Kylo paced along the upper deck of the bridge. For five days the fleet had been jumping in and out of hyperspace as they made their way across the galaxy. He had been disappointed that the Lady Luck had escaped destruction at Coruscant and there was a fleet mobilizing. He was oddly grateful to learn that the Star Dust had made it to Coruscant. At least they could wrap all of this up at once.
“We have less than three minutes until we leave hyperspace, Lord Ren,” Admiral Hux said to him. “All hands are at battle stations and all fighters are prepared to launch as soon as we come out of hyperspace.”
Kylo paused in his pacing and nodded to the Admiral. In Kylo’s opinion, Hux was insufferably arrogant. As insufferably arrogant as he was, Kylo knew that he was justified in being so. Admiral Hux and volunteered to oversee each of the planet killing fleet’s final construction and shake down cruises. Lord Snoke had been more than content to allow him to do this. “Admiral Hux, answer me a question,” Kylo asked.
“Yes, My Lord?” Hux asked. He was curious at the sudden question.
“Why have you taken to overseeing fleet construction when you are the commander for the main fleet?”
Hux relaxed a little, not even aware that he had tensed. “I wish to serve to the best of my ability, Lord Ren. My team of experts go over these ships and make sure that they are ready to serve as they should. Meanwhile, the Admiral of this fleet is put in charge of the First fleet so that my officers can offer critiques on their performance to help them be better.”
“Such confidence from the youngest of the Admiralty,” Kylo noted.
Hux offered a half smile. “Lord Ren, I would like think that Emperor Snoke’s opinion about me is justified.”
Kylo stared at him for a moment. “I pray for your sake that his opinion never changes.”
A tone sounded over the bridge. “Admiral,” one of the bridge crew said, “One minute to exit.”
Kylo turned to look out the bridge’s viewports, staring at the swirling colors of hyperspace. “Three, two, one,” one of the crewmen said and the ship shuttered just slightly as it came out of hyperspace.
Three dozen ships appeared at the same time surrounding the Aggressor. Nine were Star Destroyers and the rest were a mixture of cruisers, frigates, and corvettes. “Launch fighters,” Hux commanded. Over a hundred fighters seemed to launch from the Star Destroyers and various capitol ships.
Kylo was not paying attention to any of it. He was looking beyond that to the moon of Yavin 4 that hung with the gas giant Yavin in the background. He reached out with the force. He could sense them there, Luke, Rae, and Lowbacca. “How soon until you can deal with the issue?” Kylo asked Hux.
Hux stood before a holographic map of the nearby space. The moon shown in the background and there were numerous ships between the fleet and the moon. “It should not be too long, Lord Ren.”
“Admiral,” a voice said from one of the control wells. “We are being hailed.”
Hux looked at Kylo with a raised eyebrow. “Oh, humor them,” Kylo said.
Hux gave a wave and an older man’s image replaced the map. “This is Captain Hayes of the Torrent. You are intruding into Republic space. Turn your ships about and leave,” the man said.
“He appears worried,” Kylo noted. “The fear coming from him is palpable.”
Captain Hayes looked off to the side of Hux though Kylo was not in the view field. “Captain, I am Grand Admiral Hux of the Imperial 14th fleet. I will give you and your fleet one chance to withdraw or be destroyed.”
Kylo wondered what Hux was up to. “And I can assure you, Captain, your fleet will even not slow us down, so try to think of the lives of the crews in your taskforce before you make your decision. You have thirty seconds to comply.” The hologram switched back to the tactical map before Hux could signal. He only smiled. “Someone is attempting to impress me,” he said softly.
He watched as the ships guarding the planet began to move into position. “You didn’t expect that they would back down, did you?” Kylo said.
“Not really, though I had hoped that perhaps we might be able to come in, give a demonstration, and leave without getting ourselves bloody. Now, Lord Ren, if you will excuse me, I have massacre to commit.” He reached out and picked up a headset.
“Admiral,” Kylo said stopping him before he could put the headset on. “I do not want any ships escaping.”
“As you wish, Lord Ren.”
Poe broke atmosphere. He still didn’t quite believe what was being relayed to him. Almost forty ships, most of makes that were not on file had appeared. Along with them were nearly a hundred tie-fighters. The Arclight had Rogue squadron as well as three other squadrons of 12 fighters each. Two of the squadrons consisted of the Super X that he flew and the other was made of Y-Wing Delta attack fighters. The ships were new off the assembly line and not fully integrated into the Republic military.
“Rogue Squadron, form up,” Poe called over the communicator. “Arclight, orders?”
“Poe, priority is to defend the Torrent task force against the Tie’s attacking,” Wedge said. “Blue squadron you are with Rogue. Yellow Squadron, you are to cover Gamma squadron. See if you can’t soften up some of the leading edge of that capitol column.”
Poe flipped a switch to a private comm line. “There is no way we can stop them, Admiral,” he said.
“I know, Captain. We are just buying time for the freighters to get off the ground and get the refugees out of here. Backup is on the way, but I am not sure when they will arrive.” Wedge ran a hand through his thinning hair. “Do your best, we aren’t going to win this battle.”
“Yes sir,” Poe said and flipped the comm back over. “Rogue squadron, S foils to attack position. Let’s see what this new Empire is capable of.”
Captain Hayes stood on the bridge not believing his eyes. The fighters attached to the taskforce were clearly out matched by the Tie-fighters that the imperials were using. The only saving grace was that Arclight’s next generation X-wings seemed to be up to the task. Even then, one of the frigates was descending into the planet’s atmosphere mortally wounded from an attack by four triple hulled Tie-Bombers.
Away from the battle going on around them, he could see the damage being done to the Imperial ships by the Arclight’s other squadons. One of the smaller corvettes had been blown up and another was on fire, its engines on full taking it away from the battle and toward the gas giant. He watched as three of the Y-wings were destroyed by a pair of Tie-Interceptors with more closing on the remains of the two squadrons.
