Core Worlds, Galactic Capital.
The Imperial Palace.
A Day Ago.
Five months after the end of the Clone Wars and the fall of the Jedi Order, the famous Jedi Temple on the surface of Coruscant was stripped of it's name and stature and converted into the Imperial Palace, the home, office and residence of the Emperor. The self-appointed ruler of the galaxy.
All that remained of the original temple was its quincunx of skyscraper-like spires, which crowned an amalgam of blockish edifices.
On the surface of the Capital, the Palace was still under phases of construction, mostly to enlarge certain areas. The Temple Precinct, renamed as the Palace Precinct, housed a courtyard landing field that was large enough to accommodate one of the newer Victory-Class Star Destroyers.
From that courtyard, the Palace's interior could be accessed through large doors, designed to serve as the lounge and foyer of the building.
Coruscant was a city-wide planet, from core to crust, it was covered in a giant metropolis. From Level 1312 in the underworld to the highest academy on the surface, the non-stop nature of the Capital made it a formidable place to grow up. The constant flow of ships in several flying lanes made things harder, as the Palace was kept in a restricted military zone.
Patrolling the grounds, AT-TEs and AT-DPs were positioned near the checkpoints and bases set up around the foot of the Palace. Inside the Palace, all remnants of the treasonous Jedi Order had been stripped away, with all of the ancient mosaics, tapestries, and paintings removed.
The walls and plinths of the expansive and once busy corridors were left bare of statues and other art pieces.
Large audience chambers and briefing rooms had gone unchanged, simply outfitted with the newest in Imperial technology. Also, some banquet chambers were left dormant, draped with Imperial flags and banners. One of the Temple's vast pillared halls had been converted into a ball room, with its walls ornately tiled and mirrored.
Crystalline sculptures stood on pedestals and shifted shape from abstract forms into Imperial symbols during a ceremony to honour and commend the best of the Coruscant Academy's recruits. Many prestigious military schools taught on the surface of the Capital, including a Naval Academy much like one on Carida.
When the Jedi had fell, the Temple was raided and ruined. The interior architecture was pock-marked and riddled with blasts. The ceiling had collapsed in areas and pillars crisscrossed ancient halls. Marble floors were cracked and bookshelves toppled.
The Clones stationed at the Temple, following Order 66, had blocked off areas by erecting large blastdoors, sealed off to all but the Emperor himself. On the outside the Temple simply looked like a burnt-out husk of its former self, a testament to show the uselessness in fighting the new Empire. However, the Emperor found a new purpose in keeping the Temple, swiftly ordering it to be refurbished.
Within months it was an awesome sight again on the surface of the Capital. It served to show enormous wealth and power of the Empire, to show the subjects of the Emperor who they should be loyal to above all else.
Guarded full-time by an army of Walkers, patrolling shuttle-craft and watched in orbit by a division of Coruscant's defence fleet, the Imperial Palace was undoubtedly the most heavily guarded place of residence in the galaxy. Some Clone Troopers stood at the foot of the Palace, on constant patrol and guarding the entrances.
Surrounding the Palace were AT-TEs, six-legged armoured mechs with a heavy cannon on top of thick armour. Often escorted by AT-PTs, these small one-man walkers were relatively weak. With minimal weapons and low shielding, the All-Terrain Personal-Transport was mainly used for policing.
Patrolling the upper landing pads of the Palace was the AT-DP, the clunky walker had stronger armour, but spindly chicken-like legs. Holding two pilots, the Walker had a large, Maad-38 Heavy laser cannon attached to a ball-turret on the underside of the cockpit. A single shot from the lone gun could punch through medium-thick vehicle plating at half a Klick.
AT-DPs were used throughout the Empire to keep the populations of occupied worlds in line and to combat insurgent forces. Many of these walkers were used in Imperial facilities such as outposts, and Imperial Academies. Shuttles lined the Palace's external landing areas, such as the Sentinel-Class Landing Craft, and the Emperor's own Theta-Class Shuttle.
Coruscant Police Gunships, also known as underworld patrol craft, were parked at the base of the steps leading to the courtyard of the Palace. Red-striped Shocktroopers were the normal passengers of such transports. The personal guard of the Galactic Capital world, the armoured Shocktroopers were a mix of Clones and human enlisted, much like the Imperial military.
Due to their main focus of protecting government buildings and vital infrastructure, and serving as bodyguards to Senators, the Coruscant Guard became increasingly militarised as the war progressed. The division became increasingly ineffective and corrupt, the Coruscant Guard found itself often supplementing the blue-garbed Senate Guard and eventually fully taking over their function.
In the early days of the Empire, the Coruscant Guard retained the duties of patrolling the levels of Coruscant, constantly checking the identifications of citizens. Positioned in groups around the entrances to the Imperial Palace, the guardsmen were out on ceremony tonight.
Welcoming the dignitaries, Senators and officials from the Empire. It was the night of one of the Emperor's famous balls. Putting on these opulent galas embraced the wealth and power of the new order. The Imperial Senate, dismissed for the evening, were all invited to the Palace to witness the address of the Emperor himself.
Not only did the members of the Senate get invited, but those that demonstrated absolute loyalty and remarkable achievements in their military careers were invited as well, as recognition of their devotion to the new order.
A flock of TIE Fighters passed over the Palace on a regular patrol as the traffic of the galaxy had been pushed back, cornering the Palace off as a restricted no-fly zone, only available to military or diplomatic craft. The courtyard gates had been opened as a steady stream of individuals entered, just as it struck evening.
Coruscant's moons were visible as stars lit up the pitch-black sky. The guests entered the Palace through the gates, seeing the military might of the Empire as they gazed on the AT-TEs and Nu-Class Attack Shuttles.
