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Rest in peace, Martin Kemmish (1982-2014), aka “SirNitram”. We will always keep you in our hearts.

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-04-30 08:52pm
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Chapter Seven (cont.)

The Shock Troopers on the perimeter of the landing pad gave way as three Moffs, each surrounded by their own guards climbed up the ramp to cast their gaze upon the still smoldering skeleton of the shuttle.

One of the armored Cyralis soldiers walked over and saluted. “This area is not secure, Moff Krandor,” he said.

“Oh, I doubt that the Rebels will attack again—it is not their style. Hit and fade and all of that,” the tallest, almost gaunt, Moff replied with a languid wave of his hand.

“Patrice is dead?” asked the second Moff, far shorter and more rotund squeaked. He was perspiring quite heavily, whether from the exertion or fear, the Shock Trooper wasn’t certain.

“Of course he’s dead, you idiot!” snarled the third of the Moffs. “For all his reputation, not even Patrice could survive an explosion of that magnitude, Voelkers.”

“So sad,” muttered the Moff of Pelgrin as he wiped his jowls once again. “Jendar at least will be pleased, though.”

“Don’t be so certain of that Voelkers,” Moff Krandor of Bitrose added. “Isard may well keep her pet on Coruscant and appoint a man she trusts with rule of Cyralis—and Lamaredd.” He looked over at Moff Norian, and smiled. “Perhaps she will even form a new Oversector and appoint a strong supporter as Grand Moff.”

Norian returned a hungry grin of his own, and the Shock Trooper shook his head. “Sirs. I must again ask that you return to the compound—this area is not yet safe.”

“What is your identification!” Norian snapped. “Patrice must have let things slide if you don’t know you place!”

“Sir. Colonel Camlann, Sir.”

“I asked for your identification code—Stormtrooper.”

“CK-8374, Sir.”

“Inform your vessel that we are investigating this assassination—they are to remain on station. Your Stormtroopers will report to my military liaison for your duty assignments.”

“No, Sir.”

Norian’s eyes bulged out from his head, and Krandor’s jaw went slack with shock. Even the slow-witted Voelkers drew in a deep breath.

“CK-8374, are you refusing a direct order from a superior officer?” Norian asked quietly.

“No, Sir. Despite your rank, you are not in my chain of command—and are therefore not my superior officer. Sir.”

Norian nodded his head slowly. Then he turned his head to his own guards. “Kill him,” he said.

Six blaster bolts streaked by, and Voelkers—despite his bulk—responded to half-forgotten training drills and plopped down on his face and ample belly. Norian blinked, and he shook his head. Those bolts had come not from his own troopers, but from the landing pad. He turned around—his entire body this time—to see his escort lying dead.

“As I said, Sirs, this area is not safe or secure. However, I know of a facility that is both,” Camlaan said. “Get them aboard the shuttles quickly and quietly, men. We are leaving.”

“Sir,” a Shock Trooper nodded as he approached without saluting. “The gunboats are on station and Ascension's TIEs are in space and ready to provide cover if we require it.”

“Very good, CJ-2228,” Camlaan answered. “Get them aboard and secured. Troopers! We are leaving!”

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-04-30 10:07pm
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Chapter Seven (cont.)

The shuttle lifted into the air with the three Moffs aboard, and the ramp sealed. Then it streaked away towards the sky, escorted by the gunboats.

“You will hang for this, CK-8374!” Norian spat. “Kidnapping a Moff—three of them! They will tear you apart for this!”

“Doubtful, Sir,” Camlaan replied with a shrug. “Since you refused to return to the complex, I am taking you into protective custody—for your own safety and security.”

Norian’s eyes grew wide and then he leaned forward and pointed his finger at the Shock Trooper. “Listen to me very carefully, Colonel. My aides are right now calling in the Fleet—you turn this shuttle around and land, and release me and my fellow Moffs, and I will think about making your death quick.”

“A delightful offer, Sir. Alas, I am unable to comply with your order.”

“They will blow you out of the sky!”

“If they do, they kill you as well. Somehow, I do not think that your officers have the balls for such a call. Sir.”

Krandor spread his hands and tried a half-hearted smile. “Colonel Camlaan, we have gotten off to a . . . difficult start. What do you want exactly?”

“I need to discover which of you is a traitor, Sir. One of you had to know about that attack—it was not Rebels. I’ve fought the Rebels and a bomb on a public landing pad isn’t exactly their style, Sir.”

The eyes of Moff Voelkers grew wide and he shook his head. “You think one of us was behind the murder of Patrice?”

“This is outrageous!” snarled Norian. “Your Moff is dead, Stormtroopers! You have to follow my orders now! You must! That is the ordained Order of things!”

“Not quite so dead as you think, Norian,” a heretofore silent Shock Trooper said as he reached up and released the catches on his helmet. He pulled the piece of armor free, and all three of his guest’s looked at the face of Thom Patrice in surprise.

“Aren’t you dead?” asked Voelkers?

“Stop playing dumb, Biram,” Thom chuckled as he ran an armored gauntlet over his scalp. “Damn if those helmets don’t make your head itch something fierce.”

“It is something you get used to, Sir,” said Camlaan stoically.

Moff Biram Voelkers gave Thom a genuine smile. “Good to see you again, General,” he said in a strong voice that gave no hint of the weak-willed and slow-witted persona that he normally projected. “I am quite glad that it wasn’t you in that shuttle.”

“What is this?” Krandor asked in bewilderment. “If you weren’t aboard that shuttle, then who . . .”

Thom grimaced. “My double. He volunteered for the assignment—even for getting facial reconstructive surgery. I am greatly angered by his death, gentlemen—and I hope for your sake that none of you had anything to do with it.”

“Now see here, Patrice!” Norian barked. “I don’t care for your games, but you have no authority over us—none. I will not be questioned by you.”

“I have all the authority I need right here in my arms, Moff Norian,” Thom said as he raised his blaster rifle off the deck. “Force is the ultimate authority—a fact that you might well remember. Biram—were either of these men involved in the attempt on my life?”

“Krandor wasn’t initially, but he was told about the plan by Norian—who was involved in the planning. You know the Hutts have a two million credit bounty on your head that he was planning on collecting.”

“You idiot!” sputtered Norian. Thom fired a single stun bolt into the Moff’s chest, and Norian dropped to the deck unconscious.

“He will be questioned after he wakes,” the Moff of Cyralis slowly said.

“I knew nothing before landing on Wrea,” Krandor said quietly and quickly. “Whether or not I objected Norian was going to carry out his scheme—and if he were willing to kill one Moff, then why not two. I was, of course, going to report his treason to Isard upon returning to Bitrose.”

“Of course you were, my lord Moff,” Thom said as he passed his blaster rifle to another Shock Trooper and leaned back against the hard metal seats of the shuttle. “And now you are going to tell me everything you know about Norian—bear in mind that Biram Voelkers was once upon a time my chief of staff in the Grand Army of the Republic, and that he remains quite loyal to ME. Don’t let me catch you telling lies that he knows are lies, Krandor.”

The Moff of Bitrose swallowed heavily and he nodded. “Isard will not like you removing Norian, Patrice. She won’t—that isn’t a threat, just a statement.”

“Oh, I am not going to remove him. I plan on shipping him back to Coruscant—with evidence of his treason in hand for her to deal with. And I am not going to appoint anyone to run Gaulus—she will, or his deputy will, or the two of you will,” Thom said as he drew out a rolled stick of dried leaves and placed it between his lips. He lit the end and inhaled deeply. “Now shall we begin our discussions on what exactly Norian is guilty of?”


Last edited by masterarminas on 2012-05-01 11:05am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-05-01 05:29am
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Heh, I had a feeling he was going to pull a Padmé here. Although I also thought he was going to play along inside, then deal with them 'in the Rebel attack' while claiming to have never left his Star Destroyer.

Very cool.



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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-05-01 09:23pm
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Thom groaned as he sank into his far-too-comfortable chair. He lifted the crystal goblet and took a sip of the strong liquor, and then he smack his lips and turned his attention to his guest.

“You look absolutely horrid, Biram,” the General-turned-Moff said with a frown. “What happened to that whipcord lean young officer I once knew? Did you eat him?”

Biram Voelkers laughed, the folds of fat on his stomach rippling. “Rank hath its privileges, as you well know, General. I had climbed as high as I could in Palpatine’s Army when he summoned me to the Throne Room. And then he appointed me as one of his Moff’s. Scariest moment of my life—I didn’t know if he was going to have me killed or anointed. I suspect that he thought I would show my true colors and betray him—but I was very, very careful never to cross that line, General.”

“You didn’t answer the question, Biram? Are you even able to do your job carrying around enough mass for two more sentient beings?”

His former chief of staff waved one pudgy hand. “Pelgrin is well-ruled, despite my . . . show of being dull and ill-suited for thinking logically.”

“Why, Biram?”

“Palpatine’s Moffs came in three types, General: the ruthless, ambitious, and smart ones, the ruthless, ambitious, and dumb ones, and the ones who hedonistic and milk their position for everything they can to make their own lives better,” Biram took a sip of his drink. “If I decided to be ruthless, my Sector would in the grip of Rebellion—I have many non-humans on my worlds, General. So I played the part of a hedonist, concerned only with my own hungers and vices.” He smiled.

“Of course, those took their own toll,” he said as he patted his belly. “But I never planned on holding a blaster and crawling in the mud again, anyway. And by pretending to be slow and dim, I diverted my fellows from looking upon me as a threat all these many years. And since they knew I wasn’t ruthless or ambitious . . . they left me alone. Never seeing just how efficiently I ran my Sector; obviously it was my subordinates doing so on my behalf. I haven’t gone as far as you in purging the ISB, General, but my COMPNOR officials are those who would rather have a good meal and a nice rub-down than spend their days rousting out non-humans in the slums. And for all of that, I am only a blip on the Rebellion—the New Republic’s—scanners.”

