In orbit of the planet Malastare, the
Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Warspite and her escorts
loomed ominously over the Dug homeworld. In the conference room, Admiral
Claudius Rodney sat at at the head of finely polished black table. The
Admiral was in a fowl mood, having recently returned from being marooned
in the Aris system after an assassination attempt crippled his
freighter. He lowered his head contemplatively, looking at the
correspondence he had received from Sebban Keto. He had heard of the man
course, but he had never met him. What he heard, however, was mostly
negative and he doubted whether or not he could trust him.
Behind the Admiral, Major Kerrie Kiley
stood at rigid attention. Her hands were neatly folded behind her back,
and her eyes were fixated forward. She had no idea what this about, only
that she had been called here by a very agitated Admiral Rodney. Her
mimicked Human eyes glared to the right slowly at the other two women
present, she cared for neither but understood that their presence was at
times ... necessary. Behind her back, her gloved hands were interlocked,
nervously squeezing at one another as she waited for her superior to
reveal his intentions.
Major Arden Zevrin sat at the conference
table, on the right side of Admiral Rodney. The woman in her
early-thirties appeared irritated, but remained silent. The crème tunic
of her ISB uniform stood out in shark contrast from her blonde hair. She
expected 'bad' news, but it seemed to be a regular occurrence since she
joined his staff ... the escalation of the conflict in the Ringali
Shell, his refusal to allow her to execute civilians, the defection of
Captain Tong, the loss of the classified datadisk, and the reassignment
to Malastare. It was clear by his 'pained' expression that another such
revelation would soon be made.
Seated at the Admiral's right, opposite
Major Zevrin, was Captain Vanara Jolan. Representative of Imperial
Intelligence, the strikingly beautiful woman sat in serene contrast to
the visibly-irritated Zevrin, though how much of that was truth and how
much of it was merely to annoy her ISB counterpart and rival was
unfathomable. Clad in the black uniform of Imperial Intelligence,
tailored to emphasize the feminine curves of her body, Vanara brushed a stray lock of raven's-wing hair
back as she studied the trio of officers gathered with a careful,
measured eye. Major Zevrin's presence here intrigued her, for it
indicated to her that whatever was to transpire here, it was almost
certainly connected to the recent security breach. Though it rankled her
that such a breach even occurred, and stung her professionalism, it
amused her as well, for it almost certainly would fall upon Major Zevrin
to deal with the problem. Vanara suppressed a smile as she realized
that, should she utilize her unique 'resource' within the Major's
command, she could very well turn the situation to her advantage... and
to Zevrin's disadvantage. The prospect was positively delightful.
The holoprojector mounted on the
conference room table swirled to life, and revealed an image that only
one present in the room was anticipating: that of a handsome and
alluring man, with void-black hair and piercing cerulean eyes. He was
clad in robes of crimson and black, of immediately-obvious noble
quality, and regarded the Admiral with eyes that conveyed his presence
across so many light-years, as if he were physically present and
standing before them. "Admiral Claudius Rodney," he began, his voice
rich, resonating with a sense of self-assuredness and confidence. "I am
Sebban Keto. And I possess information that is most vital to you."
Claudius Rodney was a man who preferred
to decide what was and what was not vital to him. His eyes looked to
Major Zevrin and Captain Jolan for a quick moment, a look of disdain for this
'man' already apparent. His attention then focused on the projection,
returning his face to the same diplomatic visage he practiced using
during his days on Senator Organa's staff. "Thank you for contacting me,
Lord Keto," he began, sounding quite cordial despite his personal views,
"I am here ... as is my staff." He leaned back in his chair, tilting his
head to the right slowly. "What is this information?" he inquired
curiously, doubtful that it would prove to be anything useful.
Sebban regarded the Admiral with a
measured glance, his force of personality evident even from his distant
location on Empress Teta. He casually ignored the other Imperial
personnel present, as they were quite beneath him, and he debated for a
moment demanding that the Admiral dismiss them. After all, information
such as this was only for the most privileged of ears. However, the
Admiral had deemed them suitable to be present, and he was not inclined
to question his judgment in this matter. His eyes narrowing just so, he
began without fanfare. "There is an officer of the Imperial Security
Bureau under your command. Lieutenant Kendall Keto. As a close member of
her family, I have learned something disturbing. Lieutenant Keto bears
ties to this so-called Alliance to Restore the Republic." As he
finished, he regarded the Admiral carefully, anticipating a most
unpleasant reaction, indeed.
