Reflections: The Changing Face Of Evil
Posts: 14
  • Posted On: Feb 19 2014 3:16pm
“This is the Cooperative diplomatic vessel Envoy V, hailing the planet Coruscant in answer to the Declaration of Artanis Daz'da'mar. I am Ambassador Rane Cardan, and as a representative of the free people of the Cooperative, I am here to accept your offer, to visit this world and its inhabitants in peace. In this capacity, I have been empowered to speak on behalf of the Cooperative, both its government and its people. I happily await your instructions for approach and landing.”

“What do you mean, it is not here?”

Shran Badaar could feel the temperature in the room rise with the anger in the voice of his superior. They were standing in one of what was once a vast network of Imperial command centers; this particular center was designed as a security checkpoint to forbid unauthorized access to the weather control network located in the rest of the building. None of those systems, given Coruscant’s current state, were functioning.

It had been some time since the Imperial forces had withdrawn from Coruscant; in the intervening months, resistance from Imperial forces on the planet had faded as officers of the New Order were either killed by the Parrow Lin or turned in their uniforms and pretended to be civilians. The Dominion ignored the civilians, except to offer medical aid and food to those who needed them.

Occasionally, the Imperial resistance blew something up.

For the most part, The Cree’Ar ignored them. Every once in a while, they trotted out an officer; a former Commander, or a Captain, or maybe an officer from Imperial Intelligence, and publically executed them as a reminder that resistance would be met with equivalent violence. But it was a show; the Dominion could no more stop the resistance than could the resistance force the Dominion from the world.

It was just shadow play. The real game had already ended.

“The entire reason we seized this world is because you were convinced that it was here.”

Badaar’s eyes turned from the angry Cree’Ar to the other man in the room; the unlucky Vejuun.

Once the initial fighting calmed, the Armorlin focused on searching the planet. The tek’a’tara searched the lower levels, but, ultimately, their search had come up fruitless.

It had been believed that Simon Kaine, former de facto leader of The New Order, had kept a storeroom on this world. A place where the pillaged technologies of conquered foes were researched and redeveloped as weapons in his grand schemes.

It may have been falsely believed.

“Well, as you know, there WAS a hypergate here,” Vejuun explained. “Upon closer examination, it appears the particular gate was NOT part of a network native to this galaxy, but rather an Imperial recreation. However, it…”

Vejuun had stopped, for the glow in the eyes of Artanis had become almost violent.

“You… assured us… that the only logical place for such a collection… would be here.”

Vejuun made a gesture indicative of apology. “Perhaps… it was a matter of trust. Maybe his vessel…”

“We do not have… his vessel… only the useless capital ship containing their figurehead Emperor was caught within our web,” Artanis explained. The capital warships of the Empire had long ago been abandoned for containing little of use to The Dominion. “Are you telling me that we captured the wrong leader of the Empire?”

Vejuun did not speak anything in reply.

“Judicator Badaar,” the Cree’Ar high judicator spoke softly.

Badaar stepped forward. “Yes, my lord?”

“Make preparations to have Vejuun executed,” Artanis commanded.

Vejuun’s eyes widened and pleaded with Badaar not to, but Badaar did not need convincing. “Although I admit I share your loathing for Vejuun’s incompetence, his abilities as a scientist cannot be so easily replaced. I have to suggest that he may be allowed to live in that capacity.”

The Cree’Ar high judicator gave an audible growl. “Very well,” he snarled, disappointment palpable.

“If you would like, I can see to it that he is tortured?” Badaar suggested. “I would be happy to apply such torture myself, if it pleases the High Judicator.”

Vejuun’s eyes widened again at the sudden betrayal, and Artanis offered a hand wave of general disinterest. “Do with him as you will,” the elder said, “but keep him from my sight.”

Badaar nodded, and Vejuun gulped as he approached.

“Judicator Badaar,” Artanis said, and Badaar stopped in his tracks, turning his attention to his superior again. “Bring me the smoking man.”

Badaar bowed and grabbed Vejuun by his collar, dragging the lithe scientist from the room.

“Good morning, teacher, it is oh eight hundred hours.”

With those words, the room, if it could be called that, suddenly filled with light. The room was an old disused armory storage bay, which had some time ago been emptied of any useful armaments. It held only one man, who chose only to identify himself with his title; teacher.

“Our topic of discussion today is c-velocity conduits. What do you know about wormhole theory?”

“You’re wasting your time,” the man said, not happy to be awake. “I was never a physics teacher. You have the wrong man.”

“In your terms, a c-velocity conduit is known as a Schwarzschild wormhole. A theoretical tunneling effect through or outside of conventional spacetime was previously proposed, but the introduction of a better understanding of the existence of exotic, or negative, matter, that which had a negative mass and energy, led to speculation that such material could be used to keep the mouth of such a wormhole open.”

“I don’t care,” the man said. He reached up and scratched at the scar on the back of his neck. He wasn’t sure whether he had gotten it when he was captured, or if it was more recent. Touching it was painful; it felt fresh.

“Harvesting of negative matter is currently beyond the scientific abilities of the Imperial research division in so much as would be required for proper industrial application,” the voice droned on, undeterred. “The energy such matter would produce could, in theory, be harnessed to contain it, but without sufficient energy to capture and contain it in the first place, one is left with the dilemma of knowing such a thing exists, but not being able to utilize it.”

“Whatever you say, speakerbox,” the teacher said. He started pacing. It was difficult to think with all this noise, but he had to try and remember…

“The laws of gravity do not apply within conduits that exist outside normal space time…”

The teacher fell to the bench, and barely nodded his head.

“More gibberish?”

The teacher looked across the table; Jaeder had been his name. As much as names were worth these days. “Using negative matter to stabilize a conduit bridging two points in space time,” the teacher said. “My understanding of gravity ends at the tactical use of it in atmospheric  engagements.”

“Interesting,” Jaeder said, and the teacher must have shot him a look of disdain. “How many people have you spoken to?”

“I barely speak to you,” came the teacher’s curt reply.

“See, I’ve spoken to a few people here and there who tell me the same thing you tell me; they get woken up by a bright light, and ambushed with information,” the man said, but then his face got somewhat more excited. “But it’s never useful information. You are a commander, so you get deluged with scientific information you couldn’t process if you had your entire life to study it. Do you think that is what the physicists get?”

The teacher hadn’t thought of that. He looked down at his tray, and was surprised by what he saw. “Is this an orange?”

“You hadn’t noticed?” Jaeder asked and the look he got in return was downright hostile. “They added them to the menu about a week ago. I imagine the lack of natural sunlight probably caused some adverse health effects.”

The teacher clawed directly into the orange, skin and all, then began peeling the skin away. “If you had to guess,” he said, dirty fingers almost accidentally coming clean when bathed in citric acid, “how far down…”

Jaeder gestured with his head. “See those racks on the wall?” The teacher’s eyes followed his gesture and he saw a series of metal bracings, meant to hold something that didn’t seem to be there. “Oxygen tanks. They were removed about three years ago. They’d been in place since the formation of The New Order, and had corroded beyond the point of usefulness. They were scheduled to be repaired just after the siege began; part of overall renovations on this building, actually. I remember vaguely being asked to sign off on the orders.”

The teacher’s eyes lit up. “You know where we are!” Jaeder nodded. “Why haven’t you said anything before?”

“Because it doesn’t matter,” Jaeder replied, dejectedly. “You saw the state of the shield above the planet. Ships falling into it; fire in the atmosphere. This is doomsday. This is all there is left.”

The teacher didn’t respond.

“What about you?” the man asked of the teacher. “Wasn’t there a protocol in place… Apocalypse Protocols? In a situation such as this, with the leadership disabled or dead, were you not to be elevated to the position of Emperor?”
The teacher smirked. “Fucking idiots,” he mused, and Jaeder looked confused. “I put those protocols in place myself, to the exact opposite intent; if ever, there was such a disastrous clusterfuck so catasfuckingtrophic that Kaine, Zell, and Hyfe almighty were all removed from power, the order was to go out to the closest clonetrooper to my position to track me down and execute me immediately.” Jaeder looked shocked at first, but that faded fast as the logic of it settled in. “You think I want to inherit this mess? I didn’t want to lead the Empire when it was in its heyday. I just wanted my own little corner, where I could be alone. Failing that…”

The teacher put his hands down. The orange rolled off the edge of the table, forgotten, and fell to the floor.

“They’ve been talking about moving us,” Jaeder said.

Both men knew that meant “execution”.

Time is a funny thing.

“Commodore,” the man said, offering a nod of the head. “You’re late.”

“Apologies, Supreme Commander, you know how these training sessions go,” the other man offered back, and then stood firm and gave a full salute.

“If I ever need to use the words at ease with you again, they will shortly preclude the firing squad,” the elder of the two offered. “I get enough rigidity from the common brass.”

“It serves a purpose,” the younger of the two countered and the elder shrugged.

“In some circles and some times,” the man mused. “Commodore Gevel, do you have an afternoon? I would much like to take a walk; I so rarely get to walk this city without needing to be on my way to this meeting or this function. I’d, for once, like to take in the air, and the conversation of a fellow officer.”

“I can, of course, make the time, Supreme Commander,” Commodore Gevel offered back, intrigued by the offer.

“Call me Simon, or call me Kaine, when we walk as we do now,” the Supreme Commander of The Imperial Forces said, informally.

“If you would call me Theren,” Gevel countered, and Kaine agreed with a nod. “If I may be so bold, something seems to be bothering you. I don’t know you, outside of our professional interactions, but you seem… almost contemplative. Normally you don’t look out as you do now… you have a keen and sharp eye. As much as I have observed, I mean.”

“Speak as you mean,” Kaine said, knowing that while Gevel had, it was against his instincts. “You are observant, which is why you have risen so quickly through the ranks. That you have not risen higher is a matter of interest to me as well.”

Gevel bit back a snarl. “I am not a fan of politics,” he said.

“And yet, you spend so much time now in the Bastion Conclave, the political heart of the Empire, outside of Imperial City,” Kaine remarked. “I find that curious.”

“I helped to create the conclave,” Gevel offered, “and I see it as my responsibility.”

