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Beyond - Legends Annals of the Noble House of Trieste: Volume 13 (AU, OC)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Trieste, Nov 4, 2020.

  1. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Declan is amazing. Actually all your characters are in their own special way. You really create persons here with deep meaning. Not two dimensional fairytale creatures. Great updates!
     
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  2. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @SWNerd11 @Vehn Happy holidays to one and all :)


    Salis D’aar, Bakura

    There was no Noble House ball for the Yuletide after the death of Ayn Trieste.

    That venerable tradition of the capital holiday calendar, collecting political, commercial, and cultural elites, was the prerogative of the Taoiseach. The silence of Declan from Salis D’aar had signaled to that there was now an open night in the social calendar, one that was occupied by a dozen other events that moved to fill the void.

    Chief Justice Eldred did not like this.

    She could care less about the fact that other families and grandees were holding alternate gatherings now. What annoyed her was that without the Noble House Yuletide ball she might not see her son and grandson this Yuletide. That was unacceptable.

    With the determination of a being who had decided she wanted to be Chief Justice and had gotten the Constitution amended in service of that goal, Regan moved swiftly. She instructed the droids that, yes, they would be decorating the Plaza for Yuletide this year, just like every other year. As the principal resident of the building, they were followed her orders as a matter of course.

    Trixie, Horst, and Quill were easy to corral. They lived in town and Regan made it clear to her daughter that she had run for District Attorney and knew from experience that a campaign was no excuse for skipping a small, intimate, family Yuletide party.

    Quentin and the Ypres-Eldreds were a different story. It would take more than a speeder ride to make it. Regan called her son and left a very simple message: “Cillian and Swann are coming back to Bakura for Yuletide. They’re going by Druckenwell anyways, so you can catch a ride with them. See you in a week.” She didn’t give them much choice in the matter and neglected to mention she had chartered the Lynds’ ship for a journey to Bakura by way of Druckenwell for the purpose of transporting the Ypres-Eldreds.

    Shenandoah was living at the Plaza with Regan and Atticus, so she was invited as a matter of course. Declan had (with all the wisdom of a university Senior) decided to live with Niamh near UBSD, but it never took long for anything that Shenandoah knew to reach Declan. That brought the guest list to a respectable 11.

    It was on the flight from Druckenwell that the unintended consequences began. Swann was lying in their bunk, tracing patterns on Cillian’s chest with a finger, when she said, “You know, we’re going to be on Bakura anyways. We should see Regan and Atticus. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if we came to their Yuletide thing.”

    “It’s a family event and we’re family,” Cillian agreed.

    After dropping Quentin, Corrie, and Morris in Salis D’aar, Cillian, Swann, and Hank headed to Gesco City to reunite with the Bakuran-based Lynds. They mentioned they’d hop over to Salis D’aar for the Eldred event. Nicholas, who was doing anything that struck his fancy at the drop of a hat with Vesper on Rydonni Prime, declared he and Miranda would join too. Rickard and Ginnifer thought it would be nice to still do a Salis D’aar Yuletide and decided they would come with Vienna. Dorian said it appeared the matter had been taken out of his hands and supposed he had to go now, but everyone knew he was only putting on a curmudgeonly air.

    On the shuttle back from the game on Mandalore that Horst asked May if she was coming to the Yuletide party at the Plaza. It was the first May had heard of it, but Horst declared said she’d of course be welcome, if not expected. It was a family party, after all.

    Once May heard, she let Elyse and Henrietta know there was going to be a Yuletide party and they should come out from Nouvelle Orleans for it. That added five more attendees. Declan’s visit to Denon had already gotten Ronan and Mandy thinking about spending Yuletide with their grandchildren and Henrietta let them know they should add a night in Salis D’aar to their itinerary. They let Jane Serena know if she had a spare night in her schedule it would be nice to make it a whole family event.

    While in Salis D’aar, Quentin arranged to have lunch with Elfie, who he hadn’t seen for ages. They’d always had so much to talk about as they both worked in nonprofits that it was natural they’d catch up. Naturally, he mentioned he was in town for his mother’s Yuletide gathering. He thought Cillian and Swann might come if Elfie wanted to see them. She did, and soon enough she’d told Jax that they were going to Aunt Regan’s Yuletide party. Jax asked if Nessa was going and soon enough she was.

    Kerry only found out about it because she was going to be in Salis D’aar for the Tiarest/Deredith & Millicent limmie game that weekend. She told Shenandoah and Niall that she’d take them out for dinner after. When they reported they were booked with a Yuletide event at the Plaza, Kerry decided that she’d go, even if she hadn’t been invited. She also left Falene a message on her server saying that if she wasn’t lost in the Unknown Regions, she should come too.

    Vienna told Corrine, who was furious that her parents weren’t going to drop everything and go (being chume’da was suddenly so inconvenient), and she complained about it to Fiona, who promised she’d go to represent her interests. That meant rescheduling a lecture she’d been slated to give at the war college on Roon. Connected to that had been a visit to Tesserone, which she had to cancel. In doing so she let Eleanor know that “Regan’s thing is for family, so you’d all be welcome if you were in town.” Though they hadn’t been raised on Bakura, the idea of Yuletide caught the Vehns’ imagination and soon they’d chartered a shuttle.

    Incidentally, and unsurprisingly, Horst was never the most discreet person when it came to sharing information. In telling May about it, he’d been easily overheard by the assistant captain of the Miners, Harle Quinn. The Zeltron had immediately sent it through the entire team that “the Chairwoman was throwing a Yuletide party and we’re all invited. Families, plus ones, and hangers-on wholeheartedly encouraged.”

    So it was that Regan Eldred planned for an intimate Yuletide dinner and party for dozen beings and got nine Lynds; a Westenra; four Thorne-Triestes; all eight Eldreds; nine Trieste-Syfreds and one slightly-serious boyfriend of Siobhan’s; ten Vehns; three Trieste-Dormingales (for even Declan had heard and decided he would put in an appearance that turned out to last the whole evening) plus Niamh; two Trieste-Connairs; and fifteen starting players, two front office executives, and countless associated significant others and children of the Bakura Miners.

    By the time the Trieste-Syfreds showed up, Regan realized that what she had in the oven was going to fall woefully short this evening. She called the closest Neimoidian restaurant and said, “Send all the takeout you have.” When they said they would, Regan continued, “I’d like to be clear: I did not ask you to send me all the takeout you have. I want all the takeout you have.”

    Thus, the Noble House Yuletide ball was the first one in the family’s history to ever be served from biodegradable serving containers laid out on tables pulled in from seven different rooms. There was no live band, but the kids took turns tapping into the stereo system with their datapads to put their playlists on. There wasn’t a couture dress to be seen, but lots of comfy sweaters and stretchy pants. The carpets would need a more thorough cleaning than usual the next day. No one brought any presents, but everyone had a smile by the end.

    “Happy Yuletide,” Regan proposed as a toast. She was seconded by all present.
     
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  3. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    No one brought any presents, but everyone had a smile by the end.

    “Happy Yuletide,” Regan proposed as a toast. She was seconded by all present.

    The greatest present are always the people themselves, not the gifts they bring. O:)
     
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  4. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @SWNerd11 but especially @Vehn who inspired this post. ;)

    Kilmahinam Brook, Prytis, Bakura


    Declan had no interest in the nominating conventions. Once they would have been everything to him, scarcely less important than the elections that followed them. Now they meant nothing to him. That period of his life was over. It was only in passing that he happened to see the Prytis Herald’s reporting on them as he browsed the news with only the most casual interest.

    The Union Party, scenting an opportunity after nearly taking control of the Senate four years ago, had nominated the uncontroversial and relatively moderate Governor of Arielle County. The incumbent Prime Minister (who had occupied a similar middle course like that of his opponent since entering the West Office) secured Fianna Fail’s nomination without a primary battle, but the Herald noted a lack of enthusiasm at the ruling party’s convention. The lead reporter went so far as to say, “It’s the most painful reminder this year that Ayn Trieste, who captivated past conventions, is no longer there to guide Fianna Fail.”

    Declan swiped the article away. He didn’t even bother to register an emotion over not being involved in the quadrennial gathering for the first time in his adult life. The party had turned its back on him. He wouldn’t dignify it with his attention.

    He had only one thought before he moved on to his caf, which was that the Herald, if they hadn’t gotten one thing wrong, had been imprecise. Ayn had never been the most naturally gifted speechwriter. For her important addresses, including all of the ones she’d made before the Fianna Fail conventions, Declan had taken up his pen. She may have captivated the hall, but she had done so with Declan’s words.

    Never again would his thoughts illuminate that body again.



