The Friend of My Friend (Mandell)
Posts: 97
  • Posted On: Feb 9 2010 5:13am
It had been designed as a bunker for Publictechnic's highest ranking members, but with the new order of things it had been turned over to Bothan Military Intelligence for use in whatever capacity they saw fit. In turn, Military Intelligence and the Spynet had volunteered it to the Alliance for a Bothan Sector headquarters. Now, it was host to the dozen people who would see Bothan Space reunited. That is, if they could decide on a course of action.

“Only the Combined Clans can declare ar'krai.” Councilor Tavith Kal'veck was one of the few members of the Combined Bothan Clans who had stayed in the public eye after the Empire destroyed Bothawui. Technically, he was the highest ranking member of the Bothan government present at this meeting; that made him valuable, valuable enough to be trouble.

“That is why we must reassemble it,” Rolk Bar'akai answered.

“There are maybe a hundred Councilors who were offworld when Bothawui was razed. Of them, more than half have abandoned their positions altogether. Even if there was somewhere to call them to, there's no one left to answer!”

Governor Mir'an clicked a button on the console built into her chair, activating the holoprojector set into the circular table's center. “Actually, we've identified and summoned one hundred thirty seven heads of the estimated five hundred sixty two surviving clans. We've issued orders to the remaining clans to appoint new Councilors and dispatch them immediately.”

“Under what authority do you issue orders to the Bothan Clans?”

“The authority of the Combined Bothan Clans in Special Assembly,” Rolk answered.

“And under what authority was a Special Assembly―of which I was not made aware―issued?”

Sliding a piece of flimsi to Councilor Kal'veck across the table, Rolk grinned broadly. It held the official markings and clan seals which marked it as an Article of Appointment. “Signatures from seven Elders of Clan Aakai; I am their new appointee to the Combined Bothan Clans. I issued the order as a member of the Chief Clans.”

Councilor Kal'veck struggled to process this new information. After a moment, he managed to ask: “How many answered?”

“The current Assembly numbers forty-three Councilors, called from Sennatt and its neighboring worlds.”

Kal'veck laughed at the number. “A Special Assembly requires one hundred thirty members, minimum. Even then, they have little more authority than the power to summon other Councilors. This isn't the Combined Clans; this is farce!”

“It's only illegitimate until we get our one hundred thirty members,” Rolk said. “I was hoping you could help us with that.”

Councilor Kal'veck sat back in his seat, taking in the group of beings around him. “Then you have a plan?”

“We have a plan,” Rolk confirmed. “Governor Mir'an is taking steps to secure more Councilors, but your endorsement would do much to legitimize our efforts in the eyes of the clans.”

“You want me to stand with you in your call for ar'krai?”

Jarvis Ragnar rapped his knuckles against the table, drawing the room's attention. “We can dance around the issue for the next three hours, or we start talking plainly and maybe get somewhere. Rolk Bar'akai and I have entered into an agreement by which the Alliance to Restore the Republic will assist the Bothan people in expelling the Empire from Bothan Space, and in turn the Bothan Navy will assist us in our efforts to effect and preserve the liberation of all willing Imperial worlds.

“The only way to make that happen, is to put your government back together. So that's what we're going to do, with or without your help.”

Councilor Kal'veck was not impressed. “And what if the Council won't vote for your ar'krai, Mr. Ragnar?”

“It's our ar'krai,” Vice Admiral Alt'aior reminded him. “The only course left to our people.”

“What if the council won't vote?” Kal'veck repeated, ignoring Alt'aior and asking his question to Jarvis.

“The Council will vote because the Bothan people will demand it. The Bothan people will demand it because I will show them that their fear need not outweigh their rage.”

“You have no home to defend, Mr. Ragnar. No family to protect. No hopes and dreams to seek out. We do. Are you really willing to lead billions of Bothans to your fate?”

Jarvis met the Bothan's stare, unflinching. “I have no choice, and you will have no hopes or dreams until there is no Empire for you to fear. My life is over, my fate is sealed. Unless the Empire dies, so is yours . . . so is the rest of the galaxy.”

