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Skiftallya Sector: Captain Darius Crassus
Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 12:02 am
The perfect triangular wedge was marred by four large globes situated in its center. A control tower sat at the back of the wedge as well as three large engines. To anyone familiar with the latest Imperial designs this was obviously one of the brand new, incredibly exclusive, Interdictor cruisers. The frame of a victory star destroyer augmented with four gravity well projectors, the Interdictor-class cruiser was designed to force hyperdrives to shut down, forcing starships out of hyperspace and keeping them from entering it as well. It was a powerful new addition to the Imperial fleet and left those aware of its capacities in awe. To everyone else it looked like a deformed star destroyer.
This ship was in fact the Interdictor, the first ship of its class from which all other Interdictors would take their name. The man who had been granted the honor of being the first captain of an entire cruiser class had earned many accolades in his Imperial service including the illustrious Diamond Cross, the highest Imperial award for courage. His medals for previous service indicated he was an officer aboard the Devastator. His medals adorned his chest under his rank cylinders. None of this offset the youth in his face. He was at most 25 years old and easily the youngest captain in the Imperial fleet. This was his maiden voyage and he had just come out of hyperspace at his destination: the little known world of Skiftallya, capital of the Skiftallya sector.
The captain nodded to his XO. The much older man turned and saluted his captain.
“Contact this Moff Boise. Request his presence on the orbital station within the hour for a formal dinner of state.” The XO stiffened at this and paused, unsure of what to do. After an agonizing moment under his young captain’s gaze the XO speaks.
“Begging the captain’s pardon but are you sure that’s the best course of action sir? He is a Moff and therefore a flag officer.” Technically a Moff was the highest ranking flag officer able to boss around admirals and generals assigned to their sector. That a flag officer outranks a captain did not need to be said, though as the captain held him in salute the XO was tempted to mention that too. After a long moment the young captain rose from his chair and paced to his XO, circling him as a drill sergeant circled a private at boot camp, drawing out their exchange.
“Commander,” the captain let the word roll slowly off his tongue, emphasizing the disparity in their ranks, pausing, letting the XO sweat, “we are assigned to Lord Vader’s Death Squadron on a mission assigned to us by the Emperor himself. Tell me,” the captain paused yet continued pacing around his XO, “does that make us part of the Skiftallya sector fleet?”
“No Sir.” The XO stood there, the enormity of his actions sinking in. He’d questioned his captain in public, specifically in front of the bridge crew. While not mutiny the captain could break him back to lieutenant. And as he stood there sweating the XO remembered that his new captain’s last berth had been XO of the Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator, Lord Darth Vader’s own flag ship. Vader had a reputation for executing disobedient officers. The XO hoped fervently that his captain had not picked up the same habit.
“So what authority does Moff Boise have over this ship?” the captain asked casually as he paced.
“He has no authority sir.” The XO swallowed quickly, still holding his salute.
“And our Imperial mandate? Does that affect the hierarchy in this situation?” The captain’s voice remained casual.
“Yes sir.” He was going to die. The captain was playing with him, drawing him out and letting the entire crew see his idiotic mistake and then going to kill him, the XO was sure of it.
“How does that affect things, and speak loudly I want the entire bridge crew to hear this.”
“Sir, it makes you the highest ranking military officer in this system, sir!” And the XO had just questioned him in public. His captain didn’t even need a reason as the high military in this system he could have him shot for anything.
“Exactly!” the captain’s voice was a roar, “I am the highest ranking military force in this sector and none of you shall forget that! There will be those who will tell you this moff outranks me, and know this,” the captain was now addressing his crew, “any man who is loyal to the Empire, to the new Order is loyal to me! Your oath was sworn to serve Emperor Palpatine, not this moff! In this sector I represent Palpatine’s will, do not forget that!” The bridge crew erupted in a cheer, and the captain leaned in close to his XO and whispered.
“Never question me in public. If you see a problem you will address me in private and you will point it out to me. Fail to be private or fail to point out a mistake you see and I will dishonorably discharge you and see you end this voyage as supercargo. Consider yourself reprimanded.”
“Yes sir,” his XO responded, sweating more
“And change your uniform, you’re sweating like a gundark,” the captain leaned back, raising his voice again as he readdressed his XO, “Carry out your orders Commander Francly!” The captain saluted and Commander Franly finally released his salute.
“Aye, aye Captain Crassus!” The XO spun on his heel and began barking out orders to the bridge crew.
Master Chief Trahan
Posted: Mon Dec 18, 2006 5:34 pm
He stood at attention, his uniform simple, crisp and perfect, the rank bars on his chest marking him as a master chief in the Imperial Navy in the dark blues that signified formal wear. He was an older gentleman, the first of his hairs starting to grey, and a patch on his uniform marked that he had served the republic during the clone wars. He wore an ornate pistol on either hip with rancor-bone grips, a gift few would recognize as being granted by the Correllian service during the clone wars reserved for retired special forces operatives. He stood in front of the captain’s chair on the command deck, waiting as the captain finished with whatever business had him occupied. Darius, also dressed in formal navy blues, eventually shut down his holo display and looked at the sailor.
“At ease Chief Trahan,” the master chief switched to the at ease position, “Report.”
“Sir, dinner is prepared and ready to be served.” Darius sat, waiting for a moment.
“You are fully aware that your dinner is a redundancy? That the meal is being prepared incase the station chef is unable to create the opulence that a formal Imperial dinner requires?”
“Sir, yes sir.”
“And that there is a very good chance that you will not be required to attend?”
“Sir, yes sir.”
“So why are you dressed in formal blues?”
“Sir, call it a hunch sir.” Darius raised an eyebrow, then laughed lightly and stood.
“Walk with me Master Chief.” The two men walked over to the main view port, Master Chief Trahan always precisely two steps behind and to Captain Darius’ left. They stood looking out the view port for a moment or two.
“Chief, what do you see out there?” Darius asked.
“An orbital platform with two ships docked, sir.”
“What kind of ships?”
“Sir, a chef is not trained to identify capital ships by profile, sir.” Darius laughed lightly.
“Humor me with a guess then.”
“Sir, as a guess I’d say that’s an old Carrack-class cruiser and an Acclimator-class cruiser. And I don’t see any running lights on that bulk cruiser that’s in orbit sir.”
“Exactly. That’s over have the sector fleet’s firepower in dry dock. Tell me Chief, did you get a glance out a view port before you had your hunch?” The master chief let a sly smile cross his lips.
“That is possible sir.” Darius smiled at the answer not bothering to look back.
“Indeed. I’ve been reading over your dossier Chief. You’ve been in the Imperial Navy for less then five years and have achieved the rank of Master Chief. That’s an amazing feat.”
“Sir, yes sir.” Darius and Trahan stood there for five long moments, looking out the view screen. Eventually Darius spoke first.
“You have permission to speak freely.”
“Sir, I can have your dinner loaded onboard your shuttle in a matter of moments.”
“I have every confidence that you can. Make it so.” Master Chief Trahan turned and left. After a moment Darius sighed and turned as well; heading down to the ship bay on his cruiser.
Darius had earned a reputation for stealing away the best chefs while serving as a line officer on the Devastator. He hadn’t stolen Master Chief Trahan, the chef had been assigned to the crew. While it was more then likely that a master chief would request a berth on a new class of cruiser, how Trahan had risen in rank so quickly was a mystery that warranted Darius’ attention. The man’s dossier had nothing in it except for his last few years as an Imperial chef. Imperial Intelligence policy was to have one operative in the bridge crew just in case and Darius had already identified him and Darius couldn’t imagine why they would plant a chef with a history of special forces in his crew.
Darius arrived at the Lamda class shuttle that would ferry him to the orbital station for his state dinner with Moff Boise. He saluted commander Francly and entered the ship. He moved to the cockpit, saluted the pilot, sat in the co-pilot chair and started doing a pre-flight. Master Chief Trahan was something he could ponder later, for now he had to inform a Moff that he was no longer the most powerful man in the Skiftallya sector. Darius smiled.
