To Curse the Darkness (Coalition, Confederation)
Posts: 827
  • Posted On: Mar 12 2022 12:09am

The Meeting

 

As Thracken began his next deflection, a bit of commotion to the side caught Bei's attention. Radagast was borrowing a datapad from the aide sitting between them, and he started typing something on it. She did her best to ignore him, focusing on Thracken's words and demeanor.

 

It mostly sounded like nonsense, but it was definitely meant to incite. Restitution for the Azguardian Union to become part of the Dominion? Like, they were going to conquer the Azguard, and then charge them for the privilege of being conquered?

 

Luckily Radagast seemed too involved in what he was doing to notice.

 

Thracken offered “proof” though, and more information was always better than less in these sorts of situations, so she decided to take the bait. “What sort of -”

 

Radagast had reached over her aide and tapped her on the shoulder with the datapad, completely disrupting her flow. She looked over to him and he seemed quite earnest, so she took the pad.

 

He is tapping H – E – L – P. Over and over again.

 

“And what about you?” Radagast asked before Bei even had time to process the message. She looked up to see Radagast addressing the unfamiliar alien beside Thracken. “Do you speak, beyond the word 'truth'? Is it all you can say? Is it the only word of his tongue that your pet has taught you?”

 

Well fizzlesticks, this wasn't going to work out well. “Mister Radagast,” she began calmly, hoping to put a lid on things before they escalated.

 

“She speaks!” he railed, pointing to Bei, acknowledging that she had spoken but ignoring the content of her speech. “This one speaks!” He pointed to the woman sitting between them, who had loaned him the datapad.

 

Bei only knew Mister Radagast in passing, but he was a senior White Knight, hand-picked by Regrad when the order was founded.

 

“Uhh, hi,” the aide said softly, waving uncomfortably at the foreigners. “Hello.”

 

“We all can speak! Even your manservant speaks!”

 

He was an exemplar of the Coalition and all it stood for.

 

“Mister Radagast!” Bei exclaimed.

 

He gestured at Thracken, his attention still focused solely on the strange alien. “Do you make him speak . . .”

 

Whatever his personal – oh.

 

“. . . your poisoned words . . .”

 

Oh silly girl, of course!

 

“. . . because you think -”

 

“That is quite enough!” Be shouted, rising to her feet and tapping the end of the pad on the desk for emphasis.

 

Radagast stood and squared off with her, his rage apparent and apparently quite real.

 

“You've done more than enough,” she said evenly, giving the table two more quick taps with the datapad. The sound drew his attention to the pad in her hand, and his demeanor softened somewhat. “Miss Peddigrew will show you out,” she added. “Miss Peddigrew?”

 

There was a bit of a ruckus behind Bei as the local Frozian guide maneuvered her considerable frame out of the human-sized chair, but Bei kept her attention on the White Knight as he slowly nodded and then stepped away from the table. “Y-yes, Ma'am,” Miss Peddigrew said, perhaps only to prove that she, too, could speak.

 

Bei watched the two of them leave and waited for the door close. “My apologies,” she began, handing the datapad back to her aide before returning her attention to the Dominion delegation. “Tensions are certainly high at the moment,” she fixed her focus on the unfamiliar alien, addressing him/her/it directly, “but mister Radagast's behavior was simply . . .” she made a show of closing her eyes and shaking her head, “. . . unacceptable.”

 

Eyes open, attention returned to the alien, she retook her seat, spreading her hands out flat on the table. “Are you prepared to continue, or would you prefer a recess?” She gestured to the exit. “There are ample commissary facilities in the adjoining area, if you would prefer not to return to your vessel.” She smiled the practiced smile so essential in her line of work. “In matters of state import, it is imperative that we maintain a clear head, and not allow such unpleasantness to disrupt our work. A break may be in order.”

 

It wasn't much, but it was the best she could come up with in the few seconds that Mister Radagast had bought her. Whatever the fuddlemuffins was going on here, she had to split up this dynamic duo. And however the heck-fire she was going to do that, she would probably have to figure out what this weirdo's deal was first!

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

Siskeen System, Azguard Expeditionary Fleet

 

Now it's a party.

 

Admiral Ion from the West, Admiral Panacka from the East, Knight-Defender Ruuvan from Mon Calamari, and Damar Roka: the Chief of the Cooperative Council of Defense. Those Cooperative folks sure had some funny titles, but Lord Zaytar understood it was basically equivalent to the Minister of Defense.

 

The rest of Coalition High Command was unavailable. Because the capital was under siege. They were hoping to raise the Prime Minister soon, but there was no time to waste. It was best to act on Admiral Blakeley's orders now, and allow the Prime Minister to veto their actions if he wished, and if they could contact him in time.

 

“I cannot leave the Siskeen System unguarded,” Zaytar explained. “We have not had time to install planetary defense shields. Without a fleet, these worlds are defenseless.”

 

“I can order Manda's full contingent to reinforce you there,” Councilor Roka said, his hologram shimmering quite nicely next to all the others, “and call in reinforcements from the Cooperative's Southern and Western worlds. It'll take them a little while, but they should get there faster than the Eastern forces. Then Panacka won't have to bolster his Southern expedition, and can hold more ships in reserve at home, in case of an attack there, or . . . or on the Cooperative's core.”

 

“I'd rather send a secondary force to Brentaal and help you cover that so you can keep more ships at home,” Panacka said, very intentionally avoiding the thing that nobody wanted to say: if the Quelii Sector came under attack, the only direct path for reinforcements to get there was through Reaver Space.

 

“Did Admiral Blakeley forget about us?” Ruuvan asked. “I mean, I know we're kind of 'new again' and all, but the Dac Republic has a defense fleet.”

 

“Your core worlds are pretty isolated too,” Panacka said. “We should redouble patrols along the Dac Pipeline and dispatch scouts to ensure the secondary routes are still clear.”

 

Ruuvan nodded. “We need the Prime Minister to initiate a mutual defense policy, but in the meantime I think we should pledge to . . . well: to look out for our neighbors.”

 

“Agreed,” Councilor Roka said. But of course he agreed, as the Cooperative had planets spread out all across the rim of the galaxy.

 

“Absolutely,” Ion agreed.

 

“Where was all of this camaraderie when I was fighting the Dragons?” Panacka complained. No one seemed to appreciate the comment. “Alright alright, fine. Admiral?”

 

All attention turned to Lord Zaytar, who still just wanted to be called by his proper title. “I'll depart from Siskeen when the force from Manda arrives. That should put us at Loraire about the same time as the contingent from Ketaris arrives there. We'll form up the fleet there and jump for Azguard as Admiral Blakeley ordered.”

 

“Sounds like a plan,” Panacka said. With so many members of High Command missing, Panacka was the most senior member present. “Alright. Let's beam all this to our waiting Azguard messenger, and get moving.”

Posts: 4191
  • Posted On: Mar 26 2022 2:52am

 

 

When Sellis awoke he saw the Sith woman looking at him from her corner but with less wariness.  As he blinked trying to shake the fog from his mind, his stomach rumbled. 

 

“They do feed us, yes?” he asked, and the woman’s lips pursed trying to prevent a slight smile as if convey a common observation that women have been making about men since the beginning of the universe about men and their stomachs.

She stood and walked along a wall until she reached a mid-way point and pressed a corner of a rectangle indentation.  A covering slid away revealing a tube of something brown and pasty and a tube of something hard, like packed birdseed.  She pulled one of the tubes out and walked over, handing it to Sellis.  He sniffed the birdseed composite and frowned.

 

“It seems they do not take pleasure in eating,” he remarked reluctantly opening his mouth to nibble a bit.

 

This comment elicited a smile from her.  She sat down next to him.  Sellis clamped down on his natural defensive reaction to dark side users. It was like letting sitting next to a feral tigress but other than her understandable reaction in the beginning, she did not seem like your typical murdering Sith psychopath.  Then again, what did he know?  He rarely spent any time with females let alone murderous Sith psychopaths.

 

 Those hellcats were Ruuvan’s brand of flavor!

 

He smiled at the thought of his fellow White Knight and the woman smiled along with him misinterpreting his reaction.

 

“What are you?” she asked and he turned to her sharply.  While most reptilian races had trouble showing emotional expressions, Azguardians had not such problem.  Probably not as expressive as humans but for one who could read Azguardian body language, Sellis was practically shouting and waving his hands in incredulity.

 

“I am an Azguard,” he said a little confused as if it were common knowledge.

 

The woman reddened, embarrassed sensing his confusion.  “I have not travelled much, most of my life living on Corellia.” She confessed.

 

Sellis pointedly looked at her medallion.  “Are you a Sith?”

