To Curse the Darkness (Coalition, Confederation)
Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Feb 26 2022 7:15pm

“Thracken Sal-Solo? The guy from Corellia?” It was one of the dumbasses from the peanut gallery.


“What's he talking about, 'you are doing the same thing'?” A slightly-less-dumbass from a little farther back in the peanut gallery asked.


“We dispatched an ambassador to Coruscant,” an advisor from the Cooperative said.


“But Ambassador Cardan has been back for days,” another advisor said.


“We're establishing a permanent mission,” the Cooperative officer explained.


“You have an embassy on Coruscant?” the other man asked.


“It's not a full embassy,” the Cooperative advisor said. “Time will tell.”


“Lunatics,” the other one muttered.


“We don't have warships at Coruscant,” a new person spoke up. “Maybe he's talking about the Cooperative fleet in Confederation space?”

“How would he know about that?” still another asked. “If they know about the mission to the Confederation, then what don't the Dominion know about?”

“Well at least he's confirmed they're Dominion ships,” another said.


“Yeah, but he's just pretending they aren't jamming our communications,” still another chimed in.


All through their whining, Admiral Blakeley was staring at the little icon of the Corellian ship, one thought nagging at him, distracting him from the task at hand . . .


“Enough!” Blakeley shouted, and the room fell silent. He pointed to the communications team at the far end of the room: “Inform the Emissary that we are preparing to accept him . . . on Hurok. And don't be nice about it.”


“Yes, Sir,” the technician responded.


“And call High Command; get someone from the Foreign Office to meet him there.”


“Admiral -” Citadel began, its tone warning.


I want to talk to Regrad,” Blakeley announced, directed at no one in particular.


“High Lord Regrad is indisposed at the moment,” Citadel replied. “But the Azguardian Union will not -”


“Get him anyway.”


“Regrad is preparing a Special Projects platform for deployment in the event of battle,” Citadel replied. “If you don't -”


“You're telling me the leader of the Azguard Union won't answer me because he's . . . tinkering?”


“It's more involved than that, Admiral,” Citadel said. “You are risking -”


“Then get me Yolem!”


“I'll find him,” Citadel continued, “but the Azguard will not approve of your ordering an enemy to land on one of their worlds.”


My duty is to the Coalition, Blakeley thought, pretending to ignore the droid AI, not your quaint little “Union”. The hologram of Yolem appeared in front of him, the most welcome of unwelcome sights he'd seen that day. “Lord Yolem, I have ordered the Dominion emissary to Hurok. I'd like you to go there and assume command of the planetary forces. You must -”


“Absolutely not,” the grizzled warrior replied.

“Excuse me?” Blakeley was taken aback. The highest levels of the Azguard command structure were somewhat ambiguous at times, but wherever in the chain of command an Azguard “lord” fell, it was definitely somewhere below “the guy in charge of everything”.


“I will not participate in this farce. If they want peace, they can find it by retreating beyond the range of our guns.”


Blakeley stared down at the little hologram, that one devilish thought he couldn't banish now clawing its way back into his conscious mind . . .


“Admiral,” the Azguardian liaison began, “my people -”


“Do you want command?” he asked the tiny image of Yolem.


“You are the Supreme Commander,” the Azguard warrior replied.


“That's not a 'no'.”


“I haven't the right.”


“But you won't follow my orders and ensure your men stand down.”


“I haven't that right, either,” Yolem answered, his miniaturized demeanor as grave as any Azguard the admiral had ever seen. And there it was again, daring him to say it aloud, daring him to admit defeat . . . This isn't going to work.


“This isn't going to work.” Blakeley slammed his palm on the holotable and closed the line to Yolem. Then he turned and moved to the door, opening it and stepping halfway onto the bridge. “Captain Atom, I'm relieving you of duty.”


“Sir?” the captain said, his shock so evident that it had completely buried the expected Azguardian rage.


“Call up Captain Everett,” he said to the ship's comm officer. “She's now in command.”


“Admiral, I -” the captain began.


“Get in here, captain,” Blakeley cut him off, heading back through the door.


The general murmuring in the room fell to silence as the admiral returned his attention to the gossiping bastards. “Citadel.”


There was a moment before the Guardian answered. “Yes, admiral?”


“You have my file?”


“Yes, admiral.” The “file” in question was the Guardian profile assembled on all senior Coalition officers, created to supply Guardians with vital information on the commanders they may have to serve under.


“Do you think you know me, Citadel?”


“As well as a differential psychoanalytic algorithm can know any subject, admiral.”


It was a carefully constructed response, he knew. Blakeley had mistrusted the Guardian program since its launch, and he had traveled to the other side of the galaxy, to the capital of the Coalition, and found a whole new Guardian scheme that had been hidden from him until he stumbled upon it. Citadel was playing up its own artificial existence in order to appeal to the admiral's sentiments, trying to ingratiate itself to him by reminding him that it understood what he thought of it. “What kind of man am I?”


There was a long pause. It was almost certainly for effect, as Citadel had doubtless predicted a question like that would be asked and already formulated a response. Just another ploy of the artificial entity's algorithm, selecting the optimal path to maximizing the desired outcome . . . “Sir,” an advisor asked, “is now really a time to be giving the AI a test?”


He ignored the waste of space and waited for Citadel's dramatic pause to end.


“You're the man that the Minister of Ethics picked to lead the Coalition military,” Citadel finally answered.


“And?” Blakeley asked, daring the machine to say more.


“And we have a war to win,” Citadel responded.


“Not good enough,” Blakeley shook his head for effect. “Say what you want to say, if you want anything at all!”


So Citadel said it. “Instead of becoming the leader we needed you to be, you've spent eighty percent of your time as Supreme Commander gallivanting around the Rim, playing at diplomacy in an effort to bolster the Compact Fleet. You did other people's jobs instead of your own, and now the capital of the Coalition is under siege, and all you have at your disposal is a local military you couldn't be bothered to learn about until you stumbled on it while pursuing . . . other objectives.”


The tension in the room was thick enough to cut with a knife. Everyone was waiting for Blakeley's response. Everyone understood that Citadel couldn't be scrapped, but more importantly: that it was right. This man was not the man to lead the Coalition in war. This man was not the man to lead them into battle. This man, this diplomat-commander from a backwater trade world at the ass-end of nowhere had spent his career navigating peace, not directing war.


He didn't even know half of their names. Every one of them was thinking it with him now: This isn't going to work.


“Get me a virtual conference with the command staff of the Azguard Home Fleet.”


The big hologram of the system vanished and was replaced in a few seconds with the faces of every captain and flag officer of the Azguard fleet. They were mostly Azguard, but there were a few Kraz and Vrakken as well. Blakeley began without preamble. “I am a Cooperative officer, and you are Azguardian commanders.”


The admiral paused, that thought creeping back into his mind, daring him to surrender to it. “But this is a Coalition command. So I am seizing the Azguard Home Fleet for national deployment.” For their parts, the Azguard captains took the news rather well. It was the gallery of “advisors” who showed their surprise in gasps and double-takes. He ignored them all, turning to Captain Atom before the situation could devolve, looking up to lock eyes with the man from these alien worlds. “Captain Atom, in recognition of your exemplary service to the Coalition, and given the considerable urgency of this moment, I am issuing you a field promotion to the rank of Vice Admiral, and assigning you to the command of this fleet.”


A shadow passed from Captain Atom, and in an instant his stiff features and hostile stature softened. “Thank you, Sir. I'll do you proud.”


“Regrad trusted you with command of the Coalition's flag,” Blakeley continued. “Whatever his faults, he has a habit of picking the right kind of people to have at his side.”

“Understood, Sir,” Vice Admiral Atom replied. The narrowed eyes, the stiffened posture had already returned, but there was something different now. The Azguard warrior knew he didn't have to worry about fools in his midst anymore.


“This is now the Coalition First Fleet,” Blakeley declared, returning his attention to the conference of commanders. Off to the side, the holo of Captain Everett, the only human in the group, had joined them. “Admiral Atom will take up his post in the secondary CIC, and reorganize the fleet as he sees fit. Expect your orders from him presently.”


A few of the captains verbalized their assent, but mostly they just nodded or continued staring blankly back at him. It was as good as he could have hoped for. “You're dismissed,” he said, and the holograms winked out. He reached out a hand to stall the vice admiral's departure. “Take as many of these clowns as you need,” he nodded his head at the team of advisors. “Leave me Chekov, Harlan, and the Verpine.”


“The Verpine” was, of course, a Verpine. Blakeley had tried to get his . . . her? . . . zir? . . . name right at least a dozen times since he'd ascended to command of the Coalition's forces, but eventually the inectoid had just reassured the admiral that “Verpine” was fine.


“You, you, you,” Atom started picking assistants.


