Hull 721, plot arc the second

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Eleventh Century Remnant
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Location: Scotland

Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2008-10-27 12:06pm

Well, I said it was about ready- although you seem to have cursed my computer, it's been crashing all day. Obviously objecting to something, probably to the ghost of Darth Vader. Oh, and a new adventure in formatting. Is this better?

Hull 721, Arc the second, Chapter I

Corellia, the rough diamond of the core.
The five brothers, the aeon- old artificial bulk of centrepoint, and the glittering ring of orbitals around each world- not physically conjoined and solid like Kuat, more sensible, free floating, free flying.

In the Trojan positions either side of Corellia herself and the main construction yards, asteroids- raw materials hauled from thousands of light years away, about to be fed into the molecular furnaces of Corellian Engineering, from there to the yards that built for half the galaxy.

Typically, being the place that it was, there were skysurfers, flying ‘light sporting yachts’- starfighters in all but armament- in and out of the fringes of the asteroid fields. Stunting, taking silly risks, for the fun of it.
They were the first thing that caught Jorian Lennart’s eye.

I never did that, he thought wistfully, looking at them from the armoured bridge module of his million-times-heavier starship. Saved all my wildness and teenage rebellion up, studied well, went away from home to do a dull, worthy, deathly-serious degree at a dull, worthy, deathly-serious university.

And from there, he grinned remembering, what was bred in the bone came out in the bone, and he had developed into a potentially lethal practical joker. At least, potentially lethal to himself, so many of them having some sort of political sting and the senate guard having no known sense of humour.

Corellia had a reputation for breeding independent- minded men, rebels against authority, but the movies had got it wrong as usual. “ ‘What are you rebelling against?’ ‘Whadda ya got?’ “

It was a meaningful question. Nobody turns against the ways of their ancestors and the rather more immediate authority of their family for kicks, at least not for any length of time, not in a society thirty thousand years old.

There was the same old simple truth underneath it all; what happened when those independent minded men and women grew up, grew old, had children of their own? Became, in a word, Authority?

They tried, of course, to lay down the law. Project their lessons on to their descendants, shortcut the learning process- which the kids were of course too stiff necked to accept, setting out to carve their own way and make their own mistakes, and have the fun that went along with that for themselves.

It was the same eternity- old cycle of youth and age, fought out here with more sincerity and energy than most. Corellia was a more authoritarian place than it liked to admit to itself.

Those asteroid surfers would be almost all in their teens- as soon as one of them made a catastrophic mistake, the rest of them would be shocked into growing up, launched towards becoming the sort of solid citizen they were now busy rebelling against.

The handful that had made it a part of their identity, whose pride hinged on being able to pull off that sort of risk, would stay out and become the trader-pilots and, yes, smugglers Corellia was famous for.

The few who died in the process would have their names written up in the spacers’ cenotaph, the official last resting place of those whose only real grave was the stars.

Which reminds me, Lennart thought, I have to drop in on my brother. Have to see all the family. I hope there isn’t too much in the way of ceremonial- who am I kidding. There had better be time to go home, and if there isn’t, I can make it.

In my gut reaction to pomp and circumstance at least, Lennart decided, I am one of those sky- surfers writ large, a chancer and stuntman- who happens to be in charge of a destroyer in the Imperial Starfleet.

I wonder what the Diktat’s decided to make of it all? Native son made good, or Imperial lackey lurking back? I haven’t been home- no, back to my birthplace- in ten years.

I was just another fleet officer, then. One who had done well enough when he had had his moment, but had blotted his record and was languishing in what looked like being an exceeding long twilight of the career. Nobody special.

Now? Kriff, I hope they don’t make me out to be a hero, he thought. I’m not sure my ego could stand that sort of feeding- no, actually, it could, it’s the dark side I’m worried about.

Wouldn’t that be fun; losing it completely, firing up Betsey- the deliberately, mockingly absurd pet name he had decided to give to his lightsabre- and hacking the Diktat to pieces, all the while screaming something along the lines of ‘I claim this system in the name of the powers of darkness?’

Just better not let that happen. Although it would make superb holovision.

There was more than one ship; the convoy consisted of Black Prince leading, a heavy fleet tender transporting Fist, and the battered Admonisher bringing up the rear- she would be repaired and returned to service.
Probably have to be renamed though, too similar to an existing ship- and her computers fully reprogrammed, just in case.

Around them, the Corellian system was starting to react. The sector fleet was a throwback to the days of the republic, organisationally; in theory independent- a theory that Lennart, as an officer of the Imperial Starfleet, did not believe.

Officially they were not directly answerable to Coruscant, holding their own borders, promoting and assigning within their own ranks, and defending their own interests.

It was a fine and noble stand for independence, but during the Clone Wars, the same thing had happened to their fleet as had happened to Kuat’s- called up to Republic service, and all the then existing heavy metal had gone to fight the galactic wars.

Needless to say, it hadn’t been given back.

The Corellian navy was actually lightweight by most sector groups’ standards, dominated by the lower mid ranges- lean, efficient frigates and corvettes. Not many destroyers- what self respecting Corellian would be caught dead on the bridge of a Kuat product?

Well, me for a start, Lennart thought. Although I can pass on the dead part.

In theory, the local force had the numbers, and the speed and efficiency, to wolf- pack and take down much larger ships- and for a good four or five years, it had looked likely that it would have to.

Considering the number of disgruntled noises coming out of the Five Brothers, it seemed that one of the most likely tasks for the Imperial Starfleet in the mid-20s would be to ‘restore order’ in the Corellian Sector; Oversector Imperial Centre had gamed it out often, it had become one of their favourite sets of large scale exercises.

They had made sure enough Corellians in the Imperial fleet were involved for word to filter back, and while that had involved the occasional embarrassment, the sheer scale of the mismatch made Imperial victory inevitable.

That and the defensive nature of the campaign meant the local force couldn’t play hit and fade like the Alliance- had lost badly more than once trying to- they had to accept the battles that the Starfleet wanted to fight.

Lennart had been involved in two of those annual full- up exercises, once on the defence team and once as part of the attack. Being on defence, simulating the actions of the Corellian navy, had been easy, from a moral point of view anyway- a professional challenge, but a clean one.

Being one of the attackers had been an essay in sustained horror. Fencing and feinting towards burning worlds that he had kin on, exploiting his people’s traditions to destroy them.

The impact of it was that it wasn’t just a bell jar, no idle dance of theoretical capability; this might actually take place, the heavies of Imperial Centre might just do exactly that- flood in and reduce the dissident worlds to seas of magma.

He had asked himself what he was doing after every round, passed through a dark night of the soul- and of the stomach, considering what he was doing made him physically sick.

He had never quite managed to throw up over Indutiomarus Trachta- despite trying to on one occasion. Still, he had done the job, all the while hoping to the galactic spirit that there were enough Corellian spies around to take note and pass enough information back to develop meaningful countermeasures.

That incident aside, he had outwardly behaved like a loyal and effective Imperial officer, if a little wild on occasion. Three months later he had been back in command of a line destroyer.

There were a few system defence boats and platforms in amongst the sparkle of merchant drives, liners and freighters and tramps seemingly going every which way, and just reacting to three of His Majesty’s fleet.
Some heading towards them, and some heading away.

The yards themselves were as busy as ever, four main construction complexes visible on this side of the mainworld, the military yard they were bound for and three civilian, one fitting out a superliner and skeletons of four more large passenger ships, one turning out heavy freighters, one hordes of small bays for gunships, tramps and blockade runners.

Very convenient, Lennart thought looking from the military to the light-ship yard, predators and prey at the same waterhole.

‘Clarnich,’ he instructed the acting chief nav officer- Brenn was away commanding the passage crew on Admonisher; ‘broadcast the usual advisories, heavy unit requiring manoeuvre and engine danger space, military unit liable to manoeuvre without warning. Contact Coronet traffic control, get clearance for approach to the yards.

Guns, arm point defence. We are in the land of the boy racer, and even if there are no lurking rebel terrorists, Corellia has more than it’s fair share of space idiots.

I’d like to play tag with them, but I don’t think we have the fuel to spare, and it is just the sort of relaxation of the rules a crafty reb could use to play space kamikaze. Ions and tractors first response, weapons tight.’

‘Fine homecoming that would be.’ Wathavrah quipped. ‘Point defence armed, manned and weapons tight, LTL powered and manned, weapons safe. We could put on a firework display for them? I could fire a few main-battery flak bursts, make a light show.’

Perhaps not, the Diktat might object.’ Lennart decided. ‘They tend to get touchy about unplanned teraton range events, and, ah, I see the civilians are behaving entirely as I expected.’

The asteroid surfers were breaking off and heading towards the Imperial force, as well as four system defence gunships and a dozen civilian craft.

‘Repeat. Heavy vessels requiring engine danger space, military vessels liable to manoeuvre without warning.’ The automated hazard beacon must have been reaching them all but, like Corellians, they largely decided to ignore it.

Home, Lennart thought. I grew up and left home what, thirty years ago? Ever since, I’ve been conscious of the reputation, used it from time to time, added my own mite to it maybe- but never really felt that this was home any more.

That had been a desk, an office, really a starship bridge for better than half, and the better half at that, of my adult life. So how come this place plunges me so deep into the maudlin?

‘Com traffic from the surfers,’ Rythanor reported, ‘Congratulations, Go Corellia, some playing of anthems, a couple of rants- force- damned fascist bastard, that sort of thing- nothing unexpected.’

‘Record and filter, save anything witty and pass anything overtly treasonous to CorSec. And give me PA.’

Rythanor set up for that, then noticed ‘Hmm. That –1300 looks familiar, displaying engine spectra-‘

‘Sector jammers focus on and go to full power, alert system defence.’ Lennart snapped out.

‘Good call, skipper, target ID confirms the Falcon- I could reach him with LTL.’ Wathavrah said.

‘Accurately, at this range? You’d need heavy flak bursts, and there are too many innocents- well, we are where we are, too many of the only mildly guilty- in the way. No, just com him, signal “Nice try, Solo, but why did you let the Alliance send you in one of the most idiosyncratic ships in the galaxy to do a spy’s job? Start running.” ‘

Giving aid and comfort to the enemy? Advice, anyway- not that it was needed. The Falcon flipped end for end and accelerated outsystem, the police chasing but they didn’t have the vector. They couldn’t even get close.

As the pirate ship made transition, Rythanor asked his captain ‘A spy’s job, but what? Discredit us, how?’

‘Well, in their shoes- extend the thanks of the rebel alliance to us for helping remove a blot on their honour.’ Lennart said. ‘We never did make as much political capital out of the rRasfenoni business as we could have- mainly due to the notion that it would have done too much damage to the credibility of the sector group we’re trying to reorganise.’

