Story part; I know, this should be moving more quickly, but if I write more, it takes longer. Oh, and for the Moorcock fans out there (and I suspect there really is no polite abbreviation for a Michael Moorcock fan)- this is pretty much the happiness-and-fluffy-rainbow-bunnies light alternate universe version of the character.
Hull 721 arc 2 ch 19
The news that Pel Aldrem had been exonerated spread like wildfire throughout the crew; there was talk of a party. Of course it was far more likely to turn into a small riot, the captain realised, and if it was allowed to go ahead the place would be full of intoxicants, stimulants, loose tongues.
He had, obviously, heard all the evidence that had been given, and he could tell far too many people about that. What he could be told was just as bad- there was more than enough ambient information around to clue him in on the fact that he hadn't actually killed the dark jedi.
Rumour control was, therefore, necessary.
He was called to the office Lennart was using on the dock station, and he brought his team with him, but only Jhareylia came past the waiting room into the inner chamber. There was a change, and for a couple of seconds Lennart let them notice him studying them.
Objectively, this was one shipboard romance that the regs probably should be applied to; she was an ex- rebel, although she hadn't exactly formally resigned- how, precisely, did one go about quitting the Rebel Alliance? Probably varied from culture to culture, cell to cell. They probably objected, too.
She was taking his focus away- witness that she was here with him, not any of his team- and she made him think too much, which was paradoxical considering how they had met. They had become an item before either of them had really realised it; for that matter, he had helped.
She could be good for him, and it had been enough of a could to be worth taking a risk on- he could be a monomaniac, and loosening him up could make him a better person, and probably better suited for the job Lennart wanted him to do.
Provided she didn't try to change him too fundamentally and so things like trying to get him to consider his loyalties and examine his conscience, which she probably would- and over this business, it was hard to blame her.
'Sit down, Lieutenant. I would prefer it if you never had to know this, but as you're likely to work it out anyway...you know, or will find out, that several of Kor Alric's personal guard escaped the bridge tower, and had to be tracked and destroyed by the other people who got dragged into this bloody mess.'
'I saw his personal transport get hit.' Aldrem admitted. This wasn't entirely a surprise- it had been obvious that many dubious things had happened, and it would be good to talk about them- in principle. In practise, he had already had an argument with Jhareylia, on the subject of just how much it was safe and sensible to know.
She had gone pale when Lennart had started talking- this definitely did not fall under need to know, as far as she was concerned. He didn't want to know either, but was starting to get the idea of what had really happened.
'And the timing, we were too heavily engaged- yes, they had time to get out. And I know perfectly well that "get him" wasn't addressed to me.' Aldrem said, heavily.
Lennart looked at him closely, trying to estimate how much he had figured out so far. Aldrem wasn't stupid, certainly wasn't the fool Skorb had tried to portray him as during the trial. He was actually looking more intellectual lately- acquiring worry lines at a rapid rate.
He could work it out, probably had, but the consequences of it, where the conclusions led- Aldrem skipped to the part his brain had tripped over. 'You let me blow a hole in the ship?'
'Not exactly let, that fine I was talking about still stands...you're right, you didn't get him. What you did was blow up his personal staff- and his data, that would have gone a long way towards helping us find out the rest of his plan.'
Before he could finish thinking it through, Jhareylia had a thought she probably would have been wiser not to say. 'I thought something was missing, there weren't enough electrical noises for the inside of a turret. More than cleanup-'
'So why,' Lennart said, 'do you want me to know that you know?'
She looked annoyed with herself at that; interesting, Aldrem had largely cured himself of the habit of thinking out loud which he had had in the early days- negative reinforcement had worked there.
It was an extraordinarily bad habit for a spy to have, and it was interesting that she felt unthreatened here enough to slip to that degree- it wasn't calculated, he was reasonably certain of that.
'Either way, you're right. I had the background noise removed that would have given away exactly where on the ship it occurred, and who specifically it was that drew blood.