“And pull anyone you need from the off-shift crew. Capatain Everett can shuffle assignments to fill the gaps, if needed.”


“Sir?” It was Rockwell, the Tammarian from Regrad's old team. “What are you doing?”


“Citadel,” Blakeley said loudly. “I am devolving command authority of the Azguard Union forces to you.”


“Acknowledged,” Citadel said. “And thank you.”


“I'm delegating,” Blakeley said, answering Rockwell without acknowledging her further.


“Atom, what are your thoughts on the fleet composition?”


He paused from cherry-picking his own command staff. “A spearhead, with Coalition at the fore. One fast attack group, and one heavy support with whatever's left over.”


Blakeley nodded. “If you can manage, give command of the fast attack group to Captain Rostor.”


“Sir?” the request caught Atom by surprise.


“Diversity of tactics, admiral,” Blakeley said. “His maneuvers in wargames caught my attention,” he said of the Vrakken captain he only knew of from reviewing personnel files.


“Yes, sir,” Atom said before heading out, the last of his new staff in tow.


Returning his attention to the restored hologram of the Azguard System, Admiral Blakeley mused: “Who knows, if we try hard enough we might just surprise these bastards.”


The room felt a lot bigger, now. The team was certainly a lot smaller. The burden wasn't any lighter, but the weight had been shifted. He could carry it now, for as long as was needed.


“See if High Command has a Corellia expert we can borrow,” Blakeley ordered. “And Citadel, are you going to be able to wrangle Hurok's defenders?”


“If they don't shoot, we won't shoot,” the Guardian assured him. “But patience is not a virtue of Azguard in war.”


“There's no war yet,” Blakeley replied offhand, checking some readouts to pretend he wasn't trying to argue with a droid.


But no response came. Citadel wasn't babysitting him anymore. As commander of Azguard forces in the Home System, it had plenty to occupy its attention.


It was still there, though, lingering at the edges of his mind, enticing him to despair. Daring him to pause, and ponder his every misstep. As the doubt crept in, wormed its tendrils through his conscious thoughts, he smiled.


Maybe Jonathan Blakeley, the bureaucrat admiral from an upstart nation that had never fought an actual war, really wasn't up for the job. Maybe he didn't need to be.


Maybe the Coalition really was stronger than any one man.


“Alright, let's get started.”




* * *




Inform the Emissary that we are preparing to accept him . . . on Hurok. And don't be nice about it.”


Yes, Sir,” the technician responded.


Lieutenant Nima Vo adjusted her headphones and hunkered down. The Kaminoan comm officer's work station was well equipped for her substantial height, but she tended to hunch over and make herself small when conducting official business, as if she was whispering a secret she didn't want anyone to overhear. Pulling up a couple of relevant bits of information on her work station, she flipped her headphones' microphone into position and opened the comm line:


“Thracken Sal-Solo, your diplomatic credentials could not be verified by the Coalition Foreign Ministry, or any member organization of the Galactic Coalition. However, we are willing to accept your verbal assurance of your intentions here. Your vessel will be permitted to approach . . . the planet Hurok; it is the nearest terrestrial planet to your current position, ahead and offset from your vessel's current trajectory by approximately thirty degrees.


“Do not attempt to approach Azguard itself. Azguardian Home Defense Forces do not permit unaffiliated vessels to enter the defense perimeter of their homeworld. Make your way to Hurok at the best possible speed. If your vessel is capable, it should initiate a hyperspace microjump to Hurok immediately. The defense forces of Hurok will allow you to approach unhindered, so long as your vessel proceeds alone. Hurok Traffic Control will provide you further instruction as you approach the planet.


“The refusal of other Dominion vessels to withdraw from the Azguard System remains an unacceptable violation of Azguardian sovereignty, and we continue to insist on their departure. For this reason, our defense forces will remain on high alert, and further incursions into the Azguard System will be viewed as a cessation of diplomatic efforts on the part of your government. Should that occur, we will view the presence of these vessels as escalating hostile action against the Coalition, and expel them by force.”




* * *




Inform the Emissary that we are preparing to accept him . . . on Hurok. And don't be nice about it.”


Citadel tried to argue the point with Admiral Blakeley, but it knew it would be unsuccessful. The admiral had chosen diplomacy, and he would pursue it for the time being. So while Citadel pretended to argue with the Admiral about his course of action, allowing him to cut it off and speak over it until the optimal moment to insist upon the Azguardian Union's policy toward invaders, it also discontinued the looping message it was broadcasting across the system.


Listening in on Lieutenant Vo's message to the Dominion Emissary, Citadel quickly formulated a new broadcast:


“Unidentified Dominion vessels: your continued presence within the Azguard System is a violation of Azguardian sovereignty. You must withdraw immediately. Under Azguardian law, your unexpected and unannounced arrival within the system constitutes just cause for the use of military force. In the interest of peace and understanding, we have chosen to suspend the use of force against transgressing vessels and will allow your emissary to approach the planet Hurok, but further incursions into the Azguard System will not be tolerated.


“Unidentified Dominion vessels . . .” the message began to loop, and would continue to do so for the time being.




* * *




The concept of the Integrated Defense Grid predates the existence of Guardian. After a number of successful battles across the Azguard System against the Furen, Azguard High Command realized that the only way to prevent further hostility from their ancient enemy was an all-out invasion of the binary planets Graks and Renzokain. That option was quickly dismissed, however, when the gods were informed of the schemes their children were hatching. Graks was the home of the Outcast Gods, whose power could only be challenged by the Gods of Azguard themselves. That conflict was inevitable, even predestined, and so it could not be forced. The Vision of Darkness would unfold over time, and as foreseen the Light and Dark would wage their final battle, but until that time the children of Azguard could only prepare, and seek out allies for that destined conflict.


So the Azguard decided to prepare. Their artificial intelligence technology was surprisingly advanced, and with the help of that very technology the Azguard and their new Vrakken and Kraz allies began to consider implementing a sort of defense network that could hem the Furen in, constrain them to their binary worlds and cut off their ability to expand again. Unfortunately, as sophisticated as Azguard AI was, the Azguard didn't have access to the kind of networking architecture that would make their envisioned Defense Grid possible.


Instead, they decided to construct the Azguard Home Fleet, a unique range of warships that would not leave the Home System and would maintain a constant patrol against Furen hostility. The Home Fleet served its purpose well enough, but the Azguard continued involving themselves in conflicts beyond the Home System, and casualties of Coalition wars began to mount. High Command began searching for an alternative, a way to free up the Home Fleet's veteran crews to serve in active theaters.


And then Guardian appeared. At the onset of the Year of Cataclysm, the upstart Cooperative – whose major contribution to the Coalition had been humanitarian and refugee work with evacuees of the Onyxian Commonwealth – revealed their grand military innovation. Azguard High Command switched production orders from new warships to Defense Grid platforms before an agreement had even been finalized with the Cooperative. Azguard research AI's had long settled on design specifications for the dreamed-of Defense Grid, and so production began.


By the time the Citadel/Oracle Guardian was completed, the first production run of Integrated Defense Grid orbital platforms was also completed. After Artanis Daz'Da'Mar issued his Declaration against Force users, production efforts were redoubled. The fear of invasion from beyond the solar system was suddenly a real concern and after a good deal of deliberation, Azguard High Command approved the addition of four Azguard-designed Galaxy Guns to the Integrated Defense Grid. With some . . . maneuvering . . . on the part of Coalition national authorities based out of Azguard, it was decided that the Galaxy Guns would all be assembled and operated in orbit of Azguard itself.


High Command had hoped they would have more time. Free of such burdens, Oracle had recognized that the attack would come before the expanded Defense Grid could be completed. The Home Fleet had returned to Azguard after Kamino was secured, and though Issk's betrayal had revealed the fleet's identity, its continued presence in the Home System was deemed vital for Azguardian and Coalition security.


And so Citadel found itself responsible for coordinating one and a half Galaxy Guns, four robust but incomplete planetary defense networks, and a hodgepodge of nonstandard warships. Then he said it.


Citadel,” Blakeley said loudly. “I am devolving command authority of Azguard Union forces to you.”


Acknowledged,” Citadel said. “And thank you.”


Immediately the notice went out across the system, transmitted in unison across Azguardian military command channels:


“The Citadel/Oracle Guardian has assumed direct command of the Integrated Defense Grid and all Azguardian Union defense forces in-system. I am returning control authority of the Shields of Faith to the Mystics appointed to their care, and returning all orbital defense networks to a state of active readiness. I am returning Lord Yolem to field service; he will command the ground forces of the Azguard home world. High Lord Regrad is rallying a special forces detachment to bolster the defenses of the Azguardian Union, and all available efforts will be made to speed him on his task.


