En Route from Corellian Space
Grand Moff Trapt’s Personal Quarters
The universe, Trapt had decided, has a truly twisted sense of humor. In what universe would a loyal men hand over an equally loyal-if amoral-peer in the name of saving of the civilization they both proclaimed loyalty too? It was the stuff of bad holodrama, not galactic politics. And yet, that had played out, in all of it’s dramatic glory, during his state visit to Corellia.
He would have been tempted to call it farce, were he not convinced of the dire need of the action. Mandus. The Third Empire. The Mad Moff. The Empire had gone on as an idea-an idea with many incarnations-The Shadow Empire, The Second Empire, The Third Galactic Empire-and his own humble little Dominion. Idea’s had a power of their own-something not even death could touch.
Trapt knew this only too well. Loyalty to the Empire might as well, to use the technical jargon, have been embedded in an area of read-only memory in his circuitry. They inspired loyalty. They made those that followed them reach for the impossible, no matter how dire the odds. They rallied soldiers to a tattered flag. They made men try, even if they were convinced they were doomed. And sometimes, sometimes, they gave themselves physical form, even if they had lost it previously. The Empire had had many such forms.
In its defeat, it had gone from being a simple dragon, to a many-headed, near invincible hydra. With the division of the galaxy, there was little that could stand against the Imperial powers united.
In a way, it’s demise had ensured it’s immortality.
It was all very poetic.
So. This all begged a very important question. One Trapt had been pondering throughout his time with the fleet, throughout the collapse of the Third Empire, and indeed, throughout his visit to Corellia. Answers did not come easily. He was no Thrawn. He could not look at the grand pattern of the galaxies many twists and turns and divine an answer from the strokes of an artist’s brush. But he did have different skills. Different inclinations.
He had been built for treachery and deceit, after all. And one creature of the shadows, however reluctant, could sense the hand of another in events.
And to his mind, the fall of the Third Empire bore the fingerprints of such a hand.
So was such a hand involved in the fall of the Third Empire?
No. It was more then that. It wasn’t just an attack on the Third Empire. That was too obvious. Too easy.
It had been an attack on the idea of the Empire itself. An attack on the very soul of the Imperial powers. It had been distressingly effective. The Barony was imploding, the Imperial Ideal was discredited. If you couldn’t beat the Empires on a battlefield, beat them in the hearts and minds of the galaxy. Time and patience would do the rest. A slow poison. An effective poison.
Part of him admired the artistry of it.
So. The next question had been simple.
it had been a simple process of elimination-he had always suspected Sith influence in the recent conflagration, and an analysis of the potential cost/benefit seemed to bear that out.
He had suspected, for some time, some madness from Delievv, but that seemed too neat. Too clean. Delievv was the easy suspect, and he refused to believe a man of Mandus’ measure would not have had countermeasures in place. Indeed, the man had told him as much, during the single occasion they had met and spoke. Trapt had seen a peer. An equal or superior in the delicate field of galactic puppetry. A man who knew how to use monsters, and dispose of them. A single impression was not the best evidence to go off of, granted, but taken together with Mandus’ other feats, and a clear picture emerged.
Not Delievv then.
And that had left, once again, the Sith. And here he could feel the old patterns quite strongly. He did not know if he could possess intuition as organics reckoned it, but every part of his circuitry, his programming, his, to use the organic term, his instincts, were screaming at him that the old paths of the Sith were once again being trode, that all the fleets and armies and pomp and glory was just a smokescreen. That the real war was going to take place in the dark, dagger, claw, poison blackmail, whispered words, smoky rooms and shadowed figures.
Moreover, if his suspicions regarding the Third Empire were correct, this war had already begun.
And he suspected he might be one of the few people in the galaxy who realized it, distracted as everyone was by the violent implosion of the Third Empire, and the resulting revival of petty warlordism.
He had thought to simply stabilize the barony. Preserve part of the Empire. But no. That wouldn’t quite do anymore would it? That had become very clear indeed.
