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Riene Zend

Joined: 18 Jun 2009
Posts: 118
Location: Arquebusier

 Post Posted: Fri, August 14th 2009 04:10pm    Post subject: Arquebusier
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Chief Marshal Riene Zend strode through the corridors of the vast command ship. Foot traffic was light at this early hour, and the steel heels of her boots echoed off the bulkheads.

She'd occasionally pass some of the graveyard-shift crew, and they'd always stop and snap off a salute. Zend didn't really care if the respect was genuine or merely out of fear; merely that discipline was maintained. It was just one of many things she inherited from her mother.

Discipline, order, and duty: the watchwords of Zend's force. When the order was issued, it was to be executed to the utmost of the ability of those delegated to perform. Failure was never acceptable. Of course, the Grand Admiral wasn't as callous as the traitor Vader; the punishment always fit the scale of the blunder. And that value had been passed on to Riene: when one of her sergeants failed to lead his squad to victory because of higher-than-estimated enemy resistance, he was merely demoted and removed from combat for a while. However, the Intelligence officer who had provided the faulty information paid for costing the lives of four Stormtroopers with his own blood.

Even when incorporating indigenous riffraff into the Imperial Army and Navy, there were no breaks. The Empire was a military organization, not a New Republic feel-good seminar. And they had but one purpose: to crush the traitorous Moffs and the Rebel terrorists, and restore peace and order to the Galaxy. Becoming the leaders of the new Galactic government was merely a side perk for the Grand Admiral and her daughter: the true joy would come in showing in the might of the real Galactic Empire, and burning the terrorist scum out of their homes; forcing them to pay for their atrocities. After all, Riene found it darkly ironic that while the Rebels still treated the destruction of a meager two billion on Alderaan as a hideous crime, they thought absolutely nothing of killing five times as many Imperial citizens when they destroyed Byss and often celebrated the fact.

Of course, doing so only showed the hypocrisy of their democratic propaganda against their true feelings: clearly, not all life was sacred and equal. Riene herself agreed with that fundamental principle, but she admitted it. She had no real problem with aliens... she just didn't like stupid ones. Or stupid humans for that matter. She recalled one of her mother's lessons, early in her childhood: "There are four categories in which you classify your subordinates: the stupid, the lazy, the clever, and the industrious. Almost always, they will straddle two categories. The stupid and lazy comprise the majority in any species, government, and military. They have their uses, as they are best suited to routine work. The clever and lazy are fine commanders, as they have the temperament and nerves for all scenarios. The clever and industrious are prime staff officer material, and have kept nations running smoothly for millennia. However, the stupid and industrious are an absolute menace, and are to be removed immediately."

Riene smiled as she walked into a lift and tapped in the Admiral's Suite. Some of the best advice you've given me, Mother. Tactics and strategy could obviously be taught, but no battle plan was ever intact after the first shot was fired. And flexibility only came with experience, which Riene had gotten plenty of in her eight years on the line. The best lessons for teaching were in managing men, troops, power, and resources. The young Stormtrooper commander had once been genuinely worried—even, dare she say it, scared--that she would need to take the fleet over from her mother. But now, with their day of vengeance at hand, she would have time to complete her lessons and be prepared to lead the new generation of Imperials to a Galactic victory.

After a short while of the lift car careening through the maze of lift tunnels in the command tower of the massive Executor-class Arquebusier, it began to slow and finally stopped at her destination. She exited the lift, and walked calmly down the corridor, to a nondescript hatch. Her semi-weekly ritual was almost at its key point. Her gloved finger pressed lightly on the annunciator, and she waited for a response.
Chief Marshal Riene Zend

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Selena Krauss

Joined: 03 Aug 2009
Posts: 86

 Post Posted: Fri, September 11th 2009 04:08pm    Post subject:
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Her shuttle had landed, her own personal trooper escort flanked her, as she left the blood red Lambda interior. Her eyes caught several of the Imperials nearby, their shoulders heaving into position, as the commander stepped aboard. Selena Krauss was legendary among their ranks, serving as political and tactical enforcer of Zend's Hand, some whispered she rivaled the loyalty of her own daughter, if not more. A mouse droid rolled along, before scooting away as fast as it could. Even the droid's small artificial brain understood the evil that existed within this woman.

Selena hummed to herself the Imperial theme as she descended from the shuttle's ramp, her crescendo reaching as she marched through the deck's interior. She loved the hangar deck of the flagship, everything in perfect harmony, as soldiers and officers moved about their business. It represented every bit of Imperial superiority. The True Empire, rested within Zend, and Krauss was but a humble servant to any desire.

Her heels clicked against the floors, the pace quickening as she rounded the first corner, her guards matching each step with practiced precision. For months she had been in and out of the Dragoon Star System, transporting slaves, and energy to the rest of the fleet, while preparing the final tasks Zend had asked of her. They had recalled their reconnaissance vessels, the fleet was mobilizing… the time was near.

Selena entered the lift, it hummed as it took her across the tremendous height of the Executor Star Destroyer, but Selena decided to take the long way around, after all, she was several hours early. The doors hissed as they opened, and one Lieutenant allowed a gasp to escape her lips, as Selena passed by. A dormant smiled tickled to show, but she held her complexion, as she walked the end of the deck. Selena had envisioned their triumphant return to Coruscant, taking back the Emperor’s throne, and talking full pride as Daara took seat. It was her right, her place.

Krauss moved into the mess hall where voices immediately died, and ceased any audibility. “Commander Krauss, if I had known, I would have prepared something-“ the chef stampered, but luckily for him, she had already had her nutritional fulfilling. Without a word, she pressed forward, and out the parallel door. She moved across the decks, ensuring everything had been absolutely perfect, but it always was. Zend’s ship was tip top shape, as Krauss moved to the final turbolift, it sailed upwards and towards the command deck…
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Emmett Fink

Joined: 07 Aug 2009
Posts: 14

 Post Posted: Mon, October 12th 2009 07:58pm    Post subject:
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Emmett docked ship deep in the bowls of the Arquebusier, the destroyer making him clench his fists even as he received docking orders and lowered into the hangar. Truth be told, he had no idea where he even was, let alone what orders Krauss was going to relay this time. He already had the Nico problem still on his hands, he didn’t need more fine minutia. Krauss was only half a rank above him anyway, no need for her patronizing attitude.

He leaned back, bracing himself against his console, stretching with fervor. Then, knowing he needed to keep up appearences no matter how far felt his irritation, he slid on his jacket, adjusting the collar and lapels, and pulled his boots over socked feet. He looked in the shaded glass of the cockpit window, at the hair that was disheveled and eyes that remained dark and shadowed. He rubbed his chin with the back of his hand, he desperately needed a shave. He felt exhausted, a tiredness that permeated his appearance. Two weeks in hyperspace would do that to a man. He straightened up. It would have to do.

Once docked, he strode down the gankplank on the foredeck, watching younger me run drills back and forth. A younger officer, one named Simmons, green as the day is long. Sidled up to him and threw him an awkward salute. Emmett didn’t have time for newbie calisthenics, but simmons was directly under his command, so he didn’t have much of a choice. He threw him a firm salute back, gave him an “at ease” and continued walking.

“C-Commander” great the boy had a stutter, too. “I’ve been g-given orders to have you report to the main observation deck. Comander K-Krauss wished to see you as soon as you arrived.”
Fantastic. “Very good. Take your leave Simmons” The young officer nodded nervously and fell out. Emmett walked to the turbo lift and boarded. Once safely inside and alone, he pressed his palms to his eyes and let out a long sigh, slouching against the wall of the lift. Things were so much simpler once…
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Selena Krauss

Joined: 03 Aug 2009
Posts: 86

 Post Posted: Tue, October 13th 2009 02:55am    Post subject:
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The observation deck was spotless, presentable to Admiral Zend in every aspect, as Selena finished two occasions of micro-managing. Information was also passed along that little Riene was aboard. A clever offspring, a daughter to be proud of. "Send a message, I would request a visit, should she have the time." Riene was a legendary corps officer, rising through the ranks, despite her biological connection to the glorious Daara. Whether Riene would admit it or not, they shared many of the same, yet admirable characteristics.

"Commander Fink has returned from his assignment in the Outer Rims. Droids and intel ran over his jump logs, he wasn't followed," an officer reported, before returning to his previous duty. Krauss stood in silence for the duration of her stay on the observation deck, waiting for Fink to join her, or Riene's answer to her request...
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Emmett Fink

Joined: 07 Aug 2009
Posts: 14

 Post Posted: Wed, October 14th 2009 12:04am    Post subject:
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The doors to the lift opened onto the bridge, and Emmett heard the voice of Selena Krauss barking orders. She was confirming his ship wasn't followed. He fixed his jaw; the woman thought him a complete moron.

"Of course I wasn't followed, Commander Krauss, what do you take me for?"

He walked up to her, holding his hands behind his back and standing straighter. He was Lieutenant Commander as much as she was, and would not be made fool of. In no way was he intimidated by this woman. Irritated and disgusted perhaps, but never intimidated. From working with her, he knew Selena Krauss to be overly-aggressive, ruthless and inspirationally cunning. She took her career within the empire with tremendous seriousness, even as they lay in wait deep within the outer regions, upholding the leading powers of Admiral Zend with something close to religious fervor.

Emmett, though matching Krauss in rank could never live up to her dedication. He'd been stationed on the Lusankya under Ysanne Isard shortly after the galactic civil war, had seen what a lack of leadership could do, how many well meaning Imperial officials a lapse of judgement and rise of fanatacism could turn into power hungry tyrants with delusions of grandeur. Emmett had his doubts. He'd followed the empire blindly for decades, rising in rank and knowing it was his duty and honor to serve, but after all this...

When Tseneca had been alive, they'd talked about leaving the Empire, agreeing after the death of her family that the essence of Imperial rule, its political ideals and moral standpoints had faded in the absence of a central leader. They never argued about this, knowing that after the death of Palpatine, the Empire was on a bloody path toward regaining galactic control. They'd wanted to start a family somewhere on a backwater planet, far away from such political strife. He'd been more liberal then. After her death, trying desperately to bury his raging grief, he'd thrown himself into his work. He'd hardened, become angry, and ceased caring about personal ideology. Whatever desires he'd had for a life outside the regime had died with the one person he cared about most deeply. He welcomed the order, the sterile and clinical feel of his work, and despite his doubts, would do anything at this point to bring the True Empire back into power. in the end, it was what must be done, no matter what the cost.

Emmett looked at Selena, his face expressionless. He was exhausted, and wanted nothing more then to go to his quarters and fall into bed.

"You wanted to see me?"
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Selena Krauss

Joined: 03 Aug 2009
Posts: 86

 Post Posted: Thu, October 15th 2009 08:22pm    Post subject:
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The sheer audacity the man had at appearing on such a fine-tuned vessel, let alone the flagship, in an unshaven filth, was punishable. Should he had been one of her officers, he would have served a week in detention, perhaps even a month of labor. Her eyes narrowed, playfully adjusting her posture. The Grand Admiral didn't enjoy squabbles between her commanders, and now was not the place. Selena knew when to pick her battles, but the bridge of an Executor, not worth possible reprimands.

"Actually, I was only the messenger of your recall, Finky." The comms officer stalled at the exaggerated petname. Her eyes poured into him, "I am not sure when, or why, but Admiral Daara herself will soon hold a conference. Your mission was terminated, in order to bring you back into the flock." Selena turned on her heels, "I have no further explanation or intention, other than the initial relay."

Selena had hoped it would be official, that their return was imminent.
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Daara Zend

Joined: 17 Jul 2009
Posts: 24

 Post Posted: Sun, November 08th 2009 04:45pm    Post subject:
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The brash, deep texture of the composition overwhelmed the palate with its strength. For a microsecond, it was almost revolting, almost as if it had gone stale long ago. But a moment hence, the warmth wrested the barrage from its place, replacing it with a sweet, nutty overtone, which allowed lowlights of bitterness to dance with its more significant partner. And then, ultimately, as the flood disappeared into the pharynx and eventually down the esophagus, the aftertaste remained; it coated the tongue, particularly the epiglottis, with a slick resin, which allowed the distinct, complex-but-identifiable flavor of tea to be bared to the buds. It was common to every authentic brew, a self-same taste that was always present but equally elusive to the novice.

Grand Admiral Thrawn's love of art and his belief in its application to military strategy was well known. To Daara Zend, that was overrated. The true geniuses could appreciate the finesse hidden in tea. This particular one was aged for several decades, allowed to ferment and take on entirely new qualities. It yielded an obscured amber liquor, imparting a bulky exterior and a pungent odor that many found unpleasant. It was an acquired taste. It wasn't bared for all the world to see, like a green tea; no, one had to work to discover its essence.

Zend wasn't foolhardy enough to claim that one's insight into a certain species of plant meant tactical success. Still, she found that navigating the waters of an infusion cleared the mind. Trying to identify and tag each part of the experience led to greater appreciation and placidity. She could not deny that her greatest successes in battle and government had more often than not been immediately preceded by partaking in a cup of tea.

And it had to be tea. Years ago, Daara would have drunk wine. It had similar flavor notes. But after the fall of Palpatine and the consequential, more gradual declination of the Empire, fine wine became more rare as a commodity. When the then-Fleet Admiral Daara Zend commanded the only loyal faction of the Empire during the so-called “Warlord Era”, she refused to put such a personal expense above that of her peoples' wellbeing, and therefore switched to the much more penurious tea at a time when many warlords were squandering what little assets the Empire held on fine art and trivialities. While now she occasionally indulged in the occasional herbal brew or unaged wine – but never that barbarous coffee - , the Grand Admiral found that nothing compared to the alertness, lucidity, appreciation imparted by tea.

Zend sat in her personal dining room and kitchen, which was connected both to her office and her dormitory. There was a large table made from rare Coruscanti oak, which had been brought to the ship back when the Empire still controlled Imperial Center. There was a datapad overlay of information gracefull built into the wood. A faux-window – made up of electronic displays – displayed an image of Orasclenna, the capital world of The Regions, outside of the ship. If she desired, she could run the entire Arquebusier without leaving this secured area. But she never had. She had never tried to install a sense of unapproachability between her and the rest of the Empire, especially not between her highest officers and the crew on her Executor.

