A/N: Well, chapter five is finally complete! I know, took me long enough, but since Konoha's Silver Shinobi kind of diverted my attention, I'd not had a chance to work on this, save recently. So NO! This story is NOT abandoned NOR forgotten! This is my legacy! Ok, maybe not my legacy, but it is a precious investment of time and energy; one that I will gladly continue whenever possible. Not as long as I would have prefered, but I wanted to get it out there and to you guys regardless.
Thanks to those who reviewed the last chapter! Those being Kingdark, RoyalTwinFangs, Konekoeureka, Chewie Cookies, Kage Bijuu, marc, Orchamus. Riku Uzumaki, storyreaderlovespie, DBZLOVER, omega5, TwiceMarked, Breaniver, Frostius, cavefox, Jigoku no Yami, and foxeatfox.
Also, a neat update: CCP has released a new Ship Viewer! Now you can more easily vizualize (and find) the ships mentioned in this story! Rather than having to search throught that old wiki for bad pictures of the vessels, you can now look at them in all their awesome glory! The link is on my profile page. Also, As far as I can tell, it doesn't have every ship on it, but it does have a lot of iconic ones. No doubt they'll add the rest soon, so bear with it for now.
Black Lister sighed as he settled into his comfortable couch that sat in front of a massive widescreen television. After having cleaned off a majority of the goo that suspended his animations while in his pod, he was thoroughly tired. He hadn't even done that much that day. "D'ya know that you can get tired from sleeping too much?" he asked the room's other sole occupant.
Kora Ikari sat at the table in the room, munching on some food. "So… you're so bored, you're tired?"
She shook her head in irritation. "I told you to hit the gym, I swear some of your muscles are disappearing."
He gave a blank look at her, and then down to his muscular chest, then back up at her. He settled for a shrug before picking up the remote and flipping the channel.
"Doom and gloom, doom and gloom, doom and gloom… Oh look! More doom and gloom."
The Caldari woman threw down her fork and stood up marching over to the couch and swiping the remote from his hand. "I swear one day I'm going to hurt you," she said as she turned the channel to the Mind Clash Championships. "There, happy?"
He looked around at himself and the room and gave her a wry smile. He shrugged. "The only thing more I could ask for is a bottle of Quafe."
The woman rolled her eyes and stomped off somewhere else.
He sighed as he settled in to the couch to relax and watch the championship. It was almost a full ten seconds of almost-perfect leisure before his com-link buzzed in his pocket.
"Oh, come on!" He whipped the device out and saw that it was an alliance-wide Priority One message. Opening it, he began reading through.
Kora came back into the room setting down a pack of bottles and tossed one at her captain. "Here's your Quafe, lazy-" she stopped speaking when the bottle hit him square in the head from behind and he didn't flinch.
He didn't react at all.
She furrowed her eyes and she looked at him. "Captain?" she asked.
He didn't answer. He was staring down at something in front of him. She walked over curiously, looking over his shoulder at the com-link in his hands. She didn't get far before he held up the Quafe can absent mindedly. "Not this Quafe. The other Quafe."
Kora narrowed her eyes before they widened, suddenly knowing what he was talking about. "Uh-uh! No way! I told you before I'm never letting you drink that stuff! Do you know what it does to your insides?"
His voice was low and commanding, but held a bewildered, restrained excited tone. "Kora, the other Quafe. Now."
She looked at him worriedly before she went over to a cabinet and opened it up. Inside was a safe to which she dialed in the combination and pressed her thumb up against the print-reader. It opened with a hiss and she took out a specially labeled Quafe bottle. She closed it and returned to the back of the couch and handed it to him. Of all Quafe variations, Quafe Zero was a special limited edition brew. It was also very bad for you.
He reached behind and grabbed it, easily popping the lid off and taking a long, deep gulp. He lowered the bottle with a sigh. He nodded his head slowly. "Yup."
"'Yup' what?" she questioned, peeved at his vagueness.
He reached behind him and handed her the com-link, which she took and began reading. It was several seconds later that she reached over and plucked the bottle from his hands, downed the whole thing and placed it on the stand beside him.
"I'm getting another. Want one?" she asked. The full implication of what she'd just read hadn't hit her yet, but when it did, she wanted to have something in her system. Normally she was opposed to drinking Quafe Zero, but in this case…
"Yarp," he replied, nearly giddy with restrained excitement.
