"Retrieving data from probe in sector 11427, nothing to report. Probe in sector 13885 has nothing to report either. The system seems to be clear of activity so far," Senior Comm Officer Kalem informed.
"Good, good," his commanding officer, Captain Arwin, said before he moved on to the next station. "Carry on with your duties."
"Yes, sir," he said, watching as his superior repeated the same process with the officer seated next to him before turning his attention back to the monitor, and like many times before, there was nothing new to be seen.
As a communications officer, he's been assigned aboard the IGV-27 Surveillance vessel, a Gozanti-class cruiser that focused mainly on intercepting transmissions that traveled through Wild Space or other unexplored regions.
The freighter has seen little to none action ever since it began active duty. There have been no findings worth reporting whatsoever—nothing that would be of use to the Empire of course.
That meant that the Empire was doing its job as it's suppose to.
Keeping both the order and peace throughout the galaxy was by no means an easy task, but ever since Chancellor Palpatine declared himself as Emperor and the newly-formed Galactic Empire took the place of its weak predecessor, the now old Republic, the galaxy has gone through a turmoil of drastic changes.
New reforms, laws and strict regulations were created, along with hand-picked governors that were chosen to supervise many of the Imperial controlled systems that were in the need of a much firmer hand. All of these changes and more in order to prevent another conflict like the Clone Wars from ever erupting yet again.
While the Separatist threat has been dealt with, many systems have chosen to rally against the Empire's rule, performing treacherous acts of terrorism and insurrection that are yet to be contained. With that considered, it was now up to people like him to identify these rebellious groups and make sure that they were all apprehended and executed.
All in order to preserve the peace and prosperity in the galaxy.
Now with his attention back on the monitor, there was a long pause before he saw something flare on his screen. "Sir, our long-range scanners managed to pick up a signal entering the system," he informed as soon as he saw the fluctuation appear.
Frowning at the news, Captain Arwin instructed, "Try to lock on it and trace where it's coming from."
"On it, sir," he responded, working on the console with fast efficiency without wasting a second. "It appears to be a frequency of unknown origin, and it's quite far from the looks of it, but… Hold on, it's starting moving..."
"It's…" His eyes went wide. "It's heading right towards us!"
The captain gave him a puzzled look. "What do you mean–"
An instant later he broke up with a startled gasp as the ship jerked violently, forcing most of the entire crew to the floor.
"W-we're under attack!"
Getting his bearings back together, he shook his head in pain when the ship's alarms began to flare across the room. "Alert! We are being boarded by unknown hostiles," he heard a voice come from the bridge speaker. "Repeat: We are being boarded! All hands to battle stations!"
Already back on his feet, Captain Arwin grunted. "Pesky pirates," he said. "Whoever they are, they're gonna pay for this transgression."
Judging by the sound of blaster fire that came from the outside, the enemy were much closer than what he initially thought. All personnel armed themselves for the inevitable engagement. Protocol dictated that every crew-member aboard an Imperial vessel was required to carry a blaster at all times, so at the very least they weren't entirely defenseless.
"Prepare to repel the boarding party," Captain Arwin said, standing by the blast door with a blaster already in hand, ready to lead the charge. "Everyone, on me–uh!"
The blast door opened without any kind of warning, and Captain Arwin had no chance to turn around before he was immediately attacked by some sort of bug-like creature and stung him on the neck. A look of both shock and fear spread across the man's face as he tried to shake the creature off, only for his body to slowly cease moving before standing completely still.
The captain was frozen like a statue.
None of the crew-members had a chance to understand what just transpired before more of those flying creatures poured inside, coming in like a swarm of hungry beast.
The hallways were practically filled with them, all flying around as they seek their next prey.
Blaster bolts were fired. The crew desperately tried to shoot down as many as they could, but there were far too many and they were now getting overwhelmed. His blaster was pretty much useless at this point.
Seeing what little remained of his coworkers and other members of the crew get taken out one by one without even managing to put any resistance, he knew that there was no way out and no place to hide.
He was quick to understand the hopelessness of the situation. He pushed himself back into his console, narrowly avoiding being stung by one of the flying bugs before he turned the communications system back online—if only so he could transmit one desperate distress signal back to Imperial Command.
"Th-this is Senior Comm Officer Kalem, requesting for immediate assistance! We are under attack by unidentified assailants! The ship has been compromised and–agh!" His words were cut short and the transmission was soon lost.
Chapter 1: Discovery
"Have the scanners managed to find anything?"
