Ashii Nermani, lead anchor for Imperial Holovision, sat stone faced for a moment as she scanned the teleprompter
that was placed before her, wondering if she had gotten the words
correct. There was dead silence on the holonet as her face began to
tremble and her eyes widened dramatically. "We are getting reports that Alderaan ... has been ... destroyed," she stammered, her eyes scrunching
slightly as she focused on the words being displayed in front of her.
"Imperial Holovision sources have learned that the Alderaan government
was developing a new ... super weapon..." she paused, shock and disbelief
coming over her as she tried to imagine just what a super weapon was.
"Further ... we have learned that this dreaded terror weapon was intended
for the Rebellion!" she exclaimed, reading the words faster as the
magnitude of what had happened began to dwell upon her. "At this time we
believe none have survived the destruction and that the entire planet
was obliterated by the Rebellion's attempt to develop their monstrous
new weapon..." she concluded, a tear forming in her left eye as she
considered the lives of the billions that had just been terminated.
"Please ... please stay tuned to Imperial Holovision as further
developments become available," she concluded, lowering her head in
dramatic pause as the lights of the studio dimmed in memoriam.
Commander Derek Atio hurried from the
hangar bay of Ringali Station, a shocked look upon his middle-aged
visage as he pushed aside various pilots and technicians rudely. It was
very out of character for the blockade runner to react in such a way, as
he was usually quite friendly when it came to interacting with members
of the station's staff. Imperial Holovision was reporting the most
grievous of news and he felt a need to report the information to General
Volkov as quickly as possible. Not being in the best of shape, the
Commander's face quickly became flushed red as sweat threatened to drown
him. This was too large a station, he thought to himself as he climbed
the stairs to the command level. By now his hair had become matted to
his forehead and he was nearly out of breath. As he arrived at General Volkov's office he was panting like a beast, and his tan uniform clung
to his sweat covered flesh in a rather unflattering manner. "Beg ... to
report ... General," he said in between desperate gasps for air, as he
leaned on the support beam of the entryway.
Upon the approach of the commander,
Volkov could sense immediately that something was out of the ordinary in
comparison to his regular reports. Protocol, in the generals
perspective, was unneeded upon realizing the sincerity of the situation.
Skipping the traditions of pauses and unwarranted salutes, the general
set up straight in his audience chamber and focused his attention
directly on Atio. "Commander, what is wrong," he questioned the young
officer. Young in comparison, he thought to himself.
Uncharacteristically, Derek turned to
take a sip of water from a nearby cooler before continuing. He had
overexerted himself in the run to the command center and could feel his
heart threatening to beat right out of his chest. Regaining his
composure, he finally began to speak. "General, Imperial Holovision is
reporting that Alderaan has been ... destroyed," he reported, finding the
last word almost impossible to say. "We are being blamed for it," he
continued to explain as he walked forward towards the desk, taking a
seat in front of General Volkov. He very much needed to sit down after
the run. "There is not much additional information at this time, but it
is believed to be a total loss," he concluded, shaking his head in
disbelief. Having spent some time on Alderaan he had made a lot of
friends there and the news was particularly disturbing.
Akilist straightened himself up into his
seat even sterner than before while allowing his right hand to come down
to adjust the chrome plated BlasTech DH-17 blaster pistol into a
comfortable position that would remain safely nestled at his side. The
news was most unbelievable and he was not so quick to believe in such a
report considering the circumstances. The commander, taking a seat
without being invited to do so, was of no matter in such a situation
considering the seriousness of his report seemed all too real in its
demeanour. The allegations were so incredibly extreme that even the
general, a sensible man in his own right, was not ready to accept the
factual severity of such a report. The general raised himself upwards
onto either armrests of his command chair while straightening his chest
upwards into the air before bellowing in a most confused tone of voice,
"What do you mean Alderaan has been destroyed? This is not possible!"
Akilist turned his gaze away from the commander and stared downwards
onto his desk to avoid immediate eye contact in an apparent attempt to
retain his concentration. He continued his retort while trying solemnly
to maintain his composure, "Alderaan is a peaceful court, they have no
weapons, their people are unarmed ... this would be a crime against
galactic law and humanity!" Volkov paused momentarily before allowing
his right hand to come and rub the rigged bristled of his chin before
adding, "And what of the senate? The courts will not stand for this.
What ability do the sectors hold without bureaucracy and the control of
the sectoral governors," Volkov concluded.
Derek paused, silently listening to his
commanding officer, all the while thinking that he desperately needed a
drink. "Imperial Holovision is reporting that a 'rebel terrorist attack'
has resulted in the destruction on Alderaan," he explained grimly as he
went over the report in his head once more. "There are no reports of any
survivors. We have yet to receive any word from command regarding this,"
he continued, shaking his head in disbelief as he reported the
preliminary facts as best he knew them. "There is also a report that the
Imperial Senate has been dissolved for it's failure to deal with the
Rebel insurgency, General. It is said that the regional governors now
have direct control over their systems..." he concluded, sounding rather
grim as it seemed they now had a determined Imperial resistance against
them rather than one with its hands tied who had to struggle against the
restrictions imposed by the Senate and the local planetary governments.
"It is a dark day for the Alliance..." he uttered, sounding somewhat
dejected. He had served Bail Organa and the Alderaanians loyally and the
thought that they were now gone troubled him greatly.
Volkov shook his head in disbelief
because he knew that the allegations being submitted against his
rebellion were false and inadequate. The rebels did not have such
capabilities to eliminate an entire planet. Not even with the most
prestigious agents operating beneath his authority could one of them
commit such an atrocity. Causing disruption and executing a highly
diverse plan from central command upon his space station was one thing,
but providing the means to some sort of capability to annihilate an
entire planet was simply not fathomable. "There is no logical
explanation that the alliance could be involved in such destruction.
Where are the data-tapes," Volkov questioned the commander with a grim
look forming along his lips. "I want to see the holo-view tapes
immediately and discern them with you here to compare and contrast just
exactly what you have been hearing and what my men in the field have
been reporting." The general collected himself upon laying backwards
into his command chair, his hands becoming laced over his waist as if
relaxed although he was far from such in actuality. The news had dealt a
significant emotional blow to the former colonel himself as memories of
serving the Old Republic flashed by before his very eyes, it's glory
seemingly diminished right before his memories upon a single death
stroke laying waste to the last known citadel of peace and prosperity. A
simple wave of the hand would have one of the generals custodians
tending immediately towards the bar in which harnessed a plethora of
exotic goods and alcoholic beverages. Upon the gesture, Volkov simply
nodded his head towards Atio while keeping his eyes focused on the
tenant. This was a clear implication for the servant to produce the
commander with whatever beverage he wished ... accounting his own
accords. "Have whatever you may like my friend. Please," Volkov leaned
forward tentatively, "I want to know everything. Tell me all you know."
