Chapter 24

Contact

"A call for aide, you say?" Halos asked as he skipped through the report, frowning as he did so.

"Yes sir." Sor'ai replied. "It appears that the Governor-General of New Norfolk is asking for a meeting between someone of significant importance in the fleet. It appears to be on negotiations on their trade treaty."

"Negotiations on the Trade Treaty," Halos frowned as he thought it over. New Norfolk was one of their main suppliers for steel and ore, nothing spectacular and he made it abundantly clear to Governor-General Severna that it would only be until they were able to mine the ample supplies of Haven for themselves. "Our agreement with them was due to end at the beginning of next year wasn't it?"

"Yes sir." Flore replied, a frown of her own in place. "But he seemed pretty persistent to the scouting squadron leader and he promised that it would be worth our time."

"Do you think he wants to create another treaty?"

"Perhaps," she allowed. "His system is right on the fringe of the eastern territories, and he can't rely on Imperial support out there unless he'd be willing to wait for a few months."

He remembered now, it was another pirate hunting operation. He sent three Star Destroyers to aide them, and they managed to annihilate the pirates and their allies. He even remembered Captain Mynn's description of the Governor-General who was in her words a 'stuck up narcissistic asshole'. He even remembered the venom in her voice, and Captain Mynn was not easily annoyed.

Joseph sighed as he thought it over. Mynn was likely to shoot him the next time she saw him, which meant he needed someone considerably more hard skinned. "Contact the Vice-Admiral. Tell her to chose two Star Destroyers and head for the rendezvous site. Remind her to use every precaution, and I mean every precaution."

"Yes sir."

The Admiral walked around his table, dropping his report on the mahogany desk as he went. "And ask for one of the Jedi to accompany her. I think Knight Korr is serving aboard her ship at the moment."

"Yes sir." She replied, hesitated then spoke up again. "You look tired sir."

Joseph Halos almost fell into his chair, leaning heavily against it for a few moments before opening his eyes and bringing his attention back to the real world. His second in command of the Guardian, Captain Sor'ai Flore, was looking him over critically. She was a fine woman, perhaps one of the best commanders in the fleet, but damn her for being so insightful that she could tell a person's physical condition from just a glance.

"Am I that see through?" he asked with a little humour.

"Yes, you are." She replied as she set the last of the fleet and base reports on the table in front of him. Such an assignment should be left to an aide, but the Captain still insisted she take them to him in person. "You really are bad at hiding things when you're tired Admiral."

She smiled, but Halos was no amateur in reading people. He saw the bags under her eyes, pretty hard not to. "I could say the same for you Captain. You're swaying on your feet."

"Am I?" she asked, ever so slightly surprised.

"Let's make a deal." Halos said with a small smile. "I'll retire and get some sleep, the recommended eight hours at least, but you have to do it first."

"But I-"

"Don't make me turn it into an order Captain," he replied, though there was no hint of authority in his voice. "You've been awake twice as long as me, and if anyone is to get some sleep it is you."

She seemed ready to protest, but after a moment finally sighed and nodded. "Yes sir."

"Good, and just remember that if you return to the bridge within ten hours of me dismissing you I will know of it, and I will give the order to have you force fed sleeping pills so you do get some sleep." He looked up at her, eyes unwavering. "Is that clear?"

"Very sir." She replied, righting her posture but when she looked down at him her smirk came into play. "But the same goes for you. If when I return you demand to remain I will force feed you sleeping pills and then tie you to your bed with steel chains. Is that understood?"

She was a feisty one, he gave her that. "I'm bigger and stronger than you, Captain."

"Ah, but you forget how good us Twi'lek females are in coercing others to help us in our tasks." She replied with as much vigour.

"Isn't that in your sex appeal, Captain?"

She almost rose up to the challenge, but caught herself on. That was how tired she was, getting riled up on such a pathetic taunt. "You getting riled up on such a simple taunt in evidence enough that you are overdue for a rest Captain. Do you think I am unable to hold the fleet together without you?"

She looked hurt, physically stung by that sentiment, "Off course not sir."

"Then get some sleep." Halos stated. Sor'ai nodded her head and turned around, but before she stepped forth he called out to her. "Sor'ai."

