Reflections: The Changing Face Of Evil
Posts: 5387
  • Posted On: Feb 19 2022 6:52am

Gevel sat and listened to what Carden had to offer. He kept looking from him to the empty plates on the table.

“Churhee,” Gevel said. “Do me a favor please and take off your shirt.”

Churhee looked over to him and made sure he had asked what he thought he had. Then, he set his blaster aside, and took off his shirt.

To say Churhee worked out would be selling it short; this was a man that paid rent to a gym. He was focusing on adding muscles to places that a lot of people didn’t have places. And he was marked. A lot of his body, actually. There was a chevron straight out of the New Republic print shop, sitting on his shoulder like he were an X-Wing, freshly stamped. There were callsigns and slogans, names of absent friends… and then, across his back, a statement suggesting several sexual activities that former Emperor Daemon Hyfe might want to attempt performing on himself.

“You see,” Gevel said, “my new Empire is a melting pot. I don’t care if you flew for Rogue Squadron or fought for the 401st, everyone is welcome as long as they fall in line, and defend this galaxy.” There was an unspoken “from The Cree’Ar” there, that Gevel didn’t need to say. It echoed off the dust just the same. “When you sit down at a table with Theren Gevel, you can count on the fact that you get up and leave, unmolested, as much as it is within my power to ensure so.”

He pushed his chair back, and stood up. “Thank you, Mr. Churhee. Please put your shirt back on,” he said. He waited until Churhee did so. “If you could be so kind, I smelt some fresh food cooking as we walked here earlier. Can you follow your nose and find us something to eat? Not sure about the Ambassador…”

Gevel trailed off and Churhee asked, “Are you buying?”

Gevel softly nodded. “Given the risk Mr. Carden took on getting us here, it would seem rude not to.”

Churhee grabbed his discarded blaster and left in search of food. Gevel and Jaeder stayed. Gevel played with the button of his uniform. “The packages,” Gevel said.

Jaeder nodded and offered Gevel a manilla envelope, which the Emperor grabbed.

And hesitated. He turned from Carden to Jaeder. “Nothing from Cisero?”

Jaeder shook his head in the negative.

Gevel turned to Carden. “Ambassador, these documents are classified Imperial documents meant only for internal distribution and consideration,” he said, holding an envelope close. “These are for authorized personnel only. By taking custody of these documents, you agree not to attempt to decipher or decrypt any Imperial code, and instead to deliver these documents, as they are, to the targets indicated, with all due haste. Do you agree to these terms and conditions?”

The Ambassador considered it for a minute and then nodded his ascent.

“Alright,” Gevel said. “Desperate times,” he said in Jaeder’s direction. He nodded his agreement. “Alright, I want you to deliver this folder to every corner of the Empire. Every planet worth a damn. I don’t know who will do it, but I need someone to do it.”

Gevel set the folder down. Carden, maybe by forced habit, went to open it, and then thought better of it. Gevel chuckled. “I can see you’re curious,” he said. “Go ahead.”

Carden, encouraged, opened it. “Move the basket,” Carden read. “There is a leak. Move and advise. Top priority.” Carden looked at it and shrugged, confused. “I don’t understand.”

“Well it wasn’t written for you, you nosy git,” Gevel added. “Any Imperial with a rank equivalent to mine will know, and carry out those orders. Meanwhile, you can sit and scratch yourself in confusion as to who is taking a leak where.” Gevel handed Carden another folder. “That one is for Vladet.”

Carden opened it and then closed it disappointedly. “This one is in code,” he said.

“Yeah, get used to that…” Gevel said. “This one is for Onyx Prime…”

Ahnk was walking along, a blaster at his back, when he felt a comlink buzz.

He thought about keeping it quiet, when instead, she asked “What is with the buzz?”

So no reason to keep things quiet.

Ahnk intentionally made accidental contact with one of the waiters, and then sprung into action. He oversold the backpeddle until he bumped into the gun, and then quickly snapped back, twisting his elbow into her face. The elbow connected then Ahnk pivoted on the opposite food. He twisted and grabbed the drink tray, holding it in his hand and swinging it around as a projectile, smashing it into the face of the gunman.

She went down, and Ahnk finished his turn, grabbed the cocktail before it fell to the floor, and downed it.