“And of course, you never once enjoyed yourself, did you Biram?” asked Thom dryly.

The fat man snorted. “I bloody well earned what little pleasure I gained from the deal, General. Nearly twenty years in Palpatine’s army, another ten as one of his Moffs—I paid my dues.”

“So you did. I need to know where you stand, Biram.”

“Where I stand? I was about to ask you the same question, General. What are you doing out there?”

“Preserving the Empire as it could have been, Biram.”

Biram chuckled. “Tell that to the commoners, General. What are you playing at?”

Thom smiled. “The Empire is rotten, as corrupt as the Old Republic ever was—if not more so. Isard is presiding over a corpse—she’s a dead woman walking, though it might be years before she realizes it. Ships and armies can only slow the fall of the Empire, they cannot stop it. The momentum of history has shifted.” Thom took another sip of his drink and he shook his head. “You may not believe it, Biram, but I only want stability and safety out here for the men and women of my home.”

“Damn, you still have their heart-twisting charisma I remembered, General. I can almost believe you—almost. You could that same safety and security by proclaiming for the New Republic, but they probably would oust you. And you cannot have that.”

“I do not trust the Rebels—this New Republic—Biram. For now, the reprisals may not be coming, but soon enough the non-humans will want to take their equality back—and punish humans for what Palpatine did. When that happens, I think the safest course will be to remain independent.”

“Oh? Declaring yourself a free and independent state will garner you the worst of both worlds, General. And you are not that dense.”

“Who said anything about declaring?” Thom replied with a chuckle. “Cyralis, and Lamaredd, and perhaps even Pelgrin and Bitrose and Gaulus, will remain ‘loyal’ to the Empire in name. Meanwhile, we remove the thorn that provokes the Rebels so and make for our own people a better, more stable life. But to do that, when the time comes, I may need ships and troops—more than my own Sector can supply.”

“Ah. And it is Pelgrin’s ships and troops that you want, then?”

“We either hang together, Biram, or we hang separately.”

“I am a survivor, General. Remember that,” Biram said as he downed the rest of his drink and stood, grunting from the exertion. “However, in light of the increase in instability in the region, perhaps joint maneuvers between our Sector Groups might well be in order? Perhaps your men Morvin and Ise might supply my own Admirals and Generals with the secrets you are using to actually make Stormtroopers shoot straight.”

“And Isard, Biram? What do you plan on telling her?”

“What she needs to know, and nothing more, General. Understand me, Sir. If you sink, I will be on a lifeboat. If you succeed, then you can count on me—but until you have proven to me that you can I will associate with you, but not align.”

Thom stood as well, setting down his unfinished glass. “I understand, Moff Voelkers—perfectly.”

“I knew you would, General. What are you going to do about Zsinj by the way?”

The old general frowned. “I cannot just shoot his ambassador—you are certain that he is going to demand material support?”

“I am. That was the reason for the meeting—he is claiming jurisdiction over our sectors in his Oversector. And he wants support for the war he is waging on the Rebels. Support in the form of ships and men that you will need later, General.”

“He is far enough away that he will not probably respond to a rebuff—but he is prideful and arrogant enough to feel like he must respond. I—We—do not need him nosing around this section of the Outer Rim. Perhaps it might be time to ‘leak’ the route of his emissary’s ship to the Rebels.”

“If you trust them to do the job, General. I do not.”

“Well, Biram, that all depends on one’s definition of ‘Rebels’, now doesn’t it?”

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-05-10 08:17pm
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Please post more! This story is good enough that it brought me out of my multi-year lurk mode.



Falkenhorst

BOTM 15.Nov.02

Post #114 @ Fri Oct 18, 2002 4:44 pm

"I've had all that I wanted of a lot of things I've had
And a lot more than I needed of some things that turned out bad"

-Johnny Cash, "Wanted Man"

UPF: CARNIVAL OF RETARDS

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-05-10 09:57pm
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He will soon. MA posted in SB that his Great Aunt died and he's taking time for that.

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-05-26 07:05pm
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Well, my muse for this story has slipped away, gentlemen. I will try to return to it, but I can make no promises. In the meantime, I will be adding a (completed) story that I cranked out in forty (yes, 4-0) days.

Master Arminas

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-05-31 08:02am
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Aw damn. Just when it was getting good. I'll read your other story but I'm disappointed now. Sorry to hear about your Aunt by the way. Anyway watch out because I might keep pestering you now and then trying to get you to write more. I know how it is to have your motivation come and go but this story is shaping up really well and I'd love to see it continued at some point. Great Work!



Falkenhorst

BOTM 15.Nov.02

Post #114 @ Fri Oct 18, 2002 4:44 pm

"I've had all that I wanted of a lot of things I've had
And a lot more than I needed of some things that turned out bad"

-Johnny Cash, "Wanted Man"

UPF: CARNIVAL OF RETARDS

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-11 06:42pm
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Chapter Seven, Cont.

Thom Patrice stood emotionlessly on the bridge of Ascension as he watched ship after ship exit hyperspace in the distance. He turned at the sounds of boot heels on the deck plating and nodded at Abril Jonas. “Zsinj sent rather more ships than I would have thought,” he said softly.

And Abril nodded. “Sensors confirm a Tector, two Imperators, four Victorys, a Gladiator, and two of the new Procursator-class Star Destroyers . . . plus escorts.”

“Ten Star Destroyers . . . he is sending me a message, Commodore.”

The Imperial officer snorted. “He is sending everyone a message, Moff Patrice by dispatching one hundred ships for this meeting. That he is a power with whom to be reckoned. Not merely directed you, but at the Ruling Council on Coruscant as well.”

“True, Commodore. I wonder, however, how much he thinned his own defenses in order to send this many of his ships so far away.”

“Does it matter? Cyralis cannot take advantage of that . . . and he has us outnumbered more than six to one.”

Thom chuckled. “At least he is not attempting to englobe us—and if I am not mistaken, he did not bring any Interdictors with him.”

“You are correct, my Moff. We can run for hyperspace if we must . . . and I have issued orders for every ship to keep their hyperdrives on standby with coordinates entered for the emergency rendezvous point.”

The old general turned around and smiled at the younger naval officer. “Commodore Jonas, you really must work on letting your anxiety show . . . it does not suite a flag officer.”

“I will do better, Moff Patrice,” Abril said solemnly, and Thom chuckled again as a junior communications officer approached the two with a message board. Abril took the board and skimmed the message before he dismissed the crewman. “Vice Admiral Weisse, representing Grand Moff Zsinj, has graciously deigned to come aboard your flagship, my Moff. He will be arriving via shuttle in fifteen minutes.”

“Excellent. Let us prepare to receive the good Admiral. Send the signal.”

“At once, my Moff.”

****************************************************

Kell Morvin smiled as he read the list of ships and (more importantly) the commanding officers of those ships which had rendezvoused with Patrice. He highlighted a dozen names and deleted the rest before handing back the message pad to his communications officer. “Establish a ship-to-ship encrypted conference link to the following vessels via the hypercomm, Karl. I do believe that I will use my flagship’s conference room for this meeting—have the signal transferred there. Quickly now . . . we haven’t much time.”

“At once, Admiral.”

****************************************************

Vice-Admiral Jon Weisse marched into the flag briefing room aboard Ascension. A rather portly officer, he carried a swagger stick in one hand and an expression of displeasure and frustration upon his face. That expression did not change as Thom and Abril stood in greeting.

“I am the personal representative of Grand Moff Zsinj . . . and yet, I am not greeted upon the flight deck by the men whom I have travelled so very far to speak with? You dishonor yourselves and the Imperial Fleet, gentlemen!”

“Well,” Thom answered with a crooked smile, “being as I am not a member of the Imperial Fleet and Commodore Jonas was acting upon my instructions, I fail to see how that might be the case. Welcome aboard Ascension, Vice-Admiral Weisse.”

Weisse snorted and he stepped down the short flight of stairs to stand behind his chair. “I know men like you Patrice—drummed out of the service in disgrace. It was the only luck which the Rebels had at Endor that brought you out of retirement—bear in mind, you have no friends left in the Empire. And your actions have caused many, including Grand Moff Zsinj to question your motives.”

“My actions have been to secure Cyralis in the name of the Empire—and they have been endorsed at the highest levels by the Ruling Council.”

Weisse shrugged and he took a seat. “An illegal ruling council, that rules in name only. Grand Moff Zsinj, however, was personally appointed to his command of Over-Sector Quelli by Palpatine himself!”

“Yes,” Thom agreed. “He was . . . but in case it has escaped your attention, Cyralis lies within Over-Sector Outer . . . not Quelli.”

The visiting dignitary inhaled sharply and then he laid his swagger stick upon the surface of the polished table. “Details, Moff Patrice—those are mere details. Grand Moff Zsinj has the legitimacy of being appointed by the Emperor. And he is seeking to unite the entire Outer Rim as part of his command. You have been chosen, honored, rather, to provide the Quelli Sector Fleet with the following ships, troops, and supplies.”

Thom raised one eyebrow as Weisse slid a tablet across the table. He perused the contents and then handed it to Abril, who likewise read it. “It is such an honor indeed to be requested to donate fully one in five of the capital ships and trained soldiers assigned to Cyralis and Lamaredd to the cause of Zsinj. Regretfully, I must decline to be so honored, Vice-Admiral.”

Decline? Patrice, you do not want to make an enemy of Grand Moff Zsinj. Nor should you wish to make one of me . . . it is well within my purview to remove you from office and appoint a more tractable officer in your place.”

