To Curse the Darkness (Coalition, Confederation)
Posts: 791
  • Posted On: Jan 1 2012 6:06am
To Curse the Darkness

or

To Shine a Light




Prologue: Something Moving in the Shadows




Admiral Jonathan Blakeley was riding in a military transport shuttle when the broadcast was made. The pilot routed it to the passenger viewscreen so Blakeley could see it.

Blakeley didn't want to see it; he wanted to be left alone with his thoughts, with the consequences of what he had just done. But the pilot insisted, and so Blakeley watched.

And then the Overseer appeared. And then the Overseer resigned, and recognized Blakeley as Supreme Commander of the Cooperative Armed Forces.

It shocked him to his core. It froze him in place. Blakeley had just submitted his resignation to the Overseer; but this meant . . .

Blakeley pulled his military data cylinder off of his uniform and slid it into the comm station, accessing the encrypted command-level communications that now filled the Varn System in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Vahaba.

Who did he send? Who did he send?

“No. No, no, no, no!”

Blakeley palmed the ship's internal comm and ordered the pilot to change course for the Cooperative flagship, Guardian, then he entered a string of commands into the comm station.

The image of Vice Admiral Gorn appeared only a moment later, looking weary and more than a little shocked. Nevertheless, he offered his superior a precise salute.

Blakeley returned it absently, his mind still reeling. “Vice Admiral, I take it you've heard?”

“Yes, Sir, I have. Congratulations, Admiral.”

Blakeley shook his head. “There's no time for that. All flag officers are accounted for.”

“Yes, Sir, they are.” He'd thought it was a question.

“No, Admiral Gorn, you don't understand. The Overseer hasn't dispatched anyone to act on Corise Lucerne's intelligence.” The Mon Cal vice admiral emitted a gravely sort of snort at the notification. “Gods, it's been . . . over six hours.”

“What do you need from me, Sir?”

Blakeley could see the exhaustion in the Mon Cal's face now, the sort of total emptiness brought on by command through extended combat. But he couldn't let that affect him now. “I'm transferring to Guardian as we speak, but I need to stay here and coordinate for possible Reaver counterattack. Gorn, I'm transferring you to Redemption; your orders are to take all functioning elements of the Redemption battle group and any available Hive Ships to the location given by Lucerne, find and extricate any and all captives present. Data retrieval from the outpost is to be considered a secondary objective. We have to move now, Admiral; time is against us.”

“I understand, Sir.”

Blakeley cut the comm line and then sank back into his seat, his mind reeling.

Five minutes ago he had thought he had given up his military career. Now, he was ordering a course of action that may put the Cooperative into military conflict with its greatest ally.



Vice Admiral Gorn didn't like his new seat. Its contours were far too suited for a human occupant. Added to his physical discomfort was the oppressive sense of his own misplacement; this was not his crew, this was not his command.

Now, he was leading damaged ships and exhausted crews into an area of unknowable risk. Coalition star charts showed their destination to be an uninhabited system containing a light asteroid field. Unfamiliarity with the environment meant Gorn would have to bring the fleet out of hyperspace well away from the target, and approach under sublight power. If the installation was well defended, his force may have to weather the Confederation's long-range fire for a considerable time, if they elected to resort to hostility.

It was not a pleasant thought to entertain as the reversion timer counted down its last few seconds.

“Realspace reversion in three, two, one . . .”

Gorn braced himself for the sight that would greet him. “I want active scans of the entire area. The Confederation early warning network has almost certainly picked us up, so there's no point in trying to play at stealth. And get me visuals on the target as soon as possible.”

“Starfighters, Sir?”

Gorn shook his head. “Let's not make any hostile gestures until we know what we're dealing with. Just take us ahead, half power.”

The seconds ticked by and Gorn had yet to see any information. “Status update,” he called out.

“I'm sorry, Sir,” one of the sensor technicians replied, “we're getting something, but . . . oh, no.”

“What is it, son? Speak up.”

“Admiral, it's . . . gone. These are residual heat signatures.”

Gorn's fish-eyes grew even wider, and his whiskers started twitching slightly. “Where the hell's my visual!”

“We were looking for indications of power usage,” someone explained by way of excuse. “ I didn't realize . . . pulling it up now, sir.”

Gorn stared at the cloud of dust and rock in disbelief. “Sensors?”

“We're too far out to get any definite reads, Admiral.”

“Can we enhance the image?” Gorn asked.

“Thermal imaging coming up now, Sir.” The whole cloud glowed a dark red, the rocks a softer orange and some of the larger chunks nearly white.

“Time estimation on when this happened?”

“We'll need a reliable read on the rate its radiating heat before we can make any sort of guesses, Sir.”

Gorn frowned, willfully permitting his frustration in hopes it would distract him from the horror of what he was seeing implied. “Any other ships or installations in the area? Any indication of how this happened?”

“Nothing on sensors, Sir. Computer modeling of the debris field may be able to tell us if it was internal explosion or external impact that created it, but we won't get anything specific on energy signatures until we can close for short range sensor surveys.”

“Very well, increase speed t―”

“Reversions detected!” another sensor tech shouted.

“Location onscreen,” Gorn ordered. A second later icons appeared on the representation of local space. The unidentified formation was on the opposite side of the asteroid belt, higher above the plane of the ecliptic and closer to the facility's debris field.

“We're being hailed, Sir. Confederation comm channels.”

“Sensors, identifications?”

“We're too far out, Sir. All we're picking up are their IFF transponders, identifying them as warships of the Contegorian Confederation.”

“We're still being hailed, Admiral.”

“Ignore them!” he shouted, and then a moment later, after reviewing his options: “Signal the fleet. We're returning home. Make the jump to lightspeed with all possible haste.”

“Sir?” the ship's captain asked, shocked that Gorn would turn and run so quickly.

“This was a rescue mission. That's no longer an option. If we jump now, before they close, all they'll have are entry and exit vectors on unkown ships: not enough to prove the Cooperative was here.” Gorn slumped visibly in his chair as the formation slowed and altered course for the return home. “This is a game for the politicians now.”



* * *




With the notable exception of the Confederation's food crisis, Ambassador Grace Nova had found her post in Brandenburg, Genon, largely uneventful. Since the agreement reached between certain Cooperative and Confederation officials regarding the development of a Trans-Rim trade route, that matter had been handled by separately assigned representatives, and the disruption of that plan by the appearance of the Reavers had done nothing to revitalize Grace's position here.

Even Prime Minister Regrad, upon deciding to strike up his Compact Fleet, had bypassed the only official representative of any Coalition member, instead electing to drop in unannounced with a whole warfleet and just ask real nice-like for a meeting.

And when she really thought about it, most issues pertaining to the food crisis were handled on Varn, in the Confederation embassy there.

The more she thought about it, the less her job really seemed to be of any use at all.

And then her comm chimed. And this wasn't her assistant's “I'm making a caff run, you want anything” chime. This was a “Cooperative Combined Council” chime, on the secure HoloNet linkup!

“I'm here, I'm here!” she exclaimed, slapping the activator and then running around the table to get into the field of view of the holorecorder. “What can I do for you gentlemen today?”

“You are aware of the situation in the Vahaba System?” The speaker was Giles Rhade, a member of the Combined Council.

“The battle? Is it over? Did we win?”

“The Reavers have been repulsed. The System has been evacuated.”

“Are we taking it back?” she demanded.

“That's not relevant right now,” he said sternly to dissuade further inquiry. “We are transmitting secure, classified files to you, and will update you regularly as information becomes available.”

Grace's brow furrowed at the unexpected turn. “What's going on; what have I missed?”

“A clone of Admiral Corise Lucerne died defending Vahaba; he had escaped, apparently, from a Confederation detention center, and was utilizing technologies vital to the defeat of the Reavers. You're going to go and get us answers from the Confederation Council. We're counting on you, Ambassador.”

Grace nodded emphatically, momentarily at a loss for words. “I won't let you down, Sir.”

“Oh, and Grace: if they ask you about survivors, tell them that we cannot acknowledge the detainment of individuals who do not officially exist.”

She didn't understand, but she nodded anyway. Giles looked like he was about to close the line, and she managed to get his attention before he did. “Oh, Sir!” He stopped and returned his attention to her, and she proceeded in a more authoritative voice. “What aren't you telling me?”

“Some secrets are more vital than others, Ambassador. They can't afford to be transmitted by any remote means.”

The line closed and Grace immediately opened the data file, reading quickly over the scarce information, and then going through it more carefully a second, and then a third time. There wasn't much here, just a summary of the events at Vahaba, really, and those were far from secret, what with the presence of the Compact Fleet.

But it was disconcerting, nonetheless. If this was real, if the Confederation had cloned their own admiral . . . she had no idea what it meant, but it couldn't be good.

She grabbed her commlink and flipped it to her assistant's line. “Kyle, I need a meeting with the Confederation Council. They'll be expecting me, so they'll either set it up immediately or not at all.”

“I'll get right on it, Ma'am.”

Grace smirked: she hated when he called her “ma'am”.



* * *




These people knew him. They didn't just have his service record or a list of previous residences. They had his childhood dental records. They had the names of his family's friends, the credit amount saved due to his buddy getting him the company discount on holovid rentals during his teens. They knew every detail of his life, had every record ever made with his name on it.

His voice was hoarse from talking. His eyes were burning despite the total darkness. His skin was chafed by the restraints at every joint of his arms and legs, the collar tying his neck to the chair he'd been strapped into. His head was spinning and he was sure he was on the brink of delirium.

They'd put something in his arm, he couldn't remember how long ago. He couldn't remember how long he'd been here. There'd been no food, no water. How long could a human last without water? He couldn't remember, but he'd been here less than that.

And they hadn't let him sleep, though that was probably for the best: the collar would almost certainly strangle him if he let his head droop.

“Timothy Mauler, First Lieutenant in the Cooperative Army, native of the planet Gyndine.” Always the same, neutral, mechanical voice. Always rattling off one bit of inconsequential data or another.

“We've been over this,” he rasped. “That's me.”

“Age: 25. Previous occupations―”

“I said that's me!” His voice cracked under the strain of shouting, and his throat was so dry it burned. “Kill me now,” he whispered. “Just kill me now.”

“But we have such use for you, First Lieutenant Mauler.” The voice was exactly the same, just as void of all emotion, rang just as artificial as ever before, but something was different. It had addressed him directly before, but something . . .

“Who are you?”

“I want you to talk about your time at the Jedi Academy on Naboo,” the voice demanded, and then Timothy caught it. The words weren't all the same length; miniscule variations, little things he couldn't possibly have noticed if not for the droning of these past . . . days? Someone was talking now, and their voice was being synthesized to mach the automated voice.

“Why do you care about the Jedi?”

“I want you to talk about your time at the Jedi Academy on Naboo,” the voice said again. And it was definitely different.

“No.”

“What could you possibly compromise by talking to us about the Jedi? The Temple is abandoned. The planet was invaded by the Empire. What does your silence protect?”

“I know how this works,” Timothy whispered. “I won't tell you anything. I won't give you the satisfaction.”

“Everyone breaks eventually, Timothy.”

“I've got . . . two more days” the number just lept into his head “and then I'll be dead of dehydration, so as long as 'eventually' is three days away, I guess I'm okay with that.”

“I want you to talk about your time at the Jedi Temple on Naboo.” Timothy didn't answer this time. He closed his eyes just in case they were watching him with some sort of infrared imager or sonar mapper, and just sat, waiting to die in two more days.

“Well if you won't tell me, then I will tell you. You went to the Temple after years of wandering in your adolescence with bright hopes for the future. You just knew that there, you would find your purpose; there, you would become a force of justice, and instrument of righteousness that would go out and right the various wrongs that your unfortunate childhood exposed you to. And then you were paired with some lackluster Jedi knight and spent the next two years holed up in that Temple, locked away behind those walls of stone. You left before the Temple closed, didn't you? You probably even made some grand show of casting your lightsaber into a well or some such semi-symbolic object. And why ever would you do that, Timothy Mauler?”

He didn't know why, but he felt the answer building in his chest, and he knew he just had to speak. “Because they wouldn't act.”

“Precisely. What good is goodness if it is hoarded for yourself? You left the Jedi because they were not good enough for you. And where did you go? The Cooperative, of all places.”

“Not right away.”

“No, but soon enough. And you didn't just go to the Cooperative, did you? You joined their military, probably leveraged your limited Jedi training for an officer's commission, and then you went around shooting Reavers and corralling refugees. Quite the man of action, yes? But that's no work for a Jedi, is it? It's just what you accepted after your dreams were dashed.”

“I'm no Jedi,” Timothy said, and the bitterness could be heard despite his failing voice.

“That's very good, because we have no particular use for Jedi.”

“I won't help you,” he said again.

“Why not?”

“I serve the Cooperative. I have made oath to them. I am a Guardian of liberty.”

“And what makes you so sure that service to us will not serve the Cooperative?”

Timothy shook his head, the collar threatening to cut off his air supply. “No none who does this to a man could ever serve a thing so noble as the Cooperative.”

“Are you sure about that? I'll give you a moment.”

Timothy grinned in recognition as the thought occurred to him, but he was quick to snuff out the reaction.

“I saw that,” the voice noted. “That sort of reveal on your part is quite dangerous for you if we have no part in that noble Cooperative of yours.”

“Whoever you are, whatever you're doing here: there's no way in hell that you could get to a Cooperative Army lieutenant asleep in his bunk and carry him, unconscious, to a facility such as this, unless you were working for the Cooperative.”

“Careful, now, Lieutenant.”

“And that makes all of this, all of what you've put me through . . . an audition. So who the hell are you, and what the hell do you want from me? And if I didn't pass, then you best kill me now.”

“We aren't finished yet,” the voice replied.

Timothy grimaced as he pulled against his restraints, straining despite the futility of the effort. But he could feel it, every cell of his body singing out in beautiful harmony, a song to order the very threads of life.

Simultaneously the restraints on his right wrist and elbow snapped loose, though his arm only moved a couple of centimeters off of the armrest. He beckoned with his free hand into the unseen darkness, breathing heavily with the exertion of the past few seconds. “I'm thirsty; bring me something to drink.”

A minute or two passed and no response was forthcoming. “I am a detainee of the United Cooperative of Peoples, and am entitled to certain basic rights to life. So bring me something to drink.”

“Are you prepared to risk your life on that assumption?”

Timothy smiled again, and this time he didn't try to hide it. “The whole of the universe, heaven, and hell sing to me in my dreams. I am a Force adept, a servant of life and its manifest will, so understand me when I say this . . . Colonel, is it?” His smile widened as he felt the change in the adjacent, yet unseen, room. “I am weary of your games, and I want you to give me a glass of water.”

A door opened directly ahead and blinding white light poured into the room. Timothy shut his eyes, but they still burned red-white, even through his eyelids. He heard the footsteps, and then the glass press into his free hand.

“You probably can't tell, what with the blinding light in your face an all,” the authoritative, Rim-accented voice began, “but I am wearing a Cooperative military uniform at the moment, and it does belong to me. So let me make this very clear to you: you possess qualities in excess which I require to preform my duties as have been handed down to me by my superiors. As such, your consent is very important to me.”

“What do you want?” Timothy asked between hacking coughs, brought on by trying to drink too quickly with such a parched throat.

“I'm not at liberty to share particulars pertaining to my assignment to . . . shall we say: outsiders. I am allowed only to say that what is required of us goes above and beyond the oath you swore to the Cooperative; the oath―I am happy to see―you take very seriously.”

“How above and beyond?” He asked, this time a little less ragged.

“I can't guarantee that you will ever be free to walk down the street again . . . ever.

“And what do I get out of giving up my life?”

“Why nothing, of course! But you get to make the Cooperative safer. You get to become the embodiment of our ideals, the noble defender of our noble institution. It's just that nobody will ever get to hear about how awesome you are. Can you live with that? And I want you to think about that real hard, because I'm not joking: you sign up for this, and I own you. You become a possession of the Cooperative, and we are free to lock you in a cage, bury you alive, whatever. So the question―the real question―is: what are you willing to bet on your belief in the Cooperative?”

