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Saga - Legends C.S.I. - Imp' Centre (reprint) [Thrawn, The Monster Squad OCs] COMPLETE

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Sith-I-5, Feb 25, 2016.

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  1. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 14, 2002
    C.S.I. - Imp Centre
    Written by Sith-I-5 (Feb’ 2003)
    Starring Cmdr Thrawn
    Directed by His Imperial Majesty


    [​IMG]

    Commander Thrawn and the Monster Squad


    “Thrawn.” The Chiss commander announced, cringing inside as he continued, “Crime Scene Investigations.”

    A thin-faced officer wearing a similar grey uniform to himself turned and looked the newcomer up and down. “I’m Major Herritt. Imperial Intelligence. I’ve never heard of your agency.”

    Thrawn opened his mouth to venture a further explanation, but Herritt had not finished talking. “Generally we just blame the crime on Rebels.”

    “Good for official propaganda, I suppose” The blue-skinned Chiss agreed, glancing about the burnt out apartment with scarlet eyes.

    Several hundred floors up a tower block, the room had belonged to a prominent member of the Imperial bureaucracy, maybe even a governor. Now it looked like hell on toast.

    The bay window facing the outside had been pierced by a pair of holes near the top frame. The apartment’s current occupant sat on a heavily padded bodyform chair facing the left-hand wall, but frozen in a rictus of charred death, hands clasping his own throat. His petrified corpse, the chair, nearby carpet and the ceiling directly above were seared black and a thin miasma of steamy vapour still rose from them, wrinkling Thrawn’s nose, even where he stood, several feet away by the front door. There was a charred crater burnt into the wall on the right, to the side of a door leading off into the bedroom area.

    Behind the commander, the corridor stretched away to the left and right, decorated in antiseptic white and gold, and oblivious to the grisly contents inside.

    “But?”

    “Pardon me?” Thrawn asked, regarding Herritt.

    “You agreed that the Rebel angle was good for propaganda, except you are still here, so I assume there is a ‘but’.”

    Thrawn nodded, biting the inside of his cheek in contemplation. Though he had been a high ranking officer within the Chiss military, he had not even gained an active assignment in the Emperor’s service yet, and was still studying tactics at several naval academies, including one here on Coruscant. Imperial Centre, he reminded himself.

    The Emperor himself, had given him the task of solving the crime. The powerful, dark ruler with the heavy hood and moist wheezes, had dressed it up to sound really prestigious: “Alright, Clever Clogs. Sort this one out, will you.

    Thrawn spread his hands, indicating the world. “This is Imperial Center, Major. The most heavily defended world in the whole Empire. Star Destroyers, skyhooks, probe droids, and the surveillance net over the population is so tight it makes a mynock’s back passage look porous. If you want to proclaim that we still cannot maintain a secure environment even with all those resources, on your own head be it.”

    Herritt put his hands up in surrender, shaking his head with a wry smile. “No, no. You wouldn’t be here without orders, Commander. Though I will be checking with the Academy to see if they know you are here.” Sighing, he followed the non-human’s gaze toward the smoking chair. “Victim’s name is Essada. Bin Essada. Sector Governor out in the Expansionist Regions, but maintains Gyndine as his administrative base. He was here to make a report on some anti-rebel operation out in the Circarpous System. My office can make more information available should they become relevant to your investigation.”

    A noise from their right signalled a bedroom door opening, and a pair of casually dressed women appeared. Full human, nice curves and packing heat. But it was their faces that gave him pause, the bright rabid look of the ardent zealot.

    Their dress too - dark trousers and brown jackets - contrasted sharply to the uniforms that Thrawn was used to seeing in the circles he ran in.

    He glanced at Herritt questioningly.

    “Imperial Security.” Herritt confirmed, displaying no great love for them. “ISB took the original call, Commander. Someone witnessed a shot fired at the apartment from outside. We don’t know whether from an assassin droid or from an illegally hovering vehicle.”

    “Or from the opposite tower.” Another edifice, it’s exterior bronzed in the waning evening sunlight, could be seen some distance through the windows, but he couldn’t guess how far away it was.

    “I suppose so,” Herritt allowed reluctantly, bunching his eyebrows. “But it would be very difficult to get a clear shot, considering how many vehicles pass that window. It’s a major traffic lane.”



    [blockquote]Minds Eye (ME) - A neutral blue image follows a glowing packet of yellow-green energy as it zips in slow motion through the city air towards the towering skyscraper, the silhouette of the unsuspecting governor visible through the transparent glase.

    The laser slams into and penetrates the window, but heads off at a tangent and scores the wall behind the target. A second shot, apparently off target, penetrates the glase, but this time hits the seated occupant.[/blockquote]



    Of course, Thrawn smiled. The windows here would be designed with a five percent refraction so that someone shooting through the pane from outside wouldn’t hit their target the first time. Hence the two holes in the window he had noted earlier. First shot had gone awry, but the second had compensated.

    He turned around as four more people approached from the direction of the lifts.
    A sandtrooper unit by the looks of them. Three men and a woman without helmets, in full or semi armour. In place of heavy weaponry, they each had matt black attache cases.

    The lead trooper, recognisable by the orange pauldron over his left shoulder, addressed the two officers. “We’ve been sent to work with a Commander Thrawn?”

    “I’m Thrawn. Are you my crime scene investigators?”

    The trooper nodded. “ZTA-6479, sir. TMS-1, The Monster Squad. At your command.”

    While the two conversed, Major Herritt collected the two ISB agents and took them out of the apartment with him, leaving Thrawn and his team at the crime scene.

    Thrawn stared back at the short-haired non-com, hardly believing his ears. He decided that the Emperor must be testing him, to see how he handled the situation. “To be perfectly honest, sergeant. I have never done this sort of thing before. Your team have any experience?”

    “Maria was a vampire-hunter before joining us, sir. If the vic’ was, ah, inhumed by some kind of monster, she’ll be the best at figuring that out.” He gestured at the brown haired female. While the rest of them wore seventeen pieces of white armour over their black temperature control undersuit, she simply had the arm and torso armour only, over a short black dress cinched at the hips with a standard-issue equipment belt.

