Aggressive Expansion: A Taldryan Story

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Aggressive Expansion: Chapter I

Bridge
Command Deck, Victory I-class Star Destroyer Sidious
Unknown Location, Caelus System
38 ABY

The bridge of the Imperial-era destroyer was illuminated completely by the interior lighting provided by the ceiling panels, with each of the command deck’s viewports midnight black. The area was not overly bustling with activity, with a skeleton crew running the bridge as operations on the vessel were at a near stand-still for the time being.

Several of the technical officers and essential personnel such as the communications officers and the ship’s captain remained on the bridge of the Sidious, directing the flow of information and ensuring the ship remained ready to launch at a moment’s notice should the order be given. The crew of the ship had yet to fail since the fall of their Lord, and were extremely determined not to let anything stand in their way. Standing at the helm of the bridge structure and staring directly into the black abyss beyond the viewport’s transparisteel was a dark cloaked figure a few inches under six feet tall, a hooded cloak obscuring any distinctive features.

Although there was nothing to look at through the port, the figure meditated on their thoughts and the Force, delving into the future and the Force itself to answer hard-pressed questions. From behind, the life force of the ship’s captain approached.

“My lord,” bowed the captain once he arrived, “The crew just received a report from one of our advance teams. It appears as though a detachment has pinpointed its location, on Ostara. We can begin assessment and excavation of the lower levels immediately.”

The figure was silent for a moment as the vision of the future and their concentration broke free. The well-concealed figure slowly turned to face the vessel’s captain, mouth curling at the edges of a set of dark red lips and two blood-crimson lekku covered in black tattoos draped just over the shoulders. Nearly everything else, including the rest of her face above her nose, was obscured by the cloak.

“Very good, Captain,” she hissed. All was proceeding as she had foreseen thus far.

Consul’s Office
Taldryan Citadel, Taldryan Sector
Chyron, Caelus System

The still rather fresh and newly minted Consul of Clan Taldryan stood in the center of the spacious office that lay at the summit of the Taldryan Citadel, the current headquarters of Clan Taldryan on the moon of Chyron. In front of her fit, black and red-trim covered pink form was the office’s board-room like holo-capable tactical table on which she rested her hands palm open. Nearly seven feet long in length, this custom holo-projection table was recently commissioned by and installed in order to help supplant the Zeltron’s tactical planning shenanigans on behalf of the Clan. As a former Combat Master for the Brotherhood, Seraine “Erinyes” Ténama was rather well oriented in warfare, and determined to forge a new legacy for Taldryan among the rest of the brotherhood.

Displayed across the expansive table in front of her was the red-hued projection of the Caelus System, with each planet and moon’s orbit arranged in proper alignment with the system’s star in the dead center of the table. Also included in the wide projection were the locations and reported statuses of various Taldryan assets within the system. These included everything from the Clan’s military forces and defenses to more scientific assets like research and reconnaissance teams. There were even statuses displayed for production assets like the facility constructed above Perune to process and syphon the giant’s valuable Clouzen-35 gas - a valuable source of revenue for Clan Taldryan.

As an unsteady ground rocked the foundation between the people of the Caelus System and the Clan, Erinyes monitored any and all important movements within the system while she instituted her own reforms to revive a struggling Taldryan once she ascended to the role of Consul upon Rian’s resignation. With everything reporting the all-clear for now, she reached over to her datapad and brought up the latest reports from ongoing events. Some of the developments were not favorable to the Clan’s cause, yet others would prove valuable down the road.

One of the foremost disappointing outcomes as it involved a lost revenue stream for the Clan’s coffers was the failure of the Clan’s TEAD Technologies delegation to conclude a high-profile meeting with BlasTech executives and lawyers, leaving them without a licensing or manufacturing deal to boost TEAD’s slim share of the galactic arms market. The people at TEAD and its new Chief Executive would need to devise a new plan to expand the Clan’s business front.

