Here it is: The first episode of my new series, retelling the Star Wars saga as a Hard SF, Transhuman space opera set in the Diaspora RPG Universe. Hope you enjoy!
Major General Joseph Gerard, Mission Commander of the Emperor's System Control craft Devastator, stood erect but at his ease just outside the main passenger air-lock of Shuttle Bay Two. His posture was easy to maintain-the main body of the massive space craft was now in free fall, it's spin stilled and it's ponderous momentum transferred to the main flywheel five hundred meters aft. Only magnetic boots kept Gerard and the squad of white armored Espaciers on the deck.
Great men do not fidget. Gerard reminded himself. And was he not a great man? Did he not command the flagship of the Emperor's Death's Head Constellation? His monstrous ship...two thousand meters long, boasting the largest laser dishes ever mounted on a moving platform - and those considered secondary armaments compared to the hoards of Excalibur lasers and combat drones Devastator could field. No planet in the entire cluster had defenses equal to his mighty rocket's power. Men with such lethal force at their command should not fidget.
The urge was real, however, for Gerard suspected he knew who was coming.
The shuttle was now close enough for the cameras to make out details. It was mostly rockets; a cluster of three chemical propulsion stacks, each with a long radiator boom that was now slowly retracting in preparation for docking. Mated to the propulsion bus was a blended-wing lander that served as command module and habitat. The lander could hold two dozen easily but the manifest claimed only one occupant. The VIP that rated the Commander himself on the quarter-deck with the side party piloted his own transport. There was only one of such rank so eccentric-and so Gerard shifted uncomfortably, despite being a great man.
Soon enough, the Commander's fears were be confirmed. In only a few minutes, the airlock began it's cycle and the heavy gas-tights parted. There before him stood his superior, his new master, resplendent in a glossy black armored space suit whose helmet bore the effigy of the Constellation - the Death's Head, a skull in hard composite with faintly glowing red eyes.
The figure did not move, yet traveled into the receiving bay on puffs of air from a cold-gas maneuvering system. The massive, sepulchral figure was utterly still; he touched no control, made no gesture. Direct neural interface- Gerard swallowed and snapped to attention with his troops. It is him -the cyborg!
"Sir Garth, this is an unexpected pleasure." Gerard was faintly pleased at the steadiness in his voice. "My congratulations on your assignment-"
"You may dispense with the pleasantries, Commander" Sir Garth Walker, Knight of the Void and personal bodyguard to the Emperor, dismissed Gerard with a contemptuous wave. "I'm here to put you and the Devastator back on schedule. The Emperor is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress."
"Our preparations are nearly complete Sir Garth, I assure you!"
"They had best be. We will traverse the Slip knot to Aldebaran in 100 hours."
Gerard's blood ran cold. A hundred hours! That was only four solars - impossible! Yet, what could he say?
"We shall double our efforts, Sir Garth!"
"I hope so Commander, for your sake." The black-clad cyborg produced a holograph of the Imperial Seal, astonishing Gerard. "I have been named by his Majesty the First Space Lord for the Invasion. Effective immediately. You will find me less forgiving than the late Lord Christopher."
"I-I understand, Sir Garth."
Gerard saw his terrified reflection in the black skull's blood-red eyes.
"Forgive me... Lord Invader."