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The Council of Moffs

Posted on Fri Nov 13th, 2020 @ 11:26pm by Thane & Bomoor Thort & Sev Rezer & Valavai Tarses

Chapter: Chapter VI: The Last Bastion
Location: Disra Palace, Bastion
Timeline: Day Two, Week Four

A fine slice of white light reflected brilliantly in the dark, tinted glass of the long meeting room table, broken only by small projector module, which was currently de-activated, nestled in the centre of the glossy surface. That single light source sharply illuminated the individuals seated about the table, highlighting the crisp folds of their various high-ranking Imperial uniforms while casting long shadows across the grey, windowless walls of the meeting chamber for the Council of Moffs, nestled within the historic Disra Palace.

The individuals assembled in this room represented the highest ruling powers of the Bastion Empire, chaired by Grand Moff Valavai Tarses, the supreme leader and head of the council of Moffs, who sat at the head of the table. He was a tall, older Human male with chalky white hair and pale skin and sharp green eyes that pierced across the room from under his dark eyebrows. To his right sat Moff Edwoff Anthark, Moff of the planet Bastion and seen to many as the obvious successor to Tarses; a middle-aged Human with ashen hair and a well-manicured beard, he sat back comfortably in his chair as he too observed events.

The council was hearing the report from the head of the Naval Fleet and Armed Forces, Grand Admiral Willem Stert, a long-serving Human naval officer and veteran of the fifth Bastion War, regarding the controversial construction of the largest and most-powerful Star Destroyer to date: The Praetor-class Supreme Star Destroyer.

“The redesign of the aft engineering bay and the power distribution grid has begun without delay,” the Grand Admiral stood with one palm on the table as he addressed the room, his short moustache accenting the creases in his pale and weary-looking face, “I am told the projected efficiency gains to the superweapon are around 30%, far surpassing the original design.”

Some of the assembled Moffs appeared pleased at the news, some looked to each other and others maintained a statuesque composure.

“All good progress, Grand Admiral. But what can you tell us of the reported incursion into Bastion space at the Myto-Braxant sector border?” the question came from the Moff of Artorias, “We heard news that an unidentified ship was intercepted there.”

Stert allowed himself a short exhale at the derailing of his report, but nonetheless answered, “As you rightly point out, the ship in question was intercepted and thoroughly examined by the crew of border patrol ship Indictor. But I would in no way class this as an ‘incursion’; the ship is of civilian-class and extremely old. It is a class often used by small time cargo haulers or smugglers. Recovered logs indicated that the ship suffered some damage and was sent drifting into Imperial Space, but the full ship’s log is still being decompiled.

“But there were some individuals recovered alive, were there not? Why is our Navy risking the security of the Empire by bringing foreign entities onto our soil? Should we not simply destroy any vessel that dares to breach our border?” the Artorias Moff continued his questioning, with an added urgency to his tone.

“Well, yes, several comatose life forms were recovered and will be questioned if and when they awaken,” Stert answered, stiffening at the implication of not doing his duty, “I know these kinds of incidents are rare, due in no small part to our extremely proficient men and women in uniform, but I can assure you that I hold the security of our Empire as sacred as my own life and all proper procedures were followed in this instance.”

"We are eternally grateful, from the depths of the Void to the furthest reaches of Unknown Regions, for your long and committed service to our great nation."

The voice that now spoke was well-known to the ruling committee: Anthark. It was probably the voice the Council heard most frequently, in recent months, as the upstart moff of their capitol was increasingly outspoken in matters of politics and warfare. Indeed, he had taken a leading role in spearheading the discreet arrangement with GalactaWerks, but was not ashamed of challenging his compatriots on a great number of matters - including their characters.

Anthark cleared his throat and let his arm rest lazily on the conference table, giving him a very casual yet commanding air. Most of them recognised the theatrical display for what it was, even if a good number of them were, effectively, in his pocket or aligned to him in some manner. A play against Tarses in the coming months was generally considered certain, but he continued to be nominally loyal for now.

"I think we are all content to assure you, Grand Admiral, that you will be well catered for when your overdue retirement finally comes to pass," he added, his deep voice laden with a politician's slick tones. His eyes now quickly flicked to their leader, however. "Of course, my learned colleague for the most venerable planet of Artorias raises a very valid point. With so much faith placed in our good friends from GalactaWerks and the diligence of our fine navy, why is Your Excellency so concerned with such an insignificant vessel?"

The look Anthark received from some of the other moffs clearly pleased him, as he betrayed the fact he had deduced more about the situation than was plain to them all.

"It has been taken into your care, after all... has it not?" Anthark pressed the point a little further, inclining his head and wearing a damnable smile.

