main
side
curve
  1. Welcome to the new boards! Details here!

Saga - Legends The Freak Fleet (Thrawn, Mix of Canon and Legends)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by MissKitsune08, Jan 5, 2018.

Tags:
  1. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    THE FREAK FLEET

    Words: 130,000
    A series of stories exploring the dynamics among Grand Admiral Thrawn, Pellaeon, Covell, Parck, Niriz, Dorja, and other members of the Seventh Fleet. Legends cast in Rebels, a couple of OCs. Mix of Canon and Legends (Essentially AU). Serious, as well as not-so-serious fics. Semi-crack.

    Author's Note: I started writing the series before Thrawn novel, therefore it follows the old ranking system, featuring my own take on the ISD Chimaera's duty roster. Certain events of the novel happened with a couple of major changes, most notably Eli Vanto's life taking the path he had originally intended for himself, meeting Thrawn much later in the series under very different circumstances.

    The old Imperial Navy rank system (in summary, leaving out a couple of ranks): Ensign -> Lieutenant -> Lieutenant Commander -> Commander -> Captain -> Vice Admiral -> Admiral -> Fleet Admiral -> Grand Admiral

    You can either read it all here or go to my profile to read it on FFN or AO3

    Story No#1: The Freak Fleet
    Summary: Members of the Seventh Fleet teach Admiral Konstatine’s crew that they are a force to be reckoned with. GEN. Words: 4,000

    Story No#2: Breaking the Ice
    Summary: Admiral Thrawn and Captain Parck share a story from their past with Commander Pellaeon. GEN. Words: 2,500

    Story No#3: Of Chiss and Men
    Summary: The most boring tasks often result in the most interesting conversations. Waging a war on paperwork, Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Pellaeon get a unique opportunity to learn more about each other. Gen. Words: 3,000

    Story No#4: Witch Hunt
    Summary: Captain Pellaeon becomes entangled in power games between Grand Admiral Thrawn and Ysanne Isard who would stop at nothing to bring the alien down to his knees. The title says it all. Loyal? Prove it! You have been warned. Gen. Words: 7000

    Story No#5: Second Chances
    Summary: After Konstantine’s death, Grand Admiral Thrawn decides to integrate ISD Relentless, Konstantine’s former flagship, into the Seventh Fleet, giving an opportunity to Commander Dorja to redeem himself. Gen. Words: 6500

    Story No#6 Chance Encounters
    Summary: Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Pellaeon meet Ensign Eli Vanto's alternate self whose life had taken the path he had originally intended for himself. A different take on their meeting featuring the far-fetched stories about Chiss warriors. GEN. Words: 4000
    + A bonus ficlet : Language Proficiency is an Acquired Skill

    Story No#7: The Evil So Terrible It Tried To Black Out The Stars
    Summary: There are two sides to every story, however, understanding is a three-edged sword: one side, the other side, and the truth. Character study of Thrawn. GEN.

    Story No#8: An Unstoppable Force Meets an Immovable Object
    Co-Authored with ImperialGirl. Not Gen.
    Part One: The Gundark in an Art Gallery
    Summary: After Grand Admiral Thrawn managed to retrieve the stolen masterpiece of his collection from the Rebels, his senior command staff wonders what the wild mynock chase has been all about and demands an explanation. Words: 5,600
    Part Two: The Danger of Keeping Secrets
    Summary: Vice Admiral Thrawn receives an unexpected visitor almost at the same time as Captain Parck decides to drop by his apartment to congratulate him on his promotion. The Freak Fleet Prequel. Words: 6,600

    Story No#9: All Roads Lead to Coruscant
    In a separate thread, word count: 62,000

    A Kingdom of Isolation to be added later (WIP, available on FFN and AO3)



    Story No#1: The Freak Fleet
    Summary: Members of the Seventh Fleet teach Admiral Konstatine’s crew that they are a force to be reckoned with. GEN. Words: 4,000

    -------------------------------


    Vice Admiral Thrawn turned off the holoprojector as the door to his command room opened, letting in a stormtrooper commander with the infamous trio who had caused such commotion during their brief re-supply run at an Imperial enclave. The soldier gave him a sharp salute, wordlessly returning back to his post behind the door.

    Thrawn then focused his attention at the trio of ISD Chimaera's junior officers: a lieutenant commander, a lieutenant, and a quartermaster. All three looked like they were about to face the execution squad, and rightly so. He breathed out an exasperated sigh, steepling his fingers in front of his face.

    "Gentlemen," Thrawn said in a tone cold as ice, giving all of them a hard glare. "I will ask you only once. Who threw the first punch?"

    All three visibly flinched and exchanged worried glances.

    The lieutenant took one step forward and mustered enough courage in himself to look directly into Thrawn's eyes. "I did, sir."

    Thrawn narrowed his eyes and waited until the other was no longer able to meet his deep gaze. Humans found his glowing eyes intimidating, and while it was often detrimental, at times like these one glance was enough to put even the most insubordinate crewmen back to their place. He noticed a drop of sweat streaking down the lieutenant's right temple.

    The man was of a medium built with blonde hair, brown eyes, and a well-groomed mustache; his fair skin tone gave away a man who had spent most of his life on a ship and it made high contrast to the black eye he had received during the fight.

    "Lieutenant," Thrawn said gravely. "While this is certainly not the first time a member of my fleet has participated in a fist fight with fellow officers, never before anyone under my command allowed themselves to be provoked into initiating physical violence. Let me express my utter disappointment in the way you conducted yourselves."

    The lieutenant swallowed visibly, his fair complexion getting unnaturally pale. "There is no excuse for my actions, sir."

    He was interrupted by the lieutenant commander who had decided to come to his friend's rescue. "Sir, we were approached by eight bridge officers from Admiral Konstatine's fleet with a clear intention of-"

    Thrawn silenced him by raising his hand; he leaned back in his chair, studying the trio intently. "I am not interested in retelling the official record. Nor in excuses. I want to know the exact words that made my men to lose their composure and start a bar brawl straight out of a holodrama. There was no alcohol involved. Not on your part, at least."

    They exchanged another worried glance; the lieutenant decided to take the initiative again. "Well, sir," he started hesitantly. "The insults were directed, ehm, at you personally. I would rather not to repeat them in the present company."

    "Lieutenant, I don't have all day," Thrawn said in a tone that broke no argument.

    The lieutenant took a deep breath to steel himself. "Sir, they called you, ehm,... a bastard child of the Vice Roy Nute Gunray and his blue skinned Twi'lek whore… sir," he added the formality at the end in an awkward attempt to not to make the accusation sound as an insult from his side.

    Thrawn blinked. "Is that it?" he threw back, deadpan. "Though I admit I had not heard that one."

    How uncultured.

    "Gentlemen, if you honestly think that it was the first time my alien heritage was addressed in this manner during my service in the Imperial Navy I am going to be more than disappointed with you..."

    The trio visibly winced at the word alien.

    Humans.

    A near-human or a non-human raised in the Galactic Empire would no doubt feel insulted at such blatant display of xenophobia. But Thrawn was a Chiss, Mitth'raw'nuruodo, a merit adoptive who had been accepted to the Eighth Ruling Family despite his common-born status. In the eyes of the Chiss Ascendancy, these were the Uncivilized Territories.

    Thrawn could see the color slowly coming back to the brown-eyed lieutenant's cheeks.

    "No, sir. That was just the beginning." The officer got his courage back once he realized that he would not be executed on the spot for repeating the insult. "I told Dorja his assumption was obviously wrong since there was no lekku sprouting from your head. At that he almost threw the first punch himself had his comrades not stopped him."

    "Oh?" Thrawn suppressed a smirk. To the present company he no doubt looked as impassive as ever but a fellow Chiss would have been able to tell that he found the lieutenant's comeback highly entertaining.

    "Then please do tell, and leave no detail."

    *****************

    We had been discussing the new E-11D blaster rifles that were soon supposed to start mass production when a service droid came to our table with three glasses of blue milkshake.

    "Complimentary drinks from gentlemen at the bar," said the droid in its dull mechanical voice.

    We all turned to face the eight navy officers at the bar who had been watching us closely for some time. All of them quietly sipping what appeared to be a Forvish ale. We shrugged and took the drinks from the droid, raising our glasses in a gesture of mock thanks.

    "This has to be the oldest trick in the universe," I murmured, putting the glass to my lips. "Blue milk, ha? Someone sure thinks they are being funny."

    Meanwhile the eight officers came over and sat down at our table without asking for permission.

    Dagon cleared his throat and addressed the supposed leader of the group. "I do not believe we have met, gentlemen."

    "I am Lieutenant Commander Dorja of the ISD Relentless, Admiral Konstatine's flagship." Said the leader in a superior tone and snatched the menu out of my fingers. Others made no attempt at introducing themselves. They sat down with their arms crossed across their chests in a clear display of animosity. "And we have met, at the Bresnan banquet thrown in Captain Thrawn's honor."

    Captain Thrawn's honor, not Captain Konstatine's.

    Not long ago Kassius Konstatine had been assigned to deal with a criminal organization called Kwuennox Smugglers that had been terrorizing Wellte-Ir system for more than a decade. It took him more than four months to locate the base of the criminal warlord Ozik Poyiu, and his ship suffered heavy losses during their encounter, eventually being forced to retreat and call for reinforcements. Captain Thrawn had answered the emergency call and thanks to his unorthodox tactics he had not only destroyed their main base of operations but also taken apart the whole criminal network, exposing their business connections in the Bresnan royal court. The Duchess had been so impressed with Captain Thrawn that she threw a banquet in his honor and even rewarded him with a clay sculpture made by a renowned local artist.

    "Thank you for your generosity." Dagon took a deep sip from his drink and licked his lips. "I think I will order one more glass. One can never have enough calcium and vitamins living on a starship."

    It was clearly not what they had expected to hear.

    "Only a member of the Freak Fleet would love blue milk so much," muttered a green-eyed lieutenant with reddish brown hair and long sideburns. He leaned forward and his lips curled into a snarl.

    "You should try it sometime, you know, it is very good for one's health." I chuckled and set the drink on the table. "And while we are at it, I can recommend you the blue cheese cake, it is soft and creamy, and free of additives."

    Dorja's eyes narrowed. "I don't take advice from an alien loving scum like you. You are a disgrace to the Empire. And your freshly baked Vice Admiral should be stripped of the Imperial uniform and sent by the first shuttle back to the mudwater world he has come from."

    Freja barked out a short laugh, almost spilling his milkshare. "You see, there is just one catch, no one seems to know what species he is or what planet he is from. But maybe you can enlighten us, pals."

    "Oh I know what he is. He is a bastard child of the Viceroy Nute Gunray and his blue skinned Twi'lek whore." Dorja spat out in a disgusted tone. Then suddenly they all exploded in laughter as if it was the most hilarious thing in the universe.

    I didn't think they would appreciate rolling my eyes at their display of xenophobia so I kept my face impassive. "Is that so? Where are his lekku, then? It would sure explain the red eyes and blue skin but I can't see lekku sprouting from either side of his head."

    Dorja's expression darkened. He stood up, knocking over the chair. "You kriffing-" he growled out and he was about to throw himself on me but he was prevented by his peers who caught his right hook in midair. He was fuming in anger but apparently he had enough common sense left to take up the chair and sit down.

    A blue-eyed, black haired lieutenant put his hand on Dorja's shoulder and decided to take over. He looked somewhat familiar to me… I could swear he had introduced himself to me at the banquet. Slav? Oh, Slavin!

    "You know," Slavin's brow furrowed in concentration. "I was the one serving drinks to Konstatine that night at the banquet so I couldn't help to overhear the small talk. The Duchess was fawning all over Thrawn all evening, trying to get his attention by showing him Bresnani art. There were few rather … explicit pieces she pointed him at."

    Slavin let go of Dorja's shoulder and sat down along with the rest. "He kept babbling on an on about the clay composition and the insight it gave to their native mind, paying no attention to the Duchess herself."

    I threw a quick glance at my companions to see that they were watching Slavin with guarded expressions. We all heard the rumors about what had happened at the banquet.

    "The Duchess even spilled her drink on her clothes and Thrawn just blinked, suggesting she should perhaps call a handmaiden to attend to it. Captain Konstatine was so shocked at Thrawn's negligence that he stepped in and offered to take the Duchess to her suite. Captain Thrawn might have won that day but Captain Konstatine won that night."

    I clenched my fists instinctively, ready to remove that smirk from the man's face. "The Duchess is a lady. A high born, married lady. All we know for certain is that Captain Konstantine saw her off, the rest is just nothing but rumors and gossip."

    "You can believe whatever you want. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes." Slavin pointed at his chest.

    "And we are supposed to take you word for it?" Freja joined in.

    "Ha. Perhaps the red-eyed freak is not interested in ladies at all." The reddish haired lieutenant spat out, his face contorted in a wicked grin. "Perhaps he swings in the opposite direction."

    Freja slammed his fist onto the table, rising slowly. "Are you even listening to yourself, Lieutenant? That's Vice Admiral Thrawn, to you, me, and anyone else in the Imperial Fleet. He outranks all of us by light years and he has earned that rank and uniform. So he is blue. Great, you passed the color blind test, congratulations. Whatever else he is, whatever direction he swings, is none of your business. And I suggest you stop this nonsense right now before I remind you where you belong."

    Vice Admiral Thrawn was anything but stupid. While the Duchess had left with Konstatine much to the ISD Relentless's crew's joy that night, the embarrassment had probably saved Thrawn's career. He might have been a great millitary leader but he still was the only high ranking alien in the service of Imperial Navy and as such he could not afford to put his entire future at risk because of a night of passion with a human lady of a noble birth. COMPNOR must have been already breathing hard down on Thrawn's neck, ready to make an example out of the cunning alien at the first breach of the New Order protocol.

    "You remind me where I… No, I will show you where you and your whole Freak Fleet belongs!" The lieutenant thundered. "You are a bunch of misfits, alien loving freaks, and whores who got their ranks through sleeping with their superiors!"

    "Oh, you just envy our male to female ratio!" Dagon threw back. "And I suggest you keep your filthy mouth shut in front of our Death Troopers if you value you manhood. I know of one woman in particular assigned to Thrawn's elite squad who would hang you by the balls for that comment."

    It looked like the threat threw them off the balance; female Death Troopers were a rare sight. Once they got out of their stupor they started getting to their feet one by one. We were outnumbered eight to three; I risked a quick glance at my companions yet there was no fear in their eyes.

    "I see Thrawn chose a fitting name for his flagship then." Slavin took over again. "Chimaera. A hybrid." He spat out the word as an insult. "An abomination resulting of screwing with different species. What changes he made to the ship itself, eh? Had he Gemon-4 ion engines replaced with Separatists dreadnought junk? Or maybe he had the Borstel NK-7 ion cannons replaced with Venator class laser cannons?"

    I could feel the blood in my veins boiling. The son of a Hutt dared to insult our flagship! ISD Chimaera was fresh out of docks, the newest and mightiest of the Imperial class Star Destroyers. I was a Corellian by birth: no matter the odds, I would beat that laserbrain into a pulp.

    Lieutenant Commander Dorja chose that moment to break his silence, pointing out at the crest on my right arm. "And what the hell is this supposed to be? A skull? A hand?" He snickered.

    "If you had any idea what just said..." Freja growled.

    I knew from the quartermaster the true meaning of the crest, a stylized expression of the three-headed mythical creature after which the Vice Admiral had named his flagship, or so Freja had been told. Thrawn had hand painted the symbol on his assassin droids, and when the word got out, soon the symbol appeared on Thrawn's elite Death Trooper commandos' pauldrons, and then the rest of the crew started following suit.

    "Oh, don't tell me," Dorja said between the barks of laughter, "that the Vice Admiral himself came up with that scribble. All the talk about art and all he can draw is a first grader finger painting-"

    **************

    The lieutenant let out a discreet cough. "And so you see, sir, that's where I lost it."

    Thrawn had been sitting in his command chair in silence the entire time, patiently listening to the highly entertaining story. Or at least it had been until the lieutenant got to the insults directed at chimaera. To much of his horror, a venomous hiss escaped his lips. He tried to mask his transgression by a cough.

    "I see. Your name, lieutenant?"

    "Gilad Pellaeon, sir."

    "You understand, Lieutenant Pellaeon, that in any case you will have to be punished. Admiral Konstatine is not pleased to have his primary bridge crew restricted to sickbay for two weeks."

    To say Konstatine was not pleased was the understatement of a year. Thrawn had to turn down the volume of the holonet transmission and activate the profanity filter that beeped out most of his insults. Technically, Konstatine was not his direct superior officer but he still was one rank above him for the time being. The gray haired admiral finally calmed down when Thrawn promised him that the responsible party would receive treatment fully befitting their actions.

    However, Thrawn doubted that commendation and promotion for all three would fit with Konstatine's idea of treatment fully befitting their actions.

    "Sir, if I may," said the two remaining officers in unison. They looked at each other and the lieutenant commander let the quartermaster come to his friend's defense. "Lieutenant Pellaeon only threw the first punch. With all due respect to his skills, he is not very good at hand-to-hand combat, sir. It was I who incapacitated most of Relentless's bridge crew. I should receive the punishment."

    The lieutenant commander opened his mouth, no doubt to also add his share of blame.

    Thrawn silenced them all with a gesture. "Quartermaster Covell, given your occupation you must no doubt be familiar how the embroidery came into possession to more than half of the crew. It is hardly a standard issue material."

    The Quartermaster stood up to his full height, expression on his features carved in stone. He had the look of someone who knew he would face consequences for his actions but made his peace with it.

    "I couldn't say, sir."

    Thrawn's eyes glowed like orbs at such insubordination and the other man tried desperately not to flinch.

    "I couldn't say, sir." The Quartermaster repeated but his tone carried much less bravado than before.

    Thrawn, of course, had the access to interrogation techniques that would make the man talk. There was no need to use them, though, and at any rate it would be shame to break such a promising officer.

    "Very well. Would you at least tell me how you managed to prevail against such unfavorable odds?" Thrawn said at last and had to suppress a smile at seeing how the man's shoulders sagged in relief.

    "I, ah, practice Wrruushi martial arts in my free time, Admiral." The Quartermaster said sheepishly. "It is a hobby of mine."

    Thrawn raised an eyebrow. "A Wookiee martial art? From a man in logistics and supply division? You are a man of surprises, Quartermaster Covell."

    Thrawn rose and slowly walked over to the trio. They all stood up to text book attention, calmly awaiting their punishment.

    "Gentlemen, that will be two months of thrash compactor and sanitation duty, to each of you. No help from cleaning droids allowed. Plus lieutenant Pellaeon will scrub up and polish all stromtrooper armor on board."

    Thrawn took pleasure in seeing their jaws drop in utter disbelief.

    "There will be an inspection. If there is as much as a single smear of dirt on the armor or I will not be able to see myself in it like in a mirror, I will have your head, Lieutenant. Dismissed."

    The three officers continued standing there until they finally got out of their stupor and gave him their best salutes. "Sir, yes, sir!" They shouted in unison and marched out of his command room just in time to let in the Captain, Voss Parck.

    "Brave men indeed," the Captain commented wryly as he walked past them.

    "After their disciplinary probation is over, please see to having Lieutenant Commander Niriz and Lieutenant Pellaeon transferred to the regular alpha shift bridge crew. I will talk to the General about Quartermaster Covell's possible career path change, his talents at close combat could prove more useful at the battlefield." Thrawn said with a hint of amusement in his voice.

    The Captain nodded briskly. "Lieutenant Pellaeon's background is very interesting read, sir. It looks like he made quite a name for himself as a captain of a Republic's assault ship during the Clone Wars."

    Thrawn stroked his chin, lost in thoughts, his eyes darting over to the holo of a long lost masterpiece depicting a battle of Ryloth during the Clone Wars. "Yes. There is great potential in him. However, I cannot have any of my men losing their composure like that."

    The Captain risked a conspiratorial grin. [Oh, I can recall once I had to bail out of a brig and discipline a certain lieutenant who got into a fist fight over a painting.] He said in an oddly accented Cheunh.

    When they were alone, the Captain addressed him as Syndic Mitth'raw'nuruodo, using the most formal grammar of the Chiss tonal language. Or at least as much as his human vocal cords allowed it. After Thrawn's first contact with humans, he had dismissed the idea that a human could ever pronounce Cheunh correctly, but Voss Parck made it his personal mission to prove him wrong. And he certainly did, in many things. Far more things that Thrawn would have ever admitted aloud. The least Thrawn could do for the Captain was bear with his quirks and his human sense of humor.

    [That was completely different. The fool could hardly tell apart Mon Calamari pre-Imperial surrealistic paintings from their Post-Imperial abstract paintings and he had the audacity to call the masterpiece of Kahfr Oladia a swoosh of bantha's tail. And I did not strike first.]

    The Captain shrugged but wisely refrained from commenting. [The last time I checked art history was not included in the entrance examination to the Imperial Academy.]

    [Hmmm,] Thrawn mused aloud. [Maybe I should include it in the application for transfer to the Seventh Fleet.] His face and voice were devoid of any emotion, unreadable even to a Chiss.

    "Did you just make a joke, sir?" The Captain asked disbelievingly in Basic.

    Thrawn rewarded him with a hard glare, disregarding the comment. [Do not presume to play innocent, Captain. There is only one possible person who would know the true meaning of that crest to me and who would be daring enough to put that idea into their heads. Quartermaster Covell's silence might have been admirable but we both know who is behind this conspiracy.]

    The Captain put his hands up in a gesture of surrender. [Guilty as charged, sir,] He tried awkwardly first in Cheunh but then he shook his head and switched back to Basic; human idioms did not translate well into Cheunh and vice versa.

    "I see no reason why the Seventh Fleet could not come up with their own official logo, sir, that is all."

    Thrawn let out a small sigh. "Pray the Emperor comes to the same conclusion, then," he said ominously, and he could see the other man flinch as if the idea had not occurred to him. Which it probably had not.

    "But it has already spread too far to put an end to it. Very well, Captain, see to it that at least the crew wears a proper uniform once they have to disembark the ship. Dismissed."

    THE END

    MissKitsune08's note after reading Thrawn novel:

    Wookieepedia on Voss Parck/Legends: Parck remained associated with Thrawn throughout the Chiss's swift rise through the Imperial ranks. (...)

    Though Parck began as Thrawn's discoverer, he quickly found the relationship reversed. Thrawn was already known to Emperor Palpatine and was greatly sought by him. Thrawn was promoted swiftly while Parck was left in his wake. Thrawn remained quite loyal to Parck, however, keeping him as his right-hand man throughout his career. Parck returned this loyalty in turn. He was deeply impressed by Thrawn's abilities and willingly shared in his supposed exile to the Unknown Regions (...).

    Besides a firm grasp of tactics, strategy, negotiation, and information-gathering, Parck spoke multiple languages in addition to his native Basic, including Cheunh, Honoghran, Twi'leki, and Zabraki. (...)

    I assumed Parck would still be associated with Thrawn during his swift rise through the Imperial ranks in Canon so you can probably imagine my surprise when reading the book... But hey, we've got a brand new character, Eli Vanto, and I even found a way to include Eli in the Freak Fleet.

    Dagon Niriz is the future Captain of the ISD Admonitor, Freja Covell is the future General of the ISD Chimaera's Army contingent. And Gilad Pellaeon needs no introduction, I hope :)

    BACK TO MASTERLIST OR COMMENT SECTION BELOW
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2020
  2. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Story No#2: Breaking the Ice

    Summary: Admiral Thrawn and Captain Parck share a story from their past with Commander Pellaeon.

    Author's Note: In this fic, Thrawn is still Admiral, Parck is Captain of the ISD Chimaera, Niriz and Pellaeon are Commanders.

    In Legends, Thrawn infiltrated the Strikefast in the same manner as in the canonical novel (the first chapter of Thrawn is in fact retelling of a short story called Mist Encounter. There are only few differences between the two, eg.: no Eli Vanto in Legends, no Booster Terrik in Canon.)

    -----------------------------
    When Commander Pellaeon finally made his way past all dignitaries at the Grand Reception of the Winter Fete, he found Captain Parck deeply engaged in a one sided conversation with Admiral Thrawn at one of the small, private coaches in the Eastern Wing of the Imperial Palace.

    “Ah, there he is. Commander Pellaeon!” Captain Parck motioned him to join them. “Please, have a seat. I was just about to tell the Admiral about Wynssa Starflare’s latest holonet drama based on a story of the famous Alderaanian writer Yoshiki Tanaka.”

    Pellaeon gave his superior officers a polite bow and sat down opposite to them. He absentmindedly nodded at the service droid which had promptly appeared next to him to get him a glass of the same drink the two men had been drinking.

    “Ah, that is hardly a breaking news, sir, the last episode aired on the HoloNet over two months ago,” Pellaeon supplied, taking the offered drink from the tray; to his surprise it had appeared to be an old Correlian whisky, one of his favorite brands from his homeworld.

    Captain Parck rewarded him with a lopsided grin. “It is a breaking news to the Admiral.”

    Pellaeon took a sip from the glass to hide his smirk. Somehow it did not surprise him that Admiral Thrawn had paid little attention to the HoloNet or Holovision blockbusters. Their alien admiral was interested only in high culture, spending all his off-duty time in his suite appreciating the most famous works of art the galaxy had to offer. Pellaeon supposed it was a nothing short of a miracle for Admiral Thrawn to be even aware an actress and producer named Wynssa Starflare existed.

    The crew, on the other hand, adored Wynssa Starflare’s holodramas. There were only so many things one could do in their leisure time aboard a Star Destroyer to keep themselves from dying of boredom. The whole Seventh Fleet must have been completely hooked on the brave adventures of Kaiser Reinhard and his beautiful sister Annerose.

    Captain Parck then proceeded with outlining the basic storyline to Admiral Thrawn who clearly didn't share their fondness for the space opera genre; the alien features were as impassive as ever, but his lips were pressed into a thin line, his glowing red eyes having the distant look he had appeared to have during exceptionally boring political gatherings.

    In other words, the Admiral found it a complete waste of his precious time and attention.

