Fleet Admiral Tharnak Adraci paced on the bridge of the Star Destroyer Inexorable, his hands clasped behind his back. The Battle of Coruanthor had been raging for months, with vast portions of both the Republic and Imperial militaries being poured into winning what was clear to be the most pivotal battle since the beginning of the conflict. However, the battle had since turned in the Empire's favour, with victory imminent within the next few days. Perhaps even hours. Now was the time to address those under his command. As he strode toward the holoprojector, with his chin held high, he brushed some dust from his shoulder. Across the Imperial fleet, and across the system of bases hastily built across the planet, Adraci's image became projected in a massive hologram, his voice echoing across the Empire.
Adraci: "Citizens and soldiers of the Empire, hear my voice. I am Fleet Admiral Adraci, commander of Imperial forces on Coruanthor. Our foes, the Republic, who represent a government of chaos and illegitimacy, stand ready to destroy all that which we have built. They spread lies and delusions! They seek to end the Empire and sully the sanctity of our galaxy, but I promise you this: they will fail! They will fall! And today will mark the death of the New Republic by the Empire's hand! Today we reclaim our galaxy! Today, we seize our future!"
The Empire weren't the only ones to hear the speech. Thunder rippled across the skies of Coruanthor as the New Republic fleet launched a renewed attack against Imperial positions, turbolasers slashing buildings, torpedoes disintegrating shields and heavy plasma exchanged across the skyline. From the Inexorable's viewport, he could see the distant Republic Dreadnought Spirit of Cyrannus, while holographic display units depicted starfighters and bombers spilling from Republic and Imperial capital ships, meeting each other in a deadly dance.
Republic Aether-class corvettes led the charge, pushing toward the Imperial Star Destroyers with their forward cannons blazing. The Destroyers, led by the Inexorable retaliated, laying down supressive fire which broke a Praesator-class Star Destroyer in half, its debris descending into orbit. Republic X-15 Nychus Starfighters roared into the fray, engaging in deadly dogfights with Imperial ASP fighters, while capital ships exchanged deadly broadsides, sending many crashing into the city streets below. On the Republic Star Destroyer Aeolus, Kalae Sevine steadied herself against a holotable depicting the battle, Commodore Helo Roslia standing at her side.
Commander Kalae Sevine: "We can't take another hit like that!"
Helo Roslia: "Full turbolaser spread on the nearest Imperial ship!"
Helo's eyes dart from screen to screen, assessing the situation as blue bolts of turbolaser fire erupted from the Aeolus. Though Coruanthor lies near the heart of New Republic space, months of constant battle for control over it has dwindled the already desperate Republic armada to the breaking point. Meanwhile, the Empire had a fully stocked fleet and battle ready armies, eager for the Republic's utter destruction. However, as a student of history, Helo knew that smaller forces can often turn the tide against the larger, be it the Outlander Armada against the ancient Phaedric Empire or the allies against the First Cognatus Empire. And with any luck, the Battle of Coruanthor would join the annals of such victories.
Chapter II: The Knight and the Warrior Old
The once glimmering cityscape of Coruanthor lay burning, pockmarked by heavy artillery, and smashed by falling starships. As Aoirtae Valaeris looked out at the carnage, she sighed, realising that the defaced city was the handiwork of not only the Empire, but also the Republic defenders. She stared out across the city from the highpoint at Fort Angoul, the primary Republic base in the region. She had just returned with Vanikaimar from a joint operation between the Aldárae Order and Republic Strategic Intelligence, which allowed Fleet Admiral Gialu Kaedar to assault Imperial fortifications in Spira Capulex. As she looked out, her sharp eyes caught even the faintest movement of glass falling from a skyscraper in the far distance, a sheen of sweat covering her face.
Vanikaimar, his face and battle armour covered in scars from a dozen battles, paced behind her, his arms crossed.
Vanikaimar: "Where is the Libertus? I tire of doddling."
Without turning her head, Aoirtae shrugged.
Aoirtae: "She should be here soon."
It felt odd to Aoirtae that despite being considered to be the 'safest' region on the planet for the Republic to operate, the area around Fort Angoul was still ravaged by constant fighting between Republic, Imperial and local resistance forces. Closing her eyes, Aoirtae could feel palpable fear from soldiers and civilians alike in the city below and to be sure, she had felt fear herself when she first saw an Super Star Destroyer hovering in the skies above the once peaceful ecumenopolis. However, with several years of battlefield experience under her belt, such fear was quickly replaced with determination, but even still, she knew that the Republic were becoming increasingly outnumbered.
Her reverie ended with she spotted an Imperial troop movement approaching the fort. Without thinking, her energy blade flew into her hand and ignited, illuminating the night in a purple glow.
