- Posted On: Nov 7 2013 9:36pm
The Galactic Coalition
Lungo Drom, Cooperative Emergency Capital
Literally less than a week before its fall, the Grand Council of the Cooperative completed the “Continuity of Government” section of the Articles of Cooperation, ensuring that if Varn were ever lost to the Cooperative, the government would survive, no matter how many Councilors might be lost along with it.
As an immediate result of Varn's fall, each of the ruling bodies of the Cooperative's Free States held an emergency meeting, and each of them had independently declared the Cooperative to be in its highest state of emergency.
The result was this. Lungo Drom, the flying Ryn capital city that had begun its life as a Lucrehulk-class Cargo Freighter, has been seized by the new Emergency Council, the five-member group that will preserve the Cooperative federal government until the Grand Council can be restored.
Well, four of its five members, anyway. There seemed to be some sort of trouble selecting a representative for the Alliance of Corporate States, but he or she was arriving presently, so the four other Emergency Councilors were waiting in a mixture of curiosity and impatience.
They sat at a round table near the heart of the Core Ship Guardian Prime, a hologram representing the vessel's semi-autonomous AI occupying one of the chairs, seated as an equal to represent the Cooperative's newest member state, the Automaton Collective. When the room's heavy blast door finally slid aside to reveal the Emergency Council's final member, those at the table stood to greet their newest member.
Only to be met by the ghastly forms of two horrific droids. With faces more like that of humanoid skulls than any droid any of them had ever seen, and black-gray armor plating that looked more like a suit worn by their skeletal frames than an actual component of their bodies, the droids were the stuff of nightmares. They took up positions on either side of the blast door, their arm-mounted weapons clearly visible, their skull-faces staring, lifeless, into the room.
And then he stepped through, the gold and blue of his cape fluttering slightly in his wake, his head cocking slightly to the side as he stopped behind his seat at the table, roguish grin framed by that short, well-trimmed mustache. “What, did I miss something?” Lando Calrissian asked, pulling out his chair and taking a seat.
“Excuse me, what is this?” Elder Ruto, representing the Ryn Fleet, asked, her tone more than a little abrasive.
“Hm?” Lando muttered, feigning surprise. “Oh, those fellows,” he continued, looking over his shoulder and gesturing at the pair of ghastly droids. “We call them RVH combat droids. That's short for ReaVer Hunter, you see?” He looked back to the group, who did not seem impressed. “These are early prototypes, designed for use against the Yuuzhan Vong. That's what the creepy faces are all about.”
“That's not what I meant,” Elder Ruto sayed.
“What are you doing here?” Nitin Cass asked, making no effort to conceal her anger at the stranger's intrusion.
“What, nobody told you?” Lando asked. “I'm the . . . uhh . . . what's it called? Emergency Councilor!” Lando snapped his fingers and pointed at the Iridonian woman, happy he remembered the correct term, “for the Alliance of Corporate States.”
YoggoyStin stirred in his seat, drawing Lando's attention. “Forgive me, but must you not first be a member of the ACS, before you can be appointed its representative?”
“But I am!” Lando exclaimed, slapping his hands on the table for emphasis. “Tendrando Arms, a . . . uhh . . . 'Associate Member' . . . something like that. We don't get a full vote for internal policy, but all of our people are eligible for public office, so here I am. It's all very technical and confusing, but I'm sure your droid friend can check in and see that everything's in order.” He gestureed at the droid hologram, and Guardian Prime nodded in affirmation.
“So, what does this mean,” Nitin asked, more confused now than angry. “Lando Calrissian, hero of the Rebel Alliance and the New Republic, has joined the Coalition? And what, maybe a year after that very Republic has been reestablished?” She shook her head and sat back in her seat. “I'm not buying it.”
“Listen here, young lady,” Lando began, then immediately regretted the choice of words when he saw her angry demeanor return. “Listen to me,” he said again, calmer this time, less confrontational. “I don't know what this new Republic is, what it will become, if it will last. But I do know what this Cooperative is, what the Coalition is. And I know what the galaxy needs right now, and I know what I have to offer it, and I know who can help me do it.
“You're hurting right now, all of you. Varn . . . your capital is gone, and this Smarts character - whatever his faults, he brought you all together, and he's gone now too. I get that, I really do. But this isn't going to beat you. This Dominion is evil, pure and simple, and we have to stop it, for the countless defenseless lives hanging in the balance.
