Shadow Minister is absolutely my first fan fiction I have ever published. The MMO StarWars the Old Republic has been an inspiring journey for me. So much so that it has convinced me to write a story about the Imperial Agent story line.
If you haven't played the Imperial Agent class and don't want to be spoiled then I would HIGHLY recommend you stop reading now and sign online and play your agent. The IA storyline is just brilliant and full of twists and turns that were both unpredictable and enjoyable. This story is full to the brim with spoilers.
This story takes place immediately after Act I of the IA story line. (The ending I chose was the neutral ending). The agent in this case is female. Feel free to picture your own agent in it. I will try very hard not to use my character's real name and limit it to just "Cipher Nine" for those who like picturing their own characters in the part.
My story centers mostly around the most inspiring character in the story line for me. The Minister of Intelligence (formerly Keeper). His courage to stand up to the Sith, his protectiveness over his agents, and his desire to make right the wrongs in his life caught my attention immediately. He is an unusual person for an Intelligence Minister. At any rate, I thought it would be fun to see what went on behind the scenes while Cipher Nine was gallivanting all over the galaxy.
*Note* I do not own any of the characters or names in this fanfiction. They belongs to both George Lucas and Bioware. A very special thanks to them for allowing budding writers like me to use them for practice while appreciating all that they have given fans.
I welcome all reviews, but certainly don't mind if you are just here for the ride. If you want to give criticism that is fine. Please do...but please be constructive so that I can improve as I go. Enjoy!
Chapter 1 - War of Words
The newly appointed Minister of Imperial Intelligence stood before the giant doors of the Dark Council chamber. His lips pulled tight and his brow furrowed with disdain. Though he was careful to keep such emotions on his face at a minimum, he couldn't help but feel disgusted by the thought of having to enter the chamber. He prided himself on having an unreadable face. And he was known to keep calm even in the direst of situations. He was the eye of a hurricane; the calm in the center of chaos. If he hadn't been, he would not have lived long enough to become Keeper let alone become the new Minister of Intelligence for the Empire. But the Sith, were the exception. Simply put, the Sith were not pleasant to be around. They brought out the worst in him as they did everyone. He firmly believed his hair went prematurely gray because of them and the unnecessary stress they put on him. Still, he was careful to not let too much of his emotion seep out. The Sith feed off of emotion, especially intensely negative emotion, and he would not give them the satisfaction.
He tugged the sleeves of his uniform straight and then pulled his black gloves on tighter. His new uniform reflected his promotion. Much like his old one but with a few distinct differences. It was a darker grey and there were a few more medals and military regalia but the biggest difference for him was the collar. This collar seemed a bit tighter than his old uniform. It was almost choking him. The irony of this was not lost on him. Though there were many benefits that came along with his new rank, everyone knew that the Minister of Intelligence was considered a dangerous but necessary "evil" by the Dark Council and therefore kept on a very short, very tight leash. They may have the power of the Force, but he had the power of information. Both were powerful in different ways. Essentially, the Sith didn't like him any more than he liked them, but they tolerated each other for the "greater good."
His cold grey eyes narrowed in thought. It was highly unusual for the Dark Council to request the Minister's physical presence. Most conferences took place via Holoterminal and he preferred it this way. However, in this case, the Dark Council had specifically requested his presence. He was told it was to congratulate him on his new promotion in person. That it was protocol. He smiled grimly. He didn't believe it for a second. He knew this "pleasantry" was going to be anything but pleasant. And he had a feeling that this meeting was not about him at all.
"Minister? The Dark Council requests your presence in the chamber now."
Turning toward the young female Sith acolyte that had just walked into the room behind him he regarded her with a raised eyebrow. He recognized her almost instantly. Her name was Kara Xylax and she was one of Darth Ravage's acolytes. She was human and she was tall with dark hair that was braided quiet intricately around her head. She was strikingly beautiful. Especially, for a Sith whose use of the dark side eventually ravaged even the most beautiful. It was only a matter of time before this young woman would become as hideous as most members of the Sith. Such a pity. But to a Sith...there is nothing they wouldn't sacrifice for greater power.