“You would be that man?”

“It is the only purpose left to me.”

Kal'veck nodded in understanding, pressing a button to reactivate the holoprojector. “Then this is where you're headed.”

Jarvis frowned, not recognizing the planet that swelled above the table. “I don't understand.”

“Mandell,” Rolk identified the word, though his tone betrayed his own confusion.

Kal'veck nodded. “If we want to revive the Combined Clans, then we need Mandell.”

“So it is 'we,' now?” Jarvis asked.

Kal'veck eyed Jarvis suspiciously, but continued. “You aren't the only one who's been busy, Councilor Bar'akai. I have thirty names for you now, and perhaps another forty waiting for my word to make themselves known. Seventy councilors, and they will follow the lead of Mandell.”

“I don't get it,” Jarvis interjected. “What do the Veknoid have to do with the Bothan Clans?”

Kal'veck shook his head. “The Veknoid are native to Mandell's primary orbit, Moonus Mandel. Clan Trell secured rights to Mandell over a thousand years ago. The Veknoid carry out their lives independent of the Combined Clans; they adhere to Bothan laws of interstellar commerce, and in return are granted the protection of the Bothan Armed Forces.”

“What good that is,” Jarvis mumbled.

“The point being,” Kal'veck pressed on, “that Mandell is a Bothan colony, whereas Moonus Mandel is a sovereign nation-state within Bothan Space.”

“Right, so what's so special about Mandell?”

“Bothawui produced sixty percent of the total agricultural foodstuffs in our space,” Kal'veck said flatly.

Jarvis' brows lifted in surprise. “They're starving you to death.”

“I have friends within the Bothan Navy, and was able to assemble a substantial defensive screen for Mandell, following the atrocity of Bothawui.”

“So it was you,” Rolk nearly shouted; Jarvis felt like he had just missed something. “We knew someone had been pulling strings with the regional commanders, but . . . we didn't know who.”

“The Spynet was aware of Councilor Kal'veck's actions,” The intelligence agent said blandly, drawing Rolk's attention. They were drifting off-topic, and it was becoming harder to follow along.

“What? Why didn't you tell me?”

The agent shrugged. “It was not expressly relevant to our efforts. Furthermore, both the Spynet and Military Intelligence recognized the forces at Mandell were crucial to its defense.”

“The Spynet has no authority to make that sort of determination!” Rolk barked, his anger at being left in the dark obvious.

Come on, people!” Jarvis shouted. “What does it matter? Kal'veck's got them in hand, so everything's fine. Move along. So it's a matter of food,” He continued, shifting his attention to Kal'veck.

“Nearly a century ago, Mandell was struck by a terrible drought, devastating their local agricultural sector. They spent years surviving off of grain surpluses from Bothawui. They recovered through the construction of an elaborate and effective irrigation network. It's the highest agricultural producer we have left, and so far removed from Sennatt's trade lines and Kothlis' connection to Coalition food sources . . . it's all an entire sub-region of our space has.”

“But some pipes and some filters does not an griworld make,” Jarvis pointed out. “And I'm sure the new demands have far exceeded its capacity.”

“That's already been taken care of,” Rolk said. “Publictechnic has an agri-droid subdivision; we donated a full production run to Mandell only days after Bothawui.”

Jarvis studied Rolk for a moment, an irrepressible smile finally breaking onto his face. “Oh, I get it. Kal'veck played you, and now you're angry. You Bothans . . .”

“Mandell's value is evident to any self-respecting Bothan,” Rolk said. “I just didn't know who was lurking in the shadows, blocking my efforts, until now.”

“It's not as simple as that,” Kal'veck warned.

“So they're holding on?” Jarvis asked, trying to keep the bickering Bothans on-topic.

“It's tight, but they're holding on,” Kal'veck affirmed.

“What do we need to win Mandell over?”

Kal'veck fixed Jarvis with a penetrating stare. “You.”

