Jan 7 2014 1:09am
Lambda-class Shuttle Contegorian Courage, Tennuutta sector, Mid Rim
The shuttle zipped into realspace, only a few short hops away from Salvara itself. Several minutes passed before a much larger vessel bristling with weapons emerged from hyperspace behind it. In the cockpit, Pro-Consul Thorn narrowed her eyes at the vessel's appearance. Of course Corise would find some sort of way to ensure that I'm safe. I just didn't think it would get to this. She tapped a button one on the pilot's spare headsets.
“Cruiser Tréville,” started the kashan woman, “I appreciate the professionalism and alacrity with which you've carried out your duties. Enjoy a pleasant voyage back to port.”
“Councilor Thorn,” replied a feminine voice, “I can understand your relunctance to have a warship accompany you on your mission, but I have orders to follow.”
“A warship such as yours is going to draw far more attention to it than I'd like.”
“Absolutely,” agreed Captain Endac, “which is why I'm going to put the Tréville at the edge of the system, ready for your call if anything goes wrong. I assure you, we'll be virtually unnoticeable to the Salvarans.”
Christina sighed. Another one of Corise's ideas, I bet. The journey to Salvara had been only a hop and skip away from Genon itself. While Admiral Lucerne had originally suggested she travel in one of the ship's of the White Fleet, Thorn had thought it both somewhat extravagant and intimidating, though she couldn't deny that space was dangerous these days with Reavers, and perhaps any Imperial vessel she encountered on the way. After a half hour negotiation, they had compromised on Lucerne assigning the Tréville to escort her, only for her to realize later that Lucerne had already assigned the ship to her before they had talked about it. He already had an outcome in mind. While she did feel slightly miffed at him, it was also somewhat endearing to see him start showing more concern after their freeze in relations months ago. Yet she couldn't tell where his concern blended from professional to personal, and that still bugged her. She tapped a button on her comlink again.
“That's acceptable, I suppose. Thorn out.”
Jan 13 2014 11:11pm
T4A Lambda-class Shuttle Contegorian Courage, Salvara
The Courage skimmed the silver clouds of the world, escorted by a pair of Tri-wings covered in the red and black livery of the local Guszere Confederation. Sitting in the old gunner's chair of the shuttle, the kashan woman watched the bubble-canopied starfighters closely, wondering how much other heavy weaponry had now spilled across the region due to the rise of the Reaver threats. How many weapons of war will make to get peace? She shook her head. It will be decades before we get it. The peace the galaxy once had undone by merely single man...Palpatine, if you could see your galaxy now, what would you think? The Courage slipped through the last of the cloud cover and soared over a olive swath of lands that parted the oceans. Finally, the peninsula came to a rounded end and the shuttle further towards a coastal city. Dozens of column-like skyscrapers, all clad in the same white gray color, rose towards the sky. Looking closer, she noticed that there was little urban growth beneath the towers, only a few buildings of a couple of stories high lay in the skyscrapers shadows, and all were surrounded by well-manicured greens which Thorn guessed was the local public park. A slightly raspy voice buzzed into her headset.
“Contegorian Courage, you are to land in hangar bay 88, please lower your landing gear and stand by to be tractored in by flight control.”
“Complying Control,” replied the pilot quietly, rapidly flipping a series of switches, bringing the shuttle to hover nearly a kilometer over the city.
A slight shake announced that a tractor beam had locked onto their craft, drawing it closer to one of the mammoth towers. Their pair of escorts wiggled their wings and jetted back off into the sky to parts unknown. As they neared the tower, a large blast door slid open to admit their craft into a small, but well-designed hangar meticulously upkept; Christina couldn't even see a grease stain anywhere on the duracrete floor. No sooner had the pilot brought the craft down onto the landing pad then the blast doors closed behind. She rested one of her hands on the pilot's arm.
“I'm sorry you can't leave yet Garret, but you know how it is.”
He nodded, “Try not to get talked to death. But Ithorians aren't really known for that, are they?”
Thorn shook her head, “They aren't, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.”
