Special thanks to AshlaTi for allowing me use of several of her characters in my story. If you haven't read her series Tarkin's Fist, I guarantee that if you do, it is well worth it.
Disclaimer: I do not anything related to any of the franchises. They are the sole property of Lucasfilm, Disney, Bioware, etc. This is piece is also extremely heavy on the HFY!. If you do not accept this then this is not the story for you.
Director Roblin, ISD Eclipse, Shanxi System
"What is taking Hux so long?!"
Serin shrugged, still browsing some file on her Datapad.
"You know how he is, you give him command of something like the Vanquisher and he'll somehow take a month longer than anybody else to make it work properly even with the manual. Besides, he's not like Haus and Steadfast, their loyalty could probably be bought off anybody with enough aurodium."
"Remind me why haven't we gotten rid of him again?"
The Flag Lieutenant shrugged.
"You know he's only around because Moff Haus is playing ball with the Emperor."
He grumbled again.
"I should have him promoted to the auxiliary, with the way he's going and without dear old dad he'd end up commanding a prison barge if he's lucky."
Drake was pretending to file a report over at one of the consoles surrounding the slanted windows as he spoke up.
"To be fair, he at least passed the Naval Academy exams."
Serin looked over at Drake.
"Are you still smarting over the fact he beat you in Dejarik?"
"No, and it wasn't Dejarik, it was that Holo-Sim game, the one people on Coruscant keep raving about, the one where you move the ships around."
"He lost his entire force to a corvette strike after I got a lucky shot."
"It was totally rigged! You should never have gotten that lucky with thirty torpedoes."
"It's possible. I scored a poodoo hit against her once."
As Serin and Drake began arguing about whether it was possible to actually get a hit that low or high on something as simple as that game, Roblin spied a young Ensign, busy monitoring the Railcrawler transit network aboard the Eclipse.
She stood up and saluted. Obviously fresh out of the Coruscant Naval Academy he thought, too young to have seen the wars that the Empire fought on her citizen's behalf. Most weren't cut out for life in the military and he had a feeling she'd be one of those.
"I need you to have ICT-182 make a stop at Staging Area Aurek. Make sure she brings ICC-5537 and ICC-9101 to the station there. She can drop those cars off there for unloading when she brings back General Williams."
"Yes Sir, moving Conveyex Train 182 from Line Besh to Station Staging Area Aurek."
He watched as the blip representing the two-hundred meter long train moved from Transit Line Besh towards Transit Line Aurek.
General Williams, Military Staging Area Aurek, ISD Eclipse
Eighteen battalions of Stormtroopers, 9 a side with a pair of AT-HS and AT-STs standing behind them stood at attention as the white lambda shuttle made touch down inside the Staging Area of the Hangar Bay.
It was a strange site, especially with a quartet of Executioner Stormtroopers standing guard over the landing site of Williams' shuttlecraft. The elegant Lambda shuttle had touched down a few minutes ago and was waiting on final clearance to lower the landing ramp. Apparently the Emperor didn't want him executed right now, rather he probably wanted it in the throne room.
At the far end of the staging area, he could spy a dozen Death Troopers striding up one of the advanced Ravager class Assault Shuttles. Their leader, a red armored Stormtrooper was busy giving them orders as he slipped one of those supercommando jetpacks over his cloak. In fact, he could see that most of them were busy slipping on jetpacks as they boarded the shuttle. That was never good, if the Tarkin Initiative was directly deploying their elite Death Troopers into the field, it meant whatever had been in the case that had been ordered transported was seriously going to end up with him dying. He'd come so far, only for one little thing to make his career crashing down.
He'd been escorted in past the thousands of warships surrounding the Palace, including those advanced Resurgent battlecruisers and the Imperator class Star Dreadnoughts. Sure, the Imperators were expensive but he'd seen the reports. At just over 24km, those things had enough firepower to smite Fortress Aquila and drill down fifty kilometers into bedrock in a single burst from her main battery. That new Persecutor class, what was the prototype called? Vanquish?, Vanisher?, something like that sounded even worse when it came to being on the other end. And that wasn't even counting the amassing fleet of Star Dreadnoughts beginning to arrive in system. The Assertor class had one of those axial superlasers, nothing like the Death Star or the one on the Eclipse, but they'd be enough to rapidly destroy fleets. They should've been investing in more legions rather than building these superweapons that looked good but didn't nothing useful.
Some Lieutenant was standing at the bottom of the ramp with the Executioners. Probably some person Yutu could pass the duty off too. Probably didnt even think that he was worth the effort.
The Lieutenant was saluting him sloppily. What a surprise. Not only was this some random Lieutenant that had been given the duty of escorting him to the Throne Room, it was some poodoo graduate from the Naval Academy and with a smile way too bright and probably thought that the Army was vastly overrated.
He waved him off. No wonder why the Army was always desperate for Naval support, if this was the quality of the Imperial Flagship's staff, it probably explained why Naval support took weeks to respond to a call, arriving long after they'd been overrun by Black Sun forces. Sure they could just Base Delta Zero the whole area to win it back, but what about all the troopers that had been lost?
"If you could just follow me this way to the Transit Station we can get you on the way towards the Throne Room."
