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A Change in the Force

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One ship blinked out of hyperspace. Then another, then another. One by one, like sparks from a bonfire, vessels of life threw themselves into the unknown, the same unknown that looked like every other corner of the galaxy littered with planets and moons and stations. Endless, devastating, too crushed and too open at the same time, all while feeling the pull of the chasm. There was something intrinsically beautiful about the eternal blackness of space. Only a few ships sailed the abyss at that moment, dull grey and uniform as the personnel that resided within.

 

For a moment, it felt as if even the Force was holding its breath.

 

Marr stood at the bridge of the Terminus-class Destroyer, his arms tucked neatly behind his back, respectfully avoided by the officers that manned the station terminals. He could feel the Emperor through the Force, a twisted mass of lies and power, strength and an incapacity to care for his subjects and the Empire that stood strong for many a generation. The legacy of his people. Corruption in the Empire had its roots deep, born from a seed planted by the Emperor and festered until its vines choked any thoughts of true greatness and ambition from its people, instead leading them to petty squabbles and a failure to cooperate against a common enemy.

 

And now?

 

Marr allowed himself a brief moment to look around his ship. Most of the people there that avoided his gaze were Imperial, stoic and expressionless and yet resolute in their decisions, any concerns and uncertainty smothered by the work that needed to be done. The others were Republic personnel, more vocal and relaxed than their counterparts, though their concerns were less sheltered, especially when it concerned himself. Most were smart enough to hide their comments regarding his sudden enlisting of soldiers from both sides of the galaxy, though their expressions and emotions were far less guarded than they thought they were. Although, as much as this situation was not preferable- asking the Republic for assistance!- there was no better alternative at the moment. The Emperor was not a problem localised to the Empire, and the galaxy knew it.

 

Most of the Council were unaware of his location. Not that it mattered in the slightest- most would not have come willingly to his aid in favour of fruitless discussions and arguments about power structures and issues that did not require the entirety of the Council to be present. Darth Marr had sent messages to people that would be the most likely to act at a word: The Wrath was notified of his plans, as was Darth Nox (whom he asked to wait at a neutral location until coordinates were sent), Lana Beniko. The former Cipher 9 was sure to look at Marr’s personal alerts, especially with the sudden surge of emergency messages that he had sent within the last few days. The Bounty Hunter was unlikely to check any mail, or at least respond to it within a week, but fighting and credits would lure them towards the battle, eventually. And if the Emperor was amassing forces as he had initially done on Ziost before destroying it… well, it was always advantageous to have someone to clear up any retaliations.

 

The Emperor was left to fester for far too long, and he could feel it, a sickness in the pit of his gut.

 

“We grow closer every moment. Our former Emperor is out there.” He spoke, to no one of any particular importance.

An officer working on the computers near his side flinched at the sudden break of silence. “Yes, Dark Lord.”

“Send rendezvous coordinates to Darth Nox. Now.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Send the coordinates to the Wrath as well.” He would not hold his breath for any reply, especially for one so devoted to the lighter side of the force to counter the Emperor’s impact- but there was a steely resolution in the Wrath, and to waste a potential ally would be foolish.

 

The officer disappeared from his peripheral vision with haste, and Marr was left alone to contemplate the stars and his allies once more. When it came to situations like these, Nox was the first one to be notified, being the most competent and least likely to become blinded by petty  inner conflicts that the rest of the council were afflicted by, not to mention the first person to mind that he could trust. The Wrath, despite being a puppet for the Emperor, was insufferably insistent on mercy, even when acting in his former master’s name. Even so, the large-scale attack on Ziost was enough to shatter the Wrath’s trust in Vitiate, and so thus he became an ally. The former Cipher agent lived and struck from the shadows, and has a penchant for dying and reappearing a month later with a terminal’s worth of new information. The Bounty Hunter was reliable in causing havoc and merciless death, much as Darth Nox was, but in a manner that left no room for rebellion or questioning post-massacre, whilst still giving the foe a chance of surrender. The Republic’s associates were another matter, their help being reluctant, even though diplomats and Lana researching their weakest points to exploit, they still refused to send their Jedi or most of their troops to assist in the removal of the immortal Emperor. Even that of the Knight who killed Vitiate, which struck him as very peculiar. The Barsen’thor was the most receptive in discussions of a temporary truce, however was not the best candidate to appeal for assistance.

 

“My lord! Sensor contact, fifteen clicks. Small… no life form readings… some kind of probe?”

 

Marr’s reverie was broken as the shadow of the probe shot past the bridge’s window. The blue holoimage lit the room with the coldness of Ziost’s death, turning the recreated image of the probe for the personnel within. Another voice called out for his attention.

 

“Readings are identical to scans from the unknown force that attacked Korriban-”

“Raise shields. Pursue and destroy.”

 

Even as his voice echoed back to the officers, Marr knew that he reacted a second far too late, as the probe hurtled into the violent purple mass of space, a mocking black shape falling into the stars.

 

There were no stars.