She stopped just as the door opened.

"I wouldn't be able to run this fleet without you. You know that right?"

She turned and smiled, though it looked tired. "Yes sir, now if you'll excuse me I believe I'll take your advice."

"Ten hours at least Captain." He reminded.

"Yes sir." She replied before the door closed behind her.

Was it in her race? Twi'lek females were known to be hard working and obedient, if a little cunning and seductive at times. No, it wasn't. He never believed in such racist twaddle. Sor'ai was Sor'ai. She was hard working and determined in her job, determined to show those who thought that way how wrong they really were. The girl before him could probably make a Vice-Admiral or even Admiral if she didn't have the bad luck of volunteering for this assignment.

Well, even if she didn't know it she was third in command of the fleet, but if he and Rosso died then she would know. With the transfer of flagship status she would know. Gabriel sighed again, shaking the morbid thoughts from his head before picking up the first new report and looking it over.


New Haven, the capital and to date only major settlement of the Alliances safe world had expanded considerably thanks to the colonisation, what was once a small cluster of hovels and dwellings had evolved into a civilised town within a matter of months. At the centre of the settlement was the mobile fortress, standing several storeys above the tallest outer building, its main entrances being the conduits for four major streets to allow for the quick and efficient movement for the military bases contingent of All Terrain walkers.

Buildings surrounded the structure ranging from a single storey in height to three and in some cases even four storeys. The largest buildings were centred around the fortress, whose wall towered over them still, and the rest of the settlement was carefully planned out in rings. The central ring housed the main governmental buildings of the settlement including a civilian parliament, police headquarters, court house, jail and security centre and a now flourishing trade and shopping district, beyond that in the next ring were residential houses for the some eight hundred thousand residents, ranging from apartment blocks ranging from four storeys to ten and whole sectors of single and double storey housing for families.

An outer wall surrounded the city, protecting its residents from the local wildlife as well as providing a defensive barrier against any invasion force that could appear. A deflector shield was set up to protect the settlement from orbital bombardment, its headquarters located within the heavily fortified fortress.

Gabriel Sabbath looked at this impressive sight from his vantage point at the top of one of the mountains overlooking the valley. He took a deep breath, allowing the cool, crisp air to enter his lungs before releasing it again. He then looked down, noting that his apprentice and Rachi's were still about fifty meters from his vantage point at the top.

They were taking their time, considering he had been waiting for about an hour for them to catch up to him. Sighing the Jedi lay down at the summit and looked up at the beautiful clear blue sky, watching as thin wisps of white cloud floated by overhead. It was so peaceful here, something that he needed after witnessing the horror of Topaz a few months ago. Out of the two thousand survivors some had been medically cleared and returned to active duty, others were still being treated, their wounds not being physical but mental.

The failure to capture the Independence and the loss of the Dauntless were also bitter blows to the Alliance fleet. Their recent battles had given them a sense of immortality and invincibility, something that even he admitted he was feeling. These had been ruthlessly crushed by the battle of Topaz. The horrors they uncovered and the losses they suffered hit home that they had been lucky until now, and luck could not hold forever.

There was some good news though, now that all of their fleet was accounted for they no longer had a need to confront the Imperium of Man, meaning that they could now use their advantages to steer clear of any looming conflict. Their only obligation now was to act as allies to the worlds they befriended, not to go looking for a fight against the dominant power in the galaxy.

He heard a soft thud, and opened his eyes to see that Alana was the first to make it up to the summit of the mountain, looking tired and winded by the endeavour but satisfied that she had completed the climb. He was not surprised she was the first, being younger and fitter out of the two apprentices. He gave Marie credit though, for she used a force augmented jump to scale the last few meters, landing on her feet before crumbling to her knees, panting and sweating, but like Alana satisfied with her performance.

He sat up and smiled slightly. "Well done you two. We'll take a half hour break before climbing down again."

Alana crumbled then, falling onto her back and taking in whole gulps of air. "You're trying... to kill us... I know it."

"Stop whining," Gabriel chided playfully. "My master threw me out into the swamps of Degobah and left me to my own devices for two months. That was no picnic I can assure you."

"You say that... like we know about this... Degobah." Marie managed between gulps of air.