    However, what made Pellaeon stop and stare was the fact that the Admiral did not simply cut the Captain off. By all means, he had the full right to reprimand Captain Parck and remind him that he had overstepped his boundaries. True, Admiral Thrawn made them all listen to his never ending lectures about art but that was his right as their commanding officer. The Captain, though, had absolutely no right to make his superior listen to his overly enthusiastic retelling of Yoshiki Tanaka’s space opera.

    And yet as he listened to the Captain’s amicable tone and watched the Admiral’s face cringe and quickly hide it behind a sip from his Correlian whisky, Pellaeon couldn’t help thinking it reminded him of two old friends who did not share but respected each other’s hobbies.

    While friendly relations among officers were tolerated, Admiral Thrawn always remained cold and distant to everyone, never playing favorites, never engaging in a small talk; a true natural born leader surrounded by his servants, wearing the admiral’s uniform as if it was his second skin. It was impossible to imagine him having been anything else.

    “Something you might want to share with us, Commander?” Admiral Thrawn’s smooth, measured voice broke his line of thoughts.

    Pellaeon realized he must have been staring, feeling like an ensign caught eavesdropping on a conversation between two ranking officers. He straightened in his chair and cleared his throat, putting the half raised glass back on the table.

    “Please excuse my bluntness, Admiral,” Pellaeon mumbled in an apology, “but you and Captain Parck seem better acquainted than your interaction aboard Chimaera would indicate.”

    There was a reason why Commander Pellaeon was the beta shift regular executive officer: he and Admiral Thrawn did not get along. Captain Parck followed every single one of Admiral Thrawn’s seemingly illogical orders without hesitation, Commander Niriz expressed concern for the Admiral's or the crew's safety, however, it was Pellaeon who could never stop himself from suggesting a different approach, offering an alternate solution.

    While Admiral Thrawn’s orders seemed completely illogical at first, it all fell into place in a hindsight, as if the Admiral could use the Force to enter his opponents’ mind and predict all their movements. The alien commander scored a victory after victory, rising quickly through the ranks, giving them all enough opportunities to shine and make names for themselves as well. Their enemies rarely struck on schedule, thus Pellaeon often found himself leading the battle and waking up the Admiral.

    And Admiral Thrawn had always answered his call. Even at the oddest hours he appeared wide awake and immaculate as ever, as if he never slept, as if it never bothered him to come to his rescue. Then he proceeded to give him and the ongoing battle a long contemplative look and countermanded most of his orders, using a completely different strategy. Every time it made Pellaeon feel like an ensign who had just graduated from the Academy.

    Even though he and Niriz happened to be very good friends, lately there has been a certain rivalry between them. A new task force consisting of an Imperial-class Star Destroyer and multiple Victory-class Star Destroyers would soon arrive freshly from the docks as a newest addition to the Seventh Fleet, a new vice admiral and a new captain positions opening up. It would be Parck, of course, who would be promoted to the rank of a vice admiral, the man had certainly earned it and his promotion was long overdue.

    That meant the position of the flagship's captain would open up as well, and there was no way Admiral Thrawn would have chosen Pellaeon as his second-in-command. Pellaeon, however, didn’t want to be a captain of any other ship but ISD Chimaera.

    The Admiral was watching him with the strange, glowing red eyes, his alien face as unreadable as ever. Captain Parck abruptly stopped in a mid-sentence, his eyes darting between Pellaeon and Thrawn. Pellaeon suppressed a grimace. Splendid, once again he had overstepped his boundaries; the Admiral’s past and background had always been off-limits.

    “Captain Parck and I fist met fifteen years, seven months, and den days ago to be exact.” The Admiral said in such an off-hand manner as if it was the most obvious thing in the universe.

    I’ve got the observational skills of a mynock, Pellaeon thought in embarrassment. There was no way he would ever become a captain of an Imperial-class Star Destroyer, even a Victory-class Destroyer was forever out of his grasp.

    Captain Parck decided to take a pity on him. “Commander, please believe me when I say it’s not you. I may be a deeply private person but Admiral Thrawn is as tight-lipped as…” He trailed off, seeming to be searching for a comparison. “Well, I guess I just invented a new idiom, ‘to be as tight-lipped as a Chiss.’”

    “Captain, please,...” Thrawn admonished. The Chiss, that must have been the proper term, focused his deep glowing gaze at the Captain, a one such glace would be enough to put even the most insubordinate crewmen back to their place. Yet this time those eyes held no threat.

    Pellaeon blinked.

    The situation could not have possibly gotten more absurd. Captain Parck has just talked back to Admiral Thrawn and the Admiral let him get away with it. The Captain never, ever disagreed with the Admiral; the man had always followed all Thrawn’s instructions to the letter and never deviated from his orders.

    “Since the Admiral finally decided to break the proverbial ice,” Parck let out a chuckle as if the last word held an another hidden meaning, “I assume he has no objection to me finally breathing a word to another soul about how he ended up as my prisoner on Strikefast all those years ago.”

    The Chiss admiral took a sip from his glass, his face completely unreadable. “The Captain misremembers. I allowed myself be taken prisoner.”

    Pellaeon let out a sound that might have been a choke. It definitely sounded like a joke but the Admiral had been deadly serious, giving Parck a disapproving frown. Either Thrawn really had let himself be taken captive or he had at least believed so.

    The Captain paid little attention to both of them, leaning back in his chair and crossing his legs, his eyes getting a distant, dreamlike look.

    “We had been chasing smugglers into an uncharted territory,” he began, his voice full of nostalgia, “and found ourselves dropping out of hyperspace close to an unknown world. We launched starfighters after them but they managed to escape and hide on the planet’s surface. So we sent out a ground assault team to find the smugglers and retrieve our fallen pilots.”

    A smirk appeared on Parck’s face. “And we stumbled upon a hut of an alien warrior who made us run for our lives.”

    There was no doubt as of the identity of the said alien. Something told Pellaeon that there was much more to that story, that the most important details had been left out, that the Admiral had most certainly not originated from a primitive backwater world, but neither Parck nor Thrawn seemed to elaborate further.

    “He took a dead pilot’s commlink and hid away the body, filling his suit with fermented berries that attracted attention of local predators. He took apart a blaster and used the powerpack as an explosive and threw more of those nasty berries at us that attracted even more local animals. When we cut off the dead pilot’s commlink, he proceeded to lay a monofilament string to the treetops, causing one of our fighters to crash. He stole a commlink of the other pilot and switched them without us noticing.”

    Pellaeon threw a shocked glance at the Admiral who only nodded in confirmation, his face as impassive as ever.

    “And then he set off more explosives and found a way to jam our communications, creating a diversion so we would not notice he had sneaked aboard our shuttle when we finally decided to abandon that wretched mission. However, I quickly realized that there had to be a hidden passenger aboard, so I ordered my men to wait until he left his hiding place and in the end we managed to subdue him.”

    The Captain finished his story with a triumphant smile.

    The Admiral tilted his head to a side and raised an eyebrow. “I am afraid that it is rather… loose interpretation of the real events that had occurred later that day. Nevertheless it is clear even from the Captain’s version that I surrendered willingly and I allowed them to take me as their prisoner. I could have easily taken over their crew and their ship.”

    Captain Parck’s face turned into a scowl, apparently not pleased to be robbed of his great victory against the Chiss.

    “And of course, I can’t leave out the best part,” Parck said mischievously, taking a deep sip from his Corellian whisky. “The Admiral, bound in shackles, looking like a savage, with long unkempt hair, dressed in nothing but skins and furs. The mug shots would have been a first-class blackmail material.”

    Pellaeon flinched and looked at the Admiral who had been staring blankly ahead, the alien features unreadable, his eyes giving out a dim, steady glow.

    How long Admiral Thrawn had spent on that world? How did he end up marooned on a backwater planet with no means of escape? Pellaeon knew for sure it couldn’t have been a simple accident. His thoughts must have been clearly written on his face for Captain Parck sighed and shook his head. “I am sure the Admiral will tell us the whole story behind his exile one day.”

    As tight-lipped as a Chiss...

    “Perhaps, perhaps not,” Thrawn said enigmatically, and then he focused his gaze on Pellaeon, giving him a long, measuring glance that always made him downright uncomfortable. It was as if the red eyes could see right through his soul. “In any case, I can provide the Captain with more detailed and completely accurate retelling of the events that happened later that day.”

    Then suddenly, Pellaeon realized that he had been recalled from his night shift duty for a completely different reason. Admiral Thrawn tended to avoid social gatherings and fetes like a plague, exchanging only few polite words with dignitaries and moffs, retreating to the ship as soon as the protocol would allow. He never withdrew into the private rooms that served as a place where the guests could hold an uninterrupted private conversation.

    “I thought…” Pellaeon blurted out, trying hard to keep his voice even and failing. “Sir, you have placed me on the night watch duty for the past year...”

    “Exactly.” Thrawn nodded, still looking directly at him with that deep probing gaze. “I focused my attention on Captain Parck and Commander Niriz because I needed to make them acquainted with each other’s command styles; they were in need of my guidance and tutoring to be fully prepared for the task I envisioned for them. I appointed you as the beta shift executive officer because I knew the Chimaera would be in good hands.”

    Pellaeon opened his mouth but no sound would come out of his throat. Out of the corner of his eyes, he could see Captain Parck breaking into a wide grin.

    Thrawn abruptly stood up to his full height and offered him his right hand. “There is an opening for the position of the Seventh Fleet flagship’s captain. I would be honored if you accepted the post and became my second-in-command, Captain Pellaeon.”



    THE END



    Oh, and by the way, watch The Legend of the Galactic Heroes OVA (Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu 銀河英雄伝説 ). A must watch for all Thrawn fans! You will love Kaiser Reinhard and his fleet admirals. And Kircheis. I used to have a Kircheis mug cup but it fell down and broke (╥_╥)



    BACK TO MASTERLIST OR COMMENTS SECTION BELOW
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2021
  3. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Story No#3: Of Chiss and Men
    Summary:
    The most boring tasks often result in the most interesting conversations. Waging a war on paperwork, Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Pellaeon get a unique opportunity to learn more about each other. Gen. Words: 3000

    Author's Note: Set during the Season Three of the Rebels, having Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Pellaeon grown more accustomed to each other.

    ----------------------------

    Contrary to what most civilians might think, chasing smugglers, fighting rebels, bringing the law and order, and spreading the might of the Galactic Empire thorough the Galaxy, comprised only a mere fraction in the life of an average officer of the Imperial Navy.

    What the service had been really about was paperwork.

    And higher the rank, the larger number of files in the datapad. What the bureaucrats in the Imperial Center could do with so much data, or where they could possibly even store it was completely beyond Pellaeon's comprehension.

    It was the end of the Imperial fiscal year, and Pellaeon had been compiling his first annual report as the captain of the ISD Chimaera. And considering how much paperwork a mere captain had to do, just thinking how many reports the Grand Admiral must have written about the whole Seventh Fleet, or how many files he must have checked and read was enough to make him feel nauseous.

    Grand Admiral Thrawn had been known for being thorough; he would have read every report and every file that had been sent to him, and by reading he meant of course reading it through, not scrolling down like many others admirals would do.

    The only person who could have possibly avoided paperwork would be the Dark Lord himself. No one in the Galactic Empire would ever dare to suggest to Darth Vader to sit down behind the desk and fill in forms. Pellaeon couldn't suppress a chuckle at the thought of what would have happened to such poor, unfortunate soul who would be foolish enough to approach him.

    "Yes, Captain?" Thrawn asked absentmindedly, not bothering to look up from his datapad.

    For the past four hours, they had been sitting in the Grand Admiral's office going through the infernal report together. The protocol dictated that the Captain would have the report sent to Thrawn, the Grand Admiral would have read it through and sent it back with his comments, the Captain would have corrected it, sent it back to the Grand Admiral, who would have finally forwarded it to the Imperial Center.

    Since this was Pellaeon's first such report under Thrawn's command, the Grand Admiral suggested they should save both of their times by going through the report together. On one hand, it meant that for the past four hours Pellaeon had to completely swallow his ego for the Grand Admiral missed nothing. On the other hand, it indeed saved both of their times because the Grand Admiral had been basically re-writing and re-dictating in front of his very eyes, his voice calm and measured, with only an occasional frown or a spark in his eyes. By all means, Thrawn could have, and he should have, just given him the damned report back.

    But he didn't.

    "I am sorry, sir, perhaps a short break would be in order?" Pellaeon suggested, hoping the other man would take the hint.

    He didn't.

    "By all means, Captain, you may take a break if you need one." Thrawn dismissed him with a simple gesture, still not taking his eyes off the datapad.

    I am not the one who needs a break.

    And so Pellaeon continued sitting there until the Grand Admiral had finally raised his head and focused his red eyes on him, narrowing them once the subtle message finally registered in his alien brain.

    Yes, he definitely needed a break.

    Pellaeon would have been a very poor Captain if he had not known that the Grand Admiral had spent past two weeks alone in his office going over the Seventh Fleet's accounting and working out their next year's budget. And even if Pellaeon truly had not known, a half-drunk coffee mug at the end of the table would have told him everything he needed to know.

    It was a plain gray, standard-issue coffee mug, and yet it spoke volumes on how exhausted the Grand Admiral must have been to have resorted to caf. Thrawn clearly drank half of the mug before Pellaeon came in, meaning he must have been dead tired before they even began.

    Pellaeon cleared his throat and turned his head in the direction of the coffee mug, trying hard to ignore the disapproving frown on the alien face. Thrawn has always tried to look perfect and immaculate in front of his subordinates. The coffee mug was a crack in that armor, a stain on his pristine white uniform, a sign on weakness. And no one wanted to be reminded of their weaknesses, especially Grand Admiral Thrawn.

    Pellaeon wondered if he would ever become a perfect model officer who could turn a blind eye on everything. How many more years it would take? Five? Ten? Would it take service under Darth Vader to finally erase that stubborn Corellian streak of his? It had been there, deep down, and even all his military training couldn't stop it from emerging from time to time, making him say something inappropriate.

    Like this: "I am sorry, sir, and I very much appreciate your help, sir, but it does not have to be finished in a one day."

    The Grand Admiral kept glaring at him. "There is a saying among my people, Captain, 'never leave until tomorrow that which you can do today.'"

    It was said that Corellians had rocket fuel for blood, and well, Pellaeon was a pure-blood Corellian even if he spent most of his life off-world.

    Never tell us the odds.

    "And there is a saying among my people, sir," Pellaeon coughed and squirmed in his seat. "What can wait for tomorrow can wait for the day after and then you've had two days off."

    Pellaeon knew that the Grand Admiral was not Darth Vader. Even if the Chiss had the ability to call the Force to his will, he would not have choked him with it. That was not in his nature. However, Thrawn was still his direct superior officer and as such he had the means to make his life hell.

    And Corellia had not just one but Nine Hells.

    "Yes. I am familiar with that particular saying," Thrawn said, his face and voice devoid of any emotion, completely unreadable, "it might come as a surprise to you, Captain, but the very first Humans I met were, in fact, Corellians."

    There were only few extremely rare occasions, in which the Grand Admiral revealed anything about himself. Almost everything about him remained a complete mystery. Pellaeon had known the proper name for his species, he had known the Galactic Basic was not his mother tongue, he had known it was Voss Parck who brought him to the Empire, and he had known that Chiss could see a little bit more of electromagnetic spectrum.

    That particular piece of information slipped during an art lecture in which Pellaeon casually mentioned that the violet color and the purple color look more or less same to humans, to which the Chiss appeared surprised and proceeded to call in the rest of his senior command staff, repeating the whole three-hour lecture for them, coming to the conclusion that it truly had to be a difference between Human and Chiss range of vision. Pellaeon wasn't the most popular person that day.

    "You may ask your question, Captain." Thrawn said in a calm, measured voice, reaching over to the end of the table for his mug, hiding whatever expression or emotion that might have been there, and took a deep sip of the cold coffee.

    A one single question? There were probably million questions that Pellaeon wanted to ask him. Where should he even begin?

    Yet as he kept looking into those red eyes, watching them dimmly glow, reminding him of a flame that burned steadily in a fireplace, he knew what question he should ask.

    "I, ah," Pellaeon began clumsily, "I cannot help wondering what kind of impression those humans must have left."

    There was a brief, indescribable shift in that red gaze. As if Pellaeon just went through a some kind of test. However, did he pass? Or did he fail?

    "Hmmm..." Thrawn mused out aloud and put the mug back on the table. He leaned back in his chair and steeped his fingers in front of his face.

    "They were reckless and irresponsible, behaving like exceptionally spoiled Chiss children. I did not even need to speak their language to understand what they were trying to say for it had been written so clearly on their exotic faces. They kept pestering me with questions of personal nature, a serious breach of good manners and etiquette. They expressed an interest in my native language but their pronunciation left much to be desired, even my name sounded like a gibberish."

    The Grand Admiral grew silent, and Pellaeon felt like he had been slapped on the wrist. He supposed this was how most alien races must have felt under the New Order of the Galactic Empire.

    "I see..." Pellaeon swallowed hard, at least he had his answer. No wonder Thrawn never paid any attention to racial slurs directed at his non-human heritage. "I suppose humans must seem inferior to you then."

    The Grand Admiral shook his head. "I did not say inferior, Captain, simply different."

    Pellaeon blinked.

    "While is true that humans are physically weaker than many other species, it is humans who became the most common and most resilient race in the Galaxy. Despite all your faults and misgivings, it was you humans who managed to conquer most planets you set your feet upon. Your bodies managed to adapt to all kinds of environments and gravities and your minds shaped differently based on the culture you come from."

    The Grand Admiral paused for a few seconds, his features tense, his lips pressed into a thin line; the expression on his face reminded Pellaeon of those that he used to have during a battle with a particularly unpredictable enemy.

    "The most curious thing, Captain, when I face a human opponent in a battle, I cannot think of them as 'human.' I need to take into an account what kind of planet they come from, what kind of culture shaped their curious minds. There is a typical Mon Calamari, a typical Twi'lek, even a typical Chiss. But a typical human? There is no such thing as a typical human."

    Thrawn shook his head.

    "Corellians are too stubborn for their own good and they never know when to give up. Mandalorians care too much for their honor and suffer from a quick temper, and Alderaanians are playing with fire with their peaceful demonstrations for equal rights. Their intentions might be noble but sooner or later their actions will invoke the wrath of the Emperor or a fanatical follower of the New Order."

    The Grand Admiral appeared to come back from the faraway distance his musings took him, his face clearing up, his red eyes focusing back on Pellaeon.

    "I could give you a lecture about the importance and the role the environment and conditions played in shaping and affecting your human minds. It would take days, perhaps weeks to even get past the basics. However, despite all that, despite all your differences, you still remain one species. In other words, Captain, humans are the true work of art. A one that I am still not done analyzing yet."

    Pellaeon sat there, rooted in his chair, his brain slowly processing what was being said. Just how was he supposed to respond to something like this?

    "You said your name was unpronounceable to us."

    "That is two questions, Captain."

    "I am sorry, sir," Pellaeon said automatically, his military training kicking in even though it was clearly not meant as a reprimand.

    Thrawn waved him off. "It is of no consequence as I decided very early on to allow humans to use my core name, Thrawn, to avoid the unintentional results of their mispronunciation."

    Pellaeon leaned in, letting his curiosity show openly on his face. Just how long and complicated the Grand Admiral's name must have been? What would it translate into? And more importantly, what would the mispronunciation translate into?

    Thrawn let out a soft sigh.

    "It is not… completely impossible to pronounce but it requires certain practice. It took Captain Voss Parck a long time and I would very much prefer not to go through this ordeal again." Thrawn concluded, his tone making it clear as crystal that the Grand Admiral did not wish anything more to be said about this topic.

    "Understood, sir."

    "Very well, Captain. One hour break and then we will finish this task. While your Corellian saying is not without merit, I fully intend to complete this report by tonight."

    And then they continued for eight more hours, taking only few necessary breaks, until they won the battle with their bureaucratic enemy. As the time passed, it was Pellaeon who did more and more re-writing and re-dictating, with Thrawn needing to step in less and less.

    When they were finally done, it took Pellaeon all his will and training not to fall asleep in the way to his quarters. He fell dead asleep on his bed, removing only the jacket of his uniform, praying to whatever higher powers in the universe that he could get at least some rest until the beginning of his shift.

    Thus when he was roused from his sleep by the ship's intercomm, he had almost smashed the receiver apart. There had better been an excellent excuse…

    "Captain Pellaeon on the line," he barked at the communication officer, and immediately felt a stab of guilt for doing so. It was not the young man's fault for waking him up after an extremely long and taxing day.

    "Captain, your presence on the bridge has been requested. The Grand Admiral ordered a drill and he wishes you to come over to lead the battle personally."

    A drill? A mere drill?!

    "I'll be right there, Lieutenant. Pellaeon out." He rolled over and checked the chrono.

    03:30

    Barely two hours of sleep.

    The Grand Admiral had a real talent for choosing the most unfortunate timing for a surprise drill, such as in the middle of the lunch break the only day of the month the ship's cooks prepared something that could be called a real food, or five minutes before the finale of a whatever HoloNet series the crew had been hooked on that month.

    He should have known that the Grand Admiral would not let him off he hook so easily. There were always strings attached to favors.

    Pellaeon buttoned up his uniform jacket as fast as he could and went over to the sink, turning on the icy cold water, washing his face in a hope the shock would at least wake him up. When he was done, looked at himself in the mirror, taking in his red, bloodshot eyes and dark circles under them.

    Grand Admiral Thrawn is not the only person around whose looks could kill.

    When he reached the bridge he could see the Grand Admiral in a conversation with the night shift's executive officer who flinched when she saw him approaching.

    Gritting his teeth, Pellaeon gave them both a curt nod.

    "Captain Pellaeon," Thrawn said in a greeting, giving his disheveled look a disapproving frown. The Chiss looked wide-awake and well-rested, full of command authority, dressed in a new pristine white uniform. As if he had not kept Pellaeon awake until one o'clock, going over the annual report with him.

    Onna fulle guth, Pellaeon muttered a curse in ancient Corellian under his breath.

    "The ISD Relentless has just arrived in system. I surmised you might be interested in an opportunity to lead a mock battle against Admiral Konstantine's executive officer, Commander Dorja."

    Dorja was on the night roster?

    Something told Pellaeon that Admiral Konstantine did not share the Grand Admiral's idea of the importance of the night watch. That meant Dorja would not have dared to wake up their Captain, let alone their Admiral, for a mere drill.

    Pellaeon cleared his throat, all his irritation gone in an instant. He owed his alien commander an apology, this was not a revenge, this was a real privilege.

    "Thank you, Admiral," Pellaeon tried to sound as off-handedly as possible, "If I might be so bold to suggest to organize a boarding party to try to capture the flag? The Army could also use a good field exercise."

    The Grand Admiral put his hands behind his back and looked at the triangular shape of Relentless behind the viewports.

    "You surprise me, Captain," the Chiss said with a rare hint of pride in his voice. "As long as our strike teams set their weapons on stun and avoid permanent physical damage to the crew, I suppose there are still enough funds left in our budget to compensate for any possible damage to the Relentless's equipment that might have arise."

    The red eyes were glowing like two orbs, reminding him of a Drayberian hawk waiting for an opportunity to strike. "Major Covell, in particular, might be interested in leading the boarding party to the Relentless's bridge."

    Pellaeon tried hard to wipe a smirk off his face and failed. He could safely bet a bottle of his Whyren's reserve that the Grand Admiral would not pass an opportunity to don on full battle gear including his helmet to capture the flag himself. Lately the Chiss has been uncharacteristically tense whenever Konstantine's name was mentioned.

    And the image of Grand Admiral Thrawn breaking into Admiral Konstantine's bedroom with his Death Troopers in the middle of the night was simply priceless.

    The Grand Admiral might not have been as ruthless as Darth Vader but he had his moments.

    THE END

    Bad boys, bad boys,

    Whatcha gonna do,

    Whatcha gonna do,

    When they come for you

    *cackles madly*



    BACK TO MASTERLIST OR COMMENTS SECTION BELOW
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2020
  4. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Story No#4: Witch Hunt
    Summary:
    Captain Pellaeon becomes entangled in power games between Grand Admiral Thrawn and Ysanne Isard who would stop at nothing to bring the alien down to his knees. The title says it all. Loyal? Prove it! You have been warned. Gen. Words: 7000

    Author's Note: The Commission for the Preservation of the New Order (COMPNOR) is a Galactic Empire government agency responsible for the promotion of New Order ideology.

    In Legends, COMPNOR has many branches (e.g. Imperial Security Bureau), in Canon we haven't seen much of the Emperor's bullies yet. The whole concept is rather complicated and it would take a long time to explain. I decided to write my own take on how the Empire carries out its dirty work. Guess who is canonically in charge of COMPNOR, Director Armand Isard, father to no one else than the infamous Ysanne "Iceheart" Isard (= Director of the Imperial Intelligence in Legends.)

    --------------------------------

    "Come in," Pellaeon called absentmindedly at the sound of the door chime. Placed under arrest and confined to quarters, it was not like he had any choice about letting anyone in but it was still nice that whoever was on the opposite side of the door was giving him enough courtesy by not simply marching in using the override.

    The door opened with a hissing sound, and Pellaeon found himself abruptly standing into full attention, mentally cursing himself for not doing anything about an unruly pile of books that had been on his desk nor bothering to button up his uniform jacket, for there was none other than Grand Admiral Thrawn standing at the entrance.

    "Admiral," he started awkwardly, feeling a little light-headed.

    Pellaeon was a military man at heart, punctuality and order coming as second nature to him. He prided himself on running his ship with utmost efficiency, never tolerating disorderliness from his subordinates or even from himself. However, it all paled in comparison with Grand Admiral Thrawn.

    The Chiss took several carefully measured steps, giving Pellaeon's quarters a long, pensive look not so dissimilar from the expression that he used to have during his surprise inspections—he was even wearing the white gloves he wore during those inspections—his red eyes going over the collection of various items that Pellaeon kept as memorabilia from the ships he had served on, until finally resting on the unruly pile of books.