“You've go this thing – this Guardian Program? - that's what we are now. We're the Guardians of all of those people who can't survive what the Dominion will do to them, if we aren't there to stop it from happening. That's who we've become. That's what it means to belong to the Cooperative now.”
“Life is sacred,” YoggoyStin said, echoing what a Guardian had once told his home nest. “We must preserve and defend it.”
“To whom much is given, much is required,” Elder Ruto added. “The Fleet will not forget what was given to us in our hour of need.”
“Wait a minute,” Nitin said, smashing the moment of solidarity. “The Prime Minister has called on all of us to make the Reaver Threat our number one priority. And since that's been Cooperative policy since day one of the outbreak, what makes you think you should or can change it now?”
Lando raised a hand to calm the Iridonian woman. “I understand the strategic necessities of dealing with the Reavers. Don't forget, I was briefly a general in a former life.” He flashed that roguish grin again, and this time it seemed like it might be working. “The ACS is committing its corporate defense fleet to the Reaver campaign, and I encourage each of you to divert whatever forces possible to that endeavor. But we have to start, here, today, if we want to have any chance at figuring out Dominion technology, tactics, and motivation before they're already through with us.”
“What do you have in mind?” Elder Ruto asked.
Lano shrugged. “The Great River, for one.”
Everyone at the table, even the droid hologram, stirred in their seats. “What do you know of the Great River?” Elder Ruto asked again.
Lando smirked. “I named it.”
* * *
Cerea, Acting Capital of the Galactic Coalition
This was not Regrad's Coalition.
It was the one thought that kept rising to the surface of Admiral Panacka's mind as he waded through the tedious bureaucracy of Pro Moon's administration. Just managing to sit down and speak with the Cerean Prime Minister was proving quite the chore, despite the fact that the Minister was the one who had called Panacka!
“What do you mean, he's unavailable?” Panacka shouted at the really rather patient and accommodating executive assistant. “I'm the commander of an entire Province's armed forces. The Prime Minister can make time.”
“Admiral,” the assistant began, “the reason that the Minister is unavailable, is because he is away on official business. I'm sorry, but it is not simply a matter of 'making time'.”
“Do you understand that every hour I am delayed, my home province is at risk? We are at war. The Coalition has been attacked. Now you out here in the West might be content to sit by and watch your allies fight their battles on their own, but that's not how we do things where I'm from.”
The Cerean assistant was looking rather indignant now, and Panacka thought he may have struck a little too close to home, but suddenly the assistant broke eye contact and turned his attention to something behind the admiral. “Oh thank the Force,” he said, his entire demeanor changing as he allowed his stiff posture to slacken and rested his broad forehead on his hand. “Admiral Panacka,” he continued, lifting his head back up and gesturing behind the human, “this is Ambassador Tanor, from Ando. Ambassador, could you . . .” the assistant sort of waived Admiral Panacka away “. . . deal with him?”
“Are you . . . are you pushing me off on some part-time diplomat?” Panacka asked, setting a wide stance and pressing both hands against the top of the assistant's desk, making sure he understood that Panacka didn't plan on going anywhere.
Behind Panacka, the scratching sound of Aqualish speech immediately preceded a synthesized voice. “Prime Minister Moon called you here to meet with me.”
“What?” Panacka asked, turning around to study the Aqualish woman more closely. “Who are you, anyway?”
More scratching, then the translator cleverly disguised as a large, ornate necklace answered again. “This way, conference room seven. We have much need of your expertise.”
“Huh? What? Hey, I don't like to be yanked around like this!” Panacka stepped into the room and the door slid shut behind him. On the far side of the room stood a gleaming silver protocol droid, and . . . “A Geonosian?”
The insectoid began speaking in its bizarre, clicking language, and rose from its seat into the air as its wings fluttered to life.
“This is Tarik the Ascended, Archduke of the planet Hypori,” the droid explained in a feminine voice, “though you are correct; his species does hail from the planet Geonosis.”
The Archduke continued in that incomprehensible language, and already Admiral Panacka knew that something game-changing was afoot.
The protocol droid paused for a brief moment after the Geonosian finished his next thought, frozen in place, her head stopped in a peculiar position, halfway between looking at the Archduke and returning her attention to Panacka. And then her arms relaxed, she finished the turn to Panacka, and she bowed slightly as she continued. “Apparently, you and the Archduke are looking to avenge yourselves upon the Dominion?”