“Sir, the leading ships are coming into range,” one of the sensor operators called out.
Hayes swiped at three leading frigates and keyed the comm. “All batteries open fire on designated targets.”
The Torrent’s gun batteries turned and started firing followed by the batteries on the other ships. The concentrated fire began to tear the lead ship’s shields apart. “Helm, keep us at range for as long as possible,” he called out.
“Captain, the Star Destroyers are opening fire,” he heard someone say. He stared in disbelief as hundreds of turbo laser bolts tore apart one of the light cruisers.
“EVASIVE ACTION!” he roared and grabbed onto the railing.
Hux stood with the headset on blocking the noise of the bridge so that he could hear the tactical officers of the various ships as well as their captains. He relayed orders through voice and gesture as if guiding an elaborate orchestra. Waves of turbolaser fire erupted out of the ships of the fleet raining death and destruction on the doomed republic fleet.
The lead ships served their function as they were automated and remotely piloted by crews on the lower decks of the Aggressor. Several exploded in violent action. There was another group of ships that were with an old Quasar class light carrier. They were past the effective range of the turbo laser batteries.
He made a gesture and a field turned green. “Attention Star Destroyers, deploy for purification,” he said. The field turned yellow then turned green in sections as the captains of the other nine Star Destroyers acknowledged his orders. Abruptly the Star Destroyers ceased their firing on what was left of the fleet. The other ships of the fleet continued their attacks.
Finn looked at the sensors. While he didn’t have a direct line of sight with the attacking fleet, he was able to still show their positions. “Looks like it has started,” K7 said from over his shoulder.
“Go back and make sure everyone is aboard. We are leaving now,” Finn said.
“As you wish,” K7 said and walked back to the cargo hold. There were thirty younglings of various races sitting among the boxes and supplies. C3PO and R2D2 stood at the top of the landing ramp. “Time to go, they are getting ready to fire,” it said.
“Master Luke,” C3PO called out. “You must come aboard now, our time is up.”
Luke looked up from the base of the ramp. The engines of the other freighter kicked in and it lifted off the ground. He looked back up the ramp. “You go on ahead, I have my own ship,” Luke said.
R2D2 whistled in a dismayed tone and rocked back and forth. K7 looked at the astromech droid. “Really?” it asked.
“What are you talking about?” C3PO asked.
R2D2 whistled again. “Why not?” K7 said and walked down the ramp. Luke had started back toward the temple. K7 walked up behind him and grabbed him by the belt, hauling him off his feet. “Sorry, no time, Master Skywalker,” K7 said. It lumbered up the ramp, hitting the emergency release that quickly raised the loading ramp.
“Put me down,” Luke said. He didn’t look angry, but his voice was annoyed.
Once the door had closed, K7 set Luke on his feet. “I have been present to see one of these weapons fired. We have under five minutes to get off planet. If it survives you can recover your ship later.” It looked back to the front and its voice became louder. “All clear!” it said.
Luke frowned. He thought he had sensed there were people in the temple still. At the same time, he felt malice coming from space on the other side of the planet. He looked in the direction of the temple and closed his eyes. ‘On the force, you should rely, Grandmaster Skywalker,’ he heard in his head.
Luke opened his eyes, almost expecting to see his old master though knew that he would not. “Fine, let us see how this plays out.”
Finn had seen K7 retrieve Master Skywalker. He was surprised that the droid survived that action. He didn’t dwell on it as he gave the repulsors power and followed the larger freighter up into the sky.
Saint hit a button and there was a small explosion and part of the wall came down. Saint and Mysdia climbed through the hole and into the archive room of the temple. BD1 jumped off Saint’s shoulder and ran across the room. “Which ones?” Saint asked.
BD1 projected a red light at two canisters on the wall. Saint slapped a small unit on the side of the canister as Mysdia did the same with the other. The pulled them loose and they floated there, the units glowing from the repulsor field.
“Get a move on, Saint. Everyone is taking off,” Greeze’s voice came over their headsets.
“One minute.” Saint said. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He looked to Mysdia. “Get the data cores to the ship. I will be behind you.”
“Try to avoid the last-minute heroics, ok?” Mysdia said to him as he pushed the units to the exit. “We don’t exactly know what their weapon does, remember?”
Saint didn’t answer. He turned and ran out of the room, BD1 jumping onto his shoulder. “There’s still someone in here,” he said. BD1 whistled and straightened up to look over Saint’s shoulder.
Saint felt it as he ran. They were getting closer. He turned the corner and pushed open a door into a barracks setup. “Where are they BD1?” he asked.
BD1 whistled and jumped down. It ran across the room and jumped up on one of the bunks. Saint ran to the bunk and looked around to the other side of it. A young Nautolan boy was hiding behind the bunk. “Now why are you hiding back here?” Saint asked.
“I came back for my crystal,” the boy answered staring wide eyed at Saint.
Saint nodded to the boy and crouched down. “So, did you get it?” he asked.
The boy held up a large crystal that Saint recognized as a holocron. “Well, now. I think it is time we go,” he said.
“I am supposed to go with the Jedi,” he said.
Saint smiled. “Maybe you were, but you will have to settle for me.” Saint waved a hand and the bunk slid away from the wall.
The Nautolan’s mouth opened in surprised. “Are you a Jedi?” The boy was obviously trying to figure out why he had not seen Saint training the other younglings.
Saint grinned at him. “Not exactly. But times wasting. We need to go now.”
The boy hesitantly took Saint’s hand. Saint hauled him up and over his shoulder. “Hang on,” he said. He started running, BD hanging on his shoulder and beeping to tell him which direction to go.