A clean electronic drone cut through his thoughts, and Trapt turned his attention to the holochair secreted in a corner of the room. It didn’t take him long to recognize the address code, nor the channel used.
The ever-charming Madame Zek. Trapt grinned, it was a small thing, but genuine. If she wanted what he suspected she wanted, then this would be a most interesting hour. His inner acter was queerly pleased he’d have someone to monologue too. It felt right, after the tragi-comic soap that been his visit to Corellia. It was only fitting that the mastermind of the production got to lay out his plans in full, before the curtain dropped on Act 1, chaotic and unpleasing as it was.
“Oh, do let her through.”
The holo-chair flickered to life, a wavering blue ghost joined the Grand Moff’s company. The technology to cut through the interference of hyperspace was rare, and not inexpensive, but Trapt had found it well worth the indulgence-when one was in effect managing a government from a warship, then one had to be ready for certain expenses after all.
Charming smile number forty-five popped onto his face with precisely zero effort on his part. “Madame Zek, such a pleasure to see you. May I enquire as to the purpose of your call? As I understand it our ventures have been going quite well, I do hope something hasn’t come up?”
Zek, for her part, was all classic inscrutability, almost like a villain out of those old ‘green peril’ holo-movies. “You are correct Grand Moff. Our ventures are proving quite profitable-both for you and myself. I simply, if you care to indulge me, wish to ask a few question.”
Trapt’s smile turned magnanimous. “But of course, anything for head of the East Empire Trading Company.”
Zek maintained a facade of staid neutrality. “Quite. I am curious, Grand Moff, as to the reason you toured Corellian space-much less with such an important prisoner in tow. Much less to deliver her to execution. I was led to believe you valued loyalty to the Empire above all.”
“You of all people should know that galactic politics is rarely as cut and dry as that, Lady Zek.” Trapt’s voice carried a small edge of admonition and….interest, Zek wasn’t the type to start such a line of thought without something to go on.
“Indeed.” Zek let the word hang in the air for a moment, before plowing ahead. “You give us a thousand good reasons to march to war in the Barony. You hold off on doing so for months. You set up aid camps in the Barony instead. You head the Dominion, and you galavant around in a warship for months on end, running your own government by hologram. I shall be blunt. Your actions do not make sense. Not under the paradigm you outlined. We haven’t made a move against the Iotran since we took that station, yet you talk of expansion, even as our forces sit idle.” Zek leaned forwards. “So. I shall be blunt. Do you have a plan or are you simply a madman?”
“I do indeed have a plan Lady Zek. What I plan is nothing less than the resurrection of the Galactic Empire.”
Zek looked at the Grand Moff like he had grown a second head. “Madness then.”
“On the contrary.” Trapt waved a hand with practiced ease. “Consider this. If we had moved on the Barony whilst the Warlords were still sorting themselves out-before solid rivalries and a balance of power had materialized-before that is to say, familiarity had began to breed contempt, before resistance movements against them crystallized before they had learned to distrust each other, before the field had narrowed from dozens of factors to a smattering in comparison-we would have been walked into a quagmire without end. In which victory was impossible.
Now, Madame Zek, victory is possible, the warlords predictable, the situation stable instead of fluid. They do not trust each other, they’ve seen the betrayal and strife that comes with rising to power in such a situation too many times too. They’ve done it themselves too many times too. There will be no grand alliance of enemies against us, instead, they will tear at each other the second we destabilize the situation. Trying to grab as much from each other as they can, to face us, instead of turning upon us as one.”
Zek interrupted. “How can you be sure of this?”
“Because, Madame Zek, that is exactly what happened the last time an Empire fell. Or do you not remember the post-Palpatine days? Or the Dominion’s first campaign against the warlords that had so beset it?” Trapt cocked his head. “Who are we, if we do not know our history?”
Trapt paused, his smiled had grown cold, and his eyes now had a certain fire to them, a fire that had not burned since a Palpatine sat upon the throne of Coruscant. “And finally, Madame Zek. Consider the fact that the Warlords must build their nation on the ruins of another, taking up precious resources. That’s why our aid camps did so well-less work for them, less money spent, and on occasion, a useful source of protection money. We do not have that problem. We control a nation already. We gain resources as time passes, not lose them. Time was on our side Madame Zek. And it still is.”
