Chapter the Third.
Monterey Bay, Terra:
"It does seem rather odd, doesn't it? A thousand years of history in this place, nearly, and that's just a whisper of time; and tomorrow..." Elise trailed off, looking to where Sule and Martina were holding hands on the portico and staring at her. "I have rather fallen in love with this planet, haven't I?" She asked.
"It's turbulent, and young. Even the cultures they think of as old and slow are pretty malleable by our standards," Martina replied, with a slight smile. "So it does have that effect, when you look at it; a wild, enchanting place. This entire galaxy does."
"Dangerous, you mean." Sule muttered.
"Less dangerous than our own these days, I daresay, my love... Though we're about to make it rather interesting," Martina replied, smiling wryly.
Sule was silent for a moment, thinking. "I'm not sure that we should refer to it as different from our own galaxy. I mean... We've made it our own by right of conquest. This isn't the 'other galaxy' anymore; It's simply another part of the Empire."
Martina punched his shoulder. "Philosopher! You know what I meant."
"I'm sorry, dear."
Grinning: "That's better."
Elise had been watching them in a slightly horrified puzzlement; mainly from the idea that Sule was going to become the Emperor. That had slowly sunk in over a period of days. Now, she had wholeheartedly supported the idea from the start, but there was a difference between the conceptualization and the reality of the matter. Of course, what was seen by his wife and close friends was utterly different from what he could display in situations of command and in public, and Elise fully understood that. Indeed, though Sule was a bit of a philosopher, and a caring and devoted husband to Martina, he was also more than capable as a tactical and a strategic commander; he could organize efficiently, and deal with the supplies, of a major campaign.
He was everything they needed in a military Emperor; he had even sat on a few court-martials in his day and therefore had an ideal of far justice. Still, what remained of the Empire beyond the anomaly was small, and if they did win, she had wondered silently what Sule the Lawmaker, Sule the Administrator, Sule the Governor, would be like.
Better than Hamner Davion, Elise had decided, with few regrets as to the course she had chosen. Still, that would be tried; and soon. The chaos was going to try them all. Assuming they were even successful the next day...
"What are you thinking about, Elise?" Sule asked abruptly.
She glanced back to him from looking over the bay, a bit startled. "Tomorrow, mostly, and worrying."
"Try not to, though it is probably impossible for the likes of us," Sule replied with a slight smile. "We have the support of everyone relevant... To the seventh circle!, everyone who is to be there, except the Moffs and their aides, Welde, and Jarre and his subordinates at the ISB."
"Are you sure this place isn't bugged?" Elise countered.
"Yes," Martina answered, and she was somewhat annoyed. She wasn't much of a homemaker, but the idea of letting someone else plant spying apparati in her home was an offensive, inconceivable travesty, and she was to good to let it happen. "And I've confirmed that everyone we have offering support for Sule actually means it, or at least has not informed Hamner, and all indications expect their support to be active tomorrow."
A careful, thoughtful pause. "As for the most critical element? My father's guards? They have my assurance.. And we have their loyalty."
Elise sighed. "I apologize. I talked you two into it.. And now you're the confident ones. I shouldn't be constantly second-guessing myself like this."
"It isn't that, Elise," Sule replied. "It's more like you just run everything through your head constantly until you focus on hopelessly improbable scenarios that could be very bad things. Of course, they're just that; hopelessly improbable. Fortunately you don't do it so much in your own field, but.. I think it's a tendency to worry about areas where you don't have specific expertise."
"Yeah, I know. And since when did you become a psychologist, anyway?"
Sule chuckled. "Actually, I read some books on the subject after meeting Grand Admiral Thrawn once, though they didn't help me much. I wouldn't be surprised if he had at least a Ph.D. in the field in addition to his other accomplishments, though I'll never quite figure out how he did what he did."
"And neither will I," Elise replied. "But I'll have to make do with myself.. Which is disgustingly philosophical, and must mean I'm getting tired."
"Stay the night here? The guest room should be sufficient for even a hedonist like yourself; currently Spanish-colonial style," Martina offered.
"Taken.. And I am used to great hardships in the fleet, thank you," Elise sniffed contemptuously, and grinned.
"Yes," Sule replied with a mock sneer. "The fleet as opposed to the field. The entire navy is made up of hedonists."
Elise did not deign to reply to that comment.
San Francisco, Terra:
Milky Way Imperial Oversector Government.
In the streets of San Francisco, the arms of private soldiers and naval ratings from the Empire proper who were on leave there or going about their business moved like windmills, saluting every officer in sight, who were strolling about the streets or walking purposefully to the Capitol buildings.
The recruits from the Milky Way did not bother saluting when they were off duty and in the streets of a civilian city; quite discourteous, perhaps, and lazy. But they were very good fighters, it turned out, once trained, and nobody was really complaining unless extremely stuck up. They treated their own officers the same way, after all.
The entire city had the atmosphere of a fair, albeit a very military one, as people hawked goods and the companies of dozens, no, hundreds of ships were assembled. There was to be a considerable army review in addition to everything else, and the naval escorts of all the officials and officers that had arrived meant that there were a hell of a lot of men on leave here. The saloons, gambling dens and brothels were making even better business than usual.
Troops assembling and marching in review, even mounted paramilitary police on the terran horses, colonial aliens in native dress with their Imperial weaponry and drill, Stormtroopers in their full white armour, and the rest of the mass of colours and styles of troops of the Empire beyond the starless dark, fully supported by the mass of artillery and tanks and scouts and personnel carriers. Now it was the only Empire, though.