    "At ease, Captain," Thrawn said in his usual calm, modulated voice. "I did not come here in any official manner. I have just returned back from Ryloth only to find the executive officer in charge my flagship, hearing the Captain had been relieved from duty and confined to his quarters by a warrant issued by the COMPNOR."

    "Ah, yes, COMPNOR could never resist a dramatic entrance..."

    They had requested a landing permission and headed straight to the bridge, accusing Pellaeon of a conflict of interest in front of the whole bridge crew, effectively relieving him from duty. The COMPNOR and its branches had the authority to do so, making every captain in the Fleet dread the moment a shuttle carrying its authorization codes appeared on their radars. Well, every captain but Pellaeon.

    Pellaeon knew the ISB had sent a field operative to Lothal to weed out the traitors and Rebel sympathizers, therefore he found nothing unusual about their loyalty division sending some of their own.

    Pellaeon dedicated his life to the military, internalizing its values of discipline, order, efficiency, and obedience to authority, and respected the military as a prestigious and honorable institution. He never had the luxury of having political opinions, and therefore he would have never considered the possibility that the COMPNOR might have come for him.

    "Sir, I have absolutely no idea what is going on," Pellaeon admitted, "it must be a terrible misunderstanding."

    The Grand Admiral finally took his eyes off the books and focused them on Pellaeon, his posture uncharacteristically tense. "It is no misunderstanding, Captain."

    "I beg your pardon, sir?" Pellaeon blurted out, feeling completely lost.

    The Grand Admiral let out a sigh. "This is a deliberate, well-planned move. They must have been biding their time, waiting for an opportunity to strike, choosing the moment I left Chimaera for Ryloth to prevent me from disrupting their plans."

    "They did that to get to—" Pellaeon took a sharp inhale.

    In other words, when Thrawn had been appointed the rank of a grand admiral by the Emperor himself, he finally got away from COMPNOR's poisonous grasp. An alien reaching the highest rank of the Imperial Navy, answering only to the Grand Moff, the Dark Lord, and the Emperor himself? It must have made the fanatical followers of the New Order go white with fury. So they decided to take their revenge on Thrawn's flagship captain.

    If the alien's posture had seemed tense before, he was now, at least to all appearances, completely rigid.

    "I must ask for your full cooperation in this matter, Captain," Thrawn's voice was quiet and very, very cold. "You will submit yourself to them, answering every single of their questions fully and truthfully. Is there anything that could have been possibly used against you?"

    Pellaeon swallowed hard; he had an idea what kind of approach the COMPNOR would use to get to him.

    "There might be a few skeletons in the closet..." The poor attempt at a joke didn't seem funny even to him, let alone to the Chiss.

    The Chiss nodded slowly. "Nothing at the present, I presume?"

    Pellaeon shook his head. "No. Only the past. Everybody has a past that sooner or later comes back to haunt them..."

    He meant it as a general statement, not really a joke at himself or at the other man in the room. Therefore it came as a shock to him when the Chiss startled, his perfect facade cracking for an instant, the red eyes widening. And then it was gone, vanished as abruptly as it appeared.

    "I made an error, Captain," The Chiss said quietly, his expression unreadable. "And I had better correct that error before it becomes a mistake." He shifted his glowing gaze back at Pellaeon, giving him a curt nod in farewell, marching out of the room in his long, carefully measured strides.

    *****************

    Pellaeon tried his best to ignore the curious looks as the whole entourage walked through the Chimaera's corridors to the Aft Conference Room No 1. An armed escort could not have been avoided, of course, it would have been a serious breach of security protocols. Innocent until proven guilty had been one of the first things that the Emperor decided to abolish once he transformed the Republic into the Galactic Empire.

    "Troopers, stand guard outside." The Grand Admiral ordered the soldiers who wordlessly took their assigned posts. Then he addressed the COMPNOR operatives.

    "Their presence during the hearing will not be necessary. The Captain will behave."

    The apparent head of the group nodded, dismissing her henchmen as well.

    "I will handle the questioning myself, agents," she said in a cold tone. "After you, Grand Admiral."

    And so only the three of them entered the conference room, the Grand Admiral motioning to him to take seat opposite the interrogator, sitting down further away at the head of the table himself. His presence had been redundant, in fact, he could not have interfered with the hearing in any official or unofficial manner. However, no one could have possibly ordered a grand admiral around, especially on his own flagship.

    In any case, the interrogator had appeared not to mind. If anything, she seemed to be pleased that the Grand Admiral wanted to be present watching his own flagship captain's dignity about to be flushed down the 'fresher.

    For the COMPNOR operative who sat down directly opposite to him had been no one else than the daughter of the Director Isard himself, Ysanne Isard.

    Young, beautiful, and very deadly.

    She was of an athletic build, tall, with curves in the right places. She wore her long black hair unbound, two white sidelocks framed a face that would have made the woman the toast of any number of planets. Her high forehead, strong jaw, sharp cheekbones, and straight nose all combined to make her a rare beauty, with only one element spoiling the effect. Her mismatched, heterochromatic eyes; one eye had been blood red, the other one pale blue.

    Pellaeon had been used to looking directly into not just one, but two red, glowing eyes, so her unusual appearance could not have possibly had any intimidating effect on him.

    "Agent Isard," Pellaeon gave her a curt nod and looked directly into the mismatched eyes.

    "Captain Pellaeon," Isard said in a frosty tone, putting an unnecessary emphasis on his rank. She had not been nicknamed Iceheart for nothing. "Shall we begin?"

    Well, one had to admit, the field agents certainly did their homework.

    Pellaeon had an idea what kind of bantha manure would they dig up on him, but even he had to congratulate them on the sheer amount of data they had been able to reconstruct based on his personal HoloNet access history, his financial records, and his personal correspondence.

    Iceheart presented him with the complete record of all the female companions he had during his many years of service for the Republic and the Empire. 'Gil and his women.' His only weakness, the thing that had dragged down his career for many years and eventually resulted in him accepting a low rank position in the Freak Fleet. Still, despite how much it had cost him, now that he had been browsing through the list, he couldn't bring himself regret any of them. They were Ladies, with capital Ls, all of them. And some of them barely aged a day.

    Oh, his life would have been much easier if he simply did one night stands like all the other officers. And it would have been so boring.

    "Captain Pellaeon?"

    "What can I say, Ma'am?" Pellaeon confessed. "You don't really expect me to tell the details, do you? Gentlemen don't talk about such things."

    Isard practically snatched away the datapad from him, a sneer appearing on her beautiful face. Such an expression was completely unbecoming of a lady, but then there was no lady sitting opposite to him. There was a banshee. A she-beast from one of the Corellian Nine Hells.

    "Then let's talk about the way you run your ship, Captain. How would you describe your relationship with your executive officer?"

    Pellaeon took a moment to gather his thoughts. "Commander Riza is a very capable, highly skilled officer, dedicated first and foremost to the Empire and her duties."

    He would have never recommended her for promotion otherwise, and the Grand Admiral would have certainly never had approved it.

    "Beautiful?" Isard supplied.

    "Oh, she is certainly beautiful," Pellaeon didn't see a reason to deny it, "and she is also married. And a member of my crew. In the direct chain of command."

    He would spell it out for Isard if necessary. "There could have never been anything between us."

    He knew Isard would have been able to tell the truth behind his words but it seemed she had not been satisfied with the answer.

    "Grand Admiral?" She asked abruptly, turning her attention on the third occupant of the room.

    He had been sitting there in complete silence, simply listening to the entire exchange, making Pellaeon almost forget the Chiss was there. And that he had heard everything. Shavit.

    "I couldn't care less about what my human subordinates do in their leisure time, that is, of course, unless an another member of the crew were involved. If I had any suspicion about the Captain or the Commander I would have had them both immediately demoted to lieutenants and transferred each to a different ship." The Chiss said in such a cold, indifferent tone that Pellaeon only rarely heard from him these days.

    "Then perhaps you won't mind telling us about your relationship with Commander Riza, Grand Admiral?" Isard raised her chin in defiance. She wouldn't seriously consider interrogating a grand admiral, would she? She might not have any Navy rank but even COMPNOR held no power over the Emperor's handpicked few.

    "Do not be ridiculous, Agent Isard," The Chiss said with the same cold indifference, "You of all people should know better after you so conveniently placed all those humans and aliens in my path. I thought you'd have finally gotten the message after I sent back your Zeltron with a parting gift."

    The mismatched eyes gleamed dangerously, her beautiful face hardening. It was clear that Isard didn't like Thrawn's retort, nor Pellaeon's calm submission, and most of all she didn't like that neither of them appeared to take her master plan seriously.

    "Captain Pellaeon," Isard said so sharply that it made Pellaeon startle. "Let's talk about Hallena Devis."

    Well, at least the banshee finally cut the chit chat and decided to bare her claws. Hallena Devis was the thing he meant when he had said to the Grand Admiral that everybody had a past that sooner or later would come back to haunt them.

    "Of all you female… friends," Isard spat the word like an insult, "It was Ms Devis whose company you sought most often, with whom you spent most of your shore leaves… You never her let go, did you?"

    The Iceheart finally showed her true face.

    Pellaeon cleared his throat. "You are mistaken about the latter. Hallena and I are no longer seeing each other. I let her go."

    "Did you?" Isard opposed. "After she gave you a son?"

    Pellaeon sighed. "Because she gave me a son."

    They had kept seeing each other on and off during their service to the Republic, breaking up after the JanFathal fiasco only to passionately reconnect later, and eventually to find out that they could never live in the same world. He was a military man whose his duty always came first. And she… she was a former intelligence agent who became disillusioned with the Republic, the Empire, the authorities in general, becoming a full-time mother and raising her child far away from everything. After all she must have gone through, he couldn't have hold it against her.

    I can only live so much of a lie, she had said after JanFathal. All the good things had to come to an end. So he moved on. As did she.

    "Isard," the Chiss interrupted them in a detached voice, calling her by her last name only; the Grand Admiral had been doing that from time to time when he found the individual had been unworthy of a rank or a title.

    "You have already wasted enough of my time as it is. You accused him of a conflict of interest. When will you finally get to that part so I can have him stripped of his rank and start looking for a replacement? I don't have all day."

    No doubt she had intended to keep stabbing him in the back for several hours until she was satisfied enough before she would move to the JanFathal. She would have made an excellent Inquisitor if she had been a Force Sensitive.

    "As you wish." Isard smiled. "Captain Pellaeon, tell us about the battle of JanFathal."

    Pellaeon took a deep breath before he started.

    "The Leveler, a Republic assault ship under my command, had been on a cruise in the Dantus sector when we were alerted that a Separatist Fleet entered a nearby Sector. As the only Republic force in the area, I felt that I needed to investigate, taking the ship into the surveillance rage."

    "Even though it was not combat ready?" Isard interrupted him.

    "I hadn't intended it become a full blown combat situation. However, you are correct, we had just received new concussion missile prototypes that haven't been thoroughly tested. We weren't at full combat ready status."

    "An unnecessary risk," came a sharp rebuke from the third person in the room.

    Trust the Grand Admiral to point out an error in judgment when it came to command decisions. At first, Pellaeon thought that the Chiss found him utterly incompetent. Later, when Pellaeon had been put on the night roster he thought that the Chiss had done that to get rid of him. It took him a long time until he figured out that it was nothing personal. The patience of a saint had been a necessary prerequisite for Thrawn's second-in-command.

    Isard couldn't have known that; from the way her eyes widened she expected that the Chiss would come to his defense.

    "Yes, sir." Pellaeon said automatically. "We had been approached by a freighter crewed by dissident Jedi who claimed that they had received a distress call from a Republic Intelligence agent on JanFathal. After I verified their report with the Republic's Intelligence, I decided to answer the distress call and come to the agent's rescue."

    "The agent was no one else than your lover, Hallena Devis." Isard stated calmly.

    "Yes," Pellaeon confessed, "though I didn't know the agent's identity at the time I made the decision."

    "Didn't you?" Isard challenged him. "You received a transmission from her mere hours before."

    "I did. And you must have seen both transmissions, therefore you are aware that I truly didn't know of the agent's identity, though I have no idea where you could have possibly gotten such piece of information."

    "Never underestimate COMPNOR, Captain." Isard's beautiful face marred in a wicked smirk. No wonder COMPNOR hated Thrawn; it was not just what the alien represented, it was the very fact that they had absolutely nothing that could be used against him. A blow to their professional pride.

    "Tell us what you did after you discovered the agent's identity, Captain." Isard encouraged him.

    "I did what any reasonable commander would do," Pellaeon admitted, "I declared a conflict of interest."

    "Yet you didn't relinquish the command." Isard countered.

    Pellaeon didn't dare to look at the third person in the room. "No. If I stepped down and let the first officer lead the mission, we would have been all dead. The Republic has been so used to the idea of peace that they allowed incompetent fools to climb the military ranks simply because they had political connections, one of the many factors leading to the Republic's demise."

    Not that the Empire was any different lately.

    Chancellor Palpatine might have dismissed the entire command structure once he declared himself the Emperor, surrounding himself only with very competent, extremely loyal people, but the corruption and nepotism quickly found its way back to the Imperial Center, spreading like a plague through the whole Empire.

    He kept his mouth shut, of course, this was a New Order fanatic he was dealing with. She could have sent him to the mines of Kessel just for such remark. At least she seemed pleased with his apt description of the Republic.

    "True. However, you just admitted that you risked your ship and your entire crew to extract a single field operative. There is no excuse for that, Captain. Or was it perhaps you risked everything because it was Hallena Devis whose life was at stake?"

    "Like I said, Ma'am, those were different times." She was too young, she couldn't have understood, though her father probably would. "At that time I would have done the same for anyone else."

    "Would you?" Isard challenged him again.

    "Yes."

    "Then continue, Captain."

    "We launched a rescue mission, sending the Clone Troopers and Jedi that had been on board, calling for reinforcements. There was an unexpected complication; a Separatist Destroyer appeared in the system, forcing me to reevaluate the situation and give an order to retreat."

    "You didn't stand a chance against the Destroyer and yet you came back." Isard countered.

    "I couldn't have abandoned them." Pellaeon defended himself.

    "Them? Or her?" The mismatched eyes narrowed.

    "Them." Pellaeon repeated.

    "Why do I have a problem believing that?"

    Pellaeon ignored the bait. "There was a problem with our main computer and we had to make a manual hyperspace jump calculation. After we made the jump back to JanFathal, we found the extradition team and with the help of the Jedi we have been able to inflict a significant damage to the Separatists and retrieve the extradition team."

    Isard interrupted him. "You have withheld an important piece of information from us, Captain."

    Why don't you tell us the whole story, then? I'd be glad to fill in the details. Pellaeon bit his lip from saying that aloud.

    "First of all, it was not your navigator who made the jump. You allowed the Jedi to take over your ship, using their sorcery ways to jump into the system. For that alone you should have been stripped of your rank."

    Try telling it to Darth Vader. He'd find your lack of faith disturbing.

    "And you were completely outnumbered and outgunned during the final battle. You would have never made it out alive if it weren't for the Jedi sorcerers. It was not you, it was the Jedi whom you let run free on your own ship who prevented the inevitable: Destruction of your ship and death of all the men under your command. Do I need to remind you that those particular Jedi under command of Djinn Altis had been considered heretics even by the Jedi Order? They held no military rank! You let civilians take control your own ship!"

    "What choice did I have?" Pellaeon cried out, spreading his hands.

    "What choice?" Isard let out a derisive sound. "Abandon the wretched mission! Admit it, Captain Pellaeon, you have risked everything because it was Hallena Devis whose life had been in peril."

    Pellaeon shook his head. "No. I could have never been so sentimental. I stand by my decision."

    "Sentimental, you say? An interesting choice of words, Captain. Would you tell me how exactly were the Jedi able to sense if Hallena Devis was still alive?"

    How in the universe does she know about this?, was the first thing that came to Pellaeon's mind. He had no idea how the parlor trick worked so he couldn't have brought himself to put that into an official report. And he had been certain that no one included it in their official reports either. Just how much digging she had to do to get to that particular piece of information?

    "They used a personal item to feel her presence," Pellaeon admitted, feeling like he has just chosen the instrument of his own destruction, "a stylus."

    "And in whose possession the stylus had been?"

    "Mine." Pellaeon confessed, as if he had been caught red-handed. Which was exactly what happened. She had him.

    "Captain Pellaeon, you keep saying that you made the right decision. That even if it hadn't been Hallena Devis whose life had been in peril you would have risked the lives of your own men for a one single secret agent." Isard said calmly, a corner of her mouth lazily curled into a grin.

    "You know what I think, Captain Pellaeon?" The Iceheart licked her rouge lips. "That you have been lying to yourself all the time. You put your ship and your own crew at risk because of your personal interests. You would have never gone back if it weren't for Hallena Devis, the woman whom you cared for more than your own life. Or the life of your crew. Or your duty."

    The mismatched eyes were burning deep into his soul, far more terrifying than the two Chiss eyes had even been. The left one smoldered a molten red, as if the iris were radioactively bloodshot. The pale blue of the other eye seemed colder than frozen methane.

    "A conduct unbecoming of an officer. Any officer. Republic or an Imperial." She spat in disgust. "The Empire has no use for people who place their personal interests above their duty."

    Pellaeon was so glad he had been sitting down. "You are wrong… I didn't… I wouldn't…"

    "Tell me, Captain Pellaeon," Isard's voice took on an icy tone. "What happened to the stylus?"

    "It broke. It was just a stylus."

    That was the truth.

    "Was it?" Isard raised her chin in defiance. "So, did you dispose of it when it broke?"

    Pellaeon's heart rate doubled. It was a trap, and he had been marching straight head on into it. He tried his best to keep looking straight at Isard, ignoring the third person in the room who told him to submit himself to her and answer all her questions truthfully.

    "No, I…" Pellaeon hesitated. He still had a chance to save himself. "I kept it. I had it repaired."

    Isard slowly shook her head. "And you still carry it around? After all those years?"

    Pellaeon didn't have the strength to answer, he just nodded.

    "Are you carrying it now?" An ugly smile flashed over Isard's face.

    "I…" You will submit yourself to her. "Yes."

    "Then perhaps, Captain, if it is indeed a mere stylus, you wouldn't mind showing it to me?" She asked in such a warm, encouraging tone that he would have had believed her if he had never met her. If he hadn't know she was rotten to the core.

    "Show me." The Iceheart ordered, her voice so full of command authority that it made him reach toward his pocket out of an instinct. And then his hand stopped in midair.

    No.

    She would break it. She would smash it apart in front of his very eyes. Just to prove her point.

    "Confess!"

    No!

    He had made the right decision that time.

    He would have done the same.

    He knew it.

    He was certain of it.

    Was he?

    Was he really?

    Min min vil ut valle Nharquis, the worst Ancient Corellian oath. He would definitely eat her ashes. The Iceheart succeeded in planting the seed of doubt into his mind. And now there was nothing that could have stopped her from having her way with him...

    "How long do you intend to keep going?"

    The Grand Admiral's detached, pure clinical tone broke his line of thoughts. The Chiss might have seemed completely indifferent to a casual observer but Pellaeon knew better by now. Thrawn had been sitting there, watching Isard with his glowing red gaze, biding his time, reminding him of a Drayberian hawk waiting for an opportunity to strike.

    And the time has come.

    "You heard him!" Isard cried out triumphantly. "He has doubts! He placed his personal interests above his duty and he would have done so again. He isn't fully dedicated to the New Order!"

    There was a brief, indescribable shift in the red gaze, the only indication that the Chiss was ready to make his move and tear his unsuspecting prey apart, piece by piece. Pellaeon has seen Thrawn in action, he had been present on the bridge most of the times the Grand Admiral chose to execute his plans. Sometimes that carefully controlled facade slipped, a smirk marring the pale blue lips, but this was not the time.

    Whatever Thrawn was about going to do, it wouldn't be pretty.

    "And he is not the only one in the room."

    Isard opened her mouth and then closed it abruptly, her high forehead furrowing in a frown, spoiling her otherwise beautiful face.

    "What did you just say?" she asked, puzzled, turning her chair toward him, Pellaeon forgotten.

    Thrawn kept watching her from the head of the table, his expression carved from stone. He had almost a regal air around him, reminding Pellaeon of a king who became bored with one of his subjects of whom he knew that had been plotting against him, tolerating it because the subject's effort had been particularly amusing, until it finally crossed the line.

    "Isard, we have been playing these games for many years."

    The king said his sentence. The subject was about to be disposed of in a very clinical manner.

    "When was it exactly it stopped being a mere professional challenge and became an obsession?"

    Ready. Aim. Fire.

    "When was it exactly you started falling for the alien you intended to bring to his knees?"

    Thrawn put a bolt right through Ysanne Isard's heart, making Pellaeon involuntarily shudder.

    "You alien scum!" Isard jumped in her seat, her fists curling in impotent rage, her already pale features turning chalk white, reminding him of a porcelain doll. "How dare you?!"

    "I could tell you the exact moment it happened." Thrawn said in a tone that could have cut glass. "I know how your mind works. I know what kind of thoughts you allow yourself in the privacy of your own mind when you think of me. You are not the only one in this room who can break people apart. Don't make me to say it aloud."

    Pellaeon wished he could have sneaked out of the room while the two sworn enemies had been occupied with each other, his eyes flickering between the Chiss and the Iceheart. He knew it was futile, and so he tried his best becoming invisible, shutting his brain, sealing his lips, taking slow, even breaths.

    "You tried to tempt me with art. You came to art auctions and bought the pieces I had been interested in front of my very eyes." The Chiss continued, his voice colder than vacuum. "You tried to set me up with some of my favorite artists by blackmailing them into approaching me. You repeatedly broke into my apartment at Coruscant and stole the most expensive pieces of my collection. And when none of that worked you decided to take your revenge on my Fleet."

    Each of the sentences was a condemnation.

    "You are sick. You don't care if this human breaks. You came here for one purpose only. To get an emotional reaction from me. To make me lose my temper. To make me hate you. Because even hate is more acceptable to you than a cold indifference."

    Isard's mismatched eyes blazed with fury.

    Pellaeon knew the woman prided herself on behaving like an iron lady, rising rapidly in the Imperial Court by crushing all her enemies, abusing them, breaking them apart mentally and physically, brainwashing them into the most obedient slaves in the universe, fully dedicated to the New Order.

    And yet it seemed even the Iceheart could have been broken. She did not appear to like the taste of her own medicine.

    "And you have lost." Thrawn finished, calmly delivering it like a verdict in the courtroom. "Because I do not care. I never did."

    The Grand Admiral stood up and walked over to her, leaning over her, invading her personal space, cupping her face in one white-gloved hand, tilting up her chin, using the other white-gloved hand to stroke her cheek in a mockery of a caress.

    "How could you think I could ever feel anything for the likes of you…" Thrawn said softly, too softly, making the Iceheart shiver under his touch. "I wonder if I perhaps should pay a visit to the COMPNOR HQ on Coruscant and have a word with your father about your rather … eccentric tastes."

    "Stop."

    The one word sounded like a glass column fractured into a thousand pieces and then shattered apart.

    "Stop."

    She repeated the plea in a hoarse voice, a single drop of tear falling down from the icy blue eye and streaking across her cheek.

    "Please."

    The Chiss didn't move, his overwhelming presence looming over her, his face mere centimeters from hers, looking like one of the demons from ancient Corellian mythology that devoured its victims with a cold kiss.

    "Would you stop?" The Chiss asked in a deceptively-mild tone, the glowing red gaze boring deep into her mismatched eyes.

    "You wouldn't, would you? Why should I? I will tell you why. Because I am nothing like you. Live with it."

    And abruptly he straightened and took a few steps back, retreating from her personal space. He had been about to deliver the final blow to the Iceheart, to plunge a dagger through it and twist the knife. And he stopped, mere centimeters from those lips. She'd had enough.

    "Nothing that has been said will ever leave this room." The Grand Admiral declared, and there was durasteel in that command that Pellaeon had never heard before. This never happened. Pellaeon's doubts. Isard's heartbreak. Thrawn's ruthlessness. Thrawn's final show of mercy. None of it.

    Isard sat there, stunned, as if refusing to believe it, tears falling down from both of her mismatched eyes. She looked so completely lost, so shattered, so beaten down to her knees; she looked so vulnerable that Pellaeon briefly considered going over to her and offering her his hand to stand up, his old fashioned gentlemanly resurfacing. He dismissed it immediately; she would have killed him for it.

    "Go." Thrawn repeated in his smooth, modulated voice, taking a deep breath. "Get out of my sight."

    Isard finally recovered from her stupor, using her both hands to wipe her tears, and finally standing up, very slowly, as if every movement resulted in an immense pain. She walked away, her heels clicking unnaturally loud in the deafening silence of the room. She didn't run, even though Pellaeon had no doubt that right now she wanted nothing more in the universe but run away from the Chiss, removing her shoes if it made her run faster.

    Thrawn watched her walking away, his red eyes narrowing, his expression going dark, darker than a black hole, making Pellaeon wonder if the artificial gravity generators on the ship suddenly malfunctioned and raised the gravity level by several degrees.

    "Oh. And if a vessel broadcasting the COMPNOR's signature ever appears on Chimaera's sensors again, or on any other ship's belonging to the Seventh Fleet, I will order them to fire at will and worry about the paperwork later." Thrawn uttered with the same durasteel tone he had used few minutes ago when Isard was about to press the switch to open the door.

    The door opened with a hissing sound, a screech, as if the cold metal could feel the threat behind those words, making Isard flinch visibly even from a distance. And Pellaeon knew it was not the screech that caused her flinch.

    When the door finally closed, Pellaeon let out the breath he had no idea he had been holding, sagging deep into the chair, using his palm to wipe the sweat from his forehead. Even though he had seen the Grand Admiral execute his schemes on the bridge, never before he had seen him strike down his enemies on the ground, carrying out his plans personally.

    He knew the Chiss had been dangerous, but now he knew how truly dangerous he was. He could be far more terrifying than Darth Vader if he wanted to.