According to the Imperial Intelligence records Kara was a more mild mannered Sith, if you could say that about one their kind. Though she was not the type who would be vicious enough to become one of Ravage's apprentices she still was very powerful and extremely ambitious. She was just as dangerous as the other Sith apprentices as far as he was concerned. Her true use to her master was her diplomacy and powers of manipulation. She was called in when her master needed a more "delicate" solution to a problem and as far as he knew, Kara never let him down. She was charming, beautiful, sharply intelligent, and rarely far from Darth Ravage's side. He inwardly smirked...according to Intelligence...she had a few other "talents" that Ravage held in high regard as well.
He nodded politely in her direction, "Thank you."
She gestured toward the door. Taking half a moment he pushed all his emotions down as far as they could be buried before taking a step toward the threshold. He felt like a gladiator about to enter the ring full of angry Nexu. Only this fight wouldn't be a about strength and agility. It would be an all out bloody war of intelligence and calm.
Eleven faces stared down at the Minister of Intelligence from their throne like perches in the Dark Council chamber. The Minister stood, ridged with his arms folded behind his back staring straight ahead. Years of training and discipline giving him a mask of calm and indifference.
The Chamber was enormous and dark. Six thrones lined the wall to his left. Another six lined the wall to his right. Each throne was occupied, with the exception of one. One chair remained empty.
"You will have to forgive us, Minister." Turning toward the voice within the shadows he recognized to be Darth Tanthalon's
"My Lord?" He inquired.
"Your promotion comes at an inopportune time, I'm afraid;" he said, gesturing toward the empty throne. "You see, we are short one member of the Council."
"I'm sorry to hear that, my lord. Is Darth Zhorrid unwell?" The Minister was not surprised to hear a few snickers echo through the chambers. He specifically chose the word "Unwell." It was no secret that Darth Zhorrid was mentally unbalanced if not completely mad. To say she was unwell was an understatement.
"She has been deemed unfit and therefore...removed from the Dark Council. We have yet to find a suitable replacement for her." There was no amusement in Darth Thanthalon's voice. It was clear that Darth Zhorrid was finally dead by the Dark Council's hand. The Minister felt absolutely no remorse for her loss. The daughter of a Darth Jadus was a tragedy on all counts with the exception of her death. Personally, he felt like justice had been served since she took sadistic delight in ordering his agents about as if they were her own servants. He took that as a direct insult to him. His agents were his and no one else's. Their job was to serve the Empire, not run errands for a spoiled brat of a Sith Lord. She was a waste of life that would not be missed for a moment.
"You have my sympathies, my Lords. Losing a high ranking member can be a devastating blow. Especially, since we are on the brink of war with the Republic"
"Or... it can be seen as fortuitous, is that not so...Minister?" the cold amused voice of Darth Mortis oozed from the shadows. The Minister turned toward Darth Mortis.
"My lord?" he asked, interested in where this conversation was going.
"I'm merely pointing out, Minister, that you would not be standing here today in our presence if your predecessor had not met his untimely death upon the Dominator." Pleasure seeped out of the Sith Lord's voice. Though the Minister could not see it, he was sure there was a wide grin upon the Sith's face. "Along with thousands of other lives."
Ah, the first attack at him. He was surprised it took this long.
The Dominator was Darth Jadus's flag ship and it was destroyed in what was a supposed terrorist act by man who called himself The Eagle. There were several VIP's on the ship when it exploded. The former Minister of Intelligence was one of them. And it happened right under his nose much to his fury. There was nothing, NOTHING that happened in either the Empire or even the Republic that escaped his attention. And yet, somehow, this so called Eagle had managed to destroy a Dark Council member's flag ship while it was in bloody orbit above Dromund Kaas killing almost everyone on board without so much of a whisper of warning. It was both an enraging and humbling moment. Regardless, he had somehow let his guard down; a mistake that he would not be repeating in the future.
