Author's Note: Emperor's Fist evolved originally as an elite conglomeration of Avenger and Rapier Squadrons. At this point in history though, Emperor's Fist was the precurser to what eventually became TAU training Squadron.

- Aero, Dec. 8, 2000

Crimson Heart

The door slid open with a hiss, and the light of the turbolift fled out into the infernal darkness of the chamber. The two massive Imperial Guards, personal attendants of the Emperor himself, stepped out and flanked the elevator's entrance.

The man, dwarfed by the imminsity of the red-suited guards, raised his head with pride and stepped into the darkness before his eyes could adjust. He walked forward with a staunch, determined stride, and tripped on a stair before he finally gained sight. The chamber was a vast hall. A gigantic throne sat atop the stairs, facing a night-time image of the vast Imperial City. A shadowy silhouette stood off to the right of the throne. A small knot formed in the man's stomach.

It was a powerful voice that awoke him from his silent trance. Melodic, intoxicating. "Welcome Orion. I have been expecting you." The massive throne turned 180 degrees to face him. The figure on the throne was buried in a lightless shadow. There was a slight nod from the figure of shadow, standing to the right. And Orion knelt.

* * * * *

Orion's head jerked up reflexively as Ajax strode through the office doorway. Ajax was dressed in full uniform, olive from head to toe. There was a wry grin on the Lt. Commander's face. "Heads up, Commander. I heard the Captain, and I don't mean Aero, is making inspections."

Orion only nodded, trying to regain his composure. The door slid open again, admitting Lt. Elladan. Elladan was always grinning about something. "Hey Boss!"Elladan shouted. And grinned, again. "What is my job again?"

Orion rolled his eyes. "You, Lieutenant, are the Liason Officer."

Elladan slouched. "What exactly does a liason person do?"

Ajax took the cue. "Liason officers are in charge of manifesting materials for use of the squad. So if I say 'I need a beer', you get it, Ell." Ajax chuckled. Ell's face looked kinda screwed over. Orion's face looked a little perkier at the thought though.

"Despite your cold abuse of my beautiful body, and not to mention my supreme ego, I stole that line from Aero, I will still do my duty. I am proud to give you my first acquisitions for you, Commander, as liason officer." Orion eyebrows were curiously raised. "I," Elladan began, long-toned, "...just happened to be walking by Dengar's office, and saw, Captain Sithguy chewing out the jack-ass himself. I did manage to get a peek at Dengar's face, and of course he sure didn't look concerned, but I seem to recall Sithguy, er..Captain Sithguy complaining about the lack of work going on, and more notably, that lack of apparant work on Dengar's desk. Now tell me, have you ever seen Aero's desk clean? No. Does he ever get chewed out? Nope.. And have you ever seen him touch one of those papers? Only to put his head down." Elladan laughed, and his two COs joined in.

But Orion was already putting stacks of papers on his desk in front of him.. some dusty folders containing several-week old reports. "Good job, Ell." Orion began, as the door once again hissed open. "Why Hello Captain!" Orion finished.

Sithguy looked properly affronted, "Enough with the small talk, Commander, just what do you think you're doing? Lounging about like this is some sort of ladies' social?! And don't think that just because Captain Invader flies with you, that you'll get out of it when I turn you in for misuse of time, resources, and management!"

Ajax silently mouthed "BEER," and Elladan burst out laughing.

"Is there a Problem, Lieutenant?" Sithguy's voice was liquid death. Ell went rigid.

"No Sir!" Elladan's reply was by-the-book Imperial, even to the tinge of arrogance. Orion smiled.

Sithguy turned back to Orion as Orion's smile vanished. Then he noticed all the ruffled papers on Orion's desk. Orion placed the datapad down before him with his squad roster opened. Sithguy had not seen Orion pick it up when the Captain had entered. Sithguy's features however, softened. "Now, what were we up to, Orion?" Orion handed Sithguy the datapad bearing yesterday's evaluations.