The gunman started to stir. Couldn’t have that. Ahnk stepped forward and kicked her gun away, then leaned down, putting his knee in her shoulder. As he pushed down, he grabbed her wrist, causing her to groan in pain as he wrenched that shoulder. “No struggling,” he said, “only answers.”

“You want answers,” she said, spitting. “Talk to Gevel.”

That made Ahnk stop. “Gevel sent you?”

“He didn’t have to,” she said. “He gave the green light on you, and the Cree’Ar want force users bad,” she said.

“Pity they have no use for you,” Ahnk said, drawing his hand back, and hitting her at the base of the skull. Then, she collapsed to the floor with a sigh, her body going limp like so many others on the floor of nightclubs in Coruscant.

Ahnk got back to his feet and saw a pair of bouncers. “Oh, don’t worry,” he said, handing them the empty cocktail glass. “I’ll be going; two is my limit anyway.”

When he was back out in the plaza, he grabbed the comlink. “Sihoyguwa, do you have a way offworld for me?”

“Maybe,” it replied. “Are you drunk?”

“I can drive,” Ahnk said, “but I am hoping I don’t have to. What’s the news?”

“At 1900 local time tomorrow, at the Seven Spires Spaceport, Sector Esk, Zone Two, Level 214, there will be a human man wearing green shoes and a red hat. Approach him, and he will recognize you. This man will provide you with transport offworld,” a mechanical voice suggested to him. “Do not expect another opportunity from us.”

“Level 214? That is 60 levels down,” Ahnk said, and checked his comlink, “and it’s in twenty minutes. For fuck…” Ahnk said. Then he sighed. “Sihoyguwa, don’t say I never stuck my neck out for anyone.”

“What do you mean by that?”

But Sihoyguwa didn’t get an answer, as Ahnk took a short run and then leapt up and over the railing, falling through a spacelane.

As the ambassador leaned back from the table, he offered his thanks via nod to the Emperor of the New Order.

Gevel returned the nod and then turned back to Jaeder. “Do you think we can trust him?”

Gevel shook his head. “No,” he said, bluntly, “but trust is a luxury we may not be able to afford. I trust him to act in his own best interest.”

Jaeder nodded. “Good idea, making decoy packages,” the Supreme Commander confirmed. “Very shrewd.”

“I’ve heard some rumors that the Coalition has some sort of new supercomputer, capable of computing thousands of algorithms, solving complex, deeply rooted equations, and finding the G-spot on a woman,” he said. “How the fuck do you hope that thing can’t crack your codes?”

“Seems a horrifying prospect,” Jaeder concluded.

“So you treat it like a mushroom,” Gevel said, “you feed it shit and keep it in the dark.”

Jaeder nodded his approval. “Give it so much disinformation and contradictory information that by the time he figures out what is what, it doesn’t matter anymore,” he continued.

Gevel nodded. He leaned in closer. “Have you brought in the commander?”

Jaeder looked over to the entrance to the restaurant, where the troops were returning with a frail looking man. “That will be him,” Jaeder said.

“Mr. Ambassador, I hate to stop your dinner,” Gevel said, “but I wanted to introduce you to someone. This is Commander Askrimov, Imperial Engineering Corps.”

The man was frail looking. He held himself up on a steel walking support, and two stromtroopers helped him move on each side. “Hello, Mr. Carden,” he said, slowly. He coughed after he finished.

Gevel looked on. “Tell them what happened,” he said.

“When the Cree’Ar attacked, they struck a Reign-Class Star Destroyer,” he said. “That vessel lost it’s sublight drives, and listed. I recognized the danger, and quickly engaged the planetary shield in that section, diverting emergency energy,” he said.

Gevel nodded. “Tell them what happened next.” Askrimov looked hesitant but Gevel nodded to reassure him. “It’s alright. This is what we agreed.”

Askrimov nodded. “The vessel impacted the shield, and it overloaded,” he said. “There was a… burst of radiation.”

“In that moment, Commander Askrimov absorbed enough radiation to kill him, five times over,” Gevel explained. “He is dying; it is irreversible. And from what I understand, incredibly painful.”

Askrimov nodded again. “Every time I pee, it’s full of blood,” he said. Then he coughed. “I am in constant agony. I just want my life to end.”

“Unfortunately, it’s going to need to get worse before it ends,” Gevel said. He started walking towards Askrimov.

Churhee eyed him and raised his blaster. “Gevel, what are you doing?”