    Thrawn flicked a glacial look towards her, then back at the team leader.

    “And supposing the cause was, shall we say, less esoteric?”

    One of the subordinate troopers, a youthful looking clone with dark hair, blurted a response: “We’ve been swotting up with the ‘Bluffers Guide to Forensic Science’ too. Sir.”

    Seventy-Nine hung his head, silently counting to ten.

    “A guide exists?” Thrawn asked.

    “Here, borrow mine.” Seventy-Nine lifted an armoured knee to support his briefcase while he open it and extracted a small palm-sized datapad. He handed it across and closed the case.

    Thrawn got introduced to the team and quickly noted their hierarchy, along with their temperaments, and how to address them.

    Seventy-Nine was clearly the leader. His second-in-command was Twenty-One, or DLT-5921. He was as serious as his boss.

    The chatty soldier, treated as a bit slow by the rest, was Beta, or BTA-0113.

    Maria, or MVH-1001, was technically the most junior member of the team, having only joined Imperial service about the time of the Battle of Yavin, several months previously. But Seventy-Nine indicated that if they came across any monsters, Maria would assume command of the team, whether she was authorised to or not.



    “All right, here’s the deal.” Thrawn led the way into the apartment, but stopped about five feet short of the seated cadavar. “Victim is one Bin Essada. Imperial governor normally stationed out of Gyndine. I want a cause of death established, along with a line on whoever had motive and opportunity to carry out the crime. Intelligence reckons he was shot through the window, which would gel with the holes in them.”

    Beta moved round the burnt-out chair, and sidestepped the charred carpet to approach the windows. “Fragger is all burnt up. What the hell he get shot with, a phosphor bullet?”

    Thrawn met Maria’s look. “So, this look like a monster kill to you?”

    The girl had leaned in closer as if she were going to pick at the blackened hands clasped around the man’s own throat, but she grimaced and pulled back, “Too much of a mess here for me to make a definitive guess, sir. Suggest we do an autopsy.”

    “Reason?” Thrawn could imagine the family back on Gyndine objecting, and he wanted something to tell them if a problem arose.

    Maria tried breathing through her mouth. “Disregarding the fire damage for the moment, he has his hands to his throat like he was choking or something. If I’d been shot, my hands wouldn’t be around my throat. Sir.”

    “Well, unless you'd been shot in the throat, I suppose.” Thrawn countered, then nodded. “Okay, arrange for the body to be moved back to your crime lab. Use whatever you need. I’ll return there with your sergeant after we are finished here.”

    Maria nodded and moved away, pulling a comlink from her belt.

    Seventy-Nine turned to his men. “Beta, look around and try to determine what set the fire. There might have been a liquid accelerant near the chair. Also collect personal information from around the rooms, along with drugs, weapons, anything that may have caused his death. We’re flying blind here, so don’t be too selective.”

    That trooper nodded his assent, and glanced about the place, pulling transparent plastic bags from his case. He sank to one armoured knee and examined the small three-legged lamp table next to the chair . The bottle had been snuggled close to the padded arm, and not in clear sight.

    “Well, I got a wine bottle straight off.” Beta smiled, daintily holding the thin-necked vessel thumb and forefinger.

    “Bag it.”

    Thrawn looked on as Twenty-One got tackled next. “Get me a holo-droid in here. I want the place recorded from top to bottom before Maria gets the body removed. Also, find out if those ISB boys took a holo’ before we arrived. We’ll need theirs too.”

    “Sir.”

    The Chiss officer, and the sandtrooper settled to look closer at the body that had been Essada. The figure looked like something preserved under volcanic ash for a millenia. Creepy didn’t begin to cover it.

    Thrawn looked at the pained face, then leaned back and turned his head to where the eye-holes seemed to be staring. A large square communicator screen hung on the wall, a blank grey. “Could Essada have been using that when he died?”

    Seventy-Nine shrugged. “I’ll check to see if ISB turned it off when they arrived.”

    “You do that.” Thrawn agreed, his expression pensive. This would have been blamed on Rebel insurgents as a matter of course, so preservation of the crime scene wouldn’t have been an issue, let alone a priority. “Sergeant?”

    “Sir?”

    “Pull the comm records too. I want to know if there were any conversations done through the unit during the governor’s stay. And if your girl can get a time of death, we may have a lead. Something here does not correlate.”

    Seventy-Nine determined to keep his own council until asked to share, or until he had evidence. Privately though, he thought the commander right to look beyond the obvious.

    The victim didn’t appear to have reacted to getting shot or burnt alive, if those were indeed the causes of death. He seemed preoccupied with strangling himself, for an as yet unexplained reason. Furthermore, he seemed exceedingly interested in the viewscreen, even though it was off. Something here definitely didn’t gel.





    The Naval Academy on Coruscant was a bronze-coloured, many sided ziggurat affair, set in an area of greenery where the the towering skyscrapers did not encroach on it too much.

    Later, walking along the reflective corridors of the Academy structure, Thrawn nodded to passing officers as he stopped by a door leading into his office.

    The place was pretty spartan, just containing a metal desk and a couple of chairs. A rectangular window slit admitted a bright glare of pale yellow sunlight.

    He hadn’t reached his padded swivel chair when a knock echoed from the doorway.

    “Come.” He barked.

    The barrier slid aside to show the TMS-1 team leader. “I’ve collated what we have so far, Commander. It isn’t much, but the scenario is not looking that straight-forward.”

    “Continue.”

    Seventy-Nine looked over the leaves of paper-like durasheet in his black-gloved hands. “The bottle we found was holding Dian Orchid Wine, according to the label.”

    “Dian Orchid?” Thrawn interrupted, raising an eyebrow. “That the only wine in the Empire? Whenever someone identifies a wine, that is always the brand.”

    The sunlight streaming through the window reflected pleasantly off one half of the trooper’s armour. Unlike the cold, machine-like attitude of the normal stormtroopers that he encountered, Thrawn found it an interesting experience seeing a human side to the soldiers.

    Noting the trooper simply staring silently back at him, the officer waved a hand, signalling him to continue.

