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Author Topic: Serenity's Gambit  (Read 577 times)

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Offline Niarra

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Serenity's Gambit
« on: 04/27/17, 04:20:11 PM »
((This is the result of coming up with a "clever" idea for your character that can't actually be resolved without the assistance of a Game Master to play the Senate off of what you are so certain is your plucky creativity. And then you look around and realize you've left your character languishing in custody for months and that if you ever hope to get them out you're going to need to buckle down and RP with yourself like crazy. So while story posts were not something I ever thought I'd be doing, here I am, relying on the only method possible (short of a total hand wave) to work myself out of this hole of my own making. As usual, I have to have footnotes... or header notes... a.k.a. excuses, apologies, and credits:

1. This is a long, horrifically self-indulgent, rambling narrative with lots of dialogue and introspection. If you are easily bored, you should bolt for the exit now.

2. Much of this refers to and revisits events that happened in this story thread written by Custodum members around the Eternal Fleet's attack on Coruscant. This story post itself takes place months later... somewhere vaguely before the current Iokath storyline, which is a timey-wimey handwave I need to do because suddenly Jedi are back on Iokath with no clear explanation, so...

3. Special thanks to @Orell for contributing the dialogue for his characters, and for brainstorming politics with me.

4. Special thanks also to @Wymarc who laid out Telline's plans for me, and explained the political fate the Custodum could expect. Everything I allude to here about charges and results thereof is based on Wymarc's direction provided back in January.))



Serenity's Gambit

1.

The room in which Senator Rhybak had arranged for her to be held in custody was more comfortable than most prisoners of the Republic could expect, and though the special arrangement troubled Niarra’s conscience, she recognized it was in its own way part of the political theater in which they were engaging, and thus had its place.

So she accepted it, and appreciated it for what it was, and made sure, in her daily periods of contemplation before and after meditation, that she kept in her mind the fact that not all could be so fortunate in their incarceration, and that such considerations and experiences should be remembered when working to improve the plights of others.

But for all its relative comfort as a space of confinement, the room still lacked windows, and Niarra couldn’t help but feel that absence keenly.

First on Caamas, then on Tython, and finally on Talravin – all the places she had in her life considered home had embraced harmony with the surrounding natural environments. Trees, water, wind, all were as vital to her sense of rightness and well-being as the intricacies of negotiation around a gilt table were familiar. And in the last six years, she’d had considerably more nature than negotiating tables, so the change felt even more jarring. Even when she was summoned to appear before committees or judges or senators at the Rotunda, she was transported via secure airspeeder, from one hangar directly to another. She would have enjoyed a touch of even Coruscant air, though it seemed that would have to wait.

But perhaps, after three months now, the wait was coming to an end.

She received very little in the way of news vid feeds, generally only when Senator Rhybak or one of her old friends from diplomatic service visited and brought with them the latest updates on the Senate’s deliberations. Those visits had been cut dramatically in the last week, which would have been indication enough that something was brewing, even without Alyonna’s latest hint that matters were coming to a head and a final decision.

In the Force, during her meditations, she knew it as well. A moment of change was coming.




2.

A chime from the comms panel roused Niarra from her meditation. She had only just begun to drop into it, and so it wasn’t a difficult transition to bring herself back into the moment, and the cool grayness of her room.

Representative Dreikan of Zeltros is here to see you,” the guard at the other end of the  comms link announced.

Niarra smiled to herself, but didn’t hasten to reach the comms panel for a reply; she knew from experience that the guards wouldn’t wait for one, or for permission to escort someone in. She was afforded many leniencies in this unique incarceration, but such social niceties weren’t one of them. A minute’s warning was all that was generally afforded, in the interest of decency she supposed.

Although of course, if anyone wouldn’t mind eschewing modesty concerns, it would be Dreikan. She’d learned long ago, when Master Falla had first taken her on as a Padawan, that not even Jedi training – and certainly not a career in the theatrics of politics – could change a Zeltron’s perspective on matters of skin and propriety.

Niarra was waiting politely at the center of the room for her visitor, and as expected she felt immediately both overdressed and underdressed the moment he walked in. Too much material and not enough color, in the simple garments she’d been given to wear while in custody – both things she knew Dreikan saw as serious wardrobe deficiencies, which he called out every time he visited, and which he made an effort to compensate for with his own attire.

Today, Dreikan had paid enough deference to the mores of the Senate to be sure that he wore trousers, tunic, and coat, but all items were artistically peppered with geometric cut-outs that revealed patches of dark rose skin, and the fabrics, though restrained only to a rich shade of indigo that matched his hair, practically shimmered with the sheen of water-silk woven into them. They particularly shone in his trailing sleeve now, as he made wide, sweeping gestures with his arm to accompany his words to the guard who was escorting him in.

“The honorable Representative Dreikan,” he was saying, in the same melodious voice with which he often persuaded – or outright seduced – many an opponent at a negotiating table. “Technically it’s actually the honorable, decorated, and luminous Representative Dreikan, but that’s just an official Zeltron thing, and I let it be cut short for Senate business. Very dull, I know, but less of a mouthful, certainly.”

He winked at the guard who seemed, as they too often did, a little dazed. It didn’t take sensitivity in the Force to detect that the guard was in the grip of conflict between personal instincts that told him to be annoyed, and the effects of pheromones that told him something quite different. Niarra had seen it plenty of times. Jedi discipline, and familiarity, helped to keep the mind clear, but even so, when a Zeltron was in a deliberately playful mood it could take some work for even a Jedi to shake that haze.

“Uh... yessir... honorable... Representative...”

The guard saluted, and beat a hasty retreat. Dreikan watched the man go until the doors slid closed behind him, and then he chuckled, turning to Niarra with a smirk.

“I think I chose the wrong career,” he said. “ I could have made a killing as a thief, talking my way past security. Or maybe a Hutt operative, breaking agents out of prison. I’ll have to have a word with some people about Senate Guard training. Strong bodies need to come with strong minds. Well, at least in guards on duty. Not necessarily when at parties. But I’m sure that’s something a Jedi knows plenty about. Weak minds, that is. Not parties, unfortunately, though it would probably do you all some good. Don’t I get a hug?”

“No,” Niarra said calmly, but with a fond smile, wondering whether it would be safe for whatever sector they were in at the time of the meeting to introduce Dreikan to Taelios someday. “I make it a policy not to enable or reward shameless opportunists and manipulators.”

“Ah, Niarra,” Dreikan said with a theatrical sigh, letting the arms he’d held outstretched fall, in a flutter of silken sleeves. “Always so boring. You really aren’t ever going to change, are you? No matter how much I try.”

“One cannot always control the change one effects. It ripples out from our actions, taking on a shape and momentum of its own. You have certainly changed me, but the course is not yours to dictate.”

“Philosophy before refreshment?” Dreikan said with a groan. “You’re relentless.”    

He made his way over to the modest couch without waiting to be invited, and collapsed into it with a faintly perfumed rush of air as the many layers of his coat settled. But for all its apparent artlessness, Niarra knew him too well not to recognize how carefully executed even this move was; arm on the couch back just so, leg at a precise angle, head tilted to maximum effect. He’d always been an artist at presentation, even more so than most Zeltrons. She’d learned that the hard way, the first time they’d faced each other on opposite sides of a treaty negotiation.

It was one of the few negotiations in which Niarra knew she had been decisively outmaneuvered, and the fact that even the delegation she had been representing left the negotiation thinking they’d gotten a fair deal was only further testimony to the totality of Neru Dreikan’s victory. Almost the moment the parties had left the table he’d invited her to tea and wine, and they’d established a friendship before the day was out. An odd friendship, to many an outsider’s perspective. But there was much of her old Master in Dreikan, and Niarra had long ago learned that being open to friendship in unexpected places was a good thing. Every friendship was a learning experience. Every lesson enriched life, and brought wisdom.

“I don’t have much in the way of refreshment to offer,” Niarra said, taking a seat beside him, though on the far end of the couch. Sitting too close was always an invitation to physical contact that Dreikan didn’t seem fully able to control. Sometimes there was mischievous intent behind a wandering arm or knee, and sometimes it was genuine affection, but just as often she knew it for a subconscious expression of intimacy on his part. When he trusted, when he cared, he wanted to touch. She took it for the gesture of true friendship that it was – but that didn’t mean she was going to encourage it.