“For the Coalition who stands with us, brothers and sisters. For our gods who are awake and among us, we servants of the Force. For the Vision of Light, you Children of Destiny.


“We stand ready.”


It was a good plan, all things considered. Admiral Blakeley knew he was in over his head, and he knew the Azguard knew he was in over his head. If the Dominion had struck Azguard like they did Coruscant, nobody would have had the time to notice. But now, they all found themselves with an abundance of time, and nothing to spend it on except for the thought that their commander didn't know what he was doing. Blakeley didn't “like” Citadel. He probably didn't trust Citadel. But Blakeley understood Citadel; it was a Guardian, and it had been made to guard Azguard.


More importantly, it had been made to do what Blakeley could not: understand the Azguard. Its own Citadel/Oracle dual personality was modeled after the unique Azguardian psychology. This machine was made to serve a pantheon of gods who Admiral Blakeley did not believe in, though the Azguard as a whole worshiped. This made thing, this “artificial intelligence”, was more Azguard than the man who now commanded the defense of the Azguard System.


So Citadel got to work.




* * *






By Yunos, it's about damn time!” the commander of Hurok shouted as Citadel's statement completed. He didn't like to swear in the same sentence he spoke of his gods, but things were getting tense, and the personal rule had slipped his mind for a moment. “The admiral wanted us to hunker down,” he continued, to no one in particular even though several senior staff were present, “maybe for days, while these fools in Coalition High Command talk with the enemy.”


His commlink buzzed and he answered promptly. “Gronk here.” Always the dutiful soldier.


The voice of the Citadel Guardian answered him. “General Gronk, Admiral Blakeley has ordered the Dominion representative to Hurok.”


“You gotta be kidding . . .” he trailed off, realizing that even though Citadel was artificial, it was still inappropriate to complain to a superior while that superior was giving him orders.


“In light of the apparent delay in hostility, I am reducing the Homeland Security Advisory System Threat Level to 'Orange'.”


“Uhh . . .” Gronk started rifling through the assorted deliveries on his desk, trying to find his copy of the Homeland Security Advisory System Threat Level Color Coded Pocket Chart, to no avail.


“Civilian support staff will return to essential work,” Citadel explained.


“Oh,” Gronk acknowledged.


“Highly Vulnerable populations will continue to shelter in place, and Mediumly Vulnerable populations with rapid access to shelter are free to return home at their discretion.”


“Understood,” Gronk nodded along.


Martial Law will remain in effect. Redeploy your forces to maintain good order, and assemble an escort for the Dominion Emissary.”


“Should I . . . go and meet him?”


“That is not advised, General. A representative from the Coalition Ministry of Foreign Affairs is being dispatched from Azguard. I have secured a location for the meeting. I hope you aren't displeased with my circumventing your local command in this matter.”


“Oh, no,” Gronk muttered, not even aware that it was a thing he could be “displeased” with until Citadel pointed it out. “By all means!” he added, maybe a little too energetically. Gronk hated diplomacy. He hated making reservations, too, come to think of it . . .


The likelihood of conflict remains high, general, but when the Azguard accepted the responsibility of serving as the Coalition's capital, we accepted other . . . implicit responsibilities.”


Oh, right.” Gronk hated wordplay too, but he wasn't an idiot. He understood what Citadel was saying; he just didn't like it. These bastards were invaders. The only thing to do with them was shoot them dead.


“Go with the Gods, Gronk of Azguard.”


And you,” he replied before he remembered he was talking to a machine. The Azguard commander cracked a smile. When his people built a system-spanning robotic defense network, they did it right!


“Gronk here,” he said, switching channels on his commlink. “Reopen the Shafts.”


“Sir?” came the underling's confused reply.


Gronk sighed, the idiocy of the moment catching up to him. “We're at Threat Level Orange . . . apparently.”




* * *




Interstellar Space


Stealth Intruder Relay One


Technically it had some scrambly alphanumeric name, but for this mission it had been designated Relay One. The vessel had reverted from hyperspace in the middle of nowhere, only the orientation of the stars available to guide it on its journey.


“Chop, chop, little guy,” the ship's sole occupant said. “Time's a-ticking.” He patted the control console gently as he waited.


This far from the galactic core, there weren't a lot of celestial bodies to account for. Even so, traffic through this stretch of nothing was even scarcer than stars. The nav computer would have to crunch the numbers, and the captain would have to wait, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about either of those things.


On the bright side, nobody seemed to have followed him from Azguard.


He started humming quietly to himself, then stopped when he couldn't quite figure out what song the tune went to. After a moment of consternation he gasped and exclaimed: “Old Town Road!”




* * *




Interstellar Space


Stealth Intruder Relay Two


Like the other one, but he hummed a different tune.




* * *




Hyperspace, Azguard Hyperroute One


Stealth Intruder Scout One


Beep beep beep beep. The nav computer had detected an unexpected mass shadow. As the ship brought itself out of hyperspace automatically, the captain/pilot flipped the Big Switch on his console to ensure that all stealth features were active and all unstealth features were likewise inactive.


He double-checked the sensor settings, downed the last gulp of East Vrakken Blend coffee, then eased the ship into a slow arc to port, firing short bursts with the maneuvering thrusters at their lowest intensity. His plan was to alter his trajectory so that he would cross out of the interdiction field from the “side”, allowing him to perform a thrustless turn and make the jump straight back to Azguard.


Assuming the interdiction field was large enough to block the entire route and he wasn't just incredibly lucky, the powered maneuver should be completed well before his nearest approach to the source of the interdiction. With passive sensors only, it would take a while to get a reliable read on whatever was out there . . .




* * *




Hyperspace, Azguard Hyperroute Two


Stealth Intruder Scout Two


Like the first one, except the coffee was from Tammar, and instead of maneuvering to the side, the pilot began to decelerate. He planned to come to a complete stop relative to the interdictor, then drift slowly back the way he came, until passing out of the interdiction field where he could turn and jump back home. The maneuvering thrusters would take some time to arrest his forward momentum, especially since they were being run in “stealth mode” and were producing significantly less thrust than usual.




* * *



Hyperspace, Azguard Hyperroute Three


Stealth Intruder Scout Three


Like the other two, except he was allergic to caffeine. Oh, and he was a she.


Oh oh, and she decided not to do any maneuvers at all until she pinpointed the source of the interdiction. Depending on her orientation relative to the interdiction source, she could use the mass of the ship to shield her thrusters from direct view, giving the reaction mass precious fractions of a second to disperse and cool in space.


It wouldn't be much, but this was a reconnaissance mission, so it sure would suck to get blown up because the bad guys spotted her exhaust trail three one thousandths of a second before it would have become undetectable to them.

Posts: 4195
  • Posted On: Feb 28 2022 12:06am

Unknown Location






He was startled awake as the drips of liquid hit his bare head.  His arms and legs hot out in reflex as the last thing he remembered was being accosted in… He frowned shaking his head.




With the awareness came a shock as he realized he had some rather large bracelets fitted to his wrists. 




He began to take stock checking for any of his weapons and came up empty.  Even his holdouts where missing and his armor was pitted and scuffed but it did not look any more pitted and scuffed than usual.  He was used to that look but dammit if he wasn’t sore for some reason.  Apparently when he was grabbed from wherever, he wasn’t treated gently.


He looked up sensing he was not alone and noted a figure he could barely make out in a far corner and seated in front of him on a rather simple chair was a tired looking human male.  The room seemed made of stone, as if made by an ancient culture of some sort.  It was dark, as if only a sliver of moonlight had broken in from some unknown source for there did not seem to be any windows.  It was wet.  Dripping with mold.


“Why does it always have to be moldy and wet?” he hissed out through sharp teeth.


“Why does everyone complain when they come too?” the tired man asked as if to himself.


The Azguard captive incredulously asked, “Do you expect thanks for being abducted?”


“I find it strange that those who enter extremely dangerous positions of employment,  by choice mind you knowing that, only to complain when they experience that danger.”


The captive suddenly rushed with claws extended but before he reached the seated human, the bands on his wrists glowed and he was pulled to the ground.  His face, body and outstretched arms crashed to the floor at the feet of the tired man.  The captive’s head hurt and he glanced at the other angrily through narrow eyes.  The seated man inclined his head as if acknowledging the attempt.


“I realize you had to try but now that that is out of the way, are you ready to be civilized?” the tired man asked.


The captive held up his arms.  “You call this civilized?”


The man shrugged, “It could be worse.  What does your people do to spies?”


The Azguard eyes widened slightly and indignation ran across his face, “I am not a spy!”


The man at back, “Then what do you call it?”


“I a troubleshooter.”


“Semantics.” The man griped in tired disgust.


“Where am I?” the captive demanded.


“You are in a… Vorlah.” The man suddenly grinned.