Trapt’s smile grow a bit wider. “And tell me, Madame Zek. Do you really think I would send helpless aid workers into a conflagration like the Barony?”
Zek clasped her hands in front of her. “Go on.”
“It was simply a precaution of course. But embedded stormtroopers and intelligence personnel seemed a sensible precaution. And if they had happened to build good will amongst the population in the meantime, and if, perhaps the man behind the operation was very cautious, and had a certain….code he could send out, warning them of dangerous, telling them to arm themselves and take to the forests...why, that would simply good sense would it not?”
And suddenly not the fertile bed of dirt in which a veritable garden of partisan resistance could be built.
Zek blanched. “It seems a poor bet-do you really think any nation will accept our aid again, after that?”
“Unless they routinely send out troops to shake down aid camps, I doubt they’ll have reason to worry about such precautions.” Trapt shot back smoothly.
Zek shook her head. These weren’t the actions of a madmen. “You’ve been planning this from the start.” She said, in a moment of realization. She rather felt like she was standing at the edge of precipice, staring into a yawning, uncertain void.
“From the start of the Dominion? Certainly not. Not even from the start of my involvement in the Barony. But it’s all worked out so beautifully I can’t complain.” Trapt said nonchalantly. “Am I too assume you no longer think me a deluded madman?”
“That or one sane enough to make his delusions startlingly viable.” Zek replied, having rapidly adjusted to the bizarre new reality she found herself in, in which the ruler of a rim power had somehow laid a solid groundwork for building an empire in the span of a few relatively short months.
“Both will function well enough for my purposes.” Trapt shrugged. “I assume you are no longer desperately looking for a reason to cut the connection, pack your bags and make for Hutt space at the fastest possible speed?”
“That would be accurate.” Zek paused. “And if I may be so bold, why the delay on Iotran? And what of Dargon?”
“I must reserve the right to keep some secrets Madame Zek.” Trapt inclined his head for a moment. “Now, unless there are other pressing doubts as to the state of mental facilities?”
“Understood, Grand Moff Trapt….or…” Zek shot the Grand Moff a sly look. “Should I say Emperor Trapt?”
“Grand Moff will do Madame Zek. I am not quite so ambitious.”
Zek bowed. “In that case. The Emperor is dead. Long live the Empire.” And her profit margins, if this strategy turned out to be as...astonishingly viable as it seemed. The EETC stood to make a pretty penny.
With that, the connection faded out, and Trapt’s smile lost it’s somewhat frosty edge. He felt alive again. He felt like he had when the Empire had been whole, and Coruscant had been the center of a true Empire, not some mockery run by a theocracy in the making.
The Grand Moff took a moment to steady himself, there was no real need for deep breathes, but even so, they felt comforting to him. He had always straddled the line between man and machine. It felt fitting.
A man chose, after all, a machine simply obeyed.
And he had chosen this. Chosen this when he’d stained his hands with the blood of his rebel creators, chosen it when he’d shot his way out of their base. Chosen it when he’d used fabricated credentials to join the Fleet, to gain some measure of revenge on his erstwhile creators.
And saving the Empire they so loathed, Trapt reflected, was certainly a fine revenge, if nothing else. But it wasn’t only that.
The Empire had given him his freedom, strange as that might sound to the Republicans of the galaxy. The rebels had thought themselves his master-the Empire had given him a command, given him worth, given him...everything really, everything that many other beings in the galaxy had gotten simply by virtue of being born.
That was a debt he could never repay.
His undying, unwavering loyalty would have to do as compensation.
“Captain.” He spoke to thin air, but a voice nonetheless materialized, through the computer systems of the ship.
“Fifteen standard minutes sir.”
“Excellent. Thank you.” Enough time then. Everything was about to change….Trapt shook his head, no everything had changed. He didn’t feel like the Grand Moff of the Imperial Dominion anymore. He felt like a Grand Moff of the Empire. A proud servant of the legitimate ruling body of the galaxy.
