|Star Wars: Return to Glory, Book 3: Empire
Author: jcald47 PM
The Dark Side is inevitable...Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Adventure - Chapters: 5 - Words: 18,320 - Reviews: 28 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 07-02-12 - Published: 09-25-10 - id: 6350799
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Kashan Santhe is demanding to see you, sir," M3-P0i's metallic voice alerted Azrael through the communicator as droid stood guard outside the CEO's office.
Guelim had been at odds with Kashan, his (former) uncle-in-law, from the very first time they met. Kashan had been suspicious as his grandmother Valles Santhe took the young outsider under her wing, distrustful as Guelim prospered upon taking over Sienar Ships, and outright hostile after he was named CEO of the Santhe Corporation.
Kashan had been incensed after the selection, having always envisioned himself as one day leading the Corporation, especially after his father had previously been elevated to take over the post. The Santhe Corporation had been run by his family for generations, found by his great-great-grandfather Kerred Santhe over 130 years ago and its Presidency was his birthright.
Yet he, the last male of the Santhe line, along with his sister Miri, had been bypassed. And with his niece Karala… Guelim's former wife… dead, the stage was being set for his family to very quietly and discreetly lose control of the Corporation.
Normally, Azrael would not let a situation like this get in his way. Yet Kashan was a rival… no, a nuisance… that he needed to deal with carefully. He could not simply be eliminated, as Kashan ran Santhe / Sienar Technologies, the largest section of the Corporation, and was the son of Philip, the current co-head of the GTAC. If he were to go missing, it would raise too much attention and bring unwanted focus on Azrael.
"Send him in," Azrael responded to M3, eager to deal with his visitor and get back to more important matters. Yet considering their history, he knew Kashan's visit was not a social call and likely the forbearer of bad news.
"How can I help you, Kashan?" Azrael said as his visitor stomped into his office
"By resigning immediately," he said as he stood in front of Guelim's desk, arms crossed defiantly across his chest.
"That much I know… Now is there anything else you need that you will actually get?"
Sensing this was the true focus of Kashan's visit, and not just part of his usual grumbles, Azrael reached out to him with the Force, prying to obtain a glimpse of whatever it was the man had in mind. Meanwhile, Guelim pleasantly replied, "Very well, Kashan, I will play along. What is really on your mind?"
"Since you appear not to be taking me seriously, I will say it yet again… I want your immediate resignation."
"And I will continue to play along… Why?"
"Why? Because your so-called leadership of the Corporation has got to end and your megalomania can no longer be allowed to continue! … Consorting with known criminal elements, entering partnerships with the scum of the galaxy, dubious deal after dubious deal, exchanging favors for political influence… And all while soiling my family's good name! Not to mention that fiasco at Jubilar with the Mon Calamari! You risk bringing the Alliances wrath down upon us!"
Kashan's face had turned bright red during his tirade, so consumed was he with the rage against Guelim that he had for so long kept inside. Taking a few deep breaths to compose himself, the man then added…
"I have already called for a no-confidence vote from the Board…"
"A no-confidence vote?" Guelim calmly replied as he stood and walked around his desk to face Kashan, "No confidence in what? Making you and the rest of our stockholders rich beyond your wildest dreams? Santhe Corporation holdings and earnings are at the highest level they have ever been, and continue to rise with every passing day…
As for consorting with criminals and scum, that is strictly a point of view. I am certain when you aided the Rebels against the Empire, they were also considered criminals and your actions suspect."
"That is completely diff…!" Kashan snapped back, yet held himself back as Guelim raised his hand at him and for the briefest of moments felt as if an invisible hand had wrapped around his throat.
"Please, do not interrupt and allow me to finish," Guelim continued as Kashan stepped back, confused and not sure of what just had… if anything… happened, "Now regarding the incident at Jubilar, that was a matter between the Hutts, the Mon Cal and the GTAC… not me."
"Spare me the innocent act, Soran. The GTAC does not make a move without consulting with you first."
Guelim smiled back wickedly at the retort, in turn replying, "I highly doubt your father would appreciate that comment, or the lack of faith you seem to have in him."
Kashan's face reddened further in anger yet kept his temper under control as he replied, "The session is tomorrow morning. If for a change you happen to be in Lianna, I suggest you attend."