“The Imperial Ruling Council might well take exception at that—so would my forces, Vice-Admiral Weisse.”

“Coruscant is far away, as are your forces. Nothing can prevent your destruction if I choose to order it, Patrice.”

“And so it comes to threats, Sir. I shall not be threatened, not by you or by your master. I serve the Empire. Not some corpulent Warlord who has taken it upon himself to expand the realms over which he was entrusted with command,” Thom said as he stood. “Who ignores the lawful orders of the Director Isard and the Ruling Council, who has extended to the Rebel Alliance an offer of truce should they ignore his territory and concentrate instead upon the legitimate government of the Empire. No, sir. I shall not bend my knee to Zsinj or any other usurper of power.”

“Then you will die,” Weisse snapped as he stood and picked up his swagger stick. He turned to leave, but the sight of four Shock Troopers with their rifles raised and trained upon him stopped him cold.

“Not today, Vice-Admiral Weisse. Commodore Jonas . . . send the signal.”

“Transmitting now, Moff Patrice.”

“Signal? What signal?”

Thom smiled and he pointed out the bay windows as dozens, scores, hundreds of starships suddenly emerged from hyper-space. Weisse’s swollen face went white with shock.

“You must have stripped your sector bare! Are you insane?”

“Vice-Admiral Weisse, I fear that your information on the forces available to High Admiral Morvin and myself is somewhat . . . dated. As you can see from the nearly three dozen Star Destroyers arrayed surrounding your command, not to mention their escorts. This is not even one-quarter of the ships which answer at my command,” Thom bluffed with a chuckle. “Ships entrusted to me by Director Isard to secure Over Sector Outer for the Empire. You threaten not one Moff, Vice-Admiral Weisse. Zsinj threatens not just one Moff and one Sector—he threatens the Empire. Bear in mind that our forces—Director Isard’s forces—still far outnumber your own before you issue any more threats against us.”

Weisse’s jaw worked, but not sounds emerged. And Thom shook his head. “Go. Tell your master that he will receive nothing from Cyralis, from Lamaredd, from Pelgrin and Bitrose and Gaulus and a score more Sectors that owe our allegiance to Coruscant. Nothing except our turbolaser bolts and concussion missiles should he come looking for a fight.”

The visiting officer jumped as a squadron of TIE Avengers streaked past the windows, followed by a second, and then a third, and then two dozen more. “Oh yes,” said Thom quietly. “Zaarin was not the only one with the specifications for that design. Tell Zsinj to play in his own sandbox, lest he face not just Cyralis but the combined might of the Empire.”

Thom nodded at the Shock Troopers who took the Vice-Admiral by his arms and led him away from the flag briefing room, and back to his shuttle.

Abril grinned as he listened to the whispers of an earbug communicator. “Admiral Morvin confirms that Zsinj’s ships are powering down their weapons, Moff Patrice. And he reports that his recruitment efforts have been . . . fruitful.”

“Well done, Kell, well done,” Thom whispered. He sat back down and flicked a communications key. “Thank you Biram, and you as well Moff Krandor. I owe both of you immensely for bringing your vessels here.”

Yes, yes you do,” Biram’s voice came over the speaker. “But we will discuss just how much later. I do believe we have managed to take the wind of Weisse’s sails, though. Zsinj may still seek to avenge this slight against him, you know.”

“Aye, that he might, Moff Voelkers. But if he holds off for another two or three years, that is enough of a victory for me today. And while he has nearly two hundred Star Destroyers at his command, he has need of them far closer to home than our region of space. Soon enough, his ambitions will run right against those of the Rebels, and when that happens, Zsinj will not have time to spare us any more thought.”

Thom stood again and he moved to stand beside the windows where he watched as those distant ships began to enter hyperspace and streak away, far away from Cyralis. But not all departed and Thom Patrice smiled. “How many, Abril?”

“An Imperator, both Procursators, two Victorys, and around twenty-four lesser ships have requested permission to join the Cyralis Fleet, my Moff,” the Commodore answered with a broad smile.

“Oh, thank you Kell Morvin,” Thom chuckled softly. “Tell them permission granted,” the Moff of Cyralis answered as the ships from Pelgrin and Bitrose began to depart in turn. “Permission granted.”

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-11 07:01pm
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The Procursator-class Star Destroyer is one of fractal sponges designs. It is a Light Star Destroyer (1200m in length) no-frills design with three freaking huge turbolaser turrets! Other than that, I don't have any specs on the ship, but she is a beauty and I decided to add a couple to the Cyralis Fleet.

MA

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-11 07:52pm
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Chapter Seven (cont.)

Mal Galen shook his head. “She will realize this has been altered, Moff Patrice. The Director has the finest slicers in the galaxy at her disposal.”

Thom laughed, and then he took a sip of his whiskey. “You misunderstand me, Director Galen. I do not want the data altered in the slightest . . . I want it protected from alteration.”

Mal frowned and he shook his head. “She may take exception to your claims that she appointed you in command of Over Sector Outer, Moff Patrice.”

“Did I actually say that?”

“No, but you certainly implied it rather heavily.”

“Yes. And Isard realizes that having a loyal subject, such as myself,” Thom said as he pointed his hands at his own chest, “is well worth not getting upset over a few white lies that serve her government. Send her the complete, unaltered logs of my meeting with Weisse. She might . . . appreciate how little Zsinj and his people think about her and the Ruling Council. And she will not be happy that he was here, attempting to poach on Sectors loyal to her.” In name, Thom thought, and only for as long as she manages to survive. "Oh, and be sure to include your intelligence assessment of the upcoming shipment of half of our monthly starfighter production to the Core. Let her know as well that I am mulling over sending her several refitted ships from the Tanis boneyard . . . Vainglorious-class cruisers and the like. They will soon be serviceable, if not too impressive.”

“And the crews for those ships?”

“Kell’s acquaintances from Zsinj’s forces have enough of their officers and crew who want to return to Imperial service instead of staying here. They will crew those ships to Coruscant.”

“Should I mention that you have collected nearly another thirty capital ships for yourself as well?”

“Really, Director Galen? We shouldn’t overload the Director with information, now should we?”

“Of course not, Moff Patrice,” Mal answered with a thin grin. Which evaporated as he sighed. “I am worried about this bounty on your head—two million credits is quite sizeable. We managed to arrest another four bounty hunters on Cyralis just before your return. There could be more that slipped through the net.”

Thom shrugged. “No one thought this would be either easy or safe, Director Galen. Have you managed to back-trace the source of this bounty through the Hutts?”

“Not so far, but my agents are pursuing it.”

“And that other issue?”

“She has agreed to meet with you face to face in four weeks time. Are you certain you want to do this? If Director Isard discovers this, she will move heaven and earth to see you destroyed.”

“Risks must be taken. And if we cannot show the New Republic that Cyralis and Lamaredd and Bitrose and Gaulus and Pelgrin are different from the Empire that they are fighting, then they will come here. Not tomorrow, perhaps not even next year, but they will come. I don’t mind getting into a scrap or two with them, but if we can avoid that entirely, and continue to build up this region of space . . . in a decade, Mal, we will be a power which they cannot conquer.”

“We do not have a decade, Moff Patrice.”

“No. That is why we must have this meeting NOW. So that she can convince the others we are different from the Empire of Vader and Palpatine; that we are not hell-bent on conquering the galaxy and enslaving all other lifeforms under our rule. Speaking of which, how has our covert support of the rebels on Ryloth fared?”

“The Twi’leks were grateful for those E-11 blasters you sent them . . . not to mention the tons of other supplies and equipment. But they were also puzzled at the conflict in your statement that no lifeform deserves a life of enslavement and your refusal to openly support them . . . only covertly. I think they fear you are using them at the worst and being hypocritical at the best.”

“It is a legitimate fear, Director Galen. I cannot openly support them at this time. Ryloth remains an Imperial world, and were I to do so, Isard would once again have my head. But I will continue to funnel used arms, explosives, equipment, and funds to them in their fight for freedom—make certain they know of my stance on that. The Twi’leks are the most populous race in the entire galaxy, and if they become aware—in the future—that it was I, Thom Patrice, who gave them the means to earn their own freedom, they might stand up for Cyralis against the more . . . malignant species out there that desire nothing more than see humanity suffer for Palpatine's sins.”

Mal nodded. “You are playing the long game, but should one card turn against you . . .” he shrugged.

And Thom nodded. “Can’t be helped. We must take this chance now for it will not come again. Just make damned certain that our pipeline into the Twi’lek rebel camp stays blacker than a singularity.”

“It will be done, Moff Patrice,” and Mal Galen laughed. “You know, you might just manage to provoke a confrontation between Isard and Zsinj with this message.”

“I am counting on that, Director Galen. Or it is best to say, hoping for it, at the least.” And Thom raised his whiskey glass one last time.

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-12 12:35am
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Yay! It's back!

That said, most of Patrice's enemies are as one-dimensional as- well, as the typical villains one sees in Kevin J. Anderson's works (no offense intended). It would help to have scenes focusing on said enemies, to develope their characters and give them motivations beyond greed, wounded pride, and sadism. An ultranationalist, perhaps?



Please do not make Americans fight giant monsters.

Those gun nuts do not understand the meaning of "overkill," and will simply use weapon after weapon of mass destruction (WMD) until the monster is dead, or until they run out of weapons.

They have more WMD than there are monsters for us to fight. (More insanity here.)

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-12 11:36am
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Oh this was a wonderful find after being away for the weekend. Thom Patrice and Kell Morvin being their usual cunning and highly competent selves.

I do hope this signals the permenant or at least-semi-permenant return of this fic and that this isn't just a teaser.