“Yes, incarceration does limit the beverage selection, I’m sure,” he said. “Though given how loudly Senator Farteen still complains about the luxuries Senator Rhybak has arranged for you, one would think you had a full cantina in here.”

“He remains adamant in his position, then,” Niarra said, unsurprised.

“He remains adamantly more tightly wound and compacted than a core slug’s anal tract, if that’s what you mean.”

“Neru,” Niarra said, with light admonishment.

“Ahhh.” He wagged a graceful finger at her. “I told you to stop it. Neru’s not even officially part of my name anymore. Even Senate records show it correctly as just Dreikan. Clean, simple, aesthetically unitary. It’s all the rage on Zeltros now, you know. And if Senate records got accurately sorted, you can certainly sort your Jedi Master brain. Being more advanced and disciplined and all that.”

“I shall do my best to remember,” she said, with a small smile that she knew he would interpret correctly as her version of sarcasm. “So tell me, how are you enjoying your time as a Representative?”

“More relaxing than being a Senator, that’s for sure. Half the work, twice the shoulder-rubbing. I should have demoted myself ages ago.”

“I would hardly call being offered your choice of positions a demotion, no matter what title you ultimately chose to assume.”

“The budgeting office would agree with you, to their dismay,” he said, grinning broadly, tossing his head a little to move a lock of soft hair out of his eyes. “They’ve been griping about my getting paid more than the Senator I’m serving. Though I’m sure they haven’t told her that.”

Niarra smiled back, and employed a few seconds of a litany recitation in her mind – always a good stabilizing tool when the waft of heady pheromones became too strong, as it sometimes did when Dreikan was feeling too exuberant.

And he was definitely in a very good mood today, which almost certainly meant he had come with news he deemed to be positive. That he was taking his time building up to it was an indulgence she was happy to allow him. After all, if there was one thing she had plenty of, in this windowless room, it was time.

He swept one soft-soled boot onto the sparse refreshment table and proceeded to recount for her many humorous anecdotes of recent affairs within the Zeltron delegation, lingering in particular on an account of a formal dinner with an Ithorian ambassador and the governing council of an Ithorian herdship, who were trying to purchase holo technologies from a state-owned Zeltron company.

“And you know,” he remarked thoughtfully, drawing toward his conclusion, “I do think he propositioned me. Out one of side of his mouth, at least.”

“Indeed?” Niarra replied, carefully serene, refusing to rise to his bait with an expression of shock or disapproval. “You should be honored. Ithorians are not exactly known for their cross-species promiscuity.”

“So I’ve heard. Aren’t you going to ask me if I had a good time?”

“Dreikan, if you’d actually taken him up on the offer, I’d have heard about it in great detail already, regardless of my preference.”

He laughed. “True. All part of my effort to make sure you get to live the good parts of life vicariously. Not as healthy as the real thing, mind you, but better than nothing. But you’re right, of course. I’m afraid Ithorian cuisine doesn’t agree with me. Would have been diplomatically disastrous to engage in ground-breaking sexual escapades that might end in the unfortunate exchange of gasses, or worse. Sometimes when Ithorians get too excited, their vocal vibrations just bleed right into my head and make me nauseous. Not a good combination of factors, all things considered.”

“Perhaps not,” she conceded, with a light laugh.

And as if the whole purpose of his visit so far had been just to elicit that laugh, Dreikan immediately smiled, and his languid sprawl on the couch took on a subtly different air. More relaxed, more genuine.

“How are you doing in here?” he asked her then. “I know you’ll say you’re fine. But even a Jedi must have limits to their patience. The walls here must be getting to you.”

“Naturally that is so,” she admitted. “But as much could be said of any small space in which one is confined for the execution of a difficult task. An office or a lab. Even a cell. So long as the work remains important, one endures with as much equanimity as one can.”

Dreikan gave her a somewhat incredulous look, but only nodded his understanding, as one who had spent plenty of time locked into drab rooms himself for the good of a negotiation or diplomatic summit.

Niarra had more than half expected a witty reply, though, and with a pang realized it was because that’s what she knew Derrad would have given her. Her brother had never lived the sort of life where tedious work in a confined space factored into the equation, and he would likely never develop a tolerance for it. The only confined space she suspected he would ever feel comfortable with was the cockpit of a starfighter.

She missed him. It wasn’t the first time this realization had come to her, in these past solitary months. But it was one whose implications she had yet to fully weigh and sort. Since her brother had come into her life, she had recognized the need to carefully define and maintain the lines that must exist between them. The years since Zakuul’s invasion had been difficult, however, and they had both lost contact with their other allies and friends, leaving them with only each other to turn to.

In the time she’d had to reflect here, in this detainment, she’d admitted to herself that she’d come to rely on Derrad for more than just the material support he was so eager to offer her and her efforts on Talravin. For more, even, than the bonds of friendship she’d told herself were at the core of the relationship they were building. Family was complicated and potentially tricky territory for a Jedi, and not even the experience of her rank could fully immunize her to it.   

“I’ve brought something for you,” Dreikan said, breaking into her thoughts. He reached into the folds of his many-layered coat and withdrew a small holocommunicator. He placed it on the table in front of them, and with a subtle flick of his wrists knocked the hems of his long sleeves back a bit, in a fidget Niarra recognized as a sign of getting down to business. One of his very few tells.

Niarra had both suspicions and hopes about what he might be preparing to show her, but she merely folded her hands in her lap and waited patiently rather than ask questions. Much could be read of what people didn’t wish to say, when you let them frame their own presentations. Dreikan was an old friend and she trusted him, but she also knew he could, for all his experience and practiced political cynicism, have a tendency to want to inject into a situation positivity that wasn’t always warranted. Especially where friends were concerned.

“I’m assuming,” Dreikan began, giving her a knowing smirk as he punched up a two dimensional holo screen projection, “that this is a Duros you remember?”

Niarra studied the image of Jyff, the lanky RNN cameraman who had shadowed her through the Senate Rotunda during the attack, sitting at a desk beside a well-coiffed news anchor. Even with the image frozen, the sense of awkwardness he exuded was almost palpable, as though he could not get comfortable arranging all of his limbs behind the desk.

A sense of something finally falling into place settled in Niarra’s mind, and she felt the Force move through her, quiet and calm. Here was confirmation of what had guided her on the day of the attack. Now to see what it had ultimately been guiding her towards.

“I did a little digging. Harmless pillow talk, you know,” Dreikan said, waving one hand idly. “Turns out your young friend here put together quite the elaborate news piece, but he was refusing to give the network permission to air his footage unless they aired the whole thing unedited, just as he made it. Sounds like he was afraid it might be chopped up and framed with duplicitous intent. Imagine!”

Niarra was reminded that she had already underestimated Jyff once, and now, realizing that she’d done so again, she allowed herself a few moments of silence in which to sit with that thought and internalize it as a reminder in humility.

“It would appear,” Dreikan went on, “that they were delaying to try to assess whether or not Madon would follow in Saresh’s footsteps in how he responds to messaging that might run counter to his agenda. But finally I think it just got too juicy for them to resist.” He gave her a coy grin. “You still know how to put on a show when it suits you, I’ll say that much, Jedi veneer not withstanding. Being out of the game hasn’t dulled your instincts.”

“Awareness of appearances and staged execution are not the same thing,” she countered.

“Remember who you’re talking to,” he said, with a light snort. “We both know how thin the dividing line there is.”

“Thin, perhaps, but still significant, as all questions of motive are.”

“My dear, I’m more than happy to cede you the moral high ground, never fear. But there are a few moments in here that are quite frankly inspired, and you must let me pay my compliments.”

Niarra merely shook her head with a small, silent smile, knowing that any further response on her part would just encourage him to greater hyperbole. Clearly taking her silence as a victory, Dreikan gave her a dazzling grin and finally clicked the playback on his holocom.