    “Probably cornered the wine market, sir.” Seventy-Nine hesitated, flustered, “Residue was found both on the body, and splashed around. Due to the lack of other incendiary sources, we are certain that it was the shots through the window that ignited the wine. But that isn’t the interesting part.”

    “No?” Thrawn’s eyes blazed curiously as he straightened his posture, looking back in interest. “Well are you going to tell me, sergeant, or should I just make guesses at random?”

    “Sorry sir. When you get shot, your body reacts to the damage.”

    “I bet it fragging does.” the Chiss commented, the words of a historical Chiss warrior raising a slight smile. Ow, I’ve been shot. Could everyone stop getting shot.

    “Thing is, there was no blood residue on the burnt fabric that we recovered, from either his clothing or the chair. He was dead before getting shot.”

    “Mmm. Interesting.”

    “Plus, Maria checked the governor’s palms, and while there are burns, they are uniform with the rest of the body.”

    “Meaning?” Thrawn wondered where the sandtrooper was going with this.

    “If Essada had been alive when the wine got ignited, he would have damaged his palms while trying to slap out the flames, or used a cushion, or even have got a fire extinguisher. But apart from being concerned with his neck, he seems to have been pretty blasé about being set alight.”

    Thrawn stared back at his square-jawed visitor, a definite thought forming. “You are thinking the governor was dead already? That-”

    “That perhaps the fire was to cover up the real crime?” Seventy-Nine finished for him, “Oh boy, am I thinking that.”

    A small black wedge on the desk surface whistled for attention, and Thrawn tapped a key to silence it.

    “Yes?” He said.

    “Commander Thrawn?” Maria’s voice. “We need you in Med Lab, sir. Right away.”



    Med Lab was a sterile, dim-lit place with a black floor, with three or four metal tables, taking the part of furniture.

    The woman trooper and a blue-green medical droid were next to one of the tables. As Thrawn and the sergeant moved across to them, he could see that it was more a man-sized drainage tray than a true table.

    Although the comparison lacked the respect due one of the Emperor’s governors, Thrawn decided that the body looked like a side of prime rycrit where it lay on the table, flaking bits of charred shrapnel as the droid worked over it.

    Some meat around the neck had been sliced open to the bone, and that is where the girl drew their attention.

    Maria spoke first. “Sirs, the bones in the neck are all crushed.”

    Thrawn and Seventy-Nine stared back at her, an unspoken ‘So?’ hanging between them.

    “Voice box,” she continued, “the trachea, all the little bones and cartilage in the neck, as if sqeezed by a tremendous force.”



    ME - That blue tint picture again. POV shot focuses on the vertabrae between the human shoulders and the base of the skull. An invisible side-on force squeezes the nodules of cartilage together until micro-fissures appear, followed by proper cracks, and the whole lot disintegrates to powder.



    “Could he have done it to himself?” Thrawn asked, though he doubted it

    Maria shook her head, brown locks brushing ivory cheeks as she did so. “Uh-uh. He could have done some damage if he was determined or intoxicated enough, but for the amount of force indicated here? No way.”

    Thrawn couldn’t resist voicing the comment that came to mind: “Ladies and gentlebeings, we have ourselves a murder.”

    Maria regarded him curiously. Well they hadn’t thought he cut himself shaving. Then she saw his look intensifying as he studied the burnt-out body before them.

    “What? What is it?” She asked.

    “What you said about him being intoxicated. If an accelerant was splashed about the place, then I can indeed understand it getting ignited by a well placed laser bolt. However, the apartment was a fairly open space, so I can’t see the wine doing more than superficial damage. But look at him.” Thrawn gestured helplessly to the dead official. “He’s so burnt through that a hungry vornsk wouldn’t touch him.”

    Maria looked puzzled. “Wine, sir? What wine?”

    “We found a bottle of Dian Orchid at the scene.” Seventy-Nine offered, recalling that his monster specialist hadn’t been there for the find. “The contents appeared to have been spilt all over the place.”

    “Your bottle may have had a wine label," Van Helsing volunteered, "but I sent residue particles from the victim’s skin down to toxicology. The stuff splashed over him was Flameout.”

    Thrawn had never heard of the stuff, and said so.

    “Call yourself a navy man, sir?” Seventy-Nine joked, continuing, “It’s the strongest legal beverage in the galaxy. He would have gone up like a durindfire.”

    Thrawn ran his gaze over the blackened corpse. “Shame we couldn’t find any art belonging to the victim. Studying it might have given me some insight into the case.”

    “Beta collected some finger-paintings off the governor’s refrigeration unit, Commander.” Seventy-Nine offered. “Would that help?”

    “Maybe. Let’s go see.” Thrawn glanced back at the woman. “Good work. Finish up here, and go pull the surveillance tapes on Essada’s last day. I want to know where he got the wine bottle from.”

    “Yes sir.”

    Thrawn went to depart med lab, the sergeant following in his wake.

    As they shut the door behind them. The sergeant’s comlink whistled, and he pulled it from his belt, turning slightly from the commander to answer it.

    “ZTA-6479.” He said, in case it was an outside call, eg. outside his team.

    When they resumed walking, he reported, “That was DLT-5921, sir. According to the comm-screen records, Essada was on a call at the time of his death. To the Devastator.”

    “The Star Destroyer?”

    “Uh huh. Just back from a mission to Circarpous.”

    “Mmm.” Thrawn hummed speculatively, arching an eyebrow. “Essada was here to report on Circarpous. Which leaves us with thirty-seven thousand potential suspects. Was your man able to narrow the field a bit? Like, say, a deck?”

    “Better than that, Commander. We have a person. Lord Vader.”

    “Vader, huh? I’ve heard that name talked about around the academy.”

    “I’m hardly surprised.” the TMS-1 trooper affirmed. “Rumour has it that officers use his name to frighten their young ones. Eat your greens or Vader will get you.”

