Chapter 4 - The Hunt Continues
Debris field of previously destroyed Republic fleets
21st Fleet of CIS Navy Escorting The Prototype Heavy-Cruiser Malevolence
Command & Control Center of The Illusionist
ST-ED patiently observed through the feed coming from the optics of the rocket battle droid operating the pod hunter’s navigation console as he turned the boarding craft towards the last undamaged escape pod left from the Republic fleet sent to take out the Malevolence.
They had yet to find the pod that the fleet’s commanding officer, Jedi or otherwise, was located at, the tactical droid was hoping he or she was waiting in the last pod so he could be certain that the location of the Malevolence would not be compromised, otherwise he would have to just assume that the CO perished when the fleet’s ships were destroyed.
As the hunting crew attached their craft’s claws onto the last pod something appeared very wrong.
‘The pod’s empty, there’s no-one here.’ The boarding craft’s pilot informed everyone through the droid network.
‘Look around you, the Republic troops could have gotten outside to put up resistance if they have suits that can sustain the vacuum of space.’ ST-ED ordered.
‘Roger, rog—Wait! There they are! Blast them!’ The hunter pilot said as the clone troopers got on top of the pod to blast two of the pod hunting droids who were attempting to cut the window open with their fusion cutters.
‘We will be bringing reinforcements to help destroy the pod on the double, what’s your current location? ST-ED said to the droid leading the small squad of hunters as they exchanged fire with the Republic troops.
‘We are in sector 6A, there’s a Jedi in here and he’s just deflecting all of our bolts back at us. We can’t finish them off with our current numbers.’
‘Affirmative, we’re sending in several of our MAFs to take care of them, hold your position.’
ST-ED then changed the feed to a group of MAF gunships that were surveying the debris field and gave them the command to head towards the last remaining escape pod and help out the pod hunting droids.
Back at the pod almost all of the rocket battle droids had been eliminated except the squad leader piloting the boarding craft who in desperation began squeezing the escape pod’s hull inwards with the boarding craft’s claws in hopes of destroying it and deriving the clones and their Kel Dor Jedi commander of any extra oxygen should they survive the attack.
He only partially succeeded by making a small hole into the pod’s hull that began leaking the precious air out of it while the unsuited clone inside was attempting to send out a distress call to any friendly forces that might have snuck into the system.
Unfortunately for the lonely rocket droid, the Jedi managed to cut the claws off, separating the two vessels from each other and with a simple force push, the Kel Dor finished the battle droid off by crashing the boarding craft into nearby passing ship debris where it exploded and took the droid with it.
Even after the last of the rocket droids were destroyed, ST-ED continued to observe the feed one of the MAFs was broadcasting of the pod as it approached its target.
“So, Grievous’ droids have obviously failed in their task of eliminating all survivors? Well it doesn’t really matter, I’ll finish what his troops failed.”
Plo Koon’s Group’s Escape Pod
“I’ve lost contact with Wolffe, I’m afraid he has either fallen unconscious or died from the lack of oxygen.” Sinker informed the two other survivors.
“His loss is unfortunate, but we must still keep hope that rescue will arrive in some form.” The Kel Dor Jedi said in a somber tone as he silently mourned the loss of his long time clone advisor.
“With all due respect, sir. I think that time has long since past us.” Boost said pessimistically.
Any further conversation was cut off as the mechanized assault flyers flew past their position while looking for them with their searchlights.
They were so focused on staying hidden by the gunships that had just flown past them that they didn’t have time to watch that anyone didn’t get behind them until it was too late and one of the clones paid the price for that slip.
“Gaa-ah!” A scream of pain came from Boost as he was shot in the back multiple times by one of the gunships that had gotten behind the three men, he was dead before the Jedi or Sinker even realized what was going on.
As they both raised their weapons to counter the droid forces they noticed that they were completely surrounded by the other gunships that had arrived to the area.
The two looked at each other for a moment, acknowledging that their time to go had come, Sinker’s weapons wouldn’t be powerful enough to do any damage to the flying vehicles and the Jedi master even with all his experience and skill couldn’t hope to deflect all the blaster bolts that the rapid firing weapons of the gunships would spew in his weakened state.