"Nothing to report, Commander," the officer said. "No activity has been detected between the sector. Considering the results, our analysts suggest that no ships have ventured anywhere close to the system for at least some time."
"And what about the missing surveillance vessel?"
The officer shook his head. "I'm afraid that we haven't found any trace of it either, but judging by the frequency of their last transmission, we believe that it must be somewhere close the area."
Looking over his datapad, Eli Vanto read over the report detailing whatever findings they had from the last twelve hours, but with nothing out of the ordinary to be seen, he released an exhausted sigh before dismissing the officer.
It has been little more than five standard days since both he and Thrawn were send into some unregistered sector of Wild Space to search for a missing surveillance patrol, and so far they haven't found anything yet.
Being deployed into these type of assignments was hardly anything new to him, whatsoever. Wiping out smugglers and insurgents was pretty much standard routine by now, but it wasn't something that he particularly enjoyed doing. In all honesty, he would rather spend his time doing something more productive than simply patrolling unexplored systems.
The Chimaera's bridge was as quiet as usual, with the only sound to be heard being the staff working undisturbed in the background. And standing at the center of the operations room, looking over a tactical display on the holoprojector, he could see Thrawn.
He was doing a final check, as he always did. The Chiss admiral's face remained unreadable while his hands rested behind his back in silence.
The young commander smiled to himself. For all of Thrawn's interest in observing and establishing his opponents' patterns, the admiral has plenty himself.
While in thought, he saw from the corner of his eye Commander Faro approach him.
Karyn Faro was one of the highest-ranked members aboard the vessel, right after Thrawn—holding the same rank and authority as Eli himself. His opinion of her character has improved over the years, and he would like to think that it was the same for her as well.
It was no secret that Faro once considered Thrawn an outsider to the Empire—just like many other Imperials did—but the initial animosity that she had towards the admiral developed into deep respect over the years that they have worked together. The same could probably be said for the entire crew as well.
Every crew member on the Chimaera probably viewed Thrawn as the best commanding officer that the Imperial navy had to offer. Honestly, considering how most Imperial officers usually behaved, those words may hold more true than what one may realize.
It was astonishing how the Chiss was able inspire such loyalty out of the crew. Everyone worked to their maximum capability, aiming to be as efficient and precise as possible thanks to Thrawn, and he would be lying if he said that he himself wasn't included in that list. Spending so much time with the admiral has somehow helped him further develop not only his skills as an analyst, but in a number of other fields that he never got to consider until now.
"Commander Faro," Eli greeted. "Something on your mind?"
"Actually, yes. There's something that I wish to discuss with you, Commander Vanto." Oddly enough, she eyed Thrawn carefully before she spoke, "Tell me, have you see anything… different about the admiral lately?"
"Different?" The young commander repeated. "How so?"
Faro appeared to hesitate before she responded, "I'm not sure how to best put it, but the admiral has been acting in a rather odd manner lately," she explained. "Ever since we arrived to this system, he has barely spoken a word to me, or to anyone else for that matter. I fear that something may be troubling him."
Eli paused to consider. "Now that you mention it, I think you may be onto something. I've been rather busy as of late and haven't really talked to him that much, but he does seem somewhat more distant than usual."
"I believe distant is putting it lightly," Faro said. "Knowing him, I would think that he's expecting some sort of attack. It unnerves me to think that he knows something that we don't, and I would rather be prepared than remain ignorant to some unseen danger."
Eli frowned at what Faro was implying. The scanners haven't picked anything during the last couple of days that they've been out here, so what could make Thrawn think otherwise?
Then again, they're talking about Thrawn here.
It wasn't unheard of that he would reserve details of his plans whenever he considers that there's no need for those involved to know about them. Faro's words were starting to make much more sense the more he thought about it.
"I believe that it would be for the best if you were to ask him yourself if there's anything that we should be made aware of. I honestly prefer to avoid any unpleasant surprises if I can help it."
Eli folded his arms across his chest. "If what you're saying is true and Thrawn doesn't see the need to tell anyone about it, what makes you think that he will reveal anything to me?"
He could almost swear that he saw Faro roll her eyes. "You're his aide and closest confidant. If anyone has a real chance of getting Thrawn to tell them anything, then that would be you."
"Hmm, I see your point," he replied. "Alright, I'll ask him when I get the chance."
"Commander Vanto," he heard Thrawn suddenly call out to him. "A word, if you may."
"Looks like you have your chance," Faro breathed before she walked away.
