vChapter Five (cont.)
Conal watched the Lambda-class shuttle’s wing fold up as it settled down on the landing pad outside of the Moff’s Palace. The ramp lowered and Admiral Morvin quickly descended.
“He is inside?” he asked briskly as he hurried towards the shelter of the doorway, trying to avoid the heavy downpour falling from the sky.
“Yes, Admiral—and he is . . . quite paranoid. He claims to have a thermal detonator and is threatening to activate it if my troops enter his chambers.”
“And does he?”
Conal shrugged. “His security detail abandoned their posts; we captured one and he confirms that are detonators stored in the Palace Armory—however, he cannot recall how many. Whether the Moff actually possesses one or if he is bluffing . . . I do not know with any surety.”
The two men passed by a pair of Conal’s troopers posted to either side of the blast doors and they exited the cold rain. “This way, Sir,” Conal said as he steered the Admiral to the right.
“I have a special missions squad standing by with hostage rescue training, Admiral—although since he is alone in there I am not exactly certain if hostage is the proper term. And if he does have an armed thermal detonator, stunning him is not an option—you and Moff Patrice did insist that he be taken alive.”
“And we will, Conal. Have faith, be optimistic, look on the bright side of the equation,” Kell said as the footfalls of the men echoed throughout the mostly empty palace.
“Oh I am, Sir. You are here now, so if he dies it is your responsibility and not mine. That alone brightens my day.”
“And depresses mine, thank you Conal,” Kell said in a somber voice.
“You are most welcome, Sir.”
The pair reached Osar’s private office and study adjacent to his formal working office, where around a dozen troopers waited. Their sergeant merely nodded at the two, causing Kell to frown—and Conal chuckled.
“Standing orders, High Admiral Morvin. This is technically a war zone after—my men do not salute in a war zone.”
Kell’s face reddened slightly. “My apologies, Sergeant,” he said quickly. “The rules of engagement ground-side are far different from what I am accustomed to.”
The faceless trooper merely nodded again. “Sirs. I have a squad posted on all entrances and exits—he is still in there and sounding crazier by the moment.”
“Open the door,” Kell ordered. “General Ise and I are going in. You are not to storm the chamber while we are in there—is that understood?”
Two of the troopers opened the door and Kell walked in, Conal trailing behind him.
“GET BACK!” Osar screamed from the far side of his desk. “I will kill us all, I swear I will, if you do not get back!”
Kell stopped and he bowed low. “Your Grace,” he said carefully. “High Admiral Kell Morvin reporting—I am unarmed, Sir.”
“Morvin? Patrice’s Morvin? Who is that with you?”
“General Conal Ise; he is another officer in the service of Moff Patrice, Sir. We are here to help.”
Osar panted heavily, as he tightly grasped a spherical object in his hands. “Why have my guards fled? There were sounds of fighting in the Palace—I’ve heard reports of your men fighting mine. What is going on?”
“Your Grace, Moff Patrice can answer those questions better than I. I took the liberty of having his communication piped into your office terminal, if you would activate it?”
Osar stared at the two officers for a moment and then he walked over to his comm unit and noted the flashing red light of a holocomm transmission on hold. He pressed the button and a miniature holographic image of Thom Patrice sprang into life.
“Osar, my friend,” he said. “It is good to see that you are well.”
“And you,” the distraught man said quietly. “What is going on, Patrice?”
The hologram shook his head and he looked down for a moment, and then he raised his head again. “Admiral Sartan and several of your officers were planning a coup against you Osar. Those officers have now been taken into custody, is that not correct, Admiral Morvin?”
“Yes, sir,” the Admiral answered as he snapped his heels together. “All those involved in the plot have been arrested—or shot while resisting arrest.”
Osar looked relieved and his grasp on the powerful explosive loosened, and he fumbled with it for a moment before holding it tight once more. Conal flinched and even Kell felt a chill run up his spine.
“So now I am safe?” Osar asked. “We can cleanse this Sector of Rebels and get back to business and life as usual, right, Patrice?”
“Unfortunately, Osar, you are far from safe. Admiral Morvin, have you informed the Moff of Indefatigables report?”
“No, Sir. I have not yet had the opportunity,” Kell answered.
“What report?” Osar asked. “Did he manage to wipe Bandaar III clean of the Rebel scum?”
“Yes,” Kell lied. “At 0200 hours this morning, Your Grace, the Base Delta Zero protocol was employed against Bandaar III, destroying all lifeforms on the planet and rendering it uninhabitable. There were, unfortunately, complications, I have to report.”
“Yes, Your Grace,” Kell continued. “It seems that there was a Rebel scout ship in the system that recorded the lawful execution of your orders. That recording was transmitted via holocomm to Mon Mothma, the head of the newly formed New Republic.”
“Good. She will discover that I am not to be trifled with,” Osar said defiantly.
Patrice shook his head. “One hour ago, Osar, she broadcast a galactic wide transmission lamenting the destruction of an entire planet. She claims that there were no Rebels present there and that your orders represented a crime against all life in the Galaxy. She placed a bounty on your head of twenty-five million credits—dead or alive, Osar.”