“Of course,” Kaine acknowledged, waving away any concern with a casual gesture of his hand. “I am not critiquing you, Theren Gevel. You have earned the right to call your own shots, at least, if my say so still counts for anything.”

Gevel smirked. “What causes you to call me to Imperial City?”

Kaine smiled. “You think I would simply tell you directly?”

“Asking never hurts,” Gevel said, keeping pace as Kaine walked. “I don’t come to the capital often except for aforementioned meeting or function.”

“Indeed,” Kaine remarked. “You have seen much in this galaxy, learned of other races and cultures and practices through your conquests. And yet, have never been a member of my… inner circle. You have always kept your own company. I can appreciate that. I find myself in an interesting position, and it is one that could use… the perspective of an outsider. But an outsider that I know that I can trust…”

Gevel was intrigued. “If I can offer anything to the Commander… sorry, to you, Kaine…”

Kaine shook his head. “Just… talk with me. Do you remember your campaign in The Vorzyd Cluster?”

Gevel nodded. “Of course,” he said. “The Vorzydiaks were a cusp race; technological in so much as they had a bare understanding of machines and how to work them in the world. They followed a strict social order, but there was a terrorist undercurrent aiming to overthrow that social order in the name of freedom. I prevented them from reaching their aims and integrated the cluster into the Empire.”

“You were also tasked with neutralizing the Yvetha,” Kaine denoted.

“They were a brutal, savage race, and living in harmony with them would have been impossible,” Gevel said, no regrets about what he had done. “At what position in my resume are you going to get to the point, Simon?”

“I’ve never met a Yvetha, in combat or otherwise…” Kaine mused, idly. “Did you know, the Vorzyd and the Falleen have about a 12% difference in their genome? There is evidence of a root ancestor, despite them being from different sections of the galaxy.”

Gevel stood in silence, not sure what Kaine was getting at.

Simon stopped walking then, and turned to Gevel. He leaned in, and Gevel did as well. “In all of your experiences,” Kaine asked, softly, almost as if he was afraid of being overhead, “have any of the races you have encountered… spoken of time travel?”

Gevel’s eyes widened in surprise. He took a step backwards, and then snorted out a laugh. “Time travel? I thought this was a serious conversation for a second,” Gevel said, unable to suppress his amusement. The laughter stopped when he saw that Kaine wasn’t chuckling. “Kaine, someone told you a story. A tall tale about temporal variance or some shit. Time travel isn’t possible.”

“What about fate?” Kaine asked, and that caused Gevel to stop and consider. “They say that Palpatine was aware of… a greater future. He spoke in hushed tones to his most trusted advisors, of a day beyond the rebellion against the Empire… of a day when weapons like the Death Star and the Sun Crusher would be our only hope against a race of beings from beyond the stars that we know… a group of aliens so powerful, they would topple Coruscant itself. Was that all hearsay, or a vision of a possible future?”

Gevel nodded, accepting that Kaine was serious. “Then let us make a pact here, and now,” he said, in a serious tone. “Should either of us command the forces of The Galactic Empire at a time in the future, when time travel is possible, we will send a man back to this walkway, at this moment… to do a silly dance.”

Kaine would have had Gevel executed if there was a soldier nearby. When one did not materialize and, further, did not produce the expected silly dance, Gevel shrugged, and reached into his pocket for the package of cigaras. “I am glad,” Kaine said, “if nothing else, I could amuse you today.”

“Your problem, Kaine, is you overthink things,” Gevel said, taking a drag of his cigara between words. “You see a prophecy by an alien race; you consider the implications rather than the source. Sometimes the words of backwater primitives are as worthless as their attempts at armed resistance.”

“Perhaps,” Kaine said, and Gevel could tell that he was letting this bother him.

“You like to be the man with the plan,” Gevel said. “The idea that someone can, at the end of the game, jump back and rearrange the pieces, to tamper with your favored outcome, could be a very upsetting idea I agree.”

“How would one go about it, then?” Kaine said. “Defending against such an impossible consideration?”

Gevel shrugged. “I’ve heard that time travel involves manipulation of gravity,” Gevel said. “Without hard science though; I’d suggest you just capture all the key pieces, and keep them close to you, not telling anyone else where they are.”

“Keep them until?” Kaine asked, and Gevel blew out a large sigh.

“Endgame,” Gevel said. “You have instincts for timings, Kaine. You will know when the time is right. Someone told me once, Simon Kaine is a string collector. He collects all the important strings. When I asked him how you knew which strings were important, he said you didn’t; you just made it a habit of always taking loose threads with you for tying them into later knots, just in case they should prove valuable.”

“I prefer to think I have a more discriminating eye,” Kaine said, then allowed himself to smile. “Sometimes the key to painting the bigger picture is holding all the paint.”

“Speaking of pains,” Gevel said, with a smirk. “Here comes the day.”

Kaine turned and saw a political officer – possibly a Moff, he was too far away to identify exact insignia – coming in his direction, flanked by a contingent of stormtroopers. “Well, I am recalled to daily life it seems,” Kaine said. He offered Gevel his hand. “I hope to have not inconvenienced you too much by recalling you here, and that you can avail yourself of the facilities of this world before returning to Bastion.”

Gevel nodded. “I see a shop a few minutes’ walk from here,” Gevel said, “and I think I could do with a new hat,” Gevel said, and shook Kaine’s hand. “May we meet again… sometime in the future,” Gevel offered, with a soft hint of sarcasm.

Kaine watched Gevel walk away; the younger of the two officers stopped briefly to consider his state of dress in the outside of the hat shop’s mirror before proceeding inside. Kaine shook his head, feeling like he had wasted time trying to draw anything meaningful out of the man, but all the same, knowing that at the very least, Gevel had given him his honest opinions.

Afterall, what Kaine had asked him did sound crazy.

Kaine silently vowed to keep his own council on such matters, lest any more discussions such as that arise. In the meantime…

“Ah, Moff Jaeder,” Kaine said, turning to greet the man who was encroaching on his walk. “I suppose the galaxy hasn’t waited on me to take a walk, has it? What news?”

Pain can become routine.

When one does something often enough, even if that thing is uncomfortable, it can become the norm. The norm becomes comfortable even if that comfort is being in a consistent level of discomfort. Such is it with being held prisoner.

Then one morning, you don’t wake up.

Gevel must have known that eight in the morning had come and gone. He had felt restless, as if in a waking sleep, for some time. Tossing, turning, but never really getting up. Nothing really to wake up to. No information. No light.

Just the strange feeling he was being watched.

Eventually, he felt that the person watching him was waiting; for him to awake naturally, perhaps. Gevel smirked in the darkness, realizing he was finally in control of something. His smirk faded as he realized how pathetically small this victory was, and then he sat up.

“So what time is it, anyway?”

Theren still could not see the other person, but he could hear them shift their position. “The Cree’Ar would tell you that time is relative. The tek’a’tara are less philosophical, and would tell you the time to the atomic second, in whatever the current system happened to be.”

Gevel furrowed his brow. “And you?”

The creature shifted again. “I am Vejuun.”

“Is that your name, or your race?”

“My name,” the creature replied. “Would you like me to turn on the lights?”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Gevel said.

“Because your question is not terribly relevant,” Vejuun countered back. “The sun sets, the sun rises. When a man has no schedule, what difference does it make whether it is closer to one, or the other?”

Gevel saw the logic in that. “No more education?”

“The higher ups have found a higher purpose for you,” Vejuun remarked.

“I am to be executed?” Gevel asked, defiantly.

“If you wish,” Vejuun stated. “That much will be up to you. But in the interim, there is something the Cree’Ar would ask of you. And before you can decide whether to accept or not, you must be moved.”

Moved, huh. “Moved where?”

“Higher up,” Vejuun said. Gevel thought sarcastically he must be found of that designation. “In any case, you may begin getting dressed, or not. How long you make them wait is entirely up to you.”

Gevel nodded. “If I’m going to get dressed and get up,” Gevel said, “then we will need some light.”

Vejuun nodded, and then there was light.

Gevel almost winced when, for the rest time in a time he could not define, natural sunlight hit his eyes. He took in several deep breathes, tasting what passed for natural air on Coruscant.

He could see smoke in the distance, evidence that the fighting continued. “Still having insurgency issues?” he said with a smirk.

“The Cree’Ar made a fundamental mistake in not simply allowing The Phage to kill all life on this world,” Vejuun said coldly, “if avoiding an insurgency was their goal.”

“What is their goal?” Gevel asked, and Vejuun, despite not being human, offered a very human shrug. “You work for them, don’t you?”

“Not exactly,” Vejuun said. “In some fashions, yes. They asked me to prepare you, so this I do. I am a scientist, and my interest is greater than their ambitions.” Gevel moved to speak, but Vejuun cut him off with a gesture of his hand. “I’ve said enough, and you have had your moment in the sun. Let’s go.”

The two began walking, across the permacrete walkways on the edges of the Imperial Palace. The statue of Palpatine that had stood for so many centuries had broken and fallen nearby, with only the legs of the old Emperor still standing. Gevel could see his hand, felled by the attack, pointing fingers skywards, as if to ask for help.

Gevel heard something, and stopped. The two tek’a’tara behind him moved to push him forward but Vejuun gestured for them to let the man stop. Gevel’s eyes found what his ears had predicted; atmospheric entry of a vessel, coming in at speed. He didn’t recognize the type of ship. “Expecting them?”

“Only recently,” Vejuun stated. “They are from something called The Cooperative… ring any bells?”

Gevel turned to him and smirked. “You really expect me to answer that?” Vejuun shrugged again. “What are they doing here?”

“They’ve come to talk,” Vejuun said, “but enough about them. You have to move. We need to have you cleaned up before you can meet with the Cree’Ar. Let’s go, into that turbolift.”

Gevel stepped silently inside, folding his hands behind his back as a good officer should, and Vejuun, amused, mimicked the gesture. “Humans fascinate me,” he said. “Do you think that you, and the people of Capricia, might be sexually compatible?” Gevel turned, hostile eyes fixed on the alien, and he withdrew. “Well, no matter.”