He then turned and stormed off, leaving Azrael alone with his thoughts…
For the first time in a long time, Azrael felt concerned. Not about Kashan himself, but the fact that he had not foreseen any immediate or serious trouble from him. Azrael knew the future was always in motion and knew he would never foretell everything. But Kashan had never hidden his emotions nor disdain for him, and in turn had been easy to control and predict. Yet today, the man radiated a confidence that Azrael had never sensed before, as if Kashan truly felt he had one up on Guelim.
Could Azrael have been so focused on the future that he had overlooked the present so much?
Nevertheless, Azrael was nothing if not well prepared. He may not know what Kashan was up to, but… as with all nuisances… he had more than one plan mapped out for them…
"M3, locate Dren and have her contact me. We need to start moving some things along earlier than planned…"
The bombshell came early on at the meeting the following morning. Guelim had been the first to arrive at the Executive Boardroom and was there when Kashan Santhe walked in, smiling broadly. The younger Santhe turned to the assembly… in person and on videoconferencing… and matter-of-factly called off the no-confidence vote he had himself asked for.
Pausing then for effect, Kashan allowed for the murmurs and complaints to build to a fever pitch before raising his hands to calm them down, before responding, "And the reason being is that there is no longer a need for it. As of the start of business this morning, my sister Miri has ceded to me the investment shares she has in the Corporation. Between them, my own, those that bequeath to us after my father resigned his position and… others I have acquired… I know control 55% of Corporation stock and am the sole majority shareholder."
Azrael cursed at himself, yet showed no change in outward emotion. How could he have not foreseen something as crucial as this? If anything, Kashan was right in that he had become overconfident. But as with every other setback, he would learn from this one as well and grow stronger. His setbacks would never again be for lack of effort and preparation.
He just had to figure a way to turn these events in his favor first, somehow… and quickly…
Meanwhile, Kashan Santhe continued with his speech and dropped the second of his bombshells, "I will also be assuming the duties of Corporation CEO, and Guelim Soran is hereby terminated, effective immediately… Security!"
At first, no one in attendance moved or reacted. The only response in the room was that of silent astonishment and it appeared to Azrael that none were aware of what Kashan had been up to. Most board members looked at him in bewilderment, not yet believing what they had heard. And the security personnel, many who were aware of Guelim's time training within their ranks and still considered him one of their own, were slow to react.
Feeling a push from the Force, Azrael took the room's hesitation as his opportunity to take charge of the situation and attempt to turn it in his favor, one way or the other. He slowly stood and raised his hands in the air as a sign for the crowd to settle down and focus their attention on him…
"Well done, Kashan. Although your lust for power and disdain for me were never a secret, I am very impressed you were able to pull this coup off without anyone else knowing. And let's make no qualms about, that is what this is… a coup. Now it is your prerogative to ruin your life and your career, and I will not stop you. But I would be remiss if I allowed you to destroy the company that your venerable grandmother entrusted me… not you… to run."
Kashan took a step towards Guelim, but halted when he once more felt a subtle yet solid grip around his throat, just as Guelim raised his right hand to 'ask' him to stop. And as a confused Kashan rubbed his throat, unsure of what he had felt, Guelim continued, but not before he motioned for M3 to come closer. Whispering something only the droid's audio receptors were able to pick up, Guelim turned back to the assembly and said…
"Now as the Corporation is a publicly traded company, I am certain you would not object to the broadcast of these proceedings to our some of our major partners…"
… as he waved a hand towards M3, as the droid's optical sensors scanned the room, capturing the increasingly puzzled and concerned looks on all those in attendance.
Having captured the audience's full attention as desired, Guelim went on to say, first turning towards M3, "To all of you that have just joined us, pardon the delayed communication. I am sure your exclusion from this meeting was an inadvertent oversight. But in any case, I thought you would like to know that as of a few moments ago I was relieved of my duties by the Corporations new controlling partner, Kashan Santhe for… What was it again? I do not think you even told the Board"
With that said, Guelim stepped aside and motioned for M3 to move forward and zoom in on Kashan, who seemed frozen in place, yet turning red and sweating profusely.