"Indeed, my lord. But with all due respect, may I point out that you would not be sitting where you are now if your predecessor hadn't met a similar fate." One was not elected to the Dark Council. It was handed down from master to apprentice which means if you wanted a position on the Dark Council you had to murder your way there. Natural deaths were a luxury the Sith saw very little of.
"Be careful, Minister," chimed the voice of Darth Acharon. "Be mindful of who you are speaking to."
"I meant no disrespect, my lord Acharon. I was merely repaying Darth Mortis's observation with one of my own. Observation is part of my job."
Darth Acharon leaned forward, "Indeed it is, Minister," his voice dripping with menace. "Something of which I hope you are better at than the former Minister. It was fortunate for him that he was killed upon the Dominator. If he hadn't been, his fate would have been the same, but a far less merciful one. I would have seen to that personally. His failure for not foreseeing this attack speaks volumes of his incompetence."
"Agreed, my Lord." The Minister inclined his head in mock agreement. He knew very well that all of intelligence failed to foresee the Dominator's destruction; blame was on all of their heads. However, this was a point he was not eager to volunteer. He had no love for the former Minister but in his defense, no one, not even him, could have guessed who was really behind the attack. The Eagle was a pawn, used by one of the Dark Council's very own, Darth Jadus.
Unbeknownst to everyone Jadus had staged his own death upon the Dominator. He manipulated the Eagle from the shadows giving him the resources and the idea for the attack without The Eagle knowing his true identity. It wasn't too hard. All he had to do was to give the Eagle an opportunity to assassinate one of the Dark Council along with several VIP Imperialists. How could any self respecting terrorist resist that? The Eagle, eager to make his "noble" point to the Empire, didn't bother to ask very many questions. He quickly planted the bombs on the ship with surprising ease and pressed the button blasting the whole damn destroyer to smithereens. Jadus, having planed the attack himself, was ready for it and used the Force to protect a small portion of the ship from the explosion and poisonous gases. It was there that he was able to contain himself and several of his "followers" in safety. With everyone thinking he was dead he was now able to execute the next steps of his plan, free from the watchful eyes of Intelligence and the Sith.
"I can assure you, my lords, that the events that led to the Dominator's destruction will not be forgotten, nor will they occur again. Clearly, we had a blind spot in our intel that is currently being rectified."
A large laugh bellowing burst from Darth Baras. "Ah. So, your spies are now watching us, is that what you are hinting at?"
"Of course, my Lord. Much like your spies watch us," he said with his eyebrow raised. Baras had many personal spies. The man was his own intelligence agency. "After all, it was Darth Jadus who betrayed and fooled us all. If it hadn't been for my agent, Darth Jadus might have succeeded in his plans to destroy all of you and challenge the emperor. Instead, Darth Jadus is currently spending the rest of his existence in a stasis prison behind lock and key."
"Yes. That reminds me," purred Darth Ravage. "Where is your …brave agent, Minister?"
And so the true battle begins.
"She has been given a short order of leave. I thought it best, considering the trauma she was forced to face upon the Darth Jadus's ship." And I'm not about to tell you mob of Rakghouls where she is.
"Is that so?" Ravage didn't look pleased at the Minister's avoidance of the question.
"How long are we going to play this game, Ravage? You are wasting my time. Can we get to the point of the meeting!" growled Acharon.
The Minister's cold grey eyes darted from Ravage to Acharon and then back again. Ravage waved an acquiescing hand in Acharon's direction.
"Very well, Acharon. Since you are in such a rush perhaps you'd like to continue."
"Gladly," he hissed. "Minister, you are to recall your agent back to Dromund Kaas upon where you will have her promptly arrested and then immediately executed."
The Minister was completely shocked by the Sith Lord's bluntness. Though, he was careful not to show it.
"My Lord? Whatever for?"