Derek leaned back into his chair so that
his hand could fit into the pocket of his trousers. He let out a slight
groan as he reached, producing a small data disc from the pocket. "I
recorded what I could off the holonet," he explained as he haphazardly
tossed it on the General's desk. He rose from his seat and moved towards
the General's bar, looking over the selection. "Haven't had this in a
while..." he said as he poured himself a glass of Corellian ale. He
swirled the liquid in his glass for a while, staring into it intently
and getting lost in the moment. He said nothing, his eyes slowly closing
as he dumped the entire contents of the glass into his mouth in one
quick motion. "Ah," he cried out as he slammed the glass down upon the
bar in frustration. It was a start, he thought to himself as he moved
back to the chair. "I also bring news from Brentaal..." he explained, as
he pulled out the chair and sat himself back down. "Cormond's spaceport
has been destroyed ... presumably by us. The SallicheAg docking facility
has also been destroyed. There's a foot shortage on Brentaal at the
moment. Discontent is rapidly growing on the surface because of these
events..." he explained, his eyes roaming back towards the bar.
Akilist would collect the small
data-chip presented to him amongst his desk upon the delivery of the
commander sitting before him. "Thank you," he commented towards Atio, "I
will go over this information with the high council," he concluded. The
news that he heard thereafter sounded far more promising upon the
mentioning of the SallicheAg docking facility. Perhaps his covert
operations were going according to plan after all. "Destroyed you say,"
Volkov asked with great intrigue. For the entire facility to have been
completely wiped out was far beyond any expectation that he had presumed
upon his agents in the field. However if the information were true
indeed, then this operation posed as a most significant setback to the
Imperial presence on Brentaal. "Well finally, some good news at last.
Are there any details surrounding the assault?" Volkov did all that he
could do to appear concerned, but the recent events surrounding Alderaan
had inevitably engulfed his mind in a world of uncertainty and most
definitely still weighed heavily on his mind.
Derek got up from his seat and fixed
himself a second glass of the Corellian ale while Volkov spoke as he
considered his response. "Well, the Holonet was reporting it before the
Alderaan news broke," he explained, taking a break from his report to
take a rather large swig of the adult beverage. "It seems there were two
separate attacks. The one on Cormond's spaceport was catastrophic and
killed several thousand civilians. It will take a very long time for the
spaceport to become operational again. All traffic going into Cormond is
being deployed to secondary docking facilities..." he explained, taking
a moment to finish the drink. "The attack on the SallicheAg docking bay
took out their offloading abilities for the foodstuffs that keep
Brentaal IV functional. There are already food riots throughout the
major cities as citizens rush to buy what food is left in the stores..."
he concluded, moving back to the chair once again.
Excellent, Volkov thought to himself
after hearing the news being reported to him. So the empire had played
directly into the deck of cards in which he had dealt. Might as well be
a game of Sabaac, he swore beneath his breath. There would be no
misconceptions here ... only what he wanted the general public upon the
surface of the planet to believe. After-all, deception was an intricate
weapon utilized via his Ringali Regime in order to deface the Galactic
Empire and all of their endeavors. Indeed there would be no doubt that
with such chaos and disorganization amongst the populace that this
pressure put on the local garrison would be insurmountable. Of course,
according to the general, this was a great thing considering that these
actions would free his special operations and independent units
operating in the field a large window of opportunity to organize and
orchestrate their next strike on Imperial targets. He then focused his
attention back onto the commander after hearing the news before
complying, "That is so very terrible. Such a tremendous loss of life for
the innocent and the deserving alike. I would not be so quick to assume
that our forces were behind the operation commander," he complied.
Volkov knew all to well what was going on but to reveal such delicate
information to a low-ranking officer was beyond imagination itself. "I'm
sure, despite what happened, we will be hearing very soon concerning
more details surrounding the incident." Volkov grunted under his breath
while thinking about his most prominent agent in the field, Coda Sol. So
indeed the operation had panned out as he had so opportunistically
wished it had. A cover up would be necessary following such destruction
and it was of no surprise that the general found himself seeking the
council of his most trusted audience ... as long as his concussion missiles
where delivered in a most timely fashion. "And what of the locals? Is
dismay indeed the specialty of the day Atio," Akilist questioned the
Derek nodded his head in affirmation of
General Volkov's statement. "Indeed, General. Loss of civilian life is
unfortunate. However, a blow has clearly been struck against the
Empire's ability to survey what cargo goes to and from the surface," he
explained with a firm nod of his head. "Most of the Brentaal citizenry
are up in arms. These continued attacks have them questioning the
Empire's effectiveness, but of course the holonet continues to brandish
us as mere terrorists..." he explained, somewhat reluctantly. Again he
rose from his chair and moved towards the bar to fix himself a third
glass of the Corellian ale. He needed it very badly and was quick to
down the beverage. He remained standing, rather than returning to his
seat as he looked towards the General.
Volkov swung his hand in a smooth arc
towards the bar counter with his head nodding in compliance. "By all
means my friend, have what you will. I'm sure this has been a long day
for you. I'd suggest getting at least a few moments of rest before
embarking on your next mission which I will soon assign to you." It was
of no question that Atio was completely stressed and most likely could
use some down time for himself considering the scenario enveloping the
space station. However, Akilist's insurgents had conducted a most
beautiful scenery of destruction and desolation. "Commander Atio,"
Volkov spoke boldly as he rose upwards from his sitting position. Upon
doing so, normal protocol would have the commander rise immediately to
greet him in mid-form, however the two had developed a more sensible
bondage that did not hold sway over the threat of a blaster being held
to ones throat in comparison to that of the treacherous stories of
Vader. "Our foes have presented us with a most ample opportunity to
strike. We must do so while their infrastructure remains weak," Volkov
concluded. He would then reach over towards commander Atio and take the
bottle of Corellian Ale from him and pour himself a glass. Upon
receiving the solution, he'd down it with one swift stroke before
slamming his marbled mug down onto the desktop in front of him. With a
slight smile seemingly piercing his cheeks, he passed the bottle back to
the officer before him. "Keep it. Take it to your quarters. I have
reason to believe that you may perhaps be in need of such. For you are
to report to the surface tomorrow and inform our comrades that indeed,
we are in business," Volkov added. "We are to step up pressure on the
local garrison amidst this citizenry confusion. You are to have one days
rest. You may do as you wish but do see to it commander, that these
orders reach the surface and that they are carried out in an orderly
fashion. For without this," Volkov glanced down at a data-card freshly
revealed from his right tunic pocket, "all is lost."
Derek accepted the gift of the half
consumed bottle of Corellian ale graciously. Perhaps he and Parka would
find occasion to drink it together, he optimistically thought to
himself. "Thank you, General," he said quietly, as he tucked the bottle
beneath his arm. He listened intently to the words being spoken to him.
He reached for the data disk and placed it securely in the left side
pocket of his trousers. He nodded diplomatically one last time, before
hurrying out of the general's office to go and finish the bottle of ale.
He had hoped the next time he arrived on Brentaal IV there would be more
information concerning the destruction of Alderaan and the other events
that had plagued the Alliance thus far.