Posted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:13 am
“…Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred!” The girl put down her comb and let her long brown hair fall to the back of her neck. She smiled at herself in the mirror and bubbled slightly, giggling to herself. She picked up some lipstick and started puckering toward the mirror wanting to get her lips just right before she applied her make-up. Right as her lipstick was about to touch her lips she felt a hand on her shoulder. Ever so carefully and ever so quickly she put down the lipstick, not wanting to get any on her gown. She turned and saw another girl who looked a great deal like her, dressed in a more ornate gown, gold thread with an emerald trim, her hair already perfectly set and her make-up exquisite.
“Emmy! You’re not ready yet?” The first girl frowned slightly then smiled quickly. Frowns make wrinkles.
“Aurio, beauty cannot be rushed.” Aurio, the second girl, sighed and sat on the bench next to ‘Emmy’ and looked suddenly stern.
“Emera Anissa Jilryca D’Skiftallya, if you weren’t my little sister I would have you whipped for insolence.” Aurio held her stern visage until Emmy collapsed into a laughing fit. Aurio lifted her up and smiled. “Come now, I’ll do your make-up. We must hurry, father wanted us at the royal hanger fifteen minutes ago. He threatened to leave without us.” Emmy laughed again.
“Oh Aurio, he always threatens to leave without us. Father adores us and loves to let the galaxy know he has the two loveliest daughters the cosmos has ever seen.” Aurio was applying her sister’s base makeup with a sponge and picked up a brush and some dust to set it.
“Close your eyes and hold your breath.” Emmy did as she was told as Aurio applied the dust to her face. “Not this time dearest sister. Didn’t you hear the urgency in father’s voice? And when was the last time we held a dinner on the space station? And Samward said there was a new ship entering the sector, a capital ship. All done, open your eyes.” Emmy blinked a few times and smiled.
“So what if there is a new ship, it’s just another ship in the fleet isn’t it?” Aurio sighed as she gathered make-up and put it in a little case.
“I forget you were only six the last time the Empire sent us a new ship. There are ceremonies and ceremonies to be held. The ship christening and the knighting of the captain and the changing of the colors and the change of command and a thousand other pomp ceremonies where the press will be ever-present.” Emmy looked down at her sister closing the case and made a grab for it but Aurio was too quick for her.
“Why are you taking my blush, you know that’s my favorite color!” Aurio dropped the make-up case in her purse.
“You can finish putting on your face on the shuttle, you’ll have plenty of time.”
“But Aurio!” Emmy pouted.
“No buts! First Mother sent me in here to get you ready and be glad I didn’t send a servant, how embarrassed would you be then? Besides any of us may need a touch-up kit if there’s a bad spill at dinner.”
“Please Aurio!” Emmy sniffed, a sign that she was getting ready to throw a tantrum. The youngest in a large family of royalty, at sixteen Emera had refined her tantrums to a high art form.
“No Emera, and if you throw a tantrum I will have Father leave you behind. Now scoot!” Aurio shooed Emmy off the bench and the girls exited the room.
“Aurio?” Emmy asked, a hint of pleading in her voice.
“Yes Emmy?” Aurio asked.
“Will you do my make-up for me?”
“Of course Emmy.” Aurio gave her sister a half hug as they walked down the hallway.
Posted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:19 am
Samward D’Skiftallya stood in full court dress, layers of fine, embroidered clothes manufactured in the textile mills of Kuteri, one of the largest cities on the planet, and the capital of Samward’s vassaldom to his leigelord and father. The threads were metals, mostly gold and platinum, interwoven with silk in his hereditary colors of sky blue and platinum, from his mother, which accented the dominate colors of gold and purple, from his father. Samward was the first/third son, the first son of his father’s third wife. As a first son of the reigning monarch he had the potential of creating a new dynastic line by being chosen by parliament as his father’s primogeniture heir, and would become the next ruling monarch of Skiftallya. Consequently Samward had been trained by the finest tutors in the sector his entire life, and was part of his father’s regency council and chairman of inter-sector commerce. That was why he had been notified of the presence of the new ship and it’s rather unorthodox arrival. No one had gotten word that it was coming, not even the spies from Imperial Intelligence that Samward kept well bribed had known the new cruiser was coming and that disturbed Samward, as well as the entire regency council.
And then there was the transmission. The message this Commander Francly had sent had been terse and that concerned Samward even more. The Skiftallya sector was a lethargic sector, slow to change or to adapt to change. The proclamation of an empire two decades back hadn’t truly changed the way of life of most beings in this sector. The biggest change was being assigned a Moff. Father had dealt with that most adroitly and luckily as Moff Boise was a political appointment who had been chosen by Palpatine to appease some earlier campaign promises. Boise was little more then a lickspittle who couldn’t command an army or inspire a populace, at least in Samward’s opinion. Father had gotten Kris, his third/first son, sent to Imperial academy and on his return Kris rose swiftly through the ranks of the home fleet and was appointed Admiral of the Skiftallya fleet.
And now a cruiser larger then any in the entire home fleet had arrived, unannounced. There was to be a dinner, a state dinner, on the space station. Father had requested his two daughters be present. Samward was in charge of getting them there. Father had already left in his shuttle, and they would be journeying to the space station in Samward’s personal yacht. He checked his timepiece as the doors to the royal hanger opened and Aurio and Emera entered. He smiled at them, they were beautiful, and quite intelligent and could be the key to this diplomatic mission.
Nodding his head in greeting Samward turned and offered his arm. Aurio took it and released her younger sister. They walked to the shuttle silently. Two Mon Calamari slaves stood at either end, serving as gentry this evening. They entered the opulent shuttle and Samward was offered Champaign from the southern Kuteri vinyards where it was produced. Emera accepted readily and Samward glared at her, a reprimand for her horrific breach of protocol. He was to be served first. This was not the time for one of Emera’s tantrums. Fortunately the Mon Calamari slave was well trained in protocol and did not respond to the young mistress.
“None, thank you, for any of us.” Aurio was not phased in the least, as this was perfectly within protocol. Emera started to pout. Samward waited for the slave to leave their compartment before he turned to Emera to reprimand her.
“Child.” He paused, waiting to see her reaction at this calculated insult, his face a cool mask of indifference. Emera’s bottom lip quivered and she glanced at Aurio. Aurio’s head was bowed in contrition, signifying that while protocol forbid her from leaving the room she was no longer part of this conversation. Emera set her face, clearing her tears far faster then she could have had she been truly upset. She blinked once to pull back a tear and glared at Samward. Emera was not contrite, she was still somewhat rebellious, or possibly looking to deal. Samward would accept that for now. “You are my responsibility for this ceremony so listen well. You will not pout. You will not shed a tear. No one will confuse you for a child. You will act like the lady you have trained your entire life to be. If your training has been wasted on you and you do not have the deportment of the royal family of Skiftallya then you will be best served stay on the shuttle.” Emera stuck out her chin and replied.
“You would not talk to me this way if Father were here.” Samward said nothing. His hand moved slowly and surely, flicking a single switch on the com next to him. The view screen flashed on and a beautiful woman’s face filled the screen.
“Oh Samward, I see you have the girls, how lovely!” the woman preened noticeably. Samward did not spare a glance in her direction. While her tone had been friendly and warm his was cold and formal.
“Princess Reltanya, vassal of the Sabriq lands and my own fifth mother if it would not be a displeasure it would hearten me to enjoy the presence of King Josef Mikalius Danteri Regestwin Naphtali Lenin Bersoba Antalexia Haroldius D’Skiftallya the third, Regeant the Skiftallya sector, Ruler of Skiftallya, royal monarch and rightful owner of the Skiftallya system, honorable vassal to our Emperor Palpatine, and high lord of parliament.” The King was on screen before Samward had finished requesting his presence.
“I am present loyal Vassal, how may your service bring me pleasure?”
“Your majesty, it is always an honor to be graced by your presence, I pray a thousand times a day that you will rule forever and that I may never be asked to fill your majestic duties as I am utterly inadequate for the task.” His majesty raised his eyebrows, surprised that his first/third son would choose to continue with the full court greeting after he had dispensed with it.
“I pray that you may live ten thousand years forever as my vassal.”
“Your highness is far too generous with your most humble servant, I am not worthy of an iota of consideration. For your pleasure would you enlighten me on the protocol of introducing a sister into your presence sire? Your humble and incompetent servant needs constant reminders to serve you with my inadequate utmost.”
