Halo: The Clone Wars
For the third time in the last hour, the blackness of space over the planet Bakura filled with the brilliant fire of a capital starship exploding. In utter silence, the Confederacy of Independent Systems Munificent-class frigate, under the combined fire of several Republic Venator-class Star Destroyers, transformed from ugly, angular threat into billowing fireball and spewed flaming chunks of itself for hundreds of meters in every direction. The fires cooled quickly, extinguished by the harsh vacuum surrounding it. The force of the blast continued, sending the spewed debris into an impromptu asteroid belt around the planet. Said field had only moments to begin settling into an irregular orbit before it was once again stirred, this time by the Star Destroyers that moved through it in pursuit of the final, fleeing CIS ship.
Behind the angular transperisteel windows of the bridge of the Star Destroyer Resolute, the flagship of the three-vessel force pursing the droid ship, Admiral of the Grand Army of the Republic Wulff Yularen yawned. He scratched the stubble that had begun to accumulate on his chin, lost in thought. Though he would never admit it to the Resolute's crew, Yularen was bored. Not that the clones under his command would care, but still. He'd been hoping for more of a challenge when General Skywalker (and by extension, him) had been assigned to protect Bakura from the surprise Separatist assault, but instead he'd gotten a textbook battle. Boring in the extreme. But, then again, he couldn't really expect any fancy moves from droids. They followed programming, nothing else. No thinking outside the box. Which was probably why they were usually lead by living, sentient creatures. No such luck on this run, though. All four ships in the enemy attack fleet were droid-controlled, and Yularen had easily dispatched them. Four frigates could overpower and destroy a single Venator, but Yularen had three. The only real surprise had come when one of the ships unexpectedly released quite a few more than the predicted number of Vulture Droids, but this had proven to be a minor, no, less than minor inconvenience. Even as Yularen stood there, he could see the small flashes of blue and red laser fire being traded between the droid fighters and the Republic's V-19 Vigilance fighters. Off to the "right" (that is, framed in the viewport to the right of where Yularen stood, as opposed to the central three the main body of fighters was viewable from), the twin specks of light that were the starfighters of General Skywalker and his Padawan Ahsoka danced around a larger group of droid fighters. And were winning. As Yularen watched, a large section of the enemy formation blossomed into clouds of parts under the precise fire of the two Jedi. Yularen yawned again, and moved towards the viewports. Might as well finish this off quickly. There were probably other systems in need of saving. Ones much more important than Bakura. Though the natives would never admit it, the only valuable thing that came out of the system was repulserlifts. And even those were usually of industrial grade, rather than military. It was, quite effectively, a useless system. Like Hoth, but with people on it.
It was, however, a Republic world, and had stayed that way since the beginning of the war. Yularen had come to suspect that this was merely a political stunt, a propaganda device to show that the Republic supposedly cared for all its worlds. Even the supposedly useless ones. That was the only explanation Yularen could come up with for sending two of the most powerful Jedi in the Order and three badly-needed Star Destroyers to defend Bakura.
Well, He thought. A political victory is still a military victory, no matter what they say.
He turned away from the viewports, and was about to head back towards his quarters (he obviously wasn't needed, and if he was he could be on the bridge in less than a standard minute) when one of the clones rushed up to him.
"Sir," he said, saluting in the disturbingly habitable way clones did. "We have an incoming transmission from Commander Tano."
Yularen raised an eyebrow. For a moment, he played with the idea that something interesting was happening. Then he dismissed it just as quickly. Most likely, the Togruta Jedi was calling to tell him something he already knew. Still, she was a Jedi, and the regulations said that any non-Jedi listened to the Force-users, no matter what rank they were. Yularen strode towards the large tactical holotable in the back of the bridge. The clone there saluted, then punched several buttons to bring up the holographic view of Ahsoka. She was in her fighter, and as Yularen watched he could see streaks of laser fire flashing by her canopy.
"Go ahead, Commander." He said, placing his arms behind his back and clasping his hands. "Do you have something to report?"
"It's the enemy ship, sir." Ahsoka responded. The holographic representation of her flickered slightly as the actual Jedi slammed her fighter into a roll to dodge a missile. "I'm not totally sure, but I think it's maneuvering for a hyperspace jump." The holo flickered again as the missile Ahsoka had avoided self-destructed, washing her fighter with electromagnetic energy.
Yularen turned away from the holotable towards the large glass tactical map in front of it. A quick check showed that Ahsoka's guess had been correct. But something nagged at Yularen. He could understand the droid's want to escape, but surely even they could see that it was effectively hopeless? He didn't like it.
