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Beyond - Legends Legends - Imperial Schism, Volume I: Gauntlet

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by thedarkbeckons, Nov 8, 2014.

  1. thedarkbeckons

    thedarkbeckons Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2013
    Title: Imperial Schism, Volume 1: GAUNTLET
    Author: thedarkbeckons
    Genre: War, Drama, Suspense
    Characters: Original Trilogy Heroes
    Summary: The time is very early 5 ABY. The Rebel Alliance, reformed as a fledgeling New Republic, has stormed the galaxy in the year since their victory at Endor. Planets and systems have flocked to the cause, setting off-balance an already-reeling Imperial remnant. Several key players have emerged to claim the once-great Palpatine's throne, but political infighting has led to factions and the threat of civil war. The galaxy stands on a razor's edge, with everything to lose...
    Author's Notes: This potentially very long fanfic is based on the juvenile Jedi Prince series, odd not only in its content but because elements of it have always been considered a part of the Star Wars Legends universe while other pieces have been rejected outright. I started this project as an attempt to make sense of some of the jumbled timeline immediately following Episode VI: Return of the Jedi as well as foreshadow Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, and the X-Wing series. Much research has been done to ensure that the fanfic falls within Legends and continues that calibur of work; however, there will still be many kinks to work out as time goes on. Come with me, take your first steps into a larger fan-made Expanded Universe...

    PROLOGUE
    An Empire Divided



    The Imperial-class Star Destroyer Trenchant drifted, surrounded with emptiness shot through by millions of pinpricks of light. The white dagger-shaped prow of the enormous battlewagon stood out against the blackness of deep space like a rancor in the streets of Imperial Center. To most of those enrolled in the Imperial Navy, normally the sight would strike a majestic chord of triumph inside them. For Colonel Maarek Stele, however, the specter of his command ship did little more than convey a vague sense of foreboding. Almost as if the Trenchantwere a predator waiting for the precise moment to snare its prey.

    Albeit rather unnerving, the vision wasn’t too far from the truth.

    Maarek tightened his grip on the control stick of his TIE Defender, keeping his squadron’s patrol pattern reeled in close to the hyperspace navigational buoy. As an ace Imperial pilot and one-time Emperor’s Reach, he had commanded many of these hit-and-fade missions, but none so critical to the Empire’s survival. The success of this mission was directly tied to the retaking of Gyndine, a key world that, once under Imperial control, would tear open the so-called New Republic’s flank to a full-scale assault.

    Abruptly, five klicks off to Maarek’s starboard, a small fleet of medium transports, modified Corellian corvettes and one Escort Carrier flashed into realspace.

    Right on time, he thought as he brought his fighter around. His wingmen appeared behind him in perfect attack formation just as he activated his comm channel. “Shade Squadron, this is Shade One. Commence attack.”

    No sooner had he completed his command than the fighters began shearing off in groups of two on various vectors. The squadron had its movements down to a micron, which was as it should be. They only had minutes before the convoy continued their jump into lightspeed. Regretfully, all of their task force’s Interdictors were employed in the blockade of Gyndine itself, preventing ships from leaving the system. But these cargo vessels were trying to get insystem, to deliver supplies and munitions to the Rebels on the planet’s surface. If the convoy succeeded, the siege could become an impasse, at least until the New Republic could show up with a task force of their own. Without question, that outcome would be entirely unacceptable.

    And so it was up to Shade Squadron to make the outcome certain.

    Maarek toggled his ion cannons, as his lone wingman let several proton torpedoes fly into the nearest corvette. Once the torps had demolished the shields, Stele depressed the firing stud, lancing energy into the cruiser and rendering it disabled.

    “Nice job, Major,” he called to his wingman, Ross Vernan. They had only taken minimal flak, and the TIE Defender’s own shields had handled it nicely. He directed Vernan to target a medium transport that had managed to slip through the others’ attacks.

    The comm pinged with a transmission from the Trenchant. “Watch yourselves, Shades. That Escort Carrier’s launching fighters.”

    Maarek shifted strategies as easily as a crystal snake could shed its invisible skin. He acknowledged the Trenchant, then informed his wingman of the change of plans. “Shade Two, continue your attack, I’m going after the carrier.”

    Vernan radioed an affirmative. Maarek broke off and bolted for the center of the opposing formation, where the Escort Carrier was nestled in the protective fire of the corvettes. The enemy starfighters were stripped-down BTL-B Y-wings from the Clone Wars, certainly no match for Shade Squadron’s TIE Defenders; even so, they just might be enough to distract the Shades until the remainder of the convoy could jump into hyperspace. That was evidently what the Rebels were hoping for.

    To most any solitary pilot, an Escort Carrier surrounded by fighters would seem indomitable. But Maarek Stele’s long and illustrious career had taught him something very useful about the ESCs: they had a weak spot.

    Mainly designed to be a flying hangar, the Escort Carrier’s blocky frame had fairly good defense and armor, as it was supposed to bear the brunt of most major attacks. But on either side of the ship, there was only one turbolaser. Thus, if that turbolaser were destroyed, a small starfighter could drift right up to the ship and destroy it at leisure.

    But that particular stratagem wouldn’t work this time around. The Y-wings were still too close; they would pick him off easily. So Maarek decided to try a different tack.

    He purposefully attracted the attention of one of the Y-wings, practically dangling himself in front of the other fighter’s laser cannons. As expected, a salvo struck home, but the shields held. Gripping his control stick, Maarek jerked his Defender into a roll, while simultaneously releasing smoke from a canister in the rear to make it appear that he was badly damaged. The Y-wing stayed on his trail.

    Things were shaping up nicely. Maarek redirected his “uncontrolled” spin towards the Escort Carrier. He was now taking fire from the Y-wing behind, the corvettes to either side, and the ESC’s single port turbolaser ahead. Closing his eyes, he recalled his training in the Secret Order; none of the laser fire touched him.

    Remaining in the Force, Maarek felt his ship closing quickly on the ESC, coerced the Y-wing’s steering system to fail. At the last possible second, he released a pair of torpedoes and hauled back on the control stick, missing the hull by bare centimeters. Behind him, the Y-wing, too sluggish to break off even if its steering had come back on line, crashed full-bore into the side of the already-weakened Escort Carrier. The crash ruptured a fuel cell, which in turn ripped the carrier in half and annihilated all of the remaining docked starfighters in a spectacular explosion.

    Shade 1, primary target has been destroyed, read Maarek's objective list.Proceed to secondary target.
    Before he could do so, green laser bolts of destruction lanced out of nowhere to slam into his starboard solar energy array. Instinctively gripping his stick, he pulled his TIE Defender around into a backwards loop, bringing him onto a nearly-parallel vector opposite that of his attacker. The shields had held, but just barely.

    He only had a brief glimpse of the other ship, but he could still make it out.

    It was a TIE Defender. One of his own.

    Now aware of the threat, he trained his ship's limited scanners on the opposing TIE as he banked for another pass. His HUD tagged the blip as Shade 2.

