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Long Live the Empire, Part Two

Posted on Tue Mar 30th, 2021 @ 3:32am by Valavai Tarses & Bomoor Thort & Thane

Chapter: Chapter VI: The Last Bastion
Location: Grand Moff's Chambers, Disra Palace, Bastion
Timeline: Evening (Day Two, Week Four) (After "Long Live the Empire")

OLD

"Wise influences," Tarses said as he handed the glass of port to a weary Bomoor as the old man nursed a glass of the same drink that Thane so heartily consumed with amusing vigor and peculiar dignity. There was something of lordly caliber about the young Jedi, though he couldn't place it. Not haughty or pretentious like the other Moffs of Bastion, but...burdened, as if he himself carried his own weight of civil responsibility not meant for the elected political elite or the Force-imbued robe-wearers of Coruscant. For his part, Tarses imbibed in kind, but to savour like a proper man of the uniform rather than merely to drain like some miserable peasant. A drink was a friend to him crafted with great care whose company was short-lived as was most of his life's relationships.

"My mother once told me that if a fool is honorable," he added, "he can grow to become a personage of greatness, worthy of memory. 'Every king,' she said, 'was once a fool'." He motioned to the balcony where a small coffee table with a pair of macrobinoculars was set upon. "Come, let me show you some of those fools. You might even recognize them..."


NEW

Bomoor took a quick sip of his drink before moving over to the balcony as indicated. Even without the macrobinoculars, he could see an open area in the far distance where great activity was occurring and he spied the distinctive glint he and Thane would both recognise to be a lightsaber clashing. His interest piqued, he placed down his glass on the stone balcony and brought the macrobinoculars up to his eyes. Tarses had even been considerate enough to supply lenses that were adjustable enough to an Ithorian's gaze.

It did not take long for him to adjust the device to focus in on the battle going on. He saw Mentis wielding his red blade against some kind of armoured man, brandishing a great blade against the Rattataki. Mentis' moves were defensive, with brief bursts of movement, which were matched by his opponent.

Bomoor handed Thane the lenses and he to peered out to observe the ongoing battle.

"One of yours, yet wielding a scarlet blade," Tarses noted as he passed the scope to Thane to grant him and the Ithorian a closer look at the battle. "Imagine my surprise. Quite the skilled lad as to be expected, but he does appear to be having some difficulty against my operative."

"The way his opponent is moving," Bomoor questioned the Bastion ruler, "Is he or she a Jedi?"

"Not a Jedi," Tarses replied after finishing his drink, "but he is armed with knowledge of Jedi combat techniques. I decided to go a bit easy on your companion and sent our prototype suit. Modest in comparison to our recent developments, though the Rattataki is still very much in danger, I fear. And yet, he is everything I hoped he would be; a fine test for our next-generation combat units. I see a young man holding nothing back. He is a gladiator in his element. He strikes for the kill. The thirst for blood in his heart. He battles like nothing else in all the universe matters except the struggle. There is a certain...beauty to that. Men and women who fight with such conviction are what shapes this galaxy. Not diplomacy, or debate, or carefully worded economic sanctions. All the philosophers and engineers and politicians among us are all made possible at the edge of someone's blade. From here, I can only imagine the sounds of his parries and ripostes, the thunder of his powers unleashed...it is the song of life. War, gentlemen, is the anthem of Bastion itself."

Nearby to the combative display were the rest of Thane and Bomoor's companions, they had spotted through the binoculars. Stood to the side and watching on, their expressions not quite visible, even with the magnification of the equipment, were Amare, Rex, Reave and Sev, unmoving in their vigil. Scores of stormtroopers, clad in brilliant-white armour, flanked the makeshift gladiatorial setting.

Thane placed the macrobinoculars down onto the coffee table carefully, his naked eyes watching the scarlet blade of the former cultist spinning expertly in the distance. His facial muscles tensed visibly for just a second.