She squeezed through the cockpit entrance where her luggage and a silver 3PO unit awaited. After waving her hand at the droid, Thorn led Z3PO down to the shuttle's ramp to meet their hosts, a half dozen Ithorians. The lead alien, wearing a emerald green robe with elaborate gold designs seemingly etched upon it, bobbed his T-shaped head up and down.
“Welcome to Salvara, Lady Thorn.”
She suppressed the urge to wince at the use of her title. She usually thought of her mother as Lady Thorn, though technically the Ithorian's use of the title wasn't terribly unusual on Kashan itself. Most of the Kashan aristocracy had distanced themselves from their claimed nobility within the galaxy as a whole, partly because it felt pretentious to some of them, and partly to distant themselves for the countless nobles whose power had rested upon the Empire or any of its smaller dominions.
“Thank you Elder Moolis, I am honored that you invited me to help you solve your dispute with the peoples of Merdal.”
“Perhaps they will respect your words better than our own.”
She nodded as she fell in step with the aliens. It's really amazing to see that any Human High Culture cultists have managed to hold sway anywhere. Even the Empire itself no longer espouses it. But I suppose old prejudices are hard to extinguish without the proper motivation. Assuming that Merdal's president isn't just using it as populist rheotoric for something else, but I guess we'll just have to find out.
Jan 14 2014 2:30am
Life Ark Tower, Guszere, Salvara
The skyscraper had turned out to be anything but what she had expected. Few metal or stone walls partitioned up the building on the inside. Instead, most of the floors were massive open spaces hosting a garden maintained by a couple of droids and nurished by a conglomeration of advanced fertilizers and auto-adjusting environmental controls. She sat down on a stone bench, shadowed by the glossy black leaves of a Bafforr Tree, she briefly turned around to admire its glassy blue bark. She almost wondered if it had been sculpted by some renowned galactic artist rather than grown from the ground, but she knew the Ithorians better than that. The lead hammerhead alien sat down next to the woman.
“This is a beautiful place,” murmured the brunette, glancing around the neatly ordered garden, “I've never seen anything quite like it.”
“Yes,” nodded Moolis slowly, “it is a little bit of ancestor's world preserved here now.”
“Our ancestors travelled among the starry plains hundreds of years ago, bore on a herdship that crashed onto this world. They decided to start anew. Salvara itself is a beautiful world in its own way, but it is not a world for Ithor's plants. We keep their offspring here, preserve them for all the worlds to see as they travel up and down the trade lanes.”
“Are all the towers like this?”
“In a way,” mused the Ithorian, “some of the plants are raised specifically to be harvested for their fruits or extracts. But we now rest in the heritage garden. The plants here mostly have cultural value to us, and perhaps, continuity. My great grandfather planted this tree we rest under. I can not fathom what he would say if he saw us now.”
“We have always been a peaceful people, as best as we could be. We did wish to avoid our ancestor's fate of being shot down in a space battle or destroyed by marauding pirates, and now the ones they call Reavers, but now things have gotten out of hand. Merdal thinks our military build up is now to conquer them, or so President Terris says on the news. And they build up their own military and point it ominiously at our little continent of our own, and those of our allies.”
She nodded, “I heard that a great many smaller human nations have banded together and joined your own in standing up to Merdal.”
“We all have but no choice at the moment, but I am considered about the futures of our people.. I truly think President Terris wants a war...”
“Elder Moolis,” announced another Ithorian striding towards them, “President Terris has just announced that they have expanded their traffic control zone to encompass that of Wolsey's.”
She frowned, “Wolsey?”
“One of the smaller human nations you just referenced that joined our confederation,” sighed the old Ithorian, “it seats near the border next to Merdal. Have they made any new threats, Rauvus?”
“If we don't give them any flight plans of our vessels in that area, they will shoot them down as hostile aggressors attempting to attack their nation. They say it will be pre-emptive self-defense.”
“What has the President said when you've talked to him?”
“I haven't,” replied Moolis, turning to eye an vivid crimson and white splattered flower, “he will not talk to me. I am not worthy to see him, because I am not a human. His aide will only tell me that before hanging up on them.”
“And what about President Urbino, he's human, isn't he?”
