A Left Turn at Albuquerque

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters that I am about to mangle around for my own amusement – sadly all Robotech and Star Wars characters still belong to Harmony Gold, Disney and Lucasfilm Ltd respectively – I am merely borrowing them and make absolutely no profit from their use. As a result, please keep the legal attack dogs, also known as lawyers, firmly muzzled and on a leash as I have no money to give to anyone.

Chapter Eleven

Independent Freighter Twilight Monsoon

That Same Time

Jordmar Edmodarn felt like he had a few tooka's doing a mating dance in his stomach as he made his way into the aft dorsal cargo bay of his small, now badly battered, freighter. R4 trundled along behind him as they arrived and made their way towards where a small shuttle pod was parked off to one side where while it would be accessible it didn't impact too much on their cargo storage capacity. It wasn't a very big craft, barely big enough for himself, Wevv and R4 to use in instances when they couldn't land the Twilight Monsoon. But it would be more than sufficient to carry him and his astromech over to their first meeting aboard the Tanganyika.

Something that, he had to admit, was filling him with no small amount of both nerves and concern. He knew why as he was very much stepping into the unknown as whatever civilization had built the Tanganyika wasn't one that he had ever seen or heard of before. In fact, given how incredibly powerful they were and how non-standard their technology seemed to be as until today he'd never even heard of space folding let alone experienced it, he doubted anyone in the known galaxy had ever encountered them before. Thus, they were an unknown, a potentially very dangerous one given how easily they'd swatted that Black Sun dreadnought from the stars in a display of destructive power that not even the biggest Imperial warship could match at least not in a single shot.

As he slipped into the pilots seat of the shuttle he mentally told himself that there was nothing to worry about as if the Force had meant for him to join its embrace it wouldn't have sent the Tanganyika to save him and Wevv from Black Sun's not so tender clutches. Yet he couldn't quite make himself believe it as in their current dark side dominated galaxy, from his and Wevv's long association with the late Milo Thrain he wouldn't be at all surprised if their beloved Emperor was either a Sith or some other type of darksider given how cruel and evil the Empire was, it paid to be cautious as the servants of the dark side could sometimes wear the kindest of faces.

Shaking off those thoughts he brought the shuttle to life and then opened a comm link with the cockpit. "Wevv I'm ready to launch, open the cargo bay doors."

"Activating atmospheric containment field, opening bay doors now," Wevv replied from where she'd taken over piloting duties in the cockpit. Through the transparisteel viewport Jordmar saw a light momentarily flicker across the bay doors as a force field activated a second before, with a screeching sound that even through the shuttle fuselage made him wince, the bay doors slowly began to open.

"Oh dear. R4 when we get back, you'll have to check the hydraulics on the bay door," Jordmar said to his faithful astromech, who immediately warbled back an agreement, already beginning to diagnose the problem with the bay doors from the sounds they made as they opened. The problem was probably with the hydraulic pistons that helped the magnetic running strip open and close the doors as his logic circuits indicated that they had, probably due to the Black Sun's V-Wings, been damaged along with a dozen other minor systems all over the ship alongside the major systems of the hyperdrive and port ion engine. Had he been capable of it R4 would have sighed at the amount of work that was ahead of him; he was going to be seriously overworked for a while as it would certainly take weeks to get everything back working harmoniously again especially given how tetchy the engineering computer could be.

Unaware of his astromech's thoughts Jordmar powered up the repulsor lifts and gently guided the shuttle pod out of the cargo bay into open space. A few moments later he brought the ion engine online and began the short voyage to the Tanganyika. As he travelled, he caught a glimpse of his own ship and had to wince as he observed the burned and melted titanium-durasteel hull of the Twilight Monsoon. The Black Sun had really done a number on his ship after they'd collapsed his aft deflector shield though the fact that the damage was mostly confined to the engines was also a testament to the skill of the mercenary pilots as a few centimetres either side and they could have hit the fuel cells blowing the ship to bits. There were few mercenary pilots who could be that accurate with their laser fire. He had to wonder idly if the pilots in question had been Mandalorians; Black Sun was one of the few criminal organisations that had the financial resources to hire them. After a second he shrugged as it was academic anyway given that they were all dead now, reduced to molecular dust along with their fighters after attempting to attack the Tanganyika and, like their mothership did later, getting themselves killed when the alien warship effortlessly swatted them all from the sky.

It was at that moment that he passed his ship, leaving it behind in his ion wake, and the alien warship that had literally pulled his tail out of the fire came into full view. It was a strange design, unlike anything seen in the wider galaxy, looking vaguely like a wine bottle that had been laid on its side and then squashed. A large tri-barrel turret was slung under its nose and a short distance behind it was a boxy hanger bay. Jordmar glanced at his sensors and blinked in shock as he saw the sheer amount of power that she was generating – it was at least as high as an Imperial Star Destroyers however the energy frequency was completely different to anything he'd ever seen in his life before. Whatever it was he would bet good money that the alien power source wasn't hypermatter reactor or a solar ionization reactor – the most common power sources on ships around here – but something else entirely.

