Era of Rebellion - Navigation

Nicholas Baldwin, Alice Bee, Sean Brandt, Kit Gwynne, Christopher Levy, and Michael Vassallo.
One year after the Battle of Yavin (36:8:8) in the Essesia system: ASC-63A Retributor.
Major Serra Eona, General Morgan Glin, Vice-Admiral Michael Raven, Colonel Tavion Rell, Grand Moff Claudius Rodney, Major Sierra Rodney, and Captain Darik Tailon.

"This is not going to be a pretty meeting." Major Sierra Rodney said as she shoved a piece of starfruit into her mouth. She had purposely scheduled the meeting between herself, her husband, Major Serra Eona, and Vice Admiral Raven *after* lunch. It seemed that there would already be a tense atmosphere without her bringing along her inner hangry monster. She was seated in Claudius' office with one leg crossed over the other. A datapad sat in her lap displaying the Vice Admiral's report on the latest Rebel incident. "Vice Admiral Raven was not happy with the lack of communication...for good reason too. I'm not entirely sure we will be able to find a good solution, however." Sierra had already told him all about the shuttle, its confidential occupants, and a failure to recover them even now. At this point, she wished that it was possible to make Chandrila disappear just to stop it from being the problem child.

"Hey! Get your own starfruit," Grand Moff Claudius Rodney said, as he looked up from his desk at his wife/adjutant. As he sat within his office aboard the massive Imperial star dreadnaught Retributor he was trying to bring himself up to speed on the engagement at Chandrila, not wanting to come off as confused as he actually was during the meeting. Behind him was a large, illuminated bas-relief depicting two thrantas and his home planet of Delaya. To his left were the standard triangular windows that overlooked Esseles and the bulk of the systems force there, to his right was a large viewscreen for tactical projections, and across from him was a casual seating area. "Sometimes the solution is to let people yell. During my engineering course they stressed venting pressure to prevent a catastrophic explosion. So, we will let him say his piece, but I, for one, would be cautious of crossing Imperial Intelligence. He reached out with his right hand to the bowl of purple fruit, bringing it up to his mouth, and taking a bite out of it. Unfortunately, the juice squirted right on his freshly cleaned officer's tunic. "Oh I can't believe it," he muttered to himself, as he looked around for something he could clear himself with. "Sierra!" he whined, not wanting to face his officers looking like *this*.

She laughed. "Hey. We're married. What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine." Sierra grinned from ear to ear. No matter how unpleasant the meeting turned out, both of them would be present for it. They could poke fun at everyone involved afterward while being thankful for the lack of Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca was not present to put them to sleep. She looked towards the windows. Bruce was at home with Drusilla today instead of on the dreadnaught. As a new mother, it wasn't always easy to be away from their son. Her head turned towards him, plucking the datapad from her lap and setting it on his desk. "I think I'll try that tactic at home with Dru... Anyhow, it'll be the Vice Admiral digging his own grave. I have only ever met Major Eona briefly, and that was when she came to commandeer a meeting I was having. Personally, I'd say we have enough enemies right now." She finished up a piece of starfruit when he accidentally squirted purple juice all over his tunic. Though it wasn't the blinding white tunic like her own, it was still obvious on the green-grey fabric. "Uh oh." She rose from her seat, grabbing at some napkins she'd brought with her for their joint lunch time. She leaned over him as she tried to clean up the stain. "Do we really have no extra tunics up here?" She said, pulling back the napkin only slightly so she could see that the stain was still *very* obvious.

"I do wish to stay on the good side of Imperial Intelligence," Claudius informed his wife, blissfully ignorant to the fact that they had ordered his assassination two years ago. "It is bad enough that the ISB is always in our hair," he complained, veering off topic as his wife attempted to clean up his mess. It was not enough that as his adjutant she was tasked with cleaning up his military and political mishaps, but as his wife she was also tasked with fixing his domestic ones as well. "Maybe I could just hold a datapad up the entire time," he said, as he tried holding up a datapad in front of his chest. "Here. Does this look natural?" he asked, as he posed for her, with an anxious smile.

"As do I" she sighed. Though she was an ISB officer herself, she had entered the military not understanding exactly what that meant. She got sucked into Imperial propaganda and that was that. "At least Zevrin has yet to make her appearance around here yet..." She would return. Sierra was sure of that. Time was ticking until the wicked witch of the Retributor reappeared. She snickered as he posed with the datapad. "Not in the slightest... Besides, what are you going to do if the meeting runs for three hours and you can't hold up the datapad anymore?" She reached over him, stealing another starfruit from his bowl. "You know, I think there's a tunic in the Kwai. If you ask nicely, maybe I'll go get it." She removed the napkin and leaned forward to steal a quick kiss.

"You have a point," Claudius said, as he lay the datapad down on the desk in front of him. He then abruptly rose from his seat and moved towards the large viewports that dominated a wall of his office. "Here. I can stand like this, looking out the viewport, with my back to everyone," he said, as he looked out at a flight of TIE fighters moving past on a patrol. "If I remain like this they'll think I'm either very angry or thinking everything over," he said, as he turned to look over his shoulder at her. "It could work," he said to her, in a tone of voice that made it very clear he did not think it would work. "The shuttle? Do you think you could get there and back in time? I wouldn't want them to arrive without you hear," he said, anxiously, as he rose up and down on his booted feet. They would be here soon. "Send that aide of yours!" he suggested, as he turned his back to the room again. This was the best plan he could come up with for the time being.

Sierra plopped down into Claudius' seat. It was infinitely more comfortable than her own, and *warm*. She continued to eat her lunch, now being extra mindful about spilling all over herself. So far, Sierra felt she had made a good impression with the Vice Admiral. She wanted him to continue to respect her and keep open communication with her. "It could work. Can you scowl a little too? I think that will make the act more believable." She made a groan as she imagined having to run from her husband's office all the way to the hangar then back again. She'd likely be late for the meeting and everyone would know about the purple stain anyway. "Ah! You're right! I have one of those for a reason." She adjusted in the seat until she reached her comm out of her trouser pocket. She cleared her voice, making herself sound more professional as she called for Captain Tailon. "Captain Tailon. I need you to retrieve a tunic from my ship in the hangar bay. You'll find the Lambda-class shuttle Kwai there. The tunic is in the cabin. Bring it immediately." She cut off the communication as soon as she had finished talking. She looked up at Claudius, grinning. "I can see why you like having an adjutant so much."

Tailon grumbled to himself as he walked down the corridor towards the office, the tunic clutched in his hand. He was in the middle of planning out something important when the call had come through, Grear laughing as he, a captain in the Imperial Security Bureau, was tasked with being a runner, a job usually assigned to that of a private or sergeant. As humiliated as he felt, he had to come to terms with the fact that being an assistant was this. "When I find the man that assigned me to this position..." he grumbled as he approached the door into the office, straightening himself and clearing his face on discontent before opening the door and entering.

In the time it took for Captain Tailon to retrieve the tunic, Sierra had time to finish eating and straighten herself up for the meeting. As soon as he arrived, she met him at the Governor's door. "Thank you, Captain. We will be holding a meeting with Vice Admiral Raven and some of the other higher-ups very soon. I would like you to be present for that meeting, so please prepare yourself." She took the tunic from him. The durasteel doors slid closed behind her to give her and her husband privacy. "The aide is useful." She chuckled. "Now let's get you ready for the meeting. Our guests will be arriving any minute now."

Claudius removed his belt and began stripping out of the grey-green tunic that was stained with starfruit juice. Now, dressed only in an undershirt with his name stenciled upon it as if he were still a raw recruit he moved to take the tunic from his wife. "Yes. Having aides are wonderful," he informed her, with a smile, as he slid it on. But once he got into the light he could see there were strands of blue fur upon it from one or both of his adopted Squib daughters. "Oh for the love of..." he began, as he began swatting himself to get it off. It seemed as if they had played dress up in his spare uniform when they snuck aboard the Kwai. "Sierra..." he groaned, impatiently, as he looked towards the chronometer. They were out of time.

