Star Wars Infinities – The Gathering Storm (Part 6 of 8)

SW InfinitiesAnother Friday, another Star Wars post! I’ve been having a lot of fun writing these posts. Revisiting material I created for my campaign, revising some of it, and getting this incredible urge to run this campaign again. Sadly of the group that was playing my game back then two players moved and one is not currently playing due to RL complications. I wonder if it would even be possible to revisit this campaign 5 years after we played it. Yes, all this material I created back then. But enough musings about my game!

This is the last installment of the fiction pieces I wrote for the campaign, this time focusing on Thrawn. In my experience he’s become the Drizzt of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, people either love him or hate him. While I loved Heir to the Empire when it came out, starved for new Star Wars content back in 1991, I now realize that for all the great things in the series, Thrawn as a character has been done to death. So why did I use him? Well one of the players was a BIG fan and I thought he would be a good vehicle to introduce information about a particular Jedi Order. I remember back then someone commented the story was a little “hard-ish” sci-fi for their taste. I don’t see it, perhaps it’s not what they thought of when they thought of Star Wars, but most of my players enjoyed it. So here is my take on the character, hope you like it.

“Open a secure channel to Coruscant. Inform the Director the Gen’Dai is active…

Agent Daala, Republic Intelligence

Lying in Wait

Outboundthrawn“Ship approaching Commodore,” said one of the officers manning the sensors station. Mitth’raw’nuruodo opened his crimson eyes. They seemed to glow in the gloomy cockpit. Almost all lights were turned down and most of the crewmembers around his command chair were eerily illuminated by the glow of their station screens and controls. The Commodore allowed his eyes to get used to the lighting conditions while wordlessly recited an ancient Nikto oath.

Looking out through the bridge viewport he could not see the ship with the naked eye. Checking the chrono in his command station display he knew it was not the decoy arriving early. A quick glance at the display screens around the viewport confirmed the sensor reading did not come from the fighter stationed outside the hydrogen cloud feeding data to his flagship through a comm laser, but from the Kerberos’ own sensors, limited as they were inside the cloud.

Only a starfighter could have come from the aft and gotten so close undetected, crossing the hydrogen cloud left behind by the long dead star in this ancient binary system where the Kerberos hid. The sensors crew attempted anxiously to identify the ship, failing to even get a transponder code reading. Navigating the hydrogen cloud would have been just as hard for the pilot, requiring unusual skill, luck, or something more. “Commodore Thrawn,” said the same officer who had moments ago interrupted his meditation, addressing him by his shorter, easier to pronounce name, nervousness creeping into his voice. “It’s a starfighter sir, the pilot is not responding. Should we power up and take defensive actions?”

“We will do no such thing. Stand down” replied Thrawn in a calm, commanding, baritone voice. “The ship will continue to run essential systems only. Maintain your monitoring of sensor readings from the system. Alert the fighter bay crew we are about to have a ship dock and inform Lieutenant Deyalla she should send a detachment to meet me in the hangar to welcome Lord Windu onboard.”

********

Commodore Thrawn smoothed out the wrinkles in his uniform as the turbolift took him down to the hangar bay across the almost 200 meter long corvette. For a moment he had considered changing into his dress uniform to welcome Mace Windu onboard, but this was an unannounced visit to a ship involved in a military action, his commanding officer would have to be accommodating. Besides he knew Mace would not like to be kept waiting.

He combed back his matted, gleaming black hair with his hands. Switching from full to only nominal life support so suddenly had made the Kerberos humid and stifling; it would become colder and drier the longer they waited. His blue skin contrasted with his green and brown uniform, with its many pocketed vest and prominent shoulder pads, utilitarian and simple, only the rank insignias differentiating his from that of any other officer in the Leoco Actum Fleet.

His eyes traced the turbolift progress in the display console. The Kerberos was the flagship of the Leoco Actum Jedi Order Fleet, a Duro Shipwright Shipyards manufactured Marauder-class corvette modified to his specifications. A top of the line hyperdrive, sensor array and better shielding had been added, the hangar bay expanded to hold the modified fighters, and the ship was rigged so a Gravity Well Projector could be attached to the hull.

As the turbolift arrived at the hangar bay its doors opened. There waiting for him was Lieutenant Deyalla with an honor guard. The Zabrak had changed into her dress uniform and tied back her hair into a long braid, her horns prominent and crown like. “Well done Lieutenant, let us welcome our guest.”

