Chapter One- Beginnings and Endings
General Jennra Starlighter stood facing the large observation window, her knuckles gleaming white as she clenched her hands into tight fists. The blackness of space was alive with the glimmering of Mandalorian and Republic starships firing upon each other-each laser blast a glittering orange in the dark vacuum of space. She watched as a large Mandalorian battleship was attacked by several smaller Republic fighters. Fire flittered over the large dark hull, its internal workings ablaze where it had taken heavy fire. A portion of the ship crumbled and fell away, turning in slow revolutions as it drifted into space. A Republic cruiser neared and fired its heavy laser canons at the damaged enemy ship; with a bright flash of light, it fell crashing to the surface of the dark planet beneath it.
"Are we ready, General?" a voice queried softly at her side. She glanced across to the figure stood to her left.
"Not yet. I have not received word from our Commander," she replied, noticing the look of anticipation in the young male Zabraks eyes.
"Our fleet is taking heavy tolls. I don't know how much longer the fleet can hold out. Even as we speak, the Mandalorians are affecting a counter strike."
She sighed. She did not want to be lectured on the principles of warfare from a technical engineer. "Do not let your eagerness for revenge cloud your vision, Bao-dur"
The tech lowered his horned head and coughed respectively, "I did not mean that, General."
"We await word," Jennra replied firmly, noticing the quick look of anger he flashed her as he regarded her with narrowed eyes.
"Yes, General," he strode off to the bridge turbo lift, muttering to himself.
A sudden blast rocked the ship. Jennra gripped the edge of a console table in front of her. How much more can we take before Revan gives word? She thought worriedly, we are suffering terrible damage to the fleet, why is she waiting?
The sound of frantic voices and beeping of consoles brought her from her brief reverie. "Damage report?" she called out to a white faced woman sat at one of the consoles on the main bridge.
"We were lucky that time," the woman replied shakily, "But any more…"
"Do as I command!" Jennra snapped, turning away from her.
The Mandalorian army was vast-a mixture of different assimilated cultures from conquered worlds that wore the united Mandalorian face, solidly encased in war armour. Jennra ran her hand through her long dark hair. Under Revans commandership, the fleet had chased the Mandalorians from out of Republic space, despite suffering immense casualties to men and ships alike. The fight had been quick, now that the Jedi had stepped in to lend a hand, no more than a year had passed, but she felt that it had seemed longer, years longer than the actual time. She wanted an end to it; she suddenly felt weary of war and of the battle zealous Mandalorian soldiers.
She sat down in a chair next to the console and frowned. As a Jedi, she was not supposed to feel emotions as such. But she could not deny the feeling of panic that was slowly building up inside her. It went against her training, all that she learnt as a Padawan many years before in the Jedi Academy on Dantooine. She focused herself inwardly and breathing slowly and deeply, she brought up in her mind the code that the Jedi strictly adhered to. There is no emotion; there is peace. There is no ignorance; there is knowledge. She focused on the meaning of the words, blocking out all sounds of battle; pushing these and all other conscious thoughts to the background. There is no passion; there is serenity. There is no death; there is the Force. She started to feel the tautness dissipate from her body; the lethargy from her mind slowly clearing and her thoughts grew gradually clear.
Jennra walked slowly across to the large observation window, staggering slightly as the ship was rocked again by another blow. She shrugged herself deeper into the brown cloak that she wore, pulling the hood tighter around her neck as she gazed out the window and looked down on the planet below. Malachor V. Battles were being waged there; many Republic and Mandalorian soldiers were fighting fiercely. Revan herself was down on the planets surface, investigating the ruins of an ancient Sith learning centre, the Trayus Academy. The Mass Shadow Generator also lay there waiting for use, waiting for word. It was an untested weapon created by Bao-dur, which used Malachor V's unusually strong gravitational pull to create a gravity implosion shockwave, which would decimate all around it. She pressed a hand against the window, feeling the chill of space seep into her flesh. Around the dark planet, ships were battling against each other, and as she watched, she saw several small damaged fighters being drawn into the planets gravity, where they glowed red and burnt up as they were pulled down through the planets atmosphere. Another hit rocked the ship, and Jennra steadied herself. A huge grey cruiser passed close by underneath, she could see small flames lick across its scarred surface. The ships canons were swivelling around, raining crimson fire on a distant Mandalorian battleship.
