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-Acknowledgements-

I'd like to thank the people at Wookiepedia and the Babylon Project for putting up the information that allowed me to get this fan fiction as close to canon as possible in terms of technical, scientific and location data. I'd also like to thank Garreth Williams, author of A Dark, Distorted Mirror, and AlbertG, author of A Universe of Change, whose works inspired me to try my hand at fan fiction. I know that I will probably be unable to match their skill in writing but I hope to try. And thanks to the fans that were patiently waiting for this story to come back online.

Chapter One

Angelus Errare

"And so it begins…"

Personal journal of Kosh Naranek, 2247

The Imperial Star Destroyer Vigilance lurked in the shadow of the Ingratta System's sole planetary body, an ultra massive gas giant. The ship was currently running dark. All of its external navigation lights had been extinguished and all visible interior lighting either shut off or hidden behind polarization screens in order to ensure that the ship could not be spotted visually. Its powerful sensors were passively scanning local space for the telltale energy signatures of hyperspace reversion. The Vigilance simply blended seamlessly into the inky darkness like a wraith in the night waiting for its quarry to finally arrive.

Inside the ship, Captain Mikel Scarn slowly paced past the massive transparisteel windows that took up the entire forward bulkhead of the bridge. They were currently blacker than the night itself. The polarization screen built into the window had been dialed to full opacity to prevent any light from escaping. He had avoided looking directly into those wells of blackness since they had entered the system a day and a half ago, half remembering a nightmare he had once when he was a child.

He pushed those thoughts aside, his mind focusing on the mission at hand. They had been ordered to the Ingratta System deep in the Outer Rim in order to interdict an arms shipment to the so called Alliance to Restore the Republic. For the past year, this upstart rebel group had been launching attacks against Imperial outposts and had even attempted to assassinate Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader with the help of Jedi that survived the Great Purge. Imperial Intelligence wanted prisoners to question so that they could gather information on who the ringleaders of this group were. He simply wanted to ask them what had compelled them to want to a return of the most corrupt and inept government in the history of the Starrunner Galaxy.

Mikel had spent the last eighteen of his forty-two years protecting the Galactic Empire and its citizens from the forces of chaos and disorder, namely aliens, criminals and malcontents. He believed in the New Order which had advocated the enslavement of non-Human species in order to ensure that society was protected from disruptive and uncivilized elements. It was allowing aliens to hold political power that led to the corruption within the Old Republic and even launched the devastating Clone Wars. Most aliens were nothing more than criminals or conquerors that were jealous of Humanity's place in the galaxy.

And then there were the atrocities committed by the savages, both Human and non-Human. Planets ravaged both physically and economically by groups like the Hutts, Black Sun and the Rebel Alliance. Families separated by death and slaver raids. People brutally murdered for doing nothing more than trying to live their lives.

Years of seeing these kinds of atrocities had taken their toll on him physically making him seem older than he actually was. His once jet-black hair was beginning to show signs of premature graying at the temples. His green eyes which had once been full of life and mirth had become as cold and hard as stone. He was beginning to develop crow's feet in the corners of his eyes. Those that knew him from his days in the Academy would have hardly recognized him.

There was also the emotional toll that his service to the Empire inflicted. He had been estranged from his family on Corellia for the past eighteen years due to his decision to renounce the Old Republic and swear allegiance to Emperor Palpatine's New Order. He could still remember the hurt in his parents' eyes when he told them. They claimed to be unable to understand his decision to reject a government that the Scarn family had served since the days of Jedi Civil War. They believed the Old Republic to be a bastion of hope and peace for the galaxy while he knew it to be a corrupt and inefficient sham manipulated by the power hungry Jedi.

"Captain," a solitary female voice called out to him, breaking him out of his reverie.

Mikel ceased his pacing and looked down into the starboard bridge pit where the Vigilance's Tactical and Sensor Stations were located. His Executive Officer, Commander Jan Levins, returned his gaze from behind the ship's holographic tactical display. The blonde Alderaanian looked extremely out of place among the throng of male officers and crew. In fact, the presence of a woman on an Imperial military vessel was as uncommon as standing water on Tatooine.