* * *

Later, on board The Wandering One, en route to Mandell

Jarvis Ragnar sat comfortably in his small on-ship office, studying his lone guest for a long moment. “Tell me some good news, Zyras.”

“Twenty three,” The Captain of The Wandering One handed Jarvis a datapad.

Jarvis looked over the names, frowning at some of the more familiar ones. “Hojim confirmed them?”

“For the most part. There are half a dozen or so he has reservations about.”

“Anyone he suspected that's not on the list?”


That got Jarvis' attention. “Do we think he's with Spynet?”

“Or Alliance Intelligence,” Zyras pointed out.

Jarvis sighed. “Yeah, High Command would probably want to keep tabs on me.”

“Oh, they do. Tried to bribe me into spying on you.”


Zyras frowned, nodding. “That was a lot of money, Boss. I dare say a lesser man couldn't have resisted.”

“Then I'm in luck,” Jarvis remarked dryly, “because you're about as degenerate as they come.”

“You know how to pick 'em, Boss.”

Jarvis looked back to the datapad, those precious few names boring into his soul. “Apparently not,” He muttered quietly. “Hojim's begun the interrogations?” He said, louder.

Zyras nodded. “That Kiltirin's a nasty beast. The things I saw in there . . .”

“Hutts used it as a torture ship until we took it from 'em. I told Hojim not to do anything . . . too bad.”

“Careful Boss, you're going soft. A month ago you would have peeled their skin off whether they had anything to tell us or not . . . just for being traitors.”

“I don't need to give these Bothans any ideas; they're crazy enough without hearing stories of me torturing my own.”

“They're not your own, Boss. They betrayed us.”

Jarvis looked up from his work, that cold hatred evident just behind his eyes. “I chose them, I brought them here. They were Wandering Ones; they still are. They were my men―they weren't good, but they were mine. If what the Spynet told us is true, then they'll die for betraying me . . . but that doesn't change who they are. That doesn't undo the fact that they're Wandering Ones.”

Jarvis shook his head, a rare moment of vulnerability clear on his face. He set his jaw and looked back to Zyras, pain now in his eyes. “I'm tired of killing my own; I'm tired of looking over my shoulder; I'm tired of running and hiding, of playing flitnat to the Empire's giant.

“No more shadows, Zyras; no more lies. Here, we make our stand.”
Posts: 97
  • Posted On: Apr 5 2010 4:13am
“Reversion.” Jarvis' new helmsman hadn't yet learned that her leader preferred not to be informed of the overwhelmingly obvious. The blue-white swirl of hyperspace collapsed and resolved into the white streaks of stars, the blue-green world of Mandell swelling to dominate the viewport. Finally the universe stood still, and Jarvis surveyed his new mark with a keen eye.

He could already feel it; the life in this world. The viewscreen was alight with initial sensor data from streams of freighters and lines of defensive ships. The night-side crescent to port shown with the bright lights of a few major cities.

“Activate the transponder,” Jarvis ordered.

“Sir?” Transponder controls had been tied in to the tactical station for quite some time; admitting oneself to belong to The Wandering Ones was considered a tactical liability.

“Do it,” Jarvis repeated. “Let's let our new friends know who we are.”

He caught the silent signal from the communications officer, taking a deep breath before clicking a button on the small control in his hand. The comm system's holorecorder fluttered to life, focusing on Jarvis' face. “I am Jarvis Ragnar, commander of The Wandering Ones. I have been dispatched to Mandell by order of Councilors Rolk Bar'akai and Tavith Kal'veck of the Combined Bothan Clans. I am here to spread ar'krai.”

It was a diplomatic channel, encrypted to prevent public observation and itself some small authentication of Jarvis' claim. But this was still a critical moment; with their transponder active, every ship in nearby space was a potential enemy, especially the line of military frigates stationed to protect the stream of freighters coming in from Rimward vectors.

The response was quick and forceful: “Wandering One, disable your transponder and divert for inspection.”