His smile was as cold as carbonite.
"Excellent. I assume you have everything with you?"
"If you mean my datapad then yes."
"Follow me then."
The Stormtrooper Battalions still stood at attention as he passed through them. The Executioners filing in behind him. He'd brought a pair of Stormtroopers with him on the shuttlecraft but they'd been told to stand guard over the shuttle until they left. They were probably on their way back to Shanxi in a few minutes.
He took another quick glance at the Death Troopers boarding the shuttle. They were busy double checking their F-11Ds. With those large-bore reinforced barrels they were probably capable of breaking apart a Turian tank's armor plating in a shot or two. And their commanding officer was certainly very smart in how they played their tanks, ambushing stormtrooper platoons in hit and run attacks before rushing back out before their own armored support could respond.
It at least brought a small smile to his face as he stepped into ICT-182 at the station.
Shuttlecraft ST-791, Low Shanxi Atmosphere, Shanxi
The Ravager Assault Shuttle streaked downwards, a duo of TIE Silencers accompanied by a dozen Missile Boats following it downwards. In the cockpit, light shone through the red glass as the co-pilot began talking to Shanxi Flight Operations.
"This is Shuttlecraft ST-791, reporting in for transit to the following coordinates."
Cardinal watched as the pilot flipped a switch, bringing the shuttle's fully powered sensor suite online, scanning for nearby Turian fighters or gunships. Even with a fully shielded assault shuttle, he had told the pilot to take no chances.
Blackout was normally a TIE Silencer pilot whose reputation as an ace pilot had scored him a position in the elite Onyx Squadron that usually served as the lead assault squadron in Charon's alpha fighter wing. Flight Commander Vertitus had gone so far as to add a pair of red bloodstripes on the right of both his helmet and his chestplate in recognition of his service record. He'd easily have taken command of Epsilon Wing if he hadn't turned down the promotion. Why he'd been picked to fly a shuttle instead of a fighter he had no idea. Most TIE Pilots complained about the lack of maneuverability compared to that of a starfighter but they did at least admit the shuttles were often faster then the TIEs at a full sprint.
Still, it was a bit of a relief to the Stormtrooper Captain when Blackout turned his helmet to talk to him. He'd known from past experience that if your pilot wasn't talking to you, chances were that poodoo was going to happen real quick.
"Flight Ops says their deploying a pair of TIE Reapers to escort us to the AO sir."
"Army or Stormtroopers?"
"Couple of Grenadiers, Flametroopers, Jumptroopers, Shocktroopers, mainly just a mixed bag of specialists and standard Stormtroopers. They're also assembling a pair of Y-45 transport haulers and a few walkers but they'll take some time. They won't even be in the air by the time we get to the AO."
"Lucky we brought some of those EVO Troopers then."
Cardinal had gone against his judgement to bring a squad of Shadow EVO Troopers with them when they'd left the Palace. They'd been the only squad of troopers with FA-3 Flechette Launchers still not deployed and having been briefed on what the target was, he was hoping the high explosive and incendiary flechette rounds he'd given them would be enough to seriously dent the onrush of what might be a few dozen Imperial troopers dialled up to eleven. It was probably the reason why his charge had ordered the contents of ICC-5537 and ICC-9101.
The cars contained classified plasma bombs, originally designed to be fielded against the hardened bunkers that the Virgillian resistance had hunkered down in. It had promised to be a gruelling and nasty effort to remove the scum from their hideouts. Surprisingly, they'd all been pulled back. It had led to quite a lot of confusion when they'd all expected to be thrown at the wall.
Then again, they probably should've known what would happen when rumors started circulating about Moff Jerjerrod was going to turn up.
There wasn't too much left of the troublesome Virgillians. It had certainly pushed back the scum to the very edges of the Empire.
"How do you want us to land?"
Blackout was flicking a bunch of switches as the co-pilot, Angel was it? Stopped talking to Flight Ops. Judging from the way their helmets turned slightly, Blackout was running a conversation via the helmet comms as well.
"Just drop the ramp and come in hard and fast, we'll take care of the rest, remain on standby in the area with the Reapers."
"Copy that sir. We'll be touching down in a few minutes. Bloodstripe's indicated that he'll bombard the ground if there's any hostile contacts before we drop the ramp Sir."
"Keep it up."
He bowed his head slightly as he slipped through the doorway. Half a dozen of his best Death Troopers sat in their seats, most of them cleaning their weapons although one of them, DT-182 was busy tapping away at his forearm mounted tech computer, although what he was doing what beyond him.
"Any updates sir?"
To an outside observer like the few Shadow EVO Troopers in the upper hold or to Blackout in the cockpit they were simply talking in garbled electronic warbles. It helped frighten the enemies of the Empire who knew what they were capable of. To those serving the Empire, it was a reminder that they were always there to assist them.
"Nothing yet Corporal, just a notice from Flight Ops at Aquila letting them know we've got some backup on the way."
"Stormtroopers or Army grunts?"
182 stopped pressing buttons on his tech computer.
"Good. No offence to the Army but their not exactly the best at shooting straight. I've seen whole squads miss their shots. What a waste."
"And that's why we're Death Troopers, not Army Grunts."