Working hard not to let a smile crack his face, Guelim faced M3 and continued, addressing those he had just tied into the proceedings, "And no, this is not a joke. From here on out, please direct any and all future inquiries to CEO Santhe. He will also gladly explain to you the more efficient and profitable manner in which he will handle your many business ventures and concerns going forward. Now if you will excuse me, I need to collect my effects and clear the premises before I am physically removed…"
Guelim then turned back once more to the assembled shareholders and added, "Now I advise you check your stocks and investments once this meeting is over. I have a feeling you are all losing many credits with every passing moment…"
Controlled chaos ensued as he uttered those words, Azrael feeling through the Dark Side a wash of hate and anger fill the room, giving the strength and resilience that he had… for a brief moment… felt waning just a few moments earlier…
Amidst the murmurs, angry looks and flurry of shuffling of datapads, Guelim smiled this time, as he continued, "Now I do not normally see eye to eye with most things Kashan proposes, but I would agree with him on this one time. It just might be time to hold a no confidence vote on the performance of your CEO."
And with that as his parting words, he waved and turned to leave, as Kashan Santhe fumed, screaming for Guelim to come back… yet he could barely hear it over the rising roar of the assembly…
Outwardly Guelim smiled, but internally Azrael seethed at his carelessness. He had clearly taken the present for granted and assumed his plans would proceed as he had devised, only to have been caught unprepared by whom he had assumed was no more than a nuisance, and before all his plans were fully set in motion. His progress threatened now by his own arrogance and delusions of grandeur…
Just like every other failed Sith Lord before him… The one thing Azrael swore would never happen…
The position of Guelim Soran as CEO of the Santhe Corporation… as did his many prior roles during his rise to power… had been invaluable. The countless assets and massive financial means at his had made moving into place all the pieces of his grand plan all much easier. And the alibi it provided for his alternate life was priceless. And now it appeared it would all be gone…
Azrael sensed Dren's presence reaching out to him through the Force from somewhere within Lianna, his Acolyte and lover no doubt having felt his distress. She sent comforting feelings towards him, and Azrael could tell other steps in his scheme had been set in motion…
'Not all gone… Just a temporary setback," Azrael thought to himself. As always, if the Force willed it, events were likely for the best … And if he could not rectify an unplanned regional problem, how would he have any hope of ruling an Empire…
The big announcement came two months later and was publicly broadcasted across the entire GTAC. Somehow, their co-Chairmen Philip Santhe and Domina Tagge were expecting a son. The news was met with disbelief, as both were past typical child rearing years. Although the two had been linked romantically since the moment they had taken office, although the rumors had never been proven… until then. Nevertheless, the celebrated Santhe line, which seemed all but doomed to end, would continue on…
"That was fast. Well done…"
"It was not hard at all. Philip just needed a little extra confidence.
"Good. Make sure he is not lacking any going forward…"
Meanwhile, Guelim Soran had remained out of the public eye during that time after his well-publicized ouster as Santhe Corporation CEO. Repeated requests for interviews and appearances were denied, and most times he appeared to be away from Lianna altogether.
The Sith Sphere floated over the Valley of the Dark Lords, deep in the heart of Korriban, its lone occupant deep in meditation. Except for the occasional wild Tuk'ata… or Sith Hounds as some tended to call them. Oversized, force sensitive beasts with multiple rows of teeth, dagger-like claws and poisonous stingers on their long tails… only the giant, stone carved likeness of the old Sith Masters kept Darth Azrael company. Yet he found the barren, arid landscape soothing, which allowed him to focus on his thoughts.
And although the last entombment of a Sith Lord within the stone chambers below occurred well over 5,000 years prior, the Dark Side power that flowed from ruins was unmistakable. And its message was clear…
It was time to act.
Meanwhile, Kashan Santhe had barely survived the impromptu no-confidence vote, but things had not gone as he had hoped for and the Santhe Corporation had been thrown into chaos. Several major partners had withdrawn or taken legal action to block their contracts, and regional feuds… in areas where the Corporation was heavily invested… were re-igniting all across the GTAC in light of the economic instability. Plus the Hutts were withholding shipments of cortois and closed off passage to both their space and the Tattoo system, all which sent Corporation stocks plummeting.