“Sir… it’s been an honor…” Sinker said as he shook his general’s hand for a final time.
“Likewise, Sergeant…” Plo Koon said as he lowered his lightsaber in defeat and prepared to embrace the force.
After those words, the two men were pumped full of blaster holes by the multiple blaster cannons that the gunships sported, the fire was kept up for a few seconds to make sure that they would truly die.
Through all of it, Plo Koon didn’t feel even the slightest of pain, even as his inner organs were cooked beyond recognition by the searing heat of the gunship’s weapons, for he had already accepted his fate to leave the material world behind and become one with the force. And as he exhaled his last breath there was only one thought in his mind.
‘There is no death, only the force…’
And then he was no more.
Back onboard the Illusionist
After the gunships had confirmed their kill, ST-ED had attempted recognizing the Jedi who was killed by cross referencing his face with all known Jedi in the CIS database and found out he was Jedi master Plo Koon, a senior member of the Jedi Council.
ST-ED decided that his findings were important enough to inform Count Dooku about them.
“Open a channel with Count Dooku.” He ordered the pilot droid operating the communications console, who rapidly tapped several buttons to establish contact with the Malevolence and soon enough the holographic form of the Separatist leader appeared.
“ST-ED, do you have something of importance to report?”
“Yes, my lord. My forces have just eliminated the last members of the Republic survivors including their Jedi commander, something that General Grievous had a hard time accomplishing.”
“Good, but I feel that your distaste for the good general isn’t the only thing you wanted to discuss with me…”
“You would be correct my lord, through research and cross-referencing of our information databanks on all known Jedi, I was able to identify the Jedi that led this attack force, and the one we killed as Master Plo Koon, a known member of the Jedi Council on Coruscant.”
The Count raised his eyebrows in surprise for a moment, as the news was broken to him before a large satisfied smile formed on his face.
“This is most excellent news, the death of someone of Master Plo Koon’s stature is sure to cause a crippling blow to the the Jedi Council’s ability to wage war against us, they will be hard pressed to find a replacement for someone like him.” Dooku said in a delighted voice.
“What is our next move?” ST-ED asked, wanting to get back into action as soon as possible.
“The Republic is still unaware of our new weapon’s existence or purpose, we must focus our efforts on continuing to maintain the element of surprise by striking against lightly defended targets to ensure that there are no survivors left to tell the tale. In addition I am putting you in command of The Malevolence.” The sentence caused the tactical droid to be filled with hope. “…Alongside General Grievous until I can find other uses for him, so I expect you two to get along until then, farewell General.” Dooku said as he crushed any trace of hope ST-ED had before cutting the call to leave for his solar sailer waiting in the heavy cruiser’s hangar bay that would take him out of the system and back to his palace on Serenno.
To ST-ED that last sentence’s words put together were in his most definite do-not-want-to-hear list of sentences.
He didn’t want to work with the hotheaded cyborg leader any longer than he had to, but he’d swallow his frustration for now to please the Count and maximize the amount of damage he could do to the Republic by cooperating with his temporary ally before preferably getting back to working only amongst his fellow droids on other missions of importance.
At least the droids would understand him.
A Week Later
Heavy Cruiser Malevolence Supported By The 21st Fleet
En Route To a Secret Republic Medical Facility In The Kaliida Nebula By Hyperspace
An entire week had went by without much incident between the two generals of the Confederacy beyond disputes about who they should target and Grievous’ usual bigotry towards his droid crew and the tactical droid, whom he considered to be his inferior. ST-ED considered Republic supply convoys and other legitimate military targets to be of greater importance while Grievous wanted to target medical convoys carrying wounded clones out of battle when they discussed their next target between missions.
Now they were heading towards a previously unknown Republic medical station that Count Dooku had recently informed them about, it was known to house thousands of wounded clones from battles around the galaxy, which when destroyed would dramatically increase the amount of enemy casualties that would be sustained outside of actual battle due to the wounded having no place to get treatment until more such facilities were built to accommodate them by the Republic.