“What is a Vorlah?”


“The place where you are at.”  The grin turned cheeky.


“Anyway,” the man started, standing up, “I just wanted to be here when you woke up.  I wanted to take your measure and I have seen enough for now.”


The Azguard’s eyes moved to the corner where a figure was hidden in the darkness.


“Ah, yes.” The standing man said as if just noticing them.  “That is Dennika.  She is here for your pleasure.”


Anger and hatred flared into the Azguard’s eyes but the wrist braces would not let him get up.


“You are angry?” the man observed as if both startled and yet his demeanor indicated it was expected.


“Of course I am! To treat people like us; like this is… is.. intolerable!”


“She is a White Knight as well?” the man asked.


“I don’t know what she is but she is not for my…my..pleasure!”


“If the roles were reversed she would derive much pleasure from you..”


The Aguard shook his head as best he could at the surreal conversation.  “Look, if it’s her choice..”


“So it’s her fault she’s here?  If she does what she does by choice outside of this room, would doing the same thing here, even if not necessarily by choice, cost her anything other than time?”


What is with this conversation?


“Since I was brought here against my will, I presume so was she.  We do not take advantage of others who are helpless.”


“You think she is helpless?”


“I think she wants to be as far away from you as she can be,” the Azguard answered.


“Insightful.  I think the blow to the head might have jumbled something loose in there but you are finding your way.”


“Can I get up?”


“In a minute,” the man walked to a door that was behind the captive.  “Tell me, what if I told you I was a Sith?”


“Like I need any more incentive to kill you?” the Azguard spit out.  “What if I told you my pleasure was to let her go?”


The man thought, “and if I told you to leave this room would be certain death?  Do you want her gone?”


“Who are you?” the Azguard asked.


“I will have her removed.”


“No!” the captive shouted.  “Let… Let her be.”


The man nodded,  waved a hand causing the door to open before stepping out.


The door slammed shut and the wrist braces went dark and the Azguard captive was able to get up and move around.  He fiddled around with his armor and slapped it causing a small light to shine.  He stood up slowly and walked over to the corner to check on his partner in captivity since she had yet to move or utter anything.


Is she dead?

He shook his head as if it would disperse the clouds in it. 


Take stock.  Stick to your training!


He moved closer and the light lit up the area and he got his first look.


She was unconscious and he tried to shake her gently awake.


“Are you ok?  I am Sellis.  Sellis Sur.”


She remained unconscious  but the gentle shaking caused a medallion to slip out from a fold in her garments.


The medallion was Sith.



Sellis stepped back in surprise.









Azguard System


“Thracken Sal-Solo, your diplomatic credentials could not be verified by the Coalition Foreign Ministry, or any member organization of the Galactic Coalition. However, we are willing to accept your verbal assurance of your intentions here. Your vessel will be permitted to approach . . . the planet Hurok; it is the nearest terrestrial planet to your current position, ahead and offset from your vessel's current trajectory by approximately thirty degrees.


“Do not attempt to approach Azguard itself. Azguardian Home Defense Forces do not permit unaffiliated vessels to enter the defense perimeter of their homeworld. Make your way to Hurok at the best possible speed. If your vessel is capable, it should initiate a hyperspace microjump to Hurok immediately. The defense forces of Hurok will allow you to approach unhindered, so long as your vessel proceeds alone. Hurok Traffic Control will provide you further instruction as you approach the planet.


“The refusal of other Dominion vessels to withdraw from the Azguard System remains an unacceptable violation of Azguardian sovereignty, and we continue to insist on their departure. For this reason, our defense forces will remain on high alert, and further incursions into the Azguard System will be viewed as a cessation of diplomatic efforts on the part of your government. Should that occur, we will view the presence of these vessels as escalating hostile action against the Coalition, and expel them by force.”


Solo frowned.  “That’s like giving a kid a cookie and them slapping him for taking the cookie.”


“Unidentified Dominion vessels: your continued presence within the Azguard System is a violation of Azguardian sovereignty. You must withdraw immediately. Under Azguardian law, your unexpected and unannounced arrival within the system constitutes just cause for the use of military force. In the interest of peace and understanding, we have chosen to suspend the use of force against transgressing vessels and will allow your emissary to approach the planet Hurok, but further incursions into the Azguard System will not be tolerated.


“Oh, Sith spit!” Thracken groaned.  “Do they have droids running the show over there?  Single-minded bastards.”


“I need to open a channel,” Solo ordered the pilot but a voice behind him gave a firm command. 




The pilot’s finger was poised over the switch and he slowly withdrew it.


Thracken turned around.  “Look, these are two separate transmissions from two different sources.  One is clearly from an organic, probably a real person on the other end of the transmission who can be reasonable.  But the other is a damned voice message.  Probably an automated proximity warning…”


The alien held up a four-fingered hand.  “Unlikely since the message addressed the Dominion directly.”


“Sir,” Thracken tried a different approach, “If we do not tell them that we are here due to a grievance, they may start shooting!”


“You have already implied the grievance in your last message.  If their artificial systems are as smart as touted throughout their Coalition, they will figure it out.  However, I would suggest if you are worried that their systems are not up to the task, then by all means make haste to this Hurok.”


Thracken turned away from the Minder and cursed, “Impossible situation!”


He made his way to the cockpit.  “Pilot, get us to Hurok and get us their fast.  Otherwise, a lot of people are going to die.”


“And this bothers us because?”


“Because we would be a couple of those people!” the Corellian snapped.


“Best speed, aye sir!  Coordinates coming through.”


The Corellian vessel made good time with the microjump coordinates and while the transport’s sensors were not sensitive enough to detect the shield activation or deactivation Thracken assumed it happened.


 Otherwise, the shields don’t stop shit!


Hurok was a bleak world.  At least, where they were being directed to land. 


“Sir,” the pilot called out, “It’s wicked cold out there.  I am sure it’s a nice, brisk day for Azguardians but humans might find it rather uncomfortable.  I recommend a thermal flight suit.”


Thracken nodded as his mouth went dry. 


Perhaps the Azguard were being saavy bastards hoping to keep him off balance for was not diplomacy another type of battle?


Like I am in the middle of an Azguard and Cree’Ar mine field!


Once suited, the ramp descended as if it had all the time in the world. 


“Faster!  Dammit!” he whispered.  The Minder was not behind him but he wasn’t sure if that circumstance would change once he stepped out onto the surface.


His anxiety was pushed down deep and after a deep breath he felt a frosty chill from the planet.  He shivered but fom nervousness or the cold he couldn't tell.


Calm, Solo.  Calm.  Make them understand.






Like a gravity well generators, the wormholes also produced the mass shadow effect.  While not as destructive as an abolisher field, any ship or fleet of ship enroute into the system would be pulled from hyperspace unplanned and unprepared for.  Usually this would be where the interdictors would spring an ambush on the unsuspecting ships. 


The stealth ships of the Coalition however could not detect such a waiting fleet within the area.  What they did detect, however, was a stationary cruiser, presumably the vessel creating the wormhole and several Tie Fighters on a standard patrol pattern.  The Stealth scouts on Route One and Route Two could not figure it out but the Scout on Route Three wondered if instead of the interdiction being used as an ambush, it and the others were creating an early warning system?  At least it made the most sense with the sparsity of the unidentified ships in the interdiction zone. 


At least until something emerged from the wormhole that, while each of the scout’s scanners could pick it up, could not be identified.   It seemed to be the length of a Victory Class Destroyer but it moved and read like a biologic.  It seemed to move like an aquatic creature and it took up a circular route inside the patrol zone of the Tie Fighters.

Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Mar 6 2022 9:06pm

The ramp of the Corellian vessel descended to reveal a small welcoming party: a four man squad of Azguard troopers, and a fifth Azguard in distinctive armor. “I am White Knight Radagast; I have been charged to escort you to the meeting place.” He turned and headed for the nearby starport doors, the squad of troopers breaking into pairs and stepping left and right, making way for the Dominion delegation.


As the Dominion group moved past, the troopers formed a box around them, matching pace with the foreigners in a standard escort formation. The interior of the starport maintained a rather temperate artificial climate, and as soon as the exterior doors closed behind him, Radagast began working the clasps on his thermal overcoat. “Hurok is operating under martial law,” he said as he stripped off the outer protective layer of his uniform. “You will not be permitted to move about without an escort. Minister K'Vek is en route from Azguard to begin . . . discussions.” He gestured toward an adjoining hallway. “We will wait for her in the conference room.”




* * *




Okay. This was working. This was good.


The Verpine was managing the data coming in from Citadel. An expert with its people's unique Charge Guardian, the insectoid officer sported a number of cybernetic enhancements that made it quite adept at sorting large quantities of properly formatted data. It was, quite possibly, more qualified for this task than any other being in the system.