Eli couldn't avoid letting out a mental sigh. And here I was hoping that I could have at least more time to think in my approach, he resigned himself before he moved to stand next to the admiral. But it seems that I won't have that luxury.
Thrawn never took his gaze away from the holoprojector, but Eli knew that the Chiss could hear him just fine. Whatever his red eyes were observing however, he had no clue, but he knew better than to ask trivial questions such as that.
After a couple of seconds, Thrawn finally spoke, "What do you make of our current situation?"
Eli gave him an odd look. He wasn't expecting to be tested so suddenly. "If you permit me to be blunt, sir," Thrawn nodded, and he took it as a sign to continue. "Sending us out to patrol uncharted territories like these seem like a waste of time and resources. We could have been deployed somewhere else, perhaps in the Outer Realm, where Imperial presence is needed the most. But instead we were send out here to the middle of nowhere to look for a missing ship that may already be too far gone to salvage," he said with a frown. "If anything, I believe this is just another scheme to get you out of the way."
The young commander had no doubt that this was nothing more than another plot to keep Thrawn away from any action and from any further accomplishments. He probably ended up annoying some other high-ranking member of the Imperial hierarchy with one of his latest exploits.
After all, only someone within the Imperial Navy could have both the authority and influence to pull off something like this. And it went without saying that Thrawn has made a lot of enemies throughout his military career.
Thrawn nodded in approval. "An appropriate assessment, but I'm afraid that that's not what I meant." At the confused look that he got from his aide, he elaborated, "As I'm sure you must have realized by now, this system is rather desolate and quite lacking in activity."
Eli had next to no idea where Thrawn was going with this, but decided to follow along. "That's what the report said, yes."
"The information that we have managed to collect so far does suggest that, but what if I told you that I was here before, at a time when I had yet to join the Empire," he said, his voice low and calm. "Back then this sector was usually known for its smuggling routes and high pirate activity."
Eli's attention perked at Thrawn's words. Is he referring to his time before he was exiled?
"I find it rather perplexing to see how much it has all changed since then. But then again, this brings me yet to another question," Thrawn paused, as if expecting Eli to elaborate and complete his own thought.
Giving his words a moment of consideration, he went silent for a couple of seconds until he realized what Thrawn was getting at. "Something must have scared them off the system."
Thrawn inclined his head. "Yes, that's what I suspect," he said with a small smile. "And since there are no records of previous Imperial activity in the sector, then that must mean that another force must have driven them away. Which leave us yet with another question; who?"
The pieces were there, now it was up to Thrawn to finish the puzzle.
Hours later after his discussion with Thrawn, the Chimaera finally arrived to the place where contact with the surveillance vessel was lost.
A patrol squadron was send to do a reconnaissance sweep of the area, and moments later found the missing freighter practically drifting in space with no power nor signs of life forms coming from the inside.
A Lambda shuttle dropped down from the vehicle storage bay and out the hangar door, gently gliding out of the Chimaera's launch bay before speeding up and flying out from underneath the warship, a flight group of three TIE's accompanying it in an escort formation.
Inside the shuttle, Eli couldn't help but feel uneasy as he waited for the shuttle to reach the freighter.
He didn't felt like this before, but after his talk with Thrawn, he couldn't help but feel a little nervous the more time they spend in this desolate system. The fact that he was no longer between the safety of a fully-armed Star Destroyer, but instead in a small ship with only a few metal plates separating him from the cold void of space was of little comfort.
The young Commander spared one look at Thrawn, and was unsurprised to see that the Chiss was as calm as ever. Eli wouldn't admit it, but a part of her envied how Thrawn could always control his emotions and act so calmly under any situation, no matter where he finds himself.
He sometimes even wonders if Thrawn was capable feeling emotions at all.
Eli shook his head, pushing that silly idea away. Of course Thrawn has emotions, I've seen it before, he thought, reminding himself of every time the Chiss has shown concern over him or the state of the crew.
They weren't the only ones aboard the shuttle. A squad worth of stormtroopers was accompanying them as an escort to secure the ship while they investigated. A small team of technicians was hand-picked by Thrawn to help out in retrieving any data that they could find aboard. Hopefully they will let them know what happened.
That was another reason why he respected the Admiral. Thrawn could have chosen to send just him instead and stay out of harms way in the Chimaera, just like any other superior would do. But Thrawn was different. He always preferred to see details with his own eyes and supervise operations directly, always prepared to take calculated risks, but risks nonetheless.