ST-ED for once agreed with his cyborg counterpart that it was a suitable target, even if he could have likely come up with a dozen other ones that were just as good and that he already knew of prior to their assignment.
“Sir, the navicomputer indicates we only have one parsec to go.” One of the pilot droids operating the navigation consoles reported in.
“Good, we will maximize the Republic’s casualties with this attack.”
“I only hope that they haven’t already caught up to our plan and sent a fleet to defend the facility, it will endanger both my fleet and our continued element of surprise.” ST-ED commented.
“You worry too much General ST-ED, this ship is more than a match for anything the Republic scum might throw against us and with your fleet to support us we are unstoppable.”
“I wish I shared your enthusiasm and optimism, Grievous.”
“Bah, it won’t matter in the end, we are still destroying that station.”
“Generals, we have arrived. Scanners indicate that the enemy doesn’t have much in terms of defensive capabilities, only a squadron of fighters and several medical frigates are orbiting the station itself.”
“Excellent, charge our main weapon and take out the frigates first, they will be unable to leave the system without any transport.” Grievous said as he fiddled his fingers and chuckled darkly while ST-ED simply opted to order his fleet’s ships to launch their own fighters to engage with the enemy’s own.
“Jam their communications so they won’t give away our locations or call in reinforcements.” He added after sending the first order through the Droid Network.
“Belay that order.” Grievous said to the pilot droids in charge of communications who looked at him in surprise. “Let the Republic come, they will just be lambs for the slaughter.”
“Surely we must focus on keeping up the element of surprise, isn’t that exactly what Count Dooku ordered us to do?” ST-ED pointed out.
“I don’t know which one to listen to since they are both the same rank.” One of the pilot battle droids whispered to the one next to him as the two Generals bickered amongst themselves.
“Sir, we’ve got incoming hostiles in sector four!” The droid from before shouted as a large fleet of Republic ships jumped into the system.
“Gah--! How did the Republic get here so fast!?” Grievous snarled in anger.
“They were expecting us, I’m afraid we might have an information leak on our hands.” ST-ED said matter-of-factly.
“Well don’t just stand there! Order your fleet to protect us!” Grievous shouted, not noticing that the Confederate fleet had already formed a protective barrier in front of the heavy cruiser.
“I’ve already done so through the local Droid Network, one of the benefits of being a tactical droid.” ST-ED stated calmly to the frantic Grievous.
“Generals, our main weapon is fully charged.”
“Fire at those medical frigates, don’t let any of them escape!” Grievous shouted as the pulse cannon released its large energy wave towards the helpless pair of frigates attempting to flee towards open space until they were caught and had all their systems fried after which they were finished off by a barrage of turbolaser fire from the Malevolence’s starboard side cannons.
“The enemy fleet is closing in, they are launching additional fighters.”
“They will not take us or this ship down, charge up the ion cannon and get a targeting solution on the station!” Grievous shouted confidently as the two fleets clashed with each other.
“Roger, roger. Charging cannon.”
“I hope you know what you are doing works, General. Because at the moment I am not very confident.”
“Your confidence is not required! How long until the ion cannon is ready to fire!?”
“Charged at forty-five percent.”
“Those enemy fighters are coming uncomfortably close…” The tactical droid worriedly pointed out as he saw the remains of the first enemy Y-Wing fighter squadron close in on the bridge tower of the massive warship.”
‘Send more anti-fighter support to the Malevolence and chase away those Republic fighters before they blow up something important.’ He messaged to all units through the Droid network, hoping some of them would come to their aid.
As if to answer his pleas a pair of Diamond-class cruisers swooped over the Malevolence with guns blazing, firing all weapons at the enemy fighter squadron, which quickly broke formation to avoid being completely obliterated after half of their six remaining fighters were destroyed.
“Ion cannon charge at eighty-nine percent.”
“One of the enemy fighters is attempting to ram itself into the plasma coils of the ion cannon!”
“Shoot it down you imbeciles!” Grievous shouted furiously.