And to make matters worse, the Bloodhands… viewed as saviors by some, and as terrorists by others… had become increasingly active in those ensuing weeks and months, and seemed to be exclusively targeting Corporation assets under claims of freedom and liberation.
In light of these events, the GTAC Ruling Council, seeing the chaos that had ensued on the company they had invested so much time and money on, agreed that although not a political partner, the Corporation… and especially their former CEO Guelim Soran… had been instrumental in uniting and forging the Greater Tingle Arm Coalition, and therefore could not be made to fall into ruin. And Philip Santhe, who had become more active in the day to day operations of the Council that he had been in years, was not willing to stand back and see the great Corporation that his ancestors had built fall apart in front of his very eyes.
So the Council called an emergency powers session, and a course of action was unanimously accepted…
The GTAC would formally take over immediate control and operation of the Corporation until a satisfactory and stable long term business plan was approved… and in which permanent appropriation would be a consideration.
Kashan Santhe though was aghast at the decision. How could his own father do this to him! Dark thoughts swirling in his head, Kashan was certain that Soran was somehow behind it all, corrupting his family yet again… Or maybe it really was his father's own doing. The old fool was probably planning on the day his new whelp would take over the Corporation… Could they not all see Soran's failings! Ingrates! Every single last one of them…
Well if they wanted the Corporation so badly that they would turn on their own flesh and blood, then they could have the whole damn thing!
The hate flowing through Kashan was overwhelming… For everyone… for Guelim… and for himself…
So Kashan reached into a compartment within his desk, pulled out a hand blaster and gave into it… Shooting himself dead in the head, sitting alone in his office.
It would be days before his body was found… And no one had notice the red Twi'lek that had slipped out of Corporation headquarters the night of his suicide.
News of Kashan's passing threw the Corporation into further disarray. The GTAC takeover had not yet been finalized, and no CEO succession plan had been implemented so soon after Kashan Santhe's self-elevation to the role. Directors of the major subsidiaries publicly campaigned and battled for the top role, while the Board of Directors, which normally would serve as a temporary ruling body for the Corporation, was of no help as the Chairman of the Board… one Kashan Santhe… had passed away. Business threatened to all but ground to a standstill and each business and economic partner began dealings to operate independently of the parent company, leading to fears of a massive breakup.
So to prevent an economic catastrophe and ensure public safety, the GTAC Council stepped up its takeover of the Corporation. Citing a little known clause in the mega-company's charter, Philip Santhe, as a prior CEO, could immediately step in to the same role on an interim basis until a new Chief Executive Officer was elected.
The move appeased… temporarily… the Corporation's partners, subsidiaries and customers, most of which felt some level of comfort having an experienced CEO back at the reins, plus most highly approved of Philip's tenure as GTAC co-chairman. And with impending disaster averted, the GTAC Council did next what everyone in the Sector expected… and wanted… them to do…
They asked Guelim Soran to return to his old post and run the Santhe Corporation again…
But Guelim then did the unthinkable…
At the press conference, Guelim stated that his decision was made in part because he thought the current path the Corporation was… although chaotic… still correct and it had become a victim of its own success. The Corporation had grown so big and so fast, and had become involved with so many other systems outside of the Tion Cluster, that it bordered on a political entity, and operated more as a faction of the GTAC government than as a private enterprise. But that, Guelim went on, was not necessarily a bad thing, and the Corporation should permanently be part of the GTAC, run and overseen by its elected government officials. And in turn, the Corporation must serve the people… and he would do what was necessary under that arrangement to help it succeed and continue to prosper.
He had no regrets regarding his tenure as CEO, but the Corporation had expanded to a point in which it needed to evolve in order to survive in its current form… And this was it, as a government acquired enterprise. And he was just a business man, and not a politician…
The radiance from his lightsaber only a red blur to the eye, Darth Azrael parried away the swipes from a blue lightsaber in between turning back plasma weapon fire and thrusts from stun batons. The Dark Side crackling at his fingertips, Azrael sliced in half a pair of batons, his dark red blade then slashing across his assailants' chests before powerfully force-pushing them, along with the closing pistol-carrying attacker out of his path in a classic 'pushing slash' technique from the Niman combat form.
Blocking then a high lightsaber strike that would have cut his head in half, Azrael spun out of the way of a counterstrike, landing with a low, two-handed guard, blade held back and to the side, with the feet closely spaced and ready to spring.
