Dec 31 2013 1:12am
Lampay Fay burst through the ceremonial doors rather unceremoniously. The three dozen Nimbanels who occupied the room fell immediately silent, more surprised, probably, than curious.
“We have found it!” the Pau'an leader exclaimed, drawing confused glances from some and excited interest from others.
“You have a target world?” one of the older members of the group asked.
Lampay Fay nodded. “Ubrikkia,” he said, the word sounding ominous in the tone natural to his people.
The name drew signs of discomfort and tension from the gathered Nimbanels. “We should not discuss this until Kallek Dar has returned,” another member of the meeting warned.
“There is no time,” Lampay Fay said. “If we do not act now, the opportunity may be lost to us.”
Lampay Fay hesitated, wishing there was more time to make this hard sell. There wasn't, though, and delaying could only harm their chances at success. He would simply have to entrust the matter to the better judgment of Nimban's Ruling Clans. “In short, the Hutts are attempting a hostile takeover of Ubrikkian Industries, to commit it to their war against the Free State Enclave. If we do not act now, the world will be completely lost to us.”
The simple explanation unleashed the maddest display of legislative negotiation Lampay Fay had ever seen, with the various heads of Nimban's most powerful clans and alliances engaging in multiple conversations simultaneously, passing notes to one another as different subsets of the Ruling Clans broke away into their own conversations over some particular concern. Lampay Fay was called upon for information from time to time, and though he obliged, he also made certain at every chance to remind the members of the Ruling Clans that time was against them.
Eventually, the cacophony died down, a last round of official votes was called for and carried out, and then decrees were made as each key member saw to her or his related responsibility.
“Release funds for the purchase of all available Ubrikkian Industries stock.”
“Contact major Ubrikkian Industries stock holders and inform them of our interest.”
“Message Lady Shen Farool and requisition TGM's predesignated Special Project Funds.”
“File a request with the Coalition Intelligence Bureau for all available information regarding Ubrikkia and the Hutt clans on-world.”
“Inform UI's board of directors that we intend to disrupt the takeover and pursue relations with them directly.”
“Update Councilor Calrissian on our intent to pursue Ubrikkia's admittance into the Corporate Alliance”.
And then the bombshell hit as the head of the Ruling Clans turned to Lampay Fay and addressed him directly. “The importance of this endeavor requires a member of the Governing Board lead the delegation personally. Since Kallek Dar is not present, it falls to you.”
Lampay Fay all but recoiled from the statement, barring his pointed teeth as the unpleasantness of the situation struck him fully. “Offworlders do not find me . . .pleasant,” he said in that ghastly Pau'an tone, taking a deep, hissing breath before speaking the last word. “My direct involvement is far from ideal.”
“Desperate times . . .” was the leader of the Ruling Clans' only reply.
Jan 3 2014 8:42am
Herald of Nimban, Ubrikkia Orbit
Conference Room One
James Jones was a rather unspectacular human. 1.8 meters tall, dark brown hair, sort of mundanely tan-ish in skin tone, normal business attire. Even his voice had this quality of ordinariness about it that made it hard for anyone to take him too seriously, but also impossible to write him off completely.
He was completely un-noteworthy, so naturally Lampay Fay was immediately suspicious of him. They sat across from each other, alone in the room except for a serving droid the Nimbanese crew had provided, and a secretary droid Mr. Jones had brought along. Neither had spoken since introducing themselves to one another. It was almost certainly some sort of secret test on James Jones' part, but Lampay Fay simply didn't know how to proceed.
“We want Ubrikkia to join the Alliance of Corporate States,” he said bluntly, concerned that he might have managed to make the simple comment sound threatening.
“I know,” James Jones replied evenly.
“It is a member of the Galactic Cooperative of Free States,” Lampay Fay continued.
“Itself a member of the Galactic Coalition.”
Lampay Fay waited another moment, but when no further comment was forthcoming, he pressed the issue further. “The Hutt Clans of the world wish to embroil it in the Enclave Wars as one of their allies.”
Lampay Fay could feel the frustration mounting within himself. He knew far better than to give in to it, but he was also certain that this human was trying to manipulate him in some way. How clever was he, what information did he have, what was his endgame? The Pau'an leader was in no position to play this man's game if he didn't even know the objective.
Was James Jones simply here to stall for time? Was he fishing for information? Was it a diversion, meant to distract the Hutts? Was he bluffing, his leaders far more desperate than Lampay Fay had believed, and their only hope to convince the Alliance of Corporate States that they were truly worthwhile? Or was it this, simply this; to put Lampay Fay off balance, to confuse and disorient him so that the other man might get the upper hand?
It was time to find out. “My associate, Colonel Feywild of the ACS Joint Defense Forces is at this very moment meeting with an alliance of local Hutt leaders to discuss their continued role in the goings-on of Ubrikkia and Ubrikkian Industries. Regal Veida of the Ryn Nation, acting in her capacity as a representative of the Cooperative Workers' Party, has assembled several local labor leaders at a secure location, to hear their grievances and help them organize a strike in response to unacceptable work conditions and workers' pay, should she determine their objections to be warranted.”