    Pellaeon knew the Grand Admiral had been playing a game of hide and seek with the Rebels, toying with them like a lothcat with a mouse, letting them escape with their meager rewards. At the present, they were nothing but a mere distraction from the whatever real issues that had been occupying his mind. The Grand Admiral found them amusing, sometimes Pellaeon even noticed the Chiss smiling at their ingeniousness, praising them for their sharp wits and their resourcefulness. He had been especially fond of the Twi'lek Captain and Commander Sato. Surely they wouldn't be foolish enough to try his patience, would they? Even Isard had enough common sense and knew when to back down. The Rebels didn't really know Thrawn. They had no idea they were playing with fire.

    Yet at the same time Pellaeon knew that he himself had absolutely nothing to fear from Thrawn. What had he done to deserve that? What had he done to that the Grand Admiral decided to take him under his dark wings?

    The Chiss closed the distance between them, taking over the seat directly opposite to him that Isard had occupied previously, taking off his white gloves in a very careful, deliberate manner as if the fabric had been contaminated.

    Pellaeon cleared his throat, trying to alleviate the atmosphere in the room. "You might want to buy a new pair of gloves, sir. Black ones, preferably."

    At least the dirt and the dust wouldn't be so visible against black fabric once the Chiss decided to perform a surprise inspection of the ship. The engineering department in particular learned their lesson; the Chimaera's engine room became as clean as the Grand Admiral's uniform.

    The Chiss focused his red yes at him, giving him a deep probing gaze. He leaned forward, his elbows resting at the edge of the table, steepling his fingers in front of his face.

    "Captain Pellaeon, please let me express my most sincere apology for the events that transpired today and for everything that had been said. I made an error, Captain, but I do hope that I managed to correct it before it became a mistake."

    Pellaeon barked out a laugh. "I might need a couple days off, sir, that is all."

    "Granted," came back an immediate reply. The Chiss was watching him intently, studying him as if he was a particularly puzzling piece in his art collection. What style would Pellaeon fit into?

    Well, it was now or never.

    "And maybe a bonus? I have alimony to pay, after all."

    "Denied."

    Pellaeon suppressed a grimace, he knew it wouldn't work. He leaned back in the chair, finding a comfortable position because apparently the Grand Admiral was not finished with him yet; he knew that particular look, and he knew the Chiss was capable of staring like that for hours. He might as well made himself at least comfortable if the interrogation was about to continue.

    "So you have a son?" The Chiss started in a very matter-of-fact tone, making Pellaeon suppress a smirk.

    "Well," Pellaeon said sheepishly, trying not to squirm under the intense scrutiny, "I might have more than one son stashed somewhere, actually."

    "You do not know?" The expression on the blue angular face was calm and composed as ever but the red eyes widened considerably. It must have come to him as a shock. "How is that even possible?"

    Oh dear.

    "I could explain, sir, but I would prefer to keep the whatever remains of dignity I have left."

    The Grand Admiral straightened and crossed his arms, swallowing whatever else had been on his tongue, still studying him intently with that red gaze. Honestly, Pellaeon had no idea what the Chiss found so fascinating about the notion but it did give Pellaeon a right to ask something in return. Or at least he hoped so, he didn't really have any right.

    "So, she really sent Zeltron after you?" Pellaeon coughed, internally praying he had not overstepped.

    Corners of the alien's lips twitched in a smirk. "She did. Two of them. A female and a male."

    Pellaeon knew he shouldn't have laughed at that but he couldn't help himself, the idea of sending Zeltron, plural, of both sexes, just in case, as her last possible resort to discredit him was priceless. Who in the universe could resist their pheromones? Pellaeon would have given anything to see Isard's sour face and the temper tantrum that followed after even that failed.

    "That's… By the Emperor, she must have been really desperate."

    Thrawn only shrugged. "We had a very interesting conversation about what they call 'pictures of spring.' I did not know that Zeltron were so appreciative of woodblock printing. They even invited me to come over and visit the Zeltron Woodblock Print Museum."

    Pellaeon kept laughing despite knowing how inappropriate and unprofessional it must have seemed to the Chiss. "That might not be a bad idea at all, Admiral. The crew would enjoy a visit to Zeltros."

    Though human-alien relationships became a serious taboo under the New Order, to every rule there was an exception. And Zeltron, as well as Twi'lek, were the exceptions in this case. What happened on Zeltros stayed on Zeltros. It was like a red light district on a planetary scale.

    "Traditionally, it is considered the Captain's privilege to choose the destination of the ship's annual shore leave," Thrawn said in a neutral tone, "While I am your direct superior officer I would not want to take away that particular privilege from you."

    Pellaeon smirked, licking his lips. "Zeltros it is, then."

    "Haven't you learned your lesson, Captain?" One of the blue black eyebrows shot up. The Grand Admiral did not need to slap him across the wrist or throw one of his trade mark glares to make his point heard.

    "But sir, it's Zeltros!" Pellaeon protested, "You really have no idea what you are missing!"

    Thrawn shrugged again, his face completely unreadable. Whether he did or did not know, whatever had been going on in that alien brain, it was impossible to say, the Chiss had the best sabbac face in the universe when he got into his reticent moods. He kept staring at him, giving him one of the red eyed looks that could see right through his soul.

    Pellaeon didn't know how long the Grand Admiral would continue analyzing him like that, making mental notes about every single detail, but it was staring to make him feel uncomfortable.

    "Mitth'raw'nuruodo," the Chiss said abruptly in a melodic language that Pellaeon did not recognize at all.

    "Uh?" Pellaeon blurted out, "I am sorry, sir, what did you just say?"

    "My name, Captain," the Chiss said evenly.

    It was hilarious, really, considering how deeply private person the Grand Admiral had been, when he decided to finally reveal something about himself he would do so in the most off-handed manner possible, saying it as if it was the most obvious thing in the universe.

    What is the Capital of the Galactic Empire? What is the first name of Emperor Palpatine? What is the real name of Grand Admiral Thrawn?

    "Mitth'raw'nuruodo?" Pellaeon repeated slowly, trying his best to imitate the unfamiliar intonation, fully aware that his first attempt must have seemed, to put it mildly, awkward.

    "Something… like that," the Chiss murmured softly, his jaw clenching. "You see, Captain, Cheunh is a complex tonal language that uses a combination of core words to represent ideas, with complicated ideas, such as names, being expressed by combining words into a larger whole. It takes a rather long time getting used to. That was the reason I allowed humans to call me simply Thrawn."

    By the Nine Hells, what did I just say?

    "In any case, Captain," The Grand Admiral said evenly, his voice smooth and cultured, his face once again so proud and full of authority, "I presumed you might at least deserve to know the name of the person who made you submit to the ordeal."

    "Admiral," Pellaeon knew it was about time to change the topic, "I am not sure that insulting Isard in such a manner was a wise move. You literally broke her heart."

    "I can handle Isard, Captain," Thrawn said in a tone that spoke of an absolute conviction, a clear sign for Pellaeon to leave the matter be, "what matters to me is that she has learned her lesson. The whole Seventh Fleet is off limits from now on."

    The Grand Admiral finally stood up, effectively ending the hearing session.

    "Enough talk, Captain," he said mischievously, a sudden spark in his eyes. "We still have the Rebels to catch. Will you follow me?"

    THE END

    'Gil and his women' - Pellaeon's weakness for women comes from Legends, more precisely from the novel No Prisoners by Karen Traviss. It all happened guys, including the stylus. Sorry I spoiled the whole book. It's still worth reading, though.

    BACK TO MASTERLIST OR COMMENTS SECTION BELOW
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2020
  5. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Story No#5: Second Chances
    Summary:
    After Konstantine’s death, Grand Admiral Thrawn decides to integrate ISD Relentless, Konstantine’s former flagship, into the Seventh Fleet, giving an opportunity to Commander Dorja to redeem himself. Gen. Words: 6500
    --------------------------------


    Commander Dorja had been summoned to Grand Admiral Thrawn's office to explain his command decisions in person after the ISD Relentless's bridge had been damaged during the battle of Atollon; after the Captain had been incapacitated, as the highest ranking officer at the bridge, it had been Dorja who assumed the role of the acting captain.

    Explaining himself to the icy blue alien would have been humiliating enough for a pure-blooded Coruscanti like him, however he had not been the only one in the room with Thrawn. At each side of the Grand Admiral's table there were standing Thrawn's most loyal henchmen: Captain Pellaeon of Corellia on the right, Commander Riza of a backwater world in the Outer Rim on the left.

    "Do you stand by your decisions, Commander Dorja?" The Grand Admiral asked calmly in a detached tone, his expression partially hidden by the steepled hands in front of his face.

    Dorja closed his eyes and took a deep breath. No matter what he said, the result would have been same. There was no way to save his own hide, not this time. Thrawn had his firing squad with him.

    "I do."

    "Hmmm," the blue alien mused aloud, "while the decision to retreat under concentrated heavy fire from the Rebel's warships might have been considered an act of cowardice, your quick thinking saved the lives of your entire crew, for the hull breach was imminent."

    Cowardice. The Grand Admiral summarized his retelling of the events.

    "I decided to have the ISD Relentless fully repaired and refurbished, integrating it into the Seventh Fleet," the icy blue alien said in a pure clinical tone, "Under your command, Captain Dorja."

    Wait. What?!

    "I beg your pardon, sir?"

    Thrawn hadn't called him to have him summarily executed for cowardice? By Captain Pellaeon of all the people?

    "You heard correctly, Captain Dorja."

    Thrawn didn't move, didn't blink, the glowing red eyes giving him a look that could have burned him down with a deep gaze had the alien wished so. "There will have to be significant changes in the chain of command, of course, starting with your first officer."

    The red eyes shifted towards the woman at his left side, making Dorja almost sigh in relief that the red gaze found a different target. "I hereby appoint Commander Riza as your second-in-command."

    So, his direct superior officer would be an alien and his first officer would be a country woman? If there had been anything left of Konstantine's body, he'd be rolling in his grave.

    Dorja's eyes flickered to the woman at the left side of the table. She had been standing there at attention, her face neutral the whole time, her lips pressed together into a thin line. It seemed that she had noticed his stare and gave him a curt nod in return.

    "And Captain Slavin?" Dorja murmured, his brain still processing the unexpected development.

    "I have other tasks in mind for a man of his talents," Thrawn said frostily, his eyes narrowing. Dorja gulped, whatever plans the blue alien had for him, it wouldn't be pretty, there was no doubt about that.

    "I…" Dorja was completely at loss for words. "Thank you, Admiral, I thought… After everything that had happened… After what I said..."

    He wasn't referring only to the battle of Atollon, and he knew the Grand Admiral must have known. Pellaeon would have told him, not that he had any choice on that matter.

    "Your xenophobic chauvinism is no concern of mine, Captain Dorja," Thrawn said in a tone that suggested that he had considered it completely unworthy of his attention, "I care about performance and results, and your performance at the Battle of Atollon was exemplary. I do not care about your petty bigotry. Understood?"

    "Understood, sir," Dorja croaked out.

    The Grand Admiral gave him a long, hard stare with his glowing eyes, making the hair on the back his neck stand up in horror. "While I couldn't care less what you think of me, Captain Dorja, I need all members of my senior staff working together as a team."

    The red eyes focused their attention on Pellaeon, then back at Dorja. "Captain Pellaeon, Captain Dorja, whatever personal antipathies you might still hold against each other, it ends today. It is none of my business how you decide to cease the hostilities but the next time the two of you enter my office, there will be no sign of antipathy between the two of you. Understood, gentlemen?"

    "Yes, sir," Pellaeon acknowledged immediately, his face unreadable.

    "Captain Dorja?" The red eyes had a strange, hypnotizing effect.

    "Yes, sir," Dorja capitulated.

    "Very good. Do not disappoint me, Captain." Thrawn said, there was a trace of approval in his voice. "I trust you will have no problem working with Commander Riza?"

    He probably would, but just like the mere seconds ago, there was only possible answer to that question.

    "No, sir."

    "Commander?" Thrawn put his hands down and turned his head in the direction of Commander Riza.

    "No, sir," she said softly, the very first words she had uttered during the whole exchange. She didn't appear to be particularly enthusiastic about her transfer but she didn't appear upset either.

    "Excellent." Thrawn nodded. "You may go now. I will let all of you to find the common ground."

    They all saluted the Grand Admiral. Dorja spun on his heel when he heard the Grand Admiral's smooth, cultured voice behind him.

    "Oh, and Captain, if I ever find out that your bigotry is affecting your performance, I will have your carcass ejected with the next garbage load."

    ***************

    "Oh, look who mustered enough courage to enter the Krayt dragon's den..." Came a voice from one of the tables at the far end of the officer's lounge belonging to no one else than Freja Covell. It had been well past the alpha shift, meaning the lounge would have been crowded with both junior and senior officers who wanted to blow off a little steam after a long and tiring day.

    All those who had been within the heading distance turned their heads at the newcomers.

    Or, to be more precise, at him.

    There was a flash of recognition in the eyes of some, immediately followed by a frown or a smirk. They didn't know him personally, but they knew of him, they must have known he had been one of Admiral Konstantine's senior staff. And that was enough. After all the events that had transpired between the Seventh Fleet and Konstantine, Dorja was pretty sure that Konstantine's name had been used as an expletive on ISD Chimaera.

    Dorja literally stepped right into a dragon's den.

    Captain Pellaeon cleared his throat, and suddenly all occupants of the room returned back to their to their previous conversations or to their drinks. Dorja had no idea how Pellaeon could have pulled it off with such a simple gesture but it appeared to have worked like a magic spell, just like one of the infamous Jedi mind tricks. Dorja could only bit his lip and swallow his envy, for he knew he'd be never be able to pull such a trick.

    Still, there had been at least one person who didn't fall for the magic spell, one that did not belong under the jurisdiction of a Naval Captain: Colonel Freja Covell.

    It appeared that Dorja had not been the only one who received a promotion after the Battle of Atollon.

    Neither Pellaeon nor Riza paid any attention to the challenge and proceeded with ordering drinks at the bar. Dorja simply shrugged and ordered the same of whatever they had, which turned out to be a Forvish ale.

    Good. He needed something strong.

    They all took their drinks, and with Captain Pellaeon in the lead, they crossed the wide room to Covell's table, the Colonel gesturing his Army friends to disperse and make place for them.

    "Captain Pellaeon, Commander Riza," Covell gave them a polite nod, calling them by their ranks and last names even though he must have been on a first name basis with both of them. Well, if he wanted to stick to last names in front of him, it was fine with Dorja. There was no way he'd shake hands with them and let them call him by his first name anyway.

    "Commander Dorja," Covell added after a while, throwing Dorja off his balance briefly because he would have expected to be addressed by a last name only.

    "It's Captain Dorja, actually," Dorja supplied, taking one of the offered seats, the one furthest away from the Colonel.

    "Congratulations, I guess," Covell eyed the choice of his seat with suspicion, shrugging, then giving Pellaeon and Riza an exasperated look. Pellaeon made simple hand gesture that suggested that he, too, found Dorja's choice of seat cowardly, and Riza sat down without a word.

    "I suppose should say the same to you," Dorja countered, each word coming out unnaturally crisp as if it burned his tongue.

    Funny, he'd have never thought that the first person to say congratulations would be Freja Covell, the man who beat him into a pulp after Dorja had insulted the Grand Admiral and the Chimaera back when Dorja had been a mere lieutenant commander.

    "I don't take advice from an alien loving scum like you. You are a disgrace to the Empire. And your freshly baked Vice Admiral should be stripped of Imperial uniform and sent by first shuttle back to the mudwater world he comes from."

    "He is a bastard child of the Viceroy Nute Gunray and his blue skinned Twi'lek whore."

    "And what the hell is this supposed to be? A skull? A hand? Oh, don't tell me that the Vice Admiral himself came up with that scribble. All the talk about art and all he can draw is a first grader finger painting-"

    Dorja cringed internally. That had been the trigger point, the moment when Pellaeon finally lost his composure and threw the first punch, following with Covell going all Wookiee berserk on him.

    And he would never forget the time when the Chimaera's strike team shot its way to the Relentless's bridge during a surprise night drill on a rendezvous with the Grand Admiral's flagship, blowing up the blast doors using real explosives, throwing fake thermal detonators to the crew pit, spraying most of the bridge crew with blue paint, effectively marking them as 'dead.'

    Unfortunately, Dorja had not been one of those lucky crewmen who died a quick, painless death that night. He had ducked when he saw the thermal detonator, hiding behind the consoles that had protected him from the blue onslaught.

    "Covell! Stop! You won! I apologize!" Dorja had cried out in desperation that night, crouched under the navigator's console, once he recognized the face of the commander of the strike team.

    "You need to apologize to the Chimaera first! She is beauty, she is grace, she will punch you in the face!"

    Admiral Konstantine and his personal suite had suffered a very similar fate; a thunderous explosion could have been heard even from the distance, meaning a much stronger explosive had to be used, spraying the entire suite with a blue paint.

    It had not been an ordinary paint; no matter how hard they tried, none of the standard-issue detergents appeared to have worked on it, meaning they had to resort to repainting most of the main hallways and the whole bridge.

    And Admiral Konstantine's suite.

    Moreover, the uniforms that had been sprayed with the blue paint had to be disposed of.

    Dorja had no idea what exactly had followed in Admiral Konstantine's suite; there was some sort of an accident, a whole series of bizarre accidents in fact, during which all of Konstantine's uniforms had been smeared with the blue paint, with the Admiral being reduced to wearing a loosely fitting uniform of a too-large size until the tailor made replacements had arrived.

    Kassius Konstantine had been furious.

    Dorja cringed internally once more. Kassius Konstantine had been furious with him.

    Covell narrowed his eyes at the tone and looked like he had been considering standing up and giving him a lesson on manners but Pellaeon cut him off with a gesture.

    "The Admiral wants us to make peace with each other."

    That appeared to have worked on Covell; the man backed off immediately, the animosity disappearing in an instant. The Grand Admiral ordered to cease all hostilities, and just like that, as if he waved his hand like a Jedi, even the berserk guy would drop it and bury the war hatchet. Just how in the universe had the icy blue alien commanded such obedience? It couldn't have been mere fear, the Dark Lord choked his men with the Force and still he never held such power over his subordinates. What else had been there?

    Now the Wookiee had been tamed, Dorja finally found the courage to tell what he wanted to say all along. "The Admiral wanted the two of us to end the hostilities, he never said anything about Covell."

    "You really intend to keep going, Dorja?" Covell raised his chin in a challenge.

    "Gentlemen." Commander Riza decided to step in and play the mediator. "If you would be willing to fill me into the secret?"

    Pellaeon gave her an innocent shrug. "It's a long story, Riza," he sounded tired and old, much older than he was. He also had a fair share of gray hair on his head that couldn't have been there only because of his age; it had to be the stress.

    If Pellaeon had been going gray, then Dorja would soon become bald serving under the Grand Admiral.

    "I might have said a few ill-considered words about the Admiral," Dorja admitted. How was he supposed to look the Grand Admiral in the eyes when the alien had known all along what Dorja and his comrades had said about him in the past?

    "Oh, he had found it rather entertaining," Covell chirped. "He said that he has never heard anything like your highly imaginative theory behind his birth."

    "Covell," Dorja hissed. The last thing he needed was to hear the Grand Admiral's reaction.

    "You asked for it," Covell countered,

    "Fine," Dorja said with more force than necessary, swallowing all his pride, "I apologize."

    "Apology accepted, Captain Dorja," Covell nodded slowly, his expression gravely serious. He would really accept his apology? Just like that?

    "He would."

    It must have been clearly written on his face for Commander Riza decided to step in again, dispersing the tense atmosphere between the two of them with her calm voice, giving both of them a warm smile. "Colonel Covell is a kind man at heart, Captain Dorja. When he said he accepted your apology, he meant it."

    Covell snorted but didn't comment on the matter. Dorja gave him a disbelieving frown but decided to drop it, it was not worth it.

    He focused his attention on the female commander instead.

    She was tall, almost as tall as him, in her early forties probably, with dark brown eyes and medium length blonde hair clipped firmly in place as per regulations; she wore no make up either, or maybe just a little bit to cover up the faint wrinkles around her eyes, and she emanated a sense of calm confidence, enough to survive in a heavy male-oriented profession but not enough to pose a threat to their masculinity. There had been plenty such women in the Imperial Forces, never rising above the ranks of lieutenants. Women who succeeded climbing the ranks had been very different; hard, cold, calculating, difficult to approach in their hunger for power. They had to be more fierce, more ruthless than their male colleagues to make their way through. Especially if they originated from a backwater world.

    Riza had appeared to be the former and yet she held the rank of a commander. That didn't make sense. He continued watching her, and when she raised the glass with her left hand he noticed a very peculiar thing. Something that didn't fit with the image of a woman in an active service of the Empire at all.

    "I am sorry, Commander," Dorja blurted out, staring at the wedding band, "but I couldn't but to notice the ring on your left ring-finger..."

    "Dorja..." Covell scowled, his face hardening.

    "What?" Dorja protested. "I am to be her commanding officer. I have a right to know if there is anything that could interfere with her duty!"

    Covell looked like that the Grand Admiral or not, he had been about to take the glass and spill the content into Dorja's face.

    "That may be true," Pellaeon conceded, "but you can't ask people things like that out of the blue..."

    Dorja gritted his teeth. "Well, you asked. And I am sure the Admiral asked as well..."

    "You are wrong," Riza said in a firm tone.

    "Huh?" Dorja exclaimed. "How is that … the Admiral is obsessed with information."

    Riza shook her head. "Out of all my commanding officers, he's only one who never asked." She must have noticed his utter disbelief since she added: "Oh, he noticed the ring, he noticed it the very first time I handed him over a datapad back when I had been a mere lieutenant, but he never brought it up. He knows I have family since I blurted it out in front of him but he never asked why I remained in the active service."

    Wait a moment.

    "You're married with kids?" Dorja felt his jaw drop.

    Covell palmed his face with both of his hands, letting out a high pitched sound. "Just what in the blazes the Admiral sees in you..."

    "And you are correct, Captain, You have a right to know." Riza took a deep sigh, looking him straight in the eyes. "I remained in the active service because I am paying for my family's medical bills."

    Well, that was… unexpected.

    Everybody had a reason why they joined the Empire. There were conscripts, New Order followers, people who believed they were doing the right thing,... and then there were people who joined the military because it had been expected of them. Like Dorja. All of Kontantine's senior officers came from rich, very influential Core World families with a long tradition of military service.

    "There is one of the extremely rare diseases that bacta cannot heal running in your family?"

    The bacta could have healed pretty much everything but severed limbs or an old age.

    "It is not… a disease. Though it is hereditary." Riza clarified, sadness clouded her features. "It is a form of progeria, premature aging disorder."

    Dorja put two and two together. "You're married," he spluttered, "to a clone trooper?"

    Dorja risked a sideways glance at both Pellaeon and Covell who had been suddenly paying very serious attention to their drinks; judging from the lack of a shock on their faces both of them had been aware of her rather complicated family situation.

    "I was. He died of an old age not long ago." Riza's expression transformed into the face of a cold blooded killer. "I trust there is no problem with that?"

    Dorja could recognize a trap when he saw one. He didn't agree to settle an old dispute only to bring up a new one, especially with the person with whom he had to trust to have his back from now on.

    "None at all, Commander." Dorja said, he hoped not unsympathetically.

    Commander Riza nodded, her face impassive. She might have been looking superficially subservient and docile but something told him that he had just dodged a blaster bolt. And he had no doubt Riza would be shooting like a girl, aiming at the head and the groin.

    "I am sorry for prying, Commander," he said finally and he meant it. He hoped that she had asked for an extended leave for the funeral. Pellaeon would have approved it, of course. However, if the Commander had spent all her allocated time before that, either she or Pellaeon would have had to come directly to the Grand Admiral to ask for an additional leave. Would the icy cold alien have approved it? Would he even care? Admiral Konstantine wouldn't.

    Riza shook her head. "It's all right, Captain Dorja."

    "You have family, Dorja?" Covell asked abruptly, giving him a long, hard look.

    "And you're who, the ship's number one gossip girl?" Dorja barked out more sharply than he had intended. And immediately he felt a stab of guilt for doing so. "I am sorry, Commander, that was a rather poor choice words on my part."

    Riza laughed, a sweet joyful laughter it was. "Oh, I think that's a very fitting description of Colonel Covell, Captain."

    "Well," Covell said sheepishly, his cheeks warming up, "I had to occupy my time somehow back when I did nothing but issue uniforms and take inventory. Nowadays it's you star-gazers who sit in their comfy chairs drinking tea while the Army is doing all the hard work."

    A so very typical retort from an Army ground-pounder. They all ignored it.

    "No, I don't…" Dorja admitted, answering the previous question about family, "though I would like to…"

    They all fell silent for a while.

    Riza might be wearing the wedding band with pride, daring anyone to comment on the matter, but the other two men might not be willing to share their tales with him. And Dorja, well, he came from an influential family, he never experienced such things like lack of money, and he was pretty sure that when his family clan felt that his position was high enough for him to get married, they would introduce him to a boring Coruscanti noble with a crush on men in uniform who would be more than happy to have a child and stay planetside, letting him live his life as a captain of a Star Destroyer.

    "I am really sorry, it's just…" Dorja fell silent for a while, thinking hard about what to say next. "Whatever comes from my mouth is different than I had intended to. Serving under Konstantine hasn't been easy, you know. I am trying."

    You guys have no idea how hard I am trying.

    "Forget it, this will be the shortest captaincy ever..." Dorja whimpered, feeling that he shouldn't have get rid of his rank plates just yet.

    "Oh, I wouldn't be so sure about that." Pellaeon said thoughtfully, stroking his mustache. "If the Admiral can stomach General Bittenfeld..."

    "Who?"

    "The Seventh Fleet's flagship General," Covell supplied. "You've never heard of him?"

    "Uh," the name seemed familiar somehow but he couldn't place it with any general in particular, "I don't think so."

    "Well… How should I put it..." Pellaeon seemed lost for words.

    "It's like…" Riza mused aloud.