He was brought out of his musing on what the alien power source was as the sensors bleeped a second before he noticed the flight bay doors opening. A moment later he was startled when four small fighters – fighters from a ship that couldn't be more than thirty meters longer than a CR90 Corellian corvette, he couldn't help but wonder how they managed to get those in there – emerged and streaked away heading deeper into the system instead of up into a CAP as he would have expected. To his surprise however he quickly discovered that while he could see the fighters with his eyes according to his pods sensors there was literally nothing there. The sensors couldn't even detect the ion particle wake from the fighter's engines, it was as if electronically speaking the fighters just did not exist.

"Okay, that's an impressive stealth system," he commented as the four fighters disappeared off into the distance only the faint blue glow of their thrusters revealing their presence and even that soon disappeared against the darkness of space. A part of him immediately wondered what it would feel like to fly one of those fighters – he hadn't flown a fighter in decades, not since he'd left the Republic Judicial Forces after the Naboo crisis, met Wevv, and bought the light freighter that would ultimately become the Twilight Monsoon - but he soon shrugged off that thought and turned his attention to following the docking instructions that had been sent to him a short time before he'd got into this pod.

Moments later he was passing through a low-power – but still quite effective – force field across the front of the flight bay and was setting down on the deck. As he powered down Jordmar couldn't help but notice that there were another eight fighters in the bay – each in its own cell along the wall with engineers and flight deck crew working on them – and even more held overhead on docking cranes were a pair of what he guessed were shuttlecraft. Yet despite the profusion of small craft present – far more than what should have been possible in a flight bay on a ship this small – the bay appeared to be quite spacious.

"Here we go," he said standing up. A few seconds later he was stepping out of his craft onto the deck and immediately noticed something, the light hitting him didn't feel artificial – though he knew it was – but felt like sunlight. The air was also cleaner and fresher than he would have thought, lacking any of the scents that you would normally get in the recycled atmosphere of a starship. Interesting, he thought as, with R4 trundling along behind him, he walked around to the front of the shuttle.

To find a small welcoming committee waiting for him.

There were five of them all human, or at least a race that was human in appearance, four of whom were wearing some kind of tough-looking metallic body armour. Those four formed two parallel lines and were clearly there to act as an honour guard, the fifth human stood waiting for him at the other end of the lines and as Jordmar approached he made a number of interesting notes. The young woman was tall and very fit looking wearing a tight white and grey uniform that was practically moulded to her very attractive curves, though what was most interesting about her was her hair and eyes as the former was a rich forest green in colour while the latter were lilac – which was more than a bit surprising as he'd never seen a combination like that in a human or near-human race before and he'd met many different races over the years.

The young woman said something as he approached but Jordmar didn't understand what she was saying. The young woman blinked at the look of incomprehension that had to have appeared on his face before seeming to realize something and looking suddenly chagrined. She then held out a hand and handed Jordmar a small piece of what looked like plastic then turned her head so Jordmar could see her right ear, which had an identical piece of plastic behind the ear. Realizing what she wanted him to do Jordmar carefully placed the device there and felt a curious, almost pinching, sensation for a moment as the strip somehow adhered to his skin followed by a momentary wave of dizziness that passed as rapidly as it started.

"You should be able to understand me now," the young woman said.

"Yes," Jordmar replied even as he blinked in surprise at suddenly being able to understand, "what is this?"

"Neural translator patch," the young woman replied, "it accesses the language centres of the brain providing real time translations of our respective languages."

"I take it that your people don't speak galactic basic then," Jordmar answered.

"No, I'm afraid we don't. What you call galactic basic we know as old Tirolian and nobody has spoken that in at least three millennia if not longer."

"You've been out of contact with the rest of the galaxy for that long? Kriff where are you people from?" Jordmar asked startled by the revelation that was almost as shocking as the ease with which this very ship had blown a dreadnought-class heavy cruiser to dust. Though being out of contact so long would certainly explain so much about these people, he thought, especially how different their technology seems to be to the galactic norm.

"Indeed, although I am not currently at liberty to say exactly where we come from. Suffice to say that it is a very long way from here. Forgive me where are my manners? I am Commander Veronica Mars first officer of this ship."

"Captain Jordmar Edmodarn," Jordmar replied, "pleased to meet you Commander Mars. This is my astromech R4-D7." At his introduction the astrodroids gave a polite series of whistles and bleeps giving his own greetings. "He says hello."

