Chapter I : The Hunting Party
Arro Silver- Battlemaster of the Jedi Order- saw the Faultline in the Flows of the Force even as his Light Corvette Silver Pilgrim came out of hyperspace. Darth Marr, one of the leaders of the Dark Council, had sent a message urgently requesting his presence, along with that of many other potential allies in their fight against the Sith Emperor.
He had seen Faultlines since even before setting foot on Tython. They appeared as cracks to his perception, faults in the ebb and flow of the Force around him. Some lasted only for a few moments. Others persisted much longer. Most were difficult to interpret. While he could see the critical points in the fractures easily enough, it was not easy to interpret the best way of striking it. While physically attacking the critical points did work sometimes, more often a careful interpretation was necessary in order to know how to strike it in such a way that the ripples reached your intended destination. Sometimes, setting events in motion was necessary rather than being the tool to strike directly. To set the right domino falling. And sometimes, those subtle actions required merely avoiding the pitfalls, or resisting the impulse to act whatsoever, for sometimes, a desired outcome might require as little interference as possible. But knowing exactly what was needed required wisdom, experience, and skill.
The one running through the Terminus -class Destroyer before him was one of the biggest and most fragile he’d ever seen. Something truly explosive was about to happen, a mega tsunami whose ripples would be felt all over the galaxy. What worried Arro was that this faultline was just a part of a larger tapestry. The ignition point of a much larger conflagration. Which meant that he could do nothing with as little information as he had. He turned in his seat to address T7-01. His oldest and most trusted friend, the earnest Astromech was finishing the routine post-hyperspace jump checks.
“Trouble, old friend,” he whispered. “Another Shatterpoint. This one is massive, volatile and far-reaching. Something big is about to happen. A new chapter in the story of the galaxy, and it will affect everything and everyone we know.”
Teeseven whistled nervously, and suggested that he be ready to run at all times. He even suggested a few remote paradise systems in the rim as a hiding place as the worst case scenario, though Arro was well aware that the little astromech had the courage of any hardened soldier. He would stand and fight, just like Arro himself would. But it reassured Arro that his friend was taking his statement very seriously. The Droid would begin surveying the scene as thoroughly as possible, so as to keep a better understanding of how it all started.
Teeseven began by identifying all the vessels flying in formation around the Terminus -class destroyer. Darth Marr’s Flagship. He recognized several of them, including Darth Prowle’s Fury-class interceptor, the Tempest , Havoc Squad’s BT-7 Thunderclap, the Crow’s Wing . The XS Freighter Voidhound , which was captained by the privateer who had earned the same title, drifted inconspicuously amidst dozens of other similar freighters. But Arro knew that the Hound had the shielding and firepower to enter a serious dogfight if it had to. He also recognized the names of units aboard many smaller ships and shuttles, who had distinguished themselves at Yavin. The Blue Fang Squad, Imperial Black ops, the Duststompers , the Winterwolves .
The Republic Hammerhead cruiser Swiftrunner was the largest Republic vessel present, and the most illustrious. She had seen combat above Rishi, Yavin and Ziost, so her crew was well aware of the threat the Emperor posed. Perhaps even more impressive, the ship had been part of the diversionary strike at Dromund Kaas itself, as well as the raid on Korriban. Her Captain, the astute Iktotchi Stentor, was undoubtedly invited by Marr himself.
He didn’t recognize any of the Imperial cruisers and support ships, though he did know some of their passengers, like Moff Pyron, who served Darth Nox. Marr had put together quite a task force, but the lack of the larger Dreadnoughts troubled Arro, as did the relatively small size of the fleet. Overkill for finding one ghost, but given the faultline he could see, Marr might need something far larger. Although, truth be told, muscle might not be what was needed right now. Reaching out with the Force, he searched for the one person who he would have felt most reassured to have at his side today; Lana Beniko. Pragmatic Sith Lord. Minister of Intelligence. His wife.