She took the stained tunic, quickly folding it up and setting it aside. The complications leading into the meeting seemed to be over until... "What is it?" She asked, looking towards her husband. There was blue Squib fur all over his tunic. It was even more noticeable than the starfruit juice stain. "Goodness. It looks like one of them wore Ewwiekewwieikkie and Melickielickie had a pounce party." Sierra rushed over to him as she quickly began plucking blue strands of fur from this tunic. "I think we should go back to the plan where you stand at the viewport and scowl. There's no way we're going to get all this fur off." She bit her lower lip. Perhaps deciding to make the problem worse, Sierra suddenly embraced her husband and nuzzled her body against him to make as much fur from his tunic transfer to her own white one. When she stepped back, there was a lot less blue on him and a lot more on her. "Problem ... solved..?" She smiled.

The blue Squib fur stood out much more vibrantly on Sierra's white tunic than it did his grey-green one. "Oh now look what you've done," Claudius replied, anxiously, as he began swatting at her to get some of the fur off. "Too late," he said, as he heard the beep at the door. He looked at her, jaw clenched, with anxiety in his eyes. "See them in," he said, before making one last adjustment to his uniform and walking over towards the viewport. Clearly he needed to speed up the ship's laundry or begin storing more tunics in the case of misfortune.

"It's better me than you." Sierra responded as she stepped away from his hands so the fur didn't transfer back over to him. She moved towards his desk where she picked up her datapad. "You owe me pudding after this." With a wink, she made her way to the door. She pressed a button, causing it to open. "Welcome. Please come in and take a seat," she said. This was destined to be a long meeting. They were about to see if yelling really helped solve problems.

General Glin grumbled to himself as the shuttle docked with the Retributor. *What a waste of time*, he thought to himself, *as if *his* Stormtroopers were any cause of this latest mess*. After getting the Vice Admiral's summons, he was tempted to send Lieutenant Jenson in his stead. But Jenson was off on other duties and the feelings of Vice Admiral Raven would be hurt. He snorted, Damn Naval pansies. Always wanting to blame someone else when they underestimate the situation. As if his Stormtroopers would have been in a position to stop the attack. Maybe if an armed shuttle had been assigned the duty, they could have manned the guns. But no, the choice was for an unarmed shuttle with no escort. And now the Navy wanted to shout it wasn't their fault. Not only that, he wanted to shout at someone before they had tracked down the crashed shuttle.

The shuttle doors opened and he schooled his expression to one of distain, walking confidently down the ramp. He nodded to the officer greeting him, asked the obligatory, "Permission to come aboard," got the obligatory answer and followed the officer to the location of the meeting. Yes, he knew how the game was played, he just wished some parts of it weren't so predictable and interrupted his sleep cycle. The Navy, in their ship watches, were disdainful of dirtside day and night cycles. Glin felt they used that to put the other branches off kilter. He thought it childish, but again, it was a predictable part of the game.

As he neared the conference room, he wondered how the new Imperial Intelligence Major would play it. His eyes sharpened slightly, this would be interesting to watch and perhaps make the lost hours of sleep worth it.

Tailon exited another hall as he approached the conference room, a data pad under his arm as he strode over. He saw another officer, seemingly high ranking, also walking down the hall to to room. After a few seconds, Tailon was able to recognize him as General Glin. He hadn't that much research on many of these higher ranking officers, despite his mind constantly telling him to do so. Despite being acquainted with the Major and wife of the Grand Moff, he had yet to even really meet with the Governor. Maybe this meeting would change that.

Tailon came to stride beside the General, not making eye contact as he continued on his way. "You must be General Glin, right?" Tailon asked, as though only now realizing who he was walking besides.

Glancing over at the captain who fell in stride with him, he stopped, curious about this officer and his courage in approaching him. Most junior officers steered clear of him or dealt with his aide, Lieutenant Jenson. Though, this captain, by his insignia, was wearing an ISB uniform, perhaps he thought that gave him extra stature. *If he is listening to that fool Howe, he would definitely think so*. His blue eyes did a quick top to bottom scan of this ISB captain. *Ah, yes*, he remembered, *this one had joined them for the raid on that Rebel cell, attached himself to Major Rodney's side. Well, well, perhaps this meeting won't be as dull as I thought*.

"And you are?" he asked, raising his eyebrow slightly.

Tailon coughed slightly into his hand, clearing his throat in the presence of the General. "My apologies, sir. I am Captain Derik Tailon, ISB. I was recently assigned as Major Rodney's ... aide." His pause gave a tad bit of resentment at the title, but none the less kept it was guised, passing it off as merely searching for the right term.

I took note of how the General was addressing me. He was analyzing me.

Was there a hint of a smile on the General's face? If there was, it was gone as quickly as it had appeared. "Captain, Tailon," he nodded his head slightly, "Yes, I am General Glin." His eyes glittered slightly, "How may I be of service to the ISB today?" Though the words were polite, there was an obvious sarcastic bite to the words as he spoke them. There was also a warning in the words, an undercurrent that spoke of a dislike and displeasure with the incompetence ISB had shown recently.

Tailon frowned, detecting the hostility in the Generals voice. While used to it at this point, being in ISB, he couldn't help but feel a twinge of unease at the way he asked that. As to not show his unease, the Captain merely chuckled, seeming to wave off the remark.

"I have no idea, to be frank. As of this point I just do what the Major asks for, so she would be the person to ask for that." While he tried to pass that off as humor, it was seemingly very thinly veiled. As of this point, he didn't even feel like he was ISB: just a grunt. No power whatsoever, except that he gave orders to the nine men that requested to be transferred with him. Thank goodness for that, too, because tailon honestly didn't know what he would do without Grear.

Glin couldn't help but feel intrigued by this man. He had quickly glanced through the dossier Jenson had gathered up on this Captain Tailon, noting his recent transfer, but other things had been a priority so he hadn't done a thorough read. If he wasn't mistaken, his ears detected a hint of frustration at the transfer. While not uncommon in new transfers as people tried to settle in to their new roles, Glin got the idea it went deeper than that.

Most would receive a transfer to the Retributor as a step up on their career path, even if you were being an Aide to an Aide to the Governor. When he got back to his office, he would have to correct his mistake and read that dossier. Perhaps this man could be an asset in some fashion.

Glin allowed a bit of a smile to cross his face, pleased with something, "Well, Captain Tailon, it appears we will find out together, as I, too, have no clue why I have been summoned to this meeting. Shall we go together and see who yells the loudest?" smiling a bit at his joke and clapping the man on the shoulder.

He really would have to find out what was behind this man's frustrations. It would be beneficial to network into the ISB and he had yet to see a junior officer spurn the friendly attentions of a High General.

The sudden friendly shift in tone slightly took Tailon by surprise. The General almost seemed ... genuine. Tailon would need to research more on this man. Tailon, regardless, returned the General's smile, nodding as they approached the door to the conference room.

"Indeed we shall, General. I am just supposed to be an observer at this meeting ... so unless the Major asks me to say something, I will probably just be ... observing." Maybe this meeting wasn't going to be as boring as he originally thought. When the Captain came to the Conference Room door, he took out his Code Cylinder, inserting it into the door panel and being rewarded with an affirmative beep as the door opened.

Behind the two officers, the rhythmic tap of boots on the ground could be heard approaching them. Vice Admiral Raven strode forward behind them, a datapad in one of his gloved hands and his face impassive as he approached the two officers and the conference room door. When he saw the General standing there, a slight look of confusion crossed his face ... his inward monologue questioned why he had been summoned in the first place. Of course, it wouldn't *hurt* to have a representative of the Army here, but as far as he was concerned this entire debacle was between the Navy and Intelligence.

*Perhaps*, he thought *Major Rodney found it beneficial to have a representative of each branch of the military here*.

He knew *of* General Glin, but had never met the man. He assumed competence, but that was an assumption that couldn't be made lightly; especially recently.

As he approached the two officers, he nodded politely toward the two of them.

"Good Morning General, Captain."

Glin smiled to himself at the pause in the Captain's speech. Though he would read the dossier, he felt he now knew what the Captain was frustrated with. Not everyone was cut out to be an observer. Even Lieutenant Jenson, whose observations he valued beyond price, got antsy if not given some other task to do, some task that involved what she observed. It was part of what made her such an asset to him, that she could observe and then move so swiftly and unobserved to eliminate threats he felt could no longer be controlled. She made the perfect assassin and Glin went to great lengths to maintain her observer mask.