"You can understand all those whistles and bleeps?" Veronica asked looking at him in surprise as to her the sounds made by the droid, which looked more like some kind of motorized dustbin than anything else to her eyes, had been meaningless.

"Most career spacers learn to understand binary," Jordmar answered, "at least the simplified version that astrodroids use with us organics."

"I see. If you'll both follow me, please Captain Halsey is eager to meet with you to discuss your requirements."

"No problem but are you sure you'll be able to fabricate the components I need," Jordmar asked.

"Not on this ship no as the Tanganyika is only a Lionfish-class light cruiser our fabricator is limited to small arms, minor replacement parts and missiles for both ourselves and our veritechs but another ship the Agamemnon is on her way to rendezvous with us," Veronica explained, "they should arrive within the hour."

"And they'll be able to fabricate what I need?" Jordmar questioned even as he wondered what she meant by the term veritech as something, the Force or whatever as years of association with Milo before and during the Clone Wars had more than turned him into a believer in the Force, told him that that wasn't the name of those fighters he'd seen launched though it was related to them in some way. Though what that could be he had absolutely no idea.

"The Agamemnon is an Eisenhower-class battleship. There fabricators are more than capable of creating the replacement parts needed to get your ship underway again."

"I see," Jordmar replied even as he inwardly shivered as what the young woman had said about this ship being only a light cruiser finally seemed to register in his mind. If this ship belonged to a type of warship that was universally considered to be a patrol ship/law enforcement craft – that's all the Empire and before it the Republic had used its light cruisers like the Arquitens for – and it had enough firepower to blast a heavy cruiser to dust with a single shot then what kind of firepower would one of these peoples battleships have? He almost didn't want to know.

"Do you have any more questions?"

"Plenty but I will settle for just one more for now. Those fighters you launched where are they heading?"

"Delta flight. They were sent to investigate some anomalous sensor contacts deeper in the system. Now come the captain is waiting for you."

Jordmar nodded his acquiescence, even though he was intensely curious about what the anomalous targets deeper in this system were as to the best of his knowledge there was nothing here… well beyond the occasional pod of purgill moving towards their calving grounds in the nebula. He mentioned for the younger woman to lead on prompting her to turn and start walking away. Jordmar and R4 followed closely with the honour guard/security detachment falling into formation around them.

It was time for him to meet Captain Halsey.

Delta Leader

A Short Time Later

Lieutenant Commander Daniel Holland had a pleased smile on his face as he guided his VFA-6S Alpha fighter towards the anomalous contacts that had teased the Tanganyika's long-range sensors. He was beyond pleased to be back in the cockpit of his fighter – having spent a few days since they'd been transported to this galaxy in sickbay after that disastrous neutron-s missile test left him with a few broken bones after a sudden, rather violent encounter with a bulkhead – as to his mind there was nothing better than being behind the controls of a veritech fighter. Around him three more members of his squadron sat in their respective cockpits all of them speeding towards the contacts.

For what seemed like an age they travelled deeper into the system, their engines spewing streams of superheated ionised particles as they propelled them ever onwards. Daniel didn't mind the quiet as it was something that a veteran combat pilot like himself learned to appreciate when it happened, he didn't even bother to turn on the audio simulators that most pilots used routinely – he really only used them when engaged in combat – thus he could only feel the thrumming power of the engines instead of hearing a rumbling roar. He knew other pilots considered him a bit odd for not having the simulators on continuously but that didn't bother him one bit as he actually took quite a bit of pride in being something of an oddball in that regard.

Unfortunately, a bleep from his screens, indicating that the Alpha's sensors had found something, soon disturbed the blissful silence. Daniel blinked slightly, startled by the sound, before scanning his screens to determine what exactly had been detected while also throttling back to bring the fighter to a relative stop. Despite knowing how fast they'd been travelling he was still somewhat surprised to discover that they had now drawn close enough to the contacts they'd been sent to investigate to get some clear readings on them.

Surprise turned to concern when it was immediately obvious that of the seventeen densely clustered contacts sixteen of them were very clearly military starships – the large numbers of guns lining their hulls made that perfectly obvious. Thankfully the sensors showed that all sixteen warships were to all intents and purposes dead in space; their engines dead and their power emissions virtually zero with what little power they had left seeming coming from secondary generators as the two massive reactors each ship seemed to have were silent and completely cold.

Still he knew to be wary, especially given what the Razors had encountered the last time they'd found seemingly derelict warships in this galaxy.