From off screen on the King’s side a voice could be heard muttering something about laying it on a bit thick. The King’s head turned, glaring and the voice was silent. His son had specified full court protocol and comments like that would be punished severely.
“Beloved vassal, it is my pleasure that you introduce her not as my daughter but as your sister.” Samward raised an eyebrow at Emera, almost daring her to speak. Emera, however, had learned quite a bit from her training and knew what repercussions there were for speaking out of turn. She also realized that the meting out of this punishment would be Samward’s responsibility as witnessed by the King at full court honors. “What other pleasures can you bring me loyal vassal?”
“It is beyond my capabilities as a servant to find better ways to please you my gracious and beloved king. If you can suggest a way, I will serve.”
For anyone unfamiliar with Skiftallyian protocol, the entire exchange came down to this moment. King Josef officially made Aurio and Emera Samward’s responsibility. Samward was now offering his father the chance to ask for leniency for his daughters, specifically Emera because Aurio was a perfect lady who never misspoke since the day she was introduced at court.
“Beloved vassal, you have served me far better then any other. I trust your judgments to be always loyal and in my interest.” Samward blinked, just once, and it was the only indication he had that anything was out of order. That was high praise, higher then he’d ever heard from his father in regards to anyone, even his own brothers.
“Great King, you honor me far more then I deserve. I cannot persist much longer in the glory of your magnificence. Verily, I do not wish to cause my sovereign lord any further pain from my sad and pathetic existence.”
“Beloved vassal I will not keep you from your task of bringing me greater pleasure.”
“By your command.” Sam reached out and switched off the com. It leapt immediately to life with the visage of King Josef. His tone was not formal, but personal, and friendly.
“Emera. Ah there you are. Go fix your make-up and then call me right back. We need to have a few words about you recent, ahem, performances, especially your more public ones.” Emera blinked twice, surprised that her father would even hint at reprimanding her, even in the overt privacy of being with her sister and first/third brother. Court protocol did not apply anymore, Emera could say what she wanted.
“Father! Aurio promised to help me with my make-up.”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible,” Samward interjected, “I need to speak to my first/fifth sister in private.” King Josef raised an eyebrow at this, and nodded. Emera exploded.
“But she promised! You always tell us that we have to keep our promises! She has to help me!” Tears were at the edge of Emera’s eyes and her voice was a piercing whine. The King’s face was forming into a scowl, but Samward was first to respond.
“Lady D’Skiftallya, I remind you that you are on a diplomatic mission with an envoy of the Galactic Empire of our beneficent Emperor Palpatine. It would not behoove you to be recalled from this mission before you have a chance to begin it.”
Emera glared at him for a long moment, fists clenched at her sides, daggers bursting from her eyes, filled with a rage she is slowly learning to be impotent. Taking a deep breath and composing her face into the picture of tranquility, Emera turned to her father and smiled.
“Of course Father,” Emera said, “I would be delighted to call upon you. Allow me a few short minutes to refresh myself.” The King smiled.
“Of course my daughter. I await your call.” The view screen went black and Emera took another deep breath, then stood, picked up the make-up kit Aurio had packed and exited silently to the refresher. Aurio watched after her and shook her head.
“She’s really a good kid Sam,” Aurio said with a sigh, “I wish father did not have to be so tough on her.” Samward raised an eyebrow.
“It is not my place as a son to question my Father’s methods of raising his children, nor is it my place as a vassal to comment on my sworn lord’s family.”
“And as a brother?” Samward broke into a smile.
“As a brother I am doing my best to help my littlest sister be the very best she can be. But now, I have a matter of considerable importance to discuss with my favorite sister.” Aurio slapped him playfully.
“Oh Sam, you shouldn’t have favorites.” He laughed.
“Some things just can’t be helped. Now then, regarding this star cruiser,” Samward started. Aurio was taken aback.
“It’s a star cuiser?”
“900 meters, unless Kris is wrong.”
“And Kris is never wrong. 900 meters, is it a Victory-class?”
“Same basic shape but with four globes in the center. And the power plant is at least twice the size of a standard VicStar. The transponder reads Interdictor if that tells you anything.” Aurio shook her head.
“Well we can at least be glad it’s not an Imperial-class. Has any briefed you on this dinner?”
“Only you, when you said it was a capital ship. Why wasn’t I briefed that it was coming?”
“Because no one knew it was coming, not even our beloved Moff Boise,” Aurio could hear the scorn in Samward’s voice when he spoke Moff Boise’s name, “and he didn’t leave us much time to get ready either. Only an hour.”
“But it’s been more then an hour since the ship came in system.” Samward nodded.
“Verily. Worse still we know nothing of this Captain Crassus.” Aurio’s eyes went wide.
“Crassus, as in Crassus Manufacturing?” Samward nodded again.
“And Crassus Shipping and Crassus Communications and Crassus Agriculture and Crassus who knows what, we don’t know, we haven’t had time to verify anything. We do know the Crassus family has a long history in the Republic military, it’s not hard to imagine our Captain Crassus could be part of that fold.” Aurio took a moment to take that into her head.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Do you really need to ask? Flirt with him, distract him, wheedle information out of him anyway you can. Short of selling your virtue of course.”
“Of course.” Aurio paused and exhaled slowly. “What if he’s old?”
“I don’t care if he’s 99 and living off bacta and ryll. We are going into this blind. I don’t know if you caught this but he’s a ship’s CAPTAIN and he ordered a MOFF to dinner. His message was terse but it was clear he expected it to be followed.”
“But that’s suicide,” Aurio protested, “even a captain in the intergalactic fleet doesn’t outrank a Moff. Even Moff Boise.”
“I know. Be careful. Be observant, and be vivacious. If you need me, kick me, I’ll be sitting on your left, Emera will be on my left, close enough to help if you need her. Our mothers will probably be on his side of the table. I had Father promise at least one of them would be close enough to help if you need it.”
Aurio closed her eyes and took a deep breath, exhaling it slowly and finding her center, taking solace in the calm she found there.
“Alright, I’m ready Sam.”
Roughly 15 years ago
Posted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 1:52 am
“Come now Alfize, you’re the best debater in the Sern Sector!” The man speaking was one of the tallest men in the rather exclusive restaurant, if not on the planet. His visage was skinny and often stern, unrelenting. High eyebrows and cheekbones, he was almost frightening when he looked at someone casually. Even now while he was pleading he was a visage of wrath as it seemed he would not get what he wanted. He was Commodore Tarkin of the Imperial fleet and he was used to getting what he wanted.
The man sharing his private booth ould not be a greater conrast. Corpulent would be a kindness, with thick, black, greasy hair, and he was horribly short, hardly 5 feet tall. His jowls were ever present and he had beady eyes beneath his flabby chins and brow. But when his soft, fleshy face lit up with a smile, and his eyes began to twinkle, as they were now, he became the icon of a jolly fat man. No one would ever be afraid of him, and you could understand how this rotund, nigh-gamorean was known as the golden tongue; who, it was said, could sell raincoats on Ryloth and charm the ears off a gundark.
“Oh Willy, do you have be so melodramatic? I mean really, it isn’t the end of the galaxy is it? I’m already committed to a speaking tour at some universities on Sern Prime. You wouldn’t want me to re-nig and blemish my honour?” He lifted his glass of wine, a selection from some backwater planet called Skiftallya. He took a sip. The wine was surprisingly tasty and the waiter had said their Champaign was the finest of the outer-rim. Tarkin raised an eyebrow, and let his hand rub his chin.
“I have known you since university Boise and we both know you have no honor, just a price to be bought at.” The short, fat man laughed jovially.
“The way you sweet talk Willy, why I’d think you were seducing me.” Tarkin glared at him.
“That is far from funny Boise.” Boise giggled.
“I don’t know, I’m amused.”
“Cut this nonsense and name your price Alf. I’ve offered you money, I’ve offered a posting in the military, I’ve offered women by the drove, what is it you want?” Tarkin’s voice had taken on a calm Boise knew to be far more dangerous then his bluster. But then, Boise had planned on that from the beginning. He sipped his wine, savoring the moment and the wine. He swirled his glass goblet counter-clockwise thrice and swallowed. His eyes met Tarkin’s and in an instant the twinkle in his eyes took on a sinister gleam.