“What needs to be done,” Gevel said. He stepped behind Askrimov. “Tell him.”

“I want to die,” Askrimov said. “Every second I am alive is just more physical torture as my insides liquify. Please… let me die.”

Churhee looked at him, conflicted, but did lower his blaster.

“First of all, I want to thank you for your service to the Empire,” Gevel said. “As a second matter, and a point of order, I would like Supreme Commander Jaeder to offer his ascent for a field commission to Captain, for Commander Askrimov, with all the privileges and responsibilities, that that rank affords.”

“I do so record, and offer ascent, to such a promotion,” Jaeder said, offering a verbal rubber stamp.

“Thank you,” Gevel said. Then, he reached out, and pushed a small knife into the man’s neck. Everyone watched, as Gevel moved his hand, slowly carving. When he was done, he pulled up his hand, and tossed a small object, a metal rectangle about an inch long, onto the ground, still dripping blood. “I’m sorry for this, Captain.”

Then Askrimov shouted. His body jerked forward, and then to the side, collapsing to one knee. Churhee went to prop him up, and then stopped. He saw the man’s face. He was smiling.

His body fell to the ground. Gevel knelt down, checked his pulse, and then reached down and closed the man’s eyes. “Each and every single Imperial, who was on Coruscant when the siege began, who was taken as a prisoner of war, processed in an Imperial hospital, or just otherwise had contact with the Cree’Ar, has one of those in the base of his neck,” Gevel explained. He reached out, grabbed it, and tossed it on the table, beside the Ambassador’s plate. “If it’s removed, or the officer in question is removed from Coruscant, they have a heart attack, and die.”

Gevel got up. Jaeder, meanwhile, turned, and raised his hair, showing the implant scar on his neck.

“That includes,” Gevel said, “myself, and Jaeder. So hopefully, that is evidence enough, that we have proverbial skin in the game.”

Gevel looked down the corpse of Askrimov, still warm. “And if that doesn’t buy us any trust, I don’t know what to tell you.”

Jaeder raised a comlink to his hand. “Point of order; Captain Askrimov to be buried in a ceremony befitting an Imperial Captain. He is to be paid the full pension, and 3 months wages, at the salary of an Imperial Captain. Note to self; draft a letter for his wife.”

Gevel then sat down, tired. “We’re in this together, like it or not,” Gevel said, to Carden.

With the deadline approaching, Ahnk made it to the indicated coordinates.

His method was somewhat unconventional, and allowed him to slip down behind the man he was suppose to recognize. “Is this recognition?” Ahnk said, as he put one hand on the top of the man’s head, and put a lightsaber up to his neck. “I would say you’ve been made, fair to say?”

Ahnk then let the man go, and pointed the saber at him very loosely. “Now, normally I’d want to trade on my strength; I’d take you out of position and unaware, maybe trade up the ladder until I found someone worth talking to. Because my guess is, you’re a nobody. They paid some homeless guy to wander a park with green shoes and a red hat on.”

Ahnk sighed. “But I’m tired, it’s been a long day, I’m drunk, and the stakes are too damned high, so I don’t want to trade up, and spend the time, I just want some guarantees,” Ahnk said.

“I want a guarantee from your government that you aren’t going to turn around immediately and give me to The Cree’Ar Dominion,” Ahnk said. “I want guaranteed safe passage off the planet, and into space.”

Ahnk then lowered the saber a bit. “And I want your guarantee, you’re willing to fly me into the heart of The Dominion in this galaxy.”

Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Feb 27 2022 6:55pm

Ambassador Cardan did not approve of the theatrics with which these men killed another man . . . but the device they extracted from his neck was very interesting. Especially since it corroborated what the Jedi, Ahnk, had told him about the Dominion.


That Gevel admitted he was similarly compromised seemed like a rather important admission as well. So Rane Cardan stood to his feet and started gathering up the packages. “Okay, let's do this. I should leave immediately, with any information you have on the Dominion.” With all of the packages collected, he stood up straight and returned his attention to Gevel. “I understand your information on events beyond Coruscant is . . . limited. I'll try to get what I can to you.”




* * *




Old Nick was not what you would call an “ideologue”. He didn't much care for Empires or Republics or Coalition or whatnot. He thought notions like “life debts” and “creeds” and such were quaint and childish. But Nick wasn't a fool. Nick understood the principle of reciprocity: I do for you, and you do for me.