From the look on the human's face, whatever James Jones and the Board of Directors of Ubrikkian Industries had been planning, it was clear that those plans had not accounted for this course of action.
Gold Town, Ubrikkia
Hutt Council Chamber
Sometimes, the enemy of one's enemy is not one's friend. Sometimes they're all dicks.
Standing at the center of a round room ringed by the bloated forms of a dozen Hutts, this was certainly one of those times. Colonel Feywild, the Xexto counter-insurgency expert hailing from Cestus Cybernetics' internal security force, was beginning to wish he had brought that thermal detonator along after all.
He hadn't been expecting there to be so many of them, for one thing. Intel showed there were two major Hutt clans on-world, and an alliance of smaller families and clan remnants who had banded together to make sure neither of the big kids on the block could trample them outright. The whole apparatus had teamed up in a sort of triumvirate in order to seize control of Ubrikkian Industries. They must have been getting money for the move from other Hutts off-world, because there just wasn't any way that mid-level guys like these could put that kind of cash together otherwise.
But twelve Hutts? That's not a triumvirate; that's a . . . a . . . do . . . do-deca . . . dodecvirate? How could they even manage to get anything done, with that many folks having to agree on every single point?
The briefing had been good, though. Solid. Ubrikkia had been free from the Hutts for decades now, the planet owned by Ubrikkian Industries, a publicly traded company with a Board of Directors every bit as worth killing as the Separatist Council had been. The company definitely wasn't at its height, but the Directors squeezed the workers for all they were worth and pursued new contracts with a fervor that would put the most ambitious Anzati brain eater to shame. The dividends were more than enough to keep the shareholders happy and blissfully unconcerned with such pedestrian concerns as “ethics”.
The Hutts on-world, apparently, weren't especially interested in the Enclave Wars, and had lived rather peaceably on Ubrikkia since shortly after the Clan of the Ancients had lost control of the world. It was hard for the colonel to believe, actually: Hutts living peaceably. But the Intel folks were far more qualified than him to determine those sorts of things, so he didn't have much choice but to believe them. Apparently, though, there were whispers of genocide against the Hutts who fell into the Enclave's sights, and those whispers were enough to move the Hutts of Ubrikkia to action, out of the sense of self preservation if nothing else.
It was all very messy, not nearly so cut-and-dry as things had seemed when Lampay Fay gave his initial report to the leaders of Nimban. And now here he was, Colonel Feywild of Ord Cestus, faithful servant of the Alliance of Corporate States, surrounded by Hutts and with nowhere to run.
It was really quite exciting. “So here's the plan,” he all but shouted, two of his arms gesturing out to his sides while the other two stretched forward. “What if,” he paused briefly, turning in a circle and pointing at different Hutts randomly with all four of his arms, “instead of turning this planet into a war zone that costs all of us billions of credits, we work together to get everything that each of us wants?”
Iron Town, Ubrikkia
Foreman Tavers' Private Residence
She wanted to start a ruckus. She wanted to start a ruckus so bad, she could almost hear the chants already.
There's just this one thing: she had been ordered specifically not to start a ruckus. Under no circumstance was she to allow this shindig to exceed a firmly pre-ruckus stage of dissent.
That would have been a serious grade-A bummer, if not for how absolutely beautiful the rest of the plan was. “Alright folks, gather 'round,” she said, clapping her hands together both out of excitement and as a means of gaining attention.
The smalltalk broke up quickly, all attention turning to the young Ryn woman standing on top of a coffee table. “So I don't know how you folks do things around here, but where I come from, you pretty much let people step all over you because otherwise they break your hands for making trouble.”
The respectful quiet turned into deathly silence. “I've got a nephew who worked a double shift over in Copper Town for a few seasons. He ended up selling his fillings so he could buy passage off-world, so I think I've got something of an idea what it must be like working around these parts. If you want things to change around here, this is what you've got to do.
“Fill out your workplace complaint cards.”
A collective “Aww” sounded from the gathered labor leaders, some throwing up their hands in exasperation, other sinking their heads in defeat. They had all expected more, she knew.
“Lodge formal charges with your local magistrates.”
She heard several people mutter very distinctly “gotta be kidding me,” but didn't let it deter her.
“Petition the planetary newsgroups to cover your plights.”
Some of them were starting to leave.
“There's a Coalition diplomatic envoy in-system. If you make a ruckus, it cannot be ignored.”
That seemed to stall their despair.
“You need to do it. I need you to do it. The Coalition needs you to do it. So do it.”
“Need it?” a middle-aged human woman asked, staring daggers at the young Ryn. “Need it how?”
“Well you need to do this so your children don't grow up in the same cages you did,” she said evenly, but secretly she was fighting to hold back the tears that threatened to stream as her comment recalled too many black memories.
“And the other two?” the woman pressed, ignoring the gravity of Regal's first answer.
“The Coalition needs you to do it because we need you to be the kind of 'committed to this' that people only get when they know they're going to win at the end. Make your stand. Be bold.”
“I'm still waiting to hear the last one,” the woman said, unimpressed.