"What is it Levins," he barked sharply. In the three months since she had been assigned to his ship against his objections he had done everything in his power to make her as uncomfortable as possible. He believed that a woman's place was in the home not serving in the military or in politics. He even refused to address her by her rank and did nothing to discipline other officers that did the same, even those supposedly subordinate to her.

How she had managed to even attain the rank of Commander was a mystery to him. According to her records, she had been stationed on one backwater after another for pretty much her entire career. However, her superiors had put her up for promotion time and time again. He suspected that she was one of those women who slept their way to the top. How else could she have advanced so far in rank and even manage to convince Admiral Vance to assign her as his Executive Officer. However, she had never even so much as shown him a glimmer of interest. While she did perform her duties exceptionally, he was always on the look out for a screw-up so that he could have her reassigned.

"We have just detected a hyperspace reversion, bearing 330 by 25," she replied without acknowledging the slight against her. She brushed back a lock of golden hair that had fallen from under her cap as she continued to scan the display. "There is a single GR-75 transport entering the system. It is on a course that will put it in orbit in ten minutes."

Scarn put a finger to his lips as he pondered this. GR-75s were as common as dirt but rarely were they used by criminals such as smugglers and the like. Their slow speed, minimal shielding and utter lack of offensive or defensive weaponry made them a liability. Arms dealers wouldn't use a ship like that without a serious escort. The lack of even a simple fighter escort made it abundantly clear this ship didn't belong to an arms dealer. That had to mean that this ship belonged to the Rebel Alliance who couldn't even afford to buy decent castoff ships or the fighters to escort them.

It also puzzled him that the arms dealer had not arrived yet. It was a standard practice for them to arrive a few hours before the sale in order to scout out the area for surprises. The Vigilance had been on station for the last thirty-six hours and had detected no ships or probes. It left a nagging sensation in the back of his mind that screamed at him that something was amiss.

"Order Commander Vallana to launch and engage," he relayed to Levins. "Notify him that I want that ship's engines and hyperdrive disabled." He quickly shifted his gaze to the stocky grey haired Army officer that was leaning against the bridge doorway. The man had a bored expression on his face as he picked under his fingernails with a stiletto. "Colonel Valish if you would please prepare you men for a boarding action."

A cruel smile broke out on the man's face. "It's about time you Fleeties gave my boys something to do," he growled in a thick Corulag accent. He quickly slipped the stiletto back into his boot and looked up at Mikel. "How do you want those Rebels? Regular or extra-crispy?"

Scarn rolled his eyes in exasperation at the man's comment. "I want prisoners this time Torin," he sighed. "Hopefully we can get some information out of them that will allow us to round up the ringleaders of the Rebellion."

Mikel shook his head as the former Stormtrooper walked off the bridge and into one of the waiting lifts. He had known the man for as long as he had been serving in the Imperial Navy and had been his closest friend for just as long. For all of his eccentricities and his irreverent attitude, he was a good soldier and the kind of person you wanted watching your back in a bad situation.

"Helm, set a course to intercept the Rebel ship."

Outside, the three massive ion drives lit up with blue-white fire as the powerful engines began to push the mighty ship free of the planet's gravity well. The last squadron of TIE fighters dropped out of the hangar bay and immediately sped away to engage the transport. The exterior lit up like a holiday display as navigation lights were reactivated and polarized windows were made transparent again. It didn't take long before the Vigilance crossed the night side boundary to be revealed in its full glory.

Scarn looked out at the twinkling light that was the Rebel transport, still too far away to be a full silhouette. It was surrounded by dozens of smaller lights that dodged and weaved around it. Brief streaks of green crossed space punctuated by white flashes where laser bolts impacted on shields. In a way, it was beautiful sight.

"Captain, we may have a problem," Levins announced. "The transport is altering course. It is on a direct intercept course with us."

Scarn's mind raced as he tried to think of the reasons why the Rebels were not attempting to flee. The transport had no weapons and trying to ram the Vigilance would have been futile. Their weapons would tear the ship apart before it could even get close. Then a look of realization and horror appeared on his face as he came up with a possible reason.

"Order the fighters to scatter. Guns, I want that ship out of my sky now."