When the lift stopped, Gevel couldn’t help but laugh.

“You seem to know where we are,” Vejuun said.

“You could say that,” Gevel said.

“Do you know where L4PH is?” Vejuun said, and Gevel nodded. “Then you can lead.”

Gevel started walking. L4PH was a building on Level 4, which was 40 stories above ground, located in sector P area H. Sector P was denoted by the capital building, Imperial Palace, being directly at its center. The areas around were then subdivided into pie shaped slices around a massive circle encircling the palace itself.

L4PH was nicknamed The Lap, and was known as one of the most luxurious places to stay in Imperial City. It was primarily a state operated hotel used to host political guests of The Emperor himself. When Gevel had visited Coruscant, he would sometimes…

…his mind went blank when he stopped, midstep.

In front of him, was the hat shop, that so many years ago had been his destination after meeting Simon Kaine. He walked slowly towards it and, once again, Vejuun allowed him his moment before the tek’a’tara went to grab him.

Gevel saw a man in the hat shop, but, to call him a man was a bit of a stretch. The man was thin and haggard, looking as if he hadn’t slept in years. His skin was rough and cracking, evidently dehydrated. He showed no signs of injury, no bruises or breaks, but he looked thin, and malnourished. His bones were visible, hard edges in his skin, skin visible with what had once been clothes now merely dirty, torn ragged pieces of fabric, slowly decomposing. Gevel found himself wondering, softly stepping forward, if all the citizens of Coruscant were like this.

Then he stopped, and his mouth froze open in horror.

His first instinct was that the man in the window had moved, reacting to him, out of fear of his approach. But when he stopped again, he realized the truth.

The window was a mirror. The broken thing, barely resembling a man, was him.

“Amazing isn’t it,” Vejuun said. “A little sleep deprivation, dehydration, malnutrition, and a body starts to consume itself whole. No one ever had to torture you; your body instinctively did it to itself. And it happened so gradually, as your mind broke under the repetition, you didn’t notice your body failing as well.”

“What have I…” Gevel said. He reached out, touching the mirror. Touching the broken image of the broken being he saw reflected there. He turned back to Vejuun. “What have I become?”

Vejuun, for the first time, offered him a sympathetic expression. “Nothing is irreversible,” Vejuun said. “Come, we will remake you into the person you once knew.”

Gevel nodded weakly. His defiance had ebbed long ago; down in that supply closet they kept him locked in, his mind had broken under the strain of science he could never understand. The scar on the back of his neck, that itched and ached, had been the only wound they had inflicted on him. The rest he had done to himself.

So, Theren Gevel, former Moff of the New Order, shambled like a disgraced convict; like a dying leper, he walked forward, abandoning all ideas of destiny and revolution, consigned to his fate.

Not that long ago, he had saved this world, by foiling the plans of the Skey’g’aar Zeratul. And now, he strode across it aimlessly, almost soullessly.

Time was a funny thing.

“Confederation Vessel, you are to land at the coordinates marked as L4PH. Once docked, please proceed to floor 8, and avail yourselves of the accommodations and pleasantries provided. An envoy will be dispatched to you at an appropriate time.”
Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Sep 18 2014 2:07am
Rane didn't know what to make of the smoke rising in the distance. Or the pedestrian traffic visible on the skywalks.

For a planet that had been struck by the Phage, it was quite lively. The Coalition had successfully beaten back Phage epidemics on worlds in the East, but only through the combination of incredibly dumb luck and massive humanitarian expenditures. What unsettled Rane more than the knowledge that the Cree'Ar had Black Dragon nanotechnology to use, he suddenly realized, was the thought that they might be able to control it after its use.

After all of the fighting and months of occupation and blackout, Coruscant, it seemed, was intact. Not just its infrastructure, but its population. Natives of millions of worlds throughout the galaxy, all here, all survivors of the greatest battle this world had seen in a thousand years. He wondered if they had either the permission or means to leave. Or were they prisoners, explicitly or otherwise, of their new masters?

The designated landing pad rose up to meet them, and the Squib pilot brought the shuttle in for a gentle landing. Ambassador Rane Cardan stared out of the viewport for a long moment, through the transparisteel windows of the adjacent building and into the dead space beyond. There was no movement inside. Unlike the busy, world-spanning city around them, this building very much looked the barren wasteland Rane had expected to find.

“Right, then,” Rane started, rising from the copilot's seat and making for the cockpit door. “Any chance you'd care to come along?”

The Squib pilot craned his head around the side of the pilot's seat. “Sorry, sir. Orders to stay with the ship. You understand.”

“Of course,” Rane said, turning back to the door and heading out. “Sure you're sorry,” he added under his breath, allowing himself one final acknowledgment of his own predicament before stepping out of the shuttle and into alien land.

And Coruscant, whatever it looked like at a glance, was an alien world now.

Rane Cardan walked, alone, across the landing pad and through the sliding doors of L4PH. He walked the empty, echoing hallway until he found a turbolift and promptly whooshed to floor eight, where again, he found no sign of any living thing. In an adjacent reception area, however, there was ample seating and in the center of the room, on a table, sat a bowl of assorted fruit.

He lasted five minutes alone in the silence before he plucked an orange from the bowl and started peeling carefully with his fingernails, more to pass the time than out of any real desire to eat its contents. As he picked at the fruit's rind, it occurred to him that the Cree'Ar might bring along a representative of the local populace. Depending on the situation, maybe even a former member of the Imperial planetary government. A minister of this department or that, some mid-level non-military type that could easily be persuaded to collaborate in exchange for perks, or the retention of previous privileges.

He wondered if the Cree'Ar worked that way, cordial and generous, when force was not required?

Somehow, he doubted the people who Phaged the heart of the galaxy were quite so kind.
Posts: 14
  • Posted On: May 24 2015 1:29pm
“They say you’re fast,” the man said, his voice hoarse and dry. His hand gripped the blaster tightly, as if it were the only thing left in the world that meant anything to him. “But at this range, I doubt even you could get out of the way.”

The man on the other end of the blaster didn’t turn to face the barrel. “Only one way to find out, but is that really the answer you want?”

“I want to know why you’re here,” the man with the blaster said, “and I want to know why it smells like whiskey."

The other man, sitting calmly at the table in the apartment’s kitchen, smiled a little. “Both easy enough to answer, if you put the gun down.”

The more ragged of the two paused, looking down at his weapon, and then looking over at the bottle of whiskey. “You better be sharing.”

“I hope we can both share something with the other,” the man at the table said as the blaster was holstered.

It took some time still for tensions to ease…

It had been a few hours since Theren Gevel had seen the ghost in the glass.

It was impossible to tell time now; the old Imperial City was a mess of neon advertisements, scrolling marquees with news and information, transit schedules, updates on the status of the planetary shield and what particular routes outbound would be open and which would be diverted to tariff checkpoints. In the old Imperial City it was almost impossible to lose track of time.

One found ways… a good woman, or a good whiskey.

On this day, Gevel had been sat down and fed. He hadn’t remembered the last time he had a good meal; what they served in his prison was sustenance, but definitely not flavorful. He was told this was some of the last food that had been delivered, pre-Siege, to Imperial Center; that much of the rest had spoiled or been looted.

It was then that Vejuun slipped him the gun. “There are many disgruntled residents on this world,” Vejuun explained. “Some of them hate the Cree’Ar, some of them hate the Empire, and some of them simply see a man with a clean pair of boots and decide that is reason enough to attack him.”

“Won’t be a problem for me,” Gevel stated, still in rags.

“Once you’re done eating, we have a uniform for you,” Vejuun said. “I understand this hotel kept a spare uniform for officers, should the one they wore into the building become… stained.”

Gevel smirked, recalling some dinners and after dinner receptions getting out of hand. He generally wasn’t much for philandering but he kept up appearances, if only for blackmail purposes. “What happens if I shoot you?”

Vejuun shrugged. “The Cree’Ar place little value in me, hence my tending to minutiae such as feeding and clothing you. They would probably kill you in turn, unless you made a good job of disappearing,” the grey skinned alien explained. “I think for now you should consider their offer and, if not interested, kill them.”

Gevel smirked. “I’m being taken in front of the head Cree’Ar, and you’re suggesting I kill him?”

Again, Vejuun shrugged. “I don’t much care for his leadership, and think his replacement would invariably be better. For his death you would almost certainly die, but I think it is a trade off I could live with.”

Gevel chuckled, looking down at the blaster. “I don’t feel like dying today,” he said, then laid the blaster down and picked up his fork again. “Not when I’ve just eaten such a good meal.”

“Whatever you say,” Vejuun said, generally disinterested.

The two rode up a long elevator, and from the inside of the glass Gevel could tell where he was; the MCC Tower, not far from the center of Imperial City; not as grandiose as the giant Statue Of Palpatine that held the executors offices, the MCC was the more low key military installation located close enough to be at whips end but far enough that anyone destroying the statue couldn’t accidentally destroy something important.

The Cree’Ar had hit the MCC badly during the siege; easy to, as with the incoming and outgoing comm traffic it would have been obvious where the orders were really coming from. Of course, they’d rebuilt the MCC; poor Palpatine was nothing but dust and rubble now, several hundred stories below where he once stood, broken into a thousand pieces. Much like his Empire.

When he reached the top level he realized the first change was that the top level was now the top two levels; the floor of the top level had been removed so that the top two levels were now one. The reason became obvious with the second thing he noticed; two massive statues of metal, occasionally broken up by some kind of computer display, stood beside the door, much as would Royal Guards in the old days of Palpatine’s reign.

“Armorlin,” Vejuun explained.

“Jesus,” Gevel said. He thought back and remembered seeing them in the streets during the siege itself; they were much more frightening to behold up close. “And you wanted me to kill people with a hand blaster.”

As the two walked, Gevel noticed that, other than the removal of the floor and it’s supports, much had been left the same. Even the computer terminals remained, although the text they displayed was no longer in a language he recognized. He recognized the starmap and he smirked when he saw it.

“Stalled, have we?” Gevel said. “I suppose that would be my fault, well, me and Mr. Vos. Thanks to us, your plans for this world’s communication relays were blasted into oblivion.”