Hamner had once thought of presenting these troops; from Romulans and Klingons and Cardassians in their bizarre and alien costume, to the humans of Terra in the new Legions, every single one of them, in a grand parade on Coruscant, every one of them loyal to the Emperor, and his personal gift to the Imperial Majesty of two galaxies. That would never happen, now, and his only hope was a long and uncertain war against a dangerous foe.
Well, he'd do his best to hold what he could. He simply disagreed with the evaluations that Sule and Elise had made; they were both hotheads, and Elise was eccentric besides. Not to mention the idea of Hamner proclaiming himself Emperor. He shuddered as he walked in from the podium where he had delivered his orations to the troops and reviewed them; those to the civilians had been first at another.
Inside the main auditorium he would confer with the admirals, generals, and governors of virtually all rank and status within the Empire of the Milky Way, and announce his plans for the operations to contact the Imperial Remnant, and defend it and the Bilbringi Drive Yards. Terra, unlike Coruscant, had none of the monumental architecture that would have let him conduct all of this indoors; and it wouldn't need it for centuries, with this small of a population.
Hamner arrived in the auditorium to observe the officers of the army and the navy, and the various bureaucrats of import, and the intelligence officers, filing in through the entrances with their aides and staffs, his guards along the walls. There were chairs in the usual seating arrangement, along with a table for the highest ranking officers, and then his own chair just about that; intentionally modest to avoid being called a throne. Along with that, of course, the holo-tank was set up to provide everyone with at least a decent view.
He noted that the atmosphere here seemed rather.. Subdued, and tense, in comparison to the gaudy pomp and slight ostentation of the review and the festivities of the city, which had somewhat helped relieve the tensions people had been feeling since the news of the Empire's fate had been reluctantly released, heavily censored. Of course, his general officers knew the real situation.
As he settled into his chair, he noted that, atypical to the seating arrangement, Elise and Sule were sitting together. Probably to signify their mutual protest of his plans, Hamner decided. However, it was odd for an Admiral and a Field Marshal... They should have been sitting at opposite sides of the table. Everything else seemed normal this day, if this damned machiavellian web could ever be called that! Niccolo was indeed the perfect representative of what he had to face on the Prince's homeworld, and Sule had a point about the benefits of an authority figure with the power of the Emperor.
But enough time for that; he had to begin the meeting now. Hamner pressed a button on his chair and it played a canned signal for attention, which at least brought the room to order. Then he stood up. "Gentlebeings, at ease, and please, take your seats." He waited until they'd done so to continue. "Thank you for arriving here, all on time, I see, and I'm glad nobody minded that brief drizzle we had during the review."
"I know that the information that has been passed to use by Vice Director Quarn and Rear Admiral di Kuat has been disturbing, to say the least. We have, however, been working on how to respond to it, and we have finally determined a plan of action on how to respond to the fall of the Empire, the existence of the so-called 'New Republic', and the recent Vong invasion.
"It has been the determination of my General Staff that we should, using my superiour rank and seniority to that of the current leader of the Imperial Remnant, Pellaeon, work to assume a mutual defensive stance under our overall authority. Encompassing the Bilbringi Drive Yards in our defensive perimeter, we will allow refugees into the defensive perimeter and our own galaxy, and as the price of that, attempt to coerce Republican units into joining us in that more defendable region of space.
"I will now leave it to High Admiral Welde, and Vice Director Jarre, along with my chief of staff, General Ravi, to outline the details of the initial operations." Grand Moff Davion concluded, and then sat back down.
Before any of the three named could stand at the long table, however, another man did, all-to-familiar to the Grand Moff. Sule Tienyz stood, proud and intense and accusing, and violating all sense and fact of protocol as he pointed an accusing finger at the Grand Moff.
"Governor! How do you again propose to leave quadrillions of citizens, of innocent civilized beings at the mercy of these barbarians!? We must go on the offensive against the Vong; we cannot leave the Core to their violent and brutal ways; nor worlds that rely on technology to survive, when they desire to destroy all technology! They will enslave everything they do not allow to starve to death, or sacrifice to their gods, and you propose to save only those who can escape on their ships? Governor, I plead to you: Attack while we have the momentum!"
Grand Moff Hamner Davion shot to his feet, outraged at that breach of decor and order. "Silence, Field Marshal Tienyz! You're disrupting the order of the conference! Sit back down and wait for the questions! Hell, if you're going to talk like that, damn well don't bring it up at all!! You know what has been planned, and we are NOT changing it, for the last bloody time!!"
There was a nagging warning in the back of his mind, however implausible that the husband of his daughter might plot against him; even so, what happened next took him by surprise. He had never truly considered that Sule might plot against him, as he had not thought that Martina was capable of consenting to his death. However, he did not know the alternative to that she had devised.
Sule ignored him, and turned to the audience, and spoke. "Fellow-officers! You have heard the proof with your own ears; you have seen it with your own eyes! The Governor will do nothing for our fellow-citizens! Yet they must be defended from the Vong.. And we have the arms to do it with! If the Governor will not take up the cause of the Empire, will you instead follow me?"
Elise was already standing, and then dropping to one knee in front of Sule, with that vibro-blade of her's drawn and pointed to him in offering, and she shouted. "Hail Imperator! Hail, Sule Imperator! Thou Conquerest! Thou Conquerest!"