“Moff Anthark’s confidence in our partnership with GalactaWerks is to be expected,” the Grand Moff calmly interjected with his focused and unwavering baritone voice as he pressed a white key on an embedded console on the table in front of him. The holoprojector sprung to life and produced a wide blue and white three-dimensional image of a colossal warship. There were red highlights over the aft engineering bay indicating the efficiency boost Grand Admiral Stert spoke of. “It is, after all, the accepted status quo among us here. The support they have provided in developing the Praetor-class superweapon has been invaluable, but pales in comparison to what we have accomplished on our own. As you can see, we have far surpassed the original scope of this soon-to-be fully operational starship. The ingenuity of our engineers have been nothing less than extraordinary, particularly the younger technicians. Never before in our entire history has Bastion been blessed with a generation possessed of such talent and dedication to the Empire. Wouldn't you agree?” Tarses turned to Anthark offering nothing more than stone gaze devoid any surrounding emotion on his face.

Moff Vissel, who had remained silent until that moment, added. "Of course, Grand Moff Tarses. The Imperial engineers are second to none. The addition of GalactaWerks assets only improved what was already first rate". The Moff gave Tarses a small smile, with a slight bow with his head.

"Indeed," Anthark added coldly, looking briefly less-impressed with himself than he had been just a moment before, and he offered a cold glare to Vissel.

Despite Moff Vissel's historic tuteeship under Tarses, he was known to be in Anthark's pocket these days, the Moff of Bastion having some measure of power over him that was publicly unknown.

“I received an interesting communique this morn from our esteemed GalactaWerks ‘friends’,” the Grand Moff remarked with a emphasis on 'friends' that gave away the barest hint of his loathing. “Board member Wutali Morthart was quite insistent on several claims her company feels entitled to. In her remarkable display of impertinence, she demanded full ownership of the Praetor's original design schematics including complete documentation of all system enhancements and planned refits in-development. GW's agents continue to meddle in our affairs, make demands to oversee construction and obtain access to classified facilities and military records, and all while their ilk provide incalculable services to the Republic. I ask you gentlemen, as the architects of our glorious new future, are we beholden to the whims of private enterprise that moves against our interests, or do we work towards reminding this galaxy that the Empire is not to be trifled with?”

"The amount of self-importance they give themselves is preposterous!" said Vissel. "No corporation or Nation can dictate terms to the Empire. Agreed, Grand Moff, a lesson seems necessary."

"Steady now, Moff Vissel," Anthark said in a snake-like voice to the room, as one would if they were chiding a young child. "They are hardly dictating any terms to us. We must remember that the culture of the galaxy outside of our civilisation is anything but; they are barbarians, wedded to notions of corporatism and archaic galactic democracy, barely welded together by a monastic order of dusty wizards, who seemingly cannot even keep their own house in order. Theirs is a world trembling at the precipice, doomed to a cycle of destruction and rebirth. My friends, that is not us."

Anthark's gaze mostly focused on Tarses, his usual target when these hyperbolic moods took him, but he made a good show of addressing the other uniformed figures. "That ridiculous existence is the world GalactaWerks comes from - the world they thrive within, as they manipulate and twist that laughable Republic into whatever image takes their fancy, so led by their material greed are they. Us, though? No, we long ago did well to divorce ourselves from that miasma of gluttony and avarice, to focus on higher goals of civility and technological advancement... but it does not mean we are without foes that seek our undoing. That is not GalactaWerks, though. Oh no. I speak of the Mandalorian menace, and the dissidents that hide beneath our very cities in our grand state."

His eyes washed over them all, piercing and powerful. "You've all heard me state this case time and again, but I will not rest until we are assured of our ascendancy in the only setting that matters: Bastion, and the worlds owed to us by our Imperial privilege. Whilst GalactaWerks continues to play banker with their 'shareholders', we instead must look inwards to set our own house in order; we use this partnership to cement our authority, reclaim the worlds seized by the Mandalorian pigs, and establish the mightiest, everlasting empire in history. We need not waste Imperial lives or resources dabbling with the hollow cities of Coruscant, or stealing the stale bread of the Outer Rim."

Anthark paused just briefly, assured that everyone was focused on him and listening intently, regardless of how they felt about Bastion 'second' Moff. "I say we give Morthart what she asks for. There is no risk and only reward within our means; they could not face our might in conflict. Let them seize their Republic which, like sand, will anarchically slip through their fingers. Let them war with the farmers of the backwaters. Let them distract the Jedi from their laughable crusades. We have what we need from them, and we have our goals plainly within grasp here. To seek the galaxy is to seek our ruin; have we not learnt the lessons of Emperors Palpatine, Krayt and Fel?"

He looked to Tarses now, more brazenly. "Have we not?" He repeated.

"Of course we have, Moff Anthark", Moff Vissel replied quickly. "To use an enemy to battle an enemy is strategy off from Grand Admiral Thrawn's writings, wouldn't say, Grand Moff Tarses?". This time, VIssel made a quick eye contact with Anthark, before focusing on Tarses.