Forming the main perimeter of the Palace were the newly designed AT-ATs, All-Terrain Armoured Transports. The immediate successor to the Clone Wars models, the Kuat Drive-Yards design had a boxy exterior, and featured long legs that lifted the narrow body of the vehicle. The walker had four blasters attached to it's head, two chin-mounted guns and one on each side. Equipped with a rear dorsal cannon, the early model was a mass-produced prototype of machines to come.
The ball-room of the Palace was as wide as a cargo hold on a Cruiser, with grand pillars holding up a high ceiling. Many small tables had been arranged, with Protocol Droids carrying plates of brightly-coloured drinks to the guests. Flags and banners hung from the balconies, and skylights let in the shine of the Coruscant sky.
The common circular viewport was lined with a web-like framework, which provided an amazing view out into the traffic lanes and the horizon of the Capital.
The ballroom was already busy, even early into the celebrations. The large, angular room lead to a staircase, crafted like marble, the staircase finished in a rectangular platform that housed one of the many Thrones of the Emperor.
Dark and bleak, the industrial design of the throne was meant to frighten all those would look upon it. It was a simple, contoured swivelling chair set in front of a large circular window that provided a view of the inner walkways and interior of the Palace. It was rumoured that the Emperor had at least four or five Thrones in the Palace, so he wouldn't have to walk far to sit at the head of his Empire.
Down in the ballroom, Senators and dignitaries drank and exchanged laughter and stories. Notable figures were Bail Organa, the Senator for Alderaan, who had arrived on business. He was followed by two of his guards, and Senator Tynnra Pamlo of Taris. Discussing the newest political events, the dark-skinned, amulet-wearing Pamlo kept her voice down.
Nearby, the Senator of the Taldot Sector, Vasp Vaspar, was speaking to a bearded Senator from the Mid-Rim planet of Uyter. Across the ballroom, several military officers had formed a small group around one of the tables.
An aged General, Trech Molock, was drinking from a flute of bright orange liquid as the sharp-faced Nils Tenant held a debate over the usefulness of former Republic technology with Vice Admiral Tallatz, a red-haired man held in the Emperor's favour. A member of the Joint Chiefs, Tallatz was one of a few men kept in the inner circle of the Empire.
Taking a drink from a passing Droid, the slender hand of Governor Crispin Hoedaack grasped a tall glass. Humming to himself, the fair-haired man had a defined jaw and a set of small, icy blue eyes. With pale skin and a tight grey uniform, Hoedaack bared the rank of Governor, or Moff as they came to be known.
An imperial representative for a star system, the Governor would oversee military and security matters for their respective Senators. Though as a practical matter, the Senate was being removed of power day after day.
The appointment of the sector Moffs weren't meant to compete with the duties of the senate, but to give the Emperor another way in, another piece on his game-board.
Governor Hoedaack had been the Moff for the Galov Sector since the last year of the Clone Wars. Born in The Core, Crispin had served as an aide for the Strategic Advisory Cell, rising to the rank of Commander, then Adjutant General. Hoedaack had won favour with the new Joint Chiefs, due to his loyalty and discretion.
As a reward, the Emperor gifted him the Sector, without the thought of how he could properly govern it. He was promoted the day of the Jedi Purge.
Ever since, he had spent little time in his domain, only staying on the Sector's capital of Romar for weeks at a time. Most of his time was spent on Coruscant. He had attended meeting and audiences with High Command, as well as mingling with the upper-class populous. Now was one such occasion.
Crispin had a gentle smile as he went back to the table.
Around the circular table was the Joint Chief of the Navy, Admiral Motti. Motti was a wealthy man, hailing from a rich family on Seswenna. Having command of the Star Destroyer 'Steel Talon' Admiral Motti had a grip on his own Fleet, stationed around the Core Worlds. Drinking from a tall glass of Andoan wine, Motti had a pompous expression.
"The Outer Rim expansion is a failing effort, neither Republic or Separatist armies could claim such a wild area of the galaxy. No wonder the Hutts thrive in such a cesspool." Motti scorned.
The Admiral was flanked by a man with fierce eyes and a shaggy combover, another Admiral, Chel Dorat was a member of the Emperor's General Staff. Dorat was speaking with a black-capped female officer as Moff Hoedaack sipped his own drink. "The Outer Rim is larger than the Core and the Colonies combined, Admiral. It's resources and variety of species would be a great asset." Crispin argued with a smile.
"At the cost of half my star-fleet...of all of our fleets! The Emperor shouldn't waste ships or men on worlds beyond saving." Motti lifted his glass to his lips.
"That may be, but a majority of the systems remained unexplored. If we control the galaxy then why sit on untapped potential?" Hoedaack asked rhetorically. Admiral Motti gritted his teeth, resting his arm on the table. He wasn't a patient man, Crispin thought.
Glancing to the other side of the party, the Emperor's personal aides had arrived, escorted by red-robed Royal Guards.
The Royal Guards were trained to be unquestionably loyal to the Emperor. The Emperor's word was considered law and his guards would obey his orders without question or hesitation, even if it meant killing one of their own. Due to their little movement, they were sometimes believed to be droids, and not individuals.
They were assigned to the aides and political allies of the Emperor. Serving on his Ruling Council, the motley-skinned, pox-faced Ars Dangor had bloated red eyes and bone-like fingers, despite claiming to be human. He was clad in crimson robes and a large, impressive silk headdress. Beside Dangor was Verge, a fantastically-dressed Prelate, and quite young for his position.
Around them was Sly Moore, a quiet, and enigmatic Umbaran woman. Moore was often at the side of the Emperor himself, and served as the Senior Administrative Officer and head of the Emperor's General Staff.
