The Bonds of Brotherhood (GC/Kothlis)
Posts: 97
  • Posted On: Apr 30 2010 12:55am
The Bothan Clans had been scattered and divided for too long now. The iron heel of Empire had shattered their mighty civilization. But beneath the smoldering embers of a greatness razed by villainous powers, the Bothan spirit still burned with an unquenchable fury.

It was inescapable and undeniable: the Bothan Clans were rising again. The great fleets of the past were rebuilding themselves. The lost spires of Bothawui were honored now with the new constructs of Sennat, Mandell, and Kothlis.

Kothlis . . . the wayward world. They had found some measure of protection beneath the shadow of the Galactic Coalition, a barrier against outright attack by the Empire. But they had been driven to that alliance out of fear; they would be drawn to this Alliance out of rage.

For the Bothan people were being summoned to ar'krai, and not even the Galactic Coalition would stop the people of Kothlis from answering.


The Clans were assembled, and they numbered two hundred forty six. Some thirty seven of their previous members had been officially disbanded, their numbers folded into other clans who had been struck gravely by the loss of Bothawui, but not obliterated outright.

The position of these “mixed clans” was clear: ar'krai, starting in the scorched skies of Bothawui. Though they were looked upon as somewhat illegitimate by many members of the Council, their voting power remained very much real, and that made them powerful default allies.

Unfortunately, the number of “lost clans,” those annihilated along with their homeworld, would not be clear for some time yet. Estimates ranged from forty to seventy. Forty to seventy clans. Forty to seventy groupings of families so large that most species couldn't handle tracking relations on that scale.

Turned to dust. Left as ash upon their dead home.

It would never happen again.

Rolk Bar'akai rose to his feet, and the Council plunged immediately into silence. “My position on these matters is clear, but we are not here today to discuss the just retribution for the destruction of our homeworld. We are here to ensure that the Combined Bothan Clans are reborn, truly and fully. Many of you have dispatched delegates to sister worlds and brother clans, calling for the reassembly of this Council and the preservation of our Way.

“But those most influential who are not yet among us we shy away from, construct rationales to justify our lack of effort to reach out in brotherhood. I speak of Kothlis, and the membership of its clans within the Galactic Coalition of Planets.

“But the Clans of Kothlis are Bothan, and none of us have forgotten that. We must go to them. We must end this foolishness and stand as one. We must win back all our brothers and sisters. As one, the Bothan people must choose their fate.

“I call for a vote, to dispatch an envoy to Kothlis, and reacquire representatives of the Kothlis Clans.”

Rolk sat, the room burst into noise, and moments later it was settled. “The resolution passes. The delegation will be dispatched.”


“And they want me to go with them?” Jarvis Ragnar was in shock.

“They want you to lead them,” Ziv Bar'akai corrected.

Jarvis shook his head furiously, eyes dropping to the floor. “I'm wanted as an interstellar terrorist. Even the―”

“Our brothers on Kothlis will honor your status as a representative of the Bothan Council; the Coalition will be forced to allow you to pass, unharmed.”

Jarvis swallowed the lump in his throat, finally looking up to his benefactor. “If I do this, you understand what it means?”

“Our fate is in your hands, Jarvis Ragnar. It means whatever you choose.”

* * *

This wasn't his ship. He liked his ship. He didn't like . . . not . . . his ship.

This wasn't his crew. He liked his crew. He didn't like . . .

“One minute to reversion . . . Sir.” The Bothan captain had dropped any pretense of actual respect for Jarvis shortly after departing from Sennat. The fact that the Ryn rebel had insisted upon staying on the bridge for the duration of the journey surely didn't help matters.

The delegates from the Bothan Council had done their best to prep Jarvis for the meeting ahead, but he was still a foreigner going to a foreign place. And he was not a diplomat.

He was a warmonger. And he was going to make allies for war.

“Thirty seconds.”

Jarvis didn't feel safe making this trip in a lone Bothan Assault Cruiser, so openly exposing himself to a galactic power without a reliable means of escape. But he had chosen to stand with the Bothans, and this was where he was needed.

So this was where he would go.

“Reversion,” The captain said, and the vortex of hyperspace dissolved into a black canvas, Kothlis swelling ahead.

Jarvis took a moment to consider the blue-green world in front of him; at this range, the island chains were distinguishable only as vague blots amongst the blue. And around the world, Bothan and Coalition warships maintained their vigil, though their numbers had thinned somewhat as the Combine Clans began to reassert their authority over the Bothan navy, and the Coalition was forced to call away resources in the face of the growing Reaver threat.

Still, this was not a force to be trifled with. Especially not for a lone Assault Cruiser.