Jarvis checked his screens: the transmission came from one of the Bothan frigates. The military was in charge here, at least this fragment of it. That could be a whole new level of trouble.

“Can't do that. The transponder stays on and my destination is Mandell. I have orders to report to Governor Boar Kir'ell.”

“Mandel spacelanes are under jurisdiction of the Bothan Navy. You will divert for inspection immediately.”

Jarvis clicked another button, muting the comm and freezing his holo image. “Maintain course.” Resuming communications, he continued: “I am proceeding under the authority of the Combined Bothan Clans; you would do well to remember―”

“The Combined Clans are gone. They have no power here.” A trio of frigates broke from their formation and began advancing on Jarvis' ship.

Jarvis and Zyras shared a brief look of determination, then Jarvis gave a nod.

Captain Zyras Lunewell understood. “Shields up and ahead max burn. Swing us around that traffic line and keep 'em between us and the unfriendly guns.” A line of freighters flashed gold on the overview. “Let's get dirtside, people.”

Lunewell wandered over to his boss as the ship beneath them veered to port, sweeping to put the civilian traffic between itself and the oncoming Bothan ships. “You sure about this, Boss?”

“They said they own the space around Mandell. Those words were not coincidence. If we get planetside, we'll have no more Navy trouble.”

“But what about the people who own the dirt around Mandell, Boss?”

Jarvis stared at the world swelling in the viewport, confident that their civilian shield would prevent the Bothan navy ships from firing on them. “Yeah, well, let's hope they're nicer down there.”

* * *

Wandering One, you are cleared for landing on Administrative Dock Alpha-Three.” The voice on the other end of the comm shifted low and quiet. “Be careful, you are not among friends.”

“Well, at least they're honest about it,” Captain Lunewell remarked, nodding absently as the helmsman looked for confirmation to proceed. “How many gun-hands are we gunna need, boss?”

“You're staying with the ship, Zyras. I'm going alone.”

Zyras' eyebrows rose in surprise. “Boss . . .”

“That's all.” Jarvis stepped off the bridge of his flagship/home, making his way to the ventral ramp. The ship shuddered around him as the landing struts made contact with the dock, and he palmed the release to drop the ramp.

He stepped onto a large, rectangular platform, probably designed for large freighters carrying supplies from surface to orbit. This was a ground-based Navy supply station, but the dozen Bothans standing on the connecting bridge were wearing Army combat armor.

“I'm keeping my gun,” Jarvis said flatly, coming to a stop in front of them.

“We don't want your gun,” The lead Bothan said, moving forward with five of his men, passing by Jarvis on either side and turning to face him again. “But you're coming with us.”

Jarvis started walking without them. “Then let's go.”

The Bothans moved quickly to retake appropriate escort formation. Jarvis made no effort to disrupt their perfectly matched pace.

The moment he stepped inside, he knew something was terribly wrong here. This was a Navy station, but these were not Navy personnel. None of them.

“What's going on here?”

“No questions,” One of the escorts said harshly, pointing in the direction Jarvis was to go. He led the Ryn into a narrow side passage, leaving his subordinates behind. The door at the end of the passage slid open, and the last guard stood aside to let Jarvis pass. “He's waiting for you.”

Jarvis proceeded after only the briefest hesitation. As he entered the room, the desk to the right caught his attention. He turned to see a gray-haired Bothan in dress uniform.

The Bothan gestured for Jarvis to take a seat. “Hello, Jarvis Ragnar. I am General Varad'yek.”

“Nice place you've got here,” Jarvis said offhand, taking the opportunity to survey his surroundings before accepting the seat.

“It's not bad,” The general conceded, petting the armrest of his chair. “I got a great deal on the place. Old owners left in a hurry.”

“They didn't go very far.”

“Well, they're still of use to me.” The Bothan general smiled disarmingly, but Jarvis knew better.

“Is this the part where you tell me what hell's going on?”

“There was a . . . disagreement concerning who held authority over Mandell.”

“And you won?” Jarvis asked.