A whole bunch of complicated things happened after that, among them your being accused,' Lennart said to Aldrem, 'and my realising we had more chance of getting away with it if you were the defendant than if we resorted to the whole truth.
You should know better than to want to know that, particularly as you are publicly responsible now- you'll be an assassination target- or a recruitment target- for all sorts of dark side, and probably Alliance, fruitcakes.'
'Oh, crap.' Aldrem said, and Lennart had to acknowledge it as fair comment. 'Seriously, skipper, do I look like a spy?' He had worked it out, and although it was a kind of poetic justice, although he really couldn't see a sensible alternative, it was definitely worth a protest.
'Some people say that the first qualification for being a spy is to not look the part.' Lennart pointed out.
'Intelligence professionals, sir?' Jhareylia asked, acid in her voice. And realised slightly too late what she was doing there.
'How opportune of you to volunteer your services, Specialist Hathren.' Lennart closed that particular trap. 'In any case, what would the technical definition of this be? Officer, agent, what?'
'Decoy.' she said with some bitterness. She was on the back foot now, on her guard and not liking what was going on at all. 'Do we have any choice in this?'
'We could simply not bother setting an ambush party to cover you; think the situation through, who wants what, and tell me if you think wandering around without backup is an option a sensible being would take.' Lennart said, calmly enough to worry her, and convince Aldrem that they really had no choice in the matter.
'They, whoever they are- who are they?- are they stupid enough to be out for revenge?' Aldrem asked.
'They have practical reasons to want you and the rest of us dead- stop up loose mouths. They still don't know how little we really know. The ISB did make one grab for you, but that was because they wanted you to repeat your trick- shot for them, and while it would be interesting to know who on, I don't see how to find out.
They are one problem, but from the other side, whether murder for revenge or abduction for intel comes first will depend on how cool- headed Adannan's colleagues in darkness actually are.' Lennart said.
'Oh, no.' Aldrem thought about something, and groaned.
'You've just realised you're going to have to go back through infantry training?' Lennart guessed, correctly.
'This time I want to keep the gun- actually, I have an idea...' Aldrem said, and Lennart was sure (rightly) it involved explosives.
'How much of the chief engineer's time is this going to waste?'
'Oh, it's- actually, yes, it kind of is exactly like that.' he said, face falling, obviously whatever he had come up with would need technical assistance which probably meant it was a bad idea. 'So,' he recovered, 'what is the plan?'
'See who turns up to kidnap or kill you, get the drop on them, brainstrip and work upwards from there.' Lennart said.
'Can't they at least come at us in starships?' Aldrem grumbled.
'They have.' Lennart pointed out. 'When we were attacked by "rebels", the first and third waves weren't legitimate, they were an Imperial special political action group. The second wave were genuine Alliance, and they must have been very confused. But how much of this is really your problem, hm?'
'Captain...' Jhareylia began, unsure of how much to say, how far to go. He nodded to her, as if to say out with it; she did. 'Actual proof of something like that would be massively valuable to the Alliance. It could be bait-'
'And how much, really, about that hypothetical operation do you think it would be right for you to know?' Lennart pointed out. If someone else came up with it independently, maybe it might not be such a looney idea.
'Then why did you tell us in the first place?' she said, baffled- if that had been with mens rea, she had no business saying it.
'Good question. it really isn't your problem.' Lennart said, thinking of something else that arguably wasn't her problem- 'and in that vein, you can go now. Not you, Lieutenant.'
She would have liked to come up with a quip, and the captain could sense her being about to- something to do with being booted out of the boys' club- but she had enough sense not to say it.
Once she had gone, Lennart said 'Entirely apart from imminent poverty, you have a particular personal problem; in all the chaos, did you manage to take in the medical advisory sent to you about your midi count?'