Vanikaimar: "What is it?"
Aoirtae: "Below us. Imperials."
Almost as soon as she spoke, the fort's energy shield was hit by concussive green turbolaser blasts from an orbiting Imperial destroyer. As the Imperials approached the now visible shield, Aoirtae finally turned to the Nagith.
Aoirtae: "No rest for the wicked. Come on, we'll ambush them."
Within moments, the sounds of explosions and energy blasts echoed across the city, while the distinctive 'screams' of ASP fighters filled the skies, as well as dogfights once Republic starfighters were scrambled. The grey pavement, which was lined with burned trees and shrubs, was marked by craters and dead civilians, while in the distance, Aoirtae spotted the Imperial troop momement about to move below an arch created when one skyscraper toppled into another.
Aoirtae: "I have a pla-"
Before she could finish, a green blaster bolt came within centimetres of her head. She snapped her attention toward an Imperial sniper to her right, and with a smirk, leaped into the air.
Aoirtae: "Now it's my turn."
Landing behind the sniper, she slashed through his legs and telekinetically sent him smashing into a pile of debris. In the distance, she saw Vanikaimar finish off an Imperial light walker with his staff, causing it to topple onto two Imperial soldiers. Running toward Vanik, Aoirtae felt the ground shake, followed by a loud thud. In the distance, she saw that the Imperials were about to pass beneath the arch with Heavy Walkers. Aoirtae's quick eyes darted to a weakness in the toppled skyscraper. With Vanikaimar by her side, she knelt to the ground and closed her eyes.
Vanikaimar: "What are you doing?!"
Ignoring the question, she visualised the skyscraper in her mindseye, and to Vanikaimar's surprise, he noticed the bottom of the skyscraper begin to shake. Columns began to fall to the ground as the groundquake become increasingly intense. Just as the lead Heavy Walker was about to pass beneath the arch, Aoirtae opened her eyes and lifted her arms into the air. As if wrenched skyward by an invisible force, the skyscraper was torn from its foundations, hovering motionlessly for a few seconds before smashing into the Imperial force, sending debris and rubble everywhere. Moving her arms, Aoirtae created a shield, protecting them from the shockwave.
Panting heavily, Aoirtae managed a strained smile.
Aoirtae: "Never a dull moment. Let's visit warzones more often."
In the skies above, an ASP fighter suddenly exploded as a familar ship shot through the sky. The Auethnen Raptor blasted its way through the Imperial air forces, before descending to Aoirtae and Vanikaimar's position. When the boarding ramp was lowered, Kara Inviá strode to meet them.
Kara Inviá: "Hey guys, how's the holiday on this fine planet going?"
Aoirtae placed her hands on her hips and smiled.
Aoirtae: "Killing Imperials? Fun, but I wouldn't exactly call it relaxing."
The two young women hugged one another closely. Vanikaimar merely walked passed them onto the ship.
Kara: "Good to see you too, smiley."
Vanikaimar: "There will be time for jokes later, youngling."
Kara rolled her eyes as she and Aoirtae moved into the Raptor. Speaking into her com, Kara told Munalur to take off.
Aoirtae: "So, where on the planet are we heading to?"
Kara: "We're heading to space, actually. We're to rendezvous with Commodore Roslia on the Aeolus. He has a plan, I hear. Very hush-hush."
Aoirtae: "Good, I'm sick of these endless retreats. We're under-powered and outnumbered, basically all the time. Just once, I'd like to try it the other way."
Chapter III: The Plan
While Fleet Admiral Willelmus Cretacea had sent every vessel that he could spare from the defence of Capricaerón, Helo managed to persuade him not to deploy the Republica to Coruanthor, lest its absence leave the few Republic core worlds vulnerable to Imperial predation. Almost as soon as Aoirtae, Kara and Vanikaimar appeared on the bridge, the expected transmission from the capital appeared on the holotable, indicating that a figure of high importance was attempting to contact them.
Helo Roslia: "Answer the call, Commander."
Sevine: "I'm trying, but the signal is being jammed by the Imps."
She stained her eyes as she furiously interacted with the console, before looking up as a holographic image of Apollo appeared.
Sevine: "Aha, got it."
Apollo: "Commodore Roslia, thank goodness you could clear up the interference, I have a mission for you. I've been trying to rally support from the Praesators to gather reinforcements, but Adelheidis' rebellion is beginning to look attractive to some. We need to win the Battle of Corunathor, and to do that, we need allies and we need them now."
Vanikaimar: "She should be treated as we treated rebels in my time. Break her skull upon your knee to assert dominance."
Kara: "Oh, come on, you didn't actually do that. ... Right?"
Vanikaimar: "No. But I wish we did."