 

She reddened further, “I thought I was...” She started and paused as if considering, “…I said all the right lines and boasted all the hateful remarks about Jedi that I could think of.  I think I convinced myself that I hated them but, honestly, I never met them.  My father who was my mentor used to subject me to all manner of pain but upon reflection, after all my time here, I just think that is how he was brought up into his organization.”

 

“Was he a part of the Sith under Lupercus Darksword?  I am sorry, I am not sure how many Sith organizations there are.  There was the Naboo Sith Order but I don’t know if they are still around, if their the same as the Sith on Xa’Fel or something new?” the White Knight admitted.

 

“I was not a part of any organization,” she admitted too.  “It was more like I hung around but was not on any membership rolls.  Darksword ruled Corellia but my father had told me to stay away from Lupercus and his palace.  Especially his dungeons.  But I do not really know if Lupercus had his own Order.  It is hard to tell Sith Hierarchy without the Rule of Two.”

 

“So your father will be looking for you?” Sellis asked wondering if it would be the Cree’Ar or and enraged Stih father that would skewer him with something pointy.

 

She looked away, saddened.  “No.  He was killed.”

 

How anyone could be sad about the parent that tortured them?  But he guessed torture was relative.  Where --… ??

 

“By the way, what is your name?” Sellis asked.

 

  “Traya,” she replied. 

 

Traya Honey-Murder, his addled brain thought off the cuff before returning to the thoughts he had before regarding torture and it being relative.  Where Traya had been tortured with pain, with him, his mother had tortured him making him memorize his multiplication tables.  While hers was more painful physically, both methods left them with indelible memories forever etched on their brains amid tears of frustration and anguish.  Yet we still love our parents.

 

“My father was not liked by other Sith.  He was a member of the Sith Brotherhood or Brotherhood of the Sith, I forget how it goes.  His Master, Sith Ahnk, was betrayed by his followers but my father refused to participate in the betrayal so others looked down on him.”

 

“Ahnk?” Sellis thought.  The name was familiar but somehow not.  “I do not remember where I’ve heard that name.” he admitted.

 

“He decided to join the Jedi but his people did not feel the same,” Traya added.

 

Sellis snapped his fingers.  “That’s it!  He joined the Jedi.. no wait!  He ..it was a rogue Jedi Order he joined?”

 

“Something like that.  But from that man, my father was trained along the belief that only through pain and suffering can one truly learn and ultimately discover their power.”

 

“And what does that teach you?” Sellis asked aghast.

 

“It teaches us that we all have the capacity to endure,” she gestured throughout the room.  “We are all faced with the darkness that life throws at us.  Eventually, that pain and suffering builds up because our natural reaction is to either bottle it up.  Put it in a mental box and throw away the key.  But eventually, it builds up.  Those little mental boxes get full.  The rooms those boxes are placed in get full.  It gets to the point where it can no longer be ignored so we crumble.  It eventually breaks us.  But if you are purposefully subjected to the pain, purposefully subjected to suffering, the way you deal with it, the way you endure it begins to change.  Suddenly you become numb to the experience, suddenly you know longer recognize it as such and, instead, being to welcome it like an old friend.”

 

The White Knight leaned back thinking about it.  In a weird way, it made a sort of sense.  He may not like Mon Calamari Opera as it sounded like off-key wildebeests having an argument with Onyxian geese.  He supposed if he continued to subject himself to multiple operatic performances, it might start to make sense, begin to resonate with him on an emotional level and finally eagerly attend them with appreciation.   Perhaps that’s how Sith get ‘made’ in the Brotherhood?  Or were made? 

 

Or the whole thing turned them into murderous thugs.  But a father doing that to his daughter?

 

As if knowing his thoughts, she continued, “I think father was more worried about other Sith than he was about Jedi.  The Jedi do not torture or so I am told.”

 

“Not as a rule, no.” Sellis agreed.  “Though some Jedi break off and become what is called ‘Dark Jedi’ which is not Jedi but not Sith either.  But Dark Jedi would not seem to have your best interests in mind either.”

 

“How is it?” she suddenly asked pointing to the tube of birdseed.  “Do not worry about eating it all.  There is always a new tube in the box,” gesturing towards the containment area where she had pulled the tube out from.

 

“You know what an oscillating power distribution coupling for a YT-freighter is?” he asked.

 

“No.” she replied frowning, “though I know what a YT freighter is.”

 

“Well, Traya, this,” he shook the nibbled tube of birdseed, “this tastes like the box those parts are packed in.”

 

She laughed, surprising herself and pleasing the White Knight.

 

A little laughter spruces up any dingy torture chamber room!

 

 

 

*

 

Korah watched the massive Cree’Ar leave his craft.  They were meeting on a small moon as a neutral location.  The Contegorian detected the confidence radiating from the other and he felt a hesitation.  

 

Was he doing the right  thing? 

 

The visions of the Void were becoming more and more frequent.  It could not be the madness.  It was too soon!

 

But to save the Confederation, sometimes unpleasant actions were required.  At least that  is what he told himself.

 

“Tell me, man of the Confederation,” a voice boomed, “Why should I not kill you now?”  the voice was strong and penetrated into Korah’s mind as if the Cree’Ar was standing right next to him.

 

“Yes, I know you are hunting my kind, but I believe we may be of assistance to each other.”

 

“And what makes you think you have anything I would want?  Other than you, yourself?”  Korah could feel the calculating mind behind the words but, in his growing anger, his hesitation seemed to burn away and he took on a defiant stance.

 

Korah smirked, “I have no idea why my kind are so important to you but there is a choice before you Cree’Ar.  You could stretch out your hand and have me, one person, or you can choose to listen and have hundreds if not thousands.  It is my word against yours!  It is not my goals verses yours but simly the certainty of mathematics.  But,” he waved at the large creature before him, “by all means, take me in if you feel I am that important.”  He spread his arms wide.

 

Varro Kai was both repulsed by the insolence but also intrigued.  “And in return for this bounty of numbers?”

 

Korah’s smirk turned menacing.  “I would like you to attack Kashan to provide a distraction to their forces.”

 

The Cree’Ar considered this request mentally filing through the inventory of his forces to see what could be detached.  “I may be able to send some Song Ships to attack.  They should be distraction enough.  But what exactly are you offering?  Besides nebulous numbers?”

 

“Instructions for making clone force users.  If you wish to chase them across the galaxy, that is your business but what would your superiors say if you were able to create at will without having to scour the galaxy searching?”

 

Varro Kai’s eyes narrowed and he stepped up to the human, “If something is too good to be true and usually is.  Where is the hidden blade?”

 

“What?” Korah was confused.

 

Varro Kai frowned, “Where is the hidden blade?  What is the catch?”   Whenever a human promises the sun, moon and stars in one hand, they are usually holding a blade to your gut in the other.

 

Korah smiled in understanding, “The ‘catch’ as you say, is that the created force users will eventually  go mad.”

 

Before the Cree’Ar’s anger could take over, Korah hastily added, “But there is a key, I believe, to addressing that problem.”

 

“And that is?” Varro asked bitterly and Korah’s smile turned predatory as if he were selling used landspeeders to travel the galaxy in.

 

And so Korah explained his visions of the Void to the Cree’Ar and what he felt they meant.  And, what Varro Kai could do to aid the force user in his fight against this.. Void.

 

He is not asking much, the Cree’Ar thought sarcastically.  “If you know the key to this problem, why not find it yourself and confront this ‘Void’ yourself?”

 

“Because, there is no more time for me.  For you see, I myself feel the encroaching madness I do not know how long my sanity will last.  For there is one who has overcome this flaw to prevent the madness.  Or so I have come to understand but I do not have the time to search the galaxy for this person.  And if you agree to be my sword in this, I will tell you this person’s name for you have only begun your conquest of this galaxy and so you will have the time.”

 

The Cree’Ar stared silently at the human debating the validity of his claim.  Still the solution was doable.  Was the risk worth the reward?

 

“So who is this person?” he finally asked the human.

 

“So, a distraction for the Genetic Rennovation Program and my request for your sword against the Void for the key.  Do you agree to my terms?”

 

“Yes.  I agree.”  Is an agreement made with an inferior binding?

 

“I do not know if this person is alive or where he is, but he was known as the Sith Ahnk, Andrew Rashanagok!”

 

The Cree’Ar thought about the task of finding one human in a galaxy of many?  While the force-user may already be mad, what did he have to lose?  What was asked of him still complimented Lord Artanis’ strategy.  Didn’t it?

 

Rashanagok.

 

 

*

 

Globulus Arkanius – Ship of Life

 

Artanis strode down the corridor with Parrow-Lin lining the hall on either side.  The vessel had just joined his fleet and had completed docking with his Command Ship with various Arbiters holding position at strategic points around the connected vessels.  