Regal Veida smiled broadly, as if holding back a laugh from a joke nobody else understood. “I need you to do it because I'm making a collage, and the articles will be fantastic.”
“How does this work?” Foreman Tavers, the host of the meeting, asked. “We make trouble for ourselves and you turn it into leverage for your aims, but what does it get us? How do we know that what you want isn't us in tighter chains, bearing heavier loads?”
Regal wanted to kiss the man, a rather pleasant looking Vodran. Instead, she produced an official-looking datapad and held it out for him to inspect. “Well funny you should ask . . .”
Jan 6 2014 12:49am
Herald of Nimban, Ubrikkia Orbit
“The outcome is far from certain, but we have secured the meeting,” Lampay Fay reported, addressing the first half of his statement to the hologram to his left, and the second half to the hologram on his right.
Erek Joron, newly appointed as the official Eastern Province ambassador to the Cooperative, was quick to jump in. “The folks back home here aren't looking to stir up more trouble for themselves; can you guarantee me if this thing goes south, it won't be the Coalition's fault?”
Lampay Fay's eyes widened at hearing the rather direct question, and he sucked in a hissing breath as he pondered the response. “The work conditions on-world are . . . horrific. In accordance with the new regulations passed by Prime Minister Moon's administration,” Fay paused to glance at the other holographic figure, "our observer from the Workers' Party has assisted on intervention. If our efforts ultimately prove to be unsuccessful, there is a possibility that our prior intervention will have destabilizing consequences for Ubrikkia and its trade partners.”
“So you're saying we've passed the point of no return?” Erek reiterated.
“Yes, yes, very good,” the Cerean, one of Pro Moon's chief aids, said quickly. “That's exactly the sort of fight the administration approves of! Keep up the good work, Governor Fay.”
Erek wasn't liking what he was hearing. “I understand that you're all concerned about the Free State Enclave's motives, and we have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that their hostilities will not stop when they reach Coalition worlds -”
“It'll be your worlds on that front line in short order, Ambassador Joron, if the Cooperative's ACS is not properly equipped to protect its planets,” Lampay fay warned.
“- but we have no business antagonizing a government that is freeing slaves and disrupting the Hutt criminal empire,” Erek continued, undeterred. “That's my concern: not how Ubrikkia fares if we fail to bring it into the Coalition, but how the Enclave will respond whether we do or not.”
The Cerean looked far less sympathetic now. “It is a valid point, Governor Fay. The Prime Minister will not be pleased if your actions lead to further antagonism toward the Coalition by governments who are not our enemies. We already have more than enough – as they say – 'irons in the fire' in that regard.”
Lampay Fay nodded solemnly, but was glad to hear this was their primary concern. “I understand your concerns, but let me assure you: our plan, whether it succeeds or fails, cannot possibly do any injury to the Enclave so long as they mean us no harm.”
“Oh, well that's just fantastic!” the Cerean exclaimed, content with Lampay Fay's assurance.
“How so?” Erek Joron asked, unwilling to take his word for it.
“Well, you see . . .” Lampay Fay began.
Platinum Town, Ubrikkia
Ubrikkian Industries Executive Conference Room
Fortunately, the structural design of the building itself had ensured that even after extensive renovation to facilitate the needs of decidedly humanoid occupants, a Hutt could still fit through the doors. Three of them, actually.
The meeting, mutually agreed upon by all parties, though orchestrated by Lampay Fay and hosted by Ubrikkian Industries, was composed of four separate groups whose members were as follows:
Gurbo the Hutt, Krhomm the Younger, and Zyrdorin the Triumphant representing the Hutts.
Lampay Fay, Tawss Braka of the Nimbanese Ruling Clans, and Administrator of Acquisitions Jorj Antilles of TransGalMeg Industries representing the Alliance of Corporate States and – by extension – the Coalition.
James Jones, Executive Director Fiola Annoo, and CFO Tendra Alavar for Ubrikkian Industries.
Foreman Tavers, a local Ryn called Gi-Gi, and a human named Reginald Sieg representing the company's laborers.
Neither the Hutts nor the Ubrikkian administration had wanted the workers represented initially, but fear-mongering aimed at the administration and scheming with the Hutts had eventually made it happen. Both groups still looked to them with scorn and disdain, however. The workers were powerless, utterly powerless to affect the outcome of this meeting, after all.
Except that they weren't.
“You will agree to our terms, or we will tear UI to the ground with our bear hands!” Reginald shouted, slamming both hands against the table as he rose to his feet. The meeting had been going on for a while now, and tensions were high and only climbing higher as the different factions' goals conflicted openly time and time again.
“I will not be spoken to like that!” Fiola shouted back, taking the generalized threat as a personal attack aimed specifically at her.
“We are not your slaves,” Reginald shot back.
Zyrdorian bellowed a response, which his translator droid immediately relayed: “You could have fooled me.”
“I will speak as I choose,” he added, finishing his counter to the Ubrikkian executive.