Hamner was looking to his guards; they should have already done something without orders. The sickening realization as he turned to look was that their guns were pointing to him and to a very few of his officers, the ones who truly hated Sule and might oppose this.
Then the words that were being shouted truly registered:
"HAIL, SULE IMPERATOR!"
"HAIL, SULE IMPERATOR!"
"HAIL, SULE IMPERATOR!"
The amplified voices of the guards, and the enthusiastic aides, made up for the older, more dignified Generals and Admirals. And many here were younger, battlefield promotions. One didn't lose lungpower as fast, courtesy of the Briar Patch, anyway, or youth.
They've hailed him as Emperor, Hamner realized, numbly, as he listened to the acclamations. That could never be taken back. It was triumph or die for Sule and the men who hailed him, now. Of course, there was no Emperor left, was there? No men loyal to the old order? If that was true.. And none came out of nowhere to smite him down, as Hamner had half-expected.. Then it's all his, to win or lose, when he puts it to the touch.
Elise stood at Sule's gesture; just as Martina entered, cautiously, with an escort of Sule's private guards, and Sule finally got a word in, pitching his voice to carry.
"The Empress Martina!" He shouted, pointing to his wife.
"HAIL THE EMPRESS MARTINA!" Thundered back the assembled group in the auditorium. Martina was popular among the Army, at least, as Sule's wife; just as popular as he was.
She flushed, and broke free of the guards, dashing up to her husband and embracing him, the result being a general and totally incoherent shout of approval, as her father, Hamner Davion, simply looked on in stunned, disbelieving amazement.
Finally, she let go of her husband and turned to her father with a sad smile, as the auditorium quieted down slowly. "What must be done, father."
"And for me, my daughter? Just shot, or disintegrated, or perhaps hung?" He asked, quietly, and unable to muster bitterness or hate. Either just unable, or still too surprised.
"No," she answered, truthfully and with a wry, sad sort of smile. "Exile to a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, to be perfectly honest."
Hamner Davion slumped back down into his chair, though it was probably no longer his, and took a deep breath, staring at his daughter. Then he laughed, shaking his head. "Not as one of the monks, I hope?"
"No, we won't make you take vows, Dad. It'd be sort of hopeless in your case," Martina replied, still with that sad smile.
Still shaking his head, Hamner nodded, the shock of the moment still quite evident. "Just as long as you keep the Vong from coming through... Empress Davion. Don't let the family down."
"I won't. And I'm going to visit often. And watch you like a hawk." Still that sad smile, as she watched some of the guards approach, and Hamner nod to them as he stood again, and let them escort him out of the auditorium, Sule watching the entire episode quietly, from a distance. There would be time for the rage in him later, she knew.
Then Martina turned and stepped back to her husband, where Elise also waited. "It's time to introduce us to the troops, isn't it, Elise?"
"Yep! A bunch of officers and their aides can call Sule Emperor all day long, and you Empress, for that matter, but it won't matter until we introduce you to a large body of grunts and see what they think. Fortunately we have managed to keep them assembled and gather together more off-duty types and guys from the crews in orbit for that purpose.. So let's go, Your Majesties."
Elise looked like she was going to explode with excitement at this moment; Sule really couldn't blame her. She was at the top of the world, playing Emperor-maker, or at least as close to an Emperor-maker as Sule was going to let anyone be for him, and with Welde out of the way, she was also the supreme commander of the Imperial Navy. She absolutely looked like she was going to burst on sheer adrenaline as she led them out and it was rather amusing sight to behold.
Sule was glad he was feeling just relief at the moment, that it had gone off without a hitch. For him the euphoria at his new job would come later, no doubt. He had no doubt it would come. But the fact that it wasn't there immediately was no doubt a good sign about his personality and general stability.
And then they were out in the sunlight, and he and Martina, surrounded by a cordon of guards and officers, were approaching the podium, and before him were the troops. Thousands and thousands of guard units and other formations, and beyond that, more men having been gathered up and brought in, army and navy, on the massive parade ground.
His voice, here, would be amplified, and there were holo-projectors to swell the size of anyone at the podium for the audience. Sule tensed, for here was the true moment of truth; the officers might be the barometer, but the troops were the true measure of if he could carry this through. These men now held the fate of two galaxies in their hands.
Elise stepped before him, and began to speak. "Soldiers of the Empire! I am Fleet Admiral Elise Kalar-Leben; But today I come before you as the humble messenger of a great event! Palpatine is dead; we all know this. The Empire is without leadership, and the Galaxy of the Empire is in chaos, invaded by barbarians and beset with weak, Republican government!"
"Grand Moff Davion refused to proclaim himself Emperor, and you refused to invest him with the title! He refused to defend the helpless quadrillions of the Core, at peril by these barbarians, and he was not worthy of the title of Emperor! But there is a man who has defended the Core in his words, and has proven himself in battle at the head of the Legions, and now desires only to lead you into action in defence of the Core, if you give him the opportunity, as Imperator and Emperor!
"Field Marshal Sule Tienyz is who I speak of! He desires only to restore Imperial power, to save the Empire from the threat of barbarians, and to uphold the honour of the Legions and the Fleet in this contest! To this end, your commanders have hailed him as Imperator, Military Emperor! Do you so take him!? Do you so Hail him!?