He wondered if this Captain had a similar ability in him and if he would prove to be as dangerous as Jenson. Time would tell, he thought, as he stepped into the room before the Captain, as protocol demanded, knwoing full well he was also leaving the Captain at his back. Ah, he thought, keeping his expression set and slightly annoyed, these are the moments I like best, seeing the currents disrupted by new pieces on the board. Would this captain be his tool? Or another's? Or even both? He chuckled to himself, perhaps he would send a thank you note to the Vice Admiral for calling the meeting, though he doubted the Vice Admiral would get the joke.

Nodding to the Grand Moff, he took his seat to await the others. Though the captain seemed to be dismissed from his thoughts, he still watched. There was much to learn at this meeting, it appeared.

Glin looked back at the voice behind him as he settled into his chair. He nodded, "Vice Admiral," he said, reading the insignia, "Perhaps for your shift, it is. For me, it is the middle of the night. So, I hope you will forgive me if I seem a bit on the grumpy side."

This was, of course, a bluff on his part. He wouldn't have made it to General if he couldn't operate on a few hours of sleep and still outmaneuver his foes. The Vice Admiral *was* Navy after all, it wouldn't do to not get at least one barb in. He kept his smile to himself. The meeting was beginning to show a promise of entertainment, if nothing else.

The Vice Admiral actually chuckled, and allowed a grin to remain on his face as General Glin responded. His heritage gave him a few advantages when it came to listening beyond words. There was nothing psychic about it, but people tended to have very subtle tells, tics, and stances in certain emotional states and he like many of his species was a master of non-verbal communication. He decided to play along with the General, to judge his response and see what the man was about, even in a limited manner.

"I'm sure that even a tired, grumpy General has his wits about him. I would expect nothing less from a man such as yourself."

The Vice Admiral waited for the Captain to enter, before slipping in behind him and walking over toward his chair. He stood behind it, nodding in respect to the Grand Moff. He didn't find it appropriate to salute in this particular situation, they were all here as equals ... hopefully. He additionally nodded to Major Rodney, recalling their first interactions, and shifted himself behind his chair for just a moment, allowing the *loaded* holster on his right hip to tap against his leg in a stark contrast from their first meeting. He did so on purpose, to draw her attention to the motion for just a split second. After that moment, he took his seat, placing his ever-present datapad on the conference table in front of him. Michael's ice blue eyes glanced down at his notes for a few seconds before they rose and surveyed the room.

"Once we're all here I can begin. I'll try to be brief as I know we are all very busy..."

Major Sierra Rodney was already seated at the conference table with her datapad. She set it down as she heard Vice Admiral Raven, General Glin, *and her aide making their way into the conference room. She looked at General Glin first, offering him a nod of her head. "Welcome, General Glin." She said softly. Despite seeing him many times previously, they had never spoken. Like any good ISB officer, she had done some digging around. The meeting would allow General Glin a chance to fall in her graces, or out of them. Her attention shifted to Vice Admiral Raven whom she had met with just the other day. He had already made a good impression on her. She liked that he didn't try to fluff anything up. He reported the bad. He reported the good. There was no in between. She felt inclined to make his life easier by attempting to fix broken relations between the sectors.

"Vice Admiral, it's good to see you again." There was something noticeably different about him today. He was armed. "Thank you. We are waiting on Major Eona and then we can begin." She informed both of them. She was glad to see her aide had come. She realized that she didn't have some mindless, fumbling officer on her hands. Tailon had been in the field before. He was likely bored with the trivial tasks that she was handing him. She hoped that Vice Admiral Raven or General Glin would have a better place for him.

Tailon tipped his head as he came to stand behind the Major. "Major." He said plainly and neutrally, standing at attention as he watched the others take seats at the table. He didn't really know what entitled him as an observer, and whether that meant having a seat at the table or standing behind his higher officer. Back during his time as an officer in charge of security on a planet, he was the one that usually sat at the table during conferences. However, this wasn't a security meeting. It was out of his league, and being conducted by his higher ups. As such, he decided to play it safe and remain standing.

The meeting wasn't exactly unorthodox. Considering the attention Chandrila had drawn recently and this new debacle that, even in a best case scenario, left the rebels more confident, it would have been impossible to avoid. Like with any incident that put the Empire in an unfavorable light, someone would be found at fault. There was going to be a scapegoat, and this meeting would begin the process of determining who it was. The name and division that was seeded with the blame would equally suffer for whatever unfolded planetside. It was an unfair game, but it was the one they played.

Major Serra Eona took a long drag from her cigarra, finishing it off then dropping it in a disposal unit within her office. Even after the installation of enhanced ventilation systems, a thin haze hovered around the ceiling, the room thick with the odor of the burnt leaves and paper. She left it behind, heading out for the meeting, producing a fresh cigarra and lighting it as she did. The smoke would be finished by the time she reached the Grand Moff's office, and once more the butt was disposed of, this time before she moved inside.

While her cold, off-putting nature was hardly a secret, for one who was particularly in tune with non-verbal communication the Intelligence officer was likely rather disturbing. It wasn't a natural thing, to be so devoid of exterior emotional expression. While she had taken to it rather easily, it was only with the help if intensive desensitization training that someone could be scrubbed so clean of such things. That unpleasant gaze passed briefly over those gathered as she stepped into the room, moving lastly over the Grand Moff and his wife before finishing with the Vice Admiral. This would be his show to begin.

No greetings or pleasantries were offered; Major Eona sat, settled, and waited. There was no sense in playing her hand until she knew the nature of the game this time.

"Phenomenal." Vice Admiral Raven said with a smile, his gaze lingering over Major Eona for just a second longer than the others, before returning to his datapad for one last view of his notes.

"Before we begin I'd like to recap our general efforts in the Shell, none of this information should be new to anyone; but I hope that it gives you perspective on why we're here today. We are not winning the war against the Rebels, and I would say that we are either slowly losing, or in a stalemate. They slowly grow more and more bold, attacking larger and more vital targets, and their membership continues to swell. While our resources are comparatively unlimited, they are slowly but surely leveling the balance of power. Recently, they managed to destroy a Victory Star Destroyer, with the loss of most of her crew, her commanding officer, and several support ships; for the loss of a few picket ships. For us, this is but a very minor setback, representing perhaps a quarter of a percent of our naval assets and firepower; but to them it is a major propaganda victory. Since that attack, we've had reports of additional dissidents sprouting up across the shell, and a surge in Rebel activity."

The Vice Admiral paused to scroll down his notes and stopped on a set of statistics.

"Looking at the Balance of Power, objectively, there is a decided ... skill gap, between the Rebel forces and our own. We control legions of stormtroopers, armored vehicles, and land defenses, and yet small bands of their commandos continuously confound our best efforts at defense and are able to pinpoint where we are weak and strike. A single one of their commandos is worth perhaps two hundred stormtroopers," he said, before purposefully looking at the General.

"This is, of course, not a slight against you or your methods. It is simply a matter of practicality. Our numbers are bolstered with conscripts, unwilling participants, or left over clones from the Clone Wars who are aging and losing combat effectiveness. Each of their commandos is a battle hardened veteran who is driven by ideology. I would pit any of our senior staff against theirs, and would expect victory ... but simply put, their rank and file soldiers are *better*."

"The same goes for our navy," the Vice Admiral continued, obviously willing to make the same point about his own branch, and drawing his eyes back to the center of the table. "A single one of their Capital Ships is worth a ship perhaps four times its size, and I would say that one of their elite pilots is worth the entire compliment of a Destroyer. Again, this is primarily due to the nature of each Rebel; they are driven by desire and fervor while our own forces languish for just the opposite reason. This approach is not without its advantages, of course. We can bring overwhelming force against the Rebels, and each time we are able to corner them, we have and will continue to obliterate them. That is why we are here today; to focus on our ability to corner them." Vice Admiral Raven drew a breath, and continued.

