Federation-Apocalypse Session 97b – Fleet Surgery

   The Tie fighters hadn’t been prepared to deal with thirty-nine capital-class (even if somewhat damaged and slightly obsolescent) ships – especially with half the contingent off chasing ghosts – and hadn’t seen any urgency about it anyway, at least initially. It wasn’t like the fool half-derelict things had anywhere to go, and most of them were obviously incapable of making the jump to lightspeed. The piles of wreckage were even all converging on a single set of co-ordinates – and there wasn’t anything THERE.

   The fighters spent most of their efforts looking for the small ship that would surely be trying to escape under cover of this diversion.

   Things went a little insane when the ships approached that convergent point and suddenly seemed to shimmer, stretched like a bad acceleration special effect, and vanished into nothingness – along with a few fighters that had been probing too closely and somehow went along for the ride. Neither the observations, nor the instrument readings, made any sense at all!

   The fighter pilots didn’t dare let their quarry escape without at least trying – so they unloaded everything they had even as the approaching hyperspace-interdictors fired up their artificial gravity wells. Throughout the debris field, damaged hypermatter reactors lost containment, old weapons detonated, unstable systems melted down, and bizarre energies began to run wild – ripping wildly through the unstable structure of yet another underpopulated and overstressed realm.

   At the other side of the gate, after the whirling moment of dimensional transition, the fleet erupted into the New Imperium – with only a squadron or two of fighters to fend off – but much closer to the shipyards than they’d planned, and on a collision course. The proximity and collision-course alarms flared into belated activity…

   Marty made frantic adjustments… The dense formation had helped get the fleet through the gate quickly, but it now meant that quite a few of the ships had little room to maneuver. The four that were being towed were the biggest problem of course: there wasn’t enough power available on the tractor beam systems to slow them down that fast.

(Marty) “Augh! My local ID is from here!”

   Marty concentrated the tractors on pulling the ships sideways; there was no need to fully stop if he could miss the docks – and simply delaying the collision would allow more time to maneuver and repair!

   Kevin didn’t think that he could do much to slow a small fleet, even in Star Wars – and realized that, even if it was possible, doubting it would be self-defeating. He used his multi-tracking discipline to snap orders to the Thralls to work on slowing the fleet – if he showed confidence in their abilities, that should make them more effective in Star Wars. It wouldn’t… Wait! He had an open gate; if he shifted the other end a bit, there was a fairly strong gravatational field on the other side. That would give them some braking – and it wouldn’t noticeably disturb the docks; on this end the Gate would act like a source, and the distance from the gate to the docks was many times the distance from the gate to the fleet… Paying for a collision would be EXPENSIVE!

   Kevin threw his various special senses into monitoring the effect… He’d never really tried to tap a gravitational field though a gate before.

   Space and time warped in spaces that they simply weren’t meant to as the tractor beams locked on… Kevin could feel something straining against him – but their combined efforts were indeed slowing the fleet.

   Their lead ship bumped against the shipyard with a barely detectable tap before the fleet began to back away from the shipyards. Once again, the fleet was under control.

(Kevin) “Well, that was cutting it close…”

(Marty) “Phew. You okay Girls, Limey?”

   Unsurprisingly, they were receiving a high-priority hail from the shipyards. They answered.

(Kevin) “Allo there!”

(Marty) “Ebon Hawk wishing to dock. Sorry about the rough arrival.”

(Dock Operator) “What in the name of the Sith do you think you are doing?! And where did you come from?”

   “In the name of the Sith”? Odd… Had they gotten into an alternate New Imperium by mistake? They started doing a little testing… If it was the New Imperium, there should be a number of Thralls about other than the ones they’d brought with them. It might take a bit to find out though; it was hard to tell if they were in the same realm over the links.

   Huh… It certainly seemed like the usual New Imperium, even if something did seem a bit off about it. Was the New Imperium suffering reality disturbances now? That could get messy.

(Dockmaster) “Well, it looks like no damage was done. You should be glad for that as we do not take kindly to damage to our shipyards here. So what do you want, you said something about docking?”