"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams" - Hamlet

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-12 11:36pm
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Chapter Eight

Ran Karyda stood as two men was ushered into the spacious office of Corellian Engineering Corporation’s (Ord Tanis Division) newest Orbital Shipyards. “Moff Patrice . . . it is an honor to finally meet you in person,” he said as he offered the older balding man his hand and shook it warmly. “And this must be High Admiral Morvin. It is a pleasure, Sir.”

The office had been fully restored to its former glory of the days during the Old Republic when this shipyard and foundry had produced scores of ships to fight against the Sith Empire. Ran shook his head ruefully; he would have rather his engineers spent their time working on the construction yards and manufacturing equipment, while he supervised from one of the two Haven-class Mobile Repair Vessels which were working on systems around the clock. But the commanders of those ships had wanted Ran out of their hair, and they had made certain that the command center had been among the first compartments to be restored to service. And it was, Ran had to admit, breath-taking. His office had 270-degree panoramic bay windows that allowed him to see the hustle and bustle of the tens of thousands of workers swarming over the old yards. And while Marta had not been impressed with the living quarters, she had quickly found a rather expensive home on Cyralis itself and was becoming a major social figure on the Sector capital. She had been surprised as how these . . . provincials . . . had reacted to the presence of a high-society woman such as herself from the Core. Although she would never admit to Ran, she was enjoying herself out here. So, too, was Ran himself. It had been a long time since he had thrown himself so fully into a project, and the future profits from CEC-Cyralis all but assured him a seat on the Board in the future.

“Master Karyda,” Thom said with a wide grin. “Your men wasted no time at all getting this place back up and running—when will you be ready to start new production?”

Ran laughed. “We are still months away from that, Moff Patrice. Right now, we making certain all the equipment is functional, making repairs, ensuring that the bays are clear of all obstructions and debris, and restocking empty parts lockers. That being said, we are almost ten days ahead of schedule at the moment, and I have already given the commander of Invictus a heads-up that we can begin her restoration within a week.”

Kell smiled and he nodded. “It will be good to get that Venator operational and on active duty service, Master Karyda. Four months is the estimated time to get her turned-out?”

“Yes, High Admiral. We estimate twelve weeks from the day we begin restorations to completion. And I understand from Madame Ofar that the starfighter facilities planetside are now in full production,” he shook his head in amazement. “She is talking about producing almost eight hundred of your new Avengers and Scimitars each month, plus another hundred or so Starwing Gunboats. And that’s only in the one factory complex she has managed to get running again! You’ve got another three down making small arms, and body armor, and AT-ATs, and artillery pieces, and repulsor-tanks, and the Sith only know what else. Moff Patrice, when this system gets fully on-line, you are going to be making money hand-over-fist.”

“Well, that isn’t exactly my top priority, Master Karyda,” Thom answered with a chuckle.

“Where are my manners?” Ran asked. “Please sit,” he said pointing to a circle of chairs around a small table. “Drinks, gentlemen?”

“Thank you, no, Master Karyda,” answered Kell. “We—the two of us—wanted to present you with a few questions.”

“Ah, yes,” replied Ran. “And you said you wanted one of our senior engineers present.” He leaned down and pressed a stub built into the table. “Marthe, could you send in the Master Shipwright?”

The hatch slid open and an older man—not quite as old as Thom, but not as young as Kell or Ran—entered the room. “Gentlemen, this is Master Shipwright Joram Jayne—we call him JJ for obvious reasons,” Ran finished with a chuckle. “JJ, may I introduce Moff Thom Patrice and High Admiral Kell Morvin.”

Greetings were exchanged all around and the four men sat down once more.

“Your show, Kell. I am here so that Master Karyda knows this is authorized at the highest levels,” Thom said as he sat back.

The Admiral cleared his throat and he leaned forward. “Master Jayne, are you the same Joram Jayne who worked on CEC Project SD-23174b?”

The shipwright chuckled. “Aye, that was my baby from beginning to end.”

“Good. I read your technical journal on this proposed design . . . I realize that CEC is famous for producing fast and maneuverable ships, but can you really get the acceleration and maneuverability of a Carrack-class in a Star Destroyer? Admittedly, a small Star Destroyer, but she’s definitely worthy of that title.”

“Aye, the Strident-class will be able to keep pace with a Carrack, Admiral. She half-way between a Victory and an Imperator in size, lacks ground troops, only carries two squadrons of fighters, but she has plenty of guns and she is—or would have been—one of the most maneuverable capital ships available to the Imperial Fleet.”

Ran frowned. “I’ve never heard of the Strident Project?”

The shipwright chuckled. “You weren’t involved Master Karyda in the warship side of CEC. It is all theoretical anyway, as the Empire decided it wasn’t the direction they wanted to go. Instead they went with upgrading the Imperators to the Block II class . . . and wasting their money on so-called ‘super’ Star Destroyers. All built by KDY, of course, for ten times what ours would have cost.”

Kell grinned. “I always considered CEC’s capital ships to be the finest in the Imperial Fleet—and I was heart-broken when they decided against Project SD-23174b. Which is why we—the two of us—were wondering, can CEC Cyralis produce this ships? Here, at the Ord Tanis Fleet Yards?”

Ran’s jaw dropped, even as JJ slowly nodded. “We retain the design in our files, Admiral. We could produce them, but the Empire has rejected them.”

“Well, we are distant sector and these ships are only meant for use here . . . for defensive purposes, of course. And they will take less time to build and outfit than a full-scale Imperator, no?”

“On that you are quite right—if I even had the design schematics for an Imperator. KDY keeps that data close at hand.”

“How quickly could you manufacture them?”

Now JJ frowned and he slowly nodded. “Thirty-six months from keel-laying to launch; another four-to-six to work up for service. There are a dozen slips large enough to accommodate a Stri- . . .”

“We will come up with a better name than that, Master Jayne,” Kell interrupted.

“As you wish, you are the customer. We could work on a dozen at a time . . . so we are looking at twelve every three and years. If we stagger the initial production . . . one new ship every three months. But these vessels are not cheap. Not by far.”

“I did not presume that they would be, Master Jayne,” growled Thom as he sat forward with a groan. “Kell, are we going to need these?”

“I believe that we are my Moff. We need some heavy ships to replace the inevitable losses we are going to suffer in this War—and we cannot depend on replacements coming in from the Core.”

Thom nodded. “Very good. Master Karyda, will CEC build our Fleet for us?”

Ran licked his lips. He stared at the other three men—but there was no Board out here for him to ask permission of. No, he was in charge. At last he nodded. “Provided that you come up with the funds—in advance, in hard currency—we will build your ships. Any kind of ships you want.”

The Moff laughed. “Master Karyda, I do enjoy doing business with you . . . and I hope to continue doing business for years to come. Now, shall we start haggling over how much you plan to skin me for those ships?”

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-13 12:11am
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Technically, CEC's Strident-class is a Star Defender, not a Star Destroyer. There is some debate over how big she is, but she wasn't produced until the New Republic era. I have moved that up and made her smaller (around 1200-1300 meters). There is a great picture of her, Strident-class on that site. Not too much detail, and can't tell how many guns, but she looks good.

I've seen esimates ranging from 1.6 km to 8.6 km for the Strident-class. But I always questioned why the New Republic would built such huge ships . . . they didn't rely on the Tarkin doctrine after all.

Anyway, this is the design that Cyralis will be producing for future SDs.

MA

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-13 08:35pm
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Chapter Eight (cont.)

“They apparently have learned to march well . . . but can they fight? Will they fight?” Thom asked the Quarren standing beside him on the reviewing stand as rank of after of Bothan and Mon Calamari and Quarren and Sullustans and countless other species saluted the dignitaries as they passed in formation.

A thin hiss emerged from the mass of tentacles that made up face of Lyras Sho-kael, the first commander of the Cyralis Legion. Until the overthrow of Moff Osar, Lyras had been a slave laboring within the underwater mines of ORO-Corp here on Lamaredd . . . but under the new regime he had rapidly rose to the point where he had been given command over the ten thousand volunteers who comprised this, the first formation of the Cyralis Sector built exclusively from non-humans. Thom grinned as he recognized the laughter of the Quarren people.

“Try and take away their guns, Moff Patrice, and you will learn how well they can fight. Their distant cousins have shown the Empire their courage and valor in years of Rebellion, and here now, this Legion has taken up their arms to serve you. Only because of your actions in making them free under the law—of ending the persecution of Palpatine.” Lyras turned his eyes back to the sentients marching below him and his mouth tentacles quivered. “They will remain loyal as long as you finish what you have begun—they will fight for you to resist seeing their families put back in chains . . . although there are some who ask why they should serve any remnant of the Empire, and not the New Republic instead?”

Thom snorted. “The New Republic hasn’t even sent any forces here to Lamaredd . . . not even a scout to investigate Osar’s mad reign; putting their faith in the New Republic will see their hopes dashed. No, Lyras, they do their people best by agreeing to serve here, as part of my forces intent on defending our worlds in Cyralis and Lamaredd. And they would be far worse off if I were replaced with someone appointed by Isard or Zsinj . . . and ORO-Corp returned to reclaim their lost property.”

“I am well aware of that, Moff Patrice,” Lyras answered. “And so are many of those who march below. Most of those below, in fact,” the Quarren paused and he looked Thom straight into the eyes. “And of those on Ryloth would feel the same, I do believe. If the rumors I have heard from Twi’lek refugees are true.”

Thom chuckled. “Come now, Lyras. I am a loyal officer of the Empire, acting only to preserve the peace and prosperity in my Sector.”

“Yes. Remind me again . . . was Lamaredd within your Sector when you came here to stop Osar from killing twenty billion sentient beings?”