Dressed in long and flowing white robes, with an extremely high collar. Her dress and cloak matched her alien skin-tone, with shadowy eyes and ice-blue lips.
As an Umbaran, Moore was wearing a Shadowcloak, a garb that looked as if it had been sewn from feathers and strands of long, delicate cloth. To another Umbaran (capable of seeing in ultraviolet light) Sly Moore's cloak was full of bright shades, but to humans it was dull and grey.
Flanking Moore was Ragez D'Asta, a powerful shipping magnate and friend of the Emperor. A Baron of the Empire, D'Asta wore a tight red suit and neckerchief.
Admiral Motti took another drink from his glass "The attack on the Brighthome was confirmed to be an agent of the Emperor. Some sad devotee with sorcerer's ways...the Jedi's religion deserves to be forgotten." He sneered.
Folding his arm, Hoedaack spotted Harus Ison, Deputy Director of the ISB. Ison was followed by Inspector General Jeems, a white-suited operative of the Security Bureau. The brown-eyed man valued his career highly and heavily sought the position of his superior. Vain, and narrow-minded, Jeems sipped on a thin glass of Fizzwater.
"Their order and religion, yes...but Jedi exploration opened up much of the galaxy, Conan. But what are peacekeepers when they fail to keep the peace?" Crispin responded. The Admiral huffed, finishing his wine.
A black-painted RA-7 Protocol Droid brought around a plate of appetisers. Admiral Motti plucked one from the plate as Crispin took one as well, balls of expensive meat, perfectly fried. Motti was soon met by General Hurst Romodi, a bald, leathery-skinned man. With a bulging, prominent vein at his right temple, the General met Motti with a handshake.
"Good to see you, Admiral. When was the last time we saw each other, Ogoth Tiir?" Romodi reminisced. Admiral Motti was smirking, placing his glass on a nearby servant's tray. He nodded, folding his hands behind his back. "I think so, I remember the Western Reaches well. Your reconstruction initiatives were beyond legendary." Motti complimented.
Romodi, like a gracious gentleman, blushed and bowed his head. "You are too kind, Admiral, too kind." Hurst replied with a warm smile.
Hoedaack was reaching for another drink when a hand touched his arm. With a cold and limp grasp, Crispin glanced at a man who looked so strange that Crispin could've swore that he was looking upon a humanoid alien. Despite his odd appearance, the man was an aide of the Emperor.
The black-robed and headpiece-wearing Minister was Veris Hydan, an esteemed servant of his highness himself. With piercing, bright lilac eyes, he spoke with a respectful manner. "Governor Hoedaack, there's a transmission for you. We're holding a request from Commodore Coll in the Arami System - he's asking for you." Hydan piped.
Arami? That was in the Galov Sector, and under his jurisdiction. "Has he mentioned why, at all?" Crispin inquired. Minister Hydan relaxed his grasp of Crispin's arm, folding his hands back into his robes like a ghoul. His purple eyes burning with the atmosphere of the party. "He didn't say. He only mentioned that he must talk directly to you." Hydan bowed.
Moff Hoedaack frowned, but keeping a mask of casual interest. "I see...may I speak to him?" He hummed. The pale-faced, wrinkled servant bowed again, escorting Crispin from the room after he excused himself.
Hydan scuttled past the tables, moving around a group of olive-uniformed men and other senior officials like Siward Cass, a Major in the Ancillary branch. Leading the Moff to one of the rooms behind the curtain of the ballroom, the red-robed Royal Guards were positioned at every entrance.
The Minister slinked into the hollow audience chamber, where a hologram table had been left buzzing. Guarding the room were red-painted Shocktroopers, who stood in each corner. Hydan leant down to a control panel imbedded in the round table. He pressed a few buttons with a pale finger.
The blue holographic image appeared above the table, fizzing into life. The sound of the hologram was warbled as a squat, large framed man appeared. He was tall and bulky of body, his chest, shoulders and head appearing in a holographic form.
Senior Commodore Coll had thinning brown hair, and dull green eyes, dulled into blue by the hologram. His uniform was faded by the cracking image, the resolution clearing after a second or so. "Governor, I'm sorry for the disturbance, but I have news from your Sector." Coll began.
Crispin huffed through his nose. "Yes, Commodore? What is it?" He inquired. Minister Hydan slinked into the shadows of the briefing room, his purple eyes offering an unsettling glow. "We've had several reports from the Arami Garrison outside Skolnur City, the Troops' accounts say that a...Jedi escaped our forces, and is on the run." The Commodore explained.
A shocked breath escaped Crispin's mouth. "Explain, Commodore." He requested with immediate haste. Coll's hologram flickered "We found a deceased man outside of the Complex district. The troops identified a witness as a boy called Kane Alked, apparently he's local, employed by a scrapyard near Aarrbu Square,"
"He evaded the Gunships with some skill, and escaped our Probes with the aide of two unknown individuals. We're working on locating them now." Coll reported. Crispin put a hand on the table, his fingers clasping the panel. The Commodore's image stuttered, most likely a side-effect of the long range transmission.
"And you think this Kane Alked was trained as a Jedi? If that's true, the entire security of the Galov Sector is at risk." Hoedaack said, never having encountered a situation like this before. The Commodore nodded briskly. "I'm conducting scans of ships leaving the planet, and the Garrison base is on high alert." Coll assured the Moff.
Crispin sighed. He was at the the Emperor's Ball, the most illustrious party on Coruscant, and he was left managing a potential Jedi threat in his Sector. "Dispatch Rider Squad, I'm sure General Jellrek can spare some Gunships and troops." He recommended.