(Kevin) “We bring you business! We’d like to get a repair estimate on this little fleet…”

(Dockmaster) “On an entire fleet? That is going to be costly. Looks like a bunch of older models, although if they are of the vintage I think, that may be an asset to you. Alright, I am sending out docking bays and docking codes for your ships. We’ll send out tugs for the ones that don’t seem to be able to move under their own power. By the way, you didn’t find that around here did you?”

(Marty) “Nah, we found it far, far away.”

(Dockmaster) “Well that is good, that had me worried there for a moment.”

   Fortunately, they were willing to take a low priority and to rely on the internal systems as much as possible; there wasn’t any rush. It had just seemed a pity not to do a little salvaging.

   The three Hoslin Droids had been hooked up to the weapons systems to shoot at the fighters. They’d disconnected after the jump; the surviving fighters had surrendered pretty much on demand after that. Two of them were busy going over sensor logs of the gate travel, while the third was watching Kevin and Marty as only a droid could.

(Kevin, to the Hoslin Droids) “Dimensional transition. It’s very convenient if your talents happen to run that way”.

(Dockmaster) “Alright, well we can discuss options after you dock. I must inform you though that we will not tolerate any violence here on the station. While you may run into someone here that may be on bad terms with you, please remember, this is a safe haven for all.”

(Marty) “No problem.”

(Kevin) “Not a worry! We almost always prefer to talk.”

(Dockmaster) “Well that is good. Someone shall see you once you get onboard.”

   Kevin considered… He really ought to delegate a Thrall or two as business representatives. After all, Gelman had been suggesting something like that…

(Kevin) “Marty? Should I appoint an actual business representative or two like Gelman recommended?”

(Marty) “Sure, he’s got a damn good head for organization.”

   Kevin shrugged – and appointed one of the extra Thralls he’d brought along to be his local business manager. That should let the kid handle things more readily.

(Kevin, to the Droids) “Anyway, this is something like thirty or forty years after when we were, and down an alternate timeline.”

(Droid #3) “Such talents are beyond anything we have encountered or have records of in our databases.”

(Kevin) “Ah well, we’ll just have to call you ‘Horatio’.”

(Horatio) “Very well, I shall be known as Horatio for the time being.”

   Meanwhile, they had some of the Thralls pulling the local news to see what was going on… Was the pesky perpetual Sith war breaking out in the New Imperium?

   It looked like Revan had launched a rapid series of attacks against the New Imperium. Imperial response had been slow, and looked to be holding off from any major engagements at this time until more ships arrive. His fleet appeared to be made up of many derelict ships retrieved from who knows where. Reports were that they were being flown with no crews. At the head of the fleet was a ship of great dark power, that had annihilated large numbers of ships on its own in previous incidents. Speculation as to how Revan had managed to survive the last four thousand years was running wild.

   Oh dear. In this timeline Revan was supposed to have been dead for several millennia. It looked like the Hellthunder had found it’s Captain.

   Well, it had pretty much been a given that they’d encounter the Hellthunder again even if they HADN’T been trying to keep an eye on it.

   The Hoslin Droids were pretty upset as well; the idea that Revan had survived and was leading a new war against the Republic was pretty appalling – although one of them did collect itself enough to realize that the group had been referring to the “New Imperium” and not to “The Republic”.

(Horatio) “What is the current status of the Republic?”

(Kevin) “Oh, on this timeline the Republic was overthrown by the Galactic Empire under Palpatine, but Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader was taken to a universe without the Light/Dark dichotomy, and went to a more neutral stance. When he returned, he overthrew Palpatine, and established the New Imperium to try and do something about the Sith War cycle… Now, the New Republic timelines are much messier; most of those got attacked by very silly aliens from outside the galaxy, with the connivance of reality-manipulators with no sense of scale. The Old Republic period is still going strong of course.”

(Horatio) “The Republic has been overthrown and is now ruled by a Sith? And this Sith has moved away from the Dark Side?”

(Kevin) “Oh, in this timeline. There are plenty of other timelines.”

(Horatio, now apparently the designated spokesman) “And the Hoslin have not moved to combat this? It is clear we must return to an Enclave and request instructions.”

(Kevin) “Hm. I’m not sure the Hoslin are still extant on this timeline. We did run across their pyramid, but it was archived and deserted.”

   Horatio – somehow – managed to look quite saddened at that news.

