Star Wars Infinities – The Gathering Storm (Part 5 of 8)

SW InfinitiesAnd we are past the halfway point! This is part 5 of Friday’s mini-series based on the Star Wars Infinities campaign I ran for my players back in 2007. Hard to believe this was the game we ran previous to D&D 4th edition. Click on this link for the previous post.

This is the second piece of fiction I wrote for the campaign, and part of the introduction to the campaign I handed out to the players some weeks before the game. I should point out that I had conducted a survey to know what elements of the Star Wars universe they were interested in and from there I created the alternate history and other elements of the game I’m sharing with you in theses posts. My intention with this piece, much more so than the previous one, was to introduce players and plotlines that could become part of gameplay eventually. In this specific instance it did not, based on what the players decided to do. The secrets hinted at in this little story would have been very important for the second part of the campaign. Alas, we never got around to it… Not yet at least!

 

“The Sar’Akar are under my protection. Abbaji Forces will defend Ossus at all costs. Tell your masters that a Kaleesh repays his debts of honor!”

Warlord Qymaen jai Sheelal, alias General Grievous, during the siege of Ossus

The Old Guard

TarkinRepublic Security Director Wilhuff Tarkin tapped his long, bony fingers rhythmically on the desk. It was enormous and opulent, carved from a single piece of dark, rich wood; it occupied a good portion of the well-furnished office, facing the door directly across from the entrance. The large, black leather chair seemed to swallow his tall, gaunt, frame, one elbow on the armrest of the chair while the hand absentmindedly stroked his clean shaven chin. His head slightly tilted to one side, the receding brown but graying hair methodically combed back, eyes half closed. Behind him, visible through the panoramic window, the canyons of glass and steel, and the incessant traffic of the Republic’s capital, Coruscant, all bathed in the yellowish red hue of dusk.

He slid his hand over the desk’s surface and tapped the button hidden in the transparent microcircuit overlay. The grandiose military march seemed to waft away as the Director opened his eyes. The office lights slowly lit up, strategically placed spotlights illuminated shelves filled with mementos and display cases, flags and tapestries. His office was filled with decorations, recognitions and awards of a life dedicated to service. First to the Eriadu military, then to the Republic Security organization, commonly called RepSec.

He smiled to himself, a humorless, predatory smile. He was the master of a fleet unfit for any duty other than routine patrol and tariff enforcement. A peace keeping force stretched thin across the Republic, most of it deployed in good will missions or disaster relief. However he was proud of the Coruscant Security Forces, his Kesselian Dragoons. Named after the most decorated and famous military unit to surge outward into the galaxy as the humans of Coruscant and other Core Worlds systems braved the great unknown and civilized the galaxy.

What remained of this once proud unit and its traditions? A military force five hundred thousand strong and their support staff, forbidden by Republic edict to leave the Coruscant System and existing only to protect the planet and the Senate.

He had inspected his troops earlier that day, a parade before the full Senate and other visiting dignitaries. The Kesselian Dragoons had marched down the Avenue of the Core Founders and up the stairs to the Great Door to salute the senators, ambassadors and staff lining the balconies and windows over the Atrium of the Senate. Director Tarkin had proudly overseen this from his round repulsorpod floating above his men.

Senate_guard_121They marched in perfect unison, flawless lines, decked in their blue durasteel ceremonial armor and long robes carrying blaster pikes, the feathered crests in their helmets dancing in the wind. Behind them heavy repulsorcraft and hover tanks glided forward used rarely for active duty and brought out mostly for parade. Above them a unit on hover steeds hummed by. These highly stylized hover bikes were created to resemble long extinct quadrupeds used by the people of Coruscant in ancient times.

The passing hover steeds, even the hovertanks, seemed to shake under the roar of two Escort Frigates quickly swooping by the Senate. An impressive display of might and discipline sure to impress all who saw it, even strike some fear in them. Tarkin had smiled approvingly and nodded to his officers who saluted him. And them the cheering had begun.