That is not to say that she was not adequately feared and revered and respected, for she was indeed. Salutation to passing higher officers was mandatory, for example, even though Zend realized not every display of respect was genuine. What mattered was that it was enacted. But she never relied on lofty separation from the people that did the real work in the Empire. She made her mandate clear to all from the very moment she reclaimed her rightful inheritance to the Galactic Empire: work to the best of one's ability and with utmost loyalty to the Empire and be rewarded – betray or undermine the Empire and suffer. All in its service, from citizens to conscripts to enlisted men, knew this. Daara was nothing if not fair. She was not bigoted or cruel for cruelty's sake. There was no state-sponsored racism, no sexism, no undeserved wealth and privilege.

Everyone was treated according to how their own habits and results defined them, and the Grand Admiral would never mince words. There were benefits for the good. But there was also severe punishment for the malicious. There was no gray area. Gray area had been the death of the Old Republic, and soon, with her helping hand, the upstart Galactic Alliance, and, particularly, the traitors in the “Imperial” Remnant.

Zend sipped her tea as she poured over the latest reports. There was nothing in particular; a reminder of the date, the New Year of 41 Galactic, as well as other minor reports from the worlds of the Empire in the Unknown Regions. For the most part, things ran smoothly now. There was an entire Imperial civilization established in this formerly-untamed, alien realm.

Her contemplation was interrupted when a slight vibration under her fingertips – as well as a dull tone from somewhere in her dormitory – alerted her to a visitor. Daara realized she was still in her uniform underclothing, and was about to speed through dressing fully, when she recalled just who that guest was. She pressed a button on the console and heard the slight whoosh of the door. “Good morning, dearie.”

Riene Zend stepped into the sanctum, bowing her head until the entryway closed behind her. “Good morning, mother.” She relaxed her stance, then moved instinctively to the teapot. Daara found a light smile playing across her own features; it was nice to see an appreciation carried on through progeny.

After Riene had transferred some of the just-boiled brew into her teacup, she stepped across the wood flooring and seated herself in in a high-back opposite her mother. “You look well,” complimented Daara.

“As do you, Mother,” Riene returned with a smile. She brought the cup to her lips as she accessed the reports on the other table datapad. It was a regularity that Riene would come to breakfast with her mother, but it never became routine; in other words, it never became unwelcomed, taken for granted, or stale. Recently, Riene's commitments had lessened the frequency of her attendance. Daara was understandably saddened by this, but above all else she valued her daughter's devotion to the Empire above all else – thus, it was a worthy sacrifice. “So, how do the lesser branches of the Empire fare this week?” Riene inquired, bubbly.

Daara knew she was referring to the wings of the Empire that did not include the Stormtroopers – Riene's charge as Chief Marshal – and the Navy, which was nearest to Daara's heart and closest to her direct command. “In need of pruning and snapping, as usual. Thank the Order for strong limbs,” Daara smiled, directly at Riene. “One branch, though, I continue to receive nothing but the utmost stories of its success.”

“I see,” Riene acknowledged, sipping at her tea. “And what about my troops?” She smiled presumptuously.

And she presumed correctly. The Stormtroopers were once again the Empire's most loyal, effective soldiers, and it was because of Riene's efforts. “Precisely what I am talking about,” Daara affirmed, her voice changing to one of seriousness. “You have performed... admirably with them,” she finished, after a moment of looking for the right word. She was extremely proud of her daughter, but she was always cautious about breeding her to be too overconfident. So far, she had succeeded.

“It's good to hear that,” Riene simply stated with scarce alacrity. Daara knew the young girl must have been ecstatic at such a level of praise coming from her mother, but Riene was just as taciturn in selecting the appropriate words as Daara. It was a good skill, speaking in moderation and with evenness. “But, I must confess; they grow restless out here. When can we take the battles to our true enemies?” Riene questioned.

“Indeed,” Daara bit out, cutting off her daughter before she could finish. Yes, the true enemies: the Imperial Remnant, the Rebellion, and their pathetic status as the Galactic Union. Traitors, murderers, scum, terrorists; all were equally applicable. For years, the True Empire had been gathered in the Unknown Regions. Many were increasingly anxious about returning to The Galaxy after twenty years, even those who were barely out of the womb – or not even – before the Empire's retreat.

It was aggravating. While they had slaved to restore order and strength to a damaged empire, the usurpers back in The Galaxy had raped the memory of the Empire in The Galaxy's consciousness and compromised its principles. They were not the true Empire; there was only One Empire, and Daara led it. This was fact. But they had to bide their time. Not everyone in The Galaxy would acknowledge Grand Admiral Zend's status as the rightful heir and leader of the Empire, and they had to replenish their forces. Nonetheless it inspired ire to see impostors pillaging The Galaxy and disenfranchising its denizens.

Daara had intended to speak to her daughter about this very subject. But the child had already grown wise, and had beat her to it. The Grand Admiral withdrew herself from the table silently, covering a few feet of distance and retrieving a polished steel canister from the kitchen cupboard. “Do you know what this is?” She asked Riene as she returned to the dining room.

Riene's bright eyes inquisitively studied the object before she was prepared to answer. “I cannot say I do.”

Daara continued her stride, stopping at Riene's side. She popped open the container, taking a spoon from the place setting and sticking it into the cylinder. In a moment, she withdrew it, producing several navy and taupe-colored leaves and berries. They were obviously dried out long ago, but their piquant, sweet aroma could be perceived as soon as the cannister was open. She dropped them into her daughter's steaming cup of tea. “They're called Dharma berries. Incredibly rare and expensive, even in The Galaxy. Can you imagine what they are worth here?”

“Incredibly soothing,” Daara continued. “I fancy placing one into my tea when I need relaxation.”

Riene's regretful face vaguely resembled the form it took when she had made a mistake as a little girl. “Have I upset you?”

“Be quiet, of course not,” Grand Admiral Zend bit out laconically. She loved and valued Riene as a daughter and an officer, but there were some times where the young woman lapsed into being mildly ignorant. “I have just given you the last of them,” Daara continued after a moment diplomatically, eying her daughter's tea with an over-dramatic, forlorn countenance.

The Unknown Regions had no concept of tea before the Empire's arrival two decades ago. The best teas were produced formerly on Alderaan and more recently on Bothawui. Daara had last tasted Bothan tea over eleven years ago. Fortunately, she had hydroponically grown tea bushes within the fleet prior to their settlement on Orasclenna. Within short order she had established tea estates throughout the Unknown Regions, the best tea now coming from Maan'arythu, a former Arythi throneworld with some unique characteristics. But it still paled in comparison to a fine Bothawui or vintage Alderaanian blend. Dharma berries were not tea, however, and evolved on Ryloth, and Ryloth alone could they be cultured. The last berries in The Regions were now in Riene's cup.

The older woman observed the young for a moment. Riene didn't comprehend yet. Daara circled around back to her seat, maintaining a theatrical quiet before continuing. “And we need more...” she trailed off.

Then Riene understood. “You mean,” she began, then stopped herself, hopeful eyes locked on her mother. They were truly to return to The Galaxy!

Daara inclined her head, bringing her cup to her mouth. Daara confirmed, “Drink up, dearie.”

Riene did indeed take a drink of her tea on the spot, as if doing so was ordered. “Shall I inform my men to ready themselves for 'foraging'?” She asked, eagerly.

“Of course,” Daara retorted matter-of-factly, as if her daughter had asked a question to which the answer was plainly known. It was a tone of voice she used rather often. “I have already notified Orasclenna that we will be departing.” She set down her teacup. “I've also... informed the rebels of our return.”

The rebels of whom she spoke of were called the Imperial Remnant in The Galaxy. Above all, she considered them the most traitorous, even more so than the Rebellion, which called itself the New Republic, that formed under Palpatine's rule. They had seen the greatness of the Empire from the inside and still betrayed it.

“But... why?” Riene questioned, her eyes widened. She obviously had understood that her mother had dismissed the element of surprise, but she did not understand why she had done such a thing.

Daara, therefore, was a bit disappointed as she regarded her daughter. “Not every battle is fought with plasma. I thought that was one of the first lessons of being a Stormtrooper,” Daara lightly chided.

“As was 'surprise is a weapon far more potent than any turbolaser,'” Riene recited with a bite of criticism.

Daara smiled. Questioning the reasoning behind orders was not always a bad thing, and she was glad her daughter remembered at least that. “Surprise is not a single point,” Daara began to explain. “It is a wave in a lake. One point of that wave may be used, but the potential for surprise is present in an infinite number of further possibilities. It is not once-and-done,” Daara taught. She did not blame her daughter for her initial reluctance; it was a difficult concept to grasp. “Rest assured, little dear; they will be surprised again.”

That was enough of a guarantee for Riene. “I always trust in your assurances, Mother.”

“As well you should,” Daara agreed. Questioning was good, but seeing the fault in one's own logic and acknowledging another's stratagem superseded that precept.

They both put their conversation on hold as another rang sounded from the door. After Daara permitted it, the cook entered with a tray of breakfast pastries and a few types of condiments. Daara offered a small smile at her daughter at their little secret, finally resuming the exchange after the cook had left.

“I anticipate great support for our triumphant return,” Daara resumed, selecting quickly an object from the tray.

Riene took a bit longer before choosing an item. “Only the basest fools would refuse us.”

“Fools, and usurpers,” Daara added. “The second is our primary concern. Education for the former, fear, fear and termination for the latter,” she advised. Her daughter nodded in interested agreement, finally selecting a pastry. There always had been a number of people in The Galaxy actively working to thwart the Empire, and they were more dangerous. But the majority had never been able to perceive the truth unobstructed by ancient bias; these had their view distorted by lies first from the Rebellion, then from the false Remnant, and currently the Galactic Union.”But I believe there is enough goodness yet in The Galaxy that billions will return to their masters with open arms. They have not stolen that, yet,” Daara proposed, believing that even though The Galaxy had been abused at the hands of false rulers, the people were ultimately intact.

“Nevertheless,” Riene began after swallowing her first bite. “It is rather shameful how the best minds are dragged down by the lowest common denominators. I hope they can break free,” she said with a tone of sadness. Riene had been quite young, so she had only experienced The Galaxy through a precocious child's eyes. But she had listened well to her mother, and studied all the fleet database had on The Galaxy. She was learned, as well as perceptive and empathic.

“Whether it is they or we that break it, they shall be restored,” Daara assured. While spontaneous revolution against tyranny was possible, more often than not good people required a nudge in the right direction. Or a punch.

“Yes, but some will merely come because of our victories, not as true supporters,” her daughter challenged, finishing the pastry and dusting the powered sugar off of her gloves.

“Such is a result of any government,” the elder Zend dismissed.

“Yes,” Riene began to counter. “But most of those will be the industrious idiots you warned me about, Mother,” she finished with a smile.

Daara returned the smirk. “You're wise to remember,” she conceded. Riene well knew her sociology. “We will deal with them when the time comes. The Rebellion has corrupted many, but not all such things are permanent.”

Grand Admiral Zend finished the last of her refreshment, the panoply of flavors ebbing and disappearing, finally surrendering in totality. “Now, we both have much work to do,” Daara stated authoritatively, standing from the table. She wished the last swallow of the tea had a little bit of Dharma berry in it.

“As you wish, Mother,” Riene complied. She looked down into her own glass, which contained a little bit more of the purple-brown liquid. She reached her hand out towards her mother, presenting the last sip to her.

Daara acquiesced, gratefully taking the proffered cup. She was such a good girl. “Prepare your men for urban fighting and forested terrain. Failure is not an option, no matter the cost. Understood, Marshal?” The Grand Admiral ordered, tone becoming serious. Riene was her own daughter, but sometimes risks must be made; she would lead the first major offensive.

Chief Marshal Riene Zend stood, clicking her heels together with a crisp tap. “As you wish, Mother.” She stood at attention, ready to be dismissed.

“You may go,” Grand Admiral Zend simply said. As she observed her daughter's military gait, she could feel a sense of moderated glee coming from the woman. Daara felt good for her; Riene would have the chance to prove herself to the Empire in one action. She had the utmost confidence.

As Zend mentally prepared to ready herself for the coming days, she looked downwards into Riene's glass, which was now still in the Grand Admiral's hand. Daara braced herself for the tactile sensation that would soon follow, and downed the last of the Dharma berry-infused, fermented tea.

She thirsted for more.

The True Empire now should now know that they are turning to The Galaxy; no one else, however, should, nor should this information be spread IC outside of the True Empire until further notice. :)
Grand Admiral Daara Zend
Leader of the Galactic Empire, Flag Officer of Arquebusier

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Emmett Fink

Joined: 07 Aug 2009
Posts: 14

 Post Posted: Thu, January 07th 2010 02:26pm    Post subject:
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Emmett felt a tight anger rise up into his chest.

"Don't turn your back on me Krauss." he said through his teeth. "need i remind you that we are the same rank and you have entitlement to neither summon me or dismiss me."

Selena looked back at him her eyes gleaming, but she said nothing.

He continued. "I feel I must also remind you that you have no right to terminate my mission, as it was given to me by Chief Marshal Zend. Nico's still out there, under my command, when you called me back. for nothing more than a high-faluten rumor that Admiral Zend would be holding a conference." He had to stop himself. They had been lying in wait for the Grand Admiral to move the fleet for what seemed like decades. And now, when he finally had work to do, he was summoned back for a false start to a campaign that most likely would never occur.

He didn't like Nico out there on her own. Chief Marshall Zend had entrusted him with the assignment to make sure she eliminated the galaxy's political threat point blank. They were paying her to do it. Afterward, he was supposed to take the woman into custody. she was after all a common criminal and they needn't pay a fringer to do their dirty work for them. His anger toward Krauss for recalling him, his anger toward whatever higher-up had made him return was immense, especially when now he was out of touch with such an unpredictable entity as Vera Nico.

Selena began to speak, but was interrupted by the small personal comm at her side. Chief Marshall Riene Zend's voice filled the cold space between the two commanders...

I hope this works. figured we need some communication between characters. Do with it what you will. :-)
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Riene Zend

Joined: 18 Jun 2009
Posts: 118
Location: Arquebusier

 Post Posted: Sat, January 30th 2010 08:17pm    Post subject:
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Crap... I totally missed that tag for all this time. >_<

The younger Zend's voice crackled over the comlink. "Lieutenant Commander Fink, report to my office immediately for debriefing. Commander Krauss, you may attend too; I would speak with you after."

Riene switched off her comlink and took the remaining dozen steps to her office hatch. With the Grand Admiral's verbal order given, she had much work to do. Unfortunately, she also had to carry it out in a roundabout fashion: rumors spread quickly even among this Empire. Some things just couldn't be extracted from human nature, no matter how hard the attempt made.

But first Krauss and Fink needed to be handled, since they'd be able to arrive long before she could finish briefing any of her generals or quartermasters.