Antoll Jellrek was Hoedaack's second-in-command, his loyal General in the armed forces. Jellrek had command of all the Garrisons in the Sector, system to system. From his estate on Romar, Jellrek would enforce the Empire's will.
"Should I inform High Command?" Vannatos Coll inquired. Crispin shook his head, he was on Coruscant after all, of he wanted to speak to High Command then there was no better place.
For now, Crispin told the Commodore not to worry. "Surely you aren't concerned over a single boy on the run? Inform the Garrisons, we'll see what we see." Moff Hoedaack nodded, and Commodore Coll seemed to understand, but he looked fearful, hidden under a subtle eye of concern.
The Commodore turned to a midshipman outside the range of the call, and the hologram cut off. Fading back into the table, Commodore Coll disappeared.
"Will that be everything, Governor Hoedaack?" Hydan asked, walking back out from the shadows. Crispin's lips became thin, taking a sharp breath. Exhaling through his nose, he pushed himself off the table "Yes, I'm fine. I'd like to return to his Emperor's Ball now." He said.
The Minister escorted him, followed by the Shocktroopers. Carrying E-11s, the Shocktroopers stood at the end of the hallway as Veris Hydan waited by the door. "Enjoy your evening, Governor." Hydan whispered pleasantly, yet loud enough for Crispin to hear the undertones in his voice.
Outer Rim World.
Green blaster fire rocketed past the bow of the Faraway, the YT-1760 Freighter was under moderate fire from a pursuing craft. The freighter had two straight mandible-like attachments coming out from the front of the ship. The cockpit extending forward, the attacking ship's lasers streaked past the windows of the cockpit.
"Karabast! It's Xashan, we need to get some distance here." Daven Shaad'el scrambled for the controls of his ship. Grabbing a joystick, he pulled the ship up towards the clouds.
The HH-87 Starhopper pursuing them naturally gave chase. Darting upwards, the side-mounted cannons sprayed green lasers towards them. In the co-pilot's seat, Lana the Togruta was busy at her own controls. "He's aiming for our engines, we need to shake this guy!" She badgered.
Lana flicked some switches to the side of her. "Deflector shield is up, we'll make for those mountains..." She pointed to a range of misty hills in the distance, shrouded in boulders and desert mountains. The Faraway flew over the harsh rocky terrain, dodging the green lasers.
Thrown back into his seat, Bec Callan watched the flashes of green ripple across the sky. The YT-1760 swerved in the air, jerking him back. Another few blasts shot from the guns of the Skyhopper, grazing the flank of the Faraway. "Mother of Kwath!" Daven exclaimed in aggravation.
He turned around in his chair, his hand still holding onto the stick of the ship. "Kurril, how're the engines holding up?" Daven yelled. Bec heard the beeping of the R5-Unit, as the Droid plugged into the ship again. He remained in his seat, grabbing the sides of the chair as Daven's ship twisted around a rock formation.
Xashan's craft kept up with them. With visible armour plating and a prominent prow, the Starhopper displayed the aggressiveness of the Hutt Clans. Equipped with twin blasters and two sets of pointed wings, the versatile, long range single-person fighter was more than a match for the larger ship.
"Well enough, Daven! Just don't push her too hard, she's sensitive." Kurril Tulkh called back from the comlink in the engine room. The Freighter sped towards a nearby cluster of rocks, dodging just in time as the Starhopper's blasters blew the stones apart. The Faraway flew low, then rose into the atmosphere, heading towards the mountains.
Bec grabbed onto one of the panels as he was nearly thrown from his seat again. "If he catches us again, we're in big trouble." Bec said, feeling the ship rock as another green bolt grazed the hull.
"Not if I can help it, kid. Dee-nine, jam his transmissions!" Daven called, and the R5-Unit beeped and twirled his head around, his manipulator-arm sticking into the computer interface.
The Starhopper swerved, loosing another burst of blaster fire. Keeping pace with the Freighter, Xashan piloted his ship well. Ducking beneath a stony archway, a long cliff came up ahead. Racing towards the misty hills, they passed a wall of clouds, exposing the deserts below.
Avoiding another burst of laser-fire, the Faraway sped towards the mountain range. "Don't you have any weapons on this thing?" Bec asked with urgency, spinning his chair to look out the doorway. He saw a tube-like shaft, perhaps leading to gun emplacement at the top of the ship.
"We've got ventral and dorsal cannons, if you feel up to it, then by all means." Daven dared, gesturing to the ladder inside the open, man-sized tube. Callan took that as a challenge.
Quickly, Bec stood up and ran to the ladder, so fast that Lana looked over her shoulder hastily, watching and rolling her eyes.
"He'll never be able to make a shot at this speed..." Lana hesitated in reaching out to Bec, until Daven stopped her, touching her shoulder. Going back to the control panel, she flicked a couple of switches as R5-D9 made a low chirp.
He got to the ladder, and climbed up, tension rising with every rung of the ladder. Peering out into a small, bubble-like cockpit, he saw a long-barrelled gun, and panels of levers and controls. Bec climbed into a suspended chair, and grabbed ahold of a console stuck out in front of him.
The bubble-cockpit was surrounded by yellow and red buttons, and the console he held had a small control screen. A few switches and buttons around him, Bec reached for a white headset above him. In the rotating chair, the single-barrelled gun moved with every twitch of the seat.
Grabbing the duel-joysticks of the console, Bec checked the tactical display, showing a targeting grid and orange informational displays. The grid lit up, as he saw the Starhopper zip by, flying after them.
"Stay sharp, kid, Xashan's incoming!" Daven said from the microphone in the helmet.