    Maarek toggled a private channel. “Major Vernan, stand down now or be fired upon.” The only reply he received was a volley of fire as their courses met a second time. Maarek jinked to port, avoiding the Tibanna-charged beams.

    Maarek shoved his feelings and questions away and fell once more into the Force as he activated and linked the tertiary ion cannons mounted on the underside of the TIE Defender’s fuselage. He didn't want Vernan dead; he wanted answers.

    This time, as they faced each other, closing fast, Maarek unleashed the ion blasts just as their ships met. A subtle juke into Vernan's wing sent them both into a spin, and as anticipated, Maarek continued to fire, holding down the stud and hitting his opponent at every spin. Maarek sighed, pulling out of the Force trance as he stopped his ship's wobbly rotation.

    Vernan's ship continued spinning, as it was devoid of any working electrical systems, including life support. The ions had done their work, and if they didn't get a shuttle out soon, Vernan would be quite literally dead in space.

    “Shade 1 to Trenchant control, I need a transport down here immediately. Shade 2 requires evac—”

    He was interrupted as the gyrating TIE in his sights abruptly blew itself apart.Thermal detonator, Maarek thought grimly. He had hoped to talk with Vernan, not only for answers but because the betrayal hurt. They had worked together since just after the battle of Endor. All hope for intelligence wasn't lost on Vernan's death, however; it was easy to track through ship's surveillance from the last few months for anything suspicious. Though it was unlikely that anything would be found or it would have been flagged already.

    “Cancel that order, Trenchant control.”

    Looking around, Maarek realized it was all over. The rest of the corvettes and transports had been neutralized, leaving only a few Y-wings to finish mopping up. The Empire had, in effect, taken the entire planet of Gyndine in a matter of minutes, with almost no losses.
    But victory didn’t comfort him as it usually had.

    Trenchant was hailing him on a secure channel. “Shade One here.”

    “Your methods are to be commended, Colonel Stele,” a sharp nasal voice broke into the static. Maarek recognized it as belonging to Renfeld Tinir, captain of the Trenchant. He was an older man, well experienced in the war, if not a master strategist. He was, in general, very stern, but he knew to give compliments when they were deserved. It was about his only redeeming quality. “The Emperor would have been proud. I offer my condolences for your wingman, and assure you, we shall get to the bottom of this. Surveillance officers are already scanning our footage.”

    “Thank you, sir,” Maarek said simply. “I respectfully request that you keep me apprised of the situation.”

    “To be sure, Colonel. Surveillance shall have an update by the time you return aboard. Call your squadron back to the hangar.”

    The transmission ended, leaving the words would have been echoing plaintively in his mind. It was now a year since the Emperor’s untimely death, but he was convinced that the feelings and memories from that moment would never go away. He did his best to forget the pain and the sense of bereavement, but they were always there, skulking in the back of his mind.

    He had continued to serve the Empire in memory of his Emperor, but much had changed. After Palpatine’s death, the Imperial warlords and moffs had all scrambled to gain control of as much as they could, as quickly as they could. It was an internal feud that was still going on, though it had settled a little with the rise of Ysanne Isard on Imperial Center. Though it was still entirely possible that Major Vernan had been paid off by a rival Imperial faction.

    The prospect sickened Maarek. If the Empire had concentrated all its power on crushing the Rebellion for its heinous acts right from the start, they would have won. But because of the power-hungry nature of the principal Imperial leaders, the Rebellion had been able to gain a much larger foothold in the galaxy. And more than a foothold; their fledgeling New Republic had just recently taken Chandrila and its surrounding systems, and from there it was only a short distance to Coruscant, Imperial Center itself.

    Maarek knew one thing for certain: if the Imperial hierarchy did not reorganize itself under a single rule in the near future, the Rebel Alliance would finally triumph and the Empire would be no more.

    A sickening prospect, indeed.

    “Shade Squadron, reel it in. We're all done here.”
     
    Kahara likes this.
  2. Kahara

    Kahara Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Nice start! The space battle was suspenseful and easy to follow, which is always good. Steele's right to be worried -- it could be that Vernan decided to side with the New Republic, but somehow I doubt it's that simple. It was an awfully convenient explosion and now there's no one to tell tales...

    [face_laugh] Liked his thoughts on the general.

    Based on what I know of his history (not much, but I've run across him in research before) this seems in-character. Steele's natural focus is on the here and now, but still includes some tidbits of personality and backstory.
     
    thedarkbeckons likes this.
  3. thedarkbeckons

    thedarkbeckons Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2013
    Thanks so much for your comment! This is my first serious excursion into fanfiction, so I'm still kind of finding my feet. The plus side about having no more Legends is that what's out there is out there, and a well-researched fanfic is very likely to never be negated by official material.

    This project is essentially an in-depth retelling of "The Glove of Darth Vader" miniseries, that hopefully will fit seamlessly into the Legends universe, in addition to setting up events in Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor. A few appearances by Grand Admiral Thrawn and some interesting twists on Han Solo's character will be the highlights.

    I don't know if you've ever played the older LucasArts game TIE FIGHTER, but Maarek Stele is the protagonist, and traces his rise from lowly cadet to Emperor's Reach. The game is actually what provided the impetus for much of this scene--not only the character, but in game strategies (battle vs the ESC) and controls (toggles, power management, linking cannons) are used in the above scene quite often. In addition, the game gives a lot of insight into the Imperial war machine, which is helpful no matter what you're writing! They just rereleased it to run on modern computers if you're interested: http://www.gog.com/game/star_wars_tie_fighter_special_edition <Best $10 you'll ever spend!
     
    Kahara likes this.
  4. thedarkbeckons

    thedarkbeckons Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2013
    ONE (1/2)
    Arcane Dealings



    Light-years away, on the very borders of known space beyond the Hydian, Grand Moff Ardus Kaine stood on the bridge of his Super Star Destroyer Reaper. His slate-grey eyes stared, unblinking, out the forward viewport, taking in the vista of the greenish planetoid below. A small, insignificant globe, and the only planet in its system, 92-7138.12 had yet to even rise in status from a number to a name. Kaine estimated that it would take decades before that happened, and even longer until any scientists dared to intrude with their intruments. In addition to being on the edge of the Unknown Regions, the planet’s atmosphere was extremely volatile when concerning any type of electronic pulse.

    The deserted and explosive natures of the system made it a perfect place for a clandestine meeting, he thought.

    As if on cue, another massive ship decanted from hyperspace, sliding right into planetary orbit opposite the Reaper. Kaine’s eyebrows arched; he was surprised to note that it, too, was a Super Star Destroyer, though of a rarer design than the Executor-class to which the Reaper belonged. Its characteristic wedge shape was much more slender, with the interesting feature that its bridge was more or less built into the hull of the stern itself for protection. Also unlike the Executor-class, it had black armor plating, rendering it nearly invisible against a starfield.

    The tactical officer alerted the crew of the dreadnought’s arrival, adding that its transponder tags identified it as the Vengeance. Across the way, in the starboard crew pit, the communications officer spoke up. “They’re hailing us, sir.”