Major Zevrin's face sunk visibly as she
listened to the man's words. Not only did he out her operative as a
member of the Imperial Security Bureau, but he now had the audacity to
claim she was a part of the Rebellion. Her eyes narrowed on the
projection, her gloved fist instinctively slamming down upon the
conference table. Visibly perturbed, her eyes shifted to the Admiral,
eagerly awaiting his reaction.
"Kendall Keto?" Claudius repeated
slowly, it was clear that his mind was working rapidly. "Why do I know
that name..." he said to himself more than anyone else in the room. "The
bodyguard..." he said, remembering hr now, as he shifted his attention
over his shoulder to Major Kiley. "Isn't that one of your security
detachment?" he asked, trying to put the pieces of this puzzle together
in his head.
"Yes, sir," Major Kiley replied
immediately. Her eyes shifted to Major Zevrin instantly. She knew of ISB
tricks, but she never suspected anything like this. Her eyes pierced her
like daggers, her face reddening angrily. It was one thing to plant an
operative, but it was an entirely different thing to jeopardize the
welfare of the Admiral and his family's safety. To her there was a
difference, an unacceptable difference. "You had no right you
"Enough!" Admiral Rodney said as he
rosed his hand to Major Kiley as if she were a squabbling child. He
would not allow bickering ... not at a time like this. He shifted in his
chair, turning his body to Major Zevrin to await some sort of
Major Zevrin's eyes fired back at Major
Kiley's, a look of insulted rage upon her face. She remembered when she
first met her, back when the Empire 'first' captured her. She was
present when her mentor Wulf Yularen tortured her ... broke her. Oh, how
she would like to get her hands on her, but the Admiral was very
protective of his ... 'pet.' "It was necessary, Milord," she explained,
beginning her lie, "After the events at the Brentaal marketplace that
endangered the life of your fiancée ... I feared for the welfare of
yourself..." She paused for a moment, her voice trembling with a sense
of sincerity, her face looking forlorn, "...and your 'children'."
Admiral Rodney was cautious around
members of the Imperial Security Bureau. At the moment, however, he was
less mad with Zevrin's scheming than he was of the potential of having a
Rebel operative in his midst. He nodded to her, outwardly accepting her
account of the situation for the time being. His eyes shifted back to
Lord Keto. "You are," he paused as he addressed the man in a serious
tone, "...'quite' sure of this?" His eyes looked at the projection of
the man, narrowing his gaze. If he were lying ... He would mark this man
Even as the revelation was dropped onto
the Admiral and his officers, Vanara's own emotions raged within her.
She had invested considerable effort to turn Zevrin's agent to her own
ends, using her to keep tabs on the ISB's activities within the
Admiral's squadron. And if what her erstwhile blood-relation had
revealed was indeed true, it would completely destroy her investment.
However, she was a firm believer of the fact that when life closes one
door, it opened another. And, in her mind's eye, she envisioned the
realization of this situation's full potential. If Lieutenant Keto were
indeed connected to the Rebellion, she could prove a valuable asset
within that annoying organization of thugs and alien-lovers. However, it
would require action on her part, both subtle and decisive. And rapid,
for it would appear that the lieutenant was not long for this world. She
would wait until this meeting was adjourned, and then she would act. In
the meantime, she would simply relish the very poor light that this cast
her rival in. Major Arden Zevrin had much to answer for, it would seem.
"Unfortunately, Admiral, I am quite
certain," Lord Keto replied with false solemnity. "Years ago, when she
was serving as an auditor for the Carbonite Guild, information came to
light that I was only recently able to confirm. She assisted in the
exoneration of a man named Karm Atio, a Guild foreman at the mines on
Koros Minor. I was able to learn that, though acquitted due to my
cousin's investigation, Foreman Atio was indeed a member of the Rebel
Alliance, and that Lieutenant Keto was aware of this fact."