Aoirtae: "Never change, Vanik."
Helo scratched his chin.
Helo Roslia: "I agree, Mr. President, but what do you suggest? I don't feel comfortable leaving the battle. Our numbers are limited, as it is."
Apollo: "Believe me, I know, Helo, but the situation is desperate. If we lose Coruanthor, we lose the Republic. I need you to travel to Manannán, according to Strategic Intelligence, the Indoctrinate Collective and the Order of Cognalorilos have established a fleet outpost there. Imperial interference has prevented us from getting into contact with them, so I need you to travel there personally."
Apollo: "Not a bad idea. I already have Agent Rhavor Aldorón investigating the possibility of rallying some privateers on Tar Kuuraen. If you're all successful, we can give the Imperials one hell of a surprise."
Vanikaimar: "It better work. As of yet, you are both outnumbered and outgunned. Something must be done."
Aoirtae: "You can count on us, sir. We'll take the Raptor to the Neoarkan Sector. According to Ross, that's where Sesoka's fleet was last spotted."
Apollo: "Best of luck, everyone. I'll see you all on the other side."
Chapter IV: Lost and Found
Staying clear of known Imperial patrols, the Auethnen Raptor travelled toward the galactic west, where according to Aldárae operative Janice Ross, the Resistance was massing in the Neoarkan Sector of the Outer Rim, close to the borders of the Confederacy of Free Planets, which had thus far in the conflict remained neutral. As they travelled down the Rimward Curve past Carindes and Eirinnia, the Raptor's pilot, Munalur, turned from the controls toward Vanikaimar, Aoirtae and Kara.
Munalur: "We should be arriving in the Neoarkan System in a few moments. Must say, I thought Imperial defences would be higher here. Clearly more of their military is engaged at Coruanthor than we thought."
Vanikaimar: "I do not know what to expect of any of this. I am not familiar with any "Confederacies"."
Aoirtae: "It's a long story."
Behind them, an Imperial light cruiser dropped out of hyperspace and locked weapons on the Raptor. The light cruiser opened a channel. With a concerned expression etched on her face, Aoirtae glanced at Kara, who was utterly furious by the Empire's arrival.
Imperial Officer: "Halt in the name of the Imperial Navy! Prepare for inspection!"
Kara: "We're just a cargo ship, captain. What's the harm in letting us pass?"
Imperial Officer: "I shall be the judge of that, citizen. Lower your shields and surrender your ship!"
Kara rolled her eyes, another stick-to-the-point and annoyingly sturdy Imperial officer doing his rightful duty in name of the oh so honorable and benevolent Emperor.
Kara: "Well I tried."
The Aeuthnen Raptor turned around and came lancing across the void toward the light cruiser, laser cannons blazing. Taken by surprise, the light cruiser took evasive actions and returned fire, though the civilian craft was faster than the imperial gunners. The Raptor put up a great fight but was outgunned with the arrival of Gozanti-class that carried and deployed four ASP-fighters. Kara janked at the controls to evade enemy fire though the ASP-fighters were on her tail.
Kara: "Aoirtae, I can't shake them! Call for reinforcements!"
Aoirtae slammed her console.
Aoirtae: "I can't, they're jamming transmissions."
Vanikaimar who manned one of the guns took out one of the persuing ASP-fighters but was unable to shake them off. Kara janked the controls again though the Raptor was hit by one of the turboblasters of the light cruisers. Tolling out of control the interior of the vessel was filled up with the smell of roasted circuits and a little smoke.
As the light cruiser moved in to finish them six fighters dropped out of hyperspace and began targeting the ASP-fighters and the Imperial vessels.
Aoirtae: "Are those ships Republic?"
The lead fighter, a blue colored one escorted by three red fighters began assaulting the ASP-fighters while simultaneously the other two executed a bombing run at the Gozanti-class while firing their torpedoes. The lead fighter opened a transmission.
Recon Leader: "Aeuthnen Raptor, follow our lead, we need to jump out here as fast as possible. Is your hyperdrive working?"
Munalur: "I can get it up and running no problem. But who are you guys?"
Recon Leader: "Don't mind that, we can discuss that later. For now we have to get out of here!"
As Kara recieved the coordinates she followed the fighters and jumped into hyperspace. Exiting it mere minutes later the crew of the Raptor were surprised to see a single ship in front of them, resembling somesort of modified CS-class Corvette, most notable was the large satelitte dish on its back. The ship send out a transmission to dock within the hangar bay and prepare for another hyperspace jump before the Imperials could track them. While inside the hangar, the crew of the Raptor were not allowed to exit their ship and prepared themselves for a visit of the ships commander. Ten minutes later, a Mon Nahdar with a walking stick entered the Raptor.