    In reply, the Grand Moff turned from the viewport and strode back up the command walkway to stand by the captain of the Reaper, Virgil Markarth. He reached up to smooth his greying hair back into place. “Captain, put the transmission through. Holographic projection.”

    Markarth nodded once, being a man of few words. The communications officer adjusted a few things on his control board and flipped the switch.

    The hologram congealed into existence before Kaine like some kind of ghostly phantom, a specter of a very tall, mildly heavyset man. Shot through with blue, the image was no less frightening because of it. He was dressed all in black, with the exception of red pauldrons covering both his shoulders. He was bald, with dark tattoos dropping from the corners of his mouth to below his chin. Across his eyes was placed a singular strip of black leather, similar to a blindfold but much more elaborate.

    The man had aged since they had last met, though the war-frought years had treated him far better than they had Kaine. Apart from those few wrinkles and sags, Lord Jerec was unchanged. Even with the unfortunate inconvenience of being blind since birth, it was obvious that he could see his entire surroundings. He seemed almost to lock eyes with Kaine in a penetrating, nonexistent stare.

    Kaine straightened his posture and clasped his hands behind his back, in an attempt to rid himself of the eerie feeling of being examined by a blind man. “Inquisitor Jerec, I’m pleased you decided to meet with me. It’s been far too long.”

    “Let me make something quite clear,” Jerec answered steadily, his low, grating voice filled with a good measure of malice. “I am not here to please you. Neither am I any longer an Inquisitor.”

    Kaine seemed to notice, as if for the first time, the lightsaber hanging from the man’s belt. A reminder that even a former Imperial Inquisitor was not to be trifled with. “All the same, I think what I have to propose will benefit both of us immeasurably.”

    “That remains to be seen. Your previous ventures were not so... lucrative.”

    Kaine winced. Through offering resources to help Jerec hunt down a Rebel enclave, Kaine had inadvertently warned the Rebels of the attack. Even worse, one of the last surviving Jedi was rumored to have been the Rebel commander. This had severely tarnished Jerec’s reputation with the Emperor, not a kindly position to be in. Jerec, with the aid of the alien warlord Thrawn, had soon after wiped out another Rebel cell stationed on the moon of Sullust, thereby cooling the Emperor’s wrath and bringing Jerec back into his good graces.

    However, it would appear that Dark Jedi hold on to their grudges for a very long time. Kaine would have to tread lightly.

    “Times are different now, my lord Jerec,” Kaine continued, steering the conversation away from the past. “You will not regret this meeting. We are ready to receive you onboard the Reaper whenever you wish.”

    Jerec bared his teeth in a snarl. “Oh no, my dear Grand Moff. Your men sought me out. If you wish to speak to me, it will have to be on my terms.” He paused a second, then said in a tone as cold and heartless as vacuum, “The Vengeance is waiting for you, Ardus Kaine.”

    The transmission fell silent, leaving the Grand Moff to consider yet again whether contacting Jerec had been a wise decision or not. The Central Committee of Grand Moffs, of which Kaine was a part, would certainly have frowned on the rendezvous. But he no longer cared. The CCGF was, on the whole, simply a collection of stupid, aged profiteers with absolutely no vision for the Empire’s continued survival and eventual resurgence.

    But Kaine had recognized something crucial, something his peers had overlooked: Without a charismatic, wise leader such as Palpatine, the Empire would inevitably fall to the New Republic. It was unavoidable.

    Ysanne Isard had promise, but Kaine doubted she would be able to hold a galaxy-wide dictatorship in her grip the way her predecessor had. Even if she were able to unite the various factions, she had no focus, only hatred for the Rebellion. For the present, she would buoy the Empire up, but in the long run, the Empire would still come to ruin at her hands.

    Another plan was needed, a backup that would need to be in place when the Imperial warmongers finally realized that survival was the only choice left to them. Kaine had brought the matter before his fellow Moffs on the Committee, but his concerns had been dismissed out of hand in favor of placing a new leader on the throne, in opposition to Isard.

    The conclusion was obvious: Kaine desperately required the assistance of Lord Jerec in the fulfillment of his goals. Kaine knew his actions would eventually cost him his seat among the Moffs, but he was determined to ride the fence as long as he could.

    The Empire’s survival might very well depend on it.

    A quarter of an hour later, Kaine’s reluctant entourage arrived aboard the Vengeance in a Lambda-class shuttle escorted by a flight of TIE Advanced starfighters. Accompanied by a female aide, Kaine strode down the ramp into the hangar, expecting an honor guard of stormtroopers as was customary. Instead, staring down at him was a single male Boltrunian, a hulking humanoid species known for their ridged, scarred appearance and harsh disposition. In any other circumstance, Kaine would have taken offense; the use of such a creature to welcome an Imperial Grand Moff was an outright insult.

    In this instance, Kaine realized, he would do well to keep his tongue firmly behind his teeth. So Jerec had decided to do away with many traditional Imperial protocols. That was relatively unsurprising; the Inquisitorius had always done as they would, answerable only to the Emperor. In any event, the old ways of Palpatine’s New Order hardly mattered anymore, certainly not to Kaine.

    The man was, after all, dead.

    “I am Maw,” the creature said through the fangs protruding from his lower jaw. He fingered the lightsaber hilt clipped to his belt like it was a chained vornskr, straining to be let loose to work its carnage. “You will follow me.” He turned and walked away.

    Kaine and his aide followed.

    He assumed Maw to be one of the group of Dark Jedi Jerec had surrounded himself with of late. The Imperial Datacenter on Kaine’s homeworld of Sartinaynian, codenamed Bastion, had had surprisingly little current data on Jerec, at least the tier to which Kaine had access. His men had searched for months before finding any trace of the Dark Jedi. Kaine wondered what Jerec had been up to, being so completely and consistently off the records for that long.

    Kaine glanced behind him at his aide, Sara, an auburn-haired human female of about twenty-five that had come under his authority less than a year ago. She carried a datapad and wore a grey uniform similar to the standard bridge officer’s, minus the rank bars. Like Palpatine, Kaine believed that women had no place in a militant Empire, but they could be an essential part of managing the Empire’s material and bureaucratic interests. Especially if those women were pleasing to the eye. Sara was a prize indeed, for she neither lacked in physical beauty nor mental acuity.

    Maw led them through the unexpectedly empty grey halls of the Vengeance. Strangely, not even a stormtrooper was to be seen in the deserted corridors. Finally Maw halted beside a meters-high gate made of ebony with crimson designs. The doors swung slowly and silently open, seemingly of their own accord.

    Maw gestured for Kaine and his aide to enter. They did so, the alien following them in. Once inside, the gate closed with an echoing rumble.
     
  5. thedarkbeckons

    thedarkbeckons Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2013
    ONE (2/2)
    Arcane Dealings



    The chamber within was incredibly tall, nearly twice the height of the gate that opened upon it. The entire height of the wall opposite Kaine was split in two by a single enormous pane of transparisteel, offering an enchanting view of 92-7138.12 from high orbit. A long, hexagonal conference table likewise divided the floor, surrounded by a group of hard, angular chairs. And at the end of the table, in the largest chair of all, sat Lord Jerec.