The Admiral nodded his head to Lord Keto,
listening to the allegation carefully. This woman had only been in the
background of his life and he did not recall much contact with her, so
he was not the right man to make a judgment. His head lowered slightly
as the gears inside his aging brain slowly turned. After some quiet
moments, his eyes raised and focused on Major Zevrin. "Major..." he
began slowly as he attempted to assess her sincerity, "could your
'operative' be connected to the Rebel Alliance?" He pulled himself back
a bit, waiting for her response.
Major Zevrin's expression remained
outwardly concerned for the Admiral. It would seem she had gotten
herself into a 'situation' here and she would have to work her way out
of it, more than anything. She knew Lieutenant Keto and had her doubts
about this man's claim, she was arrogant enough to believe that she
would have discovered the connection herself if they were true. Her only
concern now was herself, and she knew that the Lieutenant would have to
be eliminated before the Admiral had a chance to speak with her himself.
"Yes, Milord," she continued her lying ways, orchestrating her own way
out of this potential pitfall, "I have had my doubts as well. I was
conducting my own investigation on her, but this new information can
only confirm what 'I' already suspected, sir." She smiled to him, and
reached out her hand, placing it on top of his and nodded, smilingly
Claudius nodded to Major Zevrin and
accepted her account of the situation. His attention again focused to
Lord Kelo in the projection. "Thank you, Lord Keto," he said in a
polite, diplomatic manner. "This information has proved quite useful,"
he said as a smile came upon his face, "Please let me know if I am ever
in a chance to return this favor." He then nodded and terminated the
holonet transmission so that he could conclude the meeting.
The Admiral spun his chair around
completely to face Major Kiley. He looked up at her, rather than
bothering to rise. "Detain her," he said, his voice sounding enraged as
he commanded his most useful asset, "...immediately." He rose from his
seat now, visibly miffed at the notion of having a Rebel in his personal
detachment. He spun around looking at the two women to begin a lecture.
"This," he began with disdain dripping from his voice, "...'subterfuge'
you use on a daily basis breed creatures like this and 'encourage'
treachery." He slammed his hand down on the table angrily, shaking it.
"These officers forget who they are serving as they go through these
hoops," he continued, the level of venom increasing, "and turn around
and do something like this." He turned around, shaking his head as he
stared at the wall. "You are all dismissed," he said without turning to
look at them. "Captain Jolan," he continued, "...will handle the
interrogation. "Now go," he angrily concluded.
Major Zevrin was outraged. Not only did
this 'man' have the nerve to talk down to her and condemn her actions,
but now to turn the interrogation over to her rival in Imperial
Intelligence? She should remember this insult. She rose without saying a
word, her eyes looking down at Captain Jolan in absolute disgust. She
grunted audibly as she pulled down her tunic, adjusting it neatly,
before walking out of the room at a quickened pace.
Making her way almost briskly to a secured command station, Vanara
opened up an encrypted channel directly to Lieutenant Keto.
The younger woman was currently in her
quarters, as she was off-duty at the moment, and seemed to be genuinely
surprised at the major contacting her directly. "Captain Jolan?" Kendall
asked evenly. "What can I do for you?"
Vanara's eyes locked with Kendall's,
radiating import. "The Admiral has just received some disturbing news,
Lieutenant. From your cousin.
Kendall's hiss could be heard through
the comm-channel, conveying every iota of disgust that she felt for the
man in question. "Sebban. And what did that slime-ridden filth have to
Vanara told her. In detail. And
Kendall's reaction was just as Vanara predicted it would be: shock,
disbelief, and outrage.
"That cur! I will have him thrown into
the deepest pit on Ronika for this!" Kendall said.
But before she could continue, Vanara
held up a hand. "Enough, Lieutenant. As much as I loathe the Security
Bureau, I find it unlikely in the extreme that you would be allowed into
their ranks if there was even a hint of seditious thought within you."
