This is a sequel of sorts to the story "Interlude at Darknell" by Timothy Zahn & Michael Stackpole that was featured in "Tales from the New Republic". You should read that first. This takes place shortly before "A New Hope". There may be some disturbing & controversial content. For the best viewing, use "Sans-serif" font & "1/2" width
Please post reviews and enjoy.
Imperial Intelligence, isn't that an Oxymoron?!
"There's someone stronger than Palpatine?!"
Armand Isard, formerly the Director of Imperial Intelligence, made no sound before falling dead to the floor of the Emperor's throne room. Ysanne, the last of the Isard line, showed no emotion as his remains were carried away. The other person in the chamber besides her and the ruler of the galaxy couldn't conceal his annoyance. His pale, smooth, unblemished face contorted in hatred.
"No twitching. And not so much as a squeal." He ran the fingers of his hand through the tassels of his epaulet; the gold shoulder boards were normal enough, but the tassels were of some ultra fine thread, textureless as smoke and black as a singularity. He seemed to get comfort from this. "I would like to use this moment to readmit to you my proposal to merge the two intelligence services, your Highness."
I bet you would, you bastard. Ysanne thought. You and that sociopath, too. You think Palpatine doesn't see what you two are planning? Even poor Trabler could've figured it out. You'll never get what you want.
"Marshal Zhor, if there was only ONE intelligence service, then WHO do you think will keep it in line?" Yes, Palpatine saw right through him as well.
Ta'a Zhor, Military Security Director, was one of the Empires' two Grand Marshals; even more secretive than the Grand Admirals. Though not in charge of Intelligence matters, Zhor acted in the other man's stead, since he was withdrawn, reclusive, and 'antisocial'. He was a frequent 'fixture' at Imperial Court, though in the guise of 'Member of the Royal House of Hapes' and not head of 'SPECIAL Imperial Guard'. A real charmer of the ladies, he probably hated Ysanne for spurning him at their first meeting. Not because she found him unattractive. A typical Hapan specimen, he was very beautiful. Tall, perfectly built, with smoldering gray eyes and intense red hair he wore spiky on top with the rest drawn back in a ponytail. One wouldn't expect anything less from the first cousin of the Queen Mother of Hapes. He was genius and an elite martial artist as well. Of course he was very arrogant. Oh, he was properly respectful of those who apparently outranked him, but in private, well, he showed even Palpatine contempt! Ysanne hated him so much, she actually prayed for an excuse to kill him. She couldn't figure out why the Emperor tolerated him.
He didn't miss a beat.
"You and Executor Vader, of course. The Force gives you the abilities to ensure honesty and loyalty from your officers. But competence is something even your powers cannot instill. The recent debacles of IMPERIAL Intelligence are proof enough of the systemic failures of the personnel and leadership in even the SIMPLEST tasks! My soldiers and the agents of my dear, shy colleague have worked tirelessly to exterminate your enemies–"
"Real or imagined, Ta'a. Consolidation doesn't benefit the Empire. Proper training does." A warm, silky voice added. Ysanne turned to see who said that. It was Corellia's Duke, Asnead Jonas, Zhor's EXACT opposite. The title was appointed, he was a commoner, and quite homely. But, he too was a genius, and powerful. He was also very tall, nearly Wookie height. Very respectful as well. A Captain in the Imperial Navy, Jonas ran a training fleet. His origins were a mystery. He bowed to Palpatine. "I hear that Governor Tarkin just survived a Rebel raid that retrieved his Mon Calamari prisoner, Ackbar. He has a braggart's streak and Ackbar may have been a Rebel plant. At the very least, the Death Star building site is no longer secure."
"Don't worry, it is almost finished." Zhor sneered. "The Rebels don't have the firepower to take it down. As for the fish, Tarkin's deputy, Moff Gakushi will carry out reprisals. He'll use Quarren agents to do the killings, he used them in the past, believe me."
"He is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of that world's citizens. And for what reason?" Jonas turned to Palpatine. "Why, my lord. This genocide HURTS your reign. I know about his parents' murders but that is no excuse, 'believe me'."