Bureaucracy was her bane at times.
Chief Marshal Riene Zend

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Daara Zend

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 Post Posted: Wed, March 03rd 2010 02:58pm    Post subject:
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"I reinforce to you that this attack must not permit any outside communication to the Rebels or the Traitors," Grand Admiral Zend informed those gathered before her. "They will simply think this is an anomaly, perhaps pirates or a rogue faction. By the time they are in a position to figure things out, they will be disemboweled. Understood?"

The dozens of holoprojected visages before her issued their acknowledgments. She stood on the dais in the Arquebusier's briefing room. The captains attending in person, seated before her, and the commanders present through the holo had been absorbing the mission objectives intently. This would not be a particularly large operation in military terms, but it would be the last step before the fight to retake the Galaxy would begin.

The housecleaning of the Traitors' high command was complete. The Remnant, she understood, was in disarray, frantically attempting to recover. She relished the idea that hundreds of illegitimate high-ranking officers were soiling their dress uniforms over her return.

But now, it was time to take the fight to the original enemy: the Rebels. They were the extant result of the inbreeding between the Rebel Alliance and other self-deceiving dissidents in The Galaxy. They would be decapitated and their demise would follow.

"You will initiate the mission in fourteen hours," Daara informed her fleet commanders. She particularly spoke to Admiral Danab, who would be leading the naval portion of the task. He was a competent officer; not particularly ambitious with his own plans, nor so feverishly devoted that he would place his charges in jeopardy on account of zealotry. He was the perfect subordinate for critical engagements as this. "Good luck," the Grand Admiral wished upon them. "It is the beginning of a new day."

She deactivated the holotransceiver and dismissed those physically present. Except for one person. "Chief Marshal Zend, if I may speak with you for a moment?"

Riene stood with the other officers, but remained as they filed out of the room. Her daughter was not a captain of a vessel or a commander of a fleet, but her presence in the meeting was easily more important than that of all the other men combined. Her mission was to board and to assault the Rebels' flagship.

"In my office, if you would," Daara stated, moving to the connecting door. In a split second, a dozen active safety protocols discretely scanned and confirmed the Grand Admiral's identity before the partition slid open.

The room, which in turn connected to Zend's personal quarters, was not overly large or grandiose. A stately conference table dominated most of the space. An elegant bar was positioned at one end of the enclosure, to which Daara proceeded.

"Excited?" Daara asked, a smile warming her face, after the door had closed. She relieved the pressure of the buttons on her uniform collar.

"Erm, well, yes," Riene stumbled slightly. She was rather taken aback by the sudden change in tone.

"Forgive your mother for feeling a bit of pride," Daara smirked. She moved to the bar area and removed a bottle of champagne, pouring its contents into two chilled crystal glasses. "Every day, I've agonized over bringing you back home. And now, it's almost time."

Riene let her own smile slip. "I've been looking forward to it for a long time," she assured.

Daara handed her daughter one of the glasses. "What do you remember of it?" Riene had been taken from The Galaxy when she was only a child. It was a decision Daara would choose again. Riene had experienced things in the formerly-Unknown Regions that few humans had ever seen. But sometimes, Daara wished Riene had discovered the same things she herself had witnessed in The Galaxy.

"Just bits and pieces," the younger Zend recalled after a moment of thought. "It served me no purpose to recall tiny notes of nostalgia from back then. So, I never really thought about it."

"Mmm, it is a... decadent universe," Daara explained. "Not for much longer, though. You're wise to put away your memories of it. There are some jewels, don't misunderstand me, but everything is tarnished.

Riene sipped her champagne. "Then I suppose they could use a good, hard scrubbing,"

"Yes," Daara smiled, before partaking of the liquor herself. This was a local Orasclennan vintage. Its alcohol content was unusually high, and was not an everyday indulgence. It was not as fulfilling as tea, but it would do.

"And we are your brush," Riene completed. Those words would have sounded strange coming from anyone else, but to Daara, they formed a phrase of commitment.

She laughed, a bit embarrassed. "It's good your shot is as good as your flattery."

Riene acknowledged the compliment mid-sip. She continued after she had placed the glass on the table. "As the Rebel scum are soon to find out."

"Indeed they are," Daara agreed. She swished her drink around in its holder, looking into the swirl before she continued, her tone more serious. She spoke intimately, something she usually did not do, even with her daughter. "This is somewhat different from your other missions, dear. The people in The Galaxy - they... fight differently than the aliens we've encountered here. Be ready to adapt."

"I've seen plenty of holos, and run the sims, Mother," Riene contested.

"I understand," Daara confirmed.

"I'm as familiar with modern combat as with our... counter-insurgency operations out here," her daughter continued. "And honestly, I think if we'd used CI tactics against the Rebels all those years ago... well, we might not be out here." She smiled. "We'd be talking on Coruscant."

Riene's words betrayed her youth. It was not a bad thing, no, not a bad thing. But such plans never worked as they were theorized. "Unfortunately, there are always... other complications on a larger stage. You'll see soon enough."

"But rest assured," Daara was quick to add. "You well know that your position has nothing to do with our relation. I have every confidence that you are the finest of all infantry in the galaxy, or you wouldn't be taking on this mission. But still, you are my daughter. And..." Daara trailed off, feeling an unexpected twinge in her throat. "I-I want you to return to me."

Daara did love her daughter. She couldn't remember ever having told Riene that. It wasn't how either of them expressed it. Disciplining and leading Riene in the right ways were Daara's methods. But now, Daara found herself sending Riene far from the home the young woman had known, and although Riene had spearheaded more difficult missions than this, it was worrisome. She wanted Riene to know how much her mother valued her, in case it was mired in too much protocol for her to notice.

"They will be savage and unyielding," Daara gained strength in her voice. "Give them no quarter, or they will have you."

Daara didn't know how Riene truly felt, but the look on her face was one of beaming that the Grand Admiral had not often perceived. Riene must have felt like she was ten feet tall, with such a relative outpouring from her mother and role model. She reached out to touch her mother's hand. "No Rebels can prevent me from coming back to my real home, Mother. Do not fear."

Daara Zend felt a tinge of motherly satisfaction. Riene had been mature for years, but still Daara marveled that her daughter was indeed fully grown, fully autonomous, and fully Imperial. She gripped her hand in turn and squeezed gently, a smile on her lips. "Sometimes it is... hard to do the things I do, Riene. Knowing that I must risk your life, and that I must do it again and again, regardless of how much I... love you. And that even if the mission were certain death, I'd still send you. I've watched you grow and mature as a woman and a soldier, and you fulfilled..." Daara paused, thinking for the word. "Everything."

Daara found it increasingly difficult to keep her composure. She looked into her daughter's eyes. "Always know that it is still hard for me. But I will never hesitate. That is how much I trust you. The future of the Empire rests on this mission - on you." She added, "And I know I have nothing to fear."

Her daughter returned her gaze, squarely into her mother's eyes. "I don't take this mission just for the Empire, or for its future. I do it for you, Mother."

Daara felt a warmth inside of her. She had never asked anyone for devotion to her own self; she was not worthy of loyalty; only the Empire was deserving. In fact, fanatical servitude to an individual, above the Empire, was evil, something that she would punish, even if it were allegiance to Daara herself. But to hear those words from her daughter... it instilled upon the Grand Admiral, the Leader of the True Empire, that the road on which they were about to embark was indeed the right path. Daara did what she did for the Empire and the galaxy, but she also did it for Riene. "As do I."

Daara placed a kiss upon her daughter's forehead. She had not done so since her daughter's earliest years. Riene was overwhelmed by the hysterical outpouring of emotions from her mother. She was deeply touched, and her eyes were growing misty. But she controlled it well, keeping her voice strong. "I," she began, clearing her throat. "I will not let you down, Mother. And I will return for my next mission."

Daara brushed a stray strand of blonde from her daughter's eyes. "Thank you," she said, smiling faintly. She said it with such conviction and gratitude that she had never expressed to any being before in her life. Riene was truly worthy of it.

Reluctantly, the elder Zend pulled away, taking the champagne glass in her hands. She brought her other fingers up to brush away some surprising moistness from her own eyes. Daara had every confidence in Riene, and knew that the mission would be completed. She would trust Riene as much as Riene had trusted her. "The next time I drink this," she indicated the glass. "Will be with you on Coruscant."

She swallowed the rest of the burning liquid. "Be safe, my dear." Daara's tone gently indicated it was time for them to part ways, for now. The assignment was but a few hours away.

"I will be, Mother," Riene stated, quietly clicking her heels together in military salute. Daara watched as her daughter left the room. She wished she could be there to see her daughter bringing justice to the faithless, to see her commanding soldiers and anticipating every decision. She could not, but she would anxiously anticipate Riene's debriefing, waiting in excite for news of her triumphs and the Rebels' burgeoning downfall; the harbinger of the True Empire's return.

She would more eagerly await seeing her daughter again.
Grand Admiral Daara Zend
Leader of the Galactic Empire, Flag Officer of Arquebusier

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Selena Krauss

Joined: 03 Aug 2009
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 Post Posted: Sun, March 21st 2010 02:54am    Post subject:
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"I reinforce to you that this attack must not permit any outside communication to the Rebels or the Traitors," Grand Admiral Zend informed those gathered before her. "They will simply think this is an anomaly, perhaps pirates or a rogue faction. By the time they are in a position to figure things out, they will be disemboweled. Understood?"

Selena fidgeted with excitement at the end of the table, filled with persons and holo-images. Her eyes piercing straight into Zend, pulsing with anxiety and the desire to please. Selena was the first to speak on this item, "Your will shall be done with zero error, Grand Admiral." Selena waited for the remaining commanders to acknowledge the woman, but blood-lust was already setting in the back of Selena's mind. The Galaxy will pay for this injustice, and Daara will resume her rightful place.

"You will initiate the mission in fourteen hours," Daara informed her fleet commanders. She particularly spoke to Admiral Danab, who would be leading the naval portion of the task. Selena was internally vexed at her choice, but would follow her command nonetheless. She felt as though her position in the Grand Admiral's eyes was set in stone, that she had proved herself long and hard over the decades. "Good luck," the Grand Admiral wished upon them. "It is the beginning of a new day."

And it was. All would change. Selena Krauss would once again set foot on Kashyyyk. She would enslave the creatures that so strongly supports the Rebellion. She'd crush them beneath her heels and make them feel the full weight of the True Empire. Daara understood this desire, this passion. And she'd be chosen for a mission that required her delicate touch to situations. "Grand Admiral, it is an honor." Selena parted, saluting in proper, before exiting the room. The younger Zend was left behind, but the young woman had earned her place... and Selena was loyal to her as well.

She decided to return to her vessel, knowing that the Grand Admiral would call her to duty. For now, she was going to prepare her own forces... she required them at the best.
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Daara Zend

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 Post Posted: Thu, June 10th 2010 11:36pm    Post subject:
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The Remnant High Command was exterminated, and the Rebel buccaneers' commander was disintegrated. The harsh sting of justice had crippled the heart of the impure, and Daara knew still more needed to be done.

The Grand Admiral sat in her personal quarters as the reports continued to file in to her datapad. She clasped a warm cup of an Orasclennan brew in her other hand. It was dark and bitter... and the tea was too. Daara set the teacup onto an austere endtable and leaned back into the customized chair. She sighed, a smile evident on her face.

Twenty years of planning a victory does indeed make, she thought.

Riene had personally ended the sad little life of Ulgo. Grand Admiral Zend had congratulated her daughter formally in a small court of recognition held on the Arquebusier. She had not yet conveyed her feelings to Riene personally. It was not necessary, but Daara intended to pass her sentiments along eventually. Not at the first opportunity; she did not want her daughter to grow complacent and soft due to praise - of course, Riene was not capable of being anything less than ideal, but even so.

The woman stood, her night dress flowing around her knees. It was nothing special: the material was practical, not adorned, and did not augment her considerable assets. Daara imagined she commanded the presence of a Grand Admiral as much now as she did when garbed in her full, sparkling dress suit. Things so innate to a person were not enhanced nor reduced by such petty external paraphernalia. The fool would be dazzled by Daara's uniform; the smart would be floored by her presence, her mind, and, foremost, the glory of the Empire.

Daara knew she commanded fear. But she did not want the reverence. She looked at herself as the manifestation and embodiment of the Empire, the only entity that was worthy and capable of ruling the galaxy. Nothing was hers alone. She was the proxy between the abstraction of the Empire and the universe. Had there been a better candidate, Daara would have recognized and supported such an individual. However, there simply was not. Riene would worthily succeed her mother if her life were to be forfeit, but the younger Zend still had a ways to go before she could surmount Daara.

It would indeed have been a challenge. The attack on the Remnant Command had been flawless. Her puppets within the government had survived, as had her prime candidate to lead the Usurpers. Now the agent of the True Empire's will had almost served his purpose. He was a useful tool, but was not worthy of ruling with her in the New Age. He would be cast aside.

Daara wished she could personally be present within the board rooms of the Usurpers and the Traitors. She virtually was, but it was not the same. The Remnant was scrambling to choose what buffoon would lead them against the threat of Zend; she had already chosen the replacement. The Rebels gathered in a false sense of security to find a new head for their decapitated body; the choice did not matter.

The only hitch in the plan had been Ares Valure. Daara lamented the failure, but it was unexpected. The death of the incompetent lecher had not been a priority, anyway. One of her brokers would finish the job eventually anyway, if the man didn't die of cirrhosis first.

An intended side effect of Daara's direct attacks had been those neutral parties who had dared to act now that the Union was exposed and vulnerable. The attack on the pontificating hypocrites in the Jedi Temple had brought particular pleasure to her ears. The destruction of the selfish center of greed on Denon had crippled the Union's economy even more than the rumors flying from Bastion.

The perpetrators of these acts were not serving the Empire, of course. But if there was such a thing as levels of sin, they were among the least dirty. They saw the Union was corrupt and lawless while preaching the values of "freedom" and "justice." The Union did not know the meanings of the terms.

Time would tell whether those independent vigilantes would come around to see the truth, but for now, they were temporarily in line with the True Empire's goals. They were decimating the Union. Later Daara would perhaps have to dispose of them, but they were not the top priority for the moment.

Daara sat down on her bed, the furniture itself unmodified from its original configuration for a ship's captain. Daara found a hint of her one of her own feelings creeping up on her: impatience. She longed to eviscerate the rebels now, but a few more days were required for everything to be in order.