Fortunately before the fighter could even get near the ion cannon, the other diamond cruiser came in for another pass and smashed its bow section against it, causing the Y-wing to become nothing more than a burn stain on its hull as the two remaining fighters ran from the scene with their tails between their legs.
“Ion cannon fully charged, sir.”
“Fire!” Both the droid and cyborg yelled at the same time as the weapon released the charge towards the helpless medical station, which after getting hit suddenly became a lot darker as all the lights and equipment dimmed inside from the loss of power.
“Now fire all of our weapons at it and finish it off so we can get out of here!” Grievous kept shouting commands as the fragile medical station was blown to bits.
“Our orders are to leave no witnesses, we still have to take care of the Republic fleet.” The tactical droid pointed out as the remains of the medical station floated of into space alongside the bodies of the personnel working there.
The close call with the fighters had clearly shaken the resolve of the Kaleesh general who not too long ago had bragged about destroying the entire Republic fleet with just one ship.
“Charge the cannon once more and target the Republic fleet.” ST-ED ordered the console operators who got to work, Grievous didn’t protest.
‘All ships currently engaged with the Republic fleet, get clear of the ion cannon’s range.’
‘Roger, roger.’ OOM-29 and the other remaining command droids replied as the Confederate ships began spreading out to clear the way and give the ion cannon a clear shot to the massive Republic response fleet that was currently about to overwhelm with their two to one advantage in numbers what remained intact of the CIS fleet.
The Republic fleet’s commander clearly saw what they were attempting to do and sent all remaining Y-Wings towards the heavy cruiser despite the amount of hostile fighters that were still protecting it while the GAR fleet’s ships themselves quickly turned towards the open space to get a clear path for a jump to lightspeed.
With all of the remaining CIS navy assets firing on them, the Republic fighters were taking massive casualties every moment but despite it all they still kept going, not caring about the amount of flak they were being exposed to, their only goal being to buy their fleet enough time by attempting to destroy the game changer weapon of the Malevolence.
But alas, it was not to be as the last Y-wing was hit by the combined fire of several vultures that shot it to pieces right in front of the ion cannon.
“Ion cannon fully charged, we are ready to fire.”
“Fire! Don’t let the Republic dogs get away!” Grievous shouted as the fully charged weapon one last time the wave of ion energy towards the Republic fleet.
But just as the wave was getting near them, the Republic fleet jumped into hyperspace, leaving behind a crippled but victorious droid fleet.
“Rraaaaagh!” Grievous bellowed to the heavens in anger as the gravity of the situation finally dawned on him.
“It seems… we have finally been discovered...” ST-ED pointed out the obvious and
Grievous had to fight back the urge to punch his colleague’s head in with his fist.
Three Days Later
“So, we’ve finally found the reason for so many of our fleets vanishing.” Master Windu commented as Obi-Wan and Anakin both finished their report about the incident with the Separatist super weapon in Kaliida Nebula.
“Yes, we also believe this ship to be the reason for the destruction of Master Plo Koon’s fleet among others, including those carrying wounded clones.” Obi-Wan speculated from the other side of the holocomm, referring to the recently deceased Kel Dor Jedi master whose frozen corpse had been found in the Abregado system amongst the debris of the fleet he had been commanding
“Unusually tidy, have the Separatists been with these attacks. Glad I am, to finally know the reason.” Yoda said.
“As do all of us, but how do you propose we counter this weapon and its effects?” Master Ki-Adi Mundi asked everyone assembled.
“A small strike team could probably get inside the ship while its docked and blow it up from the inside, or at least disable its main weapon so our fleets can move in and finish it off.” Anakin suggested.
“A bold plan, but one that might just work.” Windu commented, somewhat approvingly.
“First we will have to find that ship though, it seems to be constantly on the move and that way difficult to track down.” Obi-Wan said.
“Wait a minute… I just realized something!” Anakin exclaimed as everyone else present in the conversation turned to look at him in confusion. “The cruiser leading the fleet that was accompanying the Malevolence, I’ve seen it before.”