That was one of the many traits that he valued the most about the Chiss and his leadership methods, which so far have proven to be quite effective.
"We are nearing the hangar. Preparing for landing," he heard the pilot. Only a couple of moments passed before he felt the familiar movement of the shuttle's inner-mechanism preparing the landing gear.
Once the freighter's hangar hatch sealed and the shuttle touched down, the stormtroopers marched out first, securing the hangar all the way down to the corridors, flanking the walkways together with blasters at the ready.
The Stormtrooper commander, Mayor Carvia, signaled his men and took point with the main group as they began to disperse across the rest of the ship.
"Area secured, Admiral."
Thrawn steeped down the shuttle's ramp, followed closely by Eli. Due to safety protocols, they both wore standard officer battle armor, and even though he would rather avoid getting himself into a firefight if possible, it didn't hurt to be prepared.
"Status reports," Thrawn ordered.
"My men report that no survivors have been found, just as we already expected. However, none of the droids are anywhere to be seen either," he explained. "We did found signs of battle, but there were no bodies other than traces of blaster fire."
Thrawn remained silent as he reflected over this. If there weren't any bodies to be found, then what happened to the missing crew?
"Let us proceed to the bridge," Thrawn said. "Once there, we should find the answers that we seek."
The hallways were dead silent with the only exception being the footsteps of the stormtroopers and the team of technicians that accompanied them on their march to the bridge. The lack of power also meant that the corridors were as dark as they could get, but even the lack of vision did little to hinder the troops' movements.
Eli on the other hand was having much more trouble seeing pass a few meters, but he successfully managed to avoid stumbling into anyone as they made their way through.
Thrawn didn't appear to have any trouble whatsoever. Could it be a Chiss thing? Then again, maybe the Chiss were capable of seeing in the dark? He couldn't really remember if any of the stories that he heard back home mentioned anything like that, so who knows.
Eli contemplated the prospect of asking Thrawn, but he dismissed the idea. Maybe on another time, but as it is right now, they were here for a job and that took priority.
This vessel type was fairly common across the Imperial Navy, so the layout wasn't unfamiliar to them in the slightest. Thanks to that, reaching the bridge was a fast process. A pair of stormtroopers went inside first to clear the room before Thrawn and Eli. Once they were given the go-ahead, they went in.
Thrawn observed the condition of the equipment before he addressed the team of technicians. "Work to get the power back online. Once the systems are operational, I want you to transmit fly records, camera footage and all data collected back to the Chimaera for further analysis."
"Yes, Admiral," the leading technician responded before signaling the others to move in.
Minutes passed, and while the technicians continued their work, Eli saw that Thrawn was currently inspecting the marks of blaster fire that were fresh on the walls. He never understood Thrawn's thought process when it came to analyzing this sort of stuff, but he knew enough as to not to interrupt him when he was like this.
Thrawn's glowing red eyes were focused on the marks. It was as if he was looking at a painting. His gaze lowered in contemplation and soon found an abandoned officer's cap laying on the floor below one of the terminals.
"What do you make of this, Commander Vanto?" Thrawn asked.
Eli coughed, realizing that the Chiss was quite aware that he was being observed.
Pushing the embarrassment aside, he did his best to answer, "Well, the crew were clearly boarded and most definitely taken hostage. They put up a fight, but since there aren't any bodies, whoever attacked them must have taken them as prisoners aboard their own ship."
"Indeed," Thrawn said with a fixed stare. "But for what purpose?"
Eli pondered over the possibilities and grimaced at the first thought that came to mind. Slavery was a viable option, but humans weren't particularly popular in the market, and even if that was the case, Imperials are hardly the best choice considering that there are easier ways to acquire human slaves.
He knew that they weren't simply dealing with some group of insurgents or a pirate band, as neither of them would have bothered to take prisoners in the first place. Not unless someone or something of value was aboard, but all the records that they have prove that there was nothing like on the ship.
No, wait… There was something of value aboard. Something that may be useful only to some, and could be potentially dangerous on the hands of the enemies of the the Empire.
Eli's eyes narrowed once he came to the answer. "They wanted information."
"It could be," Thrawn said. "Or perhaps they were after something else."
"What else could they be after?"
The Chiss shook his head and responded, "Of that we do not yet know, but I do have a idea as to what that may be."
Eli raised a brow in surprise. "Do you already know?"
"I have a thought," Thrawn responded. "But further study will be necessary."
Their discussion was cut short when the lights inside the bridge came back to life. All systems rebooted and were once again operational. "All systems are online, Admiral," the leading technician said with a proud look.