    "Matter and antimatter?" Covell suggested, exchanging a perplexed look with his colleagues.

    "The two types of personalities that simply don't mix," Commander Riza finished for them.

    "Exactly." Pellaeon and Covell said in unison.

    Just what in the blazes is wrong with this ship?

    "The Admiral can't stand him?" Dorja pondered. "Is that the reason why Thrawn had been leading the ground assault on Atollon?"

    Funny, he would have thought that the Grand Admiral would have been above such lowly things like holding a petty grudge against an army general.

    "No. That was different, a personal favor if you will. Anyway, General Bittenfeld was there, in one of the AT-ATs."

    The tone of Covell's voice suggested he should leave the matter be; something happened on the surface, an unexpected meteorological complication that had caused destruction of the Imperial heavy artillery as well as several Rebels' ships. It was still a major victory for the Empire, but it seemed that the Seventh Fleet had been used to being more thorough.

    "In any case, it's not that the Admiral can't stand him." Covell shook his head. "It's more like..."

    "He is the only person the Admiral ever gave up on," Pellaeon concluded.

    "What do you mean?" Dorja leaned forward, his curiosity getting better of him.

    "The Admiral makes all his senior staff listen to never ending lectures about art and its significance on warfare..." Pellaeon started with a shrug.

    "There is no way you can avoid that, by the way," Covell howled in pain.

    "All his senior staff but Bittenfeld..." Riza explained, her whole face lit up with amusement. "He fell dead asleep. Snoring. And when the former captain gently tugged him to wake up he yawned."

    "He didn't." Dorja couldn't believe his ears.

    "He did." Pellaeon and Covell affirmed, nodding their heads at the same time.

    "How come Thrawn hadn't strangled him with his bare hands?"

    Dorja heard from Captain Slavin about the Grand Admiral's brief loss of control after Slavin insulted a piece of Twi'lek artwork. He had almost killed Slavin on the spot, how come that he let this General to get away with such open insubordination.

    "No, Thrawn simply… said 'I see.' in his usual tone of voice. And from that moment he never included Bittenfeld in his seminars again. He gave up on him. That chair still remains empty and no one dares to sit on it."

    "If you value your life, Captain, do not sit in that chair," Commander Riza warned him, her tone deadly serious. "I will show you which one it is."

    The Freak Fleet. What a fitting nickname...

    "Now you see, Dorja, if the Admiral can stomach General Bittenfeld... Do your job and you'll get along just fine."

    Dorja cupped his face in his hands, sagging deep down into his chair. He was just a man who happened to serve under Admiral Konstantine. What did he do wrong? What sort of higher power had he offended that when he had been finally given command, it would be a ship belonging to the Freak Fleet?

    "You know," Covell said to no one else in the particular, "I'm the one stuck in the middle of the two worlds. The promotion to Bittenfeld's second-in-command places me in a rather delicate position. I just hope I won't be the one to trigger the matter anti-matter reaction."

    They all fell silent for a while.

    "Speaking of the gundark,..." Covell murmured under his breath, looking at the direction of the door, his eyes widening in a shock.

    "Covell!" A deep, angry voice roared behind him, making Dorja flinch instinctively.

    "Get your fat lazy ass off the couch! I said I wanted your evaluation of the Death Troopers's performance on Atollon and I swear if it's not done by tomorrow I'm gonna throw your useless carcass across the room the next practice session!"

    Dorja turned his head toward the newcomer, his eyebrows rising his surprise. Coming to them in long swing strides was a tall, bulky man with light brown eyes, ginger, longish hair and a narrow face that seemed somehow out of balance with his body's firm build. His combative demeanor could be seen in his furrowed brows and the fierce gleam of his eyes.

    And his gray army uniform carried the insignia of a general.

    "I am working on it, sir!" Covell shot up from his seat to full attention, almost knocking the table over, with Pellaeon and Riza quickly steadying the table with their hands.

    "You call this work?!" The gundark, for it had been an apt comparison, raised his muscular arm, pointing a finger on him accusingly.

    "No, sir."

    Dorja tried to hide his smirk behind the glass, taking a deep sip from his Forvish ale, savoring its bitter taste on his tongue. Seeing the former Quartermaster being yelled down like a fresh recruit by a drill sergeant was completely worth everything he had ever gone through because of him.

    "And who is this spineless barve?!" The gundark spat each word like venom, eyeing Dorja with a growing suspicion; Dorja's smirk must not have gotten unnoticed.

    Shavit. I am so dead. He is going to tear me apart with his bare hands.

    "Captain Dorja of the Relentless," came a smooth, cultured voice of Grand Admiral Thrawn, "the newest addition to the Seventh Fleet."

    The tall, icy blue alien calmly walked across the officer's lounge to their table, ignoring the stares and curious glances pointed at his direction. Dorja couldn't have known it for sure, of course, but he would have bet his promotion bonus that it was not in the Grand Admiral's nature to come here and chit chat with his subordinates over a glass of alcohol.

    The General gave out a loud whistle. "One of Konstantine's army of Gungans? Trust the number-one fanboy of Jar Jar Binks to screw up even the easiest task in the universe!"

    "Your diplomatic skills leave much to be desired, General," The Grand Admiral said calmly but didn't contradict him. Kriff, the red-eyed alien must have agreed with the General's assessment of Konstantine's abilities, only he had been too polite to voice his opinion aloud.

    "There is a tradition in Bittenfeld family! When you praise someone, do it loudly, when you denounce someone do it even louder!" The gundark thundered, spreading his arms wide. "I am only observing that tradition!"

    The Grand Admiral nodded, choosing not to comment on the gundark's utter lack of manners or etiquette. General Bittenfeld gave a whole new meaning to the word 'uncultured.'

    "This spineless nerf won't last a week!" The General roared in laughter, his huge body shaking.

    "It is possible," the Grand Admiral nodded, his voice calm, his whole posture intimidating. "However, the final decision whether he does or does not live until the end of the week lies with me, General."

    Thrawn didn't need to raise is voice to make his challenge heard.

    Dorja swallowed his drink, feeling the liquid to burn its way down his esophagus.

    Has Thrawn just very publicly marked him as his own territory? Declaring to everyone within the hearing distance (and by extension of the rumor mill, to the whole Seventh Fleet) that it would be him, not the General, not anyone else, who had the right to discipline him, and that it would be Thrawn who would make a swift work of anyone who dared so as much as insult him.

    The tall blue alien and the gundark did not pay any attention to him, both of them crossing their arms, straightening their backs to their full heights, locking their gazes in some kind of silent battle of wills. And yet it had been a mere mock battle. There was no tension in their postures, no expression of a hurt pride, no clenched teeth or dangerous gleam in their eyes.

    They were two masters in their chosen fields, fully aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, having a mutual respect for each other despite all their personal differences. Really, they couldn't have been possibly more different; the Grand Admiral, a solid, calm, composed, his face carved from stone, his voice smooth and cultured. He would be patiently waiting for his opening, always playing the long game, letting his enemies make a first move.

    The General, an unchained, wild, passionate and brutally honest man whose every expression had been clearly written on his face, his voice rough and full of emotion, with attention span of a red-headed Wookiee on Spice. Bittenfeld would never wait for an opening, he would have created it himself, making a forceful breakthrough.

    The relationship between Navy and Army was delicate in every Imperial Fleet, but the Freak Fleet took it to a whole different level. And yet, it was obvious even to a blind man what had been the result of the mock battle. Thrawn did not need to held the rank of a "Grand" to hold the reins of this wild beast.

    Thrawn might prefer a cold, calculated approach but there were times when such tactics were not applicable. When every commander had no choice but to resort to an overwhelming, brutal force of sheer destruction. This was why he kept Bittenfeld around.

    And this was exactly why Thrawn had to don on the full battle gear and come down to Atollon himself. If he truly wanted the Rebel's heads on the force pikes he would have sent Bittenfeld.

    It seemed that the mock battle of wills ended, with the gundark breaking into a thunderous laughter, a sudden mischievous spark in the glowing red eyes on that icy blue face. Dorja watched it with a morbid fascination.

    And then, it couldn't have been a mere flash, it couldn't have lasted for more than a fraction of a second, while the gundark had almost doubled over in laughter, a small smirk marred the icy blue lips.

    Dorja's eyes widened in surprise.

    Or maybe Dorja got it all wrong and Thrawn decided to come down to Atollon because he had wanted to be the one who would put the Rebel's heads on the force pikes. For below that cold, calculating facade, there had been lurking the same kind of beast that the General had in himself. Only the icy blue alien was much better at suppressing it, burying it deep enough that it would emerge on the surface only under rare circumstances.

    Or maybe Thrawn had planned this all along, either with or without his senior staff as his acolytes. More likely without. Maybe he had let that smirk cross his lips for a very different reason, such as predicting everyone's reactions, correctly assuming he had to come down to the officer's lounge himself to stop Dorja from making himself a laughingstock in front of the Seventh Fleet.

    I am so screwed.

    "Captain Dorja, Commander Riza," the Grand Admiral shifted his red glowing gaze on them, his expression purely professional, his tone full of commanding authority, "report to the sickbay immediately, then meet me in the Holosimulation Training Room Three as soon as you are cleared for duty. I am interested to see how well you can perform against an unbeatable scenario."

    "An unbeatable scenario?" Dorja blurted out in confusion after both giants had left.

    Covell snorted. "Any battle simulation against the Admiral is a no win situation."

    Dorja's eyes widened. "You mean that he is going to be playing against us? Not have us fight against each other under unfavorable conditions?"

    Admiral Konstantine never participated in battle simulations against his subordinates, or even against his equals if there had been a grain of truth on the rumor mill.

    Covell barked out a laugh and Pellaeon looked like he had a hard time keeping his sabbac face as well.

    "Prepare your tissues, Dorja," Covell cackled at him but there was none of the animosity that had been there in the beginning.

    Dorja's eyes flickered over to Commander Riza who took a one last deep sip from her glass.

    "Well, we had bettter not keep the Admiral waiting long, Captain," she said in a grave tone, putting behind her ear a single blond lock that got untangled from her clip, getting up.

    Dorja decided to follow her lead and finished the Forvish ale before he finally stood up and gave the remaining two men his best salute who returned it with all seriousness. Even though he'd probably never count Pellaeon and Covell among his friends, they were soldiers who understood what it meant to enter a battle that they had a no chance of winning.

    If this all had been a test of character, he would pass it with a flying colors. He wouldn't back down, not this time.

    As he walked away side by side with Commander Riza, he noticed many curious glances directed at him, however, there was none of the hostility that had been there as when he had entered the officer's lounge.

    "We're going to have our asses kicked really bad, aren't we?" Dorja whispered once they entered the escalator and the door closed behind them, his expression getting grim.

    "We are," Commander Riza confirmed his suspicions. "Don't worry Captain, the last thing I'm going to do is to start crying on you."

    "Oh, I know you won't."

    Dorja shook his head, taking a deep breath, making a calculated risk. "But I'm afraid I will," he said lightly, the corners of his lips twitching, eventually breaking into an honest laughter. It had been just the two of them in the escalator, and while technically she might have been his direct subordinate from now on, the propriety be damned.

    Commander Riza looked at him with a surprise, her dark brown eyes widening, and she started laughing as well, a sweet joyful sound, exactly at the moment the door opened and the lift reached its destination, making the chief medical specialist no doubt wonder if they needed something more than a mere alcohol antidote.

    Well, this was the Freak Fleet, they were all mad as mynocks here. Who could blame Dorja for finally snapping and joining the club?

    THE END

    Disclaimer: General Bittenfeld is loosely based on Admiral Fritz Joseph Bittenfeld from the Legend of the Galactic Heroes (Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu). A minor character who fell asleep during the play Kaiser Reinhard had forced him to attend, later complaining there had been no fist fight at the classical ballet performance.

    BACK TO MASTERLIST OR COMMENTS SECTION BELOW
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2020
  6. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Story No#6 Chance Encounters
    Summary:
    Grand Admiral Thrawn and Captain Pellaeon meet Ensign Eli Vanto's alternate self whose life had taken the path he had originally intended for himself. A different take on their meeting featuring the far-fetched stories about Chiss warriors. GEN. Words: 4000
    --------------------------------------


    If there was anything the Grand Admiral loathed, it was fools who dared to ruin his master plans, thinking they were smarter than he was, that they could use his plans for their own benefits to further advance their careers. The incompetent fool who had read the Grand Admiral's report on Rebels droids and disregarded it anyway, assuming he could have captured the C1 unit belonging to Captain Syndulla, met with an end fitting with the Grand Admiral's idea punishment for a mistake.

    Mistakes resulted in a waste of Imperial resources and an unnecessary loss of lives, and Grand Admiral Thrawn did not take the deaths of his men lightly.

    Now they had finally dealt with all the paperwork after the Battle of Atollon, the Grand Admiral decided to pay the Information and Supply outpost in this sector a surprise visit, turning the whole base upside down, recalling all non-essential personnel from their ships for an inspection; and a similarly inclined incompetent fool suddenly found himself a taste of hard vacuum without the luxury of a vac suit.

    This time the Grand Admiral wanted Pellaeon to tag along, and there was really no point in arguing with the Chiss, so Pellaeon followed him like a shadow.

    They had been walking past the line of the assembled personnel, when the Grand Admiral stopped right in his tracks and jerked his head in the direction of the group of the lowest ranking ensigns that had been assigned to take an inventory at one of the supply ships.

    "Your name, Ensign?" Thrawn said in a smooth, cultured tone.

    By the Nine Hells, what had the poor man muttered under his breath that it caught the Grand Admiral's attention?

    "Eli Vanto, sir."

    The Ensign stepped forward, his face ashen, the same shade of gray as the uniform he had been wearing. All the other ensigns flinched, assuming the worst given the nature of the Grand Admiral's visit.

    "Walk with me, Ensign Vanto," Admiral Thrawn ordered, dismissing the whole assembly with a gesture, taking the two of them into one of the empty conference rooms near the main hangar.

    Pellaeon gave the Ensign a nod in encouragement; while none of the people on this base knew Thrawn, Pellaeon knew the Grand Admiral never took his frustrations out on bystanders.

    "Where did you hear that word, Ensign?"

    The Grand Admiral asked in a measured voice after he had used his personal override code and activated the sound proof filter in the conference room. Pellaeon let out a soft sigh, even without the alien features, the white uniform had a rather intimidating effect on lower ranks.

    "I am originally from Lysatra, sir," the Ensign squeaked, his posture rigid, far more rigid than the regulations required. "It's a world located on the edge of the Wild Space, close to the Unknown Regions. The Chiss, well, they have always been thought of a Wild Space myth."

    Chiss?! This young man knew of Thrawn's people? As far as Pellaeon had been aware, no one in the Galactic Empire seemed to have heard about the Chiss.

    "A myth, you say?" The red eyes narrowed. "Curious. Yet it appears that one of the very creatures you considered to be a myth is standing right here in front of you."

    The Ensign swallowed visibly, his posture getting even more rigid.

    Was it possible that the man had not been afraid of the white uniform but rather of the Chiss beneath the uniform? What was it he had known? What was it he had heard?

    The Grand Admiral opened his mouth and asked the young man something in a melodic language that Pellaeon had assumed that must have been his mother tongue. The Ensign appeared completely lost, shaking his head, his face clouding in a confusion, none of the strange song-like words registering in his brain.

    The Grand Admiral's eyes narrowed further, then he said something in a very different language at which the Ensign reacted immediately. Vanto replied in kind in the same language. Pellaeon had no idea what had been being said but it definitely sounded like a question or a plea.

    "Interesting," The Grand Admiral said with a hint of an approval in his tone. "Knowledge of an obscure language that had never been programmed into the protocol droids or an imperial language databank is a rare skill for a man who chose to enter the Imperial Supply Division, Ensign."

    Ensign Vanto's cheeks warmed up at the praise; apparently he took his job very seriously. "Like I said, sir, I am from Lysatra, it's still possible to find people there who can speak that language."

    The Grand Admiral nodded, then he turned and walked over to the far end of the room, sitting down at the center of the conference table, motioning for Pellaeon to sit next to him.

    "You may sit down, Ensign," he added in a soothing tone, aware of the strange effect he had over the man.

    "Thank you, sir," the Ensign didn't move from his spot, his eyes flickering everywhere but the blue face, "I prefer to stand."

    Pellaeon frowned at the attitude but kept his mouth shut, letting Thrawn to handle the situation in whatever manner he deemed appropriate; when a grand admiral said something, it was an order, not a mere suggestion.

    On the other hand, Pellaeon had to admit the young man had guts, being scared of a creature from his legends that also happened to hold the highest rank in the Imperial Navy, still standing his ground, refusing to give in.

    "As you wish." The Grand Admiral must have felt very generous today, indeed. "I am very much interested in the legends you heard of my people. And do not force me to make it an order, Ensign."

    Ensign took a deep sigh and opened his mouth, starting his long monologue, Pellaeon paying a very close attention to each word.

    Legends.

    More like campfire stories to be exact, yet he couldn't help but nod in agreement at certain places and roll his eyes once Vanto got to the description of their supernatural abilities. Clearly, at some time in the past, the Chiss had been in contact with the rest of the Galaxy, but it must have been so long ago that the myths that remained reminded him of a fantasy holoseries for children.

    Ensign Vato spoke of Chiss pride, mischievousness, cleverness, and resourcefulness. He described them as a proud warrior race with their own code of conduct, committed for life and extremely loyal to each other, patiently waiting for the opponent to make the first move and once he had crossed them they would crush him with such a brutal, deadly force that it would make even the Dark Lord pale in envy.

    Never cross a Chiss. That should have been carved into a stone and sent gift wrapped to the Rebellion.

    However, Ensign Vato continued, describing the destruction they left in their wake, going as far as to drinking the blood of their enemies.

    Oh come on, Ensign, surely you're better than this.

    And he didn't stop there, talking of their physical prowess, making it seem like Jedi Masters had been mere children with toy weapons in comparison, and Pellaeon couldn't help the snort that escaped him. He had walked on Thrawn's practice sessions enough times to give him a very good idea of his limitations, and no, Thrawn could not have rammed through the durasteel hull with his fist.

    Then the Ensign finally got to the part where the Chiss did not require any sleep and that they had been able to survive the coldness of hard vacuum without a vacsuit, and ended his ridiculous tale by saying the Chiss had been able to read minds with their deep gaze and steal the souls of the individuals who had been foolish enough to look them in the eyes.

    The Grand Admiral had been sitting there motionlessly the whole time, patiently listening to the overly dramatic presentation, his eyes giving out a dim, steady glow, his face perfectly composed, except for the faint, soft smile on the pale blue lips. Pellaeon assumed that this must have been as closest to laughing out loud as the Chiss would ever get, at least in front of others.

    "Fascinating," The Grand Admiral breathed out. "And you believe these legends?"

    "There is always a bit of truth in legends, sir," the Ensign dodged the question, technically an another insubordination but the Grand Admiral didn't appear to care.

    It was crystal clear the Ensign believed in the last part, the Chiss being able to steal the souls with their gaze, for he never looked the Grand Admiral in the face during the entire encounter, standing at attention at the far side of the room, as far away from him as possible.

    On the other hand, the Ensign spilled everything he knew no matter how far fetched and ridiculous it had seemed, suggesting that he had at least enough common sense to realize that the Chiss would not tear him apart and drink his blood unless he had crossed him.

    "You may go, Ensign Vanto," The Chiss released the young man who almost jumped in relief, giving him his best salute and leaving the room as fast as possible.

    "Your opinion, Captain?" The Grand Admiral said in an amused tone and shifted his red eyed gaze at Pellaeon. How he could look so composed after he had heard so much nonsense about his own kind had escaped him.

    "He doesn't know anything, sir," Pellaeon started diplomatically. "Some of the stories were rather..."

    "Entertaining?" Thrawn suggested.

    "Utter nonsense," Pellaeon cleared his throat. "Especially the one about the Chiss drinking the blood of their enemies."

    "Ah, yes," Thrawn agreed, leaning back in his chair, then adding, "we abandoned that custom millennia ago."

    "Did you just make a joke, sir?" Pellaeon asked disbelievingly.

    The Chiss rewarded him with a hard glare.

    Oh, the Chiss definitely had a sense of humor, only it was darker than the Darth Vader's black armor. No wonder the two of them got along so well. Who knew what they had been doing in private? Maybe they even went as far as cracking jokes at each other...

    "I might have a need for an assistant," Thrawn changed the topic abruptly, eyeing the door Ensign Vanto had left so eagerly.

    "With all due respect, sir, I think you already scared this man enough for a lifetime," Pellaeon countered, knowing the Grand Admiral wouldn't rebuke him for his honest opinion, "and in any case he appears to be very content with the field that he had chosen as his specialty."

    "Perhaps." Thrawn shrugged, his face unreadable. "Perhaps not. I will take your advice under consideration."

    Pellaeon heard that phrase so often that he knew it could mean anything. Thrawn had said it the every time he had asked Pellaeon for his honest opinion, giving him a polite nod in thanks, filing it away somewhere, and ended up doing whatever he had intended anyway.

    If the Grand Admiral decided the Ensign had enough, he would leave him to his forms and numbers. If not, it was possible the poor man's career would take a completely different direction.

    Thrawn had clearly seen potential in that man, and Pellaeon had to admit that the Grand Admiral had a real talent at spotting people's hidden powers; he would either yank them away from their lives and their careers, turning their lives upside down, or he would accidentally stumble upon low-ranks whose career took a dead end because of a wrong life decision or because they had a problem climbing the ranks the conventional way. He would offer them a chance in the Freak Fleet (a very fitting appellation, indeed) and he would nurse them into his perfect soldiers, shaping their minds and developing their skills.

    The latest unsuspecting victim had been Captain Dorja. Pellaeon still couldn't understand what sort of hidden superpower the Grand Admiral had seen in that one. A Coruscanti snob who became Konstatine's executive officer because of his family connections in the Core Worlds, joining the Imperial Navy in the first place because he wanted to look cool in a uniform.

    And as much as Pellaeon hated to admit it, Dorja had changed.

    Or maybe serving under Konstantine left such a bad aftertaste that Dorja had been desperate to prove himself to the Imperial Navy that he had been worthy of the command he had been finally given.

    Only, he was trying too hard…

    So hard he beamed up like a lightsaber even though he utterly, completely lost to the Grand Admiral's battle simulation, mistaking the fact he had been left to live as a commendation from Thrawn. And he crashed the obligatory Significance of Art on Warfare lectures, taking highlighted notes and everything. The Grand Admiral would have certainly appreciated his efforts if Captain Dorja had been able to figure anything from his notes, but highlighted or not, it still didn't make any sense to Dorja (or anyone else for that matter).

    Pellaeon shook his head.

    The Grand Admiral teamed Captain Dorja up with Commander Riza of all the people, making her the first officer of the ISD Relentless. A serene force on the surface, always polite to people around her, acting as an anchor to the overly enthusiast guy, but deep down Riza's tongue had been as sharp as a vibroblade and Pellaeon had no doubt once the two of them were alone, she'd have no qualms telling Dorja 'You just made a complete idiot out of yourself, sir.'

    "Well, if it worked with Dorja..." Pellaeon said, raising the white flag in a surrender. There was no sense in arguing with the Grand Admiral.

    "Hmmm, yes," The Chiss mused aloud, a hint of annoyance crossing his features for a second. "Captain Dorja required more time and effort than even I had anticipated but it seems that Captain Dorja and Commander Riza are finally starting to develop an appreciation for each other. Their personalities are imminently suited to each other."

    No matter what Pellaeon thought about Dorja personally, he did have a sort of superpower, he made the Commander smile. Riza had one of the most kriffed up lifestories he had ever heard, starting her with marrying a Clone Trooper who aged twice as fast as her, having kids who inherited that gene, joining the Fleet to pay for the children's gene therapy on Kamino, becoming essentially a slave to the Empire, proceeding with punching a lieutenant in the face who had been stupid enough to ridicule her because of her life's choices. Unfortunately the guy also happened to be a senator's aide son, putting a dead end to her career.

    He heard that Thrawn literally stumbled upon her and had been impressed in her floor scrubbing skills enough to have her transferred to the Seventh Fleet where she worked herself up from the cleaning lady to the executive officer. The senator's aide must have been furious.

    "I still can't believe you set them up on purpose, sir," Pellaeon muttered under his breath.

    "Set them up?" The Chiss repeated each word carefully as if he had never heard the phrase before, all his attention at Pellaeon now.

    "Ehm, sir, it means..." Pellaeon started but the Grand Admiral cut him off with a hand gesture.

    "I am perfectly aware what this particular phrase means, Captain. What I cannot understand is how did you come to the idea that I had such an inclination in mind when I had appointed her as his first officer."

    Now it was Pellaeon's turn to squirm under the intense glowing red gaze that Ensign Vanto believed it had the potential to steal people's souls.

    "You didn't?" Pellaeon asked off-handedly, putting his best fake innocent expression.

    "No."

    "Well, if that's the case, sir, then..." Pellaeon cleared his throat, hoping the other man would take the hint and change the topic.

    "No, Captain, I am not letting this matter be, not this time." The Chiss leaned forward, the red eyed gaze staring at him, analyzing him as if Pellaeon became the only puzzle in the universe worth solving. "I am interested to hear on what basis you formulated your hypothesis."

    Shavit.

    Pellaeon had just piqued Thrawn's interest. And he knew too well that the Chiss wouldn't stop until Pellaeon came up with an answer that would satisfy his curiosity. After all, it was Pellaeon who was the Grand Admiral's favorite mouse to play with. He might not have intended any harm coming to their way, but the Chiss was the proverbial lothcat and his officers were his proverbial mice.

    The Grand Admiral had been obsessed with information, however, this time it was not the simple thirst for information that made the two red eyes glow like two supernovas. It was the fact that Pellaeon noticed something that the Chiss brain had been unable to see. Such thing had never happened before.

    "You may speak freely, Captain, there will be no repercussions," The Grand Admiral said soothingly, inviting him to take his pick at his Chiss pride.