“That's debatable,” The General said.

Jarvis nodded. “Alright, so how can I help?”

“You misunderstand, alien.” The general leaned back in his chair, a feral grin crossing his face. “You're here because I'm confident you would not help me if given the chance.”

Jarvis leaned forward to counter the general's relaxed posture. “All I want are Councilors from Mandell.”

“There is no Council to send councilors to,” Varad'yek sneered.

“What are you doing here, General?”

Varad'yek looked away, sitting up straight again. “Your vessel is being impounded and your crew barred from debarking. You are not to leave this complex, and should consider the escort outside your personal bodyguards.”

“A dozen men for little 'ole me?” Jarvis' amusement vanished and he stood to his feet. “What do you plan to do with me, General?”

“Play along, and I'll let you go, Jarvis. I see no need to keep you here for long.” The general pushed a button on his desk and the door to the room slid open, half of Jarvis' escort stepping inside. “Good day, Mr. Ragnar.”

Jarvis left without protest, allowing the guards to guide him through the military installation. It would seem he was a prisoner.
Posts: 97
  • Posted On: Apr 12 2010 2:14am
“Where are you going?”

Jarvis met the soldier's cold stare. “To my ship.”

The Bothan moved further into Jarvis' way. “That's not permitted.”

“What, are you going to shoot me?”

“Our weapons have stun settings.”

Jarvis' hand closed on the grip of his blaster. “Mine doesn't.”

“That would be inadvisable.”

Jarvis' response was cold and unyielding. “I'm Jarvis Ragnar.”

The door slid open, breaking the tension building between the mad Ryn and his Bothan jailer. By reflex the Bothan guard turned to look at the newcomer; the butt of a blaster met his face mid-turn.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Jarvis asked, already stooping to help carry the unconscious guard.

Ziv Bar'akai stuffed the other Bothan into a closet and hit the door switch. “My uncle thought you might need some help.”

“A Lieutenant in the Bothan Defense Fleet, huh?” Jarvis asked, checking the young Bothan's Army uniform.

“When the SpyNet says I'm a Navy Lieutenant, so I am. When the Spynet says I'm an Army Corporal, so I am.”

“And when the SpyNet says you're on Mandell, you materialize here in a puff of smoke?”

Ziv moved to the exit and checked the hallway beyond. “We have our ways, Mr. Ragnar.”

“You going to tell me what's going on now?”

“An excess of ambition and an utter lack of intellect,” Ziv responded, crossing to the exit and checking the hallway outside.

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“Can we do this later? I'm kind of in the middle of a jailbreak right now.”

“I'm more worried about where you're taking me,” Jarvis admitted. “We didn't depart on the best of terms.”

The Bothan chuckled, moving back into the room. “I was expecting far worse from you, actually. Surprised I still have all of my fingers.”

Someone new entered the room, pushing a blue cargo box on a hoversled.

“Get in,” Ziv motioned.


Ziv made a point of checking his chrono. “Time's not on our side, you know. Get in and I'll get you out of here.”

“Where are we going?”

Ziv opened the box and motioned again. “Hurry.”

Jarvis reluctantly complied, crawling into the space and drawing his knees up just below his chin. “This better not take lon―”

Ziv slammed the hatch closed, and Jarvis' world plunged into darkness.

* * *

Jarvis Ragnar stretched his legs again, a yawn escaping as he massaged his right shoulder. “Next time, we use a bigger box.”

“Next time, there will be no box,” The Spynet man said solemnly.

“How'd you get me out, anyway?”

“My uncle sent me here as soon as you let me go. Varad'yek has so many holes in his little empire here that it didn't take much for the SpyNet to find you a safe way out. The only thing he's got going for him at the moment is terror. Terror of the Empire, and terror of all those shiny guns he has.”

“So he's just . . . taken over?”