Chekov was leading a small team in combing through every scrap of data they had on Dominion forces, from civilian scans from the Battle of Coruscant acquired by the CIB, to stealth surveillance reports around former Black Dragon worlds at the onset of the Reaver crisis, to likely historical matches around Geonosis, and so on. There probably wasn't much left to glean from that sort of record checking, but it couldn't hurt to have her team refresh their memory about an enemy they were likely about to be fighting.


Harlan was . . . doing what Harlan does. He kept an eye on everyone else, nudged teams when he spotted redundant or contradictory efforts, and kept Blakeley appraised of anything interesting he happened to find. And he looked over Blakeley's shoulder (metaphorically, of course, seeing as the Bimm was barely half Blakeley's height) to make sure the Admiral hadn't missed something glaringly obvious.


And that left the Azguard liaison, Glargraknagar. Blakeley wasn't even going to try to pronounce that name, but he did have an idea of how to make the outsider useful. “But Admiral, my assignment is to liaise between your command and the Azguardian Union.”


“Citadel can liaise itself just fine, Gar.” Ooh, that was a good one! “Just . . . virtual in to Admiral Atom and keep me apprised of anything important. 'Liaise', if you will.” The Azguard seemed dubious. “I just stole the Azguard Home Fleet, Gar. I need a friendly face representing me to them, and I'm sure Admiral Atom wouldn't mind the backup either, though he'd never admit it.”


Gar cracked a smile at the last comment. “Yes, Sir. Of course, Admiral.” So the Azguard took a seat, put on a weird Azguardian VR headset, and set his workstation to sync with the device. In the secondary CIC, where Vice Admiral Atom was reorganizing his new command, a little hologram of Gar appeared in the midst of that commotion.


And then an alarm sounded. Before Blakeley could pull up the relevant information, the Verpine was on it. “Watchtowers Three and Seven have detected Furen fleet movements.”


Oh gods, not now. “What's Citadel -” Blakeley began, but Citadel itself interjected.


“I believe they are responding to the systemwide broadcast,” it informed him. “I am discontinuing the broadcast, and will issue a focused warning to Graks and Renzokain.”


“Is this a problem?” Blakely asked.


“It was a likely development,” Citadel said. “The alternative was to allow the Furen to detect the Dominion on their own, at an unpredictable point in the future. This way, we can try to manage their response.”


The main holo had adjusted to show the binary worlds, a number of icons flagged around them, representing detected Furen ships breaking from orbit. “We can't afford an intra-system battle while the Dominion is watching us from the edge of interstellar space. I'm not prepared to deploy the fleet to intercept them if they venture beyond the Watchtowers.”


“That is an unlikely eventuality. The Furen are aware of our superior naval power, and have some understanding of our planetary defense capabilities. They are likely seeking independent verification of a foreign presence in the system.”


Gods damn it! “Well we can't have them shooting at the Dominion either,” Blakeley said, his voice strained. “Can you keep them bottled up?”


“The Furen have not attempted to venture beyond the Watchtowers since their deployment. The Watchtower interdiction network is extensive, but not comprehenisve.”


“That's not an answer,” Blakely said, agitated.


“I don't know,” Citadel admitted. “But I will try.”


“Get to it, then,” Blakeley said, sure that Citadel already had; Guardians were quite capable of performing multiple tasks simultaneously.


The indicator blinked off as Citadel disconnected, and the Verpine chimed in with its droning, monotonous voice. “Citadel believes the Furen are not likely to attack unless we are already engaged with the Dominion. They may then take advantage of our weakened and distracted state.”


“Great,” Blakeley grumbled. Whose idea was it to put the capital of the Coalition inside a system with active, entrenched, native hostiles?




* * *




Once again, Citadel discontinued the systemwide broadcast. There were no longer any efforts being made to direct the Dominion starships out of the Azguard System, though the previous looped messages had firmly established the Azguard's desire for the uninvited foreigners to depart.


Instead, a more localized message was transmitted from the various Watchtowers arrayed around the double worlds of Graks and Renzokain. Its words were not in Basic or even Azguardian, but in the twisted, spiteful dialect of ancient Azguardian that the Furen had developed over the eons of separation from their brothers. This was only possible because of the contributions of Tifford the Furen, a defector who had joined the Azguard in their efforts to secure Hurok as a new homeworld for the Frozians.


Translated into Basic, the message read something along the lines of: “Servants of the Lords of Darkness, all the peoples of these hallowed worlds now stand against you, as one. We are the Azguardian Union, and the Light of our Gods will safeguard us against the treachery of your aims.


“Venture forth at your own peril; before the Light, all Darkness must fleet, and all Shadows be dispelled.”


Unlike the messages compiled for the Dominion, this one did not loop. The Furen would likely have seen a repeated message as a sign of weakness, an implicit admission that all their enemies were capable of was “talk”.



* * *




Beiwi K'Vek was . . . surprised. She had been prepared, of course. But she was still surprised. In retrospect, she shouldn't have been; Admiral Blakeley wasn't the kind of man to choose war when he believed alternatives were still available. That, at least, she found admirable about the man.


So when the call came in to the Foreign Office that Admiral Blakeley was reining in the local Azguard defenses and accepting the request for a diplomatic meeting, Bei had volunteered immediately. Now, with a meticulously organized datapad in hand and a pair of aides in tow, the Camaasi woman stepped foot on Hurok for the first time. It was plenty cold, but her fur would protect her just fine for the brief walk indoors. And she did so hate for her diplomatic robes to get ruffled by cumbersome outerwear!


The local guide ushered her toward the meeting room, and Bei was shocked to see even the little glimpses of the world that she got in that time. Troopers were everywhere throughout the spaceport, and while there were some civilians about, they were all moving with a certain urgency, a kind of nervous intention. The Azguardian Union had declared martial law when their defense forces went on full alert, but sequestered as she had been within the Coalition government complex, she hadn't realized how total a transformation that entailed.


Even to her pacifistic eyes, it was clear that the Azguard had been expecting a siege like the Battle of Coruscant. If not for Admiral Blakeley, they may have made sure they'd gotten it . . .


The door opened and she led her entourage of three aides (she'd recruited her local guide along the way) into the room. Not wishing to let a good entrance go to waste, she jumped right in:


“Mister Sal-Solo! Or is it Emissary Sal-Solo? I am Interim Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Beiwi K'Vek, and I do hope that together, we can find our way to peace.




* * *




Lord Zaytar was not certain what he was doing there. The mission itself was good and noble and right and soforth, but what was he doing there? In a moment of professional weakness, he had voiced his misgivings to a local commander, a Bith fellow from Siskeen. The fellow had responded: “Well, at least it will look good on your resume.”


After looking up what a “resume” was, Lord Zaytar's misgivings had only grown worse. He was a warrior of Azguard! A commander of her grand fleets! He had a duty to battle the Darkness, to bear the Light, to -


A harsh beeping interrupted his self-enraging musings. “We're getting a priority message from the Eastern Province,” the comms officer said. “It's Admiral Panacka!”


Well put him through, then!” Maybe there was finally some good news.


Panacka began without pleasantries. “Admiral Zaytar.” Zaytar sneered when the foreign officer didn't address him as “lord”, but the slight was soon forgotten because of what Panacka said next: “We've lost contact with Azguard.”


Zaytar snapped his fingers at the comm officer and then pointed, wiggling a finger oddly. The officer seemed to understand and got to work on something. “You're certain?” he asked Panacka.


The CIB is monitoring the situation,” Panacka said. “I just got off the line with Director Mumps.”


The Prime Minister -” Zaytar began.


He's in transit, observing additional security measures. We won't be able to contact him until he arrives at his destination.”


The situation was beginning to set in for Zaytar. His homeworld was in all probability under attack, and he was the closest senior officer in a position to respond. “I'll leave immediately, but the Siskeen System will need reinforcements.”


Panacka nodded. “Admiral Ion and I will contact planetary forces in the South and organize support for the detachment you leave in-system. We're raising the alert status for the East and West, but our fleets are too far out to render assistance in the short term.”


Understood. May the Force be with you Admiral.”


Yeah,” Panacka said, seemingly a little uncomfortable with the phrase. “You too.”


The line closed and Lord Zaytar's crew jumped into action. “No response from Azguard,” the comm officer confirmed.


Planetary task forces are responding,” tactical said. “Two-thirds of the system's fleet strength will form up on us, and make ready for the jump to Azguard.”


Computing course to Loraire,” the navigator announced. “We'll have the jump ready by the time the fleet is in position.”


It was a good crew. It was a good fleet.


Lord Zaytar of Azguard just hoped it would be enough.