"Your agent has directly and knowingly challenged not only a Dark Lord of the Sith but one who was also a Council member! In addition, she willingly gave Jadus the eradicator codes that allowed thousands of Imperials to lose their lives. She is a danger to the Empire and she needs to be put down."
Put down? He seethed. As if his agent was a pet who has become rabid.
"My Lord," the Minister said through a tightly clenched jaw. "If I may, everything Cipher Nine did was for the Empire. Not against it."
"For?" Acharon snorted. "Minister, clearly you and I have very differing views on appropriate subordinate behavior!"
He knew this whole meeting was a sham from the start. He suspected that Cipher Nine was the true subject of this meeting and they wanted him there personally so that they could clearly sense his true emotions about her. They were testing him. The danger that he and his agent were in just escalated to a nightmarish level. He was going to have to play this very carefully.
"My Lord, might I inquire how you would have wanted Cipher Nine to deal with Darth Jadus?"
"The fact that you expected her to deal with Jadus at all has me greatly concerned Minister."
"My Lord, she went to Darth Jadus's ship not knowing he was the one who was holding The Eagle's leash. If you remember, no one knew he was still alive. She thought she was going to eradicate another terrorist leader, which, might I point out, is her job. She was not aware it was going to be Darth Jadus."
"And yet, she still chose to face him?" Acharon said icily.
"Yes. She did."
"And she willingly gave Jadus the eradicator codes that killed thousands of people?"
"Yes. She did."
"And you still defend her actions?" Acharon leaned forward fists gripping the thrones arm in pure rage. "I would choose your next words very carefully, Minister."
"My Lord, I stand by my agent's decision." He did not have to be Force sensitive to feel the full rage that was building in this room. It was absolutely overwhelming, threatening to squash him. His collar seemed tighter than ever. Closing his eyes for a moment he struggled to keep his composure. "I stand by my agent because I know every detail of what happened on that ship that you, my lords, have not been privy to as of yet. It was recorded by my Watchers and I sincerely believe that Cipher Nine made a decision that in the long term was the least disastrous for the Empire as well as for all of you."
The rage lightened a bit and he found it easier to breath.
"Is that so, Minister?" Darth Ravage, inquired. His voice tinged with disbelief but also a little curiosity. "Expound on that. How do you see her decision to kill thousands of people and initiate a confrontation with a Dark Council member benefit us?"
"Because I know what Darth Jadus offered her, my lords." He had everyone's complete attention now.
"Continue, Minister." Darth Ravage urged.
"When Cipher Nine arrived on Darth Jadus's ship she was surprised to see that he was not only still alive but he was the man behind the whole plot. She realized that her situation just went unexpectedly bad.
"Darth Jadus knew that Cipher Nine had defeated The Eagle, and he knew that she had the other half of the codes to activate the eradicators; the very same eradicators that were positioned unbeknownst to all of you, right under you. To make things clear, my lords, he wanted you all dead so he would be the sole person in control."
"Get to the point, Minister." Acharon growled.
"Yes, my lord. Darth Jadus needed the other half of the codes that Cipher Nine had. If he killed her, the codes would have died with her. So he chose to seduce her." This next part he wanted to make especially clear. "My lords, he offered her a life of power. I saw the recording. He was prepared to make her his right hand. She would have power and respect, bowing to no one but him. An offer a person in her position would find hard to turn down. I doubt, many would have."
"But she still gave Jadus the eradicator codes. She turned the bloody things on herself!" Darth Archaron hissed.
The Minister nodded. "She did but only for a few minutes. And she didn't turn them on to join him. She turned them on to make him think she did. You see, my lords, she knew that she would not be able to challenge Darth Jadus directly, but she knew you could. Had she chosen to fight him directly she would be dead and he would have escaped to the shadows to continue his scheming. Nothing would be gained by that.
"However, by turning on the eradicators it earned Darth Jadus's trust long enough for her to excuse herself so that she could shut down the ships defenses while one of my Watchers sent word to me of the events that were unfolding. It was then that I summoned all of you, as you recall."