The news anchor began by introducing the upcoming piece with as much drama as possible, making a great deal of how footage of what had transpired inside the Senate during the Eternal Fleet’s bombardment of Coruscant had been difficult to come by, before now. Jyff continued to look uncomfortable while his counterpart set things up, and when she tried to get him to talk about his own experiences on the scene and why he felt it remained important to show this footage now, even months later, all he managed to say, in an almost sullen tone, was, “Because it happened.”

Dreikan snickered. Niarra merely attempted to clear her mind, ready to try to view the footage as her political adversaries would.

When Jyff’s footage began to roll, it showed many scenes to which Niarra had not been witness. It would seem he had been ideally positioned inside a Senate sub-committee meeting when the bombardment began, and so he had managed to capture the story from the beginning, tracking the confusion, the understanding as it dawned, and then the chaos and panic and pain. He had edited it skillfully, telling a contiguous story out of broken moments. By the time the evolving footage landed Jyff and his camera in the commissary ring with fires breaking out around them, there was little doubt as to how dire the occupants of the Senate tower had deemed their fate to be.

It was an odd experience to see herself enter the footage, to hear her name and rank identified by the reporter as she paused to ask Jyff to confirm it. Niarra was no stranger to public appearances or to being the focus of attention in tense situations, but very rarely had she found herself in a position to watch playback of those events.

And almost immediately she realized that considering only how her political adversaries would perceive this was wrong thinking, strategically. She had hoped that Jyff’s footage would sway the minds of the Senators and Chancellors that needed to be swayed, but now she realized the public battle was a much more important one in the long run – and Jyff had woven his story together in such a way that he might have given her the greatest gift of support of the many she had received so far, one that might serve her purposes better even than the political leverage and positioning of friendly Senators and Representatives and Ambassadors.

He was making the Jedi real, in a way they too often were not, to the common Republic citizen. Reports of wars and battlefields far away, dry statistics on negotiations, speculation on the intricacies of an ancient but still very much mysterious order... these might tell people what Jedi did, but it didn’t show them what they were.

Niarra did her best to step outside of herself and watch, as a stranger would, while Jedi Master Reymark moved through the crumbling Senate. Acts of healing were always difficult to capture; that this most significant of deeds did not play well to the camera was a sadness, but a truth in the battle of appearances. But Jyff had carefully focused on faces, on words of gratitude or of fear, and Niarra realized that what had sometimes felt like a camera focused relentlessly on her had actually been taking in many other details, with a very sensitive eye.

When the footage showed them entering the darkened Convocation Chamber, and Jyff had filmed the words she’d spoken to explain why she would not stay there to help, the news anchor paused the footage to attempt to engage Jyff in dialogue. Did he think this was the right choice? How had it felt to hear the cries of trapped and possibly dying people in the dark, and not stop to assist?

“Your young friend stumbles a bit here,” Dreikan interjected, speaking over Jyff’s painfully awkward replies. He then put a hand on Niarra’s knee and gave her a warm smile. “But don’t worry. A certain Representative from Zeltros is scheduled to appear on this show tonight, and he’ll be giving a personal account of his time in the Chamber, and I suspect he’ll speak quite eloquently in defence of your decision.”

Niarra turned her gaze to him. She remained calm and confident in the choices she’d made that day, but there was no denying it caused a moment of regret and sadness to think that there’d been a friend out there in the darkness, whom she had left behind. Personal attachment, and its pains.

“I am sorry I could not do more, Neru,” she murmured. “I did not know you were there.” 

“Nonsense. A Zeltron delegation trapped together in a confined space in the darkness with no immediate hope of being evacuated? Many would consider that an opportunity.”

“Only those whose expectations are limited by prejudice.”

He laughed and squeezed her knee before withdrawing his hand. “Oh really? You might not know us as well as you think you do.”

Niarra smiled and shook her head a little – as much to help clear out the pheromone haze as in denial of his cheerful self-deprecation.

Dreikan just gestured toward the holocom, where the footage was resuming. “Here’s where it starts to get interesting, of course.”

Niarra frowned a little at his choice of words, but said nothing. Tragedy and pain were often “interesting” in retrospect, but she only hoped that not all people were as jaded as her politically-minded acquaintances. The galaxy had seen so much terrible war for the last four decades that some degree of weary cynicism was to be expected, but without feeling or hope there could be no healing.

Their journey through the Convocation Chamber was mostly captured in shadow and darkness, making it difficult to discern what was really happening. And that, she thought, with a tiny, wry quirk to her lips, was often the way of all things; tasks that took the greatest effort to achieve went unnoticed. In a way, that was one of the core lessons a Jedi needed to learn. The Force was a powerful tool, and its use could be outwardly dramatic, but it was the struggle that happened inside the mind and heart of the Fore-user that ultimately determined the consequences. Invisible, silent, but at the core of everything.

But once the footage showed them reaching the upper levels, where the roof and walls of the dome had been torn away, not even Niarra could deny its impact. She had seen it firsthand, but now, at a remove from the urgency of the moment, she could let the sadness of the sight sink in. The Coruscant skyline, burning and broken. Ships falling in death spirals made silent by distance. The rubble of a building that had long symbolized the order and promise of an ancient Republic. The red rain of orbital bombardment.

She remembered very well how long and painful the reconstruction efforts had been after the Sacking. She could only imagine how difficult it must be out there, right now. Her trips between this room and the Senate were by enclosed airspeeder, and she’d had no sight so far of how things might look on the ground. No doubt it was grim. She only hoped that the Republic was pulling together in the effort to rebuild.

As the footage showed her approaching the pile of rubble under which Senator Rhybak and Princess Keyis had been trapped, the news anchor couldn’t seem to resist talking over it, beginning to pelt Jyff with questions about whether or not he’d suspected they’d find survivors here, what he’d thought of their journey so far, and how he’d felt watching the rescue. She seemed undeterred by his laconic replies. Dreikan, on the other hand, obviously found the young Duros’s refusal to play along highly entertaining.

“And here’s where another Jedi arrives, isn’t that right?” the anchor said, commenting on the obvious. Jyff just grunted.

On the small screen projection in front of her, Niarra watched Dassalya enter the scene, joining her in removing the rubble. She frowned, immediately realizing the potential implications for Knight Nasadee, even before the news anchor continued speaking.

“Now, we haven’t been able to identify this Jedi, and if I’m not mistaken you’ve said you never caught her name. There’s some speculation the two Jedi might be blood related, given that they’re both Mirialan, and have similar markings.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Jyff muttered. “Not important.”

“I think I’m going to hire him as my publicity spokesman,” Dreikan said cheerfully.

“You reported that you didn’t see this Jedi again, after this rescue. Other survivors also report having been assisted by her, but it seems no one actually saw her leave the Senate. There would appear to have been quite a few Jedi who showed up on the scene, but somehow managed to retreat and disappear after the attack without being detained. How do you think they arranged this?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Jyff reiterated, blinking his large red eyes slowly.

“Well,” the anchor laughed uncomfortably, “I think there are a few Senators who disagree with you. There’s some speculation other Jedi held an escape route open for them. We’ll also have some footage of Jedi fighting alongside unidentified soldiers at the Great Door of the Senate after this piece, caught from a balcony at 500 Republica.”

“It’s dramatic,” Dreikan interjected, waving a hand idly. “Skytroopers flying about and lightsabers flashing. But too far away to make out any faces. Looks like all the other Jedi managed to avoid being identified, except for yourself and Master Telline, who just begged to be made examples of. Masochists that you are.”

On the projected screen, Niarra watched herself and Dassalya cast the last piece of rubble into the chasm behind them, and then Dassalya was healing Princess Keyis, and Senator Rhybak was speaking. Niarra noticed that Jyff had focused more on the Senator than the Princess; whether he’d done so out of courtesy for the wounded or out of interest in the politician she didn’t know, but she was glad for both.

“You know,” Dreikan said, studying Senator Rhybak’s miniature image, “her markings are really quite striking. I’ve always thought it would be delightfully sensual to snuggle down with a partner of a furred species. Don’t suppose you could convince her not to shoot me if I were to pay her a social visit? I get the feeling she’s the type of ex-soldier who still stashes a rifle in her desk drawer.”

“I suspect you’re quite right.”