He was right, as the Starhopper loosed another flurry of lasers. The Faraway ducked and dodged, approaching the mountain range of the desert. Bec tried to move the gun into a better position to fire, but the speed of Xashan's ship was too much. Veering around every corner, the ships fought in the sky.
The Starhopper blipped through the scanners on the gun's targeting console. Trying to line it up correctly, Bec felt himself getting frustrated by it. As the Freighter got closer to the mountains, Bec shook his head, adjusting the headset and quietening his mind.
He took a breath, slowly, and felt the movements of the ship. Xashan's Starhopper rounded on them, spraying blaster bolts across the hull. Inside the cockpit of the craft, the pink-skinned Twi'Lek pressed a button, guiding missiles to the engines of the Faraway.
About to launch the fatal barrage, Bec opened his eyes - and squeezed the triggers of the joysticks, the grid lining up with the gun, and the Starhopper in range. At the middle of the grid, the dorsal gun opened fire, a large red laser blasting out.
The Twi'Lek had a second to evade, but the blast from the cannon took out his wing, causing an explosion that blew him away a second later. The Starhopper was consumed by a fireball as the YT-1760 made a getaway.
"He did it! The kid actually did it!" Daven rejoiced, slapping Lana on the back as Dee-nine whirred.
Lana smiled as she saw Bec climb down from the ladder, breathing out in relief. Lana stood up and approached him, her head-tails hanging casually from her shoulders. The Togruta put a orange-skinned hand on his shoulder.
With green and white hues across her face, Lana was a little younger than middle-aged. White markings along her head went all the way to her head-tails, like small horns, they fell down her shoulders to her midsection. Hollow, cone-like horns sprouted from the top of the her skull, her montrals, of a similar shade to her face.
With her age, the montrals would grow. They formed an extrasensory organ capable of sensing the movement of physical objects around her. In adolescence, they looked like mere bumps on the head.
She had blue eyes and rosy cheeks, with pale, thin lips. "Good work, where do you learn to fire a ship's gun like that?" She asked, her eyes glittering. Bec didn't want to even allude to the fact that he was a former Jedi, not to these people who he barely knew.
"I guess it's easy to get the hang of, I must be a natural." He guessed, shrugging his shoulders. Daven Shaad'el leant out from his pilot's seat in the cockpit, a grin on his face.
"You call that easy? Not just anybody can take down a pilot like Xashan. You must be some natural." Shaad'el chuckled.
Looking down at his dirty mechanic's vest and boots, Bec dusted himself off. Along with a loosely fitting shirt and cargo-trousers, he had been wearing the outfit for longer than he'd care to admit. "You don't mind if I...get a change of clothes?" Bec said, hesitantly. Lana offered him a warm expression.
Nodding, she gestured with an open hand to a door on his left. "Daven has a lot of spare clothes, pick what you like, I'm sure he won't mind. He's never been much of a stylish dresser." She smirked offhandedly.
"Hey, I can still hear you, you Earworms!" Daven yelled back in a joking fashion. Lana laughed a little, hitting a button at the side of the door. The door slid open, and Bec thanked her.
Stepping inside the cabin, it was pitch black when the door closed. Turning back around to find the light, he dumped into a lamp, and switched it on. The lamp spread orange light around the room, and Callan got a better look at Daven's cabin.
A bed was arranged at the end of the rectangular cabin, with a table, and two chairs. The bed wasn't made, sheets lying off the sides. A poster for a vacation retreat on Glee Anselm was plastered onto the wall, next to a recruitment advert from Kuat Drive-Yards.
On the other wall was a pin-up of a Lethan Twi'Lek woman, which was autographed. Below was a painting, ripped from a frame, it was pinned to the wall with a small knife. The painting depicted a lakeside scene, with fields of green and waterfalls.
On the table was a A180 blaster pistol, used as a paperweight to hold down documents. Bec couldn't help but look, they were shipping manifests, detailing a drop-off on Nar Kaaga, followed by a pick-up on Ganath in the Oktos Nebula.
Both locations were in Hutt Space, most likely the planets that were scheduled for the drop of the Camtonos. Bec had no idea how Daven could bet such a large amount of money, especially money owed to the Hutts.
Bec felt around near a cabinet, and pressed his hand to a panel. The panel opened up, revealing a couple racks of clothes. Baggy shirts and vests, and a couple of thick, dark jackets. Bec undressed, and selected a dull-white shirt, and striped trousers.
Changing clothes, he picked up one of Daven's jackets. With breast-pockets and a sleek lining, the black jacket was striped in red. Fixing his hair in a mirror embedded in the wall, Bec rubbed his face with his hands, sighing.
His dark blue eyes were flecked in silver, with dimples on his cheeks. He had a soft jawline, and a head of messy and short brown hair. He decided not to change his boots, his were well-worn and he probably wasn't the same size as Daven anyway.
About to open the door, suddenly it slid open for him. Leaning in the doorway was a thin figure, unlike Lana. She was younger, around Bec's age. The most striking feature was her milk-white skin, she wasn't human. Blue stripes and markings dotted her face.
Her hair was a light blonde, nearly white, with blue streaks. "So, you're new here?" The girl asked, with a clear voice that was smooth and pleasant. Adjusting his jacket nervously, Bec nodded.
The humanoid girl blinked "I heard you saw Tannis before he...died. He was a friend, a friend to all of us." The girl spoke with a remorseful, sorrowful tone.
"I'm Alayne, by the way, Kespan-Grell, Alayne Kespan-Grell." She extended her hand.
Alayne was a Sarkhai, a species rare in the Galaxy. A species that once flourished in the time of the Old Republic. Hailing from her home-world of Sarkhai in the Mid Rim, Alayne was raised as a gifted schoolchild.