Flanked by the honor guard with Lieutenant Deyalla a few steps behind him Commodore Thrawn marched across the hangar. The crew had already docked Windu’s arrowhead shaped modified Delta 7, the Unrelenting. The one man fighter was painted all black and Jedi Lord Mace Windu stood by as the crew removed his black domed astromech droid. “Make sure you run a diagnostic on the droid the hydrogen cloud seems to have affected his sensors,” said the Jedi with the ease of one accustomed to command.

Mace WinduA few steps from him Thrawn stopped. With a slight bow he said, “Welcome onboard Lord Windu, you honor us with your visit.” Mace Windu, leader of the Leoco Actum Jedi Order turned around, the hood of his dark brown cloak pulled back. His shirt, vest, trousers, belt and boots all the Order’s traditional black. He held his black leather gloves in one hand, the silver and gold hilt of the lightsaber hooked to his belt drew the eye to it, breaking the unity of the solemn uniform.

Lord Windu signaled the Commodore to come closer and warmly greeted him, placing both hands firmly upon his shoulders. “Good to see you old friend. Forgive me for arriving unannounced, but I had to come and see why you had taken my flagship, unescorted, and unannounced, into action.” Letting go of Thrawn, both men commenced to walk down the hangar. “I could say the same my Lord, you have traveled unescorted out to the Mid-Rim, so close to Hutt Space.” Mace stopped and looked at Thrawn, his smile vanishing momentarily, “That is why you are here? Mitth’raw’nuruodo,” he said trying to pronounce his full name, and failing miserably, just as a parent does when scolding a child, “we faced them and destroyed most of their ships. These Hutt pirates are no longer our concern!”

Thrawn examined Windu as he spoke. He looks tired, he thought. The lines around his eyes and mouth emphasized it. They were absent when they had met years before while Thrawn still served the Chiss Ascendancy Expeditionary Fleet; when Mace had saved his life. He no longer shaved his head. Instead he had grown out his hair, but kept it cropped short. It seemed to Thrawn his hairline was receding a little. He had grown a goatee, and around his chin the hair had turned gray and white, giving him a somber and dignified look.

Thrawn turned away from his superior officer and continued at a leisurely pace. “This small fleet of Hutt Privateers will re-supply, gather new ships and return to the protectorates of the Leoco Actum unless we eliminate their leader. I dared not deploy the Fleet for this, but I believed it was within my discretion as Commodore to deploy the Kerberos for this action.” He stopped and paused for a moment, never turning to look at Lord Windu, “I could recall the fighters and order a return to the nearest protectorate if you so order.”

Windu sighed, “We are already here. I trust you have a brilliant strategy planned out. I would not be here otherwise.” Thrawn’s comlink burst into a cacophony of voices as several different stations tried to report all at once. “Silence,” ordered the Commodore calmly, “Sensors stations, report.” “The transport ship just came out of hyperspace Sir.” Thrawn allowed himself a brief smile, “The game is afoot Lord Windu. If you will accompany me to the bridge I shall demonstrate my plan.”

********

Lord Windu and Commodore Thrawn strode into the bridge, Lieutenant Deyalla and the honor guard standing to the back. The room was better lit and the Commodore was satisfied that his crew had followed the plan to the letter, activating the life support systems and powering up other vital systems. With Lord Windu standing by his side, Thrawn sat on his command chair, casually scanning his station displays, “Report…”

“The transport ship has assumed its orbit around the sixth planet Sir.” The viewport suddenly no longer showed the space outside the Kerberos but instead a grainy image of an old YG-4210 light freighter in orbit around a reddish planet. The quality of the image would not improve, fed to the Kerberos through the comm laser by the fighter outside the hydrogen cloud. “Continue scanning, our targets will arrive shortly,” turning to his guest Commodore Thrawn calmly explained himself. “The freighter is carrying a precious cargo of Cortosis”, seeing his Commanding Officer’s reaction, the Commodore suppressed a smile. “Yes the lightsaber resistant material, costly and rare. The freighter is escorted by a lone Leoco Actum Warrior. I made sure that despite the precious cargo being unprotected; these facts were made known to the right people in the underworld.”