"Recently there was an issue with a shuttle. A shuttle from the Interrogator herself, which was slated to come to Chandrila. The contents of the shuttle and its mission were kept secret from the Navy, and the Army, with only requests for escort being made of both branches. It came under attack by Rebel forces, and my ship responded promptly, as I personally assumed there was some sort of VIP aboard ... as again, we were not informed of its contents. We jumped out of hyperspace onto a significant portion of the Rebel fleet. There were four capital ships, including a modified Strike Cruiser which we believe to be their one and only interdiction asset, along with several squadrons of starfighters. This fleet represents one of the biggest threats to us; as combined with some additional bombers, that fleet could likely bring down one of our better equipped attack lines. If, for example, we had been informed of the contents of the shuttle, it would have been all-together possible to put together an interception group which could have destroyed that entire fleet and brought the Empire the greatest victory its seen in the two and a half years since the first Rebel cells in the Shell began to form. Instead, while we were able to destroy one of their Corvettes, they were able to escape back into their hidden hive in the nebula. This entire issue could have been a major Imperial victory, if not for the lack of intelligence sharing between our branches."

The Vice Admiral repeated his last point, it was the crux of his argument, but noticeably lacking from it was specific *blame*. In fact, he didn't blame any one party independently, it was the system that needed to be fixed. Michael paused to take a breath and give the others around the table a moment to digest the information he'd provided. He wasn't quite done, but was wrapping up.

"Ultimately, I would like to know what we can do to improve the relaying of intelligence and information between the various branches of our forces. We cannot continue to keep secrets from each other, as we are *all* vital to this war effort. I cannot bring the firepower of my fleets to bear if intelligence doesn't give me the information to do so. I cannot invade a planet unless the army is there to actually put boots on the ground. And both of your branches require the Navy to at the very least get you from point A to point B safely, and confound enemy fleets and ground defenses when we can. I understand the... need for independence and secrecy, from the intelligence branch. You do not know where your enemies are, both internally and externally, and I appreciate the need for you to keep some information secret."

The Vice Admiral smiled widely.

"As such, and in the interest of providing a potential solution to the problem that I dragged you all here to talk about, I propose the following: We appoint an Intelligence Liaison. A trusted source, vetted by the Intelligence community and ISB, with a lifeline to the Navy and Army. Requests for intelligence or information which are initially denied by ISB or Intelligence go through this officer, who can then act as an intermediary and facilitate communication between each branch. This individual would be, if you don't mind me using a shockball reference, our safety. If the Navy or Army believes that there is something critical that they need to know, and initial requests are denied, this individual would be tasked with facilitating its acquisition. Conversely, if the Navy or Army have information that they wish to pass on to ISB or Intelligence in a clandestine manner, which is also quite common, this individual would receive that information and disperse it to the proper parties." The Vice Admiral's gaze fell directly on Major Rodney.

"And I believe that Major Rodney would be uniquely equipped to perform those duties, if the Grand Moff is agreeable to it."

General Glin leaned back in his chair as he listened to the Vice Admiral. While he did not agree with the Vice Admiral's assessment of how valuable a Rebel commando was against his Stormtroopers, he would, if pressed, have to admit to a moral problem. The Rebels in their zealotry were dangerous, willing to take high risks for high rewards. While his troopers were able to handle most of them, the fact that some of their high risk ventures worked was damaging.

His eyes narrowed slightly at the suggestion of Major Rodney to be that liaison. The wife of Grand Moff Rodney was not exactly in a position to be unbiased. As well, she had a newborn to take care of, which, if his reports were correct, she continued to take a personal hand in.

"An interesting proposition, Vice Admiral. The truth of the matter, however, is that we should not have need of someone to act as a liaison. If there is information that concerns the Rebels, it should be available to each branch. We each get pieces of the puzzle as we each specialize in one form of warfare. Though my men may argue the point, I know the Imperial Army and Navy are both equally important to the might of the Empire.

"Perhaps, we should create a secure repository of all our intelligence, giving each branch equal access to the information." He shrugged, "Since I am not a Navy man, I am not certain what information would be helpful to you. However, if you had access to the information I had, you could determine if any of it was important to you."

He smiled a bit at Major Rodney, though the smile did not exactly reach his eyes, "Besides, I am sure Major Rodney will resent the additional duties and time away from her child," returning his gaze towards the Vice Admiral, "Eventually, this resentment will cripple the purpose behind your proposal, Vice Admiral."

Glin didn't for a moment think his proposal would go through. But he wasn't about to let the Vice Admiral get his appointee without a fight. Also, he firmly believed Major Rodney was the wrong person for the position anyway. What they really needed was someone new to the sector who wasn't enmeshed in the politics of the region yet. That left Major Eona and this Captain Tailon as possibilities. While Major Eona wasn't exactly new to the region, her time attached to High Inquisitor Thanor had pulled her out of the politics for long enough that Glin was willing to accept her.

Vice Admiral Raven didn't want to make an enemy of General Glin, the man was clearly intelligent, and knew what he was doing; however he was slightly annoyed at the reply, though he wouldn't show it.

"I considered a repository as well, General. The issue is the compartmentalization of intelligence that ISB or Imperial Intelligence deems 'too critical'. We would have the same issue as we do now, with some items still being held secret. You are a hundred percent correct," he said, agreeing wholeheartedly with at least part of what the General said, "we *should* not need one; however our current methodologies are not working."

"And perhaps you're right, about Major Rodney," he admitted again. "To be honest the reason that I threw her name into the hat, as it were, is because not only do I believe she is a competent ISB officer, but she is also close to the Grand Moff in her official capacity, and could serve as a good nexus point between *all* of us. Of course, the Grand Moff, and the Major herself would have input and veto power over this. It was merely a suggestion..." He paused, and smiled, turning his head toward the General.

"Perhaps you have someone who you believe would be more fit for the position?"

The meeting, once underway, seemed far less aggressive than Major Eona had initially expected. Usually there was no lack of bluster and blame, with little done in the way of pragmatic, useful work. The problem was something that she could actually agree with; as a devoted servant of the Empire and positioned to see a great deal of what went on in the background, Serra was well aware of just how much ground they had lost due to infighting and failures within the bureaucracy with which the Empire functioned.

Still, there must be some angle. Something to be gained. No one rose through the ranks of the Empire without some selfish motivation, and no one could hide their intentions forever. The Vice Admiral played his hand when he made his recommendation.

There were plenty of reasons that he might have chosen Major Rodney. The most obvious was her relation to the Grand Moff, a man to whom it would no doubt pay off to be in good standing with. Serra couldn't be certain this was the intention, but even if it wasn't, the bonus of such a positive relationship couldn't hurt. Regardless, she doubted he would have rushed her name to the forefront without some motivation for it.

Major Eona listened still as General Glin spoke, formulating her own reply as he did so. The key to these exchanges was staying a few steps ahead, planning out the right words and deflections based on what she was likely to face. So far it wasn't an overly difficult effort, but if there was more at play here than initially suspected, it no doubt could prove to be

"As Commander of Imperial Intelligence in this Sector Branch, I am afraid that Major Rodney cannot be confirmed for access to our information beyond what her current position already permits." A glance was spared towards the ISB officer, just to get an idea of how she reacted to that statement. Her own voice was even and calm. Eyes returned to the Vice Admiral then as she continued.

"As you stated yourself, Imperial Intelligence is unique in that our investigations and work spread as far internally as they do externally. I understand that the officer who previously held my position was, shall we say, less than forthcoming at times with what could have been vital information. I can ensure you that Intelligence will be more reliable going forward, with less interest in political maneuvering and more interest in protecting the Empire from all who threaten it, from both within and without."

For now she held back on further explanation. Would they accept her rejection of the ISB Major without fuss? A part of her hoped not. She was armed for this battle, more so than most might anticipate, and there was a certain pleasure to be derived from making use of proper preparations.

As time ticked by, Sierra began to wonder if Major Eona would be present for the meeting or not. It was the smell of her freshly lit cigarra that announced her welcome. She arrived shortly thereafter. To Sierra's relief, *everyone* had come. She nodded respectfully to Major Eona, completely oblivious to what the woman was doing in her free time concerning her family. Her head turned towards the Vice Admiral to commit her attention to him. The tension was building in the Grand Moff's office. She was waiting for it to boil over into a screaming match between Major Eona, Vice Admiral Raven, and General Glin. To her surprise, Vice Admiral Raven kept a level voice. He didn't appear angry. When Sierra arranged the meeting, she thought she was creating a fight club...not giving Vice Admiral Raven a podium to voice his opinion. The tension released from her shoulders. She hoped this meeting would be productive and not boil down to a screaming match.