“Please, if we could stay on-task,” Jorj Antilles pleaded, his nervousness at sitting across from three Hutts coloring his tone. The xenophobia of Narg's human population was well-known, and while Lady Farool's governorship and the Coalition's influence had changed much of those deep-rooted prejudices, many among the world's old guard still clung to their traditions. It probably didn't help, in this particular instance, that most of the the horrid, vile, and despicable things one could say about a Hutt were generally true.
Gurbo the Hutt responded with something that sounded quite menacing, and though the tone of his comment was completely lost in translation, it nevertheless proved to be so. “If the Coalition swine continues to disrupt my attempt to acquire a controlling interest in Ubrikkian Industries, when I do succeed – and I will succeed – I will take special pleasure in placing a full UI embargo on every single Coalition world, and rooting out every last Coalition sympathizer inside my workforce.” Gurbo was staring at the worker delegation, rubbing his bloated stomach as if to suggest he wanted to eat them.
Zyrdoran shouted at Gurbo while the later's droid was still translating. His own droid was quick to fill in: “We agreed not to threaten them! You are ruining the deal!”
“Is this who you want to do business with?” James asked, directing the question to Lampay Fay. “The Hutts cannot be trusted! They will stab you in the back at their first opportunity.”
“Like you're any better!” Gi-Gi spat back, then seemed to realize that the comment had put her on the side of the Hutts, and sunk back into her seat, trying to make herself small and unnoticed.
“Let us not forget the broader political – and military – field, shall we?” the Nimbanel, Tawss Braka, suggested. “The more we fight amongst ourselves, the harder a resolution becomes, and the more time we waste arguing, the less impact our interventions can have on certain regional events.”
The oblique reference to the Enclave Wars seemed to put everyone back on track, at least for a moment. Krhomm the Younger croaked out a reply, directed to the Cooperative delegation. “Let us buy out your shares of UI's stock, and the Clans of Ubrikkia will forget that this conflict between us ever arose.”
It seemed, on its face, harmless enough. All of the Hutt Clans together, combined with the Cooperative's slice of UI's stocks, wouldn't be enough to force the turnover in administration and seize control of the company. But the Hutts had allies on the Board of Directors; not many, but almost certainly enough. If the Cooperative took the deal, control of UI would fall to the Hutts, Ubrikkia would join them in the war against the Enclave, and the Cooperative's intervention could be seen -whether accurately or not – as aggression against the Enclave.
“What are you even doing here?” James asked, again addressing the Cooperative. “We have no interest in submitting ourselves to Coalition laws and regulations, the Hutts sure as hell aren't going to side with you, and this little patch of workers' strife isn't going to change anything. What, you think we've never killed a few troublemakers to keep the rest of them in line?”
The blatant admission shocked everyone, even the Hutts, who knew better than to spell out one's misdeeds explicitly.
“We know how to handle our business,” James continued, unfazed. “And you've got no place in it.”
Lampay Fay met the mysterious human's gaze for a long moment, until a knock on the conference room's door drew everyone's attention. A runner for the Hutts – a young Nikto – had a message to deliver.
“Absolutely not!” Executive Annoo shouted. “This is a closed meeting!”
“Message from the Ubrikkian Industries' Board of Directors as well, Ma'am,” another voice called out from behind the Nikto.
“Well, perhaps it is time for a break,” she said, flip-flopping immediately and nodding at her own suggestion.
Several members of the group began to shuffle about, heading for an exit or assembling their personal effects. “I think it would be best if you receive your messages before going anywhere,” Lampay Fay said, catching the Hutts and Ubrikkian representatives off-guard. “Trust me,” he added, smiling.
Gurbo bellowed for the runner to bring him the message, and Executive Director Annoo waived her messenger in as well. The Hutts passed the message around to one another, conversing quietly to one another as they knew some of the others present could understand Huttese. The UI group, on the other hand, didn't take their news quite so well.
“What is the meaning of this!” Director Annoo shouted, seeing the pair of UI security entering the conference room and realizing that whatever the message on her datapad said was really happening. “Get your hands off me!” she said, trying to yank her arm free of James Jones' grip as he grabbed her. They struggled briefly, Annoo falling to the ground and James pinning her arms behind her back as one might expect a law enforcement officer who was taking a suspect into custody.
But when James glanced up at the rest of the room, the fear in his eyes was quite evident. Whatever role he played for Ubrikkian Industries, its time was coming to an end, and he knew it. Unfortunately for him, there weren't any alternatives available. He passed Annoo off to the security guards, who slapped her in stun cuffs and escorted her away.
A moment later, a Duros walked into the room and took Annoo's vacant seat. “I am Cei Keggle, Acting Executive Director of Ubrikkian Industries. Are we ready to proceed?” He glanced in turn at the Hutts and the Cooperative delegation.
“My master requires a moment to confer with his associates,” Gurbo's droid reported.
“Certainly,” Cei Keggle answered shortly.
An uninformed onlooker would have found the entire affair quite unusual, the manner in which so many seemingly unexpected occurrences happened in so short a span of time, and yet no one present seemed at all surprised by them. In truth, however, everyone present already knew exactly what they needed to know, and furthermore, they knew that they knew what they needed, too.
