Chapter Twelve --Betrayal

"All shields up, Marzid, prepare for evasive manuevers." -- Ki Adi Mundi

Ki Adi Mundi was not a military mind, nor did he particularly care for the interworkings of starships and warp drives. Nevertheless, he had gone over in extensive detail with Admiral Tarkin the list of ships, weapons and technologies that Dooku would potentially throw at them during the raid on Ponscii.

With that in mind, Adi Mundiís brain easily grasped what was going on as the stealth shuttle was wrenched back into real-space. Tarkin had mentioned new technology called an Interdiction Cluster.

Crimelords had stolen the plans from the technologyís creator and while it had not been perfected, some degree of success had been achieved. In essence, the cluster was mounted on a craft, usually a capital ship lacking weapons or hyperdrive itself, for the cluster would demand some 65-75 percent of a shipís power source for its own devices. In essence, the cluster allowed a ship to emulate a much larger body of mass, say a moon or asteroid, and thus, pull ships out of hyperspace as a gravity well.

Adi Mundi had heard of wealthy crimelords illegally buying the shipping routes of major corporations, then setting up their clusterships to pull the freighters out of hyperspace and plunder them.

The only problem was one had to know the exact vectors of a ship in hyperspace and its exact time passing through a system to successfully pull a vessel back into real-space.

It was not an impossible task if you were preying on merchants ... but to use it against the most top-secret mission of the Clone Wars, well, one did not need to be a master of the Force to sense the taint of betrayal here.

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As the starlines blurred back to normalcy, Adi Mundiís worst fears were confirmed. He barely sensed Plo Koon entering the cockpit behind him as he and the shipís pilot, a Rodian named Marzid gaped in shock at the armada that suddenly surrounded their shuttle.

"What is ..." was all Koon got out before he too stopped and stared at the firepower hanging in space like a deadly spider anticipating its prey. Huge capital frigates bristling with weaponry formed an arc around the shuttle.

Adi Mundi spotted the clustership off the starboard bow off the largest ship in the fleet. Its odd, honey-combed shaped clusters glowed visibly with the after-effects of use.

"We are being hailed, Master Jedi," Marzid said, his voice shaking.

"Acknowledge them, on screen."

It came as no surprise to either Jedi Master when Darth Tyrannusí hooded face appeared on the monitor.

"Incoming shuttle, you are trespassing in our territory, your punishment death. Oh, and Master Adi Mundi? Give my best to Skywalker."

The screen blinked off

"All ships are powering up their weapons, Master Jedi," Marzidís voice quavered harder.

"All shields up, Marzid, prepare for evasive manuevers."

Even as Adi Mundi gave the order, he felt despair for the first time in his life. Marzid fought with the controls, shaking them, then smashing his fists against them.

"Theyíve fixed a tractor beam on us, Master Jedi, I donít believe we can break fre-"

The first turbo-laser blast caught the shuttle straight across the bridge, tearing through its too-weak shields and ripping a table-sized hole in the shipís roof.

In the main compartment, Narcen had sat for two tense moments, feeling dread from the cockpit and felt his own rush of panic. His worst fears were realized as the green energy shredded the shipís hull, and he saw a glittering array of stars.

The stars were the last vision Narcen ever had; as the shipís artifical atmosphere collapsed and the vacuum of space rushed in, crushing the internal organs of Narcen and every other Jedi in the ship.

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From his throne room on Ponscii, Darth Tyrannus smiled from beneath his hooded robe as the Jedi shuttle was shattered by turbo-laser fire. He moved his hand and the screen split in two, showing the commander of his navy, Admiral Darsten, standing at rapt attention, waiting his lordís next command.

"The shuttle is completely annihilated, Darsten?"

"Yes, Lord, how shall we proceed from here?"

"Power down all shields please, Darsten, all ships."

For all his military training, Darsten flinched at the command.

"Sir"

Tyrannusí tone changed, his eyes seemed heavier and his hand moved subtly as he repeated the order slowly.

"You will power down all shields, Admiral, all ships. You will send all crew to their quarters and return to your own. You will remain there until instructed by me and me alone."

Darstenís eyes glazed over in turn. His hand raised slightly, then lowered it.

"Yes, Lord, as you wish." -----------------

Four hours later, the Republican Navy, under the command of Admiral Tarkin, came out of hyperspace to find Dookuís main task force powered down and helpless, just as intelligence had reported.

Tarkin had launched his fighters and attacked without remorse, not giving the rebellion forces time to power up their shields or even turn and return fire.

Tarkinís vice-admiral found it odd that the admiral did not push on to Ponscii, to help the Jedi mop up the situation, but he said nothing. Tarkin was a tactical genius, and was a close confidante of the Chancellor. Naris Ozzell knew that if ever wanted and Admiralship of his own, mouthing off to his superiors would not be the way to go.

The fleet turned as one, and jumped back into hyperspace, returning to the galaxyís hub victorious.