    Allowing himself a grim smile, Thrawn welcomed the chance for a bit of gossip: “Never mind the children, sergeant. They use it on each other! Just the suggestion that Vader is coming not only halts hiccups, but has proven a better laxative than a handful of dipills. And I‘ve seen those babies at work.” Thrawn quickly recounted the recent tale of a lovelorn captain, who, his advances rejected by Armand Isard’s daughter, had sought to top himself inside a locked room with a bottle of hi-strength sleeping tablets. Unknown to him, the pharmacy droid had got suspicious at his request, and handed over a mis-labelled bottle of dipills.

    “Ah crap!” Seventy-Nine grimaced.

    “Exactly.” The Chiss could only shake his head at the memory. “You are only hearing about this now, sergeant, but I was on the first wave of the clean-up crew.”

    “Armand Isard. Isn’t he head of Imperial Intelligence?”

    “The very same. Speaking of which, I am popping over there to talk to Major Herritt. I want to find out more about Vader’s role in the Circarpous operation.”

    “You go sign out a Chariot, sir. I’ll have Beta meet you in the vehicle bay.”

    “Oh, I’ll be all right, sergeant.”

    ZTA-6479 stopped short of pointing out the sheer foolhardiness of a non-human striding confidently onto the Imperial Intelligence headquarters compound, but it was a struggle. “Think of him as an honour guard, sir.”

    “Honour guard? I don’t even have a command yet!”

    “And what are we,” Seventy-Nine rejoined, his tone sharp, “chopped Rokta fungus?”


    [​IMG]


    Set in even more opulent surroundings than the Imperial Academy, the Intelligence HQ was a low flat expanse of black duracrete covering square acres, fronted by large squares of shorn grassland, and water fountains. Most of the edifice was underground.

    An isolated landing pad was linked by a three-hundred metre wide, tree-lined boulevard.

    Thanks to Crueya Vandron, possibly the organisation’s most powerful critic, as evidenced by his creation of the rival ISB agency, this thoroughfare appeared on maps as the ironically named Espionage Avenue by.

    Director Isard had issued a complaint directly to the Emperor about this, on the grounds that it ‘gave the sodding game away’, but his Imperial Majesty had just laughed.

    Thrawn’s command speeder settled inside a yellow guide circle on the landing area. A flattish silver beetle-like affair, only anoracked speeder-spotters used the full designation: the Uulshos LAVr QH-7 Chariot.

    Imp’s generally just called them Chariots.

    A pair of armed Internal Security Branch officers ascended slatted steps onto the platform, and ran up to greet the visiting ship, only to bring up powerful energy weapons as Thrawn stepped out.

    The Chiss hid his amusement at the silly-looking chaps. They wore white semi-armour over dark green tunic and trousers, topped by what appeared to be inverted dinner plates

    “Here now,” drawled one in a thick brogue that could pass for Irish, his weathered face tanned but righteous, “you’ll be wanting to turn around. This isn’t the Alien Quarter.”

    Thrawn had never seen that section of the city, where the Empire segregated it’s non-human visitors, but he was pretty certain it wouldn’t look like this palatial compound. Besides, he was wearing Naval uniform, and had emerged from a military repulsor-craft. If it looks like a rycrit, and sounds like a rycrit, chances are, it’s a sodding-

    “Commander Thrawn here to see Major Herritt.” Thrawn asserted, straightening his grey tunic and advancing. “Please notify-” He stifled a pained cry as Brogue poked him hard in the gut with the barrel of his power-rifle.

    Surprised more than hurt, the Chiss staggered back, leaving an opening for a helmetted BTA-0113 to emerge from the speeder and crack the abusive guard across the face with the butt of his E-11, spinning it around with majorette-level skill to aim it towards the other guy as his colleague held his nose and crumpled slowly.

    “You IntSec boys need to learn not to mess with Naval officers.” Beta admonished over the sound of mumbled curses from the floor. “Now back the frag off and call Major Herritt.”

    “You broke by doze.” complained the one on the deck.

    The second guard raised a wrist-comlink , exaggerating the movements so he didn’t accidentally get shot. “Control. I need Major Herritt out here.”



    Other IntSec teams had arrived and surrounded the pad in a loose circle of men and vehicles, when Herritt turned up, hopping out of an open-air landspeeder and trotting up to Thrawn.

    “Good afternoon. Nice to see you again.” He greeted.

    Thrawn nodded back. “I have some questions regarding Lord-”

    “Can we talk inside?” The major interrupted, jerking his head towards the command speeder.

    “Of course.”

    Herritt accepted the Chiss officer’s invitation to precede him, and glared down at the gathered IntSec officers. “Stay.”

    Thrawn glanced at Beta, a twinkle in his crimson eyes as he repeating the command. “Stay.”

    The sandtrooper closed the speeder hatch, positioning himself in front of it. He might only be one person against the dozen or so Imperials, including a medic and the one he’d assaulted, but he ignored their stares just the same.



    “Okay, Commander. How can I help you?” Herritt was a no-nonsense individual. Thrawn liked that about him.

    “Governor Essada was talking to Lord Vader on his comm-screen when he was killed. We matched the time of death with the call logs. Vader has just returned from the Circarpous System, and last night, you mentioned that system in connection to the governor. I need to know more about what Vader was doing out there.”

    The two officers were sitting in the dark and cramped interior, squeezed between battle-assistance computers, whose lights provided the only illumination apart from the front window blister a few feet behind Herritt’s seat.

    The Intelligence operative leaned forward to bring his face closer to the Navy man’s.

    “Take some free advice, Commander. Try to work around the man. You don’t want to get on his bad side.”

    Thrawn remained impassive, sitting with his back straight as if he had a durasteel rod down the back of it. “He has been implicated as within the scope of my investigation, Major. I cannot ignore that.”

    “By which I’ll assume to mean that you don’t know him very well.”

    When the Chiss did not react one way or the other, Herritt said, “Vader visited Mimban in response to an encounter with possible Rebel terrorists at an Imperial mining facility. Princess Leia Organa, and a boy widely believed responsible for the destruction of the Death Star battle station.”

    “Whew.” Thrawn emphasised the exhalation as he sat back, the chair creaking in protest. The Navy had been hit very hard by the loss of the Death Star, so although it’s existence had been before his time, he had heard a lot about it.