Thom did not answer; he did not have to answer. Lyras shrugged. “Isard and the Ruling Council have yet to appoint a new Moff to replace Norian . . . and it is strange how much the Gaulus Sector Fleet and Army has shrunk these past months—and conversely that Cyralis, Bitrose, and Pelgrin have grown. Of course, with the bleeding ulcer that Ryloth has become at the heart of Gaulus, it is not surprising that so many of Norian’s former officers desired . . . safer posts. Where they need not be concerned of having their enemies—or their own troops—roll a thermal detonator into their sleeping quarters.” Once again, the thin hiss of Quarren laughter sounded.

The Moff of Cyralis and Lamaredd shook his head sadly. “Unfortunately, Isard has appointed a replacement—who will be arriving quite soon with a sizeable Fleet and ground force contingent. She has surprised me in this, for her new Moff is no mere syphocant, but a very, very dangerous man.”

The Quarren merely raised two tentacles—the equivalent of a human lifting his eyebrow—and Thom chuckled bitterly. “Maximilian Veers—you do know of whom I speak?”

Lyras looked down at the ground and this time his hiss held no laughter at all. “Yes. I thought his injuries sustained in the Battle of Hoth had resulted in his dismissal from the Army?”

“No, he lost both legs, but he is still capable of command. It was only luck that made him absent from the Battle of Endor—had he been in command of those Legions on the surface, the Empire might not be in the dire straits it is today. But he is virtually a pariah—not many are willing to forgive him for his service under Vader’s command . . . or the fact that he survives and neither Vader nor Palpatine managed to do the same.”

“Veers . . . the rebels on Ryloth have not faced anyone of his quality—or competence.”

“No. And that, General Sho-Kael, does not bode well for the Twi’leks.”

Both men were silent as another company passed in review beneath them. And Thom shook his head. “I had not expected her to do this, but Isard is full of surprises, Lyras. I think that perhaps she is sending Veers—and the reinforcements meant for Gaulus—to keep a watchful eye on me.”

“And if that surprises you, Moff Patrice, perhaps you should be checked for signs of early senility.”

Thom laughed. “No, it does not surprise me, that she would send someone out here to keep me under a watchful eye—only the man she chose to appoint does. If those rumors concerning Ryloth are true,” and Thom smiled at the Quarren, “then we will need to redouble our efforts at concealing our tracks. If, of course, they are true. Which they are not.”

“Of course, they cannot be true, Moff Patrice. No loyal Imperial officer—human or otherwise—would dare do such a thing.”

Thom laid his hand on the amphibian General of his newest Legion and he nodded. “Make certain the next unit we deploy there consists only of volunteers,” he whispered. “Ryloth is about to get a good deal more dangerous that we expected.”

Just as quietly, the Quarren answered with a blink of his two saucer shaped eyes. “They are all volunteers—and they are willing to continue helping the Twi’leks gain their freedom.”

“Good,” Thom answered, as the last unit passed the reviewing stand, slotted itself into place, and all ten thousand of the aliens standing below assumed a position of parade rest. “Good. And I do believe that your Legion has exceeded my expectations, General Sho-Kael.”

“And that means, my dear Moff Patrice, that it is time for your speech,” Lyras said with another sibilant hiss of laughter. “Remember, you too are only mortal.”

“Quiet you,” Thom whispered as he stepped forward to the microphone.

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-15 12:23am
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I am experiencing some really major computer issues, so updates will be catch as catch can for the immediate future. I am on a borrowed laptop at the moment as mine has completely quit functioning.

MA

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-23 08:51pm
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Command Phoen Nem of the Adamant-class frigate Cavalier frowned as he considered—for the tenth time that morning!—simply turning his vessel around and jumping back into Cyralis space. The frigate, far from the size and power of a massive Star Destroyer, had just finished maneuvering into a parking orbit two hundred and forty kilometers distant from the . . . Nem shook his, it was too ramshakle to be considered a proper station! But, he swallowed his discomfort at the assignment and he turned away from the bridge bay windows to face the distinguished guest—his own Moff.

“Moff Patrice, we are in a stable parking orbit,” he licked his dry lips once, and then he sighed. “Can I not convince you to take more than a single squad of Shocktroopers as your security detail? My men will be standing by, but it will take time to launch a shuttle and ferry them across.”

“No, Commander, I gave my word that I would only have a small security detachement. You understand your orders?”

Nem drew himself up straight and he briskly—if unhappily—nodded. “Certainly, Moff Patrice. We are to intiate no hostile action unless we are fired upon. At least allow me to put a combat aerospace patrol on station, my Lord.”

Patrice considered for a moment, and then he nodded. “Four fighters, Commander—no more than that. And they are not to approach the station any closer than two hundred kilometers; is that understood?”

“Sir,” Nem replied as he jerked his chin to his executive officer who quickly passed along the order. “Since I cannot persuade you to change your plans, Moff Patrice, I have only to say that your shuttle is standing by.”

Thom laughed. “Commander, I have been shot at my entire life; the possibility that a bounty hunter after my head is aboard that station lying in ambush waiting for my arrival is rather remote, especially since my visit here is known only to a handful of trusted officers.”

“Perhaps not lying in ambush waiting for your arrival, Moff Patrice, but once word arises that you are, in person, with a very small security team, aboard that station, any bounty hunter already present might decide to collect that sizeable bounty upon your head. And I have not had the opportunity to make certain that station is clear of any resident evils. Sir.”

The old General smiled broadly. “Commander Nem, you are indeed a credit to the Imperial forces and I am lucky to have an officer of your caliber along on this mission. I’ll be fine, son. Trust me,” Thom looked out the bay windows. “Has the exodus started yet?”

“The moment we declared that we were an Imperial vessel and would be sending a shuttle across, my Lord. I do not believe they trust my statement that we are not here to, how does that phrase go, ah, yes . . . shake them down.”

“Good. The worst ones will have already fled, and the rest my detail can handle if it comes to it. Remain alert, Commander. Despite my having arranged this meeting, it could still wind up being a trap.”

Phoen Nem did not reply, but his expression told Thom clearly that he was thinking oh, really? The corner of the Moff’s lips quivered, but he resisted the urge to chuckle again. “And on that note, Commander, I will make my way to your shuttle bay.”

****************************************************

The passenger bay of the Lambda-class shuttle was silent and very spacious, for instead of forty-plus passengers, it held only Thom and a single squad of nine Shocktroopers. Each was, like he himself, clad from head to toe in the new Cyralis Shocktrooper armor; each suit a dull charcoal color rippling with irregular patterns of flat non-reflective black, with no colorful highlights for the enemy to target. Eight of the troopers were seated as the ninth walked from one man to the next, chatting quietly with him and double-checking the equipment each trooper carried; Thom just watched as the ninth man sat back down across from the Moff.

“Sergeant Gare Devalis,” he said softly and the shocktrooper sat up a bit straighter.

“Sir,” the faceless trooper barked through the helmet.

“So how did Admiral Morvin, General Ise, and Colonel Camlaan pick you exactly to command my security detail?”

If the trooper was dismayed at the question, his armor and helmet hid that from Thom. “Sir, it is an honor for any Shocktrooper to be selected as the personal guard of the Imperial Moff. Sir.”

“A great honor, and that wasn’t the question I asked, Sergeant,” Thom said as he leaned forward. “I read your file . . . cited four times for bravery under fire beyond that required of a Storm trooper, you have several glowing recommendations for your attention to the needs of your own squad . . . and two dozen official reprimands for . . . excessive initiative and lack of proper respect to the leaders and ideals of the New Order. Strangely enough, it was Vader himself who saved you from a firing squad. So tell me the truth, Gare Devalis, how was that you were chosen to command my personal guard?”

Thom swore he could see the man squirm, despite the armor and he smiled. But at last, the Shocktrooper sighed and he leaned forward. “I drew the short straw, Moff Patrice.”

“Excuse me?”

“We Shocktroopers figure there is about a 50-50 chance you are going to get shot at in that station, if not stabbed, burnt, eaten away with corrosive chemicals, exploded, frozen in carbonite, and or cut in half by a light-saber. So out of the Shock Company that Colonel Camlaan selected for this assignment, Captain Lorne asked for volunteers. We, the squad leaders that is, we drew straws; I drew the short straw. Sir.”

Thom began to laugh, a deep rolling belly laugh as the pitch of the repulsorlifts altered in preparation for landing. “Good enough, son. Good enough,” he said as he placed his own helmet on his head and sealed it tight.

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-24 07:09pm
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The hanger of the station was quiet and mostly empty . . . those few sentients who remained behind kept out of sight as the Imperial troopers descended the ramp.

“Five, Eight,” Gare commanded, “stay with the shuttle.”

Thom looked at the Shocktrooper beside him, and he heard the Sergeant sigh into his commlink. “My Lord, if this is a trap, having nine men instead of seven will do absolutely nothing. However, trap or not, leaving the shuttle behind unguarded is not a wise idea on this kind of station. It would be a simple matter for someone to plant a bomb or a tracking beacon and we would be none the wiser.”

“The crew is aboard, Sergeant,” the Moff said . . . but his tone was one of consideration.

“Yes, Sir. And they will stay aboard as per standing orders—sensors are not the same as eyes, and I trust the eyes of my squad-mates far more than the shuttle’s sensor arrays.”

Thom—identical to the other Shocktroopers in appearance—nodded. “Approved. Let us get . . .” but he was interupted.

“Begging your pardon, my Lord, but I was not asking for approval. I am in command of this security detail until relieved . . . and that means the squad follows my instructions whether or not they meet with your approval. Don’t like it, Sir, get another squad.”

Thom blinked and then he chuckled. “Sergeant, I believe I like you. Yes, I do like you and how you think. I will be reassigning your squad to my permanent guard; yes, that will do nicely.”