Vanara sighed, giving Kendall the outward impression that she was
finding her next words to be hard to say, although in truth, she was
rejoicing. Finally, she had the means to rid herself of that annoying
Zevrin woman, and strike a blow of her own against the Rebellion. "It is
imperative that you listen to what I am going to tell you, Lieutenant.
Your very life is dependent upon it."
With those words, Kendall stilled the
raging fires of her anger, as well as the icy fingers of her fear. "Yes,
Captain. I understand. Please continue."
Vanara smiled. She had come to respect
this young woman's ability to focus on what was most important. One of
the key reasons that Vanara had originally approached her and employed
her as a double agent, for lack of a better term, within the Bureau.
"Admiral Rodney has ordered your immediate arrest and detainment, as
well as your questioning. He has placed that duty into my hands, as his
confidence in Major Zevrin is, shall we say, considerably shaken."
Kendall nodded, listening to Vanara as
she spoke. Her thoughts were difficult to focus, as she knew that her
life could very well be forfeit, no matter the truth of her loyalty and
fidelity to the Empire. It was ironic as well, considering that her
assignment was to monitor the Admiral himself for such sedition. But she
suppressed her thoughts, and gave Vanara her full attention.
"It would be a simple matter to
exonerate you of these accusations, Lieutenant. But I have a different
solution in mind, one that could bear much riper fruit, if conducted
carefully." Vanara said.
Kendall's dark eyebrows rose in
surprise, Vanara's last words sinking in quickly. "What do you require
of me, Captain Jolan?" she asked.
Vanara smiled, an expression devoid of
any real warmth. "Use these accusations to your advantage, Lieutenant.
The Admiral, as well as Major Zevrin, believe that you are guilty. Even
if I can convince the Admiral that you are innocent, it is likely that
Major Zevrin will eliminate you, anyway. She does not tolerate even the
barest hint of treachery within her ranks, and you are now a liability
to her. And you cannot continue to serve the Empire if you are dead,
Lieutenant." Vanara paused for the briefest of moments, allowing what
she had told the young lieutenant thus far to sink in, before she
continued. "I am giving you an AT3 Directive, Lieutenant. And your
orders are as follows. You are to commandeer a shuttle, and depart the
Warspite immediately. I can smooth that process over for you from
here, so you need only avoid being seen by Major Zevrin or any of her
people. Once you have done that, you are to proceed to the Lianna
system, and make contact with a woman named Varinna Etosha. She will be able to direct you
to the Rebel Alliance. You are ordered to make contact with the
Alliance, and insinuate yourself into their ranks. I will transmit an
encrypted package to Etosha, and provide you with the means to pass
along any intelligence you are able to glean on the Alliance's
operations to me directly. Do you understand your orders as they have
been given, Lieutenant Keto?"
To say that she understood would have
been a massive untruth. Kendall's mind reeled at what Vanara Jolan had
just dropped upon her. Though she had been personally recruited to join
the Bureau, due to her immense talent demonstrated during her time spent
as an auditor for the Carbonite Guild, Kendall did not bear the
near-maddening levels of Imperial fealty that the Bureau engendered in
its ranks. Though she was supportive of the Empire, and believed in its
tenets, she was no fanatic. And now, thanks to her vile cousin, she had
just been thrust into the heart of yet another conflict between the
Bureau and Imperial Intelligence. The very thought of being used as a
pawn in such a conflict disgusted her, as it did the day that Vanara had
'recruited' her, and Kendall had finally reached her limit of such
treacherous power-mongering. Though this was a lot of information for
her to process, she knew that she only had two choices: obey Vanara's
directive, or face certain death at her hands. Exerting conscious effort
to suppress her revulsion as well as her fear, Kendall nodded once,
resolutely. "I understand, Captain Jolan, and I will obey."
Vanara smiled again, and returned
Kendall's nod with one of her own. "Very good, Lieutenant. Proceed
immediately to the docking bay. The Pentax will be prepped and
ready to depart upon your arrival. Jolan out." With that, Vanara
terminated the comm-channel, and sat back in her chair. If she could
trust the young lieutenant to carry out her orders, she stood to gain
much... and her rival stood to lose everything.