She tossed one over to him, which he caught, even as she popped her top and began drinking.
They stayed that way for several minutes before either dared speak to each other.
"So… back to the Other Space then?"
With a heavy breath, he nodded. "I'm gonna splurge on ships, ok?"
She hopped over the couch and landed next to him. "No more than three billion. You need to have some money left over."
"Whatever," he said as he pulled up the regional market and contracts pages. He was going to be fully prepared this time.
Captain Foow Dusi was not a personable person. He was bossy, smelly, snide, fat, and overly malicious. Based on those conditions, it's a surprise he hadn't made Grand Admiral yet. Sadly, he wasn't all that bright, but the Empire trusted him enough to send him on a guard mission to investigate and protect the space surrounding the special anomaly.
It was a gruelingly dull task; he couldn't shoot anyone, he couldn't go anywhere, and he himself had nothing to do but bark out superficial orders that sounded at least slightly similar to actual instructions. Twenty four ships under his command and he could do nothing to use them. At least, not the way he wanted.
"Haven't those scientists found anything out yet?" he barked to a nearby communications officer.
"Nothing new since that last time you asked five minutes ago," the older man replied, clearly annoyed.
Foow narrowed his eyes at the man dangerously. "I've executed children for less than that comment officer."
The man, suddenly feeling the weight of his mortality, nodded his head shakily. "Yes sir, s-sorry sir."
Foow, settled back into his captain's chair and sighed as his massive form melded into the creases of the seat. They were built for luxury, but sadly chairs weren't of the one-size-fits-all variety. As comfortable as it was, if he settled too far into it, he'd not want to get up. It would always pinch him here and there. A quick fix to the problem was to wear padded clothing, of which his uniform didn't fit into that category; it barely fit him!
But while the fact was painfully obvious to anyone who bothered to lay eyes on him, no one risked voicing it. It was a running gag in that any joke regarding it was gagged. Not a word of his weight was said while serving onboard his ship.
At the moment, it didn't look like they'd have the opportunity to poke fun at him for a while. Several days after arriving, a series of scout drones had been sent into the wormhole and a second fleet requested to assist them by their most illustrious captain.
But unbeknownst to them, today would mark the day their lives changed forever.
"Captain, we have a message coming in from one of the astronomers," remarked a second coms officer.
"Put it on," his deep voice commanded.
The middle window of the bridge was eclipsed by the holographic figure of the specialists' team leader. "Captain Dusi, we have news."
"Tell me quickly Mr. Lik, or I'll have you detained for lack of cooperation."
Lik gave a cynical smile to show he knew the captain would never get away with it if he did. Lik was one of the first people the crew of the Deceit had ever seen directly disregard their captain. "Such jests are not worth our time captain, but the information I've gathered is."
"Well? Out with it then!" said Foow as he quickly grew irritated at the other man.
Lik gave a serious glare at the obese man and continued. "Obviously the wormhole has been discovered to lead to other parts of space, but the initial question was 'what other parts of space?'"
Dusi nodded at every third word and Lik was sure the fat official had no idea what he was talking about. But for the benefit of the uneducated crew members who did, he continued.
"Substantial evidence has been gathered to indicate this particular wormhole leads to space outside our own galaxy," he said as he leaned forward, his phantom visage lowering to meet the seated captain's eyes.
Dusi may not have been keen on the sciences of space, but he was smart enough to realize the important twist the conversation had suddenly taken.
Lik straightened back up and went on. "We've also happened to lose a series of probes we've sent through. It doesn't take a genius to realize there's a potential threat inside it. It could be nothing, but it could also be something. I would suggest sending for a reserve fleet immediately."
"You needn't worry about that 'professor'" Dusi said sporting a superior smirk while shifting his body up in the chair. "I've already requested reinforcements to better defend this valuable… find."
Lik, clearly unimpressed, simply raised his eyebrows and commented, "How clairvoyant of you." And the transmission ended.
Lik shook his head wearily. Why did a man as smart as himself have to work with common navy grunts? He'd never know the answer. But then it was probably good the captain was stupid. He didn't realize half of the significance of the information he'd just revealed. Which was why he was now going to contact the Emperor and inform his majesty personally of what else they'd found.