    Hyparamis, Hapes Consortium

    Darriah Morningstar had little time for fools, of which there were many in her life. Chief among them was her husband, and yet here he was all the same.

    She looked up from her work and pinched the bridge of her nose as she closed her eyes to ward off the inevitable headache this was going to bring. “Whatever this is, is it really necessary?” she sighed. Her tone suggested that the correct response would be “no,” but that she also doubted that would be what she’d hear.

    “I come bearing news,” Leodan announced.

    “Congratulations in advance for mastering the tipyip quiche,” Darriah dismissed and looked back to the report in front of her. “Now if you’ll excuse me…” She gestured vaguely to the ornate office that surrounded her, or perhaps to the view out the great window of the Consortium Drive Systems plant that answered to her beck and call. The components manufactured here were ferried into orbit to the dockyards that would fit them into warships CDS built for the state. The Morningstar family had held an interest in the conglomerate for generations and the women of the clan were sharpened from birth with the intention of taking their place in its executive ranks. Such a role was not guaranteed by virtue of being stockholders. That Darriah had risen to the top of the pyramid was a testament to her focus and determination.

    “But this is most interesting news,” Leodan pursued. “I’ve just been told that there are visitors from outside the Consortium who have arrived looking for husbands.”

    Darriah barely registered this as she continued her work. “Congratulations on fulfilling the first step of your expected duties. Forgive me if I refrain from further praise until you’ve actually unloaded one of our sons on some hapless and undoubtedly unintelligent female,” she said, not even looking at Leodan. “Heaven knows no one worth their salt in the Consortium would take any of them.”

    While the elites of other planets might entrust females with the management of engagements and courting, those duties were squarely the domain of males in the Hapes Consortium. Women were far too busy doing things that actually mattered to sacrifice valuable time. It was a useful occupation to hand to the lesser sex. Most annoyingly, Leodan Morningstar had produced three boys. Non-Hapan wives would present a convenient solution—if only Leodan would arrange such matches instead of just talking about them.

    “But darling—”

    Darriah looked up, her patience exhausted after just 30 words. “Don’t expect me to pat you on the head simply for hearing that yet another Coruscanti ingenue has come looking for some dashing Hapan swashbuckler to domesticate in the Core,” she said sharply.

    “That’s precisely it,” Leodan said. “They’re not the usual title-seekers. They already have titles.”

    “Oh?” It was the most encouraging Darriah could be with her husband and he knew it. In fact, now that she was paying attention, she could tell he was prouder of himself than usual. It gave her the nagging suspicion he might actually be justified in his preening.

    “They’re from the Centrality,” Leodan said, leaning forward over Darriah’s desk.

    She leaned back in her chair and thought. “The only other major monarch in the galaxy.”

    “One headed by a queen, no less.”

    Darriah gave her husband a look that informed him that stating the obvious did not constitute a positive contribution to the conversation. “Do we know anything about them?”

    “Their father is Lord of the Exchequer, Lord Frohm,” Leodan said. “Close to the Central throne. I’m told he’s ambitious. Interested in the rights of nobles in the united Centrality.”

    Darriah had been taught how to calculate at lightspeed, to see the angles. It was how a family survived. Her eyes moved side-to-side rapidly, if slightly, as her mind worked through this information, considered its implications, identified the opportunities. When she was done, her eyes snapped back to her here and now.

    “It seems I was premature, husband,” Darriah said. “It seems yo actually have done something useful—for a change. Has this Lord Frohm come to squire his daughters about like a typical man of ambition who seeks to rid himself of what is inconvenient at the first opportunity?” Her disdain for the imperious ways of men was clear.

    “He sent them here on their own, without even their mother.”

    Darriah stood, all thought of work suddenly cast aside. “Find Amenadiel and Uriel. Inform our sons that it’s time they do their duty to this family.”
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2021
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  5. Vehn

    Vehn Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 14, 2009
    *High Fives Trieste* Nice setup my man ;)
     
  6. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    With one eye I watch the German news while reading this.

    Now I will be able to go to bed more relaxed.

    What a bleak day for America!

    Thanks for this update!
     
  7. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @SWNerd11 @Vehn You know what's a great album? Piano Man by Billy Joel. I know The Stranger is largely considered his masterwork (and trust me, it is), but there were some surprisingly strong B side tracks on Piano Man, as will become clear shortly.

    Kilmainham Brook, Prytis, Bakura

    Declan had poured himself a drink and begun wandering with the glass in one hand the bottle that had birthed it in the other. He would be the first to admit he was feeling melancholy tonight. It was why he was already one drink in. He was determined to get deeper before the night got much older. He just couldn’t decide where.

    The Taoiseach walked Kilmainham Brook, waiting for a room to call to him, to declare itself as the place where he would drown his sorrows. He rejected the great room, the study, the library, and the verandah. The inability of the house to materialize the space he wanted only made him petulant.

    Until Declan stopped in the doorway of the conservatory. That was it.

    He crossed the room, feeling his buzz, to the piece that dominated the room: the piano. It was a premier instrument, concert-grade quality. Kerry had played it once upon a time and as a child Declan had learned it. The droids that managed the house kept it in tune. He tested a key and the note reverberated clear and true. Declan set his tumbler and bottle on the top of the piano and sat down on the bench.

    He began a familiar tune, one he’d played so many times before. One that had meant the world to him. It slipped through his lips softly.

    “She can kill with a smile
    She can wound with her eyes—”


    And then he stopped, his fingers still depressing the keys, the note holding briefly before fading. He wanted to wallow, to remember Ayn with the song that had embodied who she was. Instead, his heart rebelled. His fingers didn’t want to fall into the familiar harmonies. Declan suddenly hammered the keys with his fists in rage. Even this would be taken from him.

    “Fine!” he shouted, as if so the Force could hear him. “Fine!”



    He started moving his fingers in a new pattern, one that left behind the slow, deliberative beauty of the ballad he’d intended to croon. Instead, he hammered the keys, throwing his arms into it, bearing down on them. Declan watched his hands move, as if daring them to disobey again.

    The prelude slipped by and Declan let the verse out into the night.

    “Well it’s a rainy night in Naboo
    And I’m sitting by the Solleu…”




    Geso City, Bakura

    Rickard held Ginny and Vienna’s hands. Next to the Harlows stood Nicholas Arden, who had his arm around his young daughter. All five craned their necks to look up at the sky.

    Receding into the atmosphere was the bright engine burn of first BRC Lightspeed V1 to be commercially sold. Rickard had handed over the access keys himself to the daring trailblazer. He’d shook their hand and wished them safe travels. That ship carried not just souls escaping the gravitational clutches of Bakura, but the dreams and future of their families.

    “Lightspeed,” Nicholas breathed as he watched the ship and his heart soared with it.

    “Congratulations, dear,” Ginny said, resting her head against Rickard’s shoulder. She’d been working on the ad campaign that would soon start on Bakura before it began spreading through the galaxy, extoling the union of aesthetics and performance that BRC Lightspeed offered.

    “This is the beginning of everything,” Rickard promised. He squeezed his wife and daughter’s hand.

    “Yes it is,” Vienna agreed. Though it was a sunny day, her skin had goosebumps on it. For the first time she truly understood what this could mean for her father, for her.

    “Nicholas?” Rickard said, still watching the dwindling spark burning in the sky.

    “Yeah?”

    “I think it’s time to start thinking about that podracing team.”

    Nicholas Arden smiled. “I’ve been waiting to hear words for those years. I know just where to start.”



    Hapes

    It was time for The Talk. The kind of talk that a mother had to have with her daughter at some point.

    More particularly, the kind of talk that that a Queen Mother had to have with her daughter.

    “You don’t have to get married,” Sierra told Corrine. “Plenty of Queen Mothers haven’t been. But you will need to have a daughter. Your life will depend on it. Your brother’s and father’s most likely as well.”

    “No I don’t,” Corrine objected. “Ivegenni’s wife can become Queen Mother and their kids can continue our rule.”

    “A chume’da does not have the luxury of foisting her responsibilities onto her siblings,” Sierra said. “When you accepted your tiara, you bound yourself to certain obligations.”

    Corrine crossed her arms petulantly and slumped on the comfortable sofa.

    “If you die without a blood heir, others will marshal to seize the throne. The claim of a sister in-law is not so strong as a daughter’s. I would know.” Though it had been Sierra’s mother-in-law who had fought that particular fight when her sister and nieces had died, Sierra’s life had been in danger during the violence of the transition. Had it not been for shelter provided by Ayn Dormingale, before she was a Trieste, it was anyone’s guess whether either woman in that royal boudoir would be alive today.

    “You have been smart thus far, not showing any family too much attention,” Sierra continued. “You can play the Djo Gambit if you want, keep the father secret, let them all wonder if it could be theirs. But I think you will be stronger if you choose a husband to stand with you.”