And it was Nick's turn to reciprocate. So when he got the call asking if he had room for a “low profile” passenger in his ship's next run out of Coruscant, he said “Yeah, of course.”


Sneaking guys out of warzones was pretty high up on list of favors, well in excess of what he owed. If he played this right, he'd be getting payback for years.


So he put on his worn felt hat with the fun little cotton ball at the end, his pointy green shoes that were all the rage on his half-forgotten homeworld half a lifetime ago, and and adjusted the big belt around his considerable midsection. Then he went out for a stroll through the lower levels of the Seven Spires Spaceport. Somewhere around Sector Esk, he started getting winded; the big guy just didn't have the stamina he used to. So halfway into Zone Two, he took a ten minute break, sitting on a grimy public bench that looked like the previous occupant had been kind enough to wipe down.


He people-watched, a thing he liked to do on occasion. This far down there were a fair number of non-humans, and he was fascinated by how these folks got around in a place so hostile to them. But he felt his second wind coming on soon enough, so old Nick hefted himself up from his perch, and decided to take a leisurely stroll around the rest of Zone Two.


A cute old couple seemed to be having trouble with their luggage. Nick didn't recognize whatever language the pair of humans were speaking, and neither did anyone else, it seemed. He paused, his back to the railing along the starport's open side, taking in the sight of the old man trying to convince his wife to carry one more bag. He watched others pass, too, saw how most pretended to ignore them, some sneered in disgust, a few looked on pensively before deciding to pass without offering assistance.


He noticed others, too. People like himself, standing off but watching the little scene of humanity unfold. But of course, to notice those people, he also had to notice all of the people who weren't watching the old couple, too . . .


Then somebody grabbed his head from behind and pushed something round and metal into his back. “Is this recognition? I would say you've been made, fair to say?”


Then the stranger let him go and he turned around . . . to see a guy holding what looked a lot like a lightsaber. “What the . . .”


“Now, normally I’d want to trade on my strength; I’d take you out of position and unaware, maybe trade up the ladder until I found someone worth talking to. Because my guess is, you’re a nobody. They paid some homeless guy to wander a park with green shoes and a red hat on.”


Well shucks, this guy didn't sound like a Jedi. “Look, mister -” The stranger sighed, and Nick shut up. He was pretty sure this wasn't the kind of guy he wanted to try talking over.


“But I’m tired, it’s been a long day, I’m drunk, and the stakes are too damned high, so I don’t want to trade up, and spend the time, I just want some guarantees.” Yeah, definitely not very Jedi-like. “I want a guarantee from your government that you aren’t going to turn around immediately and give me to The Cree’Ar Dominion. I want guaranteed safe passage off the planet, and into space.”


“Oh, well -”

“And I want your guarantee, you’re willing to fly me into the heart of The Dominion in this galaxy.”


Well fizzlesticks. At least the guy wasn't pointing his saber quite so menacingly anymore. “Can you put that thing away!” he said in a kind of strained whisper, motioning downward with his hand. “You're gonna get us snatched, and then I can't take you anywhere!”


Nick tried to compose himself, fixing his ruffled hat and adjusting the belt around his considerable midsection. “Look, I'm clearly in over my head here. I don't work for any 'government'. I don't have a 'boss'.” He raised his hands up to chest height, palms facing the stranger, trying to ward off any threat or actual violence. “I do, I do: my captain. From the ship. That I'm supposed to be getting you off-world on. But he's . . .” Nick waved dismissively, dropping his hands and trying to relax. “Look: there's room on the ship. I owe a guy. My captain won't ask any questions unless you go . . .” he gestured at the saber “. . . waving that around.


“We're going to Kelada; you can get off there. I . . . don't know anything else. I didn't know . . .” he looked down at the lightsaber, then to the man's hands, noticing the artificial hand for the first time. “The guy told me you'd have a droid hand a be about yeah high.” He held a hand up at the stranger's height for emphasis, then shrugged.


“Whoever wants you off this planet went to a lot of trouble making sure the two of us would meet. And like I said, I'm in over my head already so . . .” he bobbed his head in the direction of his ship. “Come with me or don't, but my captain will leave me on this hellhole if I'm not back by take-off time.”

Posts: 5387
  • Posted On: Mar 12 2022 3:52am

“Discretion is going to be key, here, Cos,” Gevel said. “Rotate on shift officers here in their evening, to guard here for a few hours before dinner,” Gevel laid out. “If anyone asks, they’re going clubbing. Never, ever have anyone patrol this building directly; the neighbourhood, yes, the building, no.”