"Hopefully you are not done yet," Azrael said confidently to the Dren Kuu'la, who eyed him wearily as she breathed heavily, sweat streaming down her dark red skin, and her own lightsaber also in a two-handed grab, the blade spread across her chest with tip pointed down to block any incoming parry from her Master. The rest of their training partners slowly returned to their feet, their weapons ruined, and massaging the aching parts of their bodies as the two Sith slowly circled each other.
Azrael had outfield many of his Bloodhands, who in turn doubled as his training partners, with Cortosis plates on their body armor to protect them from deadly lightsaber strikes during these very sessions. But Darth Azrael had forgone any plating, dueling only in snug combat gear, stating the protection might give him a false sense of security, dulling his senses and slowing him down. In a fight for your life, he said, it was always good to retain a certain level of fear, maintaining your sense of self-preservation strong.
Dren had also forsaken plated armor and, playing to the sultry side of her species, wore close to nothing at all, small leather garments covering her chest and groin, matching a pair of dark boots that covered well above her knees. The effect on others was planned, using her sexuality to throw her opponents off-balance.
"Oh no, my… Master," she replied coyly as her left hand went to her belt and the second lightsaber that hung from it, "In fact, I hope you are the one that is not done yet."
And with that said, Dren connected together the hilts of both of her lightsabers, creating a custom, double-bladed one. Without another word, she then lunged at Azrael, the dual blades twirling in bright circles of destruction.
Smiling brightly at her unexpected ingenuity, Azrael countered with a pair of defensive strikes as he replied, "I see you have been training without me."
"Well I cannot tell you all my secrets."
"That is another reason why I love you," Azrael said as he defensively backpedalled, his Acolyte pressing the attack, intent on besting him. Two of his training partners, all of whom Azrael demanded no mercy from, saw his defensive posture and began to advance on him, drawing their sidearms as they did.
Taking stock of the situation, Darth Azrael did not feel like playing games any longer. Opening himself fully to the Force, the Sith Lord 'saw' and 'felt' everything around him, his attackers moving as if in slow motion… their intent clear to him before it was even to them…
It felt as glorious as it ever had…
Darth Azrael lashed out at them all… He rolled into Dren as he parried her next strike, grabbing one of her wrists with his left hand as he did so, sending enough of charge into her arm to singe her red skin and get her to drop her lightsaber. Then continuing in one smooth rolling motion, Azrael spun around her and turned to face the other two attackers, just as they let loose as pair of plasma bolts towards them…
His palms already turned towards them, the bolts slammed into his hands… the smell of burning skin filling the training chamber… before the plasma energy was harmlessly dissipated away. Then before the pair had a chance to react, Darth Azrael extended his arms towards them, sending the two men hurtling through the air.
Turning back towards Dren as she rubbed her sore wrist, the Twi'lek added, "Feel better now, Kenzei?"
"Yes… And I think they have waited long enough. But first, everyone else get out," Azrael replied before putting his arm around Dren's waist and drawing her warm, sweating body to his before the two engaged in an ardent kiss…
In the end, the GTAC would not be denied. The Ruling Council offered Guelim Soran a post as their new Commerce Minister, where he would use his business acumen… as well as considerable connections across the neighboring sectors… to help the entire GTAC and all of its people, and not just the Corporation
Overwhelmed by such vehement attention, Guelim finally relented… But only if Philip Santhe stayed on permanently as CEO of the Corporation. They did not agree on much, but one thing Kashan Santhe was right about, Guelim admitted, was that the mega-corporation should return to Santhe family control… which would hopefully continue until the day Philip's unborn son could take over. He would stay GTAC co-Chairman in title, but it would be his fiancé, the very pregnant Domina Tagge, who would in reality hold the highest office.
The next day, Santhe Corporation exports and imports resumed at a frantic pace with all officers, subsidiaries and partners eager to make up for the time the earlier upheaval had caused. Talks of the Corporation breaking up quickly ceased, and large transport ship were soon traveling everywhere from the old Corporate Sector to the Tattoo System and everywhere in between. Stock and profits sharply rebounded and were on the rise… Everyone was happy…
And one was deep in thought…
Standing in front of the large glass window that made up the entire back wall of his new office, he looked at Mutanda's lush jungle landscape below. Located near the top of the massive complex, the structure was built to both serve as the GTAC political headquarters as well luxury living quarters for any executives or politicians that wished to relocate to the planet… of which Minister Guelim Soran was now one of.