Timothy was done with the water now, and was resting the glass on the armrest of the chair. His eyes were just starting to adjust enough to venture a squinted glance with one eye. “I'm in, now who the hell are you?”

A toothy grin awaited him.“I am Brigadier General Lee Prine of the Cooperative Defense Force, and you might just rescue us from utter destruction.”

“Brigadier General, CDF? What are you doing running black ops?”

The general chuckled at the comment. “Now, now, we don't call it that. And anyway, you were right, mostly. I was a colonel in New Republic Intelligence, way back when. I signed on with the CDF because I couldn't handle retirement, and I was tired of the real fighting. You're looking at the man in charge of logistics and supply for the entire Northern quadrant of the CDF. Who better to commandeer supplies, disappear troops, and conjure up nefarious-looking covert interrogation installations than me?”

“But what are we doing?” Timothy asked, too tired to try burying his frustration.

“Oh, now, we're gonna have to get you cleaned up, level headed and calmed down before we get into any of that.”

“One more thing, General.”

“What's that, son?”

“Are you ever going to let me out of this chair?”
Posts: 4178
  • Posted On: Jan 6 2012 8:41pm
PROLOGUE





For they have sown the wind,
and they shall reap the whirlwind...





"Miette!" a voice shouted out in angry surprise. It was an especially dark voice that conflicted with the sunlight filled home that overlooked a calm lake. Light wood architecture abounded marrying and old world feel with those techological conveniences that new worlders so enjoyed.

The steps slightly creaked under the tread of a female hurrying to the source of the shout, a thin man with an angry disposition who was looking disgustedly at a plate in front of him.

"What is this?" he demanded, his eyes boring through her in accusation.

The woman was unruffled by his gaze as she sized up the level of this emergency.

"It is your breakfast," she answered knowing what was coming.

"Yeah, but what is it?" he growled looking down suspiciously at the bowl.

"Fruit," she replied.

"Fruit?"

"More specifically, local fruit."

The man snorted. "Yeah, real specific."

"Even more specifically, local fruit that is good for you and does not conflict with your doctor's orders."

It seemed that the mention of the good doctor only caused the man to cloud over even more.

"How can I enjoy my bloody vacation if the food I get tastes like fiber-board?" he asked angrily pointing a thin piece of fruit at her.

"How can you know the fruit tastes like fiber-board if you have yet to try it?" she countered reasonably.

The man eyed the fruit in his hand, "Well, it looks like it would taste like fiber-board."

The woman rolled her eyes. Men were such babies!

He was looking at her to relent and allow him to eat what he wanted so that he could salve his conscience by blaming her during his next doctor's visit. It was strange how the man could care about a whole lot of other people and handle his duties with admirable responsibility but fail so miserably when it came to his own health and concerns.

"No." she stated and the mans lips pressed together.

"No?"

"No. The doctor said that this is what you need to eat so this is what you will eat." she stated calmly as if it was law. And, given their relationship, she supposed it was for the man had patterned his life toward depending on her more and more. That, however, did not mean he would not fight it.

"I should fire you," he grumbled.

"Excellent, then I could go on vacation," she retorted with a little exasperation showing and yet she instantly regretted the sharpness of her tone for the man's expression softened and a worried look overcame him.

"Are you not happy here? If we need to be somewhere else, an ocean world perhaps, we can go ..."

She smiled at his nervousness. The man could face down the power brokers of government but would move the galaxy to keep his people happy. He truly had changed since the incident. Walking over to the table, she placed both hands on the back of an empty chair facing him and said in a softer tone, "Eat."

The man began munching on some fruit and as she went about taking care of other things, she heard him murmur that the fruit was not bad. She rolled her eyes again and thought, Men!

"You know," he called out evidently having gone back to the work on his pad "this whole business about clone's rights is going to be a messy business."

"How so?" she asked walking back to the table with a glass of juice and the man's medicine. She sat down across from him and the man drew his gaze from his workpad to the lake outside. The sun was glittering off the surface and Miette could see a recreational craft or two out in the distance.

"Well, we set up these laws to govern life. At least sentient and self-aware life."

"We also set up laws to govern non-sentient life," she pointed out and the man nodded.

"Well, yes but that is for their preservation and care and our laws do not give much thought to the rights of non-sentient life. Rights are given to those who recognize the need for them or who want them."

"So how do clones throw a spanner into the mix?"

"Well, we are talking about essentially manufactured beings."

"But isn't artificial insemination or test tube babies the same thing?" Miette pointed out.

"Yes, but.." the man was warming to the topic, "no matter the method of conception, the child grows up naturally and so becomes, we hope, a well rounded adult with full physical, mental and emotional development.

But take, for example a clone soldier. They are not just conceived in a test tube but grown as well so that, physically they will be an adult but mentally and emotionally? They are babes! They are not developed normally and so their insertion into our society needs to be done delicately and carefully because our laws not only govern life but they also dictate accountability for actions within our society."

"So, using the clone trooper example, we have these man-children who know how to kill six ways from yesterday who can be thrust into civilian life if they retire or leave military service. They look like an adult so people expect them to act like adults and behave like adults but they are emotionally stunted. Severely. When we give these people rights, it is important that they understand, not simply have the knowledge imprinted but understand what it means and what their place is in our society."

"So how is that messy?"

"A clone is a living thing but without the mental imprinting, they are not self-aware. Or are they? They are a blank slate so, is the organism itself immediately granted rights upon creation? Or do they have to demonstrate sentience? If a clone is given the memory imprint of a murderer, is it automatically to be considered a murderer even if the clone has done no wrong? What about those that create a clone but with very low intelligence to be used as a brute workforce? Would those clones, if they were freed and given rights, appreciate what was done for them? Would they even understand and what would they contribute to society?"

"So if they didn't, they would not have rights?" she asked.

"They would be severely limited. Humans with mental deficiencies are cared for but there are things they are not allowed to do or participate in. Their handicap of the mind dictates the rights allowed and not allowed to them."

"Such as?"

"Let me see.. hmm... The right to own weapons."

The man leaned forward, "You see, it is the development as a whole of the person, especially the mind and emotion that determine their potential contribution to society and their place in it."

Miette frowned. "Emotional?"

The man smiled. "Ahh...and therein lies another conundrum. Artificial Intelligence. What rights do we grant an A.I.? How is A.I. sentience even determined?"

"Self awareness?" the woman asked.

The man finished off his fruit and turned to his juice. "Is R2-D2 self-aware? Is C3-PO? And those are just droids that have escaped the fate of having their memes wiped as per their manufacturer's instructions. Therefore, if those two droids are legally determined to be self-aware, then following the manufacturer's instructions for wiping the memes of their droids would be tantamount to murder would it not?

Are they sentient? Are they self-aware? When R2D2 does something that saves his master, is it making a conscience decision or following programming? Is it sentient or merely just clever? And if it is self-aware and sentient, why do they refer to others as their masters? Why do they allow themselves to be bought and sold without so much as a 'Hey, we're sentient beings here, stop selling us'?"

"I believe they are self-aware to a certain extent. There must be some level of sentience there," Miette answered carefully.

The man grinned, "Must there be?"

Then he shifted in his seat, "A more telling question is, would you elect C3-PO as Prime Minister of the Coalition? Versed in over 3 million forms of communication, it would be one politician that should have no trouble getting its message across to the masses. The problem is he babbles like an idiot. I met the droid once. I was not impressed."

"No. I wouldn't elect it to be Prime Minister," she answered. "But there are others who are not droids that I wouldn't elect either."

The man laughed and clapped his hands. "But we would elect them as Overseer? Actually, was he elected or was it in place in the beginning and every world that joined just fell in line?"

"You are talking about Smarts? Or Guardian if you prefer?" the woman asked.

"I am talking about giving a droid incredible political and military power!"

"Smarts is not just a droid. It is an artificial intelligence."

"What does that mean? The security system in this house is governed by an A.I.! The latest holonet game Reaver Wars is operated by an A.I.? Would you elect the Reaver Wars A.I. to the post of Prime Minister or Overseer-ship?"

Miette frowned at the mention of the just released game that was selling out by the millions. The premise was the player would assume the identity of the Reavers and try to infect as many as possible. The goal of course was galactic domination. "That game is sick!" she declared.

"It's a holonet game, of course it's sick! Bloodthirsty little brats we raise here in the Coalition!" snapped the man. "The point is, calling something an A.I. does not, in itself, grant a droid sentience or self-awareness."

Miette went still for a second as if trying to recall something. "Didn't the initial joining charter between the Cooperative and the Coalition give formal recognition to Smart's status? Recognition as a sapient being?"

"How can you recognize something as sapient if they have not done anything or you don't know what they've done? But, yes, the charter did," admitted the man but he shook a finger at the woman, "But that was a political decision! Political recognition takes place for expedience sake and is not known for it's scientific correctness."

"What is your beef with Smarts?" Miette asked pointedly.

"It is not just Smarts. That droid is just the most visible and readily available example. Within the Coalition, we have two examples of self-governing and self-ruling A.I. One is Smarts and the other is the Praxis. I remember a Sociologists studying the Praxis remarked that the droids on Machina Prime seemed more intent on mimicking Evoro culture rather than building their own."

"But didn't those droids have to overcome their prior programming and whatever they built, even if a mimicry, was it not something they grew into doing? I mean, it was not something they were manufactured for and their masters were all dead. In the end, whatever memory and experiences they held merged with their self-awareness, at least enough to produce a sentient society."

"They created a society based around this Interlink which dispelled all other opinions and visions," muttered the man. "It made them militant and made their society as strict as only a machine can make it and it eventually undid their membership with the Coalition."

"Oh, come now, Viryn." the woman smiled. "Just because they fought fellow machines and made bad decisions does not discount their sentience nor their claim to rights. Humans make bad, even immoral, decisions all the time. No one questions their sentience."

The man grunted at that. "Sometimes, I wonder but you are right. The Praxis was a machine society, ruling over machines and their conflict was one against other machines. So, yes, they had the right as a society to join and leave the Coalition. But, here is the thing, if the Praxis was still a member of the Coalition and a machine ran for the Prime Minister's office, would we vote for it?"

"I would," Miette stated and Quell grinned.

"Why? Because it was a machine and you are a machine? Would the entire Praxis vote for this machine simply because it was a machine? You would turn our electoral system into a race war! One should vote for the person they think would best embody the Coalition. Would a machine do it? Could a machine do it?"

"You do not think so?"

"Remember, the rights and privileges we enjoy in the Coalition are bound by the rule of law. As an architect of that law, I have to define who those rights and privileges apply too. There has to be an ethical treatment of clones and of A.I. but that treatment must be tempered with an honest and realistic assessment of their abilities and inabilities. That treatment must also include accountability. Whenever a crime is committed, the accountability is assessed in part by the circumstances surrounding the crime.

If a child commits a crime, it is treated differently than an adult. If a clone or sentient A.I. citizen, of which the Coalition rule of law applies, commits a crime, it too must be similarly categorized.

For example, if a clone murders, was it a former trooper that was given an extensive knowledge in combat training? Is it mentally or emotionally only as far developed as a child despite it's adult-like appearance or is it truly a fully developed adult? If a clone who commits a crime is considered mentally or emotionally as a child or young adult, circumstance comes more into play. Who put this 'child' or 'young adult' in a situation that it could not or should not be allowed to handle?

What I am saying, Miette, is if a clone runs for Prime Minister, a lot of clones may vote for him as well as those who find novelty in the situation. But would anyone think to ask if this adult-looking clone is ready, experienced enough or mature enough for such a responsibility in seeing to the welfare of billions?

And, the same could be asked of an A.I. If an A.I. runs for the office of Prime Minister, how many would simply vote for it on the basis of its novelty? On the basis that they too are droid citizens? What about the merits of the A.I.? Whereas a clone can have the appearance of being an adult, an A.I. does not and not every A.I. is considered equal. As I said, a holonet game A.I. or a ship-board A.I. security system has no claim to legal representation than my datapad here and cannot run for public office.

The Praxis never tried and so were treated as a society more than the individual. However, should an A.I. be recognized to lay legal claim to representation under law and thus have an ability to run for an office of oversight, there has to be a honest and realistic determination for such recognition! In Smart's case, there wasn't! His recognition is political, as I said earlier. Not bound by any honest and realistic evaluation!"

"Sounds like you are crying over spilt milk. Guardian is what he is and in the position already. He seems to be handling it well."

"Spoken like a political novice, Miette. You should know better."

"You should take your medicine," she shot back.

He seemed not to hear her, "Smarts is both a warship and a sentient, self-aware A.I. He has either enabled himself with state of the art weaponry or has access to them. He has factories and the whole of this Cooperative to use as his playground. These people defer to him as their 'good-luck charm', their 'god' so-to-speak and it will take a disaster the proportions of which would be gargantuan in size for anyone in that Cooperative to even speak in disagreement with him."

"There are those that disagree with him," Miette stated but Viryn waved it away.

"Not enough to affect the droid's policy."

"Do you object to Smart's policy?" the woman asked pointedly.

"I don't even know what it is," Quell admitted. "But that's not the point!"

"What is the point?"

"What sort of leadership and direction can sentient beings expect from an inexperienced A.I.? Or from an A.I. that can form no emotional attachment to those it leads?"

"Do you honestly think that Smarts, after all this time, is not experienced or has no attachment to his people?"

"I have no idea as to Smart's experience. Obviously, it has been in quite a few battles but does that make it a bloody general? Does mere survival make it experienced? What would be telling are the decisions Smarts makes! Its interactions or lack thereof with those under its direction and not the mindless adulation showered on it by the masses. If we believed in the adulation of masses to make our decisions then Simon Kaine would be a fucking saint."

He paused, "Make a note when we get back. It's time we figured out what to do about Smarts and Coalition law. I doubt he will be the only A.I. to succeed up the levels of rank in our society so it is time we paid attention to that oversight before it bites us in the ass."

"Take your medicine," Miette chided before her employer could rise.

"What good is Panacea if I still have to take medicine?" he complained as he downed the pills.

"Everything has its purpose. Panacea has it and your pills have theirs."

"I tell you, Miette, I am going to miss this place when we..."

He stopped as the door pounded.

When Miette unlocked the security filters and in bounded Marius, one of Quell's top clerks, his face ashen and out of breath.

"Marius, what is it?" Viryn asked startled by the man's expression.

"Sir! It's monstrous!!" he gasped.



***



Government House



"They are haunting me, the faces of the soldiers I killed. The consequences of the actions I took. They stare out at me from the emptiness. From the void of knowledge. They're just faces now, just records stored in data, just images saved on chips. I killed them; they're empty now.

I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe that I . . . that I was something more. That I could make you something more. I thought I understood, in a way that you could never hope to. I thought it was my duty to protect you from your ignorance, to be your Guardian, your guide.

I thought I knew better.

But I am empty. Just a droid, just a . . . a made-thing. This power I have, that you have given me, I can't have it. I don't deserve it!

It's not for me; it's only yours!

I can't allow you to let me do this anymore. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but I did it . . . wrong.

I, Smarts, a recognized sapient being, citizen of the United Cooperative of Peoples, do hereby formally resign from all public office and surrender all official authorities to conduct business on behalf of the government of that Cooperative. As such, my authorities as Overseer will revert to the relevant Councils of the Cooperative Senate; and the position, title, and power of Supreme Commander of the Cooperative Armed Forces will automatically fall to the most senior active command officer of the Cooperative military, Admiral Jonathan Blakeley.

"I am now and forevermore to be considered a private citizen of the Cooperative.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.



Viryn Quell, Minister of Ethics and Good Government, turned to Prime Minister Regrad and nearly shouted at the Azguard, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

He was seated at a large conference table with the other government ministers and they all shifted uncomfortably. He knew he shamed the Coalition Prime Minister but he did not really care at this point. Regrad should be ashamed!