* * *
Singing Mountain Village, Dathomir
This was clearly not the sort of place with which General Lomax was either familiar or comfortable. The wood and animal hide huts, crude stone buildings, and simple dirt streets must have shocked and horrified the former Imperial aristocrat.
To Ink Davaan, though, this place seemed almost . . . homey. These people had a whole, rich, vibrant culture, free of the trappings of galactic politics and war. Through the Force, they'd found a harmony with nature that truly awed him . . . and it was good that the women didn't keep their men as slaves anymore, too.
Besides, Ink had spent more that a few nights in more than one backwater starport that had to be more dangerous to life and limb than the Singing Mountain Clan, even with their pet Rancors taken into account.
The duo's honor guard of Dathomiri warriors, all female, stopped at the entrance to a large structure. It was set into the side of the mountain, stone walls protruding from the living rock, and an antechamber made of animal hide and wood supports, with a thatch roof over both sections, it was the largest building in sight, not counting whatever portion extended into the mountain itself. One of the honor guard drew open the building's door, revealing the room beyond, lit by a glowlamp and sporting native furniture, low wooden benches with stretched animal hide for cushioning.
The duo stepped inside, and Ink was surprised that they were not followed in. These people lived simply, but that neither made them fools, nor simple. It was surprising that they would leave two such strangers alone with their leader . . .
“They will come if they are needed,” a voice said from the darkness beyond the room, and only a second later the aged and smiling face of Clan Mother Augwynne Djo moved out of the shadows and into the light. “Sit,” she commanded, lowering herself into a chair, leaning heavily on a wooden walking stick as she did so.
Ink complied immediately, but the Quelii general made a point of showing his displeasure before finally following suit.
“What are you doing here, offworlders?”
It wasn't threatening, not exactly. But it was certainly demanding. She thought herself superior to them, and it had nothing to do with her position as the leader of this world's small human population.
“We are here to offer you a trade,” General Lomax answered, trying to match her tone but coming off abrasive and confrontational.
“Then be gone,” she waived her hand toward the door. “You have nothing to offer us, and we have nothing to spare for you.”
“Your moon, Koratas, is composed of minerals that are of great value to the Quelii Sector and its people,” General Lomax continued undaunted. “I am here to negotiate for rights to those minerals.”
The Clan Mother cocked her head to the side, her mouth falling open as she heard the offer. “The moon? You're here for the moon? You think I . . . own . . . the moon?”
Lomax slid to the edge of his bench, clearly not understanding how he was supposed to sit on it. “Frankly, I think the Quelii Sector Combine should build a facility and start extracting resources at our earliest convenience, but the Cooperative -” he pointed a thumb at Ink “- seems to think that that would constitute 'exploitation'.” He leaned forward more, dropping his voice a little. “Which really just means that they think they can get something out of you that taking the moon wouldn't get them.”
“Why should I concern my people in any of your affairs?” she asked harshly. “Tell me why I shouldn't drive you from my world this very instant.”
“Because Varn is a smoking crater,” Lomax answered, standing to his feet, clearly tired of the uncomfortable bench. “Because your kind, Force users, are being hunted all across the galaxy. Because this deal, quietly pushed through our bureaucracy, will buy your world admission into the Quelii Sector Combine, making your problems our problems, and our problems are the Coalition's problems. And . . .” Lomax glanced to Ink, and Ink nodded silently. “And, because the Dominion – you know about the Dominion, I take it?”
Augwynne frowned unpleasantly at the slight. “Insult me like that again, and I will have you dragged out of my village.”
“Without ships and missiles and shields, the Dominion will kill you and everyone you care for, and no mystic power over the flow of water or the troubled heart of a Rancor will stop them when they glass your villages from space. The Cooperative wants you to help them fight, to teach and to learn together. To build an army, an army of Force users, an army to strike fear and dread into the hearts of the Dominion. As much as I hate it, it's the best plan I've heard in a long time.”
“The Combine is not the Cooperative,” Augwynne ventured after a moment of reflection. “Why do you care about this, General Lomax?”
The general seemed surprised by the old woman's grasp on regional politics, but this was what he'd been sent here for, so he recovered quickly. “I believe in the Combine, in a Quelii Sector government, in an integrated economy and joint defense force. That requires several things, two of which are raw materials, and an ability to defend our members. Varn was one of those members, and it is gone now, destroyed by the Dominion.