Aoirtae: "Welcome aboard. Thank you for the help."
The Mon Nadhar simply nodded.
Perriti: "My apologies for the secrecy, but it is vital for this squadron's existence. We will rendezvous with the rebel fleet, your goal to find I heard. You may ask any question you have left, though I might not answer them all to your satisfaction."
Kara: "I think we're just glad to get in touch with the Resistance. We were looking for you."
The Mon Nadhar smiled.
Perriti: "I am not the Resistance. We don't exist."
Aoirtae: "Of course you don't."
The Mon Nadhar raised an eyebrow and leaned on his walking stick, with a slight smile on his face.
Perriti: "We intercepted Imperial messages describing an attack. Putting one and one together I imagened you needed aid. I informed Resistance Command, we should be arriving in mere minutes now."
Munalur: "Excellent, again thank you for your aid."
The Mon Nadhrar nodded and left the Raptor, after dropping out of hyperspace the ship was cleared to depart from the mysterious ship's hangar bay to join the Resistance fleet. Perreti looked at the Raptor disembarking, smiling sadly he followed the ship until it was out of his sight.
Chapter V: The Politics of War
Naelys Valraenos: "The President is grateful you've agreed to meet him, Praesator."
Waron Paratius: "Agreement was irrelevant, Miss Valraenos."
The Praesator of Republica Miraenos, who had been gazing absently from the shuttle's viewport, turned his head to face Naelys Valraenos, President Apollo's special advisor.
Naelys: "I'm sure you'll do fine. He's a straight shooter. You'll know where you stand."
The shuttle touched down on the Presidential Pyramid's sole landing pad on Capricaerón, where the President stood waiting for them, flanked by plume-helmeted Miluiel honour guards. Even before the ramp lowered, Apollo marched forward, hopped onto the ramp and stormed into the ship, his guards close behind. When Paratius' own guards stood in front of him, their pikes in front, Apollo sneered.
Apollo: "Really? I doubt the praesator of Miraenos would appreciate his guards guaranteeing him the loss of some measure of popularity by threatening the President of the Republic."
The guards look at each other for a moment, before nodding, lowering their pikes and letting him pass. Striding into the shuttle's sitting area, Apollo noticed the praesator's surprise, though he quickly gained his composure and stood up, while Naelys moved to Apollo's side.
Waron: "Senator Apollo, I did not expect you to greet me personally..."
Naelys: "That's "President" Apollo, praesator."
Apollo: "You're a difficult man to find, Waron. We've been trying to pin you down for the past three months."
Waron cleared his throat.
Waron: "Yes, well, things have been rather bus-"
Apollo gave an icy smile.
Apollo: "Oh believe me, I know. We're going to lighten your load. Praesator, I'm ordering you to immediately coordinate the state defences of Miraenos to coordinate directly with the Navy."
Waron suddenly regained the confidence that had defined his political career; highlighted in his refusal to aid the Capricaerón government in the aftermath of the Mou'Cyran Cataclysm.
Waron: "I'm sorry, but I have a responsibility to protect my citizens."
Apollo: "They're not your citizens. As President, they're mine and it's my job to protect them."
Waron: "The Cataclysm must have scrambled your head, boy. I won't support your power grab. You are President of nothing."
Apollo: "Not per the constitution, one that I wrote, I might add. Until a vote can be held, I'm the President whether you like it or not. As for your alliance with Adelheidis-"
Waron narrowed his eyes.
Waron: "Adelheidis is a more powerful leader than you'll ever be. I intend to support her bid, and with her at the helm, the Empire will know defeat. She will get allies in the Quadrants behind her as well, something you are clearly incapable of."
Apollo's eyes remained steely.
Apollo: "Praesator Paratius, you have conspired with an avowed traitor to the Republic and have defied a direct order from the President during wartime. You're under arrest for treason against the New Galactic Republic of Cyrannus."
Speechless, the praesator was escorted off the shuttle by Apollo's guards, with the President and Naelys briskly following them toward the entrance to the Pyramid.
Naelys: "You lied to him, sir. You told him that you were willing to discuss independence for Miraenos."
Apollo: "This is wartime, Naelys. And the former Praesator used the destruction of the capital to further his own interests and agenda. For the Republic to survive, sometimes we need to make choices we wouldn't otherwise make. But this'll send a message to the other Praesators not to question the legitimacy of this Presidency, and this Senate, and that if they do, they'll face the appropriate consequences."
Chapter VI: Resistance Command
Janice met her friends just outside the entrance leading into the Resistance Command meeting room. She hugged Aoirtae and was glad she arrive safely.
Aoirtae: "Janice, good to see you're in one piece."
Janice: "I am so relieved, though your arrival must be dire indeed. Command is a bit nervous about you coming here."