“Power.” Boise let the word sink into Tarkin’s mind for a moment as he wove his web. And no, not electrical power, but true power, the power over people‘s lives.” Tarkin blinked, taken aback for a second, then leaned in a bit closer.
“I offered you a posting in my forces.” Boise chuckled once and shook his head as he replied.
“No Commodore, I do not mean military power. I mean political power, ruling power. The power Palpatine has an overabundance of.” Tarkin nodded, his eyes taking on a dangerous glint.
“You want to be Emperor?” Boise leaned back laughing a little louder, the web woven and his bait taken, the fly was snared.
“Of course not. You’re forgetting I interned for Flirry Vorru, I know what that kind of responsibility does to a man. No, I want to be Moff.” Tarkin raised an eyebrow, a little surprised, but intrigued. He leaned closer. “And not just any moff either, I want to be moff of some sector so far out in the boondocks that they don’t know what the clone wars are. I want to be so far out that they just heard that Valorum was voted out and Palpatine was voted in.”
“Why so far away?” Boise swirled his glass again and smiled.
“Because I don’t want to be disturbed Willy. I want to be left alone, and grow old and fat,” Boise paused and looked down at his body, “well, fatter and run things my way. I’d pay my taxes and send supplies to the core and they’d leave me the hell alone. I want to be the big fish in the little pond. That’s enough for me.” Tarkin nodded, leaning back, relaxing.
“Tell me Alf, what makes you think I could help you with that?” He was fishing, it was obvious Boise knew something of his plans for the outer rim.
“College? What about college?”
“Political geography. You did 3 projects on the outer rim in that class alone. Then there was galactic history. You did recent expansions in the republic, which is the outer rim. Your final speech in rhetoric was on the need for the outer rim’s resources. So Willy, do I need to go on?”
“I hadn’t realized you were paying me so much attention.”
“I wasn’t I just have a memory for that sort of thing. Want to know what Carsly Bohiggins final speech was? This is a factor as to why I’m such a brilliant public speaker. More of a prerequisite really, being able to recall facts is the hallmark of debate. Of course I am the best. ”
“Call it a lack of pretension. I know I’m good, you know I’m good because we both know if I wasn’t the best you’d be talking to someone else.”
“And for what you’re looking for, creating a state of unrest and a planetwide protest so you can come in and quell it, well, you’ll need the best.”
“Maybe, but this job isn’t worth a moff-dom.”
“No, and neither will the next one. Nor the next one. Nor the one after that. But add them all together and there you have it.”
“What makes you think I’ll need you to do this again?” Boise chuckled slightly.
“Come now Willy, drop your pretenses. You need a face man, a propagandist to work the crowds for you. If it isn’t rabble rousing it’ll be appeasing the crowd or getting them to choose one side over the other, hell, I’ll even get them all to drink your favorite soda if you like. That’s what I do, I persuade.” Boise paused, swirling his goblet again, counter-clockwise. “I can do that for you. I can make people love what you love and hate what you hate. You’ll probably end up grand moff, second to the Emperor and all I’m asking in return is a measly posting in some backwater sector. You’ll never hear from me again. And you already know you can trust me, otherwise you wouldn’t have come to me in the first place.”
“You make a convincing argument.” Boise smiled and took a sip of wine.
“It’s what I do. And now you’re thinking it’s too convincing, too neat, everything all wrapped up in a little box and being delivered to you.” Tarkin raised an eyebrow.
“Something like that, yes.” Boise refilled his goblet, carefully studying the bottle and pointedly not looking at Tarkin.
“When was the last time you were with a woman?” Tarkin’s eyes bulged and his face flushed slightly red.
“How dare you? It is preposterous…” Boise looked him in the eye and cut him off.
“Last night, three girls from the college I gave a speech at. They just had to spend the night with the man who made them come alive with the thought of imperial service.”
“I used to think so. I don’t want power just to have it, I want to use it. And I want to enjoy myself. I figure as Moff I’ll be invited to all the fanciest parties and be grand marshal in all the parades and let’s face it, there’s no aphrodisiac like power. As Moff, I would have an entire sector to debauch.”
“It’s my price. And your only hope. It must be horrible to be a commodore. Commanding fleets, I’m sorry, flotillas and not even being a vice admiral or a rear admiral. Face facts, every promotion past lieutenant commander in the Imperial navy is a political one. That means you need a politician.”
“You have a point.”
“Of course I have a point, I always have a point, that’s why I get paid for what I do. Do we have a deal?”
“If I were you Alfize, I would pick out the pattern for your drapes.”
Posted: Fri Dec 22, 2006 7:32 am
“WHAT!!” the word exploded out of his gaping jaw, sending his volumous jowls flopping against his face. His beady little eyes were squinted in anger, making them almost invisible behind the fat folds of his forehead. His nostrils flared, making his pig-like face resemble a gamorean in all but color and tusks. His body was worse, folds of cellulite were barely constrained by the sleeveless one-piece undershirt he wore, and his boxer shorts were barely visible for the belly fold that obscured them. The years had not been kind to Moff Alfize Boise.
The sliver of a Mon Cal quivering before him was resplendent with sweat. The horrors of being enslaved to a petulant, mad egotist were as fresh as the scars on his back. It would be his hide to repeat it, and it would be his hide if he didn’t.
“Please sir,” the reed-like, salmon colored sentient croaked in the deep, throaty voice of his species, “I must be reading the note wrong, I fear I am not worthy to be your slave.” the Mon Cal got down on his knees and proffered the note up to his owner. At five foot nothing, Boise could finally cower over his alien property.
“Give me that you pathetic sleemo,” Boise snatched the paper from his slave’s long fingers, “get out of my sight, you disgust me.” The Mon Cal thanked the stars and all the gods of all the tides as he crawled out of the room on his hands and knees. Boise shook his head. Beat them to death and the damn things couldn’t get I right. He wanted them to venerate him as the nobility prostrated themselves before King Josef, but the damned slaves couldn’t get it right.
Somewhere in his cavernous, once-great mind he knew that the nobility’s self abasement before their King was not just a cultural tradition, but also a hyperbolic reflection of their own love for their ruler. The King protected them, he was a paternal element in their lives. A part of him was reminded of this by the fact that the nobility abased themselves to the king and the slaves did not. But it was only a tiny part of Boise’s mind that still functioned analytically and it grew smaller everyday as he killed it with liquor and spice and carnal pleasures that repulsed everyone who knew him.
“Moff Boise,” he mumbled the note aloud, “your presence is expected at the Skiftallya Space Station in one hour’s time to join us for dinner. Commander Francly by the order of Captain Darius Crassus, Interdictor, Death Squadron. What the hell is ‘Death Squadron’ and what the hell is an ‘Interdictor’? Capital ships have names like ‘Indomitable’ and ‘Death’s Head’ and ‘Iron Fist.’ They don’t have names like ‘Interdictor.’ What is he some privateer, think’s he can barge in here and order a Moff around? I’ll show him a thing or two. SLAVE!!!” Boise looked up from his note to see the down trodden Mon Cal leap from the floor, standing rigidly at attention.
“Yes milord?” the amphibian croaked.
“Get me Admiral D’Skiftallya on the Holo,” the Moff growled as he went back to reading the note.
“But sir, you’re…”
“Do it now, or I’ll show you the back of my hand!” Boise yelled, raising his fist above his head. The Mon Cal scurried to the holo projector agains the far wall and quickly connected to Admiral Kris D’Skiftallya. The Admiral was a tall man, muscular and young. Even through the holo projector he glowed with the vitality of a man in excellent shape. Dressed now in a compromise outfit: the formal Imperial admiral deep blue with an ornate Skiftallya cloak in his father’s gold and purple trimmed with three alternating stripes of crimson and emerald, his mother’s colors. The three stripes signified he was her third son, effectively identifying his standing in court.
“Hello Sefton,” the admiral addressed the Mon Cal, a smile crossing his face, “it is always a pleasure to see you. How is your Master?” While it was a standard pleasantry on Skiftallya, Sefton always felt the Admiral was kind to him, treating him with a respect undue the station of a slave.
“My Master, the exalted Moff Boise of the Skiftallya sector, would like to speak with you.” Admiral D’Skiftallya nodded.