The Vigilance's entire offensive arsenal opened up bathing the ship in green and blue light. Lances of green plasmatic energy and the pulses of ionic discharges raced across the rapidly shrinking divide between the two ships. The front end of the transport vanished behind a solid wall of energy as its shields tried to hold back the massive amount of energy being forced on it. It didn't take long before they simply collapsed and the turbolasers began tearing whole sections out of the clamshell hull. A single bolt slammed headlong into one the cargo pods slung on the underside of the ship and it vanished in a flash of light and fire that quickly began to expand outward.

The surge from the explosion slammed into the Vigilance like a tsunami. The ship was nearly flipped end over end by the sheer force of the shockwave. Hellish energies ate at the shields as it passed through the solid wall of fire. It emerged from the other side glowing white hot but miraculously the shields had held and kept the energy away from the hull.

Letting loose a series of rasping coughs, Mikel picked himself off of the deck where he had fallen. He moaned as he felt the bones in his right arm grinding together as he moved. He looked around to see that the bridge was roughly in the same shape he was. Blown out consoles were pumping harsh acrid smoke into the air. The lighting kept flickering on and off giving the room an eerie appearance.

"Damage report," he croaked.

"Shields are down to fourteen percent," Levins replied painfully. She had a large welt on her forehead from where she had stuck her console. "No damage to the outer hull. There are reports of injuries across the ship. We've lost long range communications and sensors."

"How many fighters survived the blast?"

She ran a quick check and hesitated slightly before answering. "Four including Commander Vallana's, sir."

He let out a remorseful sigh at the news. So many lives wasted, sixty-eight men whose families he would have to send letters to. "Get them back aboard ASAP. We need…"

He was interrupted by an alarm from the Tactical Display. Levins eyes widened at what she saw. "I'm reading multiple hyperspace reversions off the port side. Three Neb-Bs and a Lucrehulk just entered the system. They've already launched fighters and several boarding craft."

"Where in the name of the Seven Hells did they get those ships," he asked doubting Levins could give him an adequate answer. There was one thing they had just learned and that the Rebel Alliance had to have some big financial backers for them to be able to possess and operate full blown capital ships with fighters. It wasn't the first time he had to reassess the capabilities of his enemies and he doubted it would be the last.

Now it was apparent that the whole arms shipment was a ploy to lure a ship here to be captured and the transport bomb was intended to cripple the Vigilance so that the Rebels could do it with ease. Unfortunately, they had succeeded in the first part of their plan but he was not going to make it easy for them to succeed in the second part. There was no way that the Vigilance could fight its way free with the damage it had sustained and the loss of all of their fighters. He had no intention of surrendering and handing over his crew to possibly be murdered by the Rebels. The only choice he had was to run.

The question was where to run to. The Rebel ships had jumped right into the path they needed to go in order to jump to hyperspace. They could run further in system, but the fighters and boarding craft would catch up long before they could even clear the planet. Without their own fighters to hold them off it wouldn't take long before they would overwhelm the Vigilance's already weakened shields.

"Helm, I want you to enter orbit now," he ordered hurriedly. They would have to move quickly to make this work. "I want you to bring us in as close as you can without hitting atmosphere. We'll use the planet's gravity to slingshot past the Rebel ships."

The Vigilance banked hard to starboard and raced back towards the planet. The leading wave of Rebel fighters, a mix of old Y-Wings and Z-95s had already closed the distance and were setting up for their attack runs. The Star Destroyer's rear guns opened up sending a spray of fire at them in order to keep them disorganized. A lucky shot blew one of the slower Y-Wings into its constituent atoms and severely damaged another causing it to fall out of formation.

The Star Destroyer skimmed the outer edge of orange and brown clouds creating a wake that sent up a curtain of hydrogen and methane gas into space as they picked up speed. One of the turbolaser blasts ignited the pocket of gases creating a wall of fire separating the ship from the fighters. Several of them were unable to stop or serve away in time and were consumed by the flames.

A cheer erupted on the bridge as the Rebel fighters quickly fell behind unable to sustain the velocities necessary to follow them. Scarn smiled as it became clear that they were about to get away. The ship shuddered around him as they were thrown clear of the gas giant and well out of range of the Rebel capital ships.

"Prepare to make…"

A sharp flash streamed through the windows drowning every in a harsh white light. He stared as the fabric of space tore open in a violent swirl of lavender and green. He had no time to order a course change before the vast anomaly swallowed the Vigilance and then shut.

-Author's Notes-

Corulag accent: Southern United States accent

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