And it was in that moment that Jarvis was sure. It will begin here.

“Open comms, all channels,” Jarvis ordered.

“Sir, perhaps I should―”

Jarvis gestured for the captain's silence. “Open comms.”

“Comms open,” The comm officer reported.

“Citizens of Kothlis and servants of the Galactic Coalition, I am Jarvis Ragnar. I come here with the authority of the Combined Bothan Clans, but there is something that they do not know, which you must:

“I am here, because the New Republic sent me.”

Jarvis signaled the comm officer and the lines closed. He offered his final command without so much as a glance at the disbelieving Bothan beside him. “Take us in, captain.”

And finally the unwanted Ryn left the bridge.
Posts: 837
  • Posted On: May 9 2010 3:27am
This was not good. This was not good at all. “Shoot them out of the sky. Shoot them out of the sky right now.”

“We can't do that, Kol. They're transmitting an official diplomatic registration.”

Kol Ved'lya clenched her fists in anger. “Damn their registration to hell! Shoot it down!”

The door burst open and a pair of Coalition dignitaries rushed through. “What are we going to do?”

Sighing, Kol sat back into her chair, the emotion drained from her voice. “We have to let them land.”

“But . . . but . . .” Rosh, the Bimm, stumbled to find words. “He's a terrorist!”

“Bothan law demands we welcome them,” The other Bothan said.

Rosh's eyes grew wide with fear.

Rosh's partner, a Cerean named Vad, grabbed his arm to try to shake him back to reality. “This is their world, and these are there laws. We have to respect that.”

“The Coalition does not harbor terrorists!” Rosh exclaimed, breaking free of the Cerean's grasp.

Vad put on his best Stern Cerean face. “He is a representative of the Bothan clans. If the Councilors acknowledge that, then we are obligated to respect their customs. Councilors?” Vad turned to the pair of Bothans.

Once again, Kol nodded. “As Councilor of the Ilya Clan, I must acknowledge and welcome an emissary of the Combined Clans.”

“We have no choice,” Her companion added.

“Well, that's two of three,” Vad said lightly. “Looks like the measure passes. I suppose we should . . . get out of the way?”

Kol shook her head. “No, we may need your help.”

“We'll, we're not really authorized for international negotiations,” Rosh said, terrified at the prospect of having to meet Jarvis Ragnar. “We're just local liaisons. Really, we couldn't be of much help to you, so . . .” Rosh glanced to his side, hoping Vad would back him up.

“On the other hand, we're obligated to help in any way possible,” Vad pointed out. “We are representatives of the Coalition, after all.”

The quartet made their way from the small conference room and toward the landing pad that would receive the delegation's shuttle. “So what's the game plan?” Rosh asked, falling to the back of the group.

“We pray to the gods, and stave off this madness as best we can,” Kol said. “I fear this warmongering will drive all of Bothan Space to ruin.”

They arrived at the landing pad just in time to see the shuttle touch down. First off the ship was a Ryn wearing a worn nerf-hide jacket, a blaster clearly visible at his waist.

His face was an impenetrable mask, joyless and stern. Only his eyes showed the burning life beneath, a warning not to awaken this feral beast.

This was the face of vengeance, and it lived up to its reputation.
Posts: 97
  • Posted On: May 14 2010 2:47am
Jarvis was first down the shuttle's ramp, not at all dressed for the occasion. A handful of Bothan dignitaries were hot on his heels, but apparently he was in charge here. This all felt quite out of the ordinary, but Jarvis was pretty sure he knew what he was supposed to do.

The small delegation awaiting him didn't look all that impressive, but the pair of off-worlders obviously weren't with the local government, and that was a step in the right direction.

“So is there a bow, or a handshake, or something, or can we go ahead and move this inside?” Jarvis widened his eyes in mock surprise. “A man in my line of work doesn't like wide, open places. It reminds me of too many things I've done to people dumb enough to put themselves in similar situations.”

The Coalition representatives didn't take too kindly to his terrorist jest. Jarvis just pushed through the group, heading into the attached building. “Where to?” Jarvis quickly found an empty conference room, opening the door and waiving everyone inside. The Kothlis delegates didn't appear very happy with Jarvis' assertive stance, but they complied, probably recognizing the inevitability before them.

“I'm going to make this simple,” Jarvis started. “The Bothan Council is all but reassembled. With the readmission of Kothlis and its supporters, the Council will have quorum and we can finally settle this thing.”

“What, precisely, do you mean: 'settle'?” The Cerean asked.

“We'll have our vote for Ar'krai,” Jarvis answered coldly. “Naturally, the Coalition will probably want nothing to do with Bothan Space at that point.”