 

“Carrow-Cree” a rather large yet graying Cree’Ar greeted when Artanis entered the Room of Gathering.   Seeing his old comrade, Artanis felt more at ease that the rest of his purposes would be carried out satisfactorily.

 

“Carrow-Mar” he replied gripping his comrade’s arm in the more informal greeting of close acquaintances.  The older Cree’Ar was known as Bendar and he commanded the Globulus Arkanius, also known as the Ship of Life.  Its purpose was as the name described, a “collector vessel” and was sized accordingly to house all manner of life.

“The hunt goes well?” Bendar asked, his fingers tingling with excitement.

“It has just started,” Artanis admitted, “though I was hoping you might have more Creanti in season?  I only had three with my fleet and Strategy suggested at least two more.”

 

“As long as it is successful strategy,” Bendar replied.

 

“With your four, it shall be,” Artanis challenged and the two stared at each other until Bendar bowed his head and gestured an arm wave to nowhere specific.  “Lord, they are yours.”

 

Though not required from a leader of his stature, Artanis nodded his head in acknowledgment. 

 

Raising Creanti was not an easy task and that Bendar had four to spare spoke well of his talent and that of his crew.  The Creanti were space dwellers and not considered sapient, as such things are measured according to the Coalition but, unlike the Coalition, they were entirely peaceful.  They went where they wanted, when they wanted and did whatever they wanted heedless of borders, sensor buoys and quarantines.  They claimed nothing and merely satisfied their more basic of needs.  The need to feed.  The need to move and the need to procreate.  They were able to be tamed for a time but the closer they were to benig “in season”, the harder it came to confining them.  Eventually they would break from their confinement damaging whatever was holding them.  It was always the smarter move to simply release them when they came in season or the greater damage to whatever facility was holding them experienced.  They were essentially large, armoured whales that lived in space.  They could be killed with enough force to shatter their hardened carapace but it was not usually worth the trouble.  They were, however, attracted to power generators and outputs which was why the vessels that housed them and operated near them had their reactors shielded.  Still, they were not by nature hostile.  A “Creanti Peace” was an old term from the Cree’Ar galaxy that had, for the most part, gone extinct as it required many Creanti to enforce.   In ancient eons, an advanced civilization would stop warring factions from fighting by simply inundating those factions with Creanti.  Soon the powerful energy outputs of warship, war machines and weapons would attract the Creanti and they would gather in the locations where these great engines of war were made since great power and energies were needed to create the items that expended great power and energies.  Soon, such manufacturing locations were untenable with so many Creanti gathered and the cost of constantly moving such facilities outweighed a species need to continue warring with their fellows, thus the Creanti Peace.  Some primitive races were undeterred and continued to expend the money, effort and energy to slaughter but eventually, this would only bring about the “Creanti Judgement”.  For these space-dwellers would either grow in size and population to the point that systems were affected for their main sustenance was from the stars.  Even a stellar ecology can be affected over the course of time and whether or not planetary dwellers great and small admitted it, they were a part of that Stellar Ecosystem as well.  Now, the Creanti were all but extince in the Cree’Ar home galaxy but the Cree’Ar were nothing if not caretakers of their charges.  Having become the dominate power in their own galaxy, they acknowledged their responsibility to care for that galaxy after the damage done by the war that laid them so low as well as the war that made them the apex of species.  The Ships of Life were the preservers of life as well as the spreaders of life.  They moved unchallenged throughout the universe seeding distant locations or locations who had not seen such life in an Age or two with new.  It was not cloning but, rather, more like a zoo or preserve who would, after building up their numbers, release life into the wild where it may prosper and flourish.

“I am fascinated by your description of these ‘Force Users’.” Bendar started, walking alongside Artanis, “though I am unclear if they endangered or not.”

 

Artanis grunted, “It seems to be unclear to the people of this galaxy as well.    Tradition seems to suggest that there are two main species or factions of force users that once numbered in hundreds or even thousands until one faction decided to reduce their numbers to simply two.”

 

“Self-extermination?” Bendar shook his head.  “The taking of one’s own life is one thing but for a species or faction to devour itself is quite another.”

 

“It is not without merit,” Artanis relayed, “It is a concept called ‘Survival of the Fittest’.  Since these two main factions warred, the one turned on itself to force itself to grow stronger, more powerful intending to have a singular warrior crush a multitude of weaker carrion.  It is a flawed concept but it would produce a fine warrior.  One of note.”

 

“And a strong bloodline.” Bendar added thinking. 

 

Artanis turned to Bendar.  “What did you do?”

 

“I thought to bring in a male and female into captivity to protect their numbers.  It seems even the people of this galaxy are not sure of the exact numbers of force users.  Some say they are already extinct and yet another group of them is announced.  Rogue Jedi?  Jedi Enclave?  Order of Golgotha?  The Naboo Sith Order, the Sith Order, Brotherhood of the Sith, Jedi Corps… there are so many groups how can anyone know force-user population numbers?”

 

Artanis seemed amused, “Especially if each group slaughters the other with glee.  Sith and Jedi younglings are encouraged to duel each other to prove their prowess to the ’Masters’ within their group.  The waste is incredible.”

 

Bendar agreed, “Well, I tried to see if I could set aside two hoping they would mate and thrive behind protective barriers.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“The female killed the others when the males tried to mount her and even when they didn’t.  Apparently, they were from a differing group or faction she disapproved of.”

 

“It is hard to identify their complex and illogical array of loyalties and prejudices.”

 

“Well, she hasn’t killed the latest male.  I could not find a Jedi Knight but we did capture a White Knight.”

 

“I have not  heard of that force-sensitive group but it seems all of these creatures have inflated opinions of themselves.”

 

Bendar agreed.  “Well, it will eventually happen.  If not them, then others.  We would not want them to completely self-exterminate.”  The older Cree’Ar gestured over a projection of the Azguard system.  “What will you do here?”

 

Artanis glanced at projection and felt a glimmer of satisfaction.  “This group of force users are more organized  than any other reported by Zeratul.  I wish to offer them a place in the Greater Dominion and use that organization to our advantage.  It helps us and it helps them.”

 

“To thrive?”

 

“To survive.”

 

Bendar was surprised, “Do they understand the honor of such an offer?”

 

“I doubut it.  The denizens of this galaxy are woefully short-sided.  I will give them the choice.  Either they will have the privilege of furthering our goals or they won’t.” Artanis’ hand clenched into a fist. 

 

Bendar nodded at the purpose.  “I have found that these creatures rarely do what is expected.  It can be frustrating.”

 

Artanis nodded sagely.  “I agree.  Their egos are fragile things but the important thing with handling them is that once you close off all other options, they end up doing what is expected of them.  Even if done grudgingly or if they resign themselves to it, eventually they can convince themselves it was a direction they wanted to go all along.”

 

“Sounds delusional.  They may bite the hand that feeds them.”

 

Artanis shrugged as if it was of no material concern, “It will be their choice.  It will merely be cause and effect.  Their fate will one chosen by them.”

 

“Actually,” entered a new voice of that of the Cree’Ar Master Scientist, Vejuun.  “It is a trait of the younger races and according to my calculations, this galaxy is so very much younger than that of the Red Sun’s.”

 

“I expected you here yesterday,” Artanis chided the scientist.

 

Vejuun waved the complaint away.  “The realities of space travel, Lord Artanis.  The splinters of the oh-so-great Empire are still irritatingly troublesome.”

 

Bendar grunted, “You chased the rats from their nest and now that they have gathered and established new nests, they deign to hiss and bite back.”

 

“Their core was rotten but their industrial centers still hold.  Tentatively but they do hold.” Vejuun remarked.  “We captured a great many vessels when their capital fell but even with half as much, these splinter cells may prove as irritating as a small pebble in one’s shoe.”

 

“Do they even know what is happening?” groused Bendar.

 

“I doubt it,” Artanis growled, “but it will be done.”

 

“The most advanced faction that Zeratul and our Vanguard found stumbled upon the concept,” Vejuun answered.  “They called it Forced Evolution.  But the lesser beings only realize that their  banana was taken so they pound the ground, beat their chests and howl into the wind. Purely reactive.”

 

“They consider the worship of Borleas as akin to their own worship of items made of stone, wood and gold.  As if the divine required such ministrations.” Artanis scoffed.

 

“Such ministrations do not seem to upset Raktus,” Vejuun slyly pointed out.  Artanis turned sharply to the scientist but could not completely hide the amusement in his eyes.

 

“A god descended from a primate is prone to have some unflattering traits,” the Cree’ Ar Leader commented. 

 

“He is the trickster god, after all,” Bendar interjected.

 

“I do find it strange that the example of the Black Dragon Imperium went unnoticed.”

 

“Not unnoticed,”Artanis disagreed with anger.

