[CNS-TAL] Unchained Malady: The Invasion of Orian

VIP Quarters, Imperial-class Star Destroyer Satal
Hyperspace Transit, Grid Reference R-4
39 ABY

In his quarters aboard the Imperial-class Star Destroyer Satal, Rowik Flaq seethed as he once again read the report on his datapad.

Target confirmed present in the Orian System. Currently stored on jungle planet in third orbit, grid reference 27N TC 324 606 (see attached images). Site is a secured multipurpose building controlled by local authorities.

The object that the uniformed minions had so blandly referred to as a “target” was, in actuality, an artifact from the days of the original Sith Empire: a training helm, said to contain the recorded lessons and memories of everyone who had worn it. The item had been discovered at an archaeological dig site in the Unknown Regions. When Flaq first set eyes on the relic, in a forgotten warehouse on an unimportant world, he declared to Krea’s First Order pet—the admiral, what was his name again?—that he would claim it for study, rather than let it fall into the hands of lesser researchers. The admiral had been in no position to argue, and so the Sith Lord had ordered his prize prepared for transport to his flagship.

It would’ve worked, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling pirates.

Unfortunately, bad luck or the Force had other ideas. The transport carrying the training helm had been set upon by corsairs—Flaq’s knuckles went white around his datapad at the thought—who had probably assumed that a First Order transport would carrying something wearyingly mundane but commercially valuable, like weaponry. Finding the priceless artifact instead, they sold it off to a black-market collector. It had taken Flaq months and all of the resources at his intelligence officers’ disposal to unearth where his prize had disappeared to, but eventually, he found it in the clutches of some “discreet couriers”.

Flaq’s agents had been too slow to intercept the transport carrying the artifact before it left, but after personally interrogating the transport crew’s associates, the Sith Lord had discovered that the helm was being taken to the Orian System. He hadn’t been familiar with that location despite its proximity to old Sith space, but the repository of data taken from the Imperial Observatory in the Caelus System—how nice of those “Taldryanites” to leave it practically unattended!—showed him that Lord Sidious had noted the location in his visions decades earlier. In fact, Sidious had divined the very appearance of the building where the ancient helm was now stored. With that information, it was easy for Flaq to confirm the location and set off in pursuit of his prize.

According to the report, however, the locals might be more troublesome than he had anticipated.

Local authorities identify themselves as ‘Sith Empire’. Presence of Force-users confirmed in planet’s largest population centres and in proximity to target site, as well as several other locations throughout the system. Naval assets estimated comparable to Imperial battle squadron. Ground force strength unknown.

Flaq grunted in annoyance at the intelligence assessment. He wasn’t there to fight the entire local military. If they were smart—which he seriously doubted, but stranger things had happened—they would stand aside and let him retrieve the artifact that was rightfully his. That beast-woman “Lady” Scoryx would come for them later, but as far as Flaq was concerned, the shrew was welcome to wade through their enemies’ blood like a child splashing in a puddle. He would occupy his time with more worthy pursuits.

As if on queue, a chime sounded from the terminal on Flaq’s desk. “My lord, we’re five minutes from realspace reversion in the Orian System.”

“Notify me when the path to the artifact is secure, and no sooner.” Flaq stabbed the ‘end transmission’ button without waiting for a response. If Krea had insisted on giving him some ridiculous military command, she could at least have chosen one that was content to do their jobs without pestering him.

Command Deck, Imperial-class Star Destroyer Satal
Hyperspace Transit, Grid Reference R-4
39 ABY

The bemused duty officer sighed and turned to a man in a First Order commodore’s uniform. “Lord Flaq has been advised, sir.”

“Typical. Carry on, Lieutenant.” Commodore Harand was the career officer in charge of the uninspiringly-named Battle Squadron 3, the naval force that Admiral Grozzol had placed at Lord Flaq’s disposal. The Sith Lord was a difficult boss, to say the least, and Harand had complained to Grozzol numerous times about Flaq’s utter lack of competence or interest in military affairs. Often, Grozzol—a classmate of Harand’s at the First Order Academy, many years ago, and a good friend in the time since—would try to placate the commodore by pointing out that at least Flaq wasn’t an impulsive micro-manager like Valera Scoryx. Harand, in turn, would always reply that he’d gladly take Scoryx’s overbearing demeanour over Flaq’s seeming belief that the military’s job was to make whatever he wanted happen with no regard for feasibility.