“You're in no position to say what the Coalition would want,” The Bimm said boldly, then cowered in his seat as Jarvis turned his attention to the little rodent.

“Make no mistake, little man. I'm here to facilitate war against the Galactic Empire. It's what I do and why I live. If you want to help me fight, then that's wonderful. But if not, then you should get very far away from me, as quickly as your stubby little legs can carry you.”

We are the representatives of Kothlis,” The Bothan female on the other side of the table spoke up. “And we determine its people's fate.”

Jarvis shook his head. “This is inevitable and unavoidable. Kothlis and its people will join in Ar'krai. Kothlis and its people are ready to join in Ar'krai. You cannot stop this, and delaying it will only mean your own destruction.”

“We have a responsibility―” The other Kothlis Bothan started.

“You try to stop this and there will be rioting on the streets. There will be pain, and bloodshed, and death, I promise you.” He paused for a moment, glancing back at the still-terrified Bimm. “And I won't even have to help. Bothawui is gone; it's been over a year now and you have done nothing. Nothing! That time is over. The Bothan people will be avenged.”

“Damn it, man!” The female Bothan screamed, pounding her fist on the table. “You'll kill us all!”

Jarvis' cold eyes fell on the angry woman. “If we don't win this war, we're all already dead.”
Posts: 837
  • Posted On: May 14 2010 3:21am
Kol and her companion couldn't handle Jarvis Ragnar and his crusade alone, and they had known that for quite some time now. She knew what she had to do. “Protocol demands we call the Council of Kothlis Clans to order. If our Coalition associates would be so kind as to entertain you for a moment,” The Cerean nodded solemnly, “we will excuse ourselves and set the machine in motion.”

The pair of Kothlis Bothans quickly left the room, putting a good deal of distance between themselves and the conference room before Kol produced a commlink, activating it with the press of a button and holding it between the two of them. “Are you ready?”

“I'm doing the best I can,” The voice from the commlink said. “This is all happening so fast.”

The other Bothan spoke into the commlink. “We knew this was coming, Councilor Dei'lya, and we knew it would be faster than we could control.”

“But he said he's from the New Republic! I don't even know what it means, but he broadcast it across the whole planet. The people are already uneasy.”

“The Empire's been suffering from all sorts of rebel groups and freedom fighters of late,” Kol pointed out. “The fact that one or more of them seems to have tried to legitimize themselves by resurrecting the name of Republic is no surprise.”

“But this is Jarvis Ragnar!” The voice shouted, indignant. “What's he doing playing at Republic?”

“None of this matters if he succeeds,” She snapped back. “We have to stand firm, or countless Bothans will die. We cannot allow this madman to sway even a fraction of the Council.”

“I'm doing everything I can,” Councilor Dei'lya responded.

“It'll have to be enough,” Kol's counterpart said, a note of finality in his voice.
Posts: 97
  • Posted On: May 14 2010 3:59am
The pair of Bothans left, and Jarvis spent a moment in silence, simply staring at the wall behind the pair of Coalition representatives.

“If you―”

Jarvis held up a hand to silence the Cerean, then closed his fist, leaving only his index finger extended, as if to say “one moment please”. He counted the seconds in his head, finally nodding as if coming to a conclusion. Turning to his Bothan companions he said, “Get out.”

Fur rippling in indignation, the nearest of them answered. “How dare you―”

“Get out now,” He said more firmly.

Reluctantly, angry, the few Bothans moved toward the door.

Jarvis returned his attention to the Coalition dignitaries, the Bimm squirming uncomfortably. “Relax, Stumpy” Jarvis said lightly, “I wouldn't make them leave if all I was going to do was kill you.”

His words didn't seem to reassure the Bimm in the least, but the Cerean didn't appear too concerned. At least one of them was competent enough to carry Jarvis' message.

The door hissed shut behind him and finally the Rebel and the pair of Coalition officials were alone. “I'll be honest with you: I've done things I'm not proud of, things maybe I wouldn't do if given another chance. Things that have changed me forever; things that I'll never escape from. I don't know if what I do now will be looked back on from some distant point in the future and be called my moment of redemption or my moment of irredeemable evil, but I know that this has to be done, and no one else can do it.

“I'm leading the Bothan people to total warfare against the Empire, and no one is going to stop me. Not only because they can't, but because the Bothan people won't let them. This is happening. A united Bothan people are going to stand and fight.”

The Bimm took a deep breath to mount a response, but Jarvis just pressed on as if he hadn't noticed, his focus clearly on the Cerean. “I'm not alone. I'm not one man shouting into the darkness, my rage so blinding that I can't see no one's there. Something is rising within this galaxy, a power that no Empire can stamp out or Coalition can bind. Something is stirring, and it calls itself the New Republic, and it wants to see the Empire cast down and democracy restored.