 

Vejuun bowed, “Forgive me. I should have said, unrecognized.  And so they will pay for that lack of recognition.” He sighed, “It is unfortunate that one must go through much pain to gain such insight.”

 

“It is our Calling,” Artanis agreed.  “It is messy.  It is tragic but, ultimately, they and we will be better off for it.  We will Uplift this galaxy out of the mire.”

 

Bendar’s eyes gleamed with a growing fervor.  “And what is your ultimate vision for this star system?” pointing to the representation of the Azguard System.

 

“After everything has been done, at the end of the day, this star system will become a Preserve.”

 

“Emtaro, Artanis!” Bendar shouted into their minds before raising a hand, “Release the Creanti!”


Ship of Life indeed!

 

*

 

The Meeting

 

 

Thracken eyebrows rose as the elder White Knight stood up pointing to people acknowledging that they had the ability to, in fact, speak based on the empirical evidence of those people uttering sound.  Was he a moron?  An Azguard rage monster?

 

Thracken could tell he was angry and while the Minder was annoying, it wasn’t his speaking that annoyed the Corellian but his presence.  He wondered if the Coalition diplomat would catch on or would she simply go through the motions simply to pass time before the shooting started.

 

Maybe they knew all they needed to know and had no interest in whatever Thracken had to say?  While Artanis or these Coalitionists (bastards all!) may not give a whit about the life and times of one Thracken Sal Solo, he certainly did!  He very much gave a whit!  A hundred thousand million whits!

 

“Do you make him speak your poisoned words?”

 

What kind of name is Radagast?

 

The elder Knight was pointing at the Minder but, so far, all the bastard alien had said was ‘Truth’.  Since when is ‘truth’ poisoned?  Didn’t the Coalition champion Truth, Justice and the Azguardian way?  Truth is in there somewhere, no?    His lips pressed together since the Azguard was liable to simply stab him in the heart if he responded with snark.

 

Beady-Eyes shouted drawing his attention from the constipated Knight.

 

And then Beady-Eyes threw out a lifeline... “Are you prepared to continue, or would you prefer a recess? There are ample commissary facilities in the adjoining area if you would prefer not to return to your vessel.  In matters of state import, it is imperative that we maintain a clear head, and not allow such unpleasantness to disrupt our work. A break may be in order.” 

 

Bless you, Beady-Eyes!  Bless your Charming, Good, God-Damn Beady-Eyes! I could kiss that droopy nose six ways to sundown!

Thracken leaned back nonchalantly and turned to the Minder.  “Would you mind getting the proof and having it ready for display?”

 

The alien stared at him for a minute before silently rising and walking out of the room.

 

The moment the doors closed, Thracken seemed to slouch in his chair and exhale slowly in relief.  “Damn glad to get that bastard away from me!” he exclaimed and flashed a grin, “and I would very much like a stiff drink.”

 

He stood, “If you would like to escort me to your commissary facilities, and, honestly, put as much distance between myself and the Minder, I would appreciate it.  Once he finds me, I will have to display the more disagreeable parts of my personality so for as long as you have me, ask me what you want to know.  If I know it, I will tell you.”   

Posts: 827
  • Posted On: Mar 27 2022 11:01pm

The Meeting

 

The Minder, huh? Well, that was certainly interesting.

 

Of course, Beiwi K'Vek wanted to ask Thracken Sal-Solo the nature of his relationship with the Cree'Ar. She wanted to ask him how he'd come into their service, what had become of Corellia, how far the Dominion's power had spread through the Core . . .

 

And of course, none of those were the priority. Snapping her fingers, she pushed her index finger against the top of the table. “Mister Moss will stay behind and inform the Minder that we've gone to the commissary.”

 

“Uhh, yes Ma'am,” the last of her aides said, obviously uncomfortable with the assignment. He had stood up to leave with the group, but slinked back into his seat when the order sunk in.

 

Bei gestured to the exit, regarding Thracken. “By the time this Minder returns, I'm sure we'll be done in the commissary and you'll have insisted on a tour of the broader facility, yes?” She let the cat-and-mouse implications of the question go, leading the way out of the room with her last aide in tow.

 

“Miss Daystar, if you wouldn't mind?”

 

“Yes, Ma'am.” The last aide rushed off ahead of them to save what time she could at their destination.

 

Bei proceeded down the hallway at a quick pace, but the trappings of her station prevented her from breaking into a jog. It was possible, of course, that this was a ploy. Maybe the Dominion wanted to see how they'd react to an apparent defector. Maybe it had all been scripted out well before the Corellian ship touched down on this Azguardian world. It didn't' much matter, though.

 

“Thracken, this is all very fascinating and it's certainly unexpected, but I need to know: is there a way to avoid war with the Dominion?”

 

Beiwi K'Vek's job was the same either way.

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Relay One

 

Stealth Intruder Relay One reverted from hyperspace to the sound of an incoming priority message. The pilot opened the comm line to relay her orders only to hear the booming synthesized voice of the Watcher's AI: “TURN AROUND.”

 

I've got a priority message-”

 

Yeah, we've already heard it all,” the AI cut her off.

 

Huh?”

 

Relay Two beat you to it. It's already returning with an update from the Provincial commands.”

 

Oh, well in that case -” Another notice sounded off as the AI transmitted a data package through a parallel channel.

 

“Your orders have been updated,” the AI explained. “I took the liberty of calculating a return trajectory for you. You are to hold position at the destination coordinates and serve as a communications relay between the Azguard System and the Watcher network.”

 

“What? Will that work?”

 

“Sure, sure,” the AI assured. “I'll calculate the hypercomm window between you and me, then your nav computer can dedicate the entirety of its teeny-tiny brain to maintain communications with the Azguard System. We're dropping you out in interstellar space, well away from the hyperspace routes, so unless their planning to interdict the whole system, you should have a clear shot to Azguard. Now go!”

 

The pilot was already turning the vessel around, maneuvering to the preset departure point to execute the Watcher-calculated hyperspace jump.

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Coalition Combat Information Center

 

“I've got something.”

 

It was Citadel, wedging its way into his CIC again. “Let's hear it then.”

 

“I think I can detect Dominion wormholes.”

 

The chatter in the room died down, and Blakeley himself perked up a bit. “Well, out with it!”

 

“We can't spot the gravity effect directly at faster-than-light speeds, but our long-range sensors do experience some interference from concentrated gravity sources. I've conscripted several Azguardian industrial AI's to comb the raw data from our sensor network and flag anomalous reading.”

 

Blakeley wasn't impressed. “So it's a needle in a . . . solar system full of haystacks situation. Got it.”

 

“It's not perfect, but it should cut the detection time down to several seconds instead of as many minutes. If we can detect the anomalies fast enough, we can reassign long-range scanners to spot and track the emerging ships before they move away.”

 

“It's a good plan,” Blakeley admitted. “Coordinate with my comms team to pipe that data straight to us. I want so see everything you see as soon as you see it.”

 

“Understood, admiral.” And then the Citdael Guardian was gone again.

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Varn System

 

It was happening, then. With Admiral Neychev away, Vice Admiral Gorn was essentially the acting commander of the Cooperative military. He had decided to make the Tirahnn-Varn escort fleet the backbone of the Cooperative expedition to Brentaal. He assigned one of his senior captains to command the mission, and transferred over a few more of his diminished fleet's numbers to fill out the expedition.

 

Already, what remained of the Penance Fleet was moving to link up with the starships of Varn's defense force, consolidating the forces that would remain in system. The Council of Defense had issued a heightened state of alert to all of the Cooperative's Free States, requiring them to bring their own defense forces to high alert and issue real-time defense status updates to the remainder of the Cooperative. For his part, Gorn issued a guidance of his own, encouraging planetary defense forces on more isolated worlds to coordinate with any Coalition members in the region whenever possible.

 

They were recalling the patrols from Reaver Space. Most of those ships would be returning to their planets of origin, but since formalizing its military the Cooperative maintained a standing national fleet that answered directly to the Supreme Commander of Cooperative Forces. Most of those ships were with Admiral Neychev, but the few still assigned to anti-Reaver duty would be routed to Varn, to be incorporated into the Penance Fleet for the time being.

 

There would be a gap, though, between when the Brentaal expedition departed and the recalled Reaver forces arrived. Gorn didn't like it, but then again he didn't like much of anything these days.

 

He had queried the Executor for guidance, but Smarts offered him only silence. He considered reminding the droid starship that he retained the authority to conscript military-grade starships in a time of crisis, but thought better of it and decided to leave Smarts to his work.

 

Whatever the Executor's problem was, Gorn had more than enough problems of his own already.

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Guardian Prime

 

It was happening, then. The Dominion had decided to attack Azguard directly. There was a possibility that this would not be an isolated strike, but merely the initial move of a larger coordinated offensive. There was simply too much uncertainty regarding the Dominion to calculate a reliable conclusion, but even great degrees of uncertainty could provide insight for formulating certain responses.