“Theren Gevel,” a voice spoke out from somewhere above. Gevel turned and noticed that parts of the floor had not been removed; there was a small section in the corner of the room which remained a level above, and a set of stairs, preexisting, led up to it. It was from there that the voice came and it was to that staircase that Gevel walked. “You have a decorated service record, both as a military officer and a political advisor to Commander Kaine.”

“Yes yes, Gloria Imperium and all that,” Gevel said. “Why am I here?”

With that, the chair turned. It was a throne chair; it had been taken from the rubble of the palace itself and brought here. It was not Palpatine sat in it but, awkwardly, one of the green skinned aliens he had come to know as the Cree’Ar. “I am Artanis. I lead the Cree’Ar.”

Gevel bit down on a laugh. “What about anything, I have said or done, implied to you in any way that I give a shit who you are?”

The Cree’Ar were large; it would suggest they would move in burdensome slowness but this one was fast, and in an instant, stood over Gevel, looking down on him, hunched to stay below the ceiling. “You have a reputation for obstinence and impudence,” the alien said. “Some of your superiors remark that, were it not for your tactical abilities, your immaturity would have had you executed by now.”

“So you’ve read my file,” Gevel said. “That doesn’t mean you know me.”

“Perhaps not,” the creature said. It opened one of its hands, and in his palm, Gevel saw a familiar site; his glasses. He took them and put them on his face. “But we know of your strengths, and your abilities. For all your antagonistic actions, you still rose up the Imperial command ranks. And for that, you were richly rewarded.”

As the alien used the word rewarded, his other hand opened. Gevel could not believe his eyes but, with his glasses now reattached to his face, he knew that the pack of cigaras in the palm of the alien were real. “Are you trying to curry my favor? To what end?”

“We have need of your services,” the alien said. “If you are willing to work for us, we can make your life considerably more… comfortable.”

Gevel pondered for a few moments, then allowed his hand to pull the cigaras to him. As he lit one, he turned away. “Go on.”

“It is kabdu bacon; I hunted and skinned the animal myself. The whiskey is carameletta and maple flavoured Corellian Reserve; maybe not as highbrow as you might otherwise enjoy, but it will simmer better in the pan,” the man at the stove said.

“Do you know how long it’s been,” the man at the table said, lighting a cigara, “since I’ve had whiskey?"

“Probably about as long since you’ve had a good meal,” the other man replied. He was greeted with a chuckle. “Something funny?”

“Actually the Cree’Ar fed me earlier today,” he said, “before directing me here. Gave me the uniform and the cigaras too.”

“Well that is downright friendly of them,” the man at the stove said, eyeing the man at the table with a curious gaze. “What did they want in return?”

“They had an offer they wanted me to consider,” the man at the table said. “Let’s not forget, though, that I have the blaster. You’re supposed to be answering my questions. What are you doing here?”

The man at the stove smirked, then flipped the eggs. “I was looking for Cisero, actually; I don’t officially have any pull with Imperial Intelligence but I did some assassinations for The New Order back in the day, so I occasionally try and pry intelligence on current events from the biggest intel network around.”

“I don’t remember you on the roster of Imperial assassins,” Gevel said, before dragging the cigara deeply.

“Do you remember Darth Yang?”  Gevel shook his head. “The original structure of the New Order lent much more power to the ruling Sith than the military command. It was in my own best interests as well to eliminate some of those Sith.”

“Must have been all off the record,” Gevel said.

“Public record of the military moving against the Sith in the political hierarchy? No, better to sweep everything under the rug; a few dead bodies here or there, mostly nameless agents in a shell game no one wanted to publicize, all easily missed,” the man at the stove said, this time turning the bacon. “Anyway, I can’t find Cisero; either he made it off planet, or he died during the siege. I was trying to track down Grand Moff Jaeder, but they are still keeping him under lock and key for the moment.”

“And me, until today,” Gevel said. He butted out the remnants of his cigara and thought of another, but decided to pace himself. “How long have you been here?”

The man at the stove stopped to think about that. “About four days,” he said. “Cloaked entry, landed in the lower levels, worked my way up.”

“Just like they did,” Gevel said, and the man at the stove turned. “When they invaded. We got reports of massive amounts of armed attackers coming up from the lower levels.”

“They have devices,” the man at the stove said, “they implant hardware into your body. It replaces parts of you, augments you, and turns you into one of their soldiers. The denizens of the lower levels; not the ones in the lower apartments, I mean the ones in the deep core, the mutants? They are all dead now. Dead, and refashioned as weapons.”

“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” Gevel said. The man at the stove furrowed his brow. “Don’t tell me you’re some mutant lover.”

“You know, a lot of people are saying the same thing… good riddance that is… to the Empire,” the man pointed out.

“Yeah?” Gevel said. He turned, and smirked. “I bet a lot of people waited a long time to see that happen… the fall of the Empire. I hope, when the Cree’Ar burn their homes and kill their children, that they think it was worth it.”

The man at the stove didn’t immediately reply, considering how best to continue carefully. “They’re coming after us now,” was what he said.

Gevel took a second to process that. “You mean the Jedi?”

“They have… ways of using the energy of a force user,” the man said. “They’ve been collecting Jedi. Capturing them… trading resources for them.”

This was when Gevel chose to light his second cigara. “Oh well,” he said, feigning disinterest.

Both men knew it was a lie. Theren Gevel had been a key part of the Imperial machine; the largest galactic political and military hierarchy in the galaxy. Now, that structure was fractured and damaged to the point of being barely recognizable. The only thing that could rival the power of the Empire was the power of the Force. And if the force users of the galaxy fell too…

“How’s your head?” the man at the stove asked, and Gevel snapped to attention. He reached his hand back to the scar on his neck, and rubbed it momentarily. He had almost forgotten about it. “Wondering how you got it?”

“Not actively,” he said. “I don’t suppose it really matters. It’s there.”

“Right,” the man at the stove said. “But you have a scar on your flesh. Doesn’t it make you wonder what might be beneath it?”

The thought hadn’t occurred to Gevel. He assumed it had been a cut from the siege, or his capture. He reached his hands up to the scar, and dug his fingers in… the flesh gave only about an eighth of a centimeter. There was something hard under his skin, where his muscles would normally be. “What the…”

“When they capture Jedis, they implant them with a port at the base of their spine,” the man at the stove noted. “The port is their way of recharging certain other technology they implant in the body. When we try and rescue captured Jedi we can only take those with us who haven’t been fitted with the port.”

Gevel turned to him, eyes burning. “…why?”

The man at the stove lowered his head. “Because if you remove someone with that port from Cree’Ar control, they die,” he replied. “The Cree’Ar use their own type of energy derived from… well, we don’t know what, but we can’t replicate it. Without that port being charged on a regular basis, the other implants, used to regulate cardiovascular functions, stop working. The body goes into a coma to preserve itself but dies after a few hours without regular autonomic functions.”

“Do you mean to say that I am stuck on this fucking planet with these fucking aliens for the rest of my motherfucking life?”

“No,” the man at the stove said, and he walked forward and grabbed Gevel by the neck, forcing him to look at him. “I am going to figure out how to free everyone they have so encaptured. And when I do, I will come for you too. Despite all your history, you don’t deserve to die here, a slave to their machinations.”

Gevel shook the man free, and he went back to his stove. “They want me to be Emperor,” Gevel said, butting out his second cigara, no longer feeling in the mood.

“Emperor?” the man at the stove asked him curiously.

“They want me to meet with other governments on their behalf, and discuss diplomatic agreements and conditions as if I were in charge of this world,” he said. “An envoy from The Cooperative is being brought, even as we speak, to a meeting room in this hotel. They want me to see what they are after and how we can coordinate making it possible.”

"They want you to give The Cooperative what they want?"

"Apparently," Gevel said. "They don't seem to be concerned with whatever capitulation they might ask, just as long as we can maintain some measure of neutral or positive relations. I guess they want to save their resources so they can come after you." The man slowly wandered back to the stove. "You know, if they make me Emperor, I might have to arrest you. Pretty sure you still have outstanding warrents."

The man at the stove smiled, but with his back turned to Gevel the Imperial never saw it. He reached down and took off metal band wrapped around his wrist, then placed it on the counter. He then tapped a button on it. "Sihoyguwa," he said, "play back Intercepted Vladet Declaration."

Out of the metal band, a hologram popped up of an Imperial officier. "The Galactic Empire hereby declares that its planets, ships, and space stations are now safe havens for force users of any kind, whether they are light, neutral, or dark in affinity of the force, and whether or not at one time they may even have been sworn enemies of the Empire," the officer read. "Any force user, from Jedi to sith, that seeks asylum within the Empire shall be immediately granted it, with any official refusing such to be met with severe and swift punishment. Furthermore, every effort shall be made to rescue force users in dire need of such, even if such acts must occur outside of the Empire's own borders, if so threatened by the Cree'Ar Dominion, with the proclamation lasting until such a time that the Cree'Ar Dominion is no longer considered a valid threat."

Gevel took a few seconds to digest that. "So the force wars are over," he said, with a forlorn tone.

"The force wars are never over," the man at the stove replied. "There's just a new force to be at war with, is all. War never ends, Theren, you know that. The antagonists change but the instinct stays the same."

Gevel nodded at that. "So if you aren't here for me, who are you here for? You said you wanted to talk to Cisero, but Cisero is information; a means to an end. So what's your endgame?"

The man at the stove turned around. "I'm taking the pulse of the Empire," he replied. "I come from Ossus; it was an interesting experience."

"How so?" Gevel asked.

"It's difficult to explain but, suffice to say, the Jedi, whatever organized remains of them there are, are not going to surrender without a fight," the man said. "We might not end up fighting here, but we will fight them somewhere, anywhere, until we can't fight them anymore."

Gevel nodded. "Alright," he said. "I assume the usual lightside governments are onside?"

"Coalition has been quiet," the man said, "but the Confederation and the Cooperative are already making their stands against The Reavers. Only a matter of time before we can expect an organized reponse from The New Republic as well."

Gevel nodded again. "So what do you want me to do?"