"Shall the Empire be his, by your vote!? By the vote of your bayonets, and the Legions of which you compose, honourable soldiers of the Empire? Let him hear your proclamation, soldiers!" Elise finished, and stepped aside.
Sule stepped up to the Podium, and he did not need to say a word. The cheer he was greeted with, cried out from thousands of voices on the parade ground, answered the expectation, as the popular and victorious general was hailed and acclaimed by the Legions as Emperor.
The voices thundered and rolled across that ground, a den of furious cheering, as the solidarity of the Empire returned in one man, Emperor Sule I Tienyz. It was an endless madness that swept those thousands of men, a wild happiness and furor that was indescribable, like a primal force, as they elected their sovereign by popular acclamation, and the power of their bayonets.
The popular acclamation soon turned into a general tumult of cheering and roaring soldiers, which spread down into San Francisco, where more soldiers took up the cry, and even the common citizens, and before long the entire city was in an atmosphere of not quite festive, not quite party.. And it could not be called a riot, either, as there was no violence, but instead the cheering of the Emperor's name spread, slowly, across the planet, and to the fleet, and the day degenerated gradually to a true celebration, that of the ascension of Sule I Tienyz to the throne of the Galactic Empire.
Imperial Fleet Flagship,
Executor-class Battlecruiser Despot,
Utopia Planita Drive Yards.
"You're late, Ben," Admiral Caled Felliet commented, as the other man, looking faintly annoyed and with a trace of sweat on his forehead, hurried into the lift on the on the Despot while toting a briefcase, and Caled keyed it for the VIP sections.
"Oh hell, Cal, you know how the traffic is in Tokyo; Even worse than the Atlantic run, and it's just local, gods curse it, and then I'm a bit out of shape, and this bloody ship of yours is nearly eighteen kilometers long. Can give a man a heart attack," General Gamir Ben Likassam, Imperial Starfighter Corps, shot back, though good-naturedly.
"Is that the excuse you're planning on using with the Emperor?"
"It's true, and I trust the Emperor will understand that. The traffic in Tokyo really is hell. They should have designed that city better. Natural of the feddie bastards to let it rot. It's a giant, spread-out, bloated carcass much too big for its population.."
"Just like any other city on Terra; they don't have any decent towers on this planet, Ben," Caled replied patiently. Gamir was his friend; he was also, like any typical fighter pilot, a complete prima-donna, and a fair number type-A personalities thought he was an asshole. Of course, he was retired now and in charge of R&D for the Starfighter Corps, but.. Some things never changed.
"Yeah, yeah. Oh well; at least the Markets are recovering from the initial panic when the reports over what was happening in the home galaxy went public. Thank the gods Davion was at least smart enough to prevent speculation on companies with assets there.. Though of course the established divisions over here sure took hits. It looked for a while like we were going to have a crash; but now that Sule is the Emperor, we do seem to be having a rally of sorts. For instance, the Nikkei average ended up 83.45 points today or.."
"Ben?" Caled knew the man was right of course; the markets had even been closed for a few days to prevent a selloff and a stock market crash, with all the disastrous consequences that would lead to. Even Caled up on his flagship had caught that much. But this blasé recital was a bit much.
"How in the seven hells do you keep up with the market while you're running a design bureau? Managing a squadron, you know, I don't exactly have the time," Cal asked, very, very patiently.
"Well, it is my nest-egg for Haria and the kids, Cal. I know you're still active in front-line duty and never married, but I have to consider the future. Anyway, it's not that complicated."
The 'lift door opened as the two men stepped out, Caled shaking his head in bemused wonderment, as they walked over to the security post guarding the Emperor's deck, and stepped through the scanners operated by the guard.. Currently part of the house security force that had been handpicked by the Empress Martina.
The thing about Gamir Ben Likassam was that he was just a natural at playing the market, among numerous other abilities he had. Of course, the Federation had prided its self on a cashless economy; the Empire had anything but, and most Federation intellectuals had been horrified when the Empire had naturally implemented a fully capitalist system in their occupied territories.
But it had been to the benefit of many; the Orions and the Ferengi had recovered the fastest and thrived in the new market where the barriers of trade had been removed and commerce eased, and the other capitalist states had likewise adapted easily. It had been harder for the Federation, but the results were truly incredible.
The Federation had been powerful as a nation, equal to the Klingons or the Romulans, as a socialist state. The resources that it could produce as a capitalist state were considerably more, and of better quality, as competition and a functional economic system improved the economies of those sectors that had once been the UFP. The failed social experiment was cast aside, and people embraced their newfound prosperity with glee.
That was no more apparent than in the islands of Japan, or what had once been called 'Japan Inc.' Always an economic powerhouse, the idea of calling that nation one giant company had gained more reason when it was no longer a nation but rather part of a one-world government, and then an interstellar government.
The boom days of that corporation-like group of islands had been under the Federation of the 22nd and 23rd centuries, when Japan had been the economic center of Earth, and perhaps the entire Federation, along with a major area of technological innovation for the entirety of the UFP. Of course, after the economy had been socialized at the press of the Vulcans and the liberals, the result had been the steady decay of Japan, and the huge megapolis of Tokyo.
In the past years, now nearly two decades of Imperial rule, 'Japan Inc.' had been undergoing a revival under Imperial rule (And there was serious talk of actually incorporating the islands as a company with holdings), both economic and scientific, and many Imperial research facilities were located there. It had also, indeed, did have legendary traffic problems, as huge city-centers were rebuilt and millions of people commuted everywhere.