Though he played himself differently in the office than when meeting with her privately, Vice Admiral Raven was still respectfully blunt. Everyone knew what was happening with the Rebels within the Shell. It wasn't good. If the tides didn't begin to shift soon, then they would be in danger of flat out losing the war in the Shell. The recent event with the shuttle was especially disappointing. Raven was right. They could have made an impact greater on the waiting Rebels. An impact that would have left their fleet injured. It was this whole shuttle debacle that inspired on this meeting. The breakdown in communication had made everything fall apart. She glanced down at her datapad, which was currently displaying the tactical information left by Raven the other day. She had spent time reviewing both the tactical information, as well as the sensor log. She wondered how great the damage could have been if things had been different.

Finally, it came down to the main reason they were all gathered here: improved communication. Sierra believed that it was vital to their success. This was the circle of military. No one branch could succeed without the other. His suggestion of an Intelligence Liaison seemed logical. She nodded her head in silent approval. Perhaps this was the way to solve their problems. Sierra's eyes slowly widened as she realized that the Vice Admiral's attention had settled on *her*. He wanted *her* to be the Intelligence Liaison? She felt hot under the collar as he unexpectedly cast the limelight over her. Her eyes briefly darted to her husband as if she was asking him *really*? Before she had the opportunity to respond to Vice Admiral Raven, General Glin chimed in.

She looked at General Glin, who promptly denied Raven's nomination of herself. She disliked that General Glin dragged her personal life into the otherwise professional conversation. It was true. Sierra was very much so a mother to her son. That did not mean that she was weak in her duties to the Empire. Working for her husband was a motivator to do a good job so he never had to clean up any of *her* messes. General Glin had some wild ideas about Sierra. At least Vice Admiral Raven seemed to like her and have faith in her.

Finally, Major Eona said her piece. She sided with General Glin, but for different reasoning. Major Eona couldn't give her access to any more information? But *why*? Sierra had never done anything to prove to be untrustworthy. As shocked as she was, she internalized it. She wondered how far she could delve into Intelligence under Major Eona's nose. What where they doing over there?

"Vice Admiral, I appreciate you suggesting myself as liaison. I believe I could do a good job if given the role. The breakdown in communication is constantly hurting us. I'm the kind of person who looks to resolve problems, not make them worse. While it is true that I play a part in my children's lives, I assure you that it doesn't impact my performance there. It would be immature of me to grow resentful and cause problems." She looked to General Glin. Sierra had grown tired of being an underdog. She had lived in the shadow of her husband for a long time, but now she was ready to step out and prove that she could stand up by herself. "As to what Major Eona has revealed, as long as I have access to information that's pertinent, then there should be no problems as far as that goes. If you all agree for me to become the Intelligence Liaison, I will do my job well. If not me ... then who else? Who would you see nominated, General Glin?"

Grand Moff Rodney believed that if the branches of the Empire could ever agree and cooperate then they would win the war, but as he listened to the sector level officials assigned to his Oversector he began to understand how the Rebellion had managed to grow and inflict so much damage on his command. He had remained staring out the viewport, watching the endless stream of space traffic moving to and from the surface of Esseles. As they spoke among themselves he played a game with himself, attempting to identify each civilian transport and freighter before it jumped to hyperspace or landed on the surface. As such he only heard perhaps one word in three what the officers were saying, but it was enough to get the gist of it. There seemed to be some question and internal debate about how best to utilize his wife as a liaison, which Vice Admiral Raven seemed to be in favor of, but General Glin seemed against it ... Major Eona seemed to be against everyone in the ISB.

His eyes moved to the right, seemingly lost in further, silent contemplation as he looked at the bas-relief of the two thrantas behind his desk. "I have two biological daughters," he began, after an eternity of silence, and initially sounding as if he had gone completely off topic. "All their life they competed with another. For my affection. For the affection of their grandparents. 'Sharing' was a word that never entered into their vocabulary," he continued, as he lowered his head and began to reflect. "They were children. It was understandable. There was a reason for their actions. Those of you in this room have no excuse. You are not children," he said, as he brought his parable to its conclusion.

"We should not be losing to this ... this *rabble*," he continued, as voice increased in intensity. "I sometimes feel as if you are more concerned with the conflict among yourselves than you are with this Rebel cell," he concluded, shaking his head, as he moved about the room, taking a moment to look at each one of them with his hypnotic brown eyes. "We must make sure that every branch has the same intelligence. The same information. Right now the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing," he said, as he raised his right hand and outstretched his fingers. "You must stop thinking as yourselves as feudal chieftains engaging in petty turf wars and work in unison to crush our enemy," he said, as he closed his fingers into a fist.

He felt he had given a productive talk and made his point, and perhaps even inspired real change within his Oversector. If not for the strands of blue Squib fur spotted upon his tunic he *almost* seemed as if he knew what he was doing.

Keeping his smile to himself, he inclined his head towards Major Rodney, "I meant no disrespect, Major, just taking the uncomfortable position of dragging a reality into this conversation. Motherhood makes demands upon a person not even the Empire can counter. Why, even the Imperial prostitutes are allowed time to raise their children, as I know well, overseeing the many houses that entertain our troops. I only bring this up so you will know what experience I am speaking from."

Glin could hardly keep from laughing at the implied insult that the Major was an Imperial prostitute. He had not had much interaction with Major Rodney and now that she was irrevocably attached to the Grand Moff, it was time to test her mettle. Before she could interrupt him, he continued, "As for my own recommendation, while I will personally vouch for her competence, I hardly think the others at this table would agree to Lieutenant Jenson taking on this duty. However, I believe, taking into consideration the Grand Moff's point, that we need someone new to the area."

He speared Captain Tailon with a look, "I propose Captain Tailon for the position. As one recently from the field, his experience will help in coordinating the information. As well, he is not currently embroiled in our bickering, as the Grand Moff so bluntly put it."

Leaning back in his chair, he said, "There, now you have my nomination." His eyes held an amused look as he prepared to watch the chaos erupt. Someone would be appointed, he knew. If it was Major Rodney, he would deal with the injured pride from his veiled insult. If it were the Captain, then he would have a tie to the young man having given him a leg up in an otherwise dull career move.

A glance at Major Eona revealed little. He wondered that she had taken his side. Perhaps, a working relationship could be forged here instead of the dysfunctional one they had with Howe.

The Grand Moff was feeling quite confident after his monologue, which made General Glin's slight all the more irritating. He paused, stopping dead in his tracks, as he considered what the General said. The anger that flowed through him was quite unprofessional, but he was a husband first, and a Grand Moff second. He clenched his jaw so tightly that his face began to tremble, and his hand instinctively curled into fists. His head snapped to stare down the General and if looks could kill his eyes would have fired a blast equivalent to the Death Star's superlaser. He was moving in a flash, perhaps too fast, as he came to a halt in front of the Army commander. Suddenly everything he spoke about cooperation between the branches went out the window and he was preparing to lay the man out. He raised his right index finger, and pointed it right in the General's face, as his hand shook as much as his head.

"I will not tolerate talk like that, General," he said, as drops of spittle flew from his mouth as he finally began to speak. He knew that Colonel Zevrin had appointed then-Lieuteant Dakkar to be his aide long before their marriage, or even their relationship had begun. "There is a Storm commando posted directly outside my office. And I will order any one who makes a comment like that thrown out the nearest airlock," he warned General Glin, and then everyone else in the room. His nostrils will flaring and he was snorting like a nerf in heat. The General had succeeded in getting him off his skin and unnerving him. He looked to Sierra, his aide turned wife, to calm down, but he only became more angry.

"Now, Major Rodney will be the liaison. She has my utmost trust and confidence," he explained, as he made a deliberate point of turning his back to the General. "I want her to have access to *everything*," he said, as he shot a glance to Major Eona. With that, he moved from the group to the opposite end of his office where a pitcher contained cold water. His hand shook as he poured himself a glass, and he said nothing while he slowly drank it. He hoped the cold temperature would cool him down. It did not.

