Claudius Rodney rose from his bed the
moment he heard his holonet transceiver beep. He looked to his still
sleeping wife and was pleased to see she was a sound sleeper and had not
been disturbed like he had. Rising from the bet he let out a soft, tired
groan as he staggered, attempting his first steps of the morning.
Coffeine, he thought to himself as he moved from the bedroom to the
adjoining office and made his way towards his desk. His eyes went wide
when he saw it was the Warspite calling and wondered what it
could possibly be. He had asked not to be disturbed during his leave so
that he could have time with his family. Perhaps it was Lieutenant
Ames with one of her annoying reports as she constantly attempted to
impress her. He had spent time with her father, former Senator Ames,
during his time on Coruscant, and had to listen to him sing the praises
of his daughter for far too long. "This had better be important," he
announced over the link upon activating it, leaning back in his chair as
he awaited a reply.
"Indeed it is, milord," the icy voice of
Lieutenant Meham'ohorovi'cloca replied as her blue skinned face
shimmered into view. "There has been a disastrous attack on Cormond's
spaceport. Thousands are dead and the spaceport is currently
inoperable," she reported to the man in an emotionless voice. Any other
officer would tremble in reporting such news to a superior, but the
Chiss Lieutenant's demeanor would not allow such views to cloud her
"What?!" Claudius said as he slammed his
fist down on the desk as he looked to his tactical officer. He quieted
down embarrassingly as he was fearful he would wake and startle his
wife. "The Rebellion?" he asked, but he already knew the answer.
Obviously the swine had taken advantage of his absence for their strike.
There was no clear chain of command in his absence and he visualized all
of his staff orders feuding and competing with one another in attempts
to take credit for what had happened while he was on leave. However, now
one of them would surely take the blame for this disaster ... but which
"None other, milord,"
Meham'ohorovi'cloca replied to her commander once again. "It was clearly
an attack by Rebel insurgents, but the catastrophic loss of civilian
life will surely cause the people to turn back towards the Imperial
cause..." she theorized, with a firm nod of her head as she attempted to
paint a more optimistic picture of the turn of events. She felt that if
she were not a woman she would be permitted to play a larger role in the
tactical situation in the Ringali Shell, but realized that no one could
accuse Lord Rodney of being sexist given the unusual amount of female
officers on his staff. Indeed, the fact that she even held the position
of tactical officer aboard his flagship was extraordinary, though she
yearned for a command of her own. "There was a secondary attack on the
SallicheAg docking bay as well, Milord. Unfortunately there will be a
food shortage in Cormond for the interim ... though we have already sent
for renewed foodstuffs from Salliche," she informed him with a firm nod
of her head, allowing the man to know she was at least on top of things.
The holonet transceiver beeped
announcing there was another transmission and suddenly the unwanted
sight of Grand Vizier Sate Pestage appeared on the screen. "Lord
Rodney..." he began, sneering at him with that hooked nose and wart
covered skin from beneath the hood of his robe. "Your presence is
required at the Imperial Palace ... at once!" he shouted, his yellow
eyes emerging from beneath the shadow of the robes to glare at him for
just an instant before the transmission abruptly terminated.
Claudius uncomfortably swallowed as he
received the transmission from Pestage, expecting that the two events
were linked. "You will have to excuse me, Lieutenant," he said, nodding
to the woman as he terminated the transmission. He spun his chair around
and looked out at the bustling sky lanes of Imperial City, watching the
sun rise over the towering structures that made up the skyline. Was this
the end of his career? he wondered, as he rose from his seat and walked
over to take a closer look at the city. Would this be the last time his
eyes would ever glimpse the wonders of Coruscant? he again questioned
himself, as his eyes moved towards the well stocked bar the Alderaanians
had placed in his office. He needed a drink ... desperately, but he
would remain strong and instead focus on making himself as presentable
as possible for his meeting with the Grand Vizier.
Admiral Claudius Rodney cleared his
throat nervously as he stood in the antechamber of the Imperial Palace.