"That has nothing to do with it." Zhor countered. "Mon Calamari is an AQUATIC world, just like Oedo, his home-world. Their fauna was depleted and starvation loomed. Though exiled by them, Gakushi feeds his people. He is a patriot. He was in this palace just an hour ago, preparing a gift to someone special."
"Wait," Ysanne said. "You're saying his people eat sentients?! That…that's, disgusting! Your Highness, what is the meaning of this?!"
"Director Isard, You are not talking about sentients. You are talking about animals. Besides, many wealthy citizens of the Empire eat Mon Calamari and Quarren. And Kubindi eat Verpine. And Jonas, Zhor is right. There is nothing to worry about." The Emperor was… smiling!
"You're wasting your breath, Captain." There was something suddenly eerie about Zhor's manner. His voice; it was airy, high pitched. "The old Imperial Intelligence will be eliminated… Starting with its new Director!"
The big man was fast. A massive gun was suddenly in his hand, pointed at Ysanne's face. A blinding light filled the room, followed by a roar, a clang and an acrid smell. When she could see again, Jonas was between her and Zhor, a long, gently curved sword in his hand. Zhor was livid.
"She is worthless. An idiot, AND a FREAK!! What do you see in her?!"
"She is UNIQUE. And THAT is enough. I will not let anyone kill her."
"Like it's your decision." Zhor mocked. "Her Judgment has already been passed down from Heaven. So what if you won't let me carry it out." He stroked his tassels. "She's so dumb, she'll get herself killed someday, if the Goddess doesn't slay her tonight."
Jonas swallowed hard. "Beza-Dan is here? Why?"
"I told you Gakushi cooked something for her. He has yet to earn an audience with her, let alone admission to Heaven. Besides, she loves Coruscant. Her favorite memories are here. Including the ones she made with me."
"How many liters of blood did you 'donate' to her?"
"I thought she was going to drain it all and leave me like an empty husk!" Zhor laughed. "I was really scared. She's thirsty!"
A strange warmth filled the room. Zhor looked terrified.
"I believe it is time we left, Captain." He nodded to Palpatine. "Your Highness." He smirked at Ysanne. "I wish I could stay to watch you die. But this time, She wants to enjoy it by herself." Zhor and Jonas went out separate exits. The Emperor gave her a pitying expression.
Ysanne's only warning was a soft rustle, followed by a loud shriek as five deep furrows opened in the floor, then she saw HER.
The woman was very tall and elegant, with unusually slender features, with the exception of her feminine anatomy. Her skin was rather gray, the same shade as her robe and the streaks in her impossibly black hair; which was of three types. Normal, long, flowing down her back; tall, striped 'quills' in a narrow row on top of her head; and curved, claw-like hairs along her forehead. These were a glowing silver. The main hair had the consistency of… SMOKE! Zhor's tassels?! Her fingernails were glossy black; the middle three were very long and curved. The toenails on her bare feet were the same color, but had a more severe curve. It was these that tore up the floor. She did not walk on the flats of her feet but instead on the joints where the metatarsals met the phalanges, a difficult balancing act. One she seemed to have trouble with since she walked with a drunken stagger.
"Ahhh, Senator Palpatine." Her voice was a deep, pulsating echo, as if her had a physical problem affecting her speech. "So nice to see you. You look like…"
Ysanne could not believe what she said. This 'thing' would not get away with this! "You! Stretch-o! You have some nerve to say tha–" Her voice froze, only the sound of breathing coming out of her mouth.
"So fool, I smell something good, who made it?"
"A young half-blood named Kami Gakushi. His father raided a Dawn Empire ship…"
The woman slapped her hand against the wall which duly buckled and fell away, revealing a large table covered with platters heaped with food. She grabbed a large piece of foul smelling fruit, fermented perhaps, out of a gel filled bowl and put it in her mouth. Ysanne thought it too large to fit, but was disgusted to see the woman's mouth open ridiculously wide. It wouldn't fit her throat though. Ysanne got THAT right! The woman closed her mouth, forcing it down her throat. A horrible moist snapping sound echoed in the room. She did this for several minutes, making obscene sounds of delight. She finished by lifting the bowl, polished durasteel, and crumpled it into her mouth, gel dripping onto her robe.