“I can't promise you that I share its hopes and dreams, but I share its enemies, and that's good enough for now.” Jarvis reached into his bag, the Bimm curling up in his chair, radiating fear. Jarvis' hand emerged with only a datapad, and after the Cerean tapped him lightly on the shoulder, the Bimm opened one eye just enough to realize he wasn't dead yet.

“I share its mail service too,” He said, sliding the datapad across the table. “The New Republic has asked me―quietly―to offer the Coalition our friendship. I'm sure this is highly irregular, but I'm not aware of any approved method for a secret, illegal organization to request official diplomatic exchange with a government ideologically opposed to its enemies. The fact is that there aren't many organizations who have gone to war with the Empire and survived the endeavor. That alone gives us common ground unshared with any other nations or societies.”
Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Jul 1 2010 9:08pm
Vad studied the datapad carefully. There wasn't really much there, just a general assertion that the “New Republic” held no ill-will toward the Coalition and respected the government's historical and continued efforts to preserve democracy and freedom, despite the growing power of the Empire. It was largely symbolic, he suspected.

Regardless, Vad and Rosh weren't the people to handle this sort of thing. “I can appreciate what you're trying to do here,” Vad said, careful to keep his meaning vague, “but we have no authority to extend you or those you represent . . . anything. Our authority here extends only to the government of Kothlis. In truth, if the Kothlis Clans rejoin the Bothan Council, we will have no authority in determining even its continued relationship with the Coalition.

“I'm sorry, Mr. Ragnar, but you've asked something that I have no authority to give. I will, of course, submit―quietly―your offer,” he held the datapad up, “to my superiors, but that is all I can do.”

“Actually,” Rosh spoke up, “we should probably do that now.” The little Bimm hurried toward the door.

“If you'll excuse me,” Vad added, “I'll do my best to make sure he doesn't get lost on the way.”

Stepping through the door, the Cerean saw the pair of Kothlis Bothans approaching, obviously confused at seeing everyone outside. “I'm sorry we won't be of more help,” Vad said lightly, “but we have Coalition business to attend to.”

Kol and her partner steeled themselves, then opened the door and entered the room that was now occupied only by Jarvis Ragnar. “Mr. Ragnar, the Council of Clans is assembling. You will make your petition to them.”

The Ryn looked rather confused. “There are only three Kothlis Clans. Can't you just call your counterpart and we have the meeting here?”

Kol smiled malevolently. “You will see soon enough, Mr. Ragnar.”

Fifteen minutes later, Jarvis Ragnar was face-to-face with over forty Bothan representatives. Kol and her counterpart took their seats at the head of the assembly, next to a third Bothan, Councilor Dei'lya.

As Kol sat, she fixed an icy glare on the Ryn representative. “Jarvis Ragnar, representative of the Bothan Council, I present to you the Kothlis Council of Clans. We and our allies intend to ensure that whatever the fate of the Bothan people may be, you will have no part of it. You have meddled in our affairs for long enough, and we will not stand for it any longer.”
Posts: 97
  • Posted On: Jan 15 2011 9:20pm
(OOC note: this thread predates the conversion of the Commonwealth into the New Republic. All events should be interpreted in that context)

Imperial policy for the region since the fall of Bothawui had been to split Bothan Space in two, to disrupt the flow of information and resources and retard any effort at organization. Coalition policy for the region since the fall of Bothawui had been to ensure that Kothlis did not fall, and allow its citizenry and government to carry on as they saw fit.

Now Jarvis Ragnar bore witness to what they had seen fit. Forty clans. The populations of two dozen Bothan colonies were represented in this room. If they all truly intended to oppose ar'krai . . .

“Bothawui is gone!” was all he could manage, his voice straining as he shouted at the top of his lungs. “For thousands of years my people have wandered the galaxy without a home to call their own. To this day if I could find the heirs of those responsible, I would see to it that they drowned in their own blood. You have been marked. The Bothan people have been marked for slavery and death, for the slow decay of time, to be uprooted and chased across the stars. Bothawui was only the beginning, and a year from now, or ten years from now, or a hundred years from now the Beast will finish what it started there.

“Is it fear? Are you afraid of what ar'krai means for your people? Do you shrink in cowardice at the lives that will be lost, the worlds burned, the resources consumed?

"Understand this: there is no fate worse than death. There is no end graver than extinction. Sit and wait for the Darkness to come and sweep you away, or fight and dare to believe in something else.

“It doesn't have to go this way. Fight, damn you!”