He looked up and saw the senators pouring out into the balconies, their staff wildly cheering and flying their colors in celebration of the spectacle. He sneered momentarily at the mass of aliens and humans, powerless buffoons ready to celebrate pomp and circumstance as power slipped thought their fingers and came to rest in autonomous sectors, political block and allegiances across the galaxy. At least the Chancellor was human, but there he was surrounded by a mass of aliens, many of which had barely understood space travel until the Galactic Republic had found them and given it to them along with all the rights and benefits of membership into the once illustrious Republic.

It had been them who had brought it low, with their barbarous ways and thousand babbling tongues. This was not the way of old, when humans from the Core Worlds had conquered and colonized the systems around their planets and forged a glorious Republic. All that remained was a shadow, a sad mockery of the once glorious Galactic Republic.

Director Tarkin pushed such thoughts away and rubbed his throbbing temples. The empty cheers of the day vanished; he was in his office, alone. A tap in the microcircuit controls on his desk activated the holoprojector hidden inside and a bluish image of a matronly woman of regal bearing coalesced atop his desk. In the slowly turning hologram Tarkin could see the details of her summer dress, common that season in her home planet of Phelarion. A wind seemed to catch her by surprise as the image was recorded and she held on to her wide brimmed hat while laughing. The Director stopped the hologram there just as she smiled.

The hologram was too small to show details but Wilhuff remembered that day, that very moment, well enough. He reached out as if to touch the hologram, but his finger only disrupted the projection and momentarily distorted the image of his wife Lady Tarkin. The image did not show her wrinkles, or her sickly, pale, sagging body under her corset and the long, billowing dress.

Pulling his hand back he sighed. He had married the much older woman while still a young officer in the Eriadu military. His dreams of glory in the battlefield, of leading men into the fray had vanished after his frail physique had betrayed him and he had fallen ill in Sullustan during the Rimma Blockade campaign. He had contracted Dust Fever from an Outer Rim refugee and had spent the better part of the campaign recovering.

After his return to active duty his superiors considered him unfit for combat, and instead decided to assign him to administrative and diplomatic duties within the Eriadu military. In these assignments he excelled: as a military attaché, strategist and brilliant administrator. But the opportunities for growth in the Eriadu military, and by extension in the Seswenna Sector government, were limited by his lack of wealth and political contacts.

His marriage to Lady Tarkin had been one of convenience. She, the recently widowed daughter of the Motti family, needed his guile and the support of the Eriadu military to retain control of her family’s megonite moss mines. He in turn needed her family’s political contacts and her wealth. They helped each other, and while there were no true feelings between the two, they grew fond of each other, often discussing the sad estate and grim future of the galaxy during long walks across her estate.

That was the reason he remembered the day the holo had been recorded particularly well. That very same day he had received a message from his attaché in Seswenna Sector Central Government informing him that Ferrindel Oumeross had been elected Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. Oumerros had come to power with grand reform plans, seeking to return the Republic to its former glory. The hologram captured Lady Tarkin’s happiness as he told her the new Supreme Chancellor had appointed him the new Republic Security Director.

She had remained in Phelarion as Tarkin traveled to Coruscant. The euphoria and elation of Supreme Chancellor’s Oumeross rule was short lived. His unapologetic belief in the inherent superiority of humans above other species was his downfall. Oumeross’ reforms were blocked and derided by an alliance of alien Sectors and political blocks within the Republic. A vote of no confidence soon removed him from office.

In his short time as Republic Security Director, Tarkin, shrewdly and cunningly, had achieved enough political connections in Coruscant, and learned enough secrets, as to assure continuance as RepSec Director after Oumeross’ fall and under other Supreme Chancellors.