Posts: 4195
  • Posted On: Mar 6 2022 10:35pm

Well, here goes…, Sal-Solo thought and he and his Minder exited the ramp.  The Minder was garbed in some sort of silver cloak that hid is figure from the neck down.  He was humanoid but his head was misshapen, as if his brain was trying to break free of his skull.  The Corellian had had the time to get somewhat used to him but it was still unsettling at times.  The five Coalition representatives approached…


“I am White Knight Radagast; I have been charged to escort you to the meeting place.”


Thracken nodded once and the two of them followed (and was also followed by) the four soldiers.  The Azguards seemed to be talking lizards and though he had seen holovids, he’d never met one in person.  They were tall and their reptilian countenance seemed to give them a natural Sabacc face.  To take his mind off the oppressive atmosphere more than anything else, he asked:

“What is a.. White Knight?”


“Hurok is operating under martial law.  You will not be permitted to move about without an escort. Minister K'Vek is en route from Azguard to begin . . . discussions.”


Thracken thought the martial law was pretty obvious as there were no civilians around that he had seen.  Simply the military. Or who he assumed was military as there were uniformed lizards moving here and there.  The Minder said nothing as if content to follow where led.


Despite the hold outside, Sal-Solo’s forehead seemed to break out in a sweat that  had nothing to do with the interior heating.  He seemed to perk up a little when told he would have an escort at all times.  While he understood what the “White Knight” had said, his mind could not help but think to the various meanings  of ‘escort’ and think of voluptuous blondes, brunettes or even a red head.  The thought for some reason comforted him.


Sal-Solo and the silent Minder sat down facing the door and after a while, Thracken could not help but drum his fingers on the  table.  What sort of person would the Azguard representative be?  Intimidating ready to bite his head off?  Could such a creature even be reasoned with?  Could such a creature understand?


The doors parted an in walked four people.

“Mister Sal-Solo! Or is it Emissary Sal-Solo? I am Interim Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Beiwi K'Vek, a and I do hope that together, we can find our way to peace.”

A Camaasi!


He did not know to be thankful that it wasn’t a crotchety old Azguard or worried that is own prejudices might get the better of him.  Not necessarily that he had anything against the Camaasi but he had to admit a little shallowness of character within himself.  It was hard not to be bothered by the long, droopy-nosed, beady-eyed creature before him despite their reputation for being peace lovers.


“Truth.” The word came from the Minder so suddenly that Thracken was startled. 


He leaned forward clasping his hands together as way of keeping them occupied and not fidgety. 


He smiled, “Thracken is fine.  Peace is a worthy goal...” he started.  Taking a breath, he continued, “ an effort to avoid any misunderstandings, instead of your fleet being at battle-stations, perhaps you could take that down a notch without severely compromising your system security?”

Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Mar 6 2022 11:54pm

She didn't have a lot of time to read up on Thracken Sal-Solo, between the time he identified himself and the moment she stepped foot on Hurok. Even so, the man was well known as a shrewd politician, and a staunch xenophobe.


And there he was, matching her professed optimism without a moment's hesitation. “Ah, well, Thracken,” she began, adjusting her robes to ensure they wouldn't bunch up uncomfortably as she took her seat opposite him, “in an effort to avoid any misunderstandings,” she brought her hands together atop the table and leaned in to match his posture, her beady eyes fixed squarely on him as she maintained the slight, amiable smile across her drooy-nosed face. “You should know that as long as the Dominion continues to disrupt communications into and out of the Azguard System, all Coalition military forces will remain on high alert.”


She sat back in her chair, sliding her hands into her lap. “I'm sure you understand; you yourself were once responsible for the safety of an entire solar system.”




* * *




Citadel had recalled the lone squadron of Kris fighters originally dispatched out of Hurok. Admiral Blakeley had wanted close-up scans of the Dominion vessels near the asteroid belt, but command of the squadron passed to Citadel when the admiral surrendered direct command of Azguardian Union forces in the system, and Citadel deemed the risk too high for any potential reward. Besides, if the Admiral wished to pursue diplomacy, it was best to avoid any potential antagonistic actions.


The shields around all four worlds had been lowered, and the Defense Grids were returning to their standard orbital positions, though their systems remained fully powered and crews were on high alert. Admiral Blakeley seemed content to hold the fleet in a defensive posture around the partially functional Galaxy Gun Two, so minor adjustments had been made to Azguard's Defense Grid to compensate for that deployment.


It meant, among other things, that the fleet was far enough away from Azguard to make an immediate jump to lightspeed, should the need arise.


These and countless other bits of strategic and tactical data occupied Citadel's waiting mind, but with the Dominion forces holding position, the majority of the Guardian's attention had turned to the Furen stirring from their dens. Until they settled down, Citadel would busy itself with the task for which it was originally designed: preparing for a Furen invasion.

Posts: 4195
  • Posted On: Mar 7 2022 1:07am

“Ah, well, Thracken, in an effort to avoid any misunderstandings, You should know that as long as the Dominion continues to disrupt communications into and out of the Azguard System, all Coalition military forces will remain on high alert. I'm sure you understand; you yourself were once responsible for the safety of an entire solar system.”


Thracken sighed.   He really was not the man for this as his silvery tongue was only used to get women in bed or sweeten a bargain with low level politicians, industrialists or even criminals.  Nothing ever on this sort of level where the consequences would be disastrous.


“Madam Interim Deputy Minister,” he started slowly.  Where is the real Deputy Minister?  “I have been authorized to inform you of something you may not quite know, being an Interim, Deputy Minister.  You have had an entire arm of this galaxy under interdiction.  We have merely interdicted routes into this single system.  If this, our smaller scaled action is such a threat to you and your great Galactic Coalition, surely you can understand the threat you yourselves pose to the rest of the galaxy? Especially given the scale of your own interdiction activities?”  Thracken paused.


“Truth.” The Minder simply remarked, which annoyed the Corellian.  His eyes darted to the three companions of the Interim Deputy Minister but they had schooled their facial features to reveal a simple blankness.  He knew it for what it was but they seemed like idiot droids.  His gaze flickered up to the White Knight hovering against a nearby wall with his protection detail and while he shifted his face was also emotionless giving that soldier’s stare looking at some point above and behind Sal-Solo’s chair.  He looked disinterested in the discussion but he knew nothing was escaping his notice.


He turned to the Camaasi, thoughtfully.  And then very cautiously, slowly “How can the same action be right when you do it but so wrong when…” Tracken inwardly winced, “..we do it?  Is it because this  time it was done to you?”


For all the famed peace-loving the Camaasi were reputed for, he half expected expected forher  to pull out a blaster and drill him right then and there or simply order this White Knight to do it keeping her hands clean.


I swear, the Cree’Ar sent me here to die!


The Minder spoke again, “Truth.”

Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Mar 7 2022 2:59am

When Interim Prime Minister Pro Moon had plucked her from her previous duties, she could never have imagined finding herself in this situation. She had been the Councilor of Dissent for the Cooperative Council of Defense; her role was literally to argue against war, regardless of the circumstances.


Now . . . now she was in the position of defending the military actions of another nation, found on the other side of the galaxy, based on a defense strategy that was devised before the Cooperative even existed. But what else was there for someone like her to do: abandon the Coalition and all it stood for?


Not in a thousand lifetimes.


Taking notice of Thracken's wandering gaze, Bei turned back to the White Knight and motioned toward the door. “Your men can wait outside, Mister Radagast. There's no need for them in here.” He moved to comply and she gave them a few seconds for the commotion of their filing out to die down. It gave her a few extra seconds to get her thoughts in order.


“When word first reached the Coalition of strange vessels appearing around Coruscant, the news stirred memories of the Battle of Corellia, the climax of the Coalition-Imperial war. Our defense officials were sure that whoever these strangers were, their hulls would be broken against the battlements of an indomitable Empire, as had the warfleets of so many nations before them.” She leaned forward again just long enough to say: “Our own included.”


Sinking back into her chair, she allowed herself a few seconds to pick her next words. “It is a terrible thing – a terrible thing – to find oneself defenseless against an enemy who will not relent. But whatever philosophical disagreement I may have with the Azguard's decision to deploy their interdiction network, I understand it. They did it to save lives, to protect their culture, and to safeguard their independence from a hostile Empire that could not be defeated by conventional means.


“I'm sure you understand the motivation quite well. After all, your own organization, the Sons of Corellia, activated the Centerpoint Station interdictor to protect Corellia from Imperial retribution. Those of us without fleets to smash through the combined forces of the Empire must resort to other means of protection.


“So you ask me what's the difference between what we've done, and what the Dominion now does to us? I don't know, Thracken. I don't know their motivations, their intentions.” Her attention flickered to the stranger beside Thracken, but returned to the man immediately. “But you do. And you certainly understand ours. So what is it? Why are you here, and what does the Dominion want with us?”