The man at the stove shut the pan off and scooped out a plate full of food for both himself and the Imperial officer. "Keep yourself alive," he said, setting both plates on the table. "Until we can figure out how to either get you off this planet, or get them off this planet, you do what they want, talk to who they want, work out whatever scenarios they have in mind, and in the meantime, know that you're not alone."

Gevel felt slightly better hearing that. "And is there something you want?"

"Two things," the man said. "First, get them to release whatever Imperial officers they have prisoner. Some of them might be useful if you want to organize a counterinsurgency, or for other purposes."

"And the second?" Gevel said.

"You won't like it," the man said.

"Well, you cooked me breakfast, I figure I can indulge one stupid request of yours," the Imperial said in return.

The man reached into the folds of his robes, and pulled out a lightsaber handle. He turned it in such a way that the light caught on a small metal hook, that looked sharp as a scalpel, attached to the end. "I want to take a look at that neck of yours."

"Then you had better pour me a fucking drink," Gevel said, crossing his arms in defiance.

This elevator ride was much different. With glasses in place, fitted uniform, and even freshly polished boots, Gevel felt less naked than before. Amazing how a change of clothes could make you feel... so in control.

The Cree'Ar noticed that he was walking differently. "Praetor Gevel," they addressed him, "the Cooperative..."

"Before that," Gevel said. "You want something from me, and I'll do it, but I want a few things from you."

The Cree'Ar leaders, Badaar and Artanis, looked at each other in amusement. "Give us your terms," Badaar told him.

"First, I want you out of this room," Gevel said. "Not you personally, the two of you are fine, but you don't need a staff here and the room has too many fucking aliens. This is an Imperial command center and it should be staffed by humans. You can stay, you can stay, and if it makes you feel better you can keep the armorlin at the door, but there's no need for a dozen Cree'Ar in here. It makes me feel uncomfortable."

Artanis looked at Badaar and back to Gevel. "If that would make you feel better," he said.

"Another thing; I can't lead an Empire if I don't have any subjects," Gevel said. "I need a staff; I can draw them from your prisoners of war. Release them, house them here, clean them up, and then I'll begin to choose who fills what position in my new Empire. Don't worry; I'll take whatever meetings you want me to take in the meantime."

The two Cree'Ar considered it. "I cannot release anyone who has been caught commiting an act of violence," Artanis said, "but otherwise, I believe I can accomodate."

"Alright," Gevel said, drawing a cigara to his lips. "Since you're doing something for me, I'll do something for you," he said, before lighting the cigara and taking a drag. "I know you're looking for force users. There happens to be one on this planet. He came to visit me in the hotel room you arranged for me. His name is Ahnk Rashanagok and he'll be waiting in the Imperial City to monitor the release of the captured Imperial Officers. If you hurry, you can probably catch him."

Badaar moved away to have the guards make a search while Artanis, legitimately caught offguard, made a gesture that in his own language was a mixture of confusion, but gratitude. "Why would you offer us such a thing?"

"Because he's a lousy cook and you guys have a better stocked pantry," Gevel said, joking. Artanis did not understand. "I'm a pragmatist. I know which side is the winning side. He's here in a ship he can make invisible; you're in orbit, with a warfleet that drove away our best conventional forces. I can either work for you, or you will kill me and get someone else to do it. There's no way I can defeat you, so I might as well do what I can to make things run smoothly."

Artanis nodded; a gesture he knew Gevel would understand. "Very well, Emperor Gevel," the Cree'Ar said.

Gevel shook his head and took a deep drag. It would take a while before he got used to that.

"Representative of The Cooperative, may I present, the right honorable Emperor of The Coruscan Empire, Emperor Theren Gevel," the tek'a'tara announced as another pair opened the door.

As announced, Theren Gevel strode into the conference hall. Normally there would be more pomp and circumstance; Gevel would be in something more suiting than just his normal uniform, at the very least dress uniform. There would be music and horns and there would be escorts and guards. But the Cree'Ar didn't understand pagantry; and Gevel didn't really give a shit anyway.

So he was here. Just one man. One man, now the installed leader of the galaxy.

He tried to think if he'd even heard of The Cooperative before the siege.

"Alright," Gevel said, sitting down at the end of the table. He put a cigara in his mouth and then slid the package across the table, inviting his counterpart to take one if he so desired. "Let me just cut right through the bullshit; it's been a long day and I still have a lot to do before I can get any rest. So let's dispense with normal formalities and cut right to the heart of it. 

Who the fuck are you, and what the fuck do you want?"
Posts: 837
  • Posted On: May 24 2015 10:21pm
“Gods below,” Rane whispered, unable to stop himself. Theren Gevel . . . Emperor Theren Gevel

Rane's mind was reeling with the implications. It was a wonder he had the presence of mind to wave away the offer of a cigara. What did all of this mean, really? How could . . .

“Who the fuck are you, and what the fuck do you want?”

And that was that. Out of time. No allowance to process the situation.

That, at least, was something Rane could work with. This was a diplomatic exchange, after all. It was political. Theren Gevel was his adversary, and his very existence, the confusion and questions his presence here generated, was simply the opening move. That was something the ambassador could make sense of.

“My name is Rane Cardan; I'm an ambassador for the Galactic Cooperative of Free States, now the largest member nation of the Galactic Coalition. I was sent here in the hopes of establishing diplomatic relations with the Dominion. I never thought . . . I couldn't have imagined this in a thousand years. So yeah, sure, Emperor, let's cut right to the heart of it. My shuttle passed Dominion warships on the way planetside. I was led to this room by those Dominion . . .” Rane waved indistinctly at the tek'a'atara near the edge of the room, “soldiers? So are you telling me that the legitimate heir of Imperial power, as established by Emperor Hyfe's continuity of government protocols years ago, and the Dominion 'envoy' I've been waiting to meet since landing, are one and the same? Because if so, that changes everything.”
Posts: 14
  • Posted On: Jul 4 2015 2:20pm
“My name is Rane Cardan; I'm an ambassador for the Galactic Cooperative of Free States, now the largest member nation of the Galactic Coalition. I was sent here in the hopes of establishing diplomatic relations with the Dominion. I never thought . . .”

One of the other doors to the conference room opened, and in walked Admiral Jaeder. Theren nodded in his direction but also gestured for him to hold his position.

“So yeah, sure, Emperor, let's cut right to the heart of it. My shuttle passed Dominion warships on the way planetside. I was led to this room by those soldiers. So are you telling me that the legitimate heir of Imperial power, as established by Emperor Hyfe's continuity of government protocols years ago, and the Dominion 'envoy' I've been waiting to meet since landing, are one and the same? Because if so, that changes everything.”

Gevel looked at Jaeder and the two shared a smile. “Jaeder, would you consider me to be the legitimate heir to Imperial power?”

Jaeder nodded. “Speaking personally, yes.”

“Alright, so that makes two of us,” Gevel said. He briefly considered lighting his cigara but instead dropped it into an ashtray unlit. “Look, obviously there are going to be questions about the chain of command and proper succession procedures. Officially, Emperor Hyfe is considered to be missing. For that matter, Regent Zell, acting in his stead, has not been confirmed as dead either.”

“It is important,” Admiral Jaeder spoke up, “that in times of war, leadership be active and effective. Even if only on a provisional basis.”

Gevel nodded, smile fading into a more serious expression. “I didn’t ask for this,” he said, to Cardan. Then he smiled again and turned to Jaeder. “Why are you here, anyway?”

“The release of Dominion prisoners of war has been completed, though they are officially continuing to hold roughly 80 men who committed what they consider to be violent actions,” Jaeder said. “They’ve also given me a list of names of Imperial prisoners who were being held on Coruscant when the siege began, and put their fate in my hands.”

Gevel nodded and Jaeder slid him a datapad with the list of names. He looked it over and then slid it over to Cardan. “A gesture of good faith; if any of those names are your citizens or citizens of groups allied to you, you may make arrangements to have them safely transported home. Consider Park Kraken’s general amnesty offer extended to them and their crimes forgiven. Apologize for their confinement and see to it they are fed and treated for any injuries. You can coordinate with… Jaeder, have you seen Vejuun?”

“I can probably find him,” Jaeder said.

“Introduce him to Mr…. Mr?... ambassador Cardan,” Gevel said. “While I am the head of the Imperial presence on this world, we’re still reorganizing our resources. For the time being, The Dominion is facilitating infrastructural needs on a day to day basis.”

“On that note,” Jaeder said, “I have begun moving Imperial officers here, to this hotel. Most high level officials have left the world but there should be enough for you to draw a staff from.”

“A good first step,” Gevel said. He turned his body from Cardan to face Jaeder directly. “What assets do we have in play? Any word from our corporate partners, Brandt… Arliss?”

“None,” Jaeder said. “I doubt either was completely destroyed in the siege though. I will make some inquiries.”

“What about military assets? I can’t well command the Empire if I just have one planet and its compliment of TIE Fighters,” Gevel remarked dryly.

“Finding officers still loyal to you may be difficult, given the nature of the command structure before the siege, plus developments since then,” Jaeder said, then considered for a minute. “I know an Admiral Targon operating within the command structure of the SS. He was a friend of my fathers. I think if I contacted him he might be persuaded to support our cause.”

Gevel nodded. “Anyone else?”

Jaeder lowered his eyes slightly. “Ortho Gutt is an Moff now.”

Gevel sneered. “The whole fucking galaxy is going to hell if that piece of shit can become a Moff... wasn't he a fucking captain a few months ago? How do you go from being a captain to a fucking moff, especially when you're a meatheaded shitstain like that worthless motherless cunt like he is,” he said, grabbed the cigara, and then snapped it in half and threw it to the ground. “Look, you get that bloated, incompetent waste of ejaculate on the coms and you order him to take what forces are loyal to him and go to the Bastion Conclave. Tell him to relay my orders, that officers loyal to me and the Empire proper are to reorganize and bring their resources to Coruscant.”

Jaeder frowned. “Not to question your orders…”

“You’ve never been one to mince words, Jaeder,” Gevel said.