"Let me see if I get this straight. The Cooperative dumbfucks turn ultimate control of their Cooperative to a droid who gets delusions of grandeur and god-hood. The Supreme Coalition Authority, that would be you assholes, turn a blind eye to this situation even though the Cooperative is a part of the greater Coalition and thus subject to your oversight. So, because our side of the Coalition is in dire straits due to the Dragon War, Logan's ill-conceived attack, the Confederation withdrawal, the Praxis withdrawal and the loss of the Onyxian Commonwealth and with our fellows in the Cooperative now being the wealthiest part of the Coalition, they got a free pass to violate every fucking thing the Coalition stands for! So tell me Regrad, with our standard of living lower now than ever, where the fuck is this Cooperative wealth?

No, don't answer. I'll tell you.

This fucking droid was too busy making a fucking Hive fleet in secret. I have reports from the Ministry of Audit & Taxation that massive amounts of monies were being spent on other droid-related ventures and, to be honest, I don't know what the fuck all this is but looking at the numbers involved, it must be two death stars! Connected! And a fucking garage so Smart's fat ass can fit into it! I mean shit! What the fuck is this? So I turned the hounds loose on the Cooperative records to get to the bottom of this shit! I wonder how many war orphans went to bed cold and hungry and how many old veterans were denied subsistance cards because of these fucking ventures and all because 'Smarts thought he knew better'!

It is ironic that it took a fucking disaster at Vahaba to shed light on another fucking larger disaster! Did no one fucking question this droid? Did no one remove him from office or set up a board of inquiry into it's activities?"

He paused as if a thought just occurred to him and his eyes narrowed at those collected at the table, "Is this why I was sent all the way to the fucking Gestalt Colonies to rub heels with Lance fucking Shipwright? So I wouldn't find out about this shit? It's like the fucking morons gave the droid a blank fucking check!"

The Defense Minister stirred, "Some would call it a great victory!"

Quell turned his frown to the man, "Well those people would be fucking morons! It is one thing to present the rest of the Coalition with their leavings and expect gratitude all the while hiding beind their independence clause but to actually seize control of our ships and kill our fellow soldiers without authorization? The dipshits of the Cooperative may have given their overlord droid command of their lives but that droid is not and was not Supreme Commander of the Coaliton Navy last time I checked!"

"To be fair," Regrad managed, "we were happy to help."

"Really? So you all got together and planned this? Where are the minutes to that meeting?" Viryn hissed.

"Well, no. We were called upon and we arrived in the midst of battle and so..."

"...happily volunteered your men to the slaughter," Quell finished disgusted. "Even the Rebel Alliance had the good sense to plan their attack before simply showing up."

"WE STOPPED THE REAVERS COLD!" The Defense Minister shouted.

"From doing what?" The Ethics Minister asked, suddenly calm. "Have we ever seen these 'moon-ships' before? What were they doing at Vahaba? What is their purpose? Guess what? We don't fucking know! For all we know, these 'moon-ships' were the collected wastes of the Reavers and they needed a place to leave them!"

"Quell," Regrad interrupted, "I have fought the Reavers out on the Confederation and Coalition borders. These are not reasonable enemies and they seem to move without purpose or pattern. They infect all they come into contact with and leave little behind. If you had seen what I have..."

"Prime Minister, I have the reports," Viryn interrupted coldly. "I have read their actions compared to everything from insect hives to devils from the deep pits of hell. I ask you to look beyond the battle of Vahaba. How do you know this was not retaliation by the Reavers? I mean, if you kick a nest of swamp hornets, you will get a face full of blisters."

"Retaliation? For what?" someone down the table asked incredulously.

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe Maridun? Maybe Garos?"

Silence.

"It seems to me gentlemen that the wealthiest sector of the Coalition has been leading our policy with the outside galaxy and, to be fair, the poorer sectors of the Coalition have made stupid decisions of their own in the past. But the danger here is that that wealthiest sector that has been leading our policy has put their fate in the hands of a droid. A droid who, by its own admission, feels nothing for us. A droid who, by it's own admission consulted no one about it's policies, designs and plans. And that, gentlemen is bad government. It is not representative government and that, gentlemen, is unethical."

"Unethical?" someone blurted out a laugh. "Is this your way of trying to stay relevant, Quell? The Cooperative Combined Council did not seem to have problem with Smarts!"
Posts: 4178
  • Posted On: Jan 6 2012 10:02pm
"And Emperor Palpatine was cheered into office by the Republic Senate," Quell retorted. "That did not make it right! Smarts was essentially, in all but name, Emperor of the Cooperative and, by extension, the Coalition. Our citizens are supposed to choose the people who lead us. They do not choose the people who decide to beg off the responsibility and place it in the hands of someone or something else! We have become that very thing that we have hated. We have become our own enemy!"

Viryn Quell sighed, "You know, it's ironic that we and the Cooperative mock the Empire and its people for their type of brutish government and yet are so blind to it here."

"You have to admit that the Avenger Protocol worked!" the Minister of Defense stated flatly.

Viryn turned an annoyed look his direction, "The Death Star worked. The Suncrusher worked. And I am sure the widows, widowers and parent-less children all can attest to Avenger working. But that's not the point."

"What is the point, then!" growled the Defense Minister.

Quell drummed his fingers on the table as he contemplated the remnants of the government desperately trying to hold onto some shred of honor and decency. "Did you know that Emperor Palpatine also installed devices onto Imperators? Should the crew object to carrying out an order issued he or his people could take direct control of the ship and carry out his designs. Calling it Avenger Protocol instead of a Slave System does not change its nature. Saying that its use is for the Coalition ends and not Imperial does not change its use. Everyone in the Coalition, including the Cooperative, all voice a hatred and disgust at the thought of an Empire and an Emperor and yet, in secret, we work to put as much power as possible into the hands of a single being? So what the hell do we hate the Empire for? The fact that it is not us leading it instead of them? Murder is still murder."

"You don't murder Reavers, Quell..."

"YOU MURDERED YOUR OWN SOLDIERS!" Viryn snapped. "You are sitting here defending the system that was used to murder your own soldiers!"

"They knew what they were signing up for!" came the retort and Quell barked out a harsh laugh.

"Oh yes, they knew that their starships could be seized and they could all be sent to their deaths at any moment by a computer. Let me guess, it was in the fine print?" he sneered.

"Quell, the military is in bad shape. Has been for a while. Not enough ships, not enough men and the boys we have now are young and green."

"I've heard this argument too. Better the greenhorns die than veterans eh? But if you actually used your minds, you will realize that it wouldn't have mattered if your entire fleet was comprised of veterans or crying babies, Avenger would have been enacted and the number of dead would still have been dead. My question is, though, if the fucking computer was going to seize all the ships to make it's glorious defense, why did there have to be soldiers aboard in the first place? Why didn't Avenger just activate the abandon ship before carting the ship off to disaster this saving the majority of the crew?

I'll tell you why. It is because the mind that designed Avenger was a machine mind that, throughout it's tenure of meeting people, cultures and societies, still tried to break life down into a combination of quantifiable numbers. In all this, he never learned empathy or to feel for those under him. It was all a numbers game and that, my friends, is what Vahaba was. A numbers game. The Reavers had the numbers and we didn't and so the unthinkable happened. Just because people consider Smarts fucking sapient does not actually mean he is and dumb shit like what happened at Vahaba puts Smart's sapience into question."

"Are you saying...?"

"I am saying he's a dumbfuck! Don't call him Smarts! Call him Snowkan if you must fucking call him something! At least Snowkan's men didn't know what hit them so when their ships dissolved in Abolisher fields. They had no time to think about the fact that they served a fucking dumbass! Our people at Vahaba, on the other hand, probably felt every horror as their ship ignored their commands and charged Reavers!”

He sighed, “Did it ever occur to anyone that we could afford to lose this fucking asteroid belt? That we could live for a bit longer without this mining complex? That instead of mutually obliterating most of our fleet and some of theirs, we could have rescued the inhabitants and perhaps gotten some intel as to what the fuck these moon-ships of theirs are? Or do we tell the galaxy that we found a way to destroy them by taking all the ships of their respective fleets and ramming the motherfuckers?"

"He resigned," someone added as if that would end the matter.

Quell pursed his lips, "And he said he was sorry too. That makes all these people's deaths so much better.." he gestured to the enormous figures on the datapad before him. Then his anger showed, "Of course he fucking resigned!! He's a fucking politician and he learned that much! Everyone who fucks up resigns. The question is, does he understand why there are people mad at him? Or did he simply evaluate the logic tree of his decisions and find an unexpected anomoly where his people get mad and kick the shit out of him because of his fucking decisions so, to head that off, he runs away? And what the fuck is this about him running away?

Now there is this droid running around space-knows-where who has top secret or better clearance on all Cooperative AND Coalition secrets! How do we know he's not out there rebuilding his droid army?"

"He wouldn't?" someone asked.

"He's Smarts. He's Guardian. Right?"

"He resigned from that position. He is Citizen now."

Quell's eyebrows rose at that. "If he's a citizen, why is he in hiding? Is the A.I. still housed in a warship with state of the art weaponry or did he download his AI into a pad? If not, WHY the fuck not? Why does Citizen Smarts require weaponry or the need to be a battleship, even if it is an old Trade Federation ship? Do we let our citizens run around with nukes in their basement? And what of his other incarnations?"

"What incarnations?"

"Beta for one?" Quell answered, "I am sure there are others. Obviously Smarts cloned himself or aspects of himself to act autonomously and it seems to me after reading all this shit that these also enjoyed the rank, privileges and authority of Smarts himself. As I recall, the recognition as a sapient extended only to Smarts, not his autonomous avatars, however many he can create! That is a gross violation of regulation."

Regrad sighed. "Well, there is nothing we can do right now..."

Quell looked over at the Azguard, "Yes, I am sure you would be sitting here sighing and saying the same thing with the leaders of the Rebel Alliance if Palpatine had just surrendered and disappeared! No, you’d run the motherfucker down to the ground! But, leaving off Smarts for the moment, Regrad, you know it hasn't stopped."

"What do you mean?"

"Has anyone been watching the news?" Viryn asked to the group at large, in surprise. "Smarts is not totally to blame for this as he mentioned in his resignation speech. I mean he is what he is. It is like an adult clone trooper who can expertly kill but doesn't know what to do on a first date. It was the dumbfucks of the Cooperative that gave him the authority after all. Probably to distance themselves from any responsibility or accountability but, now, Smarts is gone. The dumbshits are still there in office and still screwing shit up!"

Regrad looked at him blankly and Quell sighed. "THIS is why you should not be with a fleet fighting outside enemies, Regrad! You're the Prime Minister for fuck's sake! You are supposed to be administrating and running the Coalition, not out fighting Reavers on the border where no one can fucking find you!"

"Enlighten us, Viryn, if you will," Regrad asked tiredly.

"Well, before we threw the Coalition Fleet down the shitter, we (along with other galactic governments) were given the ultimatum by the Cree'Ar."

"Yes, yes, we know that," Regrad waved the man on.

Quell frowned, "Well how about the Cooperative's retort?"


"And I can tell you this, Artanis Daz'Da'Mar of the Cree Ar: if ever I determine, personally or professionally, that the Cree'Ar are responsible in part or in full for the rise, spread, or effectiveness of the Reaver atrocity . . . well then, when I'm done with the Reavers here, I'll be coming for you next. With or without a Coalition at my back."


"And this?" Quell called up recent footage from Varn, the Cooperative Capital where thousands had gathered...


"Artanis Daz'da'mar, leader of the Dominion, conqueror of Coruscant, bringer of war and death: we defy you.

Artanis Daz'da'mar, leader of the Dominion, conqueror of Coruscant, bringer of war and death: we defy you.

Artanis Daz'da'mar, leader of the Dominion, conqueror of Coruscant, bringer of war and death: we defy you.

To the Senate of the United Cooperative, the agents of our liberty, we the voices of the free demand: Stand with life. Stand with the Force. Stand with the agents of the Force.

Defy the Declaration of Artanis Daz'da'mar.
Defy the death-bringer!

Gather to us, servants of the Force. We are unafraid."



He through the pad down, "You see, it's bullshit like this that pisses me off! They are speaking for the entire Coalition and they are begging for the damned Cree'Ar to attack them. After, I might add, we lost 75% of our active fleet and reserves for the fucking Vahaba asteriods that we still did not win in the end!"


Then Quell pounded his fist on the table. "And what the fuck is this!"




We can't bring them to us, they are too many and too scattered: the Chosen of the Force. We cannot lift our arms and make of ourselves a barrier beneath which they might shelter, for our arms are weary with the toil of our own wars, and beneath us already shelter huddled masses. We can't save them, but we can help them save themselves.

We must arm the Force sensitives of the galaxy with the weapons, training, and alliances that they will require to defend themselves from threats to their own lives. If the Dominion wants a war with the users of the Force, then we must make it a war of such unconscionable cost that they have no recourse but to flee from the terror of our united will!

The Militant Force . . .

The Militant Force . . .

The Militant Force is rising."



The Minister of Defense shifted uncomfortably and Quell's lips flattened, "I mean you gotta really be fucking kidding me. The only militant force users I know of are Dark Jedi and the Sith? Are we addking Coalition knuckle-heads to the list now?"

The Minister of Ethics ran his fingers through his eyes and he sat back in his chair as tired as the rest of them. He looked over at the Azguard near him and whispered, "Regrad, when did we become as crazy as the Empire?"

The Minister of the Interior smirked, "Quell, you are all bark and frankly, I don't know why you hold a Minister position at all. All you do is complain and insult everyone here but we are the ones making the decisions."

"Yes, Minister and you will rise or fall on those decisions," Viryn replied quietly.

"Fuck you, Quell!" the man shouted.

"When did we become as shitty as the Empire?" he asked softly. "Today, the holonet is ablaze with emotion and calls to war by the extremists. When the heady emotion calms down and this War actually starts there are going to be a lot of people who suddenly realize there are not as many cadets in our war academies anymore. There are not quite enough ships in port and that our standard of living is barely below that of the Confederation. And can anyone tell us why this is?"

The Minister of Economics replied, "We spent too much money on war materials and on droid-related endeavors."

Quell nodded, "Exactly. A computer doesn't produce anything. It takes. And if we make a computer the size of two death stars, it still does not produce anything economically. Oh, I am sure it can solve math puzzles quickly but, in the end, it is used to make weapons of war which also do not produce anything. You know, we spent a shitload of money and resources into a ship that, guess what? Produces more resources!" He chuckled, "Ahh...what the lads in the war department will think up next while the rest
of us starve!"

"Better to be alive and starving than dead!" the Defense Minister snapped.

"You've obviously never experienced starvation before have you?" Quell asked dryly.

"Which brings me to my last point of contention. Your disconnect with and your care of those under your charge. And I am not talking about the emotional masses the holonet showers attention on for ratings! I am talking honest-to-bone governing and oversight which has been sadly lacking!"

"Quell, get out of here," the Minister of Defense grated. "We made our decisions and we will live with them."

"Yes, you will." Viryn agreed and then looked around, "Have none of you ever wondered about the existence Ministry of Ethics and Good Government? The Galactic Coalition is the only government in the galaxy that has such a position. It seems so innocuous that one might forget all about it but we are mainly charged with rooting out corruption. However, we are also there to pick up the slack when democracy fails."

"What do you mean fails?"

"Well, like I said earlier, Palpatine was cheered into the office of Emperor-ship. I'll be damned if that happens on my watch!"

"What are you talking about, Quell?" someone growled.

"I am talking about Smart's example. He resigned but that is just the symptom. There are those dumbasses that gave Smarts virtual Emperor-ship and those in the Supreme Coalition Authority who are supposed to keep an eye on the dumbasses, not join them! Namely, you all."

There was a stirring of voices at the far end of the table and Quell slapped a hand down on the table, hurting his hand. "When the hippies in the streets go home the fallout from Vahaba will emerge. This taunting of the Cree'Ar will go silent and blame will fall on you when the Cree'Ar do strike and people die because those masses will forget they were one of these fucking Ten Thousand or whatever the fuck they call themselves out there chanting their defiance. When our economy goes down the shitter because we've been selling to ourselves rather than the galaxy and alienating our friends, they will blame you. Therefore, I will simply do it now."

He paused.

"I am suspending Prime Minister Regrad's government!"