"It is an anthem that the Republic forgot long ago," the former Jedi Guardian finally said, not yet looking away from the far-off spectacle. "A flagrant denial of the truth of this universe and the beings that populate it, in a vain and futile effort to reshape existence to something that better suits their delicate sensibilities, bereft of sense, reality or true purpose. Their devotion to this grand lie has birthed a stagnant beast, doomed to failure, with the braying nerfs that make up their populace shackled to it, dragged down into mediocrity and decay with them."

With a short examination of the nearby glassed-off lightsaber, Thane finally turned back to their host. "Is this what you cared to hear, Grand Moff Tarses; did you wish to hear the sermonising of two lost Jedi, to be sure that the interlopers that keep red-blade-wielding warriors as company might indeed be fallen from grace, given to philosophies long since rejected by their so-called peers?"

Tarses drew in a long, slow early evening whiff of Bastion air, hardly believing his ears. He slowly turned to Thane and replied with narrowed eyes, "Either you have indeed turned your back on the Jedi, or you are a very good actor." He turned and gazed at Bomoor hard. "And what of you, Ithorian? Do you share your comrade's views, or do you represent the other half of a house divided?"

"The way of the modern Jedi is a mockery of an ancient ideal perpetuated by some of the most twisted individuals I have encountered among the many zealots and criminals," Bomoor's eyes flicked between Tarses and the distant flashes of blade against metal, "Those who remain are either complicit or foolish enough to believe the ideal outweighs the true scale of its evil. The Republic is the same: idealism over virtue."

There was a faint but audible explosive discharge from the distant battlefield and Bomoor relaxed ever so slightly as he felt sensed that Mentis had triumphed against his opponent.

"I am not war-like by nature, Grand Moff," the Ithorian added, "But I believe in fighting for our own and against those who would take it from us. Despite this display, I do not sense you are our enemy in that regard."

Upon noticing that the duel belonged to Mentis, Tarses turned away with no visible reaction, though inwardly intrigued by the outcome. "It appears your bearer of the scarlet blade just saved the lives of your crew." Tarses said as he returned to his desk. "Spare me a moment to make sure they don't get shot."

He pressed two fingers on his command console to open a comm channel, and the images of two Bastion officers appeared in front of him, their line of sight excluding Thane and Bomoor. "Colonel Mirthul, hold fire and have the men return Palidor's suit for decommissioning. Escort the intruders from the Research Sector to the Executive Offices immediately. They are to be my guests. You are to maintain high alert for now, but be discreet. Doctor Hanchon, have Medical send a biohazard team to place the Nautolan under observation as a precaution until we know she is not a risk to public health. If she resists, stun her and use restraints. She is not to be harmed otherwise."

A dark eyebrow was raised on Thane's pale face, and he almost seemed amused at Tarses' suggestion on managing his apprentice. "She is young to the Force, Grand Moff. Your forces would do well to treat her with courtesy."

When he cut the comm and the holograms vanished, Tarses added to his Force-ful guests, "Now that we are somewhat cordial, let us start with names and the nature of your mission here. Absent the desire to take my life, what do you lot hope to gain by so recklessly bringing yourselves here within our grasp?"

Convinced that their companions would indeed be relatively safe for the time being, Thane and Bomoor stepped away from the balcony, with the Ithorian taking one of the seats across from Tarses in front of his desk, whilst Thane remained standing beside his friend, a hand careful grasping the chairs backrest.

"GalactaWerks," Bomoor's voice was intentionally pointed, but not aggressive, "An increasingly concerning poison within Republic space and now, it would seem, encroaching on what was long thought to be the isolated Bastion Moff Empire. Do you deny their presence here?"

"Of course not," Tarses answered with a faint grin. "They're everywhere. Ultra-capitalist pests exploiting the galaxy with little restraint. I am not a man opposed to fair commerce, but they have crossed the line far too many times. They, however, are the demons I know that have the goods. You, on the other hand, I do not know so well, and have so little to offer. There's clearly a personal stake you have involving them, isn't there?"