‘Ah. They wouldn’t really be giving it away themselves, they’d be protecting that secret by setting things up so that any revelations from us would look like making stuff up to cover our collective backside. Put us in a position of being defensive and give them the chance to weave it all away as Imperial propaganda. Nasty, but elegant.’ Rythanor said.

‘Yes.’ Lennart sighed. ‘I’m surprised they got him to agree to do it. Actually, that might be less than charitable. There’s all sorts of other rebel business around here he could have been up to, to say nothing of uncustomed goods, it might just have been coincidence. Anything else interesting in the com traffic?’

‘Five proposals of marriage, four of them from women- and three of those are human. Give them each other’s addresses as usual? One call claiming to be from your mother, and one from your son in law.’ Rythanor reported.

‘That’s an interesting statement to make to a man with no known offspring.’ Lennart said, and felt the force pestering him, clamouring for his attention. What is it with mystic power and people’s sex lives, he grumbled to himself trying to ignore it.

‘Route them here, I’ll decide for myself whether we need to pass them on to CorSec.’ Lennart said.

‘Including the one from your mother?’

‘Especially the one from my mother.’ Lennart said, wishing that it really was a joke.

A son in law? If that was true, why had neither of the women involved ever got in touch with him? The mother, who? It was not impossible- in fact, he realised, he would be disappointed if it wasn’t true, not least in his sperm count.

The times in my career I’ve been most able to settle down are the times when I felt least like doing it, he rationalised to himself; and the high points when I’ve felt on top of the universe, ready to fill the galaxy with little miniature versions of me, I’ve been too busy rattling about it from one side to the other, physically impossible to settle down, he thought- and kicked himself mentally for cowardice.

He had made the decision to have his fun where he could find it, and square up and take responsibility if it ever came to that, but to date he hadn’t been asked to- whether that constituted good or bad luck, he didn’t know.

Son-in-law implied marriageable age, at least sixteen- he hoped so, anyway- which put the date of conception no later than early in his second year on the staff.

Oh kriff, he thought, please not that lunatic bender with Maxim Pyat. Galactic spirit, no. She could be any species.

It was probably nonsense, anyway- although there was another thought; now that he had been identified as a forcemonkey, the heritability of that, he could have been leaving little jedi scattered across the galaxy.

Most of the surfers and sightseers were fanning out for a flyby- a couple of local navy frigates moving closer to parallel; one blip was boring straight on in, even the rest of them were shouting at him.

‘Who’s that idiot who doesn’t know vector mechanics?’ Lennart highlighted it- as a potential kamikaze, gunnery were already on the case. ‘Lock PD ions on, and warn them off.’

‘That’s the one who claims to be your son in law.’ Rythanor said, bringing up a close image of the sporting spaceplane- looking like a demilitarised Lancet- burning ‘g’ on a collision course for Black Prince’s bridge.

‘Ionise it, slingshot it away and leave it for the cops.’ Lennart ordered, and fifteen ion cannon coned the unmanoeuvring small craft, paralysed it and the tractors flickered it clear. ‘If he’s too stupid to know how to match velocity, she’s better off without him.

Navigation, do we have approach path and docking clearance yet?’ The force was nagging at him that this was important; bugger off, he told it.

‘We have a ‘congratulations and welcome home, clear to bays 6, 7 and 8’ from the military division of the staryard, the Starfleet liaison office have found an uplink and are playing the Imperial march at us- badly- Systems Force Corellia are playing the national anthem, it’s not as if we were trying to lurk in, were we?’ Rythanor reported.

‘You reckon my chances of avoiding a press conference are low, then.’ Lennart said.

‘Skipper,’ Rythanor replied in the facetious tones that Lennart intended, ‘I wouldn’t give much for your chances of avoiding a parade.’

The first wave of asteroid surfers were passing around them now, the ones who had slowed down enough to actually eyeball the Imperial force; a collection of all sorts, half of them kitbashed, most of them rusty, a few sleek and obviously someone’s pride and joy.

One twitched, flash- rotated on it’s axis, Lennart started to snap out a warning, point defence were there ahead of him.

The manta-ray shaped skysurfer caught a burst of ion fire, one of the paralysing bolts hit and detonated the bomb it was just in the act of releasing. The paint bomb.

There was a huge red splurge and a cloud of microcapsules which drifted past the destroyer, as the manta tumbled away, splashed in colour and unable to manoeuvre, with all his friends laughing at him.

‘Is this normal?’ Clarnich asked. ‘Nearly rammed, paint bombed, half deafened- is this what it’s usually like in this system?’

‘No, this is relatively tame.’ Lennart said. ‘Normally they shoot at you. Do you think it’s too late for engineering to run me up a transparisteel umbrella?’

‘Is there really that little difference between the authorities welcoming home one of their native sons, and the random punks and thugs of the system challenging authority?’ Ntevi, from the pit, asked.

‘Personally, I’m not too sure I don’t prefer the punks. Given the choice between the whole rah-rah bit and being invited to tea and scrutineering by the ubiqtorate, there’s actually not that much in it.’ Lennart said.

‘Besides, anyone with half an eye can look over the outer hull and realise I’m not hung up on appearances. I reckon there’s some chance that paint bomber was actually an agent of the Starfleet trying to smarten us up a bit. Has the revised work schedule come in from corellian engineering yet?’

‘Searching- yes, no surprises, eighty days as expected.’ Rythanor reported.

‘Good.’ Lennart said. ‘Give me PA again- you did have the sense to turn it off in the meantime, didn’t you?’

Rythanor had, limiting the source of rumour to normal eavesdropping; briefly he thought of pretending that he hadn’t. ‘Aye, skipper.’ Brief speaker hiss, then he was on.

‘All hands, this is the Captain. We will be going into dock in Bay Six, Corellian Engineering’s military yard one, for an eighty- day major refit and partial rebuild. This shouldn’t be news to you, but at least it is official confirmation.

Some of the cadre will be required to stay with the ship through refit and track the changes, but extended leave will be available to most of you - and the bounties have come through. So much for the good news.

‘Everyone who was paying attention should realise just how controversial some of the things we- specifically, I- had to do towards the end of the battle of Ord Corban were.

I expect to catch a fair amount of heat for that, and you may get a certain amount of unwelcome attention from government and other agencies.

Keep your heads, contact the ship if you get into trouble, and if worst comes to worst remember your training in escape and evasion. That is an extreme case and it shouldn’t happen.’

If it did, they would be on their own. That was the scary part. There would be a general round of promotions and reassignments, and that included the usual attempts by other ships and commands to poach good men and unload useless fools onto them.

If he was joking about it, ‘worst come to worst’ could mean just that- on the fly reassignment, being drafted into other commands, and on previous refits he had passed out what were effectively guides to desertion, for the purpose of avoiding having men shanghaied.

It was a good test of a junior officer to send them on a retrieval run; see how well they could handle responsibility.

‘Rather more probably,’ he continued, hoping that was true, ‘you have the price of the facilities of a forward base station shared out among you. The traders, chancers, joygirls and gamblers of the system are going to be very eager to transfer that money from your accounts to theirs, they are unpleasantly good at it. And that’s when they’re trying to be legal.

If I was feeling especially patriotic I’d advise you to take your leave here and help boost the local economy- but I’m fairly sure it would end up with the cadre having to pay off the debts of enough of you to have the manpower to break the rest out of jail.

I have to admit, my gut instinct is saying ‘retain a skeleton crew close enough at hand to get the ship underway and out of trouble if need be’, but I’m fairly sure that’s just paranoia talking.’

Depending on how this goes, we might all end up working for the Alliance for a credit a day. At least, they might. I should be so lucky.

There were good reasons for coming here- not least that it would be easy for them to disappear if it came to that. Damn Adannan- being on the dark side, he probably already was- for setting that situation up.

Perhaps that was the psychological key. Anger- chiefly with the dark acolyte, now a small puff of vapour amongst many, many others around Ord Corban. It was the way of the dark side.

It would probably be acceptable to the dark side. He wasn’t sure he wanted that. Was there an alternative? What kind of being unacceptable to the slithering thugs- if any- was compatible with continued survival?

No, excessive pessimism there. He only had to be unacceptable to the body they sent to interview him. That could range from bribery- probably would, Lennart thought, considering he was now known to have more cash than was likely to be good for him- through lies to more physical violence. Have to play it by ear.

Normally, something like this would be handled by the local sector governor- and it was also the local sector fleet who were supposed to countersign any sort of release order and enforce stop-loss. Another excellent reason for coming to Corellia.

‘I see that some of you have put in your notice;’ he continued, ‘thinking that you’re as well off now as you’re ever likely to be- especially after staying any length of time in this system- and why skivvy your life away in the bowels of a fleet destroyer, especially as we’ll probably never make a score like that again?

We’ve won a battle, maybe even a major battle, but the war isn’t over yet, and there are a lot of rebels still to go through- I can’t promise that again, but this is not the ship and you are not the crew to stay out of action for long.

For those of you who are choosing to retire, your divisional officers will already have gone through all the are- you- sure speech, and I’ll be sorry to lose most of you, but you just know that an able or leading spaceman with an investment portfolio, their mind will not be on the job.

Corellia’s a good place to go home from, thick web of transport routes, but when you do return to civilian life- and this also goes for the majority of you who will be back- I want you to remember where you’ve been and what you’ve done.

I don’t think there is a ship in the fleet with our proven record of beating the odds and achieving the impossible. We may only be a destroyer, but I don’t believe there’s a ship in the galaxy that can touch us in an open, running fight.

We have a claim to being not merely among the best, but the best of the best, the absolute class of the galaxy.

When you’re back in low energy life, under an atmosphere somewhere, remember what it takes and what it feels like to be that good. And try not to bore everyone stupid with too many no-dreck stories down the pub. Captain out.’

He shut off the PA, and turned to the bridge team; ‘I’d prefer to do promotions and reassignments at the start of the refit period, give the chosen a chance to get used to the idea and prepare for their new jobs.

The really critical issues are with the cadre anyway, there are a few holes that need to be filled- the starfighter corps line of succession is clear enough, no issues there. The biggest problem’s the executive officer slot. The elephant in the org chart. I’m not sure it would actually constitute a promotion; or an advantage, considering what happened to the last two occupants.’

Wathavrah and Rythanor were the two who that was chiefly directed to, and they were also his first- refusal candidates.

‘Not the nav?’ Rythanor asked, puzzled by why the heir-apparent was being cut out of the loop, then working it out for himself.

‘Wrong personality type.’ Lennart explained anyway. ‘If I thought he needed more grooming for command, I’d let him sweat the job for a few months, but I reckon he’s about ready anyway. You’re next in line of seniority.’ He said to both of them.

The sensors and signals officer’s gut reaction was ‘screw that’; the gunnery officer’s ‘screw that- with extra spangles’. They were both visibly thinking about it, but that was the first response, and Lennart couldn’t really blame them.