The sudden cessation of streaming data from the numerous probes inside the wormhole could be passed off as interference from local special phenomena, but the more likely answer, considering the efficiency by which all of their drones stopped responding, was from external, sentient factors.
In other words, there was something in there, and the Emperor would be pleased to send his servant Darth Vader to investigate it. It likely would be Vader. The Emperor wouldn't bother with it himself unless there was a pacified region of space for him to safely visit, or unless the race inside was of the allying kind. Whoever they were, they were about to get a handful of the Empire right in their faces.
The Emperor, throne and all appeared in front of him on the holo-pad. Lik kneeled respectfully.
"Your majesty, I have promising news that I think you'll enjoy..."
It was difficult to keep the smile off his face.
Hinata watched as the ship left the hanger, its golden hull reflecting the spotlights from the ceiling across the numerous hulls and walls inside. She stood behind a large metal pane of durable see-through metal that gave her a spectacular view of the inside of the station's hanger. There were few ships left inside it, and its great expanse seemed all the more empty because of it.
Normally it would have contained all the different types of war machines that were a part of the Akatsuki Coalition, their working title during the Clone Wars. But now, all that was left were a few rusted ships and old, unusable equipment. Even so, her ship sat nearby, quietly idling, as if waiting for her to command it again.
Sadly, and it really did sadden her, she couldn't. Even though it was as familiar and precious to her as anything, she had her priorities, this biggest of which was the second life within her. She wasn't just worrying about her own life now. She may be cloned if she died, but not the small one inside her bulging belly. She felt a small tremble run through her skin and she smiled softly, rubbing a hand tenderly across the lowest part of her shirt.
'Hmhm, you're eager to get out aren't you?' she silently asked her unborn child. As if in response, it kicked again. She chuckled softly, caressing her stomach absently.
She turned at the voice. Naruto stood there in his pre-flight suit, smiling at her as he watched. "C'mon, Nagato's gonna take us to a new HQ. Since those Empire freaks know we're here, it's not safe for you."
Hinata nodded at him and walked over, leaning against him lightly. "He's been kicking again," she mumbled happily.
Naruto raised an eyebrow and placed his own hand over her bulge. Instantly, in recognition of his touch, there was a small vibration, and he smiled. "No kidding! But what makes you so sure it's a boy?"
Hinata laughed. "Well we can't keep calling it 'it.' Besides, you know how motherly intuition works."
Naruto gave her a strange look. "Yeeeeahhh… not really." They both laughed together as he placed a hand behind her and led her to a nearby lift that would take them several levels higher where his ship waited.
When the massive blast doors opened, there, in all its golden glory floated the nearly four hundred meter long vessel that would carry them to their destination. It was Naruto's personal ship, an expensive, and powerful Tech III Strategic Cruiser of Amarrian design dubbed the Legion. Naruto however gave it the unique name of Source Of.
When Hinata had first asked him what it meant he said he'd find out later. When she'd asked again after many years, he'd said it was because it was the source of many things in his and others' lives. Pain for his enemies, protection for his allies, and comfort for his family.
It was romantic in a way, she realized, that he thought of it as a sort of home. This particular ship, while once used for combat, was now specifically reconfigured for absolute defense and escape. Outside, it might look like a warship, but on the inside, they still had rugs and furniture strewn about the place. Old magazines collected dust on nearby coffee stands, and the TVs around the ship were still tuned to theirs and their children's favorite channels.
They'd raised many of their kids on the ship, and she realized it would have its use again. Their eighth child would have need of such a comfortable home to grow in.
They stepped up to a moving platform as it came down to them from the side of the ship. Stepping on it she noticed that another lift beside them had numerous bags of… something, being loaded onto it, where she assumed it would ferry them to the ship. She realized it must have been their personal belongings from their recently abandoned quarters in this station.
She felt her body lurch as the platform she was standing on began to move upward. She watched as the ship loomed into view growing larger and larger as it eclipsed her vision. At last they arrived at a small access port on the side of the hull that was open. The driver of the platform skillfully latched it to the docking mechanism on the ship and Naruto carefully guided her into the ship.
Once inside, she felt a wave of nostalgia wash over her. It had been years since she'd been onboard the ship, discounting the two decades she'd been frozen in place in the mass freezing grounds in the bowels of the facility.