“More or less. Governor Kir'ell has been put under house arrest and Varad'yek has declared martial law. He's agreed to keep up the food shipments so long as the navy doesn't interfere with his authority on-world. He's looking for a window, to get some real power, but . . .” Ziv shook his head, “Varad'yek doesn't have the brains or the friends to pull this off. The Navy detachment in orbit is a combination security/containment force, to make sure Varad'yek doesn't get his way.”

Jarvis nodded, taking it all in. “So where are we now?”

A new voice entered the conversation, and Jarvis turned around to see a middle-aged Bothan woman. “You're on the Malon farm, two thousand workers and a hundred times as many droids. We produce five percent of the total agricultural output of Mandell.”

“Fascinating,” Jaris muttered.

“The governor is my third cousin, and you're going to help me get him out.”

Jarvis perked up, feeling something crafty on the horizon. “I'm listening.”

* * *

Jarvis Ragnar couldn't believe he had been talked into this. The major cities of Mandell were under strict military control, with armored patrols wandering major roads and checkpoints at every exit. The only people not under close observation were the few tens of thousands of farmers and technicians which ran Mandell's vast farms, and they were spread out across the whole of the planet.

But “Lady Malon” had a plan, and Jarvis intended to see it through. He walked calmly up to the communications substation, giving a courteous nod to the three Bothan guards who waited at the front gate, each of them eying the alien suspiciously.

He hoped the old lady was right about these three. “Hi,” He said, smiling. “My name's Jarvis Ragnar, I was hoping you could help me out.”

The trio appeared stunned, sharing awkward glances as they tried to decide if they should raise their weapons or not.

Jarvis opened his jacket to show the rows of explosives lining his interior, by now a notorious habit carried by most of the Wandering Ones. “Or we could all just die, here and now.”

Finally, one of them waived the other two to lower their weapons, though the presence of such excessive ordnance had obviously made him more nervous. “How can we help you, Mr. Ragnar?”

Jarvis pointed at the door to the small communications building. “I need to call my army.”

Five minutes later, the message was away, in full holo-color and with the finest audio available:

“My name is Jarvis Ragnar, and my face is the face of vengeance. My feet are tired, my hands ache, my eyes burn, my mind is silent. No more shadows, no more fear, no more doubt, no more running. I will Wander no more.

"My name is Jarvis Ragnar, my face is the face of vengeance, and I'm starting with Bothan Space. You can lead, you can follow, or you can get the hell out of my way, but you won't stop me, and I won't fail.

“Let all true Bothans who hear this message assemble at Mandell City. Take back your world; start with your governor. Together we will triumph, against all our foes.”

The image paused for a brief moment, and then a smile crept across Jarvis Ragnar's face. “General Varad'yek, I'm coming for you.”

* * *

Of course, Varad'yek had known within two minutes where the message had originated from. And hovercraft move fast. Jarvis Ragnar was in custody less than ten minutes after broadcasting. It helped that he made no effort to run or hide.

Jarvis was beginning to dislike his little cage. He couldn't be sure of the time, but the rumbling in his stomach told him he must have been here for at least a day. He was starting to worry that “that crazy bitch” had been talking out of her ass and no help was coming.

And then Governor Kir'ell opened his cell door and let him out.

The Ryn terrorist gave the Bothan politician a broad grin, walking confidently from his cell. Paranoia was not a thing soon forgot, however, and he made sure to check both ends of the long cell block to make sure everything was on the level. “I'd hate to inconvenience you, Governor, but if I could have a moment of your time . . .”

“Hmm, well, I am very busy, you know,” The governor feigned disinterest. “It's nice to meet you, Mr. Ragnar,” He added sincerely.

“How many people showed up?” Jarvis fell into step beside the governor and the two left the military prison behind.

“The estimates range from two and a half to three million. That's on the outside, of course. Another half million from the city were on the inside of the checkpoint, throwing bottles and causing a general ruckus.”

“Where's Varad'yek?” Jarvis' tone was cold and harsh.

Kir'ell smiled malevolently. “He tried to surrender. We left him for you.”

Jarvis tried to swallow a lump in his throat, surprised at how much the Bothan general had gotten to him. “You don't want to do that, Governor.”