“Of course Sefton, at his Moff’s convenience.” Moff Boise decided now was convenient and barged into the holo receiver, shoving Sefton and sending the Mon Cal sprawling.
“What is the meaning of this?” Spittle flew from Boise’s mouth as he held up the note, every horrid inch of his mammoth bulk captured by the holo cameras and replicated perfectly for Admiral D’Skiftallya’s displeasure. The Admiral smiled politely, no sign of distaste evident on his face.
“Moff Boise I do believe I have the pleasure of knowing you better now then I ever have before.” The Moff shook his head, his face scrunching up into a disquieting spectacle then looked down at his inappropriate and inadequate clothing. He glared daggers off camera, no doubt at poor Sefton who probably tried to warn the fool and would be rewarded with pain no matter how righteous his attempt had been.
“That doesn’t matter now, who is this Captain Darius Crassus, and what the hell is an Interdictor and what is a Death Squadon?” The Admiral took a moment to compose himself and when he spoke he was the epitome of calm and etiquette.
“Darius Crassus is an Imperial captain, specifically of the Interdictor which is probably the largest capital ship that has ever graced the Skiftallya system and it could undoubtedly destroy our entire fleet and then decimate our cities via aerial bombardment. Death Squadron was formed by Lord Vader in the wake of the destruction of the Death Star to seek and destroy this rebel alliance that keeps appearing all over the holonet.”
“Oh.” The Moff was mollified, but only for a moment. Absolute power had corrupted him far beyond the realms of logic. “Why is he in my sector? And why didn’t I know he was coming.” The Admiral remained unperturbed.
“I will answer the latter question first. Imperial Center did not send a dispatch alerting us of his coming. As to why he is here, his communicae states that he wishes to have dinner. The royal house of D’Skiftallya will be joining us of course.” The Moff scowled.
“Darius didn’t invite you or your family,” Boise hissed.
“Very good sir, I will tell the sole landowner and chief executive officer of this system and leader of the Skiftallya Sector Council that you are denying him access to a dinner party.” Admiral D’Skiftallya had the audacity to smile. Moff Boise glowered.
“On second thought you can all come…”
“Excellent, I’ll invite his majesty immediately.” The Admiral’s voice was perfectly measured and polite.
“Watch your tone D’Skiftallya or I will have you court-martialed!” This didn’t faze the Admiral.
“Of course sir. I will be sure to bring my record of this conversation to the trial, to help you in your prosecution.” The Moff cursed.
“Good bye!” The holo went dead and Moff Boise growled, how he wanted to wipe that smug grin off D’Skiftallya’s face, off all their faces. He needed to hit something. He spied Sefton curled up in the fetal position and walked over toward him, raising his hand into a fist.
“Why didn’t you tell me I was dressed like this. Now Admiral D’Skiftallya has something else on me and it’s all your fault. And you’re going to pay, oh how you’re going to pay.”
This is a filler post as I finish planning the dinner
Posted: Sun Dec 24, 2006 12:50 am
“What’s going on here, who are you people?” The head chef’s outweighing his good sense as two imperial stormtroopers entered the civilian kitchen, blaster carbines at the ready. They scanned the room, ignoring the chef and then stood at either side of the entrance door. Men dressed in formal imperial blue started entering pushing insulated carts. The head chef stood there until he realized he would never get an answer from a stormtrooper. Instead he turned to one of the Men in blue and asked again, “What is going on here?”
They didn’t even acknowledge his presence. He was sorely tempted to tell them all to get out but his better sense prevailed on him and reminded him that they were each carrying a firearm and he was not. Then another man in blue entered talking to the station hospitalities manager, a familiar face. The head chef walked up to them and interrupted their conversation.
“Mr. Romexom, what is the meaning of this,” demanded the head chef, “Who are these people?” The man in blue fixed the head chef with a stare and the head chef started to sweat. There was a dangerous aura about this man and the chef, for all his bluster, knew when to back down. “Sorry if I’m interrupting,” he added meekly. The station hospitalities manager glared petulantly as he spoke.
“Chef Rodbee this is Master Chief Trahan from the Interdictor. He’s going to be prepping the state dinner request that came in almost an hour ago and his men will be serving it.” Rodbee was taken aback.
“But we’re already doing that, we’ve been working on it for the last hour.” The Master Chief interrupted.
“The dinner starts in 10 minutes, what do you have finished?” Chef Rodbee blinked.
“You’re kidding right? It’s impossible to cook an entire state dinner in 45 minutes.” Trahan scoffed.
“We’re the Imperial Navy, we do the impossible.” Trahan gestured behind them, Rodbee turned to look. The men had unloaded a great deal of food from the carts and Rodbee was amazed at how opulent it was. There was Ghorman Delight, Brazed Bilbringi Balls, Strathos Eggs, Correllian Ryshcate, Rodbee had never seen such a wondrous display of sumptuous abundance, and they were still unloading the carts.
“Frell, you couldn’t have made all of this food in 45 minutes.” Trahan didn’t say a word he just grabbed the chef by his arm and lead him over to a counter with a sunfruit Coruscandaise on it. Trahan scooped out a spoonful and handed it to Rodbee. Rodbee sniffed it and then tasted it, blinking and smiling. The coruscandaise was a delicacy of coruscant that was almost impossible to make without it being too sweet or being horribly ruined. It took a level of precision baking that was more art then skill to create it.
“This is excellent.”
“I’m glad you approve,” Trahan’s tone seemed to indicate he couldn’t care less, “Could you show one of my men where the royal dining hall is please? Thank you.” It was a dismissal, pure and simple, Trahan had turned back to the Mr. Romexom and continued their conversation.
Posted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 4:43 am
“Sir! Dining room is prepared and banquet is sat, sir!” Master Chief Trahan returned his soldier’s salute and nodded.
“Very good sailor. Inform Lieutenant Hodgdon that we have finished our preparation and that we are ready for the orchestra.”
The ship’s orchestra was an almost forgotten tradition passed down from the oldest days of the Republic navy. Life aboard a functioning ship of the line was rather boring. Generally a sailor would serve years of maintenance work with only a few moments of combat if they saw combat at all. And maintenance work did not take up a full day’s time. Captains found ways to keep their crews occupied, including special projects, holonet education courses, extra duty and practice drills. The ship’s orchestra was a privilege assignment. Sailors were allowed a certain number of hours a week to practice, both solo and ensemble, and would generally play for the crew once a month at special functions. When the clone wars came and ships of the line were added to the republic fleet at an incredible rate the tradition of the ship’s orchestra had been almost lost. On the Interdictor the tradition was thriving, thanks especially to Darius’s exacting nature. His ship’s orchestra didn’t practice they trained. Under the auspicious eyes of lieutenatn Hodgdon and the Petty Officers in the orchestra, the sailors were drilled in their instruments, running complicated orchestral songs known to be favored by the Emperor and Lord Vader. Orchestral practice was scheduled and evaluations on the sailors performance were considered part of their duty evals. A horrid performance could earn you a reprimand. Though it was far more likely that an excellent performance would earn you rewards, like an extra day on shore leave. Consequently Darius fielded an excellent ship’s orchestra, despite his ship’s crew being together for a little less then 2 months.
“Sir, yes sir!” The sailor in dress blues responded, snapping off a salute and heading off to find Lieutenant Hodgdon. Chief Trahan took one last sweeping gaze at the space station’s dining room. Repeater displays and holos had been placed along the walls, effecting famous works of art from around the galaxy. The formal dining chairs had been serviced, shined and re-upholstered. The table had been cleaned and shined until he could see his face in it. It had taken over 200 sailors pre-trained in their tasks working hard for 45 minutes, but Darius had recreated the famous Uvena dining room from the Imperial palace. Opulent was the word. Whatever else happened tonight Trahan was sure these backworld yokels would be impressed. The master chief smiled in appreciation of the job done then he went to report to Captain Crassus.
Posted: Sun Dec 31, 2006 10:15 am
His cloak was purple and gold with fiery orange and crimson trim. He stood nearly seven feet tall, and was three feet wide at the shoulder, a monster of a man in his late teens or early twenties. His outfit matched, all of it woven in the metallic and silk that typified the Skiftallya royal family. He wore his hair long, in a hanging double bun braid that was reminiscent of an Alderaanian style, a poor choice considering the planet’s recent destruction. He was also the only one in the room when Darius entered, purposely fifteen minutes late and with no fanfare.