"Let's just say that the sun rarely shines and there are creatures there that could trample you underfoot." Gabriel replied with a grin before falling on his back and relaxing. "Your master spent a month alone on the ice fields of Hoth, by her own volition if I remember, and that is much worse than the swamps."

"Jedi are scary." Alana muttered flatly.

Marie just nodded in silent agreement before a thought hit here. "Where is Master Sitra?"

"Quality time," Gabriel said simply.

"With a Spec Colonel," Alana finished slyly, ignoring the look her master sent her way. "He must be really good, really lights her fire."

"Alana!" Marie scolded lightly.

"Teenagers," Gabriel muttered with a sigh. "Take notes Marie. Your child may get interested in this stuff by Alana's age."


It was so peaceful here. Rachi sat on the balcony of the barracks, looking out over the hustling city garbed in nothing more than a nightgown. It was early morning and the rush had started, shops were opening, people were going to work and the trickle of life in this new born settlement slowly amplified to a flood.

The Twi'lek Jedi master took it all in, flowing with the force and feeling the energies of life as they flowed over her, calming her spirit and soul. The sliding door behind her opened and closed without her knowledge, a cup of steaming caf was placed on the table in front of her but it was the blanket placed over her slender shoulders which brought her out of her trance.

She awoke with a start, but leaned back and pulled the blanket over herself before raising her head to flash a thankful smile to the man who covered her from the chill. A gentle kiss was placed on her forehead as Chance took a seat beside her, his own cup of caf settled in his hands. He flashed a smirk before taking a long drink.

She had never felt safer than when she was with Chance, except maybe with Gabriel and the other Jedi, but with Chance it was the first time she felt completely safe around someone who was not force sensitive. That night when he promised her he would protect her she felt the force sing to her, and knew he meant every word. He would protect her with his life, would dive into hell itself for her.

And she would do exactly the same for him.

Their relationship hadn't remained secret for long. Gabriel and the others knew about the same time Chances SpecForce unit knew. His relation to his team was as close as a pack of brothers, exactly the same as her companions were her brothers and sisters to her. Both could pick out the slightest change in their character, like how she seemed to be glowing, humming happily without her realising, or when Chance started whistling randomly, laughed more and vanishing every now and then to go and see her.

"Spacing out again?" He asked wryly.

She nodded, slightly flushed in embarrassment. "Sorry."

"I swear, if I wasn't here you'd be doing that all the time." He chastised playfully as he set the cup on the table and giving her a hungry look. It was the same look he had when he lowered her on the bed, when he placed butterfly soft kisses from her thighs up to her jaw, when his mouth locked with hers in a passionate kiss, or when he-

A hand pressed softly against her forehead, startling her. "You look flushed, not catching a cold are you."

She flushed more, shaking her head to say no. Her twin tails flailing. "No, no, I'm fine... just thinking."

"Oh," he smirked, catching on. "What an insatiable girl you are."

Steam would be coming out of her ears if it could. "You're teasing me."

"Because you're so beautiful when you're flustered." He replied, leaning in close to her ear to give it a playful nibble before a whisper. "And I like you flustered, lady Jedi."

Was there such a thing as getting heat stroke when it wasn't all that warm?


Two lightsabers came together and locked. The continuous thrum of their joining the only thing the two combatants could hear. They had been locked in combat for a little over forty minutes or so and although both of them were tired neither was willing to back down until a victor was decided.

Dani broke the stalemate, batting the azure lightsaber away from her and surging forward, her own blade stabbing out in an attempt to impale her opponent. In response Gabrielle sidestepped and brought her own down to parry, once again ending the quick exchange in a stalemate, both women pushing all of their weight into their weapons to try and unbalance the other.

"You're really... improving Gab." Dani managed through a grunt of exertion.

"You think so," Gabrielle replied with a tired smirk. "I still haven't beaten you in a duel yet."

The two broke apart, each one implementing a force augmented jump to get a safe distance from each other. The moment they both skidded to a halt they were moving again, circling each other, keen eyes trying to find a weakness in their opponent's defences. Gabrielle rushed in, performing a flip over Dani as she raised her own blade to defend, but it was a feint as the Zeltron spun around, blocking the strike and countering with a slash, which was parried, then a stab, which was parried.