She looked around. Nothing had changed since she'd last set foot inside. She smiled. Naruto was like that. He knew it was more her preference that nothing be changed than anything else, but she also knew that Naruto hated change as well.
He'd seen his children grow up seven times, and each time he'd taught them to live in the world and culture of New Eden. Each time, he'd cried with a smile on his face when they'd gotten their capsuleer operation, during which their bodies were augmented with the special hookups that allowed them to link up with their ship.
It was their family's celebration of their coming of age. It was a happy and momentous occasion, but it was also sad. Well, for her and Naruto at least. They both knew the day would come when the children would have to take off for their own futures, but it always hit them hard every time.
Naruto, knowing such a time would come, made sure that their family would always be that; a family. For decades after, when the older children had gone out to experience and taste for themselves the galaxy of New Eden, Naruto had scheduled a monthly family meet-up. The Amarr Empire had always been a home to them all, ever since their cultures fateful meeting so many thousands of years ago.
Within its borders, on the soil of their home world, they would spend a week vacationing in the secluded beaches of the Land of Waves, and touring the numerous "Hidden Villages," with Naruto and Hinata, and the eldest children describing to the younger ones the way the cities were before they evolved into great capitals for their nations.
And they always kept in touch. All seven of their children were required to. In the vast universe they lived in, Naruto stressed communication as key to a family's success.
She smiled softly as Naruto gave her a kiss on her forehead before he went off to link with the ship. She watched him go until he rounded a corner and was out of sight. Once he was gone, she made her way to what would be the bridge of the vessel, if it hadn't been commanded by a single individual in a pod. Sure the ship had a crew, but with Naruto in control, they were more of a living damage-control force.
Once on the "bridge," she immediate smiled at the sight. The whole place had been converted into a living room with the large bow windows giving a spectacular view of the space ahead of them. There was a couch or two cockeyed next to each other with a large rug in front of it. A large screen was affixed to the walls to both her left and right. With so many kids, they'd needed them for child damage-control.
As soon as the door to the room slid shut behind her, Naruto's image appeared on the screen to her left. Well, the image he wanted her to see. Naturally he couldn't display himself while he was suspended in amniotic fluid, so instead, all capsuleers had a digital image that moved and acted with 100% realism. Commanded by Naruto's now linked mind, the image looked at her gently. She'd marveled the first time she'd seen them. It even mimicked Naruto's wide smile perfectly.
"Ready Hina-hime?" the image asked. She smiled back and nodded, settling down on the nearest couch and stared out the window as the walls of station's hanger shifted, the Source Of lifted off, the docking clamps releasing quietly, allowing the ship to slowly drift to the side, turning slowly as it faced the now gaping maw of the hanger's exit.
The ship slid through, unaffected by the polarized shield, and before Hinata's eyes, the expanse of space opened up to her. Stars wheeled around as the Naruto oriented the ship away from the station.
"Ok Hina-hime, now we just have to wait for our escorts to join us and we'll be on our way."
She gave a nod to the image. Looking to her left, she saw a small plug next to the arm pad of the couch. Reaching over, she plucked it out of its holder and pulled, the long cord attached to it following. She deftly flicked her long indigo hair to the side and used her left hand to finger the back of her neck carefully.
'One… two… three.' She ran her fingers down from the back of her head to the base of her neck, tracing the sockets that allowed her to link with capsuleer ships. Carefully, she inserted the cable into the opening and smiled as the familiar rush of capsuleer-sight entered her vision.
Naruto had "borrowed" the idea from an allied capsuleer during the Clone Wars. Essentially it allowed her to link with the ship, but only as an observer. She could see what Naruto saw, feel what he felt, and know what he knew. She could now see through his "eyes."
What she saw made another wave of nostalgia wash over her. The camera drones that were systematically affixed to the ship allowed a capsuleer to zoom in and out around his ship, allowing him or her to view breaches or external factors that otherwise would be invisible. Just because they, for all intents and purposes, were the ship, I didn't mean they knew everything that was going on inside. Just like how a biological body couldn't control or communicate with its red or white blood cells, the capsuleer couldn't detect every rusty bolt that was screwed into their hull.
The drones, while small, were warp-capable and could be sent away to view another nearby ship easily, and because of their size and miniscule power emissions, they were virtually undetectable.