As the blast doors hissed their
exclamation of intent following the departure of the commander, Volkov
rolled backwards into his flexing office chair while kicking his feet up
onto his desk. Both hands came to rest behind his head while his lips
twinged together to let out an exasperating breath of tension. Exactly
how much could the alliance withstand. Had the council become abolished?
Volkov thought indistinctly while pondering over the dreadful news that
had been presented to him regarding Alderaan. No matter the struggle,
nor the effort that would be needed to meet such challenges in these
coming days, indeed, it had truly become an era of rebellion.
Sylvain Isod, picked up the intricately
crafted cup and sipped slowly at the tea, as he glanced down for the
fifth time at datapad. He then nodded lightly, as he leaned back into
his chair and looked directly into the holo recorder, as his hands
folded neatly into his lap. He was a man in his early forties, with
sleeked back black hair and calming green eyes. He let a hand out of
habit brush the scar that started from below his right eye and curved
down to his chin. The hand returned back to his lap before the the
camera started, "Today, I, Count Sylvain Isod, come before you no longer
as a prestigious member of the Brentaal Houses, but as a concerned
citizen. I for one welcome change and I give my full support to our
Regional Govenrner, Claudius Rodney, whom must take on such great
challenges such as these Rebel terrorists that 24 hours ago destroyed
the Cormond spaceport, following an attack from weeks ago which resulted
in the complete slaughter of the RSSF barracks. Not to mention the
release of thousands of criminals into our streets. These are dark times
for Brentaal, but it gives us a chance for change. I do hope people see
it as I do, as a former member of the Brentaal Houses I am an eyewitness
to the corruption and the greed that plagued every decision put before
us. Now I should address the coming food shortage ... I have taken a
sizable portion of my own foodstuffs and intend on giving it away to
you, my fellow citizens. I also have secured a delivery of food over
from out of system. I..." Sylvain paused and could feel a tear form, as
he choked up a bit. They could see the small sharp object that he was
squeezing to produce the tears. "I'm sorry ... I lost my place." He
coughed as he readjusted his datapad with his other hand. "The loss of
Alderaan has hurt me ... deeply. The mere fact alone that it was a super
weapon of some sort sends a shiver down my spine." He said before
striking the table with the hand that adjusted the datapad for a second
time, and spoke loudly, "I will not allow fear to control my actions or
the grief of such a loss to cloud my judgement. I, a citizen of Brentaal,
am offering the sum of 10,000 credits to anyone who can assist in the
aide and capture of any known Rebel terrorist. Now is the time to show
them our strength as a united people and full fledged member of the
Empire. The following is addressed to those Rebel terrorists ... heed my
words, you cowards are out there listening. I wish for for you to
understand Brentaal is not afraid of you!" He said, as he emphasised
with another slam of his hand. "I will be hosting an event in several
days where I will personally see that food is delivered to the public in
the local city square. I am quite sure that we will see more hungry
faces than the amount of food that is available so I call out to my
fellow Lords ... join me so that we can show the that our service to the
people hasn't ended ... it is only the beginning." Sylvain paused before
the camera's light went off.
In the officer's lounge of the
Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Warspite Major Kerrie Kiley
sat silently watching the holonet, gauging the coverage of the of the
recent Rebel attacks on Brentaal. She shook her head as the image of the
shattered Cormond spaceport was shown yet again. "Argh," she groaned as
sh shook her head, realizing how incompetent the Empire was looking in
the light of these recent Rebel incursions. She was concerned that
further Rebel success would lead to their command being terminated.
"Kerrie Berry!" the high pitched voice
of Lieutenant Randi Trainor could be heard echoing through the lounge. A
bright smile formed on the woman's lips as she had not seen her since
the trip to Esseles. "What's on the holonet?" she asked as he hopped
over the sofa Kerrie was sitting on and plopped right down next to her.
She leaned against her to become more comfortable, as she considered the
rumor that was going around the ship. "So people are saying you killed
Lord Nam'a'taht ... is it true?" she asked, as she turned her head and
blinked her large blue eyes at her waiting a response.
Kerrie groaned in discomfort as Randi
situated herself next to her on the sofa. There was no one she found
more obnoxious than the Inquisitor's pilot and she wished that she would
leave her alone. "Yes. It is true..." she said, as she folded her arms
in front of her chest in frustration. So much for a little quiet time in
front of the holonet. She wished she could shoot the woman and be rid of
the annoyance, but the Inquisitor would not like that. At least it as a
rare occurrence that she had to fly with her these days. "Why do you
care?" she asked, already regretting the fact that that she had kept the
Randi looked down at her boots that she
was kicking back and forth as she was hesitant to reveal her reasoning.
"Well, it's just that I have never killed anyone before and was
wondering what it was like..." she said, turning her head to look at the
Major quickly, which caused her right pigtail to smack against Kerrie's
Kerrie groaned angrily as the blond
clump of hair slapped against her face and she brought a hand up to swat
it away. "What are you talking about, dunderhead? You killed people all
the time in the cockpit!" she exclaimed, shaking her head at her. She
was wasting her time and surely she should just keep quiet so the pilot
would go away.
"That doesn't count..." Randi pointed
out, as she pulled away from Major Kiley somewhat. "I don't actually see
who I'm shooting at out there. You actually look people in the eyes when
you kill them..." she explained, not wanting to admit how many people
she had gunned down in the course of her service to the Empire.
Suddenly the Imperial Holovision
broadcast broadcast broke up the conversation and the two young women
watched in horror. Kerrie's thoughts immediately went to Jelena, knowing
how much the young woman would be hurt by the destruction of a planet
she considered her home She stood suddenly, her facing losing color as
she learned of the super weapon ... wondering if the Rebellion might try
such a dastardly tactic here in the Ringali Shell.
"Wow!" Randi exclaimed as she watched
the news, having been totally distracted from her conversation with
Kerrie. Her hand went for the control pad and she tuned the volume
dramatically up. "I'm sorry, Kerrie Berry ... but you only killed one
person and it sounds like the Rebellion just killed billions!" she
apologized, having been totally sidetracked from the conversation.
Grand Moff Claudius Rodney arrived on
the bridge of the Star Destroyer Warspite, a content smile upon his face
as he walked down the catwalk over the crew pits. He looked down into
the helm and nodded to Lieutenant Sheppard. "Set your course for the Essesia system. The Indefatigable will be relieving us on station here
in Brentaal," he ordered with a firm nod, which the junior officer
quickly acknowledged. He walked to the end of the catwalk and stared out
the viewport at the distant planet Brentaal. Oh what a thorn in his side
that pesky planet had been this past year and he was glad to be heading
towards the Oversector Capitol of Esseles. His arms folded behind his
back as he stood silently watching the escorting ships fall into
formation for the jump to lightspeed.
"Lord Rodney!" the voice of Operations
Officer Lieutenant Allegra Ames cried out as she looked over the holonet transmission they were receiving. Without an order she flicked
the switch to amplify the speaker and the Imperial Holovision report of
the destruction of Alderaan was broadcast for all of the bridge to hear.
The woman climbed out of her crew pit, and rushed down the catwalk
towards the Governor. "I am so sorry, Milord," she said, as she bowed
her head, realizing what a tremendous blow this must have been to him.