“Yes sir, no sir,” Jaeder said. “Would it not be more wise to deliver this message to the Bastion Conclave yourself? Given your familiarity with the officers there…”

Gevel reached out for the cigara package and pulled out another one, putting it between his lips. “My original order stands,” he said, and Jaeder nodded.

“If there is nothing else,” Jaeder said, offering a short bow.

“One more thing before you go,” Gevel said. “Cos Julius Jaeder, son of the late Moff Jaeder, I, as acting Emperor of the Coruscan Empire, hereby recognize and reward your service, integrity, and continued loyalty to the Empire, with a field promotion to Supreme Commander of the Imperial forces, effective immediately, with all the duties and responsibilities that entails.”

Jaeder looked surprised, but bowed again. “Thank you My Lord, I don’t know what to say.”

“Say thank you,” Gevel said, “and then fuck off and do your job.”

“Thank you,” Jaeder said. He offered Gevel a more formal, distinctly military salute, which Gevel returned before Jaeder left the room.

“I thought he’d never leave,” Gevel said, pondering the cigara, but ultimately putting it back down, unlit again. He turned back to Cardan. “Now, obviously I can’t speak for the entire Empire. While I was out of communications with the galaxy at large, the political structure of the Empire became more complicated. But I can promise you that the assets and resources at my disposal will be organized and ready to be put into play as soon as possible. As for the Dominion… what was that, that Vejuun said?”

One of the tek’a’tara stepped forward. “An’a’hala kan’a’kata, an’a’hala no’a’var’iaa.”

Gevel waved him away. “Reasonable men abide by reasonable requests. Their interest is in preventing escalations of hostile action. They have tasked me with bringing governments onside with their vision for this galaxy. If there is something your government wants, or needs, I am authorized to listen, and consider any requests made. All the Dominion asks of me is that I ask your government, officially, to disavow any political or military rank or privilege and status previously granted to force users, and to officially expel them as enemies of the state.”

Gevel lifted the cigara and put it between his lips, smirking. “And I’m sure you’ll get right on that, won’t you?”
Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Jul 18 2015 11:21pm
Rane had heard the door open and paused when he saw Gevel's attention shift, but the man had signaled the newcomer to wait so quickly that Rane's attention never shifted from the self-styled Emperor. He finished his comments without further interruption and then turned to regard the new entrant when Gevel looked over again.

“Jaeder, would you consider me to be the legitimate heir of Imperial power?'

Jaeder? That was a name Rane recognized, an Imperial Grand Moff . . . but the man he found at the end of Emperor Gevel's stare wasn't him.

“Speaking personally, yes.”

His son, probably. The man looked about the right age, and the Grand Moff had a son in the Imperial Navy.

“Alright, so that makes two of us,” Gevel said. Rane was surprised by how casually the Imperial was treating the situation. He'd heard all about Theren Gevel's style, of course, but for a man who called himself “Emperor”, this was a genuine shock.

As Gevel continued, Rane was also struck by the man's choice of framing, how he distanced himself from his formal claim to control of the Empire. Jaeder even backed up that sentiment, pointing out the importance of “active and effective” leadership, not legitimacy, not the Rule of Law.

“I didn't ask for this,” Gevel admitted seriously, his attention focusing on Rane again. It was more than just the thing people say in moments like these. He flashed Rane a quick smile; Gevel wanted him to read between the lines.

Then, to Jaeder: “Why are you here, anyway?”

Rane watched the quick exchange regarding Dominion prisoners. It seemed like the sort of thing that should have been handled by now, this long after the Dominion occupation had begun. Then Gevel passed him the list of Imperial prisoners and offered their release under Kraken's amnesty offer. An Imperial offer, not a Dominion one.

This could all be a ploy, of course. Technically, Kraken's amnesty was for Force users, and the Dominion . . .

“Jaeder, have you seen Vejuun?”

“I can probably find him,” Jaeder said.

The reality of how deeply Rane was in over his head had begun to seep in by now, and as the two Imperials continued discussing their business, it was all the Cooperative ambassador could do just to keep up with the scattered exchange: “draw a staff”, “Brandt” and “Arliss”, “military assets”, “officers still loyal”.

They were beating him over the head with it: “Emperor” Gevel had only been emperor for hours, maybe less. What was more: he'd been isolated from Imperial information until that time. Rane Cardan probably knew more about the state of the Empire than Theren Gevel did at this point.

And again: they wanted him to know that.

“Otho Gutt is a Moff now,” Jaeder said.

That was something Rane didn't know. He didn't even know who Ortho Gutt was, but judging by Gevel's salty reaction, it shouldn't be hard to find out about him.

“Tell him to relay my orders . . .”

So Gutt had sided with Gevel? Except there had been no “Gevel side” until so recently that the upstart Emperor didn't even have a staff yet.

No. He had sided with the Dominion. There were rumors of Imperial officers and worlds making their own arrangements with the Dominion after the Fall of Coruscant. Gutt must have been one of those . . .

There was an uncomfortable moment between the two, Jaeder questioning Gevel's order to send Gutt to the Bastion Conclave. The Bastion Conclave, Theren's center of power within the Empire. “Would it not be more wise to deliver this message to the Bastion Conclave yourself? Given your familiarity with the officers there…”

“My original order stands,” was all Gevel said. Did he want the mission to fail, if Gutt was so poorly respected? Or was there something else?

Was Theren Gevel unwilling to leave Coruscant because he was unable to leave Coruscant?

And then Theren Gevel appointed Jaeder Supreme Commander of Imperial Forces, and despite the man's obvious and considerable surprise at the pronouncement, Rane was certain that he was even more surprised.

Rane could hardly believe this was happening, right in front of his own eyes. He'd come here hoping to meet some Dominion middle-management type, to get a feel for this mysterious and alien player and maybe, just maybe, establish a line of communication that might pay out in the long run. Instead, he'd gotten a front-row seat to the early hours of that Dominion's puppet Empire, complete with an Emperor who was clearly trapped by forces beyond his control.

In over his head didn't even begin to describe Rane's position.

“I thought he’d never leave,” Gevel said, fondling his cigara again before putting it back down.

What was the deal with that cigara anyway?

Gevel turned his attention back to Rane. “Now, obviously I can’t speak for the entire Empire.”

Cant, or won't?

“While I was out of communications with the galaxy at large, the political structure of the Empire became more complicated.”

Rane knew enough about Imperial Order to know that no Emperor would ever say that and mean it.

“But I can promise you that the assets and resources at my disposal will be organized and ready to be put into play as soon as possible.

“Into play” to what end?

“As for the Dominion… what was that, that Vejuun said?”

The statement from the Dominion soldier was utterly indecipherable to Rane.

“Reasonable men abide by reasonable requests,” Gevel continued, as if he understood the gibberish. “Their interest is in preventing escalations of hostile action.”

They blasted, Phaged, and occupied the center of galactic society to prevent escalation? Yeah, okay.

“They have tasked me with bringing governments onside with their vision for this galaxy.”

A “dominion” whose opening act to a galaxy unfamiliar with them is to strike at the very symbol of that galaxy's history and civilization. They had to know enough about the governments of this galaxy to know that these weren't the kind of people who fall in line under threat of force.

“If there is something your government wants, or needs, I am authorized to listen, and consider any requests made.”

So there was a carrot, at least. An easy way for the faint of heart.

“All the Dominion asks of me is that I ask your government, officially, to disavow any political or military rank or privilege and status previously granted to force users, and to officially expel them as enemies of the state.”

Gevel lifted the cigara and put it between his lips, smirking. “And I’m sure you’ll get right on that, won’t you?” 

Had he jumped? Did Ambassador Rane Cardan actually jump in his seat at the comment? He'd been expecting it, of course. It was the reason he'd been sent on this mission, after all. But after watching this whole ordeal with Gevel and Jaeder, so immersed in puzzling out the little clues they dropped for him . . . had it all been a ploy after all? Had it all been for this moment, so Gevel could bludgeon him with that reminder of the Dominion's aims and then smirk at his stunned, glass-eyed shock?

It didn't matter, because puzzle-solving wasn't the mission. “I need to make it clear,” Rane began, partly to buy a couple of seconds to compose himself, and partly because it really was important, “that I was sent here by the Cooperative government to represent them alone. I'm not authorized to speak on behalf of the Coalition as a whole. With that said, Coalition law forbids us from discriminating against our citizens on the basis of what amounts to a circumstance of birth. The Cooperative government not only complies with Coalition law in this regard, but supports it. We are a nation of inclusiveness, Emperor Gevel, and crime is the criteria by which we judge our own to be unfit for service, either political or military.”

Rane paused for a second, leaning forward in his seat slightly. “I need the Dominion to understand that there are limits to the Cooperative's capabilities in this regard.

“Take the former Senator Vekkis Nost, for example.” Rane sat back in his chair, trying his best to emulate Theren's casual nature despite the severity of the situation at hand, and the implication he was about to make regarding his own government. “You may not have heard about it yet; it tends to take a while for stories to filter outside of the Coalition's HoloNet these days. Senator Nost was a vocal supporter of a pro-Force user civil organization calling themselves the 'Militant Force'. They were actively advocating hostility between the Cooperative and the Dominion.” Rane shook his head. “Very unpleasant stuff. Dangerous, for sure.

“Luckily for both the Cooperative and the Dominion, I'd say, Senator Nost was found to be embezzling funds from the organization and he's now in custody pending trial. His organization collapsed under the weight of the social backlash, and the notion of some “militant force movement” is considered little more than psychotic ramblings in Cooperative circles of note these days.

“It wasn't Vekkis Nost's support of Force users that got him thrown in prison and his organization dismantled, Emperor; it was criminal activity of the most corrupt and deep-rooted kind. The kind that only an effective, well-informed, and conscientious government could hope to reveal.

“The Cooperative has no desire to antagonize the Dominion, Emperor Gevel. In fact, of all the Coalition's members, we have the clearest history of peaceful coexistence with other galactic powers.” He leaned forward again, relieved that he had gotten that unpleasant business out of the way. “And our commitment to peace has left a decided mark on the Coalition as a whole. Since we entered Coalition galactic affairs during the height of the Onyxian Crisis, the Coalition has not engaged in hostile activity against any galactic power.