She watched as Naruto rotated his camera drones around the golden plated ship, the old insignia of the Akatsuki Coalition branded onto the stubby side wings.
She narrowed her "eyes" as she saw a quartet of ships launch from the hanger behind them. To her surprise, they were all powerful command ships, advanced battle cruisers capable of both offensive domination and total defensive supremacy. A Damnation, an Absolution (two different versions based off of the same hull of the Amarrian Prophesy-class battle cruiser), and an Astarte and a Sleipnir of Gallente and Minmatar designs respectively.
All quite powerful, and grossly wasted on a simple escort mission. But no doubt Nagato had decided to spare no expense in protecting her unborn child. 'That's right… this is all to protect you, little one.'
She placed a hand back over her belly and literally felt the baby within her grow excited. 'Yup, definitely a boy. A girl would have been shy about it.'
She, as always when thinking of her family, smiled again, before closing her eyes and seeing the images from the drones trickle through her mind. The chatter between the pilots of the other ships and Naruto acted as background noise as her mortal eyes closed, and she relaxed, allowing the feeling of spacial suspension lull her to sleep. She trusted Naruto more than anyone, and the odds of a conflict occurring in transit were low.
She could safely rest in the meanwhile.
"Fleet seven, make your way to Akonoinen. Fleet eight, same thing."
"Vertigo Corp, your designated system is Vuorrassi, make your way there and form up with GST."
"Ballistix fleets incoming. Requesting staging location."
"Roger that Ballistix, head for Oimmo and set up shop."
"We've got freighters heading this way from Jita. Where do we put them?"
"Put them in Hageken. We're running out of places here."
"Fleet congestion reported in Vuorassi, Akonoinen, Hageken, Oimmo, Vellaine, Autaris, Uosusuok and Isikemi. Requesting more traffic directors immediately."
"Affirmative Hageken Control, your request has been announced. Alliance directors will be along shortly."
"Thank you kindly."
"This is Gamble, Nightmare Realm fleets are waiting outside Jan and Nalvula. No pirates'll be getting through any time soon."
"Roger that Gamble. What's the situation of the Otsasai gate?"
"One second… No eyes on gate, sorry Control."
"Ten-four, will redirect."
Organized chaos would be the word that best described the situation. But the veterans were all over it. No pilot had even seen so much activity in years. Nearly all systems in the Koichi, Mito, and Kaala constellations we're full of alliance forces as they mobilized like a well-oiled machine.
The call was galaxy wide. Black Lister smirked as he changed the channel news.
"-making a mass transit from zero-security space to an undiscl-"
"-numerous alliances losing dozens of elite fleet commanders-"
"-corporations all across New Eden are hurting for experienced capsuleer pilots due to the abrupt mass exodus of old mem-"
"-sudden influx of traffic in the entire Lonetrek region. Reports indicate it's now a large staging point for the recently reclusive Akatsuki Alliance, who just left null-sec last week. We also understand there is a strong military presence from the alliance in the nearby low-security systems. If you have shipments that take your through the area, you'd do best to postpone your plans."
Black lowered the remote, finding SCOPE news to be the most accurate source of information.
"Unless you have some good friends on the inside who'll let your through," said the second anchorman. Or rather, anchorwoman; it was a general rule of thumb to have one guy and one girl doing the news. No idea where it came from, but that was how it was.
"Rumor has it that the recent constriction of ranks in various capsuleer corporations across New Eden has to do with the Akatsuki relocating to high-sec of all places. Our sources indicate that many of the leaving members have strong ties with the alliance or are former members themselves."
"We'll keep reporting on this as it happens, but in the meantime, news from the Amarrian side of things! Empress Jamyl Sarum made a public announcement today regarding the recent relocation of millions of tons of war materials as a 'preparation for things to come.' She didn't comment too deeply on the mater but left the impression that something big was going to happen, soon."
The scene changed to a recording of the announcement, with the date in the corner of the screen indicating it was taken only a few hours previous.
"Captain! You here?" Black turned his head to see Kora with her bags packed and ready to go as she left her room.
"Yeah I'm still here," he called back.
She dropped her bags tiredly and looked at him. She eyed in curiously. "Aren't you going to pack your stuff?"
He smirked at her. "Why? You already packed my stuff, didn't you?"