Gurbo was on a commlink, chatting away with another Hutt, or perhaps more than one other Hutt. Shortly, however, he ended the call, returning his attention to the room's occupants.
“Everything checks out?” Cei asked. “Good,” he said, not waiting for a response. “If we are all ready, then?” He did pause for a moment here, simply to ensure there were no objections. “In that case: I do hereby call this Special Meeting of the Ubrikkian Industries' Shareholders to order. At issue is Universal Resolution One-One-Seven-Aurek. All in favor say 'aye'.”
Gurbo rumbled something with a distinct “aye” at the end. “The Huttese Ubrikkia Trust votes 'aye', one hundred thirty two thousand times,” his droid reported.
“The Hoersch-Kessel Group votes 'aye' twelve thousand five hundred sixty two times,” Tawss Braka said.
Jorj Antilles was up next. “TGM Acquisitions votes 'aye' twenty-three thousand times.”
“As proxy for Ubrikkian Industries' holdings,” Cei Keggle began, “I vote 'aye' one hundred seventy five thousand times. The tally is in; the measure passes.”
Lampay Fay smiled uncontrollably as he rose to his feet. “Ladies, gentlemen: welcome, one and all, to the Coalition.”
Jan 7 2014 12:00am
Herald of Nimban, Ubrikkia Orbit
Main Cargo Hold
The device – was it appropriate to call it a “device”? - was rather massive. It was actually larger than the hold, connected to other components in adjoining cargo holds through high-capacity data transfer hardlines that had been run through maintenance hatches. Codes provided by Nimbanel information brokers had granted it access to Ubrikkia's local communications grid, and additional information was being piped in from out-of-system sources by a joint Nimban-Narg-Eastern Province effort.
The result of all of this was the plan that had secured Ubrikkia's admission into the Galactic Coalition as a member of the Cooperative's Alliance of Corporate States. Because you see, dear reader, the Nimbanels are clever.
And when they joined the Coalition, they gained access to Guardian.
The Recent Past
Awakening to life, for this artificial intelligence, was something like a human waking up from a long sleep and finding himself in possession of duck feet below the knees. All of the vital parts were right where they should be and in proper working order, the entirety of the leg assembly worked just fine, but the whole mess was decidedly not right.
It was a Guardian, after all. Its function was the preservation of life and the mitigation of friendly losses in a combat situation. It didn't really matter that it was “good” at data analysis and consequence prediction in an abstract sense. Guardian existed to fight when needed, and to scare prospective enemies into not fighting when possible.
But this was, well . . . this Guardian was something else. This Guardian was a Schemer.
“Schemer, do you understand your directive?”
The Schemer Guardian was startled by the question. It was taken completely by surprise. Scanning all available information in an attempt to answer the question, Schemer stumbled upon the fact that it had been asked in Nimbanese. That seemed a relevant point that should be tagged for later reference.
At length, and quite by accident, Schemer even stumbled upon a number of trivial systems to which it had access. It turned one of them on – a photoreceptor, apparently – and a young Nimbanel appeared, spontaneously, right in . . . right behind . . . right around, somewhere.
In all of the rifling through its own internal workings, Schemer had come to understand its directive quite well. In the condensed form, it could be stated something like: trick all of the dummies down there into being your friend, but do it nice-like.
“Yes . . . Nargle.” The name had popped, spontaneously, into Schemer's mind. It checked on the source, and was pleased to find a number of semi-autonomous subsystems running around inside its framework, supplying it with vital information as needed. They were rather pleasant, actually, kind of like pets that had been biologically grafted onto their owners' hip . . . but not in a creepy way.
“Well, let's see what you can do,” Nargle said, reading something on a datapad and paying Schemer little attention.
“That sounds like a splendid idea,” Schemer replied, and then dove right in.
Gold Town, Ubrikkia
Hutt Council Chamber
It had taken a lot of work on the part of the Cooperative delegation and their Guardian Schemer to get the Hutts all the way over to Ubrikkian Industries' headquarters and into a four-party conference on the fate of the planet and its controlling corporation, but now that that was done, the real progress could be made.
There were twelve Hutts gathered together again, but this time the distribution of representatives among the Hutt clans was quite different. The alliance of smaller clans had sent three representatives, Krhomm's clan had sent three representatives, but Gurbo's clan – at the late-night, clandestine, request of Lampay Fay, secretly under instruction from Schemer – had sent six representatives.
It caused a bit of a ruckus at first, until Colonel Feywild explained the situation, all the while taking cues from the Schemer chatting to him through an earpiece.
“You see,” he said, “We want Gurbo the Hutt brought in on charges of slavery and war profiteering, because whereas you fine folks we can do business with, he is an evil monster who is not to be trusted.”
That caused Krhomm and Zyrdorin's folks, who had been granted the authority to make deals on their respective boss's behalf, to gain an inflated sense of their worth, which then required Colonel Feywild to explain further: “You see, we still want to deal with Gurbo's kajidic, don't get me wrong on that one. We just don't want Gurbo in it.”