    “That’s all it is, isn’t it? A political calculation,” Corrine complained.

    “Marry for love if you like,” Sierra said. She stood and bent to kiss her daughter on the forehead. “Just don’t be stupid about it.”



    Salis D’aar, Bakura

    “You should elect me because I don’t like anybody,” Trixie Penn said from a temporary stage constructed in a public park. Behind her was a giant banner that read PENN FOR DA. She spoke to an audience of a few hundred voters.

    “I don’t like bankers. I don’t like corporations. I don’t like vandals. I don’t even like lawyers,” Trixie continued. “What I do like is punishing people who deserve it. And that’s why nobody likes me, which is the first quality you should look for in your next District Attorney.

    “I’ve taken down the syndicates. I’ve taken down corrupt politicians. I get thrown out of fancy law firm conference rooms. And I love it. Every time it happens, I know I’m doing the people’s business.

    “So vote Penn for District Attorney in 300!” Trixie said with a broad smile.



    Nouvelle Orleans, Bakura

    Henrietta hastened to answer the chime. She could only check her hair on the run as she passed a mirror. She didn’t want to let her company wait a second longer than they had to more than she wanted to look her best.

    The door slid open to reveal her mother- and father-in-law. After their rapprochement with Declan, Mandy and Ronan had decided that they had stayed away from Bakura too long. They weren’t coming back—their life was on Denon now—but there were too few years left to them to not see their grandkids whenever they felt like it.

    “It’s so good to see you,” Henrietta said with a genuine smile as she stepped aside for them to enter.

    Before she could hug them, she was preempted by her 10-year-old nephew Elon running into the entry hall. “Grandpa!”

    Ronan bent with weary, but willing, knees to embrace his grandson. “Well look at you, young man,” he said with a broad grin.

    “I’ve missed you,” Elon said as he squeezed Ronan in a hug.

    “And we’ve missed you,” Mandy said. “Don’t tell me that teenagers can’t give their grandma a hug.”

    “Surely not if they know what’s good for them,” Henrietta said to Siobhan and Aloric, who had come to greet their company. Her kids dutifully, but not unwillingly joined the reunion to greet their grandmother.

    Henrietta’s heart swelled and she turned to look at Elyse, who was leaning in the doorway that led to the kitchen with folded arms and a smile as the Nouvelle Orleans Triestes found each other again.



    University of Bakura, Salis D’aar, Bakura

    “This is the dream,” Niall breathed.

    “What, making out in the library?” Niamh said, barely controlling her laughter as they braced themselves against one of the stacks. Holobooks had been pushed so they were nearly toppling off the shelves.

    “No, making out with you in the library,” Niall said.

    “Right back at you,” she replied, stroking his soft cheek with one hand.

    Before he knew it was happening, Niall said, “I love you.” His eyes went wide. “I…” He realized he’d never said it to Niamh until now.

    “Don’t overthink it,” Niamh said, pulling him into a kiss. When she finished she said, “I love you too.”

    Niall looked in both directions to see if anyone was around. They weren’t.

    “What?” Niamh asked.

    “I’m really glad we chose the Togrutan political history section,” Niall told her, “because we’re going to need some privacy.”



    Declan was pounding the piano now, driven by fury and pain. He punished the instrument, as if it was responsible for the tragedy of his life. He bellowed the final words for all of Bakura to hear.

    “Well it surely will catch up to him
    Somewhere along the line
    Well you know it’s gon’ catch up to him
    Somewhere along the line”


    The Taoiseach abandoned himself as he forced a crescendo out of the song, dragging it into existence and giving it everything in his heart. He harder he worked, the more he thought that maybe it would take his pain. The more he struck the notes, the more he knew it wouldn’t.
     
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  8. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @SWNerd11 @Vehn


    Kishhd’aar, Bakura

    Taoiseach, it is good to see you.”

    The way the word rolled off the Kurtzen tongue was different from how it sounded in Basic. It belonged to the first people of Bakura. Declan tried not to overly romanticize the Kurtzen, especially after the great tragedies they’d experienced, but he had to admit that the title sounded more at home in the mouth of Myron Jonazz, the taoiseach of the Kishd’aar Kurtzen.

    “You do me too much honor,” Declan said, shaking the hand of the leader of the reservation.

    “Only as much as those who keep their promises deserve,” Myron replied. “You and your wife, rest her soul, promised you would be a friend to my people. A lofty promise, making the fact that you kept it all the more impressive.”

    The pair began walking from the monorail station towards the reservation administration offices where Myron oversaw everything from education to housing to infrastructure—and that was just his calendar for today. “Unfortunately, my days of being able to turn that friendship into action are over,” Declan said.

    “And yet you still came for your annual visit even though you had nothing to offer,” Myron said. “A cynic might think you came seeking to call in the debts of your good deeds. But we know each other better than that. Many times you could have exacted a price for the policies you and Ayn advanced that have helped our people find something like normal life again, and yet you never did.”

    “You think more highly of me than the rest of Bakura,” Declan said with a chuckle, despite himself.

    “My grandfather told me of a story when we were on Kitokaime,” the chief said. Declan was surprised he was able to say the name of the world where his species had been enslaved by Sith loyalists with such ease. “It was of a being he knew who achieved much in business. At Yuletide her office would be full of gifts from those she did deals with. It could barely contain them all. When she retired, none of those beings who had praised her so lavishly so much as sent her a holonote.”

    “You describe my situation so eloquently,” Declan remarked without any self-pity.

    “Grandfather thought the story was about the beings who abandoned her, who moved on when she was no longer useful to them, but I never thought about them,” Myron said. “I thought it was about her. Grandfather never said what she did with her life when she no longer had her position. This was Bakura. She must have had many years ahead of her. What did she do? Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Did she assume she had no friends just because she received no gifts?” The Kurtzen paused. “And here you are, making another annual visit. That says much.”

    “It is not enough,” Declan said. “Far from enough.”

    “Come friend,” Myron said gently. He put his hand on Declan’s shoulder, as if to lead him. “Let us walk this land together so I can show you what we have done since you were last here. Then I shall introduce you to a custom of my people that we have not shared yet. I think it will do you good.”



    Salis D’aar, Bakura

    Regan and Atticus Eldred watched the sunset from a couch on one of the balconies of the Plaza. They’d opened a bottle of wine, opting for a mellower beverage this evening than hard liquor. Regan had put her feet up on a low table, her shoes somewhere inside. Atticus had removed his tie and draped over the back of a chair.

    “You know Siona once got into trouble for talking on a balcony like this,” Regan said, “probably on a night a lot like this.”

    Atticus hummed. “I recall.” He sipped some of his wine. “Though her real mistake was underestimating Eleanor Vehn.”

    “I believe Siona was the last being to ever do that,” Regan said, with a certain satisfaction.

    “On the contrary: Siona was the first of many. Every time someone assumes Eleanor is out, she punches them in the face,” Atticus observed.

    “She probably got that from Mom.” Jane Trieste had been Jane Wyvern before she’d married Fionn Trieste, a pirate straight out of a holodrama (in fact, they’d made some of her supposed adventures). Though the Vehns were a hard-fighting clan, Regan wasn’t going automatically cede Eleanor’s grit to her maternal genes.

    “You know, if she had been raised on Bakura she probably would have been prime minister,” Atticus said.

    “You mean she’d still be prime minister. She could have done that job in her sleep after everything she had to deal with on Roon,” Regan said. She drank some of her wine. “Which reminds me.”

    Atticus waited for a moment before prompting her. “Yes?”

    “Are you telling me that after 40 years of marriage you can’t read my mind?” Regan asked, feigning offense.

    “You remain as wonderfully inscrutable as the day I met you,” Atticus assured her.

    The Chief Justice humphed, not willing to admit that her husband had deflated her mock indignation. They both knew it was an admission of defeat. “I was going to say that it’s funny. After everything, I’m the one sitting in the heart of Bakuran cultural life with my husband, watching the sunset—” The colors were deepening into brilliant yellows, pinks, oranges, reds, and purples. “—in the house my grandfather built.”

    “‘House’ is a rather humble term for this place,” Atticus observed.

    “Whatever you want to call it, it’s much nicer than any place my siblings live in,” Regan continued. “I sit at the top of a branch of government and will for years to come. Our children are married to exceptional beings and they’ve given us grandchildren.”

    “It’s a fine life,” Atticus agreed.

    He didn’t need to agree how remarkable their situation was.

    Kerry and now Declan were out of government. Though her sister might have protested she was quite happy to run a college athletic conference, Regan suspected Kerry wished she could be back in the ring, either in Salis D’aar or Coruscant, again.