She scowled at him comically. "I wonder what would happen if I didn't…"
"I dread to think of it."
She rolled her eyes at his dry remark. "Yeah well you'll have to get off your butt anyway regardless."
He eyed her inquisitively. "And this is because…?"
She picked up her bags again and began carrying them out of the room to the platform outside that would ferry them to the ship in the station's hanger. "A call came in from the Alliance. They want you to help with keeping all the first-timers in control. They have no idea what they're getting into and need to be contained. They think we're here to fight off the incursions, but that's just a cover."
Black sighed, but nodded. "Someone's bound to wonder why we took down our towers just to do some incursions… Nobody's that stupid." He stood up and stretched his back. He followed Kora out to the ship, unwillingly helping her to carry out their luggage.
Once on board, he left her to storing their things as he went to the pod chamber. Quickly linking with the ship, he grinned as he felt the instant burst of flowing information as it trickled through his brain.
A dozen new information channels had been opened, each one regarding a specific element of the big move.
Intelligence, shipping manifests, relocation orders, and scout reports to name a few. One of them was a highly secure command channel. In it was only fifty or so individuals, each one affiliated with one of the corporations that comprised the Akatsuki Alliance.
Very few common members were allowed into the channel, but Black Lister wasn't an ordinary member. True, in the beginning, he'd been an over-privileged nobody who had no idea the scope of what he was hearing. But after years of climbing the ranking ladder, he'd become a lazy, but intelligent and valuable asset. Mainly though, it was his ability as a recruiter that made him so valuable.
He had a silver tongue that he used to great effect with every person he'd met.
Keying into the channel, he found himself in the middle of a small meeting.
"Once everyone's ready, we'll begin transit into through the wormhole."
"The containment field will have to be reinforced though. The wormhole's been off limits for years, so they're bound to be under strain when we start shifting shit through."
"Go ahead and get that set up then, sooner's better than later."
"Oh Lister, great of you to show up." Dresdin said, finally acknowledging his presence. "I assume you got my message?"
"That's why I popped in here. If I'm gonna keep the rookies in check, I'm gonna need them all to be moved to a new channel. As long as they're all there, I'll be able to handle them."
"'K then, I'll get one sorted out for you."
Little did he know the hell he was getting himself into; he'd forgotten how clueless rookies could be, or rather, he'd forgotten how clueless he used to be.
"Ah, so the Emperor's sent another pawn to kill me. As much as I appreciate the effort, next time, he really should send a full fleet." The figure said as he looked down upon the intruding individual. The first one's whole body was cloaked, and his head was hooded. The second, encroaching one, was clearly a human woman. She wore a basic Imperial flight suit that seemed to incorporate several pockets more than normal. From one of those pockets she'd retrieved a small cylindrical object that turned out to be a lightsaber.
She said nothing as she looked up at him. She'd been ordered by the Emperor to kill the man, and she was determined to do so. Holding her saber tightly, she readied herself for the inevitable fight.
However, he seemed almost surprised at her. "What are you doing?" he asked almost innocently.
"Simple, I'm going to kill you." She didn't seem like to play around.
"No no," he said in response, "I know that. I'm asking why you're facing me."
She blinked in surprise. What did he expect her to do, turn around and fight backwards?
When she didn't answer he laughed lightly. "Oh, I see. You think you're going to fight me directly. Sorry, but that's not how I do things."
She narrowed her eyes at him and prepared to launch herself at him. It was only when she felt to warm, moist breath of someone's breath on her neck that she whirled, swinging her saber at it.
When she'd fully turned, she found her eyes wide as the sky. It was a human male, wearing a black jacket with a white shirt beneath. He had black pants with white stripes going down the sides, tucked neatly into his black boots. But what really caught her attention was the Imperial logo stamped into his shoulders.
The next thing she noticed was his yellow eyes and crimson lightsaber, alight and in his hand.
Too stunned to realize what she was doing she swung at him again, only to realize her sword-hand was only a stump, the end cleanly cauterized and still smoking from its amputation. The next thing she noticed was the saber he was holding was buried in her gut.
With a flourish, the Imperial withdrew his blade and removed her head in one clean swipe. Her body fell quietly to the ground.
The figure smirked and shook his head. 'When will they learn?' He stepped down to the dark forest floor and sighed. "Oh well, just another soldier for me."