Those days, now, were all that separated her from The Galaxy.
Grand Admiral Daara Zend
Leader of the Galactic Empire, Flag Officer of Arquebusier

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Riene Zend

Joined: 18 Jun 2009
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Location: Arquebusier

 Post Posted: Sat, September 18th 2010 01:28am    Post subject:
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Riene's bootheels clicked on the deckplates, acting as a steady metronome that heralded her arrival. The massive cargo bay had been converted into a prison compound, complete with guard posts and barracks, some basic facilities for the prisoners, and of course, the ability to lock it down and vent or poison the atmosphere, making it far more inescapable than a conventional, ground-based prison. Granted, the idea wasn't exactly pioneering: Ysanne Isard had done it nearly forty years before. But this time, there was no need for subterfuge. Knowing there was nowhere to go but into the airless void was a very useful morale-breaker.

Of course, they had one other option. Their only option, really: join forces with the True Empire. But then, there were the zealots and partisans, chanting about death before dishonor and whatnot. Fortunately, even they had a use to serve in the True Empire: examples. Terminate a few of those that would vocally refuse amnesty and the rest would fall in line. Improperly done, however, the technique could backfire miserably. Fortunately, the True Empire had gained a good deal of practice in proper cowing of resistance and showing that further attempts were beyond futile without going too far. And, as part of her studies, Riene had made herself intimately familiar with all the grim calculus.

As she strode in, her stride never breaking for the massive doors that parted just in time, she surveyed the pathetic horde. Eighty-hundred forty Army troopers, mainly armor personnel, were situated in the bay with over twelve hundred Navy officers and crew. The air processors were running at full; fortunately, those efforts combined with the impromptu but clearly well-built sewage system kept any particular offensive vapors to a minimum. Then again, given the prisoners were tasked with maintaining their own living conditions, she supposed it was only logical that they'd rather not be neck-deep in their own filth.

Another slightly-surprising aspect were the carefully-regimented formations formed by the prisoners. Notice of the inspection had been given to the two commanding officers, of course: the tour was entirely official, even a kind of diplomatic function. But Riene never fully expected such a reception. And, she had to admit—with grudging respect—that the battered prisoners were certainly providing a decent facsimile of Imperial discipline. However, her opinion still remained low since many Army units decided to scatter and go underground. Granted, many more had surrendered and were being held in prison camps on the surface and through the fleet. But this group was unique: they were all from the same armored battlegroup, and were one of the last units to give in. It'd taken a good deal of blasterfire and blood to break them... and the surrender smacked of spite and convenience. And the chief marshal had no taste for defiant prisoners. However, their contempt had been strictly internal. They were model captives, save the haughty glares and pouting. Nevertheless, Riene had a feeling they'd prove decidedly resistant.

The Navy prisoners, however, were model in another way. The commanders clearly held some regard for the lives of their crews, and were much more cooperative. Then again, their war lacked the brutality of ground combat. A turbolaser would simply vaporize a man, or suck him into space... no maimed body for his comrades to march around, no screams of horror and agony to play on the nerves of the weak. The Army troops in the cargo bay had had their numbers reduced by nearly ninety-four percent on the field before they surrendered. And while the drones had their own special brand of brutality, conventional armaments could sufficiently and violently tear apart the humanoid body for the proper psychological effect. The Navy crewers simply wouldn't see a turbolaser blast striking nearby, tearing into the ground and shooting a jet of superheated silicate vapor skyward... watch as men completely remote from the impact were incinerated and had the burned flesh stripped from their bones by the blast wave... others simply collapsing dead from the blast overpressure that caused their brains and lungs to hemorrhage. And simple rocks and patches of sand flung around, semi-molten shrapnel that cleaved through flesh and bone without regard to age, gender, political leanings, or how good-intentioned someone was. Wars among the stars and across the planets weren't dictated by silly morality tales, where heroes won out unscathed and villains perished in fitting ways. The terrorists and traitors didn't always get what was coming to them, and men and women simply doing their duty to retain order, peace, and security were often butchered. But, just this once, the heroes had won. Riene was tempted to smile, to lord the victory over the crushed remnants. However, she was nothing if not a master of self-control.

The two commanding officers stood before her. The Army could only muster a major; the Navy managed a rear admiral who had been pulled out of an escape pod. With a guard of two Stormtroopers and four legitimate Army troopers at her back, she greeted the two officers formally and began the inspection. Obviously, she wasn't going to hold prisoners to parade-ground appearance standards, but it was clear that—if only for the sake of ego—they were certainly doing their best to scrape up to those standards. Backs ramrod straight, eyes fixed straight ahead... even the wounded who could stand had been marshaled into the ranks. But, there was more to it; she could feel the defiance streaming off of the Army troopers still; a raging contempt, barely restrained... a prideful bunch, to be sure.

She examined the prisoner barracks, their mess area, even their showers. Scanning crews had already been making regular sweeps to find potential problem materials, but Riene still made a point of examining the bunks and storage cabinets for potential contraband. It sent a clear message: there is nowhere to hide from the True Empire, nor will the Empire leave any stone unturned should the need arise.

All of the rooms were vacant, given every last prisoner who inhabited them was standing on the deck. It wasn't until she entered the makeshift field hospital that she found more prisoners. Most wore Army uniforms, though the medical staff were all naval. Given every trooper who could stand was already doing so, all of the cases still within the hospital were either missing one or both legs or unconscious, connected to fluid drips, and covered in bandages. Riene turned to one of the doctors. “I want these people outside, with the rest.”

Before the doctor could give her reply, a nurse grumbled, “They can't stand at attention for your parade.”

Zend speared the impudent man with a glare. “Can they move or be moved to be counted? Or would you rather remain short on supplies?”

The doctor nodded, then pointed to one soldier so heavily swathed in bandages that Riene could tell nothing of gender or affiliation. “That one can't be moved.”

“What's the patient's condition, Doctor?”

She shook her head. “I can't say for certain.”

“Will they survive or not?”

“Possibly. Possibly not.”

Riene chewed on the inside of her cheek. “Doctor, I shall ask you one final time. If you cannot provide a satisfactory answer, then I'll attend to the case myself. Do the odds favor survival?”

“Surprisingly, yes,” the other woman said quickly. “The burns are severe and extensive, but I think we can pull him—or her—through.”

“You don't know?”

The doctor gave Zend a severe and heartfelt look. “That's how severe the burn injuries are. Without proper laboratory and bone-scanning equipment--”

“Very well. Move the rest outside and we'll make sure to add one to the count.”

Riene moved along as the doctors and nurses began to move the conscious patients onto stretchers and simply wheeled out the beds of those who were unconscious. “Major, please wait with your personnel. I need to talk to the Admiral for a moment.”

The major gave an obedient nod and, with a couple of guards, walked off toward his tattered command. The Remnant fleet's chief representative asked, “What is it you wish to discuss, Chief Marshal?”

“A chance for those under your command to still have a future, Admiral. You are their commanding officer: you hold a good deal of influence. Persuade them to join forces with the True Empire, and their lives will be spared,” she explained as the two walked down the split ranks of Navy personnel. One officer briefly caught Riene's eye; not particularly tall, but with a minor bit of scruff on his face and piercing blue eyes. He just seemed... different. “But, any who refuse...”

“I see.”

“And should you refuse to bring the offer to them, Admiral... you forfeit your life and all those of your men. So, no kneejerk heroics, please. You hold their fate in your hands.”

“May I discuss it with them?” the older man asked nervously.

“You may. Give a speech, interview them individually, it doesn't matter. Just be sure to have an answer before the good major gives his,” Zend replied curtly.

“Thank you, Chief Marshal.”

The admiral peeled off and soon Riene heard him give a plain, uninspired, but rather accurate dissertation on the choices before them. She walked across the massive bay and beckoned the major to her. “As you can see, the Admiral has been offered a choice between giving up serving the so-called Remnant to join forces with the True Empire, and the consequences of refusing such an offer. I offer you the same choice: life in Imperial service, or you die as traitors, here and now.”

The major's eyes widened at the stark bluntness of the offer. “Chief Marshal, I am not certain how my troops will react to such an ultimatum.”

“Then perhaps you should try to persuade them, Major. If you die here, you die for nothing. You do not give your lives to win some victory for your false Emperor, you do not die to defend the innocent. You die for arrogance and stupidity, only.”

“It seems you gave the Admiral a chance to talk to his people. Might you extend the same courtesy to me?”

Zend nodded as one of the Navy captives, a real Army trooper in tow, ran up. “Of course.”

“Chief Marshal, Rear Admiral Lloyd has asked me to deliver a message.”

Riene glanced at the young woman's shoulder insignia. “Yes, Sublieutenant?”

“We accept your gracious offer.”


“Um... I don't know. Ma'am.”

Imbecile. To make a report, one must have all of the facts already assembled. “Very well. Tell the admiral to have all who will accept line up against the starboard bulkhead. The rest are to form up, rank and file, and will be placed in detention.”

The woman nodded. A moment passed. “Go,” Riene growled.

“...And so, an offer of amnesty is being extended to us by our captors. We have done our duty for Bastion, we have shed our blood... we have lost friends and comrades. Many of you bear the personal scars of our valiant struggle,” the major was droning on. “I have been asked, to accept on your behalf, this offer. I don't need to point out that to refuse will likely have dire consequences.”

There was a long pause.

"Don't do it, Major!" Riene's eyes fell upon one of the wounded men. He was sitting on a crate, angled to support the remains of his severed left leg while allowing him to rest his right leg normally. "If we join them, they're just killing us anyway... and using us to take the lives of our comrades in the process!"

"Major, I need an answer," the chief marshal insisted. "Now."

The man's jaw worked. But the next sound didn't issue from his mouth, but from the upstart amputee's boot-heel, stamping on the deck plates. His voice joined a moment later, accompanying the rhythmic cadence. He sang out, "Through wind, snow..."

"...And rain..." Several others chimed in, falling in quickly with the melody.

"Through the swamps and the mud!" More voices joined, and the singers began to stamp their feet in cadence. "We'll keep pressing on, to shed our foe's blood...
"There is nowhere to hide and they'll scatter before us..."

"Yes, before us!"Now the majority of the group had joined in. The major turned away from Riene to gape at his troops, who continued in their defiant chorus. "Onward march the walkers, grinding them into dust!"

The song was known to Riene. It was a popular song, written around five years before the Battle of Yavin by an anonymous soldier who served in an armored unit. From that unit, it quickly propagated and become a much-loved marching song for walker and hovertank units up to the Great Exodus... and, it seemed, it even existed in the traitor Empire.

With thundering motor... Riene found herself mentally singing along, beginning the next verse. However, she was mildly surprised to find the rest of the room didn't want to play along.

"Through wind, snow, and rain
"Through the swamps and the mud
"We'll keep pressing on
"To shed our foe's blood
"There is nowhere to hide and
"They'll scatter before us
"Yes, before us!
"Onward march the walkers

"Grinding Zend into dust!" The hidden smile that Zend had been masking faded with the modified last verse. A misguided example of patriotism and Imperial spirit had now become an open declaration of rebellion.

As they began to repeat the verse a third time, Riene grabbed the major by his shoulder and spun him around. "You need to decide whether you and your men live or die."

The officer looked at Riene a moment, then replied simply, "This is my answer, Chief Marshal." He fell into the line and stood at attention. When his mouth finally opened, the words that issued forth were not what she wished to hear. "There is nowhere to hide and they'll scatter before us--yes, before us!--onward march the walkers, grinding Zend into dust."

A deep breath prevented any unnecessary outburst from the young chief marshal. She merely turned and stepped away several paces, her face a concealing mask. But when she spoke to the Stormtrooper guard on her flank, the seething anger both blazed in her tone and put a lethal chill in her words. "Shoot them. I want every last Army captive dead."

"What about the Naval personnel?" the trooper asked calmly.

"Detention. And shoot any that get in the way, too."

The trooper seemed to stare off into space as Riene walked away. But she knew he was relaying her orders. The raucous singing and stamping of steel-shod boots drowned out the sound of charging levers being pulled on blasters of every size. But, as they finished their fourth time around, the guns opened up. Over the din of blaster fire and the agonized screams of dying men and women, Riene calmly to the open lift and rode it to the gun deck where rifle-armed soldiers and emplaced E-Webs, T-21 repeaters, and a few ancient Z6 rotaries rained emerald death on the formerly eight-hundred-forty-strong population of Remnant Army personnel. After a solid minute of firing, there was no one left standing among the defiant armor troops. A vast pool of blood slowly spread on the durasteel deck: with no incline to the surface, it had nowhere to run. The air was charged with the reek of ozone, burned flesh, and death. The deck was clear of Naval personnel, too. They'd begun to be herded out as soon as Riene gave the order.

Riene extracted her comlink. "Sensor control? I need a detailed bioscan of the cargo bay. Feed the information to the helmets of all Stormtroopers in here."

"Yes, ma'am."

There was a pause, then the E-Webs and light repeaters and rifles swung toward the fallen mass of bodies. Tight bursts tore into the heaps until no further life could be detected. It was almost all done. "Trooper, call maintenance and tell them to bring a large-scale clean-up crew. And break down that camp; it won't be needed anymore."
Chief Marshal Riene Zend

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Riene Zend

Joined: 18 Jun 2009
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Location: Arquebusier

 Post Posted: Wed, December 21st 2011 06:59pm    Post subject:
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Aboard the VSD Shurtou
Chief Marshal Riene Zend descended the gangplank of her Lambda-class shuttle. The pilot had strict orders to stay aboard until she returned with the prisoner.

She suppressed an oddly melodramatic urge to rub her hands together. Fate and fortune had indeed smiled upon the Empire: though Ansion was a tactical disaster due to unforeseen Rebel interference, they had managed to capture the pretender prince himself. Though it was sorely tempting to publicly execute him, her mother had provided wiser council. Though terminating the false prince would be a morale blow, it would also galvanize people behind Jendob, and his “tragic loss” at the hands of the dastardly Empire. But if the Prince's loyalties were poisoned, that would be a much better toxin to bring down the traitor Remnant. So, it was up to Riene to ensure the young prince was well-tended to, and shown all of the wonders of true order and honor. To educate him properly in what the Empire should be.

The younger Zend was grateful for her mother staying her hand. She quietly castigated herself for not thinking of it personally, but her anger and contempt for the Remnant had been on the rise in the five weeks since Muunilinst was captured. She recalled her grudging respect—tainted even by fear at their determination—when she landed with the assault force; that she allowed such weakness to enter her mind turned her stomach. And despite their two successful ambushes—both with that imbecile Myrn involved—the Rebellion had fared little better. Cloud City had been destroyed with enormous civilian casualties and their probing assaults on Bilbringi had been utterly crushed, not to mention the small matter of the future Operation: Firebreak. With the Empire's ready source of capital and forward industrial base, arrangements with major manufacturers were starting to require less secrecy. The Remnant was fracturing as moffs, governors, generals, and admirals who saw the writing on the wall made efforts to atone for their sin of disloyalty. The pathetic Galactic Union, as well, was beginning to fissure, and a few Union-aligned governments had made quiet diplomatic overtures. And had young Jendob been blasted on public holovision, all of that would likely have been lost.

