Phantoms of the Present
First the Battle, Now the War
"Ah, hell, this isn't good news, is it?"
The hologram shook its head ruefully. "I don't know, admiral. Would you call a declaration of war against the Republic good or bad?"
The middle-aged admiral rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration. "Both."
Without further ado, the transmission ended. The grizzled, tired veteran turned to the cadre of Admirals standing around him.
"What now, Admiral?" One, an older but lower ranked man asked. "We can't stand up to a whole galaxy. They could throw rocks at us and still take us down before we make a dent in their numbers!"
Horner gave a sigh. He was right. The Zerg were one thing. Plentiful as they were, they only infested one sector and they were "tamed" before they could truly begin to multiply. While the Republic was far weaker individually, they had many hundreds of thousands of millions more troops. The United Systems would be fighting a losing battle.
"There is one way," the young Admiral said after a moment. "There's one way we can have a prayer of winning, and we can base our entire grand strategy on it...but you're not going to like it...hell, I don't like it..."
The group leaned in a bit, morbidly curious. Horner closed his eyes briefly, his expression grave.
"The Republic might have more numbers than a Zerg Queen would no what to do with, but they take losses to heart. So that has to be our strategy...attrition...and this is how we're going to do it..."
Coruscant, Galactic Capital
Great Jedi Temple
"...and you're sure there was no word from any of them?"
"Positive, Master Windu."
The bald, black-skinned jedi closed his eyes pensively. "Thank you. You are dismissed, Admiral."
The hologram of Yularen bowed and disappeared. The council remained silent, looking to one another with apprehensive glances. Then, as one, they looked to Jedi Master Yoda.
"Do you sense anything, Master Yoda?" Windu asked quietly. "Are they still alive?"
The small green alien's ears drooped a bit as he shook his head.
"Nothing, I sense," he rasped. "Over the Force, a shroud hangs. Clouded, it is."
Another jedi nodded in agreement, his small bald head nodding on a slender, pale neck.
"I have sensed it as well," he said in the soft voice characteristic to his race. "But it does not appear to be the Dark Side."
"Dark, it is not," Yoda continued, his voice grave and face downcast. "Void, I sense. No light...and no dark…nothing…"
The council looked to one another, many were obviously troubled.
"This war is a mistake," a bearded, mustachioed jedi said. He looked somewhat human and could have passed for one if not for the numerous veins, oversized brain, and secondary heart that stuck out on his head.
"Indeed it is," Master Windu replied, rubbing his temples. "But we are committed to it, for better or worse." He looked to his comrades around him. "Chancellor Vei'la will want to know what position the jedi hold."
"They cannot expect us to continue our support," another jedi snapped. "We warned the Senate from the beginning, yet they still hold that the Terrans plan to overthrow the Republic!"
"Support the war, we will not," Yoda responded, holding up a hand to calm the other man down. "But protect the Republic, we must." He turned to a green skinned jedi next to him. "Master Fisto. Go to the Senate, you will. Protect the Republic, the jedi shall, but take a larger part in this war, we will not."
The Council nodded in unison, agreeing with the wizened old Grand Master. Outside of their circle, though, another jedi, one not a part of the Council, stood. He stared into space, absentmindedly stroking his beard. Worry gnawed at him, mostly for his apprentice and the padawan he led. But he also sensed something else.
Every nation in existence had their own aura within the Force. It was directed by the will of the people. Their aura told volumes of the nation's overall purpose and intentions.
For decades, however, no jedi could sense any but two: Dark and Light. Now, however, a third had joined the stage.
The Void stood on the precipice of the Republic. Though the United Systems were small, the Void was anything but. Kenobi feared what he sensed.
From within that tiny, insignificant band of worlds, the hounds of the Void threatened to engulf all in their path.
Tarsonis, US Capital
"Admiralty" Fleet HQ
"…Torrin, tell me you've got news on Umoja."
"Their fleet is fully mobilized. Planetside reinforcements are inbound, due to arrive in three hours."