With the Imperial Senate recently disbanded her father had fallen out of
favor and she feared her attempts to advance her career would stall, and
thus bringing this news to the newly appointed Regional Governor was
something she dreaded.
Claudius Rodney could not believe what
he was hearing, and he fell to his knees as the weight of the galaxy
seemed to crush him. Alderaan, in many wars, was his home and many of
his friends and loved ones had been on the planet. Were they all dead?
he wondered, as he placed his right palm on the deckplating to steady
himself. "No!" he yelled out angrily as he clenched his hand into a fist
and slammed it onto the deck, nearly breaking the bones in his finger.
His moment of triumph at being raised to Regional Governor had been
shattered by this news. Bail Organa had been one of his closest friends
for nearly three decades and now he was gone. His first wife's family
was on Alderaan and they were now gone as well. Many of his classmates
from Alderaan University and friends he made in the Diplomatic Corps had
been obliterated as well. A great many he cared for, admired, and loved
were now no more.
"Sir, we are receiving a transmission
from High Command confirming the reports on Imperial Holovision," the
voice of Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca, the Warspite's Chiss tactical
officer announced from her pit. "Apparently the Alderaanians were
developing a superweapon and the test went terribly wrong and destroyed
the planet," she said rather coldly, as if she was reading a weather
report. It was a horrific attack, but the Chiss woman rarely displayed
much of an emotion.
During the entire time the news was
broken and the Governor displayed his remorseful and spiteful reaction,
Liliya stood silently while staring at the flooring panels. Her outward
expression and mannerisms were one of overwhelming shock and her facial
features one of mourning, for she was known to be from that planet,
lived her life there, graduated from University there, but that was far
from the truth. Her inner reflections were far more complicated that
were easily covered by what was expected of her, how people believed she
should be acting, and thus she performed that role as any top actress.
But as that human emotion program was functioning, in the background a
far more important process was running in her bio-synthetic mind. She
searched her databanks for clear protocols in case of all loss of
contacts on the field or at home. It was unfortunate that she could find
no programs, no directions for the destruction of Alderaan that left her
without a single operative to report to. Everything she was had been on
that planet, but it wasn't sadness or depression that occupied her with
that thought, and for a moment she was confused on just exactly what she
was experiencing. Perhaps she had spent too much time with humans,
perhaps her files were being corrupted, but she swore it was loneliness,
or perhaps the sense of being lost without direction. She looked to
Rodney with sunken sad eyes, far from the usual bright and optimistic
appearance, attempting to sympathise with the pain he was feeling.
"No ... no more," Grand Moff Rodney said
as he rose to his feet and dusted himself off. His heart was beating out
of his chest and the only thing he could think of was his family. He
needed to get home to them at once. "Tell me later. Just get us to
Esseles..." he ordered, as he hurriedly marched down the catwalk to the
turbolift. Once he was inside the perceived privacy of the lift, he
lowered his head and pinched his nose tightly. He had an incredible
headache and needed to force back the tears that were beginning to form
in his eyes. There was no time to mourn, however, as there was much he
needed to do. "Oh..." he said aloud as he turned and saw Liliya standing
next to him in the lift. "I ... I still need to get used to the idea of
having an aide," he said, quite embarrassed at the prospect of being
seen the way he was. He swallowed, his throat bulging against the collar
of his uniform. He wanted to break down, but he could not allow himself
to show emotion in front of the impressionable young diplomat.
She had walked behind him all the way to
the turbolift, not realizing he would be so surprised to see her still
accompanying him. It had not even been an hour since she arrived on the
vessel, she had no where else to go, but why would she want to go
anywhere else? Her place was with him unless he wished otherwise. "You
may dismiss me if you desire, Milord." Though dismissing her might have
been the logical thing to do, she could tell by her knowledge of the
human nature, his body language said otherwise, and more than anything
he needed someone to understand and be willing to listen
compassionately. Liliya ran a quick calculation to determine if being
bold would yield more reward and out weigh the risks before she blinked
and looked to him kindly, his much larger hand was delicately enveloped
by her two smaller ones and held softly before she once again looked up
to him, her eyes full of hope, wishing not to anger him but to support
him and never be judgmental.
A shiver went up the his spine as she
unexpectedly reached for his hand, registering how soft her flesh felt
against his. Youth, he thought to himself as he avoided making eye
contact, noting that his wife might not approve, yet he did not pull
away. Claudius and Liliya felt the ship lurch forward into hyperspace
just as the turbolift door opened on the Admiral's personal level. "Dismiss you?" Claudius said, feeling somewhat bewildered as the shock
of the destruction of Alderaan was still with him. He let out a tired
sigh as he staggered out of the turbolift and began walking down the
corridor towards his office. "Oh..." he said in a panicked tone as he
stopped dead in his tracks and turned to look at her. "Your family? Were
they on..." he began, but stopped, knowing that he had said enough
without having to go further. He had been thoughtless in this regard,
realizing that she was a pure Alderaanian, whereas he was a Delayan and
thus her loss would have been greater.
She visibly winced when he brought up
her family and cast her gaze down to the floor before them as they
walked, unable to make eye contact. She didn't wish to lie to him, for
that was foolish and traceable, instead she chose to remain silent
regarding her past relatives, a quiet and painful contemplation would be
enough to answer his question. After a long moment, she would finally
speak up softly, "I...I am your assistant now...that life is...behind
me." She said with a quiver in her voice, as if she may begin sobbing at
any moment, and it was apparent she dare not look at him now as she
tried to hide the fact that her eyes were tearing. Her hands left his to
clasp in her front, masking their light tremor.
Claudius felt the need to be a gentleman
and turned to place his hand upon the small of her back, noting how soft
the fabric of her dress seemed to feel. "Come sit down..." he said very
quietly as he ushered her down the corridor to his well equipped office.
In the corner was a rather plush two person sofa in front of a small
table. He chose to leave the holonet off as he was sure it would be non
stop Alderaan coverage and he wished to avoid it. After attempting to
help her to the sofa, he backed away, not yet feeling comfortable enough
to sit near her. "Would you like a drink?" he asked, as his eyes drifted
to the decanter of Alderaan Ruge atop the bar. Would not be an
opportunity to get that anymore, he thought to himself as his eyes
glanced over it. Well, it was one way to quit drinking.