"Excellent," Thrawn said, looking away from the cap. "What's the status of the ship?"
"My team is trying to recover as much data as possible, but whoever did this went to great lengths to cover their tracks. I'm afraid that at this point there's no guarantee that there will be much data left for us to salvage."
Thrawn held his hand up. "I am most aware that whoever was behind this attack must have tampered with the ship's computers, but regardless of the size, any bit of information that we can gather could prove invaluable," he said. "Even the smallest of details can be greatly beneficial to us, and that's something that we simply cannot afford to lose."
The tech seemed hesitant, but nodded nonetheless. "Understood, Admiral. We should double our efforts to save as much as we can."
Thrawn was ready to resume his previous conversation with Eli when his comm buzzed. "Report," he said calmly.
Commander Faro's voice came through. "Sir, our scanners just registered a new signal entering the system. A ship of unknown origin is fast approaching our position," she informed. "And based on the data that we received from the distress call, it matches the signal that attacked the surveillance vessel."
Thrawn's back straighten a bit. "So at last, they have finally chosen to reveal themselves," he said. "Sooner than what I had anticipated, but it still works in our favor."
It barely took a second for Eli to understand what Thrawn had in mind all along. "We were the bait." It wasn't a question, but an observation.
"In order to draw out an enemy, it is fundamental to make them think that they're the ones in control," Thrawn said before activating the comm. "Have the Chimaera ready to intercept. Maintain distance and keep the ship between range in case they show signs of hostility."
"At once, Admiral." Faro nodded at the order. "Do you wish for full combat readiness?"
"I do," Thrawn said. "However, we should discern their intentions first before we can proceed with our first move. Do keep weapons at the ready and await for my arrival."
"Understood. We'll await for your return," she responded. "Faro out."
It didn't take long for them to return to the Chimaera. Eli stood in place, observing as the unidentified vessel—which looked like nothing more than a dot between millions of stars—become clearer the closer it got.
"Contact," Commander Hammerly reported from below the command walkway. "We have a visual."
As far as Eli could see, the vessel had a particularly unique design. It looked like some sort of hybrid of organic protrusions with a large metallic superstructure around most of the helm. If he were to be honest, he would be the first one to admit that it creeped him out.
It would appear that Thrawn had an interest for the ship's particular design too. His glowing red eyes looking at the vessel with intrigue.
On the other hand, Faro's overview of the ship wasn't nearly as positive. If anything, she looked disgusted by it. "What sort of aberration of a ship is that?"
"That's what we're about to find out. Comm, open transmission," Thrawn ordered. "This is Admiral Thrawn aboard the ISD Chimaera," he said, his voice forceful, authoritative. "Under authority of the Galactic Empire, lower your shields and surrender, otherwise we will be forced to fire. Repeat: Lower your shield and surrender or be destroyed."
There was no response from the vessel. It remained like that for a couple of seconds when…
"Sir! A high concentration of power has been detected coming out of that ship," Senior Comm Officer Lomar informed from his console. "The readings are off the charts!"
"Doesn't look like they are surrendering to me," Eli said drily.
"They are preparing for an assault." Faro scowled. "Ready weapons to attack."
Thrawn shook his head, waving a hand. "Belay that order. We still have a few more moments before they're between our range."
Looking over his datapad, Eli read the scans the that he got with wide eyes. "Whatever that thing is, it can hardly be considered a cruiser with readings this large," Eli said. "That thing is a warship."
"Fascinating." Thrawn rested a hand under his chin. "Keep the main guns at the ready and focus power on the deflecting shields."
"Copy, sir," Weapons officer Pyrondi said. "Re-routing all power to the front shields."
"Their heavy armor suggests their shielding technology is weak compared to ours. If that's the case, then a single Star Destroyer would be more than a match for them." Thrawn dared a smile. "I believe that it is time for a little test."
"All stations are at the ready and waiting for your command, Admiral," Faro informed.
Thrawn inclined his head in acknowledgment. "All TIE's: Launch," he ordered. "Three waves, Interceptors in Wave Three. Form up with initial waves and await targeting orders."
Eli issued the order over the comlink. "TIE's are moving out."
With the pilots already standing by, it wasn't long before a number of TIE's poured from the underside of the Chimaera and scattered around the Star Destroyer.
"Captain Reiker," Thrawn reached out to the TIE leader. "Advance in formation. Draw the enemy's attention away from the Chimaera while we continue our approach. Concentrate fire on their main guns and retreat once our turbolasers have them on range."