Dani didn't let up, surging forward with quick precise strikes as she fell into the Shii-Cho stance, using her lithe body to perform spins and quick lightning fast strikes of her lightsaber. Gabrielle was immediately forced to backpedal several steps before she unconsciously implemented the defensive Soresu stance, bending her knees and parrying Dani's strikes with precision born from years of practise.

Dani was not stopped though, she moved fluently, spinning around Gabrielle's form until the two of them were back to back, Gabrielle visibly surprised while Dani offered nothing more than a serene smile. She fell into a crouch when Gabrielle attempted a wide swing and with a leg sweep took her friends feet out from under her.

The brunette hit the ground with a gasp, lightsaber ripped from her grasp and thrown just out of reach. Dani was on her before she could recover, straddling her arms with her knees before placing the extinguished hilt of her lightsaber to just under her jaw, serene smile still in place.

"I win Gab."

"Sith," Gabrielle cursed lightly as Dani rolled off of her and helped her to her feet.

"You are improving," her friend offered.

"I know," she replied with a tired sigh. "Just not fast enough."

"Patience is as important as anything." Dani replied as she clipped her lightsaber to her belt before calling Gabrielle's to her with the force and tossing it to the brunette. "Remember that you never took lightsaber training seriously while in the academy. You were always busy honing your psychic talents, and while you are one of the strongest of us in that field you let your combat training suffer."

"Yeah, I only began taking it seriously after Kronus." She muttered, irritated with herself.

"Don't worry," Dani laughed as she walked towards the small basket at the edge of the clearing. "I'll get you back up to scratch."

Gabrielle's featured softened. "Thank you Dani."

"What are friends for?" she asked with a smirk.

"Embarrassing me to no end?"

"Nope that's just me." Dani laughed as she opened the basket and fished out a couple of bottles of water. She then looked up and sighed. "Hossk stop reading your pad and get down here!"

The Bothan looked down from his perch on a thick branch of the adjacent tree, a datapad held idly in his hand which he was obviously reading very intently just a few seconds ago. "I'm more than happy up here Dani!"

"You're not working up there are you?"

"No."

"Liar," she murmured.

Hossk visibly sighed as he looked back down. "I am not lying."

"Then let me see," she cooed as she jumped up with a force propelled jump, landing in a crouch with a mischievous smirk.

"No." He replied, turning off the datapad with a thought before Dani could move. It didn't stop her though and with a pounce she was on him, hands grasping for the pad. "Uh, Dani... can you be any more childish!"

"Only to you," she chided playfully.

Gabrielle sighed as she walked up to the trunk and leaned against the bark, folding her arms as she looked up at the scuffle. "I wonder how Yoda or Obi-wan Kenobi would think if they saw this."

The idea made her laugh.


It was quiet.

Good.

It meant that they hadn't found this place yet.

The ruins were located deep within a valley, a mass of decaying remains of an old settlement perhaps tens of thousands of years old. Its remains were definitely of Eldar design; wraithbone constructs which had long since withered to the test of time. It was only natural, Eldar design maybe but even their races finely made constructs withered to the elements without the Bonesingers to protect them.

Kaleen looked up at the early morning sun and grinned. They would not make a move until nightfall, and then the fun would begin. A single settlement full of hundreds of thousands of oblivious, ugly, stupid humans would feel the bone chilling laughter and ghostly quick blades of her dark kin. They would remember the fear that came with this galaxy, the foes they face. They would tremble, they would cry, they would scream and they would die.

Another squadron of Reaver Jetbikes exploded from the ancient webway, engines humming and wind howling as they blazed a trail overhead. Kaleen sighed happily before placing her helm over her head and performing last minute checks of her splinter rifle. All around her was an encirclement of her Dark Eldar kin, fully garbed in their armour, looking every bit the monsters they wanted to look, splinter rifles and wicked blades ready to wound, torture and kill.

Nearly three hundred of her kin had already arrived, and they were safe to discovery thanks to the dampening field one of their capital-ships was sending down from orbit. The fleet, as strange as they looked, didn't even sense their approach, meaning that they were just as useless as the Imperial humans. More were coming, columns of Warriors with Wyches, Incubi and even a handful of Mandrakes leading them continued to pour through the forgotten gateway.