It also seemed as though the forward team the Summit had dispatched to the moon Ostara to investigate a rogue presence felt by the Mystics had yet to report back in shortly after their craft landed, uncharacteristic of Taldryan servicemen. The Clan’s former Consul, Rian Taldrya, had sent the Zeltron a report just over an hour ago that he had arrived at the planet recently detected at the outermost fringes of the Caelus System. Since the planet, nor any planet had never been observed at that location prior to last week, some special care was due on that front.

There was still a chance the Taldrya could find something less than interesting and locate some rogue signal emanating from the planet’s surface, but his report stated he began with searching the surface for mineral deposits. Still, she keyed into the holo-projection table the Mirialan’s personal contact frequencies and initiated contact between them.

A moment later, the symmetrically tattooed face of her fellow Adept appeared before her, nodding immediately as a sign of respect to his successor. Erinyes nodded back, looking up from her datapad.
“Have your searches yielded anything so far?” the pink-skinned humanoid queried. Rian nodded again affirmatively, transmitting some data that scans to the planet had produced. Ténama switched the projection over to the new information once it had cleared the encryption protocol and processing, the view of an unremarkable and equally unimpressive icy planet taking place of the Caelus System.

Whoever made themselves a home here must have balls of steel, the information from the former Consul specifically commented.

“It’s an icy planet, nothing too special. There are a couple deep mineral veins dotting the planet’s surface” began Rian, “Mostly those used in traditional metals like durasteel, and some titanium. Still, if we did some development here we could extract the resources for manufacture. It wouldn’t yield a massive profit for sale, but would reduce our dependence on others.”

“Have you located any settlements, or the source of the signal the SRI traced there?” Erinyes was not nearly as interested in resources - although Rian was right, they could be a valuable asset - as she was confirmation of what was coming from the obscure and unknown planet. This Sith wanted to be ready for anything that came their way.

“No,” the tone of the Obelisk adherent’s voice lowered, “We have not yet located any settlements or come across anyone. The signal is still active, and coming from somewhere. We will locate the source. I’ll report back once we’ve found something.”

“Thanks, Rian. Erinyes out.”

Not too long after her conversation with the former Scholae General Zentru’la, the Adept had already received word that the new outfit Vornskr Battalion was beginning to take shape and recruitment was underway. Ektrosis had been fitted with a new leader at its helm, Vodo Biask Taldrya. Tavros continued to perform clandestine operations. Everything was beginning to come together for Clan Taldryan, and Seraine loved it when a plan came together.

Southern Hemisphere
Unknown Planetary Body
Far-Outer Orbit, Caelus System

It wasn’t long after their conversation ended that Rian’s personal assault ship, the VT-49 Decimator Stormcloud picked up a small signature on their short-range radar. The signal they had been tracking was scrambled, preventing its exact broadcast location from being detected by the former Consul’s personal craft. For this mission, Erinyes’ new military prefecture had assigned him a squad of Taldryan soldiers in case things went south with the signal discovery.

It wasn’t long after their conversation ended that Rian’s personal assault ship, the VT-49 Decimator Stormcloud picked up a small signature on their short-range radar. The signal they had been tracking was scrambled, preventing its exact broadcast location from being detected by the former Consul’s personal craft. For this mission, Erinyes’ new military prefecture had assigned him a squad of Taldryan soldiers in case things went south with the signal discovery.

“Sir, we’ve got something on the short wave radar,” called the man assigned to the sensor suite, “The signal is weak, but we’ve got confirmed lock on the broadcast source.” The Mirialan Elder smiled from almost a meter and a half back, for he had been fully confident in the abilities of his military comrades to procure and determine the proper location of the signal. Although a strong Force-sensitive in his own right and well respected, Rian trusted the instincts of his allies. Dressed in his near-trademark tailored azure armor, the former Consul stepped forward.

“Good, lieutenant. Now we can figure out what’s going on here, and report back to Erinyes with something substantiated. Pilots change our flight path to the signal source and bring us in quietly. I don’t want them to know we’re here. If we can, use the terrain to our advantage.

“Yes sir,” stated the pilot on the left, before the pilot on the right began flipping switches and pulling back the craft’s accelerator. The loud whirl of the sublight engines faded slightly as power was reduced, bringing it to a glide as it slowed and drifted lazily closer to the ground. Several minutes later, the craft was firmly on the ground on top of a large plateau half a kilometer in the air - the signal coming from ground level off the cliff edge. Rian and his team disembarked, taking with them some scanning and observation equipment and approaching the edge.