Yularen turned again, this time towards the clone at the communication station.
"Contact the Emancipator and the Gualara," He said, referencing the other two Destroyers under his command. "Tell them to break off pursuit and set up blocking positions on the hyperlanes out of here. I don't want that ship escaping."
"Yes sir!" The clone said. He typed quickly on his panel, sending the orders to the other Destroyers. Out the side viewports, Yularen watched as the ships moved out of formation towards their assigned positions. If the droids noticed the maneuver, they didn't react. In fact, they continued on their path. Yularen looked up at the screen. A quick calculation told him that there was only one way to go:
Into the Unknown Regions. The large, unexplored section of the galaxy. Yularen shook his head. There was nowhere to run.
He turned back towards Ahsoka's hologram.
"The ways are blocked, Commander." He reported. "That ship isn't going anywhere."
"You sure about that, Admiral?" The Togruta said, raising an eyebrow. "Cause it looks to me like they're powering up their hyperdrive."
That gave Yularen a shock. Surely the droid's wouldn't think of such a desperate maneuver? The only way to go through the Unknown Regions was a blind hyperspace jump. And Yularen doubted that was a tactic programmed into droids.
But a quick check proved Ahsoka right once again. As he watched in utter amazement, the droid ship's engine's flared, and it seemed to elongate as it jumped into the other-dimensional faster than light tunnel of hyperspace. Straight into the emptiness beyond Bakura.
The bridge fell quiet for a moment, all chatter and orders paused in mid-breath. Yularen stared at the black space where the droid ship had been. Then, he turned and walked back towards the holotable.
"Find me that ship's direction." He said crisply to the clone standing there. The clone nodded, and quickly accessed the scanner memory. Data flashed up on screen. Yularen looked it over, then pressed a button on the panel, opening a communications link to General Skywalker.
"General, the enemy ship has made a blind jump into the Unknown Regions. Please advise a course of action." He waited for Skywalker to respond.
"Move the cruisers around to the point of its jump." Skywalker responded. "And prep the Twilight. We're going after that ship."
"Yes, sir." Yularen said, and cut the connection. He sighed, and scratched his stubble again.
It was beginning to seem he was going to get his wish. However it finally played out, this battle was not going to end textbook.
Innumerable light years away from Bakura, past thousands of star systems, a couple black holes and several artificial constructs of multiple different species, a small, single occupant space station floated in the gravity well of a gas giant. The planet's glow bathed the small, roughly cylindrical station in dark orange light. The glow illuminated the flat black armor plates of the construct as it spun, revealing an insignia painted on its side. A bird, and eagle, to be exact, with wings outstretched and talons planted firmly on a planet. Below it stood four pictograms.
This tiny station was the newly constructed first generation United Nations Space Command Defense Force Early Warning System and Counteroffensive Rally Point Station. Like the monitoring stations that came before it, it reached into both normal and Slipspace using sensors (most of which stood out of the bottom of the craft like the quills of some strange animal) and automated probes, searching for any threat or anomaly. The probes, however, were undergoing yet another hard and software update, which partially accounted for the station's relative quietness. The other reason was that there wasn't anything to detect. In the ten years since the end of the Human-Covenant War (one and a half of which the station had been active for), nothing had dare challenge the alliance of the UNSC and the Covenant Separatists. Not even the shattered remains of the Brutes had made any attempt at retaliation, and any ones that showed a possibility of rising up were quickly crushed. But, regulations were regulations, and they said the station needed to be manned at all times. Which was the only reason there was a living person on board at all.
The gas giants light filtered into the station though several windows, bathing the interior in the same orange light as the exterior. The light made the controls and readouts glitter like crystals, and reflected eerily off the luminescent-green paint of the armor being worn by the stations occupant, splashing different colors across the soldier's sleeping face. Beside the chair lay the armor's helmet, full face visor resembling the MJOLNIR EVA permutation and reflecting more of the giants light into the room. The resemblance was half right.
The soldier was a girl. She looked to be about 14 or 15, and the light from the helmet and gas giant made her buzz-cut honey-blond hair glow. Had her eyes been open, the light would have made them steel gray.
Her name was Samantha (known to her friends and teammates as Sam), and she was a Spartan-IV. Spartan-198, to be exact.