“About which part?” he asked, grinning.

Niarra merely shook her head with a faint smile.

As Jyff’s footage followed her and Sergeant Phaestas after leaving the others behind, Niarra began to realize that from this point on Jyff seemed to have edited out very little. The news anchor felt compelled to talk over many minutes showing them picking their way through the rubble of the Senate’s highest levels. Given how skillfully and sharply edited the rest of the footage had been, Niarra couldn’t help but wonder why he’d allowed it to linger here for so long. To let the extent of the damage truly sink in, in this most prestigious of the Senate’s halls? To build tension?

When they came across the first patrol of skytroopers, the news anchor finally fell totally silent, letting the footage play itself out.

Niarra could feel the weight of Dreikan’s stare, as he repeatedly glanced at her during the combat footage. Finally, over the faint sounds of the skytroopers being crushed against the wall by her manipulation of the Force, she turned to look at him, eyebrows raised in silent question.    

He shook his head, an atypically somber expression on his face. “Just being reminded what you are, is all. Easy to forget, after all these years arguing politics at tables. We don’t often get footage like this out of warzones. But...” he trailed off, and lifted a finger to his lips with a small smile, indicating silence and nodding toward the projection.

“I’m fine, ma’am,” the miniature Phaestas was saying, while she tended to his arm. “We should keep going.”

Then Niarra watched herself catch in her palm the blaster bolt that would have burned through the sergeant’s head, and she gently closed that hand now, rubbing at the scarring there with her fingertips. The months of confinement had allowed her ample time to perform a deep Force healing, and she was confident that the tendon and nerve damage had been repaired, but scarring was natural and almost always remained. Besides, it would serve as a good reminder that there were still many techniques she could stand to improve on.

The news anchor paused the footage and actually wound it back to replay the moment, and then began asking Jyff questions.

Dreikan turned to her, his expression once again unusually somber.

“You hear a lot of stories,” he said, “but not many people get to see them. I think you might have won your freedom with just this shot, you know.”

Niarra said nothing. She couldn’t deny this was an image that played well, but the irony of course was that while Jyff’s presence on that day had not compelled her to act any differently than she would have done without him there, she had nonetheless at all moments been very conscious of it, and made sure to present accordingly... at all moments except this one, when she’d acted solely on instinct, to protect. And if this was truly the moment that most swayed minds, then that was perhaps fitting, and she saw it as the will of the Force, that things would shift for the better only when one set the self aside.

“We have profile pieces on Senator Alyonna Rhybak and on Sergeant Hyram Phaestas coming up after this segment,” the news anchor said, having resumed speaking over the subsequent footage of their continued progress through the upper levels, and more combat with skytroopers. “But let’s talk a little bit about the damage we’re seeing here, and the current status of the repairs to the Senate complex. You’ve gone back to film some of the repair work, isn’t that right?”

Niarra turned from the recording to look at Dreikan instead. “How are the repairs going?”

“Slowly. There have been a few of us who’ve been trying to get motions passed to limit repair work to the Convocation Chamber only, and divert all other funding to repairing civil infrastructure in Galactic City.”

“A few?”

“A few hundred,” he said, sighing. “Enough to make a statement, and to stall some repair crews, but not enough to succeed in the long run. Madon wants a shiny, solid, fully domed and erect Senate Rotunda to symbolize how robust his leadership is.”

Niarra did not smile. Dreikan sometimes couldn’t help himself where innuendo was concerned, but they both knew he was likely speaking to a core truth. Political showmanship of the kind was common, particularly in new or embattled leaders, and Madon’s position now had elements of both. With Zakuul’s boot finally lifted, some types of leaders would be very concerned indeed about appearing strong, no matter the cost.

“That is unfortunate,” she said quietly. “I believe this a moment where substance is needed more than show.”

“Says the woman who let herself be arrested for show,” Dreikan replied, with a half-grin.

Niarra ducked her head in acknowledgment, giving him a half-smile in return. “I will shoulder the truth of my hypocrisies. Although I do hope to achieve a substantive result by it.”

“Mm. You may yet succeed. Probably more than Madon will. This,” he said, gesturing back to the footage, which was now showing her efforts to clear the turbolift shaft of the Supreme Chancellor’s tower, “is the only visual record that’s emerged where Madon is seen during the attack at all, and even this is just an empty tower and an escaping lift car. He didn’t get any good publicity shots out of the tragedy at all, poor fellow.” There was a grim sort of glee in Dreikan’s voice, as he smirked at the footage. “His predecessor was much better at playing to the cameras.”

As Jyff’s footage played on, Niarra watched herself surrender her lightsaber to Alyonna. She weighed the words they’d both managed to craft for the moment, and was satisfied. Then she was able to see the exchange Jyff had captured after she had been escorted out, between Alyonna and Senator Farteen.

“You’re jumping to defend rogue agents who’ve decided to come and go as they please, when they please, even in the halls of the Senate itself!”

Niarra frowned, recognizing immediately an argument that might indeed gain some political traction, particularly with Senators who had felt shackled and powerless under Zakuul’s restrictions. The autonomy of the Jedi Order, and how that could rightfully be defined under Republic law, had often been a complicated question, especially so in times of war. It was, in many ways, a question at the heart of everything she was trying to achieve, and also at the heart of what Master Telline was contending with.

Dreikan noticed her frown. “He’s a loud one,” he said, suddenly quite somber.

“He hasn’t been present at any of my hearings. Would I be correct in assuming that’s because he’s conducting separate hearings of his own where my testimony is not welcome?”

“Of course,” Dreikan said with a sigh. “He’s been meeting some resistance, but not enough. The good news is, this footage is likely to have an effect. His speeches were powerful when he could set his own stage, but his hot hair coming directly on the heels of all the rest of it like this,” he waved toward the holo projection, “gives it a context that makes him look petty.”

“I presume he has released a statement since this first aired?”

“Yes, but he’s not the only one. Watch.”

While they’d been talking, Jyff’s footage had shown many shots of the work she’d done healing wounded after the attack, and finally concluded as she’d been led to confinement in the security center. She had, in fact, been so exhausted at the time that she could not even recall seeing him around in those final moments.

Then the news anchor announced that attempts to reach figures in the Senate for comment on Jyff’s footage had yielded some results, and proceeded to play several clips. Some of the speeches were encouraging, while others were delivered with a vitriol that proved Saresh’s former followers were still carrying her views forward even in her absence. But on the whole, Niarra felt she could see the general mood beginning to change in a way that might benefit the work she and Telline were trying to accomplish.

The last two commentary clips were from familiar faces.

Princess Shaantil Keyis sat behind a desk in what appeared to be her embassy office, and spoke with the calm earnestness of a former a Jedi – a past role that the news anchor was quick to point out to the audience. “Erini has not and will not forget the sacrifices of the Jedi Order. Even before my world's entry into the Republic, the Jedi sacrificed much for us all, and a Republic without the Jedi is not the Republic I was proud to serve.”

The final clip was, unsurprisingly, of Senator Rhybak, speaking at what appeared to be a press conference of some sort, standing before the Great Door of the Senate on which battle damage could still be seen. “Since the Zakuul Empire's invasion, six long years ago, the Republic entered a dark time. Our worlds were attacked, our shipyards destroyed, our military devastated. All who defended the Republic lost many, many friends, the Jedi included.

“They should have been honored as noble warriors, heroes for all that they did. But between the horrors of the Zakuul war, former Chancellor Saresh and her vendetta, and our own disappointment that the Jedi could not manage the impossible, we pushed the Jedi Order away, and they did exactly what we said we wanted.

“No more. The Custodum enclave came when we did not ask for it, but when we needed it most. No one could count the lives their heroism saved, on the surface of Coruscant or above it. It will be a great honor to welcome the Jedi back to where they belong, the soul of the Republic.”


It was a good speech, but Niarra couldn’t help but sigh. She closed her eyes for a moment, and let herself feel the guilt and regret that came from once more confronting the reality that she was playing a political game that would, as one of its strategies, cast her small deeds in a heroic light, when it was the much greater heroism of beings who had given their lives in unseen places that had worked the most good.