She politely turned down the drink with
an absentminded wave of her hand. There would be many who would waste
their sorrows away with a drink this night, but that just was not
something that interested her, and she hoped her new charge was not the
heavy drinking sort. Her eyes drifted around the plush interior of his
office, comfortable and functional before they focused on her lap, her
hands curling together, apparently a bit unsure of herself and the
situation. Things had suddenly got more complicated than she intended
with the destruction of Alderaan. Perhaps the Grand Moff had no real
need for her after all and her mission would completely fail, but now
she fretted that even if successful, who would believe her, how could
she transfer the information and to whom? It was a real problem and it
frightened her, somehow. It just occurred to her how fortunate she
actually was, her fate could have been sealed as the rest of those souls
on Alderaan. "You saved my life, indirectly, Lord Rodney." Her words
were breathed from her in but a whisper, pain still detected, as if she
was worthy of living but everyone else on that planet was not? "I don't
know if I deserved it, why me?" Said almost to herself, and not directed
Claudius' eyes lingered on the bottle of
Alderaan Ruge for a moment, his right hand awkwardly shaking. He needed
a glass, but he had promised too many people that he would never drink
again. His teeth clenched and he slowly moved himself away from the
bottle and towards the upholstered chair opposite Liliya. "There is no
need for survivor guilt, my dear," he said to her, as he depressed a
button for the serving droid to bring in some tea as an alternative to
the alcohol. "This is not the end of Alderaan. This is not the end of
our people. As long as people like you, and my daughters, live their
lives the legacy of Alderaan will live throughout the galaxy..." he
explained to her, trying to bolster her confidence. He nodded his head
at her firmly, earnestly believing the words he was speaking. "The Rebel
Alliance will pay for its crimes against our people. Mark my words," he
vowed to her, as he took a sip of the tea the droid had placed before
him. A bit too hot, he noted, as he placed it back down on the table. "I
must travel to the surface when we arrive on Esseles," he explained to
her, as he blew upon the surface of the liquid to cool it somewhat.
"I'll arrange for quarters for you on this level. I have to warn you
though ... life aboard an Imperial ship of war is far from the palatial
life of Alderaan," he said, trying to force a smile upon his lips,
realizing the palace was now smithereens.
Colonel Verus Theus sat in the darkened
living room of an ISB safe house, with only the light from the nearby
viewscreen casting a blue shadow across the furnishings. The Colonel
typed steadily on a datapad, halfheartedly listening to the usual
Holonet News broadcast. Even for a secretive unit like the Wolfpack,
paperwork still had to be written, personnel reviews filed and equipment
requests sent. All of it was classified, of course, though the ISB
commanders still required their bureaucracy be heeded.
Verus looked up as the news broadcast
was suddenly interrupted by a special report. He was mildly curious ...
perhaps a Black Sun vigo had been arrested, or the Rebels had attacked
somewhere besides Cormond. The Colonel's curiosity turned towards shock
as the newscaster began the segment. He dropped the datapad without
noticing, his mouth becoming agape at the realization that an entire
planet, Alderaan, had been destroyed. It was not often Verus Theus was
caught by surprise, though an exception had just occurred.
Regaining his composure, the Colonel
leaned back in his chair as the broadcast continued. His shock turned to
disbelief ... not the typical disbelief that afflicts bystanders when
tragedies occur, but an actual doubting of the broadcast he was hearing.
Alderaan had not the resources nor the personnel to develop such a
weapon, of that he was sure. No singular planet did, aside from
Coruscant, and especially not without the Empire's notice. The funneling
of credits, manpower, equipment and materials on such a scale was simply
not possible...unless the largest institution within the galaxy had
He had always heard whispers and rumors
of superweapons and secret projects, as such was the covert gossip of
the intelligence world. Some ideas Verus had taken more seriously than
others, though it appeared the destruction of Alderaan had given instant
credence to a new kind of massive weapon. The Colonel made a mental note
to quietly reach out to his counterparts about the incident, as to gain
a better picture for himself of what the Empire had somehow had managed
to accomplish. He also decided to check his unit's own roster for
natives of Alderaan, lest the sudden change of events shift their
loyalties. The missing Storm Commando...Ohmer Wilton. He had been from
Alderaan, had he not? If the man was indeed still alive somewhere, this
would be somber news to bear.
Picking the datapad off the floor, Verus
resumed his endless battle against the paperwork. There was nothing more
he could do at this moment regarding Alderaan's fate and the Empire's
projects ... he might as well finish his bureaucratic duties and prepare
himself for the days ahead.
Valeria woke up to some commotion around
her, her eyes groggily opening as she gradually remembered where she
was. She was in the den of one or another Hutt lord ... or lady.
Sometimes the smuggler forgot that they were a hermaphroditic species
that could change their gender throughout their life cycle. The
pink-skinned near-human raised a hand to her face and rubbed it, trying
to break the haze that hung over her. For a moment she considered that
she might have had a little bit too much spice the night before. Passing
out amid a den of thieves and cutthroats of a hundred different species
was not, after all, the secret to a long and fulfilling life. The
smuggler started to peel her hair away from her face, her own sweat
causing it to cling there. She had forgotten the specific planet that
she was on, but not the fact that it was as hot as a blast furnace.
As her silver-blue eyes finally brought
the den into focus she was able to see what the commotion was about. The
main holoprojector was apparently tuned into several ongoing newsfeeds
from across the HoloNet at once, and they all seemed to be covering the
same story. What was unusual was that the assembled scum of the galaxy
was being completely silent. Valeria realized that a member of the Gran
species was half sleeping on top of her and shoved him off onto the
sandstone floor before striding forward to get a better view. It was
times like these that she regretted being only 1.57 meters tall.
Eventually she would clamber atop a Chevin female and sit on her
shoulders. The tusked sentient looked only vaguely aware of her
presence, distracted or perhaps uninterested in picking a fight with
someone who was obviously well armed. Suddenly a nearby Twi'lek female -
almost certainly a dancer ensnared in a contract that would keep her in
servitude throughout her useful years - spoke. "Everybody shut up! The
Coronet newsfeed is coming back."
Valeria shook her head in another
attempt to clear that haze, her golden red waist-length hair smacking
the heads of a pair of annoyed bounty hunters in the process.
"Ha...sorry guys." The smuggler flashed an easy smile towards their
helmeted visages as she turned back towards the holoprojector, only to
see an unfamiliar asteroid field. Her eyes tracked to the bottom of the
screen, reading the details. Valeria's jaw dropped as she read the
official explanation being presented by the Empire. A few of the Hutt's
assembled court would let out a cheer in favor of a peaceful planet like
Alderaan getting wiped from existence. Some of them even appeared to buy
the official explanation. The older members of this assemblage of
mercenaries and murderers were quiet, though. There eyes shifted
uncomfortably as they exchange glances. They had done enough work for
the Empire over the years to know just what they were capable of, and
the brutal measures they were perfectly willing to use to put down
resistance. As Valeria noted the others reaction she suddenly realized
that her thinsuit was unzipped down to the waist - she didn't remember
doing that, but she simply shrugged and zipped it back up. It was then
that she noticed the reaction of the Hutt who held court in this palace.
He was as quiet as the grizzled mercenaries, only more so, and there was
something in his eyes Valeria had rarely seen in Hutts. It was fear.
Fear of whatever method the Imperial had used to annihilate an entire
planet, but there was envy too. Hutts were greedy, grasping creatures
... in some ways similar to Valeria herself. This Hutt would like
nothing better to be in the same position of the Empire, but could only
fear their awesome power.