A couple of the soldiers shifted their body to a prone position, crawling up to the cliff edge to minimize visibility once they peeked over; afterall, who was to say there wasn’t someone or something on watch down there. The two prone troopers from Rian’s detachment placed their macrobinoculars fully against their visors, observing the broadcast location of the strange signal. Five hundred meters below them lay a full flight of Gamma-class ATR-6 Assault Transports surrounding a cave entryway into the base of the plateau, with a small encampment setup amid the spacecraft. Several power generators were running, and squads of red armored troopers filled the immediate area.

Crawling backwards until he was out of sight from the edge of the cliff, the senior of the two troopers approached the former Consul to relay what the two men had just seen. After filling in all the details he had witnessed, the trooper returned to scout duty while the Taldrya pondered their next move.

We could get the drop on them… Literally. We just need to know who they are first.

That line of thinking gave Rian an idea.

Outskirts
Unknown Base Camp, Hidden Temple
Ostara

The view from the Taldryan reconnaissance trooper’s macrobinoculars was certainly unsettling. Inside a collapsed cave with a large skylight that was concealed by both boreal forest and a raging river lay a structure that looked slightly odd to Lieutenant Payton Carson, but would be recognizable by any studier of Sith or Jedi lore to be a temple for worship. It was full of jagged and sharp lines, but was not overly massive as to remain completely hidden by the rock and vegetation above. Her line of sight allowed her to see the two landing craft they had in front of the structure, but not inside a lower entryway she presumed existed underneath due to excessive foot traffic.

There were very few red armored troopers in this location, with the rest of the uninvited, unknown guests to the system wearing a simple black and red robe-like attire. Lieutenant Carson lay as still as an icicle from her prone position on the far outskirts of the base camp, there was a small rustle coming from directly beside her position. Carson sighed lightly, but didn’t move an inch as she continued to observe.

“Stop… moving,” she whispered quietly.

“I have an itch,” replied her scouting partner, an average sized Human male of an unbefitting stature and physique. Payton had been assigned a fellow trooper she didn’t even bother getting to know the name of - probably because he’d be dead soon anyway, as all her former partners were - from her squad leader to scout and do some reconnaissance on the lower-lying boreal areas of Ostara as part of the quest of Taldryan’s Force Mystics to locate the source of power they felt.

There’s definitely something going on here.

The Lieutenant had a nagging suspicion, but would need to get much closer to confirm. That was nigh impossible given their current position, and no unseen way into the portonomy. Their only choice was to observe, retreat to a further position - quietly, of course - , and radio in their findings once free of possible communications interception. Carson had no idea what her scouting partner was seeing, but she was taking a lot of mental notes.

There was another rustle directly beside her, the same side as before. Payton Carson was so focused on the structure and scene below that she was unable to determine whether the rustling was further away from her prone position.

He’s going to get us both killed!

She tried to hold it in, but she just couldn’t anymore; her irritation was entirely overwhelming. The Lieutenant shifted her head mouth open to give her partner a load of her mind, but watched in momentary shock - even letting out a gasp - as a vibroblade came down and impaled through the man’s chest cavity. Flipping her body in one smooth motion Carson turned to face her rear position with her rifle raised, eyes falling on several red stormtroopers all with weapons aimed directly at her.

Seemed like she’d survived by the luck of the draw. For now.

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Taldryan Citadel
Chyron, Caelus System
Onset of GJW XIV: Homefront, 38 ABY

One by one, their comlinks and datapads emitted a unique chirp that notified each individual to a red alert-level communication requiring the utmost attention. In their various locations, all four people that received the same communication stopped what they were doing and immediately addressed their devices to read the message. It had been sent from Taldryan’s Proconsul who was away on Arx conducting business for the Regent.


ENTER DECRYPTION KEY…
DECRYPTION KEY: ***********
DECRYPTING FILE…
FILE DECRYPTED.

COLLECTIVE ATTACKED ARX. MATTOCK STATION BEING BOARDED. RESURGENT AT RISK.