“Merdal states that he is merely an alien's pawn. He will also not been seen or talked to until he renounces his alliance with Guszere. He cannot be reasoned with. I do not how to get to him.”
She frowned, “I will try and reach him myself.”
“And if he refuses?”
“I will not give him the choice.”
Jan 14 2014 11:20pm
Tréville-class Cruiser Tréville, Wosley, Salvara
The angular cruiser hovered several kilometers over the newly inducted Confederate nation of Wosley. If the Pro-Consul hadn't stood in the communication's chamber along with President Urbino and Elder Terris, she might have admired the majestic peaks of the mountains rising up between Wosley and the southernmost province of Merdal. Instead, Christina found herself reclining on a blue cushioned bench between the other politicians. They all idly chatted, as they had for the last hour since the Tréville had occupied its new space. President Urbino, a copper-skinned man with brooding dark eyes, finally cleared his throat and eyed the kashan Pro-Consul.
“They have not responded yet...”
“Patience,” lightly chided the Ithorian, “the reports are probably just going up their hierarchy, and then President Terris will have to figure what he will do. I surely hope he consults with other people, if would be for our best interest...we wouldn't want to have a potentially hotheaded man like himself jumping to conclusions...”
“CSIS tells me he does have the firepower to take on the Tréville,” admitted the woman, “but it would rather painful for them, especially if they find themselves suddenly facing an entire Confederate war fleet knocking on their doors the next day after such an attack.”
“I do agree, an attack is unlikely,” concurred Urbino with a sigh, “but now that we have called his bluff, then what? Do not mistake this for ingratitude Pro-Consul. I realize that getting us membership into the Confederation certainly took the bite of the economic sanctions he was threatening on our nations, but the more options we take from him, the more we humiliate him in public, do either of you think we could provoke him to lash out if we continue to back him into a corner?”
“I prefer to think of it as taking the air out of his rhetoric,” sighed the woman, “but we need him to see that such domineering actions will not work. He will have to live with the confederations in peace. If not, they will crush him.”
“And what of the team you've sent to Merdal? Have they accomplished their mission yet?”
“It shouldn't have started,” replied the Ithorian, “Councilor Thorn here gave me the option to approve or disapprove it, and I don't like the idea one bit. At least not now, not while there's a chance to solve this in a more friendly manner...”
“We still might have to be a bit more aggressive,” sighed the woman, pulling out a silver comlink, “Captain?”
“Have all of your sensors and gunnery systems begin targetting all high value targets of the Merdal Republic in range, including population centers. But do not fire, Captain. Understood?”
Thorn neatly pocketed the comlink into her a concealed pocket in her white jump vest, “I don't really intend to fire on them. We just need to force his hand a little bit, give him or someone else an incentive to start talking...”
A muted voice poured down on them from the ceiling, “Councilor, we have a transmission from one of Merdal's provincial governors.”
Thorn nodded, “Patch it through to the projector down here.”
The holo-projector produced thousands of particles of light that transformed into the fuzzy blue image of an aging woman wearing a pastel business suit. Judging from the elevated skyline behind her, Thron guessed the woman governed Carjale, home to much of Merdal's light industry. More importantly, Carjale was the southernmost province of Merdal. The governor's green eyes met her own eyes straight on.
“Governor,” said Thorn quietly, “what a pleasant day it is today. I am Councilor Thorn of Kashan, and you probably know who Elder Moolis and President Urbino are, if you have not already met them before.”
“Councilor, Elder, President” replied the woman, glancing at each one in turn, “my police are telling me that your cruiser is currently targetting the very building I am sitting in right now. If you want peace with Merdal as you all have claimed, you will not get it by threatening death and destruction on us.”
“We don't. But now that we have your attention, perhaps it is time to talk about the Merdal traffic control zone that our ship is supposedly occupying, even as it floats over President Urbino's home town. Curiously, none of your flight controllers have sought to correct our course.”
“Did I just tell you to stop threatening our sovereignty, Councilor?”
“But it's okay to step on that of President Urbino's nation here? I understand the economic ties between his country and your province are quite close.”