That was perhaps one of the darkest tragedies of war, behind of course the suffering and death itself: that the most significant of deeds and sacrifices almost always went unrecorded and unacknowledged, while politicians took the credit.

Suddenly she felt the warmth of Dreikan’s hand settling over hers, where they were folded in her lap. She did not open her eyes, and he did not speak. For all his flamboyant excesses, he had always also had a sensitive instinct. Niarra allowed herself a few moments of silence, accepting his warmth, and acknowledging the truth of her feelings – and then she drew in a deep breath, and let them go. Almost as soon as she opened her eyes, Dreikan pulled his hand back.

“Have Master Telline’s hearings concluded?” she asked then, turning her mind back to business.

“Yes. I’m surprised you haven’t heard word of it yet.”

“Senator Rhybak and I decided that cutting back on our number of visits would provide less ammunition to those who might attempt to undermine her arguments with accusations of bias.”

Dreikan chuckled. “Well, it hasn’t worked. Farteen hasn’t been the only one accusing her of bias, among various other unflattering things. But you needn’t worry. I think she’s going to come out of this smelling of Chandrilan roses anyway. Her war record is getting her a fair amount of publicity, especially now that people are realizing we’re not going to be held to Zakuul’s armament restrictions anymore. One star-struck young reporter even called her the Liberator of Feldinar yesterday. I think he was angling for an interview. Or maybe he’s also got fur fantasies.”

Niarra was pleased for Alyonna, but saddened by what his words implied about the public’s mindset. Perhaps it had been too much to hope that the people would turn their thoughts immediately toward the promise of peace and the need to rebuild, after Zakuul’s shadow passed. But fear and grief too often turned societies to violence, and the Republic had endured so much defeat for so many years that the desire to simply strike back, at anything, could be dangerous indeed...

“Here, another present,” Dreikan said then, and fished a datapad out of a hidden pocket in the shimmering folds of his coat. He handed it to her with a wink. “I’ll take a nap while you read it, shall I? I have a hunch Senate records are not exactly on your prison approved reading list, so I’m sure I’ll have to take it with me when I go.”

“Thank you, Neru.”    

Dreikan,” he said, in an aggrieved tone. “Honestly, Niarra! Have a care for my vanity.”

Niarra just shook her head with a faint smile, and then powered on the datapad. While she read, Dreikan made good on his words; he let his head fall back on the couch, closed his eyes, and within moments appeared to be sound asleep. Given the carefully calculated angle of his lifted jaw and the sprawl of his arms, an observer could certainly have been forgiven for thinking he was only faking it as an excuse to strike a pose. But Niarra had the benefit of having seen him in action during the Great War, where he’d traveled to plenty of his trade negotiations on the same transports as the soldiers whose kit he was hoping to improve, and from whom he had learned the vital trick of sleeping anywhere, on demand, at any time that a respite between battles allowed.

As she dug into the files he had brought for her, it became obvious he hadn’t just slapped together a haphazard collection of the latest news. This was a comprehensive, chronological record of all the proceedings in which Master Telline had been a part, complete with still images, audio files, and annotations. Dreikan was gifted at many things, but meticulous record keeping wasn’t one of them, and Niarra was touched by this evidence that he had been taking the current political landscape around the Jedi very seriously. She hoped it was for more than just friendship’s sake.

There was too much information to read it thoroughly, but even a superficial scan told her much, and toward the end the results of all Telline’s efforts were laid out.

Once it had been made clear that official charges were going to be leveled against the Custodum, she and Telline had talked about trying to draw a line of distinction between the Custodum and the Jedi Order as a whole; if one must assume a burden for the other to be given a chance to recover, then that was a sacrifice all Jedi were trained to understand. And it would seem, for better or for worse, that Master Telline had succeeded.

After all hearings were concluded, the Senate committee entrusted with investigating the charges that still lingered from Saresh’s crusade had ultimately sustained the charges against the Custodum of theft of military equipment, unlawful trespass on military installations, mutiny, aiding and abetting mutiny, and unlawful salvage. Almost all of those charges revolved around the Custodian’s Watch itself, including her crew and complement of stolen starfighters, and it appeared the ultimate fate of the vessel might still be in question. Although at the least it had not yet been confiscated – no doubt due to the enormous amount of public exposure the ship and its crew had received in playing an instrumental role in the defense of Coruscant.

But while the charges had been upheld, it was a testament to Telline’s skill, and to the work of Senator Rhybak and their other allies, that no one would be facing actual prosecution for them. A deal had been struck to waive all prosecution in exchange for direct Senate oversight of Custodum affairs, and a special committee was to be convened for that purpose. It was not clear to what level of granularity that oversight would go, but it appeared that Telline had managed to negotiate a fair amount of safeguards even so. And most crucial of all, the more grievous charges of treason – of which there had been multiple counts – had been dropped entirely.

Niarra sighed. It wasn’t ideal for the Custodum, and it would certainly have some impact on the Order as a whole, but this too would eventually pass; the political realm was always changing. It would not be the first time the Jedi Order and the Senate of the Galactic Republic had been obligated to redefine the details of their relationship, and it would undoubtedly not be the last. What was important was that an accord had been reached, and that while the Custodum assumed the burden of proving to the Senate that the Jedi remained cooperative with the Republic, the rest of their shattered Order would have the freedom and peace in which to rebuild.

Or at least, it would if Niarra could do her part as well as Telline had. Telline had spoken for the Custodum, in defense of specific actions, at the level of law and its execution. But Niarra had always hoped to speak to something more nebulous, but just as crucial: to the spirit and soul of the Order, and to its relationship with the Republic. The game Telline had played with the Senate was one of political appeasement, but they all knew that the damage Saresh and her government had done to the Order went far beyond that. It was about what people believed the Jedi to be. And perhaps, just as important, what the Jedi believed themselves to be. And someone had to be willing to stand before the Republic and speak to that.

When Niarra finally set the datapad down, the chrono in its upper corner told her she’d been reading for over an hour. She looked up at Dreikan, who seemed not to have moved a single muscle, and smiled. “I believe your visiting window is likely over, my friend.”

He snapped his head up almost immediately, indigo hair swinging into eyes which would have passed for clear and alert if his first words hadn’t been a slurred, “I move that we table the motion until after dinner!”

“Does that deflection still work? I would have assumed your detractors had caught onto it by now.”

“Eh?” He straightened in his seat, pushing his hair back and then carefully rearranging the silken fabric of his voluminous coat sleeves. “Ah. Yes. Well, everyone loves to eat. It’s where all the truly important deals are brokered, you know.”

“Thank you for this,” she said, returning the datapad to him. “Can you tell me when I am next expected to speak before the Judicial Department?”

Dreikan took his time with the finishing touches on sleeve adjustments, tugging minutely at hems – a noticeable delay. Then he looked up at her, his expression one of perfectly innocent confusion, and said, “The Judicial Department?”

Niarra met his unblinking gaze, and with that she understood. Sharing news footage and Senate records that could be accessed via public request was one thing, but forewarning her about upcoming sensitive proceedings was quite another. They had known each other a long time, however, and his message was perfectly clear. 

Her next appearance, when it came, would not be before the Judicial Department alone. Something larger was almost certainly being planned, and almost certainly soon; they would not want to allow too much time to pass for Jyff’s released footage to generate momentum and public opinion of its own.

“Yes, the Judicial Department. But forgive me, I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No you shouldn’t have. You know better, Master Jedi. Now! I should certainly be getting along to other business.” He rose from the couch, pocketing his small holoprojector and adjusting his coat. “Do you suppose the guard hasn’t returned to evict me because he’s afraid my charms might drive him to something rash?”

“Given the many possible interpretations of that question, that may be so,” she replied, walking with him the few steps to the locked turbolift entrance. “Although I do like to think I have been a well behaved prisoner and thus earned a little consideration from my keepers.”

“Or perhaps you turned his mind with those nefarious powers of yours, yes?”

“Honorable Representative, if providing details about my next hearing is prohibited, then surely coaching me to prepare for accusations I might expect is even worse.”

“Yes, well. At the risk of compromising myself, I shall coach you on at least one thing.” He placed his hands on her shoulders, looking down at her. “You must,” he said earnestly, “do something about your outfit.”