From a potential exec’s point of view, he would be a lousy boss.

When he had held the responsibility himself, he had been an extremely awkward junior- grabbing at every responsibility that came his way whether it was supposed to be his or not. He tended to reach downwards now, do as much of the exec’s job himself as he could find time for- perhaps bewaring the same. Also, there was the Force to worry about now.

In theory, the executive officer’s department was personnel and administration; he controlled the deck division, responsible for all routine maintenance that fell beneath the notice of engineering, the administrative services of the ship including pay and welfare, and the regulatory branch who, unsurprisingly, enforced the regulations.

He was also the court of appeal for minor crimes, spacers who felt they hadn’t got a fair shake from their divisional officer, and the first point of justice for the major crimes of the enlisted- or all crimes committed by officers. In combat, with one of the two deputy chief engineers, his job was to manage damage control.

An executive officer who had more than ten spare minutes a day to draw breath wasn’t doing it right. It was a diverse, demanding and responsible job. The worst aspect was that it was also line of command, and the second most senior spot on the ship.

It was the exec who had to step up if, for instance, the force finally ate the captain’s brain- or the bridge module was blasted away. He had to be ready for that, which meant knowing tactics and shiphandling.

Most capable execs tended to rely increasingly on their divisional officers as they found their feet in the job, spending more of their own time on being ready to take command.

The incapable ones never learned to delegate, were constantly afraid of being caught out by their subordinates’ mistakes, hagrode the divisional officers; that created an atmosphere of fear and resentment that was a shortcut to an unhappy ship.

After himself, the next highest seniority on the ship was actually the chief engineer, and Lennart had thought about that just long enough to get a good laugh out of it, before utterly dismissing the thought of Gethrim Mirannon as exec. Examining the reasons why the dark- horse candidate was an appallingly bad idea was an education in itself.

Teaching spacemanship was the job of the deck division- not just the technicalities of lining up on parade and not unsealing your suit helmet until the little light goes green, all the minor facts and skills, but hammering the attitude into them.

Teaching them that there was a system behind the bull, that making them willing to learn, curing their attitude problems, demanding a standard from them that their colleagues and comrades could rely on and teaching them to do the same.

Not an easy task, when drawing from the diversity of an entire galaxy. No military force, not even space navies, existed in a vacuum. They all tended to take on the characteristics, sometimes in opposition, of the society they were drawn from.

Forging that enormous spread of attitudes and approaches into one high and coherent standard of professionalism, as when the various republic member state fleets integrated into the grand fleet of the republic, had been a problem. The loss of many ships could be attributed to failures of the crew.

This was not made easier by the rapid expansion of the Starfleet that had swamped the not-overly-large core of good petty and chief petty officers in a surge of fresh meat, and there was no guarantee that the second and third generation senior noncoms themselves knew it well enough to teach.

The clones had been no real help dealing with live born humans; although capable enough in themselves, they had never mastered the art of projection. They expected a much higher degree of enthusiasm and willingness to learn than they generally got, and were far too ready to write off a man who didn’t demonstrate those qualities as hopeless.

They were just geared wrongly to take up normal human material and turn it into fighting spacemen- too selfconsciously elite, too much the prima donna. Mirannon wasn’t that bad- but close.

He could reach down to the ignorant, but facetiously, not gently, and force help them if he had to tell them twice- also, he was not a fanatic for order. System, maybe, but that included improvisations, workarounds- adapting to chaos. Witness the reactor setup.

Knowing what to let go, and what to crack down on, was something the clones never had got the hang of. They were all hard line disciplinarians to the point where it was almost impossible for a live-born human crew to trust them.

Mirannon somehow managed to be an outlier at both ends of the spectrum. Practical jokes and mockings- Lennart suspected him of being the head of the editorial team for the ship’s newspaper, for one thing- but utterly task focused when he actually put his mind to it, and able to drive subordinates very hard in pursuit of the goal.

Between one extreme and the other, he would be a very uncomfortable boss and subordinate as an exec- so far out of step with the rest of the Starfleet that the human relationships of the job would be a limiting factor, he would be unable to develop his full intellectual potential for falling over his subordinates and superiors.

What he really needed was an immediate chain of command superior who was almost as mad as he was, but rather better at hiding it. Which, arguably, he had- the arguable part was whether it was really hidden, any more.

Strangely enough, he would probably make an excellent flag officer- it was a rank at which a certain amount of eccentricity was positively expected. If, and only if, he could somehow be levitated into it without passing through the awkwardness of exec, and the nightmare that would be his hypothetical time as a captain.

Well, that wasn’t the immediate problem. Consider Obral Wathavrah, guns, as a potential executive officer and eventually captain of something. He was in charge of the second largest department on the ship, and the one with the highest proportion of nutters.

He was used to dealing with problems like that- but would he stick up for the crew against their commanding officer? He was also used to Lennart’s micromanagement of the gunnery department.

I’m not that bad, Lennart thought, selfconsciously. Mini-management at worst. But the point stands. I don’t want somebody who will refuse an order; I do want someone who will argue with me about it enough to provide a tripwire, force me to reconsider any particularly off the wall ideas- which, with the force, there are likely to be more of.

Can “ob” do that? More’s the point, can he still do that after the first few times I’ve lost it, yelled at him and threatened to lightsabre his giblets out, Lennart thought. Probably- but not as well as I’d like.

Strangely enough, the abortive choice for the job, Mirhak-Ghulej, probably could. He had the hardness for that- although at the price of being terribly brittle. Which wasn’t a bad analogy. A crew could be seen as a sort of human alloy, requiring careful balancing to give the overall qualities it needed to do the job.

So what qualities did they need? More ductility? Harder edge? Less thermal conductivity? Hard to tell- it depended on what the future was going to be. Probably better someone from inside the ship, who could help them and hold them together.

And vice versa. Vasimir Mirhak-Ghulej, now headed out of the starfleet on a mental disability, had broken before he could be effectively blended into the mixture, before they could strengthen him.

It was possible to push the analogy even further by identifying the ‘rare earths’, the characters among the crew who were disproportionately responsible for setting the tone of the whole. Cormall, Aldrem and his madmen, Vilberksohn- but to what end? You couldn’t find a planet somewhere and mine more.

Ob Wathavrah would make a good exec for Brenn; probably not for an outsider, or less good at least if Lennart retained the command chair himself.

Rythanor? By comparison, his department was smaller, more intricate, and contained a higher proportion of loonies- as opposed to nutters; there definitely was a technical difference.

He could deal with the wilder, wierder elements of the crew, and probably do better at managing the captain’s temper tantrums. Kriff it, this is like having a wasting disease, Lennart thought. I can look ahead clearly enough now to see what sort of a hollow shell of a man I’m going to become.

Well, damn that. I will not use the force, I will not let it nibble at my head, I will not let it cost me my personality and my beliefs. Apart from all the other practical and sentimental advantages of being here, I can use this to draw strength from my roots.

Where’s Rythanor from, anyway? Core worlder, isn’t he- Kamparas, a nice quiet scenic place with archives, moderate to low population rising now, in view of the general galactic peace and quiet. Also a former jedi training camp. Did they get everywhere? Probably. Empire’ll have stripped it of anything meaningful, either way, long since.

There was a small running battle going on between the surfers and skyroamers and the smuggling interdiction division; from the fleet destroyer’s point of view, so minor as to be a non- event. Still not quite necessary to get the fighter screen out- local forces were doing a good, although not perfect, job.

It was Fist and Admonisher he was worried about. They had no non- lethal point defence, no way of fending off the fools and crazies short of blowing them up. Most of them were fortunately still playing games with Black Prince, ducking in and out of where they thought the effective range was.

There were a couple of light ships just paralleling them, freighters, starship spotters maybe- looked fairly harmless, which probably meant exactly the opposite. ‘Close scan them, slice them as well if you can.’ Lennart ordered.

‘Aye, sir- and I just found out what all the fuss was about, what Solo was probably doing here.’ Rythanor said. ‘General Crix Madine- stormtrooper corps special/destabilisation operations, apparently- just decided he was overpaid.’

‘So he decided to go and work for a credit a day? Here we are, tying down law enforcement, attracting attention, and I suspect affording the corellian navy an excellent excuse to do nothing at all to chase him down because, look, there was an imperial task force in the system, we thought it could have been safely left to them. Glorious.

Warm up the fighters, get Alpha through Epsilon out and pursue on Solo’s last known course- and advise Starfleet liaison, Fist and Admonisher. Was this an official communiqué or just random chatter you found out from?’ Lennart ordered, and asked Rythanor.

‘Unit-to-unit comms down on the planet, we’re intercepting. No official word been sent out yet, by anyone- Imperial command channels or Corellian. What we’re getting is from liaison between stormtrooper units and CorSec. Nobody knows each other’s protocols so it’s lightly coded or not coded at all. There were X-wings involved as well.’ Rythanor reported.

‘They’ll be rebel central command forces, for a job like this- their best. Warn the fighters not to engage at less than three to one odds in favour, when they are found get a nav fix and call in support. Picking off one or two of the Alliance elite would be good; managing to follow them home, though, that would probably constitute a strategic victory.’

The fighter group was preparing to move out anyway; for the time being, while the ship was beached, they would detach to sector command and operate as directed, in theory in defence of the ship- in practise they were supposed to be merged in with the units already there. Interchangeability, disposability.

An ordinary wing of six squadrons, /ln, /int and /sa, could easily be interchanged, but not the mix of types and roles Black Prince operated, not the ground force elements either- in practise, they had taken losses, and would spend most of the time taking in recruits and working back up to efficiency.

Five squadrons was not overkill; it was barely enough to get adequate force density through the search area. The Starwings had enough bulk to hold nav gear, they could plot their own sprint-and-drift sensor patterns. Not what they would be expecting, and they would be launching with empty missile systems, but they should be able to cope.

It was also enough to convince the last of the small craft- and a high proportion of the law- to scatter; there was one last attempt- someone dropping a glitter bomb in front of them. It detonated less than a hundred kilometres off the bow, and the fragments scintillated with a brilliant firework glare as they speckled off the shields.

‘My congratulations to the special effects team.’ Lennart said, dryly. ‘Well, they only got us once- anything else between us and the docking pylon? No, wait, active scan.’ Not a quiver from the force. So at least it was useless against humiliation.

Low power docking scanners revealed a large number of inert objects. ‘Tractors- send them…there.’ Lennart fingered the main bulk of the dockyard. It couldn’t possibly have been done, these things whatever they were couldn’t have been laid without Corellian Engineering’s connivance.

The collection of glitter bombs, flares, marker charges, sensor noisemakers and razzie pulsers splashed against the military dockyard, illuminating, disfiguring, highlighting.