Thane did not address the latter question, and remained watching the moff carefully from his position beside his sitting friend as he spoke to him. Bomoor could tell that there was a temptation in him to use the Force to seep into Tarses' will, to divine the true extent of his arrangements with 'the Company', but the Caanan restrained himself, reverting to his mundane talents, instead.

"You are forging a war machine with GalactaWerks," he observed. "But for a war with whom, we must wonder - or if you even share the same foes." Thane glanced around the room briefly before continuing. "Sinister corporatism and ineffective politics infects every level of galactic government," he echoed the comments he had made to Theon on Alba, "and we have seen the face of that menace a number of times in our lives. On Onderon, we saw the Company firsthand fuel a civil war to seize control of the assets, rekindling the fires of the Second Outer Rim Conflict - a war caused and paid-for by that very same corporation."

Thane's eyes narrowed a little, but none of the hostility he and Bomoor had once anticipated they would have had in these circumstances were present. Instead, that fascination and curiosity with this Bastion connection remained prevalent, spurring them on in their engagement with Tarses.

"And now, divorced from the Reborn Jedi Order and seeking our own path to serve the galaxy, we discover beskar and Imperial armaments making their way between your supposedly-isolated nation and GalactaWerks' trade routes." Thane watched Tarses very carefully, even as he laid plain their entire purpose for entering the Grand Moff's domain. "A rare and coveted metal in all quarters, Excellency. The Mandalorians must be quite incensed - or will be. War is the anthem of Bastion, after all." Thane's eyes, still glinting with the dark Force that had become his norm, did not deviate from their host. "A steep price, to destabilise a galaxy for another petty conflict with Manda'toma."

The worn old green of Valvai Tarses, eyes that had seen far more blood and destruction than both of the Force-empowered youths in front of him, narrowed and glared harshly at the Caanan. Rather than respond with words, he gradually paced forward and stopped just a few feet between them. Tarses stood straight, chin high, his military pride keeping his square jaws firm, his superior height the one trait he the advantage over the much younger Human. He was undaunted to stand so boldly as he did in front of the ex-Jedi Knights in spite of knowing full well how quickly they could end him. He studied Thane's eyes for a brief tense moment, then turned to look up at Bomoor, and didn't see the same feature in the Ithorian's eyes.

"One tainted, the other not," Tarses observed with almost clinical detachment. "Curious. Yet both idealists. Even those with great power can still be victims of the foibles of youth."

He turned away from them and, with hands clasped together at his back, casually walked over to a round gray control console with various buttons and switches and small old fashioned monitors with various data readouts on display. At the center of the round embankment of controls was a raised round section that was essentially a large holoprojector. "I see you've learned a few things before coming here," he added as he moved toward the console. "That is good. Preparation is key, but you've only begun to get your feet wet in the swamp." He then stopped, then turned on heel to address them, "If you want to know just how deep this sarlacc pit goes, then I will require full disclosure from all of you. Not a drop of truth further from me until I am satisfied, starting with this..."

He pressed a single key on the console and the holo-image of a recorded security video feed was displayed showing the lab where Amare was kept in a heavy blast-proof containment unit with a clear view on one side showing the Nautolan slumbering in her bright turquoise chrysalis.

"What does all the beskar in the galaxy mean compared to such phenomenon?" Tarses asked rhetorically as he pointed at Amare. "You wish to pry into our political and military interests, and yet you deliver this to us; a biological marvel completely unknown to science. And inside this...'egg' made of a substance we cannot identify is none other than the young widow of a deceased board member of the Corellian Engineering Corporation."

As Tarses spoke, one of the lab scientists in the security footage seemed to move lethargically towards a console near where Amare was sealed, then slowly started to press buttons which unlocked the containment unit. No sound could be heard from the video, but alarm lights could be seen flashing throughout the lab. It was then that the liquid of the chrysalis began to recede, shrink, and absorb back into Amare's hands and disrobed body in just twelve seconds. She then started to saunter almost seductively out of the container towards the scientist who had fallen to his knees in front of her. Amare then placed a hand atop his head, stroking his scalp like a master consoling her pet, and that hand became alight with a bright and very familiar flame-like effect. Another scientist approached with a blaster aimed at the fledgling Sith, but Amare waved her other hand which caused the Force to telekinetically slap the weapon out of the other man's hand, and he quickly became the victim of a swift single bolt of lightning straight to the heart causing him to stumble back, fall, and hit his head on a console behind him, knocking him out. The first scientist was then released by Amare's life-draining grasp, and he fell over unconscious.