Aldrem looked blank for a second- he had been expecting several other varieties of trouble- before saying 'No, but it's hard to see how it could be good news- what, they're swollen or the wrong colour or something?'
'Too many of them. If you understand the statistics they rho-tail out with a Launchester prevalence number- if you don't, then you have a midi count- of 698. I'm telling you, specifically, because she used to work for a gang of force- worshipping fruitbats and she's likely to do something silly about it.'
'No, sir, I don't understand the statistics. Is that a lot?'
'It's exactly the wrong amount; enough to get you into trouble with the Force without being enough to get you out of it again-' Lennart held up a hand, a stop signal- 'and before you say the inevitable "so what else is new", it's worse than that.
Naval discipline only expects you to be a uncomplaining, loyal, unassuming, politically correct, unaggressive homicidal maniac, and you know how unlivably futile things would be around here if I enforced all the regulations on the books, not just the ones about the last part;
The Force is...childishly simplistic in it's morals- there are goodies and baddies. Like acting in a play produced by a five- year old. It is very difficult to reconcile the promptings of the force with the ethics of a professional combatant.'
Aldrem had let the last part fly straight by him; he was still in the middle of not believing it. 'That can't be right. I'm not that drug resistant, I can't breathe space- I know, that lets me out for being secretly MynockMan as well.
I don't throw myself off cliffs for fun, I've never felt an eldritch attraction to glow- sticks, I look like Blodgit in a robe, and if I say it now it'll be the first time I ever said om- see, there it was- in my life.'
'I'm not expecting you to and I don't want you to; you're a damn' sight more use as a gunner.' Lennart said. 'What I am worried about is, may as well put it in your own terms, MynockMan. The Force wants you to be a cartoon superhero, or possibly more accurately caricature.
Listening to it is a good way to get first of all, stupid, then because of that, killed. You have to ignore it, refuse the impulses it offers, reject the ideas it sends up.'
'How am I supposed to- oh. You mean I'm going to have to start second guessing myself? Start thinking about what I'm doing, and why?' Aldrem said, looking like a deer in headlights.
'I knew there was a silver lining to this somewhere.' Lennart said. 'Off you go, and get organised.'
That was probably oversimplifying the picture, he thought after Aldrem had left, and probably by a hell of a lot; if the Force really did flow from all living things, life had more subtlety than that and some of it should show through.
It had, however, been the line he had been continually pitching to himself and to everyone else who would listen. Aldrem really was below the threshold of any kind of useful power at all; telling the force to go kriff itself probably was his best option as an individual, and probably best from the point of view of what the ship expected of him.
That done, time for what was actually the commander's job- to sit down and try to make sense of the big picture. Black Prince's datanet-architecture was...'post-organicist retrobaroque' just about covered it.
For a relatively new ship, she had the feel of a much older one, none of the brutal simplicity of the standard Starfleet SOMS/SCAP which most people (including a lot of those subject to it, but not where they could be monitored) called simple brutality, the digital equivalent of a gulag.
The ship had been laid down with a high degree of control redundancy and holographically independent subsystems, more than would actually have been tolerated in a Kuat- built craft and it had only got worse from there, as additions and modifications to the physical structure mandated additions to the data- architecture as well.
Subprocessors and co-processors, caches and used redundancies, damages and failures being patched over and worked around and then as often as not fixed anyway, entire alternative main processing units being grafted in to run the ELINT gear the ship was never officially supposed to have, and officially still didn't.
It actually reminded her captain of a Tionese palace that he had visited once, that had originally been the fortress defending a sea port, that had in a more sophisticated age become maritime traffic control and customs headquarters, that had then mutated into the control tower of the spaceport;
that had been shut down because the port was incapable of taking modern vessels and building reused as a national museum, that had been reopened as a customs and excise training centre, that had...
In its' favour, it had been one of the very few spaceport control towers in the galaxy which could fire a salvo from a battery of black-powder cannon at an approaching starfreighter. In fact, Lennart had wanted to do exactly that, and would have if he could have thought of a diplomatic way of suggesting it.