    Of all Regan’s siblings, only she and Ronan still had spouses alive today.

    When it came to children and children-in-law, no one could boast a roster as impressive as a former star athlete, one of the most prominent prosecutors on the planet, the heir to an industrial fortune that dwarfed even the Noble House’s, and a leader in environmental damage abatement. When Fiona could claim the Queen Mother of the Hapes Consortium as her daughter, that very position made it difficult for Fiona to see Sierra lest it destabilize her daughter’s position.

    “I think, in the end, I might just be the happiest of them all,” Regan sighed.

    “I would be happy with you in a cardboard box,” Atticus said.

    “We’re going to pretend you didn’t just suggest we live in a cardboard box.”

    “It would be a very nice one,” Atticus added.

    “Stop talking, darling,” Regan instructed. She didn’t trust him to follow orders, so she kissed him to make sure he did.
     
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  9. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @SWNerd11 @Vehn


    Kishhd’aar, Bakura

    Declan head was heavy with sweat dripping down his face and hair. He looked up at Myron, whose white skin glistened with perspiration. The beads of salty water navigated the bumps on his bald head, trickling in fits and starts.

    “Don’t they use this as torture on some planets?” Declan asked, his breath heaving in the thick air.

    Myron laughed heartily despite the condensation that visibly swirled around them. “That’s the toxins leaving your body talking.”

    The pair were sitting in a steam room for what Myron called “a good old-fashioned sweat.” It was a Kurtzen healing ritual, one integrated into the communal bathhouses the species had built for generations before the first colonists had reached Bakura. Declan was turning as red as a Sith’s lightsaber in the humidity. He was sure he wasn’t made for this.

    “Is it too late to take the idol treatment instead?” Declan asked. He smiled a little despite himself.

    The Kurtzen laughed again. “As if you could.” Another Kurtzen ritual was to swallow an idol, which moved through their formidably stout intestines. When it passed, so too went the troubles ailing the Kurtzen. Though a matter of small trouble to one of Myron’s people, the practice would cause great distress in a Human. “Besides, the process is not about the sweating. It’s about getting in touch with yourself.”

    “I’m very in touch with myself,” Declan countered. “I see me in the mirror every morning. We spend the whole day together.”

    “And when you sit in that house of yours, on those vast lands, with no one but droids around you, do you listen to yourself?” Myran asked.

    Declan said nothing for a moment. “I’m looking for answers I can’t give.” It was the most he’d spoken of his research project since he’d began.

    “On the contrary,” Myron said. “The only answers that are important are the ones inside you. We’ll stay here until they come out.”

    And so they sat. Declan didn’t know how much time had passed. He wasn’t even sure he remained conscious for all of it. He knew that at some point he cried. He knew that he didn’t find the answers he sought. He knew he found answers he hadn’t been looking for: about grief, about its schedule. He knew that something left him with the sweat. It wasn’t a big something. But it was something.



    Salis D’aar, Bakura

    “Your son really moves out there.”

    Elfie Ralter turned to the parent who had who’d made the comment. Alexandr was whipping around on a repulsor kart and she had been watching him as he moved around the track, delighting in the joy on his face with every lap.

    “Thanks,” she said with genuine thanks. “Karting seems to be all the rage this year. This is the third birthday party here. Must be a fourth grader thing.” She smiled.

    “But you come here all the time, right?” the parent asked.

    “Just for parties,” Elfie replied.

    “The way he moves through the pack, even when he starts at the back, he looks like a real hustler. I figured he must be getting in regular hours on the track.”

    “You really are too kind. Besides, it’s not like he’s winning every race.”

    “I think he would if he started midfield or better each time. Anyways, glad he’s enjoying it. You ought to get out there some time and try it yourself.”

    Elfie laughed. “I get enough excitement on the morning commute.”

    Almost as if he’d been listening on the far side of the track, Alexandr took an inside line and passed another karter. “What a move,” the observer said.

    Something about the admiration in his voice caused Elfie’s ears to perk up. “I’m sorry, I don’t think we’ve met. Who’s your kid?”

    “Oh, sorry. None of them,” he said. “Forgive me. Belt Lowda.” He extended his hand. “I just can’t resist taking a look at who’s on a track whenever I’m near one. I was hoping they’d be running the house circuit today, but still thought I’d take in a few laps.” Lowda looked at his chrono. “Forgive me, I should be heading out. I’ve got a shuttle to catch. Hope your son has a good day out there.”

    After Belt had left, Jax joined his wife against the rail to watch the race. “Who’s dad was that? I don’t think I’ve met him.”

    “He isn’t one. Not sure if he’s a creeper,” Elfie said. “Apparently he randomly watches kids karting races sometimes. I’m not sure if I should be flattered that he thinks Lex is good.”

    Jax tensed up immediately. It was part of being a police officer. He immediately scanned the gaggle of beings in the off-track area, looking for the stranger. Elfie turned to look. “He’s gone now,” she reassured him, putting a hand on his arm.

    That relaxed Jax, but she could still tell he was in alert mode. “You see him again, let me know.”

    “Of course. But I can’t imagine someone with a silly name like Belt Lowda can be much trouble.”

    Jax nearly choked on his soda. “Did you just say Belt Lowda?”



    Gesco City, Bakura

    “Mr. Lowda, I’m glad you were able to make it out here between races,” Nicholas Arden said, shaking the hand of a being who had been a top-five podracer for each of the last three seasons.

    “I was intrigued to get your call,” Lowda said.

    “I’ll get right to the point,” Nicholas said. “I’m sure you’ve heard the reporting that Nadroj has been experiencing financial troubles. We’re in negotiations with them right now to buy them out at the end of the season. Starting next year, we’re going to rebrand the ream as BRC Lightspeed Racing.”

    “We know that Nadroj has not had the most competitive pod for several years. We’re going to make a sizable investment in upgrading the pod’s technology this offseason. Some of our more talented engineers are going to move over to the racing team,” Rickard added. He gestured to the windows that looked out at the R&D production floor.

    “It’s a big jump from starships to podracers,” Lowda said skeptically.

    “Podracing tech has made its way from the pit to consumers over the years,” Rickard pointed out. “They see it as an opportunity to work outside the traditional limits and develop the next generation of starship tech.”

    “The point is, your contract is up at the end of the season and BRC Lightspeed wants you to be our driver,” Nicholas said. “What it’s going to take to make that happen?”

    “Now that’s the kind of question I like to hear,” Belt said with a smile.
     
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  10. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @SWNerd11 @Vehn

    Kilmainham Brook, Prytis, Bakura

    Declan couldn’t help himself. The morning after the 300 ABY Bakuran federal election, he turned his holoprojector on. The political rhythms of the planet were second nature to him. He knew that he would get final results now, not speculation about who would win that would have prevailed as races were called over the course of last night. Even the closest contests on the other side of the planet were decided by the time the sun rose in Prytis. Such was the rotation of Bakura.

    “…the decade in the wilderness for the Union Party is over,” the anchor reported. “After increasing their seats in the Senate four years ago, the conservatives have a majority for the first time in 12 years. Coupled with winning Marian Square, the Unionists will have the opportunity to implement their agenda, one that the prime minister elect said in his victory remarks, ‘Bakura is ready for.’

    “The prime minister elect also called for unity in his victory speech, an overture that appears to have been received well by the remaining members of Fianna Fail. Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Phyllida Travers, who is expected to be reconfirmed by her caucus as minority leader in the next Senate, spoke briefly with reporters and said, ‘Bakura expects the people’s business to be done responsibly and efficiently. I look forward to working with the prime minister elect to identify where our goals align and to pass prudent, well-considered legislation that serves everyday Bakurans.’”

    Declan didn’t need to hear more. He turned the holoprojector off. He had only tuned in to confirm his predictions. Ayn’s successor had lacked the durasteel to keep the party motivated and focused after years in power. He had been a caretaker, not a fighter. The Unionists had been hungry after being in the minority for so long. Many of them had resented Ayn’s legislative victories, the hardball she’d played to rise to the top. They had been driven by anger at being beaten down. Anger was an effective motivator.

    He was sure in time there would be many talk show debates about whether a Trieste-led Fianna Fail could have triumphed in 300. Some would say that Ayn had built lasting coalitions inside the party and among voters, that she would have rallied the party and shaken them from their complacency. Others would point out that in 296 she’d held Marian Square but lost seats in the Senate, that a third campaign would have been a tough sell, that unlike her mother in-law she didn’t have an external threat to the union to power a two-term-tradition-defying run.

    Declan had no use for such arguments. He knew two things that all the pundits would forget.

    The first was that nothing was preordained in politics.

    The second was that no one beat Ayn Dormingale Trieste.