"And yet here she is, no longer a simple trophy wife that went missing for years, but now here among us as a living weapon," Tarses concluded. "That still leaves your companions and a mysterious room on your ship protected by some of the most impressive military-grade security protocols I've ever seen. I want to know everything, starting with who you both really are and what you seek to accomplish here. You can cooperate, or you can watch your friends be executed." He tapped another key which changed the image to show live feeds of Amare and the others being loaded onto an armored personnel speeder. "You can slay me very easily, this is true, but an automated kill-order signal will be sent to all of Bastion's forces, and none of you will leave here alive. The choice is yours. Either way, the legacy of the Old Empire will live on, and long may it shall live."

Sitting forwards in his chair and keeping his eyes keenly on the older Human, Bomoor carefully spoke, “That young woman you seem to know so much about: she has done everything in her considerable power to prevent herself ever again being anyone’s slave. You will find that all of our companions share her same strength of will in that regard: we have all fought to be free in our own ways and we did not come here simply to become servants of your Empire.”

He stood up and allowed his lungs to amplify his voice, “You will find we are far more co-operative as allies, Moff Tarses. That power you seek: the power that could divorce your people from GalactaWerk’s controlling tendrils, will only come willingly.”

Tarses gave no verbal reply, just merely snapping his vision on Thane's gold-flecked irises. Inwardly, however, he could respect what the Ithorian was offering. Any genuine opportunity to break the yoke of GW, no matter how small, was worthy of consideration.

Thane had allowed Bomoor to speak with no further interruption from him, even as Tarses provided further exposition over more of the curious histories that seemed to construct the foundations of the wayward Nautolan girl they kept as their charge. Eventually, having matched the Grand Moff's expression, he spoke.

"Your excellency," Thane began, "you do not need me to explain that there is a legacy much older and grander than even that of the Old Empire, though the latter was birthed from the former... but humour me for a moment. The empires of old, of course, found their inception within the dark visions of this ancient order, constructed in the minds of those with the will to see the galaxy re-forged in a new image, even if this image was oft corrupted by the desires of sycophants and megalomaniacs. Bastion is the successor to these troubled nations, carrying forward a diluted vision - bereft of the order that conceived it for generations."

Thane looked for a moment to the display that depicted their Red Raptor allies, the group that had gathered around them over the preceding months, since their lives had taken dramatic turns of near-galactic proportions - turns that had now led them to the heart of Palpatine's latent benefaction.

"This young woman, in many ways," the Caanan went on, gesturing to the image as Tarses allowed him to speak unimpeded, "is a parallel to your nation... for she is just as much an heir to that ancient order as Bastion. She is my apprentice."

It was plain to Bomoor that Thane had reached his judgment on the matter, as the former Jedi Guardian stood his ground before the Grand Moff of the Bastion Moff Empire, and revealed the true nature of the enterprise they had engaged with since the discovery of the forbidden lore - the first plain revelation of their secret.

"Grand Moff Tarses, I am the last of the old and the first of the new," Thane continued boldly, his eyes unwavering in their fixation upon the elder man. "As Thane, I was a Knight of the Reborn Jedi Order and the heir to throne of Caanus, son to a murdered mother and brother, and friend to Bomoor Thort of Öetrago, and our goals are many." He looked just briefly to the Ithorian, a modicum of affection hidden behind his statement, before his voice rediscovered its steel and his gaze was returned to Tarses, a dark, punctuated paused falling between them.

"As Serus... I am master of Amare, and the Lord of the Sith."