General Glin had come locked, loaded, and ready. Before her, her comrades, *and* her husband, the General tactlessly compared her to an Imperial prostitute. Internally, Sierra was appalled. It wasn't the first time she had heard comparisons like such, but it was the first time that it came down from a General, someone who she expected to have more respect. The meeting had turned into something she might experience back at the Alderaan Select Academy for Young Ladies. She recalled how her upperclassmen would tease her for being strange. Her blood pressure was rising so quickly that her head felt dizzy. Sierra Rodney had grown tired of this collective attitude against her. She had been the Governor's adjutant for over half a year. If she did not lay down her foot right here, when would the insults end. She calmly set down her datapad. Upon further inspecting, one might see a slight shake to her gloved hands. She narrowed her eyes and turned her attention on General Glin. As her mouth opened to slay the beast before her, it was her husband's voice which rode over her own.

He was *furious*. She was glad Doctor Tohan was not there monitoring his heart because it seemed as if it was on the verge of exploding. Sierra immediately realized that if she continued to be visibly angry, it was going to fuel her husband on. She tried to release it, sit back, and let Claudius lay into Glin ... and that was exactly what he did. His threat rang out in his office for all to hear...and then came his order. To the disapproval of General Glin and Major Eona, Sierra became the liaison between departments. She worried that this was starting off on the wrong foot. They had disagreed about who deserved the job. Claudius had shown everyone what it was to insult his wife, let alone do anything to hurt her. She looked at him. She still felt bitter and angry at Glin. She was glad to see him reprimanded. She lifted her hand to her head to massage at her temples. She wasn't sure how to follow up her husband's outburst. She hoped General Glin had learned his lesson and wouldn't open his mouth and insert his foot into it again. While Claudius served himself with a drink of water, Sierra spoke. "See to it that the Governor's orders are followed. Vice Admiral Raven has shed light on a very serious issue between all the branches. I do not care how you feel about me on a personal front. . ." She said, her eyes drifting to Major Eona, then General Glin. "I do not care how you feel about me on a professional front. What I do care is that you aid your comrades. So get over yourselves and make this work. We want to see more Imperial wins, not bickering between our officers."

It was going to be a fight. Major Eona had expected as much. She was prepared for it, invited it even, and as the Grand Moff and the Vice Admiral laid out their rebuttals, her own was formulating. Lips began to part...and then General Glin said his piece. It wouldn't have done any harm if not for the insult, and at that point the situation unraveled. Any hope of salvation disappeared when the Grand Moff acted with predictable defensiveness and poorly timed assertiveness. It was a decision that fell ultimately to him, after all. There were very few who could pull rank on Claudius, and those people were not inclined to take an interest in the affairs of this system unless things began to truly fall apart.

She noticed the looks they gave her, could read them clear as day. The Rodneys had pegged her as an enemy at this point; an uncooperative part of the mechanism. For all their talk about unity, lines were being drawn.

After Claudius and Sierra said theirs, it seemed time for her to talk, and so she would. The voice came out with the same even tone as before, but there was a certain hardness in her features that hadn't been there before. They were, indirectly, accusing her of being difficult for the sake of rivalry. It was time to set the record straight in the most damning way possible. "I feel my intentions have been misjudged, so allow me to clarify. My loyalty is to the Empire, and to no one else, and for that reason I must take certain precautions. Among them is allowing sensitive information to fall into the hands of rebel sympathizers...including households with known ties to them, and unpredictable entities within their care. If you want full access to Imperial Intelligence, then the family of the liaison must be fully vetted, considering the Rodney house's recent history with the rebellion. The entire family." A pointed look fell to the blue fir smeared across both Sierra and Claudius's tunics, before settling her eyes on the Grand Moff himself. It wasn't an outlandish expectation...for all intents and purposes, it was well within her capacity to insist upon it. The implications, however, were not particularly pleasant.

It was interesting for Tailon to watch this bickering. Amusing, even. At his previous post, he had definitely had his share of in-fighting. It never, however, got to lengths like this was becoming. He wasn't surprised, though, as many of the academy Officers and instructors encouraged ruthlessness, and fighting to the top was the biggest priority. Tailon had taken this training to heart, and used it against enemies of the Empire. However, it seemed to be another thing entirely to see it happen amongst your own superiors. It almost seemed to lower the high pedestal they seemed to sit on above the common officer and man: expose their humanity.

Tailon didn't even wince at the Grand Moff's outburst, knowing full well of the Storm Commando positioned outside. What did catch his ear, however, was Glin's sudden recommendation of him taking the role being discussed. *What is he up too*...

Glin was expressionless as the Grand Moff went into his rant. Touched a nerve, I see, was his only thought. When the Grand Moff was done with his threats, he said, "Tolerate talk like what, Grand Moff? I meant no insult to your lovely wife, merely attempting to make a point, forgive me that it was crudely done, I am, at heart, still a soldier and lacking the refinement of a diplomat."

He locked eyes with the Grand Moff, "Your reaction highlights the point, however. Children have no place aboard a warship," he said, his voice determined. "Even the lowest of those who serve the Empire know that. Are not children the next generation? Are they not the future we are fighting to create and preserve? Are they not deserving of the full attention of their mother?"

Pointing at Major Rodney, "Her child is why I do what I do, to provide a safe future. But I cannot do that if the child is in harm's way. The Retributor is an Imperial warship, not a pleasure cruiser, Grand Moff. It is time you remembered this. As a soldier, and from experience, it never goes well positioning oneself between a mother and her child. As I value the lives of myself and the soldiers under my command, I will not have them subjected to the time when she is put into a position of having to decide between the Empire and her child. Were her child to be fostered elsewhere, my main objection to Major Rodney holding the position disappear. As long as the child remains aboard this or any other warship, I will object and object loudly."

He settled back in his chair, "This is the main reason I have never had children. My service to the Empire comes first, I dislike entanglements to my loyalty," then he chuckled slightly, "That and the lack of desire by a woman to sire a child by me." He said softly, in a wry voice, but loud enough to be heard, "I can't for the life of me imagine why," poking fun at himself.

When the general had made his not-so-polite point, Vice Admiral Michael Raven had turned his head toward Grand Moff Rodney, instantly curious as to how the man would respond. That response was everything that he expected and more, though it was all together surprising it happened in the first place. He had considered Major Rodney a good choice for the position, objectively, and had prepared bulleted responses to several of the issues he thought could be brought up against her, and was ready to articulate them but yield if the negative pressure had proven to be too much. That said, the Grand Moff had the final say on this, and most issues involving the over sector, and his word was the gospel. The outburst had served two purposes, he thought to himself. The first was that his appointee was going to be put into place, and it was *very* clear that this was the decision of the Grand Moff. The second was that both the General and the Intelligence Commander had both said very ... interesting things. He had made notes on both of them, small quotes; to look over later and do a little bit of his own digging. Nothing untoward, of course, but a man in his position *also* had sources of intelligence and information that were outside normal channels.

With the General continuing to trade verbal barbs with the Grand Moff, Michael had finally had enough, and cleared his throat slightly to command attention.

"Ladies, Gentlemen," he said, shifting his datapad slightly. "I am not sure that any further back-and-forth is going to do anything except exacerbate the problem we have between our branches. General, if that is your major issue with Major Rodney, then I would suggest you bring your point up to Admiral T'Jarell. The presence of children on board starships falls completely under her purview as Fleet Admiral of the unit that the Retributor is under."

He regarded Major Eona next, *her* statement had been the interesting one, but there was nothing to be done at this point ... the Grand Moff had spoken. She had made an interesting point, however, and it deserved a response.

"Major Eona, as I understand it, Major Rodney does indeed have a high enough level security clearance that allows here to see *most* of the data that would be necessary to disseminate between our branches. The information she would need to know, I'm sure, would be focused on military applications, and not internal security. Those files would remain the way they are now, allowing you do perform your..." he paused, considering his words, before continuing. "Appropriate diligence, without untoward interference. I am of course assuming that is what you are worried about."