    Herritt continued. “The facilities supervisor, Grammel, contacted the governor over a mineral query; Essada was a noted expert on jewels and crystals. The governor in turn called Vader, who immediately went to investigate.”

    “By the lack of dancing in the streets,” Thrawn correctly surmised, “I’m guessing Vader didn’t get his man?”

    “Uh huh. And the Emperor wasn’t best pleased with Vader’s account of things, even though he would have dressed it up to make himself look better. Possible that he didn’t want Essada’s report to worsen his situation.”

    Thrawn crossed his arms. “So that gives our boy motive. But what about opportunity?”

    “If Lord Vader was in comm-screen contact with Essada, he could murder him by remote.”

    The Chiss looked surprised. “What? How?”

    “Vader has some kind of telekinetic ability. Calls it The Force. He can move objects by just thinking about it, but he has to be able to see or visualise it to do so. If any of the Devastator bridge crew are willing to talk to you, they’ll confirm what I’m saying.”

    Thrawn cocked his head at the idea. “Or I could ask him directly.”

    Noooooo.” Herritt countered urgently, wagging a finger in warning before Thrawn's nose. “Don’t ever ask him to demonstrate it to you. I’ve already lost two agents that way. According to reports from my assets aboard the ship, his two favourite methods of execution are Jedi Mind Trick-”

    “Jedi!” Thrawn shot to his feet, swearing as his pate hit the low ceiling with a resounding crack. One hand to his wounded scalp, he used the other to guide him back to his seat. To Herrit's credit, the Major did not laugh. “I thought that the jedi had been exterminated.”

    “And so they have, but Vader is a Sith Lord, and apparently has many of the powers that the jedi were purported to possess.”

    “Apparently? Purported? You don’t sound very convincing, Major.”

    Herritt’s teeth ground with long concealed frustration. “We have witness statements, and a host of victims with whom, like Governor Essada, the Sith Lord had motive. We know he can move objects by force of will, and have captured the act on visual scanning devices, but no sensor can detect the influences that he is exerting. And as I said, my agents’ requests for a demonstration result in them being too deceased to report in. Autopsies revealed Vader’s other fave technique. Slow choking.”

    Rubbing the top of his head, Commander Thrawn considered what the Intelligence officer had told him.


    [blockquote]ME - Bin Essada, still very much alive, converses with the Sith Lord over the comm-screen in his apartment. The exchange turns heated, and Vader raises his open hand into view, slowly closing the distance between his thumb and fingertips, making a fist.


    Essada, several kilometres away, but linked by the communication device, begins to gag, his own hands reaching to his own neck in a futile bid to release the invisible grip on his windpipe. His brain thunders with the pressure of blood unable to leave it via the jugular vein. Increasingly ragged, breath is cut off. The Sith Lord is the last thing that the man sees, before his vision fades to black.[/blockquote]


    An eerie humming sound from high outside startled Thrawn back to reality. It is not his imagination, for the Chariot’s very skin reverberates with a sympathetic vibration.

    “What in the Original Light!” Thrawn exclaimed, reaching for the hatch control.

    Herritt stayed his arm, “Wait. I know that sound. Darktroopers.”

    Thrawn glanced back at his companion, and by chance there is sufficient light and the man is close enough that the Chiss can see an unaccustomed fear in his eyes. He put his intention to leave the vehicle on hold.

    “I’m listening.”

    “We should be safe in here. The Navy must be flexing its muscles; a show of strength for the attack on yourself. But to deploy darktroopers for such a trivial reason is foolhardy in the extreme.”

    Thrawn back inside, reaching over his associates shoulder to slap his hand along a series of yellow toggle switches.

    Herritt glanced that way, a grim smile lighting his features. “Ah, clever. Recording what is going on.”

    Strange sounds could be heard from outside, mysterious ones, as well as the familiar thumping of laser emplacements.

    As previously mentioned, it was quite dark inside the cramped speeder, but both men were adjusting. Still, any additional source of light, however small, would be instantly noticeable.
    Thrawn and Herritt snapped their gazes towards the driver’s station, as the control board, previously locked down, lit up in a glittering array of illuminated squares.

    The Chariot’s power plant thundered into life beneath and behind them, lifting the speeder off the platform, wheeling over (they tumbled to the floor), and shot towards the Academy.



    Thrawn was in a fine temper when the speeder finally settled, allowing him to shakily emerge into the vehicle bay he had departed just thirty minutes before, holding onto the door edge to keep himself upright on legs that were still firming up.

    He had to blink several times to adjust to the light, especially bright in comparison to the speeder interior. Behind him, Herritt too poked a head out.

    As Thrawn’s eyes adjusted, he noted the TMS team, plus a medical staff and a wheeled gurney waiting for him. The balding lead trooper was closest and got all of his attention.

    “Sergeant.”

    Seventy-Nine gave his boss the once over, then turned to wave off the medics.

    “Sorry for the drama, Commander. We didn’t know how badly you would be hurt. Beta set up a slaved escape on the drive system, so that if the situation got too hairy, we could extract you. Umm, what did happen?”

    Thrawn could only respond with a shrug. “Fragged if I know, Sergeant. I was interviewing the Major inside the Chariot, when, if his hearing is to be trusted, the Navy pulled down a blasterblaze in the middle of the Intell’ national park.”

    As they spoke, DLT-5921 joined Herritt in helping the armoured Beta slide off the vehicle’s roof, and onto the deck.

    “Beta, thanks for the save.” Thrawn commended warmly, clapping the shaken clone on the shoulder, his hand coming away wet with condensation, which he wiped onto the side of his own tunic. “Sign out another speeder and take the major wherever he wants to go.”

    Thrawn felt like he could use a drink, and a rest. This was more exertion and excitement than he had had in a long while. Nodding a farewell to Herritt, he waved vaguely towards the Chariot. “Sergeant, pull the sensor logs on that thing, and bring them to my office. Might be an idea to call Herritt’s department and apologise for kidnapping their officer.”



    The black padding of his chair massaged the tension from Thrawn’s shoulders as he settled back, letting the long draught of cold Ebla Beer settle in his gut.

    It might be mildly alcoholic for humans, but he was Chiss. It was no more intoxicating for him than a glass of water.