His search ended in disappointment: she was far away. And covered neck deep in work of her own, if her patient, determined, but tired focus was any indication. He sent her a wave of affection through their bond, along with a mental Miss you . He felt her pleasure and she sent a surge of love in return, along with the words Be careful, my love .
As always, they both lingered in each other’s minds for a moment, savouring the feel of the other’s psyche before pulling back.
He approached the boarding ramp as his ship docked beside one of the Docking Ports. The deck shuddered slightly as the docking clamp of Marr’s Flagship connected their ship to the larger vessel.
He heard Teeseven calling out a warning to be careful, and gave him a nod and a smile as he crossed the ramp to get to Marr’s ship. His partner and former apprentice Kira Carsen followed him to the airlock.
“I saw another Fracture Kira,” he told her. “The worst I’ve ever seen. And it’ll be upon us very soon. Better make sure the Pilgrim is ready for anything.”
“Fuel, food and fun, coming right up,” she replied, with her characteristic sarcastic tone. “I’m ready and eager to save the galaxy again. I was starting to get nice and bored of all this peace.”
With that she walked toward the waiting steward droid to requisition the needed supplies.
Another woman, this one wearing an Imperial Naval uniform approached him and offered him a crisp salute. Her rank cylinder marked her as the Captain. She must have been the First Officer who replaced the former Captain after he was ousted as a Revanite.
“Master Jedi!” she greeted him, a hint of warmth beneath her professional demeanor. “Welcome aboard. Thank you for coming here so quickly on such short notice. We didn’t know if you could even make it here so soon. Darth Marr awaits you on the bridge. If you would please follow me.”
Arro fell in step behind her, noting the efficiency with which Republic and Imperial troops were working together. Everyone seemed quite focused on the upcoming mission, rather than the fact that they were technically enemies.
“Everyone seems to be getting along,” he remarked.
“We have veterans from Yavin to set the example, and Darth Marr’s orders on the matter were quite clear. We all know what’s at stake.” The captain responded.
“Who else are we expecting to join in?”
“Grand Master Shan and her Jedi, Darth Nox, Lords Scimitarr and Pariah. But we’ve mostly gathered already.”
“I wasn’t expecting to be the last to arrive,” Arro said. He and his crew had made for wild space within six hours of receiving the summons, after hurriedly making the minimum needed preparations for whatever they should encounter.
“While Darth Prowle arrived only a short time ago, Most of what you see here were here before Lord Marr sent you the message, part of the help the Republic has been giving us. He even requested some of these resources specifically.”
“Like Havoc, and the Voidhound . Captain Stentor.”
“Yes, Master Jedi. The Voidhound in particular has proven to be more resourceful than we had anticipated since her Captain has so many connections.”
The bridge was busy with activity. Every man and woman was at busy at their station, monitoring the status of the task force, or watching the sensors for any kind of trouble. Darth Marr stood tall and still, like a statue before the viewport. As always, he cut an impressive figure with his size and armor. He acknowledged the Jedi’s presence with a nod.
“I came as quick as I could when I got your message,” Arro said. “And now that I’m here, I can sense it too.”
“We grow closer every moment,” Marr said, sounding tense yet resolved. “Our former Emperor is out there.”
“You should know,” Arro said. “Something big is about to happen. Larger than a hunt for a single ghost, even the Emperor’s.”
“What do you mean?” Marr asked, sounding intrigued.
“I can sense… Fractures… in the Force. Shatterpoints. Flows in the Force that pull and push each other and cause a strain in the tapestry of the Force. There are Cracks where the strain becomes too much. They usually signal some important moment approaching, ones for whom the shattering of the cracks can have great consequences. I saw one such fracture when I arrived, that was more intricate than anything I’ve ever seen before. Not even when I met the Emperor, or on Yavin IV, or even Ziost.”
“Troubling,” Marr muttered. “Are you suggesting we increase the size of our force?”