The Vice Admiral looked down at his pad one more time and tapped a few commands in.

"In either case, regardless of how everyone feels of the situation at hand, I believe the Grand Moff has made a decision. We should reconvene at some time and determine if our new methodology is working." He smirked slightly, glancing over at the General. "Perhaps next time via Holo."

The Grand Moff felt cornered in a way that he wished the Rebellion could be cornered. He looked at his own reflection in the viewport, pressing his hand to the transparisteel and simply wishing that he could transport himself and his family onto one of the freighters jumping out of the system and start anew. Unfortunately, he was a gentleman first, and could not simply run away when things became difficult for he had his personal honor and that of his family to consider. When Major Eona suggested an intelligence review of the entire family he cringed, remembering how such things had impacted his family before. He did not want them investigating his wife, his daughters, his brothers, his in-law. He curled his left hand into a fist and knocked it on the viewscreen gently.

"I will review the matter further," he said, without turning to face them. He was giving more attention to the nearby Perlemian Trade Route than he was the officers in the room. "Dismissed," he ordered, as he finally moved away from the viewport and circled 'round his desk until he settled back into his chair. He looked at the half-full bowl of starfruit on his desk, but declined to grab one for fear of making a mess while the others were still present. It would have to wait. He looked to his wife, briefly, and grimaced. *This* is why they were losing the war.

The meeting was becoming worse and worse. The very last thing Sierra wanted was for Major Eona to begin combing through her and her family's life. They'd find things...things that would put everyone at risk. General Glin had insulted her, but Major Eona had punched the air out of her lungs. Sierra was ready to give in and allow Major Eona and General Glin to have their way. It was clear to her, if she became the liaison, they weren't going to be forthcoming with information. Every time someone needed something would be like pulling teeth. General Glin also called for changes in her presence in her son's life. It was true that she did, often, bring him aboard the Retributor, however, he was never a distraction for other officers. She felt persecuted: cornered. She had no answers to any of this anymore. She looked down at the blackened screen of her datapad. She wanted the meeting to end...and it seemed Claudius did too. His words made her internally relax. They'd need to talk out what came next once everyone else had departed. With a quick glance towards him, Sierra rose. "Thank you all for coming. I will send an agenda when the Governor is prepared to meet again." She saw to herding their guests and pushing them to leave. She ended up walking beside Vice Admiral Raven. "I highly doubt you're going to get what you want, Vice Admiral." She warned him quietly.

General Glin stood from his chair, bowed slightly to the Governor, Vice Admiral and Major Eona in that order. Totally ignoring Major Rodney, he caught the eye of Captain Tailon for a brief moment, then walked out the door. He was silent on the way back to his shuttle, his eyes dark as he reviewed the meeting, analyzing the reactions.

Vice Admiral Raven was correct about one thing, future meetings would probably take place via holo. The Retributor, he had momentarily forgotten, was not his turf. Foolish, it had been, to challenge the old man in his own lair, though the implications of what he observed were well worth the risk.

Still wrapped in his thoughts, his shuttle left the Retributor. He knew now why the Empire was losing ground in Chandrila. The question he needed to work out was what to do about it and how to safeguard his own interests. This would take time he hoped he had before the old fool brought ruin to them all.

Things had devolved, as they often did. Hasty proposals, snap decisions, quick insults and quicker tempers. It wasn't anything terribly unexpected, and Major Eona had her own part to play in how things had come to pass, but she knew that her options were limited. From her experience, giving even the slightest bit of ground when it came to access to sensitive information opened doors for much worse. The idea of a liaison wasn't particularly to her liking, but having one in a family which had already proven compromised...well, she had said what she would on the matter. At the end of the day the decision fell on Claudius. Serra could only remind him of what his decision entailed.

As the meeting was dismissed, she rose, addressing each of those present in turn. "Major. Vice Admiral. General. My Lord." The assistant wasn't bothered with for now. A hand slipped inside her tunic, producing a cigarra. She lit it, took a deep inhale, and turned to leave.

Major Eona had no doubt there would be a liaison in place sooner rather than later, and duty would require her to work with them to some degree. As she walked further down the hall, thoughts turned over the possibility of Major Rodney taking the position. If she did, then the vetting would be all but required, and that alone could present opportunities. Mulling that over on the way to her offices lead to the decision that, should the Grand Moff follow through with his intent to place her in this new position, she would present no further objections.

After the abrupt dismissal by Grand Moff Rodney, Vice Admiral Raven said his pleasantries and left. He quickly found himself walking beside Major Rodney, and as she said her piece he couldn't help but smile.

"Actually, Major. I've already gotten everything I wanted." He motioned for her to follow, as he took a roundabout way back toward the hangar that contained his shuttle.

"First, you now know what Intelligence and the Army think of you and your family. Remember that. Think about what both the Major and General said, and I think you'll have an advantage over them both. Honestly it was a bonus, I didn't expect the two of them to be so ... blunt ... about what they thought about both you and the Grand Moff. Second ... even if you, as a liaison, help in one instance, my objective has been accomplished. You have to understand my primary goal is to crush the Rebellion. We represent order and peace, and they do nothing but introduce chaos. I invite you to check my file if you doubt my words... I have not made friends in climbing to my position. Honestly I'd probably be a full Admiral by now, had I played the game." The Vice Admiral mused for just a moment, wondering how different things would be if *he* had command of the Retributor. He cast these thoughts aside.

"Major, it is important you know my motivations. I fear that the Rebels are on the verge of a great victory. Not in our eyes, but in the eyes of the masses that we maintain control of. Every ship they destroy, every asset they sack, and every small win is but a pin prick to you or I ... but to the people, they are daggers into the heart of a machine they don't understand and they think is invulnerable. Every little nick and wound is a strike against God; and it empowers them to think they too can rise up against us. And so they join the Rebels; becoming part of a self-fulfilling prophecy and weakening the Empire. For example, take our Star Destroyers. We have dozens of them, and order them around as if they were pawns on a chess board; expendable. They are powerful ships, able to subjugate worlds without firing a single shot; their mere *presence* is enough to bring a people to its knees... And while the loss of any one Destroyer is literally nothing to us, and we can replace them in a matter of weeks along with their personnel ... to the *people* they are symbols of the Emperor's presence and power. The loss of a single one of these ships to *them* is a tremendous blow and instantly becomes a rallying cry against the Empire."

The Vice Admiral sighed, glancing at his datapad.

"Major, at some point these games are going to give the Rebels their victory. They'll corner and obliterate one of our Star Destroyers, or take out a commander such as General Glin or myself; they'll do *something* to incite the masses into action against us. It is my hope that what we've done here today will at the very least delay that, if not stop it entirely. You won't hear this anywhere but here, but we are under strength and struggling. Compounding that is all of the bickering between divisions and the politics, which just serve to divide us further. As I said before, we *are* losing."

Michael stopped in his stride, looking toward Major Rodney.

"Sierra," he said, looking her directly in her eyes. "Just remember that words are only that. You can be called a whore, they can call me incompetent or a fool... None of that matters. What matters is what we do, and our motivations behind it. I for one will continue to fight for order because I believe it is right ... and I hope that you'll help me accomplish that."

Vice Admiral Raven took a deep breath.

"I am glad that the Grand Moff saw the wisdom in appointing you as the Intelligence Liaison, and I look forward to working with you... Sir."

*Well, that was interesting* Tailon shrugged it off, no one acknowledging him as they started to leave the room. Which made sense, he supposed. With the exception being General Glin. The Generals sudden interest in him made Tailon feel ... uneasy. Did he want something with him? In whatever case, there was little Tailon could do about it. He would have to wait and see. His days in the Academy had taught him patience, so he would very well use it.

In whatever case, the meeting was done and over, with the only thing seeming to have been accomplished was a bunch of hurt and angered feelings, and the Major gaining a promotion of sorts. "More datapad work for me to organize." Tailon though begrudgingly. Tailon remained where he stood, waiting to see if the major would simply dismiss or, require a report, or whatever else.