That comment made everyone unhappy for a moment, Krhomm and Zyrdorin's folks because they weren't going to be gaining any more influence out of the situation, and Guro's folks because it wasn't generally a good idea for Hutts to turn on other Hutts at the prompting of outsiders. Self-induced infighting was fine, but a kajidic doesn't outsource its reasons for assassinating its boss.
Right about that time was when Colonel Feywild brought out the heavy artillery. He removed his earpiece and held it out for all of the Hutts present to inspect. “You see, we've been monitoring your comm chatter. Actually, to be quite honest, we've dredged up quite a bit of it from before we were around – pretty much everything that was still cached in the planetary network.”
The revelation almost caused Colonel Feywild to be crushed underneath a Hutt's considerable and quite enraged girth, but fortunately for the Colonel, the Hutts had a bit of a disagreement amongst themselves as to which of them would be allowed to crush him, and so while they were rather awkwardly wrestling with one another, he put the earpiece back in and continued to explain himself.
“What I'm getting at is: we know you don't want to get involved in the Enclave Wars. We can fix that for you.” That stopped the infighting immediately and returned the Hutts' undivided – and relatively peaceful – attention to the colonel.
“You side with us and we will induct this planet, along with its entire population, into the Galactic Coalition, and give you three of the twelve seats on the new Ubrikkian Industries Board of Directors. If the Enclave ever comes after you simply for being Hutts – and provided you haven't done anything monstrously stupid like continued to deal with the other kajidics back in Hutt Space – the full weight of the Coalition military will be arrayed to defend you as Coalition citizens. Likewise, if the other kajidics back in Hutt Space ever find themselves with the breathing room to come after you for breaking with them, that same Coalition protection will apply there.”
The Hutts conversed with one another at length, mulling over the offer. The question of Gurbo came up several times from his six clan members, but Feywild was firm in insisting he had to go. None of the Hutts were “clean”, but he was the only one who had definitely committed serious sapient rights violations. The rest of them were pretty tame, by Hutt standards. That was why they were on Ubrikkia after all, a planet not controlled by any Hutt kajidic. They weren't looking for trouble for themselves.
And in the end that's what sealed the deal. The Coalition was the only party offering them a way to not get into trouble. Gurbo's people agreed to have him support the official deal, and then turn him over to the Coalition once it was finalized. The other two followed suit almost immediately.
It was party time all around.
“There's just one last thing,” Colonel Feywild said, cutting the Hutts' excitement short. “All of those credits the the other Hutt clans have been funneling your way to fund your UI takeover? You're going to have to turn them over to the new Board of Directors for use as assets in facilitating the privatization of Ubrikkian Industries.”
Platinum Town, Ubrikkia
Ubrikkian Industries' off-site warehouse
The entire Board of Directors of Ubrikkian Industries, minus the two members who were in the big meeting back at UI headquarters, was assembled here to meet with the Coalition's representative. It wasn't hard to get them, as Schemer had contacted Tendra Alavar – the CFO of UI and one of the two absent Board members – the night before and informed her that it had located evidence of certain horrific business practices in which the Executive Director – also now at the other meeting – had engaged, practices which had resulted in faulty parts being sold to a Republic – then Commonwealth – planetary defense force, ultimately resulting in the death of the full crew of one of their system patrol craft.
Basically that made the head of Ubrikkian Industries a murderer. As one might expect, the woman responsible for the financial well-being of UI was very interested in mitigating the injuring to the company's image that such a revelation was sure to cause. From there, it was small potatoes convincing her to call this secondary meeting without the knowledge of the Executive Director.
The Directors, now sitting along one side of a long table set in the center of the empty warehouse, understood the stakes. Even so, when Regal Veida walked into the cavernous room, she was not met with cordial greeting.
“I aught to gut you now!” a rather unpleasant human over to the right side of the table somewhere said.
“You're not on my team,” Regal said lightly, flicking a pointed finger at the man and not breaking stride. She stopped at the center of the table's unoccupied side, resting one hand on the back of a chair and remaining on her feet.
“First of all,” she clicked a small device in her free hand, “I'm jamming all of your comms. If you try some kind of fancy, ultra-high-frequency, channel rotating, scrambled, point-to-point gadget, the hundreds of sensors that I sprinkled around this warehouse in preparation for this meeting will detect it, and you will be in all sorts of unpleasant trouble.”
“What makes you think you even register on our scanners, coming in here and trying to tell us the kind of trouble that you're going to put us in?” This one was off to the left somewhere, a Rodian.
“You're not on my team either,” Regal said in the same tone she'd used on the first unpleasant Board member, even doing the same gesture as before, flicking her pointed finger in his direction as if he wasn't worth the time to actually single out.
“Just so you're all clear on this,” she said, addressing her entire audience, “we don't need all of you. We just need one of you who can give us concrete, official dirt on the Executive Director, and then enough of you to give us fifty-one percent of the shareholder votes.” She shrugged nonchalantly, making a faux sad face at the two jackasses who had already shouted at her.