    Westcott, Bakura



    Falene Trieste did not spend much time on Bakura. Her spirit was called to Wild Space, the Unknown Regions. As taoiseach she’d invested Noble House funds to seed the Explorer’s Club, using Bakura’s position at the edge of known space to discover what lay in the vast expanses the galaxy still hadn’t penetrated. She thrilled whenever she looked at a world or star that no recorded being had seen.

    There was one thing that lured her back to her homeworld, no matter where she was or what she was doing. Falene had another passion, one that even the call of the unknown couldn’t drown out.

    Taoiseach Falene had also acquired racehorses, a rare but sleek and speedy creature, and her influence to encourage the creation of the Westcott Racecourse outside Cape Suzette. Its purses attracted the finest in flat track and jump racehorses to the Union Westcott races. Though officially honoring the federal union of Bakura’s 32 counties, it also united the planet’s racing fans and those who wishes to see and be seen. Some were more interested in the parade of fashion through the concourse rather than the procession of competitors in the paddock. Whatever one’s reason for being there, Union Westcott was now a staple of the social calendar.

    Thanks to the Noble House being part of the initial seed money for Westcott, the family had the privilege of watching races from one of the swanky private boxes (for a sizable fee, but one the family was happy to pay). Unlike Bakura Gardens where the family had the use of the owner’s box as part of the Miners’ lease on the municipal stadium, they moved around the racetrack depending on who indicated they would attend this year. For the 300 ABY race meeting, the Noble House took a 30-being box, electing one with a balcony and no outdoor seating. Once the race started no one was going to be sitting.

    It was one of the few Noble House events that Falene’s adopted children attended. It was more out of obligation to her than out of fondness for the event that Gaius, Elza, and Avie came. Though they received a friendly reception from everyone present, the descendants of the Kitokaime Sith were still uncomfortable with the family after their falling out with Ayn years ago. Even in death she cast a long shadow.

    Declan, predictably, didn’t attend (Falene had taken the reins of all things horse-related when she’d heard of Declan’s withdrawal, not bothering to ask her older brother for permission), but his children were in attendance. 300 marked Niamh’s first time at Westcott and those who were perceptive enough to look (namely Regan Eldred and Dorian Lynd) noticed she seemed more comfortable and natural in the rarefied air her boyfriend had been born to than she had at previous Noble House events.

    The atmosphere of Union Westcott was different than other events the Noble House attended. Miner games had an element of seriousness to the proceedings, for the team was a visible symbol of the family’s contribution to Bakura (and made a great deal of credits for them, investing them deeply in the team’s performance). Most years the Yuletide Ball was more networking and business than it was celebration.

    Yet despite having horses in the races and rubbing shoulders with the other influential families of Bakura, the Triestes were freer, more casual. They enjoyed the experience more. They weren’t carrying the standard of the planet in the world’s most prominent sport. They weren’t building alliances to achieve political or economic goals. They were enjoying the wealth and standing they had been born to or married into.

    To that end, their hats were large and ostentatious (Trixie’s displaced at least twice her width in every direction), suits finely tailored (Nicholas Arden seemed as if he had been bred to wear such fine clothes), and encouragement of the horses loud and far from decorous (for they each held their own interests with whatever wagers they’d placed).

    The races also drew a slightly different family crowd than Miner games. In addition to the Kitokaime Triestes, Mandy and Ronan made the journey from Denon. The Ralters elected to stay in Salis D’aar, occupying themselves with racing of a different sort. The Hapan Triestes sometimes came (for they had picked up the racing habit and had stables of their own), but usually had their own box by order of the chume’doro (to Vienna’s disappointment, 300 was not such a year). The Vehns had been breeding horses longer than the Triestes and sometimes decided to bring their champions to embarrass the other side of their family, but they’d given the Triestes a break this year.

    Thanks to his wife’s job with the Rydonni Prime Monarchs, this was the first time Dorian Lynd had seen his wife’s family in a while. Most specifically it was the first time he’d seen Nessa since their aborted lunch in the capital. He caught her attention shortly after he entered the box, but she’d looked away. Dorian understood.

    He was patient and waited for a moment after a race when the rest of the family retreated inside, a few to collect winnings, most to plot their future wagers. Nessa seemed lost in thought as she leaned against the railing, gazing out at the track, taking in the even grass and the track being smoothed once more into racing condition.

    “Forgive me for taking the liberty, but I’d appreciate it if I could finish our last conversation,” Dorian said, resting his forearms against the railing with enough distance between them to respect Nessa’s personal space.

    Nessa turned her eyes to him. They were searing. “I’d prefer we didn’t. Things were clear enough where we left them and I’d rather not introduce any unpleasantness into a fine day.”

    “While I understand if you don’t have the same affection for me,” Dorain continued, heedless of Nessa, “you left before I could say that even though I had no right to expect you felt the same way, that I had to ask. Because if you did and I missed the opportunity to know, I would never forgive myself. And I had to ask, even if it endangered what we had, what I loved in the first place.” Dorian looked straight into Nessa’s eyes, which had only slightly relented in their intensity. “And I didn’t get to say that you’ll never hear anything more about it from me again.”

    There was only the ambient noise of the thousands of beings at the racetrack for a few moments. “Perhaps I overreacted,” Nessa allowed.

    “It’s fine,” Dorian said. “It was a small chance, but I had to see if it came through. It’s done now.”

    “Stop being such a good man. It’s making it harder for me to apologize.” For the first time in months, Nessa smiled at Dorian.

    “The Lynd family motto should be ‘graceful in defeat.’ We certainly get a lot of practice.” Dorian smiled too now.

    Nessa rolled her eyes. “If you’re going to martyr yourself like that, I’m going to need a drink.”

    “Let me guess, I’m buying?”

    “Since you insisted.”

    Dorian offered his arm to her. “Then, in a purely fraternal fashion, may I escort you to the bar to buy a drink twice as fancy as it should be and three times as expensive?”

    “Only because the other teachers will kill me if I don’t bring good Westcott stories back to the faculty lounge on Centaxday. The most popular always involve things vastly more expensive than they need to be,” Nessa said, taking it. “And in repayment, you can tell me all about how your grandson’s rookie year is going.”

    “See? Just what I’ve always liked about you,” Dorian replied as he guided them inside. “You always know my favorite topics.”
     
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  11. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Wow, finally caught up. You taught us much about the magic of music once more, even though it did not entirely do the trick on Declan when playing the piano.

    You also let us have a peak into the world of pod racing and hot engines.

    Plus you lead us deeper into the jungle of Hapan traditions for their queens and those around them.

    There were also folk enjoying themselves pretty much in a library.

    And there was so much more.

    But through all this, the notes of your musical inspiration was visible as much as audible. Thank you!
     
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  12. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    Even though I love the written word, I also like a good musical accompaniment. TV and film have got books beat on that score! ;)
     
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  13. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @SWNerd11 @Vehn Remember this one?


    Salis D’aar, Bakura

    Declan emerged from his hermitage for an event that even he could not miss: the graduation of his children from his alma mater. With these exercises, Shenandoah and Niall were officially launched into the galaxy. Shenandoah had taken a Bachelor of Arts in Economics with a minor in Philosophy while Niall had focused solely on his Bachelor of Arts in History, graduating with Honors. Neither had wasted their time at UB Salis D’aar, graduating in the expected four years, a testament to their dedication.

    After a congratulatory dinner at Club 33, one of the capital’s toniest private clubs, the family gathered the next day at the Plaza at Declan’s request. He had asked that the seventh floor, the top floor, be readied for their use. It had views in every direction of southeast Salis D’aar and all the curtains were pulled back from all the windows. The bright morning sunlight streamed in from every angle. This was the first time Declan had spent longer than a dinner party in the Plaza since Ayn had become prime minister.

    “I hope you know it, but I am immensely proud of both of you. Your mother always was too,” Declan said. He hadn’t poured himself a drink and the twins hadn’t helped themselves to any. It was admittedly a little early for that, even for the morning after becoming a newly-minted university graduate.

    “Thank you,” Shenandoah said.

    “It’s time we talk about your future plans,” Declan said, getting to the business at hand. “You were raised with great expectations. You have one of the finest degrees Bakura can offer and you follow in the footsteps of the greatest members of the Noble House. Prime Ministers, Ministers of State, Chancellors of the Exchequer, and more have all passed through UB Salis D’aar.

    “The Noble House expects all its members to make their mark on Bakura. It is what our fortune is for. It is the advantage you were born to, that you have a duty to make good on, more than other members of our family,” Declan said seriously. “I hope it is a topic you have already thought about. I am prepared to support you—but only if you intend to make something of yourself.” With a motion of his hands, Declan indicated that the floor was open for whoever wanted to go first.