Blackout's voice ran out across the shuttle's intercom.
"Twenty seconds to the operating zone."
Cardinal moved to stand up, switching to the non-encrypted channel.
"Ramp's coming down in fifteen seconds. Keep an eye out for the infected. Odds are if the Range Trooper squad isn't responding then they're probably infected. Don't hesitate to kill them. You're doing them a favor."
"Copy that Captain."
TK-512, Forested Location, Shanxi
"Contact! High Up!"
Nobody questioned Hammer's assertion. If he told you there was a target then you dropped and got yourself in a firing position even if you were busy trying to grab something to eat.
Dropping his half eaten MRE, he switched his targeting scope's view to maximum zoom, attempting to zoom in as close as he could on the contact listed by Hammer. It was hard to tell, even with his scope at maximum magnification.
"I can't get a good shot on it! Anybody got anything on the sensors?!"
1201 shouted back.
"Nothing sir! Must have some sort of sensor reducing material."
"E'chu'ta. Call up the General, tell him that the Turians have some sort of stealth ship heading towards the outpost and 615! Get that HH-12 firing!"
512 passed up one of the Armor Piercing rockets still lying on the side of the hill. They hadn't bothered packing up the rockets incase another wave of that poodoo inducing zombie people came rambling upwards towards them. With their nerves that frayed, even Hammer hadn't bothered to reprimand 615 leaving potential explosives all over their current position.
He spied 7781 busy tucking herself behind a tree as she accessed the comm unit. It'd still take time for Aquila to respond and by that time, if this really was some stealth ship, they'd either all be ground to dust or sitting in a pile of flaming debris.
Hammer was busy whispering at 1201 whose FWMB was spitting red bolts in the vessel's general direction. Whoever was piloting it certainly knew how to do it properly, barely lifting what appeared to be one of the wings up slightly to allow the bolts to pass by harmly. He swore as he looked back through his scope that he could see the faint outline of a cockpit on the armored hull facing towards him.
"Lieutenant! Reading more contacts behind it. Still unable to get a positive lock!"
"Corporal! You get a response!"
7781 shook her head bemusedly as she received the response from Fortress Aquila, still holding onto the trigger of her FWMB-10 as she stopped firing.
"Lieutenant! I told you to…"
"Search team from the fleet Lieutenant!"
Hammer's shoulders looked like they were sagging with relief.
"Tell Aquila to get us a comm channel with them. They can set down here safely and tell them we may need to bombard the whole outpost as a precaution."
"Copy that sir."
The pilots behind the shuttlecraft were clearly communicating with Aquila even as they piloted the shuttle, beginning to slow it down and activating the massive spotlights adorning the wing of the shuttlecraft. Judging from the rough profile as the shuttlecraft activated it's lights it was probably one of those Ravager shuttles that the Empire rarely deployed.
He could hear 615 moving slightly to talk to him.
"Thought those Ravagers were limited to the Initiative."
He didn't bother moving his eyes away from the scope. If it really was an Imperial shuttlecraft then he'd pull the rifle away. He hadn't become one of the Emperor's elite shadowtroopers simply by sagging with relief whenever some poodoo officer from far away told them that it was obviously reinforcements.
"Probably just the scuttlebutt to make those TIE pilots feel better about themselves. You know how they got when the stats for the thing came out."
"All cause of the Coaxium right?"
"Probably. But you know how the scuttlebutt is. If you can't confirm it yourself, you probably shouldn't trust it."
The wings of the shuttlecraft had folded upwards by the time Hammer had moved from his hiding spot near one of the trees to the small clearing. He could quite clearly see the armored shuttle pilots sitting behind the red transparent glass cockpit as they flicked the switches to deploy the ramp.
There were a lot of Death Troopers rushing down the ramp and what looked like a dozen or so Shadow EVO Troopers starting to rush downwards as well. There were still two Death Troopers accompanying the red Stormtrooper standing at the top of the ramp. Given his or her's captain's slicks it was probably their commanding officer, and was that CO really that much of an ass to have, he presumed that the two standing next to him were his Lieutenants, wear slicks as well with the processing domes on their helmets. If he wasn't aware that they were clearly Death Troopers, he'd swear that they were Mimban Stormtroopers playing dress up.
Hammer moved to greet the Captain. It was clear that the red armored Stormtrooper probably knew what they were doing here. Two of his Death Troopers were busy using their flamethrowers to burn even the ashes of the Range Trooper corpses without even waiting for their orders.
512 moved his helmet slightly so he could watch Hammer talk to the Captain. There was nothing left in the pile of ashes still burning from the conflagurine gel and 615 could keep an eye on the pair of Death Troopers just incase they were infected.
Hammer was already busy making static emit from the squad comm as 512 turned to look. Clearly the Lieutenant and that Captain had agreed on what was going to happen. At least it wouldn't just be them getting pushed into the meat grinder if there were more of those infected individuals.
There was an unfamiliar voice over the squad comm. He could see 1201 turn his helmet slightly towards Hammer from his highlighted profile in his HUD. Judging from the slight brainwave spikes that the HUD was reporting the veteran trooper probably hadn't been expecting that.
"Thought these guys were supposed to be great at their jobs."