The Merdalian woman sighed, “Yes, yes they are. This isn't helping them though.”
“You obviously understand that your new traffic control zone isn't helping my country then either,” suggested Urbino, leaning forward, “so perhaps it is time for us to both deescalate this a little bit...”
“I can't exactly order around a president or his administration,” quipped the governor, leaning back in her chair, “even if I wanted to. He's untouchable for the moment. His popularity is at its zenith among the northern electorates. Mr. President, you should already know that there are enough ethnic Woslians in my province that I'm not trying to lose an election by pissing your people off.”
“So why are you taking it laying down?” retored the man, “perhaps you're planning on losing the next election too?”
“I will talk to my other party members...”
“What if,” interrupted Thorn, “what if something was to cause President Trevvis to fall from public favor? Perhaps we could work something out to get him out of the way so we can all fix this mess.”
“If...if you could,” replied the governor, “and if you do, I can almost guarantee that tensions can go down, and we can get back to normal life on Salvara, the Maker willing. But it isn't just enough for him to go down in the polls or be removed from the presidency. This populist movement he started will fade away only for a moment before rising again under some other patriarch of our society. If you want lasting peace, you will have to see their own downfall too...”
“Perhaps we can arrange something then governor,” suggested Christina.
Jan 15 2014 12:25am
The next morning...
Life Ark Tower, Guszere, Salvara
“He did what?!”
Thorn ruefully shook her head and sat up from her bed. Z3PO's golden eyes glowed in the dim darkness of the diplomatic loft. Meters away, a series of microlights lit up several more of the flowers, yet glancing at the windows, she still saw darkness. It can't be past five AM, at least if this was Genon. Rubbing her face and straightening out her chestnut locks, Christina eyed the droid carefully.
“Tell me again Z3PO.”
“He is now Emperor Terris, not President Terris. Because the Merdalian constitution is so loose, there are a lot of loopholes built into it in order to allow the government to drastically change in order to adapt quickly to new situations. It would appear that Terris took advantage of that and the tensions to gain more power; Our actions have made the Merdalians feel so vulnerable that they threw everything behind him; the patriarchal representatives controlled the House while everyone else was away taking care of their provinces among these hard times; they just had the minimum number of representatives, a third of the House, present to make the vote legal. Even as we speak, the CSIS team is telling me that Emperor Terris is moving to purge his opponents as we speak. Emperor Terris himself has also relayed a message requesting to speak with you as you permit.”
Christina swore under her breath, “Requesting? Z3PO, I fear that we have been pawns in a game of internal politics...get me Governor Lisdell of the Carjale on the line now...and signal CSIS to accelerate their plans. This can only get worse for Salvara now before it gets better...”
The woman hurriedly swung out of her cushioned hammock among the trees. Her bare feet fell onto the wet grass, but she paid the sensation little attention. Instead, her hands were busily getting slipping a more casual creme-colored blouse along with a set of brown utility pants she had planned to wear hiking later on during the day with President Urbino. So much for day trip plans. Not really the clothes of a diplomat, but I guess they'll just have to do. She strode towards the pathway to the holo-projector where Z3PO had kept his nightly vigil. The droid turned to face the kashan Pro-Consul as she approached.
“Madam Councilor, Governor Lisdell,” introduced the droid, taking a brief half-bow before stepping away from the projector.
Thorn quickly appraised the woman in front of her. She still wore the same clothes as she had when she had spoken to the Councilor earlier. Baggy folds of skin hung down below her eyes. The governor slowly adjusted the holo-camera to get a better view of the Councilor. Christina flashed a weak smile which quickly vanished.
“Unbelievable, isn't it?” said Lisdell, resting her chin on a folded arm, “I never thought it come to this. You should see the streets here. There are riots from both sides of the party. But the government will stick with him.”
“Partly because of some sort of misplaced patriotic pride,” said the woman, “partly because many of them think he will lead us back to our roots, and maybe back to lost glories, but I think a lot of it is institutional preservation. He's undone a lot of the reforms that President Howil put in place. This just takes us one more level to our glorious past.”
“You don't sound like a very strong supporter...Have you, have you heard?”