Azrael should have been content on the way that matters had turned. He had retaken a position of power… people basically begged him to… and was now in an even stronger position of influence that he had been with the Corporation.
Still, he was finding it difficult to concentrate on the opulence of his new office or the rolling green landscape, teeming with exotic life, which extended below him… mostly in part to constant pounding in his head from the Force.
It was clear that the net was starting to close. Azrael had taken a lot of precautions, taking his time as he went along… But not everything could be perfect. Darth Azrael could not foresee everything that might go wrong, everything that might not go as planned. And he could not wait indefinitely…
Not just for his Sith followers now, but of his grand plans for the Order and galaxy in the future… As his master Darth Revan had said, and how he, Darth Azrael, would do…
The rise of his empire, that was paramount… But it was part of a much larger plan, one that would span over years… decades… and that needed to fully begin so that all would be ready to once the Sith Empire reached a new zenith…
And to do that, Azrael would need to move down to parallel paths… And use two old friends of the Sith…
Deceit and guile…
The body of the dead Mon Calamari was found by the special GTAC security forces stationed in Mutanda not long after the distress call had arrived at their headquarters, the still-warm spear blaster… the traditional weapon of the Mon Calamari Guard, a military unit that reported directly to the King of Dac… still held tightly by the dead assassin and a look of shock on his face. From what the Mutanda authorities could gather, the killed had discretely disposed of two of Guelim Soran's bodyguards… no simple task, as the two burly human males were rumored to have been retired Bloodhand mercenaries. The Mon Cal had then ambushed Soran in his office, blasting a hole the size of the GTAC diplomats head across the man's back. Luckily, Soran had long taken to wearing blaster-proof vests made out of nearly-indestructible Cortosis… having more than once before been the target of an assassination… and was no worse for the wear. The Mon Cal had then been quickly cut down by Soran's security droid.
Alone once more, Azrael stepped on the blue stain on the floor, left behind where the Mon Calamari had spilled his life blood after having been blasted by M3. Tapping into the Dark Side, he could still sense the lingering feelings of hate and anger left behind by the supposed assassin…
… and loyal, yet unsuspecting Bloodhand, who thought to have been following orders given to him, and him alone, by Kenzei Danlut's own mistress, and passed down to him from the man himself. The Mon Cal did not know what the head Bloodhand had against the famous executive, but he would do as he was asked. It was, after all, a great honor…
And a necessary act of treachery to ensure the next phase… the grandest phase yet… of the rise of the new Sith Empire proceeded seamlessly... and believably. Little had the Mon Cal known that the target and the one that had issued the kill order where one in the same…
A pity to lose a loyal soldier, but his was not the first… nor it would be the last… sacrifice to be made. And Azrael could feel the flow of the Force… and the future… changing once more the second the Mon Cals dead body hit the ground.
The three blockade fleets… interdiction cruisers, capital ships and support frigates… left their respective staging areas just over two galactic weeks after the assassination attempt. The GTAC had exposed the plot by the Mon Calamari government, and cited as motive the Mon Cals aggressive actions against their Hutt and Jubilar partners. The Calamari monarchy had vehemently denied the claims, and disavowed any knowledge of the rogue guard that had obviously acted on him own, but it had made little difference.
The first fleet departed from the planet Toola, which was located roughly halfway between Mon Cal and the part of the GTAC that had previously been Corporate Sector space. Located along the Overic Griplink trade route, the local population clearly remembered the hand of friendship offered by Guelim Soran and the Santhe Corporation to Valarian, the misunderstood former Tatooine crime boss. She had returned to Toola after her dealings with Soran and spent lavishly on her home planet and its people, rallying them for the GTAC cause when they rose against the Mon Cal aggressors.
The Toong'l and Jubilar forces mobilized just as quickly, their system only a stone's throw away from the Prously's Rim Run trade route. None had forgotten how the Calamari had aggressively moved into their own system, blatantly ignoring Jubilian sovereignty as if they did not exist. The Mon Cals had been warned not to try anything untoward again, and now would see what happened when they tested Jubilar resolve.