He allowed the hologram of his wife to play on. She was still in Phelarion but her age no longer allowed her to supervise the mines. Tarkin had assigned someone to oversee the operation. They spoke sometimes, but she was weak and infirm, and her mind wandered, nothing like the new woman in his life, a promising new recruit into the organization he felt was his greatest achievement as Director of RepSec.

The Director inserted a code cylinder taken from his uniform’s breast pocket into one of the slots hidden in the inner rim of his desk and the hologram quickly changed. Before him he could see the Senate’s entire documentation and report on budgetary appropriations for his office. As part of the charter for the creation of the Republic Security office after the demilitarization of the Republic he, as Director, had full discretion over the assignment and distribution of the budget. Since even before taking his post he had devised a plan to deviate some of the budget through seemingly innocuous and untraceable expenses to fund a covert intelligence organization.

Built slowly and surreptitiously, originally composed of recruits of unquestionable loyalty, it had grown into a self-funded, secret intelligence operation answerable only to him. The secrets they had gathered had assured his position and allowed him to start various other necessary, indeed vital projects unhindered by Republic bureaucracy and intervention.

They were his eyes and ears, gathering information and data the Senate seemed oblivious to. He could see it all coming undone, each sector and block vying for more power, an escalating suspicion and distrust among neighboring systems, exemplified by the Corellia-Alderaan impasse which only seemed to worsen.

Only the latest in a long list of growing conflicts. While Tarkin was not naïve as the people that blamed the slow decline of the Republic in the Jedi and the peace they had arranged, he had no love for the meddlesome mystics.

The Leoco Actum had recently caused trouble with their renewed attempts of taking into their fold young children from the Core Worlds. Despite all decrees and condemnations in the Senate, they refused to cede control of the systems and sectors they had annexed to their protectorates during their crusade against the Force Petitioners, whom they had unilaterally banished into the Outer Rim.

Yet as much as he distrusted them, he needed their support, for without the aid of the Leoco Actum fleet his ships could not face the continued raids into Republic space by Hutt backed pirates, and certainly had no hopes of resolving the Corellia-Alderaan situation. Director Tarkin stood up and looked out his window. From here he could see the Senate dome and in the distance the Jedi Temple with its spires reaching out into the sky. Built for the Jedi Council the temple remained empty; no lights upon its towers, unused for a generation. In contrast the Senate was abuzz with activity its windows and external lights bright in the early night. Yet to Tarkin both seemed as ineffectual, as empty, only that in one of them those endlessly prancing about had yet to realize their insignificance.

His holoprojector flickered and a hologram of his aide, standing outside the office, appeared. “Director Tarkin, the delegation from Naboo is here to see you sir”. The Twi’lek’s lekku twitched as he spoke. Disgusted by the fleshy tentacles Tarkin turned his eyes from the image and back to the Coruscant skyline. The Twi’lek was a political appointee, not selected for his merits but imposed upon the Director by overzealous Senators who worried there was not enough diversity among his staff. Diversity, his countenance grim, he simply replied, “I will be with them shortly.” His aide simply assented with a small bow and his hologram disappeared.

The Director switched off the holoprojector on his desk, and made sure the office was secure. He walked to one of the shelves holding a case of medals, and by pressing a hidden button a communications panel came into view. He took out a code cylinder and inserted it into the panel’s control. A secure communications link was established and moments later the face of the being who had given him this code cylinder appeared on the screen. Before the other could speak Tarkin spoke, “I have given much thought to you offer. I will stand with you; I am ready to rebuild the galaxy”.

Closing remarks: If you are a fan of the old Star Wars comic by Marvel comics you might have seen some elements of from those comics in the story. I cannot deny those were a big influence on me growing up. Looking back I realize there were lots of duds among those stories, but there were some gems as well!

Next week: Another piece of fiction, this one about an Expanded Universe character that is either adored or reviled. Who do you think he or she is?

And remember, Star Wars, all associated characters and images are copyright of Lucasfilm and I use them here only as a fan creating an RPG campaign.

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