Gamir and Caled were finally led into the room where Emperor Sule I Tienyz waited to see them; it was not an audience chamber, though it was fabulously appointed. It was a smoking room, and the Emperor was enjoying a tabacc with a tankard of corellian whiskey on the table beside his chair, along with a shot glass.
As far as the ship and the Emperor's schedule was concerned, it was evening, but Gamir and Caled had managed to fit this meeting in, barely. The Emperor had proven willing to get business done regardless; Especially with old friends. Both of the men bowed.
"Lord and Imperator," two voices echoed. "Hail!"
Sule's face was suitably grave long enough to receive them, then he smiled and motioned to the other chairs in the room. "Sit, Ben, Cal. I know, Cal, you've managed to get me to listen to our poor old lunatic's presentation here.. So I will hear it out."
Elise and Martina had been conspiring to reduce the pomp associated with the Imperial throne. It had been fine for an old bureaucrat and reclusive Sith Lord. It was not fine for a relatively young man, especially with metaphasic particle treatments, who preferred to lead from the front, and knew and trusted all of the commanders now left in his forces.
It was the reign of a Military Emperor, now, and so the pomp, circumstance, and outright ostentation of Palpatine's court - an almost Papal glamour - had been stripped down to the lean formality of military life, elevated to that suitable for the Imperial dignities, and that suited Sule Tienyz just fine.
"Thank you, Lord and Imperator," Gamir replied. Technically, the titles were.. Unusual. The full title of 'Emperor of the Republic', could not legally be simply taken; It had to be granted by the Senate... In theory. Of course, Palpatine had dissolved the senate and ruled simply as 'Emperor' of an Empire, so in theory Sule was within his rights to declare himself Emperor by decree.
But, cautiously, he had merely taken the title of Lord and Imperator Sule I Tienyz, Emperor of the Two Galaxies, which despite the presumption of power over two separate galaxies, in the eyes of a citizen of the Republic, actually presumed less than Palpatine's title did. The only question was if Sule genuinely expected the Senate to acclaim him as Emperor of the Republic in addition.
The briefcase was opened, and Gamir took out a few old hardcopy notes, a couple datachips, and a padd, successively handing them over onto the table between himself and the Emperor. Sule watched with interest; the guards in the room were of course effectively unnoticed.
"Lord and Imperator, one of the main problems in fighter engagements against the Vong, according to the data we have, is the continued ineffectiveness of missile weaponry; it can be used to great effect only in massed salvoes from many squadrons or after dovin basals have been overloaded by rapid-fire of the fighter-mounted energy weapons. What we have here is a potential solution to that."
Sule picked up the padd, and began scrolling through the data on it. "Do continue, General," He replied, now both curious, and serious as to the matter at hand, the tabacc placed aside in an ashtray. Martina was ripping out his guts, slowly, for resuming that habit, but even after only a few days, the job was getting to him.
"The design is for a bomb-pumped laser warhead for the advanced proton torpedo, Lord and Imperator. It's actually quite old in concept. You just take an unfocused fusion bomb, and detonate it, funneling the energy of the detonation into a spherical series of X-ray lasers. The result is just that.. A sphere from which X-ray laser beams emanate. Brief ones, but very powerful, and with full coverage.
"The result, essentially, is a weapon where a near-miss can cause serious damage to the enemy, and it allows such a variant of the standard advanced Protorp to have a standoff attack capability - Detonating outside of the gravity wells of the dovin basals, and from vectors where they have not been positioned to defend an enemy fighter."
"And you think that your teams can design these warheads, and then develop them into an effective weapons system?" Sule asked.
"The preliminary design work is already done, Lord and Imperator, though of course the detailed work will be more complex, along with the homing and internal command systems for the advanced protorp to get it to detonate where we want it to. Then building the warhead as a production model shouldn't be impossible; fusion bombs in the size we're needing are common enough. The real challenge is engineering the X-ray laser assembly, figuring out the details on that.
"If we can crack it, get the tolerances to where they'll handle the detonation for just long enough.. Then we have it made, and we can start mass-producing these things, Lord and Imperator. As for a time estimate, well, I don't have one yet, but I can only guess that it will be at least a couple of months."
"Well, do your best to speed it along, Ben. And, yes, that means the project is approved. You'll get complete funding.. Hell, I'll draw on the privy purse if I have to. This could be the final, permanent edge to make fighter combat even again that we've been looking for," Sule replied. "I would like to keep this material to look at... And Cal, keep him honest. Otherwise, you two, good work, and good luck with this."
"Certainly, Lord and Imperator.. I brought it up for that. And thank you," Gamir replied, very, very pleased. It looked like that was the big break he was looking for; his design teams, of course, would go private in a few years, and their discoveries would go private with them, typical Imperial deal with R&D personnel. If he could organize a company for them with a solid military product, and himself as CEO.. Of course, that all depended on what happened back in the home galaxy.
And it was even better that they might be doing something to be helping his comrades who were still fighting and dying.. Now against those damned barbs who'd seen fit to invade the very Core. Damned shame that his injuries against the Dominion had sidelined him from the cockpit, but those were the breaks.
The Palace of the Exarchs.
It was not the real thing, of course, but rather a grand building in the architecture of ancient style and merely named 'The Palace of the Exarchs', fully suited, however, to modern living. It was also Elise Kalar-Leben's home. She had finally reached the pinnacle of power in the Imperial Navy, and from the ancient city that had once been the Capital of the West she wielded her influence.