"Delta Leader to Delta's Three and Four, commence close range scans of the derelict ships but be cautious and watch your backs I don't want any surprises," he ordered into the squadron command frequency even as he flicked on his audio simulators as it wouldn't do to be caught napping by a hostile drone. Two rogers immediately responded over both his helmet speakers and the comm screen before two of the other three Alpha's broke formation and began moving in closer to the warships to run more in-depth scans of them. Daniel meanwhile turned his attention, and his veritech's sensor array, on the object that the sixteen warships seemed to be arraying in a defensive formation around.

He was immediately confused as the object appeared to be nothing more than a large nickel-iron asteroid with an outer crust of a mixture of carbon and silicon. The size was impressive, it was roughly the size asteroid they themselves would look for if they were going to build/grow a factory station or an orbital fortress for planetary defence/security purposes but other than that it was completely unremarkable. Okay why would a bunch of warships be out here protecting a rock like this, he thought with a frown, unless it is more than it appears to be.

He knew only one way to find out if he was right and the asteroid was far more than what it appeared to be. He would need to do an in-depth, high resolution scan something that would both take a few minutes and require him to get a lot closer to the rock in question.

"Delta Leader to Delta Two I need to do a more thorough scan of the asteroid. You're with me," he said into the comm unit.

"Roger that," his wingman responded immediately. Pushing his throttles forward again Daniel brought his engines back out of idle and began a steady – if cautious – approach to the asteroid. Almost immediately a shadow fell across his cockpit as he began to pass underneath one of the seemingly derelict warships guarding the asteroid. Out of curiosity more than anything else Daniel glanced up and noted a few details of the hull as the vessel passed above him. He had to admit that it had an impressive number of weapons systems that were well laid out for both ship-to-ship and anti-fighter combat but now that he really looked at it the ship looked almost skeletal with very little in the way of structural bracing and the hull looked far thinner than it should be on a capital warship – certainly it lacked the meter or so of armour that a robotech warship its size would have – which made him wonder how it could possibly stand up to the rigours of space combat.

After a moment, as the vessel was left behind in his ion wake, he shrugged. It was something for the scientists and engineers to figure out, if they chose to. Putting the matter out of his own mind, it wasn't really any concern of his after all he was only a pilot not an engineer or robotechnologist, he instead focused his attention on just guiding his plane closer to the asteroid.

Within a few seconds the navigation system bleeped informing him that he was now close enough to run the most detailed scans that the Alpha's sensors could run on the asteroid. Once again bringing his craft to a relative halt and began to run the scan. A status bar immediately popping up on his central screen to show the progress of the scan, one that began to slowly creep up as invisible beams of energy reached out from the sensor array buried in the Alpha's nose cone.

"Delta Three to Delta Leader," said the pilot of Delta Three a moment before a new window opened on his central screen and expanded showing an image of the female pilot sitting in the cockpit of her own plane.

"Go ahead," Daniel replied.

"Sir we've completed our scans of two of the closest alien ships. We can confirm that there is very little power being generated which appears to be coming from backup power cells of some type though they are fading presumably the backup power cells are coming close to depletion,"

"If they've been here awhile then that's understandable. Any life form readings?"

"Negative sir, we're not picking up any life signs or indeed any bioreading's whatsoever aboard the ships we've scanned so far. Sir something is really strange with these ships our sensors show that aside from their main reactors being dead – presumably from lack of fuel – these ships are completely intact why would someone leave a fleet this size out here to just decay?"

"You've got me lieutenant," Daniel answered understanding where his colleague was coming from. It really didn't make any sense to abandon perfectly good ships at any time let alone leave them drifting out here in the middle of nowhere. "Compile your scans into a data burst and send it back to the Tanganyika then you and Delta Four start looping around the asteroid. I want to be sure that there's nothing potentially nasty hiding in its sensor shadow."

"Roger that sir."

The other pilot signed off allowing Daniel to turn his attention back to his scan and immediately note that in the time he'd been talking to his subordinate – however brief their conversation had been – the progress bar had risen to the point that indicated that the sensors had actually finished their scan and that the veritech's computer was now compiling and analysing the results. That was quick, he thought before deciding he shouldn't be too surprised as the robotechnologists had had to make numerous changes and upgrades to the Alpha's electronic systems – especially the computer systems – to allow the recent fleet wide shadow technology refit to have taken place. Instead he focused on reading the results as they came up.

What he saw was more than a little surprising.

The first big surprise was the fact that the asteroid was at least partially hollow. A tunnel had been bored into it from the bottom of a deep impact crater on the northern hemisphere of the roughly peanut shaped rock. The tunnel – which had been lined with titanium and that enhanced steel that the people in this galaxy seemed to love to use in spaceship construction – extended nearly twenty kilometres in towards the core of the asteroid where it ended in a very large cavern. The sensors couldn't penetrate far enough in to be certain but given the sensors could detect numerous passages – both horizontal and vertical – that were far too straight to have occurred naturally branching out all around the central cavern Daniel could only conclude that there had to be a base of some kind inside the asteroid.