    Jerec sensed, more than saw, Kaine’s entrance. Steepling his fingers, he scrutinized the Grand Moff through the Force. There was no mistaking it; the subtle vortex of Force-energy surrounding Kaine nearly blinded those with eyes to see it. Kaine worked in the shadows, influencing events from the background; it was men like this that dictated the rise and fall of untold billions. The future of the galaxy hinged on this man, though few would ever know it. Sometimes even they themselves weren’t aware of just how much power they wielded.

    But Jerec knew.

    “Welcome, Grand Moff Kaine,” Jerec said cordially, his voice echoing through the austere chamber. He stood and gestured to the man to sit across from him. “I am pleased you decided to meet with me. It’s been far too long.”

    The corners of Kaine’s mouth turned down at his own words being turned back on him, but he had the insight to let it alone. He took the invitation to sit, leaving his eyeful of an assistant standing behind and to his left. Jerec suspected she was more than an aide, however. It was the way of the Imperial elite to use others for their pleasure.

    Not unlike the Dark Jedi, in a way.

    “Well, some introductions are in order,” Jerec continued lightheartedly, almost as if they truly were two old friends sitting down to a meal together. He smiled and gestured to the hulking Boltrunian now standing on his left. “You’ve already met Maw; he is but one of my servants.”

    Turning, Jerec then beckoned a humanoid shape out of the shadows to his right. It revealed itself to be a Twi’lek, though one might not have guessed it through the pallid tone of his skin, the shriveled, scarred face, and the gleaming red eyes. “This is Bocas’eca, known less formally as Boc the Crude. Boc, it is polite to greet our honored guest.”

    Boc’s voice grated out of his mouth like two asteroids rubbing together. “Another pathetic Imperial warlord with delusions of grandeur.” He spat in Kaine’s direction, though he was too far away for the viscous liquid to reach him. “We’ve had enough of your kind.”

    Boc shifted his attention to Kaine’s lovely assistant. His red eyes roved up and down her supple figure. “You, on the other hand, we could use more of you around here.” He then made a very crass and vulgar suggestion of her.

    Jerec laughed without mirth at the aide’s unnerved innocence and disgusted expression. Kaine stood in reply, anger in his eyes. “Jerec, I did not come here to be made a fool of! Nor did my aide accompany me only to become the plaything of a...”

    Jerec reached out with a gloved hand, using the Force to clamp Kaine’s mouth shut and push him back into his seat. “Sit, Moff Kaine. You must forgive Boc his manners. I assure you he meant no offense. His hard life has prevented him from attaining the...culture...Dark Jedi like myself prefer. However, he does make a fair point.” He sat, releasing his Force hold on Kaine.

    “And that is?”

    “You haven’t mentioned the name of your comely consort. I have introduced my cabinet. It is only polite for you to do the same for yours.”

    “Her name is Sara. Sara Jissade,” Kaine said coldly. “And now, Lord Jerec, may we dismiss with etiquette and get down to business?”

    “But of course. I welcome brevity.” Jerec crossed his arms. “Why have you sought me out? Surely you, Grand Moff of Oversector Outer, do not have a need for my meager battle group?”

    “I beg to differ. A Super Star Destroyer, even by itself, is a formidable asset.” Kaine relaxed, finally doing what he came to do. “However, you are correct in guessing that your military might is not the reason for my call. I wish to employ you, not your forces.”

    Jerec was only mildly surprised by this turn, but externally he remained motionless. He had suspected something of the sort. “For what purpose?” he asked slowly, examining Kaine’s mind for any hint of treachery.

    Kaine cleared his throat out of habit. “I am not in a position to unite the various leaders and factions vying for control of the Empire. Personally, I doubt that anyone can. That is why I have devoted the resources I am in possession of to the creation of a new Imperial regime, one built to weather the continuing Rebel victories.”

    Jerec smiled, unraveling the man’s strategy and deciding how best to twist it to his own use. “With you as leader?”

    “For now. Should someone more capable than I come along, I would naturally step aside.”

    Boc cackled. “Naturally.”

    Jerec turned to glare through the Force at the Twi’lek, silencing him. He spread his hands to indicate Maw and Bocas’eca. “And what would our role be in this?”

    Kaine’s left eyebrow twitched upward, then settled. Jerec could tell, even without subtly peering into the Moff’s thoughts, that he had noticed the shift in invitation. Kaine would be forced to take all three of them, or none at all.

    In Boc’s simple language, Kaine would offer the deal...or he would die a gory death.

    Jerec inwardly nodded. Today was the pivot point of Kaine’s predominance. The dark side of the Force undeniably proclaimed it. Jerec’s plans would go forward because of—or in spite of—this man.

    “Your duties would be much the same as they were under the Emperor,” Kaine continued, unaware of just how concrete his fate had become in the last few seconds. “Hunting down those disloyal to the government, discouraging Rebel uprisings, throwing fear into the populace...all those things essential to the stability of the Imperial way of government.” He waved his aide over. She handed him a datacard, which he slid down the table to Jerec. “The particulars are included on there.”

    Jerec stood, taking the disk into his hand with the Force and depositing it into a pocket. “I believe I have already heard enough.”

    Kaine likewise rose from his chair. “Then you are in accord?”

    Jerec kept his limbs perfectly still, almost as a statue. This was the most important part of the agreement. “On one condition. You mentioned we would be in your ‘employ.’ What, may I ask, would be our wages? Credits do not concern me, for that I have in abundance.”

    “Then what does concern you?”

    Jerec paused. If he failed to persuade the Moff of this one point, portions of his grand scheme would be much harder to implement. Not impossible, but seemingly so to the normal individual. Jerec did not want to risk bending Kaine’s mind to his will for fear of breaking him. It was always possible to read a strong-willed person’s mind, far less so to influence it.

    “Dark Jedi are governed by the gain of Power; without Freedom, one has no Power.” He circled the table, coming closer to Kaine with each echoing footstep. “If I am to agree to this, I must be free to attend to my own interests even while I am upholding yours. I will occasionally have need to check on these interests, upon which an absence of up to a week will be required.”

    “Would you care to give me any details concerning these ventures?”

    “I would not. It seems rather foolhardy to tip my hand this early in the game. I can assure you: all of my interests are above reproach.”

    Kaine seemed thoughtful. “You drive a tall order.”

    Jerec had finished his slow walk around the table and was now a mere arm’s length from Kaine. “It is indeed. But those are my terms.”

    Kaine nodded, having seen fit to raise the stakes. “I can guarantee your request, but I, too, have a condition. If your personal interests should come into conflict with those of my government, the agreement is void and you shall be treated like any other threat to my government. Understood?”

    Jerec held out a gloved hand. “We have a deal.”