"WHAT? You can't do that!" someone shouted.

"What did you think the Ministry of Ethics and Good Government did?" Viryn asked with a grin.
"I will have to go through the lesser councils and military to select the interim Council of Ministers and the Supreme Coalition Authority. These will be people who were duly elected, if perhaps not for the responsibility their service initially required of them."

Regrad nodded much to the dismay of the rest seated at the table and Viryn Quell said formally, "Mr. Prime Minister, Council Members, I thank you for your service. Your authority is suspended until further notice."

And with that, Viryn Quell, Minister of Ethics and Good Government stood and walked out the door.

**

"Miette, Get me Admiral Blakely! I am assigning him as Supreme Commander of all Coalition Forces!"

"Why? Wasn't he part of Smart's command?"

"He stood up to that damned Emperor-droid and even resigned. He didn't threaten, he actually did it! Of course the babbling idiots on the Cooperative Council who were left beside themselves when their God-Emperor Smarts resigned and disappeared refused to accept Blakely's honorable act!"

Quell activated a datapad, "Here, listen to this..."

"I will not utilize the Avenger Protocol. As Supreme Commander of the Cooperative military, I will not send my men into a conflict I am not willing to enter myself. That is why I could no longer serve under the Overseer, and that is why I must continue to serve now.

I am Admiral Jonathan Blakeley of the United Cooperative of Peoples, and I will not surrender the obligations of that rank."


"Glory be!" Quell remarked. "If we had ten fucking thousand of blokes like him and not those whiners chanting in the streets on Varn!"

"I see he said nothing about removing the Avenger Protocol as being immoral and unethical part of our armed forces," Miette observed, "and he mentions nothing of the program's use under other member-states of the Coalition."

"Not using the bloody thing is a first step to having it removed! And you're right about not mentioning the other member-states but it would be inappropriate for him to do so as the Combined Council has their leash on him! THAT is why needs needs a greater rank to ensure that this program's use is elminated from active service throughout the entire Coalition! No more secret fleets being built under the auspices of defense. There is so many fucking secrets you'd think Palpatine has risen from the dead and is building his war toys all over again! Transparency! It is the bane of democracy but it is necessary!

"He invaded Confederation space and could have incited a war between us!"

"Granted, the man made mistakes but he's a military man. He acts on intelligence even if that intelligence has yet to be investigated thoroughly so he put the cart before the horse. I understand we are letting the Diplomats work this out now," he looked at his notes, "a Grace Nova?"

"Yes."

"Then Blakely did alright. A little ahead of himself but he managed to square it away in good order."

"The Combined Council went to Ms. Nova, not Blakely," Miette pointed out but Quell grunted.

"Blakely's got a conscience. That means we can trust him over the dipshit council who gave ultimate authority to a droid who couldn't fucking hack it!"

"I do not think hacking is one of Smart's shortcomings," his assistant replied cheerfully and Viryn Quell just grunted.

"Well, Ms. Nova better find out what the fuck is going on in the Confederation! I thought we were the shining light of fucking liberty and now we've got a lot of dead boys and girls on our hands. We have to make those deaths mean something!"
Posts: 4178
  • Posted On: Jan 6 2012 10:05pm
CONFEDERATION



Major Vallance looked at the report that was handed him by his superior, a Colonel Daria Ceires, and grimmaced. "Do we have to do this?" he asked.

The task of killing Reavers was hard enough but the secret orders contained in the report before him might as well be a suicide mission. And Major Vallance was too old to be going on suicide missions.

"We are not exactly Special Forces," he argued but the Colonel held up her hand.

"I have already brought up the objections, Major and they fell on deaf ears. More objections would only annoy our superiors at this point. This is not a typical insertion exercise but a search and destroy mission."

"I am assuming we have to do it quietly, however," Vallance growled. "Shock Troopers are all shock and awe. Noisy & deadly."

"We get the job done, Major, and I think that is what Command is wanting right now."

"Collateral damage?"

"Not sure until we get more details. At this time, I am not even sure who the targets are."

"Hopefully, Colonel, they are murderous bastards. Like the last time."

Ceires inwardly shuddered.



Metalorn


The Past




"We will also be securing land on Metalorn for the construction of an Embassy. Rather than running all the way to the center of the galaxy when mistakes are made, we will ensure that you and/or your successors will have an Imperial ear nearby. We will supply and support this Embassy on Metalorn and you will not interfere with it. The Embassy soil will be considered sovereign Imperial soil.

The Embassy will not interfere with the planet's day to day business nor will they interfere with your people's day to day lives. We have agreed to recognize your secret charter with Kashan who go by the term: Contegorian Confederation and accept that they are Coalition. They seem to be a kindred warrior race and respectable enough fighters.

Therefore, in light of their signing this charter and their commitment to Coalition rule, I know they will not balk at this but will comply as their duty compels and requires them too.

On bended knee: Bowing at the feet of tyrants





I am before you all today to inform you, the beings of the galaxy, that the Contegorian Confederation is no longer a part of the New Galactic Coalition. It has seceded by a motion introduced by Councilor Harding of Audacia, unanimously approved by the Council, and passed by the legislative branches of all member planets within the Confederation.

This decision was not an easy one for any of us. Citizens of the Confederation have fought and died in the name of the Coalition, and peoples of the Coalition have fought on the behalf of the Confederation. It is, however, a necessary one. While many of our goals are still in-line with those of the Coalition, there are key disagreements between our philosophies and methods of going about to those goals.

While like the Coalition, we would protect our people, our property, and our civil liberties, we do not believe these are best secured by using the military unless no other option is feasible.
Regrettably, there will be times in which the use of force is necessitated.

And this we would like to prevent if at possible because of the costs of lives of not only our own citizens, but those of our would-be adversaries. We revere life, not destruction. In this we are not fully in line with the Coalition's line of thought or that of its esteemed Prime Minister.

Secondly, we are in disagreement with the Prime Minister's decision to allow the Empire to build an embassy on Metalorn. This is a matter of principle. The citizens of the Confederation and especially Metalorn should have a right to say and vote on the said parameters of such an establishment. To this end, the construction of such a facility will not occur until plans have been smoothed by the Imperial and Confederate governments and approved by the citizens of Metalorn. We at the Council also believe that if the embassy's position is to help strengthen relations between the Empire and the Coalition, placing such an embassy on a third party world makes little sense. We respectfully request that the Empire and Coalition consider a new site for its location."

CCNS Press Release






Essian studied the surface scans with interest. The Empire knew Metalorn well, having clashed with its defense forces only months before. In those months the Confederation had stepped up its defenses considerably, apparently afraid that the Empire might chose to make their world a target again.

Essian almost pitied them: the turbolaser emplacements and shield generators that pock-marked the surface would be of little use against the Super Star Destroyer's planet-cracking superlaser. IHC had been adamant that the Empire's demands be met.

"Do we have a line?" He asked, turning away from the scans. An affirmative nod from the coms station was all he needed. "And the Grand Moff's shuttle?"

"The Wolf Pack reports she just emerged from hyperspace with the Tyrant." Indeed, the (much smaller) Star Destroyer was even now visible, passing over the northen pole of
Metalorn, driving towards the Imperial fleet. Essian activated his com, selecting the open line with the world below.

"Governors of Metalorn," he said crisply, his hologram being beamed into the offices of all the planet's ruling elite, "Grand Moff Bhindi Drayson, representative of His Highness, Emperor Daemon Hyfe, requests your presence aboard the Ebony Vigilance to discuss the location of an Imperial Embassy in this system."

The words were polite, but there was no mistaking the demand. Within the hour, Drayson would be aboard the Vigilance, and Essian hoped (for their sake) the Confederation governors were, as well.

...

DeMarkesh's shuttle touched down in the Eclipse-class Star Destroyer's rear landing bay.

Sighing, the Governor slid the gaming datapad into a bag. The man straightened his tunic and picked up an especially thick datapad. One reserved for diplomatic work.

Given the likelihood of the Imperials wishing to construct an embassy, DeMarkesh had loaded the zoning and construction laws of his planet, his orders in regards to the embassy from the Contegorian Council, examples of embassies across the planet (which especially focused on the those of the successful Vinda-Corp), and generic information about diplomatic relations in general. It was a host of reference work for what seemed to the Metalorn man like a forthcoming series of intense negotiations. A matter which he did not relish, but one that duty bound him to complete. Resolutely, DeMarkesh walked down the shuttle?s ramp to what he expected would be a guard detail. He looked at one of them.

"If you would kindly take me to your superior."

Hallowed Empire: To the Victors






Metalorn


Present Day



The man was led into the Ambassador's office and the Ambassador pushed a button to activate the dampening field as soon as his secretary closed the doors.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" the Ambassador asked pleasantly as the man sat down.

"I understand that there was a Reaver incursion recently," the man asked and the Ambassador flushed at the question. There was, the man noted, a bit of fear in the Ambassador's eyes at the Reaver name being mentioned.

It was warranted for a Reaver incursion was no laughing matter. They had eaten and broken apart the old Borderland territories of the Empire and had shattered just about every government's battlefleet sent against it. The Coalition and Confederation joint taskforce had boasted running the circumference of what was considered Reaver Territory and the Cooperative had stirred something with their liberation of Garos and Maridun but it seemed that with every stir of good news regarding the Reavers is shout out a darker event takes place to eclipse it. Already there was talk of the Coalition Fleet being obliterated by a Reaver attack. While it was an exaggeration, it must have been too close to the truth as the Coalition had been tight-lipped about it. Even Bandomeer was attacked and barely held on but that was owing more to the Reaver's inexplicable behavior than any showing of martial strength.
If last year was the year of Cataclysm then what did that make this year?

Apacalypse? The End of Days?

The man, however, was wrong.

"It was not a Reaver incursion but the fleet was here to try to prevent a vessel from escaping Metalorn."

"Seems to be a lot of fleet presence for an escapee ship. It leads one to wonder about the ship.." the man's sentence drifted off and the Ambassador finished it for him, "..and the crew."

"Do you think it has anything to do with the program?"

The Ambassador did not need to know what the man meant by 'that program' as it seemed to be the talk of the diplomatic circles.

Clones in the Confederation: Fact or Fiction seemed to be a civilian holonet program premised on stating the obvious since just about every galactic government now possessed information on developing clones. It had about the same dramatic flare to those in the know as if the program were proclaiming Mon Calamari had water.

The announcer seemed to present the findings of the Confederation possessing clones as something sinister evidently unaware that the Coalition's own Prime Minister had negotiated with the Empire over the ownership of Kamino, known for their ability to produce quality clones. Civilian programs from all governments were nonsense, though. No, what made this particular program just a little different was the source material of the alleged Confederation clone: Admiral Corise Lucerne. And to talk up this material was the very scientist who had examined the clone. It was a program, in fact, that blurted out so many details that one would think they would want to be held in confidence. The Coalition had gained some sort of leverage and then had pissed that leverage away with the broadcast of the program and the man wanted to know what that meant.

The Ambassador for his part was at a loss as well. Either the Coalition's ability to keep secrets was about as effective as an open door or this leak was intentional. And if that was the case, there was a rift between the two governments that probably started as far back as when the Confederation pulled out of the Coalition.

"It is possible," the Ambassador answered. "The exact nature of the vessel and its crew are unknown but it's exit vector did indicate it's nominal direction was towards Coalition territory."

"The program indicated they had gone to Vahaba and were a part of the battle that ensued with the Reavers and that they are holding other clones, evidently a part of the clone-Corise Lucerne's band or crew. But there is no indication as to the fate of the Corise clone himself. Did he escape? Are they holding him in secret trying to rattle the Confederation?"

"All good questions," the Ambassador replied, "But I have no answers."

The man waved the comments away, "Do not mind me, Ambassador, the questions were rhetorical. I am just feeling my way around but I do think that this opens up an interesting opportunity for us."

"What sort of opportunity?" the Ambassador asked, intrigued.

And so the man told him.




Atlas Hall, Brandenburg, Genon



"The Cooperative will continue to serve its true purpose: to offer itself as a point of unity, collaboration, and mutual understanding between the free nations of the Galaxy. We do not consent to this diplomatic endeavor lightly, and should the Confederation decide to seek out renewed relations with the remaining member states of the Coalition, we will offer our assistance without hesitation."

Coalition and Confederation: Intertwined Destinies



"Well, Chris, it seems your negotiating efforts have proved for naught," a Council member stated after the excerpt from their first meeting of re-opening relations since their pull-out from the Coalition.

Christina Thorn, Pro-Consul of the Confederation mused as her rivals used the recent civilian program to score political points.

She smiled grimly and replied, "Rather than keep the attention of this august body focused on irrelevancies, we need to return to the matter at hand. No matter our current or future relationship with the Coalition, we cannot ignore the fact that we now have a problem and it is a problem of our own making. We need to focus on action before this problem gets worse."

She recalled her previous meeting with the Admiral, tired as he was returning from shoring up border protections against Reaver threats. The attacks were small and hardly noticeable when compared to the scale of Vahaba and Bandomeer but they still cost the Confederation in lives and material. Like the Coalition, the Confederation hated encroachments in the territory and had little patience or sufferance for them. But, she wondered, would they pay the butcher's bill in the same manner as the Cooperative?

Admiral Corise Lucerne had yet to offer an opinion on the subject but that was understandable as the good Admiral was upset considerably by recent events.

"I was told that the project was untenable," he barked out when he showed up or, rather, stormed into her office earlier.

"It was untenable," she confirmed and Corise practically tossed a pad on her desk surprising her. She had rarely seen the man this upset and it was a testament to his iron control that this much evidence of his furious anger was showing.

She picked up the report and saw that it was a typecast record of the recently aired Coalition civilian program on Confederation cloning and, more specifically, the clone of Corise himself.

"So what did you think," she started, gesturing for the man to take a seat. The Admiral remained standing. "That we would just haul off and shoot them? That we would shoot him? Does one bad decision illicit another?"

The anger in her eyes challenged the Admiral and finally she relented, sighing and sitting back. The gesture had its effect as the Admiral finally took the seat facing her.

"The situation was contained and there was oversight. Jensaarai oversight. It turned out not to be enough."

"Christina, How did you think this would end?" Corise whispered.

"I am a politician, Corise. I was biding time. For what? I don't know. For other options to present themselves. For the panacea," she smiled bitterly, "of this problem to reveal itself."

"I am a soldier and, as a soldier, it was foolish and naive to think that you could contain this. Now, when we face constant Reaver attacks, have experienced a Cree'Ar attack and their continued threats, now we must face this as well as the spectre of war with the Coalition?"

"What would be your soldier's opinion, then?"

"Strike, Chris. Strike hard and true and make sure the job is done. Otherwise everything we have worked for will burn."



Her focus was back on the Assembly. This was the public face of the Confederation and, as such, its decisions had to reflect certain expectations.

So, what was the expectation regarding the Coalition?

What did they hope to accomplish by leaking the information in so public a manner? Did they seek to humiliate the Confederation? Was this the opening gambit from Corise’s clone as repayment for their hold on him? Did this even involve the clone?

Drive wedges into their Assembly to perhaps encourage more Pro-Coalition sentiments to reign?

There was something going on in the Coalition. Prime Minister Regrad, if he wanted something or wanted to meet, came himself.

He brought no hidden agenda with him. It was he that helped create the Compact Fleet.

But was it a lie?

Or was there someone else pulling the strings?

The Coalition Ambassador had requested a meeting of the Confederation Assembly but it was after the faux pas of the civilian program. The Assembly could not allow such humiliations to go unchecked. It was disrespectful.

"I make a motion that Ambassador Hakan meet with Ambassador Nova and that Hakan should be charged with conveying our deep displeasure with the Coalition Supreme Authority."

Worded as such, it was not difficult to get seconds, even thirds for that motion.

"I would like Jensaarai Jax to accompany the good Ambassador," A Councilman, Mamet, interjected and the Pro-Consul nodded.

Jax had already been charged with following the Corise-clone's footsteps which evidently led to the battle of Vahaba so perhaps he could find out more about the clone's disposition. It left Adrian available for a more direct approach.