The giant was staring at the only repeater in the room that wasn’t replicating a famous work by a known master. Truthfully, it wasn’t a very good piece, the craftsmanship was poor at best, but there was something beguiling about the piece. Darius walked over to the giant, standing beside him and admiring the piece as well. After a moment the man deigned to notice the much shorter Captain.
“Oh. Hello there.” The giant laughed softly, surprisingly gently, “I didn’t even hear you enter. You’re a quiet little man aren’t you?” Darius blinked. The giant was obviously a member of the royal family but his mannerisms were not what Darius had expected. The Imperial Captain had done his research on the worlds of the Skiftallya sector and while he didn’t have the practice to imitate the formal speech patterns of the court he was fairly sure he could recognize them. For his part, the giant was looking at Darius’s uniform and after a moment he seemed to recognize it. “Hey,” continued the giant, “that looks like one of Kris’s uniforms, are you in the Impair-E-al navy too?” The giant had mispronounced and stressed Imperial. To Darius it sounded sarcastic though Darius was careful not to judge the speech patterns of another culture.
“Yes I am.” The giant was noticeably excited about this short answer, hopping from foot to foot.
“Do you know anything about this new captain guy who just sailed in? Marius or Barius or something like that?” Darius nodded.
“It’s Darius and actually I…” The giant cut him off.
“Yeah, Darius! That’s the guy, the one with the big ship.”
“Yes, the cruiser.”
“Yeah, everybody’s talking about him! He’s the one who ordered this dinner!”
“Really?” Darius had a bemused smile on his face. He had tried to tell the poor fellow who he was, but the giant wouldn’t have any part of it. He wanted to blunder on and Darius thought it might be amusing to hear what he had to say.
“Yeah, he just flies into the system and tells Moff Boise to get his immensely flabulous posterior up here and on the double. I bet Boise was so mad he beat a slave to death!”
“A slave you say?”
“Oh yeah, he beats the hell out of his slaves. Not the Wookies, but the Mon Cals and the Twi’leks, especially the dancers.”
“You can not be serious.”
“Oh yeah, he’s a real son of a sith, but he’s Moff ya know, what are ya gonna do?”
“Are there any laws against assaulting a sentient here?”
“Well yeah, but not slaves you own, I mean, they’re your property, right?” Darius blinked a few times. He’d crewed under Darth Vader who executed the Emperor’s commands with a grisly iron fist. But that was the military and Vader was the epitome of ends justifying means. Darius had never expected a civilian to chat about cold-blooded murder so casually.
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never owned a slave.”
“Oh yeah, I mean it doesn’t happen all the time, heck, I treat my slaves like employees, never lay a hand on ‘em, but a right sithspawn like Boise really gets off on this kind of thing. He’s like a sadist or something.” Darius nodded, surprised at how relieved he felt that this wasn’t a common occurrence. All he had seen during three years on the Devastator had led Darius to assume he was too numb to feel even this mild empathy.
“Well that’s good of you,” Darius replied, his inner monologue didn’t hinder his conversation.
“Thanks. ‘Treat a man as you want to be treated.’ That’s what father always says.” Darius nodded.
“That’s true, a lot of people never seem to learn it either.”
“Yeah, especially Boise. I don’t think anyone has anything good to ay about this guy.”
“Come now, I can’t believe anyone could be that bad.”
“Believe it. Ok, Samward never says anything about him, but one time when we were kids I decked Sam over something stupid like a toy or something. Sam took the hit, I mean he staggered, but he took it. And he looked me dead in the eye and asked if something was bothering me. Sam’s never has a harsh word for anyone.”
“You mean Samward D’Skiftallya, the first/third son, right?”
“Oh yeah, Samward and Kris have to deal with Boise more then anyone but Father and I don’t know how they do it. I’ve only met him at a few dozen formal dinners like this one and I’ve wanted to challenge him to a duel almost every time. Kris stopped me though, told me that Moffs and line officers are exempt from a lot of local laws, like dueling.”
“That’s Admiral Kris D’Skiftallya?”
“Yeah, he’ll be here tonight, like Sam and Father and probably a few of Father’s wives and as many of us extra sons he can dredge up.”
“Extra sons? What do you mean?”
“Take me for example, Jondor Extorio Merci Tranaxio D’Skiftallya, fourth/tenth son. Think about that. I’m the fourth son from Father’s tenth wife, and none of them were barren. With only firstborn sons eligible for inheriting the kingship, there’s over forty of us wastes of space that either need to be married off or found a mildly useful job. If Father has his way I’ll probably end up minister of silly walks or some other equally useless posting, marry a commoner and fade quietly into history.” There was an edge to his voice, a determination that shone through the disgust Jondor obviously felt toward his proposed future.
“And if your father does not have his way?” Jondor smiled and turned from the painting, scanning Darius’ face, searching for something.
“Well, my application is finished and ready to be transferred to the Academy on Imperial Center.” Darius noted Jondor pronounced Imperial without the sarcastic tone he used last time, though he sounded forelorn.
“So when are you planning to jump ship on your way to academy?” Jondor fell stepped back like he had been struck. He squinted at Darius scrutinizing him.
“What makes you say that?” Darius chuckled lightly.
“To start, you’re wearing Alderaanian braids, which will get you hauled in for questioning on any core world.”
“These are traditional Skiftallyian war braids that…”
“And I’m the Fliry Vorru, nice to meet you.”
“You don’t believe me?” Jondor challenged.
“Let’s just say that you don’t sound very excited about going to Academy.” Jondor grinned.
“I didn’t think it was that obvious. You’re right, I’m going to jump ship and see where the galaxy takes me.”
“Ahhh. Well good luck with that.”
“You don’t think I’ll make it, do you?”
“I don’t know you well enough to make such a judgment.”
“Oh I’ll make it. I shoot straight and I can pilot a ship, I’ll be fine.”
“Of course you will.” Jondor glared at Darius but as he was beginning to speak the orchestra, which were playing in the outer room, picked up and the fanfare started. Both men turned to face the sculpted and bejeweled main entrance. Master Chief Trahan with his rancor-bone handles was standing there at attention, acting as Major Domo. He cleared his throat and announced the Admiral D’Skiftallya.
Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2007 8:27 am
The admiral was still dressed in his formal navy blues and Skiftallyian royal cloak, his hat in hand he walked directly to Darius and offered his hand. The Admiral was nearly as tall as Jondor, about 7 feet, and also well built though not as physically intimidating as his half-brother.
“Captain Crassus, how nice to meet you,” Admiral Kris D’Skiftallya said, his Skiftallyian accent replaced with the clipped tones of Coruscant proper. Darius took his hand and was about to return his greeting when Jondor broke in.
“You’re Darius Crassus?” Darius released his superior officer’s hand and nodded.
“I’ve wanted to meet you for a very long time, so I can honestly say it is a pleasure Admiral,” Darius turned, including Jondor in their clique, “Unfortunately I did not have an opportunity to properly introduce myself to your brother, Lord Jondor.” Jondor blanched noticeably And Kris nodded knowingly.
“I hope my dear brother hasn’t committed any social gaffes in his ignorance, he has something of a reputation.” Jondor’s face turned from white to red at an alarming pace, but neither Imperial officer deigned to notice.
“Just enough to arrest him for sedition on Coruscant, though the Alderaanian braids would be enough for that.” Darius noticed the admiral’s stoic silence at that and Darius smiled. “I believe I’ve fulfilled my duty by alerting a local magistrate.” Kris nodded sagely, giving his brother a withering stare. Jondor looked properly mollified. After a moment Kris spoke.
“I can assure you captain, the D’Skiftallya family is loyal to our great Emperor Palpatine. We have taken our oaths of service freely and will not renounce them.” Darius raised an eyebrow at this and nodded.
“I’m sure Lord Vader would be glad to hear that. May I suggest a punishment Admiral?”
“He has a strong desire to go to academy. Send him.” The Admiral smiled, visibly relaxing.
“You have wisdom beyond your years Captain Crassus.”
“Thank you Admiral. I can’t help but wonder, where is everyone?” Kris smiled at Darius’s question.