As for herself, Valeria simply watched
the newsfeed in silence. She knew all too well that the Empire had done
this sort of thing before, if never by this method. The smuggler had
read the leaflets dropped by the Rebels over areas of the Empire that
might have been sympathetic to her causes. She couldn't be sure, but she
even remembered being hired to do one of those jobs herself. Grand Moff
Tarkin had supposedly ended a peaceful demonstration earlier in his
career by landing a massive starship on top of the protestors. More
personally, however, the planet of her father's people had been stripped
of life by a hive virus released by the Empire. Her eyes gradually
narrowed as she continued to absorb the cover story put out by the
Empire, hoping none of the thugs present were aware enough to see the
anger in her eyes at yet another planet being sacrificed at the altar of
an evil regime. Valeria's system was beginning already to shake off the
effects of the spice, replacing the feeling it had given her with a cold
resolve. This would not stand.
Inquisitor Thanor paced angrily down the
hallway towards her chambers causing occupants to dart out of her path,
but she barely noticed due to being completely transfixed on recalling
the day's events in her mind over and over. How dare no one inform her,
she was the last to know yet again despite the great lengths she took.
Even in the very lest, her superior should have contacted her regarding
Rodney's promotion! She was caught looking like a fool, ridiculed by the
'Governor' in front of the entire congregation and left standing there
as if she was completely inconsequential. Apparently it didn't take
Claudius long to become an inflated pompous ass, figures, Serine was not
surprised at all with that mans total lack of tact. But what of that
woman? What was it...Lili something? Whatever. She had been too
flabbergasted and infuriated to care to remember, the only thing that
resonated with the Inquisitor was how easily her datapad was brushed off
to Rodney's new assistant without even a second look. Serine was far too
aggravated to return to her room, for her apprentice's own good, as she
didn't wish to take out her building anger on the young Kia. Instead she
took a sharp turn down the hallway towards one of the empty conference
rooms, it would be there she would contact the Grand Vizier to make sure
Rodney wasn't just wearing a costume, though he might as well be. She
believed he was barely qualified to even be an Admiral, let alone a
Grand Moff. The Inquisitor threw open the doors and slammed them behind
her as she stalked into the room with a heavy scowl on her face. She
wasted no time retrieving a holovid receiver to transmit a signal
request to Sate Pestage, her direct superior. As the signal beeped in
long red flashes, Serine heavily contemplated her words to the Grand
Vizier, making sure to phrase them appropriately in her mind to be
prepared as talking to the man was usually a chore.
Serine would be forced to wait nearly an
hour for the response of the Grand Vizier, as he had bigger concerns at
the moment than a troublesome Inquisitor in a low profile sector. His
holonet transmitter had been beeping incessantly throughout the day,
assuring diplomats, planetary leaders, and an assortment of Moffs that
the Rebellion had not suddenly developed the tools to extinguish an
entire world. He was exhausted and his temper was short, but he
nevertheless took the time to speak to Inquisitor Thanor. The blue
tinted holographic image of the Grand Vizier appeared to her and
immediately his eyes flared down at her. "What is it, Inquisitor?" he
asked, as his eyes darted to a chronometer on the far wall in the room
from which he was transmitting. He would only afford her a short amount
of his valuable time. The clock was literally ticking.
She patiently waited her time to speak
to the man, he was of course very busy and wasn't expecting her to
report at this time. Serine was far too angered to peacefully sit in a
chair to await his response though, so she took to pacing eagerly around
the large table in the center of the room. Suddenly in mid-stride she
was overwhelmed with a sickening sensation so intense that she struggled
to remain standing, crumpling over upon a chair before sinking to the
ground dismayed, breath completely knocked from her. Something
horrifying had just taken place of such magnitude that it sent a massive
shockwave through the Force. It took her the remaining of that long
silent hour to regain her composure just in time for Pestage to answer
her call. It was obvious that the Inquisitor was disheveled and
unprepared, though it had been completely unintentional by things not of
her control. "Grand Vizier." Said void of any emotion, trying to regain
herself enough to make this call worthwhile, she was unsure if the man
would even realize something had happened. "Is it true that His Majesty
promoted Claudius Rodney to the rank of Regional Governor? If so, are
your orders to remain the same?"
While Grand Vizier Sate Pestage was not
sure why the Emperor had appointed Claudius Rodney Regional Governor, he
nevertheless was forced to concede that the matter was beyond his
control. "Indeed he has," the Grand Vizier said, ignoring the young
woman's theatrics as he was pressed with important matters of state. "Yes. Your orders ... which we sincerely hope you one day get around to
following ... continue to be that you serve as an advisor to Ad...Grand
Moff Rodney," he said, correcting himself, as he despised saying the
words out loud.
"Very well." She nodded to the other in
compliance, completely not acknowledging his slight on her performance
as she believed she was doing everything possible to complete her
mission despite all of the adversity she was facing with every step of
the way. The answer her superior had given her had been what she
originally called for, but now there was one more pressing matter on her
mind. "One more thing, Grand Vizier..." Serine was not exactly sure how
to put this, knowing that the man was not at all capable of wielding the
Force, but he was in a position of power to know occurrences,
perhaps...just perhaps there was something vital she was not being
informed on. It was a delicate matter to suggest that Vizier was not
giving her everything she needed to be successful, even hinting that
would be a severe insult and breach of military etiquette. "...was there
a recent event of tremendous consequence?" She inquired cautiously.
"One moment," the Grand Vizier bluntly
stated to her, devoid of any emotion or thought which she might possibly
interpret. For nearly fifteen minutes there was was no response on the
holonet, before the automated Holonet announcement was broadcast to
Inquisitor Thanor. A personalized text only transmission soon arrived
from the office of the Inquisitor to inform her that given the nature of
the events he would be unable to resume their conversation for the
A heavy frown developed as she was
forced to wait yet again for Pestage before being discarded completely!
With an exasperated sigh she read the holonet transmission, and as she
finished reading she could have laughed at the audacity of it all. She
wasn't sure what was more ridiculous, that Alderaan, the society well
known for absolute passiveness, developed a super weapon or that it blew
up in their face and destroyed their pathetic pacifistic planet.
Realizing it was Alderaan's destruction that caused that intense episode
she experienced, she stood up slowly, contemplating the events but
ultimately deciding that justice was done and so should be the same fate
to any planet that allied with the Rebellion.
It had been a long shuttle ride for
Jelena Rodney from Coruscant to Esseles, but she was glad to finally be
back 'home'. She felt sad that she now considered this estate on the
outskirts of New Calamar to be her home, but she had felt decidedly more
upbeat since the news broke that she would be allowed to attend Alderaan
University. She had already been on the HoloNet speaking with friends
from the Select Academy for Young Ladies that were currently attending
AU. She was thrilled to be able to tell them she would be joining them
the following semester. She was wearing her father's old AU shirt and a
pair of pajamas pants as she was laying on the sofa watching Imperial
Holovision. Her ears perked up as the news broken into a special report.
"No!" Jelena screamed loudly as she
heard the news, sitting up on the sofa as a panic came over here. She
began hyperventilating as a full blown panic attack set over her. "No!