“Really, where?” Obi-Wan asked, already knowing what his friend was referring to.
“It’s that damn droid commander ST-ED’s flagship! It was last reported having been seen at the battle of Krant! You can’t just forget a ship that is completely missing a bridge and life support systems while still operating normally.”
“Its base of operations is on Raxus Prime, at least according to our latest intelligence reports.”
“You really think they will be heading there?” Windu asked skeptically.
“They will need replenishments for their fleet after the beating they got from our forces at Kaliida, and Raxus Prime is a pretty busy staging area for the Separatists. It’s currently the best lead we have.” Anakin finished his theorizing.
“Hmm… convinced I am of the potential of this plan.” Yoda voiced his approval.
“As am I.” Master Mundi joined in and soon did everyone else, including the normally hard-to-convince skeptic Windu.
“It is decided then, we will assemble a small strike team to infiltrate the Malevolence and if our hunch proves to be correct destroy it while it is orbit above Raxus Prime.” Obi-Wan repeated the plan out loud to everyone and received several nods in response. “Good, may the force be with you all.”
In Orbit of Raxus Prime
21st Fleet Remnant & The Malevolence
Before even arriving back to Raxus Prime, ST-ED had already sent in a combat report back to Count Dooku, which also contained the details about Grievous’ defiance of direct orders, unprofessional conduct of the operation and how his actions cost the 21st fleet over half its previous numbers along with video and audio recording collected from the droids onboard including himself as evidence to support his accusations. Adding to that, that it was Grievous who had caused the Malevolence to be discovered in the first place because he would not agree to jam the Republic communications, as he wanted to face the Republic response fleet head-on without thinking of the possible consequences.
His response was pretty straightforward, the cyborg general was relieved of command of the Malevolence and he would be replaced by an old acquaintance of the droid general; Sev’rance Tann whom had been doing other missions alongside the other dark acolytes and henchmen that Dooku had employed under his command like his personal assassin Assajj Ventress.
The Chiss general’s personality had taken a change for the better, at least in ST-ED’s opinion, as time had went on, she had become more patient and less prone to outbursts when she came across problems. She had clearly been humbled by the harsh treatments and the near-death experiences she received both on Krant from ST-ED who almost choked her to death with his bare hands and back on Serenno from her master who almost fried her to a crisp with his force lightning.
To help break the ice, she had sent an actual genuine apology to the droid prior to her assignment onboard the Malevolence and at the moment the tactical droid was eagerly waiting for the Chiss general’s shuttle to arrive into the system alongside the new fleet of ships sent to reinforce the ones 21st lost in the previous battle.
All was quiet onboard the Malevolence’s bridge save the occasional chatter the pilot droids had amongst themselves, ST-ED had also drawn up plans to have the cumbersome bridge section removed completely just as he did with his flagship after he got the approval from the higher ups in the chain of command to do so, it was their ship after all and they had a right to keep an eye on their investment.
He’d still have to keep the life support systems onboard though no matter the final decision of the bureaucrats further up in the food chain, for obvious reasons.
The Network soon informed him that a single Sheathipede-class shuttle had just arrived into the system from hyperspace; a large fleet of Confederate naval ships of different classes and tonnages followed it soon afterwards.
“Sir, we’ve just received a message from General Tann’s shuttle.” One of the pilot droids informed him. “She’s requesting permission to come aboard.”
“Permission granted, open up the hangar bay shields and let her through.”
“Roger, roger.” The droid crew responded as they began rapidly tapping the controls to open up the ray shield blocking the hangar bay entrance.
“I’ll be heading to the hangar bay to meet the General. OOM-311, you have the bridge while I am away.”
“Yes, sir.” The command droid answered as ST-ED left through the doorway.
ST-ED walked through the hallways like he was an organic taking a walk in the park, he had his hands behind his back and not really thinking about anything related to the ongoing war, which to remind himself his creator had said he had to survive during the last time he spoke to his creation.
That caused him to pause for a moment and stop walking in the middle of taking a step, while the droid crewmembers walked past him.