(Horatio) “Then the cause is lost. Our fight to protect the Republic against the Force wielders has been a failure.”

(Kevin) “I don’t really think so; after all, alternate timelines are like that. There are certainly some where you won. I just don’t think that – with multiple timezones going on simultaneously, and multiple variants of each, that “Victory” is an especially simply thing. For that matter, neither is “Loss”.”

(Horatio) “Perhaps you are right, but our holocrons are in need of service and we are at the limits of our program directives and independence. Searching Enclaves for Hoslin will be a top priority.”

(Kevin) “Oh well. Lets drop back to your original timezone and see what we can find. Your odds are probably better there.”

   Meanwhile, Marty had been arguing over pricing scales… It wasn’t like they couldn’t go elsewhere – and all they needed was repair to the point where some Thralls and the ships systems could get the rest done in a reasonable length of time. It was going to be expensive enough anyway.

   Marty got the feeling that he was being taken for a ride on the hyperdrive and weapons parts, but the bulk materials needed for most of the repairs weren’t too outrageous. It was just the the sheer quantity of supplies that added up… Of course, the locals were going to be charging a premium on hyperdrive components and weapons systems at the moment. It was a sellers market ad there was a war on. This was definitely going to lighten the piggy bank… Repairs on thirty-nine capital ships would be hard to finance.

   On the other hand, with trading operations running on hundreds of worlds, their cash reserves were pretty good. He and Kevin could easily pull it off, although large purchases might be a bit tight for awhile afterwards.

   Marty had to think about that for a moment. He had enough money at the moment to fund his own battle fleet. OK, it was a bit short on mid-sized vessels at the moment – despite the thousand or so fighters, shuttles, and similar auxiliary craft on the various flight decks and the fact that they’d towed along a hundred or so of the surviving intermediate-class ships – but that was still the kind of naval force that was usually assigned to a galactic sector.

   Kevin was musing as well… Lets see… thirty-nine capital-class star destroyers, eighty-six secondary craft, about six hundred salvageable fighters, bombers, and similar units on the various flight decks, three or four hundred short-range shuttles and landing craft (the long-range ones had apparently been used as escape pods), and nearly sixteen hundred of those walker/mecha things, since they’d had no place in a space battle and hadn’t even been deployed. Close to two hundred thousand assorted droids too… The whole rigamarole did call for a crew of nearly 1.6 million men though – at least to operate at full efficiency and provide for ground assaults – and it would take awhile to get those. This was going to be a big organizational job.

   He called Jarvain. The man had a mechanized-warfare background, as well as personal ambitions towards higher command.

   Meanwhile, Marty was playing his own card. He could offer the services of a few Thralls to act as Gatekeepers for a potential evacuation if the war came this way – and for commercial purposes if it did not.

   That brought the price down quite a bit. It was still going to be high, but it wouldn’t be stretching the piggy bank to the breaking point either. It was still going to be a personal record for spending money though. Was he going to be trading in entire star systems soon? Ownership of civilizations? Universes?

   Kevin had always been less concerned about money. It was about time that they spent a lot; they’d been running a trade operation, but not really spending for quite awhile… At least outside of his spending local wealth in the Dragonworlds.

   Marty was done with the contract, and Jarvain had been reasonably positive about looking into taking command.

   Well, somewhat positive. He’d consider it anyway.

(Kevin) “Hey, Jarvain? We found this battle fleet laying around and decided to salvage it and fix it up…”

(Jarvain, loud sputtering coughing fit heard in background) “You did WHAT?!?”

(Kevin) “Salvaged a battle fleet. It does call for a crew of about 1.6 million men though, and it’s going to take a few months to get those. Lets see… thirty-nine star destroyers, about eighty secondary vessels, five or six hundred fighters, three or four hundred short-range shuttles and landing craft, and about 1600 of those mech things… Anyway, would you like to be consider commanding?”

(Jarvain) “And where do you propose I come up with 1.6 million people to crew such a force? Not to mention the amount of time it would take to train them up to be proficient?”

(Kevin) “Well, as I said, that would take a few months. The major ships are capable of operating with fair efficiency simply under computer control, and there are couple of hundred thousand droids around repairing things… Too much of a bother then?”

   Jarvain had been a bit appalled by the casual scale of the fleet – but he’d certainly turned out to be willing to come and have a look. As long as there was no rush about finding recruits.