Gare stopped and he sighed again, then he shook his head. “One, lead us off—keep your eyes open, but do not start a confrontation if at all possible,” and Thom vaguely heard muttered cursing over the comm just at the lower limit of hearing. His lips twitched, but he said nothing.

The seven Shocktroopers and one amused Moff slowly made their way through the station’s corridors and tunnels . . . the denziens made certain to stay out of their path. Or at least they did until the Imperial entered a small junction. Two dozen smugglers, pirates, and scoundrels surrounded them, but the Shocktroopers were not surprised and they had their weapons raised.

“Hold!” commanded Gare. “Citizens, we are none of your concern—back off now, and none of you will be injured or killed.”

“And why would we do that, Imp?” said one scarred human holding a blaster pistol.

Gare shifted his aim to the speaker and he laughed. “Three reasons, scum. First, we are on Imperial business, and today you and your affairs are not the reason we are present—unless you make those affairs our business. And none of you will care for the results of that mistake. Stand down, and we will issue no inquiries about what laws you have broken, or what crimes you have committed in the past.”

“Second, we are in constant communication with our ship. If those communications cease, she will utterly and completely destroy this facility within moments—none of you will survive, nor will anyone else on this station.”

“Third,” and Gare smiled within his helmet as he settled his targeting crosshairs directly on the bridge of the nose of the leader of the gang, “third, if you do plan on starting a dance, citizen, rest assured that you personally will be the very first one to die here today.”

The human licked his lips, but he didn’t back down. “Just leave, Imps—we don’t want your kind here.”

“Not gonna happen, scum,” said Gare, and he squeezed the trigger sending a blast bolt through the skull of the leader, shifting his rifle to a second target. “You die next, if all of you don’t back off now.”

“Chubba!” the Sullustan Gare’s rifle was now aimed at swore. But he was sweating heavily—all of the gang members were as they realized just how willing to kill the Shocktroopers were. “Your business isn’t our business—I think we have a misunderstanding here. Back away, boys, back away.”

“Misunderstanding?” asked Gare. “Sure, I will put it down as a misunderstanding—as long as your people stay well away from mine until our business is done. Otherwise, I will bring the other two hundred and forty-nine of my friends across. Understood?”

“Understood,” the Sullustan whispered, as he holstered his pistol and held up his empty hands. “Clearly, Imp.”

Gare gestured to one side with the rifle, and the Sullustan ducked back into a hatch and vanished, with the rest of the gang scrambling in his wake.

“I thought we were not starting confrontations, Sergeant?” Thom asked.

“They started it; I finished it. Of course, once your business is complete, I would like to request permission to come back over here and teach these scum a little bit of respect. Sir.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Be a good live-fire exercise for the boys,” Gare continued as the point moved out once again.

“I said I’ll think about it!”

“Just saying, your Lordship.”

And Thom headed down the labyrinthine maze of tunnels surrounded by the troopers without saying another word.

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-24 09:10pm
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Finally, the Imperials arrived at the main promenade of the station. The large open three-level compartment was packed with men and women of every possible species—all of whom gave the Imperials a wide berth. Thom pointed to the entrance of a cantina and carefully, the troopers made their way through the crowd, their weapons held pointed towards the deck, but ready to be raised on a moment’s notice.

The illumination within was dim, but the music was loud . . . until the live band playing came to a thundering halt and scores of eyes locked unto the eight suits of armor. A Rodian walked over to the entrance and he bowed slightly. “You are expected; I will escort you to the reserved suite.”

“Have our other guests arrived, Master Pak?” Thom asked, and the Rodian nodded his snout.

“They await you within. Complete your business please, and then leave with all haste. My customers do not like Imperial . . . entanglements.”

The low growl of a Wookie sound an agreement to those words, but the troopers did not react, other than one keeping that very strong alien in his sight picture as they made their way through the interior. Along the back wall there was a short corridor, with three blast doors accessing the private rooms. The Rodian pointed at one. “There. There are no listening devices, I assure you.”

“Given the rates you are charging, Master Pak, there had best not be,” said Thom, who waited until one of the troopers opened the hatch and checked within. Behind them, the music once again started up in the cantina, and the trooper nodded, entering the compartment beyond.

It was quite bare, with only a small table in the center, three chairs placed around it—two of them occupied. Both by humans, a old man and a younger woman. Several more humans and aliens—Gungans, primarily—stood behind them, against the far wall, all of them armed.

“Three, scan for listening and recording devices—the full works,” Gare ordered as he stood beside the door. “Four and Seven, stand watch outside.”

The two troopers remained in the corridor and the blast door slid shut. One of the troopers circled the room, holding a small scanner in one hand—he made certain to scan each of the people already present as well. “Clean, sir.”

“I presume that one of you is General Patrice?” the woman asked as she stood; the man beside her also came to his feet.

Thom reached up and unsealed the helmet latches, and removed it. “You presume correct, Senator Naberrie.”

“By the Force,” breathed the old man, “it really is you, isn’t it? Thom Patrice, after all these years, still alive, old friend.”

“Carlist,” Thom greeted warmly, extending his hand to take that of the old Alderaanian. Then Thom’s face fell. “It would have been unwise to send you my condolences at the time, you understand.”

General Carlist Rieekan, one of the few veterans of the Clone Wars from Alderaan nodded as he shook Thom’s hand. “I do. Yes, Senator, this is Thom Patrice. General of the Republic, General of the Empire, and Moff of the Imperial Sectors of Cyralis and Lamaredd.”

Thom extended his hand to the chairs, and the woman sat, quickly followed by Thom and Carlist. She leaned forward. “You asked for this meeting . . . do you prefer General, Moff, or Thom?”

The old man chuckled. “For the moment, Senator, let us stay informal. Call me Thom.”

“And you may address me as Pooja, Thom. There has been no Senate for many years now, not since the Emperor dissolved it.”

“Yes, it was another miscalculation by that madman Palpatine; one of many that he made over the years, Pooja.” Thom smiled. “That name means Prayer of Hope in the old tongue of Naboo, yes?”

“Yes it does. And I was wondering, Thom, why you asked specifically for me—a former Senator from a world that is not in Rebellion, a woman with little political capital, to sit and discuss treason with?”

Thom laughed. “Please, Pooja, it is an ill-kept secret that your sensibilities lie squarely with the newly formed New Republic, despite what Moff Panaka and your Queen currently might desire. And do not sell yourself short, for it is my understanding, that you have the ear of Mon Mothma herself for events in this little corner of the galaxy. The Twi’leks on Ryloth speak highly of you, after all.”

The woman laughed as well. “And some very few, very high-ranking members of the Alliance to Restore the Republic on Ryloth do the same for you, Thom. Very well, have you come to discuss bringing your Sectors over to the side of Goodness and Galactic Liberty?”

“Not on your life,” Thom said with a grin. “Cyralis—and Lamaredd, and possible a few more Sectors—need to chart their own course. We will not be joining the New Republic, but neither are we part of Palpatine’s Empire.”

“No,” Carlist said shaking his head, “no, you would not be. You realize playing both ends against other can get you in a world of hurt from all directions?”

“Of course. But Cyralis is predominately human, Carlist. I am not going to open them up to potential sanctions because some Bothan gets his fur ruffled at what the Emperor did to them—or a Wookie. On the other hand, I am not going to crack down on aliens the way some racist Imperial leaders want; each sentient being should have the freedom to choose his way of life for himself. So, to answer your question, Pooja, I am here to get you to convey to Mon Mothma and her leadership an offer.”

“An offer?”

“The Rebellion and New Republic both stay out of the affairs of Cyralis—and our affiliated Sectors. In return, I will not launch any attacks on them. Further, I will ensure that any resident aliens are fairly treated with—as I have already done on Lamaredd and, as you know, Ryloth. My forces will be . . . unavailable . . . to either the Ruling Council or Zsinj or other Warlords, and I am prepared to allow a limited number of ships to be procured through CEC’s Ord Tanis facility for the Fleets of the New Republic and Rebellion. Perhaps even . . . refits and overhauls of ships.”

Pooja Naberrie sat back in her chair. “So basically, you want to be left alone. People do not tend to think highly of those who cannot choose a side, Thom.”

“Ah, but dear Pooja, I have chosen a side—my own. That of my people. And as a show of my good intentions, I have several ships which I will make available to . . . non-aligned worlds, such as New Alderaan. A few Hammerheads, a couple of Thantras, some Forays . . . older ships, but all of which are serviceable. For a quite reasonable price.”

“Older? Try ancient?” snorted Carlist.

“They work, Carlist. And no, they cannot take on a Star Destroyer by themselves, but they are available and ready for service—if you are interested. Plus, I have one more ship, but this one is not for sale. It is a gift to the people of New Alderaan—a War Frigate from the Clone Wars.”

Carlist Rieekan almost came out of his chair. “WHAT? Those were all destroyed, all but one that was subsequently lost!”

“Not all of them, it appears. Ord Tanis had one in mothballs—which my engineers have restored to her full Clone Wars specifications; she’s operational and needs just a crew.”

“Which one was she? And you are just giving us one of the most powerful ships of the Clone Wars?”

“I am, Carlist. And yes, we have her original name . . . Peace is our Profession,” Thom said with a chuckle. “And they say Alderaanians had no sense of humor!”

Both of the Rebel agents looked at each other and slowly Carlist nodded. Pooja did as well. “I will convey your message, Thom. Whether or not Mon Mothma chooses to accept your proposal . . . that I cannot say. I can tell you that she wants very much to see the complete dismantling of the Empire. And that includes such far-flung places as your own Cyralis.”