He had been summoned earlier that day, and he did not know the reason.
There were reports of yet another attack in the Ringali Shell and he was
fearful this be his dismissal as commander of the 219th Battle Squadron.
As he sat on a cold durasteel chair he looked around at all of the
sculptures depicting the ancient Sith Wars, of which he was only vaguely
aware. His hands intertwined with one another nervously as he bent them
outward, cracking his knuckles as he considered his options. Already he
was making excuses in his mind so that he would quickly have a response
to any criticism that might be laid upon him. Perhaps Inquisitor Thanor
was behind this, he thought to himself, cursing the meddlesome wench
under his breath.
Suddenly the door to the Emperor's
throne room opened and Grand Vizier Sate Pestage slowly made his way
down the corridor towards the Admiral. His wart covered face and hooked
nose were barely visible beneath the hood of his ornate robes, but his
piercing yellow eyes glared at the man angrily. He raised a bony finger
and thrust it at the man's chest. "You no longer have a spaceport, my
lord," he said in a condescending tone, referring to the prior day's
Rebel terrorist attack on Brentaal. "Your command languishes without
your presence," he said disapprovingly, the words of disdain spilling
out of toxic colored blue lips. "You have been granted an audience with
his Majesty ... see that it is not your last!" he warned him with one last
sneer, before stepping side to extend his arm towards the throne room.
The Grand Vizier had come to hold Admiral Rodney in contempt, but for
some reason the man continued to gain influence in the highest echelons
of Imperial command. Perhaps there was a reason Isard had pushed him to
return the man to his command.
"The Emperor ... wishes to see me?"
Claudius replied, struggling to get the words out of his mouth as his
heart began to fiercely beat in his chest. This was not good, he thought
to himself as he slowly stood from the chair and looked down the
corridor towards the Emperor's throne room. His subtle brown eyes
blinked slowly as hands moved over his uniform, adjusting it carefully
so that it would settle from the wrinkles he accrued while seated.
Slowly he began to walk down the corridor towards the throne room, and
he paused at the entrance at the imposing sight of two of the Emperor's
Royal Guards in their red armor.
"Enter ... Admiral Rodney," the voice of
Emperor Palpatine shouted from the highest peak in the room. He had no
time for delays as there was much to be done. The man was waiting for
news of his final victory against the Rebel Alliance in the Outer Rim.
By now he had hoped Lord Vader had already located their secret base. He
understood that his presence inspired dread and caused apprehension
among his officers, but he desperately wished the man would simply stand
before him so he could move to more important business.
Upon hearing the voice of the Emperor,
Claudius trembled and his face went noticeably pale. Like a young cadet
he marched into the throne room and immediately dropped to one knee in
front of the throne. He avoided making eye contact at all cost, and
bowed his head in complete obedience to the one he viewed was
responsible for bringing peace and justice to the galaxy. "Your
Majesty..." he humbly spoke as he remained in the a kneeling position,
unwilling to move a muscle without the permission of his Emperor.
"I have followed your service to my
Empire..." the Emperor began, his voice sounding as snarled as his
grotesquely deformed visage. Yellow eyed which seemed to have a glow to
them looked down at the suppliant, as he attempted to size up the man
and sense his potential. He sensed nothing extraordinary about the man,
but he would definitely be an improvement to the buffoonery that seemed
to be plaguing the ranks as of late. His loyalty, however, was without
question and he sense no ambition about the man. Good, he thought
silently to himself. Far too many of his commanders were plagued with
the disease of lust for power. "The Imperial Senate has failed to deal
with the Rebel threat, Lord Rodney. I have attempted my utmost to get
you the reinforcements that you need to deal with the obstacles that are
lay before you. However, my hands have been tied by sniveling
bureaucrats who wish for resources to be devoted to their systems as a
matter of pride, rather than where they are needed..." he was lying of
course, but he could sense the man's ties to the old ways, but was
confident he would be able to convince the man of his line of reasoning.