“We have to be strong. It is time to make swords of our plowshares. That moon overhead will fuel the fires of the Combine's transformation. And these people down here, these Force-warriors, will fight the enemy that we cannot. That's why I'm here. That's why I'm standing with the Cooperative and the whole of the Coalition on this one.
“Will you make this deal? Will you help us?”
“You want us to fight the Dominion with you? Then send us your greatest warrior, man or woman. If your greatest can best mine, then you will have proven yourself. If not, then I and my people have no use for you.”
“Done,” Ink said, standing to his feet.
“What? No.” Lomax was not pleased.
“I'll be back within the week,” Ink said over his shoulder, already walking for the door.
The general turned back to the Clan Mother, but she was already rising to her feet as well, turning as she did so to walk back into the darkness of her cave-home.
Lomax rushed to catch up with Ink, already out of the tent-building and on his way out of town. “What were you thinking!” he shouted, furious with the older man's unilateral decision. “You spend the whole talk in silence, then drop that and just walk out? What the hell's wrong with you?”
“If it was going to be anything at all, it was going to be this,” Ink said, still walking. “They're warriors, general, and we're asking them to go to war.”
“They're Force warriors, and for all the work you and your people have done, not one of you is a match for them. You show up with that fancy hardware of yours, and they'll club you to death on the spot for 'insulting their honor' or 'defiling their tradition' or somesuch backwards nonsense!”
Ink nodded as he continued to walk, eyes still set squarely ahead. “Yeah, so it's a good thing I know a bona fide Force warrior of my own, isn't it?”
* * *
Claymore Battlecruiser Vaapad, Naboo System
Captain Zive Brintt paced between the bridge stations of his new command, his predatory instincts still sizing up the new crew. It was a promotion, he knew; one he had both wanted and earned. He didn't like being sent out this far from home so soon after his reassignment, though. It would have done them all good to have more time together before having to face the possibility of combat.
That wasn't to say that Captain Brintt and his little task force were coming in blind, of course. Coalition Intelligence had been checking up on Naboo since former Prime Minister Regrad secured the Empire's withdrawal from the world. There was no indication of Sith presence on-world either, and Queen Carlotta had managed to maintain control of the world throughout the process of Imperial occupation and abandonment.
With the quiet assistance of certain concerned parties, of course.
At the time, the Coalition hadn't been in a position to approach Naboo publicly. Such an overt display would likely have placed Naboo at greater risk than any possible benefit of an alliance. But now, with the Coalition military growing stronger by the day, and the threat posed by the Force-hating Dominion too grave to ignore, there was little room left for pretense.
Naboo and the Coalition would stand united, facing the uncertain future together, or Naboo would remain alone, host to a defenseless Jedi temple in the face of Jedi-murdering invaders.
“Vaapad has entered communications range, Captain,” the ship's Guardian reported, another new thing that Zive hadn't been given the time to acquaint himself with. He and his task force were the West's trial run with the Cooperative-originated military AI, his brand-new Claymore built from the ground up with integrated Guardian systems.
“Then let's do this, Fred,” Zive answered, calling the Guardian by its nickname as he checked the lines on his uniform one last time. “Go,” he ordered, and with that word, Fred activated the ship's holo-comm.
“I am Captain Zive Brint of the Coalition Western Province, commanding a humanitarian and diplomatic mission to Naboo under the personal orders of Prime Minister Pro Moon. We are here in the hopes of rendering medical assistance to your population, infrastructure repair to your cities, and to open formal dialogue between our two governments. Queen Carlotta, will you permit us to approach Naboo?”
* * *
Consular-class Cruiser Emissary III, hyperspace, Hutt Space
“What if they aren't nice,” Rosh the Bimm asked, his large ears twitching as a display of his nervousness.
“I don't need them to be nice,” Kallek Dar said, not taking his eyes off of the datapad he'd been studying for several minutes now. “I just need them to be good.”
The furry Bimm perked up in his seat, leaning forward to try to get his Nimbanel companion's attention. It didn't seem to be working. “Well, what's the difference?”