He ignored the body for a moment and looked to the darkened sky. The only light was provided by the heavens themselves; the stars and the large orange image of Yavin IV's primary.
He looked at the twinkling images and felt a strange sensation hit him. A longing… a desire… a nostalgic yearning.
"It about time I join them, I think," he said aloud to no one in particular. The light of night illuminated only slightly the pale white scale-like skin of his face and reflected dimly against his circular glasses.
Kabuto stared into the sky for several more seconds before turning and heading off back to the hidden
"Hmh, I wonder how long it's been…" His face broke into a smile as he watched the distant nova's twinkle. "…since I last saw you, Naruto."
The vessel slipped quietly through the controlled chaos that was Coruscant's skyline. It was a plain looking vehicle, with drab grey plating and dark, one-way viewports at the cockpit. The only individuality it had was the tri-winged design unique to the Sienar Fleet Systems Lambda-class shuttle and the opaque insignia of the Galactic Empire.
Though it was illegal to operate vehicles separate to the skylanes, bearing the crest of the military did allow for some freedom. Because of this, the shuttle wasted little time in flying directly to its destination. Its destination? The Imperial Palace. Because of the eavy presence of Imperial troops and fleets, it wasn't an uncommon sight to see a Lambda cruising through the crowded sky; no gave it a second look.
However, if they had, they might have spotted the trio of official Imperial Security skyhoppers trailing it, making sure it reached its destination unharmed. Soon, their job would be done, as the Imperial Palace loomed in front of them. Its target in sight, it veered away its escorts, now completely safe in the shadow of the structures extensive anti-air defences.
As it approached the landing pad it was directed to, the two lowest wings folded up, the landing gear extending. It quietly set down, hissing as the landing ramp lowered. Two columns of storm troopers lined either side of the walkway, at attention. The soft sounds of booted steps was the only other sound to be heard.
Finally, a lone figure appeared. He was a human, roughly six foot tall, rough looking, but aware and confident. He looked both ways at either line of soldiers before descending the ramp fully. Unlike the normal officers of the Imperial Command, he didn't wear black. Instead, he wore a white dress shirt, matching pants, and black synthetic leather boots. About his waist was a simple black belt with silver buckle, and one his shoulders were
The first thing one would notice about him was that he was at least decently handsome, but with no great defining features. Those who knew him better, however, would add to that; to them, he was known for his almost ever-present playful smile, and his abnormally sharp amber eyes. In fact, some believed they were actually a golden-yellow, and that he used contacts, or some-such other tool to hide them. Make them look normal. He never supported, nor denied such claims. He would simply smile, chuckle perhaps, and brush the subject aside.
But there were few who would even dare, not that he cared. Even in the halls of the Emperor's home on Coruscant, he was as unknown as the extra-galactic plain. The only person he could claim to know him best was the Emperor, and himself. His boots echoed through the sparsely populated walkways that he plodded through, as if he'd created them. He spared no passing glances, eyed no particularly attractive woman, acknowledged no ranked officer who saluted him. But he didn't do so with stoic ignorance like some of his colleagues might. No, it wasn't ignorance, but more-so… indifference. He saw them, knew they were there, but he just couldn't be bothered to let them know he did.
When he stepped into the empty turbolift, he keyed the correct floor and folded his hands behind his back idly.
To those who knew him, he was Grand Admiral Xelos. But that was irrelevant.
Who he was didn't matter. All that mattered was the mission, the duty, and the action of seeing it done. What happened before or in-between was unimportant. As long as the job was done with sufficiency, everything else simply fell into the oblivion of "his life." When it was done, he could reflect on what had happened, but not a moment earlier. Others might criticize this, but it had apparently been enough to attract the eye of the Emperor; enough to gain him the rank he now bore so indifferently. Even though he was only promoted as the most recent of the twelve few Grand Admirals, he care too much for his new authority or fame. He treated all as equals until they proved otherwise, even those who were supposed to be higher rank than him. This had gotten him more than one distasteful impression from the higher-ups before and during his ascension.