"The Imperial Senate is no more. You will return to the Ringali Shell
Oversector as my direct authority. All Imperial forces ... indeed all
citizens of the Empire ... will answer to you. Rise ... Grand Moff ...
Rodney!" the Emperor said, as he rose from his throne, and gripping his
gnarled cane slowly walked down in front of him, extending a left hand
for the appropriate tribute.
Claudius could not believe the words
that he was wearing. The Senate disbanded? he thought to himself,
realizing it had stood for millennia as the form of government of the
Republic and now the Empire that had replaced. He was wondering how the
Emperor could maintain control without the bureaucracy when suddenly he
heard that he was being given complete authority in the Oversector. A
smile curled upon his lips that he could not hide as he realized that
his long awaited promotion had finally arrived. "Your Majesty!" he
exclaimed with delight as his head finally looked up to view the man. He
reached for the Emperor's left hand and began furiously kissing the
gnarled hand of the man in gratitude. All of his hard work had finally
paid off and he had been awarded a position worthy of his standing.
The Emperor looked out the viewport as a
smile came upon his lips. He laughed in recognition that he had
successfully seduced the nobleman to his cause with the minimalist of
efforts. "We are grateful for your service, Governor. Now leave us so
that you may deal with your Oversector, and I may deal with 'my'
Empire..." he said, as he turned his back to him without saying a
further word and slowly walked up the stairs to regain his position upon
his ornate black throne.
Claudius stood without saying another
word and bowed at the waist to the Emperor once more. Slowly he began to
walk out of the throne room, never allowing the Emperor to see his
backside as a sign of respect. Once the doors shut on him he let out a
desperate sigh of relief, actually fearing for a moment that he might
have been about to be relieved of his command ... or worse. "I am out of
uniform, Grand Vizier," he said confidently as he looked towards the man
who he now viewed with less respect than he did a moment ago. With a
quick snap in his step he began moving down the corridor to tell his
family of the news.
Grand Vizier Pestage could not believe
what he had overhead. Rodney a Grand Moff? Unbelievable, he thought to
himself wondering how such an incompetent aristocrat could rise to the
level of Grand Moff in the Empire. He would never have made such a
mistake if he were allowed to make such decisions. He was thankful that
Isard had a high level agent in Rodney's command who could act should
any further mistakes be made, which seemed very likely. He thought about
warning the Inquisitor about the changing tide, but she had failed him
personally as well and would rather let the new Regional Governor tell
her himself. He shook his head disappointingly as he turned to greet the
next arrival at the throne room.
Claudius Rodney returned home from his
meeting with the Emperor to the friendly confines of Cantham House,
Alderaan's embassy on Coruscant. There was much debate in the embassy
that evening regarding the dissolution of the Imperial Senate and
whether or not they still had a purpose here on Coruscant. The members
of the Alderaanian Guard glared at the newly appointed Grand Moff Rodney
as he walked from the landing platform into the main foyer of Cantham
House. He was too filled with joy to notice any of the looks he was
getting, and he had already taken the liberty of acquiring his new rank
insignia, which he put quite the effort into adjusting. He had long
wanted to see a gold square on his chest and now there were three.