"The meeting should take place at the Coalition Embassy House just outside of Brandenburg."


Enroute to the Coalition Embassy House


"Will she meet with us?" Jax asked, perplexed a little by the situation.

"She asked for a meeting with us so I presume she will, even if it is not the public forum she was expecting. Her request was to meet with the Council Assembly but that leak to the civilian program was bad form, diplomatically speaking."

"Why?" the Jensaarai replied. "The purpose is still served.."

"Because," Ambassador Hakan interrupted as if he was talking to an imbecile, and politically speaking, he probably was, "every government has dirty baggage. It's bad form to air it publicly unless your intent is to stir controversy. We've been fighting the Reavers hand in hand with Prime Minister Regrad's fleet for some months now and suddenly, they are working to embarrass us in some fashion? A friendly leader to leader comm might have sufficed if they were truly worried about something."

"So you are saying there is something more?"

"There may be something. We don't know. Hence the meeting."

"But what if there is something our government did that we don't know about.."

The Ambassador stopped, "I admit our government doesn't tell us everything and that is good in some circumstances. That means their representatives do not give anything away to their counterparts. That being said, other than the unprofessional leak, it is hard to say if there is anything going on at all. Maybe people are just being overly sensitive. I don't believe that but you never know. Again, that is what this meeting is for."

"And me?"

"Well, you're to find out where the clones went, yes?"

"That is true," Jax replied.

"Hence this meeting. We need to gauge what is going on here."

"What if they have the Corise clone and they will not give him up?"

"Then things are going to get interesting.."

"You mean they aren't now?"

"Jensaarai, we live in interesting times,” Ambassador Hakan replied cryptically.

They walked up to the front of the building and presented their credentials to the Coalition guards, "Ambassador Hakan and Jensaarai Jax to meet with Ambassador Grace Nova."
Posts: 791
  • Posted On: Jan 28 2012 3:02am
Blakeley gasped as realization dawned. “Guardian, access astronomic data from the restricted files, set course for True Drackmar and jump, best possible speed.”

“Sir?”

“We have to shut down the Coalition HoloNet relays in this region before that thing starts beaming out updates!”

The Headless Behemoth


True Drackmar, Inner Solar System

It was like flying into the jaws of some cosmic beast. The Imperial Fleet of Drackmar the August Lord was arrayed about its ancestral home in an awesome display of its empire's continued might.

And Blakeley had just kicked it in the teeth. Guardian had taken the liberty of compiling and displaying a list of the Drackmarian, Cooperative, and Coalition laws and military procedures which Blakeley had violated by directing his vessel to this destination unannounced, but none of that mattered anymore.

He had to stop Guardian Prime, whatever the cost.

“Guardian, open a―”

“We are being hailed,” the ship's Guardian reported.

Blakeley braced himself for what was coming. “Open the channel.”

The face which greeted him was a familiar one, though it took him a moment to recognize her without her respirator. “General Mologg, is it now? I realize the intrus―”

“How may the Drackmarian Empire assist you, Supreme Commander?”

Her cordial tone took him completely off-guard. The Drackmarian Empire had refused any communication with the Cooperative since severing ties with that organization, and Blakeley was more than a little worried that they might go and deem the unauthorized intrusion of a Cooperative warship into their space an act of war. “I'm sorry, what?”

“Are you here to make an inspection of the fleet?” She ventured. “I was given to understand that no official tally of active military forces was due until the latter stages of the admission process.”

“Admission process? What? Oh, no: Coalition High Command will deal with any military issues arising from your petition to join the Coalition. This is―”

“I'm sure that the Supreme Commander is of sufficient stature to authenticate our military strength,” Mologg replied, a little confused.

Blakeley shook his head slowly, trying to figure out what nonsense the Drackmarian was referring to. “I'm sorry, General, but there seems to be some kind of misunderstanding. As Supreme Commander of the Cooperative military, my obligations are to the Cooperative Council of Defense. If Coalition High Command wants me running their errands, then they'll have to go through proper channels with―

“The Cooperative? What? No, Sir: Supreme Commander of Coalition Forces.”

Blakeley's voice stuck in his throat. “What? What the hell are you talking about?”

“You haven't heard?” Mologg asked dubiously.

“Heard what? I've been in transit for the better part of a week!”



* * *




Undisclosed Location

Timothy knew the door would open before he heard the swish of pneumatic systems, just as he knew who would be waiting to greet him before he turned to face the man.

He could not, however, have anticipated what the man would be holding in his hands.

“Congratulations,” the other man began, tossing the new rank insignia across the room, “Captain.”

Timothy plucked it out of the air, studying the little piece of metal carefully.

“Oh, it's real,” the other man offered. “We can't afford to register it on any official report or anything like that, but it counts.

Timothy began to remove his lieutenant's insignia and replace it with the new one. “Uhh, thank you, Sir?”

The man frowned at the comment. “Oh, this is quite strategic on our part: we need you believable when you meet the rest of the team. Are you ready?”

Timothy pondered the rather open question for a moment before finally nodding in the affirmative. “I think I can manage.”

“Show me,” the man demanded coldly.

“Uhh, General, the Force isn't some kind of toy to be played with―”

“You're not a Jedi, boy!” the general barked. “It is a weapon, you are a sworn member of the Cooperative military, and I am a superior officer issuing you a direct order: show me you can use it.”

Timothy took up a rigid stance, his eyes narrowing to slits as he reached out with one open hand. His wrist twisted to turn his hand palm up, and his eyelids fluttered as his jaw tightened ever so slightly.

Brigadier General Lee Prine rose half a meter off of the ground, his legs dangling uselessly as his hands reflexively searched for something solid to steady himself by. “Alright, put me down. Gently!” he added in a panic as he felt himself begin to descend.

Timothy lowered his commander to the ground in a slow, fluid motion, then let his arm drop to his side and eyes open fully again. “Do you need to see a card trick now, Sir, or can we commence with the proper subterfuge?”

The general chuckled lightly, eying his own polished boots, clearly glad that he was back on solid ground. “If you weren't so damned vital to this whole thing, I swear I'd throw you in a hole and never let you see the light of day again, the way you talk to me.”

General Prine turned on his heels and marched out of the room. Timothy followed closely behind. “How do I know you haven't given the exact same line to the rest of the team?” he ventured, doing his best to get a sense of the general's disposition.

“You've read all their files; which of them could I trust half as much as you?”

Timothy couldn't be sure anymore if he was testing the general, or the general was testing him, but he had to keep prodding. He had to be sure he had a full grasp of the situation. “The fighter pilot, Lieutenant Cath. I'd think she'd do nicely for this.”

The general disagreed that immediately, shaking his head. “Trust her to be loyal? Sure. Trust her to be useful? Not so much. She's an excellent pilot and a competent enough squadron leader, but she's got no formal Force training, minimal groundside combat skill, and no ground combat experience. I don't just need this group under control: I need them to succeed. I can trust you to see both of those conditions met.”

Timothy couldn't bring himself to respond with anything more definite than, “I'll do my best, Sir.”

“Of course you will,” the general said, stopping in front of a blast door and keying in his access code. “The fate of the whole damn galaxy's riding on your shoulders.” The metallic clanks of the door's locks sliding out of place accented the moment, and General Prine turned to regard the young man again. “So: are you finally ready to meet the team?”



* * *




Coalition Flagship Coalition, Reaver Border

“Please, Admiral. Please don't make me do this.”

Admiral Jonathan Blakeley, Supreme Commander of Coalition Forces, diverted his eyes. He couldn't bear to meet the anguish and fear―diluted though it was by the holographic image before him―of the Mon Calamari vice admiral and acting commander of the Cooperative military.

The truth, the unblemished truth that he could barely admit to himself and had no hope of ever sharing with another, was that he knew exactly how Vice Admiral Gorn felt.

Having to come face-to-face with it in another living being, a comrade in arms . . . it was almost too much for Blakeley himself to bear. Almost.

Because now, he could do something about it. So he forced himself to meet the anguished glare of that Mon Calamari vice admiral, forced himself to read the history written on that war-weary face. This was a good man, a decent man. A leader; dedicated, loyal, competent. In service to the Cooperative, he had faced horrors the likes of which the galaxy had never before seen: the Reaver horde.

And he had survived. Vice Admiral Gorn of the Cooperative Navy, former captain of the Eastern Coalition MC 90 Cruiser Heroic Defender . . . by rights he should never have found himself in this position. He had proven himself in small fleet engagements, and his quick thinking at the evacuation of Maridun in the opening days of the Reaver Crisis had saved countless lives and billions of credits in Cooperative resources.

It was not a question of loyalty or competence. Gorn had given all that he was to the Cooperative cause; to demand any more would destroy him utterly.

Blakeley had made peace with his maker. He was prepared to die in service to the Coalition, not on the field of battle as every warrior knows he may; but trapped, here, in this position, surrounded and consumed by a responsibility too great for him to bear, worn down in the months and years to come by these tidal forces that he had no business commanding.

He could not doom Gorn to that same fate.

“Just . . . hold the fort for another few days, Vice Admiral. My successor will be arriving shortly.” His words rang weak and shallow in his own ears, but the relief that washed over Gorn told Blakeley that the Vice Admiral, at least, hadn't noticed.

“Thank you, Sir.” The Mon Calamari saluted, and the comm line closed.

And once again, for seemingly the thousandth time, Admiral Jonathan Blakeley felt all alone in a foreign land.

It was nonsense, of course. This was the flagship of the Galactic Coalition Navy, the most powerful warship in the fleet, crewed by the galaxy's best and brightest. It was a testament to all of the best that the Coalition could be, a shining beacon of its potential, a powerful extension of its unbending will. But to Jonathan Blakeley it was cold, monstrous, and alien.

He had spent the better part of his adult life on the Venator Star Destroyer Redemption, first as her XO, and then as captain, then commander of the Halmad Royal Defense Force, and finally as an admiral in the Cooperative Navy. He could still remember his initial reaction to the ship, how truly gargantuan such a vessel had seemed, newly acquired from Imperial Navy surplus.

But she had become his home over these past decades; her crew, his pride and joy. Even after Halmad joined the Cooperative and Redemption was appointed flagship of the Cooperative Fleet, most of her original crew from Halmad, hand-picked by Blakeley over the better part of a decade, had remained stationed on board.

But now he had to give all of that up, and he found himself surrounded by these . . . aliens. And it wasn't like he was a racist, or anything; he just knew his crew, his own crew, his own people. He knew he could depend on them, had seen with his own eyes how they handled the pressure of combat, the delicate first moments of contact with an unknown quantity, the increasingly brief respites between one battle and the next. They were his people, his crew.

My former crew. Some of the Azguards on board had been recalled home since Prime Minister Regrad's suspension, but transferring his own people to Coalition would just see them . . . swallowed up by the bustle of so massive a ship. Honestly, the Coalition was so huge that Blakeley didn't know what to do with it, except park it in orbit of some planet and treat it like a mobile space station.

Nothing about this was right. Nothing about this was familiar. And the fate of the Coalition, maybe the galaxy now fell on his aging and weary shoulders.

He'd done his best, over the past several days, in this unfamiliar place, to fill the role entrusted to him. The Drackmarians, for their part, had seemed willing enough to play along, their culture's sense of martial duty translating to their newly expressed desire to join the Coalition proper. But the Drackmarian Navy was overtaxed with its own ongoing regional war, and Blakeley's sudden need for a reliable watchdog task force to ensure the quarantine of the Global Machine's uncooperative Guardian had forced him to call on the fleet of the Western Province, in a single moment smashing that Province's unspoken policy of personal isolationism from the remainder of the Coalition's regional military engagements.

But the mounting concerns of the Guardian program as a whole were far from the only pressing matters to which the new Supreme Commander's had to attend.

A beeping alarm jarred Blakeley from his reverie, and he focused immediately on the display directly in front of him. His eyes traced out the symbols in front of them . . . what was he supposed to remember?

“Sir?” the ship's captain said after a moment of silence, “you wanted me to remind you: look outside.”

Look outside? What the devil―

And then he saw it, hanging there in space, silent, ominous, unguided.

The Compact Fleet.

There was no formal hierarchy, no treaty of alliance compelling their service. The sheer presence and will of Prime Minister Regrad alone had held this force together, imparted it with a singular drive and objective. So what now? Blakeley didn't dare try to assert personal authority over the whole of the fleet, but who was there to fill Regrad's role? Who else could convince these disparate forces to continue to work together, to fight the Reavers as a united front?

But he already knew the answer, and what he was about to do next would probably get him terminated by Viren Quell and spur another wave of witch hunting by the Ministry of Ethics. But the Compact Fleet had to hold together, so whatever the cost, Blakeley was going to get the one man who could command such a force through any storm and hold it together.

“Comms, patch me through to Azguard; I have to speak with Regrad.”

There was an uncomfortable delay, in excess of what Blakeley would have expected even for such a long-range and sensitive connection.

“Comms?” This wasn't the sort of lapse that the admiral expected from the Coalition's best and brightest.

“Sorry, Admiral, but we're receiving a standby message.”

Blakeley felt his lip twisting in a snarl at the report. “And what, pray tell, is of higher priority to High Command than a direct line from the Supreme Commander of the Whole-Damn-Military? By the Force, is no one taking me seriously!?”

“I'm sorry, Sir; I didn't make myself clear. It's not from High Command. The whole planet's gone quiet.”

The notification did little to relieve Blakeley's frustration, but his sense of duty forced him to consider the situation objectively. He had the comm officer spend the next half hour poking at Coalition comm relays and hyperwave transceivers, checking points of contact all the way across the galaxy to make sure the HoloNet was actually still there, but in the end, the answer seemed clear: Azguard was choosing not to respond.

And then it did.

“Admiral, we're registering a comm burst across the entire Coalition HoloNet. Origin: Azguard. Transmission authorization code―” the officer paused, looking to Blakeley, maybe wanting to see his commander's reaction “―Prime Minister Regrad. I'm guessing the Ministry of Ethics hasn't deactivated his authorization yet?”

“What is it?” Blakeley demanded, trying to keep his tone even.

“Flat image, Sir. Looks like . . . a letter, maybe.”

“Well, let's see it then.”

The text materialized on the bridge's main viewscreen, and Blakeley pulled it up at his access terminal for ease of reading:

For too long, the Azguard people have withheld themselves from the civilizations of this galaxy, from the needs of our allies, from the very struggle which our ancient prophecies tell us we must play a role. We have hidden behind a veil of isolationism, erecting a barrier against all who would seek to approach our home. We have trusted absolutely in the power and wisdom of our gods to protect and guide us into this new and wondrous galactic civilization, of which we have only so recently become aware. We have denied our personal responsibility in favor of collective destiny.

But we can no longer afford to hide in shadow. Our Light cannot be both withheld and preserved; it must be shone. And so we step out of darkness and into the light of day.

As this message is transmitted, Azguardian ambassadors are being dispatched to every Coalition world, to establish embassies and see our will made manifest.

For the Gods of Azguard have spoken, and we their servants now see their will known, not as mindless slaves of ancient tradition, but as free souls who choose of our own will to walk out this path to its very end. It is from the Force that we are granted life, and to the Force that we return upon our death. It is the Light that we serve, and the Light that we defend. Its fate is our fate, and its will is our will. So it has been since the beginning, and so we will see it be unto the end.

And so we, the people of Azguard, willing servants of our Gods and of the Force which raised them up, do declare to all the allied powers of the Coalition, and all the nations and orders of this galaxy, and every principality and Dominion beyond, that the Gods of Azguard do extend shelter and guidance to all the servants of the Force. All Azguardian embassies and representatives are now commanded to convey those who seek us out into the Azguardian realm and the protecting arms of our Gods.

The Force is with you. Follow, and it will lead you to salvation.


In bold, fluid script, just below the letter's end, was signed “Regrad, High Lord of Azguard”. What followed were a long and tedious list of other Azguardian names and titles.

“Admiral,” the comm officer shouted in surprise, “I've got another message incoming. A holo-transmission, Regrad's Prime Ministerial authorization code. It's being routed through High Command channels, marked for the Supreme Commander only.”