Posts: 4195
  • Posted On: Mar 7 2022 3:39am

“Truth.” The Minder noted after she had  spoken.


Thracken grinned on the inside because even though interim, the Deputy Minister was shrewd and frighteningly intelligent.  He reminded himself that he was not exactly trained for this while she had been groomed for the position meaning he was outclassed.  But strangely it also gave him hope. 


He began to tap a finger on the table as if feigning a nervous tic.  He was hopeful because the Coalition had grown large enough to employ a confidence … no.. not confidence but a surety in their own position that they did not need to play the game of political one-upmanship as to this or that reason.  If the Camaasi had shifted gears and let the interdiction point fall away and pointed to the simple invading of their system, he would have been directed to point out the invasion of Corellian space by the Azguardians.  The fact that she had brought it up meant she also realized their part  they are playing as well in this growing foundation of Cree’Ar relationship.

He was dismayed when she sent the White Knight out of the room along with the other soldiers because they may have been the only one to notice the pattern in his tapping.  His head  turned  to watch them leave catching the camera in the corner so perhaps not all was lost.  Her mentioning  of the Sons of Corellia, however, caused an anger to flare up inside of him that almost derailed this entire endeavor.


His fingers tapped furiously as an indication of his agitation.  Well, that and his clenched jaw.


“Madam Interim Deputy Minister,”  oh he wanted to defend the Sons of Corellia and his dream of freeing his home world from the Empire and the depravity of Lupercus Darksword only to wake up one morning and find they were living under a different tyrant.  Unlike Coruscant, Corellia had a larger Cree’Ar presence.  But he was not here for the justifications of old conflicts and to be honest, he did not care if the Coalition and Empire turned each other to dust.  He was only for saving his home world and with that in mind, he continued, “I can answer your question with a single word:  Restitution.”


The Minder opened his mouth to repeat the same word, “Truth.”


His tapping softened but he hoped they had received his message.  It was short and simple and repeated.



Posts: 837
  • Posted On: Mar 7 2022 4:55am

Well, it wasn't what she'd been expecting. It certainly wasn't what she had hoped. It wasn't really even anything she could . . . work with. He wanted her to ask “Restitution for what,” obviously, and . . . well, she couldn't think of anything better to do so . . .


White Knight Radagast reentered the room, his goons securely stashed somewhere nearby. He seemed to have left his weapon outside as well, which was quite good news as far as Bei was concerned. “Please,” she gestured to the last chair on her side of the table, and the Azguard warrior quickly obliged.


Returning her attention to Thracken, she asked: “Restitution for what?”




* * *




Stealth Intruder Relay Two was pulled from hyperspace by the mass shadow of the unnamed storm world. Undetectable by sight at this range, but blazing like an artificial sun on the sensors, the Watcher lay ahead, in orbit around the storm world's equator. The lone pilot signaled the strange vessel immediately, though he knew it had already spotted him and identified his ship as friendly.


“Priority message from Coalition High Command, Admiral Blakeley,” the pilot said. “To the Prime Minister and all Provincial military commands. Transmitting now.”


“Please hold,” came the AI response. “Establishing communications uplink . . . verifying package authenticity . . .”


“The Azguard System is under interdiction and is at immediate risk of attack,” the pilot pleaded. “You have to transmit those orders now!”


“This is all very irregular, you know,” the AI chided.


“The Azguard System getting invaded is very irregular, too, but it's happening!”


“Okay, okay, hold on . . . hold on . . .”


“How long -”


“Package verified; hyperwave transceiver active. Transmitting now . . . and . . . message away!”


“Thank the Gods!” the Azguard pilot cried.


“Indeed!” the AI responded. “Okay, have a nice day, now.”


“What? No, no! I need to get confirmation that the orders have been received, that reinforcements are en route.”


“Oh. Yeah, that makes sense. So . . . while you're waiting: want to play a game of Dejarik?”

Posts: 4195
  • Posted On: Mar 9 2022 5:13am



The woman stirred slowly and when consciousness took hold, she quickly sat up holding her hands up ready to ward off any attack coming her way.  Sellis sat in the far corner content to simply await for the Sith to come too.  He was sure hovering over her when her eyes opened may have been interpreted as hostile.  And he did not feel like having his throat crushed by an annoyed Sith woman.


“Who are you?” she rasped out, backing back into hercorner.


“Sellis.  Sellis Sur” he replied calmly.  He was expecting some bark of harsh threatening but, surprisingly, she seemed withdrawn even as she eyed him suspiciously as if expecting an attack at any moment.


“Why are you here?” she whispered.


Sellis could not suppress an amused smile at the question.  He held his arms wide, “Believe me, it was not by choice.”


Her lips quirked at Sellis’ amusement and relaxed slightly leaning  against the wall.  “I imagine our captors would like for  you to attack me.”


“Because.. you are..”


“A Sith?” her demeanor turned bitter.


“..a force user?” Sellis finished.  “Actually, I am surprised to find you alive as the bounty for force users is quite high.  Opportunists galaxy-wide are being lured into becoming hunters.”


The woman sighed, “Figures.  I was on Corellia and lived there for the last decade or so but oncethat  bounty went public, I was betrayed, captured and found myself here.”


“How long have you been here?”


“I am not sure.  But I am ….tired.”


Tired?  She seemed exhausted!  “Is there a Ysalamiri here?  I would think breaking out of this room would be easy for a Sith?  Honestly, I am surprised you did not strangle me from your location!”


The White Knight’s honest query caused the woman to raise an eyebrow, “I take it you are not a force user?”


Sellis eyes widened, “You can’t tell?”


The woman’s head rested on the wall as  she closed her eyes and cursed her  mistake.  “I must be more tired than I thought.” She mused.


Sellis nodded and tentatively asked, “I do not  mean to offend you but you do not seem like a Sith.”


“What do you think a Sith is?” she asked back, narrowing her eyes.


Psychopathic Murderers.  Selfish murderous pricks.  Bathing in the blood of their enemies.  Did I mentioned murderous murderers that ever murdered?  “Uhh.. I usually think of them as .. intimidating.  Angry.  You know?  Sith.”


“Let’s just say the Cree’Ar have shown me the error of my ways.”


“Really?” Sellis was shocked.  “They are..converting you?”


The Sith woman waved away his shock.  “They are not interested in conversions from the likes of me.  No, they have a special brand of torture for force users.”


“I ..I don’t understand.” Sellis admitted.


The woman sighed.  “When I was first captured, I was rage incarnate.  Their torture was designed to fuel that rage or even, if my overriding emotion was fear, to fuel the fear.  You see, with Sith, we draw our force strength through the power and intensity of our emotions and the more raw they are, the greater their access to their power.  But the Cree’Ar.  Those …bastards are not interested in… us as people.  They are only interested in what  they can t..take from us.”


Sellis frowned as her  voice slightly broke against the backwash of some memory.  Whatdid they do to her?  His empathy warred with his disdain for the Sith.


“And so you learned…?” Sellis gently prodded.


“That while burning hot rage can ignite the the fires of the force within me, the reverse is not true.  Stip me of my power and all I am is an angry little girl and once the rage burns out, there is nothing left.”  Her voice trailed off in a apathetic and tired manner.


“they took your power?” the white Knight’s eyes were wide in surprise.  “They can do that?”


She smiled wanly, “I think it’s why they are placing bounties on all Jedi, Sith …anyone that can yield the  Force.” her voice trailed off as the memories came back.  “I would lash out at them screaming, cursing them until my voice had no more strength.  At first, my power would feel like a draining of my soul but it  would eventually come back and so the bastards would do it again for more..  always more and  more.. It got to the point where I would feel so drained that I would pass out and would awaken to  find myself… not alone in this cell.  I would find a man, or two or three, or a woman or another species and more often than not, I would wake to them trying to take advantage of me… my state.  I’ve lost count of how many I have had to kill to simply stay alive.  But the length of this drained state has been growing longer and longer.   I think the life and death situations they put me in, in pitting others against me, are intentioned to see if I have any reserves of power I am holding back.”


And then she closed her eyes. 


“I do not know what they will do with me once they decide I can give no more.  No.. once they decide they cannot take any more.   I am so… tired.”


Her eyes closed and once again slumped against the wall as she feel back asleep.


Sellis closed his eyes as well and leaned back against his part of the wall.  It seemed like her anger had burned itself out a while ago.  As if she had grown numb and was at the end of a very long rope.


But she was a Sith!


Wasn’t she?


She certainly identified as such but what did that really mean?  She was also human and she had been abused by these creatures over and over for a long time.  She had endured more than what anyone should have and he definitely would not have held it against if she was a raving rage machine ready to burn the galaxy down around her!  And these creatures, as she called them, did not seem to do this out of any sense of perverted sense of pleasure or joy.  It was not out of malice or hate …it was most… what was the word?