‘That would have been a fine ‘gotcha’, if we had fallen for it…and in it’s own way, deeply worrying. If they’re prepared to trust my sense of humour that far, then- show me that confirmation.’ Lennart said.

Rythanor brought it up. Goran Caldor, yard manager. Masters in mechanical engineering, University of Coruscant, 13 rS. Corellian expat, fellow member of the comedy circle, dianoga fisherman, saboteur of security systems and general all round dangerous idiot. One of Lennart’s closest friends at university.

How he had managed to mature- or on the basis of that colourful ambush, failed to mature- into management material at one of the galaxy’s top staryards was anyone’s guess.

Actually, that was being ungenerous. He had a lot of internal drive that he needed to vent from time to time, that was all. Considering how hard he threw himself at his work, it wasn’t entirely surprising that on the rare occasions when he bounced he ended up going along with the wilder elements of the student political club.

In fact, it had been him who had been instrumental in their second most famous and dangerous prank; catching the dianoga that they shot, stuffed and draped over Senator Garm bel Iblis’ office chair, in his official suite in Republica Avenue, with a note pinned to it saying ‘a message from your constituents’.

‘You recognise the name?’ Wathavrah asked.

‘We shared a wanted poster once. I hope no-one got hurt by that lot, it’d be just like him to calculate on the basis of impacting on a destroyer hull. Helm, hold at the final marker, let Fist and Admonisher dock first, and give them a chance to de-dye the dignitaries.’ Lennart ordered.

What spectators were left were observing from a distance; no-one left to get in the way as the fleet tender manoeuvred slowly alongside the arms of the work bay, released the battered destroyer for the grapples to lock on to. Admonisher moved in, slowly but under her own power.

Black Prince’s main ion engines coughed once, initial impulse, and the line destroyer coasted in- decelerating to a halt within the work bay on repulsors reacting off the planet below. Neat, efficient, precise.

‘Don’t shut down yet, we need to remain on internal power until the wing return. Connect the umbilicals but don’t switch them in.’ Lennart ordered, and added ‘helm, acknowledge docking, give me shoreside operations control.’

They did, and a familiar face appeared in the holotank. Long-headed, receding hairline and going bald on top but no question it was him. ‘Goran. Twenty-four years older, and not one second’s worth of common sense.’ Lennart grinned. ‘We didn’t splatter anybody important, did we?’

‘Jorian Lennart, you raving lunatic, good to see you. And by sheer dumb luck, no. Atmospheric failsafes anyway- none of them would have gone off if they had come in through a pressure curtain. You see, I did plan that far ahead.’ Caldor said.

‘If there’s any justice, they’ll make you clean that lot off personally. And it’s Captain of the Line Lunatic to you; kriff it, man, I have admirals to answer to who think a sense of humour’s some specialised mode of life form indicator technology. You cannot go around playing practical jokes on the Imperial Starfleet, most of us don’t take it that well- ah. Sitting on your right.’ Lennart guessed. ‘Five red and one gold squares. Vice or rear admiral.’

The point of view of the holocam moved back, showing more of the office, and a man- no, near- human- standing there. Dark blue-black hair, piercing red eyes, blue skin. Lennart knew him by reputation, one of the rising stars of the Imperial fleet, and a tremendous irritation to those who already held senior rank.

Mithh’raw’nuruodo. Rear-Admiral, unattached to any fixed command. Centre’s roving hatchet man, in other words.
‘Interesting personnel management technique you have there, Admiral.’ Lennart got in the first move- seizing the initiative, in effect. ‘Letting something that absurd happen, and seeing what sort of fool I manage to make of myself.’

He was also stalling, racking his brains for what he could remember about the near- human. His record on exercise was enviable, but what real combat had he seen? The odd unusually literal blue on blue, and special operations- including command of the task force assigned to support and babysit one of the chief theocrats of Palpatine’s court?

‘The situation intrigued me.’ The rear admiral said, coolly. ‘One so rarely sees industrial scale abstract art in this day and age- it is an obsolete fashion- and created in unconscious and accidental collaboration between men who have not seen each other in twenty years. I believed it would be most revealing about the reflexive modes of the Corellian psyche.’

‘You were more worried about that than the fact that I scrambled five fighter squadrons?’ Lennart asked. ‘You are aware of the tendency in the Corellian psyche to produce renegades, chancers, and these days Rebels? There’s been an abduction, possibly actually a defection, I sent the fighters in pursuit.’

‘No, I was not aware of that, I was preoccupied with your file. As an exercise in creative literature it has several interesting aspects which I shall require an explanation from you for.’ Thrawn said, and Lennart refused to rise to the bait. ‘The situation?’
‘Stormtrooper general, Madine, escaping- on the Millennium Falcon, no less. No official notification. My guess,’ Lennart said, reckoning that the admiral would not respect a straightforward yessir-nosir performance and also deciding to throw a test question, ‘is that the local forces tried to stop them, failed, and are currently keeping schtumm while they decide the least embarrassing way to admit it.

We discovered the situation from sideband chatter between ground units, and from direct sensor observation. I decided that my primary responsibility was still to the two damaged ships we were escorting into dock- but that we could spare the long range fighters. Creative literature?’

‘Of course.’ Thrawn said, steepling his fingers. ‘You have just told me that you are eminently familiar with the concept of Imperial officers self- defensively lying to their superiors, and that you expect your own superiors to be hidebound, humourless and lacking in compassion and understanding.

It does not demand a monster of perspicacity to add those two facts together and realise that your own reports to higher authority may be less than complete. You will report to me in dockyard operations control at once.’

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Andras » 2008-10-27 12:54pm

Fantastic, I do want to see more.

You will report to me in dockyard operations control at once

At least Lennart gets to skip the 'welcome home' rah-rah.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Raesene » 2008-10-27 02:24pm

Lennart better has his answers ready...quickly.

I'm not sure what's the better situation - my alter ego being ISB liaison (thank you, btw for not killing me off - yet) or Lennart having to explain his history to a very interested Thrawn. I guess the latter is less deadly if Thrawn is on a recruiting drive.

A question for those with a better overview of the timeline: Thrawn already is a secret Grand Admiral, or am I in the wrong year ? I forgot, how many years post ANH is this taking place ?

Good story, and I'd like to know more :-)

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Thanas » 2008-10-27 03:05pm

Raesene wrote:Lennart better has his answers ready...quickly.

I'm not sure what's the better situation - my alter ego being ISB liaison (thank you, btw for not killing me off - yet) or Lennart having to explain his history to a very interested Thrawn. I guess the latter is less deadly if Thrawn is on a recruiting drive.

A question for those with a better overview of the timeline: Thrawn already is a secret Grand Admiral, or am I in the wrong year ? I forgot, how many years post ANH is this taking place ?

Good story, and I'd like to know more :-)
No, Thrawn is not a GADM yet.

And I am looking forward to that conversation. Well done.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by LadyTevar » 2008-10-27 05:04pm

That was one of the most fantastic first chapters I've read in any StarWars story.

Although I am now wondering about the "son-in-law"
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Vehrec » 2008-10-27 05:30pm

"Boy, why you never write to your momma? You think you better than her? You think she not deserving of respect after she raised you? You better get right home boy, before I come up there to your fancy-ass Star Destroyer, and kick you off it."

In other words, I like it. I like it a lot-and where am I currently having bits ripped out and put in?
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Ekiqa » 2008-10-27 07:58pm

I love how they ionise the morons and fling them away.

Are you making ALL Correllians out to be insane?

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Darth Raptor » 2008-10-27 08:57pm

Falling in with Thrawn could either be really good or really bad, but probably a better bet than either the warlords or the Deep Core enclave.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2008-10-27 09:52pm

No, not all Corellians are insane, although when I read up on the place I start wishing that more of them were; there's a massive disconnect between the public reputation of the system and their actions- which were established in the EU long after the pirates-smugglers-and- freebooters thing which goes all the way back to the movies and Brian Daley.

I mean, skipping out, deserting the Republic during the Clone Wars for that nonsensical period of hermetic contemplation? Contemptible- a coward's excuse, and de facto desertion. I am assuming that a sufficient proportion of expatriates remained active in the cause of the Republic to preserve their reputation.

Jorian Lennart would have been among that number, and it is another good cause for him to dislike the alliance- they gave house room to, even accepted the leadership of the slithering filth who tried to sell his home world's honour.

Corellia seems to be a lot further to the right and a lot more isolationist than it wants to admit to itself, or that it likes the galaxy to think that it is. A high proportion of the individuals I've written up so far are the mavericks and maniacs, the people who give the place it's reputation. They could probably do with more of them.

Oh, and Jorian Lennart's mother is almost certainly not from the deep south. I've tried imagining her that way, and Tamora Bharnart-Lennart almost certainly is perfectly capable of kicking her son's arse, though, considering that she's a retired professional dodecathlete now still active as a coach.

Konstantin Vehrec would have been stabilised in Black Prince's medical bay, and they would have excised most of the damaged tissue and initiated regrowth, then handed him over to Corban base station to finish the process.

Once out of that, in about thirty days- well before Black Prince is scheduled to finish refit- an active assignment for an Air Commodore would be a full multi- group Command, consisting of on average around three hundred squadrons.

There aren't many single ships that a force that size can deploy from, so it's likely to be overall control of the fighter units assigned to a particular Systems Force, or control of the garrison wings assigned to a sub-sector.

The son in law, well, assuming he was legitimate- and the force says he was, but Lennart isn't going to start trusting it until it gives him properly structured intelligence briefings- then he was clearly desperate, too much so to think straight or just hoping that they would catch him. Yes, this is foreshadowing.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by rodon » 2008-10-28 01:32am

Given the way he talks about Maxim Pyat, I'm wondering just what she looks like. On that note, I take it you're taking the looser description that if it looks human, or near human, children are possible? Half expected as one of the females who is asking for marriage is an alien, I wonder if Lennart has a holo-frame that cycles though the pictures of the various females who have asked for his hand in marriage. Would make an interesting conversation starter.

So Lennart has Thrawn asking for a actual report? Oh dear, this will be interesting. :twisted: I wonder if Thrawn will be amused or interested once he learns what the twisted engineer on the Black Prince has in store for it.

I wonder if Thrawn will throw his own idea in for the Black Prince's XO spot. A straight laced female Twi'lek might be interesting, but perhaps just a normal human would fit in just as well. *takes a moment to try and remember a pray for this situation and fails*

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2008-10-28 10:48am


From ch 25, original main thread;
‘Skipper, you really think you can get away with that? Calling Lord Vader’s flag captain “me old chucker”?’ Brenn asked.

‘It won’t make things any worse than they already are. He’s loathed me ever since I met his half-brother.’ Lennart said, grinning.

‘Who? He’s not listed in Piett’s file.’