    Kaine smiled tightly as they shook hands, his flesh going chill as it came into contact with the black leather of Jerec’s gloves. “Very good, Lord Jerec. I’ll be in touch. You won’t regret this decision.” He turned, summoning his assistant, and strode to the door, where Maw was waiting to escort them back to their shuttle.

    No, but you will, Jerec thought in reply. “Safe journeys, Ardus Kaine.”

    As she was leaving, Kaine’s assistant stopped and turned back. A fire was in her eyes as she pulled a second datacard from her belt pouch. And to Jerec’s astonishment, he could now feel the Force flowing through her, an abundance of power that could only suggest a Jedi. She must be very powerful, Jerec thought, to be able to hide her Force-sensitivity from even me.

    Sara levitated the datacard across the room and let it drop onto the table in front of Jerec. She locked eyes with him and nodded once. With a flash of her auburn hair, she was gone: her presence in the chamber and in the Force nothing but a memory.

    Jerec fingered the datacard thoughtfully.

    “Who is she, my lord?” Boc asked, shuffling up beside him.

    “I don’t know,” Jerec replied, “and that makes me wonder. Maybe this will provide some answers.” He motioned for Boc to leave.

    Sitting down again at the table, Jerec touched a panel on the edge, causing a screen to reveal itself on the tabletop. He inserted the datacard into a niche and waited for the screen to show its contents.

    It contained only six words, which read: WE WISH TO MEET WITH YOU. The short message was followed by a date and two sets of coordinates: both galactic and planetary, placing it in the far reaches of the Outer Rim. Jerec’s dark side sense swirled around the message like a beacon in the night, summoning him.

    Jerec considered again Boc’s question. Who was this woman? It was obvious that she was no mere aide or consort. Jerec’s mind latched on a memory; while in the service of the Emperor, he had heard about another of Palpatine’s servants, an Emperor's Hand. He had never met her, but she had been fiery-haired and renowned for turning in many traitorous Imperial governors. She had been called Mara Jade.

    Was it possible these two were the same woman? Her alias and appearance almost assured it, but Jerec was wary of anything without proof.

    In any event, the more pressing issue in Jerec’s mind was the nature of the woman’s ultimate employer. It was not Kaine, and it was doubtful that any of the other Imperial spokesmen were behind it. The Hutts were unlikely contenders, and Black Sun had been decimated by the loss of Prince Xizor eighteen months before. Even narrowed down, that left far too many possibilities.

    There was only one way to find out for sure, and the date in the message gave him four days to be there.

    Jerec activated the Vengeance’s intercom and contacted Captain Sysco on the bridge. He sent the coordinates to the navigation officer and ordered a course laid in.

    The system lay in the far reaches of the Outer Rim. As it turned out, a planet Jerec knew well was only a small diversion from their primary course. He had decided: they would travel by way of a little-known, out-of-the-way volcanic backwater called Mindor.

    An old master resided there, beyond the Rebellion's reach...
     
  6. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Okay, I re-read this today. The first read was two days ago, very late at night, so I didn't exactly have a clear mind, but now that it's Friday, I'm at home and I had a nap after work, I officially like it and I'll be watching the thread :)

    I read the Jedi Prince stuff ages ago and I hardly remember it at all, but it doesn't seem to me that I need to re-read it, do I? Your storytelling feels like this is a proper self-contained story.
     
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  7. thedarkbeckons

    thedarkbeckons Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2013
    Thanks for the watch, and the kind words!

    No, you won't need to re-read those horrible stories that are practically nothing but plotholes. This is essentially an effort to make a REPLACEMENT for that series, taking the main plot elements and blending in things from a few other sources (aka Essential Guides and StarWars.com blog) to flesh it out into a fully developed series of three adult novels. I consider it kind of my love letter to the EU, as research is key to making this fit into Legends chronology. Does that answer your question? :)
     
  8. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Yes it does :) (From your description it looks like I had a good reason not to remember those books!)
     
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  9. thedarkbeckons

    thedarkbeckons Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2013
    TWO (1/2)
    War and Bureaucracy



    Luke Skywalker, hero of the Rebel Alliance and general in the New Republic Defense Fleet, was rudely awakened out of a sound sleep by an electronic squawking.

    It sounded an awful lot like an invasion alarm.

    Luke was up and most of the way into his flightsuit before the murkiness of sleep was even completely cleared from his mind. The Empire must have broken through the outer defenses to mount an attack on the New Republic’s interim capital of Chandrila. He hadn’t expected such a swift counterattack from the fractured Imperial military—

    He turned to find R2-D2 beside him, twittering in what amounted to amusement for a droid. The alarms faded away.

    Luke sighed. So Chandrila wasn’t under attack. It was only the devious machinations of a mischievous little astromech. He rested his hands on his hips and looked down at the waist-high droid. “Artoo, that’s not funny. I don’t ever want to catch you mimicking an invasion alarm again, unless there really is an invasion.” He glanced at his chronometer. “Why did you wake me up so early anyway?”

    Artoo warbled a response, too specific for Luke to guess at its meaning. A translation scrolled across Luke’s personal computer screen: “THERE IS AN EMERGENCY MEETING OF THE PROVISIONAL COUNCIL IN FIVE MINUTES. MON MOTHMA PERSONALLY REQUESTED YOUR PRESENCE.”

    “She did, did she?” Luke mumbled. Unfortunately, these “requests” were mandatory, and becoming more and more frequent. However, many had already sacrificed their time, their effort, and their lives fighting for the Rebellion, some of them Luke’s close friends. It was the least he could do in their memory to serve in whatever capacity needed, and if that meant giving up much-needed rest to do that, then so be it. Biggs would have wanted it no other way.

    At least that's what he kept telling himself.

    He stripped out of his flight suit and changed into something a little more appropriate for a Provisional Council meeting. The robes of a Jedi Knight were much more comfortable than a pressed and starched uniform, but they carried a hefty weight of responsibility with them as well. Lastly, and heaviest of all, he took up his lightsaber and clipped it to his belt.

    “Well, come on, Artoo,” Luke said, waving the little droid out into the light of the corridor. “Let’s not keep the Chief of State waiting.”

    He walked quietly down the almost-empty halls, decorated with wood paneling and potted plants. Luke had thought the place a little posh for a Rebel base, but his sister Leia—also a member of the Council—had reminded him that the small band of freedom fighters once called the Rebellion had now become a legitimate government. That required some kind of representative body, and that body had to meet somewhere.

    And while that was certainly true, Luke still felt uneasy about housing the grounded military in the same complex. He had mentioned the matter during the last session. In his opinion, if the Imperials did attack, it would be far better not to have all their spice in one freighter, as their friend Han Solo would say. With the exception of a few small garrisons, the entire New Republic presence on Chandrila could be massacred in one enemy bombing run—along with the largest population center.

    The problem with persuading this viewpoint was that he couldn’t tell whether the uneasiness was from the Force, or the result of long years of caution and war. The Council’s own devil’s advocate, a Bothan named Borsk Fey’lya, had acknowledged Luke’s doubts, but affirmed that the current arrangement allowed for better communication between branches as well as a centralized infrastructure. In his opinion, it would be more than feasible to evacuate personnel and supplies to alternate locations in the event of an Imperial armada dropping out of hyperspace.