Decades had passed, and Elise had surrounded herself in the trappings of nobility to hide what was her heritage: Illegitimate daughter of a senator and a prostitute, she was now a Fleet Admiral, and by the Emperor's whim commander of all his navies; his promotions might see her to higher rank yet. Certainly to Welde's. The idea of making her a Grand Admiral was not impossible, though some would argue against it.
In those corridors, she had not been alone, though. The Empress Martina had been busy over the past days, a week now, working to firm up the new government, establishing her husband in the place of Grand Moff Davion, and establishing the Imperial eminence in place of that of an Oversector governor. Staying at the Residencia had not been advised; the Imperator and his wife would be prime targets for the terrorist groups, so Martina was residing for the moment in Ravenna with Elise, while Sule was on the Despot.
"Martina, have you made any progress on the guard situation?" Elise asked, as the Empress Martina Tienyz-Davion entered the.. Parlor, for lack of a better term. Elise was reclining on a couch, and the Empress approached with a small train of servants and guards that were dispatched at the light motion of a hand; with Elise, Martina would never presume rank.
The sight of Martina now might also stun any average citizen of the Imperial Sectors. The governments they had conquered were generally in periods of incredibly droll clothing; the featureless jumpsuits of the Federation the worst of all. The military decor of the arriving Imperials had lent better taste, but still functionality.
Martina, however, now presumed to dress in a stunning black gown with a velvet vest to it, bejeweled with nova rubies, which were not replicatable, and priceless beyond compare. Everything about her appearance was calculated to impress; and yet it was subtle in some ways. No great majesty as she received people that day; merely the calculating intelligence of the woman who now ran the organs of the Imperial spy nets.
Sule might take on the aspect of the Military Emperor, not rising above his troops, and sharing with them the hardships of the campaign and their active-duty quarters, high above Terra on the Despot, as he prepared for that very campaign.. But Martina added an undeniably regal air to the Imperial throne, a clear respectability.
"We're still considering possibilities for a permanent Imperial Guard, Elise," Martina replied as she sat.. Actually sat; for all that she tolerated and was amused by her friend, Elise's eccentricities, which had grown progressively more erratic (She had been almost normal.. Obsessive and a bit of a gutter creature, but normal) over the years, she did not share them.
Martina also suspected that the recent ones, being mainly social, were largely a ploy. Elise Kalar-Leben had cultivated an air of respectable wealth and the oddities to go with it. The Admiral hence gained from the notoriety of her tastes what she might have lost from the notoriety of her birth and earlier career, at least in the brutal and important, if utterly inane, world of the social circles of the Milky Way Sectors. The problem was that something cultivated so utterly eventually got a life of its own.
"That said.. I'm not entirely happy with the idea of using any of our human recruiting sources. Being Emperor is a dangerous business - I think the fact that Lord Vader killed Palpatine proves that readily - And even Palpatine had the security of an Imperial Guard that, by all accounts, had force abilities and was tied to him in loyalty through those," Martina continued.
"And we certainly can't afford to try to cultivate those; we don't have a single force-sensitive here for all we know. Even if we do, well, it just isn't wise. That mysticism can rarely be trusted, Jedi or Sith. Perhaps one of the older cults rumoured to have existed once, but they're all gone. Even then, in a blunt evaluation of power, it is dangerous to have people in your government with powers like that when you don't," Elise stated.. With perhaps a certain looming tone.
"No, Elise, the Jedi are almost certain to oppose us as it is. Our only policy can be live and let live in that regard. We don't want a complete mess of a pogrom on our hands. They cancel each other out, anyway, and can be useful if properly managed."
Elise shook her head faintly. "I really wasn't proposing that we try another purge, Martina. It would be never-ending, considering that they are apparently self-propagating. And that is bad for publicity. I was just worried about Sule's security. The Jedi are quite obstinate, and if his plan holds together.. Well, when we reach Coruscant, all hell is going to break loose."
"That's not definite. There are ways of splitting the Jedi opposition to Sule's rule of the Two Galaxies, Elise, and we have been discussing them. Mystrela was also able to provide further information after her recent victory at Bilbringi, and indications are that the Jedi are already badly split.. They may have so much mysticism these days that they're nearly pacifists. Furthermore, they're in hiding from the Peace Brigade, which is steadily gaining power; especially after Coruscant fell."
"Well, I am not inclined to trust much to reports of discord among the Jedi. I trust you, Martina, and the people you may choose to do your spying, but not the reports you receive or the people you get it from. As for Mystrela's victory: She did exactly what I expected of her. Now we have to act fast to capitalize on it, and the bleeding thing of it is that it's going to take on the order of a month to prepare for an expedition to Coruscant, even using Bilbringi as a jumping-off point. Not counting travel time."
Martina nodded. "I understand your pessimism in regard to the Coruscant Op, Elise.. Especially since we may be abandoning surprise to get those forces into position at Bilbringi with the necessary fleet support and planetary assault elements. But if you can get Sule and I to the surface with a sufficient number of troops to liberate the planet.. We can deal with Jedi and liberal Senators alike. Believe me."
"Oh, surprise or no, once we get the forces in position, I can beat them away from the planet, alright. Not much of a fun show.. But it will be a decent, standup fleet engagement, and one that we can win, at that, Martina. The Vong have incredible production capacity, but they also don't have enough planets for it to count yet against my line," the other woman grinned, with the tired assurance of to many battles against to many foes.