Jaeder nodded. “Fresh arrivals only?” Gevel and he had discussed making more strict and specific use of officers who hadn’t had any work done by the Cree’ar.

“Probably wise,” Gevel replied. It wasn’t impossible that the Cree’Ar were using their implants to track them. Of course, both Jaeder and Gevel had implants, so it was possible this place was already compromised. “Oh and Cos… let’s get a bottle of booze or a cake or something to celebrate… we can have it if the Ambassador here comes back alive.”

If, Cos thought.

“Oh, and Ambassador,” Gevel said. He threw the device he had cut out of the man to the ambassador. “For whatever good it does you.”

Ahnk had guessed correctly, he wasn’t getting the red carpet treatment. Not yet.

You don’t send agents into a warzone, that much was clear. You mobilise assets, but sometimes those assets are just what you have there. Ahnk would have to wait until he got offworld to meet an actual agent.

He found himself, almost collapsing against the bulkhead of the ship. They weren’t away yet; but he felt the ship moving, and that was enough to let out a sigh of relief. He forgot sometimes, how stressful it was, being a wanted man. Watching your steps around a constant nemesis. It was exhausting.

“Hey,” Ahnk said, getting the pilot’s attention. “No hard feelings eh?”

Then Ahnk passed out.

Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Mar 13 2022 10:49pm

The reply came in seconds. “Handler, this is D-4. The package was delivered and has flown the coop. No clingers.” Ahnk had made it offworld, and the deep-cover CIB agent watching the meeting hadn't been discovered.


Alana let out a sigh of relief, a week's worth of tension draining from her body in an instant. “Confirmed, D-4. Discontinue Priority Magenta.”


“Affirmative, Handler.”


Alana paused a moment, a thought occurring to her. With the disruption that the Dominion's invasion had caused, the Coalition Intelligence Bureau had lost contact with its assets on Coruscant. Only the urgency of ensuring Ahnk's escape had allowed Alana to reach out with emergency means and reestablish contact with local agents. She didn't even know if D-4 was working alone or as part of a team.


“D-4, sequester yourself and go to ground until further notice. You will be reactivated through standard procedures.”


There was a bit of a delay. The implications were potentially quite extreme. “Affirmative, Handler.”


The CIB agent would have to cut himself off from any covert actions he was currently engaged in, destroy all tools of the trade he had on-hand, and maintain his civilian cover indefinitely. The only way for him to resume his activities was if his handler at HQ sent someone to reestablish contact.


It was a lot, but the Priority Magenta had already forced the agent to put his cover at risk, and if Rane Cardan's scheme worked out at all, Coalition Intelligence would want to set up a secondary back channel as quickly as possible, in case the Cooperative's “permanent diplomatic mission” didn't end up being so permanent.


“Handler disengaging,” Alana said, deactivating the commlink and stowing it.


A minute later as she crawled into the pilot's seat, she looked over to Rane Cardan and wondered at the man. How had he done it? He'd turned a simple fact-finding mission about a strange new alien government into some kind of intelligence-sharing scheme with the head of the Coalition's greatest enemy. Was that even good news or bad news? The Dominion seemed plenty scary, sure, but this was the Empire. The Empire!


“Preflight check complete,” Rane said, finally noticing Alana was staring at him. “We're good to go,” he prodded when she didn't take immediate action.


“Cooperative diplomatic vessel Envoy V to flight control,” Alana said without missing a beat. “Requesting confirmation for departure authorization along provided exit vector.”


“Cooperative vessel, you are clear to depart. Comply with acceleration and speed advisories until you have reached the hyperspace exit corridor.”


“Affirmative flight control,” Alana said as she hit the repulsorlift starter and lifted off from the landing pad. “Envoy V out.”




* * *




Boss didn't like passengers in the cockpit. Nick didn't much like passengers in the cockpit either, come to think of it. But the ship was away and in hyperspace, Boss was off counting beans or . . . something, and the passenger was still asleep in the (rather uncomfortable) passenger seat behind the unoccupied copilot's chair. So all things considered, it could be a lot worse.


Then the proximity alarm sounded, the ship shuddered violently out of hyperspace, and . . . “Oh, fudge!