Once again, the Moff fumbled the detonator, and Conal licked his dry lips. “She WHAT?” wailed Osar.
“Your Grace,” interjected Kell. “Perhaps General Ise could hold that thermal detonator for you while you continue your discussion with Moff Patrice—we will return it afterward, if you wish.”
“Oh. Well, yes; that would be kind of you, Morvin.” Osar held out the explosive and Conal stepped forward and gingerly took it. He examined it, and he let out a deep breath.
“It hasn’t been armed, Sir,” he said in a very relieved tone of voice.
Osar looked up and he nodded. “Yes, there is some safety catch on it that I wasn’t able to figure out how to unlock—you need to fix that. What if someone needed to use one in a hurry?”
Conal simply stared, his jaw worked for a moment, and then he made himself nod and bowed slightly. “I will get my engineers to work on it immediately, Your Grace.”
Osar smiled and he looked pleased. “Patrice, why do you get all the good subordinates?”
The hologram of Thom cleared his throat, and Osar looked down upon Patrice as Conal took the thermal detonator to the door and handed it to the troopers standing outside.
“About this bounty, Osar . . . you are in grave danger, I fear.”
“She put twenty-five million on my head? She can’t do that, Patrice!”
“But she has, Osar. And that sum will bring bounty hunters of a high caliber out of the woodwork—assassins like Bossk, Dengar, Fett, IG-88, and Tark.”
“Fett is dead. I heard that he died before Endor,” Osar protested.
Patrice laughed. “I have heard many times that Fett was killed—I will believe it after I see the body. That man has a way of coming back to life more often than a dehydrated plant.”
“I cannot run this Sector from a bunker! How . . . how will I . . .” Osar sat down in his chair heavily and his face whitened.
“There is a solution, Osar,” Patrice continued.
“Tell me,” the Moff begged.
“We announce to the Galaxy that you were killed in the fighting during Sartan’s Coup. That will ensure no hunter will come looking for you.”
Osar frowned. “But I won’t be dead . . . will I?” he asked in a small frightened voice.
“Osar, Osar, Osar,” Patrice said as he shook his head. “No. I have arranged a safe haven for you and your family here on Cyralis. And a new identity. Rest assured, my friend, that no hunter will get past me to do either you or them harm.”
“My family? Why would they go after my family?”
“Osar, for a bounty of this magnitude do you really believe that these hunters will not try to use your wife, use your daughter, to get to you?”
“Patrice, you cannot let them get hurt. You simply cannot.”
“I know. And they will not be—you have my word, Osar.”
The Moff began to cry. “I only wanted to do my job, Patrice—why has all this happened?”
“There, there, my friend. It will be all right. I have toured the estate where you and your loved ones will be kept safe. It has a nice sandy beach and the climate is warm—just like Lamaredd; without the aliens, corrupt officials, or Rebels. And there will be no bounty hunters there to pursue you. It will be like a vacation, Osar. And you have been rather stressed lately, haven’t you? Eh?”
Osar wiped his face and he nodded. “I haven’t wanted to complain,” he said, “but I hate this job.”
“Shhh. Everything will work out for the best, my friend. And once you are feeling better, perhaps you can help me organize my Admin section—they are nowhere near as efficient as your own.”
“Really?” the Moff asked as he blinked. “I can go back to doing my old job that I did for Adair, for you?”
“Only if you feel up to it, Osar. And you must get some rest first—you do not look at all well.”
“But who will take over here? I have not appointed a Deputy . . . and I do not know who to trust."
No one spoke, and then Osar brightened. He looked down on the hologram. “Patrice, I know that it is much to ask of you, but could you . . . would you . . . do you think . . .”
“I would honored if you appointed me as the Interim Moff of Lamaredd, my friend. After all, my Admiral and General are there—and we will solve your Sector’s problems with this . . . insurrection.”
Osar sniffed. “You are a true friend, Patrice. I will do that right now,” he said as he activated his terminal and typed out a quick order appointing Thom Patrice as the new Deputy Moff of Lamaredd. He touched his seal to the screen, and saved the file. And he nodded and then he stood.
“Are my wife and daughter here? Are they safe?”
Conal cleared his throat. “I dispatched my best company to escort them here, Your Grace. We have a shuttle and a fast ship standing by to take all of you to safety. Might I escort you there?”
Osar nodded. Then he turned back to the hologram. “I really did do my best, Patrice. I did.”
“I know,” the hologram said gravely. “It is not your fault Osar. And I will come and visit you, quite often. Without you, my friend, we would not be where we are today.”
The former Moff took in a deep breathe through his nose and he sharply nodded. “Well then. I leave things in your capable hands, gentlemen. Carry on.” He marched to the door, and Kell nodded to Conal, who accompanied him.
“And do you have further orders for me, Thom?” Kell asked the hologram.
“Just get things on an even keel, Kell,” Thom answered with a bitter laugh. “I am glad we did not have to kill him—it would be like strangling a puppy. You know what to do now.”
The hologram dissipated, and Kell Morvin nodded. Yes, the work was only just beginning.