    “As you know, I lived with Niamh this year,” Niall said, taking the initiative. “I love her and I want to stay with her. She’s been admitted to Tiarest Law.”

    “Congratulations to her,” Declan said. Shenandoah, on the other hand, rolled her eyes. Tiarest was UBSD’s rival and an excess of school spirit made her feel less than kindly towards them, even if they did have an excellent law school.

    “With your permission, I’d like to move into the Plaza with her,” Niall proposed.

    “Of course,” Declan said. His tone was so perfunctory that it was clear that living arrangements were not he most wanted to talk about.

    “Had the election gone a different way, I would have asked for a posting in an executive department,” Niall said, getting to the heart of the matter.

    “You’re interested in public service?” Declan asked, sitting forward.

    “Not in elected office, but I’d like to be part of something bigger than myself,” Niall said.

    “In what capacity?”

    “Organization. Making connections. Getting things done. Actually changing beings’ lives.”

    Declan nodded. “The federal government isn’t going to give you that, not at this stage of your life.” He tapped one finger against the armrest of his chair. “I’d consider sending you to your Aunt Trixie now that she’s been elected District Attorney, but what you want to do won’t intersect with her work. I will call Aunt Elfie. If you want to understand how to organize people and institutions, her work with the Kurtzen is the best place for you. It’s in town.”

    “That sounds great,” Niall said.

    Declan turned his attention to his daughter.

    “I’d like a speeder,” Shenandoah said.

    Her father tilted his head slightly. He looked puzzled, but didn’t say anything.

    “And living expenses for the next eight months. Maybe as long as a year,” she continued.

    From the expression on his face, this was clearly not what Declan had been expecting.

    “Allow me to explain,” Shenandoah offered.

    “That would be a good idea,” Declan agreed.



    Hapes

    “And how is the chief gossip columnist today?” Sierra Chume asked as her appointment walked into her private office.

    “You know that’s not what my job is,” Zena Atelier said. Officially she was Social Secretary to the Queen Mother, in charge of the monarch’s calendar. This bled over into managing lists of attendees (certain combinations were to be avoided if fireworks were not on the agenda) and the many invitations that made their way to the palace. The uninitiated would have assumed that Atelier was a glorified party planner.

    Anyone with the slightest familiarity with the royal court knew that Zena Atelier was much more important than that. There was power in deciding when, where, and whom the Queen Mother visited. Atelier accepted many engagements with cursory final approval from Sierra. She had this trust because Sierra knew that Zena shared her political philosophy and goals—and, more importantly than anything else, was loyal to the Queen Mother.

    But Atelier had another job: to keep the Queen Mother apprised of the goings-on of the nobility. Her duties went well beyond knowing who was sleeping with whom. In fact, the sexual escapades of the Hapan elite were only of note when they suggested new alliances being formed—especially if those coalitions might be brought to bear against the throne.

    Zena Atelier was Sierra Chume’s early warning system for threats against her rule.

    “And yet you always know the most interesting things,” Sierra said, setting her work aside.

    “You know you love it,” Zena said, taking a seat before the Queen Mother’s desk. “Everyone’s a voyeur. It’s just that not everyone admits it.”

    Sierra decided not to deign to respond to that. “What do you have today?”

    “We’re having quite the brisk wedding season,” Zena began.

    “How lovely. The florists must be thrilled.” Sierra did not sound too interested.

    “But they’re not,” Zena said.

    “Explain.”

    “The weddings aren’t taking place here. We’re seeing an outflow of men.”

    “To where? Perhaps I’ll send them a thank you card for taking them off our hands.”

    “They’re going to the Centrality where they’re marrying daughters of noble families,” Zena said. “Dozens of them.”

    Sierra sat back and considered this. “It makes sense. Families can respectably unload their sons on titled women without being expected to pay out dowries—I assume?”

    “Not financial ones. It seems the craze on the Centrality is for handsome husbands who can bolster their family’s standing,” Zena said. “Their Hapan fathers are all too-happy to oblige them.”

    “The Centrality is trying to find its footing. They’re trying to bask in our glow and borrow the appearance of our stability,” Sierra thought aloud.

    “It’s deeper than that. Carley Heraat holds almost total political power in the Centrality, at least by law. She got where she is with the nobles’ support, but now they feel like they’ve been left out. Compared to the Centrality, the Consortium is a noble’s paradise,” Zena said. “I’m hearing that a population of Centrans want to learn our ways, push a Hapan-style monarchy.”

    Sierra Chume considered that. Though she held ultimate power in the Consortium, the Royal Council’s representatives had a public forum to press the monarchy to respond to needs. It didn’t matter that the Queen Mother wasn’t bound to do what they wanted. Just forcing the Queen Mother’s attention where they wanted it was power unto itself.

    Furthermore, the Consortium economy was capitalist. There was a set of elites who derived their standing through wealth instead of title. As Sierra understood it, the Centran economy was still feudal. Though the land brought steady, predictable returns, it didn’t bring great wealth. Like all nobles, the Centran nobles aspired to something more.

    “There could be an opportunity to extend Hapan power through the galaxy through closer ties to the Centrality,” Zena suggested. “If they were closer, there’d even be a succession play, but frankly they’re too far away to be a realistic territorial acquisition.”

    The Consortium’s strength was its long history of continuous membership, not to mention the Transitory Mists. Expansion hadn’t been on a Queen Mother’s agenda for hundreds of years for good reason. “Add the Foreign Minister to my calendar. We should see about bilateral engagement, but not on any particular topic.” Truth be told, if Sierra were Carley, she’d want to hold the reins as tight as possible. Once the nobles had power, they were never going to give it up. “I don’t suppose we’ve figured out where this all started, have we?”

    “According to a records search by the chume’doro, it appears that Amenadiel and Uriel Morningstar were the first Hapan grooms. They married Sophia and Anna Frohm, respectively, daughters of the top financial advisor to Queen Carley.”

    Something sparked in Sierra’s mind. A memory of something…. She put a finger up to pause Zena as she leafed through reports.

    “Aha,” Sierra said without triumph. Atelier was too good at her job to ask what the Queen Mother had remembered. She simply waited.

    “From the Treasury and Fleet,” Sierra explained. “CDS has requested export licenses for a new shipment of watered-down Battle Dragons.” By royal fiat, proprietary Hapan defense technology could not be sold to anyone but the crown. However, suppliers to the Fleet were able to manufacture derivative craft—cheaper, less reliable, easier to defeat—to other purchasers, with royal consent. “And it seems CEO Darriah Morningstar wants to sell to none other than the Centrality.”

    The Queen Mother closed her file.

    “I think it’s time I hear all your gossip,” Sierra Chume said.
     
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  14. Vehn

    Vehn Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 14, 2009
    Incredible post @Trieste I always enjoy how you frame the many workings of foreign affairs.... :) And Niall and Shenandoah's adventures sound thrilling. Material for the next volume of the Noble House....
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
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  15. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2010
    I look forward to seeing what Shenandoah is going to do.

    And this Hapan business seems very intriguing...
     
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  16. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    Covert affairs all over. On many battle fronts, some more obvious than others.
     
  17. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @SWNerd11 @Vehn


    Kilmainham Brook, Prytis, Bakura

    Declan lay on his back, the night sky above him. One of the benefits of owning a large amount of land in an area where private estates were the rule instead of skyscrapers was minimal light pollution. When Declan had the lights of the house turned off, the dark sky shined in its natural glory.

    This time of year was one of the best for stargazing in Prytis. Because of its position on the edge of the galaxy, the disc of the galaxy, made up of billions of stars, traced a broad, dazzling swath across the sky. Other worlds, deeper into the galaxy, didn’t have such a spectacular view. On Bakura the whole disc of star systems was aggregated together rather than dispersed in every direction.

    The vastness of the cosmos was enough to make one feel small, insignificant, yet that wasn’t what Declan felt. He looked at the stars and felt their certainty. They endured. They operated on a different timeline than sentient affairs, beyond elections and lifespans.

    That steadiness filled Declan tonight. He found himself at a crossroads with his project. He had reached conclusions he was confident in, but he couldn’t say he was sure of them. Declan could do more work, but that brought risks. Windows might close. They could already be shut. But if he waited too long…

    He had come outside, had the droids turn the lights off inside, closed his eyes for 15 minutes to let them adjust to the dark so the stars could shine with all their glory, and opened himself up to the cold, evening air. He didn’t know why, but he thought the answer might be out there somewhere.

    As he lay and let the stellar light wash over him, Declan found his decision.



    Bakura

    Shenandoah left Salis D’aar in a BRC speeder with a suitcase of clothes in her trunk, a map of Bakura’s transportation network she’d annotated, a datapad, and some basic sundries. She told her family she’d be back…whenever she was back.