Kara: "My father wants us to seek aid from the Resistance to fight against the Empire at Coruanthor."
Janice raised an eyebrow, though admitted Command was a bit careful after the New Republic was losing so much terrain after the Battle of Ambar. She made a gesture to follow her as the group entered the meeting. The room was grey and dull, with little light to ensure its secrecy it felt as an uncomfortable and dense place. The room fell silent upon their entering and Aoirtae eyed the individuals around the holotable weary. In the center stood General Sesoka, flanked by Duchess Kyrsá Nimrais, Lady Syria Achyriona and a holographic image of Lord Ramannis Le Rambo, the four most influential rebel cell leaders. Behind them stood various other resistance commanders, officers and representatives, awaiting what kind of request they would bring, including Colonel Perriti Ackdool.
Kara: "Um, hello everyone. My name is Kara Inviá, a knight of the Aldárae. The Republic is on the brink of defeat at Coruanthor, we need aid from the Resistance if there's any hope of defeating the Empire!"
Voices were raised and heard amongst those gathered, it was no secret the Resistance wanted to take the fighting to the Empire though the battle of Amber left its mark.
Sesoka: "If only we were in a position to send aid, but our resources are stretched thin as it is. Coruanthor is on the other side of the galaxy."
Syria:"Ever since Amber we expected the Empire to be kept occupied with the Republic front opening. Instead we are actively hunted down as well. The resources of the Empire seem limitless."
Aoirtae ran her fingers through her hair.
Aoirtae: "You're helping no one out here in the middle of nowhere, you're needed on the front lines. The Republic is collapsing as we speak! We must fight to save it! Please, rally whatever forces you have to Coruanthor."
The hologram of Ramannis waved a hand in dismissal.
Ramannis: "The Loyalists are too far away to be of aid for one. Secondly, many of our forces are still damaged or in need of repair after that unprepared blunderous battle at Amber. They nearly cut us to peaces there."
Vanikaimar: "The battle of Ambar was a success, avian. But only a fool would turn away the chance at defeating their foe."
Ramannis shot an angry look at the warrior.
Ramannis: "Really? I remember we lost one of our greatest military navy commanders during that battle. Yes, we succeeded in liberating the planet and winning the battle but at a heavy costs. Our fleets were unprepared and untrained."
Vanikaimar: "Better to die fighting, than waste away in the void of space."
The crowd voices raised again, some agreeing with the Serindia Lord others with the warrior. General Sesoka knocked his hand against the holotable.
Sesoka: "We need a decision and we need it now! If the Republic falls, we fall too. It'll be difficult, but we must take the fight to the Empire!"
Syria: "Creeper Cabel will answer your pledge of support in the battle, though preferably not in direct combat. Some of my ships are still damaged."
Aoirtae: "The Republic ships will make up the brunt of the force, we just need others for support."
Syria lowered her head and nodded, soon followed by those who stood behind them and cheered to go into battle. Syria eyes the leaders of the Free Osteola Rebel Cell, they needed their heavy firepower for this battle. Commander Donaró turned this head to face Sesoka, his eyes weary. However, he solemnly nodded his head.
Donaró: "The true sons and daughters of Mandatine will be at your disposal."
Sesoka: "It's decided then."
Sesoka walked toward Aoirtae, Kara and Vanikaimar and extended his hand.
Sesoka: "You'll have your fleets. May the gods watch over us all."
Chapter VII: Gathering Forces
Space over the Osteolan colony of Manannán was clogged with Imperial and Cognatus debris, from a battle fought earlier in the war. However, unlike countless such battlefields, on this occasion, the allies had won. An armada of Unified Order of Cognalorilos and Indoctrinate Collective vessels hung in orbit, with a sparse number of New Republic ships that escaped crushing defeats at Auromunda and Novukanis. Dropping out of lightspeed, the Aeolus signalled its friend or foe tags on allied frequencies and approached the armada.
Once contact had been established with the Herald of Retribution and the Legacy of Cardoni, Helo invited both Voro Acetenus and Commandant Gavakar to meet with him on the Aeolus, an offer they accepted, eager to score a victory against Imperial forces. As Helo walked into the primary conference room of the Aeolus, those around the room momentarily saw him turn his head to the side, as if glancing at an invisible figure.
Sonja: "I've always said you were destined for greatness, Helo. This war is the culmination of so many decades of eventualities."
Helo cast the mysterious Messenger a stern glance, before turning his attention to Voro and Gavakar.
Helo Roslia: "Primarch Acetenus. Commadant Gavakar. Welcome to the Aeolus. It's been quite some time since we last met, in this very room, I seem to remember."
Gavakar: "Yeah, though it seems things only got worse since then."