 

The fleet was not complete, but it was ready. Armed with medbays, food synthesizers, bacta tanks, and medical droids, it represented the pinnacle of Guardian Prime's potential, the reification of the Guardian ideal. Others would not understand or approve. Even its fellow members within the Synthoid Collective could not comprehend its motivations.

 

But Guardian Prime had both a plan and a purpose, and it would see them through to whatever end.

Posts: 4191
  • Posted On: Mar 28 2022 12:41am

The Meeting

 

Thracken grinned as the diplomat caught on and alerted her people to delay the Minder.  As they walked toward the commissary, he pondered her question.

 

“Madam Ambassador, surely you know of the Dominion declaration of war upon force users?  If someone intentionally puts themselves in the line of fire, then any escalation that stems from that decision is the fault of  that someone.”

 

He paused.

 

“With your fortifying of the system and the amount of warships  you have here, it seems you are what is called in Sabaac, doubling-down.  Given this stance, a battle will be forthcoming but if you are asking if this battle can be averted, I assure you, it can.  We did it on Corellia.  But it does mean sucking up one’s pride and yielding.  But that presumes your droids will head your orders and actually stand down.  The Dominion will accept your yielding but what they will not abide is betrayal.”

 

He pointed to himself.  “If the Minder was here listening to what I was saying to you now, they may very well consider it a betrayal and my life would be forfeit.  You see, the Minder is not for you but for me.  To determine that I fulfill the task given to me, namely to offer admission to the Greater Dominion to the Azguard.  That is why I was hoping you would figure out a way to separate the Minder from us.  So we can talk frankly. “

Posts: 827
  • Posted On: Mar 28 2022 1:44am

He was a slippery so-and-so, that's for sure. They could argue about fault and “escalation”, sure, but it would get them nowhere. Not in the time they had available to them, anyway.

 

“'Surrender or be destroyed.' Is that what you're saying? The Dominion is unwilling to consider any alternatives? Their victory at Coruscant was a terrifying display of power, but they don't really think they can conquer the entire galaxy, do they?”

 

They had arrived. The “commissary”, such as it was, consisted of a fairly large break room with a number of tables and chairs organized semi-regularly across the open floor. There were several food vendor booths built into the left wall, though all but one was closed down at the moment. Several small shops along the right wall were likewise empty and locked down. In truth, this whole wing of the spaceport had been closed off for the meeting with the Dominion's Emissary.

 

Miss Daystar was waiting for them near the door, a glass bottle of dark liquid in hand. “In case you were serious about that drink,” she said lightly, holding the bottle out for Thracken. Noting his reaction to the rather uninspiring label on the bottle, she added: “This is a professional work environment, mister; you should be glad I could scrounge anything up on such short notice!”

 

Miss Daystar, for all her gifts, didn't pick up on the serious nature of the conversation she'd just interrupted.

Posts: 4191
  • Posted On: May 13 2022 11:19pm

 

Thracken scowled to himself as the Coalition diplomat very diplomatically started to panic.

 

“’Surrender or be destroyed.’ Is that what you’re saying? The Dominion is unwilling to consider any alternatives? Their victory at Coruscant was a terrifying display of power, but they don’t really think they can conquer the entire galaxy, do they?”

 

He let out an exasperated sigh, grabbing for the drink Ms Daystar offered even if it was a rather cheap brand.  At this point, he’d be happy with starship fuel.  “I think she needs a drink too,” he mentioned to the oddly cheerful assistant while pointing to the Caamasi.

 

“Look Madam Ambassador.  Before you go tying your robe into knots, let me see if I can alleviate some concerns,” he smirked, ”or maybe make you more frightened, but be aware that I am no trained diplomat,” he grinned, “which I am sure you can tell.  While you may be so trained, I am used to dealing with smugglers, crooks, freedom fighters and others some would consider scum of the galaxy.  However, you also seem, like me, as just someone who was thrown into this mess without any prior warning.  Now, I do not know what the Jedi or Sith did to piss these guys off, but THAT is their focus.  The problem with the Coalition,” he paused thoughtfully, “and the Empire come to think about it,  is you do not seem to separate the two.  Yes, they caught the Empire off guard by invading Coruscant but the Emperor of the Empire is a Sith Master or whatever and you will note that they did not invade the entire Empire, just the Emperor’s seat of power.  Given the galactic strife, there certainly were no other governments condemning the act.  In fact, many probably cheered at the prospect of the Empire brought low.  I know I took advantage of the chaos and tried to break Corellia free from the Empire, especially with Lupercus and his fleet gone.  We almost succeeded but then one of Park Kraken’s minions drew the Reavers into our system and we had no choice but to activate Centerpoint and cut ourselves off.  The Reavers did not go away but it did slow their advance.  The Cree’Ar cut through the interdiction and offered to remove the Reavers from the system in return for control of the system.  I guess I could have refused but they simply would have waited until the Reavers were done with us and then walked in over our corpses.  The Dominion always offers a choice even if, in your heart of hearts, you know there really isn’t one.  The Cree’Ar do not dwell with gray areas or games.  And now here, in the Coalition, you have the single greatest concentration of Force Users in the known galaxy in this very system.  They may not be called Jedi or Sith but this is your capital is it not?  If all decisions and actions of any government can be laid at the feet of the governing capital, then this is the seat of Coalition power and it is in the hands of force users, same as the Empire was, so naturally, to their alien eyes, there isn’t much difference between you two.  So first, they remove Azguard’s anonymity which force users have always used to great effect.  Now they are here but they have not immediately attacked which may mean they are recognizing the subtle differences between you and the Empire and is also probably why I am being directed to offer admission into the Greater Dominion rather than absorption by force as with Coruscant.  Or Corellia.   Their intent seems, to me, to be the breaking of the force users power in the  galaxy.  When they  took Corellia, they did not really interfere with the operating rules of the world so much and instead focused setting up schools or educational centers and trying to root out Sith influences.  The Cree’Ar are strict, but they are not the brutal bastards Lupercus and his ilk were.”  He sighed, “At least not yet.  Do I like the idea of the Dominion being my overlord?  Not really but I did not like the Empire or Sith being my overlord either and, if I were honest,” his grin widened, “I probably would not like Coalition oversight as well.  But where the Empire made it a point to let you know they were your overlords and never let you forget it, the Cree’Ar simply act as if it is a matter of fact, a galactic absolute if  you will.  And the onus on remembering that absolute is on you.  They will not remind you or give you notices or warnings that you are stepping out of line.  For example, I was trying to rally the Sons of Corellia to take over but when the Cree’Ar came, I could see the growing inevitability of our situation but some of my compatriots could not or would not.  They tried to rebel but it was a purely reactionary act.  They thought they could continue the Union tactic of hiding their fighters in groups of civilians but that did not stop the Cree’Ar.  In their mind, if someone is hiding behind you with a gun and you do not want to get shot, move.  After a while that sank in and the civilians turned on the Sons and you had family members turning in insurgents.  The main reason why I did not fight when the Dominion showed up at Corellia was because they were not after me or mine.  They were not after Corellians but were after the Sith Temple and anything having to do with Lupercus Darksword.  He took off with his fleet and I sure as fuck was not going to die to save his legacy.” 

 

“I am not a well-liked man, I know” he put a hand on his chest, “but, I am a survivor.  I also do not give two shits about the fate of the Jedi or Sith.  It is hard enough to stay alive in a galaxy of warring powers as a simple, normal person rather than worry about the fates of people with strange magical powers that can move objects and influence others with their minds.  Do I like Dominion rule?  I am not particularly fond of it but that is just me not liking their scrutiny.  I would imagine that type of rule would be no different on a Coalition world since doesn’t everyone live under scrutiny every second of every day?  Aren’t we being watched now,” he gestured to a camera in a corner, ”by your A.I.?  In my opinion, you’ve already conditioned your people for a seamless change to Dominion oversight should you decide to accept it.”

 

He took a drink.  “Look, I am not telling you what to do.  I am just Thraken Sal Solo.  What do I know?  I am just reassuring you that they are not going to enact genocide if you do end up yielding.  Whether yielding is on the table of choices for you or not, just know that it is an option.  I know what you’re thinking though, Yeah, Solo, but what if we do not yield?  Will they enact genocide then?”  All I can say is that depends on why they are here and what they want.  They have not started hostilities .. at least not yet but they also do not consider invading your space a hostile act in itself.  At least, not with the Coalition.  Because you have been doing it to them.  That proof I mentioned earlier that the Minder is out there getting, what he will be bringing is a Coalition navigation buoy.  One of many that have been found in Dominion territory.  You see, in their effort to neutralize any threats to them, while the conquest of Coruscant was big and public, it was not their only conquest.”  He leaned forward, “You may not know this, but where the shattering of the Empire was complete with fanfare and Declarations, the conquest of the Imperium was noteworthy in its silence.  The Black Dragon Empire has been absorbed and is now part of the Greater Dominion.”