“Our primary concern at present is the Reavers, who pose a clear and imminent threat to the entire galaxy, and as far as we can tell are some kind of weapon, deployed either intentionally or unintentionally, by the Black Dragon Imperium before they disappeared to parts unknown. And on the subject of the Reavers, I will have to take you up on your offer to hear a request for the Dominion.

“It's no secret that the Dominion deployed the Phage bioweapon during the conquest of Coruscant. The Reaver virus is similar to Phage in many respects, and it stands to reason that if the Dominion has access to one Dragon technology, it may have access to more. As I doubt the Dominion's vision of the galaxy includes one in which every living soul has been turned into a ravening beast, any information that the Dominion may have on the Reavers would be most helpful in our own efforts to make the galaxy a less violent, hostile place.

Rane allowed himself a smirk this time. “And that's what the Dominion wants after all, right?”
Posts: 14
  • Posted On: Jul 20 2015 6:59am
Bones of Daemon Hyfe this motherfucker likes to hear himself talk.

Gevel found himself idly smirking as the Cooperative diplomat prattled on and on. He got the feeling, from how Rane reacted that Gevel’s show was having the desired effect; now, he wasn’t sure if Rane was putting on a show, or if he always babbled this much about every topic.

When he stopped flapping his lips, Gevel let out a small sigh. “Well, that’s a lot to digest. Let me try and respond to it in the order you laid it out,” he said, and Rane nodded.

“So, you say you’re not authorized to speak on behalf of the Coalition as a whole,” Gevel said. “This I understand. It appears you and I both operate within the political structures we find ourselves… and constrained by the nature of those structures. Of course, I am sure anything we discuss here… while perhaps not formally agreed upon… could at least form the basis of any future agreements that might be made… and in lieu of that, will at least be considered open dialogue.”

He gestured to the world beyond, outside the transparisteel that lined the room. “Coruscant was, and will be again, the central hub of this galaxy. The Dominion is committed to re-establishing the infrastructure this world needs to be a hub for commerce and communication between various governments. They have their own interests, and have vowed to simply… keep this world safe.”

He turned back to the table. “Your story about Senator Nost… it seems like you have the right idea,” Gevel said. “You don’t have to persecute against force users… the Dominion obviously has no desire to interfere in your internal political systems and the way you manage and treat your own citizens.”

“You could just hand over your criminal force users,” Gevel elaborated. “What crimes they commit are of little consequence. You can forego the trials… they can be quite expensive. Just round up all the criminal force users and send them over. The Dominion will make certain guarantees of course regarding their treatment, such as not executing them, making sure they are fed and housed, etc. They will be political prisoners held to prevent the kind of destruction they wrought through the course of the previous galactic civil wars.”

“Or, hell… keep your fucking force users, doesn’t make a difference to me,” Gevel said. “Personally I wouldn’t miss them if the whole fucking hierarchy of force users were dragged away to some fucking mine somewhere. Good riddance in my opinion. But hey, maybe they’re valuable members of your society.  Maybe they’re irreplaceable pillars of your community. Our government had a bias against aliens once… a stupid policy, one we learned to overcome. Maybe force users aren’t so bad.”

Gevel leaned into the table. “But make no mistake. No matter what you or I discuss here… the Dominion will come for the force users of the galaxy. And if they can take Coruscant, with Hyfe and Zell and the lot of them here to defend it, powerless to stop them… what can’t they take?”

Gevel leaned back, smiling a little. “Of course, I think it’s telling that since they’ve taken Coruscant, they’ve not taken much else,” he said. “But then I’m not a Cree’Ar, so I can’t think like they do. I’m just a man, and Emperor or not I am only a man, at night a man, I wake a man. The Emperor’s cloak is just something I wear.”

There was a knock at the door, and Theren told them to enter. In walked the small, grey skinned alien that Gevel had come to know and despise as Vejuun. “Ah, Vejuun,” he greeted the man with warm, faux sincerity. “This is Rane Cardan. He’s here as a representative of Galactic Cooperative Of Free States. They’re a member nation of the Galactic Coalition.”

Vejuun nodded and bowed his head in respect. “Welcome to Coru’us’c’aavair. If there is anything you need…”

“They want our research pertaining to the Reavers,” Gevel said.

Vejuun turned to him in shock. “That’s out of the question. The Reaver research is a military project and falls under strict classification and can’t just be released to anyone and everyone who asks.”

Gevel nodded. “Of course, of course,” he said. “But… the Reavers aren’t just a military concern. There is a growing humanitarian crisis caused by their spread. As they move from world to world, displaced populations continue to try and seek refuge on worlds yet untouched by the scourge. I’m not asking for you to divulge any military secrets…  any potential technologies we may be working on in regards to the Reavers… but anything that can help avert a growing crisis amongst our own government and the governments of our new allies would be greatly appreciated.”

Vejuun narrowed his eyes. “You walk a fine line, Emperor Gevel.” He then turned to Rane Cardan. “I will see what information we can release. In the meantime, we have prepared accommodations for you. Emperor Gevel has some other matters that require his attention.”

Gevel threw up his hands. “The busy life of an intergalactic despot. You understand,” he said.

Vejuun smirked. “There’s an aide outside who will show you to your suite. We’ve provided you everything you need to communicate with either your ship or your homeworld should you wish to. And don’t worry about the Reavers here, we don’t use the holonet to communicate anymore.”

Gevel stood and saluted Cardan, then remembered he was a diplomat, so offered his hand instead. “Until we meet again,” he offered as parting words on what he felt were productive discussions.
Posts: 16
  • Posted On: Jul 20 2015 5:08pm

“Nubia, Ganath, Khomm and Blackspire have all signed the Gyndine Compact, my lord,” the representative remarked reading off the news as Moff Ortho Gutt slurped on a jelly-like egg he fished out from a nearby bowl.  As the small orb disappeared into his mouth, he began sucking the liquid from his fingers , drying them on his person.
“Yes, yes,” he waved the list away.  “What about my forces?” he asked and Admiral Yatta stood up straight.
“My Lord, here is a list of the yards and materials we have available,” he tried to hand the Moff a datapad but Ortho just frowned at it. 
Yatta began to sweat, “Err… here is a breakdown of the fleet,” he punched up a new list and Gutt greedily grabbed it from his Admiral reviewing it with interest.
“We have a Venerator?” he looked up and Admiral Yatta’s face took on a dejected look. 
Ortho started to laugh, causing spittle to spray.  “You wanted to keep it to yourself, you old bastard.  I want it!  I want it renamed Predator and have the crew of the ISD moved there immediately!”
Yatta’s face fell even more and Ortho laughed a little more before a small farting sound escaped and the Moff stopped.  He quickly glanced around to see if anyone heard.  His eyes darted to Admiral Yatta and he sighed internally.
“We have more fleet additions arriving tomorrow from Blackspire.  You can have your pick from that lot,” he relented as if granting a large concession.
“My thanks, Lord!” Yatta was suddenly all smiles.
Moff Ortho Gutt had hoped to take possession of the Byss Reserve Fleet but much of that had been pulled by Regent Zell to make up for the assets that disappeared with Daemon Hyfe.  He was having difficulty contacting Byss in any event, probably due to Cree’Ar interference since they were between him and the core-ward planet.
Besides, if he had taken the entire Reserve Fleet, his military compounds would not have been large enough to house the crew and officer’s families on the worlds that did support him.
He had sent out a directive to the Compact that all military families were to be moved onto base housing.  Those military commanders who displayed loyalty were rewarded with perks outside of the military command structure.  As more crew families starting coming in, the military bases started to grow and a line of demarcation was drawn between those serving in the military and those not serving.  Those civilians that wanted to improve their situation and station in life, those who could not on the outside, were able to apply for military service and begin training.  Most took up stormtrooper positions and formed the ranks of defenders keeping the families of their fellow brothers and sisters of the fleet safe.  Or so the propaganda went.   Mainly, they kept watch on the families who were held as hostages of sorts to ensure loyalty of the fleet elements.
It was not a perfect system in the chaos that was the Empire but it worked.  And it was not like he did not reward successes and loyalty as he watched Admiral Yatta strut a little bit taller at the thought of what he might be able to grab from the fleet elements coming tomorrow.
“His excellency, Thracken Sal Solo!” boomed the voice of the herald announcing a new presence to the Court of Moff Gutt.  The Moff’s fingers fished nervously for a new jelly-orb.
Trailing behind Solo were the two familiar armored giants he always kept with him.  Behind them were other people bringing in some sort of equipment.
“Thracken!” Ortho tried to shout as loud as the Herald causing a jelly-orb to slide down his throat causing him to cough a bit.   “What is that contraption?” he gestured to the equipment as he tried to calm his coughing.
“My dear Gutt!  This is a communications device!” Solo answered with a seductive energy that Ortho envied.  “I bring for you and your Court!”
Ortho frowned.  “I have many communications devices that…”
“Oh, my dear Moff.  Please tell me you are not still using the holonet!  You do know that the holonet signals can attract Reavers!”
Admiral Yatta giggled at that and even Ortho smiled.
“Thracken, we are so far from Reaver space we need not worry…”
“There are Reavers in the  Corellian System,” Thracken interrupted and Ortho frowned at that.
“You remember how Emperor Kraken arranged for them to be dumped into our system?  Granted it will take them hundreds of years to get to Corellia or any planet with Centerpoint activated but you do not have a Centerpoint.  What is to stop Emperor Kraken from doing the same to you?”
Yatta stopped his laughing and started picking his nose as was his habit when thinking hard. 
“And this?” Ortho prompted, gesturing to the device.
“Does not use the principles of holonet communication,” Thracken finished.  “With these on each of your worlds, you will never be out of touch with your people and you will not attract Reavers.”
“But it will not stop the Emperor from repeating the tactic on us,” Admiral Yatta pointed out.
“Why would he?” Moff Gutt demanded.  “We are part of the Empire and he is Emperor!”
“Well…” Thracken started and sighed.  “It seems that there was an assassination attempt on Park Kraken.  It is unclear if he still lives.  However, we are far from the Mid-Rim so information is slow in coming.  Emperor Gevel, however, from Coruscant is going to task you with orders and, quite frankly, he expects compliance.”
“Emperor Gevel?  As in Theren Gevel?” Ortho’s voice radiated a fear.  The man was a bastard in his own right.  His “Dark Empire” campaign the stuff of legends.   Park Kraken had no such stories.  In fact, he frowned, what was Emperor Kraken’s story?  Rumors the fleet elements brought him told tales of coup by Kach Thorton.  But Thorton had, at first, become Kraken’s Supreme Commander but then someone else was moved to the position.  Maybe Kraken figured out how toxic Thorton was to one’s political career?  But Theren was another animal.  If he was Emperor, then he probably came to an arrangement with the Cree’Ar.  The same Cree’Ar that had been popping in and out of his system for weeks!  Hell, Thracken practically lived on Gyndine it seemed sometimes!
The machine was set up near Gutt’s chair and one of the people setting it up whispered to Thracken which immediately drew Ortho’s suspicion.  “What?  What is it?” he demanded.
“It seems that the Emperor’s Supreme Commander is calling,” he replied and motioned for someone to toggle it on.  The machine powered up and the image of Julius Jaeder appeared.
“Jaeder?” Gutt started.
The man on the device was expressionless.  “Moff Gutt.  Emperor Gevel orders you to take what forces you have and immediately go to the Bastion Conclave.  Your orders are to deliver a message to officers loyal to Emperor Gevel and have them reorganize and bring their resources to Coruscant.”
The rotund Moff frowned.  “Jaeder,” he barked out, “I could order them in the Emperor’s name till I am blue in the face but they are not going to budge unless they know it is coming from Gevel—errr.. the Emperor himself.”
Gevel’s Supreme Commander was silent for a moment.  “You have a point, Moff Gutt.”  It seemed that Ortho’s status had risen from shit on the bottom of Jaeder’s boot to simply scum.  Still, an improvement was an improvement.
“A courier will arrive with more detailed instructions and a way to prove yourself a reliable supporter of Emperor Gevel.  In the meantime, keep consolidating and prepare your fleet for the coming task.  The Emperor will brook no failure.”
Jaeder stared at him from the machine.  Thracken and his armoured guards stared at him from the foot of his throne.  Admiral Yatta stared at him from farther away and his sycophantic entourage stared at him from the floor of his court. 
“I will of course, obey the Emperor,” the Moff finally stated.
The court stared chattering in conversation and there was a smattering of clapping which Ortho took to mean approval.
“He would expect nothing less,” Jaeder replied and signed off.
“Well, Thracken, can you get these doohickeys to the rest of my Compact?” he gestured to the comm device.
Solo grinned.  “I am sure we can work something out.”
Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Jul 31 2015 9:08pm
Had he gotten carried away? He'd probably gotten carried away. He'd found himself in over his head, and he'd jumped at the chance to establish his stature in the diplomatic exchange. It wouldn't do to be seen as beneath his counterpart's notice.