‘No wonder- different mothers, he spells it differently, and they hate each other’s guts. I bumped into him when I was at Raithal.
If I ever write my memoirs, in the chapter headed “Things I don’t understand how the kriff I managed to get away with,” surviving a night on the piss- actually, a fortnight- with ISB Colonel Max Pyat without being either shot, court martialled again, dying of liver failure, being displaced into a right-angled reality or simply driven into a straitjacket will head the list, even above the Palmus Viridis.’
The specific mention of Raithal is going to have to be retconned because it fits better this way, but Pyat exists here because the coincidence of names and utter disparity of temperament between Firmus Piett and Maxim Pyat was just too much fun to pass up.

Max Pyat is actually one of Michael Moorcock's characters translated across for the fun; he's gloriously, ridiculously inappropriate, a broken hearted paladin of intrigue and debauchery, a real 'everything we fought for's gone to hell, there's nothing left to do but party' type, and according to Jorian Lennart the only tolerable ISB officer he's ever met.

Their association began during one of the minor purges of the new order party, a sort of night of the medium-sized knives, when a drunken wreck of a security forces officer semi- officially on the run asked a drunken, disappointed and angry starfleet officer "You do know how to fly a shuttle, don't you?"

Max Pyat is the wrong sex for childbearing, but he claims to know and be known in every house of ill repute in the Inner Rim, and not many people have the stamina to do the research to prove him wrong. He survived that purge and he's probably still alive out there somewhere, him and his half- brother resolutely ignoring each other.
'Could be any species' is exaggeration, breeding with another species is just not feasible without so much genetic engineering that it could probably be done from scratch anyway, but near- humans are a different matter and the details of that time are not particularly clear in anybody's memory.

What parental instinct Lennart has is sated, if not run ragged, by looking after his military family- the crew of the ship. In a way it's an enviable arrangement, almost reconciling the irreconcilable roles of bachelor and paterfamilias. He is not going to be casual about who he lets get the exec's slot, particularly not now when he's looking for someone to protect the crew from himself if necessary, not after he's already made one mistake.

I just don't see him as a bedpost-notch, these are all my ex girlfriends kind of man; part of him would like to be, he's tried to be on occasion when he was younger- see, again, out on the piss with Max Pyat- but as he gets older, certainly from his time as an academy officer onwards, a growing sense of responsibility gets in the way.

What is it with you and female twi'lek, anyhow?

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Vehrec » 2008-10-28 02:37pm

Lots of people like them for no discernable reason. Something about a girl with strange skin colors and tentacles attached to her brain that makes all sorts of nerdy guys hot and bothered. Makes you wonder about the Huts that they appreciate the same thing...

But I do have to ask-Why isn't Lennart considering headhunting for his new XO. Surely he could find a competent enough Lieutenant-commander and get him brought up to speed. All his other choices at the moment aren't looking so hot. Is it just the fact that any outsider would be an outsider, and wouldn't understand how to deal with the other elements of the Crew Alloy?

I'll grant you the 'not a southern momma' bit about Tamora, but I'll have to say that I am a little happy I nailed her personality as a powerful one who isn't going to take any excuses from her son.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Vianca » 2008-10-28 04:24pm

Hey, good start off.
Debriefing by Trawn himself? Ooo :(

How will they surfive those 80 days? :lol:
Nothing like the present.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by rodon » 2008-10-28 06:45pm

What is it with you and female twi'lek, anyhow?
They just are the most human looking aliens I can think of that most everyone likes. Although I do have to admit, I had a fleeting image of a busty blue female Twi'lek in an Imperial uniform (side view of course, and blue because... well, the Admiral is blue so why not go with a theme for an idea).

Although, on a side note, its fun to try and think of how long humans have been in the galaxy. To the point that most species are attracted to the humaniod figure (given that a Twi'lek can seduce something that has very few similar points of relation). And that even a lizard species (Fallen) has developed very human characteristics.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Darth Raptor » 2008-10-28 07:14pm

About three million years is the running estimate I use in my fanfiction. Much longer than that and you wouldn't be seeing baselines everywhere.

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by jpdt19 » 2008-11-01 08:48pm


Just wanted to say, i've been reading this work for couple of months, and i cannot compliment you enough. It's superbly written, wonderfully rich and entertaining, and i'm so, so glad it's carrying on. I was never really one for Star Wars fics before, because i'd yet to encounter one that matched yours in quality. I can honestly say your work is so good, it has truly inspired me and made me far more interested in the genre than ever before. I hadn't even scratched the surface of the sheer scale of the genre before now, and fear sadly that i will not encounter such a good fic again.

On a side note, may i just say i agree wholeheartedly with Lady Tevar, that was possibly one of the best first chapters i have ever read. Do keep up the good work!

Oh, and paint bombing a Star Destroyer, genius, absolute genius :lol: !

I do wonder though if the thought of having a red paint bomb was remotely inspired by the Errant Venture :roll:

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Kartr_Kana » 2008-11-02 07:18am

It's BACK!! and it's off to an even better start then the original!

Formatting was much better this way ECR.

oh is my crazy stunt pulling spacetrooper self still around? :P

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2008-11-16 09:54am

Wierd time out during posting, editing the comments in-

Darthraptor, at times I have come close to deciding that there has been genetic drift, mainly to do with the brain. The complex technologies they pick up and use with such apparent ease- there are either really good education systems, in places which ought not to have had any, the hardware is designed for ease of use, or they take complexity that would boggle most modern day humans in their stride.

Red specifically nah, it was just the first colour off the top of my head, a protester objecting to the bloody record of the Imperial starfleet. Technically, with the old bounty and bonus system, a high proportion of the officers and senior noncoms are now relatively wealthy men, but what a money pit a privately owned warship that size would be.

Hull 721 arc 2 ch 2

Thirty-seven hundred days in charge, and quickly mentally running over his record it seemed to Lennart that he had done something about which questions could be asked on each and every one. Probably just fear talking.

He had answers for most of that, but there were undoubtedly holes- somewhere. He couldn’t possibly expect to defend them all in advance, had no time to make up a case, which was why the admiral had said ‘at once’.

Disappointing if not disillusioning that one of the Empire’s supposedly sharpest flag officers had chosen to care more about that than an ongoing tactical situation- but no, he wasn’t just supposed to be sharper than that, he was. He would be keeping an eye on how that developed- and pretending he wasn’t to try to lure me further into error, Lennart thought.

To what end, apart from the obvious? What does one of the navy’s best and brightest really want with someone who has spent a lot of time and a lot of footwork doing my best to appear as one of the navy’s wildest and hairiest? Patronage? Between Rear- Admiral Rawlin and Admiral Lord Convarrian, I’m basically covered.

Am I overstating his deviousness? He has high political links, so, probably, no. Would they send him to do the debrief, to interrogate someone who- ah. It seemed rather more likely, and maybe I’m vastly overstating my own importance, Lennart thought, but that for one odd man out, too slick and too sharp for the good of anyone around him, to be sent to an odd man out who’d just dismembered a political officer sounded highly dubious.

If I was in his position, I’d be worrying about who had it in for me, Lennart thought. Although I would expect anyone who actually was in his position to be sharp enough to have thought at least a couple of moves ahead, into the intricacies of who and why.

Who is there who could expect me to do their dirty work for them, and do something stupid enough to take the Admiral out of the picture? Who could he have offended? Easy answer; everybody. Who would expect me to do that- well, everyone who watches the news.

Quite a propaganda splash that had made; a special agent, special assistant to a privy councillor, convicted on open broadcast of plotting treason and executed, without trial, by a notorious combat animal. Probably.

That part had never actually been broadcast, couldn’t be- the universe at large only had Lennart’s word for it that he was dead. And a large hole in the upper half of the bridge module, something else that was going to need repair, which was at best circumstantial evidence of Kor Alric’s demise. Proof that Lennart had planned it, though.

Take everything that might be necessary- running logs, collective and departmental statements of condition, after action reports, selected personnel files. Bodyguard? Chance would be a fine thing. The backscatter tap of the last moments- the one he hadn’t wanted, that might be invaluable now.

Lightsabre? Hold on a moment- the admiral wouldn’t necessarily be aware that he had the force, would he? Was that a potential ace- could he, as it were, pull social rank, or would that simply be a long and complicated method of self destruction? Probably the latter. Bring it, but don’t plan to use it.

At once left little room for manoeuvre. The flight group had their orders- they knew what they were doing. ‘Ob, you have seniority, so you have all the fun of doing the paperwork. Sign the ship over to the yard, get the first batches on leave, rotate the legion and the wing surfaceside. Back soon. I hope.’

Down through the superstructure to the docking tube- the air and motion retention bubble would be spread once all the transfers out had been completed. Collecting one of the ship’s writers, Tydings. Nominative determinism in action. In theory a paralegal, actually she was the best person to tidy- aha- the semicoherent collection of documents.

‘Have you never felt the urge to act against type, to rebel against fate? To blow up your office in the name of freedom, paint yourself in copier ink and dance through the corridors?’ Lennart asked her.

‘Sir?’ Baffled incomprehension. Or at least enough intelligence to realise that baffled incomprehension was the safe option.
‘Never mind.’ Lennart sighed. ‘Although I had been hoping that it wasn’t just me.’

Through the docking tunnel into the main body of the base, a loading chamber full of people, yelling and shouting at him, cheering and waving noisemakers through the air. Yard personnel, the odd currently undignified civic dignitary, and Goran.

‘Thank you, but I’m still under orders, the Starfleet’s work never ends, and I need to talk to your yard manager.’ Lennart waved at the rest, stalked over to Caldor, grabbed him and led him own the first convenient open corridor, away from the crowd.

‘You have set me up for some prize gotcha’s in the past, but this, this just might have been going too far. Didn’t it occur to you that it might be smarter to play it straight when Imperial Centre’s hatchet man drops in?’ Lennart said.

Goran thought of replying that propriety had never bothered them before, but the reply to that was just too obvious- they hadn’t had as much to lose before. ‘By the time he got here I had already got the party favours and started laying them. He found the paper trail too fast, anyway.’

Goran, one of these days you are going to wake up, look out of your bedroom window and find yourself in low orbit.’ Lennart said.

‘I do that every morning, I live on a skyhook.’

‘I didn’t specify around what planet.’ Lennart snapped back. ‘Seriously, I am in deep poodoo over this, and industrial scale redecoration didn’t help.’

‘Seriously? I thought you were returning a hero, so covered in glory that you really could do with a daub or two to break up the monotony. You’re really in trouble?’ Goran Caldor asked, genuinely worried for his old friend. They might embarrass each other, prank to the edge of madness and social suicide, but when it came right down to it they were there for each other.

‘I put my political officer to death.’ Lennart admitted. ‘It was either an essential act in the service of the state, eliminating him before he could betray us all and abuse his trust, or cold blooded murder in the interest of my own treason. To be honest, it looks iffy enough that it could go either way, the evidence is strong but circumstantial.’