Though the majority of the occupants of
the Embassy were giving him terribly cold stares, there was one that was
regarding him in a different light, a silent contemplation as his
physical appearance was scanned. Aside from his rank, it was a perfect
match to a Claudius Rodney, his likeness was given to her digitally and
there was no mistake this was the man she was to meet here and at this
time. Unbeknown to him, the now Grand Moff arrived as expected as she
had been informed he was staying here during his time on Coruscant, but
he was not expecting her. But some unexpected surprises are good ones,
are they not? She had been patiently awaiting for him for some time, and
during that duration, had attracted the undesirable attention of
'suitors' that she had to politely decline, but she could not blame
them. She did not look like she belonged just in any location. An aura
of perfection and elegance surrounded her, accompanied by a gentle
humbleness that she developed over the year and a half that she
painstakingly practiced acting 'human', for Liliya Benedt was not in
fact human at all, but an extremely complex and beautifully crafted
android. But short of near complete dismantling, it would be near
impossible for any untrained or trained eye to realize her true nature
as her make was of Human Replica Droid variety, a mere hand fold ever
created if that. Developed and manufactured by the Imperial Department
of Military Research but her fate had turned completely from that path
the moment her original state was acquired by the Rebellion quite
unexpectedly. Her past databanks were completely wiped saved very few
details and entirely reprogrammed to serve the Alliance Intelligence in
which she was fully trained to be a capable and rather deadly spy if
necessary. Standing there by herself, was it any wonder she had
attracted so much attention, she stood out dramatically from the
surrounding area, wearing an elegant and classy wool black dress that
clung to her flawless frame. Youthful and stunning, anyone else would
wonder what someone like her was doing wasting around in a place like
the Alderaan Embassy. Short black cropped hair framed her face perfectly
and contrasted just right with her smooth porcelain complexion. A gentle
knowing smile towards the newly promoted Governor highlighted her lovely
forgiving and amiable appearance. A small black pocketbook and knee high
black suede boots completed her gorgeous attire that she wore
effortlessly. It was apparent she did not belong 'here', a lady of this
caliber deserved far better, perhaps Claudius was the man capable of
giving her that? Time would tell, but she had a clear purpose as she
approached him gently, her demeanor kind albeit a tad shy apparent as
she slowly lifted her eyes to make contact with his. They were deep
hazel and peered up to him full with hope as she spoke softly. "Lord
Claudius Rodney?" As if she did not already know that to be the truth.
Claudius Rodney blinked slowly as he
first caught a glimpse of the lovely young woman who was slowly
approaching him. She seemed to walk more like a graceful predator than
any human he had seen before. She certainly did not look like any member
of the diplomatic staff he had encountered during his stay in Cantham
House and at first he did not know how to reply. Again he blinked as he
heard her say his name, realizing he had never heard it said in quite
such a way. He could hear his heart beating in his chest as his inner
voice suddenly yelled at him to speak. "None other," he said to her,
with a polite nod of his head. He bowed fully at the waste as he reached
for her right hand like a gentlemen. He took her hand in his and slowly
raised it to meet with his lips as he placed a brief kiss upon the upper
part of her hand before releasing. "I am at your service, Milady ... but
you have me at a disadvantage..." he was quick to point out, canting his
head to study her features more carefully. There was something about her
that reminded him of his first wife, but he could not quite place it. He
had assumed she was Alderaanian by her presence in the embassy, and
perhaps the thought of 'home' was clouding his view of her. He had been
in a hurry to gather his family to inform them of his new promotion, but
now all he could allow himself to consider was finding out the identity
of the young woman standing before him.
Her seemingly delicate hand was warm and
soft in his palm and on his lips. Although she did not offer him or give
cues to that interaction, her databanks confirmed that this was the
correct and oftentimes expected Alderaanian greeting of high society. "A
gentleman, qualities that are slowly eroding." An honest although sad
opinion to the state of the ever changing fast pace values, but it was
clear that she was fully engaged in his gesture and quite appreciative.
As his hand left hers, she brought it to her pocketbook to pull out and
display a single holo-emitter that she held out for him to take. "I hope
this is sufficient, I was not told of the details so you will have to
forgive me." She of course lied but she did so with grace, and it was
polite to do so as the matters were private. "If you wish for me to
leave so you may listen to the contents alone, I will understand."
The visage of Viceroy Bail Organa
appeared from the holo-emitter that she had produced, not giving
Claudius the opportunity to dismiss her. The man smiled as a prerecorded
message was presented to them. "Greetings, Claudius. I wish to
congratulate you on your appointment as Regional Governor of the Ringali
Shell Oversector. I have long considered you a friend and an able
diplomat and I feel no one is more suited to the position than you," the
man said in a pleasant enough tone, though almost every word of it was a
lie. "The work of a Grand Moff is not an easy one and therefore I am
proud to present to you Liliya Benedt. Miss Benedt was a recent graduate
of Alderaan University and the finest candidate the Diplomatic Corps has
produced in a generation. You will find that she has credentials
approved by your father and your former brother-in-law, as a testament
to her ability and skill. She will serve you well as you once served me
well, old friend." With that the holo-emitter terminated and the image
of Bail Organa faded.