 

 

The military advisors walking with the diplomats were keenly interested in this bit of news but also uncomfortable realizing that the balance of power had shifted in the East and brought new worrying thoughts.  The Dragon Imperium had always been an insular power though they could cause great devastation if they stirred from their little corner of the galaxy.  The expansion in the East was partly driven by the Imperium’s retreat from the galactic scene choosing to remain behind their borders.  It had been speculated that the Reaver Scourge had started within Dragon space and had wiped them out but there was little political will to gather concrete data.  They had enough problems without going out looking for more.  But was there another reason the Imperium pulled back into their borders?   Were they attacked by a power from the other end of the galaxy? It was rumored that the Dominion was an extra-galactic power but there was no evidence to support the gossip.  At this point, they were the boogeymen hiding under beds and stealing children.

 

“When was this?” one advisor asked.

 

Thracken raised an eyebrow and turned to the ambassador, who nodded slowly.  “I do not have an exact date and time for you fellow, but it was before the attack on Coruscant.”

 

The advisor cursed and the small group of military men began speaking among themselves, getting rather agitated, “They are eating the galaxy piece by piece!”  “We are being surrounded!”  “Surely we would have seen evidence of a war fought on the other side of their territory?”  “Would we?”  “Mon Calamari is the only asset out that way..”  “Dac,” came a correction.  “Oh, go fuck yourself!”  “Anyway, the planet’s barely been put back together!”  “It’s the new frontier but even a frontier world would have seen some sort of evidence of a conflict.  The Imperium did not strike me as a nation that would go quietly into the night.”  “Is the Dominion that powerful?”  “Why didn’t you tell us?!”

 

Thracken took a step back, raising his hands, some cheap liquor spilling from his glass.  “Woah, It’s not like we yielded Corellia and suddenly they spilt all their secrets to us.  And the Imperium was absorbed by their own choice.  There was no conflict.  At least as far as I know but again, they do not tell me much!”

 

“They seem content to allow you to represent them!” came an accusation and the Corellian choked on his next sip.

 

“I do not represent them!  I am merely a being used to deliver an invitation to join the Greater Dominion.  Believe me, I do not want to be here!”

 

“Then why are you here?!”

 

“Skywalker’s ugly step-child!  Look, this isn’t like they are asking me to do their laundry and I can simply say ‘I’m busy and can’t get to it!’  When they order you to go to the heart of the Coalition and present an invitation to join their Dominion, you say ‘When would you like me there?”.

 

In the lull, he asked softly, “What do you think when you hear Thracken Sal Solo?”

 

“Traitor!”

 

“Sell out!”

 

“Boot-scum!”

 

“Wow, tell me how you really feel,” murmured the Corellian.  “You seem to be under the impression that I have any power on Corellia.  That may have been true if my little revolution had succeeded and maybe for a couple of days I may have.  The Cree’Ar let the fear of the Reavers override our good sense but the Reavers are damned scary.  You know!  You guys probably know more about the Reaver scourge than anyone since you tried to solve the Reaver problem and I am sure it was not without tragedy and loss.  We could have simply given up and gone back to the Empire where there would have been reprisals for our rebellion because, you know, they don’t like that sort of thing, or we could have simply waited for the Reavers to reach us with no idea of how to stop a Scourge and our system would probably be a burnt husk of a system now or we gamble with an unknown alien overlord who hasn’t demonstrated any ill intent towards us with the exception towards force users.  And we were only so happy to turn over the Sith on our world, Lupercus’s minions and sycophants, to the Dominion.”  He stopped an eyed the advisors.

 

“I see you are not shedding a tear for the dear departed Sith?” Thracken threw out sarcastically.

 

“Are they?” the Caamasi asked softly.

 

“What?” Solo asked taken aback.

 

“Departed?  Are they dead?””

 

Thracken grimaced, “I don’t know.  They are taken off world but to where, I have no idea.  It’s not like they are shooting them in the streets or anything like that.  There are no mass graves being dug.”

 

 

“But you see our concern?” she asked.  “Will the Azguard depart if we accept admission into this  Greater Dominion? Will they be taken away to Gods know where?  Will they be killed?  We are talking about billions of lives here!”

 

Thracken scatched the back of his head nervously with one hand while handing his glass back to Ms. Daystar for a refill.  “Ahh.. a point of clarification.  The invitation is directed towards the Azguard, or the Azguard Union; not the Coalition.”

 

The military advisors suddenly seemed angry at the exclusion, but Solo did not believe they were now clamoring to join the Greater Dominion, but angry at the Cree’Ar presumption that the rest of the Coalition was not somehow as worthy as their Azguard brethren. 

 

“Their Declaration of War is against Force Users.  Besides the Jedi or the Sith, the Azguard are the single largest group of Force Users in the known galaxy.”

 

The Coalition people paused to reflect on this.

 

“What do you get out of this?” Bei asked.

 

“Unfortunately, I don’t get anything,” he replied, finding himself truly sad about that.  “As I said before, my experiences in any type of negotiating is done on lower levels, in shadows.  More of ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours’ type of agreements.  I only hold any importance as that recognized by the Cree’Ar.  In the beginning, Corellia was already running itself due to the bureaucracy established by the Empire, probably the only good and efficient thing they ever did, so what to do with an out-of-work revolutionary?  They tasked me with rounding up Force Users on Corellia.  After that, I was given a greater area to cover, namely the Sector Corellia was capital of or those Imperial Worlds that were leaning towards joining Coruscant’s Empire under the Dominion and not Kraken’s or any other contender’s Empire.  The Cree’Ar have a rather annoying habit of rewarding accomplishment with more responsibility rather than riches or concubines.  I was not really enthused with the work but it eventually got done and so with each task, I am given a higher, more public assignment.  When I went to other planets in search of the bounties placed on known force users and I had to pick them up.  I was given a military detachment of the Cree’Ar soldiers known as Parrow-Lin.  They escorted me about and I tried to make the best of it.  Now, with this assignment, I am shackled with a Minder.  The only thing I know about this species is that it comes from wherever the Cree’Ar come from and it is telepathic.”

 

Everyone shifted uncomfortably. 

 

“Not in the way that you think,” Thracken said quickly noting their reaction.  “They cannot read your minds or my mind for that matter.  But it does have the ability to detect…”

 

“Truth,” Bei whispered ruefully and Solo pointed a finger at her, “Exactly.”

 

“Have you ever heard of humans being born as twins and that they have some sort of extra sensory perception when it comes to each other.  Like when one twin gets hurt, the other may feel it or something like that?”

 

When the others nodded, “Well, with the Minders, whatever one twin sees and hears, the other twin can see and hear as well.”

 

 

“So, they are spies!?” one military advisor exclaimed and Thracken snorted.  “Have you seen these guys?  How can they hide their bulbous head and silvery, chromed cloaks that goes from their necks to their ankles?”

 

The advisor grumbled, nodding.

 

“As you said before, they are ‘minding’ you,” Bei concluded.  “But why?  Aren’t you, by your own admission, gaining more responsibilities?  You do not seem to seriously mind being ruled by the Dominion.  If you court death by talking to us outside of their..err.. monitoring, why risk it?  What do you gain?”

 

The Corellian looked at the Coalition people before him and sighed.  These people have no idea.

“I am a survivor.  I’ve lived in the Republic, then Empire, then New Republic, and then back to Empire and now Dominion.  During these times, I have lived and thrived doing deeds considered… extra-legal,” he smiled a tired smile, “or outside strict legal parameters.  I couldn’t have lived as long as I have if I simply took the road open before me.  You have to keep all of your options open and sometimes, rather than waiting for opportunities to fall into your lap, you have to create opportunities.  When a planet is invited to join a greater organization, that organization always puts their best foot forward.  The Empire always did it and I am sure you do it as well.   INS never told the whole truth so forgive me if I am skeptical of the Dominion bringing in a new Golden Age for the galaxy.  Everybody is always the second coming of Skywalker until they aren’t.  I do not know the grand Dominion plan but you probably have a greater grasp of the galactic situation than I do.  At least you have more avenues for information gathering than I do.  I know some things you don’t and vice versa.  Is the Cree’Ar occupation of Coruscant the same as Corellia?  I am not sure.  The Empire is nominally still around albeit now as the glove over the Cree’Ar hand.  Is Emperor Gevel someone you can work with or is he a die-hard believer in the Dominion, I don’t know.  People do not switch sides quite that fast on the inside but perhaps he is ultra self-serving?  Yet the Cree’ar do not give people many chances for mischief.  So one must take them where one can.  If you decide to accept the invite, then the Azguard will be in the same situation as myself and the Empire but maybe with so many members, we become able to alter the course of the Dominion to our favor?  If the Coalition in its entirety wants to join, maybe that will surprise the Cree’Ar?  Rarely do people reject notions that end up being for their benefit and I do not see the Cree’Ar as any different.”