At that exact moment, Rian, Erinyes, Appius, and Vodo all looked up. Now was their opportunity to return the favor to the Collective for the seeds of division their cells had sown in Caelus. Now was their opportunity to show not just the Clans, but the Grand Master and Dark Council that Taldryan was not out for the count. Each person immediately made another contact, some to each other and Erinyes to the Taldryan Military’s High Command. Within mere minutes Taldryan was being mobilized, and various assets moved into new formations and positions.

Consul Seraine “Erinyes” Ténama had arranged for the majority of Taldryan’s forces to make formation for hyperspace transit to Arx, while ensuring that adequate vessels like the Penumbra, Retribution, and one of Taldryan’s longest-serving vessels, the Orthanc stayed behind to protect the Caelus System while the rest of the flotilla was away. The Collective had likely calculated that the Dark Council would request assistance from the Brotherhood’s various clans, leaving many of their territories undefended or their defences greatly weakened. Risking the people of Caelus - and more importantly Taldryan’s various assets in the system - was not something the Adept was willing to play ball with.

Having recently shuffled some personnel and vessels inside the Taldryan Military for greater efficiency of their forces, Erinyes had already earned herself a still-growing reputation amongst the Clan’s loyalist forces as a straightforward front-line battle commander with an eye for tactics. The red-haired Zeltron already had it in her mind that she would be leading the Clan’s military response to the Collective assault on Arx - and possibly by extension Taldryan’s flagship in dry-dock for upgrades by ACE - from the forefront of the conflict.

The Taldryan Consul secured the datapad in her hand and put it away as she made for the nearest turbolift nexus, pulling a polished flask from a small, custom made saddle at her belt. She quickly removed the lid, taking a large swig of the amber lid inside before re-securing the lid and flask during her travels.

As she reached the nexus and awaited the next lift, she felt the soft nudge in the back of her mind of a familiar presence approaching. The door to the lift in front of Seraine slid open, revealing the Ektrosis Quaestor already on board. Vodo Biask Taldrya stood with both arms crossed as he tapped the far-right mechanical claw on his right foot into the floor of the lift, denting it slightly in the process.

“Hey,” she entered the lift, glancing down at the damaged floor.

Vodo uncrossed his arms as she had entered, selecting the floor for the main hangar once the hulking metal door had slid closed. “This facility is in need of much bigger maintenance. Maybe you should let the facilities crew know.”

“I’m working on it,” Erinyes retorted, shifting the topic a moment later to the one they both know needed to be discussed, “They had to attack now while the Resurgent is in for repairs, didn’t they?”

“How the Collective even knows about Arx is beyond me. My best guess is a traitor of some calibre,” Vodo shook his head. Clan Taldryan’s resident Spymaster knew quite a bit, but even he had no information on the Collective’s attack at this point. “I’m sure the Resurgent will be fine. Arx is also protected by a shield gate, so our fighters are safe.”

“I have a feeling we’ll find out before long. I’ve mobilized our remaining forces, and we’re preparing to move out. I assume you’re coming with us?”

Biask craned his head and looked down at the current Consul of Clan Taldryan, the only place where his one and only loyalties lied beyond himself, before smiling grimly. Erinyes knew what that meant, the Twi’lek need not answer her; Vodo wouldn’t miss it for the world.

The official, a blue-skinned Twi’lek with two lekku that dropped several inches below his shoulders, had been working sixty-hour weeks for several months now as both the people of Caelus and their parasite - Clan Taldryan - rebuilt from the attacks of Collective cells across Chyron. The people living on there had become targets for cohorting with the ranks of the brotherhood within a Brotherhood, bringing much devastation to several of the city-moon’s sectors and setting back the local economy. Luckily, their export of Clouzon-35 starship fuel could help them quickly rebound.

As a high-level administrator within the Caelus government, even though he was near the top of the ladder, the official was not immune to the mountains and mountains of paperwork that had been thrust upon him. He silently blasted Taldryan as he skipped through file after file on the holo-terminal before him, everything from previous damage reports to repair estimates, from progress reports on infrastructure projects to the government’s public responses.