"Mmmm… Go on, I'm listening. Baby likes yummy metal."
"Oh. So you're expecting?" Palpatine seemed aghast at the idea. "Who's the poor cuckold this time?"
She bit into another fruit. It popped, part of it flying towards Ysanne and landing with a splat at her feet. She glanced at it. It was large and round and... it stared back at her. This was no fruit.
"Pick it up carrion. Your life depends on your usefulness to me!"
Ysanne noticed that the woman's clothing was fine mesh and she could see far too many features. Zhor would love this I bet, she thought.
"Are you the 'Goddess' that Zhor was crowing about? You look and act like a two-credit spice gutter-harlot."
The woman did not move, but Ysanne was suddenly filled with an overwhelming sensation of torment and soul-rending anguish. She almost retched.
"Goddess Beza-Dan! I rule this Galaxy you little corpse!" Her disembodied, hollow roar sounded like a volcano. "Pick… It… UP!!"
"I suggested that Gakushi leave some of his blood for you. Families smell alike, right?" The Emperor took a chance that he could bring her to focus on something else.
She dipped her fingers into one of the bowls she hadn't touched yet and licked them. She seemed in heaven.
"OHHHH!! Grai! It's definitely Grai! I remember Ozar telling me about a 'pet' that was taken from him. She had only a few weeks left. He never got over her. Then that filth son of mine executed him! Grai was my favorite warrior! I'll be certain to meet with this whelp. Once I'm free of this one" She rested her hand on her broad midsection.
"Ah, I guess he'll be glad to hear that. Oh and I'm sorry that it took me awhile to realize that you were…"
"It's not his fault. You're as fat as a Hutt and just as ugly and foul smelling."
Beza stood to full height, took a deep breath and, starting with her hands on her shoulders, ran them down the length of her fertile silhouette ending at her knees. "You don't know what you are talking about. Ta'a Zhor finds me irresistible. The child's his."
"Like I said, he wouldn't kick a Hutt out of bed"
Beza placed a hand on the table. With a nightmarish din, it collapsed into dust. Palpatine twitched in his throne, fear in his eyes. "The last man to impregnate me asked me to burn Caamas. And I did. Can you guess what Ta'a Zhor would like me to do to you?"
"Brainwash me to be his puppet?"
"All joking aside, moron who covered her OWN screw up on Darknell by setting up her own father to be executed. You want to kill me. But, you're a coward. You could never do ANYTHING right. So Armand always cleaned up your messes. But now he is gone, and you have no one left to take the punishments meant for you. With my people, our children so much as hiccup; we kill them."
Beza-Dan grinned. Ysanne's mind was suddenly filled with taunting and anguish, voices telling her what a failure she was. Images of her humiliations at Darknell & elsewhere flooded her vision. Minutes passed, and felt liike hours. She could take no more. I have a blaster in a sleeve holster. Ysanne thought. I CAN do this! I can KILL HER!
At that moment, Beza's eyes narrowed slyly. Ysanne reached for her gun… or, at least she tried to. She couldn't move, or breathe. An immense pain filled her chest. Her perspective on the room shifted. She glanced down and saw that her feet were a half meter above the floor. She looked back up to where Beza was…no longer standing.
A weird squeaking sound grated on her ears, followed by a pop. She could breathe now, but fluid bubbled from her mouth. Realization dawned on her. Her eyes shifted to the left. Beza-Dan had attacked from behind, sinking her teeth into Ysanne's shoulder. Such was Beza's size that much of Ysanne's upper arm was in her mouth and one of her canines was thrust below the sternum. Ysanne had not been able to breathe because her ribs had been constricted. The pop, followed by the blood coming out of her mouth had been several ribs snapping, puncturing her lungs in the process. Thick white foam pulsed from Beza's mouth, flowing to join the torrents of blood running down Ysanne's uniform. Anything that came into contact with the foam started smoking, including Ysanne's skin! It was clearly toxic as well, for every part of her touched by it, she could no longer feel, as if cut away from her. Her heart raced, speeding the poison though her. She began to panic.