    She eschewed the direct routes between the planet’s prominent cities (Salis D’aar, Gesco City, Cape Suzette, Atalanta, Golden Prairie, Prytis, Nouvelle Orleans) and took lesser-used roads that wound circuitously through the landscape. She traveled these relics of the early colonization of the planet, before straight lines connected cities, following in the footsteps of her ancestors.

    When she was hungry, she stopped in the next town she found to eat, always getting out of her speeder and sitting down. When she saw something interesting, she pulled off and looked at it, going so far as to knock on the door of a house at the side of the road to ask if she could get closer to that herd of steelees or just how they got those namana trees to grow so tall.

    Shenandoah wore casual clothes, simple shirts and pants that were easily layered. When she was down to her last set of clean clothes, she found a laundromat, putting coins in to as many machines as it took. She sat on plastic chairs and read until the machines beeped.

    When she came to the coast she pulled onto ferries, crossing the oceans that separated Bakura’s continents. She’d stand at the railing and look at the waves passing by.

    Between it all, Shenandoah talked to the beings she met. More precisely, Shenandoah listened.

    Whenever she met someone, she introduced herself (always by first name, never with her last). Over cups of caf in diners, commercial exchanges at cash registers in lulls, detergent at washing machines, and drinks in bars she learned who they were, what they did, what they worried about, what they found joy in, what they hoped, what they wanted for their children, what they wished worked better. Shenandoah didn’t ask about these things; she just let the conversations take their course and these things came out naturally.

    When she was alone, whether it was at a rest stop or in her motel room, Shenandoah would write down the things she’d heard, the people she’d met, the thoughts she’d had to get it all out of her head. Then she’d head off to meet the next being.

    Town by town, being by being, Shenandoah Trieste discovered Bakura by wandering.
     
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  18. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2010
    Glad to see Declan has found a purpose. :)

    And what is Shenandoah up to? [face_thinking]
     
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  19. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    Who says she's up to anything? :D
     
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  20. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @SWNerd11 @Vehn These are not the words of one who kneels. ;)


    Kilmainham Brook, Prytis, Bakura

    “I took the liberty,” Declan said, holding up a bottle of brandy and giving it a single shake by twisting his wrist.

    Holly Remizan smiled. “Haidoral Prime, I trust?”

    “Of course,” Declan confirmed as he broke the seal and removed the cap.

    “That’s the thing about politics that some beings don’t understand. Yes, it’s about what you can accomplish, but you’ll never get anything done if you don’t have a certain level of performance. Like remembering someone’s preferred tipple,” Holly said. “You always had that.”

    “You say that like Ayn didn’t.” Declan poured the liquor into two glasses crafted for the purpose, their wide mouths designed to let the contents breathe, the deep bottom and high walls facilitating swirling. “You forget—she was the one who had tea with all 78 other senators when we were in the Senate. She could charm beings when she wanted to.”

    “You were just better at it,” Holly said with a smirk. “Speaking of, Salis D’aar is a dreary place without you.”

    “You’re still hanging around?” Declan asked with some surprise. He extended a glass to Holly and lifted the other in a toast. “Sláinte.

    “Cheers,” Holly replied. They clinked glasses, producing a full, ringing sound thanks to the fine crystal. “Keeping an ear open, talking to old friends. Travers is actively working with the administration on passing legislation. She’s telling the liberals that if their programs backfire, they can blame it on the PM. With the moderates, she says it’s an opportunity to get some wins in, prove to the planet that Fianna Fail is a responsible party instead of children throwing tantrums.”

    Holly wafted the brandy under her nose. “She’s moving the party to the right, right into the arms of the corporations. They’re talking about tax cuts. Tax cuts. Ludicrous.” Holly sipped the brandy and sighed. “As good as I remembered. Keep the tax cuts for when you need to stimulate the economy. They’re completely unneeded.

    “This is why the party needs you, Declan. They need someone to provide a bulwark against Travers and her pro-business agenda. I trust that’s why you’ve opened the good stuff? We’re marking the end of your exile?”

    Declan motioned for Holly to take a seat. “More like the end of something I’ve been working on.” He paused upon reclining to taste the brandy as well. “I’ve been occupied with a research project for the last several months.”

    “A Trieste research project. This should be good,” Holly said. “What Senate seat are you going to be able to pick off in three years? Or will it be back to the governor’s mansion in ’02? Telaan Valley would be a stretch these days, but you could run here in Prytis and likely win.”

    “Not a campaign project. More like a…history project.”

    “Opposition research.” The words rolled off Holly’s tongue with relish. “Even better.”

    “Of a sort. You see, after Ayn died, the more I thought about it, the more it didn’t make sense,” Declan said, setting his glass down. “Ayn and I knew we took risks. It was part of the path we decided to tread. But they were calculated risks. We managed our exposure. Yes, our partnership with the Gawas was there for a reporter to find, but it was deep. A reporter who was good—really good—one like Sevan or even one like Lekworth could find it in the filings. But the dedication to find the whole picture…now that was something that even the great ones wouldn’t have had.

    “Which got me thinking about the first time I’d heard the name Garner Lekworth. It was from Sevan, of all people. Appropriately, I guess, in the end. Lekworth was being audited by the Exchequer. An inconvenience to most beings, but to a reporter? A sign you might be on to something.

    “Later I found the lawsuits. The libel cases. That makes a reporter’s life miserable. Costly for their organization, draining for them. But here it started a pattern, one of harassment. That’s when a reporter knows they have a story, one that somebody doesn’t want out there. And journalists lean into those stories instead of walking away.

    “We know that Lekworth shopped this story to every journalistic outfit on the planet and they all turned him down for the same reason: he couldn’t prove it. He claimed it was in the campaign finance filings, but that he didn’t have the research on hand, that it had been destroyed in the speeder crash.

    “When I heard about the audit I guessed you might be playing a little offense. I was fine not knowing. We had our system.” Declan’s voice had been casual, but now it shifted. It was hard, cold. “But part of that system was that we didn’t keep records, nothing that could be subpoenaed, seized in raids, left on a shuttle, or leaked.

    “And that made me wonder how you could, in such precise detail, uncover the Gawas’ betrayal.”

    Holly was silent. She looked at Declan, her dark eyes conceding nothing.

    “What everyone forgets about you, Holly, is that you’re here because you chose the wrong side on Hapes,” Declan continued. “It was a good arrangement. You got out, were protected, and we had someone who was grateful for a soft place to land. But the thing that most everyone in Salis D’aar forgets is how Hapans fight. Peaceful transitions of power are rarely the way in the Consortium. It’s the blaster, not the ballot. Velvet revolutions: durasteel fists in silk gloves. You do what’s required, no matter how distasteful.”

    Declan picked up his glass again. “For someone with that background, it’s a simple matter to contrive a speeder crash to steal something. It was even a two-for-one: disarm Lekworth and use his research against the Gawas.” The Taoiseach sipped his brandy. “Inspired, really.

    “If it wasn’t for what it led to.”

    “He wasn’t supposed to be there,” Holly said slowly. There were no denials. Holly knew better.

    “You had to know he was involved with Lekworth’s reporting. It was a risk,” Declan said, “and when it comes to this family, we don’t take risks like that.”

    “She…knew.” Holly formed her words carefully.

    “She’s dead now,” Declan Trieste stated, blame lurking beneath his tone, “and it’s your doing.”

    Holly struggled to reply.

    “I suspect the tranquilizer has just about kicked in,” Declan said. “In case you were curious, it was in the glass.” He set his untainted glass down as Holly’s slipped out of her hand, its dark contents staining the rug. Declan stood. “You won’t pass out. I wanted to have these last moments together.

    “In thinking about your Hapan heritage, I realized that Sierra could probably make use of you to shore up her rule.” Declan crossed the room to pick up the fallen snifter. “But I’m still holding a bit of a grudge against her with everything she did with Falene’s kids.” He placed the glass on a nearby table. “And the truth is, I really wanted this for myself.”

    Holly summoned all her strength, all the force in her body, but the best she could do was to weakly stretch her arms in defense as Declan loomed over her. He brushed them aside, as if they were nothing, as he bent down and wrapped his hands around Holly’s neck.

    “You. Took. Everything. From. Me,” Declan hissed through clenched teeth as he squeezed. “You killed her!”

    Holly Remizan flailed, but her limbs moved slowly, weakly. The best she could do was brush her fingers against Declan’s arms, only for them to slide off. Her eyes were filled with hate. Declan’s contained nothing but rage as he bore down. Soon Holly’s eyes contained nothing at all.

