Champions of the Force Revisited
by Gran Admiral Sean

Chapter 2

In the stillness of space near the planet Kessel, the enormous gray expanse of the Imperial Star Destroyer Vengeance emerged from hyperspace. The great ship slowly turned to bring its sensors to bear on the large group of black holes known as the Maw Cluster. With a full sensor scan in progress, a dozen probe drones were released from the ship's cavernous hangar, and sent speeding toward the Maw.

"Probes are launched and operational, Sir," the sensor operator reported to the captain.

"Good. Let me know as soon as they register the gravitational pulls."

"Yes, Sir."

Captain Grakkis paced slowly across the bridge, considering his situation. This was the third time he had come to this miserable sector of space to probe the Maw Cluster. The top secret research base called Maw Installation was at the eye of that storm, and it was his job to find a safe way through the black holes' gravity maelstrom. Wonder weapons were reputed to exist there, though the captain had his doubts. These things are always exaggerated, he thought. Is it really worth wasting all of those expensive new probes? Well, who was he to question the orders of the Admiral? Still, there were other things that needed to be done...

"Sir, the probes are sensing increased gravity interference."

"Good. Put them on screen."

The computer screen above the scanner console showed the twelve probes approaching the fuzzy boarder of the Maw's gravity field.

"Probe number three is losing it, sir."

"I see it. Keep monitoring the others."

Probe three had indeed "lost it," and plunged into one of the black holes. The eleven remaining probes continued on, providing constant updates on their progress.

"Five and twelve are showing excessive stresses. Number two is... gone. Contact lost. I think the stress was too much. Number ten is looking good so far. It registers the least stress of the remaining probes."

The captain nodded, and waited. That was all he could do. The sensor officer read off the status readings of the probes. One by one, they blinked off the screen, overcome by the gravity of the Maw Cluster. Soon, probe ten was the only one left.

"Sir, probe ten has yet to register hazardous stress levels. It just might make it."

"Good. Maybe we can finally get this job finished and get to more important business."

Probe ten plunged deeper into the maw, passing between the black holes, seemingly immune to the chaotic gravity fields.

"Sir, probe ten has not registered any indication of Maw Installation. It seems to have found a clear route through the cluster, but not to the Installation."

"Maybe our lucky probe still has some luck left. Alter its course, and send it more in the direction of the center of the cluster."

"Yes, Sir."

Probe ten's "luck" had just run out. As soon as its course was altered, it registered intense gravity, and began plummeting into a black hole.


"I know," Grakkis sighed. "Prepare the next set of probes..."