Valavai Tarses was without words yet again, other than a low repeat of the title, "The Sith..." Such a declaration seemed like madness to him, but he saw the subtle signs. Furthermore, he knew it would be utterly impossible for a Jedi to speak such blasphemous declarations if they hadn't learned to break years of indoctrination and attachment to their Order and the loathsome Republic. To even break such chains would require an influence of considerable power along with a brutal string of very dark experiences.

It was then that he heard an electronic chirping sound from the console next to him. He hesitated, finding it hard to take his eyes off Thane's imperious gaze, then mustered the will to look down and see on the screen the name Palidor. He pressed a button to answer, "Yes, lieutenant? Your disconnect from the suit was less eventful this time, I take it?"

"Pardon the interruption, sir," Palidor said, the synthetic sound of a young male voice of an age similar to the two former Jedi in the room, "but I am not calling to report my failure. May I speak, please? We can sense their presence. Esper, Key, and Sergeant Grigori are aware as well."

Tarses took in a deep breath, staring hard at the self-declared Lord of the Sith and understood that Palidor was one of a small handful of those on Bastion that were of a similar cloth of those blessed with the enhancements of the Force.

"You may speak," Tarses granted.

"To the new guests of His Excellency the Grand Moff, I am Lieutenant Symon Tarses, codename 'Palidor', commanding officer of the Knights of Bastion. I have foreseen this day for what has been almost seven years. Grand Moff, the Caanan speaks the truth. He is the one whose face was blind to me all this time, but I have seen him clearly in recent days, and now with his and the Ithorian's presence here there is no doubt; the Sith have returned."

"Do the other Knights concur?" the Grand Moff asked.

There was a brief pause, and then the reply, "They do, sir. Our confidence is unanimous."

"Thank you, lieutenant," Tarses said calmly, a marked weariness pressing down on the tone of his deep voice. "You've earned your rest. We'll go over the combat data in the morning." He cut the secure channel without taking his eyes off Thane. After a deep breath and a run of his hand through his thinning white hair, he said, "So...after all this time, a new Lord of the Sith is among us. You may have the blessing of my Knights, but it is not enough for you have come to a world that no longer has faith in such things. The Sith were utterly shamed and destroyed by the Jedi and Republic long ago, and we were left to serve lesser dark beings who also were ignobly crushed. Any talk of the Force is anathema to our citizens. If I brought you before the Council of Moffs, there is a high chance they will reject your claim and not only strip me of my rank for trusting you, but have the lot of you executed. Are you prepared to take that risk?"

Thane did not even glance towards Bomoor this time. Instead, he allowed his mien before the Grand Moff to soften.

"I believe our interests are aligned, just as the risks posed to us are, should we trust one another," he said, his tone one of measured goodwill. There was a deep curiosity lining his thoughts for this Palidor, who shared a name with Bastion's erudite premier, but no voice was yet given to those considerations. Instead, he actually offered a hand to the Grand Moff, in a very Human display of conciliation. "One of our goals is the excision of GalactaWerks and the sick monopoly that they seek to forge in the galaxy - a goal I believe we share. Let us join with you, Excellency, in destroying this cancer that has infected your nation; let us prove we are what we claim to be, through actions as much as words. Your dissenters can see the truth, and your foes can be destroyed."

The gold glint in Thane's eyes had grown brighter as he spoke, yet his expression was earnest and oddly youthful, his pale skin stark in the limited light of Tarses' chamber. "We did not come to Bastion seeking an ally, Grand Moff, but, as they say; the best laid schemes of womps and men..."

"Often go awry," Bomoor completed the saying with a similar glint in his eye.

Tarses allowed his gaze to sink to the Caanan Sith Lord's offered hand. "Not this time," he said as he accepted the gesture, but did not take the hand as most men would. Rather, he gripped Thane's forearm and shook it firmly, one warrior to another. "I don't intend for us to lose ever again. If you can help me sway the majority of the Council, I will do all that is in my power to commit the full allegiance of Bastion behind you. We will crush GalactaWerks and anyone that dares stand in our way. For the Empire!"

END

 

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