Sierra continued to walk alongside the Vice Admiral towards his craft. Her eyebrows arched. How had he gotten what he wanted? Claudius had appointed her as liaison, but both General Glin and Major Eona had put gigantic road blocks in front of her. She was feeling like she needed to step down and allow Captain Tailon to step into the spotlight, especially after Major Eona made it clear that she wanted to delve deep into the family. Sierra was feeling more than a little worn after the meeting. She couldn't wait to find herself in the privacy of her husband's office where they could have a long chat about what happened.

"That makes two of us. The lack of tact from Major Eona and General Glin was ridiculous." Sierra had never played the political game. Before she was promoted to Commander and Claudius' adjutant, she had been a Lieutenant for some time. That was mainly because she never kissed ass. She did her job, and for that, a higher up ISB officer had dug her claws into Sierra and used her. She felt that the Vice Admiral was an honorable man. He cared for the overall objective of defeating the Rebels, not for his own personal gain. As the conversation drew towards the fight in the Shell against the Rebel, Vice Admiral Raven force fed her what she knew to be true. He was right. Each time the Rebels one, they spread their message of 'hope' throughout the galaxy. An influx of new Rebels came in each time they defeated the Empire. The situation with the shuttle, for instance, would heighten the problems on Chandrila. They were about to lose support on that planet. How would they get it back?

"Ah, Vice Admiral, I fear the same. There have been far too many loses for us lately. The Shell is suffering. As we speak, the people living in the city of Rhire on Rhinnal are without power. Why? Because the Rebel Starfighters blew their hydroplants to smithereens and we don't have the means of fixing them with any kind of urgency. Rhire is quickly becoming a breeding ground for the Rebels. Every day that passes without power, they will feel more like their Empire had turned its back on them." Sierra had her hand forced on the Rhire situation. She had contacted an upcoming politician and arranged a deal with him. He would use his funds to make her problem disappear. In return, she arranged a security droid to be send to him. The deal seemed like a good one, she simply hoped it didn't come back around to bite her in the rear end.

She was visibly pained by those words: *We are losing*. "You sound so confident. I'm beginning to wonder if we were both sitting in on different meetings." She seemed to be deflating after holding herself so tense for the entire duration of the meeting. "How am I to be a liaison between our branches when General Glin and Major Eona made their feelings crystal clear? I worry this will be a counterproductive endeavor. By aligning yourself with me, you're forcing your hand in these games people like the General play. You should not throw yourself into the crossfire if you can avoid it. If what the Governor wants becomes a reality, getting information from the General is going to be like pulling teeth."

"However... I don't want to lose. I hate it when I'm forced to watch a defeat over the holotank. I want more triumphs. I convinced the Governor to attack Brentaal IV and, for once, we saw a win. I grow tired of people like the General assuming they know about me because of my personal relationship. Words mean nothing. It is actions that show others what we are capable of. I want to help you, Vice Admiral. I don't want to play these idiotic politics games like they do. My efforts are better used elsewhere. I want to make my *husband* victorious." She clenched her hand into a fist. She had some serious worries about Major Eona...worries that could make her step down entirely. The idea of someone looking at her family under a microscope was terrible. The Vice Admiral couldn't begin to understand what went on within her family.

"To be frank," the Vice Admiral said as he strode down the grey hallways toward one of the Retributor's hangars, "we likely *aren't* in the same meetings. I see our logistics information for the fleet, whereas you likely have so many things crossing your desk and plenty of work for the Grand Moff that demands your attention. I fortunately don't have to deal with the politics, for the most part."

Michael chuckled, grinning a bit. "The General and I aren't in the same league, though he likes to think he is. There's a healthy rivalry between branches that can serve advantageous, but he seems to take it to an extreme. There's very little, if anything, he can actually do to countermand me. Sera and the ISB are another story, but that would likely need to come from someone of a higher position, and even then... I am a Fleet Admiral, and answer only to the Grand Moff and Admiral T'Jarrel. I have been examined thoroughly by ISB and Imperial Intelligence. My ... faith, is not in question."

He was right. Information passed over her desk in endless streams. It was hard to keep on top of everything. Sierra worked hard, but it seemed that few noticed that. Many of the simple-minded folk were centered in on who her husband was, not who *she* was. Claudius had warned her of Sera Eona. She was better off staying away from the woman, yet now she seemed to be closing in on her. He had, however, had nothing bad to say about the Vice Admiral. His faith truly wasn't in question. "It ought to be nice to be as clean as a whistle, Vice Admiral. I have been devout to the Empire since I graduated from the Imperial Academy, however, we all know about my family's Rebel ties. I belong to the ISB and I understand the kind of tactics my branch uses..." She said, recalling that every 'classified' report she made on her patients was read. People then were terminated depending on how far 'gone' they were. "I do not know that any good will come of this."

"Major, the good that will come is either we will succeed, smash the Rebels, and render their objections completely moot. Or, we will fail, it will force their hand, and we will have resolution one way or another." The Vice Admiral said, glancing down at his datapad.

"In either way, the petty politics should resolve themselves, and we will move forward. The risk is minimal, while you may have ... sympathizers ... in your family, both you and the Grand Moff are clean, aren't you?" He didn't expect her to actually answer that, it was more rhetorical than anything. "And the worst that likely happens is we lose a few political points and the General or Major Eona get a liaison they can more easily manipulate. The best that happens is we finally secure the Shell."

*Clean* was a pretty big label for both Sierra and Claudius. Given that her eldest stepdaughter was now acting as a leader on a secret Rebel community which *she* had been to? Sierra wouldn't exactly say she was squeaky clean. She was beginning to sweat in her uniform. The idea of someone looking through her family like that was stressful to say the least. She didn't respond to the rhetorical question. Instead, she let it hang in the air. "Securing the Shell is the ultimate goal. I am not concerned with what either the General or Major Eona thinks nor how many political points I hold. I have the Grand Moff on my side. He knows me and he knows my capabilities better than any of them do." She was going to have a long conversation with him about the meeting once she returned to his office. As she walked, she reached up and removed her cap. "I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again soon. If something noteworthy happens, please keep me in the loop."

"Of course, Major." The Vice Admiral smiled and glanced over at her. He paused, and considered his next words carefully, as he had been forced to do several times today. Michael opened his mouth to speak, and in a rare moment, closed it again; deciding *not* to say something. He was aware of a pregnant pause hanging in the air, and broke it a few more impossibly long seconds later.

"Your situation with the Grand Moff is complex, for obvious reasons. I think you should strive to show your merits independently of that bond; and I believe that this appointment is your opportunity to do so. I hope that if there are any developments, you also keep me in the loop; when applicable." He stopped walking once reaching the open door to the hangar.

"I believe this is my stop."

Major Rodney paused just outside of the door to the hangar. It was time to say goodbye to the Vice Admiral. She had a good feeling that she would be seeing him again in the near future no matter how things went. She understood the importance of having the ability to stand on her own, however, she wasn't afraid to play her most powerful card should people push her too far. She nodded her head slowly. "Yes, of course. That is what the meeting was about, right? Improved communication." Sierra smiled. "Good day, Vice Admiral. Expect to hear about my appointment in a few days when the Governor makes the announcement official." She stepped back and turned around. Vice Admiral Raven seemed like the kind of person she wanted to form an alliance with.

The Vice Admiral watched Major Rodney walk away for several steps before adjusting his cap and making his way into the hangar. He navigated the cavernous hangar before walking toward a waiting Lambda-class Shuttle which was already softly thrumming with power. A single Stormtrooper Commando stood at the bottom of the loading ramp, and saluted as the Vice Admiral approached.

"How did it go, sir?" The Stormtrooper Commando spoke, before turning and joining the Vice Admiral in his stride up the loading ramp.

"Quite well, I think. The Major was appointed by the Grand Moff as I'd hoped, and I think we'll be able to work closely with her. We'll give her a few days to get acclimated before introducing her to Operation White Dawn. That should give us a good indication on how much we'll be able to expect out of her. Is your team prepared?"

"Yes. We're ready to go as soon as the order's given, sir."

"Very good," Michael said as the loading ramp to the Lambda rose and the shuttle activated its repulsors to leave the Retributor. "Take us back to the Ascension." He ordered the pilot as he took his seat, the Stormtrooper Commando sitting across from him.

"Let's see how good the Major really is..."

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