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Encounter At Bie'Lek - Chapter 3

Written by: Hawkins and posted on: Sep 12, 2015

 

Encounter At Bie’Lek

By CM Hawkins

Chapter 3

Admiral Elwood sat behind his desk, facing towards Vice Admiral Pellaeon, and the holographic projections of and Vice Admiral Crsepe and High Admiral March. He glanced around the room, pausing to review each member of the Admiralty Board, and the guest at this particular table, High Admiral Frodo March, Commodore of the ISDII Warrior Battlegroup. Each looked intensely focused; a look he knew came from the thought of their upcoming operations against the New Republic.

For all their talk of peace, the Republic had began to make inroads to territory that the Emperor’s Hammer considered their own. There had been a long political dispute over the systems that bordered the space controlled by the Emperor’s Hammer and that of the New Republic – both sides claiming that they fell under their jurisdiction. Until now, the matter had been left open, neither side prepared to move on the matter, either politically or militarily. The Rebublic had enough trouble with other Imperial Remnants, and could little afford to open another front against a force they had a long standing non-aggression treaty with. Nor could it be easily afforded by the Emperor’s Hammer. The fleets they commanded were formidable, but many key assets were frustratingly unavailable. The SSSD Sovereign had long been under refit and was not yet battle-ready. Several front line fighter Squadrons remained under full strength.

Nevertheless, it became apparent that Republic citizens were moving to colonize habitable planets within the disputed borders. Elwood had wondered whether this was simply the ignorance of foolish prospectors, unthinkingly blundering into a politically volatile area, heedless of the danger, or whether it was a clandestine move by the Republic to establish colonies that would re-enforce their claim on Imperial systems. There was an outside possibility that this was, in fact, the first play in a new military deployment – the Republic preparing bases from which to launch attacks deep into Emperor’s Hammer territories, though Elwood doubted it. The Republic was less bold than they had been when they were still called ‘Rebels’. However, it would be foolish to assume anything but the worst, and so plans were now well underway to repulse the Republic advances with a show of force that would ensure the Republic never dared cross Imperial borders again. Or, at least, police their own imbecilic citizens more efficiently.

Elwood could see these same thoughts passing across the faces of his comrades. It would be his prerogative to make them wait until he was good and ready, but such hubris had been the downfall of the Empire, and he would not allow the Emperor’s Hammer to suffer such ignominy. He addressed the assembled officers.

“Admirals, I regret to have drawn you away from your current operations, but there is a matter we need to discuss.”

“Our forces are all fully prepared for the assault upon the New Republic infringements into our territory, Admiral. All other operations have been concluded, and we are on schedule to arrive in our target system. What other matters are there to discuss?” Asked March, a hint of anger held only just in check within his voice. Perhaps it was a trick of the holographic image flickering as the data was processed and transmitted over barely imaginable distances, but Elwood doubted it. March was a proud Admiral with an enviable battle-record to uphold. Any distraction from that effort would no doubt be a source of frustration for him.

“We have found the Eldridge.” Elwood replied.

The room went silent. The hum of the holograph projectors was suddenly unusually loud and intrusive.

Pellaeon was the first to break the silence.

“Has anyone attempted to contact Fleet Admiral mBind? Has the Phoenix been contacted?”

“Ender is not available.” Elwood replied, curtly. “We must deal with this without him.” Once more he reviewed those he had gathered together to share this new data with. The same intensity of thought was still there, but it was now tinged with an edge of dark curiosity.

“Very well,” said Crsepe, after a long while, “Where is she?”

“As you are aware,” Elwood began, “The Emperor’s Hammer has redirected its efforts towards the expulsion of New Republic forces from our territories. Prior to this, we had been scouting out areas of the outer rim for potential colonisation and resource acquisition.”

“We are well aware of our previous operations, Admiral.” March interrupted. “And our current operations are pressing. The Warrior has a great deal to accomplish on behalf of our fleet, and I do not wished to be delayed from attending to those duties, not even for the Eldridge.”

“Your dedication is commendable, Admiral March,” Pellaeon said, “And no one is questioning the contributions of the Warrior to the Emperor’s Hammer, nor do any of us wish to be delayed from our current missions.” He turned his attention towards Admiral Elwood, “and so, Admiral, I am sure you can reassure us that this diversion is of the utmost necessity.”

“Quite so,” Elwood replied, and then continued “A probe sent to investigate an uncharted asteroid belt close to the galactic rim discovered what appears to be an abandoned mining facility. The probe was alerted to its location by some highly irregular energy signatures - signatures that match those of the Eldridge.”

“Can we be sure they are from the Eldridge?”asked Crsepe.

“Not entirely,” Replied Elwood, “But the signatures are too alike to ignore. We must investigate, and if the Eldridge is found, recover it. The secrets it holds would not only ensure we can repulse this, and any future, New Republic advances, but tip the balance of power across the entire galaxy in our favour. We are all aware of the potential here, gentlemen. I would have not have called you here otherwise.”

“Our fleets are almost entirely deployed in preparation for our forthcoming operations. What do you suggest?” March asked.

“We must send an investigation expedition,” said Crsepe, “Verify if this is indeed the Eldridge. This cannot wait. If there is even a remote possibility that we could use the technologies the Eldridge contains to aid us in our battle against the New Republic, it must be retrieved quickly. To delay may cost us an opportunity to make an emphatic statement against the Republic.”

“Agreed,” replied Elwood. “Retrieval of the Eldridge at the earliest opportunity must be a top priority, and I can see we are in agreement that it would be desirable to do so with such alacrity that would enable us to put what we recover to use against this latest Republic threat.” Elwood waited to see that each admiral was prepared to accept his words. Crsepe and Pellaeon were already nodding the accent. Elwood turned to the projection of March.

“Admiral March, what are your thoughts?”

March understood the implication, and smiled to himself.

“I think my Battlegroup could be of assistance in this matter. Besides, we need to give you all a bit of chance to reap some glory. I can spare the Aedgillis, perhaps a corvette or two, but no front-line squadrons. They are already tasked for our upcoming operations.” March said, firmly. “Rho, Squadron, however, are just out of their proving operations and are currently aboard the Aedgillis. They were to report to the Warrior to act as a reserve, but I am confident their services can be put to other uses.”

“You are most generous, High admiral,” Elwood replied, smiling as he filled his voice with exaggerated graciousness. “Then it is agreed. The Aedgillis and Rho Squadron will be tasked to investigate the mining operation, and report back. Can I leave you to brief them, Admiral March?”

“Consider it done.” March smiled, and cut his projection.

The three remaining admirals sat for a moment, each lost in their own contemplation. The implications of rediscovering the secrets of the Eldridge were too tantalising to ignore, and the strength the Emperor’s Hammer would gain by having such a ship under their control once more made it all the more urgent.

A chink of glass broke the growing silence in the room. Elwood placed three crystal tumblers on the desk before him, and poured out a measure of Seikohsa Liquor into each. He stood, and handed one to each of his fellow admirals, before resting back against the front of his desk.

“Tell me,” Elwood said, in a voice that was utterly empty of the weight of the matters just discussed, “How are the preparations to welcome our Republic neighbours advancing?”

 

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