Of course, now he was being shuffled off by an aide, so . . . yeah, maybe he'd gotten carried away.

A human aide, curiously enough. That Vejuun character: Rane had never seen a member of his species before. If the Cree'Ar really were from another galaxy, he wondered if Vejuun was as well.

Rane shrugged reflexively, so caught up in his own efforts to process the past several minutes that he hardly noticed the environment he was passing through. It was a lot to take in, after all, and he still wasn't sure how much of it was spectacle for his own sake, and how much was genuine goings-on.

Maybe Gevel really had been needed elsewhere. If his exchange with Admiral Jaeder had been genuine, then there probably were plenty of urgent tasks piling up. And what would be the point in faking that anyway?

The way Vejuun and Gevel talked to each other, though. Rane hadn't expected Gevel to spill the secrets of the Reavers, of course, if there even were any secrets to spill. There were just too many questions, and . . . well.

Eh, he might as well give it a try.

The aide brought him to a stop in front of a door, which opened to reveal the promised suite. “So seriously,” Rane said, turning his attention to the silent guide for the first time, “what's the deal around here?”

Oh, that was spooky. This guy . . . “Do I know you from somewhere?”
Posts: 5387
  • Posted On: Nov 25 2015 10:50am
“Just one of those faces,” the aide said, shrugging.

He opened the door and ushered Rane Cardan inside.

“Not exactly the Presidential Suite, but these hotels were often used for Imperial higher ups… when not on assignment of course,” the aide offered. He leapt up onto the table and thrust his fist into a smoke detector, shattering it around his hand.

“What are you…?” Rane began, but the aide put a finger over his lips.

“The décor may be a bit outdated, but that tends to happen with a change of administration,” the aide lifted up a lamp, revealing a small black box about an inch across and a quarter of that thick. He raised his foot and then ground down, and the box’s cheap plastic shell cracked, with smoke pouring out as a result.

Cardan, catching on, nodded. “I don’t mind the décor, so much…”

The aide took on a more relaxed posture. “You can speak freely now,” he said, “the electronic monitoring in these suites is pretty much standard from one room to the other. Nothing else will be laying around, recording you.”

“Strange for The Dominion…” Cardan began.

“Oh, they have little interest in listening to your private affairs,” the aide said. “These listening devices are ISB standard issue. Used to make sure any misbehaving officers could be brought in line with the right evidence dangled under their noses.”

“Why would they record me?” Cardan asked.

“They probably wouldn’t.” the aide admitted. “I just feel better disabling them.”

Cardan nodded again. “So are you going to tell me your story?”

“It is not particularly interesting,” the aide said. “Come to Coruscant to look for other stranded Jedi, find… well, what you see around you.”

“You’re a Jedi?” the diplomat said, somewhat surprised.

“What, did the lightsaber give me away?” the aide offered.

“No, you said ‘other Jedi’,” Cardan began, then trailed off. “…you have a lightsaber?”

The man reached behind his back and pulled out a long steel shaft, with two emitter ends. “Don’t tell anyone,” he said, laying it on the table.

“Aren’t you afraid, with The Dominion threatening force users, that you might get arrested?” Cardan asked.

“You spend most of your life with people trying to kill you, and a couple of times, those people succeeding, being arrested doesn’t seem so bad,” the aide said. He looked around. “Are you hungry? I can make some eggs. I brought eggs with me from offworld, I know the supply lines here have been pretty dry lately.”

Cardan shook his head. “I haven’t been here that long,” he said, not feeling hungry. Still just confused.

“A drink then?” the aide asked. “I brought whiskey.”

“I’m on duty,” the diplomat said, raising an eyebrow. “For that matter, aren’t you?”

The aide smirked at that, and poured himself a drink. “Part time,” he said.

Cardan scoffed. “What are you really doing here?”

The aide turned. “Same thing as you are,” he said, taking a sip of his drink. “Reconnaissance.”

Cardan did not confirm or deny that was his purpose on the planet. “And what have you found?”

The aide stepped forward and handed Cardan a data pad. “It appears that, in order to keep prisoners of war from having a refreshing REM sleep, the Cree’Ar instead flooded them with information; most of it, to them, was gibberish, but their minds stored the information all the same,” the aide explained. “Some of it may be jumbled and incomplete… due to the nature of the way the information was initially relayed.”

“How did you obtain it?” Cardan said, holding the data pad.

“If you notice, when you speak to Imperial officers nowadays, they have small scars on the back of their neck, near their spine,” the aide moved his shirt back to show Cardan where to look. “Amongst other devices, one of the things implanted there is a sort of hard drive, which stores information in an extremely compact form.”

Cardan felt his curiosity get the best of him. “What… other devices?”

The aide smiled softly. "Let's just say, if they offer you any translation devices, you should decline."

Cardan shuddered uncomfortably. "I am not sure I like the implication of what you just told me."

"This is a dangerous universe with all sorts of uncomfortable implications," the aide said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small metal cylinder, small enough that it could be concealed in a fist. "Here, this links to my ships comlink. I might not be in it when you call but it can probably arrange for direct communications. If not, leave any questions and I'll get back to you when I can."

Cardan furrowed his brow. "Aren't you supposed to be assigned to me as my aide? Where else are you going to be but here?"

"I've pieced together what happened in space by talking to officers who were managing planetary defence at the time, but supposedly while the battle raged on in space, there was both a simultaneous ground incursion by hostile alien forces, and some sort of mutiny," the aide said. "I doubt I will find any traces of the mutiny or anyone willing to tell me any details of it beyond 'it happened', but if there was a large scale ground incursion, then that there must be evidence of. Transport vehicles to bring them here, storehouses where they hid caches of weapons. Some sort of evidence of their arrival, and staging, in advance of their attack."

"Before you go..." Cardan said, stopping the man in his doorway. "I am... negotiating... with these aliens, but I know nothing about them. You... seem to know things. You have experience. Tell me, can I trust them?"

The man frowned. "I used to trust people, here and there," he said, then put his hand on the door frame. He reached his other hand to the edge of his shirt, and rolled the sleeve back far enough to reveal the metal skeletal structure of an artificial arm. "I am a cynical man, miserable and bitter. I'm not a man to ask about trust. I recommend caution, and trusting your instincts. You're a smart man. You can suss out what they really want."

Cardan nodded. He held up the comlink. "When I call for you, who do I ask?"

The aide smirked, and looked down at his artificial arm. "Just ask for Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master."

Cardan gasped. "The Luke Skywalker?"

The aide shook his head. "No, just one of the Luke Skywalkers running around. And hey, if you see the other one, tell him I owe him a piece of my mind."

Cardan frowned. "Alright, whatever you say, 'Luke'. Thanks for whatever," he said, eyeing the datapad.

The aide nodded. "I'll be close by," he said, and then slipped out into the night.

Cardan took a seat, not at all reassured by the conversation he had just finished. A part of him, no small part in fact, found himself wishing he had accepted that drink...

With a frown, he stood up, and grabbed the lightsaber the man had left behind. Briefly considering holstering it and then realizing he had no idea how to use it, he rolled it under the bed, doing his best to hide it, and then laid down on top of the blankets, his head swirling with thoughts.