The practical upshot of this was, of course, that there were all kinds of odd and nonconforming processing ability sloshing about, all sorts of highly sensitive corners in which a search routine might be run without arousing suspicion.
Recent efforts to search for any traces Adannan had left behind had done something to clear out the thickets and accomplished the essential job of charting them, there was still a lot more to be done; for the moment, there was plenty of room to do a little searching work of his own, on the recovered fragments and on the party almanac.
It was widely known, although very quietly acknowledged, that the New Order Party was neither particularly orderly nor remotely fun-loving; and Lennart had his doubts about the "new", as well.
He had always known it was a snakepit, had said so often enough to anyone prepared to listen, nothing in the close look he was taking was really a surprise, but the volume and viciousness of the incidents a between-the-lines survey showed up was just depressing.
What kind of message did it really send when the revolution not only ate it's children in full public view, but then proceeded to publish the recipe book?
The open show trials weren't even the half of it. For instance, Indutiomarus Trachta had dropped off the full-spectrum transceiver one day. Ceased to be mentioned, one of the most powerful people in the Imperial state suddenly converted to an unperson, and another name started to be associated with his title and duties.
The legal officer in Aldrem's show trial- the exception that proved the rule that such things always ended in a guilty verdict- had let that slip, hadn't he? "Trachta vs. the State."
Whatever had happened, there had been legal precedent set about it- but whatever that was had never got further than the bare mention of it. A secret, classified judgement that set a precedent that no-one outside a certain charmed inner circle was allowed to know. Catch-22 lost its' humourous aspects when it was you, personally, on the receiving end.
Actually, the old cyborg was starting to look increasingly relevant; there were a few others who had disappeared from circulation at the same time, including a cannibalistic little shit of a fleet officer and a wannabe warlord.
Executor had departed her patrol station, and gone on a fuel- atomisingly expensive maximum-speed run to Coruscant, at the same time; something they hadn't even been able to come up with a good cover story for had happened- what?
Something drastic enough to require an even nastier cyborg. Trachta had used his position as Minister of Security to misbehave quite spectacularly, and Vader had stopped him. Knowing Vader, permanently, and possibly quite messily. Any legal judgement against him would have been post- facto.
That could have been one of the conspiracies Adannan had been hoping to collect up the pieces of- or equally trying to use as cover, there was that, but too many of the pieces seemed to actually point somewhere, he wasn't simply lying to impress the new recruit.
Of course he had the access himself to pull it all together, cleared up to state- secret level, which made it all the more infuriating that his notes had not survived.
From the recovered fragments, ap-Lewff was a nobody, an entity without a past. No criminal, economic, political or war record. Therefore, possibly, a renegade Jedi who had learned enough to live off the grid before dropping or being kicked out of the Order.
Actually, that was one thing missing from Trachta's band of fellow disappeared; no wibble-mongers, no om-o-matic psychodweebs. Trachta had been at the heart of the government for years and almost certainly knew almost all of whatever the ugly truth would turn out to be. It certainly hadn't been a conspiracy with the Force; had it been a conspiracy against?
Maybe it was just wishful thinking on Lennart's part, maybe it had been something as simple as Trachta's mid-life crisis- or considering how much of him was metal, possibly the mid life upgrade.
What it did look like was that an improbable and noticeably greedy and corrupt group had assembled themselves behind him for, well, the full story was not likely to ever be known, but it had or had come close to achieving something that had brought Vader sprinting back from the Outer Rim. Assassination attempt?
It had also got rid of Trachta, no bad thing- having met him, Lennart considered the now ex- Grand Moff of Imperial Centre to have had all the leadership qualities and charisma of a speaking clock.