With an interest in politics, she had applied to join the Apprentice Legislature many times. Unfortunately, a Separatist Droid attack killed her parents, and she was raised by a gang of mechanics and scrappers until her late teenage years.
"I'm Kane, it's nice to meet you." Bec shook her hand. Alayne wore a short-sleeved vest with a holster around her hips. Knee-high boots hugged her legs, with brown dungarees. The Sarkhai girl looked Bec up and down.
"You've got the DataCard, right? The one Tannis talked about?" Alayne expressed, a slight tone of hope in her voice. Bec nodded, slowly settling into his new clothes.
The Faraway shot up into the atmosphere as Alayne and Bec walked into the passenger seating, partly removed to make room for some empty crates. "Yeah, it's in here..." He went to reach into his backpack, kneeling down as he saw a glimpse of light from the cockpit.
"Where are we going?" He asked, his mind going back to his room in Nern-1014. "We're going back to Lok Trul Station, Opoku System." Alayne said.
A floating city orbiting a gas giant, Lok Trul Station was still in the Galov Sector, and near to the star called Opoku. Thinking of his room, Bec's memory suddenly snapped back.
"We can't. We can't leave yet." He said strongly, standing back up. Alayne was taken aback by the young man's urgency all of a sudden. Her bright blue eyes wide, she raised her hands "Hey, why?" She asked curiously, but she sounded slightly annoyed all the same.
"There's something important back on Arami...something I don't wanna leave behind." Bec pointed out. This item was important to him, he couldn't believe that he had forgot it.
But to be fair to him, he wasn't expecting to be taken away on a Corellian Freighter when he last left his apartment. Leaving behind such an item was a foolhardy mistake. 'This weapon is your life.' His Master would tell him.
"Believe me, we cannot leave this planet until we go back to my Complex." Bec appealed to her. Folding her arms, Alayne showed a flicker of care in her eyes.
She sat down on the floor, and Bec walked lazily over to the seating area. He leant on the edge of the seat as Alayne brushed a hand through her light blue streaked hair.
"Tell me, what makes this thing so special?" She asked again. He couldn't lie to such a kind face, she wasn't Lana or Daven. He sensed something inside her heart, a willingness to do good. Out of pure emotion built up over days, Bec sighed.
He began the story, as good as he could tell it. Bec sensed a warm feeling inside of Alayne's body, she wasn't looking to trick or test him, she wanted him to be honest. So after a year of lying, he finally was...
THE BAR NETH SYSTEM.
Albarrio Sector, Outer Rim.
The Providence-Class Dreadnought, Dreadnought-Class 'The Invisible Hand'
Two years ago.
The Separatist offences in the Outer Rim had almost driven the Republic to ground, breaking them with hordes of Battle Droids and endless fleets. But the last battles of the Clone Wars were fought in these Systems.
Bar Neth was a desert world, hardly in need of protection. Until a Republic Medical convoy was attacked by a Droid fleet, and a Jedi was taken hostage.
Above the surface of the planet, Jedi Master Pinto Rodallis and his 78th Legion arrived to vanquish the Confederacy's forces. In orbit, the 78th Legion's navy was comprised of two Venator-Class Star Destroyers, four Consular-Class Cruisers, and one Arquitens-Class Light Cruiser.
These ships proceeded towards the battle-lines, and engaged a well-armoured Separatist fleet.
But Rodallis was smarter than he appeared, the wolf-like Shistavanen Jedi Master had used his fleet's aggressive tactics as a distraction. The Venator-Class with it's wedge-shaped, knife-like profile cut through the stars of the Bar Neth system.
The alien Jedi Master had secretly led a small team of Clone Troopers and his Padawan, Bec Callan, on board the Separatist Command Ship, a Providence-Class Dreadnought named The Invisible Hand.
Seen at the head of most Confederate fleets, the Command Ship was a modified carrier/destroyer, providing the CIS with a powerful launching platform for Vulture Droids, Fighters and Bombers. A formidable warship, it was meant to serve as a counter to the heavy, weapon-rich capital ships of the Republic.
With a sleek, organic-looking frame, the Providence's hull was long like a needle. It had a tall observation spire that overlooked all below, as well as a forward-facing bridge, near the bow of the vessel. With a ventral fin on the underside, the ship was equipped with many booster engines and drive-fins for excess turbulence.
Two-thousand, one hundred and seventy-seven meters in length, the larger variant of the Command Ship, The Invisible Hand was once the ship of Trade Federation Viceroy, Nute Gunray.
Armed with shell-fed cannons and Quad T-Laser batteries, at least one hundred proton torpedo tubes littered the outer hull. Protected by an accurate point-defence grid and dual heavy cannons, the Dreadnought was able to disable and destroy enemy ships at will.
Carrying a massive contingent of Tri-Droid Fighters and Hyena-Class Bombers, the air-wing was released as the group of Republic ships came ever closer. Vulture Droids were deployed in force against a torrent of V-Wings.
Escorted by squadrons of Vulture Droids, the Dreadnought was flanked by an impressive guard of other capital ships. Munificent-Class Star Frigates, the backbone of the fleet. Boasting a powerful forward cannon, the cannon-fodder of a craft slowly advanced on the leading Venator.
On the starboard side of The Invisible Hand was an anti-capital Recusant-Class Light Destroyer, provided by the Commerce Guild. The warship was heavily automated, using several Droid brains to control the systems inside.
The skeletal frame of the Destroyer often leaves it open to attack by Starfighters and Bombers, so it was guarded by another two shielded Munificent-Class Frigates.
Already, waves of Vulture Droids swarmed the Republic's Light Cruiser, as turrets fired rapidly, frying one Vulture Droid in every five. The space battle had begun as the Confederate capital ships formed a strong bulwark.