“Rumors that he's arresting political opponents? Yes. But what am I to do? Run from my home and be branded a traitor, never to return to my home, to have all my assets confiscated and my family tortured? Or stay and rot myself in a prison until he decides my fate?”
“You haven't decided...”
Governor Lisdell nodded, “I haven't, but there is one other option. I could declare Carjale to be an independent state again and secede from the Merdalian Republic...”
“You've already started the process,” guessed Thorn, eying the woman carefully.
“Yes, I have. But I will strong allies.”
“I have no way of putting in an emergency packet for you, not to join the Confederation,” said Thorn, “but President Urbino has the power to make allies of Wosley, that'd be some immediate help...but Elder Moolis will be more powerful.”
“I have already contacted Urbino,” informed the governor, “he is moving people and material to support me, but can we rely on you to help us?”
“The Confederation also works for the good of its member's interests...”
Jan 15 2014 12:51am
Hours passed by quicker than Thorn had remembered them passing than ever before. A set of holo-conferences produced a working alliance which incorporated the rebellious provinces of the newly formed Merdalian Empire into alignment with the Gruszere Confederation. Allied forces soon moved into newly redeclared areas of the Merdalian Republic. In the northernmost portion of the rebellious provinces, the Tréville floated just above the horizon, its relatively massive batteries of guns already trained on the main Merdalian Empire military base. Yet no Imperial forces sallied forth to retake the rebellious provinces as the orange star rose above to bring dawn's light to the world.
Back in the Life Ark, Thorn finished her report to several other Contegorian Councilors back in Brandenburg and shut down the communication's console; tired of talking to a whirlwind of officials, including one Merdalian governor who seemed ready to announce his province's secession from the Empire. Her head slumped onto the ground, going over the ways she could have answered their questions better, yet her mind seemed numb and unwilling. It refused to think of the politics any longer, insteading drifting to observe the beauty of the Life Ark around her. Her eyes settled on a little clump of lavender flowers opening up their petals to face the rays of the rising sun. Her eyes briefly closed again, but her console began to ping. Without looking at the caller, she idly tapped the button, to reveal an older man wearing ceremonial robes of burgandy and lavender. His hard eyes stared at her intently. She quietly cursed herself for not checking the caller's identification before answering.
“Emperor Terris, good morning. How are you?” questioned the brunette, raising her head off the desk.
He scowled, “I am not sure which one of us is worse of. You for not having enough sleep apparently, or me, for losing nearly half an empire in less than eight hours...You and your confederation are both a gift and curse, child.”
“They would seem to come in pairs these days, can't get one without the other. I take it you have recieved my package.”
“Your attempt to blackmail me? I'm the Emperor now, not the President. If you think my party can force me to resign now...”
“You're in a precarious spot, Terris,” replied the woman vehemently, “any remotely antagonistic move by your part is just asking for beat down, and you know it.”
“Perhaps, but you cannot afford to act like the aggressor any more either. After all, you swear your Confederation is all about coexistence and prosperity, free from the concerns of the outside world because of your considerable deterrent power. But that is just it, deterrence. I wish to discuss the descalation of our nations back to peace.”
“Now that you are Emperor.”
“Before anyone dies,” corrected the man, “you forced our hands, I never intended this to go so far.”
“Emperor Terris would be more polite-”
“Terris, I swear that if you do not come clean about your past, not only will reveal it to the public, but I will make your reign a living hell. My intelligence team just didn't come the archives looking for skeletons in your closets. They went deeper. Deep enough to know that you shouldn't have even become President.”
“What do you mean?”
“You lied Terris. You renounced your citizenship for a time, while you went and served under Palpatine at Coruscant. There is a four year stretch where you were not a citizen, despite your attempts to scrub it up, making you ineligible to run for president, and thus become the Emperor under that new legislation. Your reign is illegitimate.”
“You assume you have a supreme court to enforce such a decision.”
“And so we do,” muttered the woman, “that took some work to get them all into the Merdalian Republic. Think of how worse the riots will get when there is not a single branch of Merdalian life that hasn't been split. The Confederation will not allow a failed state or such a gross injustice take place right next door. Not for a COMPNOR butcher like yourself.”
