As usual, Captain Parck found the dimly lit flag bridge of the Admonitor eerily similar to the cavernous lair of an apex predator or trophy-mad bounty hunter, and suppressed his grimace of the imagery - even though he felt that it was an apt description of his admiral.
Several holodisplays showed various works of art, and Parck guessed these would be relevant to the sector they were currently surveying. He stepped close to the admiral's chair, noting the crimson glow from the alien's eyes as he focused on the various objects on screens.
"So, Captain, what are your thoughts?" The strangely modulated, cultured voice was calm as always.
"With all due respect, sir, I am not sure I understand why we are tarrying here. While there is no unified planetary government, based on the intercepted message traffic, contacting and supporting this Kingdom of Atlas would be in our best interest."
A raised eyebrow was the admiral's only answer and the unspoken order to elaborate.
"Their technology is estimated to be the most advanced on-planet, and they have direct access to veins of this repulsor-enhancing 'Dust' material you have indicated as one of the reasons for coming here" Parck frowned at the ridiculous-seeming name of the material, but then went on with a mental shrug. "They also seem to possess a greater appreciation for military discipline and order. Ideal for Imperial integration."
Thrawn nodded, flashing a somewhat-satisfied smile.
"All very true, Captain. Yet you forget to consider the historical and cultural factors.
Parck paused and considered the limited information they had about the planet, then dug into his memories of the rather dry and boring courses on galactic history he had to endure at the Imperial Naval Academy. His eyes went wider as the realization hit, and the admiral nodded with a satisfied smile, and gestured for him to elaborate.
"You do not want to look like the conqueror exploiting and setting up a puppet regime."
"Correct, captain. It would certainly appear to be the quickest way to ensure control over the planet, but it would increase the risk of internal strife and potentially rebellion in the future."
The human nodded again, following his superior's reasoning.
"Are you sure it would come to that? Even in the face of these so-called Grimm infesting the planet?"
The answer was a cool smile and a perked eyebrow, and Parck sighed. Of course the admiral was sure. After all, they were dealing with humans, and their rather limitless capability for infighting about the smallest issues.
"Speaking of, what about these so-called Creatures of Grimm? Have you determined anything of value, sir?" The Captain frowned, head tilted in thought. "I'm fairly sure I haven't seen or heard from any species like that, but if the implications we gleaned from the local transmissions are correct, dealing with them would be one of the most widespread exercise in pest control in Imperial history."
Thrawn's eyes were slits of crimson glow as the admiral turned a data card in his hand.
"I am not yet sure, Captain." The red gaze met his own, and Parck felt a moment of pride that he could meet it without flinching. "But I intend to deal with them, one way or another."
At the admiral's gesture, the holographic screen lit up, displaying the planet, marking population centres, and deployment patterns.
"Now, let us discuss how to adapt General Vosh's predrawn scenarios in case we are asked to provide assistance groundside. And have Captain Niriz move the Admonitor to a high geosynchronous orbit over Vale."
At Beacon Academy, Ozpin leaned back on his chair, his inner circle equally sunken into contemplation, the memory of those chilling Grimm-red gaze still fresh in everyone's memory.
"So, your opinions?"
"I have to wonder why they have contacted us here, instead of making a global announcement." Ironwood considered out loud. "They do seem to have the technical capability to pull that off, and it would be more efficient that way."
Qrow smiled mirthlessly, as he took a swig from his flask.
"Think, Jimmy. They probably have been around much longer than they claim, observing, learning about this crazy blue ball. That red-eyed bastard knew you and Ozpin by name, or did you miss that too?" Qrow ignored the exasperated sigh and continued. "With the Vytal Festival imminent, there's no better option to make relatively covert contact with influential people - and don't you dare go into the usual bullshit, Oz!" The Headmaster of Beacon closed his mouth, and Glynda flashed a vindictive smirk at him. "That said, I do not trust them at all."
Ironwood snorted, and spoke up.
"Of course you don't. And why should you? This offer sounds just too good to be true, and I don't like to imagine what these Imperials might have in store for us.
Glynda spoke up,"But, can we afford to disregard their offer in good conscience? There is an admittedly small chance of them being truthful, but at this point, I suggest taking it. At the very least, their presence would take the Queen and her Pawns by surprise."
Ozpin quirked an eyebrow at her,"Are you that sure they're not connected to her?"
Glynda shook her head,"While I agree with Qrow and James about not trusting the Imperials, I don't think they would work with her. And if she had the contacts or capabilities to pull off a deception like this, why wait till now?"
Ozpin closed his eyes, deep in thought,"Then we arein agreement. I'll contact this Admiral Thrawn, and we can conduct official negotiations in person after the Vytal Festival's final match, while the Arena is still here, along with James' fleet."
A/N: this should have been the chronologically first snippet (set a week before Volume 3 episodes 9-10 of RWBY), but things did not exactly work out like that. Sane-ish timeline will resume from the next snippet onwards. Thanks to Rapidfyrez for betaing.