This never would have happened to us if they hadn’t set up shop here, his inner devil whispered to his consciousness, seething in silence. Although never really the rebellious type to disobey a higher authority, the Twi’lek official had a knack for revenge and retribution, something easily exploited.

A small chirp from his datapad caught his attention, pulling it away from the files displayed across the screen of the terminal on his desk. Checking the screen, it looked as though it was a contact from an unknown source. An odd hesitation gripped the Twi’lek as he considered whether he should answer the communication request. After-all, his personal communication code was encrypted alongside his government codes thanks to his high administrative position, so whoever was contacting him must have had access to that information. The datapad chirped again, reminding him that the communication was awaiting acceptance or denial. The man decided to take a leap; he accepted the call, tying into his handheld holo-projector.

The blue-hued image of a militaristic human man crackled into view. Wearing a dark uniform, the holoprojected man wore a black Imperial-style officer’s cap with no organizational logo or insignia across his well-dressed and groomed image. His hair was jet black with streaks of grey, with a set of bright green irises even the holographic image couldn’t distort. The Caelus official raised an eyebrow at the sight of the man - this was no one he had known of, and his military attire unfamiliar to him - before moving to speak. He did not need to, however, because the projection had beat him to the punch.

“Good evening. My name is Lieutenant Colonel Krati. Who I represent is not important,” the well-dressed officer boldly said with that straight, militaristic face to the surprise of the Twi’leki official, “It is what I plan to offer you that is of importance.”

“Oh, and what would that be?”

“The eradication of Taldryan from the Caelus System, of course,” the officer let a small grin crack the edge of the right side of his lips. Krati couldn’t help it, for the words sounded as sweet as berries coming from his lips. The Caelus official was a little taken aback by such a bold statement out in the open, given they had just communicated for the first time. Undoubtedly, this very well could be a setup by Taldryan’s Office of Secret Intelligence to try and ensnare any people. The very last thing that he wanted to be was maimed by a bunch of maniacs wielding lightsabers, but it wasn’t long before his mind crafted a scenario in his imagination where the people of Caelus - and him specifically - would be free of Taldryan’s damage to the inner workings of the system and its government.

He toyed with the offer for an uncomfortably long time, with the holographic image in front of him about to say something before the words finally escaped his lips, “Even if I did want to see them gone, why would I talk to you about it? For all I know, you could be an agent of Taldryan. And even if you weren’t, what’s to say down the road you wouldn’t just try to eliminate me? How do you think I guarantee my safety in a situation like this?”

While Taldryan had tried to position themselves as a guardian-type order of Force wielders there to protect the Caelus System, they had invited untold amounts of death and ire from Collective forces seeking their own retribution, which the Collective had near successfully reshaped into the image of an entity that would bring ruin upon Caelus. In some people’s minds, like the official, they had succeeded in planting their seeds of discord for later.

“You don’t,” came the smooth reply from Krati. The official tensed up slightly, he was hoping for a better answer.

“Well, what’s in it for you?” the Twi’lek’s curiosity piqued for a moment, but he did not want to replace one scourge of Caelus for another.

“The details of our plan will remain our own. There will be a new level of law and order within this system before long. Taldryan will no longer pose a threat to the well-being of the Caelus System nor its people.”

The official pondered the offer for a moment, but needed more information. He wanted to see Taldryan gone, and the more he talked to the unknown officer the more this desire grew. Of course, he would need something in return for whatever they were asking.

“Well,” the Twi’lek began, taking a momentary pause to reconsider what he was going to say, “What is it you need from me?”

“The question of the conversation, at last,” the human officer noted, the sly grin gone from his face, “We require any intelligence on Taldryan you can gather, and cover with the Administration on our own activities. You will be very well compensated for each piece of information you impart on us, or each act you keep hidden from your government.”

The Twi’lek pondered the offer for a moment, even raising a hand to his chin and idly rubbing it in thought. The offer of Taldryan’s eradication from the system was incredibly tempting, even without the added bonus of credit payout. After a couple moments of immense, well-trained patience from the human officer while the Caelus official finalized his decision, the Twi’lek nodded in agreement with the offer by the uniformed figure.