 

His eyes narrowed.  “Or you fight.”

 

He saw the fire in the military advisor’s eyes but saw sadness in the Caamasi’s eyes.  How could so much emotion be conveyed in eyes that rarely blinked?

 

“And maybe we find our circumstances changed by the outcome of such a fight?”

 

Bei turned to the assistant, “Miss Daystar.  Please show Ambassador Solo to the Port Gardens.  I need to confer with my people for a a few minutes to process what you have told us.  While I may personally find it unpalatable, I do appreciate your honesty.”

 

*

 

Sellis groaned as he started to stretch, waking up in his armor once more.  His captors did not seem all that worried about him having it, especially since their scanning devices located all of his hidden weapons and potential for trickery.  He wasn’t even sure his armor would protect him from a Cree’Ar-made blaster but he also did not want to test it.  Having the armor was a tactile link to where he was from and to his duty.

 

Duty.

 

A small word that signified a much larger responsibility.  He had talked to Traya a little about it softly, both facing each other to prevent as best they could any eavesdropping through audio or visual means.  He was not technically a soldier so did the duty to escape by any means really apply?  Traya was of the opinion that it did since she too craved escape.  Her desire was not out of any sense of duty but, rather and no less important, because she did not like being caged.  It might be explained because she was a Sith and they did not do well in prisons.  At least, not as well as a Jedi might for they would take the opportunity to meditate while a Sith would pace relentlessly, each step growing their agitation until they could take it no more.  Still, he could not fall into the trap of attributing what were essentially rational personality traits upon the alter of Sith-cultured thinking.   Especially given her treatment at the hands of the Dominion so far.  He certainly could not fault her for her desire to get out of there, Sith or no.

 

He was not necessarily a spy though he did usually go where no Coalition citizen would be allowed to go.  Though, when he went across borders into enemy or foreign territories, he did have the presence of mind to remove his identifying armor so, in that sense, he did seem a spy.  But he was not tasked with entering other territories to obtain their secrets.  He considered himself a troubleshooter, investigating issues, actions and activities that usually took place or started within Coalition borders but whose investigations led him on galactic whirlwind adventures until he or his superiors’ felt matters resolved.  Where the Coalition did not need a spy but did not want to send an army, the White Knight was skilled just enough to get the job done.  It was an odd organization where they were at once visible due to their distinguishing armor and yet no one knew exactly what they did when they were seen.

 

Right now, he wanted information.   That was his duty.  Overnight, it seemed, this Dominion struck crippling the Empire with just one blow but they were not down for the count.  The Dominion hold on Coruscant may be strong, but Coruscant’s hold on the rest of their planets was sketchy at best.  Some Protectorates may be hanging in there following Gevel’s lead of keeping their head down but this was the time of the Four Emperors.  Or was it still Five?  No one knew what had happened to Emperor Hyfe but for now, Emperor Gevel sat in his seat.  Emperor Kraken was already marshalling his forces, not an inconsiderable force, just waiting for an opening.  Emperor Thorton had quieted down and no one seemed to know where he laid his head at night.  Or was it Tracta?  The odd one out was the Empress Skygg.  She seemed to be another Sith alcolyte who directly served Emperor Hyfe but had taken advantage of the Empire’s fractured state to make her own bid for power but out of all of them, the only well-positioned “Emperors” who might do damage to the Dominion cause was Kraken and Gevel.  Kraken from the outside and Gevel from the inside.  However, given they were both contenders for the same throne, the Dominion needn’t worry about the idea of them joining forces.

 

Just like Sith and Jedi!

 

A Sith wouldn’t even spit on a Jedi if that Jedi was on fire.  Especially if they were on fire!

 

And that was probably the secret to the Dominion’s success.  The competing and backstabbing between nations and sects.  If the Sith couldn’t bring the Dominion down, they sure as hell didn’t want the Jedi to succeed. 

 

A clang sounded at the door and Traya jerked awake, having fallen asleep next to Sellis.  He could sense her tension even through his armor and he tried to ready himself for whatever came next.

 

He did not expect the six limbed, massive creature towering above them that stepped into the room; its mouthless gaze falling onto the two inhabitants.  Traya bared her teeth whispering in a heated voice, “Cree’Ar.”

 

Sellis’ attention snapped back into focus as the features of the being before him coalesced in his memory.  The same features as seen on the holonet broadcast of the Declaration.  He had seen images of a Cree’Ar as well as other beings of unfamiliar race or origin around them but he never really knew their relationship.

 

This is the enemy.

 

Or was it?  Did an attack on Coruscant necessarily make the Dominion enemies of the Coalition?  Did a Declaration of War on Force sensitives?

 

The Cree’Ar was muscular, almost beast-like in its radiating of raw physical power but it’s lack of mouth gave it an almost contradictory calming presence.  His large eyes glowered at them, as if expecting, nay demanding them to object to the reality of their situation and the inviolability of his presence.  Sellis could sense the fear growing in Traya and he placed himself in front as they both started to stand up.

 

“You did not kill her.”

 

The voice in his head, in both of their heads as he saw her start in surprise as he turned to look at her, was a deep rumbling sound.  It was not a question but a rather obvious statement since she was, in fact, alive and standing behind Sellis.  But even then, the statement seemed to demand an explanation.  In any event, they both knew the voice was from the Cree’Ar before them.

 

“Neat trick.” He murmured.

 

“If you consider communication a trick, then by your own definition, the utterances from your protuberance are also a trick.”

 

Traya frowned despite her wariness, “Is he joking?”

 

“Why are we here?  Why did you torture my friend?” Sellis barked out and the Cree’Ar simply stared at him as if he was a nerf braying incoherently while dribbling urine on the floor.

 

“We are at war,” the voice stated patiently.  “She,” Gesturing to Traya behind Sellis, “is a prisoner of that war.  She has been subjected to a variety of stimuli to determine the strength, range and ability of her power.  Given that we are at war, we require data on our enemies and their potential strengths and weaknesses.  You, “referring to Sellis, “are here because an overzealous soldier attributed your ‘White Knight’ designation to that of a ‘Jedi Knight’.  There are many different sects and, unfortunately, we have not yet catalogued them all.  However, it has been determined that you are not a force user and so you are free to leave.”

 

Sellis was taken aback and Traya’s hand shot out and clenched his shoulder.  His imagination had him pitting his wits against his Dominion jailers, rescuing the damsel in distress, and saving the galaxy from certain doom.  He did not expect himself to be labeled a mistake and simply let go.

 

But he couldn’t in good conscience leave Traya to face an uncertain fate by herself.  He tried a different tact, “Why are you at war with force users?”

 

“To bring peace to the galaxy.” Was the simple reply and Sellis’ mouth curled up in contempt showing sharp teeth.

 

“Interesting road to peace.  What are you going to do, turn the galaxy into a desert and call it peace?”

 

The Cree’Ar answered seriously, “If we have too, yes.”

 

“That’s insane!” the Azguard shouted.

 

The eyes of the Cree’Ar narrowed, “What is insane is perpetuating a war that has gone on for thousands of years with no resolution in sight.  A war that most of the great powers of this galaxy support in one fashion or another.  So….Enough!  Since none of you have the ability, will or even the desire to once and for all put an end to it, the Dominion decided it would rise to the challenge.  We will take the reins and force an end to the conflict.  How many billions have been butchered in the name of this conflict?”

 

Sellis spread his hands wide, “We are not at war.  We have no quarrel with you so why would you start a war with the Galactic Coalition?  With the Empire?”

 

A look of disgust crossed the Cree’Ar’s features.  “We did not start a war with you lessor powers.  We declared war on the Force Users!  Why can you not understand this?  We war on your masters!”

 

“We do not have masters!” Sellis bit back indignantly.  “We are a democratic..”

 

“With those whom you pay allegiance to, if you prefer.” The alien interrupted, his patience wearing thin.

 

Sellis shook his head, “I.. we don’t….”

 

The Cree’Ar lowered its head to stare Sellis in the eye, “I believe your designated allegiance to them is refrred to as:  Lightside? And your mortal enemies are referred to as:  Darkside?  Is that not correct, White Knight?”

Sellis’ mouth shut. 

 

*

 

Varn

 

It started as a rumble and a slight vibration shaking his personal effects and scattering them to the floor.  Tolan groaned as he lifted an arm over his face, trying to keep the prying sunlight out of his eyes.  The shaking had dropped the blanket he had set across the window as a makeshift curtain of sorts letting in the offending light.