    "Riza and Dorja, they're, well,..." Pellaeon croaked out, "You said so yourself, sir, their personalities are imminently suited to each other."

    "Please continue, Captain," the Chiss encouraged him, nodding his head fractionally, his blue face relaxed, "I simply wish to understand. Tell me what I missed."

    It all started making sense. The only time when the Grand Admiral ever lost was when he had been missing a vital piece of information.

    "You could not see," Pellaeon realized, watching the red eyes go wide as if he struck a nerve, as if he said something of a much larger significance, "because was not there."

    It all made perfect sense. Thrawn was able to follow people's thought patterns as if was a second nature to him, as if he truly possessed the skill to see through their souls, the ability to read their minds. He was able to analyze their works of art, they spoke to him, told him everything about the beings that had created them.

    How could he see something that had not been there?

    "Then how is it possible you could?"

    Pellaeon jerked in his seat, swallowing an ancient Corellian curse. No wonder there had been such far fetched stories about Chiss and their supposed omniscience.

    "With all due respect, sir," Pellaeon resisted the urge to bang his fist against the table, "would you please stop reading my mind?"

    One of the blue black eyebrows shot up. "We wouldn't be having this conversation had I possessed an ability to read your mind, Captain."

    Thrawn might not have had the actual ability, but still this was as close as a Non-Force Sensitive would ever get. A magician would never reveal his tricks, would he?

    "It is a combination of a species trait and an observational skill," The Chiss said with an amusement, a small smile on his lips. "Chiss sensory perception is different than that of a human. I can make an educated guess based on the amount of blood flow through the facial blood vessels, distribution of the body heat, muscular contraction and relaxation, the overall human body language, and the tone and color of the voice. Combined with the knowledge of your Corellian background and character traits specific to you personally, I am able to make an educated guess most of the time."

    Pellaeon thought of the times he had been carefully choosing his words in front of the Grand Admiral, thinking how Thrawn's orders made absolutely no sense and he must have been crazy like a mynock. And the Chiss knew, onna fulle guth, and he had never breathed a word.

    The cold blue face softened imperceptibly. "My apologies, Captain. That had not been my intention."

    Pellaeon shrugged it off, taking a deep breath; he couldn't have helped his reaction any more the Chiss couldn't have missed it with the enhanced vision.

    Oh no. Dorja and Riza were so screwed.

    "Sir, it's really none of our business," Pellaeon's voice turned into a plea, watching the red eyes narrow in a growing suspicion. "Sir, please. If nothing else, don't say anything."

    His mind went back to the time the COMPNOR paid him a surprise visit, dragging all of his skeletons from the closet in an effort to humiliate him.

    "I couldn't care less about what my human subordinates do in their leisure time. That is, of course, unless an another member of the crew were involved. If I had any suspicion about the Captain or the Commander I would have them both immediately demoted to lieutenants and transferred each to a different ship."

    The Chiss stiffened, his whole body posture suddenly tense, his face carved from a stone; the Grand Admiral donned his commanding persona.

    "Do you realize, Captain, what you are suggesting to me? They are a captain and a first officer of an Imperial Star Destroyer. In a direct chain of a command."

    "Yes," Pellaeon gulped. Had Thrawn never disobeyed an order in his life? Had he never broken any rules? Thrawn must have been the type of a subordinate the every ranking officer hated: better and smarter than the commander himself.

    And the said Chiss was reading him like an open book.

    "I will take your advice under consideration." The Grand Admiral said, once again in his smooth, carefully modulated voice. The same words he had said about Ensign Vanto, the same words he had said whenever Pellaeon spoke his opinion about Thrawn's strategies.

    "Now let's go back to the ship."

    THE END

    BACK TO MASTERLIST OR COMMENTS SECTION BELOW
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2020
  7. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    A Bonus Story (blame the novel for this one)...

    Title: Language Proficiency is an Acquired Skill

    Damn the Coruscanti snobs who never experienced real work in their lives, Lieutenant Riza cursed as she scrubbed one of the hallways of the Imperial Palace. They wouldn’t court martial her, no, that would have been too obvious, instead they would reassign her to the sanitation duty at the Imperial Palace, making her clean refreshers after the ****** politicians. Well, if that had been the case, she’d make sure the refreshers shined as brightly as a star cluster.

    She kept scrubbing, and out of the corner of her eyes she noticed a tall blue man in a uniform marching through the hallway, blindly staring at his datapad, carelessly stepping on the wet floor she had been still cleaning. Great, she’d have to give it one more take.

    “Wet floor!” She yelled after the idiot, “Can’t you read the sign?!”

    Unfortunately, that made the said man startle and he slipped, falling flat down to the floor, the datapad screen breaking apart, the device spiraling in her direction. She caught it and turned her attention to the alien who had been picking himself up from the floor.

    Only then she had noticed the rank plate. Shavit.

    “I am so sorry, sir,” she breathed out, her face warming in embarrassment, handing out the datapad to him.

    The alien was tall, blue skinned, with red glowing eyes that looked as if could burn her down with a stare if he had pointed them in her direction. Only he paid little attention to her, his eyes going over the state of the hallway and then finally settling on the datapad she had been holding in her left hand, his eyes lingering a fraction of a second longer than necessary, a clear indication he had noticed the wedding band.

    “Would you be willing to clean my Star Destroyer, Lieutenant?” the alien asked dead pan, taking the datapad from her.

    What the?! He had just noticed her wedding band and immediately proceeded with an innuendo? How dare he? Alien or not, this chauvinist had been as bad as the laserbrain who got her into this mess in the first place.

    She clenched her fists in an impotent rage and without a word she walked over and took the bucket, splashing its contents on the alien officer who had the audacity to insult her in such a manner, addressing her by her rank while clearly abusing his authority of a ranking officer. His Star Destroyer? What a joke!

    The officer stood there, transfixed to the spot, water slowly dipping from him, his alien face unreadable, the red glowing eyes staring into a faraway distance.

    “You will have to work on your attitude, Lieutenant,” the officer said, breaking from his stupor. “And I will have to work on my Basic proficiency. I know I am still wearing my old rank plates but I have just received new orders, Lieutenant, I truly am to be a captain of a Star Destroyer.”

    “I am so sorry, sir, I had no idea,...” Riza wished she had her side arm so she could shoot herself in the head and skip the court-martial.

    “It is of no consequence, Lieutenant,” the captain said in a tone indicating a clear dismissal, “I will simply deduct the cost of the datapad and the uniform from your salary.”

    “You are really offering me a job, sir?” Riza shook her head in disbelief. After I’ve just thrown a bucket on his head?

    “Yes.” One of the blue black eyebrows shot up. “No matter how much effort you put into your work the hallway will never be clean enough when there are politicians walking on it.”

    The captain gave her a curt nod and walked away, leaving her utterly lost for words.


    THE END

    BACK TO MASTERLIST OR COMMENTS SECTION BELOW
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2018
  8. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Story No#7: The Evil So Terrible It Tried To Black Out The Stars
    Summary:
    There are two sides to every story, however, understanding is a three-edged sword: one side, the other side, and the truth. Character study of Thrawn. GEN.
    ---------------------

    Author's Note: The title is based on Star Wars: Rebels Season Four official trailer, in which Captain Hera Syndulla refers to Grand Admiral Thrawn as an evil so terrible it tried to black out the stars.

    ---------------------


    Whenever he could, whenever his tight schedule allowed it, Thrawn would come to his private gym adjoining his command room and practice with his DT-series sentry droids. The physical exertion served as a welcome distraction from the matters that occupied his mind, and at the same time it helped to keep his body fit and in prime shape.

    There were times, however, when a practice with an artificial intelligence was not challenging enough, for although Thrawn had programmed his droids with an ability to defeat him and deliver a critical hit, they were, even without a memory wipe, a mere artificial intelligence following certain logical patterns.

    From time to time, he needed a living opponent. Finding an unpredictable opponent, human or otherwise, who was strong enough, fast enough, skilled enough, and possessed enough sense of professionalism to swallow their pride and their ego to agree to Thrawn's terms was difficult.

    The goal was not to strike Thrawn down, the goal was to catch him off guard, to confuse him, to back him into a corner and force him to improvise. That counted as a victory for his opponent. It did not matter how much raw power the opponent possessed, as a warrior Thrawn had no qualms fighting against a physically superior opponent, and he certainly did not mind restricting the force of his blows for a physically inferior opponent he deemed worthy of a challenge.

    Today, it was Freja Covell's turn, an example of the latter. Once Thrawn had limited himself to Freja Covell's level, the Colonel instantly turned out to be a worthy opponent; his mind was flexible and versatile enough, possessing an ability to keep up Thrawn's subdued movements and of coming up with counterattacks. From time to time he delivered a completely unexpected blow, forcing Thrawn to reevaluate his approach and thus call it a fair hit.

    Thrawn very much enjoyed fighting a battle against an opponent who had the ability to do so. It woke up his inner warrior spirit, it brought a sense of thrill, and it posed a real challenge. Such moments were certainly worthy of swallowing his own pride and ego and allowing it to happen.

    Therefore, Thrawn was very much disappointed by Freja Covell's performance today. The man was distracted, delivering his attacks at mostly random, leaving himself wide open, vulnerable to an injury, forcing Thrawn not only to restrict the force of his blows but to abandon some of them altogether because subdued or not, the man was not paying attention and would not be able to block them, leading to a fatal wound.

    Another opening?!

    His patience with this man finally ran out.

    Thrawn went after the Colonel's unprotected left side with his staff, delivering a blow to his solar plexus, making him double over in pain, resulting in the man dropping his weapon from the shock. Then he proceeded with a strike at the Colonel's calves, making him lose his balance and send him falling down face forward.

    Thrawn threw away his staff and caught the Colonel's dominant right hand in midair, locking it firmly in place behind his back, applying enough pressure to to make him hiss in pain. Falling down with him the additional weight of Thrawn's body resulted in the human's gasp of pain at the impact with the hard floor.

    He used his other arm to lock Freja Covell firmly in place, applying more force than necessary on purpose, and then finally lay atop of him, whispering in his ear: "Coming here today was a mistake, Colonel."

    Freja Covell was in no condition to fight, and Thrawn would not have held it against him had he chosen to excuse himself from today's practice. Had he admitted to being unable to focus after an initial few random strikes, Thrawn would have let him walk away with his dignity intact.

    The Colonel went completely rigid under his touch, taking shallow, irregular breaths not from an internal injury but rather from a fear of an imminent death, his human heart beating faster and faster, his mind coming to a realization he was about to pay the ultimate price for his mistake.

    Thrawn sighed softly and released the human from his firm grasp, getting back to his feet in a single quick, fluid motion, walking away to give the other man a chance to regain composure. He sat down cross-legged two metres away from Freja Covell, outside of human perception of personal space, patiently waiting until the human calmed down before continuing.

    "I am not Lord Vader, Colonel. I do not spend my men recklessly nor do I take their deaths lightly. You made a mistake, a very foolish one if I may add, but it did not result in an unnecessary loss of lives of men under your command. There is no reason for you to fear me."

    In fact, the Freja Covell had a very much to fear from a man in his position. Thrawn had risen to the rank of the Grand Admiral, the highest rank of the Imperial Navy, the one that could be appointed only by the Emperor himself, effectively turning him into a direct executor of the will of the Emperor, a War Lord.

    The pristine white uniform with golden epaulets and a silver collar came with many privileges; Thrawn answered only to Grand Moff Tarkin, the Dark Lord, and to the Emperor himself. As a direct instrument of the Emperor's will he had the ultimate control over the lives and deaths of men under his command. With a mere snap of his fingers he could have anyone removed permanently. The Sith Lord did not need even that; he had an ability to kill with a single thought.

    However, just because one could did not mean one should; with power came responsibilities, something the others did not seem to realize, ruling by fear alone. From time to time, an instillation of fear or the use of a deadly force was necessary, it kept the subjects in line. On the other hand, an over-reliance on fear was an error that would eventually lead into a revolt, a lesson that the Rebellion was teaching them lately. Thrawn hoped that the error could be corrected before it became a mistake which would lead into an unnecessary loss of lives on all sides, and quite possibly the pan-galactic civil war. For that reason alone, the revolt had to die.

    "I am sorry, sir," the Colonel said awkwardly, his face flushed with embarrassment, "I promise it won't happen again."

    He followed Thrawn's lead and sat up into a similar cross-legged position.

    "Do not make promises you cannot keep, Colonel," Thrawn replied in a calm tone, closing his eyes as if mediating to make the human more comfortable, letting his tired muscles relax after a physical extortion.

    Curious that such a simple action as closing his eyes was enough to give humans a sense of control of the situation; no matter how reasonable their human brains were, their human hearts believed that the glowing eyes had the potential to hurt them with a deep gaze.

    Gilad Pellaeon, pure-blooded Corellian as he was, believing in things so typical of Corellians such as the Nine Hells, thought that the red glowing eyes had the potential to see through his soul. A notion so absurd that it left Thrawn completely at loss for words, a very rare occurrence indeed. On the other hand, it was Gilad Pellaeon who had been able to hold his deep gaze without an irrational fear for his soul despite his personal beliefs.

    "Speak your mind instead," Thrawn said in a smooth, measured voice, "for that is the only thing that will set your heart and your mind at ease. Only this once, Colonel, I am not willing to become your private counselor nor I am interested in listening to your personal problems."

    Navy men tended to see battles from a very different angle than their Army counterparts; standing on a bridge of a Star Destroyer it was easy to forget what the war was truly about because there was a vast distance between them and the enemy ship. All they needed to do to destroy their opponent was to press a button. Army men had to press the actual trigger, watching their opponents die in front of their eyes, the real reason why Imperial Navy and Imperial Army never got along.

    As a Chiss warrior, Thrawn had experienced both.

    Army men tended to have much shorter careers, not only because their bodies were exposed to various environmental conditions, different gravities, and they were far more likely to suffer from a war wound. They tended to burn out faster for it was their minds that had been far more exposed to the reality of war.

    "It's Atollon, sir," the Colonel whispered, the tone of his voice colored by shame, his musculature tensing. The Empire had won the battle which took place a one month ago, after all. He should have been feeling proud; instead the human had been brooding, slowly being eaten from within by his own fears of the future.

    "The Bendu, you mean," Thrawn corrected him, nodding his head in a gesture of acknowledgment. He did not need to open his own eyes to know the human had returned his nod, too scared to admit his fear aloud.

    "Death is an inescapable part of warfare, Colonel," Thrawn said in a detached, purely clinical tone, an acceptance of a fact. "So is defeat. A warrior cannot allow himself to lose the sight of the bigger picture simply because an immortal creature claiming omniscience told him he would be defeated one day. It is statistically impossible to win every battle."

    Thrawn shook his head, a gesture of a dismissal. "You have demonstrated the series of events that unfolds when one allows such poisonous thoughts into one's mind."

    The human seemed to consider his words, his breathing calm and steady, his hands making sounds of fingers rubbing against the fabric of his trousers, a sign of unease. Usually it was Thrawn who was studying humans, observing them in their natural habitat. This time it was a human who was trying his best to study a Chiss, to read his body language, to imagine what must have been going behind the red eyed gaze.

    No, Thrawn did not possess an ability to read minds of other beings. His whole life would have been certainly much easier had he had. He was, however, able to make an educated guess based on their body language, the knowledge of their customs and character traits, and their works of art.

    Freja Covell originated from Corulag, just like Voss Parck. They shared similar values that shaped their minds during their formative years. The more time he had spent around them, the more predictable their thought patterns became, and then, of course, they would say or do something so unpredictable which would serve as a reminder that he would never be able to prepare himself for every eventuality. A blow to his Chiss pride. A valuable lesson on humility.

    Perhaps the Bendu was right. Perhaps Thrawn would be defeated. Perhaps he would die before the real war even started. And perhaps not. In any case, one had to be prepared for every eventuality. Ultimately, it did not matter whether he lived or died as long as he succeeded in his mission.

    Curious creatures, these humans. For it was them, not the Chiss, who had the saying 'pride before fall.' If the Chiss Ascendancy and a strong, predominantly human government could form a true alliance, they would be unstoppable, unbeatable. The Chiss would have to swallow their pride first and come to the terms that the Uncivilized Territories had not been so uncivilized after all.

    Thrawn focused his attention back to the human in the room and slowly opened his Chiss eyes, observing the man, taking into an account his body language, the lack of tension in his posture, and the relaxed expression on his face. The Colonel found his equilibrium, a simple acknowledgment of his fear and seeing his leader unmoved by such irrational things like death or defeat was enough for him to find his own balance.

    Curious creatures, these humans. One of their biggest weaknesses was that they needed to believe that their leaders must be stronger than them. It couldn't be further from the truth, of course, but that was how the entire human society worked.

    Did he hate himself for not telling the man the truth? No. Thrawn had once thought that telling the truth at all times was the only possible way, and he had learned from his error. He still loathed liars with all his Chiss heart, but he had discovered that not all beings were capable of handling the entire truth.

    Especially humans.

    So he let them believe in whatever they wanted to believe. Had they asked him, he would have told them, but they never had. They made their own assumptions and it would break their human hearts if they learned the truth before they figured it on their own. It was a human saying, after all, the knowledge came with a price.

    The truth? The truth had several layers. The truth this man wouldn't be able to handle was that the Chancellor Sheev Palpatine and the Darth Sidious had been the one and the same man. Heroes and villains? The two sides of the same coin. Jedi and Sith? Likewise. In case of the latter, the proverbial coin had been the Force.

    Thrawn was neither.

    He would leave it to historians to decide what, exactly, he was.

    For the history was a set of lies agreed upon.

    THE END

    BACK TO MASTERLIST OR COMMENTS SECTION BELOW
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2020
  9. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    And now, the most controversial story in the series:

    Story No#8: An Unstoppable Force Meets an Immovable Object
    Co-Authored with ImperialGirl.

    Part One: The Gundark in an Art Gallery
    Summary:
    After Grand Admiral Thrawn managed to retrieve the stolen masterpiece of his collection from the Rebels, his senior command staff wonders what the wild mynock chase has been all about and demands an explanation. Words: 5,600
    --------------------------------


    "I'm only saying there's more to this than a missing trinket. The Admiral turns the station and the ship upside down, disappears for hours, won't discuss why, only that the situation's been resolved." Colonel Covell set down his mug of Forvish ale a bit more firmly than necessary.

    "If the Admiral doesn't want us to know the details," Captain Pellaeon countered, "it's not really our business, is it? Whatever it was the Rebels took, it's been resolved." He chose to overlook that his choice of beverage this evening, the rather volatile syrspirit, said that his nerves weren't quite so convinced.

    "Damn it, Gilad, it's your ship!" Covell cursed. "He's obviously got something aboard that we don't know about and which he's willing to go to great personal lengths to protect. Aren't you the least bit curious?"

    A heavy hand fell on Covell's shoulder, making him slosh his drink dangerously close to spilling.

    "Curious about what?" General Bittenfeld, Seventh Fleet's Army corps commander, dropped into a chair with all the grace of the red-headed Wookiee on spice he sometimes resembled.

    Covell only looked resigned to the intrusion. "We were discussing the incident at Ord Trasi. The Admiral's little mynock hunt."

    "Oh, that!" Bittenfeld snorted. "Probably just misplaced one of those trinkets he collects. Positively insane about them."

    "I don't know," Pellaeon sighed in spite of himself. "This was . . . different. I'd almost have said he was in a panic, if he were capable of it."

    "He took a shuttle, with no troopers, not Navy or Stormtroopers, and when he came back, it was as if nothing happened," Covell said, uneasy as he probably was about his commanding officer taking an interest. Pellaeon couldn't blame him. At worst, Bittenfeld would probably just speculate as he'd just done. Still, once an idea took root, he could out-stubborn a bull bantha.

    "I was merely speculating about what could be so important to the Admiral he'd upset protocol seven ways from Selonia to deal with it, but then wouldn't explain what any of it was about."

    Bittenfeld poured himself a glass from the pitcher of ale and downed it in one swallow. "You want to know what the Admiral's up to?"

    Pellaeon felt a sense of impending doom.

    "Let's just go and ask."

    With General Bittenfeld in the lead, they arrived to the door of Grand Admiral Thrawn's office, the Stormtrooper standing guard in front of the door giving the General a sharp salute immediately when he saw him. This one might have been one of the hand-picked stormtroopers by Thrawn but strictly speaking, the Grand Admiral had only borrowed him from the General as the Stormtrooper Corps belonged to the Army contingent.

    "At ease, trooper," the General waved him off, "is the Admiral there?"

    "Yes, sir," the trooper said in the usual filtered voice, "though he mentioned he did not wish to be disturbed at this time."

    The General gritted his teeth.

    "Well, you had better told him there is a matter I wish to discuss with him, trooper."

    "Sir, yes, sir," the stormtrooper and tilted his head to a side, presumably activating the internal comm link, calling the Grand Admiral.

    They waited in silence for several minutes and then the stormtrooper titled his head back and turned his attention to them.

    "The Admiral will see you now, General." The trooper activated the switch at the side panel and stepped aside.

    "Yes, General Bittenfeld?" came the smooth, cultured voice of Grand Admiral Thrawn from the far end of the room.

    The Chiss was seated in his chair, the whole command room shrouded in near-darkness, lit up only by the extensive holographic gallery.

    The General apparently didn't have the habit of tip toeing around Thrawn's precious virtual art collection like Pellaeon did. Instead he walked right through them, causing the flatsculps and tri-d works to ripple and momentarily disappear. Pellaeon shook his head at the blatant disrespect to the works of art, holograms or not. The Grand Admiral always looked up to them with such admiration and awe as if they were true originals personally given and signed by the creators themselves. Pellaeon might never be able to truly appreciate them as Thrawn did, but he would have never dared to barge through them like the General had just done.

    In the General's defense, though, it was not a deliberate act of an insubordination or an offense. A part of Bittenfeld's brain responsible for perceiving art must have been clearly missing or so under-developed that even the Grand Admiral gave up on disciplining him for being disrespectful to the works of great masters. It would have been as the finest Mon Cal opera compositions to deaf ears. There was no point at feeling anger towards the General just like there was no point of feeling anger towards the weather any other force of nature.

    "Grand Admiral."

    The gundark-in-an-art-gallery stopped directly in front of the Chiss, looking him straight in the eyes, the humility in his voice when he said the rank sounding completely out of place with his careless behavior so far.

    "There is a certain matter we need to discuss."

    Thrawn leaned over and pressed a button, all the holograms in the room disappearing in an instant, the lights switching on, immediately brightening up the room into the pre-set standard aboard an any Imperial ship.

    "I am unaware of any outstanding issues with the Army, General."

    Thrawn gave them a curt, polite nod in welcome, his glowing red eyes briefly flickering over at Pellaeon and then back at the gundark.

    "Or given Captain Pellaeon's presence, is there some conflict between the two services?"

    It was always fascinating to observe the interaction between the two giants, Pellaeon thought. The Grand Admiral, solid, calm, composed, alien; his face carved from stone, his voice smooth and cultured. The General, an unchained, wild, passionate and brutally honest man whose every expression was always clearly written on his face, his voice rough and full of emotion.

    "Sir, it's about the recent . . . incident at Ord Trasi." General Bittenfeld tried his very best at being polite toward the Chiss.

    Clearly he held the Grand Admiral in the highest respect though he was not afraid of him in the slightest.

    Thrawn paused, just for a moment. "Incident? Did the rebels inflict further damage?" he asked in a deceptively mind tone.

    If it been anyone else Pellaeon would have gone as far as describing it as faux innocence.

    The General stiffened, an expression of anger crossing his features. Obviously he did not enjoy being treated like a fool, by Thrawn or anyone. Whatever respect he held for Thrawn's position was gone in an instant.

    "Sir, you required ship and station personnel to conduct a search, which turned up nothing, and you disappeared for several hours, returned, and . . . well, sir, we have no idea what it was about. It was rather disruptive to the Army and station crew as well."

    Thrawn's eyes narrowed. "I do not need to explain my actions to you, General, or to anyone else on my command staff. Dismissed."

    Bittenfeld didn't move. "With all due respect sir, I disagree."

    "This is a personal matter and not a command question."

    Was Pellaeon imagining things, or did Thrawn sound just slightly tense? Enough to be noticed, even.

    Bittenfeld drew himself up, the gundark preparing to charge.

    "So you mean to tell me, sir, you ran my men in circles, turning the whole station upside down for a purely personal matter and did not even have the decency to inform me beforehand?"

    Thrawn rose, a reminder that his height was not inconsiderable, either.

    "General Bittenfeld, while I consider myself a very patient man and tolerate your emotional outbursts, this time you have overstepped your place. I repeat: You. Are. Dismissed."

    Bittenfeld crossed his arms, and his chin lifted in pure defiance.

    "No."

    Pellaeon swallowed hard, and he heard Covell suck in a long, hissing breath. The General not only refused to back down, not only he had committed a clear act of insubordination, he had said 'No.'

    Not 'no, sir', something the Chiss would have let him walk away without consequences, he had said 'No.'

    The Grand Admiral jerked in surprise, the red eyes widening. It must have been a great surprise indeed if his preternatural control slipped and the shock appeared so openly on the otherwise calm and composed face.

    "I beg your pardon?"

    Bittenfeld was not at all intimidated.

    "Damn you, Thrawn, you may be a Grand Admiral and command my allegiance but I am the Seventh Fleet General. How do you expect me to take care of my men when you conceal such things from me?"

    "I expect your men to follow orders," Thrawn said in a tone that could have cut glass, the glowing eyes blazing like infernal fires. "That includes orders where they are not privy to the details."

    Pellaeon thought it might be time to intercede. "With absolutely all due respect, sir, in this particular scenario further details might have made matters a bit easier."

    Bittenfeld wasn't bothering with politeness. "Don't screw with me, Thrawn. You know very well that I have always followed your orders without question even when they made absolutely no sense. This is different."

    Pellaeon didn't dare breathe, let alone speak.

    Something shifted in the red eyed gaze. "In what respect?"

    "You used Imperial resources for a personal mission, resolved it yourself, without any indication it was proper use of my men's time. Play with your little ships all you want, but if you're going to use Army equipment, you're going to tell me what for."