If I was organising a conspiracy against the highest levels of the state, Lennart thought, among people who knew a lot about previous conspiracies and had probably suppressed a few themselves, who would the candidates be? Who would be the optimum recruit- where do conspiracies usually go for their human material?
Certainly not among the happy and contented, that much was certain, nor among the poor and powerless- there neither was not could be anything at all grass- roots about this. Nor those with nothing to lose- desperation made poor discipline, at least for political actors.
No, the obvious thing to do was to aim for those who had some power and influence and standing, enough to make them effective members of a secret cabal, and who somehow stood to lose it; the ambitious who foresaw the end of their rise, the powerful about to be demoted, the anonymous about to have the spotlight shone on them.
Except, logical as that was, thinking it didn't help; who would know who those people were? Not an out-of-the-loop, combat crazed three quarters renegade destroyer captain, that was for sure. They would know, and they would know each other.
The Ubiqtorate would know, although they probably came under the same heading.
What names did he have? A few; the orders to probe and spy on his ship at anchor had been issued over the signature of ISB General-Governor Hewl Wennod's name- not one of the great ones of state. Looking him up, the book was full of praise for him, but Lennart and the Almanac had very different ideas about what lay behind the phrase "heroic police action."
He was basically a troubleshooter now, sent in to sort people out when party discipline had broken down; had been a very early member of the Party, and chief warden of a correctional facility under the Republic.
Politically, specifically, he looked like a Monarchist, a palpatinian-ultramontane, which, well, if that was who had taken a dislike to me, Lennart thought, here we go for a credit a day. Unlikely that it would be an indirect approach, though; Wennod was not known as a subtle man, he undoubtedly was a sadist and a fascist- although that didn't mean he was actually stupid, it did set an upper limit.
It also meant he was likely to be an operative rather than an operator, a great deal of positional power without much vision, likely to be doing someone else's dirty work. According to Adannan, this was all about the beta-through-omegas combining to pull down the alpha, Palpatine, or at least was supposed to be. So who were the beta-through-omegas?
There was a contact, and old friend who might know something... 'ComScan? Milnet access, track and place a call to Max Pyat, last known rank ISB Colonel, last known duty station Panipat.'
The com team would try to track him down, and while he waited for that Lennart kept flipping through the Almanac, trying to separate backstabbing and infighting from conspiracy.
Often, there was hardly any difference between the two- take that notorious idiot Moff Balfour. He had been practically mocked into political oblivion by a carefully conducted smear campaign which he had, to be fair, handed a great deal of material to; he had been made to look like an utter fool, shorn of all external support, and anyone capable under his command got out as soon as they could.
That had helped the Alliance greatly, when they had made their move. Parmic Sector was a de facto Alliance stronghold now, more planets there paying their taxes to the Republic than the Empire.
It was one of those notorious incidents that had made the Empire look gimcrack and silly, along with the Hapan disaster Black Prince had collected a fair few of her scars in and the Nar Shaddaa debacle. So who had been behind that smear campaign?
Bored by party jargon, his mind wandered a little- there was no recorded case of anyone actually having a bacle, was there? There was definitely such a thing in a few Outer Rim dialects as a bauchle, which did more or less translate to modern basic as 'fool'. Although a debacle certainly didn't mean being de-fooled.
As, temperamentally, a follower of the cock-up theory of history, Lennart was finding the world of conspiracism fascinating; apart from anything else, a good multisided, multilayered conspiracy must be one of the easiest things in the galaxy to get wrong.
Although, a protective shell of fools was always helpful to a real conspiracy. Meaningless in and of themselves, conspiracy theories- and theorists- provided the protective undergrowth in which, just occasionally, there lurked a real tiger.
Was there not an entire major branch of the Ubiqtorate devoted to pumping out conspiracy theories of increasingly absurd and ridiculous nature, for the purpose of confusing and misdirecting the people of the galaxy, and getting them so tied up in mental knots they had no idea what truth was any more?