“Very well, Colonel,” he began as blue-skinned hand dropped from his chin back to his side, staring the projection right in the eyes, “I will provide you with what intelligence I can gather, and do my best to shield your activities here in the Caelus System from the scrutiny of both the Security Council and Taldryan. The most immediate intelligence I can give you is we actually just received word from the Caelus Security Force that Taldryan must pull most of their forces out-of-system to deal with an important threat. No doubt the Collective.”

“Interesting,” came the officer’s intrigued reply, “We’ll be in touch soon.”

Command Tent
Unknown Base Camp, Hidden Temple
Ostara

“Sir, the excavation is proceeding as planned. We believe we’ll reach the target within the next couple hours,” the private noted, reading information off the datapad in his hand to his commanding officer.

Loe Krati turned away from his current preoccupation, the Lieutenant Colonel’s bright eyes looking firmly to the officer reading the report. The excavation was already well underway, and they were even doing better than initially predicted by the technicians. The remnants and stone that had collapsed inside the corridors was difficult to clear no doubt, but Krati’s organization had a knack for excavating and pillaging old ruins.

“Excellent. I will inform our master. That’ll be all,” he motioned to the exit with a hand, hinting at the lower-ranked man to take his immediate leave. With a quick salute the similarly black-and-red dressed officer complied, leaving Krati alone. Or almost. The fair-skinned Colonel turned back to his preoccupation, the still-unconscious Taldryan female soldier they had caught spying on their camp. Krati reached over to a nearby table and pulled a small handheld shock-prod from the smooth top surface, activating it with a buzz of electricity and sticking it in the woman’s neck.

“Aaaahhhh!,” she screamed as Lieutenant Carson awoke violently, flailing around aggressively while properly secured in binders to the floor. After a moment or two, the uniformed man pulled the prod away, giving her a moment to catch her breath from the trauma of her mild electrocution.

“Who are you?” Krati queried, pointing the shock prod back towards his prisoner, “And what did you see?” The man was intent on finding out what secrets the scout may have stumbled upon inadvertently, and whether their position had been compromised. Worse, he needed to know whether their operations were compromised by Taldryan.

“No one,” Payton replied with a firm tone and straight face. She was a hardened individual, and had no plans to give up Taldryan or the details of her mission. The Lieutenant Colonel frowned for a moment, before quickly shoving the shock prod back into her neck. Again the Taldryan loyalist soldier let out a violent wail, her body involuntarily writhing from the pain coursing through her nervous system. This time when he released the prod from her neck he did not give her a chance to breathe, again shoving it back into her neck. Once more she writhed and her body twitched from the intense pain and electricity, nearly knocking her unconscious with the nervous system sensory overload. After several moments Loe pulled the tip from her skin, and held it to her neck.

“I don’t think you understand. I’m going to torture you over, and over, and over until you spill what you saw,” he said with an evil grin, breaking his militaristic posture and stance to lean over her, “And if you don’t, you die.”

“Do your worst,” Carson spit on the enemy officer’s shoes, no longer a shiny black in color. “I’ve been tortured before, I doubt this will be my last.”

“Never by a true Sith, no doubt… Very well. Guards!” he called out to the two soldiers he knew were waiting outside. A moment later the entryway to the tent was pushed open from either side each by a red-armored stormtrooper, who proceeded over to the prisoner. With a simple nod from Krati, the two men reached down and scooped up Lieutenant Carson from under her arms and began hauling her out of the tent.

As they did so, the holo-table inside the tent beeped softly. Krati proceeded over and activated the table, accepting the incoming transmission from the Sidious.

“My lord,” the human male saluted as the visage of a hooded female Twi’leki figure crackled into view.

“What news do you bring, Colonel?” she asked.

“We are making great progress on the excavation, and should reach the target within the next few hours. There is a problem, though. We located a pair of scouts at the outer reaches of the camp. One is dead, and we’re working on getting the other one to tell us what she knows.