A base that from its negligible power emissions had to have, like the ships orbiting the asteroid, been mysteriously abandoned and left to rot. This doesn't make any sense, he thought, who would seemingly abandon a perfectly good base and seemingly perfectly good ships out here in the middle of nowhere? It made absolutely no sense to him as he could understand building the base here and leaving a fleet to protect it, they like the Robotech Masters before them did the same thing with factory stations and resupply stations i.e. stationing them in quite out of the way areas while still leaving some ships to protect them. What he could not understand was just abandoning it here as an asteroid base and a fleet this size would constitute a significant commitment of resources for whoever built it/stationed them here. Thus, it made no sense to just abandon everything here.

After a moment he shrugged, it wasn't his job to figure things like that out he just had to report their findings. Which is what he immediately proceeded to do.

UES Tanganyika

A Few Minutes Earlier

For Jordmar the journey through the interior of the Tanganyika was both an interesting and informative experience. The first thing he noticed was that there was an incredible feeling of space aboard the light cruiser, the pale cream coloured composite walls with their silver and blue highlights combined with the synthetic sunlight coming from overhead to give the interior a feeling that the ship was larger than it actually was. The other thing that he couldn't help but notice was how quiet it was as aside from the faint swish of the ventilators and a distant rumbling – that was more felt than heard and which he would put good credits on being the ships main power core – there was none of the sounds that he was used to hearing on a starship. There was none of the humming of electronics, the whirring sound of machinery and the occasional snap of relays opening and closing – the sounds of a ship talking to itself, sounds which to career spacers were as constant and reassuring as their own heartbeat – it was actually quite unnerving.

"Are you alright Captain Edmodarn," Commander Mars asked looking back at him and seeing how uneasy he was.

"I'm fine it's just its quiet," Jordmar hastened to assure her and seeing her unconvinced look he explained further and found himself feeling a little sheepish as he did so, "I'm not used to a ship that's this quiet. Well unless something has gone catastrophically wrong and you've lost all power."

"I understand," Veronica answered as she did understand as when she'd started her career with the Expeditionary Force, she'd served on one of the older Tristar-class cruisers the REF had first brought with them from Earth, which still formed the bulk of the forces assigned to garrison and other second line duties freeing up the newer ships to combat the seemingly endless hoards of the Invid. Those had made far more background sounds than any modern ship – built as they were with the best technology and engineering the Sentinel races, especially her people's creators the Tirolians and the Karbarrans, could provide their Terran saviours with – did. For anyone transferring from those older second generation Terran ships, or even Terran refitted Zentraedi vessels like her father's flagship, to one of the new vessels the change in how the ship sounded and felt could be very jarring to say the least. It had taken her the better part of a weak to learn to sleep properly and not think that something had gone catastrophically wrong with the ship due to the relative lack of background noise when she'd first been posted here.

"You'll get used to it the longer you are here," she advised him with a reassuring smile "until then try not to let it bother you too much."

"I'll do my best."

"That's all anyone can be asked to do. Now come it's not much further."

Jordmar nodded and they began walking again. As they came into yet another area of the vessel, he immediately noticed a slight change in the décor as the blue and silver tones began to make more of an appearance in the colour scheme of the walls as well as a beige colour appearing here and there. He wondered if the changes in the palette of the walls some significance to the crew had, maybe to tell one part of the vessel apart from another as from what he'd seen many of the Tanganyika's corridors looked the same. Thus, it would be very easy to get lost.

They soon came to a large armoured door in the bulkhead that Commander Mars opened by putting her hand on a panel, that glowed beneath her touch, and looking into an eyepiece for a moment. The heavy door opened with only the faintest hum of magnets. Beyond it, guarded by two soldiers who were wearing much heavier armour which paradoxically had wheels of all things on the back and who carried intimidatingly large rifles, was a set of stairs leading to the next deck. Veronica nodded politely to the two soldiers, who parted to let them pass, and led the way up. A faint whooshing behind him let Jordmar know that R4 had deployed his thrusters to follow them up the stairs.

Arriving on the deck Jordmar noticed that the hallway was narrower slightly than elsewhere on the ship. Five doors were present two on the port and starboard side the other at the very end of the corridor. That particular door was being guarded by another of the more heavily armoured soldiers. I wonder what's beyond there, he thought but after a moment decided it was probably something like the bridge as on Republic ships the bridge had always been well guarded. He put it out of his thoughts as Veronica led him to the second door on the port side of the corridor and pressed a hailer on the side. A male voice, muffled to the point that Jordmar couldn't hear it, answered and a moment later the door opened the alien woman stepped through indicating for Jordmar to follow her.

