy and dutiful hearts.
At secondary damage control Luke gave the necessary orders to set the Rapier underway. He didn't address the crew with an inspiring speech. All knew that they were sacrificing themselves. It suddenly no longer mattered what inspiring words anyone had. They had done their duty to the fullest extent and that knowledge was enough for some. For the others, there was nothing anyone could offer that could satisfy them. Instead Luke ordered that the Imperial Anthem was to be played over the intercom. Luke began to sing the chorus of the Anthem and across the ship the sailors joined him in song. It was more than a song or a pledge of allegiance to these men and women, it was a prayer that held thousands from disparate together. All conflicts were forgotten as the sailors of Empire united for the final voyage of the Rapier.
The Imperial Royal Fleet glided gracefully out hyperspace in perfect formation. With confidence in the Death Star's defenses so high, Vader had been able to take nearly the entire fleet protecting it. 33 Star destroyers and dozens of support ships had been detached for his task. It was a force capable of meeting any challenger to Imperial power.
On the bridge of the Devastator anticipation gripped Darth Vader. It was a great relief when the sensor readings came in. The enemy was moving in for the kill on Helska but the Rapier was still there to meet it despite its damage. "Open a channel to the Rapier" Vader ordered. "Order them to retreat to the protection of the fleet".
A great tension began to release throughout his body until an officer reported "My lord, we cannot reach them! They are still on intercept course with the alien flagship, its possible that they cannot see or hear us!".
Vader almost screamed, he had lost everything before, he would not be denied again, he would not lose his son twice! "Advance with all speed Admiral, if the Rapier is lost then your life is forfeit. Open fire, begin engaging the enemy immediately!"
The admiral whose name Vader had not yet bothered to learn gulped audibly "My lord, the range is far too great, we cannot hit any single target at this great of a range!"
Rather than use the force, Vader picked up the admiral by the throat and roared "FIRE A FULL PATTERN BARRAGE! IF WE CANNOT TARGET DIRECTLY THEN FILL SPACE WITH SO MANY LASERS AND MISSLES THAT THEY CANNOT AVOID THEM!" before tossing him clear across the bridge.
As the distance between the leviathan and the Rapier closed and the star destroyer took increasing damage, Luke saw the most beautiful sight imaginable. With no warning a wall of green fire came screaming out of the void. The smaller Vong ships simply disappeared from existence before their very eyes while the leviathan's shield collapsed entirely. At the same time one of the watchmen assigned with binoculars to a view port came sprinting in with a beet red face. "The Imperial fleet is here, dozens of Star Destroyers, thousands of fighters, we are saved!"
Luke acted quickly, "reduce speed and change course, we are rejoining the fleet!".
A ragged cheer was cut short when a rating reported "They have knocked out the helm, we are stuck on a collision course and still accelerating!"
Looking at the screen Luke could see that they had little time left "Brace for impact!" he commanded. The shaking of the ship subsided as the Vong realized their intent and began to take evasive maneuvers taking their guns out of line. It was not enough, a minute passed, then two. Time began an immeasurably slow crawl.
Then finally the tip of the Rapier pierced the heart of the leviathan. A deafening screech filled the Rapier as metal twisted and warped at the impact. Men and women who were tightly secured with straps were ripped from their seats and crushed into walls and consoles. Luke himself felt as if he was being pulled apart by the forces trying to remove him from his bindings. Larges pieces of the Rapier simply disintegrated from the impact but enough of the super-structure remained intact for the two vessels to become lodged together. Luke did not notice any of this as he blacked out.
As Luke regained consciousness the first thing he noticed was the taste of blood, he had bitten straight though his lip. Then he noticed the pain. He had been dislodged from his crash bindings and was spread eagle on the floor. All the other sailors in Secondary Damage Control were dead. Amongst the bodies were strange, humanoid warriors that could only be the Vong. They were strange beasts with twisted appearances straight out of a nightmare. There were perhaps forty of the hulking aliens packed into the room like so many cords of wood, they were poking and prodding at everything from the dead to the computers. As Luke propped himself up against the console the Vong noticed that they had left a survivor. They hissed and gurgled in their strange language as they menacingly approached him. He braced himself once more for the end but all froze as the lights went out. More hissing and gurgling was cut short by the sound of heavy, mechanical breathing in the dark.
A beam of crimson extended to beat back the darkness. A lone figure clad ebon armor stood in the doorway, towering even over the hulking Vong. It was the legendary Darth Vader. One of the alien warriors screamed and charged only to be cut down by an almost dismissively casual sword stroke. The rest of the dozens of Vong followed suit. The charging hoard broke like water upon a rock as they died at Vader's feet. Then Vader began to advance and the Vong began to die horribly in addition to quickly. They were burned, chopped and broken at various turns. One warrior was thrown up to be impaled by the jagged and broken ceiling. Another was simply pulled in two with Vader's hands. In the end, none could stand against the lord of the Sith. Once the Vong were dead, Vader sheathed his lightsaber and knelt by Luke. He said in his mechanical voice "Son, I am so proud of you. Rest, for I will not let any harm come to you". Luke mind was swimming with questions even as he passed into darkness.
Stay tuned for chapter 2: The Family Name