There were even some in the Core prepared to believe the entire Rebellion was a conspiracy theory- and some in the outer Rim who appeared to reject hypotheses of the existence of the Ubiqtorate, which was only fair.
Then again, like many mind games, there were tricks of perspective involved- one street corner ranter's conspiracy was another well dressed businessbeing's normal procedure. Where did office politics end, and crime begin?
The front of the book might be a place to start. The Commission for the Preservation (or was it promotion, protection, he could never remember) of the New Order had run the ISB, and had dreams of becoming first a parallel state, then eventually replacing the old, corroded machinery of the Republic in its' entirety.
Those dreams didn't get heard about much, anymore. There had been possibly, to the nearest round numbers, ten thousand members; a handful had made good- Il-Raz, Pestage, Vandron- but the overwhelming majority of the commissionnaires didn't get heard from very much either.
That puts me in something of a quandary, Lennart thought; these people were, basically, assassinated by the state in what can only be called judicial murder- on the other hand, good riddance.
There was a ping from the com unit, and a head-and-shoulders hologram appeared; unprepared, unkempt, out of uniform and in all probability entirely naked. Anyone looking at that face could have easily have mistaken it for a ruined, alcoholic philosopher, a good and wise man fallen on hard times. About half of that was approximately correct.
'Max? Jorian Lennart. You went on the run eighteen, no, nearer twenty years ago now, dragged me along with you, remember? Did I interrupt you in the middle of anyone?' After twenty more years of his lifestyle, I'm surprised he's still recognisable, he thought. Maybe he reformed? Nah, not a chance.
'Jorian! When my com system told me there was a Captain of the Line calling for me, I thought it was somebody military. How have you been, what has Time done to you?'
Didn't stop you answering the holo bare from the chest- hair up, Lennart thought. Max Pyat was so completely unlike his half- brother, it was hard to believe they had even that thin genetic link in common.
'Time, not too badly- it's the spacelike trajectories in between that tend to the catastrophic. This isn't exactly long time no see, I'm afraid, Max; I'm the one in deep schtuck now- I don't want to say too much in case it sticks to you too, but-'
'Problem, of course you have a problem, there you are still in the Starfleet. I had expected you to have your own smuggling syndicate by now, I was looking forward to working with you when I retired, what happened?' Well, that was still the same old Max at least.
'Oh, basically when service, fealty, fidelity didn't work, they bought me off with warrior daydreams of honour and glory instead. You didn't check the originator ID, did you?'
'I- grief- by the nine million gods who no longer believe in me, Jorian, that was really you? I thought the name was just coincidence, there was no way they would let anyone who knew me back in, and now here you are practically an official hero of the Galactic Empire. Did you not even receive the Emperor's Will?'
'I was never politically correct enough to be an Imperial poster-boy,' Lennart pointed out, 'and after I dodged the award ceremony twice, they basically gave up trying to catch me and pin it on. These days I'm a frothing looney they let loose whenever something big needs broken.'
'For shame, Jorian. To think that you have so much death in you.' Pyat chided him.
'Come off it, Max, you know perfectly well I don't- can't- think about it like that. It's about protecting everyone else from the people you have to shoot, has to be, you know that- and do you really think my sense of what constitutes a legitimate target has changed that much?'
'I would like to hope not, but I have great difficulty imagining you commanding a star destroyer. All that protocol...how did you overcome your allergy to pomp and circumstance, and what did it cost?'
'Oh, fraud, deception, influence-peddling, lies and deceit- office politics as usual.' Well, that was the easy, cynical answer to that question. 'You are still a securidoodle, right- no, wait, how many ISB agents are you?'
It was Max who had coined the phrase, although it probably wasn't original- in a galaxy of a hundred quadrillion people, it was damn' hard to be the first at anything- in the course of a long, drunken discussion in which he had been extremely rude about his own arm of service, describing it as the lapdogs of the powerful.