"But what of the lives that were lost due to the eradicators?"
The Minister was growing irritated. What was all this new found love for human life? They never cared about it before. The Sith are irritating beings. So keen on manipulating events and emotions only when it suit their purposes. Politics in general made him nauseous, but the Sith politics made him physically sick.
"My lords, Cipher Nine was forced to make a terrible choice. I'm not denying that. But she reasoned that if Darth Jadus escaped more lives would be lost in the future. His plans for domination would have caused a bleak and grim future for the Empire and its people. It is for that reason that I respect and condone her decision. It was not an easy one and it will most likely haunt her for the rest of her life."
The chamber was silent. All eleven pairs of eyes glared at the Minister from the darkness. He stood silent and ridged as when he came in.
Darth Ravage was the first to break the silence.
"Minister, I respect that you stand by your agent, especially when it is not only her life that is at stake here." That last sentence was spoken slowly and deliberately so as to make sure its meaning was clear to the Minister. "However, your agent still defied a Dark Council member. And not only that, she helped defeat him. Jadus's power was second only to that of the Emperor's. We cannot have that kind of defiance allowed. She must be executed."
They were scared of her! All of them. Cipher Nine actually managed to intimidate the most powerful Sith Lords in the Empire. He smiled inwardly as the pride swelled his heart. One of his agents managed to do something that few could do. Scare the Hell out of the Sith. Interesting.
His mind worked rapidly. He had to find a way to save her. The Sith were stubborn and worse, they were eager for blood. All of the sudden the solution presented itself. It was a little dangerous not to mention it would be devious, but it was worth it to him if he could keep Cipher Nine alive.
"My Lords," the Minister began cautiously. "Might I suggest an alternative to execution?"
"An alternative?" Ravage asked his eyebrow raised. "Minister, you seem to be quite attached to this agent. Are they not all expendable? Isn't that the point of spies?"
"Yes, my lord, all of my agents are expendable including Cipher Nine. However, that does not mean that I'm willing to just throw them away without so much as a thought." Like you do to all your apprentices, he thought bitterly. "Especially, if they are still quite useful."
"Useful? How is Cipher Nine still useful?" snapped Darth Acharon.
"She is one of my best agents. I hand picked her out of the academy myself. She is intelligent, resourceful and fiercely loyal to the Empire. I have several missions that only she would be able to complete. I'd also like to add that training agents costs the Empire a fortune and as far as I am concerned, she has yet to repay that debt. I'd rather not have her executed before her usefulness to the Empire has been completely exhausted."
"Very well, Minister, I'm curious. What do you propose?" Darth Ravage asked.
"Brainwashing, my lords," he simply said.
"Yes. Intelligence has used this method with certain agents who were deemed…unpredictable but effective. I can have Cipher Nine reprogrammed to shut down with a single word in the event that she becomes considered 'dangerous.'"
"Ah…clever," purred Darth Baras.
"Shut down? How so?" inquired Darth Mortis
"Just exactly that. If someone speaks her keyword to her, she will quite literally shut down as if someone had flipped a switch on her. Though she will be conscious of her surroundings, her will will no longer be her own. She will not be able to do a single thing further unless instructed to do so by her keyword holder."
"Interesting," Baras grinned. "And who will be her keyword holder?"
"I will be." The Minister said coolly. "I am her superior, it is only right. I will be responsible for her actions."
"Yes you will be, Minister. Let us be very clear about that." Acharon hissed. "She is your responsibility. If she so much as looks the wrong way at a Sith Lord, you both will be facing execution. Is that clear?"
"Of course, my Lord." The Minister nodded in acknowledgement. Not exactly the most comfortable solution to this problem but then he didn't really expect it to be easy. It would have to do for now.
"Tell us, Minister," began Darth Baras. "How does one brainwash a person?"
He was hoping he wouldn't have to go into this, but he sensed a simple, 'Trust me, it works,' would not appease them.