"Acknowledge," the captain responded. "Onyx squadron moving in."
The TIE's began to swop in, closing the distance in a matter of seconds. The enemy warship's point defense cannons opened fire, forcing them to scramble. The vessel's cannons struggled to hit their swift, agile opponents, yet that did nothing to prevented them from charging their main weapon.
"Sir, the enemy ship is almost ready to fire." Hammerly called out. "What are your orders?"
Thrawn remained silent as he observed the scene with a passive gaze. "Turn to a hundred degrees. Be ready to take evasive maneuvers," Thrawn ordered, his hands clasped behind his back. "Brace for impact."
Not long after, the warship fired a beam that practically cut the distance between them in almost an instant, forcing the TIE's to evade the incoming attack. Some of them weren't lucky and got caught up in the beam, but the majority managed to push forward.
The beam impacted against the side of the Chimaera, shocking the ship with great force. The shield absorbed the blunt of the impact, but it still forced Eli to stumble to the floor while Faro was barely able to hold herself in place. Thrawn on the other hand hardly moved from where he was standing.
"Status reports," Thrawn called calmly.
"Damage was minimum. The shields were able to take most of the impact, but another hit like that could prove to be fatal," Lieutenant Pyrondi informed.
Hammerly was quick to add, "Sir, the enemy is preparing to fire again."
"Then let us not give them another chance," Thrawn said as he activated the comlink. "You may initiate the attack, Captain."
The first attack had been a test, a free shot Thrawn had offered their assailants in order to confirm his analysis of their tactics. This time the enemy was going to have to work a lot harder for prizes.
The TIE's were already upon the warship. They commenced their attack on the main weapons and broke pass their defenses without any opposition from the enemy. The vessel was able to withstand the assault, though the laser canons were proving to be very effective against its weak shields.
"It doesn't look like they have any fighters of their own," Faro commented. "They won't put much of a fight if they get this easily overwhelmed by a single squadron."
"Agree, but their armor seems pretty tough. I don't think a TIE's firepower will be enough to penetrate the hull," Eli commented. "And it doesn't look like they're taking too much damage despite having their shields down."
"An accurate assessment, but the concern is unwarranted," Thrawn said. "Especially not now that the enemy is at our mercy."
Eli gave Thrawn a look, and like many times before, he couldn't help but wonder what could be going through the Chiss' mind. His glowing red eyes observed the battle unfold in silence.
"Optimal firing distance, Admiral," Faro reported. "Turbolasers standing ready."
"Thank you, Commander." Thrawn inclined his head. "Target the main hull. Turbolasers: Fire."
The TIE fighters did another apsis and circled around the warship, moving to stay out of the of the Star Destroyer's weapons range. The Chimaera proceeded to move at top speed towards the enemy before finally opening fire.
The barrier was unable to withstand the Star Destroyer's overwhelming firepower, as the turbo lasers teared cleanly through the armor plates, leaving the warship unable to defend itself as the Chimaera started doing serious damage.
"Keep damage to a minimum. Focus on disabling the ship," Thrawn ordered. "It is imperative that we interrogate survivors."
Now with the support of the Chimaera, the TIE's continued their assault with a devastating barrage of heavy blaster fire, doing their best to not completely destroy the warship.
"Sir, the enemy has cease firing. They're on full retreat," Hammerly reported.
"Reduce fire potency and target non-essential proportions of the vessel." Thrawn ordered. "I wish to know where they're headed."
"Sir?" Eli questioned.
"We cannot risk destroying it," he explained. "We must uncover the origin of that ship and its purpose here. Otherwise, the motives of their presence here will be forever unknown to us."
With the enemy warship in full retreat, the Chimaera was now in hot pursuit.
"I'm surprised that they can still fly despite all the damage," Eli said. "That ship can sure take a lot of punishment."
Faro nodded in agreement. "Regardless, they won't be getting far. They're nothing but easy prey to us now."
"Admiral, the enemy is headed into an asteroid field at the edge of the system," Hammerly reported.
"Stay on course," Thrawn ordered. "Plot the safest route through the field and give the order to have all weapons ready to destroy any obstacle that may lay in our path. Onyx Squadron shouldn't have any issue passing through the asteroids. Have them keep track of that ship and don't lose it."
Hammerly nodded. "Understood. Transmitting new orders to Captain Reiker."