"Sir Captain Edmodarn is here to see you," he heard the woman say to a man who was clearly his opposite number and Jordmar had to work hard not to gasp in surprise as he beheld Captain Halsey for the first time and realized that he was nothing like what he had expected him to be like. He'd been expecting to see someone older instead he got an athletic looking young man who had to be at the most in his very late twenties or early thirties. And now that he thought about it, he hadn't seen anyone on this cruiser who was outside of that age range.

"Thank you, commander," the other man said standing up from behind the desk he'd been sitting at and coming around to greet him, holding out a hand in a gesture that was common in most – if not all – humanoid societies across the galaxy. A nod to Veronica had her leaving the room to return to her duty station on the bridge. "Captain Edmodarn welcome to the Tanganyika. I trust your flight over was comfortable."

"As comfortable as a ride in a cramped shuttle pod can be," Jordmar replied as he took and shook the offered hand. Though I have been in more cramped conditions on spacecraft, he thought remembering, with an inward shiver, how cramped the cockpit of the Z95 Headhunter he'd flown back in his Republic Judicial Forces days had been. In comparison to that the Twilight Monsoon's shuttle pod was practically a palace in terms of space.

"I hear ya," Kaidan replied as they released each other's hands. He gestured for the other man to sit down on the small couch on one side of his ready room, it would be a far more informal place to conduct this first meeting between them than him sitting behind his desk. "Before we begin would you care for a drink? Water, fruit juice?"

"You have anything stronger?" Jordmar asked as after the day he'd had he could really do with a stiff drink.

"Unfortunately, I don't," Kaidan replied, while it wasn't forbidden to carry alcohol on a warship it was frowned upon, thus crews had to make do with fruit juices and flavoured water.

"Water will be fine then," Jordmar answered as he sat down, R4 trundling up beside him. Kaidan nodded and quickly fixed them both a glass of cool water. "Thank you," he said as he took the water off the Terran captain and took a sip, marvelling at not only how cold it was but there was none of the metallic twang that water on a ship invariably picked up from its storage tank.

"Your welcome. Now shall we get down to business?"

"Yes indeed. First let me thank you again for saving us from the Black Sun, they'd have killed us or worse sold us into slavery if you hadn't intervened," Jordmar replied.

"Your welcome and it was no trouble. It's always fun kicking pirate or mercenary butts," Kaidan answered then he shook his head with a rueful smile. "Though if you don't mind me asking why were they bothering you? Our sensors show nothing of value to pirates in your cargo holds."

"They wanted something that a dying friend entrusted to my care decades ago. No doubt Xizor wants to present it to the Emperor as a means of gaining Palpatine's favour." Though if I am right and Palpatine really is a Sith then Xizor is playing a dangerous game trying to get his favour, he thought.


"He's the underlord of the Black Sun. They call him the dark prince but that Falleen bastard is no prince just a jumped-up thug."

"Aren't they always?"

"True. Before we continue is Commander Mars correct in what she says that you won't be able to manufacture the parts I need on this ship," Jordmar asked.

"Indeed, she is though as Veronica no doubt told you another ship will be here soon, and they'll have the ability to manufacture what you need to get your ship mobile again. If you can give us the information, we can convert it into a format that the fabricators on the Agamemnon will be able to understand."

Jordmar nodded. "R4." The astromech bleeped in response and ejected a data card that Jordmar then took and extended to Kaidan. "This data card contains the plans for the engines we need you to manufacture to repair the Twilight Monsoon. Though I have no idea how in the Force's name I'm going to pay you."

"Ambassador Hunter will discuss that particular issue with you when she arrives," Kaidan replied accepting the card which to him felt almost like the floppy discs that his grandfather would have used back on Earth in the days prior to the arrival of the SDF-1 in 1999. Figuring out an interface for this is going to be fun, he thought a moment before the comm came to life.

"Bridge to Captain Halsey."

Now what, Kaidan thought as he went back to his desk and pressed a button on the offending device. "Yes commander?"

"Sorry to disturb you sir but Delta flight has just reported back on the anomalous contacts," Veronica's voice answered.


"They appear to be a number of warships adrift, virtually unpowered but with no apparent damage orbiting an asteroid that seems to have a base inside it," Veronica replied.

"Interesting. Show me."

"Aye sir."

The projector field over the desk activated and a holographic screen instantly pixeled into existence. Still sitting on the couch Jordmar's eyes widened in surprise not at the presence of the hologram, he like everyone else who'd grown up in the civilized galaxy was well used to holograms, but by the incredible resolution of the screen. Unlike most holograms that were usually very pale colours and almost completely transparent this screen almost looked solid and the images it displayed were in full, vivid colour. Streams of data written in characters that he didn't understand were running on small side windows on the screen but it was what was shown on the screen that drew a loud gasp of shock – and remembered fear – from his lungs and prompted Captain Halsey to spin around to look at him.