"Why is only half the squad evaluated, Orion? Xizor and Poof are due for qualification next month."

"I apologize Captain,"Orion began,"Captain Aero has been under the weather of late, and his fallen behind due to illness. With Vainquer on shore-leave, and Ajax filling our reports concerning squad readiness and effectiveness, and I doing logistical and tactical diagramming, it becomes hard to get to some of the other pilots. But I assure you they are working over-time in the sims when Emperor's FiRst, er, Fist*, aren't...learning.

A blink was all the response Orion got for several seconds. "Carry on, Commander". Sithguy glided into the hall.

* * * * * *

Several pilots arrayed in midnight flight suits bearing a Nova star on the shoulder patch stood in formation before the simulators. Apart from a sparse number of technicians and pilots scurrying about, no one else was in the room.

"Excellent work, NOVA," Orion said," You have just completed annual qualification. Your scores will be on your datapads by the beginning of the week, as well as the scoring leaders. Captain Aero?"

Nodding, Aero "You have just completed a simulated reenactment of the Battle of Sluis Van. And I must admit, your performance was superior. Mavric, please don't rib Vornskr, I won't take responsibility for his assaulting you." A small chorus of chuckles echoed throughout the room as Mavric's face became beet-red. "Be ready for action, keep in top performance levels, and kids, have your journal logs turned in to me by noon tomorrow." A chorus of groans now errupted from the formation. "Dismissed!"

As the squadron of pilots departed to their quarters or recreation places, Orion grabbed Mavric's shoulder.

"I'm really sorry Sir, it'll never happen again, Sir!" Mavric appeared genuinely upset. Orion smiled.

"I was looking over your scores from the Sluis-Van report. Excellent is the first word to come to mind. You have undoubtedly improved." Mavric mumbled a chastised word of thanks. "And..." MOK continued," I have noticed that you are also fitting in with the squad more then ever. You have a very bright future ahead of you." Orion patted the newly promoted flight officer on the back. "Have a good evening."

"You too, Sir." Mavric turned and walked down the hall. Orion only stood there, a sense of satisfaction, completeness, pulsing through his blood. A loud thud brought him back to the land of the living. There was shouting down the hall.

Orion dashed down the hallway toward the sounds of fighting.

"Yeah, you remember me, punk?!

"Let's show the fodder what it's like to lose!"

Mavric's voice came over the rest. "What did I do?!"

"You isulted me, ya nerf"

"You made me look bad in front of my CO!"

" I'll tear your lungs out, boy!" This was followed by a loud thud, and the soft hum of an ignited vibroblade.

Orion came to a halt and peaked around the last corner. Three pilots of Emperor's Fist were manhandling Mavric. The small patch of the Emperor's visage was apparent on each uniform. And each uniform included a face bearing vicious snarl of rage and contempt.

As the man with the vibroblade reared back to strike, the other two men held Mavric still. A furious determination was planted where his idealistic spirit had once resided. A hollow pit formed in Orion's gut, as he leaped around the corner, a light saber materializing in his hand seemingly from no where.

Blood soaked eyes, from a gash on Mavric's forehead, were wide with surprise as a figure in black leapt from the corner and severed the end of the approaching vibrolade. A swift kick echoing a crunching of broken ribs left the man lying on the floor grasping his abdomen.

The other two men released Mavric and turned their attention toward the obvious threat. Orion feigned an assault toward the man on the right, while following with another disastrous kick. The third thug, looking to take advantage of Orion's open midsection, found himself on his knees also grasping his abdomen. Mavric stood behind him rubbing his fist.

Orion retracted his light saber, and it again disappeared. Security arrived momentarily later, and escorted the three cadets to the brig. Orion grinned at Mavric's still astonished visage. "I won't ask. And I have some more paperwork to do now". He left.

Mavric went back to the simulator. He sat there for a long time.