“Transport Sleighbells,” the transmission began, “you have been interdicted by a League of Nations customs operation out of Antar IV. You are being stopped on suspicion of . . . oh . . . let's have the record show 'suspicion of trafficking pre-Imperial artifacts', yeah? That sounds official enough. Anyway, we'll get your unregistered cargo where he needs to go, and you can be on your way.”


Nick turned in his chair, so terrified of the passenger that he'd completely forgotten how pissed Boss was going to be. “I didn't know,” he assured the stranger. “I didn't know!”

Posts: 5387
  • Posted On: Mar 15 2022 2:19pm

“I hear congratulations are in order.”

Theren offered his hand, and Simon Kaine willingly shook it.

“The Supreme Commander Of The New Order,” Gevel said, admiring the new uniform. “Congratulations. A promotion well earned.”

“I thank you for your kind words,” Kaine said. “I think you might even be sincere.”

Gevel smirked and pulled out a package of cigaras. “I’ve always admired you Kaine, you are a shrewd operator,” he said, and bit down on a cigara with both lips. “Now, why am I here?”

Kaine nodded. “Right to business, are we?” Simon respected that. “I’m giving you command of this outpost directly, to stock with no fewer than three garrisons and 4 command ships, plus escort.”

Gevel took a long drag, processing the command. “Fuck you, Kaine.”

“Gevel, you know I have the authority,” Kaine countered back.

“Yes and I realize that all the same refusing a direct order is grounds to have me shot, but all the same, and with all due respect Supreme Commander, go fuck yourself,” Gevel said, and then exhaled, adding “sir.”

Kaine wasn’t amused. “But you aren’t…”

“No, of course, you’ll get your ships and your men, but fuck you for taking them from my end,” Gevel said. “You command the Entire Empire. Take them from Kach Thornton. Take them from Bhindi Drayson.”

“Neither of those are aware of the command here,” Kaine said. “Only you and I are.”

“And reducing the strength of your own command, after just being given a promotion, would be just the sign of weakness that other, more politically minded officers would seize upon,” Gevel said. “I got it, and I’ll play ball, but I’m going to take it a little personally.”

Kaine nodded. “You’ll make sure to disguise the reassignment orders,” Kaine said.

“Of course,” Gevel said, taking a deep drag and then tossing his cigara aside. “Don’t worry, everyone will assume Krake’s Planet is just another dusty warehouse, like Wayland. And you’ll get your men before the end of the month.”

“And Theren,” Kaine said. Gevel, not used to being called by his first name, stopped in his tracks. “I won’t forget this.”

Gevel crossed his arms, intending to exploit this. “Next Bhindi rising up the ranks, transfer her to Bastion so I can break her in, teach her some Imperial Discipline?”

Kaine softly shook his head. “You’re a pig, Gevel,” Kaine said, “but I’ll take your request under advisement.”

Gevel offered Kaine a salute, which was returned, and Gevel left smirking, worrying about the consequences later. It was always handy to have Kaine owe you one…

“Transport Sleighbells,” the transmission began, “you have been interdicted by a League of Nations customs operation out of Antar IV. You are being stopped on suspicion of . . . oh . . . let's have the record show 'suspicion of trafficking pre-Imperial artifacts', yeah? That sounds official enough. Anyway, we'll get your unregistered cargo where he needs to go, and you can be on your way.”

Nick turned in his chair, so terrified of the passenger that he'd completely forgotten how pissed Boss was going to be. “I didn't know,” he assured the stranger. “I didn't know!”

“Dude, what are you upset about?” Ahnk said. “Firstly, they interrupted my nap. Secondly, they just called me a pre-Imperial artifact. I don’t want to be sent to a museum.”

Either way, Ahnk took up a defensive posture. He reached back behind him, and, not finding his lightsabre, grabbed a dagger instead. He braced him, ready to start swinging when the bulkhead opened…

…only to duck behind the nearest chair. “It was him! He’s the smuggler! Kill him! Kill him with fire.”

Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Mar 16 2022 12:12am

By the Force, that's Ahnk Rashanagok!


“Sorry about the theatrics,” the young Gotal lieutenant said, trying his best to hide his own surprise. “But we don't quite have the pull to scramble a League interdictor without filling out the proper paperwork.”


He thought about offering his hand to the strange human coiled in a defensive crouch, then decided better of it and gestured back toward the hatch. “We did mange to 'lose track' of an impounded shuttlecraft, though, if you're looking for a ride out of the Core?”