"Give them a break, 331, just cause they didn't bring a bunch of flamethrowers doesn't meant they didn't do their jobs right. I mean look at the three ash piles over there. You think they killed those guys by standing around and eating MREs?"
"Alright. All of you calm down."
Apparently Hammer had let all the newcomers into the squad comm. Probably was easier given that they were after the same thing.
"I'm told that Lieutenant Hammer's squad had engaged with some hostile contacts before we got here. Range Troopers was it?"
"Three of them. Took a couple of heavy weapons to bring two of them down and we got lucky with the flamethrower on the other."
"So they knocked out three of them. Not bad. Course we could probably…"
The same voice who had disciplined 331 spoke up again.
"331. That's three more than you've gotten so far."
The first voice popped back in again.
"Apologies, 331's a bit of a hothead in this squad, but he's a veteran like the rest of you."
"No apologies necessary Captain."
They'd all begun moving away from the shuttlecraft and towards the treeline. He could hear the loud whirring of the shuttlecraft as it's repulsorlifts pushed it skywards. The accompanying TIE Silencers and Missile Boats lazily orbiting around it. He had a feeling those Missile Boats weren't there just to escort the shuttle. More than likely, the Initiative was going to order a massive bombing run on the outpost.
General Brunson, Nightfall One, Shanxi
"You serious?! Sir! Tell them we're nearly there!"
"You know how it is. If the Emperor says we're going to pull back, there's a reason behind it."
Brunson peeled his eyes away from the periscope as Watts and Arnets looked at each other. They might have been veterans but this was certainly out of the ordinary since when had the Army ever retreated?
"Copy that General. Ordering all forces to fall back but we might need some cover as we do so."
"Get Aquila on the horn then. Tell them that we'll need a TIE screen if they want us to pull back."
A shockwave rippled across the hull, the sound of the outer hull plates buckling slightly reverberating through the walker. Given the fact they'd been putting the walker's durasteel hull to the test for several hours Brunson wouldn't have been surprised if some of the plates were beginning to flake under the constant barrage they'd been subjected too. Most armored divisions didn't spend more than a few hours in constant bombardment without some sort of repair and these….Turians, had resorted to something that was designed to disable the molecular bonds of the armor, meaning that they had to replace whole sections of the armor if they wanted a fully repaired walker.
As if Brunson didn't have enough reasons to want to decimate the rest of the Turians still holding out on Shanxi.
"Direct hit on the starboard side sir. I'd recommend attempting to swing it out of the line of fire."
"See to it, and gunner, see that target?"
Brunson was leaning over Arnet's seat.
"Eliminate it. Now!"
Arnet slid the toggles downward.
The pair of bright red bolts streaked downwards, shredding through the light armor of the Turian hovertank and igniting it's volatile element zero core, drawing in it's small infantry escort before crushing them into their component molecules.
"Well that was unexpected."
Watts looked over at his co-pilot.
"You think that was planned?"
"You two, get back to work! And somebody get those Stormtroopers back inside!"
Brunson could faintly hear the electronic warbles of his bodyguards as one of them disappeared down the neck of the walker, heading towards the deck chiefs who were lowering the ropes out the sides of the troop hatch.
Flag Lieutenant Atticus, Pyrus Command Tank, Shanxi
By the times the flames had died down, most of the bridge's staff were hard at work dispatching and receiving orders. Nobody except for him had time to watch the defoliator's flames.
He turned slightly to see Oraka stalking towards him.
"Are those flames down yet?!"
He tapped on his omni-tool to slightly decrease the polarization on the window. No point in letting those damnable snipers target and execute the General.
"They are now."
Oraka squinted at the ground.
"Have we got any armor in that area?"
He turned to flick through the list of active assets. There wasn't a lot of armor left. They'd lost most of them in the urban fighting environment of the city proper. There had even been rumors of some black and white troopers even jumping from their bikes onto a tank in order to load it with grenades of some kind and they still hadn't even figured out where it had occurred.
"Just Colonel Narath's brigade General and they're spread across the entire southern and western flank. So we'd be pushing them to the breaking point General."
He could hear Oraka's subharmonics stop humming for a second. She probably hadn't expected so much of reserves to have been destroyed.
One of the sensor operators was standing up.
There was a loud flurry of activity as the bridge crew moved faster than before, rejuvenated at the fact they'd caused enough damage to cause the hostiles to fall back.
Oraka looked pleased, her subharmonics showing her agreement in their assumption. But there was something off about this. The hostiles, they'd never let them take a break ever since they'd originally engaged so why evacuate now at their moment of triumph? Did they overestimate their chances of winning?
"Not now Lieutenant, we have a battle to finish!"
There was something incredible wrong with what was happening.
"We got any rounds left?!"
"Just one General! Fashioned from..."
Oraka stalked off towards the gunnery station, stopping to stab a talon at the targeting coordinates of the round, one of the varren walkers which was slowly backing up into a dropship's cargo pod.
The gunnery officer depressed the button.