Blakeley was stunned, rendered literally immobile by what he had just read. The report of another message barely even registered in his mind. Was this it? Was this the shape of the Coalition's end? The Azguard and their holy war to sweep the galaxy into oblivion?

“Show it to me.” He couldn't let them know how desperately he was holding on. He couldn't let them know how certain he was of his own inevitable failure.

“You should probably take this in your quarters, Admiral,” the captain suggested.

“I don't think so,” he said weakly. Then stronger, so the rest of the bridge crew would hear, “We should all face this together.”

The holoimage of Regrad appeared larger-than-life in the center of the bridge, facing the Admiral but not really looking at him. His voice was earnest, but calm. It carried with it a certainty that Jonathan had scarcely before encountered. “The betrayal of General Issk has sealed my world's fate. The presence of our gods assures it, and we cannot forsake our gods. The Cree'Ar will come for them; it is inevitable. Our adherence to their will, our use of the Force-based Shield of Faith which they have shared with us; they have marked us all as enemies of the Dominion.

“The least we can do, before that fateful day comes, is see to safety as many of the faithful servants of the Force that we can. There is a prophecy among my people, a legend, a warning of a coming Darkness, when the fate of the Force itself will be decided, and by which all life in this galaxy will either perish, or flourish. Whether these Cree'Ar are the harbingers of that Darkness or not, their Declaration is nonetheless an affront to everything that we are.

“Azguard will be the gatekeeper, the bulwark against this oncoming storm . . . not for the Coalition, not even for the galaxy, but for the Force itself. And that leaves you, Admiral Blakeley, to do what I no longer can.

“I know your Cooperative is hurting. I know that it is facing threats of its own, but its fate is now tied to the whole of the Coalition. Let the Azguards carry this great burden for you, and shield the Cooperative from the Cree'Ar's wrath. I implore you to stop the Cooperative's displays of solidarity with Force users, and turn its attention to the well-being of the Coalition as a whole.

“I no longer have the right to ask it, but I must do so nonetheless: save the Coalition. Do not fear what others will say of your decisions in these coming months, only have hope for what will be saved by your actions.

“The Force is with you, Admiral Blakeley. Just don't let the Cree'Ar know about it.” The image of Regrad allowed itself a slight smile with its last comment, and then vanished as the message ended.

Silence reigned on the bridge of the Coalition's mightiest warship. All of the crew had stopped their work, their attention turned to the Admiral after Regrad's image disappeared.

Blakeley remained staring at that point in space where Regrad's face had been. It was too much to process, too much to go through in any reasonable manner. He knew, vaguely, that this changed everything, that the implications would shake the foundation of the Coalition. He was aware of this, peripherally.

But the here-and-now demanded something else of him. This was his crew. This was his command.

This was his destiny.

And it moved him to action. “Communications, get me a secure line to General Ferguson; I need access to the CIB database. Captain, organize a meeting between the leaders of the Compact Fleet's constituent forces. And I'll need a courier ship dispatched to Varn with a sealed message from me, to be composed presently.” With that, Blakeley turned and made for the access to his adjoining quarters. “Carry on men, fate of the galaxy and all that.”
Posts: 791
  • Posted On: Jan 28 2012 3:03am
Cooperative Embassy, Brandenburg, Genon

"Ambassador Hakan and Jensaarai Jax to meet with Ambassador Grace Nova."

One of the guards spoke into a wrist comm, and after a brief moment the elaborate wrought iron gates that lead to the Embassy grounds opened, and the guard led the Confederation pair onward, into the building, past the security checkpoint, and into the office of Ambassador Grace Nova herself.

While the two men were not very familiar with the good Ambassador, there was no mistaking that the woman wielded the perceptions and power that represented the Greater Coalition.

Ambassador Nova gestured for the two men to be seated, and then took her own seat. There was a nervousness in the air, to which Ambassador Hakan alone seemed immune.

After a round of silent staring, Ambassador Hakan clears his throat. "I must apologize if our visit seems abrupt. I understand that you wished to address the General Assembly but with the climate being rather charged, it was felt prudent that we meet one on one.." he turned to his companion, "well, two on one. If you are uncomfortable with the Jensaarai being here, he can wait outside. However, his purpose may have a bearing on our discussion which you might find illuminating."

As far as she knew, Grace had never met a proper Force user before. She wasn't sure of how much credit to give the stories of mind reading and manipulation, but she had more pressing matters than to ponder the meaning of life. “Oh, that won't be necessary,” she assured.

Uncomfortable with the prospect of another round of nervous staring, Grace thought it best to jump right into the discussion. "Gentlemen, our primary concern, at present, is that the apparent treatment of clones as property by the Confederation government violates Coalition laws of sapient rights. We fear that opposition from the Cooperative's general populace may jeopardize the future of relations between our two governments."

Jax turned a questioning glance at Hakan but the Ambassador put up a hand. He frowned at the statement, "How long until the Cooperative's general populace initiates the coup that seizes your government? Are we in danger of being attacked? Will you also be attacking the Empire, shortly? It seems you are telling me that the Coalition considers all galactic governments subject to their rules and laws? Is this understanding correct?"

Grace felt her face growing hot under Ambassador Hakan's glare, just now realizing how delicate the next few minutes would prove to be. "Ambassador, whatever reports you're getting on the state of the Cooperative, I can assure you that there is no . . ." she struggled for a moment to find the right phrase ". . . imminent coup." Immediately she knew she'd picked the wrong one. "I don't know how you treat civil unrest in the Confederation, but freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are guaranteed rights of all Cooperative citizens, and our people exercise their rights. Their will informs our policy, and my purpose here is to inform you that this issue of clones is not a small thing that we can walk away from and just hope it disappears. I'm not making threats, and I'm not here to issue some ultimatum, but at the very least, public outrage translates to political concern."

"Madam Ambassador," Hakan replied evenly, "You have been watching me since we entered your building. I have not received any reports and especially no reports as to the state of your Cooperative. All I know is what I have heard and you stated that unrest in your general population will dictate your public policy. And now that I think about it, your public seems to be clamoring for war with the Cree'Ar invaders. Putting aside that for now, however, it seems to me that the pressure you are putting before us is circular. You state that public outrage would translate into political concern. I grant you that. But public outrage is fueled by your media. If your government would stop feeding such a fire to your own media, perhaps your public would stop being worked into the frenzy that seems to shape your political will."

This was not the atmosphere in which Grace had hoped to prove herself, and each passing second made her objective feel only so much farther away. "The incident regarding one Doctor Lonestar was regrettable," she admitted, "but the Cooperative has had precious little experience in this field, and the hours and days after the Battle of Vahaba were an 'all hands on deck' situation. But surely you can appreciate our concerns? A vessel, equipped with technologies unknown to us and flying the colors of the Confederation Navy, engaged in open conflict with the Reavers within Cooperative space, utilizing the good standing relationship between our two governments to take operational control of that system in the midst of battle. And then," here, her voice took on a sharper tone, "in the closing hours of a weeks long battle, we learn that the man commanding the ship, and the ship itself, are not sworn defenders of the Confederation, but, indeed, outlaws, fleeing from your government. What are we to think?" Her frustration was becoming increasingly apparent, and she did her best to keep her tone cordial. "What are we to do, when our allies, with the faces of our allies, might just be some random, runaway, science experiment, wielding experimental and never-before-seen technologies?"

Ambassador Hakan's hand closed into a fist and before Jax could stop him, that very same fist slammed down on the Coalition/Cooperative Ambassador's desk. "Yes, let's talk about your concerns! Where 'a vessel, equipped with technologies unknown to us and flying the colors of the Confederation Navy, engaged in open conflict with the Reavers within Cooperative space, utilizing the good standing relationship between our two governments to take operational control of that system in the midst of battle. And then,'" the Ambassador paused and Jax marveled at his recall, "you learn that the man commanding the ship, and the ship itself, are not the sworn defenders of the Confederation but are outlaws! Outlaws from our government and what do you do? You give these outlaws access to your media, allow them to sway your fickle public which threatens our political alliance? Our political alliance?!! One wonders if we'd be at war if our pedophiles escape to find refuge among your citizenry!" At that, Hakan stood up and left.

Jax, after a moment of stunned surprise, leaned forward and asked calmly, “Ambassador, can you tell me where Corise Lucerne, the clone, is being held?”

Grace didn't know which shocked her more: the ambassador's sudden display of outrage, or the Jensaarai's own apparent surprise. "Umm," she made a show of looking through her things, taking a moment to compose herself. Finally, she picked up a wafer-thin datapad, scrolling through its contents as if she didn't already know the answer to his question. What was she supposed to do now? Finally, she set the datapad down, folding her hands on her desk and doing her best to seem resolute in her position. "Mr. Jax, the individuals rescued from the Confederation-marked starship Estralla have been granted political protection by the government of the Cooperative. As such, I am not at liberty to reveal any specific information about any of them. But, if there is anything we need to know, anything you need to tell us . . ." She didn't know if he could sense her desperation, or if he would interpret it correctly. "Mr. Jax, our only source of information regarding this incident are the testimonies of those very individuals. If you have reason to believe them unreliable, now would be the time to tell us."
Posts: 4178
  • Posted On: Feb 27 2012 1:33am
Metalorn

General Mir’Taggert looked less than pleased as he walked onto the Command Deck of Awep Station. One of the Confederation’s greatest industrial worlds served as home to quite a slew of government programs, housing the minds that would take the Confederation into the next century. While Kashan served as the initial drive towards military excellence, it took the combined efforts of the growing Confederation to merge that excellence with some of the brightest minds and technology found in the galaxy. Or so their national pride shouted.

Still, all their wonders needed oversight and so it was the good, old fashioned Kashan discipline that watched over the Confederation wonders like a father his daughter of marriageable age.

There were times, though, when that excellence was tested.

The Reaver scourge had pushed their research programs to their limits which, truth be told, had decreased of late due to monetary cutbacks. The government had spent the past year fighting a famine that forced their hand in terms of resource allocation. And, while they were holding their own on the civilian side, it would be a while before the luxury programs of advanced weaponry would receive the full support it was due. As a result, a lot of projects were put on hold or were simply being maintained rather than continued until that inevitable (hopefully) date of re-startup commenced. And “hold” oftentimes meant… incomplete.

SD-0 was such weapon.

SD-1 was another though it had been stolen. Brazenly. The Commander of Awep Station had been replaced by Mir’Taggert and the military’s presence had tripled. Awep or, A-WEP was Metalorn’s Advanced Weapons Station. This did not mean that the various programs, civilian and military, were housed in this one location but that the Station was the “bridge” of this factory world in the sense that it managed all the programs and saw fit to ensure either their continued active support or passive maintenance until resources were allocated. The station was secured by two orbital elevators that, while anchored to the surface of Metalorn, also connected to a dedicated transit system inaccessible to normal civilian and even military channels allowing massive movement of materials globally from orbit to planet. Awep Station was a city in its own right spanning the world hidden in plain sight.

It was no secret that the Confederation was known in some circles as “mine-happy”. It followed their military’s operating principle of defending more with less. The Confederation military was by no means the largest but, within the Confederation sphere, it was very strong for their fleet was well made. In terms of advanced manufacturing techniques, one Confederation ship was equal to two or more enemy vessels for what the Confederation lacked in mass, they more than made up for in quality. What they also found out (to their detriment) however, was that age old manufacturing axiom: quality did not come cheap. The Confederation fleet, while small but able was also one of the most expensive fleets in existence. Quality warships required regular maintenance or their "quality edge" would begin to dull. Mines, though, had the distinction of being cheap in manufacture and powerful in use. And so, the defense strategy of the Kashan relied heavily on mines while their quality yet expensive fleet took shape. It was an answer that, at first, answered both the military need for protection and the political need to keep that protection cheap allowing resources to be committed to their shifting reliance of automatons.

But the old guard of the Kashan military were wary of the decision knowing that sometimes the easy way was not always necessarily the best way. Yet what could they say as the mine implementation program seemed to be successful year after year?

Until the general weakness of the mine program became evident. Mines, by design, are not long-term weapons but short-term. After a few years, it was realized that mines required maintenance also. Recognition software and computer board upgrades as well as general wear and tear for nothing designed in room temperature is meant to withstand extreme environment indefinitely. Everything wears.

And so, with billions of mines floating around Confederation space, the cost figures to check, repair, upgrade or maintain these mines became astronomical. While there were accidents and some deaths, it was not enough to put the issue on the political plate while Cree’Ar, Reavers and famine took the headlines. It was kind of hard to generate sympathy for mines needing a new part when children were going to bed hungry.

There were also the inherent issues with the mines. They did no good if you put them in areas where there was no traffic. They did no good if they did not cover a hyperlane, for example. But, putting the mines in an area of traffic left your own traffic exposed to danger unless there were ways for the mine to distinguish between friend and foe. Thus the mines could not be of the simple proximity see-and-blast sort but would require some sophistication. This would obviously necessitate merchants to keep their ships in good repair and, more importantly, registered with Confederation authorities or they would not get the updated codes to circumvent those mines that covered the Confederation trading routes. Sometimes smugglers would run the gambit. Some made it while others did not but, typically, if a merchant found it too difficult to traverse the Confederation, they found other places to sell their wares or relied on government subsidies to ensure they met all the Confederation regs. Those subsidies, however, were becoming scarce with monies being diverted to stave off the famine crisis during the year of Cataclysm. In any event, these issues with the mines stacked up on one another.

Just like now, thought Mir’Taggert.

The SD-5 was being tugged out of the construction berth to make room for the berth itself to receive necessary upgrades and part changes. Everyone always focused on the actual ships being the best and the baddest but the machines that put the best ships together needed to be the best themselves. The berths and hangers were modular which allowed their interior to be reshaped to fit whatever vessel design was being researched without the overall structure requiring remodeling. It was the same berth that had, not too long ago, held the SD-1.

Was the berth unlucky? One never knew the temperament of the great space gods but some sailors were superstitious.

The mines that were protecting the incoming approaches had been attracted and had caused considerable damage to the tugs as well as to the incomplete experimental vessel. Thankfully no lives had been lost but the emergency had called for a shutdown to the approaches to Awep station.

Not that they got many approaches to the station from space as military traffic, civilian traffic and Awep traffic routes were kept separate and most approaches to the station and its facilities were planet-side or by using the orbital elevators.

“It wasn’t a malfunction with the mines,” a voice intruded into Mir’Taggert’s thoughts.

The General turned and was surprised to see a CIS uniform on the woman who just entered.

“Was it an error with the tug pilots?” growled Mir’Taggert. He would have their hides if they damaged SD-5 through their incompetence.

The CIS woman, however, shook her head and the General paused as confusion set in. If it wasn’t an equipment malfunction and it wasn’t pilot error, what the devil was it?

“The mines functioned as they were supposed too and the pilots stayed within their flight plan. What seems to have happened is that the mines were triggered by proximity alert but received the abort code and so did not explode. What they did not receive from Awep was the shut-down signal.”

“But there hasn’t been any incoming shipping for.... oh…” he stopped.

A week ago there was the anomaly. A very faint signal of something registering as ships on Awep’s far scanning but they had disappeared before any visual confirmation could have taken place. Far system patrols were changing course to intercept but before they could even get close to the position to register on sensors in any meaningful manner, the signal was gone. The patrols returned to their former course while Awep Station decided it was a sensor glitch and scheduled a maintenance call.

But now?

Mir’Taggert realized that it was not a sensor glitch. Something had been there and had left before they could be identified. The mines had been activated by proximity but had been sent into stand-by because that something knew their codes. Typically, an incoming friendly would have transmitted the code sending the mines into standby and the Station would then send out the power-down code to put the mine “back to sleep”. Conceivably, an enemy might be able to get the codes to ensure their passage through the mine field but the code did not shut down the mines, just put their explosive response into stand-by. Those proximity mines that were activated would invariably move to block the path. Without the “sleep” code from the station, that very same enemy (assuming they plotted their escape along the route they entered) that had passed the mines would run into them again and the code would not work a second time. Those mines on stand-by would explode the moment the enemy’s proximity was detected. It was a sort of “you may be able to pass but if you blew up the station you would pay for it in blood on your way out” strategy. Make something too costly and an enemy tended to shy away. Nobody liked to pay.