    So that was it. The General was insane. Mentally unstable. Unfit for duty. Not only the part of Bittenfeld's brain responsible for perceiving art was missing. He also happened to have no survival instinct whatsoever.

    The Chiss must have realized it too, for he had decided to take mercy on the weak-minded fool.

    "You are making a mistake, General. I suggest you leave now before I change my mind and decide to remind you to what happens to those who make mistakes."

    Pellaeon could feel his heart hammering and was surprised he couldn't hear Covell's as well. Everyone knew what Thrawn meant about uncorrected errors and mistakes. He and Covell took a step forward and were about to drag the General away, probably to have him locked up in a mental asylum. Permanently.

    "No, Grand Admiral, you are making a mistake."

    Unfortunately, the General was faster and stronger than them, pushing them away. Well, so much for trying to save him.

    "I am calling my favor for Atollon," the General said, his voice cold as ice, "And for the record, I want to state that this is not how I expected it to happen. I wanted to have a fight with you, full power, no holding back, even if we were to break every kriffing bone in each other's body."

    He took a deep breath.

    "Screw it, I am calling the favor and I am doing it now. I let you lead my men into a battle because of your petty personal vendetta against the Ghost's crew and you not only failed to capture them or kill them, your actions brought wrath of an immortal creature upon my men and resulted in unnecessary loss of lives and waste of Imperial resources. There are only two ways I leave this room, with an answer or in a body bag."

    Thawn just stared at Bittenfeld, the glowing eyes unblinking. He even appeared to stop breathing for a moment. It was as if the Chiss brain was trying to solve an equation that had no solution. As if he had been trying to divide by zero.

    Pellaeon wondered exactly how he was going to phrase a report about a suddenly-deceased general being cleaned up in the Grand Admiral's command room.

    Thrawn pressed a button in his command chair's control pad and spoke a few words in a language Pellaeon didn't understand at all. A light flickered on the control panel in response, and Thrawn nodded as if to himself.

    "Very well. Understand, gentlemen, if any of you reveals to anyone what I am about to show you, he will not live long enough to regret having done so."

    Thrawn lead them back through his art display room where he kept his physical art collection when it was not on display to the private entrance to his quarters. Covell wondered aloud, speaking for them both, "Maybe he's just going to kill us somewhere private."

    Pellaeon didn't reply, but he had a horrible feeling the Colonel might be right.

    Inside the Grand Admiral's private quarters, the living space was far less austere than Pellaeon would have expected. The bedding looked . . . nonstandard, softer, and while it shouldn't have surprised him to see art on the walls, it was real art, and much more delicate than he'd have predicted - starscapes, snow fields, and even one of the rare and expensive Alderaani moss paintings. Besides the usual bunk and a work space, a small table with flimsy and drawing materials sat near the viewport. There was a carafe of some dark liquid on the table as well, and to Pellaeon's confusion, there were two glasses beside it.

    Thrawn spoke, that same incomprehensible language, and there was a flicker of movement at the corner of his vision.

    Pellaeon turned, and he felt his jaw drop. Covell apparently wasn't breathing, and there was a strangled sound that might have been Bittenfeld. Because whatever they had expected, it was not this. This was a tall, slender female, nearly Thrawn's height, with the same powder-blue skin and glowing red eyes. A mane of cobalt hair was swept back in an artfully-disheveled braid, and while she glanced uncertainly at Thrawn, her bearing left no doubt that she was a person accustomed to being dignified and in control. And for an unguarded instant, Thrawn was looking at her the way Pellaeon had previously only seen him look at an especially-treasured piece of art.

    So . . . this was the masterpiece at the heart of Thrawn's collection.

    ****************

    Lisetha studied the three officers, until this moment mere faces from the secure-cams Thrawn had required her to know, and raised an eyebrow.

    [Thrawn, if we're going to have visitors, I would have appreciated much more time to be prepared. I'm a complete fright.] She spoke Cheunh, knowing none of them would comprehend it.

    Thrawn smiled, so slightly a human likely wouldn't notice. [If I had my choice, they wouldn't be here,] he replied in kind. [I apologize for disturbing you.]

    [Not at all. It's rather refreshing to see new faces.] She gave what she hoped was a suitably polite nod. "Gentlemen."

    Pellaeon (she knew him by the mustache and the naval rank on his uniform) recovered first. "Ah. . . my . . . lady?"

    "You may address her as Lady Lisetha," Thrawn said, and she could hear the note of amusement low in his voice, though she was sure the humans could not. He held out a hand to her and let him guide her to stand before them.

    "Lisetha, allow me to present General Bittenfeld, Captain Pellaeon, and Colonel Covell."

    Lisetha smiled, she hoped broadly enough. "An honor to meet you all in person. Though I confess I am rather surprised to meet you at all."

    "Believe me, Lady, not half as surprised as any of us." Bittenfeld was indeed as bold as Thrawn complained. He sounded, if anything, like he was trying not to laugh. "Thrawn, you sly devil, keeping her to yourself all this time, letting those poor women of the court pine themselves sick over you, and a few of the men, too… Letting everyone think you're above that sort of nonsense, and here you have her stashed away. Well played."

    Thrawn's face darkened, but Lisetha couldn't keep down a laugh. "This one does have a point. May I keep him? He amuses me."

    "That would be the only reason I keep him around," Thrawn said drily.

    Pellaeon and Covell, meanwhile, looked like some species of flushed, sweating statues. Lisetha wondered that anyone with faces so warm could avoid being dizzy. "Thank you, General, I think. But other two look so flushed, Thrawn. Do they have a fever?"

    Covell's mind seemed to catch up with the situation. "With all due respect, my lady, for ... whatever your position is ... what is your position?"

    Lisetha blinked, and for a moment retreated to Cheunh. [Is that as much a double entendre in Basic as I think?]

    Thrawn's lip twisted. [He'll pay for that later,] and switched to Basic. "Colonel Covell, you will be required to visit a sickbay after the next practice session with me."

    Lisetha gave him what she hoped was a forgiving smile. "I am Lady Lisetha, and my position, as you say, is whatever your lord the Grand Admiral requires of me."

    Pellaeon and Covell looked, if it were possible, even more dumbstruck.

    Bittenfeld, though was not yet at a loss for word. "Well, that explains why you were so desperate to get her back. A mistress like that must be hard to come by."

    "Spare me your barracks-room language." Thrawn gritted his teeth. "Lady Lisetha and I were contracted to marry before my exile. She chose to follow me once that occurred."

    Pellaeon spoke up. "Contracted? Do you mean engaged?"

    Lisetha smiled and corrected him, she hoped gently. "Our people don't leave things like marriage to chance, Captain. His adoptive family presented him to my father a potentially-suitable match for me. I was . . . amenable. Your Admiral may be a commoner, but he has many exceptional qualities that any ruling family, such as my own, would be pleased to see bred into their future generations."

    Bittenfeld snickered. "Thrawn a commoner? Marrying a princess? This is priceless."

    Pellaeon, meanwhile, looked, as far as she could tell, rather horrified. "There's no . . . affection involved?"

    Thrawn's face hardened, so she spoke quickly.

    "Oh, I could have rejected him if I'd decided he wouldn't do," Lisetha smirked just a bit. "But Thrawn didn't have liberty of choice as a common-born. Or rather, he could have decided to bow out, but the consequences would have been a political disaster and an embarrassment to his adoptive Family."

    Pellaeon still looked just a trace stunned at the notion. "Your families simply examined a resume and said 'here, meet and see if you don't mind marrying each other?'"

    Thrawn looked a bit pensive. She might, if they'd been alone, even have teased him for seeming sad.

    "Matches born of affection have no place in our culture, Captain," Thrawn said, with enough regret in his voice that even the humans surely heard it. "It is one of the things I, in a way, envy of your culture, now that I know of it."

    Lisetha took his hand, and only resisted pressing it to her lips because they were not alone. "Affection can be learned. Or blossom on its own when the proper meeting is arranged." And she added in in Cheuh, [Did you think I chased you across a galaxy because I believe so strongly in a contract?]

    Thrawn said nothing, but she felt the trace of his thumb across her palm and the gentle pressure of his hand tightening over hers.

    Pellaeon might be stunned, but he certainly didn't seem to miss details, either. "If I might be so bold sir, it appears in that case that you have been a very lucky in your match."

    Thrawn sighed and nodded. "Indeed, Captain. Even if I had the luxury of free choice and all the time in the galaxy to make it, I doubt I could have chosen better."

    Lisetha felt a warmth rising up the back of her neck, and knew even if human eyes weren't sensitive enough to see it, Thrawn would, and knew what it meant. If they'd been alone, she would have shown him proper gratitude for such a common, but enchanting, expression of sentiment.

    Bittenfeld was clearly not as moved by tenderness as the Captain. "I apologize for my insubordination, sir. However, there is an another matter that needs to be brought to your attention."

    Thrawn sighed, only now it was far more annoyed than wistful. "What is it now, General?"

    The General drew himself up. He was really quite physically imposing, and more than most humans his skin seemed prone to brilliant infrared displays on the slightest provocation. "You keep your woman locked up like prisoner, Grand Admiral! What does she even do all day?"

    Lisetha had to release Thrawn's hand so both hers were free to smother very undignified laughter. "Oh, he's marvelous."

    Thrawn gave her a pointed look. "You don't need a pet."

    Lisetha smirked back. "Jealous?"

    Thrawn gave the soft snort that was the closest he ever came to open laughter in any company but hers. "Never, but you'll get tired of him, mark my words."

    Lisetha shook her head and turned back to the officers. "Oh, I amuse myself. I paint, I draw, I read. I watch your human holodramas."

    Pellaon blinked. "You are an artist?"

    "A mere hobbyist," Lisetha said. "But I enjoy it. I certainly never had any talent for dancing or playing the tsa'nishen."

    Thrawn smiled indulgently. "Who do you think drew the patch on your arm, and the nose art I had them place on the ship?"

    Covell and Pellaeon were staring, and even Bittenfeld looked mildly impressed.

    Covell said, "You created the chimaera?"

    "My . . . Thrawn is quite fascinated by the many legends of such hybrid beasts. I took a rather liberal approach at the three headed mythical beast. Especially on the stylized design for the patch. Thrawn seemed pleased, though. Do you like it?"

    Pellaeon looked utterly entranced, and Covell was staring at her with such open admiration she was momentarily concerned Thrawn would be jealous.

    "We love you! It, we mean, your design," the Colonel stammered.

    "We're proud to wear it, my lady," and Pellaeon now made the title sound quite sincere.

    Lisetha lowered her eyes modestly, mostly to hide the pleased smile. "Oh, I'm merely an amateur."

    "It's wonderful, my lady," Covell said fervently. "We've literally fought for it."

    Thrawn snorted. "And now you see, gentlemen, why I had to keep her a secret. Besides, of course, the usual risks of court politics."

    They were all nodding agreeably. The effect was almost comic.

    "Your secret is safe with us, Admiral," Pellaeon said.

    "I'm still not pleased with your keeping a lady locked in a closet." Bittenfeld was still the gundark barging blithely through the art gallery.

    Lisetha smiled gently. It was a bit like she imagined dealing with a stubborn child might be like, and given Thrawn's personality and her own, she might as well practice while she could. "I'm perfectly content, General, as you can see. Hardly a prisoner."

    Bittenfeld glowered. "Forgive me, my lady. However, if you ever wished to slip out for a fresh air, the Army is at your disposal. I can either accompany you myself or I can recommend my second-in-command, Colonel Covell. He may be a scuttlebutt but he is actually very discreet when it comes to important things."

    It was starting to sound like an intriguing idea, really, but Thrawn intervened. "The last time she wandered alone I nearly lost her to the Rebels."

    That, if possible, roused the gundark to further heights of indignation.

    "IT WOULD HAVE NEVER HAPPENED HAD I KNOWN ABOUT HER!" Bittenfeld bellowed. "I would have escorted her to the station myself. Just let the Rebels try and lay a finger on her then!"

    Lisetha looked to her husband. "He does have a point."

    Before Thrawn could speak, the gundark charged on. It was small wonder he was often unstoppable on the battlefield, given the determination he put into any objective.

    "Grand Admiral, she is a lady and as such she needs to have a taste of fresh air and a change of scenery once in a while. I personally vouch for her safety. If anything ever happens to her, I will bear the consequences."

    Thrawn raised an eyebrow, but to Lisetha's astonishment he appeared to be considering it. "Without knowing what those consequences would be?"

    Bittenfeld drew himself to attention. "I swear on my family honor."

    Thrawn smiled, the kind of smile that set even his allies on edge. "Courageous, General, considering you have no idea what I had in mind for the Rebels had I captured them abducting her or if there had been so much as the faintest scratch on her. But I do believe you mean it."

    Lisetha did feel obliged to defend herself. "I wasn't harmed. And you have to admit, I was able to take care of myself. If you'd taken much longer to contact them I'd have managed the whole escape myself."

    Bittenfeld's ears practically perked. "Oh?"

    Briefly, Thrawn explained Lisetha's capture, in which she'd had to be subdued by a Lasat guard captain after jumping and delivering a painful assault to the traitor ISB agent, Kallus, before the Rebels could hold her, and how she had bought time for their escape and delayed the Rebels who'd brought her to him by sabotaging their stolen transport under their noses. By the time Thrawn finished, Bittenfeld had a positively covetous gleam in his eyes.

    "If I may say so, my lady, you would have made an excellent Army soldier."

    Thrawn's eyes burned a warning. "Do not give her ideas, General."

    "I'm afraid I was born for politics, not war. My talents are more suited to a council chamber than in a walker or a fighter. "

    Pellaeon and Covell exchanged startled looks, the wheels clearly turning. Lisetha kept her own council, but she knew what they were thinking. Thrawn would never have spoken aloud of his plans, Palpatine would not live forever and Vader aside, he had no heir. Their expressions said it plainly: they were wondering, were they looking at the future imperial consort? Empress, even?

    Thrawn was clearly following their trail of thoughts, too, and she knew what he was thinking behind the tiny smirk. Humans truly were a never ending source of amusement. Ah, if they only knew.

    "I will happily leave military matters to those officially positioned to deal with them," was all she said aloud. "Though of course self-defense is an important part of any rounded education."

    Meanwhile Bittenfeld's imagination was limited to closer matters. "Sir, I had my suspicions before but now you have confirmed them. There is no clear distinction between navy and army in your species' military forces, is there?"

    Thrawn shook his head. "No, General. While we do have admirals and generals, of course, the Chiss warriors are trained for both space and ground combat."

    Bittenfeld's expression was downright covetous. "And you don't happen to have more of those Chiss warriors around, do you? I want at least a platoon. Or two."

    Thrawn's expression probably seemed blank to the humans, but she knew his feelings on the matter were, at the most, dubious. "I am not sure the General would appreciate that as much as he thinks."

    Bittenfeld wasn't remotely deterred. "A platoon of warriors who are well versed in space and ground combat, possessing enhanced vision, keener hearing, and are capable of quick thinking, fully at my command, ready to obey my every order?"

    Bittenfeld laughed, looking absolutely delighted at the thought.

    Lisetha tried not to laugh, either at the sudden enthusiasm or at the horrified expression on Covell's face.

    "You are forgetting one matter, General." When he gave her a dark look, she switched languages. [Can you speak Cheunh?]

    The general frowned, and tried to repeat what she'd said. At least, she assumed that was what he did, but she couldn't be sure, as what came out of his mouth sounded like nothing so much as a small felid trying to spit around a mouthful of pebbles. She managed to bite her cheek, but Thrawn didn't even make the effort, guffawing with outright amusement.

    Lisetha almost laughed, but contained herself. "Thrawn, hush! Imagine what we must have sounded like in Basic the first time we tried!"

    Pellaeon and Covell, though, clearly had other concerns.

    "Did the Admiral . . . laugh?" Pellaeon said.

    Covell looked as if he couldn't even blink. "I wouldn't care to speculate. If he did he might be going mad. If he didn't we are."

    "I think the universe has gone mad," Pellaeon said.

    Lisetha knew she was going to laugh herself sick as soon as she was alone.

    [Meeting me, now laughing-be careful, Thrawn, they're going to start thinking you're a mere mortal!]

    Thrawn drew in a deep breath and composed himself. "General, your Cheunh pronunciation leaves much to be desired."

    Bittenfeld clenched his fist. "If it gets me my platoon of Chiss warriors, I'll learn it! I'll master it in under a year!"

    Thrawn raised an eyebrow.

    "I could always tutor them," Lisetha suggested.

    Pellaeon coughed delicately. "Ahem, sir, I heard it took Admiral Parck a long time just to learn to pronounce the Admiral's full name properly."

    That was probably not the deterrent Pellaeon had hoped for.

    "What name?" Bittenfeld demanded. "You have another name, Thrawn?"

    Thrawn nodded. "It is pronounced 'Mitth'raw'nuruodo,' General. My core name is much simpler for humans."

    Bittenfeld's face screwed up with heavy concentration, and he repeated a string of syllables. Which did, in fact, sound like Cheunh, but not what he had intended to say.

    Lisetha clapped both hands over her mouth to try and contain the completely undignified gales of laughter.

    Thrawn glowered at the General. "If you had any idea what you just said, General . . . "

    Lisetha gasped for breath. "Oh, nar'ech'yon, he is so funny. I want to tutor him, it'll be so amusing."

    Thrawn glared. "For a noblewoman, you're not being very dignified."

    Lisetha tried to compose herself. "General, try Reli'set'harana."

    Bittenfeld gritted his teeth. "Releesetaranah."

    Lisetha blinked. "Oh dear."

    Thrawn snickered. "I should kill you where you stand, General, using such language. In the most horrible way you can imagine."

    Lisetha brushed it aside. "He still amuses me. And you haven't brought me any presents lately."

    Thrawn snorted. "As you wish. I reserve the right to tell you 'I told you so' when he's gotten on your last nerve."

    Bittenfeld glared. "Slander! I know how one treats a lady-apparently better than you as I don't keep mine locked up!"

    Everyone, Lisetha included, stared. Covell looked genuinely nonplused. "You have a lady?"

    "Not a regular one! Who has time for that sort of thing in the Army? Nor as many as the Captain here, so the scuttlebutt says." He gave Pellaeon an overenthusiastic elbow to the ribs.

    Lisetha raised an eyebrow, but she noticed that Thrawn did not seem particularly surprised.

    Pellaeon glared. "It's not really a fit subject to discuss in front of a lady, General, with all due respect."

    "I'm not the one who keeps a running tally," Bittenfeld retorted.

    "General, please, there is a lady present. What you or I may or may not do on leave is not an appropriate topic."

    Lisetha found the sudden delicacy strange, as they'd no doubt realized, given her presence in Thrawn's quarters, that she was not unacquainted with the notion of certain urges. "Thrawn, humans do not have the concept of recreation?"

    Thrawn had the look he got when there was something he would prefer not to explain. "Their customs are very different. Some habits, even though they are widely indulged in, are considered best not acknowledged openly. Especially when there isn't their version of a contract involved."

    "That does explain why some of them seem so tense."

    Pellaeon's jaw dropped. "I cannot believe this... coming from a man who could not understand how I can have a son without my knowledge."

    Lisetha was sure she hadn't heard properly. "How is that even possible, Captain? Surely you were present for the conception."

    Even Bittenfeld was stunned into silence.

    Thrawn sighed. "I told you, dear, they are curious creatures."

    Lisetha shook her head, trying to wrap her mind around the notion. "Yes, but not so different. I would think they're aware when matters have progressed that far. Unless it doesn't have to take as long to ensure conception. That doesn't sound very enjoyable."

    Thrawn for once, looked at a complete loss. Which was preferable to the horrified looks on the humans' faces. "I believe you should add some texts on human biology to your reading, my dear," was all he said aloud, though.

    THE END


    MissKitsune08's notes:

    Those of you who read ImperialGirl's gift fic to me, A Fair Exchange, might have seen it coming, those who didn't, well... Surprise! Oh, I think this fic was definitely worthy of a long sleepless night spent plotting, scheming, and writing over Messenger with my partner in crime. It's literally a joint effort, take a guess as to who wrote what lines...

    Oh, and I hope you enjoyed General Bittenfeld. He made his grand entrace in the Second Chances, and I am definitely not done with him yet! He is Mr. Bombastic.

    In case you love ImperialGirl's Lisetha as much as I do, be sure to read her A Fair Exchange and of course, don't forget to read her "main" EPIC series set in the Legends called TIE Fighter (400,000+ words of Thrawn, nuff said).

    BACK TO MASTERLIST OR COMMENTS SECTION BELOW
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2020
  10. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Story No#8: An Unstoppable Force Meets an Immovable Object
    Co-Authored with ImperialGirl.

    Part Two: The Danger of Keeping Secrets
    Summary:
    Vice Admiral Thrawn receives an unexpected visitor almost at the same time as Captain Parck decides to drop by his apartment to congratulate him on his promotion. The Freak Fleet Prequel.

    -----------------------

    Thrawn normally did not expect visitors in his apartment in the officer's quarters on Coruscant, certainly not when he was out. Nor for that person to leave, not a message on the door pad's comm, but a scrap of flimsy, folded and tucked as tightly into the door crack as it could be.

    He looked up and down the corridor, but it was, to all appearances as empty as it had been when he'd gone down to the recreational deck at his usual pre-dawn time. He could exercise more or less alone then, as few naval officers who achieved any meaningful rank did more than the minimum. Observing those who did was also valuable information. None had preceded him to the lifts, and none that he had seen that day lived on the same level.

    Yet the flimsy was there, tucked against his door, and despite the sense of being observed the corridor appeared to be empty.

    It was possibly a trap. The flimsy could be dusted with something dangerous. Or it could be more insults – xenophobic slurs or crude cartoons. He'd received enough such insults in a variety of formats it was practically a subset of his art collection. The sensible thing to do was call the security droids to scan the note and review any recordings.

    Thrawn rarely did the sensible thing.

    Carefully, he crouched down and used a fingernail to ease the scrap out. No heat, no feeling of being attached to anything, and he did not see or smell any telltale powders on it. If anything, it felt oddly familiar, not the right weight or quality to have been produced on Imperial Center. It felt like the fine-grained parchment used for only the most important or formal communications or strictly for artistic purposes on . . . Csilla.

    Even without unfolding it, he knew this piece of fabric had come from Csilla. In spite of himself, he felt his pulse quicken. There were very few reasons for anyone from home to send him a message. How they'd managed it was a mystery of its own.

    Carefully, he unfolded the soft fabric and the mystery took a sharp banking turn into the impossible. It was not a message but a brush painting, a graceful rendering of a two-headed, spine-tailed beast. It was the chimaera, painted in the same coiling pose as the version from Chiss stories, the one more fanciful sorts like poets and artists claimed to see as a constellation.

    Poets, artists, noble-born romantics . . .

    He closed his eyes.

    They had been twined in each other's arms, her fingers tracing a pattern across the bare skin of his chest, as he studied the starscape artificially projected above the garden to mimic the night sky anyone who braved the surface cold would see. He'd been pontificating on the subject of star patterns and legends, including the chimaera.

    'Every race we have encountered has a story, however ancient, of creatures made up of disparate parts. Monsters, for the most part. The blending of two worlds creating a demonic representation of fear of the other. Of mixing with the stranger. A creature that belongs in neither world.'

    'Most races, including ours, have no imagination,' she'd sighed.

    'For all they're feared, they're powerful,' he'd continued, thought it was not easy to concentrate with her pressed so close to any onlooker the heat of their bodies would have blended to one indistinguishable warmth. 'They captivate by their otherness.'

    He'd gone on, he recalled, at further length, until he'd realized she'd slipped into a doze on his shoulder and he'd changed his focus to waking her by the most unconventional means. But not long after, she had painted an attempt at a chimaera, and had continued until the beast from her brush matched the one in his imagination.

    The one staring up at him from the sheet in his hands.

    Thrawn jerked upright, turning to stare down the hall even as a shadow moved out of the corner, a tall figure shrouded in a rough cloak like so many travelers in the mid levels of the Imperial capital, but even before she raised a gloved hand, before he heard the voice whisper, "Mitth'raw'nuruodo," he knew.

    It was impossible, insanity, but she was here and he could see the red glow of her eyes, the long braid of cobalt hair with tendrils slipping loose even as he seized her by the arms and pulled her to him.

    [Lisetha,] he breathed, and she collapsed against him, shaking.

    [Thrawn,] and his core name was half a sob. [I thought I'd never find you.]

    Any moment one of the other doors could open, some bleary-eyed commander heading off to duty or the lifts would deposit some senior lieutenant only now staggering in from the underlevel dens of iniquity. To be seen with a female was problematic enough. To be seen with one of his own species would raise every unwanted question he had so far avoided. And of course, Thrawn had questions of his own.

    [Quickly, inside.]

    When the door slid shut and locked, he grabbed her shoulders, forcing her to look up.

    [Lisetha–Lisetha, what are you doing here? How did you find me? How did you even try? Why?]

    [Why?] It came out as half a laugh, shaky and unsteady.

    [I had to find you. I couldn't stand it any longer. Family was tired of my refusing to even consider a new contract, no one in the Defense Fleet learned a thing from what you did, nothing changed.]

    All the high-family trappings were gone. Her clothes were plain, dark, unremarkable, though she had to same something of value secreted somewhere, unless of course it had cost her everything she had to get from Wild Space to the very heart of the Empire.

    [If I stayed I'd only have ended up one of them, burying my head in the snow until I froze that way. Alone I could never sway the Council. And . . .] She caught her breath, the shaking slowed. [I couldn't imagine . . . I mean to say . . .]

    She took a deep breath.

    [Father could force me to break the contract. He could not force me to take back my heart. I decided I would rather die searching for you than die slowly by pieces.]

    Some part of him wanted to chastise her for a display of sentiment worthy of the most horrifying cautionary tale for children about defiance of Family and Tradition. Some part of him wanted to take a co-leading role in that story and never let her out of his sight again. But the questions were still demanding answers.

    [How? There was no public record of where I was taken. And from there . . .]