TK-512, Near Undercover ISB Outpost, Shanxi
The first they knew of the ISB Outpost was when the ground started erupting from mines as the EVO Trooper platoon started firing weighted flechettes into the ground. They'd halted a few dozen meters away when they had first started firing but he could feel the explosions under the ground rippling towards them. From Hammer's slight jolt when the first one exploded he hadn't been expecting it either.
The squad comm channel was still working through the translation of the Death Troopers from earlier. If he'd estimated it right, the squad com was taking roughly fifteen seconds to translate the gist of their encrypted speak which was pretty good considering he knew that the Tarkin Initiative had encrypted the voice modulators so that even standard military gear took hours to decrypt orders if they could even intercept it and with the correct decryption gear.
Of course, if the Tarkin Initiative knew how he knew that, then he'd be in a lot of hot water with them. Given the fact they'd stumbled upon an abandoned and "quarantined" outpost of theirs without reporting it…
Hammer had moved since he'd last seen him next to the red armored stormtrooper. For the umpteenth time he'd looked at the stormtrooper, he wished the Captain had chosen a different set of armor for this mission. Was it really that hard to go for a darker coloured set rather than stick out in a forest like that?
1201 slipped next to him, finger hovering over his own trigger. Given that the Captain had stated that those mindless Range Trooper e'chu'ta had probably come from the outpost they weren't taking any chances. If something so much as looked like it was moving they were to blast every bolt of ionized tibanna they needed in it's direction.
"Has Hammer told you when we're going to get moving?"
He looked at the other trooper before shrugging.
"You think there's more of them?"
"If those Death Troopers are jittery then yes, we'll probably find more of them."
"Good thing we have guns right?"
It was a poor attempt but at least it kept both of them brooding over more happier thoughts. If it came to him vs another pair of those zombies he wasn't too sure if he'd be able to stand his ground without spewing up his last meal.
He watched as Hammer finally stood up, waving at the whole group of troopers to move. It had taken those EVO guys long enough to clear most of the minefield. He knew that most mine deployments were designed to inflict maximum casualties with chain detonations when a person stepped on one. But whoever had done this one deserved a medal, or a slap in the face, he wasn't too sure.
It had taken them over an hour to blow enough of the mines to clear them a path through to the outpost and none of the ones which had been supposed to chain detonate had actually activated any of the others.
He could hear a lot of the Death Troopers chatting quietly amongst themselves as they moved on ahead. With their better armored gear, they'd been selected to take point. The EVO Troopers and his squad would take up the rear which would hopefully make it a lot easier to engage targets when they were busy engaging with the elite of the Empire's stormtroopers.
He could hear Hammer faintly speaking as he walked with the Captain behind the gaggle of Death Troopers slowly fanning out. Apparently he too was interested in why they'd all been dispatched for just one outpost. As far as they all knew they'd never had people from the elite Tarkin Initiative get dispatched on something as simple as a objective based mission even with all those Range Trooper hybrids. He could tell from the slight head movements of the Captain that he knew something was going on. Resolving to keep an eye on the officer he turned his scope towards the rough location of the outpost.
To his surprise he could see the barrel of what looked like an automated E-WEB Turret lifting itself up to fire.
The first few blasts of the E-WEB struck a hapless Death Trooper, sending him pinwheeling through the air before landing on his back. Judging from the Squad VI's non-existent bleeping the guy probably had a few bruises which was good and all for him as the turret's companions lifted themselves out of the ground and opened fire.
The barrel of the F-11 Sniper flashed red as he discharged a bolt of ionized tibanna outwards striking the massive wires linked to the turret. A loud whine echoed across the clearing as the turret powered down.
Hammer looked back at him appreciatively as the Lieutenant hunkered down by one of those portable armorweave blast blocks that they'd been ordered to carry. Given that the Captain's small status indicator on his HUD alerted him to the fact his Cover Sphere was gone, it was probably him who had forced the Lieutenant to the ground when the Sphere had deployed.
Making a mental note to thank the officer he returned to firing, shooting another turret as it attempted to stitch 1201 who was setting up his FWMB behind another Cover Sphere.
By the time they'd all stopped firing there was little doubt that this was the ISB Outpost. From the mortar impacts, they could easily see the glint of durasteel metal as the dirt covering it up continued to settle down around the impact sites.
He turned to the Lieutenant.
He waved him off even as he coughed slightly. He had been pushed face first down into the ground and without his helmet. There was probably dirt or dust clogging up his throat.
"I'm fine Corporal. Just get the rest of them moving. I'll get 5516 to have a look at it when she gets over here."
"Copy that Sir."
He could see the squad's medic busy treating the Death Trooper from earlier. Judging from her expression it was exactly like how he'd thought. Just a few bruises.
The motion tracker on his HUD blipped as CD-0922 moved next to him.
"You alright Corporal?"
"Hammer tells me you're an excellent shot."
"Thank you sir."
The red helmet turned slightly towards him.
"Given that the Lieutenant is slightly indisposed I need you to lead your squad until he's back up and running. Can you do that?"
Since when did Officers like that ever care about who lead the squad, let alone give them a pep talk? Most of the Captains he'd seen were more like drill sergeants or Palpatine forbid, one of those elitists who thought themselves to be the Empire's gift to the grunts like him. His respect for the Captain shot up quite a bit.
The Captain had almost turned away when he spoke up again.