“I don’t know if we have that kind of time. All we can do right now is to stay on our toes. Also, whatever our ships can record of the coming events might prove helpful later on. This is the Ignition point of what is to happen, after all.”
“Very well,” Marr said. He turned to the Captain. “Captain Fora, give the order to the rest of the fleet.”
“My Lord,” she bowed and turned and started calling out instructions and hailing other ships.
“So regarding the Emperor. What do we do once we find him? We still don’t know how to destroy him.”
“If he has taken on a physical form we will destroy it, that should weaken him significantly… as you well know” he added. “If he remains incorporeal, we will at least know where to strike, even if we don’t know how.”
Without warning, he whirled to face Arro directly. “Why travel this far? Why consume every living thing on Ziost, then turn and flee into the depths of Wild Space?”
“I wish I could say it was possible something went wrong. That he’s vulnerable, somehow. Or at the very least, needs to focus his strength elsewhere before turning his attention back to us. What worries me is that he’s leading us into another of his games.”
As always, Marr managed to look grumpy even though his face was hidden behind his mask. “And I thought the Jedi loved the Light. You are proving darker than some of the Council meetings. If we do locate him, I believe that between Darth Nox and myself, we can press the Dark Council in line. But what of the Republic? The help we have received has been beneficial, but limited. And apparently unofficial. Will your government assist us in neutralizing this threat?”
“The Jedi will not allow this threat to go unnoticed. Most of the Military understands the peril. So many of them were at Yavin, and Ziost, they saw it themselves. Supreme Commander Malcolm understands the seriousness of all of this. The Senate will hesitate, however, so even if the entire Republic Military arrives to assist us, it will still be unofficial.”
Marr chuckled darkly. “Amusing how the ones that fight for Democracy are willing to disobey their elected representatives.”
“The government can be a Democracy, but the military cannot. And since there’s a war on, highest echelons of that military can make emergency decisions with lesser oversight.”
Arro thought Marr rolled his eyes behind his mask, though he maintained his silence. Idly, he wondered, yet again, what the man looked like behind his mask. This mystique undoubtedly contributed to his image as a Stalwart Titan rather than a man.
Symbols were all well and good, but there was a tradeoff. What would happen when that symbol was gone? The death of their Emperor still shook the Empire, and the subsequent revelation about his mass murders of his own people made matters worse.
His rumination was brought to an abrupt end when a nearby klaxon sounded and a serviceman called out “My Lord! Sensor contact, fifteen klicks. Small, no life form readings- Some kind of probe.”
He switched on a holo depicting the probe they’d detected.
“Scans are identical to the unknown force that attacked Korriban.” A monitor reported from her station.”
That was enough to make up Marr’s mind.
“Raise shields! Pursue and destroy!”
But even as the ship came alive to follow his orders, the proximity alert sounded frantically. A stunned silence reigned as hundreds of near-identical warships came out of Hyperspace before them. Most ominously, they were already arrayed in attack formation even as they came into realspace.
Marr shook off his surprise with surprising speed, and keyed his comms, breaking the entire bridge out of their stupor as well with his rallying command.
“Evasive maneuvers! Come about a hundred-and-eighty degrees! We cannot match that fleet, we have to retreat-- and in good order! Vanguard, engage their frontline vessels and cover the retreat. Fighter crews launch and intercept all boarding pods and fighters.”
In mere minutes the entire Task Force had begun to carry out his orders- an astonishing testament to the cooperation.
But the enemy was still faster.
The ship shook from the impact of multiple solid impacts breaking through the shields and striking the Cruiser hard.
“We’ve been boarded! All decks report hostile forces.”
Arro only peripherally heard the crewman. He noted that the massive fleet was all but ignoring the meagre vanguard, and the other ships. Marr’s flagship was their target.
“I’ll sweep for boarders,” Arro said, dashing off. As he did so, he sent a warning to Lana through the Force.
Her foreboding concern carried back the words I have a bad feeling about this .
The grandfather of all tempests had begun.