For the first time in..far far too many years.
And now, before the final hour, before the curtain fell, there was something else to consider.
His son. He had not been the best father. He had been...attempting...to make up for that. Still. Things were awkward at times. He often felt as if he and his son, lived in different worlds. Odd to say, considering he had built his son himself, gone over every line of programming. The galaxy had not seen fit to give him a son, so he had simply built one. A simple solution to...what?
He still wasn’t quite sure why, he doubted anyone could quite put it into words. He did not regret it however, he never could. Despite their semi-estrangement, despite his fumbling attempts….and despite the fact Xander had picked up an unfortunate affinity for profanity, he was proud of his son. Proud of the man he had guided through the galaxy, and proud of the values that man had.
And in a way, he valued his son’s independent streak as well, even if it meant a certain distance between them.
Trapt sighed. One way or another, the Empire would be reborn or die. One did not make such a monumental move without some words to one’s family. And Xander was very much the only family he had.
“Computer”. Trapt found his mouth was dry, quite suddenly, and silently cursed the sophistication of his builders, to note such a small detail in human behavior and biology…”Computer. Contact my son. Code 256472.”
“Affirmative. Highest priority. Please stand by.”
The seconds went by painfully slowly, though Trapt’s internal chronometer insisted only few seconds had passed, it felt like hours. Another reason to curse his builders, he supposed, as if he needed more.
Finally, a blue ghost wearing his son’s face flickered to life, a look of uncertainty on his face. And Trapt noted, with his uniform well out of regulation arrangement. His disapproval was momentary however, considering the task at hand.
Xander was the first to speak.
“Xander. It’s good to see you again.”
“Yeah….” Xander trailed off, and looked at his father oddly for a moment. “You look different.”
That gave Trapt pause. “What do you mean?”
“For the past few years you’ve always had this look in your eyes. Like someone killed your favorite puppy or something. Now it looks like you got a new one.”
“Ah.” How did one respond to a statement like that?
“Not that that’s a bad thing, frak, you’re looking at me like I just your lifemate’s a hag or something.”
And just like that, everything was right in the universe again. “You know I don’t approve of that language.”
“And you know saying that won’t change a kriffing thing.”
It had become something of a ritual, that exchange. Trapt relaxed slightly. “Yes. I suppose it won’t. I was just calling to let you know that...well, I suppose I’m calling to tell you you’re right now aren’t I? Things are about to change son. I’m not going to pretend it won’t be dangerous, or that I won’t be at risk..I just….wanted you to know I love you. And that I’m proud of you. Proud of the man you are. And the man you’re working to become.”
“....You’re scaring me dad. Frell. Bein’ all sincere. You about to die or something? Or declare yourself Emperor of the galaxy and attack Coruscant?”
“Nothing so ambitious but….suffice it to say, if the operations I am about to launch go well, you will not be the son of a Grand Moff of the Imperial Dominion any longer.”
Xander’s mouthed form a quiet ‘O’ as the implications sank in. “O-oh. I uh.” The younger droid breathed out. “....Be safe, okay? I can’t call you out for being a stodgy old son of a nerf if you die.”
A small smile wormed it’s way onto Trapt’s face. “Well, considering whats at risk, I shall do my best then. I would hate to inconvenience you in such a manner.”
“Sorry, that’s just alot to drop on a guy all at once you know? This is almost ‘Palpatine’s alive and I was hiding him in my hat this whole time’ level.”
Trapt blinked once. “How did you find out?”
“.....Huh. And now you’re growing a sense of humor.” Xander raised an eyebrow. “Damn. You really ARE about to do something stupidly risky huh?”
“I don’t take risks. I simply enhance probabilities.”
“Call it whatever you want dad….I...thanks for calling.” Xander ducked his head once, hiding some expression or another. Then he spoke again, with more than a tinge of worried frustration in his voice. “And I love you dad. Don’t die.”