"And that is one professional area I would not presume to contest you in, my friend," Martina replied with a smile. "Now, as for the Imperial Guard.. I have no further ideas of my own. Perhaps you have a suggestion?"
Elise looked to Martina intently, then closed her eyes. She had them closed for half a minute, then opened them again and the grin was still on her lips; Just brighter, and with a bit of a wild look to her expression. "You're going to think me mad, but it does make sense. And Sule will love it when he hears the idea. Maybe enough that you can make him stop smoking those tabaccs again."
"What is it?" Martina's eyes narrowed at that.
"Klingons!?" Martina choked out, staring at Elise like she truly had finally gone mad. "You want Klingons to guard my husband!?"
"Why not, Mar?" Still that look. It was sort of annoying right now. "They're loyal to a fault, more or less feudal, very good fighters, especially when you install some discipline and give them proper equipment, and they keep their oaths.. They always keep their oaths. They're also annoyed at the fact we've been recruiting so few of them for our native legions, and it would be nice to keep them happy; We don't want to divert troops to putting down rebellions in Klingon space."
"But guarding the Emperor, who happens to be my husband?"
"Well, Just get them to swear direct, personal oaths of lifelong loyalty to him as their liege-lord, blood oaths. It will not be impossible. You just need to get the support of one of the remaining Klingon nobles for the idea, from the old Council. If you do, he can surely influence ten thousand or so youth in good, fighting shape and condition.
"The other guard units can provide additional training to them; They probably already have basic Imperial combat training, knowing the Klingons these days you can certainly find ten thousand of them with it, and then you have a totally incorruptible Guard with the size, arms, and equipment of a light infantry Legion, who can double as your security personnel and bodyguards. You know how Sule will manage to get himself mixed up in front-line combat from time to time; admit it. You'd feel safer if he had protection like that."
Martina had a thoughtful look by now, and then shook her head, laughing softly. "I really don't want to know where you got that idea. But I will consider it, and propose it to Sule."
Elise smiled. "Glad to help, Martina. And it would be a long story, anyway.. You know me!"
The Planet Hapes,
Capital of the Hapan Star Cluster.
Leia activated the message on the screen of the small computer that had been delivered to her; by messenger from the Royal Palace, courtesy of Jaina. The green letters on the black screen seemed oddly unreal; and yet the secure communications channel, the long and circuous route the message had taken, and the simple, distilled style all argued flatly for it to be true.
No, with that coding, it had to be true, Jaina and the Hapans were certain of that. And no matter the game being played here, there was no reason for the Hapans to want to change the outcome of this or lie about it to her. It was perhaps one of the few things truly irrelevant to the political situation on Hapes; only a major Vong defeat could affect that. As for the Vong, the Vong didn't even try to cut through their codes, and the Peace Brigade was horrible at it. But, the contents were almost too good to be true.
'It is my satisfaction to report the Bilbringi Drive Yards have been held with the assistance of an Imperial Task Force under the command of Rear Admiral Mystrela di Kuat, HIMN.
Three capital ships and eight platforms lost in the engagement; Imperial forces suffered loss of three capital ships.
Both Vong attack forces defeated completely with destruction of all capital ships; Peace Brigade squadron retired without engaging.
Losses moderate among my own and Imperial fighters.
Rear Admiral di Kuat expects reinforcement from unspecified location soon.
If Imperial reinforcements arrive, expect to hold Bilbringi Drive Yards and continue starship production as long as raw materials continue to arrive; Imperials may also have a conduit in that regard.
Expect probability of Imperial reinforcements high from same source.
Send further reinforcements if possible; Chance of local counteroffensives against Vong by combined forces if received, repeat, chance of local counteroffensives.
Full data on the engagement and Imperial allied forces appended.
General Muun, Bilbringi Drive Yards Commandant.'
And then she took a deep breath, and waited for a moment, calming herself as she smiled faintly. Well, they had needed some good news in regard to the war, though of course it was addressed to the Senate and government in general, not just her, and had ended up getting to the Hapes courtesy of the embassy there, and more or less by accident.
But where had she seen that name before, of the Imperial Task Force commander? Mystrela di Kuat... It drifted on her memory out of a time decades ago, when the Republic was the Rebellion, and the Empire was supreme in serene confidence.
Mystrela Estorav di Kuat, her memories supplied for her, and she remembered a composed girl, from the days of the Senate, when the di Kuat family, enormously powerful and building the Imperial fleet up to unparalleled heights, had held the Senatorship of the Kuat system, and those staunchly conservative and ruthlessly capitalist mercantile nobles had calmly supported the Imperial regime as billions poured into their coffers; it was good for business.
She remembered Mystrela, then, from one of the grand and gala balls of Coruscant, the girl there, but reserved, daughter of the brother of the then Senator di Kuat, another uncle the infamous Kuat di Kuat, and with a look of keen intelligence behind her eyes. Yes... Leia could remember other details beyond that, from conversations with members of the Kuat family and their retainers; She had wanted to go into the navy. But she could not remember anything about the career of Mystrela, which was odd. Even as a woman, someone with that kind of family influence could offset her gender, despite a navy ridden by COMPNOR's influence.
Well, this was getting a bit interesting, especially as she scanned General Muun's report and saw that the Imperial Task Force included an Allegiance-class. Jagged Fel was here, and he would tell her if his father had sent a task force to Bilbringi. The problem was getting in touch with him; but that would not take forever.