Councilor Dei'lya turned around to regard the Clans. After a moment of silence he gave a short nod and turned back around to face Jarvis Ragnar. “There is a limit to our patience, sir. You have thirty minutes to leave Kothlis or we will hang you ourselves. You disgrace us, and I would sooner see myself set aflame than allow my son to stand by you on a field of battle.” He produced a thin, rectangular object from beneath his desk, extending it to Jarvis. “We do not recognize your position here, but if your aims are sincere, then you will deliver this to Rolk Bar'akai, and none else.”

Rage thundering through his blood, Jarvis struggled to maintain his composure, to respond as Rolk Bar'akai had instructed him. “I am an emissary―”

“That is all,” Councilor Dei'lya said calmly, setting the object on top of his desk. The other councilors rose and began to leave.

Jarvis just stared at him for a long moment, wishing this were any other world, wishing the Councilor were any other Bothan, any other being.

“You have twenty nine minutes, Mr. Ragnar.” Councilor Dei'lya collected his other things and left.

* * *

Later, Sennatt

“And that's all they said?”

“Just told me to hand this over to you,” Jarvis Ragnar held the object up for the Bothan to see.

Rolk Bar'akai didn't seem surprised. Stretching out his hand, he said, “Alright, I'll take that then.”

It was only after Jarvis handed the device over and stepped back a couple of paces that he really realized the extent of the security measures Rolk had put in place. He supposed he had become comfortable here, almost as comfortable as if he were among the Wandering Ones. The heightened state of awareness he had cultivated in himself over the past couple of years seemed content to relax itself in this place. Safe among friends, I suppose.

Rolk has placed his hand on top of the object, murmuring softly to it. After a moment's delay, an impossibly thin sheet of flimsiplast slid out of the side, Rolk plucking it up immediately. He studied it for a little while, eventually crumpling it up in one hand while opening a drawer on his desk with the other. He produced a transparent bowl of water, setting it on the desktop and dropping the flimsi inside, watching it dissolve into nothing.

“So, what did it say?” Jarvis asked casually. No secrets among friends, I hope.

Rolk's fur rippled strangely . . . apprehension, perhaps? Then his eyes darted to Jarvis and as quickly away, nodding oddly. “They say if I hand you over to the Imperials, they'll ensure my place as First Secretary of the reassembled Combined Clans. They say they'll pursue the total liberation of Bothan Space by whatever means necessary, but no more. They say I must concede these points, or they will ensure that the Bothan People are never whole again.”

All of the edges in the room turned sharp in his mind's eye. He was prey caught in a trap, and he had just realized it. Half a dozen armed guards inside the room. Rolk's own nephew, Ziv, who had served as liaison to the Wandering Ones for months now, at the door. Rolk Bar'akai, his heavy desk between himself and the terrorist Jarvis Ragnar. “Hmm,” Jarvis managed without showcasing his fear. “So what's the game plan?” He tried to do it casually, but it's hard to get at the blaster inside your jacket when it's been placed for concealment and not ease of access.

They were on him before he had really even begun to reach for the weapon. “I'm sorry, Jarvis, but I am Bothan, and you are an outsider. My loyalty is to my people first.”

“There will be no ar'krai,” Jarvis growled between clenched teeth.

When Rolk answered, he almost sounded defeated. “But my people will be whole again.”

Jarvis Ragnar kicked when they hauled him upright. They bound his feet as well as his hands. Four men carried him out of the room and into the hall, the Ryn still writhing uncontrollably, fighting as best he could for freedom.

Rolk followed to the doorway, stopping there but still watching Jarvis Ragnar. “I wish it didn't have to be his way,” he said quietly, almost to himself, but his nephew was at his side, watching with him.

Jarvis Ragnar's blaster pressed against Rolk's temple. Ziv Bar'akai tightened his grip on the weapon, cast aside while Jarvis was being detained. “Halt!” he shouted, his head not moving as his eyes flitted to the side, checking to ensure that the guards understood the situation. “Unshackle him.”

* * *

Hours earlier, en route to Sennatt

“What is it?” Jarvis asked, staring at the object that now set between the two men.

Ziv Bar'akai, the Bothan from Military Intelligence who was here as much to spy as he was to keep lines of communication open, inspected the object carefully. “Standard message container, used for a lot of clandestine, internal communications.”

“Can you open it?”

Ziv shook his head. “Its designed to destroy its own contents in the event of an unauthorized breach, and the locking mechanism is keyed to my uncle's genetic code, plus a secondary, preset access word or phrase. We could bypass them eventually, but not in any sort of reasonable time frame.”

Jarvis' featured soured at the news. He didn't have any plays left. He trusted the Bothans, as much as a man in his line of work could, but a promise made by a Bothan is just currency for a deal as of yet unmade. “What do you think it says?”