The helmet turned back towards him.
"Thank you for keeping us all together."
The helmet tilted down slightly.
"It was no trouble Corporal."
Director Roblin, ISD Eclipse, Shanxi System
"Sir, the Vanquisher has arrived."
"Good. It's about time Hux got himself over here."
The Persecutor class had received numerous refits since the incident at Corellia including swapping the centerline battery of heavy turbolasers out for quad superlaser siege cannon turrets. Sure they'd fire slower but with the beams capable of tracking any target in the firing arc, no warship would be able to void the pulses. Drake had been busy zooming on the turrets to inspect them as he turned to speak.
"You really think it was the brightest idea to put Hux in command of a vessel like that?"
"You know I can't pick who I want incharge of something like that. The Emperor picks and chooses who he wants where so unless you're telling me you can countermand his orders then we're stuck with him until he does suitably…"
It wasn't Charon and with all the people on the bridge dedicated to serving the Emperor it was probably wise not to finish the sentence. It didn't matter how much they despised Hux, there was nothing they could do.
"Besides, at this rate Yutu will be back soon…"
"What will I do then?"
He turned to look at Serin. She shrugged before pulling out a transfer order from her datapad, handing it to Drake.
"Your new station is captain of the Vanquisher."
Drake looked downcast so he elected to lean closer. There was no point in letting any of the bridge crew listen into their conversation.
"Whilst your orders may be to captain the dreadnought you are to keep an eye on Hux. If it becomes necessary there is a...standing order...to make an example of Hux if he should step outside the bounds of his duties and orders. He is becoming more and more of a liability to the Emperor. If he even has a single moment of delusion you will execute him."
Drake looked up slightly before hissing softly.
"Isn't Hux a member of Palpatine's inner circle?"
"No more than any of us. Palpatine has mentioned before that Hux is growing less and less reluctant to fulfill his duties. Aside from him, nobody else except who you choose to trust will know of these orders."
He pulled back to allow Drake to accept the orders from Serin.
"Then once we have wiped the e'chu'ta off the face of our colony you will transfer your captaincy to the vessel. In the meantime Captain, please prepare our weapons to fire on the target coordinates."
Drake slipped the datapad inside his uniform jacket before turning towards the gunnery station.
"Are the forward cannons online?!"
"Awaiting your orders sir."
He turned to look at Drake who nodded at him.
Across the bow of the mightiest warship ever built, dozens of cannons roared their silent fury as they dispatched bolts of ionised tibanna gas planetward.
CD-0922, Undercover ISB Outpost, Shanxi
The first thing that he could see as 1201 and 331 pushed the door open to the outpost was just a pile of what looked like black rancor dung that was pulsing. Fighting the urge to throw up, he motioned for the rest of his squad to move inside.
The poor Lieutenant was still being treated by the squad medic. Apparently he had a slightly fractured nose as well, which helped to explain why the dust and dirt was affecting him so badly. With the blood clogging up some of his throat, he was probably finding it hard to breathe. He'd had to take a few minutes before the meds started to work properly. So he was out of the fight for now.
The young Corporal on the other hand was busy scanning the exterior of the outpost with his sniper rifle. He waved him over. It was probably unnecessary for them to join his Death Troopers but he supposed it would be beneficial to have more guns pointed at those Blackwing bioweapons.
He watched as the EVO Troopers started entering as the Corporal spoke up.
"I need you to do me a favor and get some of your men moving, especially those with flamethrowers. We can't afford to get bogged down if we want to get out of here in time."
"The fleet above is gathering to orbitally bombard both the Turian force a couple of kilometers away from here and this location. If we don't get this power generator turned off then not only do we die but most likely this whole continent will get covered in lava."
"So can you do it Corporal?"
He watched as the Corporal gathered up a few of his men before alerting the Lieutenant that he was disappearing inside the outpost. It reminded him of his time on Arkanis. He'd just graduated from the Death Trooper academy when they'd been called in to help cleanse Arkanis.
Sure they'd been officially dispatched to rescue the hostages but they'd always been considered a secondary objective to deactivating the shield grids of the Academy. Only Emperor Palpatine would've preferred killing his own subordinates rather than suffer the small patch of blackened history.
It made him wonder why he still served an Empire that was starting to become more and more self serving towards the Emperor. In the beginning it really had been a place rid of the corruption and political pressure of the Republic and the Separatists. Then ever since those Rebels had appeared he could've sworn that Emperor Palpatine slowly grew more and more senile.
Nowadays he only served out of loyalty to the Empire's original ideals rather then because some old senile man told him too. If his deceased instructors on Scarif even saw what he was doing, he was sure they'd have him strung up for treason and immediate execution.
He started moving inwards, pulling his F-11D up. With most of his squad and 512's small group already moving inside it was probably best if he and the remainder of his moved inwards in order to get the mission completed.
The sound of boots squelching and rapidly firing blasters alerted him to 1201 engaging a pair of turned infectees. How they could even wield blasters such as the SX-21 Pump Action despite mindlessly shambling towards them was beyond him.
On second thoughts, given that the Tarkin Initiative had invested in this, it was probably best not to think about it.