Voro laughed deeply.
Voro Acetenus: "Ah, but so many glories to be had in the field of starfire and blood."
Gavakar: "All good and well until your capital gets razed off the galactic map."
Voro let out a low rumble.
Voro Acetenus: "Do not goad me, Commandant. The people of Mou'Cyran were victims of insanity, not warfare. I will personally drive my blade into the heart of the Cataclysm's architects."
Gavakar: "Not just Mou'Cyran. Our capital of Narsul is gone. Again. The Empire hit us really, really hard."
Helo Roslia: "And more worlds will follow if we don't manage to turn the tide. Which is why President Apollo needs your help."
Gavakar: "Oh, I'm willing to help. I just need to be assured I'm not sending my soldiers to their deaths."
Voro placed his hand to his chest and bowed his head.
Voro: "If Apollo asks, I will answer with the battlefleets of Cognalorilos. Tell us, Commodore Roslia, what would your honoured clan leader have us do?"
Helo Roslia: "Coruanthor is on the verge of falling to the Empire, and if Corunathor falls, the Republic might well follow."
Gavakar: "Coruanthor it is then. I'll be sending my fleet to help yours."
Voro: "Likewise. Fleetlord Ehtar will remain here, in the event that the Empire seeks to reclaim the south of Coru Secundus. I will personally lead my fleets to your city world, and may the gods grant us victory this day."
Chapter VIII: Arrival at Coruanthor
Space above Coruanthor was clogged with debris from the battle in space, which had been raging almost constantly for over three months. While the Star Destroyer Inexorable was the flagship of the Imperial fleet, in actuality, the armada was commanded from the bridge of the Star Dreadnought Dark Hand, under the direct command of the Phaedric Lord Maethoruin. However, since the Aeolus seemingly fled the system, the Republic had avoided a resumption of direct confrontation, instead concentrating on driving Imperial forces away from Fort Angoul on the ground. However, when it became clear to the Imperials that the Aeolus was merely gathering reinforcements, the battle erupted once again in earnest. Reinforcing Admiral Kaedar and Kuestantine's armadas, Commodore Roslia's reinforcements arrived. New Indoctrinate Collective Cardoni-class battlecruisers, reinforced by Cognatus battleships and destroyers dropped out of hyperspace, followed closely by a motley fleet of Resistance vessels gathered from across the Cluster. Though surprised by the new arrivals, the Empire roared to meet them. Countless ASP starfighters lifted off from their carriers, laserfire erupting across the blackness of space. Meeting them came Republic X-15s, Resistance Creeper-class fighters and Cognatus Tumulus air wings.
With the Inexorable at the helm, the Imperials compressed their fleet into a defensive perimeter around the Dark Hand, while a ring of starfighters launched from the dorsel hangarbay of the Aeolus, with the Auethnen Raptor leading them, with Kara and Vanikaimar manning the turrets. On both sides of the Raptor, two Delta-class starfighters provided support, one piloted by Aoirtae and the other by Janice Ross.
Aoirtae: "Ready to go hunting, guys?"
Vanikaimar: "Let us be done with this."
Joining their flanks were the heavy starfighters from Recon Squadron who would take care of any approaching ASP fighters, allowing the Raptor a free path to execute its mission. Aoirtae brought her starfighter into a steep incline toward the planet's surface, toward the central Imperial Complex now under direct assault by massing Republic and allied forces. Ahead, a squadron of ASP fighters were heading away from the planet directly toward the advancing fleet and with a throttle from the fighter's engines, Aoirtae gunned her engines toward them, lining up her shots and firing. A volley of green blasts erupted from her laser cannons, with each shot hitting the lead ASP, causing it to explode in a fireball which sent debris flying in every direction. The other fighters broke off formation.
Aoirtae: "I'll get the ones on the right. Janice, aim for the ones on the left."
Janice: "Copy that Raptor leader".
Both Delta fighters veered off as they entered the atmosphere, Aoirtae taking the fighters on the right of the Raptor and Janice taking those on the left. However, green laserfire across the cockpit of the Raptor revealed that they had not dealt with the threat. An Imperial X-06i Rapax began its assault just as they began passing the tops of the tallest Coruanthori monads and skyscrapers. Aoirtae did a barrell-roll and increased engine power to lose the Rapax. She scowled when she realised who was piloting the Rapax.
Aoirtae: "It's our old friend, Grand Inquisitor Vandalion."
Vanikaimar: "Terminate that vessel. With extreme prejudice."