“Very well,” came the reply from the hooded figure’s soft yet icey voice, before her lips cracked with a devilish grin, “This is what I want you to do…”

Refinery Alpha, Habitable Zone
Perune

Refinery Alpha, the largest of three refineries inside the habitable zone of the gas giant Perune’s toxic gas layers, was a key source of revenue for the people of Caelus and Taldryan in particular following the demise of the Ky’Lian Cartel within the system’s borders. The refinery harvested the ever-increasingly important Clouzon-36 gas, a type of hypermatter fuel. Thanks to the relationship between Taldryan and the Caelus Security Council, it allowed the Brotherhood clan to refuel its starships for free and assisted in saving tons of different operating costs that other units might otherwise incur. While all three facilities were important to Taldryan, Refinery Alpha was the one that delivered the most revenue and assistance.

That is why it was such a prime target. Vastly undefended, the facilities used the hundred-plus kilometers of gaseous material above them to shield their whereabouts and locations from space. Unless searching for them or told about their location, no one would know where to find them. They did, though.

The chief operations officer of Refinery Alpha had been studying refinery reports when he saw it. Out of the corner of his eye, three obscured dagger-shaped silhouettes approach in the distance. One of the shapes was much larger than the two that flanked it, but immediately the man knew; they were starships. Curiosity caused the man to lift an eyebrow. It was incredibly rare for a Taldryan ship to make direct contact with the refinery, with refueling primarily taking place on Chyron once the fuel had been transported off-world. As far as he knew Taldryan was the only force within the system that had such firepower at its disposal, with the Caelus Security Forces operating much smaller vessels. Reaching over to the communicator at his desk, the chief officer paged his receptionist. It took but a moment for a woman’s voice to come over the intercom.

“Yes sir?” she asked in a soft tone.

“I’m reviewing the visitor’s schedule here and I’m not seeing anything in the books. Are we expecting a Taldryan inspection today?” he queried. If anyone would know something about an inspection, it would be his receptionist. She knew everything about Refinery Alpha.

“No sir, the schedule is clear,” she said with a hint of confusion in her voice.

“Then why am I seeing…” he started, confused, before the three silhouettes came into a full unobstructed view. Two dark red Raider I-class Corvettes flanked a small dark red star destroyer, likely one of the Victory-classes if the man had to guess. None of these were Taldryan ships. He stared on as both of the Raider I’s started to accelerate, on a direct course with the facility. The larger ship opened fire from several of its turbolasers, the supercharged blasts of green energy slamming into the exterior metal of the refinery. The entire unshielded facility shook with a rumble, the power inside flickering slightly.

“Send a transmission to Chyron, we’re under attack!” the chief officer shouted, rising to his feet in an instant. Moments later, a turbolaser blast collided with his office, destroying any sign it once existed and incinerating the operations officer. It did not take long for Refinery Alpha to succumb to the bombardment from the three ships, the main power generation system soon giving way. Without power to sustain the repulsorlift systems, the station started an uncontrolled descent and crashed into the gas giant’s metal core.

Everyone aboard perished.

High Command
Taldryan Military HQ, Taldryan Sector
Chyron

It was always a nerve-wracking experience whenever Taldryan’s navy left the Caelus System. The vast might of one of the seven clans of the

Brotherhood vanishing into the distance to go fight whatever the current threat may be like little twinkles in the night sky. Taldryan was one of the oldest clans in the Brotherhood, and was no stranger to the acts of conflict or violence. Still, it did nothing to unease the many younger and inexperienced recruits that had yet to taste their first kill, the sweet taste of death at the tip of their blasters. Thankfully, Colonel Dysian was not one of those men. The Rattataki Loyalist was an experienced member of the Taldryan Military and had seen his fair share of combat over his many decades of service. Retirement was just around the corner, and part of him was glad that one of his last assignments was essentially reduced to ‘look after things until we are back’.

The Consul herself gave him this assignment, a sign of respect to be sure. Yet, there was still a part of him deep down that wished he was out there with them, kicking some Collective arse after everything they had done in the Caelus System. One last fight, one last hurrah. Still, spending the few weeks of his career left on his backside drinking caf-stim wasn’t bad either.