    How much did she know about the truth of his exile?

    [I was Father's aide. I might not have been permitted to hear the deliberations, but he should have known he couldn't encrypt his records enough to keep me out.] Even exhausted, leaning on his shoulder, the smile she managed was more than a trace smug.

    [And the only lead there were the references to the human empire. I could find fleet records, see where they tracked those ships near the world you'd been sent. When I was sure you'd been picked up, I went into Wild Space, looking for traces. Finding slicers and pirates who kept abreast of Imperial activity was not so hard, while I had money, and among humans and these other Core aliens, you stand out. It took so long, but once I was here, finding you was a matter of seeking out art dealers and antiquarians who'd remember dealing with you. I even had to trade some of my own pieces–here I gather Chiss work is so exotic it's practically legend! But it didn't matter, because I found you. And then at the very last I almost ran away. I thought, what if he hates us all? What if he doesn't want me here? So I left the sketch, and I watched, and you came . . .]

    Irrational in the extreme, a foolish waste for her. Lisetha . . . Aristocra Reli'set'harana, first-daughter of the Second Ruling Family, heir presumptive to her father's position as the Second Councilor, had done something unimaginable.

    Unforgivable.

    Her father was not a cruel man, or even an entirely conventionally-minded one, but she had in effect exiled herself and even he couldn't have overlooked that. She would be branded a maverick, a near-traitor, unforgivably defiant and disruptive. How much the worse would it be if he sent her back? She'd be fortunate if her family quietly supported her as a nameless artist.

    But how could he possibly let her stay? He was a Vice Admiral now, and the higher he rose, the more enemies he made, many with dangerous tendencies and deadly reach. She would be nothing but a target, alone and friendless and utterly vulnerable to anyone who wished to destroy him. Even enforced ostracization on Csilla had to be better for her. Even if he had to take her as far as Wild Space himself.

    She was still trembling, pressed tight against him, and knowing it would only make matters more difficult, he tightened his arms and reveled in the familiar way her body molded to his. He had to convince her to go home.

    He would never ask her to wait. He would never demand such loyalty at such an unfathomable price. It had been harder than he'd expected, knowing he'd lose her, but in the long nights on his faux prison world, he'd convinced himself she would accept the loss and move on.

    [I would never have asked you to do this,] he murmured.

    Lisetha pressed her hand over his heart and looked up, steadying herself until he saw more than a bit of that confident noblewoman he remembered. [I am with you,] she said simply. [And that is worth everything.]

    Thrawn tried to think, and for once in his life failed.

    She made a soft sound like a choked sob, and then he was kissing her, and she responded with more desperation than he could have believed possible. The way her skin flushed with heat, the pounding of her heart, the scent of her hair, even the taste of her skin . . . it was all as he remembered and it was home.

    Half a galaxy away, and he was home.

    He didn't remember their undressing, but they must have. He never recalled how they managed to pass from the sitting room into the bedroom without stumbling over something, but they did. He did have a very clear thought as they sank down on his bunk (and some distracted part of his mind filed away that Imperial-issue sheets and blankets were far too coarse for a Chiss noblewoman, though for now they would have to do), just before he lost himself completely.

    [Mine,] he whispered fiercely, and she gasped what might have been assent. [All mine.]

    ***************

    Captain Parck walked up the stairs in a brisk stride and rang the door chime of Senior Captain Thrawn's apartment in the Officer's District on Coruscant to congratulate him on his promotion to the rank of Vice Admiral.

    From time to time Parck visited his apartment when they were both stationed at the Imperial Center between their long term deep space assignments captaining different ships. Just like his old quarters aboard the Strikefast, Thrawn's apartment has been very spartan, and the only possessions the alien ever seemed to acquire consisted of the works of art neatly placed in order, some of them on displays, some of them stuffed away in clearly labeled boxes.

    Parck has never inquired about the sum Thrawn spent on his extensive collection but he had been his superior officer once so he could make an educated guess based on how many credits he had authorized to Thrawn's account and how many shipments had arrived in those days to know the alien must have been broke or nearly so between pay dates.

    He snickered; there was no doubt Thrawn spent his promotion bonus on an ancient sculpture which he would be polishing, or a broken piece of technology he would be repairing, or a rare painting he would be staring at right now. It wasn't like he ever did anything else when he returned to Coruscant between deployments. And knowing Thrawn, he would be desperately looking for a victim foolish enough to ask about the newest addition to his collection.

    Parck frowned and rang the chime one more time; technically this would be the first time he had ever decided to drop by completely unannounced. Perhaps the Chiss was not at home? Visiting a museum? Shopping for antiques?

    Well, he would give it one more try and drop by later, the next time definitely announcing himself first.

    When Parck discovered it would be both of them receiving a promotion, him becoming a Senior Captain, Thrawn becoming a Vice Admiral, and they would be serving on the same ship, only with the command roles reversed, one could hardly blame him for getting excited to see a familiar face. It would be also the last time they would talk to each other as two officers of a similar standing. Not as equals, for they had never been truly equal. Even when Thrawn had been a mere lieutenant he had been the one running his ship in everything but name.

    Thrawn had been the type of a subordinate the every ranking officer hated: better and smarter than the commander himself.

    Others would have thrown his carcass out the airlock. Parck had come to accept how lucky he was.

    He rang the chime for the third time and when nothing happened, he shrugged, and about to go on his way when the door opened to reveal the Chiss, looking somewhat disheveled and dressed not in his usual fleet uniform but black clothing of an unfamiliar cut with burgundy embroidery on the arms. He was also barefoot.

    Was it possible Thrawn had spent several days non-stop cataloging his art collection or repairing whatever piece of technology he had bought? Had he become so engrossed that he forgot to sleep and passed out from exhaustion? It was four o'clock in the afternoon. The Chiss has always seemed to appear awake and immaculate on duty, no matter when he was summoned from his quarters, as if he never got tired, as if he never slept. Nonsense, of course, all living beings in the universe needed resting period, it just seemed the Chiss needed much less than an ordinary human and Parck had never before caught him in the midst of one.

    "I am sorry, sir. Perhaps I came over at a bad time?" Parck apologized, noting Thrawn's unusual appearance was even more disheveled than he'd first thought. This never happened before. Could the Chiss have fallen ill?

    "Captain Parck," Thrawn nodded in greeting, giving him a long, pondering glance as if he couldn't decide whether to invite him inside or send him away. They were two Captains of a similar standing at the moment, and they would be working together in a direct chain of command in the immediate future. Sending Parck away would not be the best way to re-start their working relationship.

    "Please, come in, Captain Parck," the Chiss said finally and motioned him to come inside, closing and locking the door behind him. He lead him through the small hallway to the main room which looked pretty much as Parck remembered it, a giant storage room of works of art with a table and a pair of chairs the only concession to the living occupant. The art lived here, not Thrawn. The man only came over to check up on the main tenant from time to time.

    "I cannot help wondering how you spent your promotion bonus," Parck said lightly, looking at the exhibits, wondering which one of them was the newest addition to his collection. There were quite a few pieces he hasn't seen before, and there was no way Thrawn would ever spend his bonus on anything other than art.

    "As of yet I haven't had the chance to visit the antique dealers in the lower levels, or browse the Holonet auction catalogs, Captain. I have been rather busy."

    "I understand," Parck cleared his throat. "Congratulation on your promotion to the Vice Admiral, by the way." Parck gave the newest member of the Admiralty his best textbook salute.

    "At ease, Captain," Thrawn returned his salute with all formalities, "and congratulation on your promotion as well."

    [If I may say so, sir, it will be a pleasure to work with you again,] Parck said in Cheunh, hoping his pronunciation didn't make him sound like a Wookiee after a long time of not using it.

    Apparently, it did, the Chiss stiffened and his face hardened almost imperceptibly, a clear indication that something had been amiss. His Cheunh skills must have gotten much worse than he had feared.

    [This human can speak our language?] an unknown, feminine voice from behind Parck replied in the same language.

    Parck jerked in surprise, turning at the unknown voice, which almost gave him a heart attack. His military training kicked in, identifying her as a possible threat –

    Only to be locked in a durasteel grip from Thrawn, who must have guessed his intentions.

    [Calm down, Captain, she means you no harm,] Thrawn said in Cheunh, releasing him immediately once Parck came back to his senses. Damn, the Chiss was strong. There would definitely be a bruise forming later.

    [Lisetha, please, never sneak up on a human in a uniform. Captain, please forgive her, it appears that curiosity got better of her.]

    Parck was too busy staring to take offense.

    She was, he supposed, strikingly pretty by human standards, her hair fell in a cobalt tangle down her back, a few wild strands falling into her face to shadow the glowing red eyes. She was as disheveled as Thrawn, and Parck realized she was wrapped in standard Navy-issue robe that was clearly too large for her. Thrawn's, obviously. She'd knotted the sash tightly, but was still holding the collar closed with what he assumed was a display of modesty.

    [I am sorry,] she said, looking uncertainly from Parck to Thrawn and back again. [Only I have not found many beings who speak Cheunh. Sy Bisti, Minnisiat, but not Cheunh.]

    When Thrawn flatly told him that as a human he would never be able to speak Cheunh properly, Parck took it as a personal offense and commanded his then-subordinate to teach him his mother tongue, determined to prove him wrong. As with everything else, the Chiss was right, there were certain sounds that the human vocal cords would never be able to reproduce. But with enough practice Parck taught himself how to make the intonation more pronounced, resulting in strangely accented, somewhat unnatural but passable pronunciation. Once he had passed that stage, even the grammatical hell of High Cheunh became a piece of cake in comparison.

    [Captain Parck has been a most eager student.]

    Thrawn did not look at him. He was watching his guest, his face as unreadable as it always appeared, but he seemed strangely tense.

    [Captain, may I present Aristocra Reli'set'harana of the Second Ruling Family. Lisetha, allow me to introduce Captain Voss Parck of the Imperial Navy. Captain Parck found me on the world where I was exiled and brought me to the Empire.]

    She gave a tiny smile Parck knew was fairly demonstrative for the Chiss. [A pleasure to meet you, Captain Voss Parck.]

    She was still hovering uncertainly at the door, and Thrawn made a tiny gesture. She hesitated, but then crossed to stand beside Thrawn, who gave a reassuring nod.

    A cousin? No, the names are too dissimilar. Another exile? She must be. How did she find him? He must be letting her stay here. Perhaps she lost everything. Only one set of clothes, that must be why the robe.

    Parck shook himself. [It is an honor, Aristocra Reli'set'harana,] and he mentally congratulated himself on not mangling the name too badly. [I am pleased to meet a friend of Vice Admiral Mitth'raw'nuruodo.]

    He saw the brief look that passed between them. Friend? That was the right word, wasn't it?

    "Do you speak Basic, my lady?"

    The glowing red eyes lowered briefly. "Little," she said, and her accent was much like Thrawn's had been when he'd first spoken to Parck on the Strikefast.

    "Not well. Cheunh . . . more easy?" She glanced at Thrawn.

    "Easier," Thrawn corrected, not unkindly. Not unkindly at all. "It will come quickly."

    [I hope so, nar'ech'yon.]

    Parck didn't know the word. [I am sorry,] he said, choosing the word he was fairly sure meant the matter was his failing, not Thrawn's. [I do not understand that word. The prefix sounds like half, but . . .]

    Thrawn stiffened. [It is difficult to translate. It has it roots in the archaic word for heart. The modern meaning is . . .] He grimaced, an expression Parck had only seen when Thrawn was trying to avoid admitting something, usually a lack of knowledge he felt was a personal failing.

    "I do not know the Basic word. The literal translation of the old form would be I think heart's-half? But the modern word is more . . . legal. Contractual promised? Sworn? In Minnisiat, wahtebise is similar."

    It could mean kinship. It could be a very evolved word for some sort of legal partnership.

    Parck looked down, both to hide color he could feel tinging his face and to avoid looking Thrawn in the eyes. As he did, though, he noticed that while the Chiss might never do something so blatant as hold hands, Thrawn and Reli'set'harana were standing so her right hand just slightly brushed the back of his left, their fingers barely twined. It was a very absent-minded gesture, the sort that happened between those who were close. Familiar. Intimate.

    "I think the word you mean might be fiancé(e)." Parck supplied. "If you mean-you were-are-promised to each other in marriage."

    Thrawn nodded. "That is close, at least." He switched back. [When I was arrested, Lisetha's father, the Second Councilor, formally terminated our contract. I do not blame him; it removed any potential dishonor by association and meant she was free to contract a more valuable match.]

    [I wouldn't. I couldn't.] Even if he hadn't understood the words, Parck would have understood her tone. [I won't give you up now, either, so don't come up with any ridiculously-logical and flawlessly reasonable plan to send me away.]

    Parck cleared his throat, feeling embarrassed at being included in a conversation that would be considered deeply intimate even by human standards. He had been taught only the language itself, not cultural or societal norms, but based on the grammatical clauses necessary whenever anything of personal nature ever needed to be addressed, he had surmised that they would have never been having this sort of conversation in front of an another, Chiss or non-Chiss, had they been given a choice.

    [Chiss contracts], Parck used the same word the two of them had done, though to him it seemed strange, unnatural, nothing like an equivalent to the word 'marriage' in Basic, more like a 'union' or an 'alliance,' [are not entered upon feeling mutual affection for each other?]

    [There are several kinds of marriage contract for the Chiss,] Thrawn explained. [They determine how long the marriage will last, how many children they are obliged to produce, and to which House and which Family, if any, the children will belong, as well as conditions for possible termination of the contract. When the contract is signed, the marriage begins.]

    Parck visibly winced. He'd suspected it might have been something like an arranged marriage but to hear it confirmed made him feel an immense sorrow for the couple. They had been so lucky to end up in such a match, and at the same time so unlucky to have the match terminated by Thrawn's exile.

    He also knew that by introducing Reli'set'harana to him, by letting him privy to the details of such deeply intimate conversation, Thrawn had openly admitted to a weakness that could have been used against him as a leverage or a blackmail. This was exactly the kind of weakness that the COMPNOR was so desperate trying to find on Thrawn.

    Not long after Thrawn rose up to the rank of a Captain, Parck had received a surprise visitor on his way back from an establishment he had frequented, a pair of COMPNOR agents who have been interested in what kind of subordinate the alien was, what kind of hobbies the alien had, and if there was anything that could have been possibly used against him.

    Parck had done the only sensible thing: he accepted their invitation for a drink and told them how annoying a subordinate Thrawn had been, how he had run the ship in everything but name, and how obsessed with art the alien had been, the only thing that could have been possibly used against him.

    If there was anything that the COMPNOR excelled at, it was blackmail and a preternatural ability to pick up on an outright lie, so he ended up balancing on a rope over a cliff, telling them them the facts without revealing the truth.

    And Parck was so successful it almost scared him; he managed to make himself look like an example of someone who bet his career on a cunning alien the Emperor might found amusing and lost the bet. The promotion he had hoped for never came and he had to put up with the cocky alien on his own ship. He also managed to look resigned enough to his fate that the only thing mattered to him was keeping his own position, refusing an offer to bring the alien down to his knees for the fear of retaliation by the Emperor himself.

    The mention of the Emperor did the trick. They had already known that it was him who presented Thrawn to the Emperor, he had only confirmed it for them and convinced them he considered it a mistake. They let him off the hook and never bothered him again.

    And then Parck did the only other sensible thing: he informed Captain Thrawn. That was how he had ended up in Thrawn's apartment for the first time, and told him word by word what exactly he had told them, leaving out only the details as where they had found him.

    He had no idea if the Chiss would understand, but apparently he did. He patiently listened to the whole story and nodded, saying "You made a correct decision, Captain" and proceeded to show him his personal collection of art, the pieces he kept for his own benefit, not the tools he used to get into the mind of his enemies. He even recommended that if Parck ever received visitors from COMPNOR again, he would do well to tell them what art styles Thrawn found to his liking, boring them to death with an extensive list, suggesting what sort of pieces Thrawn could be possibly interested in buying.

    "The key to success is always staying one step ahead of one's enemy," Thrawn had said that day.

    Today, Thrawn had trusted him with an enormous secret, and there was no chance Parck would have ever used it against him. He would take it to his grave. And there was only one sensible solution to this situation.

    [She cannot stay here,] Parck said finally, taking a deep breath, [It's too dangerous. You have too many enemies, sir, and the higher you rise in rank, the greater danger there will be.]

    Thrawn froze, his expression as unreadable as he had ever seen, and from the frown of the female Chiss, it must have been difficult to interpret it even for her.

    [What do you suggest, Captain?] Thrawn said in a deceptively mild tone. Reli'set'harana had gone very still.

    [You have to take her aboard,] Parck explained. [No one else can know about her. I will help you with that.]

    [I hate to reducing her to a mere . . . kept woman.] Thrawn was clearly gritting his teeth. [It is beneath her dignity as a Chiss noble.]

    [Let me be the judge of that,] Reli'set'harana shot back, her eyes glittering. [My place is wherever you require me. I don't care about titles and I don't care about danger. You put yourself in danger all the time.]

    It was heartwarming, in a way, how she clearly wasn't the least bit intimidated even by Thrawn. And it was heartwarming, and more than a bit painful, how Thrawn was looking at her with the sort of single-minded devotion Parck had only ever seen him give to art before.

    Thrawn had the look of someone who had known all along this was the only possible solution to the problem but did not like the notion at all. It took the most unlikely ally to finally accept the fact that there was nothing else that could be done. The Chiss nodded in resignation.

    [Then that is what we will do,] Thrawn said.

    Reli'set'harana smiled, and for a moment she grasped Thrawn's hand tightly.

    [I will arrange things,] Parck offered. [Let me know what you'll need to alter in the admiral's quarters, and I can adjust the crew schedules. We can manage this, Vice Admiral.]

    "I think the ranks are not necessary, Voss Parck," Thrawn switched the languages, addressing him by his full name. It might have sounded strange in Basic but among the Chiss it was the proper way to address each other.

    "I am rarely at loss for words, however I truly cannot find the proper expression of gratitude. Neither in Basic nor in Cheunh. Especially in Cheunh. You also have my deepest respect considering the conflict of interest on your part."

    "I have no idea what you mean," Parck blinked, the sudden turn taking him completely by surprise.

    The Chiss stared at him for a moment, unblinking, the look in his eyes getting more and more cautious with each second.

    "You know very well what I am talking about, Voss Parck," the Chiss hinted.

    "I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, Mitth'raw'nuruodo," Parck repeated, this time much more strongly, for his own benefit rather than for the Chiss.

    It couldn't be.

    He had been so careful.

    "Your secret is safe with me, Voss Parck."

    For the first time in his life, the deep red gaze was starting to make him feel uncomfortable.

    "I have always known. And I admire you for being so professional about it. It is a very rare trait among humans."

    "Y-You've known?" Parck stuttered, feeling a sudden tightness in his chest. "All this time you've known?"

    "I came to the realization you hold a certain kind of affection towards me after I realized that you are attracted to male gender exclusively. It took me a rather long time to figure it out, but in my defense I had very little experience in reading humans then and my knowledge of human behavior and customs was rather limited."

    It was as if the Chiss took out his heart from his chest and started examining it, studying it from various angles and directions, completely oblivious to the fact it was still beating. Had it been anyone else he might have found it funny that it appeared to be a species trait, for the female Chiss was observing him as well.

    "In fact, it still remains very much limited as the only human interaction I have had the chance to observe is working relationships between military officers." Thrawn continued his in-depth study.

    No wonder Cheunh was such a complex language, with so many rules and clauses that made him consider smashing a datapad against the wall at least hundred times. It must have made sense to the Chiss; they were trying to approach things rationally, and when it came to things like emotions and feelings, they had no problem acknowledging they couldn't be approached in such manner.

    Unfortunately, humans did not possess such sense of self-reflection.

    And Parck was a mere human.

    "Can I borrow your sidearm and shoot myself in the head rather than to die from embarrassment?" Parck blurted out. He had never felt so awkward in his life.

    "Why would you do such a thing?" The Chiss jerked in surprise; he appeared to be completely at loss. "I meant no offense."

    [Thrawn, what are you saying to him?] The female Chiss frowned, her face clouding in confusion. [The distribution of his body heat changed completely, for a moment he almost went into shock...]

    "The what?" Surely he must have misheard. "Why is she staring at me like that? What is she saying? My Cheunh has gotten a little rusty, I think something got lost in the translation."

    [Lisetha, please, can you go and make us a cup of chai?] Thrawn did not take his eyes off him, still staring at him intently, [This is a matter of personal nature that needs to be addressed in private.]

    She looked from Thrawn to Parck, but nodded, and vanished into the kitchenette.

    "No, you understood correctly. The distribution of your body heat undergone an abrupt change when you realized I knew… Voss Parck, are you all right?"

    "No."

    Coming from an ice world, it made sense their senses would be honed to such a refined level. In the past it had to mean a difference between the life and freezing to death.

    "I am definitely not all right. You mean to tell me that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I kept my distance, it was my body that gave it all away? That you've been reading me like an open book?"

    "You cannot blame yourself for the fact that Chiss sensory perception is different from a human's. I have observed this kind of behavior in humans as well as in other species. And other kinds of behavior, too, which they never wanted me to know."

    He certainly never intended for anyone in the Imperial Navy, especially Thrawn, to know.

    That was the real reason why he had to thread around COMPNOR so carefully. Had they realized Thrawn was more to him than the annoying alien he had to put up with given his inclinations, they would have used it to bring both of them down.

    There were two ways to destroy a person: Kill him, or ruin his reputation.

    "Never mind." Parck forced himself to calm down. "Since you've known all this time I guess you don't mind me being your direct subordinate from now on?"

    "Of course not. Only I am not certain I can give you what you want from me," the Chiss wavered, the expression on the blue face showing uncharacteristic hesitation.

    What he wanted from Thrawn was completely different from the attraction or the affection he felt for the man; it ran much deeper. And it took all his strength to say it aloud.

    "I want to serve a leader I can believe in, a leader worthy of my trust and loyalty," Parck swallowed hard, feeling an immense weight taken off his shoulders. "I want to serve the Empire worthy of its name…"

    What was he about to say next was technically a treason of the highest order, but then it was Parck who presented Thrawn as a 'gift' to the Emperor, he had seen Thrawn stand up to Palpatine, talk to him like a leader to an another leader, not like a mere servant to his master.

    "I will never forget the venomous gleam in those yellow eyes, Mitth'raw'nuruodo. It's a nightmare that will haunt me for the rest of my life."

    The knowledge came with a price.

    The expression on the blue face darkened. "You do realize I might require of you to become an extension of myself without revealing my plans to you, Voss Parck. I might require of you to sacrifice your entire career, your entire life for my own goals, what ever they might be, however noble or selfish they might be."

    "I do," Parck confessed. This was what he wanted to be, this was what he truly desired, giving himself up completely to the one worthy of such devotion. What did that say of him? What did that say of Thrawn he had accepted him?

    "And you ask of nothing in return?"

    "No."

    "Hmmm…" Thrawn mused aloud, giving him a long, contemplative look, evaluating him, looking at him with what Parck now realized were very different eyes.

    "You have the heart of a Chiss warrior, Voss Parck," Thrawn said finally, and he could hear the sincere humility in Thrawn's voice.

    "Very well. If you are willing to become the first of the first of Mitth'raw'nuruodo's Household Phalanx, then I am willing to become your Syndic."

    [It will be my honor to serve you, Syndic Mitth'raw'nuruodo,] Parck said in High Cheunh, and he meant every word.

    THE END

    Author's Note:

    Yes, in the Freak Fleet verse, Parck is gay. It doesn't make him any less of a man in my eyes, and I am not devolving the fic into a weird het/slash love triangle. What Parck feels for Thrawn is a mixture of deep affection, friendship, and loyalty. To him, Thrawn is the master he wants to serve, the one he believes to be worthy of his trust and loyalty, being gay has little to with it. Parck is a BAMF, and the gay streak only adds to his BAMFness. Deal with it.

    BACK TO MASTERLIST OR COMMENTS SECTION BELOW
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2020
  11. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Story No#9: All Roads Lead to Coruscant posted in a separate thread because it has 14 chapters and 62,000 words in total. I hope you enjoyed!
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
  12. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    @MissKitsune08 ...as an author who posts epics, I would advise you to post stuff bit by bit and give people a week or so to respond to a chapter. This is...a lot! [face_hypnotized]

    Also, we're advised not to have more than, say, three things posted on the same day, as per the FAQ.

    I don't mean to preach, just help you get readers. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
  13. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    @Ewok Poet Thank you for honest opinion and advice. I added list of chapters/stories to make the navigation easier.
     
  14. divapilot

    divapilot Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Thanks but that doesn’t make your post any easier to read. People can’t post their replies. This is still too long for me to read. :( Post one chapter. Wait a week or so for people to read and comment. Reply to the comments, then post your second chapter.
     
    Sith-I-5 and Ewok Poet like this.
  15. Ewok Poet

    Ewok Poet Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2014
    That's what I wanted to say in the other thread. Plus, there's the thrill of great reviewers we have here dissecting every chapter, finding cool details etc. :) [face_love] And Thrawn has MANY fans here.

    People who "dump" fics or update too often are less likely to gain readership. I had to e-book a huge, huge story once and only one friend and I had the strength to read in one sitting.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
    Sith-I-5 and divapilot like this.
  16. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    Comments section here (open to negative reviews and constructive feedback):
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2018
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I loved the chapters featuring the development of the working relationship with Gilad. I especially loved the dynamic in the one with Isard. And Lisetha -- wonderful! Simply wonderful! For Thrawn to have a promised lifemate who is determined and loyal [face_love] [face_dancing]
     
    MissKitsune08 likes this.
  18. MissKitsune08

    MissKitsune08 Jedi Knight star 1

    Registered:
    Jan 3, 2018
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you [face_blush] Yeah, I'll have to write more Pellaeon, Dorja/Riza and later Parck stole the show. Glad you like Lisetha, she's actually a borrowed OFC from ImperialGirl's TIE Fighter series, and ImperialGirl was writing her lines here. I'm fangirling so much over her stuff.
     
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.