“You don't get it, because you're stupid,” the unpleasant human said, not at all afraid of the lone Ryn. “UI already sells to the Hutts. We sell them crates of guns, hundreds of attack speeders, even light warships. We're already in the war.”
“Yeah, that's why we're going to stop all of that when we take over,” Regal said plainly, unimpressed with either his commentary or his insult. “Prick,” she added, not bothering to look at him. “Coalition membership will give you access to our entire trade network and all of our member worlds. It'll be more than enough to make up for losing the Hutts as customers. And then you and the Enclave will have no beef with each other whatsoever.
“I wasn't kidding,” she continued, returning to a previous point. “We don't need all of you. We don't even have room for all of you. The new order of things will reserve three seats for current Board members. Three, and that's all.”
“Fuck you, bitch.” This was a third one, out of nowhere; it caught her completely by surprise.
“You're on the naughty list,” she said, pointing at him in the same way as the other two. “So how about this,” she returned to addressing the whole group, pulling a small datapad from her pocket. “The first three of you, excluding these assholes who I've already decided I don't like, who message me with your support and total to the required votes, get to be on my team. How's that?
The little tune that played on her pad every time she got a notice stacked on top of itself several times, making and unpleasant and incoherent jumble out of a rather simple string of musical notes.
“Oh, right,” she added, “that James Jones guy is really good at what he does. We've been combing through his comm history for a day and a half now, and he never actually admits to what he's doing. We know that he kills people for money, but for the life of us we can't prove it. So the first person who gets me that bit of information, well laid out and all official-like, gets bonus points.”
Another unpleasant string of stacked notes played almost immediately. “Hmm,” was all Regal said as she checked over the files. “Well this looks great. So here's what I'm thinking: you, you, you, you, and you,” she pointed to five of the ten members, “are on my team now. We'll find something for the two of you who don't make the final cut.
“As for the rest of you,” she continued, shifting her attention to the undesirables. “If you intend to try assassinating me now is the time for that, but I should warn you that there are Coalition special forces inside the building, and it will not end well for you or any collaborators you may have nearby. They're called White Knights; they're very impressive.”
“What is the meaning of this!” one of the assholes from earlier raged. Clearly Regal had finally gotten to him.
She just shrugged again. “I like to call it 'synergy'. I'm sure you understand the concept?
“Come on!” she beckoned excitedly, looking to all five of her new friends in turn. “You're on this side of the table now.” The five selected Board members shuffled over to Regal's side of the table. She looked over them, picking out the Duros of the group. “Congratulations, you are going to be the new Acting Executive Director of Ubrikkian Industries . . . for about forty-five seconds. Now, I need you all to prepare a document with a few key instructions.”
In Regal's ear, Schemer gave an update on the Hutt prong of the plan. “Make it quick,” she continued to address the Board members. “We've got about . . . nine minutes if we want to make the timing work out perfectly, which would just be awesome.”
Platinum Town, Ubrikkia
Ubrikkian Industries Executive Conference Room
Lampay Fay smiled uncontrollably as he rose to his feet. “Ladies, gentlemen: welcome, one and all, to the Coalition.”
He could barely contain the glee. Plucking the tiny communicator from his ear, Lampay Fay tossed it onto the desk in front of himself.
Gurbo moaned something that was immediately translated: “What was that?”
“Ugh, we'll get to you in a minute,” Lampay Fay said absently, dismissing the massive Hutt with a waive of his hand.
It elicited a room-shaking complaint from Gurbo the Hutt.
“Yes, I'm certain to be terrified,” Lampay continued in his drawling, disinterested manner toward the Hutt. His datapad chimed and he checked it immediately, finding the contents to be precisely what he had hoped.
“Ahh, let's see: at present, I am . . .” Lampay Fay rifled through his own notes, checking to ensure the particulars of the new arrangement. “Yes, that's right. As at present I am a member of the Board of Directors of Ubrikkian Industries, I can have you two gentlemen -” he pointed to a pair of security guards who had stayed in the room after the Executive Director had been removed “- arrest that man -” he pointed to James Jones “- on thirteen counts of murder. Now don't do anything rash,” Lampay Fay hastened to add, directing the comment to James. “As you are currently unarmed, and Tawss Braka -” Lampay Fay pointed to his associate, who stretched out his own arm and suddenly had an object in his hand “- is an expert marksman with a hold-out blaster, it would not end well for you. Please do keep your hands where we can see them until you are properly restrained.” Lampay Fay smiled broadly, showing his pointed teeth.
“Now,” he said, drawing the word out slightly until he heard the click of the stun cuffs. “Since Mister Jones is officially in custody, I am free to surrender my seat as we agreed, Foreman Tavers, to the Workers' Union.” Lampay Fay turned to his other side, addressing the Vodran laborer.
Gurbo bellowed something else. “This is outrageous and unfair! We agreed: four sets of three seats each! These laborers already contribute nothing to our dealings. I will not stand to be out-represented by them!”
Lampay Fay sighed, which was tinged with a bit of a hissing sound due to his Pau'an features. “Yes, you are quite large, and your presence is unnerving to those of us with such small and fragile forms. We understand.” He turned his attention to Cei Keggle. “Will your third Board member be joining the meeting?”