Riene wondered if the young prince would be as contemptibly malleable as some of his countrymen, or would be stupidly obstinate and force her hand on eliminating him? Though she'd gleaned some useful background and psychological data from Vought, the information was still dated and very difficult to verify without the prince himself. Of course, if the data was inaccurate, then the results could be disastrous. That was the problem with analysis of a unique sample.

She made her way into the bowels of the Star Destroyer; to the detention level. Along the way, she passed several engineering groups attempting to patch the damage the Shurtou had suffered. The bridge tower would require complete replacement: the fact that even Myrn had survived on the bridge was a borderline miracle. Or curse, she mused. A full third of the tower had been blown away, and the resultant secondary damage throughout the tower had rendered much of it a gruesome hybrid of junk pile and abattoir. Remains—what the salvage crews were recovering couldn't even be called bodies—were still being pulled from the starboard third of the tower. The ship would likely be laid up in drydock, despite her extensive modifications to handle the Remnant's new Turbulent-class Star Destroyers. Had the two Victory-class ships dispatched to Ansion been unmodified, the traitors might not have needed their Rebel friends to save them. As it was, one ship had returned, looking worse for wear, with a highly valuable cargo that made the losses worthwhile. She supposed that perhaps Myrn might have earned a commendation for that, at least. Fortunately, the Navy was her mother's bailiwick; and her headache.

The detention officer saluted crisply as Riene entered the control room for the block. She wordlessly handed over a data chip. The black-clad lieutenant plugged it into the console reader, and his eyes widened. Zend's only response was “Open the cell.”

A pneumatic hiss echoed down the corridor... along with voices. Riene gripped her sidearm and strode confidently down the corridor. Shouts of anger and pain, jeers... “What is going here?”

The cell fell silent, save for quiet, pained groans. The pistol rose from its holster, and fell back to her side. Her thumb flicked the safety catch off. Her pace quickened, durasteel-shod boots thundering off the durasteel grates. She peered into the cell, and was enraged.

Her prize prisoner was the floor, with a pair of guards looming over him. One held a sack, the outline of a rigid, weighty object visible in its distended bottom. The other merely had his fists clenched, and a small trickle of blood coming from one nostril. The two men looked contemptuously up at the hatch, then blanched and snapped to attention so hard that Zend was mildly astonished they hadn't fractured their hands on the brims of their helmets. “I'll ask again. What... is going on here?”

The two men glanced nervously back and forth between each other. “Eyes front! I asked you a question, Corporal!” The chief marshal snapped as she read the man's rank off the plain white twist of fabric on his shoulders. “Or would you like me to conjecture? Because to me, it looks like a junior non-com and one of his lackeys decided to abuse a prisoner, with no idea who they were getting their jollies with.”

A flash of indignation in the junior enlistee's face fanned Riene's anger. “Or... you did know.” Both men glanced off to the side. “You knew?!” Zend's voice tore through the silent cell, her mind quickly calculating ways to salvage the situation. Even as her azure eyes blazed with genuine rage, the tendons in her neck tightened into durasteel cables, her brain assembled the perfect solution. “Get out of the cell. Now.”

Noting the pistol still clutched in her grip, the two guards hastily obeyed. “Open the vents,” she barked down the corridor. The lieutenant had to be complicit as well; guards at their level had no access to prisoner manifests. She began to ponder if he'd been ignorant of their intentions, but then she recalled his reaction to her orders.

With a click, the vents to the cells in the block opened. After one too many escapes during the first war against the Rebel scum with knocking on walls, pipes, beds, floors, and other fantastically stupid ways to cut around the isolation of prisoners (Why wasn't it addressed after the first time? Or before that, with a competent engineer?!), the True Empire had retrofitted its prisons to prevent the use of semaphores and other codes to communicate between cells. However, there were times when the jailers needed to communicate with multiple prisoners without tediously delivering the message to each individual or risking prison break by opening multiple cells or gathering a large knot of prisoners in one place. The solution was the vents that had just opened; they also nicely doubled for air circulation in the event of a primary life support failure... or ensuring any airborne remedies to problem blocks could not be thwarted by a prisoner somehow damaging his cell's life support systems.

“So, you illegally looked into the prisoner manifest, and found a high-value prisoner. And then what? Decided you've have a little fun, show the traitors what happens when high-value prisoners come into our grasp? Hmm?” she snarled. “Throw him a little party in his cell? Make him feel special?!”

“We—urg!” The guard private started to speak; Riene's fist interrupted. The guard fell back, clutching his bloodied mouth.

“You are both idiots. This man is worth more than the rest of the scum combined! And you jeopardize the Grand Admiral's plans for some moronic, boot-camp hazing?!”

“It's my fault ma'am. I'm the senior trooper, I shouldn't have—” The corporal began. Riene stared directly in his eyes, her gaze never wavering as the pistol came up at her hip. “No, you shouldn't have.”

The report in the confined corridor drowned out any scream. The junior trooper watched his superior fall. And made his last mistake: he reached for his own sidearm. Whether it was reflex or revenge, Riene didn't know and didn't care, either. No one raised a hand to a Zend. Her pistol spoke once more, then slid back into the holster with a soft whisper. With the prisoner safe, and importance—even superiority over the rest of them—established for all to hear, Zend calmly strode back to control room. The lieutenant stood there, staring at the two bodies on the grate. “If this happens again—look at me when I address you,” Riene said softly. The man slowly, haltingly turned his face to meet hers. His gaze, however, fixed on the ground. “If this ever happens again, I'll hold you just as responsible... private.”

She reached up and ripped his rank bar from his chest. “Call your relief, and pray you never darken my path again.”

Zend waited as he made the call, voice quavering. In ninety seconds, a new officer had arrived via turbolift. The new woman's irritated expression quickly vanished when she saw the defrocked officer and their penultimate superior gripping the man's insignia. “Sublieutenant Blesk, reporting as ordered.”

“Relieve the private. I am carrying out a prisoner transfer to the Arquebusier. You also have two bodies to clean up.”

“Y-yes, ma'am.” Blesk looked at her former superior. “You're relieved si—private.”

“Yes, ma'am. I stand rel—”

“Leave. Now,” the chief marshal interrupted flatly, walking back toward the open cell. “Close the vents, Sublieutenant. We don't want any communications flying back and forth.”

She walked purposefully into the cell, where Jendob was now sitting upright on the floor. “Are you injured, Lieutenant? Can you walk?”

“I can walk,” he replied distantly.

Riene analyzed her quarry. Certainly a handsome specimen, with his father's blue eyes. His Corellian accent was almost certainly inherited and reinforced by his mother, given his father's more civilized tones. I rather expected his voice would be deeper, too. She extended a gloved hand to him, bearing no friendship or malice. She simply needed to expedite his movement.

But he refused it, holding up his own hand, palm out, before pushing himself to his feet. Proud, too...

“Then come with me,” she ordered, gesturing with her hand.

The return to the hangar deck had been silent and tense. Riene suppressed a small smile as her first weapon against Jendob's implacable outer defense was brought to bear. “Ready the shuttle; we're leaving,” she called up the gangplank.

She gestured at the ramp. “Royalty first.”

He lowered his head, shading his eyes from her gaze, and sedately walked up the ramp. Riene followed closely to ensure he didn't try anything foolish that might force her to kill him. As the hatch closed behind her, she called to the cockpit again, “Once the ship is ready, pilot... why don't you come back here?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

Jendob's eyes narrowed slightly at the voice, as though with uncertain recognition. Riene impatiently gestured for him to sit, which he did. “So, why,” he asked, nearly sotto voce. “Why all this?”

A thousand lies and half-truths flashed before Zend. Obviously, a blatant “To show why everything you believe is wrong so you can bring the light of the True Empire back to your traitor family and splinter the government you've served” wouldn't do. “Why not?”

“What do you want?” Jendob demanded.

Riene turned and smiled. “To make a point.”

A lanky form in the gray-green of an Imperial Navy (the real Imperial Navy) lieutenant appeared. “Checklist complete, ma'am.” The pilot's voice halted as he saw the new passenger. Nevin Vought looked at his former comrade for a moment, as if expecting a response. Jendob shrugged his shoulders to Riene, face adorned with a small scowl.

After a pause that Riene found all too distressing to her timetables, Vought vanished back into the cockpit. “Keeps getting better,” Jendob said quietly as the shuttle lifted off the deck of the ship. Then his head perked up, and he looked at the chief marshal. He stated more audibly, “Smart.”

The trip to the Arquebusier was rather more awkward and tense than the journey to the hangar deck. Riene was rather annoyed that she hadn't rattled Jendob more; clearly, his upbringing had given him more steel than she anticipated. Once aboard the flagship, she intended to more thoroughly research the young prince and his parents. Unfortunately, she had additional duties pertaining to her “guest” after the shuttle touched down.

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Kris Jendob

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 Post Posted: Fri, December 23rd 2011 01:57am    Post subject:
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Finely-polished black floors seemed to continue on forever. Kris was reminded of the finiteness of the Arquebusier only by the occasional passing personnel, who passed with either a glare of contempt at Kris, or a look of fear (but always a salute) at the Chief Marshal.

Kris recalled that the Arquebusier was Grand Admiral Zend's flagship before she left the galaxy twenty years ago. He suspected this ship was the very same one, although he had seen the extent of the modifications on his approach. If so, Kris wagered, the Grand Admiral was here right now, on her special Star Destroyer. And yet, inside, though most of the Star Destroyer looked much like the other Star Destroyers in the Remnant fleet, something felt very different. The officers that had received them had the usual palpable air of respect and protocol, but there was something else behind it: real fear. It was as if the officers knew that deviating from protocol would get them killed. No one in the Remnant truly feared that—demotion, yes, imprisonment, perhaps. But fear of death? He wondered if ships of the old Empire, back in the days of Palpatine and Vader, had felt this way. But he suspected there was something else to it.

The Chief Marshal stopped before an unassuming door. "These are your quarters," she stated.

Kris stopped and raised his eyebrows. "Quarters," he repeated. He had not expected quarters. What was their angle? "Then what?"

"Then you do whatever you please," she lectured. "In your quarters," she added. Kris found this woman hard to figure out. He would call the way she looked at him contemptuous, but that seemed too shallow a word. Kris didn't know what to call his attitude towards her, either. "The Grand Admiral may wish to call on you in the future, however. So, you won't be bored for long," she finished with a cold smile. "If you attempt to leave, you will be stunned."

"Fair enough," Kris muttered, pressing the control for the door. It slid open soundlessly, and beyond the frame Kris could see a surprisingly comfortable room. Kris now knew the feeling he felt: he was being patronized, passively insulted with no words. He felt indignant and turned back to the woman. "I didn't know chief marshals did escort duty."

"We don't normally entertain royalty," she responded, as if the later word was difficult to pronounce. Again, Kris was confused—contempt, but... not?

"Heh," Kris snorted, eyes falling to the ground. Royalty. Was that really what he was? He figured he couldn't complain about it when it had apparently saved his life. He raised his head. He wanted to see just how far this royalty would allow him to go. "And if I want to speak to her?"

"Then you will wait until she wishes to speak to you," she repeated.

Kris sighed. "Fine. And if I want you, Marshal?"

The icy smile returned frostier. "Don't worry; we'll be dining together. We can't risk our new guest trying to starve himself, after all," she mused. "Except tonight. Tonight, you'll have the company of the guard."

"If that's the case, maybe you should arm me this time and make it even," he growled quietly, angry not at her but at the men that had beaten him in the cell.

"Sergeant Stirling will behave himself. Of that, you have my word," the Marshal said with a tone of finality as she turned away. Kris actually believed her.

"And whose word is that anyway, Marshal?" He called at her back. He realized he had not discovered her name.

She paused and looked over her shoulder at Kris. She smirked. "Why, the word of the Grand Admiral's daughter, of course."

Kris felt uneasy as Zend strode away. He let himself fade backward into his new quarters and closed the door in front of him. He didn't recall that the Grand Admiral had a daughter—not that he had looked much into Zend's life—and certainly didn't know that she was Chief Marshal. Was this Empire fueled by nepotism, then? Then again, what Kris a few days ago would have called "nepotism" had probably saved his life.

He crossed the distance from the door to the bed. It was not extravagant, but it was embellished for military quarters. The room was perhaps the size of two normal units and had an adjoining bathroom. A great cage, he thought. It had everything needed to keep a prisoner content without risking the potential for escape. While his father might have already begun investigating the room for listening devices or, more likely, ways to orchestrate an escape, Kris truly had no interest in escaping at the moment. And, somehow, a sneaking suspicion told him that even the most seasoned infiltrator couldn't escape this room, much less this ship.

Even in top condition, Kris doubted he'd even know where to begin. Now, he knew for certain he couldn't do anything. He stepped into the bathroom and turned on the light, staring at his face in the mirror. Aside from the nick on his cheek from the Starhunter damage which he leaned closer to inspect, he looked physically fine. His ride in the shuttle had brought out the pains through his body, though, that weren't so obviously seen. His muscles were stiff yet from the battle. He didn't know the extent of the force applied to his body when the Starhunter was disabled, but he could feel the results from his feet to his neck, stiff soreness dully nagging him. It felt worse now that he was calmer and less distracted, and was becoming more of a state of constant pain than a nagging reminder. He felt the pain in his biceps as he extended them up, fighting his own body's reluctance as he struggled to pull his disgustingly filthy shirt over his head. He let it fall to the floor immediately as soon as it cleared his head, putting his arms back into the state of least hurt. He looked at his body in the mirror, frowning. Some spots were red with what seemed to be mild irritation. However, he saw the bruised, blue flesh along his ribs, knowing the effects of the guards' strikes would hurt worse in the morning. The external signs would be gone in a few days. His forearms, too, showed signs of conflict. He had fought back, an expected reaction more so than any real instinct for self-preservation. He gently touched his chest, winced at the sudden pain that overcame the dull one. He could feel water welling behind his eyes in response.

He realized how dry his eyes were. He hadn't mourned for Zhun, or Zoyd, or Carom. Not even the pazaak-playing assholes on the Maelstrom like Monsees or Valastra. Or Aran. The ones that died while he lived. His family, for better or worse. Like the fatigue from a fighter accident, he knew the pain from those deaths would be something he'd one day feel. But not now. He couldn't. He looked away from the mirror, not wanting to meet his own eyes. He didn't want to face what he thought.