No! No!" she started to scream as she stood up in front of the holonet
receiver. "Htaere!" she screamed at the top of her lungs as the tears
begin to flow from her eyes in powerful streams. Her hands went to the
side of her head and she grabbed it, the pain overwhelming her as she
fell to her knees in panicked desperation.
From where she had serenely been
watering one of the plants in the corridors and removing dead bits of
foliage, the sound of her name being screamed caused the heiress to
jump, dropping the watering can as she did so. A slender hand came to
rest over her heart as if to settle it before reaching down long enough
to set the watering can upright lest its contents spill further.
Hurrying towards the parlor in which Jelena's voice emanated she stood
in the door way, eyes wide, not knowing what to expect. "What?! What is
wrong?" she asked.
Jelena could not speak as she was
kneeling on the floor, completely exhausted as she struggled even to
breath. The entire room was spinning and she wondered if anyone she left
behind was still alive. All of her wants, all of her dreams, all of her
hopes were suddenly crushed and her worst fears regarding the evilness
of the Empire were proven to be true. She pointed silently at the
holonet receiver, as the breaking news once again replayed for Htaere to
hear. The young Alderaanian had been completely destroyed by the news.
Htaere's eyes flashed from Jelena to the
receiver in stupor. As the story was repeated, her grey eyes narrowed,
head shaking in disbelief. "No..." she shook her head again. "This
cannot be..." stepping inside the room she drew closer to the screen as
if the closer proximity would offer clarity. When the news recapped, her
hands folded over her mouth as she mumbled incoherently.
"How could they do this?" Jelena asked
Htaere, rhetorically, as she continued to rock back and forth on her
knees. She could not believe that almost everyone that mattered in her
life was apparently gone. She was shaking very badly now and could
hardly breath, as she dramatically collapsed to the ground. "No ...
please no," she pathetically said, as she looked up at the holonet one
Htaere collected herself as best she
could, leaning down to assist Jelena from the ground. "I do not know,"
she mumbled numbly. "Come off of the floor and rest while I ascertain to
understand this," she sought to pull the girl up from the floor.
Jelena offered no resistance as she was
lifted from the floor, feeling all of the energy sucked from her body.
She felt quite nauseous and overwhelmed and suddenly her head surged
forward and she threw up all over the front of her father's shirt. The
young woman was gasping in a panic as she choked on it, tears and mucus
running from her eyes and face. She brought her hands up to her face and
attempted to regain some composure but all seemed lost. The young woman
had been utterly destroyed by the news and her life would never be the
Doing her best not to recoil in disgust,
Htaere sat the girl down. "Oh dear," she spoke in a low voice. "I shall
be right back," she patted the girls back before looking around
carefully. Getting up she moved to a comp panel on the wall to summon a
house droid for assistance before hurrying to the closest fresher.
Returning moments later, she had a towel and damp washcloth. Holding the
washcloth to Jelena's forehead, she sorted through her thoughts as she
contemplated what to do first.
Jelena was still whaling as Htaere
placed the washcloth over her forehead, unable to believe what had
happened. "What are we going to do?" she asked, as the refresher droid
went through the labored process of cleaning up the unfortunate mess she
had made. "I can't..." she said, as she held the washcloth to her head,
her breathing erratic and much of the color now gone from her face. She
closed her eyes and tried to picture the friends she now feared were
dead, but everything was a fuzzy blur of people she could no longer
visualize and would likely never see again.
"I do not know," Htaere replied quietly.
"Lift up your arms," she instructed lightly to remove the girl's soiled
shirt. "I have a towel for you to cover yourself with for a moment while
I draw you a bath, OK?" she did her best to anchor the girl in from
Jelena made her way back to the sofa,
shirtless, as she continued to watch Imperial Holovision. She kept
hoping that the news anchor would come back and report that they were
mistaken, but of course that would never happen. Her head kept shaking
back and forth as if she could wish it away, her young body trembling as
she tried to cope with the horror of it all. "I want my father..." she
pathetically cried out, blaming him as much as any Imperial for what had
happened. She refused to accept that the Alderaanians were building a
Htaere draped the towel around the
girl's shoulders and moved off quickly to draw a warm bath with soothing
herbs. Moving back to the sofa, she touched Jelena's arm softly. "Come,
I have a bath ready for you. Rest while I see if I can contact your
Jelena made her way up the stairs
slowly, each step feeling like it was taking an eternity. She staggered
at several points, but eventually she made it. As she stood in the
bathroom she weakly stripped herself naked, before slipping into the
warm confines of the soothing bath. There she would remain, attempting
to wash the vomit and other fluids that had covered her face and body
during her dramatic outburst.
Several hours later Lord Claudius Rodney
arrived with Doctor Pilaq Tohan, having expected there to be some
despair in the Rodney Estate that evening. He had attempted to get there
as soon as he heard, but the distance between Brentaal and Esseles was
not easily covered. He too had been destroyed by the news of Alderaan's
destruction, but he could not allow his emotions to be viewed in public.
He needed to be strong for all of their sakes. "Htaere?" he called out
as he stood in the living room of the grand estate, uncertain of where
Htaere appeared, wringing her hands
slightly. "Here, Claudius," she offered rather meekly, unsure of his
reaction. Normally she would have asked how his first day on the job
would have been, but it all seemed a wash.
Claudius could tell by her reaction that
something was off. Naturally there was only one thing it could be and he
froze in his tracks dejectedly, lowering his head as he could not bare
to make eye contact with her at the moment. "Then ... you have heard?"
he asked, uncomfortably shifting his weight to scuff his left boot on
the floor. It was quite the hard thing to cope with. He was so proud of
his new promotion, but now all seemed lost.
Htaere frowned slightly. "It was on the
holonet. Jelena is not handling it well," she replied quietly. "So, it
is true then?"
"Indeed it is," Claudius reported to
Htaere, still unable to look at her, as the emotions were still fresh
and the wound was exposed. "The planet has been completely destroyed.
There were no ... no survivors," he weakly informed her, as he was again
shaken by the news of it all. It was the most depressing bit of
information he had received in his long life, and it was something he
would carry for the rest of his life.
Jelena stood at the top of the stairs,
having heard her father's shuttle land. The young woman was now dressed
only in a bath robe and she hurried down the stairs to confront the him.
"This is your fault!" she screamed at the top of her lungs, the tears
flowing from her eyes as she took both her hands and balled them up into
fists, slamming them into his chest and breaking his new beloved rank
insignia. "You and your damn Empire!" she said, tears flowing from her
face hysterically now as she collapsed into his arms.
Claudius could only stand there
helplessly as his daughter pounded upon him, placing his arms firmly
around her as he embraced her in a tight hug. "Shh. Shh," he said,
trying to calm her as he placed delicate kisses upon her forehead in an
attempt to sooth her. His eyes looked desperately towards Htaere,
wondering what he should do. Tears began to form in his eyes and flow
from his own face in an uncharacteristic display of emotion as he felt
his daughter's incredible pain.