Mace Windu seemed concerned for a moment, but any doubts quickly disappeared from his countenance. Thrawn was unsure if the Jedi Lord managed this through his mastery of the Force or confidence in his Fleet’s commander. Battle station alarms in the bridge brought the Commodore back to reality. Turning to the viewport Thrawn scanned the scene as the bridge crew began to report. Various ships entered real space outside the sixth planet’s gravity well. The sensors crew confirmed what he was seeing in the displays: three escorts and a frigate. All four in such a dilapidated shape they gave the appearance of needing constant repair to keep their heavily modified hulls from falling apart.

“Impossible to determine the model of the ships Sir, they’ve masked their transponder codes, but they match the description of the pirates.” Leaning back on his chair the Commodore ordered, “Monitor their communications and report what you find. Power up all remaining systems and prepare the Kerberos for battle. Have the fighter relaying sensor readings to us do so as well. Inform all other pilots to stand by.”

Lord Windu examined the scene with great interest, without turning to him; the Commodore continued to explain. “The hydrogen cloud we are in right now makes us harder to detect, although any moderately capable being manning sensors in the frigate should be able to determine something is amiss now that we have activated all systems. But you also knew this. You used the cloud to your benefit as you approached us.”

In that lull the sensor’s officer interrupted the conversation “Sir, the ships have detected the fighter relaying sensor readings to us and the frigate has deployed fighters to intercept.” “Have our decoy disengage and retreat,” Thrawn replied. “He is to draw the fighters as far away from the frigate as possible. What about the communications?” The sensor’s officer actually walked from his station to the Commodore’s chair. “The escorts and fighters are communicating in Huttese Sir, but as you predicted, the frigate is broadcasting all communications in Nikto” This seemed to break Mace’s concentration and he turned to Thrawn with a mystified look.

With great satisfaction Thrawn answered the unspoken question, “Go back and examine all the raids, all the attacks in your protectorates. They all targeted Leoco Actum’s holdings or places where the Order’s Jedi congregate. All attacks were frontal and few were ambushes or raids. In fact those ships involved in ambushes and deceptions were often left unsupported when we retaliated.” Sensor’s flashed as the enemy fighters passed a pre-established distance. “Fighters engage, concentrate on the escorts.” The eleven Cutlass-9 Patrol Fighters lying in wait in the hydrogen cloud suddenly activated their hyperdrives, vanishing into hyperspace only to reenter realspace seconds later, pulled out by the planet’s gravity well in a dangerous micro-jump.

Without delay the fighters engaged the escorts. The pirate’s frigate opened fire on the transport in orbit trying to disable its engines, ignoring the surprise attack. Lord Windu objected to the use of the micro-jump but the Commodore waived his protest and continued. “I learned from my sources that the leader of the Hutt Privateers was a Nikto. Studying his attacks I was convinced that what my sources informed me was correct. He fancies himself a follower of the ancient Nikto Morgukai cult. Their hatred for the Jedi was well known and they often employed Cortosis in their armors and weapons. I studied their oaths and teachings, and knew he would not ignore this opportunity to strike at the Jedi and procure the ship’s cargo.”

As Lord Windu smiled Commodore Thrawn knew the Jedi at last understood his plan. “The Morgukai had a strict code of honor and I knew the leader of these pirates would not ambush the ship. And his false honor would lead him to take the bait despite the obvious risks. And here we are…” With the sensor readings from the ship outside the cloud no longer available the Commodore straightened in his chair, “All stations ready to jump to lightspeed. We will engage the frigate as soon as we exit hyperspace following the micro-jump. Once the frigate is destroyed the escorts will likely disengage and run. The fighters are to give pursuit, the privateer fighters are likely to give them support, have them clean up no one of them leaves the system.”

Mace turned to Thrawn and asked, a little perplexed, “You knew he would not ambush you that he would be bound by his pride and honor to spring your trap, yet you lie here in wait for him?” Commodore Mitth’raw’nuruodo looked at him with his scarlet eyes, a little amused by the notion, blue features totally calm before the engagement, “I my Lord have no such compunctions!”

Next week: I’ll share with you a trick I used to hype up my players back then for the game, text message (or MSM messages). It developed into an ongoing exchange with my players as we built up momentum for the game. But that’s for next week…

And remember, Star Wars, all associated characters and images are copyright of Lucasfilm (except the cropped picture from Room 1408 which I believe  belongs to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and I use them here only as a fan creating an RPG campaign.

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