Driven by years of experience he could faintly hear his F-11D light up the room as he began moving to assist, lining up a target in his HUD's reticle before pulling the trigger.
Fire, Duck, Fire
Retreat, Fire, Duck
Fire, Duck, Fire
He could tell from his HUD that 1201 was starting to get swarmed by the infected. Given the fact one was about to reach to drag the veteran into the swarm he should've begun pulling back.
He could hear the young corporal firing his F-11, burning through the flesh of the infectee as he pulled 1201 back into position.
He nodded appreciatively at TK-512. Most Stormtroopers would've left the Death Troopers to their fate in order to get the jump on their target. When he got back he decided that he'd speak to Drake to see if he could have the young Corporal and his squad transferred to serve under him.
It was 331. He'd managed to clear a path with the assistance of a pair of EVO Troopers to the main reactor. It threw light all over the infected despite the small amounts of black pulsing infected biomatter starting to cover it.
"Sir! We can't keep this up!"
"Stang it 1201! If we don't you can say bye bye to your buddies who are trying to save your shebs a few kilometers over there!"
Apparently the Lieutenant had managed to catch up with them despite his temporary ailment.
"Well get your shebs in gear! Help get 331 a proper hole so he can turn it off!"
He'd have to keep an eye on 1201. Obviously he knew what to do, but he probably required some additional pushing in order to get the job done.
With the combined force of the EVO Troopers' flechette launchers staggering the Infected and the heavy weapons burning the majority of the infected away from 331 and the pair of EVO Troopers rushing to the console, he started to breathe a sigh of relief. Once they'd deactivated the thing, they could just fire a rocket at it and scamper out of the hellhole.
He saw 331 rapidly typing at the console but it kept beeping red text back at him.
"We've got a problem!"
His F-11D was starting to grow a little to warm for his tastes. The last time it had done something like this was when they'd been forced into combat against the Rebels at the Ring Station on Ringo Vinda where they'd fought tooth and nail for nearly sixteen hours straight to crush them. The Rebellion had never recovered from the loss of the supplies and personnel.
"Thing requires a damned quantum switch code cylinder!"
Hammer was rushing up past the staggering infected who tried to stop him. He could see 512 turn to attempt to stop the Lieutenant.
"Vander's code cylinders! We found them still attached."
That was when 331 took a bolt to the helmet, forcing the veteran to tumble down. It was clear he would be in no fit condition to finish the rest of the operation.
He ran as fast as he could, screaming orders for Hammer to pull 331 up and to fall back. The EVO Troopers were beginning to turn back too, with the sheer number of the infected pushing them back.
"Give me the cylinders!"
"Sir! You need to get out of here!"
"1201! How much longer until the fleet starts firing!"
"One minute thirty!"
"That's more than enough time for us to fall back outside the outpost. But not for 331, so you'll drag that trooper back out of here. The rest of us can keep up the fire long enough to get out."
Hammer still looked reluctant as he passed over the cylinders.
"Now get going!"
331 shrieked loudly as he was dragged backwards over the uneven floor. They hadn't had time to remove the helmet and each little hump was driving the superheated metal onto his face.
He'd check up on 331 later, but he'd have to get this done quick.
With trembling hands he inserted the deceased General's code cylinders. It didn't take too long for the console to light up. Surprisingly the button to deactivate the reactor was right there rather than hidden behind a dozen other functions.
A feminine voice erupted from the base speakers.
"Main reactor powering down. Auxiliary Power offline, Emergency Power offline."
"Watch out Sir!"
The pair of EVO Troopers next to him had fallen, torn to pieces even as they bought him the precious amount of times and next to them, half a dozen infected reaching for him.
It didn't matter if he died now, the reactor was off and he'd at least die knowing that his duty was done.
Flag Lieutenant Atticus, Pyrus Command Tank, Shanxi
The round impacted on one of the varren walkers, one which had been attempting to fire it's main cannon even as it retreated back into the safety of its deployment barge.
A loud cheer went up as flames erupted on the walker, breaching the more vulnerable cockpit tube staggering the walker before it collapsed onto it's side, preventing it's other counterpart from retreating back into the barge's cargo pod.
Oraka's subharmonics sung as she basked in her kill even as she barked out more orders.
"Have the entire western flank begin to push them back further. The more area we can regain the harder it will be for them to push us back."
For all the sudden decrease in ferocity of their attacks, there was nothing that could explain the sudden retreat of the enemy unless they had an ace up their sleeve.
Oraka looked displeased as he rushed to her side. She'd been in the middle of planning an immense counterattack with her remaining forces.
"This doesn't make any sense."
"What doesn't make any sense!"
She was positively growling now.
"Speak up now Lieutenant before I decide to remove you from the bridge!"
"Them falling back! In every engagement we've had, they always had the upper hand and never let us take a break at any opportunity so why now?!"
"This is what you took my time for? One of your theories again? Lieutenant, there is nothing more important then buying us more time until the rest of the Hierarchy arrives to relieve us. Unless you're telling me that they have an orbital bombardment against us, which by Citadel Law is never going to happen, then you can return to your quarters until further notice, Guards!"
The pair of Turians flanking Oraka were beginning to pull him back towards the blast doors at the back of the bridge.