There was a long pause before Ziv answered. “I've been instructed to tell you that it probably says they want you gone, out the system, out of the sector. That the Clans of Kothlis won't deal until you have nothing to do with Rolk Bar'akai or the Bothan Combined Clans.” He looked up from the device, which he had been staring at the whole time, eyes settling on Jarvis. “But I'm a Bothan, and I know better. You are currency, Jarvis. You are the most valuable possession the Bothan Clans have, and that value is found as a prisoner, not a commander.”

“They wa―” Jarvis couldn't find his voice. “They want to trade me for peace with the Empire?”

Ziv turned back to the device, his eyes scanning every centimeter of its featureless surface. “They want to trade you, for what and with whom isn't really relevant.”

“Will your uncle deal?” Jarvis asked warily.

Ziv shrugged. “I trust my uncle, but he is a politician at heart. I have had no doubt that he would be forced to compromise before all was said and done; I didn't imagine it would take this form.”

“And what are you, at heart? What will it take to make you compromise?”

The Bothan closed his eyes, his fur standing on end. “My heart was burned to dust on Bothawui, when my parents and brothers and sisters, when my wife and young son were turned to ash. Ar'krai is my heart, an Empire aflame is the only deal I will ever make.”

Jarvis shook his head, features bitter. “How do I know? How do I know I can trust you? How do I know what to do now?”

Ziv's eyes snapped open and he scanned the dark corners of the room, the half dozen or so beings belonging to Jarvis' inner circle. He approached the Ryn leader carefully, grabbing his upper arm in one hand, gripping his opposite shoulder with the other, leaning close. His lips almost touched Jarvis' ear as he whispered,“Krevi.”

This was the simplest oath a Bothan could make. The most binding oath. Against it there was no compromise.

Jarvis took a step back, studying Ziv in this moment. “I'm not ready to stop believing yet. We'll go and meet your uncle, we'll hope he makes the right decision.”

“And if he doesn't?” Ziv asked, his tone harsh.

“Well, then things start getting interesting.”

* * *

Now, Sennatt

The three beings walked quickly through the hallways of the governmental complex, Jarvis Ragnar's blaster never leaving Rolk Bar'akai's neck.

“Back!” he shouted into the unsuspecting crowd, shoving Rolk ahead of himself. Ziv leveled a blaster rifle at the group of Bothan dignitaries and office workers, causing them to scatter quickly.

They had left Rolk's guards, bound, in his study, deciding it best to only take the Bothan leader.

“Ziv? Ziv, stop this madness. Stop this now!” Rolk shouted in terror.

“The madness ends when the empire is dead,” Ziv replied.

"You know this is wrong. I am your uncle; think of the Way!"

"I have given my oath to Jarvis Ragnar, uncle. You are nothing more to me now than what he commands you to be."

Knowing it to be true, Rolk turned to Jarvis. “My death won't stop this."

Jarvis Ragnar stopped for a moment, studying the Bothan's face, the twitching fur, the alien posture. “I'm not your pawn.”

“Everyone is someone's pawn,” Rolk answered defensively.

“I'm not your pawn,” he said again, pushing Rolk back into motion.

“You won't get away, Jarvis. You can't get away. Kill me, don't kill me, try to take me hostage; everything ends with you dead or in chains.”

Jarvis just smiled at him. “You're own nephew sided with me over you, Rolk. I think I'm doing just fine.”

“There will be no ar'krai, Jarvis. You have failed in your mission. There's no point in carrying on this nonsense.”

“As long as I live, my 'mission' is a work in progress.”

“It'll be over soon enough, by our hands or by the Empire's.”

“I-WILL-KILL-HIM!” Jarvis shouted at the squad of security guards who rounded the far corner, Ziv firing into the ceiling to emphasize the Ryn's sincerity. “Back off!”

They backpedaled down the hallway, maintaining their distance but refusing to break away altogether.

“They won't let you escape, Jarvis. You're not getting offworld.”

“As valuable as I am, you are far more valuable than me. What will happen to Sennatt if you die? Your new political power is impressive, sure, but you're a businessman at heart. What'll happen to Publictechnic if I put one through your brain? THESE PEOPLE KNOW BETTER THAN TO MESS WITH ME! I'M JARVIS RAGNAR!” His voice dropped suddenly very low. “Mine is the face of vengeance. You should have known better than to cross me.”

They had made it to the docking bay. The trio inside Jarvis' personal transport had already rushed down the access ramp, weapons in hand. A line of Bothans stood between him and his ship.

“We can't let you board that vessel, Mr. Ragnar. Not with Councilor Bar'akai.”