V-Wings and the Triple-winged V-19 Torrent Starfighters all disembarked from the Venator, shooting out a squad at a time from the dorsal hangar doors that ran along the spine of the vessel.
The Separatist's first offensive had crippled and destroyed a Jedi Taskforce and Medical convoy in the System, capturing Jedi Master Raesso Naatiri and wiping out her fleet.
Master Rodallis had embarked on a daring mission with his Padawan to rescue her, as it was their duty to their own. Taking a squad of Clone Troopers from the 78th Legion's special forces, the Combat Support Division.
Jumping out of hyperspace at a precise point, the Master Rodallis's Nu-Class Shuttle slipped by the thermal shields of the Dreadnought. Weaving past the ship's spikes and hangar bays, the shuttle docked on the side of the Command Ship's starboard flank. Bringing the primary power down, the Shuttle was undetected.
Pinto Rodallis was a tall, brown-eyed Shistavanen, a Wolf-like alien wearing flowing robes and armour. With clawed feet and furry hands, he wore his thin curved lightsaber on his belt. A master of one-handed duelling, Rodallis had a keen eye for detail, but a dry wit and humour. He was intelligent, able to plan and create quick-witted strategies.
Climbing out of a small hatch, Pinto jumped out, as his Padawan climbed up next. Bec Callan, dressed in grey and black robes, he carried his own lightsaber on his belt, along with a grappling hook, Comlink, and other gadgets.
Bec had been skilled with technology as a boy, even impressing Master Yoda with his knowledge as a Youngling. Pulling out a DataPad, he checked the readouts with curious eyes. The Padawan sat on the edge of the open hatch.
"Master Naatiri's Comlink is still active, but it's not transmitting." Bec told his Master. As they heard the faint explosions and noises of blaster fire out in space, Pinto knew their time was short. It wouldn't be long before the Separatist fleet either lost, or retreated.
He sniffed the air "Aye, I have her scent, Bec. Tell Captain Fordo to stay with the Shuttle, we don't want any Droids finding out we're here." Master Rodallis replied.
Bec grabbed his Comlink to inform the ARC Trooper Captain. Pressing the button with his thumb, he radioed in to the team waiting in the Shuttle. "Captain, stay with the ship, make sure it's ready if we need to come back in a hurry." Bec said.
"Yes, Commander. I'll keep the ship running." Fordo declared. To rescue Master Naatiri, they'd need to find her in the midst of the Droid's Command Ship. Pulling out a hologram-disc, Bec showed a blue, holographic map of The Invisible Hand.
Looking over the map, Bec pointed out a large central corridor, running from the forward Bridge to the observation platform at the top of the Dreadnought's spire. "Here, Master Naatiri's signal is coming from the main hallway, she might have escaped on her own." Bec guessed.
His Master hummed "Unlikely, we haven't heard from her in four rotations, if she had escaped, she would have contacted us by now." Rodallis reasoned.
Bec put the hologram emitter away, and put his hand on the pommel of his Lightsaber. Silver and bronze, his lightsaber was a cylindrical weapon with a straight grip and edge, a small metal fin running down the side, the hilt ending in a rectangular emitter.
They soon started to make their way to the central corridor, from above the hangar bay, they travelled to the nearest turbo-lift. The interior of the ship was stark, with rows of lighting above them, and metallic floors with large struts at every corner.
Panels of light below them lead to the turbo-lift shafts. Multiple doors. Upon arriving at this crossroad, Bec instantly took a knee at one of the panels. Attempting to hack into the controls, he removed a tool, expertly-made for slicing doors. Pinto turned around, his ears folding back.
Hearing the sounds of rapid robotic movement, two rolling balls of metal and circuits came barrelling towards them. "Padawan, Destroyers!" Master Rodallis alerted.
Rolling at a breakneck speed, the two Destroyer Droids, also known as the Droideka, unfolded in front of them. They were able to transform into a wheel configuration, allowing rapid movement at any time, with a few seconds delay. The armoured Droids unfolded into a tripodal weapons platform, armed with a set of two twin blaster cannons.
They opened fire and Pinto pulled out his green-bladed Lightsaber. Deflecting the bolts, Bec hurried to complete the hack. Spinning his blade in a figure-eight, Rodallis blocked the rapid-fire from the Droidekas. With bubble-shields around them, any reflected fire would harmlessly be absorbed.
Bec grunted, as his tool sparked, the lift doors opening. "Got it!" He said in triumph. Igniting his blue blade, he helped his Master block the Destroyer Droid's fire as they backed into the elevator. The doors closing, the Turbo-lift began it's climb onto the main decks.
"We're travelling up, we'll reach the main deck soon." Bec informed his Master. Standing in the lift, the lights of the elevator flickered, hearing the sounds of V-Wings and swooping, spinning Tri-Fighters. The lift continued as Master Pinto's wrist-mounted Comlink flickered on.
"General, we're taking heavy fire, another Cruiser's been hit." Rear Admiral Nils Tenant's voice was scrambled through the call, as he mumbled a curse while another explosion echoed in the background.
Pinto blinked, thinking of what to do. "Focus on the Frigates, concentrate fire on the Separatist Transports and coordinate Bombing runs, launch our Y-Wings." Rodallis instructed.
The Admiral grunted, as Bec heard the explosions and blasts fuzzing through the Comlink. "Yes, General! We'll hold out as long as we can." Tenant spoke with resolute pride, doing his best to maintain some composure. The turbo-lift sped up to the main deck, the light above them flickering.
"Be mindful of the living force, Padawan, trust your feelings." Pinto advised calmly, as the elevator stopped. The doors opened slowly, revealing hostiles, at least eight B1 Battle Droids.