“...I won’t. Goodbye. I’ll see you when I’m home.” Trapt’s face turned serious. “Also, I hope you’re up this late studying and no-”
With that, the hologram flickered and died, and Trapt breathed out. Of the two conversations-Zek and his son, that second had been by far the most daunting. He sagged against the walls of his chamber.
Nothing to do but wait now. In seven minutes, every plan he’d ever laid was going to be put to the test.
Trapt felt the Hound shudder out of hyperspace, even before the drone of the computer registered in his ears.It
was time. This small stop over, in some small, unimportant, resource bare, and damn near unmapped system served two purposes.
One. Sending out some very important orders.
Two. Meeting with some very important people.
Both of these purposes could well change the galaxy and his place in it-the second perhaps more than the other. But for now...for now, it was time for action of a different sort.
Any moment now….
One by one, blue ghost after blue ghost appeared from thin air. General Carvin, his confidante and, perhaps, one of the very few beings he would call his friend. General Nyrox, one of Veer’s own-and like him, a relic from days gone by. Admiral Venka-another old relic, and one of the luckiest finds Trapt had made in recent years.
The indispensably honest Supreme Commander Ardan-one of the only men present who had served with Lord Vader, and had seen the full might of the Empire deployed under such a command. The brilliant General Lott, who, like Vader, may have had more in common with machine than man at this point….much to the quiet relief of Imperial powers across the galaxy, if the man ever retired his collective pension would be sufficient to buy a small army at this point.
And finally, some measure of new blood, Director Endel, who perhaps, had the least enviable task out of the lot of this collection of generals, conquerors and beings of violence.
Which is to say, explaining the violence that was about to happen in terms the governments of the galaxy might understand.
Truly, Trapt did not envy her her task.
“Gentlebeings.” Trapt smiled, if only slightly, looking at the gathering of imperials. “After this meeting concludes, Signal Delta Sigma Omega will be sent out to all aid contingents in the Barony. Orders will be sent to our starfleets and attached army and starfighter units. My friends. It’s time.”
Every being present, in one fashion or another, sucked in their breath.
Carvin spoke first, standing straighter than he had in some time, even his words seemed to have more life in them, a vital undercurrent of sorts. “Our last hand then. Every card on the table. Do or die. Empire or infamy. Death or glory. I….have waited for this moment.” He glanced at the other beings present. “As I think, have we all. A chance to serve the Empire again, directly, if things go according to plan Or perhaps,” He inclined his head towards Endel, “a chance to serve it in the first place.”
Carvin produced a datapad, alight with the fleet composition of the First, down to the list TIE fighter. “We’ll move on Ploo as soon as the meeting concludes-forces have been shift from that theatre to the inner Barony. More feuding.” The elderly general smiled then, in an eerily calm manner. “Won’t they be surprised.”
Venka took the opening. “I never would have dreamed, merely two years ago, of this. A quiet retirement on Boonta.” He laughed softly. “And now here I am. Part of a cabal of old men and those who dream of better days. And a Grand Admiral too boot” The grin lingered on his face. This was it. One last grand adventure, one last chance to fly the Imperial flag again. “May as well snap to it, I suppose.” He clicked his heels, and entered into a perfect parade rest.
“I will conduct the offensive on Contruum personally, from there, we’ll proceed down to Taanab. Lightning strikes. Should keep them nice and unbalanced.” And with the current situation in the Barony, most likely unable to shift crushing amounts of ships against the new, unexpected offensive, without giving their fellow warlords and opening. An opening that screamed ‘please, oh please, drive a dagger into my exposed pink underbelly.’
Lott, for his part, was almost unreadable, stim-stick suspended between his lips and his eyes looking straight ahead. “Interesting times then. Rest assured, Grand Moff, my projects are ready and at your disposal. Perhaps we’ll do old Rom Mohc proud yet. At least we’ll give the old department a run for it’s money in sheer inventiveness.” Lott paused, taking a cybernetically enhanced breath-Trapt had been assured such a system had been far more effective than he his old, organic components. “I’ll move on Iotran within the hour. I expect I’ll be handing you their surrender within a week. They won’t know what hit them.”