"Since when have they ever followed Citadel Law!, General!, General!"
Her subharmonics hummed in displeasure.
"Get him off this bridge."
Like any good Turian he followed his orders, retreating to the small pods that each bed was clasped inside. It was cold, cramped and above all isolated. The pods were designed to automatically seal the occupants inside and then inject a fine mist of chemicals designed to maximise the amount of energy one recuperated from sleeping.
He, unlike many others, was one of the few Turians to ever truly understand the juggernaut that was the Galactic Empire, awaking to a searing moment of pain and agony before he was disintegrate in the firepower of an entire fleet bombarding their location, never knowing how true his assumptions were.
Emperor Palpatine, ISD Eclipse Throne Room, Somewhere in the Shanxi System
He could smell the faint scent of nervous energy erupting from Williams. He'd sensed his thoughts as he arrived, he'd been hopeful when he arrived but waiting hours outside the throne room was beginning to break the calm he had tried to generate. Good, it was much easier to deal with an off balanced individual.
He waved his hand at the Guard assigned to the door. If he let the General stay outside any longer he'd probably miss him altogether. After all he could hardly delay the introduction of his newest weapon without having to deal with the man who would be under it's scrutiny.
He watched as the carpet began to drag slightly on the General, threatening to trip him up. With the pair of Executioners behind him preventing him from slowing down, it was up to him to not fall over. He'd carefully crafted the representation of him behind closed doors. The last time someone had fumbled something well… there hadn't been much left to recover.
His guards had moved slightly, ready to move at any sign of hostilities from the General. He waved them down. It wouldn't be necessary to have them injure the General before he could complete his duties. Once he'd fulfilled the necessary objectives they could simply move him to a duty far far outside known space and if necessary finish the deed then.
He was bowing and scraping, just as Imperial etiquette had taught him to. Good.
"Have the holo-comm activated. I believe you have an awaiting communique there for me. Open it and then depart."
"At once Emperor."
He watched as the Lieutenant pressed the buttons on the console, setting it to display the kneeling visage of Lord Vader. He looked momentarily shocked before turning to retreat back down the walkway.
It was a pity, if only the Lieutenant had done as he had asked. Nodding to the Guard at the elevator he watched as the red robed figure spun rapidly, tightly grasping the Lieutenant's neck before dropping him. The Mouse Droids could remove the corpse he thought dismissively, after all what was one Lieutenant to an Empire?
"General, I trust you understand what will happen if anything is said outside of these walls?"
He watched as the face grew paler. Good, he would still be useful then.
"I understand Emperor."
"Lord Vader. I understand that you and your apprentice are ready to begin your duties?"
"As always Master."
"Good, recently one of my Generals has elected to… publically disapprove of my actions. I will need your apprentice to ensure that he is kept inline and fulfilling his duties."
"I understand. I will have Admiral Piett deliver him at once."
"You will arrive here as well. I require your presence in removing the...filth from our upcoming adversaries."
He watched as some colour returned to the General.
"Is there something wrong General?"
He paled even further then before, sensing that the Executioners had moved closer.
"Good. Return to your base and prepare to deploy your troops General."
"Yes, of course Emperor."
Relaxing in his throne he watched as the General, carefully prodded by the Executioners departed the throne room.
Cover Sphere: Containing hyper compressed armorweave complete with microthin durasteel struts, the Cover Sphere can be thrown like a grenade and will automatically deploy upon landing into a small, solid semi-spherical shaped armorweave block that can resist most blaster fire.
Vanquisher: The Persecutor class Dreadnought was originally developed to serve as the Empire's primary sector command ship until the advent of the upgraded Executor class. Despite this, the prototype served as Grand Admiral Pitta's flagship until his untimely demise when a crippled Black Sun fighter eliminated the warship's bridge tower. This subsequent need for repairs inevitably led the vessel to be chosen to receive numerous upgrades, resulting in the current version of the Persecutor class. The enormous vessel supports the Vanguard Fleet by acting as a mobile assault base for the launch and repair of other vessels, while also providing support and tactical superiority for the detachments that require them.
Persecutor class Dreadnought Part I: The Persecutor-class Dreadnoughts are amongst the largest warships in the Imperial Navy and are primarily used as flagships or force projection vessels of Imperial Navy. Though smaller than it's more common counterparts of the Executor class and the newer Imperator class, the Persecutor-class is famed for its sturdiness and reliability and is one of the longest serving vessels in the history of the Imperial Navy, having protected Imperial interests across the galaxy for years.
ISD Eclipse Part II: Described as "city-sized", the Eclipse contained vast hangars, an entire prison complex full of cells and other related items, and barracks and facilities for over a hundred legions of Imperial soldiers. Corridors throughout the Eclipse were equipped with force field emitters and hidden blaster cannons that could fire on targets automatically. Other on-board facilities included luxurious staterooms for Imperial dignitaries and multiple laboratories.
Author's Note: Apologies for the late chapter, it was a bit of a struggle to tie up the main plot and the subplot of the story without it becoming to longwinded and grindy. The next chapter which features the Assault on the Turian's Arcturus Sector Command will also deal with some of the aftermath from the cliffhangers in this chapter.
Until next time.