Instead, he thought on his current situation. He was here because he was the son of the Emperor. It was the only reason he was alive and relatively unharmed. And they—the daughter and the Grand Admiral herself—wanted something from him. Their saving him from prison conditions and death told him that much. They could have gotten information from him by torture, but no; they needed him alive and well.So, what did they want? Fealty? Extortion? Ransom?

Ignoring the pain, Kris slammed his fist against the sink, hating this situation, hating his station that had made everything so vulnerable. He could reserve emotion for this (and, in fact, he had to). In some way, he was going to be used against his father. It seemed so base, so dirty... so childish, yet malicious. I'll break your puppy's neck unless you give me all your toys.And Kris, beyond all the arguments, beyond the awkward silences, the indignant condescension and the yelling and screaming, knew Ams Jendob cared. The son felt guilty, but didn't know why. He was afraid for his father. He was afraid of how he might be compromised, what he might put on the line for Kris and how that would affect others. He hated politics and the machinations of the power-hungry because, in the end, this is what they were: using what you shouldn't use to get what you shouldn't get. And they wanted to use a son against his father to effect an empire for a bloody warlord. The result, not the humanity, mattered. It wasn't right.

But it didn't matter what was right or fair. He was here, and what could he do?

Kris sighed and looked at that man in the mirror. He knew he had to be the prince he didn't want to be.

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Kris Jendob
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Riene Zend

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 Post Posted: Fri, December 23rd 2011 08:13pm    Post subject:
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Riene stood in the corridor, outside of a simple door. Her princely prisoner was safely ensconced his gilded and padded cage. She hadn't been untruthful with her “promise” to be his dining companion; nor about her inability to keep the appointment this evening. She had a prior engagement of far higher priority.

The door slid aside to reveal the future ruler of the Galaxy clad in a crimson-trimmed sable blouse and trousers: Grand Admiral Daara Zend's idea of casual dress. She stood a step back from the threshold, lest a passing crewman see the supreme commander in anything less than dress whites. “Good evening, Mother.”

The grand admiral smiled at her daughter. To most, it would be a restrained, perhaps even tolerant expression; to the younger Zend, it was an almost scandalous public display of familial affection. One she was too eager to accept, almost basking in the perceived radiant warmth of the greeting. The elder Zend spoke, “Evening, Riene.”

The chief marshal's mother stepped aside, motioning her daughter inside her personal quarters. Instinct and habit caused her to glance about the familiar room, and her eyes fell upon something decidedly new. Rather, someone. Elation surged within the twenty-seven year old, and she feared she would not contain herself sufficiently. An eternity seemed to pass, her resolve crumbling until—at last!—the hatch hissed shut. Joy splintered the fractured walls of restraint with a mighty blast, and a blasphemously irreverent grin stretched across Riene's features. “Cassi!”

A tall, shapely, azure-skinned Twi'lek in simple black attire more a somewhat more restrained expression of joy. But then, Cassim'ehan had always been a bit more reserved in the presence of the grand admiral who raised her like a daughter. Shortly after Reunification and the successful assault on Yavin, an attack on Ryloth had savaged a village along the planet's habitable terminator. While touring the battlefield, the Zend came across a filthy, hungry child of perhaps two or three standard years of age. One of the escorting soldiers casually suggested putting the scraggly urchin out of her misery, but something had struck the grand admiral about the toddler. She slowly coaxed her away from the corpse the child had been prodding—likely a parent or much older sibling—and took the waif in. She ordered her cleaned up and fed, and raised her as her own flesh and blood. Riene grew up with the alien girl, thinking of her as her full-blooded sister. They played, learned, and trained together, though their paths were quite different. Riene was her mother's hammer and sword, able to smash or thrust to weak point of any foe. Cassi was more of a razor or scalpel: quick, precise, and deadly... maximum impact with minimum footprint.

“I didn't expect you here,” the human daughter remarked with ecstatic amazement, striding toward the other woman. They wrapped each other in a warm embrace reserved only for each other.

“It was a surprise,” Cassi admitted, squeezing her adopted sister tightly before releasing her. The joy in her pale fuchsia irises gleamed.

Their mother, biological to one and adoptive to the other, failed to hide her own smile. But there was business to attend to, as touching as daughters' affection was. “Come now, dinner's already set.”

The two younger women obediently seated themselves around the dining table. The eldest Zend poured herself a cup of tea, then glanced up at her guests, question unspoken but clear. Riene nodded, then retrieved the freshly-filled cup. Only then did her elder “sister” make a similar gesture, and with no less gratitude accepted a third teacup.

Riene cradled the teacup, letting its heat flow into her hands. She looked up, across the table, to the unexpected guest. She queried suspiciously, “A surprise, you said?”

“Matron requested that I conceal myself,” the Twi'lek confessed, nodding toward the grand admiral. “She wished to surprise you, as did I.” Her method of addressing Daara Zend would have sounded odd to Riene's ears, had she not grown up with it, and if it didn't just fit with Cassi's cultured enunciation. She occasionally wondered if her alien sister might be more comfortable using “Mother,” but there was a shared—if unspoken—understanding that such was reserved for the chief marshal alone.

The elder woman sipped her tea. “I figured a little bit of home would be a good reward for you.”

Gratitude swelled within the chief marshal, and it showed on her expression. “Thank you, Mother. I deeply appreciate it.”

The words may have seemed like a cliched expression to a casual observer and her expression one of cool excitement, but Riene Zend did not become teary-eyed and choked-up like some holodrama actress. Her mother and sister understood the depth of her feelings; the subtleties of a Zend's expressions were merely another reason they were of superior stock.

Daara nodded deeply in acknowledgment, then turned to her sapphire-hued daughter. “And for Cassi, as well. I'm very,” the grand admiral paused a moment, seeking the correct term. “Satisfied with both of you.”

Riene's fair complexion tended toward a pale rose as her sister's cheeks darkened to teal green. “I... I don't know what to say, Mother.”

“Nothing needs saying. Mutual expectation, is it not?” The Empire's matriarch speared a vegetable leaf with her fork and popped it in her mouth, giving an affirmative hum to her own question. “Please, eat.”

The fresh produce in the salad was from Muunilinst, and Riene noted a series of subtle differences as she crushed the vegetable matter between her teeth. In the fleets of the True Empire, many staple foods simply hadn't encountered proper native biochemistries on the conquered planets to be viable. As a result, hydroponics, aeroponics, and manufactured soils were used for growing produce more familiar to the wider Galaxy. The soils had to be regenerated chemically; as a result, there was almost no differentiation in taste from crop to crop. But the unique composition of the small artisan gardens constructed to feed the upper crust of the planet's banking-centered culture seeded the chemistry of the plants with different ions and compounds than Riene's taste buds were used to. A slightly piquancy here, a tang of sweetness and bitterness combating for supremacy...

“Delicious,” she noted simply, then added, “I suppose those bankers were spoiled on this fare.”

Cassie nodded, a wry smile adorning her lips and spiteful amusement glittering in her eyes.

Their gave an affirmative snort. “Quite. When they weren't sniffing their illicit spice, that is.” She forked another piece, deep violet with crimson striations. “There's... something about this. Something hydroponics couldn't recreate at home. Perhaps you taste that,” she remarked, confirming Riene's own analysis. But before she could give voice to her concurrence, the subject shifted suddenly. “So, how are you—both of you—finding the Galaxy?”

The chief marshal felt her jaw muscles limber to speak... and then stopped when she realized she had no idea how to answer.

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Daara Zend

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 Post Posted: Sat, December 24th 2011 02:40am    Post subject:
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The scent of the fresh Dharma berries continued to overwhelm Daara's senses, and the fresh tea itself almost made the effort in reconquering The Galaxy worth it. She set had down the cup, though, and began chewing more of the exquisite salad. Swallowing the greens, Daara followed up her prior question with the real question. "How are you—both of you—finding The Galaxy?"

She could see Riene wanted to think her answer through. It was a complex question, and Daara knew her daughter wanted to give the best possible answer. Cassi, however, responded in line with her thoughts. "It's... diverse. Almost cacophonous."

"Hmm," Daara intoned with a nod. "Yes, that's true. Very astute." The Galaxy was an imbalanced object, for sure. The mixture of the immoral with the moral was sickening to her. The Union was the prime example of that contradiction: how could a society that called itself an Empire coexist with an open rebellion as equals?

Riene, knowing her mother expected an answer, answered with a dark expression. "Decadent. Self-serving. A false veneer over rot and corruption," she continued with rising venom. "And everyone's so used to the stench that--" Riene caught herself, realizing the acidity of her tone in the presence of her mother. Daara, who had remained unsmiling, laughed lightly. "I apologize. That they don't know they're neck-deep in it," the daughter finished.

"Indeed," she said with a sip of her tea, her eyes bouncing between the two women. "Sometimes I wonder if I should blame The Galaxy for orphaning its children, in one way or another. Children like you," she mused. Those ingrates had created a universe where the brilliance of people like Riene were shaded by their own ignorance. It had rejected its own. There was no room for minds such as hers in the framework established by years of immorality.

The Grand Admiral set her cup down in its saucer. "Then other times, I wonder if I should thank it," she admitted quietly. Perhaps in driving away its own salvation, The Galaxy had paved the way for its future redemption. Daara felt a dark spot in her heart. Would Riene have been Riene if she were raised in The Galaxy? That was the very question... "I wonder what would have happened to the two of you, had we not left. But I believe you're both the better for your life away from this place."

She watched their reactions. Cassi, always the more literally-minded, was surely reminded of her own state of actual orphanage. Riene was harder to read. Daara knew it was time to segue. "Better than, perhaps, other children abused by The Galaxy," she hinted, staring at Riene as she wet her mouth with more of the tea.

Cassi didn't catch on, but Riene picked up the clue: Daara was expecting a report on the Jendob boy. "Unfortunately, we haven't had as much time to study that as I would have liked. But, in the coming days, with our subject safely away from incompetent handlers, I think we can make progress," she said with a grim smile.

A light but palpable wave of annoyance spread in Daara's mind. The prince was an incredible catch, but she had hoped for more progress to be made in his subversion. The task of expediting the process fell to her daughter. "Ah," she said simply, flatly, just to acknowledge the Chief Marshal's voice. She brought another of the unique pieces of edible foliage to her mouth.

Riene began again, her tone level and taking no risks. She could detect her mother's mild disappointment. "The detention staff aboard the cruiser seemed more concerned with... playing with their prisoners than doing everything useful," Riene spoke carefully. "When I picked up our princely passenger, I found two guards giving him a dry bath," she explained. The guards were beating Jendob, then: a "dry bath" with a bar of soap. Primitive. Daara was pleased to learn that the lethargy of Jendob's education wasn't due to Riene, but rather of stupid, cocky guards. These occasional savages, she knew, were remnants of philosophies whose adherents viewed torture for torture's sake, pain doled for the virtue of making another bleed and cry. For torture to be moral, it must have a clearly-defined purpose, whether rhetorical, diplomatic, or strategic. Men who used cruelty not as a tool but as a purpose were not part of the Empire. She thought of ordering Riene to suitably punish the men involved, but Riene's mannerisms told the Grand Admiral that she had already upheld justice. "But we'll make up for the lost time," the young woman assured.

Cassi had ceased even probing at her salad. Though it took her a great deal of curiosity to ask an unbidden question, she spoke: "I don't understand. Princely passenger?"

"Oh, I hadn't told you," Daara recalled, turning to her blue child. "It was a bit of a surprise to both of us, actually. Some capricious fool—Morn, was it? No; Myrn," she remembered, a low-ranking officer whose rank seemed to constantly vacillate between promotion and demotion, a man who defined average. "What the devil to do with the incompetent who fall into success without any brains?" She mused. "Well, anyway, he brought him in from the skirmish at Ansion. Krischen Jendob, that is: the Usurper's son."

"After he and his commodore got the entire task group butchered by the Rebels, anyway," Riene explained to Cassi.

"Sometimes luck aligns with the will of the Order," the elder Zend instructed Riene. "In this case, if Ansion had been taken, perhaps we would not have realized our prize before the Remnant did." Daara figured the overhead involved in conquering an asset—the reports, analyses, organization and transfer of prisoners—might have delayed identification of Jendob. By that time—with idiot guards who take pleasure in "dry baths"--he might have died, or foolishly denied the proffered hand of Imperial forgiveness. "The blunder at Ansion brought him to our front door, so to speak."

"Oh. I see. And what have you planned for him, Matron?" Cassi inquired.

Daara, however, was not finished. "Luck is an unreliable device, but a device nonetheless," she brought the cup to her lips, finally turning her attention to Cassi. "Perhaps your sister would like to explain."

"We intend to education him," Riene explained, leaning into her chair. "On what the Empire truly is. And with that knowledge safe and secure in his head, send him back to his loving family and exuberant country, to spread our message from within."

The prospect excited Daara. What better to topple the Usurper's dynasty than to undermine his heir? A house divided cannot stand—and, in the traditional sense of the saying, a house was simply a family. It could be a so-called royal family. "It should not be difficult. I'm told he's outspoken, though you wouldn't know it from looking at him," Daara recalled. Indeed, Krischen Jendob looked unassuming enough, judging from the holos she had received in the brief—a man physically unopposing in the conventional sense, with a relatively undistinguished, short career—though perhaps with touches of decisiveness in his face: piercing blue eyes, sharp features. If the psychology followed the biology, that ability to react quickly—too quickly?--could be a boon to Zend and a blow to Ams Jendob. "Even these kind of poor fools have uses," she stated with a shrug. "Perhaps he will truly repent, anyway," Daara offered. Maybe he would not want to go back to his Remnant after seeing the True Empire. She doubted it, though, if he was his father's son.

That was the nature of The Galaxy: if a man was born with a fire in his heart, it was smothered with a patchwork blanket of apathy and arrogance, sewn together out of contradictions and self-inflicted blindness. It was sad, she had thought as she had looked at the young pilot's picture: his face displayed such promise, perhaps that of countless victories and courageous, valorous actions, but his person had been ruined, probably irreversibly. In those cunning, bright eyes, she had seen the faces of a million other soldiers and civilians. But she was in on the cosmic joke, the context that laughed at the possibilities she saw... Perhaps Jendob would have been a hero of the Order, had he been taken away from The Galaxy and raised here. But instead, he was another orphan of the Union.