   Meanwhile, the group was preparing to take the Ebon Hawk (along with the Hoslin Droids and the nine remaining extra Thralls) back through the gate to talk to the Old Darth Vader. They’d never met him after all – and Marty was kind of thrilled at the prospect. Darth had been one of his childhood heroes!

   Kevin considered trying “Anakin… I am your father…” just to try to steal all of Darth’s lines.

   Oh well, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.

   At worst they might get blown up a bit, and Kevin was young enough to be pretty sure that he could handle that or at least find a way around it. It shouldn’t be a problem though; they’d shifted the gate-terminus substantially and there would doubtless be some ongoing confusion.

   As Kevin opened the gate, something sort of… tore.

(Computer) “Red Alert, Red Alert. Intense Radiation detected. Shield failure imminent. Sensors indicate massive gravitational anomalies in the area.”

   Kevin promptly closed the gate again, while Marty shifted course – leaving them on the New Imperium side of the gate.

   What was that all about? Kevin didn’t think he’d shifted the gate anywhere close to anything with a really major gravitational field. He’d just been tapping the local potential wells.

   Oh well.

(Kevin) ” I guess we’d better pop off to get chased by storm troopers again.”

(Marty) “Never gets old!”

(Kevin) “Drat it; I kind of wanted to see what they made of THAT stunt… Hm. Can we get back in that vicinity in a reasonable time?”

   Marty checked the coordinates… It looked possible. The fastest route would be to do a “very” close flyby of the Imperial orbital station at Corellia and then let the ensuing chase transition them back to Classical Star Wars. They’d be back in the Corellia system still, and they’d only be about twenty minutes from the battle site.

   They paid the usual fees. Corellian smugglers claimed to do that all the time going back and forth without paying, but the fees were cheap enough. Besides, they were relying on the local authorities for a lot of work.

   A pair of fighters promptly herded them back into the Old Empire… It looked like the battle site was giving off massive energy discharges. The sensors are giving all sorts of readings, all of them pegged at the upper limit. All traces of the derelict fleet were gone – and the sensors were unable to get any reading on the Imperial fleet that had been surrounding it. Had they been sucked into something? Had a new black hole formed somehow? That shouldn’t have happened.

   They took a better look with great caution.

   Something had indeed gone VERY wrong. Space-time was oscillating wildly. The shields could neutralize the time distortions at the moment – but they’d probably overload if they got any closer. What could have happened? Hypermatter reactors going up? Had the artificial gravity wells of the hyperspace interdictors interacted with the gate somehow? Had whatever had been at the center of the field contributed?

(Marty) “So what happened to them?”

(Kevin) “Wild wormholes or a singularity most likely. If we removed Darth the entire realm will be unstable until it resets… I think it’s time to head for Korriban and the Haslin outpost.”

   The did manage to get a better shot while they were talking… It looked like two spheres, one glowing brighter than any sun they’d ever seen and the other a deep black not unlike that of the galactic black hole. Between them, a blinding white light and heat seemed to surge forth from the light to the dark. Energy discharges were running rampant. The sensors were beginning to report subspace and hyperspace anomalies.

(Kevin) “Oh dear. A gravatational dipole. White Hole and Black Hole. Lets move away. Quickly.”

   Marty wasn’t going to argue with THAT. He got some jump coordinates in, set the heading – and initiated the jump to lightspeed just as a discharge rocked the area. They entered hyperspace, hopefully heading in the right direction – and were treated to a rare (for hyperspace) bit of scenery. Behind them they could see a section of hyperspace swirling and rotating around a central black dot. While it did seem to retreat as they blazed away through hyperspace, they never seemed to be quite able to lose sight of it.

   That was not reassuring. Still… a hole in the galaxy. It should vanish with the next reset anyway unless the realm started breaking up – in which case it would drop out of existence and the old empire would re-establish itself. After all, it did whenever things got too far out of line anyway – and they didn’t exactly have many options for trying to fix things. Reality manipulation had probably helped set it off to begin with. Hopefully they could get to Korriban and get out before the disaster got too big.

   They sent out a general warning, and had the local Thralls pass it around; anyone who was in the realm at the moment might want to get out…

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