    At that point, the other councilors were divided, evenly and immovably, over the issue; it had almost come to shouting and insults. But Mon Mothma had stepped in with her usual impeccable timing and diffused the situation with a temporary adjournment.

    The skills involved may have come naturally to his sister Leia, but Luke was fully in the dark when it came to politics. There just hadn’t been much use for them on his dusty desert homeworld.

    Luke made an educated guess that this session would help him better track down the source of his uneasiness. In his experience, “emergency” meetings were never called on account of good news. And such news would no doubt strengthen his argument. Even so, with politicians like Borsk Fey’lya on the Council, the issue was only likely to get more muddled.

    Luke shook his head, his thoughts departing from that line of thinking. He was amazed at how quickly a government could develop such convoluted politics within months of its creation. It was better not to get drawn into it.

    Yet, he realized with a shudder, he already had been.

    He had started to think of potential bad news as positive for his own argument.

    He resolved to keep a closer eye on his thought processes.

    Now close to the Council chamber, Luke and Artoo passed a balcony looking out on the city and Lake Sah’ot spanning the horizon. The sun had just begun to rise, creating a lovely dappled effect of orange and red on the water. Luke stopped in mid-stride. Water had always been a rarity for him growing up on Tatooine. Now, even after visiting many worlds, the sight of so much of it never failed to take his breath away. He stepped out onto the verandah to watch.
    The sun rose, an ever-brightening disk peering down on the darkened city and the surrounding plains. Luke was reminded of an evening only a few years past when he had watched the twin suns of Tatooine set beyond the dunes. Only then, he was a young naive farmboy, distressed that he would never get to leave his uncle’s moisture farm.

    But now, he was the last of the Jedi Knights, watching over the rise of a New Republic, even as the sun was now rising over Chandrila. So much had changed in five years.

    So much responsibility was on his shoulders.

    Artoo nudged his leg and gurgled impatiently.

    “I know, I’m coming,” he said.

    The closer he came to the chamber, the more people populated the corridors, and the more uncertainty and anxiety flooded the Force. Finally he came to a set of brass doors, standing open and recently engraved with the insignia of the New Republic. The Chandrilans were nothing if not thorough. He was about to enter when he spotted a couple of familiar faces among the milling councilors and assistants flooding the hall.

    “Hey kid,” one of the two called, a half-masked frown clouding his face. He looked as if he would rather be anywhere else than in the middle of a tangle of bureaucrats and fleet officers. The former smuggler wore his customary black vest over a sweat-stained off-white shirt. He carried a modified DL-44 blaster low on his thigh in a quick-draw holster.

    Beside him, towering above like one of the wroshyr trees of Kashyyyk, stood a hairy Wookiee, wearing only a bandolier hanging from one shoulder and a bowcaster strapped across his back. The alien roared a greeting.

    “Han, Chewbacca,” Luke greeted them, a smile spreading across his face. “I didn’t know they called you down from orbit for this.”

    “Yeah, well, Ackbar, Madine, and Cracken needed a ride, so Her Royal Highnessness commed me. Of course, we were simply too happy to volunteer.” General Han Solo shrugged loosely, downplaying his sarcasm. “Besides, the Falcon was getting restless anyway.”

    Luke nodded. “Ah. Then it didn’t have anything to do with my sister’s beguiling voice?”

    Han grinned wryly.

    Luke continually pondered this issue. Even with all the banter and the nicknames, it was clear from the way Han spoke about her that he was crazy about Leia. And at one point, Luke recalled, she had reciprocated those feelings. But Han and Leia had drifted apart of late, with her occupation filling her life and his demeanor growing truly sour.

    The sarcasm in his voice wasn't always a joke anymore.

    Luke wished Han would go ahead and tie the knot, instead of dragging it out indefinitely. If he took too long, Leia might not even care what his feelings were anymore.

    He decided to change the subject. Han would make up his mind when he was good and ready—and only then. “So where are they?” Luke asked.

    “Who?”

    Luke rolled his eyes. “Ackbar, Madine, and—”

    “Oh them. They’re probably inside already,” Han explained quickly. “Chewie and I got tied up with some post-flight checks. We blew a repulsor coming in.”
    Chewbacca wuffed out an argument, placing his giant hairy hands on his hips.

    “Hey, don’t look at me,” Han retorted, raising his index finger. “I wasn’t the one who forgot to refill the coolant.”

    Luke halted the argument from going any further with a question. “Did they say anything about why we're all here?”

    Chewie growled a response, ending with a disdainful bark. Luke didn’t know much of the Wookiee language, but it sounded like a derogatory comment about tight-lipped Intelligence agents.

    “You said it, Chewie,” Han agreed. “We couldn’t even get a word out of Ackbar.”

    Luke was taken slightly aback by this tidbit. “So Intelligence called the meeting?”

    Chewie wuffed an affirmative. “That’s sorta what it sounded like,” Han said, gesturing to the doors. “Enough standing around. They’re probably waiting on us.”

    Luke looked around and was surprised to note that the corridor was completely empty. The entire crowd had already filtered in through the double doors. Luke had began to develop a nasty habit of Force “tunnel vision”. Yet another thing to keep an eye on.

    Han waved impatiently. “After you, kid.”
     
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  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Caught up and am totally riveted. =D= The participants in your drama are vividly portrayed, and their various goals and clashes set up nicely. =D= Intrigued by the unease Luke is feeling and how that will play out in the Alliance's course of action. The Han/Leia dynamic looks very, very complex and tangled as well. Lots to work through there. And Sara [face_dancing] You know I'm in just to see her meet up with Luke. ;)
     
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  11. thedarkbeckons

    thedarkbeckons Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2013
    Unfortunately it may be a little longer until I upload the next segment; Council meetings are pretty knock-down and drag-out with Borsk Fey'lya present.

    Also glad you caught the Sara reference. I was on the fence as to how much was too much in that regard. I think you will definitely be interested (and more than a little surprised) to see how things play out!
     
  12. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    A little longer I can survive -- just don't make it too much longer please. I want to know what happens next ;)

    Gripping plot aside, the Han-Chewie "dialogue" was priceless, especially the burnt repulsor thing :p
     
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  13. thedarkbeckons

    thedarkbeckons Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2013
    Well, I plan to have another piece out by the end of the week. In the meantime, if you get impatient I actually have a second fanfic going that's a little less serious: Stranded: A Prequel to Caravan of Courage - An Ewok Adventure
     
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  14. thedarkbeckons

    thedarkbeckons Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2013
    TWO (2/2)
    War and Bureaucracy



    They stepped into a large, rounded chamber, the wall curving upward for several meters to intersect at an equally gargantuan skylight. Dominating the middle of the room was a circular obsidian table, held up by repulsors rather than legs. Encircling it were twelve chairs, one of them slightly larger than the rest. Even further out, and proceeding to the walls, were rows of benches, also set up in twelve sections corresponding to the table placements. The overall appearance was that someone had dropped the circular table into the center and sent ripples of seating to the extents of the chamber.

