One of the details that sets Empire in Flames apart from other SWGEmu-based servers is a focus on story. While roleplaying alone cannot sustain a server, it can be an important part of the playerbase’s activities. The live Starsider server is a great example of that.
Rhaze Durile was a mainstay figure in the RP community on Starsider. As an Imperial Inquisitor, he provided a steady stream of story-driven events over a number of years. Although he currently is focusing on Star Trek Online, he is planning to return when Empire in Flames launches to run another long-term campaign. Rhaze will be a GM in-game to allow him to more easily create the epic setups he specialized in back on the live servers.
As part of the setup, he’s writing a serialized story to set the stage. This is the second part.
Sergeant Major Tarv Gelari moved slowly down the center aisle of the assault shuttle, checking the readiness of his assault squad. He knew and trusted his men, but if the past few weeks had taught him anything, it was the small details that got you killed. The Emperor and Lord Vader had learned that the hard way.
Tarv had been a raw recruit fresh out of the Imperial Academy when he was hand-picked by Inquisitor Durile to serve in his elite unit, called Spectre Troopers – a top secret branch of the Imperial Stormtrooper Corps that the Inquisitor hand-picked for latent Force Sensitivity.
Tarv’s squad had also been selected by the Inquisitor and they had been personally trained, in secret, by the Inquisitor. They were not trained in any archaic doctrine like the Jedi, but only how to use the Force in martial combat…to use it like the weapon it was. Tarv liked that. When you cut the dogma out of it, the Force was just another extension of a person’s intent. It was intent that controlled weapons. It wasn’t the blaster that killed Tarv’s enemies, it was his intent to use the blaster that killed his enemies. The same applied to the Force that he and his squad now commanded.
Their secret training had been hidden even from the Emperor in his final days, and Tarv understood why. Inquisitor Durile told him how his first recruits, led by a man named Apo, had turned on the Inquisitor because they didn’t understand his purpose. Tarv and his squad did. They would see Durile’s vision realized.
Tarv gave a thumbs up when the pilot announced they were nearing the drop zone. He held onto the railing to stabilize himself as the drop ship bucked against the turbulence of atmospheric entry. His black stormtrooper armor reflected the red interior lights and gave him the appearance of a man bathed in the blood of his enemies, something Tarv secretly craved.
He removed his helmet and cradled it in his free hand, revealing his scarred face, shaved head and one milky white eye…his “battlefield medals” as he liked to think of them. “Alright! Listen up!” His squad immediately gave him their undivided attention. “In a few moments, we will be making a planetary night drop from high altitude. I want equipment checks and verification of functionality now!”
He nodded at the calls of “Check!” from the squad, as each member verified their equipment’s functionality. Once that was done, Tarv spoke up once more. “Our target is an artifact inside a former Jedi stronghold. The Inquisitor has provided us with a layout, including where the artifact is stored.
“Intel has had eyes on the place for days. Although there is no noticeable rebel activity, there has been some movement in and around the temple. We suspect smugglers or Jedi cultists. Our orders are to neutralize these threats, if encountered, with extreme prejudice.”
He looked around to his squad to make sure the orders were clear and then continued, “We run silent on this one. Switch your comms to internal only. The structure’s internal map will be on your heads-up display.”
The drop ship touched down near the target on the planetary night side. Tarv and his team moved silent and swiftly up to the first checkpoint. The area around the target was fairly open wilderness with little cover. The only sign of civilization was the small speeder parked outside the target, which looked like little more than a pile of rocks with a small cave at the base. Inquisitor Durile told Tarv the ancient Jedi often liked to build their temples and strongholds to resemble naturally occurring structures in nature. That was often as a means of deception to prevent others from finding their places of power.
Tarv had to admit the tactic was sound. If he didn’t know better, he’d say he was looking at a cave with no more function to it than a smuggler’s drop point. He waved his men forward and made his way to the entrance, which was oddly open to the air and no obvious defenses immediately visible.
This only served to set Tarv’s nerves on edge. There was no light, and the only way Tarv could see was thanks to his night vision from his helmet. Weapons at the ready, he and his men moved forward slowly. The cave led them down a winding path that eventually opened into a large cavern carved into the rock. Ahead of them was two large stone doors with some type of symbols intricately carved into the surface.
On either side of their path was large pools of water that was so still, it looked like glass. The cavern stretched up into the darkness, and was quiet as a tomb, until…
“You don’t belong here.” The voice echoed all around them.
Tarv brought his weapon up and started scanning all around him for the source of that voice. “Identify yourself!”
Movement near the doors caught Tarv’s attention. A slender figure stepped out from behind a rock near the door, and a sound Tarv was all too familiar with in his training sessions with Inquisitor Durile echoed in the cavern, sending waves of dread up and down Tarv’s spine. The snap-hiss of an igniting lightsaber was followed by the green glow of its blade chasing away the shadows in the cavern.
Tarv switched off night-vision to avoid being blinded by the sudden appearance of the light. The man holding it looked to be in mid-twenties or early thirties. He held his blade angled toward the ground with his free hand behind his back. His features were chiseled. His build was lean and athletic. He repeated his warning. “You don’t belong here.” Then, without another word, he launched himself at Tarv and his men.
Tarv grimaced. “Krife.”