Sam shifted in her sleep, muttering something that might have been either "Chase" or "Pace", and turned over onto her side. Or tried to. The chair she slept in had been build for a normal human in uniform, and, thought Spartan-IV's were smaller than their predecessors by quite a bit, when in full MJOLNIR MK VI/B armor they still topped six feet easily. And Sam was one of the taller IV's. With a grunt, she fell out of the chair with a clatter of armor plates on metal floor, sprawling for only a second before her augmented muscles and reflexes sent her into a roll towards the other side of the station. She rose to a fighting crouch. Her eyes swept the area, but showed only the solid Titanium-A walls of the station and the still vibrating chair from which she had fallen. She stood, cursing and dusting herself off.
"Damn chair." She muttered. She grasped the chair with a gauntleted hand, and it stopped swinging on its spring-filled base. With a sigh, Sam sat down, wished for the umpteenth time she hadn't been given this duty for insubordination, and was about to go back to sleep, when one of the panels in front of her light up. She looked at it curiously.
That's the Slipspace Mass Sensor, She thought. She tapped it, and brought up the reading.
Unfortunately, the SMS wasn't the most accurate piece of equipment on the station, and all Sam got was a read out on size, relative mass, and other data regarding whatever was traveling through Slipspace towards the station, and not anything truly useful, like what it looked like or it's composition. Sam sat back with a sigh of disappointment.
Probably another Slipspace meteor, She concluded, thinking of the strange space rocks that somehow managed to break into Slipspace from the "normal" dimension the known universe resided in. They were relatively rare closer to Earth and the Inner Colonies, but out here, at the very edge of both UNSC and Elite space, they were a surprisingly common sight. During her three weeks on the station, Sam had seen 12 so far. She leaned back in the chair, wishing for something interesting to happen.
Second's later, her wish was granted. The console before her lit up, multiple sensors flashing warnings and alarms. Sam sprang to action, scanning the readouts. From what she could see, whatever was coming towards her was not a meteor. The contact was now close enough for most of the other sensors to activate, and the information scrolling across her screens showed it was artificial. It was made of an unknown metal, and rad counters were picking up what looked like an advanced fusion reactor. So it probably had a propulsion system.
It was a ship. An unknown ship. Sam's veins filled with liquid nitrogen. This was not good. She reached for the red button on her console, the Covenant-boosted hotline that led straight to Earth. Suddenly, ahead of her, but still outside of the gas giant's gravity well, space seemed to elongate. Not like a Slipspace transition, which looked like a giant bubble opening in the middle of the void of space, but a streak of color, as if whatever was traveling had become stretched. The form resolved itself, snapping into focus like a stretched rubber band contracting, becoming one of the ugliest ship's Sam had ever seen. And she'd been on board a couple Brute cruisers, so that was saying something.
It was angular and black, with a sloping bow and large rectangular fins jutting out from either side and the back. Behind the plates sat a boxy body, with multiple entrances that might have been hangers on either side. At the opposite end sat several large tubes that were probably engines. In the center of the bow, above the sloping plates, stood a roughly hexagonal glass-looking box that she assumed was a bridge.
It was dark, as was the rest of the ship. Sam reached for her helmet, instinctively getting ready to fight. But the ship made no move other than to begin drifting away from the station, slowly spinning in a circle to starboard. As Sam watched, it rotated to that the starboard side was viewable to her.
Sam's mouth fell open at the sight of it. A large gaping hole spewed atmosphere into space, forming a large white cloud and propelling the ship in its spin. The hole was unnaturally clean. It wasn't made by a collision that was for sure. Sam silently slipped her helmet on and slapped the red button. The communications panel flared to light, and she found herself looking at the pale, lined face of Lord Terrance Hood, hero of the First and Second Battles of Earth and one of the UNSC's high commanders.
"This had better be good, Spartan." He said. But his tone was kind, or about as kind as a high ranking military officer could be. He trusted the Spartans. He knew they wouldn't call without a good reason.
"It's good, sir." Sam said, saluting as she did so. "Or, I guess bad would be more applicable. I've got a ship sitting just outside my window, and it ain't Covie or one of ours."
"Is it hostile?" Hood asked.
"Don't know, sir. I think its dead. Looks like it got into a fight with something. Suggest you send an investigation team to check it out."
"Hmm." Hood scratched his chin. "Alright, I'll send Alpha and Beta Teams with the Kelly and Arthur to investigate. In the mean time, sit tight, don't draw any attention. Am I understood?"
"Sir, yes sir." Sam said. Hood nodded to her.
"Good. Hood out." The screen went blank, and Sam sat back in her chair. Her heart pounded. Finally, some action.
She just hoped that whatever had damaged the ship didn't come looking for it.