Frowning, Kallek Dar set down his datapad and turned his attention to the diminutive Rosh - “just Rosh”, as he'd been informed earlier. “My people served the Hutts for over a thousand years. In that time, we met all manner of unsavory sorts who were all so quick to smile and offer their guests the most exquisite drinks, comfortable seating, impressive and striking entertainment, all the while using the distraction of their kindness to position their force-piked thugs at every possible exit, and readying the vibro-shiv beneath their robes.”
Rosh gasped dramatically, shrinking back into his chair.
“I would take an unkind host who would see our meeting benefit us both, over a friendly fiend who hungers for my blood any day, on any world.”
“Okay, so . . . which is the Free State Enclave?” Rosh asked, scooting back up to the edge of the table and eying Kallek's datapad.
“For that,” Kallek began, handing the datapad over, “we need only ask: which is Estro Sabrino?”
“And?” Rosh glanced up, excited and curious.
“And I don't know. The last record anyone seems to have of him is a discharge order from the Jutraalian Empire, where he served as a vice admiral.” Kallek paused for a moment, drumming his fingers on the table. “We know he financed massive Enclave expenditures in the first months of the government's existence, but it's not clear where a lone man of no particular means managed to acquire such funds.”
“Could he have pilfered money from the Jutraalian coffers?” Rosh offered helpfully.
Kallek shook his head. “It seems unlikely, and there's no indication that any such funds ever went missing, regardless. I've got people back on Nimban sifting through financial records, trying to find out, but I'm not willing to risk an international incident by calling in the CIB just yet. Besides, we've got more pressing concerns.”
“Hmm,” Rosh nodded knowingly, “the Enclave pushing toward Nimban.”
“The Reavers,” Kallek answered flatly, once again surprising the Bimm with how pragmatic he could be. “Never lose sight of the primary objective.”
Rosh sat with that for a long while, letting Kallek return to his preparations and wondering if he should be doing the same. It wasn't until the ship had reverted to realspace and the captain's address played over the ship's speakers that Rosh roused from his silent reflection.
“This is the Coaliton Consular Cruiser Emissary III to Nar Shaddaa traffic control. We are carrying a diplomatic envoy personally dispatched by Prime Minister Pro Moon to establish formal dialogue and peaceful relations between our two governments. If you would permit us to approach and land, Ambassadors Kallek Dar of Nimban and Rosh of Bimmisaari are eager to introduce themselves.”
* * *
Irola Thane's Office, Tirahnn
“No, no, no! This has nothing to do with the League. I have a priority message for Irola Thane, from the Office of the Prime Minister of the Galactic Coalition. This is a Coalition matter, not a League matter!”
“That's what I'm trying to explain,” the hologram of the Obroan official said, “at this very moment, Representative Thane is physically inside a meeting of the League Assembly.”
“Well, it's very important that I speak with him immediately. Please go and fetch him.”
The hologram shook its head. “That's not possible. Again, as I've already said, it's an emergency session. The doors are shut, and no communications are allowed except through official League channels. Now, if you would like to request we relay a message to Representative Thane, then I suggest you leave that message for review and -”
“That's completely unacceptable.” The Cerean dignitary paused for a moment, massaging her forehead with one hand as she thought over her options. “Reserve me a docking bay; I'll be arriving shortly.”
She closed the hololink before her Obroan counterpart could object, and quickly gathered up her things into a bag. “I'm leaving for Obroa,” she shouted at the secretary as she headed for the exit. “Clear my shuttle for launch.”
Of course, if the eager Cerean hadn't been in such a rush, she may have waited long enough for the Obroan official to explain that physical proximity held no bearing whatsoever on what messages would or would not be allowed to enter the chamber. As it stood, by the time the Obroan managed to reestablish contact with Irola Thane's office on Tirahnn, the Cerean diplomat would already be in space, and by the time Representative Thane's secretary managed to reroute the call to Tirahnn's traffic control, the Cerean shuttle would be in hyperspace.
The only good news seemed to be that the Cerean woman's completely meaningless trip from Tirahnn to Obroa-Skai wouldn't be nearly as long as the trip from Cerea to Tirahnn had already been.
* * *
Dominator-class Heavy Battle Cruiser Resilient, Etti System, Republic Space
Traan Shi was diligently running through the pre-flight check on his Theta-class shuttle, doing his best to ignore that uncomfortable feeling he always got when heading into a “diplomatic meeting” on board a two-kilometer-long warship.
Ambassador Erek Joron, the fifty-something human from Teth, poked his head into the cockpit of the shuttle. “Busy?”