Jennra waited nervously. She was awaiting the order for the troops on Malachor V to be withdrawn, so that the Mass Shadow Generator could be activated. The longer we are here, the more we are going to lose, Jennra thought bitterly, the waste of human lives grows more with each passing moment. Revan, Give word, she prayed silently, Put and end to this now.
"General!" A male voice cried out, "We are under attack."
Jennra rushed up to the bridge, "What is it?"
The man looked at her nervously "We have been boarded by a small Mandalorian squad…" The beeping of his console made him glance down at the small computer screen. He ran his fingers quickly over the keys. He glanced up at Jennra, a surprised look on his face, "Two more Mandalorian ships are on an intercept course"
"Have we any spare fighters?"
He looked down at his screen again. "There are several General, but they are some distance away. They will not be able to get to us in time. Commander Revans' flagship is close, but at this distance, if they fire at the enemy there is a good possibility that they will take us out too."
A klaxon blared loudly, warning of danger. Jennra reached down to a small pouch hanging on the belt of her tunic, and flipping it open, she retrieved her light saber
"Lock the bridge down until I return," she asked the man.
"General? You are needed here…"
"This is more important, for the moment."
She raced towards the turbo lift, saber held tightly in her hand. "I won't be long," she said smiling grimly.
Jennra stepped out of the turbo lift, and stared up a long rounded corridor. Red lights flashed on and off, giving the corridor an eerie glow. A group of five Republic soldiers emerged from around a corner, stopping, as they saw her stood there with the lightsaber glowing greenly in her hand.
"General?" one of the men asked questioningly.
"The Mandalorians?" she asked, gesturing behind them with the hilt of the energy blade.
A hum sounded as three blue armoured Mandalorian soldiers appeared, as if from thin air. Jennra whirled on them silently, saber flashing and crackling as it connected with toughened armour. The Republic soldiers fired at them with their blasters, orange plasma pummelling the air. One Mandalorian fell heavily to the ground, his blaster rifle spinning across the floor.
Jennra arced her saber over her head, and brought it crashing down on the arm of one of the Mandalorians, knocking his rifle from his hands. He grunted at her in surprise, and struck out at her with a heavy gloved fist. She feinted the blow with her other arm, and twisting her body around she slashed him across the chest with her saber. A burst of plasma showered across him, as he was fired upon, and he too fell to the ground.
The last Mandalorian disappeared in a resonant hum, only to reappear behind Jennra and the Republic soldiers.
"You will not win this war!" he gloated in a deep voice, as he aimed his blaster squarely at her back.
"Take him down!" a voice rang out, and the Mandalorian fell crashing to the floor in a burst of bright plasma.
Jennra gave a small wry smile to the soldiers, and turning, she ran in the direction that the Mandalorians had come from, the soldiers following closely behind.
They ran up the corridor, their feet echoing dully on the metal of the floor. Several Republic soldiers' bodies lay strewn around, the signs of recent attack scorched on the pale walls. Jennra came across another corner, and turning to the soldiers, she put her finger to her lips, and pointed.
More Mandalorians were massed in the corridor, hefting their large blasters in their hands. A sound of clattering feet made them turn around, as a squad of Republic soldiers rounded the opposite corner. Instantly, several dropped to their knees firing their blasters, while the others stood above them, hoisting large rifles which pulsed continuously. The Mandalorians squared up to them, firing indiscriminately into the soldiers. Bodies fell on both sides, and the sound of cries filled the air. Jennra ran to them, cutting and slicing with her saber, until there were no more Mandalorians left standing.
The leader of the republic soldiers saluted Jennra.
"We are actively repelling the enemy boarders, General. I have men manning the turrets, which I think," he laughed grimly, "will stop any other Mandalorians getting funny ideas about boarding this ship."
"Any more aboard?"
"Not that I'm aware of. We have patrols in those sectors, as well as more gunners. The area is secure now General," he replied.
Jennra laughed with relief, "Good job done! Now I have need to get back to the bridge."
"Yes General," the men saluted her, and marched solidly back down the corridor.
Jennra stared at the bodies on the floor. Such a waste she thought sadly, such a loss of life. She felt every death personally, felt it echo within her mind; through the Force. With an effort, she tore her eyes away from the strewn corpses, Mandalorian and Republic alike.