The most numerous - and expendable - fighting force the galaxy, the B1s hopelessly turned around, E-5 blaster rifles in their mechanical hands. Unlike most organic soldiers, they were capable of action in hostile environments such as underwater or in space. Designed, for the most part, to defeat their enemies through sheer numbers, not through their intelligence.
They were thin, tall with long, elongated heads atop slender necks. Their chests painted red, these Security Droids all aimed for the Jedi. "There they are, get em'!" The lead Droid spouted.
"Roger Roger!" Some of the Battle Droids repeated. A flurry of red bolts proceeded, as Pinto drew his green lightsaber. Blocking the bolts as he advanced, he swiftly chopped down a nearby Droid. Bec activated his blade, dodging a red laser, and reflecting one back at the Droid's head.
Battling their way through, the Jedi's sabres slashed through the Droids like a hot blade through steel. Bec spun around, cutting the E-5 rifle in half, then impaling the Droid on his lightsaber.
Pinto finished the last Droid with a force-push, knocking the robot into the wall with a crash. Scanning the sliced metal and smoking robots, Bec smirked. He put away his weapon, watching his Master look ahead. "I sense her...we aren't far. Keep your guard up, Bec." Pinto adjusted his cloak, tightening his belt and checking his curved Saber.
They walked on, down another corridor that looked exactly like the last one. Bec wondered if the ship's interior was made this way, like a maze of endless hallways.
Turning, they saw a group of figures at the end of the corridor, illuminated by the lights around them. "Raesso Naatiri..." Bec verbally confirmed, laying eyes on the dark-skinned woman. She was young, around twenty or thirty-five years old, wearing flowing robes and modest jewellery.
Naatiri had deep brown skin and wavy, jet-black hair, styled into elaborate locks streaming down to her shoulders. She was on her knees, blood leaking from her lip.
Pinto snarled, laying eyes on the B2 Super Battle Droids. At least a squad's worth, flanking the IG-100 Magnaguards. The two red-eyed Droids were caped, and robotically muscled. Holding electrostaffs, they had whirring joints and long faces.
Armed and skilled, they were capable of continuing a fight even with the loss of one or multiple limbs, or even their heads. They were worthy competitors even to the best duelists among the Jedi Order. More effective in groups, these two Magnaguards were battle-worn, scuffed and weathered. Guarding Naatiri, the ugliest Magnaguard was even missing a photoreceptor.
"I'm sorry, Master Rodallis, I failed." Raesso trembled, her voice subdued.
A skeleton-like hand stroked the head of the female Jedi. The hand belonged to a figure that looked even more frightening than the Magnaguards. As Bec and his master got closer, it only became more nightmarish.
Towering over his guards, but hunched, the caped figure had a Droid's appearance, encased in a bone-white metal shell. However, his eyes pulsed with sickly, orange hatred. Cables and wires connected his thick neck to a mask, a visage resembling a monstrous skull. His armour was wound tight, angular and spiked.
With clawed, pointed feet and the frame of a child's monster, the cyborg creature spoke in a gravelly, commanding voice unlike any Droid that Bec had ever heard.
"Aah, General Rodallis, we've been waiting for you..." General Grievous taunted menacingly. His hand stroked the back of Naatiri's head, kneeling down beside her and reaching into his cloak.
The General's organic eyes locked on Pinto the whole time. "Stinking Jedi!" Grievous barked, igniting a purple lightsaber in Raesso's back. The woman gasped, her brown eyes widening as her body snapped upwards. Her arms flailed as she fell forwards to the floor, a burning hole in her chest.
Pinto snarled, grabbing his Saber and igniting it. Bec followed his impulses and did the same, as Grievous laughed openly. Appearing behind them was a small army of Droids, B2s and B1s, running from every door. From the doors nearest to General Grievous, white-marked Commando Droids flipped and rolled into position.
Holding Naatiri's golden-handled lightsaber in his fist, Grievous stood back up, chuckling as his droids surrounded the pair of Jedi; Master and Apprentice. "That was a bad mistake." Bec fumed, seeing the gun-arms of the B2s unfold and aim towards them.
"A tragic ending of a gallant warrior, no doubt!" Grievous boasted sarcastically, coughing.
The Droids held their positions, unmoving as the two Jedi deactivated their weapons. Naatiri's lifeless body still on the ground in front of them, Bec turned slightly, tapping the top of his thigh with three fingers.
"Rescue, Bec, not mayhem." Pinto whispered, responding to the secret hand-signal. The Padawan tried again, touching his shoulder, drumming his thumb against his collarbone.
"No, no, no...we need to be fast." His Master responded in a husky tone. "Now isn't a good time to argue, Master." Bec pointed out, as the B1s behind them were getting restless. Surrounding them, the Droids swarmed, all aiming their blasters in the same direction.
Grievous, seemingly unaware, still held Naatiri's Saber "I look forward to adding your lightsabers to my collection!" The cyborg threatened.
Pinto tapped one claw on his Saber-hand, in a repeated pattern. "Far too many of them for that, Master." Bec replied, his hand going for his Saber on his belt.
The Padawan looked down, remembering his studies of the holographic map. The Invisible Hand didn't just have another layer of corridor beneath the main deck, at certain points, it held the entrance to the fuel line.
Bec tapped his fingers on his neck, running a hand through his hair. Master Rodallis took a few seconds to catch on to the signal "Oh, yes, alright then." He agreed.
A second later, they drew their lightsabers at the same time, in front of all the Droids, Grievous and his Guards. They must have been insane, but maybe they just were.
Outnumbered and out of options, that's where the Jedi excelled.