“Always,” Traan answered lightly, “but not so busy that you should let it stop you.”
Erek took the copilot's seat, sitting in it at an angle so he could address Traan more directly. “I was hoping we could run through the points one last time. I think it would do me some good.”
“I think it would drive me mad,” Traan said, then paused his check when he realized the comment hadn't gone over well. “I just mean that there's only so much preparation that we can do for a thing like this.” Traan mirrored Erek's seating position, turning forty-five degrees away from the pilot's controls and toward the copilot's seat. “The last formal contact we had with the Republic was Regrad's visit. While all of the reports indicate he was rather – hmm – abrasive, his meeting with then-Executor Vinda still ended on good terms. Granted, flying in on a battle cruiser isn't ideal, but Reaver Space is dangerous, and it's only getting more so.”
“I'm worried they might feel slighted,” Erek admitted, perking up as he caught sight of the group's last member through the cockpit's viewport. He waived for the Quarren woman to join them and then returned his attention to Traan. “Our relationship with the Confederation now is on the firmest footing it's been since they split from the Coalition, but we need the Republic, and they know that. I know this isn't Regrad's Coalition, but they don't. The Prime Minister opting out of the meeting looks bad, especially when Regrad made the trip all the way out here just so he could say 'hi' and have tea!”
Traan nodded in understanding of the human ambassador's point, content to let him air his frustrations. And it was true: this wasn't Regrad's Coalition. A lot was changing, and much more was yet to change. Pro Moon had just dispatched ambassadors and dignitaries all across the galaxy, not only to other factions and key worlds but to Coalition members as well. The dream of the Western Province's Unity Party was coming alive on the Coalition federal level, and the dangers, fears, and very real costs of war were doing nothing to slow it down.
“The Prime Minister isn't looking to make buddies,” Traan ventured as the door slid open again and Ambassador Khelk stepped into the cockpit. “He's looking to make allies. A lot of them. And that requires some pragmatic decisions. I don't think the Republic is so petty that those sorts of considerations will be lost on them. We aren't the Prime Minister, but we are his 'A Team'. We'll get this done.” He offered Khelk a reassuring smile.
“Is this about the 'special project' at Ossus?” Khelk asked. “Or was it Columex? Is that where the Prime Minister's gone?”
Erek shrugged. “I can't get anything through official channels. I thought you folks out West would have heard something, but I guess not?”
Khelk shook her head. “Proximity to Cerea has had no effect on my efforts to pierce the Minister's veil of secrecy.”
“Wherever he is,” Traan offered, “he's doing all he can for the future of the Coalition. We can be assured of that.”
As if on cue, an indicator lit up on Traan's control board and he signaled for silence in the cockpit. Clicking the activator on the comm system, the voice of their escort's comm officer came through loud and clear. “Ambassadors, we have secured communications with the Republic Foreign Affairs department. Shall I patch you through?”
“Go ahead,” Traan said, and a second later another indicator flashed on. “Greetings. I am Traan Shi, and I am an ambassador of the Galactic Coalition's Cooperative. I am here, under orders of Prime Minister Pro Moon, with representatives of the Coalition's Eastern and Western Provinces, to open lines of communication between our two governments, and address the mounting threats posed by the Reavers. My team is ready and willing to depart at your earliest convenience.”
* * *
YKL-37R Nova Courier Lightning Helix, Transitory Mists, Hapes Cluster
“This is not a good idea!” Vad the Cerean shouted at the pilot, a spindly droid with an overly large torso.
“Relax,” the Shard pilot chided, its second and third set of arms moving impossibly fast over the ship's controls. “These Squib star charts are high quality, trust me. We'll be through the Mists and at Hapes' back door in no time. Unless you doubt my piloting skills?”
“It's not a matter of skill,” Vad complained, “it's a matter of physics. Nebular winds, tidal forces, sensor distortions . . . the Mists eat ships, Representative Lommite.”
Lommite the Shard continued the gentle bob and weave of its piloting arms, a stark contrast to the ceaseless adjustments and recalibrations being made by its other four arms. That is, until it stopped cold, seeming to freeze in place.
“Uhh, Representative Lommite?” Vad prompted. “Lommite?” he said again, waiving a hand in front of the droid's photoreceptors. “Lommite!” he shouted, trying to shake it by one metallic shoulder, but to no appreciable effect.