Tarses did not trade glances with Vissel or Anthark, but rather kept his icy gaze upon the empty chair at the other end of the table. With fingers steepled in front of him on the table, nearly lost in deep contemplation, he recalled His predecessor, the previous Grand Moff, had issued a continuing order many decades earlier to install the chair as a physical reminder of Bastion's "Empty Throne". He knew that no matter the amount of ships, weapons, and charismatic political bloviating, the Empire had no future without a wise and powerful Emperor guiding the threads of fate. War after war, countless bureaucratic maneuvers, and exhaustive research and development had all but the effect of maintaining the status quo. In his old age, he was fed up with it all. With a constant nagging ache in his lower cybernetically reconstructed back after having broken it in an ignoble fall many years earlier, he was weary with the stagnation and deeply tired of the back n' forth struggle preventing progress. Always a step forward, and a step back. The Praetor-class project required considerable compromises and painful fiscal expenditures just to get the first keel laid down. Bastion needed to somehow escape its quagmire, and he wondered how. He wondered how much longer could Bastion take the grind it before time and circumstances swept it all away. Another decade? A century?

"Five years," Tarses answered as he carefully stood up from his seat, knowing it wasn't the reply anyone in the room had expected. He turned to Vissel, then to Anthark, and swept his eyes over the others, adding, "We have gone to considerable trouble to develop these new command ships in that time." He started a slow walk towards the other empty chair, hands thoughtfully clasped together behind his back, and continued, "We've exhausted an incredible sum of our resources, staked a great deal on new weapons inspired by the lessons of the past, and yet in spite of all we've done, surviving for many centuries through sheer grit and sound strategy, I still see an empty chair in front of me." He stopped beside the unused symbol of the Empty Throne and placed a gloved hand on its high back. "I believe we can destroy the Mandalorian vermin and tighten our grasp on the Outer Rim." His emotionless gaze then quickly morphed to a sudden expression of contempt aimed directly at Anthark as he added sternly, "But we will not give in to Morthart or any GalactaWerks demands. I am no longer content to merely settle with what we have, or to sit back while the Republic quarrels with bent capitalists. To do anything less is a betrayal of the grand plan of unifying the galaxy under a singular entity. Starting today, we will begin the process of permanently severing ties with GW. Morthart will receive token overtures of filtered information, and she will be shown only what we wish her to see without compromising the secrecy of our operations. Remember, it was the lot of you, not me, who sought the development of the superweapon. I warned each of you that when it was built, nothing would ever be the same again. Once the first ship is launched, there is no going back. The galaxy will know where we stand and they will be on the defensive. I intend for us to break our enemies once and for all when that time comes. Now, unless there any objections..."

“Your Excellency?” came the now-intrigued voice of the Grand Admiral, finding his voice again among the many Moffs, “We are to cease working with GalactaWerks? I would be more than happy to escort Morthart and her Intendants from Bastion space, believe you me. But I must admit that their assistance has been invaluable in streamlining development, not to mention securing the required Mandalorian iron. Should we not finish the project before we cut ties?”

Moff Vissel sensing the mood change in the room, glanced at Anthark and then at Tarses before speaking. "The Grand Admiral has a point, my fellow Moffs. The Empire still needs some assetes that only GalactaWerks can offer. I suggest that we don't sever completely our link with them, but restrict what information they get", he paused. "The Empire is about to return to the galactic stage with that project. We're going to punish Mandalorians and Republicans alike. So, I bid you, Grand Moff Tarses, for more time." There, Anthark, I did my best, you snake.

"Time..." Tarses said with a few curt shakes of his head, allowing the corner of his lips to curl ever so slightly into a suppressed grin. "...I believe that is a luxury we have all but exhausted, but no man here is above the law--certainly not me. We, of course, must follow protocol as always. We'll convene again in two days to formulate our exit strategy. Moffs Vissel and Anthark, you will both co-chair the continuing committee to spearhead our divorce from GW. This is your top priority now. Devise plans for both immediate and staged long-term withdrawals from our partnership with them. A balanced plan can be forged from both extremes. Grand Admiral, let us resume our talk on the formation of the new fleet in my office in one hour. Also, have Commodore Leer forward her reports from Indictor directly to me. That is all gentlemen."

Anthark inclined his head politely to their leader and displayed his best politician's smile, in spite of keeping his lips tightly sealed, only speaking the words, "Long Live the Empire," a half-second noticeably later than his colleagues. Even as Stert resumed his discussion with Tarses, Anthark was the slowest in departing the chamber, making a point of making a final solemn glance back to the elder Human.

Known all too well to Grand Moff Tarses, there was a grimly-familiar glint in Anthark's eyes.

 

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