The amount of firepower from the Rapax was intense, forcing Aoirtae to engage into maneuvers that would likely kill a non-Aldárae pilot. In the far distance, in front of the Imperial Headquarters, a single Imperial Star Destroyer stood watch—the Accuser under Captain Gaius Prentus. Firing ahead of the strikeforce came a squadron of Republic NRY-155 bombers, which unleashed their payloads of proton torpedoes on the conning tower of the Accuser, as well as the engine emplacements. Titanic explosions rocked the Star Destroyer, which broke off from defending the facility and mustered what engine power remained to escape into orbit. To Aoirtae's surprise, Vandalion's Rapax joined it as it escaped the planet's surface. By the time the Raptor and the two starfighters landed, more and more starships dropped from orbit to fight amidst the clouds, though the team was confident that if they captured the Imperial leadership, as well as the Corunathori Council, the battle would be won.
Chapter IX: Confrontation in the Capital
By the time, Aoirtae, Kara, Vanikaimar and Ross arrived in the Coruanthori council chambers, around which the Imperials had built up an impressive array of defenses, their robes and battlearmour were cut, bruised and burned by almost three hours of intense fighting. The empty council chamber gave them a moment of calm. Panting as she emptied a bottle of water, Aoirtae turned to her comrades.
Aoirtae: "Why would that Vandalion jerk just get up and leave?"
Kara Inviá: "He's a coward and a snake. I'm not surprised."
Aoirtae: "That doesn't explain it."
Vanikaimar: "Filthy Basileus trickery. Expect a problem."
Janice: "We must remain alert!"
Aoirtae reached out with the power of the Light, delving into the surrounding darkness and calm which had suddenly permeated the building. Not ten minutes before, the place was swarming with troopers and even the odd Inquisitor, but now, their every step was marked by a seemingly impenetrable gloom. Something was clearly off, and even Vanikaimar, despite not possessing the powers of Light, could feel it.
Vanikaimar: "Something is lurking the dark. Be on guard."
As they stepped forward into the darkness, Kara suddenly cringed as she stood on something soft. Looking onto the ground, she activated her weapon to illuminate her surroundings, revealing a severed Libertus arm at her feet. Encased in the fine robes of a Corunathori councilor, it became apparent that the chambers was the site of a massacre. All around, bodies covered the floor, what few limbs remained were twisted and contorted into painfully unnatural positions. Pressing on further, they avoided eye contact with the scores of dead, pure terror on their faces.
Kara: "... what monster did this?"
Vanikaimar: "It appears the Empire has taken a few lessons from the Children. This brings back unfortunate memories."
They suddenly heard brisk footsteps approach them, before a figure materialised from the darkness, what appeared to be a humanoid woman, with crimson eyes. The figure's hands were alight with a fiery lightning, setting everything behind her ablaze, completely lighting up the room. The Nagith would take out his bladed staff as he turned to face the entity, clenching his teeth at the sight of her power. Janice unseathed her sabre as well and took a battle stance.
The Phaedric Lord Echoriax smiled wickedly as she approached.
Echoriax: "You know, If it was up to me, I would blasted the entire planet until it turned to glass. It would have been pretty."
She began to circle them like a predator.
Echoriax: "Come on now, don't be shy. I like to know my victim's names."
Vanikaimar: "You talk too much already."
Aoirtae raised her weapon, only for it to be wrenched from her fingers and into Echoriax's waiting hands. The Phaedric Lord examined the weapon.
Echoriax: "Lovely. You must be Aoirtae, I've heard a lot about you."
She tossed it back to Aoirtae, before glancing at one of the mangled corpses on the ground.
Aoirtae: "What have you done?!"
Echoriax let out a short laugh.
Echoriax: "Oh, you mean the Council? They failed to stop the resistance, so I killed those from troublesome areas. And the rest, since I hate odd numbers."
Kara: "You're insane!"
Echoriax: "Insane? I prefer 'differently rational'. Anyway, enough pleasant chit-chat."
Echoriax ignited her blade, her voice sweet despite the poisonous words. She winked at Vanikaimar.
Echoriax: "I think I'll start with you. The big ones always scream the most."
Vanikaimar: "The mad ones squeal the hardest when their limbs are removed from their bodies."
Echoriax giggled like a girl.
Echoriax: "Oh, you I like. I think you've a crush on me!"
Vanikaimar: "I will crush you like an insect."