“That star's in the wrong place,” Lommite said ominously, pointing at a dim speck through the Mists. Its arms snapped back to work immediately, trying to work out what had gone wrong.
“Are you . . . are you chatting with the Guardian again!” Vad shouted, furious. “You know I don't like it when you have whole conversations without me!”
“Apologies,” a new, gentle voice said through the ship's comm system. “We work much more efficiently when utilizing nonverbal means. You do want us to get you out of the Mists alive, don't you Ambassador Vad?”
Vad huffed indignantly, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “Well, fine! But keep me appraised, at least!”
“Of course,” Guardian reassured.
It was a fool's errand, anyway. Vad didn't even know why the Prime Minister had sent him and Lommite all the way out to Hapes. Presumably, he was heading to Etti IV anyway, to meet with Senator Vinda in person and secure the assistance of the entire Republic.
Sure, the Coalition wasn't entirely certain about the current state of affairs between Hapes and the Republic Proper, and yeah, getting the Hapan fleet on the Coalition's side against the Reavers would be swell, but what was with all of the secrecy, anyway? Flying an unmarked civilian ship through a dubiously charted pathway through the Transitory Mists was not Vad's idea of a meaningful diplomatic endeavor. What were they hoping it would accomplish, anyway: hide their mission from the Dominion?
Of course. Of course that's what they were hoping! The second Vad realized it, he had to say something. “Guardian! Why didn't you tell me we were here about the Cree'Ar?”
“We aren't here about the Cree'Ar,” Guardian said in that frustratingly soothing voice. “We're here in spite of the Cree'Ar. In case they are monitoring our public envoy to Etti IV, you and Representative Lommite have been dispatched, covertly, to establish contact with the Hapans. The objective is genuine, however. We are seeking allies in the fight against the Reavers.”
“Oh, I got something!” Lommite exclaimed in uncharacteristic excitement.
“What is it? You know where we are!” Vad was getting excited at Lommite's excitement. Plus, it really was rather nice that they weren't going to die out here.
“No, but I'm picking up a beacon of some kind. There's something nearby, and it's putting out a lot of power.”
* * *
With Knee Unbent: Defying the Rule of Tyrants
Emissary, enroute to Vladet
Pro Moon couldn't sleep.
The last twenty-four hours had been a precisely timed sequence of well-planned events. Despite the work he had yet to complete in the Western Province, the magnitude of this undertaking required him to drop everything and make straight for Vladet.
The Cerean Prime Minister tightened his grip on the back of the copilot's seat, staring intently at the blue-black swirl of hyperspace. “When we arrive,” Pro Moon said in a measured tone, “inform Imperial Center that the Prime Minister of the Coalition has arrived, and wishes to meet with Emperor Kraken.”
“Yes, Sir,” the pilot acknowledged, not taking his eyes off of his instruments.
“I'll be in my quarters until then.”
It was a massive risk, he knew, heading into the heart of the Empire and meeting the head of the Coalition's sworn enemy face-to-face.
But this was not Regrad's Coalition. And this was not Hyfe's Empire. It was time for a change.
The fate of the galaxy depended on it.
In his quarters, hastily stocked with the bare essentials for the trip, Pro Moon found something he hadn't been expecting: a bag. A very particular bag, from a very particular source.
His wife had managed to sneak the “good luck” package on board while he wasn't looking. Pulling the draw string at its top and opening the bag to inspect the contents, he set the box of chocolates and datapad full of bad romance novels aside, and withdrew the Kasha crystal she'd left for him.
Pro Moon wasn't a particularly religious man – neither was his wife, for that matter – but the galaxy was indeed filled with wonders beyond sentient comprehension, and as he hefted the glowing gold crystal in his hands, the Cerean Prime Minister felt his mind begin to clear and his worries abate. Pro Moon sank to his knees and then sat with his bottom resting on his feet, pressing the round crystal against his chest as his eyes fell closed.
It was in that state of serene clarity that Pro Moon understood what he had to do. He was not Regrad of Azguard; he could not be. His was not the path of the warrior. He had to make Emperor Kraken understand. He had to be strong; he had to be firm; he had to stand his ground.
For all of the evil that the Empire was, a far greater darkness was gathering against the inhabitants of this galaxy. He had to make Park Kraken understand, or he would have to watch as the Empire dragged the whole of the galaxy to ruin.