The Chimaera continue its advance, blasting any of the asteroids that were either too big or got too close to avoid damaging the ship. All the while, the TIE's were still after the fleeing enemy cruiser in a v-shaped formation while navigating through the debris at an appropriate distance.
Thrawn's comm buzzed before Captain Reiker's voice came through. "Admiral, we're still on pursue of the target. We chase it out of the asteroid field, but…"
A frown reached Thrawn's face. "Is there a problem, Captain?"
"We… I believe we found something..." There was a strange pause. Whatever it was that they found, Reiker was having a hard time explaining it. "I think it would be best if you were to see it for yourself."
Hearing the confusion on the pilot's voice, Eli couldn't help but frown in concern. They were in the middle of a battle with an unknown enemy. What could be so bewildering that even an experienced veteran like Captain Reiker would have trouble putting it into words.
"Sir, we have a visual again..." came the voice from someone on the bridge.
It wasn't until the Chimaera came out of the asteroid field that the fleeing warship became visible again, along with the TIE's closely behind it. However, it was what lied ahead what made the entire command bridge go silent.
It was a massive construct of unknown design with long curved metal arms, by which were easily hundreds of kilometers long and surrounded by a set of revolving, gyroscopic rings. A blue-glowing sphere of great size could be seen at the core of the structure.
Eli looked at it, and fell silent. His eyes went wide in a mixture of surprise and disbelief.
"I… I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before." Faro said, even though she was just as apprehensive as everyone else. "Could it be a station of some kind? It may be the enemy's base of operations."
"Negative ma'am," Pyrondi replied. "The object doesn't emit any heat or radiation of any kind. Not even our own computers can pinpoint its exact location despite being at close proximity. Whatever that is, there's no data of it in the Imperial database."
Thrawn remained silent. Even though his gaze remained as passive as ever, he was observing the object with an air of intrigue. "A construct of this size is bound to attract unwanted attention. The drop in smuggling and pirate activity in the sector suggest that the presence of this unknown enemy must be an effort to prevent this object from being found."
"You believe that they were trying to hide this… thing?" Faro asked.
"Possibly," Thrawn said, still sounding thoughtful. "Which makes me believe that this construct for what its worth, may be the last piece to the puzzle. All the more reason to capture that ship."
With the Chimaera advancing, the TIE's continue to move forward into position. "Admiral, the ship seems to be heading towards the unidentified object. Should we disable it before it gets anywhere near it?" Captain Reiker's voice asked from the comm.
"You may," Thrawn said. "Do not let them escape."
They fired another barrage of blaster fire towards the warship's rear engines. The secondary engine took the blunt of the force, but the warship proved to be resilient enough despite the concentrated amount of firepower. None of the TIE's could deal damage anywhere as effective as an ISD, and it was too late for the TIE's to do anything as the vessel reached its destination.
"Admiral, our sensors have detected a spike of energy in the rise," Hammerly informed.
Thrawn narrowed his eyes, but otherwise said nothing. Nobody knew what to expect the moment the structure began to react to the cruiser once it got close enough. A sense of unease grew in Eli's mind as he saw the gyroscopic center of the object began moving, spinning at a high velocity that even the energy that it gathered started to become brighter and more powerful.
And the very next moment, it was all gone in a flash of light.
All of the gathered energy was shot out like a cannon, along with the warship.
The vessel was gone, leaving no trace behind other than the large mechanism that somehow helped them escape. It was almost as if they've… "They have gone into hyperspace," Eli finished the thought with a dejected look.
"Negative, sir," Pyrondi said. "None of our scanners show any signs of an hyperdrive being activated. Whatever that thing is, it… it appears that they have used it to go into lightspeed."
Thrawn facial expression remained unchanged, stoic and calm. One would think that he didn't cared about the fact that the ship just escaped, but Eli knew better.
"It appears that this contraption has a similar use to that of an hyperdrive. Whoever they were, they are clearly familiar with what it is and how it works," Thrawn said and for a moment he was silent. "Commander, plot course back to Imperial space."
Eli couldn't avoid giving Thrawn a puzzled look. "Sir?"
"It is imperative that we maintain this to the utmost secrecy. We must prevent any knowledge of what transpired here from falling into the hands of those who wish to do the Empire harm," Thrawn said, his voice calm and determined. "And if we are to keep it that way, it is of great importance that we inform the Emperor himself of what we have found."
On the year 7 BBY, Imperial forces discovered an ancient alien device to which the likes the galaxy has never seen. By direct order from Emperor Palpatine, a team of Imperial scientist was dispatched to study and uncover the nature of this mysterious device.