"We use a specially developed serum that, when injected into the blood stream will temporarily shut down the neural transmitters in the brain that send out commands to the rest of the body. For lack of a better description, it prevents the brain's processing of 'free will.' Conversely it increases the sensitivity of the neural receptors making the subject highly impressionable. You can plant any idea or series of actions into the subject without them knowing it. Then trigger the action or idea with a designated keyword."
"And where does the serum get produced?" asked Ravage.
"Quesh, my lord."
Ravage stood up and then summoned one of the red clad Imperial guards standing at the chamber door. The guard approached and then bowed.
"My Lord?" he inquired.
"Summon Kara. Her presence here is required immediately."
"At once, my lord." Bowing he departed.
What is he up to, the Minister wondered.
"What are the side effects of the serum?" inquired Baras. The Minister frowned inwardly. He didn't like how interested Baras was in this serum.
"Very few, my lord. Though, multiple brain washings will leave the subject irrevocably damaged. It is only recommended that if it is done at all that it is done only once."
"Has it ever been used on a Force sensitive subject?" inquired Baras.
"It was tested once on a captured Jedi padawan. It was discovered that it has no effect on force sensitives. The Force prevented the serum from taking effect."
"Interesting," Baras grinned behind his mask. The Minister was no fool. He knew the serum was intriguing to the Sith lord. It was one of the reasons he wasn't happy about having to bring the serum to light in the first place. He wouldn't put it past Baras to have thousands of people injected with the serum to create an army of sleeper agents. He was always looking for the easy solution to his problems. The man disgusted him.
Just then the chamber doors opened and in walked Ravage's acolyte. All eyes were on her as she moved to stand beside the Minister, then facing her master she kneeled.
"You summoned me, my Lord?"
"Kara, I need you to travel to Quesh immediately. There you will acquire a special serum. The Minister can fill you in on whom to speak to get it."
"Of course, my lord."
"My lord," the Minister interrupted. "We already have the serum here. You needn't send your acolyte to Quesh."
"Minister," began Ravage his tone dangerous, "Do you take me for a fool?"
"Not at all, my lord." He was truly baffled by Ravage by now.
"You have a reputation for being protective of your agents. And frankly I don't trust you to give the real serum to Cipher Nine. So, I will have Kara retrieve a freshly made batch and she will be present as you administer it to your agent so that there can be no doubt that the process was completed.
"In the meantime, you will provide Kara with all the information she needs to locate your contact on Quesh and then make arrangements for your agent to come back to Dromund Kaas so that she can be…treated."
Damn him. Every movement he made was countered by the Sith. He wasn't going to lie. The thought to switch serums had entered his mind. But now he was left with absolutely no choice now.
"Very well, my lord. But, might I request for security reasons, after the serum has been administered your acolyte will leave me with my agent so that I may reprogram her?"
"No. Kara will remain until after the programming."
"As you wish my, Lord. But I respectfully insist that she leave before I program the keyword. I am the only person to know this word. If not, you leave the door open for Cipher Nine to be a puppet to anyone who has her keyword. Which will mean she is still dangerous. I cannot allow that to happen."
Darth Ravage, nodded. "Very well, Minister. I will agree to your terms." The Minister breathed a sigh of relief to himself. "However, that word is to be stored somewhere in your data banks. Lock it down with whatever safety precautions you like but I will not allow it to lie just with you."
"Very well, my lord."
"Now, I think we've had about as much as we can stand each other for awhile, Minister. You are dismissed."
He couldn't agree more. This meeting shed light on a few things that had him worried for a long time. This meant that he had to execute some of his plans a lot earlier than he intended.
Turning to Kara he regarded her with cold eyes. "My Lady. I will brief you personally on the trip to Quesh. Please stop by Intelligence at your earliest convenience."
"Of course, Minister," she said nodding in respectfully to him.
"My lords." He said respectfully before bowing. Then the Minister did something he wasn't sure he was going to be able to do before he came in. He left chamber alive and in one piece.