He took another puff on his stimstick. “Compound Lo-435 has been synthesized and is ready for deployment alongside our battle droid assets. It’s maintained a flat 50% rate of effectiveness, with very few fatalities.” He have his hand. “Fatal reactions seemed linked to some sort of allergy, goes down to the cellular level. As for conditions that don’t penetrate quite so far-it’s hard to say, without testing them on a complete subject.” Blood samples and flash-cloned flesh only went so far. But the Dominion wasn’t in the business of testing weapons of this sort on prisoners. “Overall though, a very effective paralytic. Like I said.” Another puff of his stim-stick. “A week.”
It wasn’t a brag, it was simple fact.
Nyrox chipped in next, speaking with the practiced military ease only a lifetime of commanding Imperial Walkers in battle could give you. “I’m prepared to move on Sarka the second the word is given. Drills have been productive, and I believe, should it come to it, we could take the planet with ease. They’re not match for a crack unit of Imperial soldiers.” A small sneer crossed his face at the mere thought of the natives attempting to match his men.
“Hopefully.” Director Endel supplied. “Such measures will not be necessary, and our forces can be directed at more...destabilizing elements. I’m certain the Sarkan government will see the wisdom in joining the Dominion-not the least because some remnants of their occupiers remain. And are ignoring orders from their supposed masters.”
Nyrox shrugged. “Whoever it is, wherever it is, we’re ready.” Ready to fight for the Empire again, after indescribably long years of waiting. It couldn’t come soon enough.
The Supreme Commander was the last to speak. “I must caution everyone here. Despite how carefully the groundwork has been laid, the warlords won’t fold easily-and I do not expect the capture of Sarka, one way or another, to go unnoticed. This will be a hard slog gentlebeings.” Ardan drew himself up. “That is not to say however, I do not believe in this operation, or it’s cause.” Ardan fingered an imperial medal, pinned to his uniform. “On the contrary, I believe in it far more than I should. But overconfidence is something to be avoided-our enemies, while restricted perhaps, can still harm us, and it must be remembered that each ship we have is precious-even with a new run of Star Destroyers on the way.”
Ardan paused, the new run had been ordered not even a week ago-the biggest order the Dominion had ever made to it’s shipyards. But it would take time. Time enough that they may not factor into the fighting. “Conserve gentlemen, retreat if you cannot win, and come back to fight another day.”
Trapt nodded. “Wise words. We must not let the heady feeling of resurrection go to our heads. Though.” He paused. “I may have the means to correct some of our number deficiency.”
That got a raised eyebrow from Supreme Commander Ardan, and more than a few of the others. “Then I shall wish you luck. If it were anyone else, I would doubt your ability to conjure troops from nothing.” But Trapt had returned from a visit to the Third Galactic Empire with an army of wardroids. History, as it were, was with him.
“Your confidence is appreciated. You all know what to do my friends.” Trapt marched to his desk, and grabbed a small crystal glass, filled with some wine or another, he’d forgotten the label. “At the last….”
He raised his glass.
“To the Empire.”
“To the Emperor.”
“To the future.”
The words were spoken by many lips, but the sentiment behind them was the same. “When we see each other again, the fate of the Empire will have been determined...or at least, if this endeavor fails in the opening stages, we shall know it.” Trapt swirled his drink idly at the thought, drafting new contingencies and retreat plans even as he spoke. Just in case. “Good luck my friends. Remember the fallen. Fight like the demons of the nine hells for the living.”
“So say we all.”
Then the response echoed off the durasteel walls of his chamber, even as the holograms faded away, even as the blue ghosts were exorcised.
“So say we all.”
The Grand Moff, suddenly alone, palmed the control panel on his desk thoughtfully, almost as if it were an animate object, capable of reacting to his touch.
One button. To decide the fate of all he cared for in the galaxy. One button to send out the signal, and begin the rebirth of the Empire. Or to it’s fate for good.
After a moment’s contemplation, he pressed the button, keyed the code sequence. And downed another sip of wine.
It was done.