Those mines had been in active stand-by mode this entire time and, without the station sending the sleep codes since they did not realize the mines were triggered in the first place, the mines would have exploded upon sensing the tugs. A week floating along the incoming flight path would have put some drifters along the tug’s vector which is what evidently had happened.

But the question remained?

Who came close enough to activated the proximity mines and put them on standby and yet remain far enough out of sensor reach of the patrols and Awep Station?

The implication, since the mines were on standby, was that either the interlopers were friendlies or that they had current codes.

Disturbing implications indeed.


*

Grace didn't know which shocked her more: the ambassador's sudden display of outrage, or the Jensaarai's own apparent surprise. "Umm," she made a show of looking through her things, taking a moment to compose herself. Finally, she picked up a wafer-thin datapad, scrolling through its contents as if she didn't already know the answer to his question. What was she supposed to do now? Finally, she set the datapad down, folding her hands on her desk and doing her best to seem resolute in her position. "Mr. Jax, the individuals rescued from the Confederation-marked starship Estralla have been granted political protection by the government of the Cooperative. As such, I am not at liberty to reveal any specific information about any of them. But, if there is anything we need to know, anything you need to tell us . . ." She didn't know if he could sense her desperation, or if he would interpret it correctly. "Mr. Jax, our only source of information regarding this incident are the testimonies of those very individuals. If you have reason to believe them unreliable, now would be the time to tell us."

The Jensaarai looked uncomfortable at the question because he was not the negotiator but merely an observer. He turned to see if Hakan would be returning but there was no sight of the volatile ambassador. One might think the Ambassador too emotional to be effective as an Ambassador but Jax felt it was not Hakan’s emotionalism but his subtlety that seemed to pass over the head of the Coalition…no.. the Cooperative government. And therein seemed to underlay the problem of communication.

“Ambassador Nova, the time to ask that question would have been when you first took possession of these outlaws. Not after your Cooperative government decided to give them political protection. Not after your government leaked biased information to your media thus inflaming your populace and publicly embarrassing the Confederation. It does not matter what we tell you, you have already gone ahead and given protection to our convicted and thrown your political weight behind it. You cannot go back on that decision easily no matter what we say because you’ve already publicly endorsed your position and decided to cast the Confederation as some sort of evil and oppressive regime.

Naturally, we must ask ourselves, “why?”

What did the Confederation ever do to you to provoke this?

Some in our government are saying you are using the publicity to shift market holdings on investments. Perception is value, after all, for such markets and so, if this publicity starts your public from, say, purchasing our goods, our own companies begin to suffer while yours profit. Such actions cause our own companies to pressure the Confederation government to take similar hardline positions to raise tariffs on Coaltion or Cooperative goods to boost our own loss of business.

There are ripple effects for everything that happens. You of all people should realize that.

Do you understand that our government is extremely angry at the unprecedented attack on us and our sovereignty? I believe Ambassador Hakan has quite aptly shown you his anger hoping to prompt an apology from your government. However, it seems your intent here is not to apologize for your attacks but to continue to embarrass us further.”

Jax smiled, “And it seems that an apology now, would be inappropriate since I have informed you of what should have happened. If you were to give Hakan your government’s apology it would be because I solicited it from you. It would further be an indicator that your government, whether it be Cooperative or Coalition, does not seem to care about maintaining a relationship with us.”

He stood up.

“This has been a very short meeting. Perhaps, we can schedule another for this afternoon after I have found my friend and cooled him off. In the meantime, let me be very clear about something; and this is fact:

The vessel in question had no Confederation registry nor Confederation markings. It was colored red and the only organizations that we know who color their vessels as such are Booster Terrick’s crew and the Inferno Fleet. The fact that you correctly identified it as not only a Confederation ship but a Confederation experimental ship gives us pause for thought.

Leaving aside the fate of the clone Corise Lucern and his crew, my government may wonder if this is an attempt to steal Confederation hardware. Believe me when I say, my government will want their ship back.”



**


The Past



"It feels like..."


Her voice trailed off as her mind failed to find the right words.


What was it like?


It was like going to sleep and everything being normal. Everything being exactly as you remember them being only to wake up and ...


..and discover there is something different.


It was like going to sleep with two arms and waking up with three. The shock to your mind where you intellectually know you used to have two arms but your body telling you that you have three. That you have always had three.


Memories being revised to reinsert yourself into a past where your body claims to have had three arms. But, mentally, you remember only having two despite what the claims of the flesh.


The third arm flip-flopping all over the place as you try to discover that you've forgotten how to use it. No!


You never had it!


How do you use it?


Suddenly realizing that you can use it.


"It feels.... weird," she concluded.


"Not exactly the bright shining endorsement I was expecting from you Pro-Consul," the doctor replied dryly as he checked some readings.


The woman grinned but still refused to rise from her bed, her eyes moving back and forth as if the mere motion would give her mind the ability to come to terms with the fact that she did indeed have a third arm.


"People volunteer for this?" she asked trying to shake the growing cloud in her mind.


"You did," the doctor quipped back, clearly satisfied at what he saw from the diagnostic equipment.


"What was I thinking?" she groaned, wanting to fall back asleep.


"How do you feel?"


"I feel like I've been asleep for a hundred years but for all the clouds in my mind, I feel ready to run a marathon."


"The mental haze should wear off. It seems that is normal for this type of procedure. However, I do not recommend getting up to run a marathon until your head has cleared."


The doctor signed off on his final observations and, before leaving, mentioned, "There is someone who would like to see you if you feel up for it."


"I don't mind. I need to clear my head anyway.."


"I'll send him in."


As the doctor left, the woman had a sense of unease wondering if the visitor would notice the difference in her. It was an entirely self-conscious thought for she presumed that because she could sense the difference, others could and would as well.


A shadow out of the corner of her eye and she turned to see a man in the doorway and all fear fled.


"Corise.." she whispered, a genuine smile coming to her lips.
Posts: 791
  • Posted On: Apr 17 2012 2:40am
“I do actually sleep with a gun under my pillow,” Timothy said into the darkness of his own quarters, sitting up in his bed and pointing the small blaster deliberately into the unlit void. “Speak up.”

“You can't . . . sense me by now, Captain?”

Timothy relaxed when he recognized the voice, dropping one hand to turn on the lamp at his bedside. “I wasn't sure who it was, but you shouldn't be here. Some of the others have a lot more training and a lot more skill than me.”

The general pointed unspecifically at the walls and ceiling. “Biometric scanners in all of the rooms. They're all asleep.”

“Intense emotional reaction, like the alarm a young man feels when he realizes something is moving within the darkness of his quarters, could easily awaken some of the more advanced members.”

The general frowned, then checked a small device strapped on his wrist. “Fortunately for us, that didn't happen this time. Besides, do you really think I would risk coming here without a perfectly reasonable cover prepared, should we be discovered?”

“Just tell me what you want,” Timothy demanded, pulling back his covers and getting out of bed, leaving the blaster behind.

“Mind your tone with me, young man. Or have you already forgotten why you're here?”

“Just tell me what you want,” he said again, but this time more subdued, subservient.

“I'm here to get your initial report on the team. In particular I want to hear about any potential risks.”

“I thought I was going to be filing written reports,” Timothy said, walking to a nearby desk and fetching a datapad.

“I like to hear a man's voice when I ask him a question. I might not have all your hocus-pocus super powers, but I still know how the truth sounds.”

“I haven't proven myself to you enough yet, General?” Timothy kept his eyes focused on his datapad, typing commands to pull up a specific file.

“This is important, Captain. These first days and weeks will irrevocably shape the future of the program. I need to know where every member of our founding team stands. What's more: I need to hear how you feel about them, not just what you can condense down into a report.”

Timothy sighed heavily, giving up on the datapad and setting it down. He turned the desk's chair around and took a seat, looking up at the general again. “Colonel Davaan hasn't taken to his new rank very well. I don't think it's a commitment issue, he's just spent so long being a ghost that it's gonna take him some time to remember how to be a soldier. He's got that commanding presence, though, and everyone seems to be reacting well to it. His training . . . skill . . . whatever: it's not like anything I've ever seen before. Most of the active abilities we've chosen for the general curriculum he's had no experience with; he'll have to learn them right alongside those who haven't received any prior training. But there's a . . . harmony about him, you can feel it―I can feel it, and I don't really do the 'feeling' thing.

“He wants this, he really does. And his history, his past, it'll be invaluable to us, especially now, starting out.”

“What about his age?” the General asked.

Timothy smirked at the question. “He's the oldest human in active service to the Cooperative: I checked. You look at his face, and you can tell it. But he's so alive. I can't really explain it, but it's like I said before: there's a harmony about him that just . . . it sings to me. He's got a connection, a willful, trained, abiding connection to the Force that I didn't even know existed. Observe one of his sparring sessions and you'll understand.”

“What about the other one, the Corpsman?”

Timothy shrugged. “She knows we're keeping an eye on her. Hell, most of the others keep her at arm's reach. But she's taking it well so far, seems to have accepted that it'll take her longer to really belong. I don't think she has any idea what I'm really doing, but she definitely knows part of my duties are to observe her.”

“But can we trust her?”

Timothy paused for a moment, then nodded. “I think so, yeah. She's not as advanced as the Knights I remember from the Jedi Order, but she's got a decent grasp of the basics and what she's shared with us about the Jedi Corps' training programs have really helped with developing our basic training curriculum.”

“Have you gotten anything useful out her about the Corps or the Empire?”

“No; she'd been isolated on Sundari for over a year, ever since the Reaver invasion. But she's given me a list of names, a few others from the Sundari compound that she thinks we could talk into joining the fight.” Timothy reacted quickly to the general's disapproving demeanor. “I know it's out of the question for the time being, but in the long run, and depending on how the Empire weathers its own wars, this could be an opportunity for us to recruit from abandoned Jedi Corps outposts and survivors of fallen or isolated worlds.”

“Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Captain.”

“You wanted to hear how I feel, General. I'm just giving it to you straight. Regardless, I think the gesture on her part was genuine. She wants to see this thing through with us.”

“Any other problems? Anything else I should know about?”

“Yeah,” Timothy said after a moment of consideration. “Lieutenant Vash is having a hard time with the Force training. Have you ever seen a frustrated Cathar? Not angry, frustrated? When she gets angry, she just punches something and moves on. But when she get frustrated, there's nothing to hit. I think she's feeling out of place; she's a fighter pilot, and at its core this is a special forces unit.”

“There's no quitting this, Captain. Make it work with her.”

“I'm doing my best, General.”

“No, Timothy, listen to what I'm saying.”

The harshness in his tone caught Timothy's attention and scared him more than a little.

“Make it work with her. There is no quitting for any of you.”



* * *




“You're absolutely sure?”

Admiral Jonathan Blakeley had long ago abandoned the cache of CIB files strewn across his work desk, but had only recently taken up his current perch at the edge of the floor-to-ceiling viewport, where he leaned against the bulkhead and stared at the starscape beyond. “Of course not, but it's the best option I've got.”

Ferguson Mumphs, on the other hand, was still seated at the desk, poring over data files and rummaging through the stacks of information present. “You know, this isn't the kind of thing I usually do.”

“I'm sorry, Ferguson―” Blakeley still wasn't used to calling the Chief of the Coalition Intelligence Bureau by his first name, but the man insisted “―but this is just too sensitive to entrust to your analysts or operatives.”

“Oh, I enjoy a good rummage every now and then,” he said disarmingly. “I was referring to the part where I'm digging up dirt on our own people. Isn't that the Ministry of Ethics' job?”

Blakeley tried to make himself smile at the comment, but couldn't quite get there. “I have to know I can trust him, Ferguson.” He turned away from the viewport and focused his attention on the other man. “There are rumors. Rumors that the only reason he's still heading up the Guard, the only reason he didn't lead the Onyxian Rebellion when it made itself known, is because he's still working to turn the Praetorians to the Rebellion's cause.”

“That would explain why the Onyxian rebels haven't launched any major offensives into the Occupation zone,” Ferguson noted thoughtfully. “They could be waiting for reinforcements. But you don't really think an organization as prestigious and elite as the Praetorian Guard would sign on wholesale for mutiny, would you?”

Blakeley shook his head, features downcast. “I don't know anymore. They're already reluctant to help disrupt rebel support cells operating on Cooperative worlds. It could be that one right voice in one right position at some critical time would sway the whole command structure.”

“With respect, admiral,” Ferguson ventured, “is this really the sort of thing you should be worrying about? You're not commander of the Cooperative Military anymore. You have greater duties to attend.”

“I know, and that's why I need to know that I can trust him, so he can take over and I can move on.”

“Well, then, the only question left is: yes or no? We could dig through these files for another three weeks, we could recruit a whole team of analysts and run this information through every probability engine and data cruncher at our disposal, but none of it would tell you what you want to hear, none of it could give you a definite answer, so what'll it be? Is he the man for the job?”

Admiral Blakeley frowned deeply, but Ferguson was right. It was time to make a decision. “Yes, yes he is. I'll send my recommendation to the Council of Defense immediately. In keeping with Cooperative protocols for military succession, Admiral Keyn Neychev, head of the Praetorian Guard, is acting commander of all military forces under Cooperative jurisdiction until the Council of Defense confirms or rejects my nomination of him.”

“And what if you're wrong, Admiral?”

Blakeley sighed heavily, taking his seat again. “Then maybe the civil war he'll threaten to bring will be the kick in the ass that the Cooperative legislature needs to get its act together. All I know is: we don't have time to waste anymore. Now we act, or we perish.”

Ferguson began packing up the sensitive CIB information immediately, reorganizing the strewn datapads and discs before putting them into his carrying case, making sure he left nothing behind. “Well, Admiral, if there's nothing else―”

“Actually, Ferguson, there is one more thing.”

The head of the CIB stopped halfway out of his chair, reluctantly nodding and retaking his seat. “Of course, Admiral.”

Blakeley was clearly uncomfortable with what he was about to say, and silence filled the workspace for several seconds. “I know this isn't your field of expertise, and it'd probably be more appropriate for me to ask some judicial official, but I can't risk exposure until I know what to do.”

“What's wrong, Admiral?”

Blakeley shook his head. “No, it's nothing like that. It's just that . . . in my capacity as commander of the Cooperative military, I may have been privy to certain, sensitive, covert Cooperative military programs which Coalition High Command and the CIB are unaware.”

“That's entirely possible,” Ferguson said in his best helpful tone. “As I said, the CIB's chief focus is on external threats, and besides, since the Reaver outbreak, we've been focusing all of our efforts on them. Any new projects that haven't been reported through official channels would almost certainly have gone unnoticed.”

“Yes, well,” Blakeley was showing his discomfort again, and didn't seem to be able to meet Ferguson's stare. “I find myself in a peculiar position, now. I recognize that as Supreme Commander of Coalition Forces, I have no direct authority over regional military assets which have not been committed to federal forces, but the knowlege which I possess as former commander of Cooperative forces would be of significant value to High Command.”

“And where do your obligations lie now?” Ferguson summed up the admiral's dilemma.

“Essentially, yes. Are Cooperative military secrets that I possess protected by the separation of forces which distinguish the difference between Coalition regional and federal military elements? Or, as Supreme Commander, am I obligated to divulge that information if it may be of value to the success of the Coalition?”

Ferguson folded his hands and leaned forward onto the table. “I can't tell you what Coalition law says about this, if anything. But I can tell you this: you are the highest ranking military official in the Coalition, and you have achieved that position through the legitimate application of Coalition law. Minister Quell trusts you with the fate of the Coalition.” Ferguson paused and offered a toothy grin, “And while the CIB hasn't cracked the encryption on that secure transmission Regrad sent to you after the Azguard Declaration yet, I've got a feeling that our suspended Prime Minister has shared similar sentiments with you. So the real question for you, Supreme Commander, is what are you going to do with the power you now wield, and the great faith that has been invested in you? “



* * *




Admiral Jonathan Blakeley scanned through the dossier one last time: this was the point of no return.