"Captain Edmodarn you know something about these ships don't you," he asked.

"Yes and no," Jordmar replied standing up and moving closer to examine the hologram more closely. "I didn't know these ships were here, but I do recognize them all too well."

"What are they?"

"Those ships they're Munificent-class star frigates. They're Separatist ships, probably been out here since the Clone Wars ended nearly nineteen years ago. How many ships are there?"

"Sixteen why?"

"Kriff that's a full battle squadron but what in the Force's name would they be doing out here in the middle of nowhere?"

"Guarding a base, it seems though they all appear to be dead in space."

"If they were active, I'd be worried, no doubt they shut down like the rest of the droid army when the war ended, and the Empire rose. Though why would they have a base out here in the first place? There are no major and only a few very minor hyperspace routes that come anywhere near the Calanda Expanse, that's why I gave you these coordinates, so there is no reason why they'd put a base out here. Certainly not one important enough for a full battle squadron to be protecting it."

"Obviously there was something going on here. And it appears that we have a great deal more to talk about."

"Like what?" Jordmar asked.

"Like just what these Clone Wars were and who the Separatists were."

"You don't know?" Jordmar asked incredulous as from far away or not these people should have at least heard about the Clone Wars that for three solid years had torn the galaxy apart. When Kaidan shook his head in a negative he sighed. "You know I should be shocked beyond measure that you don't know but somehow I'm not that surprised. It's a long story but if you are willing to listen, I'll tell you all about the Clone Wars."

Kaidan was about to reply when the comm unit came to life. "Bridge to Captain Halsey."

"Yes commander?" Kaidan asked.

"Sir the Agamemnon just defolded twelve megametres to starboard and is currently manoeuvring to come alongside. Captain Leeds reports that Ambassador Hunter is waiting for yourself and Captain Edmodarn to come over and meet with her."

Kaidan looked over at Jordmar, a question in his eyes. Jordmar nodded back to indicate that going over to the Agamemnon was fine with him. "Very well advise Captain Leeds that we will be waiting at the airlock when the Agamemnon comes alongside. Also copy our veritechs findings on the contacts to them, let Ambassador Hunter know what we've found and request instructions."

"Aye sir."

"Halsey out."

The communications link closed down and Kaidan turned his full attention back to Captain Edmodarn even as the holographic screen disappeared as the projector field powered down. "It won't take long for the Agamemnon to dock alongside," he said, "we should head to the airlock to be ready when they do. Ambassador Hunter is not someone to be kept waiting."

"Very well," Jordmar replied. "Lead on then please captain no disrespect intended but this ship's interior is kind of a maze."

Kaidan laughed at that. "It can be yes at least until you get used to it," he replied with a smile guessing that he and Captain Edmodarn were going to get along famously as they certainly seemed to have a very similar sense of humour. Without saying anything else he gestured for Jordmar and R4 to follow him before leading the way out of the ready room back into the virtual maze of corridors and chambers that made up the interior of the Tanganyika heading for the starboard airlock and, from there, a face to face meeting with Ambassador Lisa Hunter.

Skyhook Falleen's Fist

Orbiting Coruscant

That Same Time

Sitting in the quiet opulence of his personal office Xizor, underlord of the Black Sun, carefully read over the latest reports on the state of his vast criminal empire. Profits were rising across the board and they were steadily making inroads into the territories once controlled by Crimson Dawn. Territories that were now open for exploitation given the chaos in Crimson Dawn's ranks caused by the recent disappearance of its leader Darth Maul. He just hoped that that darn Zabrak was gone for good this time – the Emperor certainly seemed to indicate that he was – but he was reserving judgement for now at least as Maul had apparently returned to life before.

Though that wouldn't stop him from taking advantage of Crimson Dawn's currently weakened state. The window of opportunity was after all very small and there were already signs that it was closing as the Hutt Cartel had also noticed and were beginning to make their own moves against Crimson Dawn as was the Pyke Syndicate. Still he stood to gain substantially over the next few weeks if everyone of his carefully considered and planned moves worked as well as they should. Of course, having an alliance of sorts with Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious certainly helped as well.

A bleep from the door hailer caught his attention. "Enter," he called out as he continued to read through the latest profit reports as well as the other amounts of work that came with being the dark prince. The door to his office opened and in walked a statuesque blond woman – one who really wasn't a woman at all but only he and she knew that.