“I am not afforded the luxury of choosing my own wardrobe in these circumstances, I’m afraid,” she said, with a soft laugh. “I am not concerned. Dignity aside, there is also an advantage to presenting oneself as humbled.”

Dreikan grimaced, picking at the sleeve of her plain overshirt. “There is such a thing as taking it too far. You run the risk of presenting yourself as humiliated, not just humbled.”

“Most of the galaxy spends their lives in clothes little different than these. It is not humiliation.”

He rolled his yes. “What makes it even worse is that I know you believe that. But you also know better. I’ve seen your usual wardrobe, don’t forget.” He brushed her shoulders off, grimacing again, and finally dropped his hands. “I’ll take care of it. It’s only because you haven’t bothered to ask, you know. Even criminal suspects are permitted to appear for their trials dressed at their best, and you haven’t even been formally accused of anything. And don’t think that that hasn’t come up in debate more than a few times as well.”

“Your concern is appreciated, but unnecessary. Do not worry for me, Neru. I am where I need to be.”

He lifted one rose-skinned finger and tapped her lightly in the center of her forehead. “Call me by that gauche, discarded name one more time and I will see you dressed in the Frogdog mascot outfit, see if I won’t.”

“If you feel it would gain me an advantage with Frogdog fans in key positions, I might consider it,” she said calmly.

“Hm. You’ve gotten sassier over the years.”

“It is... my brother’s influence, perhaps.”

“Magically appearing brothers is a story you still owe me, but for a later time. When you’ve been released, and we can chat over a meal, like civilized beings.”

“I look forward to it. Be well, Dreikan.”

“I always am.”

He smiled suggestively at her as he tapped the request into the key panel to summon a guard, and Niarra was positive that he deliberately hit her with a pheromone burst, despite the continued assertion of all Zeltrons she knew that they couldn’t do so consciously. After the guard arrived and escorted him out, leaving her alone in the room once more, she drew a deep breath to clear her head... and suddenly the desire to want to be outside, in fresh air, smelling trees and sky, was almost overwhelming.

Niarra closed her eyes, and rather than pretend the desire didn’t exist she allowed herself to feel it for a while. To acknowledge that she missed Talravin, and all that she had built there. The waterfalls, the wind. The archives she worked to maintain and expand, the artifacts she was safeguarding for study. And perhaps most of all, she admitted to herself with a smile, the varactyls. The hatchlings would have grown so much, these past months. She would have given a great deal for their company now, snuffling and hooting and gnawed boots and all.

She lingered with the thought until its bittersweetness lost its edge, and then she let her breath go slowly and released it.

What was to come, would come. She could not think too far ahead.

The star does not think of the elements it will become when its burning time is done, she reminded herself, reciting the words of the old text in her mind, as she returned to the meditations Dreikan’s arrival had interrupted.

Be as the star, in the moment of its shining, moment by moment.

Be the light.

Simply be.
 
« Last Edit: 06/16/17, 04:18:16 PM by Niarra »
Niarra Reymark, Jedi Master and Diplomat // Derrad Reymark, Starfighter Ace and Softie // Jheva, Padawan and Pattern Reader // Yatei, Jedi Knight // Zelek Arr, Corn Grower
Sivala, Sith Academy Overseer // Rannayel, Sith Lord and Museum Curator
Erran Veshkgalaar, Mandalorian Accountant // Caustrin Neyvor, Dangerous Puppeteer // Ariza Fey, Psycho and Pyro // Kettur Vaen, Semi-Spook

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Re: Serenity's Gambit
« Reply #1 on: 04/27/17, 04:33:29 PM »
((This section is an experiment in trying to capture the experience of lucid dreaming, which I've found is very difficult to describe. I decided to play with fonts and tenses, to try to signal shifts between unimpeded dream state, consciousness, and times when consciousness can be felt to be altering the dream state. I'm not sure how successful it was, but it was definitely an interesting challenge. If there are any other lucid dreamers out there, I'd be super curious to know how much this aligns with your own experiences.))




3.

Another turbolaser volley hit the base, and the walls shook. Fine dust trickled from the cracks growing in the ceiling as the structure convulsed. Then, in the wake of the volley, a distant whine penetrated even into the naval base’s lower levels, pitch changing as it neared.

Niarra knew the sound well. It didn’t take many battles to learn to recognize, and fear, the approach of Imperial bombers.

I know this dream. I remember this day. I do not want to be here again.

She crouched low and braced herself against the wall, but pivoted on the balls of her feet to look at the line of frightened people filling the corridor behind her. Following her. Trusting she was leading them to safety.

“Guard your heads!” she called back, even as she stretched out a hand, ready to deflect any falling rubble with the Force.

It won’t work. It won’t be enough. Do something different.

Something different. Perhaps the Force won’t be enough. She pulls her hand back, confused, conflicted, thinking to tell them to run instead... 

The whine changed pitch. There was just a fraction of a second to realize that meant the wing of bombers had passed overhead, were moving on – and then the base shook with such violence that Niarra’s vision went momentarily white as the shockwave moved through her. A deep, deafening thrumming swallowed the whole world, and then sounds of cracking duracrete, of explosions overhead, of screams, were all around her. As her vision returned she had to squint through the strobing emergency lights, and through the piercing rise and fall of blaring alarms.

Seismic bombs. I remember the reports. We should have been better prepared. Should have made the decision to evacuate the civilians sooner. 

The entire right side of the corridor had collapsed, along most of its length. Dozens of people lay smashed under stone and sparking rubble from the floor above them.

The Iktotchi man nearest to her, dressed in the robes of the Chopana Monastery, placed a shaking hand on her arm and said, “You must walk through death.”

That’s wrong. That’s not what he said. Why this change to the dream? And why now? Why this dream now? It has been a long time.

Niarra hesitated. Guilt and fear seized her. “I am a healer,” she said to the old monk, and turned to try to raise the rubble off of those who had been crushed, thinking to heal, to help, to save.

“No!” A different voice called out. “Go, Niarra! The base is lost! Get these people into the forest!”

Master. It’s you. You’re the reason for this dream. Because of Dreikan. Because of what he makes me remember, about you.

Niarra lowered her hand and looked back down the length of the broken corridor, toward the sound of her Master’s voice. But the air was hazy with dust and smoke, splintered into disorienting patterns by the blending of emergency lights and fire. Somewhere behind the crowd of refugees who still lived, Master Falla was bringing up the rear. 

Try harder. Try harder to see her. You won’t have another chance.

Try harder. There must be a better way. Niarra tries to shake off the old monk’s grip on her arm, to step past him, to make her way toward the back, to switch places with her Master and push the refugees before her. Even if it feels wrong. Even if the hurt is already building, because this can’t possibly be right, it can’t possibly work. And it’s not the Jedi way...

“Niarra! Go!”

The old monk grabbed her again, his brown fingers digging painfully into her arm, stopping her in her tracks. “Askah maleena gar, Jedi!”

Remember. I must remember his words this time. This is what he really said. I must remember the words when I wake up. I need to translate them. To know what they mean. To know what he knew.

Another whine – more clearly heard now, even through the din of the alarms, because now much of the building above them had been destroyed, and sound carried more clearly through the riven architecture. More bombers were coming.

Niarra gently removed the old Iktotchi’s hand from her arm, and turned to face forward again, toward the exit and the possibility of escape. A push with the Force cleared the rubble ahead of her with an explosive rattle of duracrete, and blew the door at the end of the corridor out of its frame. Beyond it, the glow of running lights on the airspeeder track shone bright in the evening darkness.

 “Follow, and move quickly!” she called out, and then led the way, clearing more rubble as she went, hoping the green glow of her lightsaber would be enough of a beacon even through the smoke haze.

She had barely made it half a dozen steps out onto the track when the roar of the bombers passing overhead shook the air. Most of those who had stumbled out behind her crouched or threw themselves to the ground.

Don’t look up this time!

Her instinct is to look up, to look behind her, to see how many Imperial ships there are, to see what they are leaving in their wake... but that is not right. The ion bomb is falling. The light will blind her. So instead she turns away, hunches her shoulders, throws an arm up to protect her eyes.