“Well Captain, per tradition the king is always the last to arrive King D’Skiftallya is waiting in his personal shuttle in his personal hanger. My brother Samward is docking his shuttle as we speak. None of the nobility will be joining us for this dinner.”
“And Moff Boise?”
“He will be here, I am quite sure.”
“Yes, I spoke to him earlier. He was still preparing, though I can tell you he was quite impressed with your standing as a Captain in the Death Squadron.”
“Death to the rebellion. Long live the Emperor.”
“I’m sorry?” Admiral D’Skiftallya looked at Captain Crassus askance.
“Did you like that? That’s how we answer people when they ask us why Lord Vader named his fleet Death Squadron. It’s all the rage on Coruscant. They’re actually doing commercials whereby whenever someone mentioned Death Squadron someone shouts ‘Death to the rebellion, long live the Emperor!’ It’s actually quite moving.”
“I can see that.”
The fanfare started up and Master Chief trahan announced Samward.
The post you've been waiting for
Posted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 8:01 pm
It wasn’t that Emera was beautiful; it was that she felt beautiful. She was wrapped up in 17 layers of formal dress, her hair was perfect and Aurio had helped her with her make-up just like she had promised she would. Of course, that was after Emera had her long talk with Daddy. Daddy had never talked to her that way; he wasn’t harsh, just cold. Cold and exacting. It was time for her to act her age. She was nearly an adult now and her actions could no longer be considered the antics of a willful child, and she would not be the one to bring shame to the house of D’Skiftallya. She had cried and pleaded, but nothing had worked. She was to obey her brother Samward and not bring dishonor to him. Because if she did Father was sure Samward would demand his right to punish a sentient who had dishonored him, and father did not want to see her lashed in the public square.
It was a common enough thing for inheriting sons to be lashed when they had dishonored their fathers while learning the incredibly intricate social rules of Skiftallya. Generally it was considered a good learning experience for the boy. It was rare for a non-inheriting son or a daughter to be lashed for dishonoring her father, simply because there were so few means for them to bring dishonor. Most of those means centered around a woman’s virtue, and that was fairly easy to protect. Usually a chaperone was the most extreme measure necessary. A non-inheriting son’s virtue was worth somewhat less then that of a thoroughbred stead, so they did not need to be chaperoned. The only other way for a daughter to dishonor a father publicly was to speak out of turn or say something against her family, or the government, or find some other similar means of embarrassing him. Since it was very easy to stay quiet and look pretty, this usually only happened when a daughter claimed her right to her inheritance and was then treated as an inheriting son. If Emera were lashed, as a daughter who had not claimed her inheritance and whose virtue was unquestionable, it would reflect very poorly on her father, which would echo down into the halls of parliament and could have ramifications on his reign.
The last thing she wanted to do was make her father’s job harder. It occurred to Emera that none of this would have happened if Samward wasn’t such a jerk. Next year she would have her majority and Samward could never tell her what to do again. She’d show them all then. No one would ever treat her like a child again.
Emera had been to the space station plenty of times, though never for a formal dinner. It was fairly drab, all the walls were steel grey and it all felt anti-septic. The three siblings walked from Samward’s personal shuttle in the royal hanger through a transparisteel covered promenade to the anti-chamber of the royal dining hall. The promenade was always the best part, being able to look up and see all the stars in the whole galaxy, and today there was even music playing through the hall. Emera stopped every so often and pointed out stars to Aurio and Samward. She’d just finished her classes in astronavigation and could spot Coruscant, Correllia, and Commenor. Samward stopped in the middle of the promenade and turned backward, pointed to a star and bowed his head. Aurio bowed her head as well and Emera was confused.
“What’s going on?” Neither of them answered for a good 45 seconds and Emera grew impatient, taping her toes and being very annoyed that no one was telling her what was happening. He voice grew louder, “What are you guys doing?”
Eventually Samward raised his head and said, “Alderaan,” his voice was solemn and quiet. Emera turned her head and looked at the star in question. That couldn’t be Alderaan; the Death Star had blown up Alderaan, it was all over the news, GWNN had done several introspective on the connection between Alderaan and the dangerous rebel alliance. Then everything clicked in her head. It took light almost one hundred years to get from Alderaan to Skiftallya and vice versa. Additionally the planet may have been blown up but the star was still there, they’d be able to see the star forever. Samward and Aurio had bowed their heads in a moment of silence for their friends and family who had lived on Alderaan. Emera decided she needed a moment too and bowed her head.
It was only a few minutes walk to the anti-chamber. Emera noticed something odd immediately.
“I think there is something wrong with the speaker system, the music is getting louder as we get closer.” Samward smiled at her question but didn’t respond. Aurio giggled gently. Emera decided everything about her first/third brother was irritating, especially the effect he had on her only sister. Aurio was supposed to side with her in arguments, but there was something between these two that made them closer then her and Aurio. Emera was jealous.
The worst part about the music was that it was a boring instrumental piece from Coruscant. Why did old people like this stuffy music so much? They should have played the latest album of Turbolaser, the new band from Bilbringi that was breaking every sales record on the music charts. Their new single was going to be on the soundtrack for the holomovie Win or Die and Father had already gotten the family tickets to the sector premier of Garrick Loran’s latest film. Garrick Loran was such a hunk. Emera wondered if Father could get him to come to Skiftallya, maybe for a promotional tour. Emera knew they would fall in love if only she had a chance to talk to him. If only. She sighed softly as they continued walking.
But she didn’t dare tell anyone about her crush. The last thing she wanted was a lecture about how nobility marries for duty, not love. She already knew that, she had been at her brother Kris’s wedding to Yma, the brainless. She was one of the daughters of the King of Satiruces, in the Enotsl’lim sector. Emera didn’t know how someone as smart as Kris put up with a partial brainstem like Yma. Though Yma did fine at court, all she had to do was stand there and look pretty and, as much as it killed Emera to admit it, Yma was very good at looking pretty.
There were two storm troopers at the door in their gleaming white armor standing at attention, perfectly still. Emera smiled at them. The men behind those masks were the new Knights of the Empire; the men who put their lives on the line in the most dangerous situations to protect the peace and order that Emera had been blessed enough to grow up in. She had studied the clone wars with her tutors and was glad she would never see strife like that in her lifetime. The Emperor was a just man and his white knights would always be there to protect her. She smiled as an image flashed through her head of Garrick Loran wearing storm trooper armor while holding her in his arms, whispering terms of endearment to her. Emera would be wearing her most beautiful royal robes of course. She had to look her very best for Garrick. Then they’d fly off to the ends of the galaxy in a TIE fighter built for two.
As they walked into the anti-chamber Emera was awestruck with the changes that had been made. A fountain now stood in the center of the room and trees lined the walls of the room, large deciduous trees. The room was absolutely breathtaking. Aurio was the first to break their silence.
“This is the Imperial palace. This is the main hall of the Imperial palace.”
“What do you mean Sister?” Samward asked. She turned and smiled at him.
“It’s a recreation,” Aurio pointed at the trees, “These are T’challa trees, their bark is renown for reacting to pressure by changing color, even from sounds. They're supposed to be beautiful.” Emera smiled, her sister was very smart and these were amazing trees. Aurio continued, “These are obviously holograms, and so is the fountain, but they’re absolutely lovely. Whoever sculpted these holograms was a true artist.”
Emera grinned. Aurio had known something that Samward hadn’t known and that gave Emera a small amount of pleasure. Emera was aware that the music was even louder in the anti-chamber. She looked around, trying to find the speakers and almost missed the orchestra playing by the entrance to the royal dining hall. In her defense the Orchestra had set up in front of a repeater displaying the famous Flynn painting of the Imperial Navy band playing at the Imperial Senate building at Coruscant. The way they had been arranged made it look like the orchestra was part of the picture. Whoever put them there had a flair for art.
They passed the orchestra as they entered the royal dining hall. Two more storm troopers in white armor stood there as well as two navy men in blue. They weren’t nearly as impressive to Emera as the storm troopers. A third navy man with a pistol on either hip saluted Samward and asked for their names. He was obviously the major domo this evening because he announced them, his voice booming. Emera was impressed that he didn’t need a microphone.