    Declan stepped away then, his chest heaving. He would have N7 remove the body, remove all trace of it, make it like Holly had disappeared. Then he would have this room cleaned, the rug destroyed. When that was done, Declan would wipe the droid’s memories. He might be progressive enough to have droids, but he didn’t care about the damage a memory wipe would do to them, what personalities he might destroy. Even if he hadn’t been covering up his sin, he probably wouldn’t have cared.

    The only thing that mattered was that someone had taken his wife from him. Nothing he’d done tonight had changed that. Declan knew justice, delivered as it had been, wouldn’t make the loss any easier. Perhaps he wouldn’t even sleep any better.

    He was still damn glad he’d killed her.
     
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  21. jcgoble3

    jcgoble3 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Nov 7, 2010
    "If you kill a killer, the number of killers in the world remains the same."

    At least Declan figured out the guilty party.
     
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  22. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    I leave it to each reader to decide their opinion of Declan, not just in this act but of his whole life. There will be no Dickensian or Hugo-esque moralizing here. ;)
     
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  23. Trieste

    Trieste Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Apr 10, 2010
    @AzureAngel2 @DarthUncle @jcgoble3 @SWNerd11 @Vehn


    Kilmainham Brook, Prytis, Bakura

    “I didn’t expect to see you again so soon, and certainly not with all this,” Declan admitted.

    Alixa Chelli smiled. “Once I had my vision, it merely required execution. That was easy.”

    The painter stood next to three canvases, each draped by a cloth. This was the last moment she’d be able to control these works of art. She was going to make the most of it while she could.

    “Should I take a seat?” Declan asked.

    “That is for you to decide. Artists don’t get to dictate how beings consume their work. That’s what makes it art,” Chelli replied. Declan remained standing.

    Without warning, Chelli yanked the covering off the first piece in a dramatic reveal. The painting was of Declan. It was his Taoiseach portrait that would hang in this house for generations. His gaze was pointed away from the viewer, but somehow still included them. One hand was extended slightly. It was the pose of an orator, a welcoming, open stance. The way Chelli used light suggested optimism and hope.

    Declan said nothing, looking at it for a full minute. He didn’t move anything but his eyes.

    “This will do,” he said.

    Chelli nodded once. With less flourish and greater care, she removed the cloth from the second portrait. Ayn stood confident and proud, her face turned up towards the sun, her smile illuminated with bright light. As Declan took it in, he was filled with a belief in a better, brighter future. The colors of her clothes were bright, vibrant, contrasting with the light blue sky behind her. Everything about the portrait spoke to a faith in progress and better days ahead.

    “It’s perfect,” Declan said. “They will pair well when hung together.”

    “That one is for Marian Square,” Chelli said.

    For the first time Declan turned to look at the painter. “What?”

    “I painted that one for the national collection,” Chelli explained, “not for this house.”

    Before Declan could say anything else, she removed the cloth from the third painting. This one was nothing like the other two. Ayn sat on a beach, wearing a shirt with the sleeves rolled past the elbows and tan slacks the color of the sand. Her knees were pulled up to her chest, her arms holding them in place. She was in profile, looking somewhere the Declan and Chelli couldn’t see. Her face was serene and determined. One could see a hint of the sea breeze picking up her hair. The brush strokes were heavier, almost impressionistic, yet somehow they gave the scene greater clarity than if realism had been the goal.

    Declan moved so he could look at it from different angles, trying to figure it out and failing. It made him want to go deeper, to learn what this Ayn was thinking about. She was tantalizingly inscrutable.

    “This…” The sentence hung in the air as he continued to gaze the portrait, as if a few seconds more would reveal all its secrets, though he knew it wouldn’t. “…is her.”

    “I hope this isn’t considered speaking ill of the dead, but I never understood your wife,” Alixa admitted. “That—” She gestured to the first portrait of her. “—was who she was to us. But I always felt there was someone else beneath the prime minister. Maybe you knew who she was. But I think there was something, deep down, that only she knew.”

    “Send the other one to Marian Square,” Declan decided. “I will keep this one. The final funds will be transferred before you leave. You have fulfilled every expectation I didn’t know I had, Ms. Chelli.”

    Declan Trieste knew he would look at this portrait of his wife for years and still be lost in it.



    Hapes

    Darriah Morningstar was good. Sierra had to give that to her.

    The aristocracy of the Hapes Consortium was a fluid system. Hereditary titles were merely the foundation. With enough wealth anyone could take a place in the highest echelons. The two ranks intermingled as a matter of course. If one didn’t receive standing through the grant of the Queen Mother, the ambitious found it easy enough to stamp their family with nobility through marriage.

    Accordingly, Darriah’s status on the lowest rank of the aristocracy, a mere dame, did not reflect her true social standing. Her position at CDS gave her more influence than some duchesses. Credits were the engine of Darriah’s power. Of the two paths to the throne, credits were by far the most straight-forward (though title was no slouch: it brought legitimacy that wealth alone failed to provide).

    Sierra delved deeply into CDS’s new export license permit filings. They proposed selling what essentially constituted an entire fleet to the Centrality. Such starships would put the fledgling power on par, per capita, with the other members of the D13. That military might came with a price tag, one that would enrich Darriah Morningstar. She would also have a diplomatic ally in the event she was ever part (or the center of) a coup against Sierra. The Centrality’s recognition of a new regime would make a Morningstar-backed Queen Mother’s path to legitimacy all the easier.

    And yet the beauty was that, prima facie, it made Sierra stronger too. The tax revenue that would come to the crown with the sale would increase the treasury as well. Any monarch who didn’t want to swell the palace accounts was deceiving themselves—especially when there would be that much coming in. Sierra could do a lot—a great deal even—with those credits.

    There was another dynamic at play too. The Hapes Consortium was one of the strongest monarchies left in the galaxy. The Galactic Empire, under the control of the Moff Council, had joined the Corporate Sector in the ranks of oligarchies. The democracies most represented at the level of the D13. For all its stability, the Consortium was a lonely torchbearer for monarchy. The Queen Mother represented a restrained, enlightened monarchy: less autocracy and more maternalistic expertise, policy based not on the fickle winds of voters but long-term vision.

    Only one other major power governed itself through monarchy: the Centrality. They were an ally the Consortium couldn’t ignore, a potential validation of the Consortium’s political project. The matter was complicated by the fact that the Centrality was not an enlightened monarchy like Hapes. All power was held in the end in the monarch’s hands, which made the system prone to the excesses that gave queendoms a bad name. The offenses of the Centrans could blow back on the Hapans.

    It would be in the Consortium’s interest for the Centrality’s political system to mirror the Hapan model instead of the old Imperial one. The Hapan-Centran marriages, the most important of which were the Morningstar matches, an opportunity to subtly encourage the development of the newly unified polity in the right direction.

    But the closer Sierra drew the Centrality to the Consortium, the greater Darriah Morningstar’s influence would be. Enriched by arms sale revenues, she could threaten the House of Trieste. If Sierra denied the arms sale, not only would an opportunity to extend Hapan influence be lost, but Morningstar would make sure that word about the lost tax revenues got out. Planetary officials would be bitter that the proceeds weren’t flowing down to them through the budget. Darriah had created a system of interlocking pieces that prevented Sierra from removing one without bringing the whole thing crashing down.

    On a world like Bakura, it would have hemmed a prime minister in, paralyzing them until their opponent moved in for the kill. Sierra Chume, however, had been tutored in the art of Hapan court combat. It took place in close quarters and required precision. You didn’t last long if you didn’t perfect it.

    That was why Sierra sat on the throne for this day at court, resplendent as usual behind her veil. Before her stood Darriah Morningstar, her clothes tailored for the occasion of the eyes of the court resting upon her.

    “Dame Morningstar, kneel,” the Queen Mother instructed. Dariah complied as Sierra lifted herself from the throne. She descended the steps from the dais until she stood just one above the defense magnate. Sierra placed her fingers lightly on the crown of Darriah’s head.

    “Do you pledge fealty to the Queen Mother of the Hapes Consortium?” Sierra asked.

    “I do,” Darriah affirmed.

    “In recognition of your loyal service to the Consortium, it is our pleasure to invest you with our commission. Arise, Minister Morningstar, and go in faith and service.”

    Among the first dictates of Hapan court combat: when someone tries to take away your options, take away theirs. Sierra smiled as Darriah rose and looked into her eyes. She looked forward to seeing how well Darriah Morningstar maneuvered now that she was tied down as Minister of Defense.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2021
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  24. Vehn

    Vehn Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 14, 2009
    Some great posts in here. Had to catch up a bit ;) Very well done!
     
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  25. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    I also had some catching up to do. Declan, Holly, Chelli & Darriah - so many fates woven into one great epic.
     
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