"Ah Guri good. Any news of the Valiant Watcher?" Xizor asked quietly irritated that the dreadnought-class cruiser he'd dispatched to acquire the Jedi artefacts supposedly aboard the freighter Twilight Monsoon had ceased reporting in. It was not like Melan to quiet like that, especially given the last transmission from the dreadnought indicated that they'd successfully intercepted the light freighter and were moving to capture it. It was why he'd dispatched a pair of corvettes to the last known location to investigate what had happened.

"I am afraid so my prince," Guri replied her voice emotionless as she didn't have to pretend to be anything other than what she was around him i.e. a human replica droid and the only one of her kind designed from the very start to be his pet spy/assassin. "Our corvettes thoroughly scanned the area and have concluded that the Valiant Watcher has been destroyed."

Xizor blinked startled. "Are you telling me that a light freighter somehow destroyed a heavy cruiser," he asked.

"No, my prince. Scans of the region revealed dust and cold plasma in sufficient quantity to account for the dreadnoughts mass however there was an unfamiliar energy signature in it. Whatever weapon was used to destroy the vessel was not something we have seen before it was definitely not any known form of blaster or turbolaser and from the size of the signature the weapon used was far too high powered to have been mounted aboard Twilight Monsoon."

"So, somebody else interfered. Do we have any idea who?"

"Unfortunately, no and the people who could tell us weren't there when we arrived."

"The crew of the Twilight Monsoon. How do we know they weren't destroyed as well?"

"There was insufficient dust present my lord to account for the freighter as well as the dreadnought and its fighters."

"Hmm so they escaped then," Xizor said leaning back in his expensive rancor leather chair and thinking of how to respond to this surprising – and quietly somewhat infuriating as he'd been counting on being able to use the recovery of those artefacts to gain an advantage over Vader in the Imperial Court – development. While his ire over it was instant it was cold and calculating as was proper for a Falleen and their reptilian ancestry which let them think far more clearly than hot blooded mammals. Well any mammal that wasn't a Chiss that was as his few encounters with Grand Admiral Thrawn had instilled in him a very healthy respect for the calmness, prudence and practically of the blue-skinned humanoid.

Finally, though he decided on a course of action as he really needed information on who had done this and there was really only one way to get it. "Put a bounty on the Twilight Monsoon and her crew," he said at last, "however make it clear that I want the ship as intact as possible and the crew alive. No killing and absolutely no disintegrations. If you employ Boba Fett, make sure he fully understands that this time please."

"I will see to it at once my lord."

"Dismissed Guri."

The HRD nodded, turned smartly and left the room. As the door closed behind her Xizor turned his chair to look out across the starscape visible through the windows of his personal office. It always helped him collect his thoughts as he mulled over just who could have done this, who had the power to destroy the Valiant Watcher so quickly. The fact that an unknown, but obviously extremely powerful, weapon had been used to not just destroy the dreadnought but utterly disintegrate it ruled out the usual suspects for such an action. Not even the Empire possessed weapons powerful enough to do that, especially to a dreadnought-class heavy cruiser not that the Imperials would hide the fact that they'd done it either.

He thought back to some of the latest reports he'd been getting off his spies in Imperial High Command. There was that concerning report and analysis from Grand Admiral Thrawn about the encounter between the 103rd task force and a group of unknown alien warships that had resulted in a short, viscous battle. A battle that had seen virtually the entire task force – including all three Imperial-class Star Destroyers – shot to pieces in just five minutes of combat while seemingly doing no damage to the unknowns. Worryingly the report from Thrawn – written as it was with the Chiss admirals' usual thoroughness and logical deduction – indicated that the unknowns had actually been trying to disable the 103rd and that had they really wanted to destroy it they could have done so far, far more quickly.

Could these unknowns be the ones who destroyed the Valiant Watcher? They certainly have the power to do it especially if Thrawn is right – and he probably is – and they were holding back against the 103rd, he thought. It would fit with the ease and presumably speed with which the dreadnought had been destroyed and would also explain the unknown residual energy signature left in the dust cloud that had been his warship. Though it did not explain why they would do it or even if it truly had been them that did it.

After a moment he shrugged. It didn't matter either way as whoever had done so had earned his ire, especially as he would now have to re-evaluate several of his plans. And whoever, or whatever, it was they would soon learn what all his other enemies had learned in his long ascension to the leadership of Black Sun. And that was to contend with Xizor was to lose and that was all there was too it.

Content that he'd sorted the puzzle out in his mind – at least for now – he turned back to his paperwork. After all being the underlord of a vast criminal empire was a job that never ended.

Author Note: Well another chapter bites the proverbial dust. I know that there was no actual action in this chapter but that's because this is, yet another set up chapter for future events and relationships as the story continues forward. Also, we got to see Xizor for the first time I hope I captured his character right as he was always one of the most intriguing villains in the old Legends continuity at least in my mind. Until next time.