There was a light blush that flushed
across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose, easily faking surprise and
embarrassment, as if this was news to her as well. "Well, I...I..." She
stammered gently, her voice very soft before regaining her composure as
she looked to him with a nervousness she tried to cover. "I was not
expecting this. Please don't feel obligated, but I would be honored to
assist you in the challenges you will no doubt have to face." Liliya was
no less than brilliant, aided by her calculative bio-synthetic mind that
gave her an extreme advantage, but her job was to appear flawed and
human and thus she played that card without fault. Her eyes became a bit
distant as she glanced down towards the ground, lost in thought before
speaking once again, although it was but a whisper. "Viceroy Bail Organa
was always kind..."
Claudius was struck by the news that his
old friend had presented him with this ... gift. As the best man at his
wedding he wondered why his old friend was presenting him with such a
lovely administrative aide. Perhaps an overweight, balding male would be
a more suitable aid for the man. "Liliya is it?" he said, enjoying the
way the name sounded as it escaped the back of his mouth. He smiled at
the young woman, but reluctantly admitted he was heading for trouble.
His wife would most definitely not approve. "Your credentials are second
to none," he said confidently as he sized her up. "Have you been briefed
on the situation in the Ringali Shell?" he asked her, wondering what
steps his old friend had taken in preparing her for the role as his aid.
Truthfully, he could use an aid ... Major Kiley was not adept at paperwork
and he was finding himself relying more and more on his operations
officer, Lieutenant Ames who he got an uncomfortable vibe from. Not
to mention the fact that Inquisitor Thanor had no diplomatic graces
Liliya knew far more than she would ever
like Claudius to realize, about his life, his family, everything. She
was fully briefed on the Ringali Shell and more, her databanks covered
untold amount of information that any other would deem almost
unfathomable. She knew the ranks and names of every officer on the
Warspite thanks to her own data manipulation. A truly inspired
hacker herself, she could physically link into any computer that
contained an external port and download the entire contents in seconds.
"I'm so sorry, Milord, but I didn't know about this new assignment." She
fidgeted uncomfortably, her hands clasping her pocketbook a little too
tightly in mild stress of being put on the spot without any preparation,
or so it would seem. She looked up to him once again, eagerness to
please very apparent mixed with fear of giving a terrible first
impression and being judged incorrectly. "If given the chance, I will
learn it all completely." She vowed passionately.
Claudius paused for a moment, somewhat
surprised and disappointed that the young woman had not been briefed
fully on her assignment. Still, she was lovely, and there were only so
many lovely things left in the world. "You do understand that the job is
in a war zone and you would be in danger?" he asked of her, wondering if
Bail Organa had set up this young woman for a fall. The Ringali Shell
was quite a dangerous assignment, especially for one so young and
inexperienced. "I will not sugar coat this, my dear. It is quite the
risk you would be undertaking..." he explained to her, almost hoping she
would turn him down so as not to create the temptation for him.
Liliya shook her head lightly from side
to side, her black bangs swaying delicately, refusing to believe Bail
Organa had nothing but her best intentions in mind, and Rodney's. That
little spark of defiance glittering just faintly in her eyes. "I trust
Viceroy Organa's intuition and judgment. He would never steer me wrong.
I will meet and exceed all of your expectations, Lord Rodney." She swore
boldly and firmly as there was no doubt in her mind that she was the
best for the job in this galaxy and in the next. She flashed him a sweet
and confident smile, as if nothing could phase her. "I believe my
ability will surprise you."