“And your Naboo, let us not forget that Moff Panaka has an entire full-strength Sector Group within the Chommell Sector. Six hundred capital warships, led by no fewer than two dozen Imperators and Tectors, along with one immense Bellator. Not to mention the scores of Legions currently garrisoning Naboo and the surrounding systems.”

“True, but Chommel lies in the Mid-Rim, far from your systems even if you were offering your help in freeing us.”

Thom chuckled again. “Not that far, Pooja. Although, I am not yet prepared to go to war with other Imperial factions—not yet. Hopefully, it will not come to that, but if it does, if the safety and security of Cyralis depends upon it; then the forces that I can assemble will astound the remainder of the Empire—and the New Republic. Remember, that while I want to be neutral for as long as I can be,” and Thom’s voice became very somber, very stern, “I would suggest that you remind Mon Mothma she does not want to make an enemy of me. She has enough of those as it is.”

Carlist winced, but Pooja just nodded at the bald statement. “I will pass that along, Thom. And I would remind you that Cyralis doesn’t need an active enemy at this point in time either. And it need not be Mon Mothma . . . a word in the ears of Isard, the leak of a document pointing to your collusion with Rebels, that is all that it would take for her to dispatch a Fleet—and divide our enemies.”

“True enough. But, you see there is one last thing I can do for Mon Mothma that Isard will never do for her.”

“Which is?”

“I can arrange for the death of Maximilian Veers,” Carlist blinked twice, the blood draining from his face, “before he crushes your Rebellion on Ryloth. Does that make me just a little bit more acceptable as a friend as opposed to an enemy? I’ll let her make that choice.”

Even Pooja inhaled sharply at that. “We had heard that Veers was being appointed as the new Moff of Gaulus . . . and it does concern us greatly. You can arrange to get to the man? His guards are very good Thom.”

“Mine are better, Pooja. Yes, I can get to Veers, and I can make certain that Veers dies. But only if Mon Mothma—and her senior leadership—agrees to leave Cyralis alone. It is kind of a quid-pro-quo deal, my dear.”

She stood. “I will be in contact, then, Thom Patrice. I have heard that the natural beauty of Cyralis is quite spectacular; surely none would question a loyal Imperial citizen travelling from one loyal Imperial world to another, would they?”

Thom—and Carlist—rose as well. “No, they shouldn’t. I will await your answer, Pooja Naberrie. Come visit me on Cyralis when you have it.”

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-26 07:53pm
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Not much to say but just wanted to mention that I'm enjoying reading this story, good work! :)



Marcus Aurelius: ...the Swedish S-tank; the exception is made mostly because the Swedes insisted really hard that it is a tank rather than a tank destroyer or assault gun
Ilya Muromets: And now I have this image of a massive, stern-looking Swede staring down a bunch of military nerds. "It's a tank." "Uh, yes Sir. Please don't hurt us."

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-27 05:23pm
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Thom hurried into the holographic communications chamber, tossing his overcoat to an aide before he stepped up onto the platform. From a certain point of view, he had been lucky . . . this transmission had arrived when he was just two minutes out from his landing pad. It would have been quite a different tale had she demanded his presence just a day earlier. Explaining his absence from Cyralis would have forced the old General to become rather . . . inventive. And Madame Isard no doubt suspected far too much for him to get her interested in investigating his quiet Sector along the rim.

The machinery hummed to life as Thom knelt on the pedestal and the massive holographic image of Ysanne Isard sprang into life looking down at him. Thom bowed low, keeping the smirk from appearing on his face—she certainly is fond of the Emperor’s ego-boosting setting, he thought. “You summoned me, Madame Director, and I am here, at your command.”

The tremendous floating head frowned. “I do not care to be kept waiting, Moff Patrice.”

The old general bowed low once more. “My sincerest apologies, Madame Director; I was conducting an inspection tour of troops assigned to my capital and away from the Palace when your communication came through—it shall not happen again.”

“See to it, Patrice,” she said as her eyes narrowed, and then she nodded and the harsh glare somewhat faded. “We have received the fighters and capital ships that you sent to the Ruling Council, here on Coruscant, Patrice. It is good that at least one of my Moffs remembers that his place is to serve the Empire—and not himself.”

“They were older ships, Madame Director, from the mothball storage at Ord Tanis; once the shipyards complete their refit, we should be able to send you more modern vessels.”

“Good. I fear that we will have need of them—have you received news of the Battle of Bogden, yet?”

“No, Madame Director, I have not,” Thom said as he searched his memory—and then it came to him. Bogden, the capital of the Bogden Sector, which was located in the Inner Rim along the Hydian Way; the system lay directly on the border between the territory controlled by the Ruling Council and that of Grand Moff Zsinj. And he nodded thoughtfully as he remembered why it had stuck in his memory. Bogden was home to a major Imperial Fleet Depot, one that dwarfed Ord Tanis even at its height during the Old Republic. Although not tasked with ship construction, the Bogden Fleet Base had hundreds of docking slips capable of executing repairs and maintenance on vessels the size of Imperator-class Star Destroyers or smaller. It’s immense orbital warehouses held megatons of spare parts, fuel, Tibana gas stores for turbo-lasers, ordnance, fuel, and provisions.

“The Fleet Depot; that was his objective, no?”

“It was. He sent in a sizeable force that requested priority access to the Yards and stores; Fleet Admiral Tal refused, of course—that facility is for loyal ships only. The acrimony between Tal and Admiral Arlamistral escalated,” she paused and then she nodded. “It is possible that Zsinj did not set out to provoke a crisis, I have viewed the transcripts and the confrontation between these two men suggested something personal at stake. But once the shooting began, Zsinj sent reinforcements—three hundred ships were involved upon both sides, and much of the Depot has been damaged severely. The Ruling Council cannot allow this affront to go unanswered.”

“No, Madame Director—that would be unwise to be certain,” Thom mused and then he looked directly into the two odd-colored eyes that stared down at him and smiled. “Send Zsinj a message, Madame Director, that the Ruling Council wishes for him to step down as head of the Quelii Oversector; tell him that you have decided to appoint him as . . . commander of the Fleet defending Imperial Center and that you are recalling him to Coruscant to assume that post.”

Isard frowned. “He would never accept such a position—he knows that I would have him killed the moment he enters my grasp.”

“Quite true, Madame Director. Which is why, after you have dispatched the message, address the Galaxy at large via the holocomm network; at that time, you will announce publically that Grand Moff Zsinj has been removed from his post as head of Quelii Oversector by the Ruling Council and recalled to Coruscant . . . without announcing his exact posting that you have offered Zsinj. Broadcast this statement to every last ship under the command of Zsinj—and at the same time, include orders direct from the Ruling Council to those ships reassigning them to various Imperial Fleets throughout the Core, Inner Rim, and Expansion Regions.”

“Ah,” crooned Isard as she smiled. “Zsinj will be furious—will any of his commanders respond to such orders? It is highly unorthodox?”

Thom shrugged. “They are legitimate orders from a source that ranks above Zsinj himself,” technically, he thought to himself. “Not all of his ship commanders will heed the recall, but some will. And with each defection, Zsinj grows weaker and you grow stronger, Madame Director. Zsinj will be in a quandary; to the public’s eyes he has so far been simply a Grand Moff appointed by Palpatine doing his job. But now? After your broadcast, if he remains in place and openly defies—publically defies—Coruscant, he shows his true colors and becomes a traitor to the Imperial cause. And if he does answer your recall, well, in that case, Madame Director, you already have your solution in hand.”

Isard’s image began to laugh. But the laughter died away. “What Zsinj lacks in courage, he more than makes up for in his thirst for vengeance, Moff Patrice. If I, if the Ruling Council, issue such an order, we will be, in effect, declaring war upon Zsinj and the forces at his command.”

“Madame Director, as the attack on Bogden shows, you are already at war with Zsinj, whether or not it is recognized. And while you are forced to keep large numbers of ships and troops facing Zsinj, the Rebels are sweeping up hundreds of systems in the Middle and Outer Rim. Until the decision of who actually controls the Empire—you are Zsinj—is decided, our full might cannot be brought to bear at crushing this New Republic. Zsinj is a coward, more concerned with his personal enrichment and pleasure than with the business of ruling. I, for one, would far more prefer you as the next Empress—and this is the first step in assuming that title, Madame Director.”

“And the other Moffs, Grand Moffs, and High Admirals that do not answer my orders? What of them, Patrice?”

“Madame Director, once you break Zsinj you will see many of those who sit upon the fence climbing over themselves in an attempt to be the first to swear fealty to you. At heart, they are Imperials—and they want to be aligned with the winner.”

Isard laughed again and she nodded. “Very well, Moff Patrice. I will consider your advice—it is quite different from what the sycophants who surround me spew; perhaps we will try your method.” She shrugged. “If it works, then the Empire is indeed mine—the Ruling Council’s, I meant to say. If it fails, well then, it was your advice after all. And I shall not forget that fact.”

Thom bowed low again as the hologram faded from view.

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-11-30 02:20pm
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“Welcome to Cyralis, sir. What is the nature of your travel here?” the customs agent asked.

“Business,” the human answered briskly. “I am a courier with documents for BlasTech Cyralis,” he said as he tapped the document case.

“And the anticipated length of your stay?” the official continued as he entered the visitor’s data into the Cyralis data-banks.

“Two days . . . maybe more. Depends on if the execs need me to return information back to the Corporate Sector. Figured I would relax while I was out here and enjoy the scenery—not many worlds are this peaceful, these days,” he said with a smile.

The customs agent grunted as the documents came up in the system as clean. He handed them back to the visitor and motioned to the baggage scanner. “Place your belongings on the device, please.”

The human frowned. “Is this something new?”