‘So that really was spectacularly bad timing, then.’ Goran realised, trying not to boggle at what his old university friend said he had done. It was extreme- but didn’t he expect him to change?

‘Oh, I don’t know, would a guilty man do something that ridiculous?’ Lennart said, hotly. ‘Only someone with an easy conscience- and no sense whatsoever, in other words a complete innocent- would be that stupid, only someone capable of exerting a negative effect on the IQ of everyone around him could possibly have found enough help to pull that off. I don’t think it fits the profile of a cold- blooded assassin, but with the profiling software they’re using these days anything could happen.’

‘Amazing how young, crazy, daring men grow into neurotic old farts, isn’t it?’ Goran tried to lighten the mood.

‘Amazing? No, essential- consider what dangers to themselves they are, and to the rest of the galaxy, when they don’t.’ Lennart replied, feeling the truth of that statement weigh on him.

‘Ah, kriff. Well, if you need a jailbreak organised…it’s a long way from the Anarchic Reform Movement flour- bombing senators, the actual actions not so much, but the weight of the thing.’

‘Only if you’ve managed to blot the arrest warrant from your memory as too hideous to dwell on.’ Lennart pointed out. ‘You know, if they had been less extreme about it, hadn’t loaded it down with every charge they could think of, somebody probably would have dropped us in it.’

‘Yes, that saved us, in it’s own weird way. If it had been a public nuisance charge likely to leave the team polishing skyscrapers for a few hundred hours, that would just have been paying for our fun and I had a few gags already worked out; but none of them would have shopped us to the cops knowing that it was likely to end on death row.’ Goran said, shuddering.

‘Don’t remind me.’ Lennart said. ‘And to be honest I’m surprised anybody actually noticed, the amount of powder and paint that ramrod-arsed, mealy-mouthed clothes horse wore anyway.’

‘Well, the fluorescent yellow dye was a bit of a giveaway… you do have a plan for getting out of this, right? We’re not talking about mysterious acts of rebel terrorism, are we?’

‘Would it make the record look any worse at this point?’ Lennart said, sarcastically. ‘Were we ever really the vigilantes of the future, the knights of freedom that we claimed to be, or were we just a bunch of delinquent kids who should have been quietly ushered into a padded room and never let anywhere near any real authority?’

‘Well, we haven’t done too- oh, come off it. You should know I’d fail any conceivable tact test.’ Goran said. ‘Although, it was a good crowd. A few burnt out- peaked too soon- but most of us turned into solid citizens, that should mean something.’

‘Yes, it means you and me are the last of the frothing idiots.’ Lennart pointed out. ‘Don’t try to prank the Admiral, it would only make things so very, very much worse.’

‘Ah. In that case, I have a timer to deactivate.’ Goran said, not seriously- Lennart hoped. ‘Any idea how you’re going to do this?’

‘That depends, largely on how much he really wants to know, and what he wants to do with it. He’s political, he’s a player in the great game of public office, and worse, private office. I don’t really want to be other than a naval officer, never really fancied the mantle of warrior- statesman, but he does, and if he thinks I can be of use to him, well.’ Lennart said.

‘He didn’t seem to be all that bad; at least he has a sense of humour, or is capable of faking it.’ Goran said.

‘Which is in itself a valuable asset for a political operator- how so?’ Lennart asked, trying to square that with the near-human’s known reputation. Probably faking it.

‘When you said if there was any justice, I’d be cleaning that lot off myself? He handed me a mop and told me to get on with it.’ Goran said; Lennart snorted in amusement. ‘See you when you get out, yes?’

‘If I get out in one piece.’ Lennart pointed out. ‘I follow the mouse droid, right?’

‘Only until I finish inventing a cat droid. Well, I’ve got a contract to tender out to a space capable cleaning firm.’ Goran said.

‘If I spot you out of the window with a bucket, I’ll know what happened.’ Lennart acknowledged. ‘See you later.’

He collected his aide, and followed the droid into the admin section, noticing increasing numbers of stormtroopers along the way. Any flag officer had a right to a personal retinue and guard, almost all of them exercised that right, and some of them needed to.

Slightly fewer than establishment, in fact; was that policy? Appear confident- just slightly overconfident, in fact, enough to lure a rival and potential enemy into making an unwise and premature move? Possibly. He knocked, was bid ‘Enter.’

Rear-Admiral Mithh’raw’nuruodo was sitting behind the heavy executive desk, already spread with documents bearing the letterhead of one arm or other of the Imperial Starfleet. Most of them having to do with Lennart and his ship.

Lennart could hardly avoid looking them over simply by reflex, jut so see what all the fuss was about, and the near-human was watching him closely as he did. Thrawn was watching for all the little tells, all the clues that could give away which parts of his gloriously checkered record that Lennart was most proud, or ashamed, of, and which would reward further examination.

What is it that he wants? Lennart thought, suddenly angry at being made to play these subtle fencing games. Who the kriff does he think he is, with half a dozen under- the-table special operations to his name?

Careful, mate, the other side of his brain told him, that’s the dark side talking. And you’ve probably just given away a lot more than you intended to, as well as biasing him against you.

Lennart snapped off a salute, not quite ideal but only a severe perfectionist could have found fault. Which the admiral was widely reputed to be. How to play this, he thought. Bluff, misunderstood spacedog? A different kind of animal entirely- a political snake? A man of moderate sense and enormous luck surviving in the fleet despite himself?

Or just abandon pretence entirely and go with the no-technique technique? Dangerous, dangerous- but possibly less so than trying to manipulate the Admiral and getting caught. Still, just being himself was likely to be dangerous enough.

‘Sir, if I may ask- is this the official informal hearing to decide if formal charges are to be brought, a preliminary formal hearing on the loss of HIMS Perseverance, the informal hearing on the tactics of the action, the unofficial reprimand for landing myself in it, a formal recognition of achievement, the official presenting of charges- or all of the above?’ And there was proof of that concept.

Thrawn looked him up and down, conveying very clearly the message; you are being studied. ‘How much trouble do you imagine you’re in, Captain?’ the near-human probed. Looking for weakness, trying to figure out how much of a fool Lennart really was?

‘That depends, Admiral- has the Privy Council really announced hunting season on it’s own special assistants, or are you present here simply to deal with the naval, professional side of the incident?’ Lennart asked. The answer to that question would determine how much of a fool Lennart would choose to be.

‘I dislike having a question answered with a question, Captain.’ The near- human admiral glowered. Which was far from strictly true, both of them were probing and provoking each other, experimenting with sounding- charges of annoyance.

Which was a game Lennart, the junior of the two, knew he really could not hope or expect to win, even if he had been a player of equal skill- observe how the admiral played on position to deny him the cue he needed.

‘I can understand that, Admiral- after all, doesn’t everybody?’ Not that he intended to simply give up, although for a moment as he noticed the genuine flash of anger in the near- human admiral’s eyes he thought he had gone too far.

He picked up one of the files on the desk, read it upside down, said ‘Well, that’, pointing at it, ‘is the after action report from the Faber/ Palmus Viridis incident, but on the other claw- if you’ve decided to take this seriously, I’m probably doomed.’ it was a quarterly return from the regulatory branch.

Or, it occurred to him, if the odd man out near- human admiral had found it expedient to develop connections to the underworld, and owed or expected a favour from a certain pheromone spraying fellow near- human.

Not that it was at all likely in view of what was known about the Admiral- a very tidy being, the rumours ran; a cool, systematic, clearheaded organiser and planner, a terrifyingly fast and accurate analyst and trend spotter.

On the rare occasions when he had lost an exercise problem, it had been because of someone using that against him- an opponent who resorted to utter chaos with no definable pattern, or did something so brutally direct and straightforward that no subtlety of response was possible.

Vader had managed that, in an extremely bad- tempered bloodbath in ’34 shortly before the completion of the Death Star; a series of head-on clashes that had ended in such acrimony between the lower- ranking participants that more than a few captains had to be restrained from resorting to live shot.

If he runs a debrief the same way he runs an exercise, I’m doomed, Lennart thought. Strictly speaking, he didn’t even have the right to ask what it was about; the admiral could keep him waiting as long as he liked, order him to silence and keep him standing there until both their lifespans ran out.

Not that he would. ‘How many of you are there, Captain Lennart? I have detected at least five- here, you portray yourself as a stuffy, authoritarian antique, there as a simple minded gut-bruising sadist; there, a perfectionist and exactionist, here indulgent and charmingly indifferent to precision, and yet again the dextrous, toadying malevolence revealed in these. Did you think that no-one had the authority to collate them all, and detect the inconsistencies?’ Thrawn asked.

‘Until recently, Admiral, no-one had, or cared to. Not that it’s at all inexplicable. Do you really think that after the Tarkinist decentralisations, things didn’t change? We have a thousand little navies now, each with their own idea of how an officer is supposed to behave, and each of them reporting to higher authority in their own fashion.

The fighting units of the fleet have to operate under a thousand different sets of unwritten laws- show me a consistent, an internally consistent authority and I’ll show you a coherent reporting style.’ Lennart fired back.

Which of me did that belong to? Have I fallen into stereotypical patterns, has consciously faking it produced the obviously fake- and inevitably, used my own take on those patterns? Perhaps there’s something to this art- history nonsense after all.

‘I am, Captain.’ Thrawn said, obviously referring to the fact that he was now sitting behind the desk. ‘I am sorely tempted to make you live up to your words and rewrite them all to whatever reporting style you imagine might appeal to me.’

‘Fine, I could do with a lazy century or two, if you’ve got that kind of time to spare.’ Lennart said. ‘And as a matter of interest, I pulled the same trick on my former exec, the one who ended up in a sanatorium.’

If I can get away with this, I can get away with anything, Lennart thought. Slight correction, if he lets me get away with that I know he wants my support. Which he can’t afford to be too overt about, so- yes, I’m going to get slapped down for that.

Thrawn sat back in the executive chair, and seemed to wait, inviting Lennart to make another mistake. In fact, he was trying to figure out what the troublemaker in front of him was using for logic, to come out with something like that that could play directly into a vindictive superior’s hands.

A probe, a challenge? ‘It is clear, Captain, that whatever you pretend to be, you have a high opinion of yourself.’ And just perhaps, the suspicion the nearhuman admiral was forming might be true.

High opinion? If only you knew, Lennart thought. ‘There were phases in my career where that was not the case.’ He was about to say more- but stopped himself, before he could ramble on. The admiral looked distinctly disappointed by that- wanting to draw him out. Ask a complex question, get a question back; ask a deceptively simple question, trigger my tendency to splurge and get a more complete answer than is good for me, Lennart realised.

‘There are also phases in your career where you assumed the rules did not apply to you.’ Thrawn stated, flatly.