    He rubbed both thumbs into his temples in an attempt to marshal his thoughts.

    On the desk, an open clam-shell datapad showed what data he could dredge up on the Force phenomenon that Herritt had described, and on telekinesis. Beyond the desk, and to the left of the door, a spherical holographic projection repeated a grainy playback of the events over Espionage Avenue, while he had hidden inside the Chariot.

    A heavily-shielded brick-shaped craft had appeared just off the landing platform, Thrawn instantly identifying it as a Telgorn Corporation assault shuttle, similar to those used by Imperial Spacetroopers. Four circular hatches opened on the silver underside, beings clad in black armour dropping through to hover in the air.

    He assumed these to be the eponymous darktroopers.

    The camera view shook in response to an unseen vibration, but he had silenced the playback, so all was silent now.

    After a couple of viewings, the commander realised that this was merely a show of force, like a bird, the Imperial Navy showing off its brighter plumage as a threat to a rival. The Navy seeking to temper IntSec’s cocky attitude.

    The shuttle came with offensive weaponry, he knew. Taim and Bak KT6 blaster cannons, concussion missiles, power harpoons. If the Navy truly wanted to blow things up, the couple of laser-armed repulsor-jeeps that had screamed up to the landing platform would be little more than puddles of molten metal now.

    Still, he had seen energy bolts fired from the jeeps up at the Darktroopers, and those worthies had, what, retaliated?

    Thrawn continued massaging his temples, unable to comprehend what the recording showed. He looked down at the table surface, deep in thought.

    Vehicles tossed aside by an unseen hand, the metal crushed as if by a giant backhander. Certainly no tractor beam there; some other force. The Force?

    Thrawn face rose, his gaze intensifying. Something was not right here.

    Though he did not call it such a name, his internal Guano Detector had just been triggered.

    He’d had similar feelings during his time in the Chiss military. He didn’t think it added to his skills as a tactician, but he had relied on it to help him avoid enemy traps, feints and ambush techniques.

    Someone was manipulating him. Herritt had pretty much outlined a case against Darth Vader, highlighting him as someone capable of murdering the governor remotely.

    The Intelligence director hadn’t said anything about the Darktroopers, who appeared to wield some kind of telekinetic power, though apparently not with the same finesse as the Sith Lord, though the recording showed just the one incident..

    One could have hovered outside the Essada’s window, choked him, covered him with the Flameout drink, and shot a laser though the window. Only thing wrong with that idea was that Essada had been facing the wrong way; witnesses had seen a shot fired, and to be close enough for that they would have had to be in an adjacent building, or in one of the slow traffic lanes. Either way, they would have remembered seeing the darktrooper if indeed one had been present.

    True, witnesses could have lied, but then why make the report in the first place.

    And then there was the Emperor. Herritt had made no mention of Palpatine possessing Force powers, but Thrawn was willing to bet a cargo of life crystals that Intelligence analysts had at least theorised the idea. No way could his Imperial Majesty hope to control Vader if the latter was indeed that powerful. Not unless the Supreme Dark Ruler was also a Force Sensitive .

    The thing that bugged Thrawn and revealed the manipulation was the Navy showing up with darktroopers when they did. Could have been bad judgement, or someone in authority wanted to muddy the waters around Vader a bit.

    He reached for the communicator on his desk. “Sergeant? Thrawn. My office please.”

    When that worthy arrived, the Commander filled him in on Herritt’s information, and allowed him to watch the recordings from the Chariot. At the end, silence reigned for a couple moments as both men gathered their thoughts.

    “Sergeant, I pulled Vader’s file.” Thrawn had expected his search to be disappointing, that it would be classified too highly for someone like himself to read. However, in assigning him this case, the Emperor had apparently ensured that the Chiss tactician had a free hand.

    “Sir.”

    “Says he was instrumental in sponsoring your TMS unit.”

    Seventy-Nine nodded, displaying reluctance, but apparently not ashamed of the link.

    Thrawn stared at his subordinate. “You have history with the Sith Lord. If we have to move on him, will there be a problem.”

    Seventy-Nine left his chair, and stood to attention. “Commander,” he intoned rigidly, “We serve the Emperor’s will by following your orders. There will be no problem.”

    “Thank you, Sergeant.” He had half expected this. Though he knew that a stormtrooper’s loyalty to the Emperor to be inviolable, he had thought he might have to seek help from the ISB. They served enough of a police function to arrest the Sith Lord if need be. He nodded to the unyielding figure before him. “Sit down, sergeant.”

    “Thank you, sir.”

    “Right, thanks to Herritt, we have a case against the Sith Lord. We know he had motive, or at least a suggestion of one. Circumstantial evidence exists, such as the communicator on Essada’s wall being linked to the Devastator at the time of death, and Vader’s alleged telekinetic skills-”

    “Not alleged, sir. My team have witnessed his use of the Force. That part is for real.”

    Thrawn nodded once. “As I was saying, our knowledge of Vader’s telekinetic skills suggest he could have choked the governor, manoeuvre objects within Essada’s apartment to cover up the crime, then deactivate the comm-screen remotely.”

    The commander stood, pushing his chair back and placing both fists on the desk surface so he could glare down at Seventy-Nine. “I want to be sure we are not making a mistake here. Your team is to find any flaws in our case and try to determine why it could not have been Darth Vader who did this.”



    Emperor Palpatine enjoyed the existence of many throne rooms. Not even counting one on all significant capital ships, there were several on Coruscant, and three within the Imperial Palace.

    His most technological was deep in an armoured bunker and might as well be subterranean for the scale of the isolation it possessed.

    Around and above the throne, suspended from the black light-absorbing walls of the near circular hall that housed it, numerous squares of light displayed holocasts from around the galaxy, and a holograph device projected a swirling wheel of light, a perfect representation of His Empire. He could focus his Force senses on parts of that simulcrum, and determine what was going on there.

    He never received visitors there, not even his loyal servant, the Sith Lord, Vader.

    The second throne room was a more austere affair, just three large screens before his throne, leaving plenty of room for him to receive his advisors, Lord Vader, and representations from his military and intelligence forces, as well as carefully vetted civilians.