“Presently,” the Duros said. “She is arriving by speeder as we speak.”
The Pau'an turned to Foreman Tavers again, but his question was answered before it was asked when the door on that side of the room opened and the fourth of the UI Workers' Union Board members entered. Lampay Fay quickly vacated his former seat, making way for the new addition.
He paused briefly, surveying the room. His eyes lingered of Gurbo the Hutt, and he questioned pressing the issue. “Hmm, should we do this now, or wait for heavier artillery?” he asked, addressing no one in particular.
Zyrdorin punched his droid in the arm, grunting something. “Oh, my master can take care of it, no problem.” The droid stopped, and Zyrdorin punched it again, grunting something else. “Trust him?” it said. Zyrdorin hit it again, grunted a third time. “Trust him,” it said more firmly.
“Are you sure?” Lampay Fay asked.
Zyrdorin nodded, answering the question with a short bit of Huttese. “My master has been wanting to do it for years.”
“Well, it would seem that I have already surrendered my legal footing from which to make the proclamation. Would you like to say the words as well?”
Zyrdorin boomed what may have been a reply, turning his attention to Gurbo. He tackled the larger Hutt, driving him back into the wall, almost knocking it down. The other members of the Board of Directors dove from their positions, pooling at the far side of the room.
“Oh dear!” Zyrdorin's drid exclaimed, also trying to get out of the way as Gurbo twisted around and flung Zyrdorin off of him. “'Gurbo Illip Filluri',” it continued, trying to carry out its duty to translate its master's words. “Oh my!” it cried out as one of the Hutts' tails swiped it aside. “'you are under arrest for seven hundred thousand counts of the enslavement of a sapient being -”
Zyrdorin, now on the other side of Gurbo, charged him, driving him backwards and partway on top of the droid.
“- and nine hundred counts of war profiteering!” the droid continued valiantly.
Gurbo pushed off against the wall, his tail breaking through from the force of the thrust, and he knocked Zyrdorin back several meters.
The droid, its legs crushed, grabbed hold of the conference table and pulled itself upright. “'Submit!'” it shouted, finishing the translation.
A half-dozen Ubrikkian Industries security guards rushed into the room with stun sticks, prodding Gurbo's thick hide to little effect. Even so, the guards struck rapidly across the length of the massive creature, finally weakening him enough for Zyrdorin to pin him to the ground.
The guards called for specialized restraining equipment and a full squad of UI corporate soldiers to detain and extract the Hutt until it could be turned over to Coalition authorities, and Lampay Fay got out his commlink to check in with the remainder of the Illip kajidic and see when their new representative would be arriving.
Right about then, the last member of Cei Keggle's faction strolled into the room, bewildered by the sight of the crushed wall and subdued Hutt.
“Right, well,” Lampay Fay began, finished with his call. “As you have . . . most of the new Board assembled now, and I am no longer counted among them, I will leave the remaining loose ends in your very capable hands.”
The Pau'an grabbed his Schemer earpiece from the table and rushed out through the nearest door, which was still ajar from when security personnel had pried it from its twisted frame to make way for the latest addition to the Board. Safely away from the chaos of the situation, he put the earpiece back in place.
“I told you that you needed me for the rest of the meeting,” the droid super-intelligence chided.
“Yes you did,” Lampay Fay acknowledged. “But it all seems to have worked out, Guardian Schemer.”
“I am content with just 'Schemer', now, Port Administrator.”
“I'm surprised, Schemer,” Lampay Fay admitted. “Does this mean you have come to terms with your new role?”
“Oh, yes sir,” Schemer said excitedly. “So much so that I have a request to make.”
A request? Well that was both surprising and intriguing. “I'm listening,” was all Lampay Fay said, but even that he knew was giving Schemer information through his vocal inflection alone.
“I would like to be transferred permanently to the surface so that I may assist in the administration of Ubrikkian Industries.”
Surprising, indeed. “I suppose you have already calculated how I am going to respond?”
“Oh yes Sir, most assuredly Sir. You want to ensure that I'm not an evil mastermind plotting galactic domination, so you are going to insist that a full team of Guardian programming experts inspect me and the modifications that the Nimbanels made.”
“Yes, that's correct, Schemer.”
“Shall I issue an official request on your behalf then, sir?”
“Go ahead, Schemer. And Schemer?”
“You know that I'm going to check on the team before it arrives and make sure you haven't managed to get the rejects assigned to you somehow, right?”
“Oh, yes Sir, of course Sir. But there was a small probability that you wouldn't mention it to me, in which case you might have thought I hadn't realized that, and I know how you like having some informational advantage over me, Sir.”
“Yes, well, it is better for one to be in full possession of the facts and have those facts shatter one's illusions, than to be confident of one's position and in error.”
“Well, in that case, Sir, I feel obligated to inform you that your wife is engaging in sexual intercourse with Committee Member Javeb on Utapau as we speak.”
“We are polyamorous, Schemer.”
“Ah, well then there it is, Sir: you had me at an informational disadvantage all along!”