She was an experiment.  A fact-finding analysis.  Not immoral but amoral.


Why was he there?  Were they expecting him to act like the others that they had put in her cage.  And it was a cage.  He had to be honest about that.  Not a prison.  A cage.  And now it was his turn in the cage. 


Perhaps they are working out my character?  Or the character of a White Knight?


We’ve got to get out of here!  Wherever here is.


His mind turned to forming a plan before he too was asleep.



Unknown Location, Interstellar Space..


The gloved hands gripped the flight controls as the launch counter wound down.  This was not an emergency launch but Acker, the pilot, still felt a line of sweat gliding down his back.  He did not know which was worse, the hectic stress of an emergency launch into an already engaged battle where you don’t have time to think or the methodical, slow deployment where you had all the time in the world to think about what you will be facing.  Where you had time to work up a good solid fright about the… what was it the ground grunts called it?   Oh right.  The suck.  Time to work up a solid fright about the suck about to come your way.


Try as INS might, their broadcasts to the general public may have been all about the general incompetence of the Azguardian Navy and tactics, in particular, but such foolishness was ignored by most of the armed services.  You know, those that were actually tasked with confronting the Coalition forces.  No matter if a GC pilot ended up being a one-legged grandmother with cataracts and a lazy eye, there was nothing wrong with the construction of their ships and the potency of their weapons.  Even if Smarts was rumored to be a Clone War era  Confederation rust-bucket, A.I. was still A.I. and an A.I. would definitely “up” granny’s game!


A shudder ran through his fighter as the gantry released and he shot out under his own power as if a snake striking out after its coiling energy reached a certain triggering threshold. 


“Viper Two launched,” he clicked into his Comm and he moved to take up position within the area his squadron was assigned to.  Behind him Viper Three was launching.  He was in a TIE Interceptor and would be a part of the initial thrust in what his being called Operation Restitution.  He was not sure of restitution for what but he went where the powers that be sent him.  And right now, He was sent to a rather large staging area.


Being an Imperial, it was hard to navigate the confusing “powers-that-be” part of his life as the Cree’Ar conquerors of Coruscant maintained a ‘hands-off” approach to the everyday life of the Empire…the Empire under Emperor Gevel…content to simply interact with the upper echelon halls of power.  However, there was a stark contrast as Acker had the unlucky distinction of not being considered a part of Theren Gevel’s Empire but a member of the former Borderlands Protectorate whose Governor was one Kach Thornton, the Usurper.   The Traitor to the previous administration but a means to an end to the Empire’s overlords.  The story he’d heard second, third or fourth-hand had been that rather than hold the line against the rampaging Reavers spilling across into the Protectorate, Thornton decided to leave the Borderlands to their fate and lead his marshalled resources to Coruscant in a bid to take the throne, albeit during an alien invasion.  But for that inconvenient invasion, he might have had a more than better chance of winning said throne and Acker would be swearing to Emperor Thornton now rather than swearing at him for the situation he found himself in.  For, while Thornton and his fellow conspirators were instrumental in removing Regent Zell from power, he was not prepared to defend Imperial Center, especially with the remnants of the fleet withdrawing or holding the escape corridor open to allow the general evacuation of the planet to continue for as long as possible.  He also was not prepared to take the fight to the invading forces, having arrived on the scene late during the siege.  So it was that he too found his position untenable and tried to extract his forces from the clusterfuck he had led them into.  But not everyone of the Borderland Fleet got away and when the corridor was shut and the envelopment was complete, everyone else in space that was not Cree’Ar surrendered.  The civilian transports were allowed to return to Coruscant to be processed or destroyed as they invalidated their surrender by attempting to flee the system through other, lesser routes.  Perhaps some made it but many did not.  The point is, the Borderland Fleet remnant that were caught on the wrong side of the siege were put under the authority of the invaders and were not allowed to lose themselves in the mingling of Theren’s fledgling, though consolidating, forces.


Acker was not sure what the Cree’Ar wanted with the Borderland Fleet, such as it was, but he certainly was not consulted about the goings on of the higher-ups and was not on the need-to-know list anywhere.  What he did know is that their fleet represented a powerful force, it was a Protectorate force after all,  but they were taken care of.  The invaders allowed their ships to get patched up, restocked and back into fighting trim and now that they had, it was time to be used.  He still did not know where they were or where they were going to attack up until the fleet reached what was only referred to as the “Staging Area”.  It was then during their pre-mission briefing that they discovered where they were going:  Azguard Union Territory. 


He felt the ripple of excitement at the chance of facing their old enemy once more and on their home-turf.  The galaxy may have gone to hell in a handbasket but at least, amazing though it was, the prospect of fighting the GC brought a sort of familiar comfort to them and some sense of normality.  The briefing was anything but.  Where Thornton would be rather bombastic and extoll the virtues of being in a fleet led by him and tried to appeal to the soldier’s greed by highlighting was a victory would bring them, Simon Kaine tended to focus on the overarching objective and then break down the individual obstacles that they would need to overcome to achieve the objective.  In addition to the objective, Zell would curse a lot and cast doubts as to the enemy’s parentage deciding that if the enemy was broken down and stripped of any redeeming qualities, by sheer force of will, that might make it true.  At the very least it would chase away fear replacing it with contempt.  The Cree’Ar were different.  They did not expose the overall, ultimate goal of their operation but merely focused on their part in it.  All Acker had, all his squadron had was a grid set of coordinates that they were responsible for.  No matter what was going on at Azguard or on any other planet, their sole concern was their set of coordinates.  Like the old grunt mantra before most were replaced by Stormtroopers, “This is my gun.  There are many like it but this is mine…”


These are my coordinates.  They are many like it, but these are mine...


Their portion of the fleet was spread out in the staging area, and this was one of three or four staging areas.  There was another area for the initial probe into the system consisting of an amalgam of lighter forces from the former Borderlands Fleet and Dominion forces.  Those forces were not designated for heavy fighting but were the scouts and whatever the sensors, scanners both conventional and gravimetric found would populate the maps for the CAGs (Commander Air Group) to finalize operations within their coordinate assignment before execution.  Acker’s grip on his controls tightened as he moved into his designated position.  A rush moved through him as the familiar feeling of the coiled power of his Interceptor vibrated in the palm of his hands.  He resisted the urge to simply “punch it” and leave his squadron behind and revel in the simple exhilaration of speed.  With speed, all the worries of the galaxy dissolved in his mind with a great calmness settling over him.  It was a far cry from the anxiety he always felt at the start of a mission until he became a banshee heralding the coming of the storm.




Restitution for what?”


He buried his frustration.  He wanted to grab her nose and pull her head down so he could look into her eyes, beady as they were, to convey his desperation that he had a script to follow and any deviation could cost him his life.  But then, why would they care?  He was representing the interlopers in the very heart of their system.  Perhaps that was why he was chosen by Artanis.  The Cree’Ar do nothing without reason.  There is always a reason.  Perhaps the old bastard knew his reputation among others.  He never really cared about how others thought of him for he was a vain, self-centered individual working for his own advantage.  He acknowledged that perhaps turning a blind eye to that aspect was short-sided but how was he supposed to know some extra-galactic power would appear out of nowhere and shatter the Empire?   The Empire!  He knew how to fight them.  He was preparing to fight them and work out the liberation of Corellia but Kraken, that piece of Sith Shit, decide to bring Reavers to  the system and he, they, had to turn to the Cree’Ar as they were the closest power.  He had no choice!


He looked into her beady eyes wondering if she really was intelligent or was she working off a script as well?  Her stare seemed vacant but perhaps she just could not catch nuance.  In the darkrecesses of his mind he put her  down because he just could not face the glimpse of what her eyes did show. And despite his silent plea for help (or not so silent seeing as he was tapping the message on the table) he hated her for what those little beady eyes did convey.   Pity.


The universe had conspired against him and now it was conspiring against her and hers and she did not even know it.  How dare she pity him!  Him!  Thracken Sal-Solo!


His eyes shifted  to the Minder before his scripted persona came back to the forefront and he  leaned back crossing his legs.  “Well, that does not really matter does it?  You did not relay to any higher-ups regarding the lowering of your battle-station status.  You did not even entertain the notion of turning off your own interdictors for the galactic arm.”  He cocked his head and tried a different approach, “You know, the Dominion takes in refugees as well.  You ask ‘restitution for what?’”  He smiled a rather sad smile, “For the Azguard Union to become a part of the Greater Dominion. Restitution to bring this back into balance.  You may ask ‘Why this restitution?’ and I acknowledge that you personally may not know but I assure you, your government knows.  If you want proof, I can provide it but please rest assured, restitution will be paid.”


One way or another…


Time is running out.