“Listen closely to me, furball. When I get to my ship, I'll send him down, unharmed. Until then, this blaster doesn't move from his neck. You have five seconds.”

Jarvis could tell that Rolk wanted to shout, to scream for them to cut him down then and there. There was just one problem: Rolk Bar'akai was Bothan, and Bothans don't die when they have an out.

The Ryn moved forward and the Bothan security detail parted, unwilling to be responsible for the death of their world's leader.

“The fleet won't let you leave the system. You must know that.”

As the shuttle lifted off and Jarvis' companions turned to him for answers, the Ryn finally gave his captive a short nod. “Yeah, I know.”

“I can't control them, Jarvis. They'll vape the ship with me on it before they'll let you leave with me as prisoner.”

Jarvis was fighting to keep his emotions under control, to stave off panic while his men could see. “I'll think of something.”

“There's nothing left to think of, Jarvis. Turn around, let us take you in. Your death can still have meaning.”

Jarvis said nothing, just kept staring at the deck.

“Your men don't have to die with you.” He said it so compassionately.

Ziv drove the butt of his blaster into his uncle's stomach, silencing him for the duration of the flight. “We follow you to whatever end, Jarvis.”

Ziv had been among the Wandering Ones long enough to know the truth of that statement. That ship and everyone on it would burn themselves to vapor before letting their leader face death alone.

When the transport docked and Jarvis made his way into The Wandering One with his prisoner, he was greeted then-and-there by half of the vessel's command staff.

Captain Lunewell was looking as grim as ever. “Boss, they say they won't let us leave the planet's gravity well until we turn you and your prisoner over.”

“Tell them we'll put him in a shuttle once we're clear and send him back to the planet.”

The captain just shook his head. “They say they want both of you, in their custody, before they'll let us leave.”

“Then we'll have to―”

“I will take him back,” Hojim spoke up. The Klatooinian stepped forward, his face an impassive mask. “I will take the shuttle back to the surface. They will let you leave or I will kill him.”

“Hojim―” Jarvis started.

“It is decided,” was his only reply.

“I'll come back for you,” Jarvis promised.

Hojim shook his head. “I will be dead.” He turned to look the Bothan captive over, then grabbed him roughly and forced him back into the transport. Turning back through the docking porthole, he looked to his leader one last time. “You have honored me. Now I will honor you.”

When Jarvis reached the bridge, communications had already been established with the Bothan force barring their path. “Rolk Bar'akai is currently en route to the surface, unharmed, in the custody of one of my lieutenants. You will allow this vessel to pass and exit the system into hyperspace, at which time he will be returned to you. Any other course ends with his death.” Jarvis signaled roughly for the line to be cut.

As The Wandering One neared the edge of the planet's gravity well, passing between the ships deployed to bar their path, Jarvis gave an order. “I want Hojim on the comm.” The faces of the Klatooinian and Bothan appeared immediately above the holoprojector. “Hojim, we're moving out of the system now. Hyperspace jump in less than thirty seconds.”

Hojim stared on in silence, the seconds ticking by, the blaster in his hand dead level as it pointed at Rolk Bar'akai.

“Hojim, we're clear. Thank you, my friend.”

With no final words or parting gestures, Hojim turned the blaster on himself and fired.

The Wandering One vanished into hyperspace, the holoimage freezing as it lost connection to its source. Jarvis stared for a long while at the picture of his dead lieutenant, at the man who had killed himself to ensure he would not become a liability to the organization.

“You should have vaped the bastard,” Lunewell said cruelly, casting a dark look at Ziv.

“No,” Jarvis shook his head. “It had to be this way. Rolk Bar'akai had to live.” He turned and left the bridge, his pain finally too great for him to hide it from his men.

* * *

Later, location undisclosed

The two watched the holoreport of the ceremony in a sort of defeated silence.

Rolk Bar'akai signed his name to the official document, and the office of the First Secretary of the Bothan Clans came into being once more. As a hundred thousand cheers rose to meet him from the Government Plaza of Sennatt, Rolk Bar'akai turned toward his new subjects and the holoimager to deliver his inaugural speech.

“One year ago our Great Enemy, not content merely to manipulate and coerce our people, saw fit to raze the origin of our species to ash. Bothawui is dead, and with it the greatest of our people.

“But here on this day we stand upright once more!” The crowd cheered on cue, his strengthening tone and straightened poise accenting the intended change in mood. “The Bothan People are one again. The Way has been restored. Soon, all the places of our forefathers will belong to us once more.” Rolk paused to allow more cheering.

“Our people are hurting. Even now, with the Bothan Council restored, many are uncertain about the future, fearful of dark intentions and outside influences. I will make this clear, now: we Bothans choose our own fate. The Way will guide us into the future.