The ground shook, but compared to the detonation of the seismic bomb, this was nothing.

The flash of light, however, was spectacular, as the wave of energy blossomed from the point of detonation, rippling over the entirety of the naval base. Every system it touched shorted, kicking off multiple supernovae of light and electricity. The Iktotchi naval base Karsani, strategic operations hub for the continent, went dark.

Now. Go now. I can see this time. I don’t need to recover. Maybe there’s still a chance. 

She lowers her arm and turns back to the base. The crowd of Iktotchi civilians try to gather themselves up, but this time she doesn’t pause to help the old monk find his feet, to lift the child with the broken leg, or to dissuade the young technician from running back into the ruins in search of the lover who told her to go while she still could. Niarra knows this is not right, this is not the Jedi way, to put her own desires over the needs of others...

But this is only a dream. In a dream, I will give myself this chance.

White smoke was billowing out from the corridor through which they had come, a mixture of pulverized duracrete and the residue of electrical fires. A few figures materialized out of the smoke, stragglers coughing and staggering out into the dubious safety of open space. All the silhouettes, as they resolved themselves, were Iktotchi. None wore the robes of a Jedi.

Niarra tried to breathe shallowly and, drawing in an awareness of the air currents around her, she lifted both hands and thrust them forward; the dense smoke parted before her, torn into two sheets and pushed aside. Almost immediately fresh smoke began to tendril out of the corridor, but for a few moments at least the way was cleared.

A few Iktotchi lay, alive but obviously dazed, on the ground just outside the door. At first Niarra thought they must have been thrown by an explosive blast, or perhaps by the collapse of the corridor behind them, since she could see now that it was completely choked by rubble. But then she saw the last form, still half in the doorway pinned by the rubble, and she knew the truth. Knew that her Master, holding the rear, had used the Force to push the final refugees out, even as the building fell in on top of her.

Not soon enough. Not even in dreams can I reach in her time.

Niarra ran forward, slid to her knees by Master Falla’s body, and took hold of her shoulder to better see her face.

Half of it was gone. Crushed by rubble, perhaps. Or melted off by an exploding panel. She would never know. One of the deepest truths of war, so different from what a story or a holovid told one to expect – that there would be no final moment to say goodbye, or receive a parting blessing. Only this. Half of a beloved face torn away, in an instant, when one’s gaze had been directed elsewhere.

Niarra put a hand to her Master’s cheek, green skin over rose. No Zeltron pheromones to convey affection, no Force bond to communicate thought. Only the fading warmth as life bled away.

I already knew. I felt you go. I just didn’t want to believe.

“We are one with the Force,” whispered Niarra Reymark, Padawan to Master Kii-Sen Falla. “We are luminous beings. More than flesh, more than bone. We are one with the Force, and the Force is with us. You are one with the Force, Master. And I will remember you.”

The smoke was growing thick again, and it burned the insides of her nose as she breathed it in, scraped harsh fingers down a throat tight with holding back tears. Behind her, the base’s civilian complement milled about in fear and pain, dangerously exposed to further air strikes. Among them were the survivors of the Chopana Monastery, the pre-cognitives she and Master Falla had come here to recruit... before the Empire appeared in the skies, in a surprise offensive against Iktotch that neither Jedi nor monks had foreseen.

They were all waiting for her to lead them to safety. She had promised to lead them to safety.

A hand fell on her shoulder.

“It’s time to go, Master.”

No. No, no. This is wrong. You weren’t here. This isn’t memory anymore. What is happening to this dream?

Niarra looked up, let the hand on her shoulder gently turn her, so that she was staring into the face of her Padawan.

“Rundil...”

He smiled at her. “Yes, Master. Time to go. You must serve those who need you. Isn’t that right?”

Many Humans and Near-Humans often spoke of difficulty distinguishing personal features in Duros faces, but she had never had that problem. Perhaps it was being a Jedi, and the immediate insight the Force allowed. Perhaps it was the training and experience of a diplomat with a need to read the subtleties of facial expression. Whatever it was, to her the differences were obvious.

And you are different now. Different from even yourself. You never reached this age, Rundil. Too old. Too tall. Your jaw is too narrow. Yet I know it’s you.

Niarra stood. With an exercise of discipline she set her grief aside, to be worked through later. For now, there was only duty.

“You’re right,” she said to Rundil. “We must get these people under the cover of the trees.”

Jyff. This is because of Jyff. He reminded me of you. But this is not where I wish to go. This cannot end well. This is a place of death, and I know you will die.

She pauses, and reaches out to touch her Padawan’s arm. The air shudders, but it is not the return of bombers, or the final collapse of the naval base – it is the dream, resisting, as she tries to enforce change.

“Go,” she whispers, her fingers curling into the sleeve of Rundil’s robes, holding him in place in defiance of her own order. “Go, Padawan. Go back to Tython. Stay away from here.”

The looming shadow of the ruined naval base warps. Duracrete peels away and the girders of different architecture are now plainly exposed to the moonlight. Coruscant architecture. Coruscant, where Rundil dies.

“You need me, Master,” he insists. “I have to help you get these people to safety.” He reaches into his utility belt and pulls out a device, larger than his hand, too large for the utility belt, in keeping with the logic of dreams where these things do not matter. The device looks like a mouse droid cross-bred with a hair brush, and she thinks she can even see one of her hair combs in there, the one he stole from her when he was only eleven, thinking that she wouldn’t notice, wanting a piece of his Master to be part of his inventions. “We can use this to guide us to the resistance camp!”


But the resistance doesn’t exist yet. It will take weeks to form. We will be hiding in the wilderness for many days before we find the security of allies and resources. I remember.

And this needs to stop.


The air shudders again, and suddenly there is an Imperial bomber overhead, even though a third strike had never come in reality. A bomb is falling. Rundil smiles at her one last time, and the dream, teetering on the edge of total dissolution, allows her only a moment to watch him turning away from her before it jerks her forward in time, to another place, a different memory.

“What do you think, Master Jedi?” asked Yalseen, leader of the resistance cell she had been working with now for two weeks. He was older than any of the other resistance leaders, which among the Iktotchi earned him a great deal of respect; even the younger and more fighting fit deferred to his judgment.

Niarra looked down at the map, which laid out the plan of attack on the Imperial supply convoy. No holo-projection, this. Just dirt, lines drawn by sticks, with stones and leaves to mark routes and buildings and vehicles, a layout retained in memory by their forward scouts and recreated with the only resources they had at their disposal: the shelter of wilderness, and their determination.

“I will trust to your wisdom in this, Yalseen,” Niarra replied. “You know I am not a battle commander. But I will defend your fighters as best I can.”

Yalseen, as always, looked a little disappointed that she did not have more to offer. But Niarra knew this was right. He and his fighters, many of whom were trained members of the planetary militia, had all the skill and knowledge they needed. The Force had not brought her here to command them, only to assist. To protect, and to heal. To bring hope where she could.

“Then we move out in one hour,” Yalseen said. He stroked one hand thoughtfully down the brown-veined ivory of his left horn, as he often did when steeling his resolve.

Until that horn is shattered by blaster fire, a month from now. I remember. You asked if I could heal it, but I think you knew even then it wouldn’t be possible. I wonder where you are now, old friend? Do you still dream of these days, as I do?

With the toe of his boot, Yalseen tips over the rock standing in for the Imperial watch tower, and he gives her a smile. “Of course I do. We all do. That is what war does.”

She looks to him. Tries to speak. This is an opportunity to warn him of the Sith Apprentice who will find the camp two weeks from now, and kill four Iktotchi under cover of darkness before she and Yalseen are able to bring the boy down. Just a boy, really. No more than seventeen, but already full of hate and death and darkness.

But there’s no time to warn him... because a siren is sounding... that isn’t right... they had no alarm systems in the forest camp...

   

   ... Niarra came to full wakefulness in an instant. The comm panel had roused her from sleep, she realized immediately, its sound transformed within the dream to that of a proximity alarm. A chime at the comm panel meant the locked doors to her room would open shortly. She was confident there had been no voice before the chime, however, which usually indicated it would be just one of the guards entering.