Emperor! Help me PLEASE!!
HO! HO! HO! You think anyone wants you to live? A sudden pain flared in her right breast. You clearly do not respect the role destined for you.
A worse pain tore though her abdomen. She saw Beza's huge right hand clawing into her!
It doesn't really matter since you will die, but Zhor wanted me to dismember you. Next I'll give you a full hysterectomy in addition to those scratches. Nobody loves you.
Ysanne's ribs squeaked again, then several more popped; quieter this time, like the aftershock of an earthquake. The pressure threshold weakened due to a momentary lax in the goddess' jaws.
You filthy-! Ysanne turned, her eyes met Beza's one giant orb. The iris was like molten gold, tendrils swirled out touching Ysanne's irises. The pupil was like a black hole, darkness emanated from it toward Ysanne's pupils. She felt herself fading. Wait, didn't Jonas say I was unique? JONAS!!
Suddenly, a loud crash filled her ears. Something struck her hard from the side. It was the floor. A subsonic roar filled the room.
"HAVE YOU TAKEN LEAVE OF YOUR SENSES?!"
Ysanne witnessed a bizarre sight. Jonas stood before Beza-Dan, his sword thrust at her right eye. The golden tendrils that attacked Ysanne were wrapped around the blade, thrashing. Sparks leaped from the glowing sword as blood ran down Beza's cheek. "You almost killed everyone in this system, destabilizing my eyes like that, you maniac!"
"Life isn't worth it if Ysanne dies."
"You want her that badly?! Fine, you had better hurry, she'll be mush in no time." The tendrils retracted. Beza stepped over Ysanne, the massive talons on her one foot nearly decapitated the sprawled woman as the giantess walked away. Her footsteps were soundless…
"I almost didn't get here in time. It'll still be close. You must bear the pain." He pressed bloodied hands to her most severe wounds. When the widespread paralysis stopped…
Her screams tore at her her larynx. The saliva had burned paths deep into her tissue. Third degree burns covered the whole area that had been inside the Goddess' mouth. The clavicle, sternum and ribs, as well as the left scapula and humerus, were shattered into jagged chips. Ysanne was certain that there was no hope of survival. Yet the pain was starting to lessen. She could actually FEEL the venom being washed out of her. Warm, moist air started flowing into her lungs. Odd, the air tasted like Corellian Whiskey. Wait a minute…She opened her eyes and saw his face close to hers, their lips parted, their mouths locked.
"Damn you, you thief! You planned this all along, didn't you?! You bastard…" She started coughing.
"Please calm down, before you die. I didn't do anything except save your life. I only got away with striking the Goddess because I am her granddaughter's fiancé."
"What did she do to me?"
"What? The mental torment? Or her eyes?"
"I didn't know at the time that you'd be stupid enough to attack her."
"I didn't!" She protested. "I didn't even move!"
"But you THOUGHT about shooting her. That's the point. At no time were your thoughts hidden from her. She IS called 'Goddess' for a reason, you know. That thing she did to you was an empathic attack called 'Anguish'. You couldn't move because your will had no contact with your body while she projected negative emotions into your mind."
"You knew." She repeated. "But you let her torture me anyway."
"She promised Zhor. She wouldn't have killed you immediately. I could not stop her, if that had been her true will. Allowing you to slowly die through dismemberment and soul eating was gratuitous and excessive, so I stopped her."
"Did you realize you could have killed everyone?"
He coughed. "Well, I knew there was a risk. But I knew she was experienced with that weapon and probably had counter-countermeasures. She would never use something that she couldn't fully control."
"But she was still scared."
"Of ME dying. If I did, well, her Granddaughter would probably kill her in a very nasty way."
"Did you really mean it when you said you would prefer death, to life without me?" Their eyes met.