 

“Uhhgg.” He mumbled to himself as the bed jiggled slightly and then stopped.  Through the closed window he could hear several sirens blaring.  It was as if the universe was conspiring to keep him from sleeping and his eyes blinked open when the couple living in the apartment next to him started arguing.  As their volume rose, he blew through his lips in frustration and he slapped his hands down onto his bed.  Sleeping late was just not in the cards.

 

He sighed and got up, moving slowly around his pet’s chew toys towards the Caff-o-matic. 

 

The arguing voices next door also woke his pet up causing all manner of barking noises and snarls.  In the Tolan House, they were not early risers.  “Come.  See the Coalition transformed before you eyes as the wonders of modern technological achievements are unlocked.”  He mocked the tourist brochure.  Their commercials had been running non-stop all over the network in an effort to stem the tide of locals moving off-world.  At least, those that could afford it.  With Varn becoming the refugee capital of the galaxy, they were inundated with all manner of displaced peoples.  People without homes, without money, without jobs.  The A.I.’s were excellent builders so the homeless soon had homes and the people were grateful.  The people were hungry so the planetary stores were opened up and they were soon fed.  But different species calls for different dietary requirements so the planetary stores could not meet every requirement.  Add in the dietary requirements for religious or social structures and it was evident that something else had to be done.  So massive food production facilities were built.  Again the A.I.’s were tapping those areas they were exceptional at.  Building projects on a global scale to combat the mounting housing crisis, sustenance crisis all the while maintaining the minimum standard of living requirements which required support systems for energy, water and the like.  What this created was a World of Welfare.  For these species to find work in a mechanized society, they would need the skills so, again a massive educational system had to be put into place because while everyone lived in the age of star travel, not everyone living in a desert could come across a YT freighter and instantly know how to fly it.  That was the stuff of holonet adventure movies and obviously not based on reality.

 

Not everyone has a cutesy droid following them around.  Some droids are friggin ugly as sin!

 

To distract himself he grabbed a slate and activated the holo-broadcast.  Or at least tried too.  The only thing that came on was a spinning holographic logo of the station channel with a big, red, ERROR indicator plastered in the center of the logo. 

 

“World of Wonder,” he murmured.

 

“I wonder when the bloody repair-bot will be fixing this..” 

 

 

Posts: 827
  • Posted On: Jun 12 2022 9:52pm

The Pages of Time: SmartWatch

 

The following passage has been extrapolated from the historical archive of the Coalition HoloNet database. Each discreet entry will be indexed to the related historical marker.

 

 

 

The Long Road to Freedom

 

“I'm Kaleb Morbin, and this is SmartWatch!” The stage was one of those flashy, gaudy things meant to reference traditional news programs while simultaneously differentiating itself from them. In truth, eighty percent or more of the presentation was virtual, artificial backdrop and live-feed color modulation designed to present the presenter “as he wished to be”, not as he actually was. Perhaps the large, curved table itself was real, or perhaps it too was a virtual skin overlayed atop a mundane, ordinary piece of furniture.

 

“In association with the New Media Alliance, SmartWatch aims to bring you live, unvarnished coverage of our newest and most prominent public official, the 'independent droid starship' Smarts!” He really laid into the name, flashing a toothy, exaggerated smile across his youthful face. “Who is he, where does he come from, and what – pray tell – is the meaning of his new official title: 'Overseer'?”

 

The young man was quite handsome, early-twenties, whose appearance and diction seemed a little too reminiscent of a certain galactic hero. “I mean: this droid-man rallied an international volunteer fleet, took on the Cavrilhu Pirates, liberated Varn, negotiated a bi-national settlement between the planet's government and its indigenous people, and then ferried us into the Coalition, all before I could get this stage set up! How about that.”

 

Not to put too fine a point on it: he could have been Luke Skywalker's next door neighbor, if that next door neighbor also happened to be his long-lost cousin.

 

“Talk about too good to be true. But here we are, and you don't know this about me yet, but I'm not one to pass judgment quickly. So here at SmartWatch we're going to do just that. We will watch, and depending on what we see, we will pass judgment. The Cavrilhu are on the back foot, Varn is a member of the Coalition, and our world's two new governments are already talking about the 'Cooperative' that binds them together. So let's wait and see what our new Overseer manages to oversee.” He cracked another smile, staring straight into the recorder for a long moment. “Maybe he'll surprise us.”

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

The Meeting

 

As Thracken Sal-Solo approached the exit at the far end of the room, Beiwi K'Vek held up a hand. The rumble of advisors and liaisons who had accumulated over the course of her conversation with Thracken sputtered to silence. The door shut; she stepped away, turning to regard the assembled mass of clingers-on.

 

“Explain yourself,” she demanded from the head of the military contingent.

 

“This could all be a charade,” the human man from military intelligence said, not flinching from the Deputy Minister's glare. “I'm not prepared to reveal anything to that man.”

 

The Coalition had known about the Dominion's presence in the former Black Dragon Imperium for some time now. The worlds were scouted by Coalition stealth ships in the early days of the Reaver invasion, and the strange alien craft they found around several Dragon worlds ended up matching sensor records acquired from the Battle of Coruscant. This was all highly classified, of course, but Bei's senior Foreign Ministry position meant she'd been read in on the situation shortly after taking office.

 

That the military brass was so on edge they'd put on that show of ignorance, though . . . “Naturally we can't assume he's acting in good faith, but we can't foreclose the possibility either. If we can convince Thracken he has more to gain from us than from his association with the Dominion -”

 

“Ma'am,” the officer cut her off, “our only priority now is to delay them for as long as possible.”

 

Bei shook her head, not willing to follow the man down his intended line of reasoning. “He said the Minder left to fetch a Nav buoy. If that's true – and why would he bother to lie about something minutes from being proven – then he's talking about the Dac Pipeline. And that means Azguard isn't the only place under threat. We have to maintain dialogue and attempt -”

 

“They aren't here to negotiate and they aren't here to posture: they've come to conquer Azguard.”

 

She didn't like being cut off mid-sentence, especially not by a paranoid clown. “Now who's taking Thracken Sal-Solo at his word?” she chided the man.

 

He didn't like her dismissive retort, either. “They've isolated the system, they're holding the bulk of their force beyond our effective sensor range -” Bei rolled her eyes, an exaggerated gesture meant to ensure the human could read her alien facial cues. “AND,” he persisted, more forcefully, “their only offer is one that they know we can't accept.”

 

That last bit hit home. As unpleasant as dealing with these military-types was, she knew he was right. “Issk.”

 

The man nodded. “The Azguard devotion to their gods is unshakable, and the Dominion must know that. Offering submission to an empire that hunts Force users is a non-starter. There's no amount of cultural misunderstanding or psychological mismatch that can justify their supposed ignorance.”

 

“Thracken . . .”

 

“What he knows or doesn't know is irrelevant, Ma'am. He's here because they wanted him here. Even if he's placing his own side bet, he's still playing their game.”

 

“As are we, it seems.”

 

The man nodded in agreement. “There's more, but I'd rather not have to say it.”

 

She tensed up, locking eyes with the military man, studying his typical human features intently. “Psychics do tend to hinder diplomatic endeavors.”

 

“Especially if Thracken is lying about the extent of its abilities.”

 

She nodded, still studying the man. “Plausible Deniability” was a powerful tool for people like her when they found themselves in situations like this. But then, she couldn't very well say that and keep the deniability plausible, now could she? She searched her recent memory, choosing her words carefully. “If their offer, dubious as it may be, really is directed to the Azguard, then I should send for a representative of their government. Though I should probably confirm their intentions with the Minder first; we can't be having any more misunderstandings.”

 

“That'll take some time,” the officer noted, saying more with his intense stare than with his words.

 

“Important things often do,” she replied, nodding. “It's best I proceed alone from here.”

 

She headed straight for the Port Gardens, placing a couple of quick comm calls while on the way. She strode in to find Thracken and Miss Daystar in mid conversation, the two of them falling silent upon her appearance. “Thracken, the Minder is on its way back to the conference room. If we leave now, we can beat it there. If you'd rather prolong our private conversation, my staff can delay the Minder and I'm sure I can show you to another local point of interest a little farther out. Or . . .” She hesitated for a moment, her own instincts conflicting with the intelligence officer's half-spoken advice . . .

 

“You asked us for 'help'. I don't have the unilateral authority to grant you asylum, but if you ask I can place you into Coalition custody and guarantee your safety until your case can be reviewed. You may not like us, Mister Sal-Solo, but the choices we offer aren't illusions. I like to think that counts for something.”

 

If she had to play their game, she was going to invent some of her own moves.