And into the Giblin Trade Route flew the GTAC fleet stationed in the Dellalt, at the farthest edges of their space, and the site of the famous Liberation of Dellalt battle, one of the key engagements in the Tion-Cronese War. The people of the planet felt they owed their freedom and lives to Kenzei Danlut who, regardless of how he was portrayed by his enemies, was a citizen of the GTAC and adopted son of Dellalt. He had fought for them when nobody else would, and now they would follow in his example, volunteering their men, resources and spaceports as a staging area for GTAC ships.
In just a matter of days, the entire Mon Calamari system was blocked off from the rest of the galaxy. Outrage quickly spread around the capital planet of Dac and the ruling monarchy convened their Advisory Council to deliberate on the proper response, while also issuing a status communication to the Galactic Alliance Senate outlining the situation. No request for assistance was made, but if the situation escalated, the Senate would be notified.
Darth Azrael was soon aware of this development, as his own communications network intercepted the transmission. Yet he took no action to prevent the signal from reaching its intended destination… For one, as it was as he had hoped and expected. And second, Azrael was busy contemplating another facet of his grand plan for the galaxy and the Force…
"So you believe the key is the Skywalker line."
"It must be. Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One, created by the Force to bring balance to it. But that has yet to happen, contrary to what others believe…"
"Then that might be a problem. With Anakin dead for over 30 years, I do not expect either of his children willingly help you," Dren replied in a sarcastic tone. Then, barely suppressing a laugh, she added, "Unless you courted Leia Solo of course. Then again, she is old enough to be your mother."
At that point, the Dark Side of the Force hit Darth Azrael like a supernova, all but spelling out for him what he must do…
"Kenzei…?" Dren asked cautiously, as Azrael seemed to suddenly look through her as if she… or anything around them… was not even there...
Snapping out of his stupor, Darth Azrael smiled as this Acolyte and replied, "Dren, you just gave a wonderful, deviant idea… And it will change everything…"
("The time of your vengeance is almost at hand, Jalaison,") Darth Azrael somberly said to his Hutt student, having summoned the immense young Hutt to his base in Jubilar.
("I am yours to command, Lord Danlut,") Jalaison responded, him… as all other Bloodhands… not aware of Azrael's true identity… ("The Bootana Hutts will pay for what they did to me. I will make certain of it.")
("I am certain you would, but that is not what I am referring to…")
Pausing for a moment to consider his master's words, Jalaison's head snapped towards Azrael, the marks of a wide, Hutt grin spreading through his face as he responded expectantly, ("Leia…?")
("You will bring her to me?")
("No, it will be much more subtle. But she will pay in ways you cannot even possibly imagine.")
Turning away from his pupil, Darth Azrael walked towards the 'Aureole and prepared to depart for his upcoming trip to Drac…
"Good luck, Kenzei. And be careful. Your plan goes against the very nature of the Mon Calamari. Plus they are very self-righteous and will take up arms and force the issue against the GTAC soon."
"It is a bit late to begin questioning our path, Dren…"
"I know. But if I do not ensure you look at all possibilities before you plunge into action, who will?"
Darth Azrael paused for a second, sensing slight irritation in his Acolyte's tone. And yet he knew she was right in one aspect. Too many times, Sith Lords had been blinded by power and thought themselves invincible… even he had proven he was not immune to it… So he needed… wanted… his second in command to always speak her mind and not simply tell him what he wanted to here.
So smiling back and extending his feelings through the Force and the void of space to her, Azrael replied, "I understand your intent and would not have it any other way… But do not worry, war is not my intent. GTAC and allied forces have remained in their own space and taken no direct action against the Mon Cals. And that is how it will remain for the time being."
"That is if you call cutting off all trade routes to their system no direct action. And the Calamari have never been ones to back away from a fight."
"I know, and I am counting on it. But do not worry. The Mon Cals will take care of themselves… after just the right push."
Thanks to all fans of 'Return to Glory' for the praise and continued to support. Sorry updates have been slow in coming, but rest assured the project is not dead. Just life getting busy. I hope you enjoyed this latest chapter and there will be more to come.