    Luke noted the members of the Provisional Council, standing beside their assigned seats. Behind each, in the outer benches, sat their respective aides and confidantes. Mon Mothma, as Chief of State, presided over the meeting at the “head” of the table. Luke, despite his plaintive comment to Artoo earlier, held this woman in the utmost of respect. It was primarily her that had made the Rebel Alliance what it was today and kept the many diverse races and points of view working in tandem. In fact, as Luke got to know her after the battle of Yavin, he had almost begun to regard her as his mother, in a sense.

    To Mon Mothma's right, sat Luke's sister, Leia Organa. As a former princess of Alderaan, she knew how to keep herself presentable, and it showed. Her long brown hair was braided back on both sides, weaving into a ponytail that hung down like a curtain on the back of her neck. Her formal yellow-and-blue tunic hugged her figure nicely, and her makeup accented her face in just the right ways. Only one thing marred her image, and that was the steely scowl she had directed at Han.

    Luke sighed. He already guessed what had happened.

    Leia spoke, her voice harder than her gaze. “General Solo. I wasn't aware of your coming. This emergency session was invitation only.”

    All eyes in the room turned to Han. He squirmed a little under the pressure, but held his ground. “Look, I just assumed that since I brought half of the party down from orbit myself, and since I'm a General and decorated war hero, and since my best friend here is the only Jedi Knight in existence, I just might be entitled to see what's going on.”

    Luke noticed the councilor Borsk Fey'lya out of the corner of his eye, a slight smirk at the proceedings tugging at the wily Bothan's face. When Luke glanced at him more fully, his mouth turned back downward, his fur rippling once. Everyone seems to be in a mood this morning, Luke thought, smiling and jabbing a thumb at Han. “He has a point.”

    He had hoped to relieve some of the tension with the lighthearted comment, but instead Leia turned and regarded Luke with a look that said, Stay out of this. Before she could say anything more, verbally or otherwise, Mon Mothma stepped forward.

    “I think, Princess Leia, that we would do well to allow General Solo into our confidences at this time,” she said. The graying shock of auburn hair on her head contrasted her elegant white robe and the overall effect added an even more regal, and slightly sad, tone to her soft Core Worlds accent. “His background as a smuggler may enable him to see things from a different angle than the rest of us.”

    Han looked insulted at the reference to his shady past, but Luke knew it was just for show. Luke could also feel Leia's agitation through the Force as she conceded the point and sat, refusing to look back at Han. It wasn't like her to be so harsh and unyielding about little things like this, especially since Han was always pulling this kind of stunt.

    Or perhaps that was the point.

    No doubt about it, there was definitely something going on beneath the surface with those two.

    Mon Mothma gestured for everyone to take their seats. Luke sat directly across from her, with Han at his right hand and General Crix Madine on his left. Madine had organized the ground mission that had taken out the shield generator to the second Death Star and, although once being an Imperial himself, had fully gained the New Republic's trust by his work in Special Operations. Beside him was Airen Cracken, a stern man who often colaborated with Madine through their respective branches of the New Republic Intelligence Service. Luke didn't know him terribly well, despite having worked with him multiple times before Hoth. The man operated on a need-to-know basis at all times, no matter who he worked with.

    The Chief of State cleared her throat before continuing. “Thank you all for coming to this emergency session of the Provisional Council. We have a lot of pressing issues to discuss this morning, so I would appreciate it very much if we could all put away our differences and petty politics for these few hours. Remember that our true enemy is the Empire, for while it may have been defeated more than once, its size dictates that it is still stronger than even we may guess. Admiral Ackbar, please.”

    The Supreme Commander of the New Republic Defense Force stood. A fish-like creature from the watery world of Mon Calamari, Ackbar was renowned for his battle tactics and subsequent victory at the Battle of Endor. His gravelly voice had a quality of urgency to it as he addressed the council. “As you all know, our base on the planet of Gyndine has been under siege for some time. You yourselves passed the motion to send a flotilla of relief ships. But we have just received word that the Empire intercepted the supplies en route, cutting off all possible aid to Gyndine. The planet is lost.”

    The council chamber, after a brief moment of silence, descended into the chaos of cries, gasp, and despondent murmurs. Luke, though he remained still, was heavily disturbed by this turn of events, but Han seemed visibly stricken. He had helped organize the flotilla, and knew exactly just how many materials, ships, and men had compiled the group. If Han was worried...

    Mon Mothma raised her hands. The chamber immediately quieted, and her somber voice silenced the rest of the murmurs. “I know how grievous this is. We have lost many resources, but more importantly, we have lost good people, as well as a member world. Gyndine was counting on us, and we failed them.

    “As a result, I fear our credibility as a government is in question.”

    Borsk Fey'lya stood to interrupt. “By whom? The Empire has never doubted our credibility.”

    “By the people, Councilor Fey'lya,” Leia said. “And by those systems with a desire to be rid of the tyranny that is the Empire.”

    Kerrithrarr, the Council's Wookiee representative from the planet Kashyyk, weighed in with a series of passionate roars that echoed throughout the room. His black fur was starting to gray, but in Luke's experience with Chewbacca, an aging Wookiee is nothing to laugh at, and certainly not to underestimate. Leia's gold-plated protocol droid, C-3PO, stepped forward from behind her to translate. “Kerrithrarr emphatically agrees. He adds further that if we cannot protect those star systems which we have already liberated, how much less will prospective member worlds trust us?”

    “Gyndine was a unique case,” Fey'lya replied stiffly as Mon Mothma watched. “It was on the edge of our territories, and only had one hyperspace route through which we could access it. In addition, our forces elsewhere are stretched to the breaking point. We simply do not have the resources to protect every non-strategic system.”

    Mon Mothma nodded. “What do you propose then, Councilor Fey'lya?”

    “Perhaps...we should delay our push to Imperial Center,” Fey'lya said.

    Luke's heart sank as the room descended into chaos. Bringing the overall military strategy into the matter meant an inevitable divide between the room's occupants. Even Han was caught up in the argument. Luke watched Mon Mothma attempt to bring things back to order. He was starting to think they would just have to wait out the fracas until a deafening roar sounded from the rear of the room unlike anything Luke had ever heard. The bass tones of the roar vibrated inside his chest cavity; coupled with a high-pitched squeal, the noise was almost unbearable. The sound tapered off after a few seconds, leaving only silence in the room.

    Luke turned in his seat with all others to see the massive Chewbacca, claws and teeth bared. The Wookiee copilot returned to his seat.

    Han grinned. “I've only ever heard him do that once,” he whispered to Luke. “Just before a bar got unexpectedly dismantled.”

    Threepio spoke up, his tinny voice echoing in the void. “Chewbacca kindly asks all of you to 'be quiet.'”