    The servant he had corrupted from the ranks of the jedi so long before, knelt before him now, polluting the glorious silence with his laboured, and automated, breathing.

    Careful not to allow Vader to sense how he felt, Palpatine was jittery with excitement, eager to see how his little project would resolve itself.

    Even now, he felt the palace so completely that it was like part of his own body, the people going about their business along the corridors feeling like microscopic blood cells traversing his own veins.

    Such was the fashion that he detected the approach of his visitors. He issued mental commands to his troop of Royal Guards to let them pass unhindered.

    The scarlet-clad soldiers did not have to be psionically enhanced themselves to ‘hear’ his instructions. Nor would they consciously recognise that he had issued the orders. The idea would pop into their heads as if they had originated it, but would instinctively recognise it as their master’s will.



    Light from one of the large screens reflected off the dome of Vader’s bowed black helmet, the Sith Lord kneeling motionless before his anxious master.

    Showtime.

    The double doors two hundred metres from the throne opened, a pair of sandtroopers preventing them from banging against the doorstops, and aiming their E-11 blaster carbines towards the kneeling figure at the centre of the room.

    A beat, then Commander Thrawn, ZTA-6479 and Maria swept between the pair and moved closer, making no noise on their approach. At the halfway mark, Maria dropped to one knee and raised her own blaster to eye level, aiming along the scope towards Vader’s helmet.

    Momentarily captivated by her bare knee below the hem of the black skirt and above her white-rimmed black kneeboot, Palpatine forgot all about Thrawn till he was close enough to touch. In actual fact, if he leaned forward any more, he’d fall out the throne, but at least Thrawn would be close enough to catch him.

    Thrawn nodded, “If it pleases the Emperor.”

    Palpatine waved a gnarled yellowing hand in acquiescence. “Pro-ceed, Commander.” He wheezed, a malignant-sounding tone.

    Thrawn nodded back to Seventy-Nine, who approached the now standing Sith Lord, grabbing a wrist and pulling it around the being's back, he brought up a pair of force cuffs, thick metal circlets that would be linked by by a mini tractor beam when around a suspect’s wrists.

    “Lord Vader,” Thrawn explained as loudly as necessary, “we are holding you in connection with the death of Imperial Governor Bin Essada.”

    You've got nothing on me, copper.” Vader rumbled.

    Thrawn and Seventy-Nine exchanged glances. The officer was thinking that this was way too easy, the Dark Lord too easy-going; and the non-com was grimacing behind his visor, just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    “Essada was in a comm-call to you at the time of his death, and your Force abilities gave you the means to kill him.”

    Vader shook his head. “That all you got? Comm logs can be altered, you know? I been set up.

    “We thought you would say that.” Thrawn confirmed, looking on as Seventy-Nine secured Vader’s other wrist. “We subpeona’ed your Communications Officer aboard the Devastator. He corroborated our findings.”

    The Sith Lord apparently had no answer to that, and allowed the shorter soldier to manoeuvre him towards the exit.

    Palpatine clapped loudly, attracting everyone’s attention. “Cut! That’s a wrap.

    Thrawn looked over, wondering what was about to transpire.

    The Emperor grinned back, rapping out instructions and quick praise. “Well done, Commander Thrawn. A masterful investigation. Please wait there.” A gnarled finger pointed Vader’s way, and the binders opened and dropped onto the black marble. “You won’t be needing those, my friend. Thank you for playing along. Sergeant, please wait outside with the rest of your team. You are to be commended also.

    Troopers and Sith Lord bowed respectfully, and retreated swiftly, holstering weapons where appropriate. Eventually, the Chiss and the Emperor were alone in the throne room.

    Pull up a chair, Commander.

    Thrawn glanced about him, but if there was a seat nearby, it was shrouded in darkness. There was a bump against his left calf, as a simple swivel chair arrived, Force summoned from several metres away.

    It had grey padding and lacked armrests. Thrawn sat below and to the left of the throne, whilst the Emperor directed his attention towards one of the square screens, fully three metres in height, and half again in width.

    Lists of numbers accompanied by a city or planet name scrolled past, meaning nothing to the humanoid, probably something to Palpatine.

    Then the screen changed, becoming pictorial in nature. Against the dimming gold of dusk, a far view of a Coruscant skyline punctuated with spires and skyscrapers.

    As if the camera operator was airborne, the view appeared to swoop in, expanding one portion of the scene. It continued to expand, until the flat top of one building came into view, showing five figures frozen in time.

    Naturally, he recognised himself first, then the rest of the TMS-1 team. He had never ventured atop a skyscraper before, so he figured the images had been composited there artificially, but by then, accompanied by rousing music, their names flashed past and the film entered what looked like an edited version of the Essada investigation he had been doing, shots from cameras across the city, him and his subordinates talking, exchanging ideas, following the case step by step.

    He had been under surveillance the whole time, but, Thrawn considered, this didn’t look like a documentary of real life events. No effort had been spared to make this hour-long movie look like a slick piece of detective fiction, with very high production values.

    Good, isn’t it?” Palpatine enthused, “Something for me to watch when planning galactic government becomes too much. Although you shall continue your training with the best tactical minds in the Imperial Navy, you will also investigate crimes at my behest. They will be recorded, and used for my entertainment, but that will not matter to you.

    Thrawn, his eyes suddenly glazed, repeated, “That will not matter to me.”

    The Supreme Dark Ruler smiled. “Excellent. Dismissed, Commander.



    THE END
     
  2. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Here from the R/R Tag Challenge, but this was on my to-read list for this weekend, either way - because it's remarkably different from pretty much anything. :) Your Ian Fleming and overall James Bond franchise influences can be spotted everywhere, throughout the piece and that gives it a distinctive flavour - even though your Thrawn is a potty-mouthed Sherlock Holmes/Hercule Poirot type here.

    I'm writing notes as I'm reading and *not* going back to edit them, as this is a murder story. And I am asking other readers to stop reading in order for their surprise not to be ruined, as they should be making their own conclusions here.