Emera’s slightly older brother Jondor was there. He picked on her incessantly growing up, until she was 10 and he was 11 and she was finally bigger then him. He still picked on her but then she could do something about it. Around 14 he finally started to catch up, now he was one of her biggest brothers. They still didn’t get along, but now that he was an adult they didn’t see each other much, which suited Emera just fine.
Kris D’Skiftallya had Just gotten back from the academy when Emera was born. He was promoted quickly through the sector fleet and spent most of Emera’s life in space. After his wedding to Yma, Emera had gotten to know him better at the endless parties Yma threw. For the last few years Emera had been old enough to go, and while she didn’t have a high regard for Yma, Emera would never miss one of her parties. Kris was quiet with a dry sense of humor and he could always make Emera laugh.
The third man was short, maybe as tall as Aurio, which meant he was either a shrimp or an off-worlder. Aurio had learned in her studies that Skiftallya had a slightly higher oxygen count then most worlds and things grew bigger here. Food was larger and so were the people. Off-worlders were invariably shorter and weaker, but she tried not to hold that against them. Emera definitely wouldn’t hold it against this one.
He was wearing the dark blue of the Imperial Navy’s formal uniform, which he filled out perfectly. His face was rugged and handsome. He had broad shoulders and perfect posture, and Emera was starting to think that if Garrick Loran wasn’t available then maybe this off-worlder could take his place. Emera didn’t know if he was from the new ship that everyone was so excited about or an officer from the sector fleet, but he was definitely cute.
“That’s Crassus,” Samward whispered as they walked toward the three men. Emera saw Aurio nod imperceptibly, moving her head just a fraction more with her forward movement. Emera’s court training hadn’t fallen on deaf ears. As they got nearer Samward swept himself forward in a full courtly bow, one used by someone of lesser significance to acknowledge someone of greater. Being this close Emera could see that ‘Crassus’ was only a captain, which meant Samward’s bow was totally out of place. This Crassus should be bowing to Samward, not the other way around. Crassus didn’t seem to notice the breach of protocol; Jondor’s look of confusion meant that Samward’s action hadn’t been lost on him.
“Lord Crassus, I am Samward D’Skiftallya.” Not using his full name was a breach of high court protocol as well. Emera had to wonder what Samward was doing.
“It’s Captain Crassus. Please join us, we were commenting on the artwork.” Samward smiled and then Emera understood. The bow had acknowledged that Crassus was responsible to set the protocol. Samward’s informal address acknowledged that Crassus was of lower rank and that it was a courtesy for Samward to let him set the protocol. It was a classic, though rarely used, protocol escape for off-worlders who wouldn’t know Skiftallya custom. Samward had topped it off by using a rank above Crassus’s station which almost guaranteed Crassus would ask him to use his lower rank, the rank change presumed informality. It was a glimpse at Samward’s mastery of protocol and Emera chastised herself for not reading his moves faster.
Emera was so intent on the interaction between Samward and Crassus that she almost missed Kris raise an eyebrow. Whatever the three men had been talking about before they were joined it was not artwork.
“We would be delighted. Captain Crassus, allow me to introduce my youngest sister to you, Emera D’Skiftallya.” Emera gathered her skirts and affected an informal curtsy. Samward hadn’t specified using more then that and if Emera was following correctly the conversation was now informal. Either way she didn’t see a reprimanding look from her brother.
For his part Crassus did not bow or offer to kiss her hand. Instead he nodded, his posture never wavering, and acknowledged her verbally as: “Miss D’Skiftallya.” Samward didn’t see anything amiss with this, protocol with off-worlders was lax. He turned to Aurio and before he introduced her Aurio nodded to Crassus and bowed low in a formal court curtsy. Emera wracked her brain trying to comprehend the move. It was a classic formal curtsy in an informal setting that signified a desire to get to know someone on a familiar basis. What puzzled Emera was why her sister was flirting like this. Aurio didn’t even like boys. Not that she liked girls; Aurio had resigned herself long ago that marrying was a duty, and a Captain didn’t have the clout for Father to ever give consent. After a moment when Aurio didn't rise, Crassus stepped forward and lifted her gently by the arm.
"There's no reason to be this formal, I'm just a captain, I'm not the Emperor." Aurio smiled at this response, dropping her gaze slightly and blushing. Crassus blinked twice and his cheeks reddened slightly as well. It took all of Emera's control not to let her jaw drop. Aurio was flirting, not just flirting, but flirting masterfully. Emera on her best day couldn't get that kind of response that fast. Crassus took a sharp intake of breath and forced a pleasant smile on his face, his complexion only slightly less red. After a moment he forced is gaze away from Aurio and turned to Samward. Samward took the hint.
"Captain Crassus, may I present to you my elder sister, Aurio D'Skiftallya, dowager princess." As a first born child and a daughter Aurio could claim her birthright and be treated like a male heir, renounce her birthright and be treated like a non-first daughter, or neither claim or renounce and hold dowager status. As a dowager her husband would receive her status as a first born child and become an heir for the throne. It was a tricky path, for any indiscretion she made in court, even before her betrothal, would be held against her husband when it was time for the throne to be chosen. Aurio could also claim or renounce until the moment of her marriage. Aurio had played the game masterfully and Emera had followed in awe, until this moment. Crassus, handsome though he may be, was still a captain. Would she give up her inheritance for a pretty face?
Crassus took her hand in his and kissed it. "A pleasure Miss D'Skiftallya." Aurio batted her eyelashes and smiled, gazing down slightly again.
"A pleasure I share Captain," She turned from him 270 degrees, taking in the holograms, "Did you prepare this room Captain?" Crassus took a step to stand by her side. Behind the captain's back Samward and Kris exchanged a nod and Emera understood. This was what Samward had talked to Aurio about while she was talking to Daddy. For some reason they wanted to distract Crassus or get information from him and nothing was more effective for that then a beautiful woman.
"Well, in a way, yes," Crassus answered. He was rather unobtrusively glancing at her neckline. Aurio was swathed in layers, like Emera, leaving only her head, neck and hands exposed. Aurio had a beautiful neck, not too long or too short. Emera's was slightly shorter and it annoyed her to no end.
"It's the Uvena dining room isn't it? From the Imperial palace?" Aurio asked. She was never wrong about these things, so Emera was sure she was right. Crassus nodded.
"You have a keen eye for art Miss D'Skiftallya." Aurio smiled and turned, facing him again. She pointed to the wall at the only piece not done by a master, the same piece Crassus and Jondor had been talking about before Kris had entered. While the couple had stepped away, Kris and Samward had corralled Jondor toward the table and were discussing something in low tones so Aurio and Crassus had an unimpeded view of the piece.
"Truthfully Captain Crassus, it was this piece that tipped your hand. The most obscure piece of artwork in the Imperial palace and therefore the most famous. No one knows why the Emperor chose it nor who the artist was, simply that it is signed, 'Jade.' You wouldn't know who this 'Jade' is, would you captain?" She bit her lower lip, just a little. Emera was learning more from her sister in five minutes then she had learned from a year of deportment classes. Aurio's balance was perfect; always close enough to imply familiarity but not intimacy. Her facial expressions were amazing and her conversation was neutral yet interesting.
"Unfortunately I do not. I did ask the Emperor about it but he was not forthcoming." At those words every eye in the room except for Aurio's were overtly not looking at Crassus. Aurio lowered her chin and raised her eyebrows, frowning slightly.
"Are you trying to impress me with your associations Captain?" she asked with a wry smile. Crassus was taken aback in what looked like genuine surprise.
"No. I was trying to answer your question Miss D'Skiftallya," he recovered admirably and smiled at her, "And please, call me Darius."
"And you may call me Aurio." She turned from him, putting just the slightest hint of sadness in her voice, "Not that you'd wish to. A simple, outer rim girl couldn't possibly compete for the attention of a man who converses regularly with the Emperor."
Emera was sure she had him ensnared when Darius leaned, starting to move around to face her again. He stopped himself and took a deep breath, and the dance was interrupted. What he did next would decide if the dance would continue or come to a crashing halt.
"On the contrary Aurio," Darius said, the slightest smile on his face. Aurio was still facing away from him, "you are hardly a simple girl." Emera hadn't expected that. Was Darius taking lead in their dance of attraction or was he showing her that he would only be lead so far? Aurio turned, beaming. She opened her mouth to speak and was interrupted by the booming voice of the major domo.