It was as sad as the ancient myths of champions of old: no matter how many times one read the story, the outcome was known. The hero fell, perhaps to his own vices, and the reader trod along, powerless to change the character's fate, doomed to instead witness it again and again. In the eyes of the young men and women of the Remnant, Daara saw these stifled potential heroes. She felt the dramatic irony and knew the pain of seeing what could have been perfect ruined by others. She saw it in the words that the youth of The Galaxy spoke across the Holonet, whether they were those of the rising corrupt politician or the arrested murderer. These were her thoughts, the source of her fundamental hatred of the Usurpers and the Rebels. These were the ideas that gripped her mind and heart when she saw the dead, bloody, mangled bodies of young Remnant men and women who wasted their deaths for a n empty cause. In the cities of Muunilinst, she had seen thousands of faces of those who could have been, and she wouldn't forget them. But these ideas were also the ones that gave her joy when she saw a captured traitor repent and embrace the truth of the Empire, the fulfillment of the perfection The Galaxy owed its children.

Twenty years... she thought. How drastically little actions could change the lives of nascent leaders, vaulting them towards success or towards damnation. It scared her how much of one's life was left to fickle luck. Riene watched her mother even after she finished speaking. Daara watched back.

It was her job to correct the imbalances of random luck with deliberate enforcement of the Order.

"Have you?" Riene asked after a moment. Daara drew herself back into the present. Her eyes hadn't betrayed the intense emotions coursing through her being, but Daara mustn't let her ideological battles distract her from the specific instance: the young Jendob was here, he was ruined, and, if he couldn't be fixed, had to be a carrier of the mental medicine for the other traitors.

"Who are these sources?" Riene continued, cautiously. Daara imagined she didn't want to come across as questioning her mother—instead, she was asking like a child asked for permission to touch a small child or a first blaster rifle. "The profile I'm building is rather lacking; Jendob himself was but a child two decades ago, and his parents certainly didn't stand out in a crowd."

"Nothing incredibly substantial, unfortunately," Daara admitted. "But word has a way of travelling through a starship and makes its way back to some of my ears. Rumors, in other words. And rumor has it our young prince shoots his mouth off—or did, anyway—about Mummy and Daddy." Indeed, Krischen apparently had a reputation for his standoffishness on the issue, although he had apparently fallen silent recently. Even ruined fools could take a stand against the plainly wrong...

"Interesting," Riene remarked, gently rubbing her jaw. "Any specific buttons? Political, social, or simple lashing out over family conditions?"

"More conservative than his father, it seems," Daara recalled. That wasn't saying much, though. The Defense Council—before their unfortunate deaths—were quite liberal, especially that blasted Fel. "And I don't believe they've spoken to each other for some time. Not surprising; those of your age in the Remnant, my dear, perhaps have a clearer picture of reality than people my age." Daara paused, seeing eyes again. Bright and young... glazed... dull... and dead. What could they have seen? She thrust her fork into another floret, experienced the raw satisfaction of feeling the metal tines pierce the fleshy vegetable.

"Unfortunately, the data for Jendob just isn't there. And sadly, it is the nature of things that what is unimportant one day is vital the next, and we can't change that," Daara explained in general. Some information didn't become important until it, simply put, became important, and there were always gaps in these suddenly-relevant issues. "I'm sure you'll discover all of his buttons," Zend added with a small smile of faith.

Riene nodded, but Cassi looked at her adopted sister inquisitively; of course, she wouldn't ask the questions on her mind. "All of this talk of princes and emperors resurrected confusing, Cassi?"

"Well, now that you mention it," Cassi began, slowly. "I don't see why they did it. Do you understand it, Matron?"

It took Daara a moment to realize what "it" was: the crowning of the usurping emperor. It was an excellent question, especially for Cassi, who had arrived in The Galaxy just recently. Sometimes, reading masses of reports lent knowledge, but not understanding. "It's difficult to understand the thinkings of madmen, Cassi The weak minded find unity in figureheads. So, while they crown new emperors, they refuse to acknowledge that they are the ones who tore Palpatine from his throne, in a way. They like living in contradictions," Daara said. She found it hard to imagine how sentient beings lived with themselves. It took conscious, determined effort. "Anyone who thinks can see the flaw in that," she vocalized, staring at the amber liquid in her teacup. "It's a picked way of holding onto what little cohesion they have anymore."

"But, it makes no sense," Cassi followed up, tilting her head with fascination. "Why not simply replace Fel directly? Why risk a monarch who craves power?"

Daara sighed. "Even the Moff Council can see their little empire is at the point of fracturing. That's why we waited until now, when it's the closest. Left to their own devices, I don't doubt the Remnant and the Union would have collapsed in a few decades, anyway. But by attacking now, we can take advantage of those political associations and the disenchantment the rest of the Galaxy has with them." It was easier to transition to true order from tattered governments than it was from total chaos. "Remember, our goal isn't to destroy The Galaxy. We're here to save it." She chuckled, seeing Cassi still struggling to understand. "You'll forgive me... to answer your question in much fewer words, they wanted to try something new. Another lucky element that happens to benefit us."

"If only we had a Star Forge of our own," Riene mused.

"Indeed," the elder Zend responded. "We should be so lucky. Larexet is the next best thing for the modern universe." The shipyards the Arythi built in the Redoubt Regions had been an incalculable boon to the True Empire.
Riene, however, continued the metaphor, explaining to Cassi. "About 4,000 years ago, a Jedi named Revan defected from the old Order. He vanished for a few years, then returned with a nearly infinite army while calling himself a Sith Lord. Long story short, he changed his mind again and blew up the ancient Rakatan artifact that was building his forces."

Daara's interest was piqued. She, of course, knew the story. But Riene didn't waste words. She was getting at something else. "Living in contradictions even then," Daara offered.

"Just another foolish chapter in the Jedi's galactic holy war," Riene spit.

"It's ironic, you know," Daara began. "Even after all this time, they're all blinded to the costs of these stupid wars." The Galaxy had not learned. Whether it was the defining conflict against Exar Kun or the Jedi's involvement in the Clone Wars, the despicable Order still managed to fool The Galaxy into complacency. They should have been swept away long ago. "The cycle ends here," Daara promised, setting her teacup down with a telling clink.

"I've been wondering, actually," Riene began. Ah, Daara thought. She did have a purpose. "Obviously, the Jedi will never accept our rule: we'll have to eliminate them. But what of the other sects?"

Daara rubbed the tip of her nose. "There's no easy answer to that. Religion is an... incredible tool to keep people content during transitional periods. But at the same time, who needs it if you fully embrace the Order?"

"I don't just mean the beliefs and ritual, Mother. Do we remove anyone who claims a title from that foolish... jihad of theirs?"

Something in Riene's assessment irked the Grand Admiral. She responded, with an air of correction, " Those beliefs and rituals are what give those jihadists power, Riene. It's not just the uniforms and the protocols that hold the Empire together; it's the dedication to an ideal. The same with the Force users, as twisted as it is. If their ideas dies, jihad dies, by definition. But it's not a quick process," she sighed. "We will likely be forced to kill both Jedi and Sith as we must," she said, and she detected her tone was perhaps too final. In truth, the problem of the Force-using jihadists had vexed her for some time. She needed to encourage Riene's thought. "But, I'm interested to hear your perception."

"The ideals and dedication are one thing. Ideals can be altered to our gain, but I believe anyone with the ability to employ an omnipresent energy field presents too great a risk. The Jedi are far too bound up by their idealism and naivete to serve the Empire. And the Sith are psychotically power hungry and would betray us at the very first opportunity to seize power," Riene proposed. She was right. The Sith had been allied with the Empire only because Palpatine himself happened to be one. But the Sith did not value dedication to the Empire, or even to the Dark Side of their Force—they only valued themselves. In this way, they were perhaps more evil than the Jedi, although just as misguided and perhaps less hypocritical. "And even if we sweep both away for good, with all of the ritual and ancient rites, there will still be trllions of Force-using sentients born into our new Empire."

"Yes," Daara muttered. "If it were purely genetic, it would be easier, wouldn't it." She wished. Genocide could be justified in the interest of the Order, but she preferred it wouldn't be so messy. If it were just a gene that could be turned off... if only.

"Even if it were, I don't believe a purge on that scale would be feasible. Or wise," Riene countered. "And yet, I struggle to see a way around it. Force users simply cannot be trusted. Once they discover what it means to harness their innate power, they become a threat."

"Force users, for all they are, are still limited just like we are. They fit into the various taxa. Sith are ultimately greedy, and Jedi are ultimately ignorant. For the immediate future, we use those to our advantage. In some ways, their ideologies make it easier for us to destroy them, ultimately. They group themselves into their traits, wouldn't you agree. They self-select. They're dangerous, but they're still human or Twi'lekk or Zabrak. Maybe it's in our best interests to preserve those associations. Groups of Force users may be more easily managed than rogues greedily seeking their own fortunes." It was just like the reason to attack before the Union collapsed; taking advantage of relationships could expedite a change.

"Be that as it may, mother... there's a key distinction. As well-trained and skilled as Cassi is, she cannot tear a rifle from my hands from across a room. Nor convince one of my troopers to turn his weapon on his squadmates with a gesture. And if we are to preserve the associations... I must say that I would rather a Jedi in front of me than a Sith or Dark Jedi at my back or flank."

Daara laughed. "I have no intention of allying with the Sith in any consistent way."

"If I may be so bold," Riene said, calculatingly. "I'd rather exchange the 'consistent' qualifier for a 'shoot on sight' command."

She had finally gotten to her point. Cassi looked shocked. Daara was not, but her reaction was no less storng. She shook her head. "No. No, not yet. That would be destroying a tool we could use to our advantage. The Sith are fastidious enough to consider themselves still associated with us. If we let them believe that, they'll kill the Jedi more effectively than, I'm sad to say, even your men. Ideally, my dear, we'd have a Galaxy with no Jedi or Sith or Force at all. But, as you've both seen, this isn't an ideal galaxy."

"Mother, I am utterly confident that if a group of my men somehow broke their indoctrination to betray the Empire... I could stop them before they could cause significant harm. I cannot be so confident with a single Sith."

"Better to kill one and anger the swarm, then?" Daara bit out, setting her fork down. Surely, Riene had to realize that provoking one of the jihadist groups would result in a jihad. They were perfectly content to fight amongst themselves. The Jedi were gravitating away from the Union. The Jedi Order was fracturing, from Vucora down. The Sith Order was barely even an order. They were becoming more and more unallied, possibly for the first time in milennia. They were more content to kill themselves off than defend an empire or a union. The Sith and the Jedi would one day be eliminated, but not yet. "We have other goals first."

"Ah, but if we could make it appear the enemy struck the blow... then we'd have them do our bidding without the risking of holding them close."

"Riene..." Cassi quietly cooed. Daara couldn't detect what was in Cassi's tone. Maybe she feared for her sister provoking her mother's anger—that wouldn't happen. Maybe she feared at her sister's proscription itself.

Daara felt disappointment. Riene's strategy was brilliant. It came from the same family of strategy used in the early phases of this invasion. The attack on Valure, for instance, was deliberately left unidentified so the Rebels wouldn't know who struck. Perhaps they would have suspected the Empire. However Riene was, unfortunately, thinking in terms of the warfare she had grown up with, not recognizing the fact that she was talking about Force users. Daara couldn't fault her for that. But she had fought Force users before. They changed the rules of the game, mortal or not. "Conventionally, that would be brilliant," she began, but then her tone fell neutral, melancholy, with a hint of venom. "But you haven't dealt so much with Force users. They're perceptive beyond what their brains allow. Subterfuge doesn't work in the same way," she informed the Chief Marshal. Jedi and Sith could sense motives and see through clouds. And now they would probably be expecting Zend to move against them. But she wouldn't tell Riene she was wrong. No, she would have to figure it out for herself. Daara was confident she would.

"Then we put them in a position where the enemy does strike the lethal blow," she began, but just as the words left Riene's mouth, Daara could see the realization dawn on her daughter. "But then we'd have to associate anyway," she concluded. It would violate the principle of non-allegiance she had been arguing: to turn the Sith on the Jedi, one would have to hold the Sith too close for comfort, anyway. Riene smiled with resignation, realizing how her mother had maneuvered her. "Defeating the entire purpose."

"Indeed," Daara confirmed. She was relieved to reaffirm that her daughter was as astute as she had thought. "Ideas are always more important..." she began and trailed off.

"Than those that follow them," Riene and Cassi both completed one of Daara's adages.

"And the Remnant and the Rebels are more important than the Jedi and the Sith. You're right: they will need to be dealt with. But they're more interested in fighting each other, ultimately, than supporting their patrons. Maybe one day, a united Galaxy will figure out how to evolve away from Force sensitivity entirely. Until then..."

"I just worry, if we get too involved with one... he or she or it may decide to fight the others with our assets, instead of the other way around. And if he or she or it is in the wrong place, at the wrong time when that decision is made, everything we have accomplished could be lost in that instant," Riene reminded with concern.

She had a point, Daara knew. A good point. Yes, in the past, Daara had made temporary deals with these jihadists, when she had to. But they had always been tenuous and uncertain. She would never allow the Sith or the Jedi to integrate into the Order. That was one of Palpatine's mistakes. "I think you overstate the power of the Force in the face of sound planning," Daara began. The jihadists were just another variable, but one with disproportionate important. "But, perhaps so." Riene had made a good argument. Although her solutions were unsuitable, the concern was valid, and perhaps one hole that Daara had left unpatched in her strategy.

"Cassi, I'd like you to begin investigating the black market leading out from Myrkr. You're both acquainted with ysalimari. But I fear a direct conquest of that planet would signal to the jihadists that they're on our minds overmuch," the Grand Admiral ordered. The ysalimari were able to block the Force in small areas. Now that they had returned to The Galaxy, they could access them. "But, we need to keep our options open."

"Of course," Cassi obeyed unquestioningly, back in her comfort zone.

Riene visibly relaxed and even smiled, the weight of her concern taken off of her shoulders by her mother's words and actions.

"If you're interested in promoting policy on this issue," the Grand Admiral began, addressing the Chief Marshal. "I expect formal reports," she stated, speaking as a superior.

Riene nodded. "I simply wish to have something in place for any contingencies. I don't believe in having the unthinkable happen," she began, wryly but respectfully, "because I don't believe in anything being unthinkable."

"I would expect not," Daara said, matter-of-factly. "But I believe we all have pressing business to attend to."

"The second course?" Cassi asked.

