Claudius Rodney walked into his office
after having just came from the execution of twelve suspected traitors
of the Galactic Empire. He had a weary look on his face ... executions
were always such a grim sight. They had not met their end like servants
of the Emperor ... they had begged, cried, and pleased their innocence.
It was a pathetic sight, he thought to himself as he moved over to the
sofa and quickly sat down. He began to peel the boots of his uniform
off, and exposed his sock covered feet. The boots were always
uncomfortable and squeezed at his swelling extremities ... one of the
side effects of aging.
The Storm commando was following after
him, having marched in perfect order back from the site of the
execution. Lieutenant Visla had been the one to administer those fatal
blaster bolts from that massive rifle of hers. Her black armor was
perfectly clean, but it was not gleaming. No matter how pristine it was,
the polymer it was coated with absorbed all light. It was a rather
fitting outfit for one to wear when surrounded by death. When she
reached her charge's office she would take her position at guard.
Claudius almost forgot that Brianna was
there as his right hand moved down to rub at his strained feet. Finally
he remembered he was not alone and pulled his hand away, his cheeks
reddening slightly with embarrassment. "Does Major Kiley suspect an
imminent attack on my person, Lieutenant?" he asked, as he placed his
feet up upon a table and leaned back to become more comfortable.
"Personally I think it ridiculous that you be cooped up in your armor as
if a Rebel commando team were going to suddenly burst in..." he said, as
he rolled his eyes at the armor clad vixen. "Off with your helmet at
least," he instructed, as he wiggled his toes in a vein attempt to ease
the tension in his feet.
It was hard to read a Stormtrooper even
when they were out of armor, let alone in it. Still, he managed to
surprise Brianna as she responded after a couple of seconds. "The
enemies of the Empire are legion, sir." Her voice was hard to recognize
through the helmet's filter. Only another second passed before she
complied with his order. Letting the strap of her rifle keep it hanging
on her shoulder, she used both hands to swiftly remove her helmet and
then clip it onto her belt. She looked a little bit...off...with her
helmet removed. Her teeth were furiously bit into her lower lip, perhaps
in an effort to keep her face intense and stern. Her eyes, though,
almost seemed to have a sheen of moisture on them. Once the helmet was
clipped to her belt her hands would take her rifle once more.
"You had it easy today, Lieutenant,"
Claudius explained as he moved for the control mechanism that activated
his holonet transceiver. In a moment Imperial Holovision was displayed
broadcasting news and events throughout the Empire. "You will find that
your targets very rarely will be standing still and lined up directly in
front of you," he was quick to point out, as his attention was split
unevenly between her and the HoloNet.
"Yes, sir. I have killed on the
battlefield before, sir." There was little to no quavering in her voice.
She had obviously not expected to have her helmet removed, but after a
few moments she seemed to have restored her facade. It was probably the
exception rather than the rule for most Stormtroopers, killing in such a
cold-blooded manner. Or at the very least, it should have been the
"It must be quite the let down then to
be assigned to a security detail..." Claudius said as he reached for a
bowl of local nuts and began to munch on them happily. "Tell me,
candidly, Lieutenant ... what do you think of this assignment?" he said,
between loud, almost obnoxious, crunches of the nuts. "None of that
'honor to serve' business that's straight out of a COMPNOR pamphlet
either," he instructed, as he pushed the bowl away before he was in
danger of being gluttonous.
The Lieutenant straightened up ...
although her posture was never anything less than perfect - and cleared
her throat before attempting a response. It was obviously that she had
identified social interactions as the largest area of concern for
herself and was treating very carefully. "I do think it is unusual for a
trained commando to be assigned to this duty, sir. I am certain we will
be deployed into the field soon."
"Hmm. Yes," Claudius said as his hand
went to the control again and deactivated the HoloNet. He was being
quite rude by attempting to manage a conversation while his eyes were
glued to a screen. "It is not a glamorous assignment ... but the threats
against my life, and the lives of my family, have been quite numerous
since I took command of this region," he explained, as he tried to
reassure her that her service was required.
"Yes, sir. I would never complain, sir."