Htaere stifled a deep breath, likewise
unsure of what to do in such a situation. She did not know how to
comfort either of them, finding no acceptable mantle to take refuge in,
be it Claudius' Empire or Jelena's blind rebellious rage. "There there,
let us not be so quick to point fingers," she made an attempt. "There
are more pressing aspects of this that deserve our attentions."
Jelena continued to sob into her
father's chest uncontrollable, her right hand bleeding from where she
had smashed his rank insignia. She was exhausted and could barely stand.
Her father's embrace was the only thing that was keeping her from
falling to the ground. "I hate you. I hate your Empire!" she said, as
she raised her bloody hand to the side of his face and gave him a
tremendous smack, leaving a bloody hand print on the side of his face.
Claudius flinched when she slapped him,
not expecting that, and his attention went to Doctor Tohan. "Doctor ...
please, she is hysterical," he said somewhat reluctantly as he lowered
his head in complete failure.
"Forgive me," Doctor Tohan said as he
reached into his bag and produced a hypospray that had been filled with
a sedative. He had expected this, and in an instant he inserted it into
Jelena's arm and flushed it into her system. A moment later the girl was
unconscious in her father's arms.
Htaere remained silent, as under the
circumstances, it seemed the only course of action. "While you tend to
her, I shall make some tea," she mumbled, drifting off from the parlor
to leave them with Jelena's care. Running a hand through her hair, her
eyes flickered out of one of the large windows she passed, half
wondering what the rest of the residents of Esseles thought of the news.
Claudius groaned as he hoisted his
'little girl' into his arms and cradled her, slowly carrying her up the
stairs of the estate, like he used to do when she was a small child. As
her mother had died when she was very young he had developed a special
relationship with Jelena and the words she had spoken troubled him very
much. After entering their room, he lay her down upon her bed and pulled
the blanket up over her. After tucking her in he stopped for a moment to
look at her sleeping, and placed a tender kiss upon her forehead.
Claudius made his way back down the
stairs to look for Htaere, instructing Pilaq to look over his daughter
along the way. He entered the bedroom, looking rather disheveled. His
uniform was covered in Jelena's tears and mucus, and half his rank
insignia hung broken from his chest. Her blood was still on his face
from where she slapped him. He lifelessly moved towards the foor of the
bed, plopping town tiredly as he removed his boots to ease the pressure
on his feet. "I ... I didn't expect that..." he said to Htaere, not
making eye contact with her as he was still in a state of shock.
Htaere was removing items from the tray
she'd brought up, pouring him a cup of tea and carrying it towards him.
Holding it out, she found herself at a loss. "I do not understand how an
entire planet is destroyed," she admitted. "What weapon could the
rebellion possibly have created that would do so, given they are nothing
but small pockets of ill-trained terrorists as it has been suggested?"
Claudius sighed deeply as he looked to
Htaere, bringing his hand up to wipe some of the blood from his face. "Alderaan
has considerable resources. A number of scientists. I have been told
they were developing a weapon for the Rebellion ... so powerful that
when it malfunctioned it caused the planet to break apart. The death
toll was ... catastrophic..." he said with another deep sigh, lowering
his face to place it in front of his hands as he let out a painful
groan. "This is a disaster!" he exclaimed, as he rubbed his hands over
his face aggressively.
"There there, Claudius, sip this tea,"
the young woman instructed lightly. "A warm shower will do you good as
well, along with this beverage to soothe you." She took a seat close by,
giving him the space he needed. There was a respite in the conversation
as Htaere mulled it over. "What happens now?" she inquired quietly.
Claudius sipped at the tea, but it was a
bit too hot for him and he gasped as he put it aside for a moment. He
looked down for a moment, honestly uncertain how to answer her question.
"I...I honestly have no idea what happens now..." he said as he blew on
the tea to cool it before taking another sip. Ah, that was much better
he thought as he took yet another sip. "I am very worried about Jelena.
Very worried..." he said as he turned his head to look at Htaere, a
somewhat helpless look in his eyes, somewhat ironic for a man who had so
recently been given so much power.
"I am afraid it will take time for her
to mend emotionally," Htaere conceded lightly. "I imagine all of her
friends have perished as well." It wasn't really a question. "And what
about you?" she asked. "Aside from the exterior you are presenting, how
are you doing?"
Claudius took another sip of the tea
before replying to Htaere. "Truthfully?" he said, looking up at her with
beaten down eyes. "On the inside I feel much like Jelena. Some of my
oldest and dearest friends are assuredly dead. Including my first wife's
family..." he confessed, broaching the uncomfortable topic before taking
another sip of the tea.
Htaere let him speak, listening without
judgment. "Are you going to be taking some time off to handle the
"Unfortunately I can take no time
off..." Claudius admitted as he finished his cup of tea, and set it
aside on the night table. "My duties as Regional Governor are much more
considerable than that of a simple squadron commander..." he explained
to her as he looked out at the moon that was shining over the sea
outside their estate. "That's quite the view..." he said to her,
sounding as if he was trance as he admired it from afar.
"I understand," Htaere said, rising to
collect his spent cup. She paused after picking up the tray and canted
her head sympathetically. "A nice hot shower will make you feel much
better Claudius. You should try to get some rest. Fatigue is only adding
to the onslaught of issues right now, but being well rested may afford
you a bit more clairvoyance," she offered softly.
Claudius rose from the bed tiredly as he
stripped himself of the tunic, choosing just to discard it rather than
having it cleaned. The trousers were next to join the pile on the floor
as he stripped down to his undergarments. "Will you join me?" he asked,
as he moved from the bedroom into the adjoining refresher. "I ... I
don't want to be alone..." he explained, sounding somewhat sad as he
stripped himself completely while warming up the water for the shower.
A patient smile slightly lifting the
corners of her lips, Htaere nodded. "Of course," she replied, leaving
the tray on a table. She took care to remove her jewelry and placed it
on a chifforobe so as not to lose any of it down the drains in the
refresher before joining her aged husband.
Claudius could not sleep that night and
after several hours of restlessness he rose from the bed as quietly as
possible so as not to disturb his lovely sleeping wife. He stepped out
onto the balcony and let the cool night air flutter against his face. He
gripped hard to the railing as he stared up at the moon, thinking of all
those he had lost that day. He would avenge them. He would make the
Rebellion pay for the crimes. No matter how long it took he pledged
himself to the destruction of the Alliance for their crime against his
Major Aden Zevrin smiled as she watched
a series of monitors that were in front of her conference table. She
took note of all of the emotions that had been captured by the crew of
the Warspite, her Imperial colleagues, and even the Grand Moff's family.
She laughed hysterically as she played over the man's vow to destroy the
Rebellion for 'their' crime. Her hand moved to the control panel and
suddenly all of the monitors went to static. "Lights!" she commanded and
the room went instantly dark as she pulled a holo emitter from her
pocket. Activating it a red light illuminated her gorgeous face and
slowly the spherical image of an enormous battle station flared to life.
Her tongue slithered over her lips as she watched it in complete and
total awe. Soon the Rebellion would be crushed and she was one of the
few to know the reason why. Another massive laugh escaped her lips as
she spun around in her chair, literally on top of the galaxy.