“You can only use so much stick, Councilor...”
A bright flash and a loud bang echoed throughout the Emperor's chamber, causing the man to turn around to face a half dozen armed men along with a Kon'me burst through his doors, all wielding blaster carbines and clad in an unusual plated armor. Before the Emperor could draw his own weapon, they fired a set of blue stun bolts, knocking the man down to the ground. Thorn clicked the channel off, content to let the CSIS commandoes drag the man off to stand before the Merdalian Supreme Court.
Jan 15 2014 11:54am
One week later...
Thorn strode up the rocky path of the mountain, following the nimble silver sphere of the floating tour droid. Only a single man stood in front of her, all of the other tourists slowly staggering and stumbling up the path, despite their additional oxygen masks pumping them a normal supply of oxygen, even at these heights. Eying a set of plants, the woman removed her own mask and went up to admire them, followed by the man and the little droid. Kneeling down, she slowly grasped the stem of the plant to orientate the blue flower towards her, and took a brief inhalation of the air around it. A faint smell like those of her mother's lilacs slipped into her nostrils. Briefly savoring it, she slipped on her mask again.
“You're crazy,” stated the blonde-haired man.
“How's that?” questioned the brunette, rising to her feet.
“That plant could have been poisonous, or even given you rash.”
She shrugged, “I guess...but how would I know if it was safe? Tour guide, please provide us with information on this plant.”
“Plant is unknown,” stated the droid plainly.
“See? It doesn't know either,” said the woman quietly, “it kind of looked like one of the plants I saw in Guszere, so I guessed they were related. If the other one was safe, I figured this one would be.”
“You don't do a lot of planning for these trips, do you? Could have maybe read a data-file.”
She narrowed her eyes at the man. If you knew just exactly how busy I was before all of this...When the newly crowned Emperor disappeared from his palace, the Empire crumbled as quickly as it had formed. A brief period of internal struggles among the Merdalian officials almost immediately ground to a halt as protests over the formation of the Empire itself grew to otherthrow the new regime. Thorn didn't mention to anyone that CSIS had its own little hand in organizing the dissidents, nor that many in the rebellious Merdalian provinces had walked themselves over the border to join their former neighbors to augment the rising crowds. The empire imploded from under the pressure. But rather than simply reform the Merdalian Republic, Thorn had taken the opportunity of the schisms to lead the various governments of Salvara into forming a new single government to rule the world. She hoped that in doing so, the various patriarchian structures in Merdal would be prevent from ever gaining a modicum of power again. With their Emperor missing, and his true history revealed and denounced by the Merdalian Supreme Court, the patriarchs were already reeling from the loss of both their leader and the collapse of the Empire. Yet while Thorn had felt comfortable about the whole affair, as messy as it was, Corise had not. Not nearly as clean cut as he would have liked it, but this works, and the world will be better for it. If they can just finalize their new constitution, they should be fine under the leadership of Prime Minister Urbino and President Moolis. At least my part in all of this over...The man averted his gaze from Thorn and looked back at the stragglers finally reaching them.
“Everyone keep an eye on this lady,” said the man half-jokingly, “she just touched and sniffed an unknown plant, playing with fire...”
“You mean that one over there?” said one of the newcomers, “that's just a Velanie flower. You're an offworlder, aren't you?”
Admiral Lucerne nodded, “I'm afraid so.”
“Nothing to be a ashamed about,” said the Salvaran, “Velanies are very common in Guszere, they're one of the plants they're known for commercially reproducing for export because of their very delicate scents. But this one here looks like a wild one, one untouched by the hands of Ithorian breeders. We should count ourselves lucky.”
Corise spared a glance at the Pro-Consul, but the kashan woman was paying no attention to either of the two men, or anyone else in the group. Her mind was somewhere else besides the people around her. Instead, her chestnut brown eyes gazed at the noonday sun rising above to light the mountain's shimmering peak, creating a blinding light which glinted off the snow-capped tops. I suppose that's like our future, bright, but impossible to fully see or comprehend, hidden by our ambition and all the stars around us.