“It is my solemn duty and personal oath that I will not rest until every world of Bothan Space is returned to us.” They cheered again, and he gestured for them to be quiet. “Until those responsible for the atrocities at Bothawui are brought to justice here, in our own lands.” More cheers, and he tried to silence them again. “If there are those beyond our borders who face similar oppression, who have been manipulated and coerced by outside powers, let us stand with them as allies and compatriots, let our power be added to theirs, that our Enemy may see and know the strength of our resolve, the purity of our cause, the uncompromising nature of our hearts' desires.

“Let us, here and now, in Bothan Space, be the first to stand, boldly and openly, in opposition of the expansionist, tyrannical forces of the New Order of the Galactic Empire.” The cheers rang out with the slightest tinge “Ar'krai! Ar'krai!”, but the ghost echo died quickly, before it could build strength and resonate through the crowd.

“It is for this purpose that I, as First Secretary of the Bothan People, in conjunction with the Bothan Council, do intend to conduct our people into the Alliance to Restore the Republic. Let the strength and valor of the Bothan People usher in the return of the Galactic Republic!”

“He did it,” Jarvis said solemnly, lowering the volume on the device. “He won over the Kothlis Clans.”

Ziv Bar'akai gave a shallow nod. “For my uncle, ar'krai was a political tool to gain him the office of First Secretary. Giving up the call was just as easy as issuing it. There will be a war, but it will be a war to reclaim our lost worlds, to fortify our borders, to secure his new domain against future invasion.”

“Did he know it would end like this?” Jarvis asked.

Ziv thought it over for a moment, finally shrugged. “I have no doubt that you were never more than a pawn to him, but the manner in which he used you was determined by the form his opposition took. But . . . he made his deal with the Spynet long before you came to Bothan Space. Maybe he knew just how close he'd have to let you push the rest of Bothan Space before Kothlis would come around. Maybe all along he knew just when to turn on you.” Ziv's voice had grown quiet, his manner reflective as he considered the events of the past months. Suddenly he snapped back to focus and added, “But to answer your question: no, he never could have guessed that it would end like this.”

The hyperspace reversion alarm sounded and the duo left the darkened passenger area, stepping into the bridge of the shuttle just as the starlines compressed back to pinpoints in the distance. But there was something else here, too.

The comm chimed and Ziv activated it without delay. The one-eighth-scale image of Vice Admiral Alt'aior of the Bothan Defense Fleet sprung to life between them. Jarvis looked between the holographic image, his Bothan companion, and the dozen warships beyond the shuttle's viewport.

His whole mind and body screamed for him to shook Ziv now, turn the shuttle around, and pray to the gods of his ancestors that he could make hyperspace before Alt'aior's guns slagged his shuttle. Something else, though, something more primal―something more pure―told him that would be the gravest error of his life. He gave me his oath.

And then the image of Alt'aior spoke. Rather, it roared: “AR'KRAI!” Ten thousand voices joined him.

As they died down, Ziv Bar'akai spoke, a cold chill in his voice that Jarvis had never before heard. “The Bothan Council can have its 'war'. You and we who follow you have an altogether different destiny.”

* * *


First Secretary Rolk Bar'akai sat at his desk, working diligently to prepare for the liberation of Bothawui. Everything was in order. Jarvis Ragnar had escaped, yes, but Kothlis and its clans had returned to the Bothan Council. The Combined Clans had held their first full session since the destruction of their homeworld. Alliance High Command had given Rolk their assurance that the security of Bothan Space was a top priority. The Bothan people were poised to become one of the most vital assets to the emerging nation, and Rolk Bar'akai was leading them there. His friends in the Spynet had done their job exceedingly well up to now, and he was confident that the capture or assassination of Jarvis Ragnar was only a matter of time. And with Jarvis gone, Rolk's total power over Bothan Space and its people would be secured.

Yes, everything was in perfect order.

And then the door burst open and one of Rolk's assistants came running into the room. “Sir, I have a priority report here from Admiral Se'lab. He says Vice Admiral Alt'aior has vanished with most of his fleet.”

Rolk's hand stopped mid-stroke, his signature on the official document half-finished. “What do you mean, vanished?”

“Well, there was a message left for you, Sir.”

All the fur on Rolk Bar'akai laid flat. “What sort of message?”

The assistant paused for a moment, fumbling nervously with his datapad. It was as if he didn't wan to read the message. “A single Bothese phrase, sir. 'Cor'ju vith'nah taz op frey'.”

Rolk's eyes grew wide at the statement, his fur ruffling apprehensively as the messenger read the words. Everything was not in perfect order:

”The enemy shall become dust or we shall.”