 

In perfect geometric lines were rows upon rows of ships, ugly, unfamiliar, more and more beasts appearing from the indigo unknown. The Empire was under attack.

 

“Evasive manoeuvres! Come about 180 degrees!” Marr barked out to the officers as they scrambled into position. Even as the ship spun to face its new enemy, he could feel shudders in the hull from battle droids boarding the Destroyer. His Destroyer. It was time to act.

 

“Set deflectors to double aft! Divert weapon power to the engines!”

A voice from the monitors was barely heard over the screaming of tortured metal. “My lord- the shields are under attack!”

He hissed in disgust. “Then defend until I dispatch the situation!”

 

Officers and soldiers alike jumped out of his path as Darth Marr, the stalwart defender of the Empire, the last resistance between them and the enemy, charged down the maintenance corridors, the steady hum of his modified lightsaber lighting his way. The enemy came sooner than he anticipated, white heavy-set droids blocking the corridors over the crushed bodies of engineers who could not run fast enough. He leapt forwards, skewering two droids in a move, before swinging the blade to intercept an attack from his left. The limbs of the attacker separated easily, as did the next one’s head, parrying a blow back to a couple on the right. Whatever that tried to flank him was smashed into the wall through the Force, or ripped apart into scrap parts. Each corridor was very much a repeat of this fight, dead crew, destroyed droids, force the doors open, fight another group, find more dead or dying, parry, strike, defend, next corridor.

 

His comlink buzzed into life, the voice of an accent far too casual for his liking. “Sith, the droids are targeting the primary engines. You might want to check that out.”

“We may be part of an alliance,” Marr spat, “but do not think you can refer to me merely as Sith.”

“Uh, right, sorry about that.” A pause. “Won’t happen again.”

“Be sure that it does not. Keep the bridge secure while I go to the engine room.” With that, he cut the transmission off, and headed into the elevator.

 

A group of droids, all armed with blasters as sterling white as their shells, opened fire on him when the elevator doors reopened in the engineering sector. Marr ducked to the side of the elevator, using the momentum to throw his lightsaber at the group, calling it back with the Force in a neat arc, executing a few of the droids. He slammed the nearest droid with an armoured elbow, stepping neatly into the gap he had made in their ranks. A slice. A wide arc. With each swing of his blade Marr used the momentum to position himself further behind enemy lines, crushing armoured limbs and shoulder blades under his boots. Here, height and strength gave him the advantage he needed over the droids, swatting their blasters away with one hand and impaling them with the other, a perfect harmony of a fatal dance.

 

Every step was the same tired rehearsal after that, more haphazard cutting and destruction of wardroids, transmissions from officers that should have known better than to pester him with assessments of the obvious, more droids, more unbearable explosions as the overhead sirens screamed out their final song. The engine controls hummed its dying heartbeat in the faint red glow of the room. His options were limited, given the damage the ship had already taken, fewer still for not knowing if the bridge was secure after his leave, and he was not sure of the status of the other ships in his convoy. Were the rest of the ship intact, then perhaps he could arrange a final affront against this sudden fleet, all guns and shields activated, perhaps buy time for the hyperdrive to be assessed.

 

A small buzz came from his adapted comlink. Frowning, Darth Marr took out the small device, a battered, old thing that it was, which was flashing a small yellow light at its corner. A written reply? The corners of his mouth tightened to match his scowl, as he moved to open the message. It was with a cold disquiet when he saw the sender, and an even colder dread when he regarded the note attached.

 

From: Darth Nox

Subject: Rendezvous

 

Dark Lord,

 

Just received your coordinates, on my way to the rendezvous point. I suppose it would be best to assume that the Emperor is nearby, so I’m bringing some extra precautions. Will signal you when about to leave hyperspace. Don’t get too bored waiting, save me something to do.

 

Darth Nox

 

The beginnings of a snarl twisted his face under the mask. He had sent his coordinates to Darth Nox and the Wrath just before the battle began, and they would be sure to arrive in the midst of a bloodbath, with no idea of an enemy before it would be too late. He would risk the Empire’s best chance of saving itself if he did not act soon.

 

A shrill, panicked voice came from the emergency transmitter on the console from one of the officers on the bridge, doubled over and dying, coughing out the last of her words.

 

“Enemies on the bridge! Repeat, enemies on-“

The transmission died, then, leaving a jarring emptiness.

 

The moment was gone- there was no time to write a final reply. Darth Marr shook his head sharply, dismissing the message with a wave of his hand.

 

It was decided, then.

 

He swiped at a switch on the control panel, and diverted all power to the engines, hearing the roar of burning fuel propelling the ship suddenly forward, stark explosions erupting from behind him, tearing his ship apart. He felt the vessel accelerating through the shaking of walls and flooring, debris tumbling from the ceiling like Dromund Kaas rain that never again he would feel. Darth Marr was never afraid of death. But there was no forgiveness for walking so blindly into an ambush, no forgiveness in failing the Empire. He closed his eyes to the flashing lights and screaming steam jets that exploded from the pipes nearby him. So be it.

 

Let them all burn.