‘Oh, come on.’ Lennart said, more forcefully than he had intended. ‘With all due respect, Admiral, if I really had assumed the rules didn’t apply to me, the first thing you or I or anyone in that position would have done is to throw away the paperwork.’ He waved at the desk full of forms, hardcopy and electronic.

Then mentally kicked himself for not taking his own deductions seriously. That outburst was perfect proof that Thrawn was right, a simple question drew a long winded and arguably self incriminating answer.

‘I am actually morally certain that I prevented the defection of HIMS Kesegaran- Acclamator class- by the simple method of showing her exec an old Republic Starfleet daily return form.’ Lennart went on, at a tangent. ‘When I pointed out that the Alliance still tries to hold to the old standard of staff work, they no longer seemed to be the cause of freedom.’

Said with such deadpan seriousness, Thrawn had to think for a second to decide whether it was a prank or not. ‘That name doesn’t appear anywhere in your records- did you never report the incident?’

‘Of course not, what was to report? Besides, I assumed there was an ISB plant on board.’ Right, time to see what the rear-admiral thinks of the imperial secret police.

Nothing, apparently- other than an interested realisation that Lennart had a history with them. ‘Was there?’

‘There was, to begin with.’ Lennart said. ‘He was the agent provocateur who had been trying to get them to desert in the first place. As far as I know, they lynched him.’

The rear-admiral was fascinated. This fitted into the pattern- in one way, but not in another. ‘That incident never really took place, did it?’ Thrawn asked, more than half stated.

‘Perhaps not, Sir- but given my record, can you really be sure?’ Lennart said, again deadpan. The unspoken question was- go on, then, what do you think of me? Where do I stand? ‘Actually, it involved a lot more pushing, shoving, shouting and general disorder than that, but an old daily return form definitely was pivotal.’

‘Disentangling your understatements and overstatements to form a true record may be a lifetime’s work.’ The near- human recognised. ‘I was right; you are an artist. A magical-realist painter of deception and bureaucratic warfare. A knot of complexity.’

‘If you’re about to tell me that might not be the best thing to be- that the easiest way through an un- untieable knot or an unpickable lock is with a demo charge, then I would have to admit that you had a point. In principle.’ Lennart said.

‘At this point, I remain unconvinced that to demolish you may not be an essential act for the safety of the Empire.’ Thrawn pointed out. ‘You have a bad habit of unbalancing everyone’s calculations by achieving the impossible, and now you and the battlegroup to which you belong have pierced the defences of four shielded worlds, in a single day.’

Was there a hint of envy in the rear- admiral’s voice there?

‘Blame the Cosmonaut, I always said that ship had a mind of his own. And incidentally, Admiral, if capability has become such a dangerous thing to possess, might I ask why your arse is so much better covered than mine?’ Lennart pointed out.

‘Some day, and some day soon at that, you and I are going to have to sit down to the dejarik table.’ Thrawn said. It was a fair question- one to which the answer was, arguably, it isn’t.

‘Why abstract it to a game, why not go all the way to the academy simulation tank?’ Lennart counterchallenged. ‘I can tell you what’s likely to happen, too.’

The admiral gave a faint nod, intending Lennart to continue. ‘When it comes to the art of war-‘ he couldn’t help a slight smile at that- ‘I’m a miniaturist. Also arguably a surrealist. Single ship, line command, mine- more often than not. Larger forces- that you don’t have the rank to command any more than I do- your home territory.’

‘And squadron command?’ Thrawn said, amused by Lennart’s analysis.

‘Would be interesting.’ Lennart admitted.

‘Assuming you remain a Starfleet officer for any length of time.’ Thrawn reminded him. ‘I am in a more politics proof position than you because I have not, to date, publicly killed an officer of the imperial household.’

‘No matter how badly you may have been tempted, on occasion.’ Lennart pointed out. ‘Jerec?’

‘He was a trial, but one I passed.’ Thrawn said.

‘Did he ever openly confess to plotting treason and regicide, and ask you to join him?’ Lennart asked, rhetorically.

‘No- which would have made life on board Vengeance significantly more interesting.’ The rear-admiral said, smiling faintly. ‘Are you alleging that Kor Alric Adannan did precisely that?’

‘What would be the point of openly reporting a long, rambling conversation with a traitor, which included the traitor’s stated reasons for becoming so?’ Lennart said, picking up on the admiral’s use of the word “alleged.”

‘It’s not in any of the reports because he had more than enough access to put together a frighteningly convincing case. He strung together several of the Empire’s dark secrets into, well, the only counterargument I could think of was having him killed.’ Lennart added.

‘You understand I cannot possibly be expected to take your unsupported word for it- your supported word would be hard enough. What could you present as evidence that is beyond the charge of being faked?’ Thrawn pointed out.

‘There’s very little that can’t be faked; the only question is whether or not it would make sense to, given that the contents are enough for a lese-majeste charge in and of themselves. I suppose I’m looking to your political owl.’ Lennart said.

‘Is this some obscure Corellian idiom, of which I was previously not aware?’ Thrawn said, glaring at Lennart.

Lennart made a pair of owl- like sounds- ‘Who? Whom?’

‘Ah. You have this dubious and highly incriminating evidence with you?’ Obviously the answer would be yes.

‘Of course.’ Lennart pulled one of the datapads out of the stack Tydings was carrying, dropped it on the desk. ‘Actually…you would probably prefer me not to be watching you and gauging your reaction to every word, as you watch that.’

‘Hm. Normally I would expect anyone who come out with that to be angling for an invitation to remain and do precisely that, I’m sure you’ve thought at least a move further.’ Thrawn said, thinking it through and looking for where the doublethink came to an end. ‘Very well, you can go. You’ll be escorted, I’ll send for you when I have digested this. Why do you want to leave?’

‘Com from my mother, I haven’t called home in far too long, I’d like to deal with that. When I come back, I’m going to want an answer to one question in particular- who is it who’s been standing up for Adannan’s reputation? Who told you that he was innocent?’

‘And I will be weighing whether or not you deserve it.’ Thrawn said. ‘Go.’

Effectively under open arrest, then. Lennart walked out of the office, the door hissed shut behind him, half the guards waiting outside peeled off to follow him. First things first, find an unused conference room with a com terminal.

‘Wow.’ Tydings said. ‘You really just- Sir, you challenged him to a duel.’

‘A simulated one. And under conditions which I expect to be to my advantage, although so much of his record is classified it’s hard to tell what his strengths and weaknesses are- although the rumours seem to be broadly accurate.

Single ship on single ship- especially with time to work the crews up in our own image- there, I might just be able to hand him his balls on a silver platter. Although there is a rumour that His Majesty has already done precisely that. Whether it’s the species he comes from or just himself, though, his brain seems to work backwards.

The more complicated the problem, the clearer and faster he thinks about it. Trying to outguess him is a fool’s errand- he just lanced his way through years of protective gibberish. The only thing I could think of doing was to confront him with terrifying simplicity. Where’s that damn’ terminal?’ Lennart said, looking around the room.

He found it, sat down in front of it. Couldn’t remember his own home com code, had to look it up.

‘2928a- ah, it’s you. With your talent for making an entrance, son, you should do it more often.’ The iron-grey haired woman on the vidscreen said, a voice full of mother’s love and disappointment, and just an edge of mischief.

Most of the family tended to breed late in life; by Aldrith Lennart’s calculations, if the current generation was an indicator they were about eight thousand years’ worth of genetic drift behind the rest of the human race. Mind you, was that necessarily a bad thing?

‘I know, mum- I wander in and out of touch, disappear for years on end, occasionally pop up on the news doing something stupidly dangerous, haven’t been home since Second Coruscant-‘

‘If you think bringing up your own bad points is pre-emptive self defence, then you have been away far too long. Would it have killed you to write?’ Mrs Lennart teased her son.

‘Some of the time, yes, emission control and security regs being what they are. Part of the time I was just- too deep in the curve. Besides, if I can’t trust you to look after yourself, who can I?’ Lennart said, uneasily realising that he had-

‘Evidently you don’t, considering you sent all of us a form letter and a five thousand credit chip to buy guns and hire bodyguards with. And everyone else you’ve ever met, several hundred of whom called Aldrith and me to try to find out what it was all about. Some of them seemed to think you still lived here. Keeping in touch really isn’t your best point, is it?’ Tamora Bharnart-Lennart berated her delinquent child.

‘Well, you taught me to be a ‘now’ person.’ Lennart pointed out, trying to sound reasonable, and not to admit to feeling guilty. Why signal defeat before it was absolutely necessary? ‘All those lessons about focusing on the immediate, they worked.’

‘I overdid it.’ She said sarcastically. ‘That was also not the way I had hoped to find out that my eldest son had finally stopped gallivanting around the galaxy long enough to perpetuate the family name.’

‘I, um, what? That cack- handed excuse for a pilot, that idiot space biker, you’re not taking that seriously?’ Lennart said, confused.

‘He was a poor kid far out of his depth, but he did have the foresight to bring a genetic sample.’ Tamora pointed out.

‘Of course, Dad’s lab…’ Aldrith Lennart had been a consultant biomechanical engineer, he still had a basement full of body part cloning tanks and cybernetics gear. He had all the facilities for home scanning- would have been on CorSec’s watch list as a potential bioterrorist if he hadn’t put in the odd day’s work for them.

‘The sample confirms it, somewhere in your irresponsible, footloose bachelor life, you managed to reproduce. Is Plarch not with you now? He can tell you the rest of the story.’ Tamora said.

‘Ah.’ Lennart said. ‘He would be the XY-depletion I had ionised and arrested for trying to ram my ship. I supposed he must have switched a rockskipper into droid control, ordered a least- time path to Black Prince, but he forgot to tell it to match velocity- why are you looking at me like that?’ Lennart said, as if he couldn’t tell.

‘He’s in a cell on your ship, and you’re worrying about the technicalities?’ Tamora said, looking at her son in frank disbelief. ‘You had your son in law, my grandson, shot and thrown in jail? You have to get him out.’

‘It’s not quite as easy as that- it was CorSec who scooped him up.’ Lennart said, thinking oh, shit, this is going to be trouble. I virtually ignored him. What kind of name is Plorch, anyway? ‘My own slate isn’t exactly clear of trouble at the moment-‘.

‘If you were tempted to ask yourself why none of your ex girlfriends ever got in touch, I think you should be able to work it out now. What am I going to do with you? Nearly half a century old and you still need help from your mother.’

‘It’s possible that you can come and break us both out of jail, I might end up in the next cell over. I am very much the starfleet’s problem now, and I may or may not be able to talk myself out of this.’ Lennart said.

‘Of course.’ Tamora said. ‘The habit of obedience was never in you, Galactic Spirit knows your father and I tried.’

‘With methods that could have been used to define ‘counterproductive’. The more I think about it, the more convinced I get that subconsciously, you wanted me to grow up to be a rebel. Well, congratulations- it worked. The miracle is that I managed to go on to do anything even vaguely organised.’ Lennart protested.