"Of course," Daara smirked, watching as the dinner service was delivered. Riene laughed as well, but after that extended conversation, Daara needed to remind Riene of her primary mission. Riene fell silent immediately as her mother spoke. "Something you said earlier, Riene, caught me. About Jendob. Education. I think you'll find his type are receptive to 'education'. A good choice of word, Riene... literally, "to lead out". Education is most effective with those who want to leave something behind. Don't let them fool you into believing they do not. You just need to find the right means." The plates were set down on the table. "'Leading' is what you do best, anyway."

Riene nodded graciously at her mother's compliment, finishing the rest of her salad. "As you command, Mother."

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Grand Admiral Daara Zend
Leader of the Galactic Empire, Flag Officer of Arquebusier

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Riene Zend

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Location: Arquebusier

 Post Posted: Mon, January 09th 2012 08:40pm    Post subject:
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Riene's muscles burned as she stepped off of the track that ran around the perimeter of the Arquebusier's executive gymnasium. Her skin, where it showed around her black and silver athletic wear, had a faint sheen of sweat; the laps were part of her regular exercise regimen. As a trooper, she'd kept to it daily, at a level somewhat above that required by Imperial fitness requirements. The reasoning was simple: even though she had been a low-ranking soldier, she knew what was expected of her in the future and that to meet the challenges, she could not be content with simply doing what was required. Unfortunately, in the approximate year and a half since her promotion to commander of the Stormtrooper Corps, administrative duties had cut into her daily ritual. She opted for a few times a week, instead, and pushed harder to make up the difference.

She walked toward one of the gleaming water fountains. Some slaked their thirst and drained reserves with sugary, sickly-sweet punches or energy concoctions. A cup of tea, some time later, to soothe lingering aches, she could understand. But quaffing nauseatingly saccharine elixirs in the wake of a proper workout seemed more like a bulimic's tactic to induce a purge, not to mention offsetting efforts to tone and build proper form (for some, a greater hassle than it was for her) with far too many calories with no nutrient benefit. She stuck to clean, clear water... and delighted as the deliciously cool stream played across her lips. She opened her mouth, allowing the cold water to splash down her throat.

Behind her, she heard her running partner approach. He breathed heavily through his nose, more winded than she. But, the prisoner prince had done an admirable job keeping pace with her. She wondered how much of it was actual fitness, how much simple ego, and how much motivation came from not wanting to give her the satisfaction of trouncing him. After all, they were nominal enemies, despite his dining with both her and the Grand Admiral the evening before. She supposed, as far as fitness went, Jendob was certainly in good condition. But the rigors of being a footsoldier in the Empire's elite—the True Empire's elite, anyway—required a higher level of physical preparedness than being a pilot in any navy. True, his upper body had strength above the average, needed to wrestle with the controls of his speedy little craft when the compensators became taxed. But if he needed to run to live, he had ion engines and power balances to rely on. Riene and her fellow Stormtroopers had only their legs. Being in the face of the enemy meant less than a hundred meters to Jendob, where he could see the rivets and welds in the enemy craft. To Riene, it meant close enough to smell the enemy's breath even through her mask's filters, close enough to feel the heat of spilled blood that occasionally slipped into a seam of her body glove. Her speed and strength were literal matters of life or death in her occupation, especially when it came time to remove the scourge of the Jedi, their allies, and their sorcerer nemeses for good. She suspected in Jendob, while speed and a degree of physical power were necessary, it was more in line with attracting mates or winning credits in trivial displays of physical prowess. Perhaps that's a touch harsh...

Riene looked up at the pretender prince, as he patiently waited for her to move aside. She took a final sip of water, suppressing a shudder of both coolness and relief as it slid down her throat, and stepped aside for him. The younger man nodded to her, and drank his fill with perhaps a touch of unseemly eagerness. She waited until he was almost fixated on the gushing fluid, then spoke. “A fair run.”

He nodded, spraying the water across his mouth and chin. “You're fast.”

“You kept pace,” she said neutrally.

“Would've been interesting to see another five minutes,” he smirked. Riene interpreted the comment and the expression as lecherous in intent; Jendob had been a few paces behind for most of it. And saying to her face that he'd have liked another five minutes to indulge in his puerile fantasizing... her stomach turned. Her expression slowly reflected her souring mood.

“It's been a while for me,” the prince continued.

Anger sparked on top of disgust. If he kept at this line of conversation, that “while” would become quite permanent. She asked, with the neutrality in her tone strictly enforced instead of casually present as before, “Oh? A while since a run?”

Jendob nodded. Either he'd taken the hint, or Riene had simply misinterpreted. She pushed the umbrage aside; she had a mission to do. Freeing the prince from his cell, occupying his mind with other diversions instead of leaving him to stare at the wall and mull over his circumstances and plot escape or other treachery... it was all part of the planned curriculum set aside for him. If she'd been wrong about his intentions, she couldn't allow her mistake to scuttle the whole operation. “Even before,” the prince paused. “This.” He no doubt meant his capture and incarceration. “Feels good.”

Good. No hostility. Simple acceptance. Even finding a silver lining. Very good. Riene grabbed a small towel and wiped down her sweat-glazed flesh. “I do find it helps with working off stress and tension,” she told him honestly. Her thoughts briefly returned to her assessment of his fitness requirements, and delved into the regimen needed to service them. “But I never really took you for a runner, Lieutenant.”

“I'm not, really,” the prince remarked. “Weights, wrestling, that sort of thing. But anything's a change.” He patted his stomach with what seemed to be genuine levity. “Gotta do something with all these dining occasions.”

Riene couldn't help a small, real smile at that. To preempt any problems, Jendob had been taking his meals with her, save that first night aboard when she dined with her mother and Cassi. Breakfast, lunch, dinner for a week. Until last night, when the prisoner was instead brought before the Grand Admiral herself. After the introductions, it was mostly small talk to feel out the prince: his disposition, his opinions on his father, economics, and politics. Granted, it was handled with more subtlety for the prince's sake, but Riene knew what each question, each topic was meant to do. Subtlety and finesse were the requirements of the entire operation.

“Indeed. What did you think of last night's occasion,” she queried, trying to pull his thought processes parallel to her own.

The prince craned his head over the fountain for a moment, taking another sip of water. “Your mother is,” he paused, and Riene's curiosity piqued in a dark fashion. “It was an interesting dinner.”

She wasn't going to let it go at that. “Is what?”

A slow, deliberate smirk crossed Jendob's features. “Interesting. I don't know. I sort of get the feeling that if I could sum her up in a word, one of us is doing something wrong.”

A golden eyebrow climbed Riene's forehead. “'Complex,' then?”

Jendob chuckled. “Close enough.”

“Indeed,” Zend savored her small triumph. “Well, now that you're suitably warmed up, perhaps you'd like something more vigorous?”

“Like?” The prince's voice was bright with interest. Riene had regretted the wording as soon as she uttered it, but she detected nothing in the man's voice that hinted at impure motives.

She gestured toward a weighty, fabric-encased cylinder suspended from a frame a few meters away. Riene felt a need to work off a couple pugilistic urges, and she imagined that letting Jendob vent his own frustrations—especially once the enormity of what had landed him in her custody sunk in—would be a good way to find a vulnerable spot. “Perhaps that punch bag?”

He followed her sight line. "That's more like it."

Jendob began to walk toward the bag, Riene following close behind. She stood off to the side of the suspended weight, her hand extended in a welcoming gesture. "You may go first."

The young marshal firmly grasped the punching bag, while Jendob stood opposite her. He eyed the suspended mass that hung between them, punching his hands together. Before Zend could grow too bored with his warm-up routine, the first blow stuck the canvas. Then another, and another as Riene held fast. She noted he was holding back, the blows not particularly forceful. "Surely that's not your best."

Jendob's next strike answered her acidly skeptical remark. She nodded. "A bit better. I suppose your restriction to quarters might have let some extra steam build up."

Then she gave the bag a gentle push toward the captive. "Feel free."

Jendob paused a moment to wipe some sweat from the run away from his eyes, then unleashed a decidedly firmer right cross. Zend felt the stronger recoil, but held firm as the younger man responded to her prodding. An odd thought struck her, a peculiar duality to their positions. Perhaps...

"You know, Lieutenant," she began in a casual tone, despite addressing him by his very junior--though proper--rank. "You and I do have something in common."

He paused for a moment, looking at her curiously. She continued, "We both know the pressures of being heirs to a throne."

Jendob gave a wan smile. "I guess you're right. But, you've always had to deal with that."

"I suppose that does give me the advantage," Riene conceded. Not to mention the fact that my ascendancy is legitimate.

The pilot stepped out from behind the bag, standing beside it now. He leaned against it. He kept his expression neutral as he asked what he considered to be a legitimate question. "And you want it?"

His legitimate question was a missile volley to Riene. She analyzed it, calculated evasions and countermeasures, contingencies four and five steps down the road, probing for weak points to be followed by counterassaults... she had learned long ago that a simple conversation could be as lethal a battleground as any crossfire in the streets of Harnaidan.

Not to mention, the truth of the matter was that she was in no hurry to replace her mother. She knew there was much to learn yet, much work to be done, and a small part of her was glad to have someone else to shoulder much of the burden. Riene castigated herself for such selfishness, but that didn't change her feelings on the matter. And then the optimal solution to her question of how to respond opened up: simple truth. "What I want doesn't matter. And should my time come, I must answer.

"Do you disagree?" She made certain there was no ambiguity that her question was live ordnance.

"If you have to, I guess there's not much choice," he replied. Then a flash of impish irreverence rippled across his features. "I didn't know Grand Admiral was inherited."

The sound that issued from Riene's throat was, technically, a laugh. A laugh drier than the Jundland Wastes, devoid of mirth or amusement. It betrayed none of the venom that colored her next utterance. "And I did not know your father was a descendant of Palpatine."

Zend shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. "I suppose it's not really his fault. The Moff Council drew straws, and he picked the short one." Then her gaze locked squarely with Jendob's. "I'm sure, politics aside, he's a perfectly respectable man."
Chief Marshal Riene Zend

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Riene Zend

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Location: Arquebusier

 Post Posted: Sun, May 26th 2013 12:33pm    Post subject:
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Riene stood outside of the VIP quarters assigned to the traitor prince. She'd dispatched her thrall a while earlier, mostly to keep Jendob distracted with idle conversation.

She override the door with an access code and let herself in. There was no indication that her entrance had been noticed. Aware the apparent stealth could readily be a two-edged sword, and she warily made her to the primary living quarters. When her eyes fell upon the two men recollecting to distraction, their gaze away from her, she smiled. Vought's former comradeship had done a fine job of softening Jendob's psychologically defenses.

Riene cleared her throat softly, and with some awkward neck twisting, the two men looked up at her. A hint of surprise registered on Vought's face, but he'd been expecting her at some point. The prince, however, clearly had not. Before shock could become hostility, Zend flashed him a partially-feigned grin. "I'm sorry to interrupt gentlemen," she lied. "But it's just as well."

She loosened her jacket, to give a more relaxed appearance as she internally coiled like a viper, readying to strike. "Would you mind if I joined your discussion?"

The chief marshal awoke in darkness. The bed was almost unbearably warm due to the heat of three uninsulated bodies under the blanket. The heat was quite humid, laced with evaporated sweat to the point of saturation. She glanced left, then right, at the two sleeping males flanking her. She'd been using Vought as a plaything for a short while now, once he'd been fully broken and seeking purpose. He'd performed... adequately, she supposed. Well enough to relieve some stress, but nothing particularly memorable. But his true function—all along—had been provide an alternate access through Jendob's mental defenses should the glorious day that he came to be in the hands of the Empire finally arrive. And it indeed had, much sooner than anyone could have expected.

Sadly for Vought, he was functionally worthless otherwise. Compromised on virtually every level, it was only a matter of time before he became aware that he was nothing more than a broken doll briefly restored to use as a puppet for educating an ignorant child. And when that day came, he became a liability. He had been through the entire gauntlet, from serving traitors to betraying them... and he simply was too weak to resist a reversion once it became clear that no one loved him, no one cared for him; that he was just another tool in Riene's kit, designed to lure in and break down someone he once considered a good friend. He was simply too stupid to cope with being used in such a way, and likely try to avenge himself in some holomovie blaze of glory.

So, he would be disposed of once Jendob was safely remote. Obviously, the Empire would not be so foolish as to do something like space the fool before the prince's very eyes after doing so much to cultivate its ideals. Not under the Zends, at any rate.

After all, there'd been so much more to educating the prince than reuniting him with a familiar face in his captivity. A minor disturbance in the main body of the True Empire had been serendipitous. Governor Dreman's jam hands had finally left enough residue to attract serious attention. The fool had been quietly stealing ships and selling them to vagrants and corsairs. Riene had to give him credit; he kept his takings low and used a rather roundabout method. If he'd simply been sticking his hand in the till, that would have set off alarm bells instantly. Instead, indications suggested that he'd begun his skimming as soon as the main fleet departed for Muunilinst and Bilbringi. But he'd become too greedy, and Riene was sent to deal with him, which in turn provided the perfect opportunity to educate the false prince in the ways of the Empire. Justice had been swift but fair.

Jendob had been suitably impressed. No bureaucracies loaded with cronies to slow or reverse the wheels of justice, no lengthy processes to give time for influence peddling. Riene had returned to Muunilinst with a sense of having accomplished both of her missions. In a sense, the evening's escapade had been something of a reward for the false prince taking to his lessons.

Well, perhaps not just his reward, Riene noted with a hint of disdain. Though she'd done her best to keep her wits about her while putting on a proper facade, her control did lapse as she hoisted herself between the two men, arms around Jendob's neck and her legs around his waist. She'd been overwhelmed for a moment and found herself suckling the false prince's tongue as her own plunged into his mouth. He likely thought nothing of it, so she could assure herself to some extent that little damage had been done. It could potentially even be an advantage in the long run, planting some kind of emotional connection in his mind. But there was no way that the situation worked in the opposite direction. Riene was certain of that. Mostly.

Shaking her head to clear away the remnants of sleep, Zend quietly extracted herself, half-bounding over Vought's unconscious form. She considered using the refresher, but then noise and time increased the chances of detection by her charges. She opted to simply dress herself and return to her own quarters. Luckily, the corridor was empty all the way to the lift and the flag quarters deck was simiarly vacant.

Riene entered her quarters and breathed a sigh of relief that no one had seen her disheveled post-coital state. She removed her uniform and started to activate the sonic, but pulled her hand away from the panel. She could still feel the heat and pressure of the two men against her body. Her grip moved to one of the faucet valves instead. After all, it wasn't as if an Executor had a shortage of water aboard... and she needed something more tactile to wash away the touch of two traitors.
Chief Marshal Riene Zend

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