The Admiralty was a flurry of activity. Minor officers ran back and forth, carrying papers and reports for the numerous commanders, generals, and admirals. The comms sets were full to the point of bleed-over into other channels.
"What's the status on Orrel?"
"His ground forces are mobilized, sir. They are ready to load up on your order."
A man stood at the center of the room, ruffling through papers and reports as he shouted out for updates. His vest was decorated with the sash of a Fleet Admiral.
"Any word from Horner?"
"Preliminary reconstruction on Shili is underway. Counterstrike reinforcements are en route, sir."
Abruptly, the final paper was put into its bin. The man slumped into his chair, exhausted. As Fleet Admiral of the HQ, logistics was his job…and it was a tiring one.
As the master of the US navy logistics, Admiral Khale knew just how unready the United Systems were for war, particularly one with an enemy as vast as the Republic. In the aftermath of the Hybrid War, twenty-five years was not nearly enough time to recover. Worlds like Umoja still bore the scars of planetary bombardment and conflict, and the Systems' infrastructure was only just beginning to reach a passable level of reconstruction. Even with superior technology and strategy, there was no way to win...except one.
A war of attrition.
Normally, such a notion would have been folly against a nation as large as the Republic, but Khale saw the benefits of it. The war would not be won militarily, but it could be won politically.
The plan was simple: beat up on as much of the Republic as possible for as long as possible, until it reached the point that continuing the war became political suicide for Republic leaders. The best part was that it would be relatively easy to do.
The worst part was the inevitable toll on any attacked worlds. No one wanted to inflict nor recieve that many casualties. The plan in its entirety was one that no one wanted to implement, but the Republic left them no choice.
They had cornered the beast. Now they were going to pay the price.
The sun was setting: an apt backdrop for what was happening many dozens of worlds away.
A dim orange glow fell below the horizon of a distant, shadowed world as the Queen comtemplated the events of late. An Age was ending, and the dawn of a new, brighter age was coming. Yet between dusk and dawn still lay the long hours of night. When the sun dawned once more, would any be left to see it?
The Queen pondered this question, gazing towards the horizon as the last light of the setting dwarf star faded.
Regardless of the outcome of this war, the Swarm would be unaffected. So why should the Queen care? They had shunned her, hated her, and wanted nothing to do with her. Only the Hybrids had convinced Them to work with her. It was why the Queen had left in the first place. The Swarm needed a place to live, to grow, and to avoid another war.
The Zerg side of her wanted retribution for their hatred, but that was out of the question. The Human side had given her a better solution. Comprimise. Armistice. Leave...and never return.
Never return...never return...never return...
That last part repeated over and over again in her mind.
Never return...never return...
Why should she return? Why should she care? She would not harm them, but nor would she help them. Humans and Zerg had been at odds for too long. There could be no peace between them.
Then she thought of him. The only one who believed in her from day one to the day she left. His face swirled through her mind.
Instantly, her resolve weakened and she became unsure once more.
Sarah Kerrigan lightly stroked the head plate of the Hydralisk at her side, causing it to utter a small purring noise. What should she do? What would he want her to do? Should she help them or ignore them? If the Swarm came to their aid, would they even accept it?
She pondered these things long into the night, but in the end was no closer to the answers she sought when the dwarf sun began to rise into the sky once more.
"Yes, yes, what is it?"
"The jedi have given their answer."
"Well, sir, limited support is the most we can expect from them."
"Hmm, a pity. I suppose it is not too surprising, though...What is the status of our 'project'?"
"It is moving along as scheduled, Chancellor."
"Hmm…unfortunately, it seems we will have to move the schedule up somewhat. Accelerate the project. I have the feeling we will need it sooner rather than later."
"At once, Chancellor."
That's right folks, after a long hiatus (not one that happened by choice, mind you), I'm back. Sorry to disappoint those who wanted a completely new chapter, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that the old version of this chapter just didn't have enough meat to it, so I started by adding to it.
Chapter 6 is in the works as we speak, and while I can't promise a post tomorrow or the day after, I can promise that it'll be posted before the next six, three, or two months are up. ;)
As always, bring on the reads, reviews, comments, and questions.