That seemed to intrigue the rogue Jedi, and in no time the young lieutenant and his new human were trekking through the bowels of the League starship. “Right this way,” he said, gesturing ahead. “It's best you don't talk to the crew. The less they know, the better for all of us. Ahh, here we are.” He led the way into a small, empty rec room, and waited for the door to close behind them before launching into his pitch.


“When I got word someone needed help getting out of the Core, I had no idea you were going to be a bona fide Jedi. Master Rashanagok, I'm Explorer Karth . . . o-o-of the Antarian Rangers.” He'd never actually said it out loud before, and to be saying it to a Jedi! “The Rangers went into hiding after the Dominion's Declaration against Force users, but we haven't been idle. We're part of an effort to protect Jedi and other Force sensitives from the Dominion. It's pretty ad hoc, and whoever was waiting for you at Kelada is not going to be happy you didn't make it there, but there will be no record of your presence on this ship. The captain's not a Ranger, but he is a . . . friend.”


The “lieutenant” smiled as he pulled the fake rank insignia off of his borrowed uniform. “When we talk about it, we call it the Great River. I don't know how far it goes, but I know it's saving people. You could be a part of that too, you know?” This wasn't what he'd expected when he got the call to intervene, but he damn sure wasn't about to let a Jedi Master pass through without at least asking for his help.

Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Mar 21 2022 10:24pm

He had been poked, and prodded, and scanned, and sampled. He'd been given a full psychological evaluation, a reaction time test, short- and long-term memory test, some kind of “false memory” screening, and then they debriefed him three separate times, by three separate teams. Rane Cardan was beginning to think he would never get to travel those last couple thousand kilometers to home.


Then the head of the Coalition Intelligence Bureau walked into the room. Alone.


“Chief Mumphs,” Rane acknowledged the man before he'd gotten a handle on his own surprise. He sat up reflexively, resuming his air of professional poise as best he could under the circumstances (“the circumstances” being somewhere around thirty six hours since he'd last slept).


“Settle down now,” Ferguson Mumphs reassured him, taking the seat directly across the table from Rane. “We'll have you out of here soon enough, son.”


“Yes, sir,” Rane said.


“All your tests are good,” he explained, setting out an old-school manila folder and flipping it open, revealing several dozen sheets of paper, in a variety of different colors. “The boys are analyzing Mister Gevel's coded messages,” he started separating the papers into different stacks, laying them out according to some unknown design. “Preliminary reports suggest they're real . . . that is: they're really Imperial code, which means we probably won't be able to crack them.”


“That's unfortunate, Sir,” Rane said, trying to seem engaged even though all he wanted to do was lay his head on the table and go to sleep.


“Maybe not,” Chief Mumphs said, finishing his organizational display and looking up to regard the younger man. “There's no love lost between the Coalition and the Empire, ambassador, but High Command is starting to think this Dominion business is going to require us to move a lot of our old animosities to the back burner, as it were.”


Rane nodded along, vaguely aware that this conversation was legitimately important, but certain he wasn't up to it at the moment. “So we're going to do it, then? We're going to deliver Gevels orders, even though we know the Dominion has its hooks in him?”


The Chief did a weird thing where he both nodded and frowned at the same time. “Nothing's been decided yet, but it seems the best course of action. If this really was a Dominion ploy, we don't see much use in them roping us in, unless it was to catch you in the act. Since you're back, and apparently uncompromised, the analysis team thinks our best bet is to proceed. Carefully.”


“Okay,” Rane said, a bit of cheer breaking through his weariness. “How are we going to reach out?”


“Oh, you let us worry about that,” Mumphs said. “And you let us worry about your replacement at Coruscant, too.”


“Replacement, Sir?”


Ferguson smiled, scooping up one of his stacks of paper and laying out the individual sheets in front of himself. “The Cooperative has approved your 'permanent diplomatic mission' to Coruscant, but you're not going with it, at least not for now.”


“I was hoping to get some sleep 'for now', Sir.”


He seemed to like the comment, even mustered a little chuckle. “Sorry son, but you've got a meeting scheduled with the Prime Minister.”


The comment jolted him back to an alert state. “Come again?”


“Oh yeah. Seems he's mighty impressed with your work here. He's cooking up something I'm sure you'll want to get in on.”