By the time of their attack their number would reach to near two thousand, more than enough to raid that city and take the slaves that her master wanted. He would even be leading them in person this time. At the front of the attack on his barge with his prized slaves chained to his throne.

It would be glorious.


They were as ready as they would ever be. Robyn knew this from the marrow in her bones. The star system had been contacted, the show of force by the arrival of the fleet let them know that they would not take no for an answer. The Governor-General had sent out one of his best aides, a man who he had explained had, the best poker face in the system, to send the message to their new allies.

Just the memory of that gluttonous, lecherous old man made her blood run cold. How he had become the Governor-General of an Imperial colony she would never know. There was no real worry about him now anyway. Her master had thanked him for his service before briskly drawing one of his bold pistols and turning his head into a red paste which she guessed the servants were even now trying to clean from the walls.

Her master's voice broke her from her thoughts. He was speaking to the Lord Admiral just ten meters in front of her, strategising and sending ideas on how to deal with the situation back and forth. It was obvious that they were going to choose a diplomatic method with dealing with this Galactic Alliance. Her master had even transferred the five thousand survivors from the Right to Rule to the Royal Oak to use as the perfect bargaining tool to make the representative of this small force more agreeable.

They weren't the only ones of the interim council here, and Vallace looked around in time to see the Blood Ravens Captain, Thule, standing tall and proud about two meters to her left, fully bedecked in his plated ceramic armour minus the helm. At least four Space Marines of his chapter were with him, two flanking his sides and another two joining the marines on guard duty just outside the main entrance to the command deck.

He was as still as a statue, yet she knew he was as deadly as anything in the galaxy. Space Marines were born and bred for a single purpose; to protect the Imperium of Man from the fiercest of her enemies and erase them from the face of the universe.

She knew that the Lord Inquisitor wanted to make this transaction as bloodless and peaceful as possible, but using the flagship of the fleet to do it seemed a little too grandeur for her taste. The Right to Rule would have been far more agreeable. So would a Frigate now that she thought of it. The idea was to make them as non-threatening as possible.

Using a battleship for that seemed a little over the top.

Yet she knew how her master felt. Ten thousand years of dealing with hostile forces who shot first and asked questions, if any, later was something the Imperium of Man seemed to expect in this day and age. Placing the Royal Oak alone in the middle of deep space would be considered rather risky, especially if the Alliance sent their flagship and a small taskforce of pickets. Robyn didn't know how a battleship of this calibre would stand up to their Guardian and she didn't want to find out.

"We have a contact!"

Immediately Robyn looked through the viewscreen, expecting to see one of their small Star Destroyers appearing within viewing distance of their craft, but she didn't see any. There was a moment of tense silence within the bridge of the battleship as the crew and visitors waited for a visual.

Then a visual came up from one of the main tablets surrounding the command deck, they crackled and fizzled to life one after the other, revealing not a warship but what looked like a quartet of small craft. They were nimble looking creations, and quite fragile she thought. The small vessels reminded her of ancient satellites, a ball shaped centre branching out to what looked like two strangely designed solar panels.

"TIE Interceptors," she muttered, recognising the designs from what the saved survivors had told the interrogators.

"Battle stations!" someone yelled.

"Shields up;"

"Bring anti-fighter batteries online."

"Belay that," Silvermane roared just after the last man finished. "Cancel battle stations, shields down to minimum, put batteries offline and send out the message on all frequencies!"

"But sir-"

"If we make an aggressive move then they will scatter and their mother-ships will retreat," he snarled with supreme annoyance. "I will not have this one chance jeopardised by some fool who can't read the mission dossier!"

"Y-yes sir."

"Finally someone listens," he growled before looking at the four small fighters as they continued to advance. It wouldn't be long until they came within close range of his ship, and it would be quite soon after that they will realise this was not the vessel they were expecting. "Broadcast my message on all channels!"

"Yes Lord Inquisitor, it will be done immediately."

"Step to it then."

Robyn was right beside him, waiting for him to acknowledge her presence; "Something on your mind, Robyn?"