She switched her saber off, and placed it gently within its pouch at her side. Running, she turned and sped back down the long corridor towards the turbo lift. She felt that a critical moment was approaching, and its urgency compelled her to move swiftly.
As she walked towards the console on the bridge, she could sense rather than see that the communication button was flashing. It is now she thought breathlessly word has come. She glanced out of the window as she passed by, and saw a small shuttle speed its way up from the planet. Revan she said silently to herself.
Jennra pressed the button on the console with trepidation.
"General?" inquired a disembodied voice, blurred with the hiss of static.
"Activate the Mass Shadow Generator."
Jennra glanced down at the console, and keyed in, "Uh, Commander…we still have troops down there."
Revans voice was distorted by a burst of static, "I order…now…planet….remains a thr…"
"Commander, you are breaking up."
"Activate now," another short burst of static interrupted her words, "Jennra…now, damn it!" the voice angrily demanded.
"Yes, Commander," Jennra replied, as she keyed in the commands to remotely activate the Mass Shadow Generator. "Logged in."
Jennra wiped at the sweat that dripped down her face. Her finger paused on the button that would destroy the Mandalorians. You do know what you are doing? An inner voice whispered to her. She ignored the thought, and pensively, she pressed the button.
"It is done, Commander," she replied reverently.
Jennra walked slowly to the large window, as if in a dream. Her heart beat rapidly in her chest. Victory will be ours…the Mandalorians will be a threat no more she thought in relief. She had every faith with Bao-durs creation-he was a genius at anything mechanical.
A bright burst of light made her gasp, as she looked down at Malachor V from the relative safety of the ship. It spread like wild fire, engulfing the dark planet, wreathing it in an unearthly bright light. Arcs of red fire raced from the beleaguered planet, and like a shock wave it tore through the ships nearest the planets gravitational pull, sucking them down into a spiralling vortex that crumpled super strengthened space plating like paper.
A sonic shock wave spread outwards from the ravaged planet, and Jennra stared in horror as battleships, cruisers and small fighters were savagely ripped from the air, falling, twisting into space-their shattered hulls sparking with fires and explosions. A massive shock wave spread lethally towards their ship.
Jennra in panic, grabbed at the console, pushing the alert button.
"Abandon ship! Everyone, abandon ship. Get to the escape pods…" she was cut off as the console in front of her flared and burst into flames. She stood back from it, gasping as a pain unlike any other tore through her very being.
She stumbled towards the turbo lift, and with a shaking hand she pressed the button that would take her to the escape pods. As the doors shut on her, she watched with horror as she saw the crew stumbling around, shell shocked in their panic. Jennra dropped to her knees, her hands gripping her head tightly, crying as the pain ripped through her, tore its way through the Force, leaving a blank echo where life should have been felt.
Jennra was grabbed ungently by rough hands, and bundled into an escape pod. "See that she makes it" A rough voice exclaimed. She dimly felt the pressure of the pod as it launched away from the battered ship. Her agony was intense now, thousands of deaths coursed through her body, through her mind as she felt their life force die within her, and die within the Force, to leave an emptiness inside her that was more brutal in its silence than in life.
"What have we done?" she asked weakly, as tears ran down her cheeks. She hugged her body to her, as the pain gained in strength, and then mercifully, she fell unconscious.
As her small life pod hurtled in the opposite direction, a deathly silence fell upon the galaxy. Malachor V sparked, as its ruined surface raged with unnatural explosions and fires. Mandalorian and Republic battleships floated past; lifeless dark hulks, broken and twisted beyond recognition. Small broken remnants were pulled towards the lethal ravaged mass, exploding as they crashed upon the broken planet. Unnatural flashes of emerald lightning raged across the planets surface, crackling and flashing high into space, and unholy wreath of green fire caressed Malachor V.
Ten years later…
Into the blackness of space, the immense sleek shape of a large dark starship silently approached the ruins of the Malachor V. It sat there, waiting. Its engines hummed quietly.
An explosion ripped through the already torn planet, sending fragments spinning into space. A small freighter raced its way urgently, weaving haphazardly through the newly formed asteroids. It suddenly disappeared in a flash and whine of hyper drive engines.
A dark hooded figure stood staring out of the window.
"And now it begins," a deep, resonant voice said darkly, "now it truly begins."