“Increased security, Master Noonan—you do know there is a bounty on our Moff’s head, yes?”

Noonan shrugged and he placed his carry-alls one-at-a-time on the scanner; each came up clean in turn. “And the document case, please,” the customs official continued.

Scowling at the delay, he complied and once again the scanner registered nothing.

“Thank you, sir; your papers are in order and everything here checks out,” the official paused as he listened to his earbug and then nodded. “And your ship is clean is well. The JM-5K series are excellent personnel transports, if a little slow for a courier,” he said with a frown—and his tone clearly indicated he needed an answer.

Noonan laughed. “That Jumpmaster is modified, as your engineering team has already told you, I am sure. She’s a lot faster than she looks—or what her specs say. And yes, I’ve got the proper Imperial permits for the weaponry and shields.”

“You will need to speak with the Portmaster sometime before your departure to pay for all docking and fuel fees, Master Noonan,” he said as he stamped the last document and handed it across. “Enjoy your stay.”

“Thank you, I intend to,” Noonan answered as he lifted his bags and headed towards the Office of the Portmaster. The visitor appreciated the quick and efficient service therein as he paid for the privilege of docking his ship for a week, along with fresh power cells, an atmosphere refreshment, and new provisions—prices here were far lower than most of the Outer Rim, he thought, as he exited the Civilian Port Reservation.

The city was bustling, but the streets were clean, the buildings free of graffiti, and the climate was rather pleasant, with a brilliant backdrop of snow-capped mountains in the distance. Noonan nodded as he walked up to a private transportation summoner—something he would have expected to see only in the Corporate Sector or one of the old worlds of the Core or Expansion Regions—and he pressed the button.

Within moments, a hover car descended to the tarmac beside the summoner and one passenger door opened. Noonan placed his bags within the vehicle and then he climbed in and sealed the door.

“Your destination?”

“I need a good place to stay during my visit, good man,” Noonan answered. “Not too gaudy or expensive, just a play to sleep and eat during my business.”

“Right-o,” the driver answered. “Know just the place—get you there in five minutes.”

The repulsor-lift vehicle lifted back into the air and rejoined the traffic above—far lighter traffic than the overcrowded worlds of the Core. Noonan pulled out a comm-unit from his pocket and he dialed a number from memory.

“Yes?” a voice asked after three rings.

“Noonan. I just got into town and will be here for a few days. I was expecting a package—has it arrived?”

“Holding it for you—wasn’t easy or cheap to get through customs, mind you.”

“Yes, dinner would be very nice, Manjiin. I will be by around . . . sunset?”

“Sure. Package will be waiting,” the voice trailed off and then the call ended.

“Excellent! See you then,” Noonan continued into the dead phone. “Driver, I might need transportation this evening, tomorrow as well—should I use the public summoners or do you have a private one?” At the same time he asked the question, the visitor inserted a credit-stick into the payment unit and uploaded a 100-credit tip, as well as the cost of the transport.

The driver grinned broadly as he saw the money enter his account. He triggered a button and a small compartment opened in the passenger compartment. “That is my companies private summoner, Sir. Feel free to ring us any time of the day or night—it will alert me if I am on duty, otherwise one of our other drivers will respond immediately.”

“Very good,” Noonan said as he took the small device. “Lovely world,” he finished.

“Aye, that it is. Moff Patrice has done us right. He’s a good man keeping us out of all that chaos and confusion.”

“So I’ve heard,” Noonan answered as the vehicle slowed and descended to stop adjacent to a quaint, modest lodge. “This looks promising.”

“Quiet, out-of-the-way, and not too hard on the wallet, Sir,” the driver said. “Enjoy your stay on Cyralis.”

Droids were already at the door and they took Noonan’s bags as he exited. “I will need you in . . . two hours?”

“I will be here and waiting, Sir.”

“Good,” the bounty hunter said as he stretched. Noonan—otherwise known throughout the galaxy as Dengar—smiled. “Two hours then.” And he went inside.

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-12-01 09:29pm
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Manjiin lead his guest down into the basement; the Rodian pulled away the tarp from a crate sitting next to the freight elevator.

“Here. You can kill Patrice, can you not?” he asked eagerly.

“Any man can be killed,” Dengar replied absently as he entered a short code and the crate opened with a hiss of escaping gas. The bounty hunter smiled as the Rodian backed away. “Nitrogen; it is only nitrogen, Manjiin.”

Seeing that Dengar didn’t die, the Rodian forward and he whistled through his snout at the sight. “That is one big gun,” he said softly.

“An E-Web heavy repeating blaster; normally a crew-served weapon, but . . .,” Dengar’s voice trailed off as he opened two more smaller cases and smiled. “yes, the autonomous mount is here as well. You have done well, Manjiin.”

“I try. Autonomous, you said? This is a droid?”

“There is a droid brain that will run the weapon—Patrice is no fool and his guards are far from incompetent. I have no desire to kill the man only to be captured or killed myself.”

“Ah. Can a droid handle this weapon?”

“The droid brain has been programmed for this task—and this task only,” Dengar said as he opened the document case and examined the small sphere of crystals and circuits. But then he closed it. “Installing this will be the final task. You have managed to find an appropriate spot that meets all of my specifications, yes?”

“Yes,” the Rodian hissed. “I was concerned about the distance, but with this weapon, that should not be a problem.”

“And you have gone over the grounds as I asked?”

“Yes, yes. The tyrant Patrice will be addressing the people of Cyralis tomorrow and I have examined—with my own eyes!—the grounds where they will view him from. The stage is not protected and our location is outside of their perimeter.”

“Good. Then let us eat, and I will meet you at this address at midnight,” Dengar said as he shut and sealed the crate once more.

“What? I am to move this myself?”

“That is why I hired you, Manjiin. Take heart, in 24 hours you will see Patrice dead and this Sector leaderless—ripe for your planned insurrection. And you will be a great deal richer as well.”

The Rodian stared for a moment and then he nodded. “At midnight. Then we both carry this crate to your new nest, Noonan.”

“Of course, my friend. Now where’s dinner?”

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 Post subject: Re: Star Wars: Broken Empire PostPosted: 2012-12-02 12:22am
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The bounty hunter looked through the one-way glass that covered the wall from floor to ceiling. He held a pair of macrobinoculars to his eyes and he frowned as he considered the target far, far away. The suite was perfect, he had to admit. The Rodian had chosen well based upon what he had demanded, but . . . “You did not inform me of those structures, Manjiin,” he said softly.

“Those? Those are poles for the banners, flags, and streamers that will be flying to commemorate the first anniversary of Patrice’s coup. They are nothing.”

Dengar turned and he glared at the Rodian. “You have made certain of that—seen them with your own eyes?”

“I already said so! They are nothing but ornamentation.”

The assassin took one final look and he sighed. Well, it was too late to change course now—and if they were only poles than the plan would still work. He set down the macrobinoculars and picked up a powered tool. “Bring the frame,” he ordered as he knelt down and made two marks on the floor. “Put the front legs here and here.”

Complaining the entire time, the Rodian carried the heavy frame over and Dengar fired a single bolt into the floor; he then sat down the tool and picked up a heavy wrench with which he tightened the bolts. Then he picked up the bolt-gun and did the same to the two rear legs, and both central ones as well.

He left the tool on the floor and walked over to the case; pulling out a long coil of sticky rope-like material. “Place it on the glass in X-patterns as I finish up here,” he ordered.

“What?” asked Manjiin.

“You cannot shoot a blaster through a window; the bolt will detonate on impact and that could damage the assembly. This explosive will shatter the window just before the weapon fires, giving it a clear line of sight to the target.”

The Rodian jerked at the word explosive, but at a glare from Dengar he began to apply it to the window. “Bigger, Manjiin; make those Xs bigger and mold them against the surface.”

The Rodian nodded and kept working; Dengar turned back to the crate.

Grunting, he lifted the heavy E-Web and carried it over to the powered frame, gently sliding it into place until a soft click told him it was properly seated. Next, he attached the targeting unit and sights, then he locked the bulky and very heavy power cells into their casings. Working quickly, he attached armored conduits that ran from the cells to the weapon and he triggered the activator. With a hum, the lethal piece of equipment sprang to life.

Swiveling the weapon back against the wall, he test-calibrated it against the internal targeting laser of the shock frame, making minute adjustments until the two were perfectly in tune. Finally, he walked over to the document case and removed the small droid brain, which he slid into a housing and sealed it.

“Test Noonan One,” he ordered, and the machine swiveled in a 360-degree turn, the barrel of the E-Web elevating and lowering as it went. Dengar smiled. “Activate Noonan Two,” he said as he turned the weapon towards the windows. “Lock target area and confirm.”

“Locked, confirmed.”

“Prepare for target upload,” he said as he connected his comm to the device and several dozen visual images of Patrice were uploaded to the droid brain.

“Upload complete. Target confirmed.”

“Initiate Noonan Three 0.5 seconds before terminating target.”

“Noonan Three on queue for activation 0.5 seconds before target termination.”

“Remain in standby mode until 1425 hours; then go active.”

“Standby mode activated; active search and destroy mode set for 1425 hours.”

“Excellent, get your stuff, Manjiin; we are leaving,” he ordered as he extracted a cord from his belt, plugging one end into the droid brain and attaching a detonator to the second end, which he then embedded in the doughy explosives.

“Just leave the stuff and go? What if they trace it?”

“They won’t. The weapon has a thermal detonator programmed to ignite after the gas reservoir is exhausted. That’s if the Imperial forces don’t destroy this entire floor first.”

“Oh. Should I take you back to your lodge?”

“No, Manjiin; you and I are going to find a quiet little place where we can watch the ceremonies this afternoon. Someplace where no one suspects either of us will be. Now let’s go.”

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