In the end, it was thanks to that trait that he'd caught the Emperor's eye. So many complaints about a certain Imperial captain… Not that his superiors-at-the-time could take any action against him. Despite his attitude, his tactical and strategic decisions could not be refuted. The straw the broke his seniors' backs was when he blatantly ignored High Command in favor of a more indirect, but (what would later be deemed a) far more effective result. The action had caused a brief standoff between his smaller taskforce and the considerably more powerful fleet of Admiral Dulan. Even during the confrontation, reports indicated that he put the looming threat of arrest and/or death on the backburner, favoring to finish his duty and "play a game of rules" with the Admiral later.
It was one of the more distracting moments of his career. 'If Dulan, had focused on the mission rather than trying to threaten me, we would have lost fewer men.' Such were his official thoughts on the matter, since they were on record. He'd said them straight to the Emperor's face, in fact. Come what may, he simply couldn't be bothered to play by the rules of others, especially when those rules hindered him in his task.
This had caused quite the commotion amongst the Imperial elite. Even more so when he'd left the meeting with the head of the faction, not only acquitted of all transgressions, but promoted. Though they could look at the official records all they wanted, they simply couldn't understand how his words had garnered the approval of the Emperor. There were few who knew the truth; that the official report was altered. Unofficially, the Emperor had deciphered that his alias, K'Balc Hiwet Ustez, wasn't his real name.
It was true; it was a name he'd come up on his application to the Imperial Academy on Carida. That now brought to light, the grilling the powerful old man had given him had ended with the simple truth, a new rank, and a new name; Non-human, Grand Admiral, Zarin Xelos.
Not that anyone else knew it. Though he was non-human, he was a rare breed of changelings; looking human was trivial. It had been years since he'd revealed his true form to anyone, though he assumed the Emperor was able to see at least a glimpse of it, thanks to his powerful Force abilities. But that was mere speculation, even if plausibly accurate.
But it was because of all of this that he now walked the hall that lead to the wizened old man's throne room. When he approached, the doors opened without request, and he walked in, knowing the Emperor was expecting him. As soon as he was through, the massive metal doors closed behind him, leaving him, a few Imperial guards, no doubt a few more unseen than seen, and the man in the chair. At his side, an aide was speaking with him, until the doors closed with a slam. Immediately the aide backed away from the hooded figure, who seemed to instantly forget she was there.
Xelos walked forward, stopping only a few short meters from the throne that sat atop a small series of stairs. "You called?" he asked, devoid of any sense of inferiority. The voice that came from the figure was aged and rattling.
"Yes…" he began with deliberate slowness. "I have an interesting piece of information for you, and a task, should you choose to accept it." He said each word slowly, and with purpose, his cold, dead yellow eyes (colored from years of dark-Force manipulation) scrutinizing every muscle twitch on the alien's face.
He was interested. "…Such as?"
He couldn't be sure, but he could have sworn the creature-of-a-man before him actually cracked a small, slight smile.
Pain watched at the golden ship slipped away into the void, its escorts following tightly beside it. From the window of his now empty office aboard the station, he had a beautiful view of the surrounding nebula, and the blinking stars behind its shrouded veil. He stared off into it blankly, his thoughts veering introspectively. It was a moment of silence, and only just; his head turned slightly at the sound of heavy booted feet behind him.
The masked trooper stood idly behind, an assault rifle slung across his back, pistol in its holder, and visor-less helmet devoid of all expression. "Pack-up's finished. All valuable materials have been offloaded to the freighters. Personnel just completed boarding their transports as well. We're ready to move."
"And the technology?" Pain asked, knowing the soldier knew what he was taking about.
"Packed up or destroyed beyond recognition. There's nothing of value left."
He nodded. "Good. Get to your transport and begin final evacuation protocols. I don't want anyone left behind because of stupidity."
The soldier nodded, turned and left. Pain returned his vision to the wispy space-clouds beyond, feeling that old nostalgia threaten to overtake him. He smirked, welcoming the more pleasant part of it and shunning the rest. "So, the cycle begins again."
He gave one last look to the stars and turned away, his cloak fluttering in his own wake. A new base of operations had to be established. Or rather, retaken.
A/N: And there it is! I know, it's short, but you can't imagine the writers bkock this chapter gave me, resulting in it being at partial fault for it coming out so late. Now that its, done though, more ideas will come much easier! That said, I'll bid you all adieu!
Don't forget to review! :D Reviews are the lifeblood of any story!
'Till next time! o/