Claudius paused for a moment as he heard
her response, immediately developing a bad feeling about this. "Very
well, Liliya," he said as he looked over her one last time. "We must get
to Esseles straight away," he said as he began marching to his
rendezvous with his family in their chambers. "Pack your things!" he
shouted, as he faded away down the corridor. What had he gotten himself
into, he wondered, as he prepared to spread his joy with his family.
Claudius Rodney returned home from his
meeting at the Imperial Palace earlier that day and hurriedly entered
the suite at Cantham House that had been reserved for them. On his chest
was the newly placed rank insignia of a Grand Moff, for which he had
finally been rewarded for his service. The Imperial Senate was no more
and the Emperor himself had granted him full authority over the Ringali
Shell. As he entered their bedroom, he stood at full attention like a
young cadet, and hoped Htaere would inspect him. His uniform never
looked better and he was smiling from ear to ear, secretly hoping she
would notice the promotion, though he doubted she would be able to
interpret the complex series of different colored squares that made up
the Imperial rank structure.
Htaere had spent most of the morning
gathering her things in anticipation for their ultimate return to the
Ringalli Shell. Hearing the door chime to the master suite, she finished
folding a gown to tuck neatly into one of her suitcases before glancing
up towards the new arrival before smiling upon seeing who it was. "Hello
Claudius," she canted her head, noting his immense jubilation. "You seem
Claudius cleared his throat as his left
hand went up to his rank insignia and tilted it so it could reflect the
light in Htaere's eyes. The three gold squares on the bottom right shone
brightly as he had polished them intently. He was quite proud of it, and
himself. "Notice anything different?" he coyly asked, as he flashed her
a quite content grin.
Narrowing her eyes slightly, Htaere
approached him and inspected the insignia carefully. "Hmm, these are
different, yes?" she thought on it, never really haven taken to studying
the uniform or understanding the various ranks.
"You are now married to the Grand Moff
of the Ringali Shell Oversector," Claudius announced triumphantly, as he
stood on his tip toes and bounced with enthusiasm. "The Emperor himself
appointed me. We must have made quite the impression the other evening,"
he said proudly as he moved forward, placing his arms upon Htaere's
side. He moved his head in towards her, kissing her on the lips
passionately. "Thank you for all you did with the children to make this
possible," he thanked her, his eyes starting to water as he was overcome
with pride for himself and his entire family.
Htaere nearly bounced stepping forward
and giving him a congratulatory hug. "Oh Claudius that is wonderful!"
she said enthusiastically. "I am so very happy for you, my dear." She
took a step back to look him over again. "You are welcome, my love. But
you deserve this for all your hard work and dedication."
"Unfortunately, we haven't much time,"
Claudius explained, as he looked to her packing, feeling quite relieved.
"There has been an attack on Brentaal ... it is serious. I must return
immediately," he explained to her, being honest about the state of
affairs for the first time in their relationship. "I have arranged for a
transport to take you and the children back to Esseles. I will meet you
there tomorrow," he explained to her, as he seemed in quite the rush.
There was so much to do and it felt like there was very little time.
Htaere nodded, withdrawing slightly. "I
see," she replied slowly. "You are leaving now, then?" she blinked a bit
while digesting the news.
"Yes. I must depart at once, but I will
join you on Esseles tomorrow," Claudius explained as he checked the
chronometer on the wall. He was already late for his shuttle. "Is there
anything you need from me before I depart?" he asked, hating to be so
abrupt with her, but his new duty came with greater responsibility.
Shaking her head emphatically, Htaere
smiled once more. "No. I shall tell the children of your news and assure
them you will be reunited tomorrow. I am certain they will be elated for
you," she nodded. "Congratulations again, my beloved."
"I love you," Claudius said, as he
placed another kiss upon her lips with renewed vigor and passion. This
was the happiest he had been in a long time, but he could spare no
additional time. He hurried quickly from the room, staring at the
chronometer one last time as he hurried towards the shuttle. They had
been gone from his command far too long and he needed to return to put
things in order. The meddlesome underlings in his staff no longer needed
to worry about Admiral Rodney. However, they were now faced with the
daunting presence of ... Grand Moff Rodney.