    “Thank you, Chewbacca.” The Chief of State still appeared cooly confident, but Luke could practically smell her frustration with the Council like a musty odor in the Force. Luke inwardly applauded her constitution. “Councilors, officers, I know that this is a hotly debated topic among us. But argument in these chambers has no place unless all can hear it. Everyone can present their own sides, but one at a time, please.” Murmurs of agreement echoed around the room. “Councilor Fey'lya, you have the floor. Please explain why you believe our campaign should be halted.”

    The Bothan cleared his throat. “The loss of the supplies and ships we sent to Gyndine have dealt us a hard blow. The loss of Gyndine itself is even more grievous to our cause. We must realize how little we have, and use it where it can be put to greatest effect. I believe we should focus our efforts on protecting ourselves in order to once again build up our resources, instead of pushing on to Coruscant. A campaign to Imperial Center would not only be foolhardy and reckless, but we could potentially lose all that we have worked for since the Battle of Endor!” Fey'lya sat abruptly, smoothing his fur as the rest of the councilors murmured uneasily.

    “Order,” Mon Mothma warned. The whispering died down immediately, prompting a brief smile from Luke. Thankfully the Council seemed to understand the seriousness of the situation. “The Chief of State recognizes Intelligence Director Airen Cracken. Director, you have the floor.”

    “Thank you.” Airen stood, a grim expression on his face. Somehow he seemed even less congenial than usual, if that were possible. “Council, our problem is not resources, it is intelligence. The knowledge of Imperial troop movements, as well as current and up-to-date information on the Moffs and other Imperial warlords are crucial to winning this fight in the long run. New Republic Intelligence has been doing its best to scrub captured computers and intercepted transmissions, but our technology is not getting any newer.

    “In short, as Imperials constantly update their encryption techniques, we find ourselves less able to keep up.”

    “What are you suggesting?” Councilor Sian Tevv from Sullust spoke up, his voice surprisingly loud for one of such small stature. “That we spend even more resources on your team?”

    The chamber let out a collective groan. “In a way,” Airen said above the noise, his frown deepening. “You see, there is not just one pattern to the encryption. If that were true, we would have had the Empire figured out long ago. A current Imperial encryption consists of patterns within patterns all forming an impossibility without the key, and they change and improve with time. Our machines are fine to decrypt a message once they have the proper code, but they take a mortal long time to calculate all of the possible variables in the seemingly random patterns. If we can obtain a copy of the decryption algorithm without the Empire's knowing, we can use this to deadly effect.

    “I propose we send a special ops team to infiltrate an Imperial Datacenter and obtain the decoder, as well as any other pertinent information while they are there.” Murmurs of agreement from the councilors and aides reached Luke's ears. Airen stepped back from the table, yielding the floor to whoever would challenge him.

    He did not have to wait long. “This is preposterous!” Fey'lya exclaimed. “You want us to waste yet more soldiers and ships on a very risky mission from which it is likely no one will return? Why...”

    “One ship,” the bearded Crix Madine broke in. “One that we have been saving for just such a time. We still have the shuttle from the Endor mission, the Tyderian. Fronted by five operatives, the infiltration has both a high chance of success and a small chance of extensive loss.”

    “At this point, any loss is extensive,” Fey'lya shot back.

    “I think you may be blowing things out of proportion,” Corellian ambassador Doman Beruss replied skeptically. She looked pointedly at Luke. “What does our resident Jedi Master have to say about this?”

    Luke blinked. It wasn't often they asked for his opinion, but he was more than prepared to weigh in at this juncture. “I think it's a sound plan. Even if we don't grab the decrypter, we can still get some valuable intel while we're at it. And we've done far more risky operations in the past; right, Han?”

    Han shrugged. He had remained fairly stoic since the announcement of the destroyed supply ships. “I guess. The important thing is making sure the Imperials don't know what we're really taking. Where you planning on performing this heist, Cracken?”

    Airen nodded. “The Imperial Datacenter at Obroa-skai.”

    Han whistled quietly through his teeth. “That place is more secure than the old Emperor's Palace itself. You guys don't do anything by halves, do you?”

    “More importantly,” Ackbar grated, “it is fairly common knowledge that a several old Jedi relics are housed in the vaults, giving Master Skywalker and the New Republic an interest other than obtaining the decryption algorithms. It is doubtful the Empire will guess the true nature of the operation.”

    Luke perked up at this news. Any knowledge of the Jedi was well worth the expedition on its own, at least in his humble opinion. The Force had taken somewhat of a backseat in his life the past couple months, to the point that he felt he was letting his old Master down. Pass on what you have learned, Yoda had said. He had failed to mention the busyness of life in his teaching though.

    Han stood up, rubbing his hands together. “Perfect, that does it for me. When do we leave?” Luke noted another flare of anger from Leia: reaction to Han's arrogant assumption that he was included on the strike team. He needed to talk to her before they left. Something was definitely wrong, and not only with her.

    Mon Mothma stood once more and finalized the vote of the Council before dismissal. Fey'lya scowled at the count, but accepted it: eight in favor, three opposed.

    Everything was in order; they would inevitably leave for Obroa-skai before the day was out. The Republic now had a course of action, but Luke's anxiety had only increased, amplified by strange sensations in the Force as the Councilors filed out. He had a good feeling about the mission, which was a first, but something was brooding over their every plan like a dark cloud on the horizon. He couldn't place his finger on it.

    He was unsure if the feeling even pertained to him, but he knew the cold foreboding touch of the dark side like he knew Vader's breath.

    Whatever it was, it was stirring....
     
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  15. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= =D= Very intense and full of undercurrents. I applaud the final decision and mission objective. Without strong and up to the minute Intel, any future military-centric missions will be way too risky. [face_thinking]
     
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  16. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Oooh, you wrote a NR Council meeting, as in, a real, proper Council meeting where everyone argues with everyone else, and yet the reader can keep track and enjoy it... You're really good at this, you know? ^:)^

    Looking forward to the mission to Obroa-Skai. I've always had a fascination for that place. Imagine that: a library world [face_dancing]
     
  17. NightWatcher91

    NightWatcher91 Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Jun 7, 2014
    Awesome update. I think the decision was well made.
     
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  18. thedarkbeckons

    thedarkbeckons Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Dec 2, 2013
    Thanks guys! I was really hitting my head on the computer screen over this installment, as I needed to keep everyone in character while giving them their own motivations AND making their arguments reasonable. I'm finding out that having so many characters, especially the more obscure ones like Cracken and Councilor Beruss, in a scene and working together to form a cohesive, even compelling narrative is something of a headache. :)

    Chyntuck Well, it's not so much a library "world" as it is a world with a vast library on it. The Obroa-skai datacenter specializes in records and displays of alien cultures and archaeology, which explains Thrawn's preoccupation with it, however its Imperial records archive is inferior only to Bastion (too far away for the New Republic's purposes) and Coruscant (obviously an impossibility at this point). Don't know if you noticed, but Jeremitt Towani from my Ewoks fanfic used to work at the datacenter before the Battle of Endor, so I've decided in favor of some crossover between my stories. :)
     
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