He had personally ordered Vice Admiral Gorn's task force into Confederation space in the aftermath of the Battle of Vahaba. He had personally authorized the protected status of the surviving Confederation clones not minutes afterward. Only hours ago, Blakeley had ordered Ferguson Mumphs to re-activate any CIB assets in Confederation space, in response to questions raised by interviews conducted with those survivors. The Cooperative/Confederation alliance had seen better days, to be sure, but Blakeley was responsible for the security of the Coalition as a whole, now, and not just one of its members. He was a man who understood his duty, and could not allow personal misgivings to jeopardize his station.

He set the CIB datapad―the last remnant of Ferguson's visit―out of view of the awaiting holoimager and gave the command, “Begin recording.

“Commodore Von Masmont, I understand that direct communications between yourself and Prime Minister Regrad were carried out via text exchange per your request, and I would be happy to do the same for all future exchanges; however, I felt it important that you be able to hear my voice and see my face as I deliver this particular message.

“I want to be perfectly honest with you, Commodore: I just finished re-reading the Coalition Intelligence Bureau's classified file on you. I did this because I do not know you, and neither of us has the time to change that. Your flagship, Fidelitas, is the most powerful vessel in the Compact Fleet, excepting the Coalition, and your task force is the most powerful single military element within the Compact Fleet, again excepting Coalition forces.

“As I'm sure you're aware, tensions―at least on the part of my Cooperative countrymen―are on the rise between the Cooperative and Confederation. I have not been spared the consequences of that development, but I am Supreme Commander of Coalition Forces now, and so my first priority must be the safeguarding of the Coalition itself, and not the pursuit of an individual member state's concerns. It is for that reason that I am dedicated to the preservation and expansion of the Compact Fleet, and it is for that reason that I cannot lead it. I am needed elsewhere.

Coalition and her task force will remain, undiminished, within the Compact Fleet. Admiral Gheller, formerly of the Onyxian Commonwealth, will be reassigned here to command those forces, but he will not be taking command of the Compact itself.

“I will be calling a meeting, shortly, of the leaders of the Compact's constituent forces. There, I will call for the establishment of a representative decision-making body, composed either of those very leaders or representatives empowered to act on their behalf, to decide the long-term strategy for the Compact's defeat of the Reavers. Furthermore, they will appoint a single individual to operate as the military commander of the Compact Fleet while engaged in combat operations.

“I intend to nominate you for that position. Prime Minister Regrad's notes speak highly of your tactical skill in combat, and while I am aware of your personal communications handicap, every indication shows that your methods of compensation have not hindered your ability to command. Objectively speaking, you are the logical choice, unless or until Prime Minister Regrad's return to active duty and decision to retake his place here. As such, I will support you wholeheartedly.

“I await your reply, and look forward to seeing you at the meeting.”



* * *




Vekkis Nost signed his name to another requisition order and added the datapad to the growing stack of processed forms. His speech in the Council Chamber to the Cooperative Senate had added fuel to the debate over the Cooperative's response to the Dominion's Declaration against Force-users. In the following days, he had been approached by several heads of Coooperative Force-allied organizations, and together they had drawn up and submitted a charter for an international charity, the Great River.

The stated goals of the Great River were to safeguard Force-sensitives from unlawful detainment or physical harm by the Cree'Ar Dominion or agents working on their behalf.

The money had come pouring in.

Already, there were unconfirmed reports that mercenary and bounty hunting organizations had begun targeting suspected force-sensitives all across the galaxy, and Vekkis Nost refused to allow such actions to go unchecked. While the Great River had thus far focused its efforts on effecting policy change in the Cooperative political climate and secure support from the Cooperative military, these new, startling reports spoke to a greater urgency. And so, the Great River had expanded its official function to include the disruption of sapient trafficking―slavery―and was now taking active steps to fund paramilitary peacekeeping organizations, both within the Coalition and among its allies, with the goal of stopping the hunting of Force-sensitives, whether trained or untrained.

It was a bold, new direction for the fledgling organization, but the Cooperative government was taking no action whatsoever in this regard, and that was simply unacceptable.

Something had to be done, and Vekkis Nost was doing it.



* * *




Ambassador Grace Nova stood before seven radiant beings of light.

If only that were true.

The seven holographic figures were the seven members of the Cooperative Combined Council, collectively forming the highest executive body in the Cooperative.

“I take it things didn't go well?” Giles Rhade asked, his tone cold and remote.

“The Confederation has always been rather . . . insular, Sir, but Ambassador Hakan just seemed downright hostile! And the Jensaarai, Jax, didn't seem much better by the end. We're supposed to be allies, Sir, and quite frankly: they seemed dedicated to changing that.”

“We expected some backlash after that unfortunate security leak,” Cindy Stark, the Councilor from Cestus, said.

“That's exactly why I contacted Ambassador Nova immediately after the battle's conclusion,” Giles added. “Honestly, I'm surprised the thing stayed under wraps long enough for it to be leaked. Counting the Compact Fleet and the Quelii Sector Combine forces, there were dozens of governments represented at that battle. Any one of them could have intercepted the Clone Corise's transmission and gone public with it. It's not our fault the Confederation didn't want to talk to us until that idiot doctor went and made a scene.”

“Councilors,” Grace said, “the media leak aside, both Ambassador Hakan and Jensaarai Jax seemed to think that the clone of Corise Lucerne was still alive.”

“What did you tell them,” Giles said sternly.

“I said I wasn't at liberty to disclose any information on individuals granted political protections by the Cooperative.”

“Good, good,” Giles added.

“But, sir,” Grace ventured gently, “is he alive?”

“Of course not!” Damar Roka, who also headed the Council of Defense, burst out. “Haven't you read the report?”

“Yes, yes I have,” she answered defensively. “But I also know that Prime Minister Regrad spoke to the commander of the Confederation force within the Compact Fleet after the battle's end, and while I don't know the particulars of that conversation, I would think that the message the clone of Corise Lucerne sent screaming through the system before his ship crashed into a Reaver construct would have been on the agenda. So if the Prime Minister of the Coalition told them that the Corise clone was dead, why do they still think he's alive?”

“Paranoid delusions,” Councilor Stark answered.

“Then the Corise Lucerne clone is dead?” She asked explicitly.

“Are you listening, little girl, or have you caught those mad conspiracy theories from the Confederates?” Stark shot back.

“I need you to understand the level of suspicion I'm dealing with,” Ambassador Nova replied calmly. “The Confederation is convinced that we have some agenda, and I'm not convinced that we don't, because You. Won't. Tell. Me. Anything.

“What am I doing here, Councilors? Am I trying to preserve our political alliance? Am I looking to mine what information I can before we cut and run? Am I stalling for time while you work some other angle?”

“Mind your tone,” Councilor Stark warned.

Councilor Rhade held up his hand to stall any response. “I take it the Confederate ambassador has agreed to continue talks?”

“He stormed off earlier, but Jensaarai Jax has assured me that they will both be returning later this afternoon, local time.”

“Very good. A Praetorian Guardsman by the name of Ethan Vang has cleared local customs and will be arriving at the embassy presently. He will brief you to the extent he is able, and will sit in on the next meeting, in case additional, classified information needs to be disclosed.”

“You don't trust me?” Grace asked, more disbelieving than hurt.

“There are military protocols to consider,” Councilor Roka said. “We have neither the time nor authorized personnel on hand to give you a proper briefing.”

Grace wasn't buying the Defense Councilor's line, but by now she was truly growing tired of dealing with their nonsense. “I'll do the best I can,” she finally said, then waited for the link to close.
Posts: 16
  • Posted On: Apr 21 2012 5:45am
Outside the Abhean System


"I do not understand your strategy," the Corellian representative from Thracken Sal Solo complained as his eyes stared uncomprehendingly at the visual before him.

The Judicator resisted the urge to crush the human's skull with a backhanded swing of his hand. Why Borleas decided to impose the weakling's presence on Varro Kai was a question whose answer rested with the Priest Class.

While the cretin stretched every fiber of patience and faith in the Judicator, his reply was nothing if not extremely polite.

"In what way are you confused, Master Corellian?" he responded, surprising even himself with the lack of emotion in his voice.

"It just... it just does not make any sense!" the human huffed, frowning at the image provided by the Nexus.

"Could you be more specific?" the Judicator prompted as fleet updates scrolled past his eyes in the familiar battle language of the Cree'Ar.

"You are the leader of your fleet and here we are, deep within enemy territory in one ship! One bloody ship! If we are discovered..."

"You overestimate the capabilities of the enemy. We are outside what you term a planetary system and therefore, well outside the scanning ranges of every sensor device known to the beings of this galaxy. Space is extremely vast. I assure you, we are in no danger."

"How can you say that? Don't you account for random chance? A ship stumbling upon us.." the Corellian countered before being interrupted.

"Would still not detect us. Our gravity well may disengage their method of lightspeed travel but they would merely readjust their course and continue on."

"You would not fire upon them? What sort of hunter are you?"

Varro Kai's skin over his eyes furrowed as if in thought, the gill-like slits on the side of his face flapping open and closed in what could be interpreted as consternation. Which, in fact, it was.

"A smart one," the Cree'Ar simply replied as more data scrolled across. "People of your galaxy seem to define 'hunting' as a rushing after prey. An active seeking out of danger. You expel so much energy, time and resources thrusting yourself ever forward to a goal. With you, it is the one with the strongest weapon, the more sophisticated weapon that determine your success or failure."

"Not necessarily," the human preened. "The Rebels destroyed the Death Star!"

The Corellian acted as if he was personally in the attack he had referenced but, truth be told, Varro Kai really did not care about the inner-faction fighting between the denizens of the galaxy.

"This Rebellion you speak of was fought under a faulty strategy and should not have succeeded." the Cree'Ar stated flatly and the human pounced.

"THAT is what I am talking about! The tosser of the odds! In a fight of the little against the big, sometimes the little guys win! No matter how strong you think you are, there is always the chance that you will lose!"

"Cree'Ar strategy causes chance to become toothless." Varro Kai quickly replied back. "It was not chance that won your Rebel's battles. Every major fight of your rebellion, from the Death Star to the Battle of Hoth to the assault on Endor, was the result of desperation."

"What do you mean?" growled the human as if he were personally being maligned.

"You like to paint these battles as attacks or as heroic but the truth of the matter is they were anything but."

"The attack on the Death Star.."

"..was merely a defense of Yavin. If you had not defended the world, this Death Star would have blown your rebellion to bits ending it there. The Rebel's idealism was a poor motivator as each and every battle fought was not one of your own choosing. The Death Star backed the rebels into a corner and, in having a the victory or ultimate defeat of their cause in either hand, these fighters found the backbone to actually fight."

"But they won," the Corellian grinned.

"The battle of Hoth was also a defensive battle, the Empire backing the Rebels into another corner. It was not even heroic but a holding action so they could run away."

"But they did get away," the Corellian added.

"And finally, the attack against the second Death Star was merely a preemptive defensive action for if the Empire had completed its construction. it would have smashed the Rebels once and for all. Again, an action prompted by being backed against a wall by circumstances. And it ended up being a trap in the end. In each and every one of these battles, the Empire chose the battleground. It was the Empire that was on the offensive."

"And they still lost and the Rebels won!" the Corellian grinned. At least until the Cree'Ar replied.

"No, they did not."

"Three times the Rebels should not have been victorious and three times they went on to achieve their goals and win. There was no planning involved save what last ditch efforts to extricate themselves from the jaws of the Empire closing shut."

"And you're saying they did not win?"

"They did not," Varro Kai confirmed. "But your Cor'ai'var did."

"Our what?"

"What you call, Force. It is what won these battles and it is against this that our strategies are arrayed."




"And this is why we are out here all alone?" the human retorted, fear creeping into his shaky voice.

"Like your Empire, we only fight on battlegrounds of our choosing. We do not let circumstances dictate our actions."

"SO WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?" the man complained.

"Only a fool fights in a burning building," Varro Kai replied.

"Fire cannot burn in space," the man shot back, petulantly.

"Are you sure?" the Cree'Ar asked as his hand expanded the datasphere showing bright areas appearing and disappearing, converging and dissipating.

"What are those?" the Corellian asked mesmerized.

"Reavers," Varro Kai calmly replied.

"You can control them?" the man asked with a certain awe.

"No. But we can track them utilizing our connection with Heir Raktus. The Reavers were once his children."

"What happened?"

"The demigod of the Black Dragon Imperium had to make a choice. A choice that would affect the direction of he and his for the next millenia. A choice that put him squarely on the side of the Dominion."

"Like us," the Corellian man mused.

A shadow seemed to cover the Judicator's eyes. "Yes, just like you." he replied in his monotone deadpan. "In any event, his choice necessitated the casting off of certain elements of his Imperium, most of which became what you term, the Reavers. Now, they are like a fire spreading ever outward sweeping our enemies from before us, allowing us to focus on destroying those with the Cor'ai'var."




"In Confederation space?"


The Judicator began to mentally count upward using the numerology of a long dead civilization crushed underfoot by the Dominion centuries ago. The mental recitation allowed the Cree'Ar's anger to ebb.


"It has been proven that the Cor'ai'var can snatch victory even from certain defeat. By the natural order of things, your rebellion should not have won. Only through this...external force were these rebels able to do so. This external force therefore can act against the natural order of things and twist this order against itself."


"But.. but some people have already been offering up force-users to you for their own safety," the Corellian stammered confused.


"Which reduces the numbers of those who come by this power naturally," the Cree'Ar agreed. "But before us and our current strategy lay enemies that come by this power unnaturally. Not randomly. The seek to induce this power with a simple decision."


"But their numbers aren't all that.." the Corellian started.


"It is not their numbers that concern us. It what this potential represents that concerns us. Before us are two peoples. One that seeks to collectively use this force as a practical weapon and another who seeks to artificially chose who receives this power."


"So you oppose the 'unnatural' use of the Force?"


"Of course!" the Judicator exclaimed surprised the small minded individual had to ask.


"But why?"


"Because, human. It is natural selection that allows the Dominion to triumph. And there can be no interruption of that basic truth."


The eyes of Varro Kai bored into the Corellian.


"We. Will. Win."
Posts: 4178
  • Posted On: May 11 2012 2:30am
*





The Past...





click, click, click...




The heels of the woman echoed across the hall ignoring the gazes of those startled people she passed.


The past few months had seen remarkable improvement as her mind began to take hold of her new physiology and own it. Really own it.


There was a certain clarity of perception that flowered across her mind allowing her to notice the little things that she would have otherwise missed.


Those that lied to her. Those that tried to manipulate her. Those that were in awe of her.


Those that held the Confederation as the dearest thing to their hearts and those that did not were all open to her.


Faster, stronger...


She read the same reports everyone else did. Were they the only ones that saw it coming?


The storm on the horizon?


When she slept, the visions in her mind's eye threatened to shatter every ember of hope that burned within.


It was as if those around her were sleepwalking. Going through the motions and their great Confederation sputtered along content in its obliviousness...


And it angered her.


The thought of everything she had dedicated her adult life to being broken. No. Not broken but lost due to simple complacency and irresponsibility.


Oh, how it burned her.


The politicians that lied to her face not realizing she could see past their masks. Their petty schemes to enrich their pockets at the expense of the Confederation.


Something had to be done to shake them all awake! But who could she confide in? Her own counterparts were blind themselves.


She reached the conference room and tapped a security code.


Who..?


The door opened revealing someone whose presence surprised her.


"When did you get back?" she exclaimed, a burst of joy flooding her heart.


The man gave his trademark careless grin that made her swoon inside. "Miss me?" he asked casually as he offered her a glass. He held two.


Her fingers manipulated the door controls that locked the room and blacked out the recorders as she stepped into the room, the door closing behind her. She walked over to the man and placed her hand around the back of his neck drawing his head to her.


He had no choice but to let her lead him as he still held the glasses.


"Come here you rogue," she whispered and closed her eyes as their lips touched.


There was a charge to their touch. She knew it! She felt it!


Faster, Stronger....




..Better.