To Harand, staring out a bridge viewport with his hands behind his back in archetypal “Imperial officer” fashion, this excursion seemed to be yet another one of those times. The sensor data provided by their reconnaissance Carracks—chosen for that mission because Flaq happened to see the ships on exercises and assumed they were doing nothing, not because they were suitable for the job—showed that the hostile forces were roughly equivalent to Harand’s own squadron. How roughly? Harand couldn’t be sure. He’d ordered the Carracks to prioritise their own survival instead of risking the loss of a capital ship that couldn’t easily be replaced, and as a result, the sensor data he’d gotten was woefully lacking. All he really knew was that the hostiles had one Star Destroyer that was probably an Imperial-class configuration, a handful of Vindicator heavy cruisers, and assorted other capital ships and screens. In other words, he was charging practically blind into an assault against an enemy of comparable strength, on their own home ground. Thanks to Flaq’s insistence that the reconnaissance mission use highly-visible Carracks instead of smaller ships designed for the role, Harand wasn’t even sure that he would have the element of surprise on his side.

As the starlines shrank to points and the jungle world of Sepros came into view in the Satal’s forward viewport, Harand hoped that surprise would be enough to turn the battle in his favour.

Outer Orian Space
Between Inos and Tarthos
39 ABY

The pilot once again brushed a stray hair from his eyes. His Battle Team Leader had brought the Neophyte out on an unusual patrol. The unit had been on high patrol since the appearance of the mysterious capital ships in Orian space just a few weeks ago. Since that time, Nikana had spent a lot of time flying between the space around Tarthos and the Inos gas giant.

“Are you about ready to return to Tarthos?” Corvo’s voice buzzed over the comm in Nikana’s helmet.

“Why? Are you starting to get a bit tired?” Nikana smiled a bit at the jab. “I am still fine to keep up our patrol if you are.”

The Neophyte saw another TIE/LN fly ahead of him, juking back and forth before executing a quick roll. “I suppose we can go back. I just have an odd feeling about all this. It has been quiet.” Nikana heard the comm buzzing again as Corvo paused. “Too quiet.”

As though on cue the enormous gray shape of a warship appeared before the pair. The vessel had come out of hyperspace, causing Corvo to roll hard off to the right. Following suit, Nikana pulled his own TIE off at an angle, away from the sudden encroachment of the wedge-shaped capital ship.

“I wasn’t aware that we were going to have any operations with the flagship out here, Corvo.” Nikana scratched at the back of his neck thoughtfully with his hand.

“That was not the flagship, Neophyte.” There was a chill to the Knight’s voice. “The Perdition should be further toward the center of the system, or in orbit of Sepros. The Overlord doesn’t typically bring it out this far out near Inos and the markings are all wrong.”

“We can’t engage an Imperial warship alone.” The Imperial-class warship floated through space, the nose of its wedge pointed toward the heart of the Orian system.

“Of course not,” Corvo Loor sighed deeply. “We are going to have to report in to command, and ensure that Quaestor Hades hears about this. He will want to mobilize the fleet.”

Star Destroyer Perdition
In Orbit of Sepros
39 ABY

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The sound of the console drew the Sadow from his studies. Hours had been spent studying the aged tome before him. He had to admit that the secrets possessed by the Holocron Center on Arx might have proved a greater asset in terms of raw power. Bentre took some pleasure in drawing his understanding from these pieces of history. A leather-bound flimspilast book had its own charm when compared to the muted experience afforded by datapads and holocrons. The volumes had the smell of pages, the texture of the flimsiplast and the sound of the tome as he had perused its contents.

Looking up at the flashing comm panel nestled into the console on his desk, the Warlord let out a short snort of contempt. He took a moment to stretch, drawing his muscles taut as he considered the ‘answer’ button on his desk. He almost considered ignoring it for a moment, and returning to his studies before clicking the button.

“Overlord.” As he spoke the single word he heard the contempt at being interrupted creeping into his voice. “Speak.”

“We have received reports sir, from Tarthos.” This made the Consul straighten up in his chair. “An unidentified ship is heading from our position.”

“Put all stations on full alert!” Bentre felt his lip curl back as he slammed a fist down on the console. How dare they assault our system? He felt the familiar weight in the back of his head. You aren’t going to allow such a deed to go unpunished, are you? “Wipe them out.” The Sadow declared. “I want to see them blown from the sky.”

There was a pause. “We were prepared before I contacted you, sir. We already have officers in position and prepared for combat.” The voice on the other end of the comm was undaunted by the angry outburst from the Consul. “Quaestor Hades advised us as to your preferences in circumstances such as these. We have already acted accordingly.”

“Bring the Perdition around the planet to shield the Temple of Sorrow. We have suffered enough ill at the likes of the Collective. Do whatever you can to ensure that no trespassers set foot upon our worlds.”