Running-dog lackeys, he had actually said in a way that made it seem that he was quoting, and quoting somebody he didn't like at that, willing to do anything except fight against the real criminals. He had, unfortunately, been drunk and stoned enough to start listening to himself.
The result had been a libido- fuelled attempt to break into Andoche Tarkin's apartment, fortunately unsuccessful, that a rather less wrecked Lennart had managed to rescue him from; she was a frighteningly good shot.
That had been followed by an attempt to, initially, arrest a statue of Palpatine that had involved Max handcuffing himself to it, losing the plot entirely, and Lennart frantically slicing the surveillance cameras before they could notice what he was far enough gone to do to the statue. They had left the planet shortly afterwards.
'How could you even suggest that I should do such a thing?' Max said, with almost convincing indignancy. 'Drawing multiple sets of pay and allowances for imaginary people under me, imaginary versions of myself, surely such a thing is beneath the notice of a martial hero of the Empire-' and Lennart said the last bit with him, 'besides, the bureaucrats are wise to it now anyway.'
'You're going to appreciate this, Max. There was a hideous paperwork cockup when this ship was commissioned. You know the old Republic Fleet prize regulations? We may be one of the last ships in the fleet they still fully apply to.' Lennart said, with a twisted grin.
'You mean- all that wonderful, hieratic old language about shares of the value of the prize? With such a golden incentive, no wonder you became a military hero.' Max said, envious.
'I never understood your relationship with money.' Lennart said, sadly. 'Not convinced that you did, either- and I don't think the Empire could get the same effect out of you unless they paid you in drugs and women. Do you remember Vittoria? That night in the Purple Feather on Jehamia?'
'Ahem.' Max said.
'All right, women and marsupials.' Lennart corrected. This man and his half- brother were more than chalk and cheese, they were matter and antimatter; bring him and Firmus together and something probably would cease to exist. With any luck, it would be the ramrod up Piett's spine.
The drunken, drug-addled, Casanova-in-his-own-mind, fallen aristo Max was certainly a more amenable companion, although looking back, Lennart wondered if that was because he had simply blotted parts of it out of his own memory.
'I remember her.' Max ignored the jab, probably because it was true. 'I remember her spending most of her time with you.'
Lennart snorted with laughter. 'I'm surprised you had time to notice. There was no way in the nine hells I was going to be able to keep up with you in quantity- or variety- so I had to go for something.'
The Purple Feather had been a house of ill repute, and the night in question had been the night the local police had raided it. Max, offended at being disturbed, caught literally in flagrante, had deputised the prostitutes as officers of the ISB and ordered them to arrest the police.
The girls, not entirely surprisingly, had turned out to have more incapacitating and stunning weapons and much more creative restraint devices than the law. The pair of them had run for it before the situation had finished shaking itself out.
'I was flipping through the Party almanac, and I noticed her name; she must have really taken to her new career- she made Lieutenant-General last year.' Lennart said, and it was actually true.
'An unexpected friend in high places. In these times, one can do with as many as possible.' Max sighed, in a way that Lennart interpreted as a prelude to his being tapped for cash.
'It's these times that I need to talk to you about.' Lennart said. 'One of your lot, actually, a Hewl Wennod who seems to have taken something of a dislike to me- who are his friends, his patrons, his paymasters? If I can talk to them I might be able to sort this out.'
'What, Holier-than-thou Hewl? That joyless, soul-less puritan? There is someone in the galaxy who thinks he has friends?' Max said. 'I do not move in the same ever-decreasing circles as such as he.'
'Max?' Lennart said, hackles rising. 'You say puritan- do you mean that in the civil sense, that he just isn't particularly broad- minded?' To be fair, Max was a challenge to most people's broad- mindedness, so that didn't say much, but... 'Or do you actually mean that he is a religious fanatic- and if so, which religion?'
'Now you bring it up...yes, something to do with the Prophets of the Dark Side. Whatever they are.'