Just what was this feeling… this emotion he was experiencing… he didn’t have a word to name it, he could only attempt to search for it through both the CIS database and the galaxy-wide holonet.
As he continued to walk he kept searching for a single word that would best describe the feeling he felt when processing information about his creator or his “homeworld” Geonosis.
That is until finally he came across a dictionary; there he entered several words to describe the emotion he was having until he found something that resembled it perfectly…
Sadness, sad, saddened, saddening… those were all forms of a word that described the feeling he experienced when processing memories about the man who had created him and his world of origin, Geonosis, which had been burnt to the ground by the Republic.
‘But why?’ He thought
‘Why had the GAR felt it necessary to destroy the home planet of a species that had never been known to attack anyone?’
The Republic’s official reason was a pre-emptive strike because according to them, the droids being produced in the Geonosian foundries were going to be used to attack the Republic, so they decided to strike first.
‘But they didn’t have proof to back their claims, they never did, they attacked an entire planet and the people living on it unprovoked to save the three people the Confederacy had caught; two Jedi and a senator, who were found to be conducting espionage for the Republic, on foreign soil nonetheless, and were to be executed as spies according to local legislature.’ He justified in his mind the actions of the red planet’s natives.
The tactical droid had been so deep in thought about his past and newly discovered emotions that he hadn’t even noticed he had arrived into the hangar bay a while ago and General Tann’s shuttle was already landing there.
He kept walking until he reached the other side of the ship where the boarding ramp lowered and out walked the female Chiss general with a small smile on her face.
“General ST-ED, it’s good to see you again.” She said in a pleasant tone as she shook the tactical droid’s hand.
“Likewise ma’am, shall we go to the bridge?” ST-ED responded as he returned the handshake.
“Of course.” The Chiss woman replied and began following after the droid through the long hallways of the Subjugator-class vessel.
“So, I heard you had to share command with General Grievous prior to my assignment here… how was that like?” She asked from the droid as they walked through the dim hallways of the large capital ship.
“There were some… disagreements about tactical decisions, which led to Lord Dooku assigning him to… other places of interest.” The droid explained.
Before the Malevolence’s new second commander could even really begin asking any real questions they were interrupted by ST-ED receiving a message from OOM-29, who was currently in charge of patrolling the local system for Republic infiltrators or spies.
‘Sir, an unregistered freighter just entered into the system we think it a might be a civilian one, but it doesn’t have any markings or identification tagging to mark it as one. How should we proceed?’
‘This is troubling indeed, keep a close eye on it and be ready to blow it to smithereens if they try anything funny. It may just be some smugglers but I’m not taking any risks with the safety of the Malevolence.’
“What was that all about?” Tann asked the droid as he turned his attention back to her again.
“My second-in-command just informed me about a suspicious freighter that entered the system, no registration codes, no markings, no ID, no nothing. It’s just a clean slate that is off all known ship records.” The tactical droid informed her as they entered the bridge.
“OOM-311, meet General Sev’rance Tann. She’s the new second commander of this fleet and your commanding officer.” ST-ED introduced the Sith lady to the command droid.
“Roger, roger sir. Glad to have you onboard ma’am.” The command droid said with a clumsy right hand salute.
Tann simply opted nod in the droid’s direction as a response before turning back towards ST-ED.
“I assume you have already gotten yourself acquinted with the vessels functions while arriving here?” ST-ED asked her.
“Yes, I’ve already gone through the schematics that Lord Dooku provided for me and know the ship quite well.”
“Good, as soon as we finish getting everything ready with the rest of the fleet, we’ll be heading to the surface to observe a test run of something I’ve been working on for a while now…”
‘Not now, OOM-29.’
‘I’m afraid the situation requires your immediate attention, the freighter has just changed course and is heading straight towards the Malevolence.’
‘Will you be able to intercept it in time?’
‘I’m afraid not, sir. You’ll have to deal with these intruders on your own for now, we’ll try to send assistance if we can.’
‘See to it that you do.’
“What is it now?”
“We’ve got uninvited visitors coming onboard…”