Janice took stand next to Vanikaimar, bound to aid her friend against this terrible foe. The Phaedric Lord suddenly charged, her two blades ignited, meeting the energy blades of Kara, Aoirtae and Janice at once. Aoirtae looked into Echoriax's eyes, and found only pure and savage hatred. In that instant, Echoriax suddenly dropped into a crouch, swinging her blades in a sweeping arc intended to cut their legs out from under them. Aoirtae sprung and landed in a backflip, slaming her blade toward Echoriax's neck, only to met with one of the blades. The flames caused by Echoriax's lightning flickered light and shadow on their faces, as Echoriax moved swiftly to block each and every movement from her four foes. As Vanikaimar attempted to strike at the Phaedric Lord with his staff, his face was locked in a disgusted frown; her behaviour did nothing to intimidate him, only driving him to be revolted by her presence. As Vanikaimar and Aoirtae kept the lady busy, Janice began gathering her powers in an attempt to use them against her. Echoriax continued hacking and slashing at her enemy's blades, and while it became clear to Aoirtae that she lacked technique and style, she more than made up for it with speed and relentlessness.
Vanikaimar: "The Empire employs animals against us. Surely they must be getting desperate."
Echoriax suddenly jumped backwards and threw her own sabre towards Janice, who was still gathering her power and in somesort of trance but managed to block it, though it proved a distraction. With a telekinetic blast, Echoriax sent them all flying backwards, before she once again leaped through the air with a scream, looking to impale one of them against the already bloody walls. She missed Kara's head by mere centimetres, plunging her blade deep into the side of the room. Suddenly, a shrill whine rose up, leaving Aoirtae with just enough time to realise that a ship had crashed into the complex and exploded, filling the air with smoke and debris. Turning her head from side to side, she looked for Echoriax and her allies, but found only collapsed walls and shattered glass. She once again tried to reach out, and to her relief, she could sense that her friends were still alive. On the other hand, there was no sign of Echoriax. Clearly the Phaedra was powerful, but the blast was clearly strong enough to leave her disoriented.
Through pained coughs, Aoirtae tried to call out.
Aoirtae: "K-kara?! Vanik? Janice?!"
With a grown, the Nagith rose out of a pile of debris, throwing a hand to free himself from the rubble as he rose to his feet, he managed to shield Janice from debris as well who was cuddled underneath him.
Vanikaimar: "I am here, Janice as well."
Kara was close behind him, nursing a slashed shoulder.
Kara: "Ugh, I'm here too. Most of me, anyway... Where's the psycho?"
Vanikaimar: "Hopefully reduced to a squished pile of gore. Hmpf."
Aoirtae: "I can't sense her presence. She's gone."
Vanikaimar: "These are the trusted servants of the almighty Emperor? Idiotic, frenzied children? My people both lived alongside and warred the original Phaedric Empire. This "Order" is an insult to their name."
Aoirtae: "If everyone's in one piece, we should head to the landing pad."
Vanikaimar: "Very well. Get up, Libertus, that's just a scratch."
Kara grumbled as she rose to her feet.
Kara: "Fine. I'll complain later. Let's go."
While stragglers continued to fight against Republic forces for much of the following month, the evening after the mission in the Imperial Headquarters saw the official end of hostilities on Coruanthor. The Republic and their allies had won decisively over the Empire, the first major victory since the Battle of Cadian. The dreadnought Dark Hand, under the command of Lord Maethoruin had escaped the battle, though the Inexorable under Fleet Admiral Adraci was not so lucky, with a rogue Aether-class corvette smashing into the engines as it attempted to flee the system. As it trumbled toward the capital district, Admiral Adraci fled into an escape pod, only to wind up in Republic custody, as his beloved flagship smashed into the complex, destroying much of the remaining Imperial army and forcing Lord Echoriax to escape.
In an address made from the Presidential Pyramid on Capricaerón, President Apollo rallied the people of the Republic to celebrate the crushing Imperial defeat. However, a threat loomed behind his celebratory words, for the flames of civil war were being fanned across the Republic's extragalactic territories. Praesator Adelheidis rallied her forces in preparation for a strike against Apollo's government, while their Rambo allies didn't seem to make respond to this new threat within the Quadrant, or even worse turning a blind eye towards them. Something they did frequently lately. In the outer regions of the Capricorn Sector, a rogue senator thought dead, was preparing to make his move in a decades-long quest for power. The Battle of Corunathor signalled the end of the Coru Secundus Campaign, and heralded the beginning of a new year and a new phase of the war.
The Republic was not the only one in danger, however; a rising threat lurked through Cognatus space, and they demanded retribution for the crimes of the past. And beyond them, a terrible shadow from beyond the very Gigaquadrant loomed, its nightmarish claws extended to prepare their own move upon the unsuspected galaxy, and their arrival would be heralded by the return of an old enemy, who once nearly sundered the whole galaxy in a war of intergalactic proportions, back from the grave.
While the Resistance boosted their ranks with more and more personnel and squadrons after their victories at Ambar and Coruanthor, the Emperor observed all from his distant throne on Orbispira, planning on remove the nuisance. He issued an order to form an elite squadron to hunt down the Cyrandia Resistance, remove them and all who support them from the chessboard and make examples of its leadership.