As far as Brianna was concerned it was quite impossible for him, a Grand
Moff, to be rude to her. Most higher ranking Imperials felt that
Stormtroopers such as herself were stamped out at a factory, and she
would not disagree. "Whatever the duty, I am here to serve."
"What do you think of Major Kiley as an
officer?" Claudius asked again, as he began to probe her more
intrusively. "Off the record of course..." he said, with a kind,
reassuring smile, as his eyes lingered on the bowl of nuts. It took a
great deal of restraint to keep from indulging, but in an instant his
attention returned to the young Storm commando. "She is not what we
consider a 'conventional' officer," he explained, nodding his head and
This time it was impossible for her to
not give something away. Her stoic demeanor was no match for those kind
of questions. It was highly inappropriate for her to offer commentary on
a superior. Clearly Brianna looked like she thought this was some kind
of trap. On the other hand, she could not dare refuse to answer a
question from a Grand Moff. "Sir, I...the Major seems to be a very
observant officer. I am certain she must have many useful contacts to
have uncovered this conspiracy, sir. I do not have any experience under
her command in a battlefield situation."
"Oh there's no doubt that over the
course of her ... interesting ... life she has made certain connections
are no doubt worthwhile to the Imperial cause in this region..."
Claudius said, as he reluctantly reached for another handful of nuts. He
simply could not resist, and began happily nibbling on another group of
them. "I appreciate your candor on the matter, Lieutenant. I trust that
you will keep an open mind serving under her..." he said, attempting to
prematurely apologize for any of the faux pas that the Major was
likely to make in the future.
She nodded her head lightly, her
shoulder length red hair bobbing as she did so. "I know to respect those
who have been placed in authority over me, sir. I am one of the
Emperor's tools and I know my place." And she was a rather sharply honed
tool, or so it seemed. She rarely left her cabin, and when she did it
was only to go to various training areas on the ship.
"And should the officers you just
executed been respected by the men under their command, Lieutenant?"
Claudius quickly fired back as he looked at at her with piercing brown
eyes. "You must rely on all your senses, Lieutenant. Trust and respect
are to be earned ... not given," he lectured her, waving a finger at her
Her face flushed slightly as she
adjusted the position she held the blaster rifle in slightly. "May I
speak freely, sir?" The storm commando looked quite uncomfortable in
this conversation, not the least of which because of the subject matter
"Of course, Lieutenant," Claudius
replied earnestly, as he crossed his legs and folded his hands in his
lap. He had no idea what the young woman was about to say, but thus far
he felt she might be a little too deep in the forest to see the trees.
"If I am allowed to speak freely sir, I
would say that if I were to say the words which you just expressed to
me...that I should not trust and respect my superior officers until they
have earned it...to nearly the entire Imperial navy, I would be tried
for treason, and my fate would be the same or worse as those who were
just executed." Brianna cleared her throat again. She knew what she had
just said was risky, although it was no less risky than answering the
questions she had been given. "If I were free to speak I would say that
it is easier for Grand Moffs to have such unconventional beliefs than
for a humble tool of the Empire. Not that I disagree with these facts,
sir. I am certain everything is as it should be."
"You are right, Lieutenant ... it is
much easier for a Grand Moff to have a free opinion, than a mere
Lieutenant ... but I assure you it is the right opinion to have,"
Claudius reassured her, as he rose from his seat and began to walk
towards her. "Follow orders ... of course. Do not question your orders
... of course," he said to her, as he placed a hand upon her shoulder
armor. "But do not make the false assumption that everyone you serve is
loyal. These are dark times and treachery is everywhere. If today has
taught us anything ... it is that," he said to her, nodding his head as
he offered another kind smile.
She was apparently very good at
maintaining a mostly stoic facade. You had to look really close to see
her doing anything but staring straight ahead. "Can you share what you
believe my next mission might consist of, sir?"
"I let the Major handle that,
Lieutenant," Claudius said, as he walked over towards his desk for the
enviable task of sorting datapads. "Another advantage of being a Grand
Moff is my ability to delegate," he said with a soft chuckle and a
slight smirk as he settled into his chair and began to go to work.