    The depiction of the Emperor, even though we're seeing it only from Thrawn's point of a view, is pretty accurate. I can almost hear the wheezing. While I don't know if the name he gave Thrawn here, Clever Cogs, is legends-canon or not, it surely implies both a certain amount of respect and certain amount of lack of respect. Clever, clever, clever.


    the surveillance net over the population is so tight it makes a mynock’s back passage look porous - HA! Can I, please, steal this?

    illegally hovering vehicle - This is a nice touch, too!


    she simply had the arm and torso armour only, over a short black dress cinched at the hips with a standard-issue equipment belt - This would not work, vampire or not; but I guess you're more than aware of that and that she's from a different world all together, anyway. :p Would definitely like to read more about these Force vampires at some point!

    The idea of Stormtroopers reading Bluffers Guide to Forensic Science is somewhat funny, too.

    I feel for Maria having to touch and smell that charred body. Yuck!

    The idea of the Empire allowing only one wine to be distributed is oddly specific and makes me wonder if that wine is used to quickly dispose of people, due to its being highly flammable. Given that the subject was dead before getting shot, freaky ideas of the wine accelerating some sort of spontaneous combustion come to my mind.

    For some reason, I cannot picture Thrawn swearing. *shrug*

    And wait, the subject was killed a total of three times? This is such a mindfrag.

    “Voice box,” she continued, “the trachea, all the little bones and cartilage in the neck, as if sqeezed by a tremendous force.” - Wait, what? This makes me think that the whole thing was set up as a test...with somebody who typically does Force-choking carrying it out for the Emperor.

    “Better than that, Commander. We have a person. Lord Vader.” - OK, I was right.

    But wait, the flammable liquor was stronger than plain wine. So, while Vader did this, Isard's guys wanted to make it look like THEY did it.

    Herritt continued. “The facilities supervisor, Grammel, contacted the governor over a mineral query; Essada was a noted expert on jewels and crystals. The governor in turn called Vader, who immediately went to investigate." - A tie-in with the novel vaguely referenced in the beginning? Niiice.

    I like the idea of people working for the Emperor not being aware of the Force at all, through the Imperial propaganda, even though they're supposed to know everything, given what department they work in. EEEK. Thrawn is a chess master himself, but at this point in life, ol' Palps is KILLING HIM AT IT.

    I like the parts in italic. I assume that's the original investigation?

    An assassination attempt on Thrawn? Sure the ISB has their own motives...eeek.

    I can see that Thrawn is coming to the conclusion that the Emperor is manipulating everybody below him - perhaps including Vader, too.

    I cannot see Vader saying "I been", as he is pretty verbose and that sounds like slang, almosg ghetto... I guess that was typo.

    HA. The Emperor set up Vader and has ISB edit the footage to test Thrawn! I knew it! And I enjoyed it, though knowing that Vader was taunted after the events of A New Hope, I feel a tiny bit sorry for him.

    Loved it. Loved every second of it, even with the gore and language used. I guess that's what happens when Milky Way and the GFFA collide, anyway. ;) Thanks for reposting it!

    P.S. How is this Before when it most certainly takes place between Episodes IV and V? I assume that was an error of sorts, but otherwise, I don't think I have any criticism, whatsoever, apart from a misspelling of the word "propaganda" earlier in the text, "Rokta" fungus as opposed to "rokna" and an extra apostrophe in "it’s brighter plumage".
     
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  3. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 14, 2002
    Ewok Poet, thank you, thank you.

    This is by far the longest review I have ever had on something of mine.

    Good point on the tag. If it references Splinter of the Mind's Eye, it has to be between IV and V. I wasn't thinking of that, I was going by Thrawn's early years, but I shall correct that.

    So, starting with the easiest things to answer:

    The italics are an attempt to represent a special effects sequence that the CSI television shows do, eg. the scientists theorise that someone was shot, and then there is a slow motion computer-generated representation for few seconds, of a bullet hitting a body and shattering bones - I can give you a link on Youtube, if you like.

    It's from old-style police shows, possibly caricatures since I wasn't around back then. Like black-and-white film star James Cagney on top of a gas installation, trapped by police, shouting down to them, "You'll never take me alive, Copper."

    Back in 2003, these references were more familiar to me.

    While my main OC is a Force Vampire, the vampires that Maria hunted were from right here on Earth. The very first Monster Squad story involved a normal sandtrooper unit forcing their way onto an experimental Imperial shuttle to go down to Tatooine, but ending up in Transylvania. Also, women of her time were forced to wear whalebone corsets, so compared to that, she is totally fine with her Imperial gear.

    I think it was supposed to look like Essada was choked, and the body burned to conceal the crime, with the shot through the window igniting the accelerant.

    Thank you. I was trying very hard to convey his essence, so it is gratifying to learn that I succeeded.

    Sorry about Thrawn swearing. I had to look for it after you mentioned it.

    :D

    I love that you loved it, and it is very special to me that you have told me. [:D]

    Sorry again about the language.

    I shall check on the two mis-spellings, but will keep the "Rokta" fungus, because that was probably a thing, back in 2003; or I may have made it up, and "Rokna" exists separately. It's a big galaxy.


    You may of course use any phrases or terms you read in this piece. Not the Monster Squad though, as I have a coherent timeline for them through several stories and RPs. I want to bring them into TFA too.
     
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  4. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    I was planning to leave a long review here, but given the way my day went and how I expect the coming days to go, I'd rather leave a short one than none at all.

    What I really enjoyed in this story (besides the fact that newbie!Thrawn blundering along in the Imperial hierarchy is just too good to miss) is the fact that, despite the clear crack!fic elements, this feels so totally like something Palpatine would do. I've always imagined him as someone who is mildly voyeuristic and who enjoys tormenting his subordinates on small things, just because he can do it. He tested Thrawn's skills, but he also tested his will to obey, and then he threw in a mind trick for good measure. This was immensely fun!
     
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  5. Lady_Misty

    Lady_Misty Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 21, 2007
    At first the terms and phrasing was odd but hey, a fun read and if it was all an act, the last part than some of the odd words fit; especially if this one way Sidious gets his kicks and giggles.


    Sent from my iPod touch using Tapatalk
     
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