‘Our managing not to lose our tempers and have you replaced by an android counts, I think.’ Tamora said. ‘Professional trouble, an abandoned daughter, a neglected woman, a son in law shot and thrown in jail- didn’t we teach you to play well with others?’

‘Actually, no, you didn’t, you taught me to be brutally competitive in all things, and about the overwhelming importance of determination and willpower. It’s amazing I turned out even vaguely normal.’ Lennart said, and Tydings had to hold back a giggle.

‘Believe me, son, you were never likely to turn out normal. You were our eldest, we tried to prepare you for life, but Garrett would never have done something like that, Alrika would never neglect her parents.’

‘And then I spoilt it by actually taking you seriously.’ Lennart pointed out. ‘I deal with cranks, fools, idiots and pranksters every day, mostly my crew. Zit, or whatever his name is, came in on a collision approach- he’s lucky I only had him ionised.’ And I felt nothing for him whatsoever, not that it was remotely probable that I would, Lennart thought.

I was acting, instinctively, to show off in front of, protect as if they were in any real danger, my military family- as opposed to my real family? No. Biological, at most.

‘I had every right to have him shot, he was committing a category 2 offence- and I had better talk to CorSec before they decide to do it for me.’ To find out who my daughter’s mother was and why she never got in touch; and to tell him he’s a fool. ‘How is Garrett? Alli?’

‘Don’t think you can wipe the slate clean by suddenly pretending to be worried about the rest of the family. They both keep in touch, for a start. Alrika’s technical director at Kor Vella Down now, her eldest is about to go to college, Garrett was landscaper of the year for the fourth time running. Everyone’s fine, apart from my homicidal delinquent eldest boy.’

‘It took me twenty years to come home, because every time I started I was faced with the challenge of explaining all the other times when I hadn’t. And in some ways…I didn’t want to see how much of me still fitted into that pattern.’

One of the stormtroopers tapped him on the shoulder. ‘The admiral will see you now.’

‘Look, I have to go. With luck, I’ll be by later. Without it, I may need you to come by and post bail.’ Chance would be a fine thing.

Rear-admiral Mithh’raw’nuruodo was sitting there, casually lazing in the executive chair, looking calm and relaxed, and fooling nobody. ‘Before I answer the question that you left with me, I want to put one to you. Why do you think I was chosen for this job?’

‘We are both, in several respects, odd men out; there are good reasons why some of the old guard of the Starfleet, and the young politicals, wouldn’t be overwhelmingly happy with either of us. You’re supposed to take this perfect opportunity to have me shot, I was supposed to lose the plot and sabre you. From their point of view, either way’s a win- but ideally, both.’ Lennart pointed out.

‘At least,’ he added, ‘that’s why you were allowed to request it.’

‘Of course. Excellent record, currently in deep political trouble? What an opportunity for a hostile takeover.’ Thrawn said, calmly stating the facts. ‘Attach you to my retinue, make you dependent on my patronage- which may, I realise now, resemble adopting a live proton bomb. I presume you have taken the obvious precautions?’

‘Multiple separate but aware dead man switches giving access- and triggering broadcast- to a public archive of this, and the background information we lifted out of his computers? Of course. Is forcing me to hold His Majesty’s reputation hostage the only option you can come up with?’ Lennart said.

‘I don’t understand you well enough to be sure of what lesser option would be acceptable.’ Thrawn admitted. ‘You’re a politician; you have the skills, whether you like it or not- and you’re using that talent to pretend to everyone, including I suspect yourself, that you’re not. That makes you not only dangerous, but positively inexplicable.’

‘This from the master of puzzles? Haven’t you considered that I might simply be a loyal Imperial officer?’ Lennart asked.

‘Simply, no- and after being involved in this, after being positively dragged on a guided tour of the ugly underbelly of the Empire, I would question anyone’s loyalty.’ Thrawn stated.

‘Well, you’re the only other one who’s met the tour guide, good luck explaining that away…’ Lennart pointed out. ‘As a very last resort, I have the Force to fall back on, join either side of the conspiracy- or both; what’s your way out of this, Imperial favour?’

‘I find it difficult to comprehend what a man of your abilities is doing with your record- you could be a sector group commander by now, if you had chosen to push yourself upwards rather than hover in place. What is it that you want?’ Thrawn asked, implicitly admitting that the go-for-broke option was not good.

‘What does the owl say?’ Lennart fired back.

‘Your bird of unlikely wisdom reminds me that I am the only one who spotted the inconsistencies in your record, an aspect of the situation that could be used to cast your record in any one of a number of different lights- including relegating the whole business back to the realm of conspiracy theory.’ Thrawn pointed out.

‘There are always conspiracy theories,’ Lennart waved a hand, ‘sometimes there are conspiracies, and once in a thousand years the two even coincide, but think how many back of the head feelings this would flesh out, how many vague suspicions it would tend to confirm- and admit it, the Palpatine he described isn’t far off the man you’ve met, is he?’

‘His Majesty can be-‘ Thrawn searched for the right words and found them- ‘astonishingly forceful.’

‘Elegantly put.’ Lennart acknowledged. ‘Yes, you’re right, you can spin this- but the part you’re getting wrong is the part where you automatically assume that I want to make use of this.’

‘Oh, come on. You don’t really expect me to believe that an ascendant dark jedi would pass up this opportunity to ingratiate himself?’ Thrawn pointed out. ‘In fact, I don’t really grasp why you aren’t playing that card now. If I had the force I would play on that for all that it was worth.’

‘Some victories come at too high a price.’ Lennart pointed out. ‘I didn’t ask for the Force, I don’t want it, and you weren’t in the Starfleet through the first two years after Geonosis and didn’t get first hand experience of how dangerously bad the Jedi were as fleet commanders.

I do not want anything to do with this.’ Lennart stated. ‘But I think you might.’

‘What, you mean to appoint me as conspiracy- buster extraordinaire?’ Thrawn said, finding it hard to maintain a straight face.

‘Why not? Logical. You’re the Emperor’s red- eyed boy, exactly the sort of person an old space dog would run to with the evidence of something that was way above his pay grade. There’s at least one of me, maybe three, who would credibly do exactly that.’ Lennart pointed out.

‘Play it straight…it’s never been done before, but it just might work.’ The near- human admiral said, with a faint smile. ‘I release a public version of events that fits the story and quietly take out a hunting license, leaving your version of events quite behind the times. What…well, I certainly was not aware that you had joined the ranks of the empowered.’

‘That’s what I want to get out of it. To keep my job, and my ship, for whatever complex of reasons there are behind my wanting them. You get the chance to elevate your career to new heights.’ Lennart pointed out.

‘You get to keep the galaxy in ignorance of your talents- manoeuvring to cloak a hidden advantage, at least that is a logic I can respect.’ Thrawn acknowledged. ‘This won’t go away. At some point I will probably need your help, and you will probably need mine. That and there is still the purely professional side of the incident to explore…you may go, I have no doubt we will be seeing more of each other.’
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Vianca » 2008-11-16 12:19pm

Nice, but I smell a hairy tail that will keep sticking out, time and time again. :angelic:
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by LadyTevar » 2008-11-16 01:18pm

Very intriquing. I'm not sure if Trawn read right, as it's been years since I last read the Trawn novels.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Raptor_Pilot » 2008-11-16 05:06pm

I just finished reading the first part of 721, and I am eagerly looking foward to how this sequel will pan out.
This is an excellent story, much better than most of the EU novels I have read.

Thank you for providing such quality reading material. I look foward to future updates.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Kartr_Kana » 2008-11-16 08:56pm

Hmmm Thrawn did seem a little off, but then this is a completely different time in his career. Over all I enjoyed the chapter, it started off a little confusing with Lennarts traditional angle covering internal monologues but once he started talking to Thrawn it got much more understandable.

Can't wait for the next chapter!

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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Thanas » 2008-11-17 02:55pm

I like the plot threads, but Thrawn using expressions like "come on" seems very un-thrawnlike, also he does not sound as reserved and emotionless as he appears in the novels (e.g.: Outbound flight). For example, I find it very unlikely he would do something like the mop story or allowing Lennart to see a cluttered desk.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant » 2008-11-17 04:35pm

Hmmm. Well, I'm not overwhelmingly happy with it myself- a bit rushed- but in my own defence, consider; at this stage in his career, Thrawn is not in supreme command. He doesn't have independent responsibilities, he has the interest but not the absolute confidence of His Majesty, and he may have the admiration but he certainly does not have the liking of his professional colleagues.

He has to cut his coat to suit his cloth, and consider those moves as the acts of a master manipulator; the mop story was to work on Lennart via his friend, convince Lennart- via Goran- that Thrawn is, like himself, a wearer of masks and a player of the game- a fundamentally reasonable being who understands what it is to take up a false position in order to get by. As an act of political deception, does it not work? Does it not lead Jorian Lennart to engage more profoundly, and give away more of himself, than he would otherwise have done?

The desk full of files, there is simply too much data there to assimilate- years of bureaucratic drivel. Pretending he knows everything would be too obvious a pretence. Pretending to be someone who takes these things seriously, on the other hand- and in a borrowed office at that- plays in perfectly to Lennart's own pretentions.
Appearing as if he understands the bureaucratic system paints himself as exactly the sort of entity that Lennart needs to cover his back with this problem, and also plays to the one thing you can be very sure he knew Lennart permits himself a streak of pride about.

Remember that classified combat record? Thrawn's very, very good- no dispute there- but he hasn't publicly proved it in the same way, not yet. Lennart has, and if there was a way to lead him out, play on that arrogance to get him to open up- a combination of the intimidation factor of obviously being in control and being a bureaucrat, well, he found it. One thing he is absolutely not is a fool, he gets the measure of his man very quickly, and reserved and unemotionless would get a stone- faced, paper shuffling response, no more.

By pretending to be something other than that- by even feigning bafflement at a couple of points- he gets quickly and cleanly inside Lennart's defences. Consider who came away from that with what. Mithh'raw'nuruodo did not appear to be in control- it seemed relatively even- and on the surface, maybe it was. In practise, Lennart got played like a violin. Thrawn played a part, played it very well, and managed to get at the actual unvarnished truth with more directness and ease than almost any other method.

A rewrite may be in order- a fleshing out, maybe- but Thrawn isn't a grand admiral yet, he is still in the middle of the scale and is bound to play the political game. To do that as well as we know he did, he has to engage, or at least pretend to. When it comes to that, he is a skilled artist himself.
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Re: Hull 721, plot arc the second

Post by Thanas » 2008-11-17 04:44pm

^Just a question, but when does the fic take place with regards to ABY?

I get what you are saying, but he still seems to be a bit over the top to me. Have you read "Outbound Flight"?
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