He rose from his seat and went about his routine walk of the Taldryan Military’s main headquarters. Status reports, equipment, drills and health checks were all part of the norm whilst he was in charge and it was not an uncommon sight to suddenly find him called for an impromptu inspection. Preparation is the first step to success, that was what he always said. The first part of winning a battle was being more prepared than the enemy and the barracks was his first destination.

“Colonel Dysian.”

A female voice boomed from behind him. Turning on the spot, he smiled fondly at his Lieutenant Colonel.

“Samantha,” he replied, acknowledging her presence. She was his right-hand woman, an orphaned human from some wretched, forsaken rock in the Outer Rim. Dysian took her under his wing and raised her from a recruit to one of the military force’s finest. Intelligent, fierce, and as many of the boys said, incredibly good-looking despite her smaller stature. Samantha’s wavy blonde hair stretched down to her shoulders, he found that she preferred it that way. Less chance of the enemy grabbing it in the thick of battle. She was to take over his position when he finally hung up his boots, and despite her youth, he couldn’t think of anyone better for the job.

“Sir, I have a situation-report for you, from the Arx System.”

“Oh?” he asked. They received regular updates on the situation with the Taldryan Navy should the need of the rest of the forces left behind become necessary. Though judging by the look on the young human’s face, it wasn’t good news.

“Sir, the Resurgent has been destroyed.”

It was like time stopped around them. The climate-controlled, indoor air became cold and their bodies numb. Many personnel heard the news and stopped what they were doing to listen in further on what should have been, for all intents and purposes, a private conversation.

“My office, now,” he stated firmly, immediately retreating on the spot. The old Rattataki returned to his office and allowed the Lieutenant Colonel to follow him inside. He slowly closed the door behind him and took a deep breath as he took in the new information.

“A shame, she was a good ship, and they were an even better crew,” Dysian said solemnly.

He himself served a couple of terms aboard the vessel, so it was understandable that he would feel a sense of loss, like something inside him, had been plucked from his soul. No matter how much experience one gains, you never got used to the loss of life, you just learned to accept it and deal with it.

“When news gets out a lot of our troops will be upset,” Samantha said.

“Understandable,” the Rattataki responded. “Some of them trained together. Had friends, maybe even families on-board. It’s a huge loss for us all.”

“We need to keep them occupied,” The human retorted. “A busy mind helps a wounded heart.”

“I taught you well, Samantha,” Dysian said, smiling at the young woman fondly. “We need to secure a new flagship. We can’t risk having our forces operate without it. It was a huge deterrent to our enemies.”

That was the honest truth. The Resurgent was more than just a ship, it was a symbol of Taldryan’s might and power. Whilst it was far from the case, they would appear weaker without it.

Dysian rubbed his eyes, the wrinkles on his pale face reminding himself that he only had a few weeks of this kark left before he could finally call it a day on his military service. He had to wonder how it would feel to be outside among the general populace. The Colonel spent all his life in service to Taldryan, not having that would take some getting used too. Still, he certainly looked forward to downing gallons of drinks at his local bar and not having to wake up before the sun rose every morning. Sometimes, it’s just the little things.

He returned to his chair and sat down, the leatherwork moulded overtime to fit his frame perfectly. No doubt this was going to take an abusive amount of paperwork and he concluded it was best to get it done now, rather than later.

That was until a sudden vibration broke him from his musings on top of his desk. His personal holoprojector. He let it buzz for a few seconds, it was a direct means of contacting him personally and only to be used in dire circumstances. He didn’t want to, but he turned on the device as the blue-hued image of a male Pantoran came into view. He was battered and bruised, several cuts on his face with the sounds of explosions rupturing nearby.

“Explain, soldier!” Dysian demanded.

“Sir, we have a situation on Perune. There’s…”

The soldier never had the opportunity to finish his sentence before he was disintegrated by turbolaser fire. Dysian rose from his desk, heart pumping and adrenaline coating through his veins. His Rattataki blood sensed the battle and knew it wasn’t too far away. Once more, they would engage the enemy, whoever they were, whatever they were, on their home turf. His second in command stood in complete shock, watching in horror as the holographic image faded out.

It looked like Dysian would get that last hurrah after all.