When she finally received the answer, in the negative, it merely deepened the mystery, and somewhat dampened enthusiasm of that reversal, because it meant they simply had no idea where those ships had come from. Leia sighed, and tried not to think of her son, dead at the hands of the Vong, but that, of course, was impossible.
Well, there was work to be done, and that was the only way to avoid the pain. The refugee camp stretched on for eternity and there was the pain of her son Anakin's death. A pain that would never end.. And with it, the tenuous belief in Jacen's continued life, one that only her and her husband shared.
Allegiance-class Light Cruiser Cuirass,
Bilbringi Drive Yards.
It was with a flicker of pseudomotion that the squadron exited hyperspace. Five gleaming Imperator-class Star Destroyers, two VSD Mk.IIs, six Dreadnoughts, and a host of light escorts, which also protected a group of fast fleet colliers to reload the Strikes with missiles, not to mention two Escort Carriers equipped as 'Starfighter Ferries'.
It seemed that Grand Moff Davion had acted faster than she had expected, Mystrela admitted to herself, as she watched the readouts stabilize. That force had been assembled with dispatch to deal with her needs after the successful defense of Bilbringi, and arriving so soon, the prompt action was only encouraging as to the future of any efforts in the home galaxy, and their direction.
"Admiral," the com officer reported, his voice sounding odd. "We're receiving a message from the commander of the squadron out there.. Rear Admiral Hallais. He reports that he as an Eyes-only Dispatch for you, Ma'am."
"I'll receive it in my briefing room," Mystrela replied, standing. She'd been fortunate enough to have been on the bridge, viewing the results of the latest drill, courteously against the NR forces, when the squadron had arrived.
It was curious, indeed, though not entirely unexpected, Mystrela thought as she walked into her briefing room and sat down at the chair in front of the com panel. She brought up the message after it had been received by the Cuirass, and then submitted for both retina and DNA scans with the nonchalance of someone long used to the rigorous security procedures.
Then the message played for her. A message with a very familiar face. Sule looked down on her, and though he still wore something vaguely resembling a Field Marshal's uniform, the mix of gold braid and cape, not to mention the ancient, republican-style rank insignia on the uniform, detonated something very odd going on. The rank insignia also seemed a bit familiar.
"Mystrela, greetings. I hope the reinforcements assist you in holding Bilbringi, and I hope that the remains of the Republic can further reinforce you; though I doubt the Vong will try another big push for a while. By now you must be curious of what I'm doing in this uniform, and I can explain.
"I know you've always been a supporter, and so I'll just tell you right out: I've declared myself Emperor. There's a message from me to your Task Force which you can distribute, signed by 'Lord and Imperator Sule I Tienyz, Emperor of the Two Galaxies.' Do so as soon as you have rounded up and arrested all ISB agents in the Task Force. We've had to purge the ISB back here; assume they will be the same risk there.
"As for Vice Director Quarn, he will be Vice Director of the entire Ubiqtorate now, not just Vice Director, Milky Way Ops, and he will be under the Empress Martina's direct command, as we're linking all Imperial Intelligence Agencies into one loose agency under my wife's overall control.
"When it comes to the officers of the Oversector.. Grand Moff Davion is confined to a monastery in Central Asia, and several other of the Moffs and commanders who resisted were imprisoned or, if necessary, killed, though it was principally bloodless, and I must say that I am generally popular with the people. We'll see how that holds up when I move back home, so to speak.
"As far as an offensive goes, it is my intention, Mystrela, to take Coruscant immediately. This will establish legitimacy for my reign and provide a central guiding force for resistance against the Vong in the galaxy, in addition to reestablishing Imperial preeminence. I am assembling all forces necessary to liberate Coruscant, but it will take time.
"Therefore, my orders are simple. Hold Bilbringi. I will have my invasion force organized in, ideally, three weeks to a month - though I cannot exclude the possibility of delays - and we can move to Bilbringi after that, and use it as a staging ground for the effort to liberate Coruscant. But I must have Bilbringi as a staging ground, or else the supply effort will be considerably complicated, let alone the loss of construction potential for the war effort of the Two Galaxies.
"Well, that seems to be it, Rear Admiral.." Sule trailed off, and grinned. "Oh, my apologies. I just remembered that I was going to promote you to brevet Vice Admiral for that victory of yours. Keep it up and the rank will stick, too. Good luck, Vice Admiral di Kuat, and may the Force be with you."
Mystrela watched the screen go blank, and she was grinning, and then chuckling softly. When she finished, she rose, leaving the briefing room, to get the message for the Task Force, and coordinate with Quarn on how to round up the ISB agents before announcing it. So much to be done.. And such an interesting Emperor, indeed! It was good to have a military man in charge; and better yet one who was at least comfortable with his senior officers. That could only do wonders for the army and the navy!
As for Coruscant.. Well, that was in sight to, if they thrust swiftly enough. The Vong were overextended in taking it, by far. It would be bold to counterattack so soon, from the supplies of the Republic, yes, but it could indeed be done. The next weeks would tell how Sule I Tienyz would be remembered.
The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth.
-- Wikipedia's No Original Research policy page.In 1966 the Soviets find something on the dark side of the Moon. In 2104 they come back.
-- Red Banner / White Star
, a nBSG continuation story. Updated to Chapter 4.0 -- 14 January 2013.