That was fast. "Worry is all sir. We're not sure if they'll even listen to us."

"Indeed," Silvermane agreed. "With everything that has happened between us the chances of them even hearing us out is less than thirty percent. However I'd like to think that they are more optimistic than what my strategists think they are."

Before she could even reply to the statement the channels came alive with an almost deafening tone of static, then her teacher's voice resounded through every channel with a single message. "To the forces of the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances-"


"To the forces of the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances, this is Lord Inquisitor William Silvermane, appointed representative of the highest authority of the Imperium of Mankind, the High Lords of Terra. I am here by their will to open a dialogue with the commander-in-chief of the GFFA and to understand what you're objectives are concerning us at this time. We do not expect you to trust us, but in the essence of goodwill we are willing to return to you five thousand prisoners of war in exchange for a meeting with your senior commanders. We await your response."

"Sounds like a trap."

"Mm,"

"It definitely sounds like a trap."

"Mm,"

"Smoking's not healthy for you, Vice-admiral."

"What are you my mother?"

First Officer Marcus Delgado sighed as he turned his head to look at his commanding officer. Gabrielle Rosso was quite the woman, just reaching thirty years old yet still looking in appearance like a woman five years younger. Her long vibrant crimson hair was tied up in a ponytail which reached just past her shoulders, skin as pale a snow showing that she had spent most of her life in space and piercing emerald eyes which had a fire in them that could challenge a sun.

She was a strict and pushy woman, and in command that was a good thing. His only real problem with her was that she was a chronic smoker, and she cared little for the present smoking regulations. A cigarette, recently lit, was in her mouth as she took a long hard drag, picked it with her slender hand and breathed the smoke into the atmosphere of the command deck. It was actually easy to determine her mood though. She usually smoked when she was angry, nervous or downright upset, but she also smoked when she was in the middle of a tense situation.

Like this one, for example.

He sighed, quite used to her personality. "No ma'am, I am not your mother."

"Good to hear."

He sighed again. "What are you planning to do?"

She thought for a moment, smoke flowing from her mouth. "Contact the Admiral on the long range scrambler, inform him of the situation and ask for advice on the issue."

"It's a trap."

"Quit it with the Admiral Ackbar, will you." She huffed.

"It's because he was usually right in his career." Delgado replied deadpan.

"And has my womanly intuition ever been wrong?"

Marcus sighed. "No, Ma'am. This could be a new strategy though."

As much as it pained him to say it her womanly intuition had never been wrong, not once. "I'm aware of that, but they haven't attacked any of our fighters yet so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt."

"Yes ma'am."

"Plus," she replied but did not continue.

"Plus?"

"We can contact them from here," she replied slyly. "And we can move around while we do it."

Ah, that was what she was planning to do. The Vice-Admiral had no intention of meeting them one on one without approval from the highest authority, but she didn't say that they couldn't contact these supposed peaceful people. Even as he thought this through she had asked for the main channel to them to be opened and after taking a deep breath began to speak.

"To the Imperial vessel, this is Gabrielle Rosso, Vice Admiral and second-in-command of the Galactic Federation of Free Alliances and commander of operations in this area. State your business with us and we will listen."


Author's Note 1: Star Wars and Warhammer are the properties of Lucas Arts and Games Workshop respectively. I make no profit from posting this story.

Author's Note 2: There wasn't much action in this update, but this is mostly a character and story development chapter, with promise of action to come. Just so you know my Dark Eldar codex is only the second edition, and the nearest shop is eighty miles away so I can't just jump into my car and get it, especially with the price of petrol these days. Plus the shop assistants are a little too clingy in those shops for my liking. They're right on you like a hive of bees you recently kicked, even when you're feeling anti-social.

Author's Note 3: Sorry to everyone about the lack of updates, but the new Evangelion 2:22 movie has recently come out, as well as me getting reacquainted with Halo Reach, Dragon Age 2 and Homefront. After watching the new Evangelion I can say with certainty that it is several levels better than its predecessor, I had goose bumps throughout the film and I am eagerly waiting impatiently for them to finish and publish the third film. I'm even willing to break copyright laws and watch it with amateur subs on the internet (god bless its creation) when it comes out.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the new chapter.