Experts speculate that the device was the product of an ancient civilization, such as the Rakata, the Celestials or even some other long gone unknown species. Even up to this day, the answer remains entirely unknown. However, one thing that was uncovered was the true purpose of the installation.
It's function was similar to that of a hyperdrive, and worked with one set of coordinates within one single hyperline. The main difference between the two methods however, was that the installation, much to the scientist astonishment, was capable of intergalactic travel.
Now the Emperor, pleased by this new discovery, sees the opportunity to further his ambitions and expand his rule to reaches beyond the known galaxy. Thus, he has called forth for his Chiss servant, Admiral Thrawn, to the heart of the Empire on Coruscant for his new assignment…
The throne room was as Thrawn remembered it, though he saw it now with different eyes. The new uniform he'd been given was white, with gold shoulder bars and silver collar insignia, completely unlike anything else in the Imperial Navy.
The rank insignia plaque the Emperor held in his gnarled hand was equally impressive: twelve tiles in blue, red, and gold. The Emperor's face was as Thrawn had never seen it. His expression holds satisfaction, with hints of both amusement and malice.
"Congratulations, Grand Admiral," he said as he held out the insignia plaque. "An excellent day for you. And an excellent day for my Empire." The amusement grows. "Though I fear many will not see it that way."
"I will endeavor to set their hearts and minds at ease," Thrawn said, his hands folded behind him.
"Indeed. You have done well, Mitth'raw'nuruodo. With your most recent discovery, a new opportunity to expand the horizons of my Empire has arisen," the Emperor said with a pleased, yet eager tone. "And thus, I have made my choice. With your new position, you'll be the one to lead my forces into the coming expedition, Grand Admiral."
The news were unexpected, yet Thrawn did no wavered. "If I may, Your Excellency." He inclined his head respectfully. "I am aware of a good number of Imperial personnel who are just as capable as I am to perform such a task. So why have I been chosen?"
There was a pause. He possessed a look before the amusement returned. "You have proven your worth, Mitth'raw'nuruodo. With everything that you have achieved so far, I am confident that you will become a useful tool to bring fear to those who may oppose the Empire. As a statement of my power, and as my hand and voice." The amusement vanishes for a brief moment. The malice grows. "I trust that my faith in you has not been misplaced."
Thrawn lowered his head in a respectful bow. "I will do as you wish, my Emperor," he said.
He smiles again, the triumph growing and turning strangely brittle. "You'll have the honor to expand the borders of my Empire beyond the reaches of our galaxy. Such an unprecedented event should be considered a time of celebration. And so…?"
He raised his arm, again holding out the rank plaque.
Thrawn took it.
"Good," the Emperor said. His smile again holds satisfaction. The malice fades, but never entirely disappears.
At the side of the throne room a door slid open and a tall, black-clad figure appeared, a long black cloak swirling behind him. "Ah, Lord Vader," the Emperor called a greeting. He beckons to the figure. His body stance holds a sense of mastery and domination. "Come, join us. I don't believe you have met Darth Vader, Grand Admiral Thrawn."
Vader approaches, his pace measured but confident. His face is hidden, his muscle movements muted and unreadable beneath his armored clothing. But his stance holds power and authority. It also holds confidence. More than anything, it holds confidence.
"You are correct, Your Excellency," Thrawn said. "I greet you, Lord Vader."
"Grand Admiral," Vader said, inclining his helmeted head. His voice is deep and partially mechanical. It, too, holds power and confidence.
"I have heard a great deal about you," Thrawn said. "I am pleased we have finally met."
"Yes," Vader said. "As am I."
Hello everyone. So this was the prologue for this new little project of mine.
I had a lot of fun doing this, and as some people can see, Thrawn was now given the rank of Grand Admiral way sooner than in canon, which means that his hunt for Nightswan will be put in hold and thus won't be going after Phoenix Squadron.
The majority of the last part in the throne room was pulled directly from the Thrawn novel btw. That moment was just so good that I had to include it, only with a slight spin on it. This time however, he didn't questioned the Emperor about the Death Star, as again, he got the rank of Grand Admiral way before he finished his investigation on Project Stardust.
As you guys can see, Thrawn will be going into the Milky Way galaxy and do, basically, what he did on the EU. Just as he went into the Unknown Regions to create the Empire of the Hand for Palpatine, he will be doing the same here.
It will be an interesting thing to work on, and I hope you guys enjoyed what I did here. With that said, I thank you all and wish you a wonderful day.