“I could pardon you,” He offered.

“Lock him somewhere I can never get to, and pray that I'm not smarter than you think I am.”

“Very well, Mr. Ragnar. Now what can I do for you?”

Finally, Jarvis was at the heart of the matter. “I need Councilors from every clan on-world, and I need your support for the reformation of the Bothan Combined Clans.”

“So you can send my people to Ar'krai,” He said solemnly.

“Three and a half million Bothans just stopped being citizens and started being soldiers because one alien told them it was okay to do so. Because they realized that their rage outweighs their fear. You can't stop this, Governor. None of us can.”

“There's one more thing,” The governor added, pointing upward. “The navy has Mandell on lockdown. No one's leaving this world unless they say so.”

“The navy's on our side,” Jarvis reassured.

“Don't be too sure about that.”

Gods below, will it ever end?

* * *

Ziv Bar'akai bowed slightly as the governor entered the room.

“That'll be enough of that nonsense. The fact that your father'd have my head if he found out I had you bowing to me aside, you and Mr. Ragnar saved me from a dull and dreary fate, and that'll definitely earn you the right to stand when and where the hell you please.”

“Horrid and painful,” Jarvis spoke up. When the others looked to him, he expounded. “We saved you from a horrid and painful death, because once the Empire gets their shit together, they'll be back, burning worlds and killing Bothans, and with a man like Varad'yek in command, your death would have been horrid and painful, not dull and dreary, although the alliteration was nice.”

“Yes, well, thank you Mr. Ragnar, but perhaps Mr. Bar'akai should begin?”

“Of course, governor.” Ziv tapped a button on the holoprojector sitting between them, and an image of local space around Mandell appeared. “The problem is that Rear Admiral Vir'jin doesn't seem to care who runs Mandell, as long as he gets to decide where the food goes.”

“Is he as dumb as Varad'yek?” Jarvis asked. “Because if so, this won't be a problem.”

“Unfortunately Varad'yek is one of a kind,” The governor said.

“Why?” Jarvis asked.

“What?” Ziv asked.

“Why does the rear admiral want that kind of power?”

“The threat of starvation can be a powerful political tool,” The governor pointed out.

“Right.” Neither of the Bothans seemed convinced. “Look, this guy's afraid we're going to go rile up support to fight the Empire, and he knows the best way to prevent that is to maintain the power to stop feeding anyone who does sign up to fight the Empire. He wants to sit back and hope that we just get 'passed over' next time around.”

“How do we fix that?” The governor asked.

“Are you kidding me? He's an admiral who's afraid to fight. We don't have to fix anything, the damned coward. Call Alt'aior.”

“Excuse me?” The governor asked, confused.

“Vice Admiral Alt'aior,” Ziv answered, glad for the chance to reinsert himself into the conversation. “He's on our side.”

“What can he do?” Governor Kir'ell asked.

“He can fight,” Jarvis answered.

* * *

Vice Admiral Alt'aior's small task force pressed further into the Mandell System, ignoring the repeated hails from the Bothan vessels already stationed around the target world.

“Here?” He asked.

“Here's fine, Sir,” His comms officer replied.

Alt'aior nodded decisively. “Very well, begin.”

“Comms open.”

The Bothan admiral cleared his throat. “I am Vice Admiral Alt'Aior of the Bothan Defense Fleet. The situation is very simple. All those willing to war will stay here with me; all of those whose fear outweighs their oath will return to your homes with Rear Admiral Vir'jin, stripped of title and barred from future service. The ships stay. My orders will be heeded, because your former commander too much the coward to countermand them.

“Ar'krai is upon us, Brothers. Do not suffer the shame of being cast out at this, our hour of greatest need.”

Three hours later, Bael Vir'jin departed, alone, from the Mandell Defense Fleet. His name would never again be adorned by any title of power or rank of authority. He was no longer Bothan.

And finally the people of Mandell stood as one. Their first act of unity was a simple decree: