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Beyond - Legends Annals of the Noble House of Trieste: Volume 11 (AU, OC)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Trieste, Apr 19, 2017.

  1. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2010
    I knew the operation couldn't go off as smoothly as everyone thought. "No plan survives contact with the enemy." Indeed.
     
  2. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    I must say that you do not only understand the wrath that women can feel about lies, but you also write breathtaking battle sequences.
     
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  3. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @Vehn


    Marian Square, Salis D’aar, Bakura

    Silas Madsen looked out the windows of the West Office to the executive mansion grounds beyond, his face hard and lined, but his bearing erect, hands clasped behind his back. Even now he looked strong and commanding. Declan wondered if the very office of Prime Minister fueled him, if it gave its occupants a deep, psychic reserve in times like these. There wasn’t much else that could be sustaining him now.

    “Fifteen Marines dead,” Madsen said quietly as he gazed on the green lawns. “Fifteen.”

    Minister of Defense Kelli Corbrand’s face was stony. “Mr. Prime Minister, clearly we operated on less-than-complete intelligence, if not downright misinformation.” The presence of the transit station beneath the villa had been a surprise to the Marine incursion team. They had assumed the compound was isolated from the Eastern Centrality infrastructure. As a result, there were no contingencies to prevent the subterranean escape of Arhellan’s commanders. “Republican Intelligence painted an overly rosy picture of the operation.”

    Madsen turned. “Excuses will not suffice before the Senate and neither will they in this office as long as I am in it,” he said darkly. “I want answers as to how this happened. The planning of this operation was completely flawed to miss such significant details.”

    “No matter what, the Marines performed more than admirably under suboptimal conditions,” Corbrand pressed.

    “One out of four commanders captured,” Madsen scoffed. “With three senior commanders at large and galvanized by a foreign incursion into Eastern Centrality territory, I can only imagine what they’ll do now. The Federation can’t be happy about this.” This last sentence was directed at Declan.

    “Director Vehn and I have spoken at length. While the death of General Arhellan is a blow to the East, the inability to capture Arhellan’s lieutenants is a major setback for their plans to prevent further civilian deaths. The Federation acknowledges there were significant gaps in intelligence going into operations,” Declan reported. “Director Vehn assures me that the Federation bears no ill will to Bakura for standing with them at this critical moment and feels very deeply the loss of Bakuran life in service to a safer galaxy.”

    Madsen nodded. “At least there is that. Kelli, begin preparations for testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. We should deliver this news sooner rather than later.”

    “Of course, Mr. Prime Minister,” Corbrand said. She departed, picking up on the Prime Minister’s nonverbal cues that the conversation was over. Declan made to leave as well, but was detained by a motion from Madsen. When Corbrand closed the door behind her, the pair was alone.

    “Declan…please sit down,” Madsen said darkly.

    ***

    Declan Trieste stepped out of the West Office. Holly could tell by his face that something was wrong. In a whisper, Declan said, “Clear my schedule and tell Ayn I need to see her immediately. Then, I need you to do something for me.”

    ***

    Holly Remizan turned on the holoprojector. She took a deep breath and initiated the call. Until today, she had never heard these words, but she could tell they had been said many times before and carried the weight of history.

    “Your Taoiseach requires your presence in three hours’ time at your home…”

    ***

    Declan stepped out from the speeder that Holly had arranged for him. The security system at the gate recognized his face and admitted him through the wrought iron gates. He walked up the brick path. It was humid, sweltering, but such was not uncommon here. The trees trailed long, ferny, mossy leaves in imitation of the languid weather. Though the trees seemed wild and unkempt, they were part of a harmonious yard that suggested great care and tending. Such was the way of an estate like this.

    Up the brick steps Declan went, passing between stately columns. It took mere seconds before the white front door was opened.

    “Declan, please, come in,” Ronan Trieste greeted his nephew, stepping aside to invite him into his Nouvelle Orleans home.

    Footsteps echoed off the polished wood floors from deeper inside the residence. They belonged to his wife, Mandy Trieste. Though it had been years since she had last toured, she still had the good looks of the pop star she had once been. Nowadays she let her daughter, Jane Serena, carry that torch through the galaxy. “Declan, how nice to see you,” she said, hugging him briefly. Her voice carried a hint of concern. “Please, step into the parlor.”

    The great old house they lived in had survived the Battle of Nouvelle Orleans, a long, terrible siege in the Bakuran Civil War. Ronan and Mandy had come to the city after the war and had adopted Nouvelle Orleans as their new home, taking to its customs and ways and contributing to the restoration of its economy. Through Ronan’s work, the city had developed a thriving financial sector that would have likely never began without specific assistance. As leading members of the community, they frequently entertained in their home, which seemed designed to set visitors at ease as they settled into the couches and sofas. Ordinarily, Declan was no exception, but today was no ordinary day.

    “I must say, we are a little surprised you wanted to see both of us,” Ronan admitted. “If this was just a money matter, I wouldn’t think you would have wanted Mandy to be here.”

    Declan paused for a moment. He had been thinking about this moment for hours. Though he still had his doubts, he thought the best thing to do was just to say it.

    “Ronan, Mandy…” Declan began. “Enoch is dead.”
     
  4. Vehn

    Vehn Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 14, 2009
    That's hard news to take. Damn.
     
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  5. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2010
    I have no words, so I'll just drop this here:

     
  6. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    Hard news indeed.
     
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  7. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @Vehn


    (For best results, begin at 0:50)

    Tund
    The night before


    First Lieutenant Enoch Trieste felt the thrum of the transport engines throughout his body. It was like he was part of the craft itself. In the same way, he could feel every one of his fellow strike team members. It was a product of their training. They had been forged to think, react, and be one in moments like this. Every being on this squad had the other’s back without question. No matter what happened down there, they would be one.

    “Two and a half minutes to LZ,” came the word from the pilot over their comms. “We have the go from Fauna Zero.”

    That was the command straight from the Prime Minister. There was no going back now—not that Enoch wanted to. When he’d shipped out for this deployment, he hadn’t expected he was going to see combat. Bakura was a planet at peace, after all. However, when the word had come down that they wanted volunteers for a potentially dangerous mission, Enoch was among those who stood up immediately. Danger meant importance, and Enoch hadn’t joined the Marines to sit on the sidelines when there was an opportunity to make a difference. When he’d found out that they were doing a black ops mission into the Eastern Centrality, Enoch realized that whatever their objective, he would be a going into the biggest hotspot in the galaxy.

    There was no greater difference he could make this day than this mission.

    “We are 30 seconds to LZ.”

    That brought Enoch back to the present. His mind and body had been honed for moments like this.

    “All right, squad Jensk,” Enoch said over his subcomm for his squad of ten Marines, one of four that would be participating in the assault. “We know what we’re here to do. Our objective is Colonel Orask.” She was Arhellan’s primary field commander, but fell behind Arhellan’s chief of staff in rank. Orask had executed many of Arhellan’s most reprehensible orders. “We know what we’re here to do. Don’t take the Centrality lightly. They’ve been on a war footing for years. They’re going to be sharp, but they’ll never see us coming. We’re going to make the most of our surprise.”

    Team Jensk would move immediately behind the point squad approaching the villa and then fan out through the compound to search for Eastern brass.

    “Rifles hot,” Enoch ordered as he flipped the safety off his blaster rifle. Orders had been to set them to kill. They weren’t going to play around with the lives of Marines by setting them to stun with those slow, lazy stun circles. Taking an Eastern Centrality officer alive wasn’t worth the life of one of Enoch’s brother or sister.

    Enoch had double checked his body armor before they’d gotten on the transport. He had the finest protection available to a Bakuran Marine, but it was no better than the enlisted beings in his squad had. He might lead, but he did so without privilege. Trieste was just the name on the front of his uniform, not a badge of distinction.

    The shuttle dropped in altitude precipitously and Enoch sprang into action the moment it paused, hitting the ground, blaster rifle at the ready. He walked forward in a crouch, scanning the landing zone for any hint of enemy activity as his squad followed him off the shuttle.

    “Fauna Two moving to entry point besh,” the operation leader reported back to command on Bakura.

    Enoch and his squad continued their crouch walk, moving silently across the grass. It was a long, open expanse of grass from the woods to the compound. This had been highlighted as an area of danger during their briefings. If they got spotted here, they’d be sitting ducks in the open. It was imperative that they move across as quickly as they could under cover of darkness and breach the villa to use the cover provided by hallways.

    Enoch and his team were halfway across the grass when floodlights opened up, shining directly onto them. “Frak!” he shouted. “Open fire!” He dropped to one knee and began providing cover fire for his squad, spraying the villa to hopefully cause the Centrality defenders to drop back in response. His squad followed suit and soon Enoch pushed forward with his troops to gain the villa.

    A sudden yell, suddenly choked off, caught his attention. Against his training, Enoch threw a glance to his left. It was one of his troops, crumpling to the ground. He could only assume that the man had been hit. That was when he picked up Centrality troops setting up on the treeline to the left.

    “Heavy fire from the left flank!” Enoch shouted in anticipation from the onslaught he knew was coming.

    One of his troopers pulled a thermal detonator from his belt. “Grenade hot!” He cooked the grenade for a second then tossed it. Enoch slid up against a planter at the edge of the villa to gain some measure of cover, his squad falling into line beside him. He heard the detonator’s explosion just as his shoulder met brick.

    “All right, on three we push up to the top step! Then we set breaching charges! No sense doing anything quiet now! Blow us a hole!” Enoch ordered. “One, two, three!”

    The squad jumped up and gained the stairs, some of them taking them two at a time. From the roofline, blaster bolts rained down on them. Enoch pivoted his rifle up and took shots liberally to cover the charge. He didn’t pay particular attention to the effect of his action, but thought he caught a Centrality trooper going down. If so, it would be the first being he’d ever killed.

    A corporal, demolitions expert, pulled out a demolition charge made of plastic that could be put in place and shaped for specific effect. She tamped it down forcefully against the entrance to the villa. “Charges planted!” she reported.

    The squad pulled back to a safe distance. “Clear!” Enoch shouted.

    She pressed the detonator and an explosion blew the door in. “Breached! Breached!” Enoch reported and the team moved forward in conjunction with one of the other strike teams, which led the way. A few seconds after Enoch’s team entered the hallway, they suddenly met resistance from Centrality troops. Enoch and a couple Marines dived into a room just to their left to avoid the barrage. Enoch could hear cries of pain and knew Marines had gone down in the onslaught.

    As the casualty reports came in, Enoch leaned out of the doorway and laid down a spray of blaster bolts, taking out a couple Centrality soldiers. He pulled back into the room and changed his blaster rifle power pack from the safety of his cover. There were still shots left in the last one, but he wasn’t going to caught with no charge when it might cost him his life.

    “Sensors picking up substantial movement in subbasement level. Could be targets trying to escape through secondary exit routes.”

    “Squad Jensk, we gotta get down there, stat!” Enoch ordered. “Full press!”

    With fierce yells of valor, Enoch and his squad emerged from cover and charged down the hallway, their blaster bolts clearing a path for them. With a point person covered by another Marine leading the squad, they made their way down a staircase to the basement in pursuit. When they reached the bottom without incident, Enoch looked around at a cavernous space. This was no mere storage area. Something else had to be down here.

    “Fauna Zero,” a fellow squad commander reported into the all-team comm, “we have what looks like a rapid transit station.” That made sense. In the darkness, Enoch could now pick up the tracks for whatever kind of transport served this space. “It looks like this facility is connected to other Centrality bases. We do not see any transport in sight.”

    “Frak it all,” one of Enoch’s Marines said on the team channel. “They’ve probably blown the coop. Frak frak frak.”

    “We don’t know that. If they didn’t have a transport ready when we struck, they could be hiding and waiting for one,” Enoch said. “Sweep the area. If Arhellan’s commanders are still at the villa, good chance they’re here or they’re coming here. Stay alert everybody.”

    Enoch stepped through the rapid transit area, sweeping the area with the light at the end of his blaster rifle, looking for anything like doors or side rooms. He didn’t expect there to be outright hiding spaces in a villa designed for commanders to relax at, but you never knew.

    All of a sudden he came to a halt. There, on the wall, was a detonator. He followed the cord connected to it to a second, and then a third, and then a fourth. The lights on them were blinking.

    “This place is rigged!” Enoch shouted on the all-team comm. “Fall back! Fall back!”

    He held his blaster rifle with both hands and broke into a run for the stairwell, the other Marines doing the same. When he got there, he looked behind him to see if anyone was left behind. They weren’t, but he was among the first to reach the exit.

    “Go! Go! Go! Go!” Enoch said from the side of the door, giving each Marine a helpful shove with one hand to get them through the door.

    The last one, a lance corporal from his team, was almost there when he stumbled and fell. Enoch knew it was hard to get up with all that gear on and didn’t even hesitate. He rushed to the Marine’s side to help him up. As he did so, he looked up and saw the lights on the detonators flashing more rapidly than before.

    “Get up, Marine!” Enoch shouted as he hauled the lance corporal to his feet.

    “It’s my ankle sir! Go!” the corporal cried in pain, collapsing.

    “No Marine ever gets left behind!” Enoch said. He bent to pick up his compatriot, determined to carry him to safety. Before he lifted, Enoch looked back at the charges. The flashing was so fast it was almost constant, and Enoch knew he didn’t have time.

    Instead, he threw himself on the ground, putting his body between his comrade and the charges. Enoch pulled the lance corporal against him.

    “LT! Go!” the lance corporal pleaded.

    In those finals moments, Enoch remembered part of a poem his Uncle Oisin had written about the beings who had died in the G’rho War, the beings his Aunt Fiona had fought with.

    “We said we’d all go down together,” Enoch told him.

    They were the last words of First Lieutenant Enoch Trieste.

    Then there was only light.
     
  8. Vehn

    Vehn Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 14, 2009
    Sad to see him go but at the same time he will be remembered for his sacrifice all the same. I think its fitting that a Vehn and Trieste took part in this operation. Unfortunately, one family did not get everyone back. Nice writing ;).
     
  9. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @Vehn


    Nouvelle Orleans, Bakura

    Every member of the Noble House of Trieste was present at the spaceport when the transport arrived. Enoch’s immediately family, Ronan, Mandy, Antrose, Henrietta, and Jane Serena Trieste, stood in front as the loading ramp slowly descended. Immediately behind them were Declan, Ayn, and their children. Alongside were the other Captains: Vesper Lynd and her son Dorian, Elfie and Jax Ralter, and May and Sevan Hull.

    Behind them stood the rest of the Noble House. Few families could field such an respeced group of mourners with politicians, philanthropists, poets, athletes, and industrialists. The Queen Mother was there, a black veil to denote her mourning.

    The flag draped coffin was escorted down the ramp by a complement of Marines in dress uniform, each one with rigid posture to honor their fallen brother in arms, their faces set for such grim duty. For yet another time since the terrible news had been delivered, Mandy broke into tears. She drew support from her husband—but it was not strength. It was shared suffering. The financial genius of the Noble House was facing a problem no amount of credits could solve. He could only cry with his wife as they could no longer escape the fact that their son was in that coffin.

    One Marine stepped forward. “Mr. and Mrs. Trieste,” he began. “My name is Lance Corporal Sirrah. I have been with your son ever since Tund and insisted I bring him home to you. Thanks to your son, I am alive today. He put himself between me and the blast that took his life. I owe everything to him now and I will not disappoint him by squandering my days to come.”

    Mandy took his offered hand and clasped it tight. “Maker bless you, Corporal,” she said through her tears.

    “No, Maker bless him, Mrs. Trieste,” Sirrah replied.

    “Corporal, would you do us the honor of helping Enoch on his way?” Declan asked, stepping forward.

    “It would be an honor, Minister.”

    The Captains gathered around Enoch’s coffin. The last time this honor had been given to a member of the Noble House of Trieste, it had been almost 35 years ago after the death of Fionn Dunross Trieste, the being responsible for there being a Bakura today.

    Now, Declan Trieste, Ayn Trieste, Vesper Lynd, Elfie Ralter, and May Hull, joined by the Noble House’s two retired Marines Cillian Lynd and Rickard Harlow, and Lance Corporal Sirrah took hold of the handles of the coffin and lifted it from the hoversled. Together the eight of them would walk Enoch home for the last time.

    As the coffin passed by the Noble House, five year old Vienna Lynd lifted her hand in a salute to her cousin.

    ***

    Because of Ronan and Mandy’s prominence in Nouvelle Orleans, the route that wound through its historic quarter to their house had been shut down to accommodate this funeral cortege for a fallen hero. The Captains and the coffin went first, followed by Enoch’s family, and then the rest of the Noble House. They walked down the shady streets, beneath the lazy boughs of the trees arching above them. On the sidewalks, citizens stood mute and watched the procession pass by.

    It was a sign of respect for the Nouvelle Orleans Triestes that the citizens interrupted their day to pay tribute to Enoch. Many of them had encountered one of the family over the years and almost all of them felt a kinship to them. Some raised their hands in silent expressions of grief. Others dabbed at their eyes with handkerchiefs. Those who knew Ronan and Mandy well occasionally stepped forward to shake a hand or touch them on the shoulder, a gesture accepted gratefully, if briefly.

    The coffin was heavy, but none of them sagged under its weight. They owed Enoch that. They owed him so much more.

    ***

    The next day

    Declan delivered Enoch’s eulogy at the Church of the Cosmic Balance that Ronan and Mandy raised their children at. Neither parent was ready to speak publicly about their son. Their grief was too fresh, too raw to permit that. As Taoiseach, Declan accepted the responsibility and stepped into the breach. His farewell to the First Lieutenant memorialized him as someone who put “service before personal gain, planet before self, and honor before ease.” Out of respect and decency, media had not been allowed at the service. They were here to see Enoch off, not give any of them publicity.

    After the address, as the Noble House shook the hands of those who had come to do their fallen brother homage, Holly Remizan whispered Declan’s ear, “There’s something you should know.”

    ***

    Kilmainham Brook, Prytis, Bakura
    Two days later


    They all took turns digging the hole. It was an appropriately gray day, almost threatening rain but coming just short, as they plunged the shovel into the earth. First the cut up the turf, then they turned over the moist soil. It only took a couple of shovels from each of them to do it. Age prevented none from taking their turn, as Kerry scraped the shovel against the stubborn earth in her turn. Even Ronan and Mandy, behind their tears, participated.

    So it was that the Noble House of Trieste dug a hole for the ashes of Enoch Trieste. He would rest with his forbearers here. His remains would mingle with the roots of this tree alongside the ashes of his grandfather Fionn, grandmother Jane, and uncle Conn. He would find a final resting place in this ancestral land first claimed by Niall Trieste I. He would return to the bosom of Bakura.

    When the hole was deep enough, two bottles of whiskey were poured out for everyone. Credits had been no object in their procurement and there was none finer to be had on the planet. In any other circumstances, they would have been a smooth delight. Today they would burn all the way down.

    “To Enoch,” Declan proposed, raising his glass. “Taken from us too soon, but every day he lived was a credit to those who loved him and whom he loved in return.”

    “To Enoch,” they echoed with little enthusiasm before drinking.

    Declan turned his glass upside down and let the whiskey fall into the hole to honor Enoch. It was then that Mandy and Ronan knelt and gently poured their son’s remains into the earth. It would be them, assisted by Antrose, Henrietta, and Jane Serena, who would fill in the hole when they were ready. The Noble House knew these final moments were for them and withdrew to give them privacy in the last, tragic moments. For many, the last that they saw was Mandy kneeling by the grave, holding the folded flag that had covered her son’s coffin.

    ***

    Inside the Taoiseach’s study, Declan sat in a nerfhide chair with another drink and looked at the fire behind the grate. The light moved across his face in a terrible, dark dance.

    “The cost was too high,” he said.

    “Yes,” Ayn replied, setting a hand gently on his shoulder. She slid it across to gently rub his neck saying nothing. “But it has already been paid. Terrible though it may be, it has already been paid.”

    ***

    May and Sevan took the high speed monorail back to Salis D’aar. Even though they could have hopped a ride with one of many relatives, they both preferred the time together on the public transit system. Usually it was comforting to watch the green landscape speed by from the smooth comfort of their cabin. Today, however, there was no comfort to be found.

    “What is it, Sevan?” May asked as she nestled next to him.

    “Something’s been bothering me,” Sevan confessed, his face hard as he looked out the curved window, not seeing the scenery.

    “I know. It’s awful. Enoch, gone,” May agreed.

    “No. I mean, yes, but that’s not what’s bothering me.” The momentary mistake caused Sevan to turn from the window. “It’s that nobody talks about why Enoch died.”

    “I don’t think anyone knows. It’s the military. They’re not big into sharing.” May straightened up. “That bothers you though?”

    “Yes, but that’s not what’s bothering me,” the journalist admitted. “It was something a few days ago, when we met the transport at Nouvelle Orleans…”

    May waited silently to see if her husband would finish. He turned back to the window and was quiet for a few moments.

    “…there were other coffins on the transport,” Sevan finished. “A lot more coffins…”
     
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  10. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2010
    The price of freedom is high indeed, and it is important that we properly honor those who pay the full price. Still, I'm not sure this mission was worth its price....
     
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  11. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    You and Declan agree on that, most emphatically.
     
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  12. Vehn

    Vehn Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 14, 2009
    I'm smelling an investigation or public inquiry or something.......because military ops like these don't breed a lot of public support.
     
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  13. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    While I was busy with RL matters Enoch died in battle. Thanks for going back to his death scene and also telling us about the funeral ceremony.
     
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  14. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @Vehn

    Your musical selection has a disallowed words in it, so listen directly on YouTube if you like.

    Salis D’aar, Bakura

    Regan Eldred awoke after a night of uninterrupted sleep. She stretched in bed, slowly loosening her muscles and preparing for the day. She stopped at full extension for a second. Something was different…

    She rolled out of bed and opened the bedroom windows in their fifth floor suite at the Plaza. It was a cool day in the capital and Regan inhaled deeply, closing her eyes as she did so.

    “What’s gotten into you?” her husband Atticus asked, face down in bed. It was not like his wife to greet the day so enthusiastically. She was usually more like him, barely pulling herself out of bed in the morning.

    “Can’t you feel it?” Regan asked, her voice breathy and husky. “It’s the kind of day that only comes in the capital.

    “Intrigue is in the air, darling. I can feel it in my bones. Before long…something big is going to happen. It’s going to be delightful to watch.”

    ***

    Sevan Hull tossed his datapad in frustration onto his desk and plopped into his office chair.

    “What’s up?” Barry Woodard asked his fellow reporter.

    “There’s a story. I know it,” Sevan insisted. “A bunch of Marines died—at least a dozen, but no one at the Ministry of Defense will issue a comment or even acknowledge them. I’ve been crisscrossing the planet, tracking down the families of these Marines. They came from different units and their families knew nothing about what they were doing. And on top of that, I have sources in the Senate Building that tell me that Marian Square called an irregular meeting of the Armed Services Committee in closed session.”

    “Could be anything,” Woodard said. “We probably don’t even know about half the closed door meetings of the big Senate committees.”

    “Yeah, but what’s big about this one is that the party leaderships were invited.”

    Woodard sat back thoughtfully. “That is odd.”

    “There’s something here, Barry,” Sevan insisted, “but I’ve hit a dead end and I don’t like it when I do. It means there’s something I haven’t found yet.”

    “Okay, so let’s back it up. What’s the Ministry of Defense rep telling you?”

    “They don’t comment on classified matters,” Sevan replied.

    “That could be anything, but you’re right—dead Marines and a classified matter, there’s something being covered up,” Woodard mused. He was quiet for a few moments. “Okay, I’ve got an idea, but you’re not going to like it.”

    ***

    “This about Enoch,” Sevan said that night at the Plaza.

    Ayn nodded as she handed Sevan a drink and took a seat. “It’s been a rough time. He wouldn’t want you to know, but Declan’s taken it hard. He’s in Nouvelle Orleans right now, actually.”

    “I think something went on, something nobody’s talking about,” Sevan said, “and I think you know what it is.”

    Ayn narrowed her eyes as she took a sip from her glass. She chose to remain silent, so Sevan plowed forward.

    “There was an Armed Services Committee meeting, closed door, classified,” Sevan pressed. “My sources say the party leadership attended. You and I both know that’s unusual. That tells me that something big went down in that room. And you were there.”

    The Deputy Prime Minister put her glass down on the low coffee table between them. The glass-on-glass clink seemed to echo through the room.

    “Needless to say, we are off the record?” Ayn asked.

    “Completely.”

    “Good.” She folded her hands in her lap and sat back. “How stupid do you think I am, Sevan?”

    The question caught him off guard. “What?”

    “There were not a lot of beings in that room,” Ayn said. “It’s a small circle. What you’re asking me about is something that I can’t afford to come back to me. I thought you would have understood that.”

    “Ayn, look I didn’t intend any disrespect—” Sevan began.

    “No, you just asked me to break a classified seal,” Ayn cut him off. “I have worked too hard to get where I am to throw it away by committing a felony to help you get a story.”

    “Enoch’s death isn’t a story,” Sevan protested, anger suddenly coming to the fore. “He deserves for beings to know what happened to him.”

    “It won’t bring him back,” Ayn replied darkly, “and if you’d been in this family for long, you’d know that Enoch wanted things done the right way.”

    “I’ve tried the right way. Nobody on Bakura is talking about this,” Sevan growled.

    “Then clearly the answer isn’t on Bakura, now is it?” Ayn returned.

    Sevan opened his mouth to say something—and stopped. He looked at Ayn and she looked back.

    “I believe it’s time you left,” she said coolly.

    “I believe it is,” Sevan agreed, the indignation drained from his voice. “Thanks for the drink, Ayn.”

    “Any time,” she said, dismissing him.

    ***

    Nouvelle Orleans, Bakura

    “It doesn’t get any easier,” Mandy confessed. Declan had joined Ronan and her for lunch at their estate. The old house seemed more quiet than usual, even though Enoch hadn’t lived there for years. Something had stolen into the house, infusing it with their grief. For the first time since Declan had visited it after the Civil War, it felt like an old house.

    “For now, perhaps,” Declan agreed. “Today you just keep living. One day you will feel alive again.”

    “I’d like to think that’s true,” Ronan said. It was clear that he too had been shattered by his son’s death. Declan was concerned for his uncle. On a practical level, he worried that the Noble House’s finances might fall into neglect. More importantly, the fact that Ronan was unable to lose himself in his work was evidence of a deep pain inside him. “But now it’s just hard.”

    “How much have you seen Siobhan?” Declan asked, referencing their only grandchild.

    “The last time was at Kilmainham, at the…” Ronan couldn’t bring himself to actually speak the word “burial” aloud. “We haven’t felt much like going out.”

    “You may have lost a son,” Declan said, “but you have a granddaughter. It’s some place to start.”

    Mandy looked at her husband with concern. “I worry that we’d be crowding Henrietta. It’s her house, after all.”

    Declan paused. “I don’t think Henrietta would mind.” The truth was Henrietta’s mother was no doting grandparent, a relentless social climber who had been living for years on the success of her daughter marrying into the Noble House. The only time she visited Henrietta was if it conveniently fit into her social schedule. Declan also knew that Antrose’s illicit activities meant that he did not keep regular business hours, leaving his wife with a lot of time on her own. “In fact, I think that she’d be grateful for the company at a time like this.”

    “Maybe we should go,” Ronan supposed.

    “I think it would do you good,” Declan suggested gently. He waited for a moment to see if his aunt and uncle would fill the conversational void, but they didn’t.

    “There is…” Declan began, “…another matter as well.”
     
  15. Vehn

    Vehn Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 14, 2009
    Is it wrong if I was quietly, and still am, rooting for Sevan to uncover the truth? I know Declan and Ayn have carved quite a power niche for themselves but I am dying to know if Sevan can find out some answers. The media, when doing its job properly, can be a powerful force....
     
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  16. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    Wrong? Hardly! Who doesn't love a good journalist-against-the-establishment story? ;)
     
  17. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @Vehn


    Coruscant

    Galactic Senator Gavin Serling had a good life. He’d racked up enough seniority in the Senate to basically do whatever he wanted with his time. Skip a committee meeting? Nobody complained. Show up to a committee meeting? He got to say whatever he wanted. Make a speech on the Senate floor? He barely had to wait to do so. Open a bottle of Corellian whiskey on the Senate floor? Nobody was going to tell him he couldn’t imbibe in a government building (if they did, he would pass a law on the spot to make it legal). Take a long weekend to go see his flame Kerry Trieste on Bakura? Well…that one he had to be careful with. If he didn’t give her proper notice she’d tell him she was busy and to go amuse himself in Cape Suzette because she had a league to run.

    Gavin chuckled. As if running a college conference was hard work. Not that he’d ever tell Kerry that. It would only get him a long lecture about precisely everything she had to put up with. Even so, it had to be easier than trying to keep the Republic running. Just thinking about it made him want a vacation. If it wasn’t for all the perks of this job he might just retire.

    “Senator Serling! A moment!” came a call from behind him.

    “Look, friend, I’m sorry but I’ve got a committee meeting and I really have to get to it,” Serling said, turning and walking backwards away from what was undoubtedly a reporter. Not that this member of the esteemed press knew it, but he had no such engagement. His only appointment was with the couch in his office for an afternoon nap.

    “I’m with the Salis D’aar Times and I just need a few minutes of your time,” the reporter pressed.

    Salis D’aar? “Bakura? You’re a little far from your regular beat, son,” Serling scoffed. He paused. “Kerry didn’t send you, did she?” Damn, she absolutely would do something like that to put him in his place. Sometimes her sense of humor wasn’t very funny.

    “No, but we’re related through the Noble House.”

    Serling squinted. “I don’t remember you from the parties.” Then again, that darn house of Kerry’s was so big he didn’t always keep everyone straight.

    “And I did hear her once say you were the only Galactic Senator worth his salt,” the reporter continued.

    “Flattery will get her everywhere,” Serling smiled, but his guard was still up. “Okay, you’ve got—” He checked his chrono. “—45 seconds. Go.”

    “I think the Bakuran Defense Fleet participated in an off-the-books operation that’s classified so high no one will talk about it. The only way that could happen is if they were working in concert with the Republican Fleet. That operation took the lives of 15 Marines and it sure as Korriban didn’t happen anywhere on Bakura, which means that a Defense Fleet was engaging in offense somewhere in this galaxy. Last I checked, there’d been no closed door briefings to the Galactic Senate, so either I’m badly informed or there’s something going on that the Fleet doesn’t want you to know about.”

    Senator Serling pursed his lips. “My office is this way. This is going to take longer than 45 seconds.”

    ***

    Nouvelle Orleans, Bakura

    Mandy and Ronan weren’t sure what to do with themselves. They kept trying to occupy their time, but they barely paid attention to whatever they took up, whether it was reading, a spot of cleaning, or the HoloNet. They both knew that there would be a chime at the door and that whatever they were doing was going to be interrupted.

    When it finally sounded, they both jumped up from their seats and hurried to the door. Mandy reached it first and pressed the button for the wood barrier to slide back. Standing on their broad front steps made of brick was a woman of average height and hair as dark as a starless sky. The three looked at each other, unsure of what to say.

    “Hello, come in,” Ronan finally said.

    “Thank you,” the woman said with a fleeting smile. She looked around the opulent entryway. “I…apologize. I thought…I don’t know what I thought. That I would make a better showing, I guess.”

    “None of us are making a good one these days,” Mandy said. “Come here.” She hugged the young woman, who was surprised by the sudden gesture. All of a sudden the woman started crying.

    “Oh, it’s okay,” Mandy said.

    “No, it’s not you. It’s me. This is all my fault,” the woman cried. “Enoch wanted to introduce us, but I said no, not yet. If I hadn’t been so scared at meeting you, he would have been here for this.”

    “Well, you’re here now,” Mandy comforted her. “Come, let’s have something to drink.”

    :bb8::bb8::bb8:

    Her name was Elyse Carlowe. “It’s stupid. We met at a bar,” she explained. “Enoch stood so straight. He respected himself, but he had that smile. I had to walk up to him and buy him a drink, you know. He was an idjit like that. Put my number into his datapad for him. I could tell he was one of the good ones, that’s why I did it.”

    They had been seeing each other for six months. He’d wanted to bring her to Nouvelle Orleans to meet the family and she’d resisted. “I said I wasn’t ready. I knew who he was, who you were…and who I was. I didn’t think a townie like me would survive in your gilded parlors.” She looked around. “Though, you’re a little light on the gilt and heavy on crown molding.”

    They loved each other passionately. “I’d never met a being like him and don’t think I ever will again. And the way he talked about his deployment…I never thought…” She nearly fell to tears again, but forestalled it by hastily grabbing her cup and drinking some tea. “He told me I was welcome to see him off with all of you. I should have gone. What I’d give now for one more look at him.”

    “I wish you’d been at the funeral,” Ronan said. “He would have liked that.”

    Elyse blinked. “But I was, don’t you know?” The woman with the almond eyes and silent but haughty airs like she knew everything there was to know—“Holly something”—had come to her apartment and told her Enoch was dead. “She made the arrangements for the travel, paid for everything. She introduced me to the Minister of State, who had thanked me for coming and said he understood that Enoch and I had been close. The Minister said he’d be in touch later and then he’d told her that you wanted to meet me.

    “So here I am,” Elyse finished. “But I don’t want you getting the wrong idea.” She set down her teacup. “I’m not here for help. I can do this on my own, you know.”

    “If there’s one thing I’ve realized,” Mandy said gently, “it’s that we all need some help getting through our grief and it doesn’t pay to be proud.”

    Elyse blinked. “I’m not talking about that, of course.”

    Ronan and Mandy exchanged a puzzled look. “Then what are you talking about?” Ronan ventured tentatively.

    “You mean they didn’t tell you?” Elyse blinked with surprise.

    “Tell us…?” Mandy asked, her heartrate going up.

    “That I’m carrying Enoch’s child,” Elyse confirmed.
     
  18. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @Vehn


    Hapes, Hapes Consortium

    Weeks ago, Sierra Chume laid before the Royal Court her proposed Gender Rights Act, which outlawed misandry (discrimination against males) in the Consortium. It flew in the face of thousands of years of cultural tradition on the 63 worlds subject to the Queen Mother where female superiority was a given. Though her word as monarch was law, Sierra knew that a change of this magnitude needed public debate, which was why she had placed the matter before the Court, comprised of one representative of each world.

    The ensuing consideration had been anything but peaceful. Though legally they had no power to stop the Queen Mother from passing a law, their approval or disapproval would be a powerful signal of the Consortium’s attitudes—or at least those of the aristocracy that most members of the Royal Court hailed from. Every session of the Royal Court since the Gender Rights Act had been dedicated to loud arguments about its provisions that barred discrimination between the sexes in hiring, compensation, and athletics and the associated enforcement articles to back up the mandates.

    The Queen Mother was all but a goddess to her people, so no one could outright argue against her. What the Royal Courtiers did was attack “the misguided advisors” who had maliciously influenced Her Majesty into proposing such an ill-conceived decree.

    “This will incite revolution in the Consortium at worst and disrupt the fabric of our society at best,” the Courtier from Carlania stated. “The Consortium is in harmony. Everyone knows their place. Everyone has purpose. This bill would imply that males could do anything females can do! Before long they would serve in this very body! Why, under one valid interpretation of this law, our beloved Queen Mother might be succeeded not by the chume’da, but by her son, the first born. What would the Consortium be with a—” The Courtier wrinkled her nose in disgust. “—a King Father on the throne?”

    It had gone on long enough, Sierra decided. “Thank you,” she said. It was all she had to say to silence the room. “I have heard your counsels. What you seem to forget is that half the population of the Consortium are males and they are consigned to a second-class citizenship.”

    “Look at what a galaxy led by males has done: given rise a Galactic Empire, a First Order. The greatest Sith Lords were lords, not ladies. Chaos, death, destruction. The Consortium, under the guidance of females, has had thousands of years of uninterrupted peace and productivity,” the Courtier from Jodaka sniffed.

    Sierra turned her eyes upon the Jodakan and her look conveyed displeasure. The look said, You dare interrupt us? The Courtier slunk low in her seat under such a withering glare. “Any peace we have known, any achievements we have won are but half of what is possible when we do not empower half our citizens to achieve their fullest potential. The data has been presented to us: public opinion polls support lifting restrictions against males.”

    “As have the credited reports of these polls being financed by governments that would see us brought under their thrall, our sovereignty subjugated beneath the heel of a republic, federation, or empire,” the Courtier from Ket said sharply. Sierra knew she would not wilt under a stern gaze. She was the leader of the resistance against the law. “Hapan culture is superior to the bland melting pot of so-called galactic values. Error has no right.”

    “As you have said many times before,” Sierra reminded her, though her tone implied she was weary of having it repeated. “The time for repeating slogans is over. It is time for the Court to vote on this matter. Do so now.”

    At their terminals, each Courtier recorded their vote. It took less than a minute. Their opinions had hardened long ago. The only reason that Sierra had let the debate draw on as long as it had was to show the Consortium that this action was not being taken lightly and without due consideration.

    The vote total was displayed for the entire court to see. It failed by a vote of 45-18, an almost two-to-one margin against. “Your Majesty, the Royal Court cannot recommend adoption of this law.”

    Sierra nodded and stood. “Change does not come easily. It does not matter where someone dreams of a different galaxy—it is almost always the same. When that change comes, it is almost always because a minority makes their voice heard and has the courage to take a stand. What was once unthinkable becomes reality.

    “We may be blessed and anointed to our Maker, but the veil we wear does not blind us to injustice and the wish of the Consortium,” Sierra said. “This very day we shall sign the Gender Rights Act into law, in full view of our citizens.”

    The Couriter from Ket rose. “Then what happens from here on out is on your head, Your Majesty.” She walked out of the Court, followed by at least two dozen others, in protest of the Queen Mother’s plan of action.

    No, Sierra thought, what happens now will be on your head.

    ***

    Salis D’aar, Bakura

    Declan was lounging in a robe in their bedroom at the Plaza, preparing for another day at the Ministry. He tried to make it a point to browse the BBC after reading the daily government briefing to make sure he understood how the public was being informed on issues. It was all too easy to get caught in the Salis D’aar bubble. And public opinion…what a fickle beast it could be…

    His datapad chimed, signaling a news alert from the local daily, The Salis D’aar Times. Declan flicked from the BBC to the Times idly as he reached for his toast.

    15 DEAD IN SECRET MARINE OPERATION
    Classified Republican Fleet documents detail fatal operation in Centrality
    By Sevan Hull


    “Honey—” Declan called to his wife in the shower, the toast still in his hand halfway between table and mouth.

    Holly Remizan barged through the bedroom door. “Minister—”

    “Marian Square wants me immediately,” Declan finished for her. “Get me the Republican Secretary of State for holoconference in the speeder.” Holly withdrew to comply. “Darling—I don’t think we’ll be having breakfast together this morning. I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to read this before you get to the Senate.”

    On the side tables next to the bed, their handheld datapads started vibrating almost continuously. The agenda was out the window now.
     
  19. Vehn

    Vehn Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 14, 2009
    I do like me a good drama and also lots of activities in the Consortium. Something rotten on Bakura....
     
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  20. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2010
    Speak of the devil. I was just thinking on the way home from classes tonight that the gender rights issue ought to be addressed in the Annals and not just in ELL. Glad to see just that. Go Sierra!

    And it looks like beans have been spilled on Bakura. The problem is that you can't unspill them. I don't know who leaked classified stuff, but Ayn and Declan have quite a bit of damage control to deal with.
     
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  21. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    I definitely wanted to get the crossover into here. It's going to be a big part of what happens with Sierra, one of the most prominent members of the Noble House.

    I can confidently say that now that word is out on the Marines, it will be impossible to get it back in.
     
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  22. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @Vehn

    Stewjon

    “Welcome back to The Nightly Show! My guest tonight is the Minister of State of Bakura. Please welcome to the show Minister Declan Trieste,” Rurra Eshka’mos announced.

    The crowd cheered as Declan stepped onto the stage. He waved with a broad smile before shaking the Bothan comedian’s hand. The pair took their seats with a desk separating them to begin the interview.

    “Thrilled to be here, Rurra,” Declan said. “My Mom speaks highly of you and it’s an honor to follow in her footsteps.”

    “Well, we’re lucky to call her a friend of the show. How’s she doing?” Rurra asked.

    “Looking forward to the Jogan Bowl,” Declan said, referring to the upcoming matchup of the Prytis College of Natural Sciences, the champion of the Bak10 Conference that Kerry oversaw, versus Norand University of Carratos.

    “Your niece is playing in that, right?”

    “She is. I think it’ll be a great game. But come on Rurra, we all know you’re a hard-hitting journalist of the highest integrity. Let’s skip the niceties and so you can really rip into me.” Declan picked up the Nightly Show mug in front of him to take a drink of water as the audience laughed.

    “I think this is the first time I’ve ever had a guest tell me to start asking harder questions,” Rurra joked to the audience’s amusement. “But never let it be said that I’m not a good host. Let’s talk about what’s on everyone’s mind: the reports coming out of your hometown Salis D’aar Times that say the Bakuran Defense Fleet was involved in a covert ops mission in the Eastern Centrality. Is it true?”

    ***

    Salis D’aar, Bakura
    Days ago


    “This is a disaster,” Madsen’s chief of staff said. “How did this get out? The Republic swore they would have our back on this.”

    Declan decided not to observe that this was how leaks worked. Nobody ever intended that they occurred. It was not going to be a productive addition to the conversation.

    “There’s no point in talking about how it happened,” Madsen said. “It did. We’ll deal with that later. Right now we need to focus on our response.”

    “We’ve briefed the Senate, so we’re legally covered. Our response is straight up: ‘We do not discuss classified military operations,’” Corbrand said.

    “That’s not going to cut it,” Declan countered. “It’s out. The public wants answers. We’re going to have to say something.”

    “I agree with Declan,” the chief of staff said. “We need to come clean, talk about the full operation.”

    “Absolutely not,” Declan snapped. “We cannot discuss the Federation’s involvement. The political situation on Roon is too unstable right now. If it comes out that they engaged in a black op, it could destabilize their entire government, which throws the Outer Rim into turmoil. The ramifications would have consequences even here.”

    “If we don’t bring them in, we look like we’re independently meddling in other systems’ affairs,” the chief of staff said. “We have to disclose Federation involvement.”

    “Mr. Prime Minister, if you disclose the Phantoms’ work, you would be revealing Republican secrets. That’s an indictable offense,” Declan warned. “You approved this operation because you wanted to do the right thing. Bringing the Federation into this is the wrong thing.”

    “Well we have to say something,” the chief of staff said. “Silence is not going to cut it at Prime Minister’s Questions this week. We have to come clean, admit everything. A cover up will only worsen the situation.”

    “That’s political suicide,” Corbrand said. “Insist at Prime Minister’s Questions that the appropriate Senate committees were briefed. Expose their hypocrisy. Say they’re using dead Marines to score political points.”

    Declan shook his head. “That’ll backfire. Anything less than honesty will make the situation worse.”

    “The situation is already pretty bad. We can’t drop our guard and ask for a bloody nose,” the chief of staff said.

    “I’ll take all this under advisement. We have time to consider before Prime Minister’s Questions,” Madsen said, deferring the decision.

    “If I may, Mr. Prime Minister, I have an idea,” Declan offered.

    ***

    Stewjon

    “Rurra, come on,” Declan said with friendly exasperation. “We both know that’s a classified matter. You can do better than that.”

    “Don’t ask for hard questions and then refuse to answer,” Rurra shot back only somewhat playfully.

    “Fair point,” Declan allowed. “What I can talk about is what I think should happen now. The beings of Bakura deserve the truth about what did or didn’t happen. We have a number of different constitutional vehicles for that conversation. Our parliamentary tradition includes an executive accounting to the legislature in our Prime Minister’s Questions. The Bakuran Senate also has the power to convene investigatory committees and they could do so here. However, what we need at this point is clearance from the Republic to discuss these matters publicly. Until the Republican Fleet and Senate declassifies this issue, we can’t have that accounting.”

    “So, to be clear, you support full disclosure of what happened?” Rurra asked.

    “Absolutely,” Declan said.

    “And would you testify before a Senate committee on what you knew and when you knew it?”

    “I would comply with any subpoena issued to me in full accordance with the law, including laws governing classified matters,” Declan said.

    “Well we’re going to hold you to that, Minister,” Rurra said.

    “Oh I know you will. I don’t want to be a running joke on this show,” Declan said to chuckles from the audience. “That’s really all that I can say about that. But this isn’t the only thing that’s going on on Bakura right now. We’re in the throes of a national conversation about non-human rights.”

    “That’s right. It’s really exploded since Harle Quinn started protesting at ELL games. You joined one of her protests a few weeks ago,” Rurra pointed out.

    “First off, let me say categorically that I support the free expression rights of all ELL players. They do not forfeit their rights when they walk onto the field. I understand this is uncomfortable for some beings because sports hasn’t really been a space of political speech until recently, but we, as fans, have given them this power by caring about what they do,” Declan explained. “Now, as to the movement itself, we have a problem in Bakura. The data doesn’t lie. Non-humans are more likely to die at the hands of police than humans are. While we have legal equality for all Bakuran citizens, indeed all citizens of the Republic when they visit Bakura, we don’t have equality in fact. We need to have a national conversation about what we can do to address and stamp out institutional bias. I’m advocating for this at the Cabinet level and I’d like to see Ministry of Justice action to have a broad conversation about policing policies.”

    After brief applause from the audience, Rurra said. “And is Prime Minister Madsen on board with this?”

    “We’re still having a discussion in Marian Square about this,” Declan said. “However, my record speaks for itself. When I care about an issue, I don’t give it up until action is taken.”

    “That is certainly true,” Rurra agreed. “We’re going to take a quick break and then we’ll be right back with Bakuran Minister of State Declan Trieste.”

    ***

    Salis D’aar, Bakura
    Days ago


    “Promise that we’ll fully disclose everything if we legally can,” Declan said, elaborating on his plan. “Then we get Senator Shikoku to keep the Galactic Senate from ever declassifying the materials and we never have to make good on the promise. I float the idea first to get it in the discussion. By the time you stand up for Prime Minister’s Questions, it’ll have traction. We’ll look like we’re doing everything we can.”

    Madsen nodded. “I see the logic.”

    “But what happens if the Senate does declassify the operation?” Corbrand asked. “The exposure is too great.”

    “The Chancellor will never allow that to happen. It will endanger the remainder of his chancellery,” Declan said. “Do not underestimate the value of aligning yourself with the goals of a bigger fish—and when it comes to galactic politics, the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic is the biggest fish there is. In the meantime, we’ll start to move the conversation to something that will get bigger play.”

    “What’s that?” the chief of staff asked.

    “Non-human rights,” Declan said.

    “No, no, no,” the chief of staff repeated. “We let that out of the bottle, we never get it back in.”

    “Exactly. When we start talking about that, nobody’s going to even remember the operation,” Declan promised.
     
  23. Vehn

    Vehn Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 14, 2009
    I gotta hand it to Declan for taking some risks to protect the Federation and Bakuran interests. This entire thing could've really blown up in their faces and I think, so far, he's got it under wraps.....
     
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  24. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @Vehn

    Marian Square, Salis D’aar, Bakura

    Ayn Dormingale stood in front of Madsen’s desk in the West Office. She had requested this meeting with the Prime Minister. As such, her bearing betrayed no uncertainty or hesitation. She was not cowed by this office. When her grandmother had inhabited it, she had been a young woman. She did not come to it with any of the youthful wonder that her husband did, having grown up here.

    “This week’s Prime Minister’s Questions did not go well,” Ayn informed him. “Every question from the Unionists was about the Tund operation.” She did not need to remind Madsen that she had been part of the Armed Services briefing after the fact and knew the full extent of the disaster. While none of the questions on the floor of the Senate had used any of the classified information, the opposition party had done well enough sticking with the public facts.

    “This was your husband’s plan,” Madsen reminded her. He had chosen to stay seated for their one-on-one meeting, a subtle way of reminding both parties who was the Prime Minister and who was the Deputy Prime Minister. “He said we could move the conversation to non-human rights.”

    “And you failed to do so,” Ayn replied. Her voice was not harsh, but matter-of-fact. “We gave you softball questions in ours and you delivered lackluster responses, even knowing they were coming. In fact, I would say the situation is worse because now our left is clamoring for action on non-human rights.”

    “You have a lot of nerve coming in here and lecturing me,” Madsen warned her, his eyes flashing.

    “I state the reality of the situation,” Ayn said, “and reality is ignored at our peril. We are losing the public debate on this issue. The Unionists are going to eat up airtime talking about the Tund operation as much as possible, distracting from the governance issues facing Bakura.”

    “Don’t come here to give me facts. Give me a solution. The Senate is your responsibility,” Madsen pointed out testily. “I expect you to keep things under control there. You have a large enough margin to manage.”

    “Things stand on the edge of a knife. I am going to have to give in to the moderate Senators if there is the slightest change.”

    “Such as?”

    “One of Declan’s sources learned this morning that the Senate Intelligence Committee is going to vote on whether to declassify the Marine involvement on Tund,” Ayn said, “and only the Marine involvement.”

    “Declan said Shikoku would prevent that from happening.”

    “She may.” Ayn paused. “However, the Senate may wish to signal its independence from the Chancellor by exposing his actions to circumvent them in creating policy on such a well-established point.”

    “If it does…”

    “I will have no choice but to follow the plan you laid out at Prime Minister’s Questions to convene investigatory hearings into the Tund operation,” Ayn finished.

    ***

    Hapes, Hapes Consortium

    “Citizens of the Hapes Consortium, greetings,” Sierra spoke into the camera. Her image was being projected throughout her domain. She had carefully considered whether to deliver this address from the throne and decided against it. Instead, she broadcast from one of the palace’s reception rooms in a dress of light teal shimmersilk that offset her golden tan skin.

    “For the last several weeks, the Royal Court has debated the Gender Rights Act, which would formally establish equality under the law between males and females. This measure was rejected by the Royal Court. We have considered their advice on this matter.

    “After due consideration, we have signed the Gender Rights Act. We understand that some of our subjects believe that females are superior to males. Like many of you, we are proud that, unlike many other systems, the Consortium has fostered the talents of females for so much of its history. However, we believe that males deserve every opportunity and protection afforded to females. Every citizen of the Consortium must be treated equally. The consequences of not doing so have been made plain.

    “In our decision, we considered not just the opinion of the Royal Court, but of you, our citizens. Polls show that you overwhelmingly support this law. Therefore, we hereby declare tomorrow a holiday to be a day of civic engagement. If you believe in the Gender Rights Act, we encourage you to make your voice heard tomorrow. Take to public spaces to take part in peaceful action. Show your representatives on the Royal Court how you feel.

    “As Queen Mother, we are privileged to represent you, but a mother wishes for her children to grow. It is in this spirit that we desire you to be not just subjects, but citizens. Thank you, and good night.”

    When the holocameras were off, her husband Trellam stepped forward. “This could easily backfire. You start giving the populace power and monarchies begin to crumble.”

    Sierra stood from the couch where she had delivered her address. “And the same happens when aristocracies set themselves against the crown,” she observed. “If it must come to that, I choose all the citizens, not just a few.” She looked out the window of the room at the clear day beyond. “Somehow, I don’t think it’s going to come to that though…”

    The Queen Mother hoped that wasn’t just wishful thinking.
     
  25. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @Vehn

    Hapes, Hapes Consortium

    Sierra stepped onto the balcony of the palace with a smile on her face and one hand in the air in a wave. Beneath, in the public square, were beings almost as far as she could see. They cheered and carried signs that said, “EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL”, “HE IS MY BROTHER”, and “END THE HALFS CONSORTIUM”. It was one of the many gatherings of support for the Gender Rights Act on the world. Sierra was pleased to note, even from the height of the balcony, that there were many females in the crowd. Many of her kinswomen recognized the harm the Consortium’s practices had inflicted even if they had not directly felt that discrimination.

    The Holonet was reporting similar gatherings elsewhere throughout the Consortium. True, there were some reactionary counterprotests in opposition, but they were smaller and scattered. The beings of the Consortium were showing their support. Sierra Chume was pleased, but she knew this was still the Hapes Consortium. Even with the populace at her back, this could mean only one thing.

    Someone was going to try to kill her soon.

    ***

    Bakuran Senate Building, Salis D’aar, Bakura

    “I call this session of the Select Committee on Foreign Military Activities to order,” Senator Gregson announced, banging the gavel once to quell the buzz of anticipation. Two weeks ago, the Galactic Senate (thanks to the backroom maneuvers of Senator Serling) voted to modify the classification of documents relating to the Tund operation to make them open to subpoena by system-level government. While this didn’t make the documents available, their action ratcheted up the pressure on the Bakuran Senate to investigate the matter.

    Four days after the classification change, despite a call from Prime Minsiter Madsen not to “endanger galactic security secrets” during Prime Minister’s Questions, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to empanel this select committee to hold public hearings “so as to ascertain the facts surrounding recent military activities taking place outside the Bakura system.” As she had warned Madsen, Deputy Prime Minister Trieste did nothing to stop it.

    The members of the committee reflected the balance of the Senate: six members of Fianna Fail and four members of the Union Party. His party holding a majority on the committee was the only fortunate thing for Madsen about the whole situation.

    The Senate had heard testimony from military commanders, who had crisply described the mission objectives, plan of attack, and chain of events that had taken place on Tund. Survivors from the raid talked about the chaos on the ground. They included Lance Corporal Sirrah, who detailed the sacrifice of Lieutenant Enoch Trieste for the galaxy.

    Today was the biggest witness yet.

    “Please raise your right hand,” Senator Gregson instructed.

    “I do solemnly affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” Minister of Defense Kelli Corbrand swore before taking her seat.

    (Ed. note: for the convenience of the reader, the Senate transcript is included verbatim.—W. Súilleabháin)

    GREGSON: Minister, were you part of the decision making process regarding Operation Floral, also known as the Tund Operation?

    CORBRAND: I was.

    GREGSON: Were you part of the planning of this operation?

    CORBRAND: Not directly, no.

    GREGSON: How involved were you in the planning of this operation?

    CORBRAND: Tactical operation planning was handled by uniformed members of the Marines.

    GREGSON: Were you aware of these plans?

    CORBRAND: Yes.

    GREGSON: Allow me to rephrase. Did you approve these plans?

    CORBRAND: [pause] Yes.

    GREGSON: This committee has heard testimony regarding the execution of Tund Operation from senior military officials and soldiers who directly participated in that operation. I would like to quote one Lieutenant Allorax, who was on the ground in Tund, now: “This operation was a disaster from start to finish. Intelligence was incomplete in the most generous scenario. At worst it was woefully out-of-date. Either way, the result was tragic. I cannot understand how this operation was approved.” This is one of many similar statements from soldiers who were part of the operation. Minister, my question is this: how can you defend your approval of the operational plans for this mission given its disastrous consequences?

    CORBRAND: Senator, I think of the 15 Marines who died during this operation every day. I do not believe I shall ever forget them. However, I did everything in my power and ability to give them the best chance of success on that mission. Unfortunately, conditions in the field varied drastically from what intelligence reports stated. Plans relied heavily on the element of surprise, which was lost earlier than anticipated in the operation. If it were not for the rapid response to these changing situations demonstrated by the Marines, many more lives would have been lost.

    GREGSON: Minister, no one disputes the conduct of the troops on the ground on Tund. What we have trouble understanding is how this mission was ever approved with such spotty intelligence in the first place.

    CORBRAND: We received assurances from Republican Intelligence that they had a thorough reading of the situation on Tund. I would like to remind the committee that Republican Intelligence is the galaxy’s leading intelligence bureau.

    GREGSON: Did you undertake any efforts to verify the information provided by Republican Intelligence?

    CORBRAND: No. As you are aware, systems are not allowed to maintain their own intelligence apparatus.

    GREGSON: But that does not extend to watching the Holonet, does it?

    CORBRAND: Minister, surely you’re not suggesting we watch a spy thriller made on a Corellian backlot to get information on the Centrality?

    [Laughter from the gallery]

    GREGSON: I am referring to this.

    [A holoprojector plays scenes from a Centrality propaganda film.]

    GREGSON: This holo program was released one year ago by the Eastern Centrality, touting their luxurious “People’s Retreat Center”—the same compound that was assaulted by the Marines. In it, they take great pains to flout not just its amenities, but also to point out its defensive fortifications, some of which are not mentioned in any of the operational planning materials provided to this committee. My staff found this after searching the Holonet for a day. Does the Ministry of Defense not even do that level of research?

    CORBRAND: The Eastern Centrality engages in a constant stream of propaganda designed to obscure the truth and inflate its military might. I believe they have also released a film showing them building a third Death Star. Would you have us assume they have one of those too?

    GREGSON: Minister, did Defense see this film at any point during the planning of this event?

    CORBRAND: [pause] No.

    GREGSON: Did the Ministry of Defense do any independent research into the situation on Tund beyond what was provided by Republican Intelligence?

    CORBRAND: No.

    GREGSON: Minister, let me recap: you set operational plans based on unverified information, with no scouting of the proposed battlefield, ignored easily obtainable information, and, on the basis of all this, entrusted the lives of Marines to these plans?

    CORBRAND: I disagree with your characterization of the planning process.

    GREGSON: Your disagreement does not alter the fact that 15 Marines died executing such a deeply flawed plan of attack. Minister, how can you possibly justify your approval of this mission under such circumstances?

    CORBRAND: I believed in the plan that we had at the time. It was a sound plan.

    GREGSON: Minister, what was the mission’s objective?

    CORBRAND: The capture of senior commanders reporting to General Gretyl Arhellan.

    GREGSON: Were any commanders captured?

    CORBRAND: One.

    GREGSON: How many escaped?

    CORBRAND: Three.

    GREGSON: Your “sound plan” certainly achieved an excellent result, Minister.

    CORBRAND: I will not have you insult the efforts of the Marines who participated in this valiant action, Senator.

    GREGSON: And I will not have you use the flag of this planet to hide the bodies of 15 Marines who would be alive today if you’d done your job! Minister, this committee has no further interest in your testimony at this time. And, if I may be allowed to insert an opinion into this record, I don’t believe Bakura has any interest—nay, cannot afford any further interest—in your service if this is how cavalierly you treat the lives of our servicebeings. This session is adjourned.