She sat up in the bed, and pushed the light covers aside. No time to change, but enough to straighten clothing and tighten the simple tie holding back her hair. Presentability, always.   When the guard entered, the look he gave her was faintly apologetic, although he didn’t go so far as to express the sentiment in words. Still, she recognized compassion when she saw it. It was good to know she had earned that much, from those charged with her custody.

“I know it’s early, but this came for you,” he said, holding out a plasteel case. “It’s been screened. Instructions said it was to be delivered to you as soon as possible. No delays.”

Niarra received the case, wondering what sort of bribe must have been paid to convince the guards to give any consideration to directives about promptness in deliveries to their prisoners.

“Thank you,” she said. 

He just nodded, then turned and disappeared back into the turbolift. The doors locked behind him with a soft beep.

Niarra stood there for several moments, holding the case in her hands. Now that the immediate need to be wakeful and alert had passed, she let the memory of the dream wash over her.

It had been many years since dreams of the Great War had visited her, but perhaps it was not truly surprising. Dreikan’s visit had brought memories of her Master to mind, and from the very beginning something about Jyff had reminded her of her lost Padawan.

But the superficial link of the species in both cases was only part of it. There had to have been something deeper behind it as well, and so she simply stood in the center of the sparsely furnished room, eyes closed, opening herself to the Force and to honest reflection, determined not to move until she could see clearly.

Helplessness. Yes. It was a sense of helplessness. Certainly what she felt now was only the weakest echo of what she had felt often during the war, unable to put a stop to the dying, but it was helplessness all the same.

She did not doubt she was in the right place, in her imprisonment. She still believed that she could make good come of this, could serve the Force, could help the Jedi Order, could work to heal at least one small part of the wounds the Republic had suffered in letting itself become so divided. And she knew that staying here, in this room, away from the sky and sun and home, was exactly what was needed... but there was a sense of helplessness. Perhaps that was true of anyone, enduring incarceration.

“Then this is a learning experience,” she murmured to herself, deliberately speaking in the tone she would have used to guide a student. The same tone she had used so often with Rundil. “Embrace your lessons, Master Reymark. Remember this, the next time you have the power to make a decision that will affect the freedom of others.”

Then she opened her eyes, and moved to the small table. She set down the case and inspected it for markings. There were none. But as soon as she opened it and saw it was filled with white fabric, she laughed softly.

Dreikan, of course, making good on his promise.

And if he had wanted it urgently delivered to her in the early hours of the morning, she was certain that meant that she would be called on to speak before the Senate today. Possibly very soon.

Niarra shook out the garment – a simple white dress, barely more than a shift with a wide green sash. But the fabric was soft and light, and would flow well, moving gently in even faint air currents. Humble and dignified at the same time, and likely to look rather ethereal under the Senate lights... and fragile. Fragility for the cameras, to play further to the image of standing alone before enemies; softness in lines that could contrast very well with strength in speech and in bearing, if she could deliver those. Yes, it would work. She would have preferred browns, something more traditionally Jedi... but she had little choice, really. And she trusted that Dreikan would not steer her wrong, in judging what might work best for the Senate’s current mood.

The fresher unit was small and its supplies limited, but a mirror and a few hair ties were all that she needed. She opted for simple, plaited hair style, to go with the simplicity and length of the dress. Then, when fully prepared, she returned to the center of the room and moved the table aside, clearing a space in the middle of the floor where she could sit for a deep meditation.

As she opened herself to the Force, Niarra deliberately called to mind all of her less quiet feelings, so that she could hold them, acknowledge them, and then let them go. She would need to be clear-minded for what was to come.

Among the many memories that she allowed herself to weigh and then set aside, one that came to her very strongly now was of Taelios’s last visit. He had asked her to meditate with him, here in this spot. It had been a strikingly unique experience, to connect with a mind with a perception of so many places at once. There had been a strong sense of peace, when that meditation had found its way to true stillness. She only hoped he was able to find his way there again on his own, to calm the restlessness which drove him.

But even that memory of peace, she now set aside.

She set aside wistful thoughts of Talravin, set aside her worries for Master Kor and the younglings finding refuge there.

Set aside her concern for Harkasone, who had reached out for help with an unusual injury of the spirit, and her hope that he had found some peace.

Set aside her worries for Bren, who had still shown signs of hurt and haunting the last time she’d seen him – a friend she wished she could heal, but one who had been placed beyond the reach of her hands due to the choices she had made, and that was something she had to accept.

Set aside memories of her Master, long dead, that the dream had awoken.

Set aside the dull ache of her Padawan’s absence, that even years after his death could still feel, at unexpected moments, like a phantom limb lost in battle.

Set aside her concerns for Derrad, a brother living under the shadow of an unknown enemy, for whom she could offer no protection, no advice, no comfort. For now.

Set it all aside. Be only Niarra. One with the Force. Open to its guidance.

Ready for whatever was to come.
« Last Edit: 04/27/17, 06:31:59 PM by Niarra »
Niarra Reymark, Jedi Master and Diplomat // Derrad Reymark, Starfighter Ace and Softie // Jheva, Padawan and Pattern Reader // Yatei, Jedi Knight // Zelek Arr, Corn Grower
Sivala, Sith Academy Overseer // Rannayel, Sith Lord and Museum Curator
Erran Veshkgalaar, Mandalorian Accountant // Caustrin Neyvor, Dangerous Puppeteer // Ariza Fey, Psycho and Pyro // Kettur Vaen, Semi-Spook

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Re: Serenity's Gambit
« Reply #2 on: 05/18/17, 12:05:33 AM »
((As stated in the note for the first post in this story, this is all taking place in some timey-wimey moment just immediately before the events on Iokath. Events in this post follow just hours on those of the last post.

Special thanks to @Orell for providing Alyonna's lines of dialogue! And to @Noth for reading the hearing scene in progress and assuring me that at least one person's eyes wouldn't glaze over in utter boredom, although I rather suspect some people's eyes may. Let's just say that when you start your young adult life devoting years to participating in and organizing Model United Nations conferences, you have likely condemned yourself to being one of that pitiable minority of people who actually enjoy watching things like C-Span and formal debates. Combine that with the opportunity to play with Star Wars laws, and it's a recipe for major nerd-out.  :nerd:))




4.

When her Senate Guard escort led her to the doors of Covenant Hall, Niarra knew even before stepping through them what sort of proceedings these were going to be. Covenant Hall was a centuries old holdover, from before the establishment of the Convocation Chamber and its repulsor platforms. Historical records said the Hall had once been used as a meeting place of the full Senate, but the number of Republic planets had outstripped its capacity long ago; even before the Convocation Chamber was built the Hall had been relegated to use only by modest subcommittees.

So Niarra was not surprised, when the doors swung open before her and she was escorted into the long Hall, to find that there were only a couple hundred persons present. Just a small fraction of the full Senate, of course, but also more than the average subcommittee. The Hall stretched out like a wide corridor before her, with the attending delegates in rising seats along both walls, looking down on the polished stone floor across which the Guards now escorted her. In the center of the Hall stood a single podium, with a lectern atop it that was flanked by two trimantium handrails to which she knew prisoners facing a tribunal could be restrained; that the Guards left her there without doing so was a good sign, though not entirely unexpected. As both Dreikan and Senator Rhybak had told her, no official charges had actually been brought against her, and restraining cuffs did tend to paint dramatic images best avoided when legal justifications were already tenuous. 

Thinking of Dreikan and Alyonna, Niarra let her instincts and the Force’s whisper guide her, and a glance to the stands on her right revealed both of them. They were seated in different tiers, each with other members of their delegations around them. Alyonna looked stone-faced and professional, reading over her notes, prepared, ready and no doubt aware that there was going to be at least one camera watching her the entire time. Dreikan, on the other hand, was wearing a rather extravagant confection of cream and gold cloth, and even with the considerable distance between them Niarra was quite sure she caught him winking at her.

With a quick sweep of her gaze across the rest of the Hall, she was able to recognize other prominent faces – representatives of Alderaan, Duro, Anaxes, Balosar, Manaan. Key Mid Rim players as well, whom Alyonna had advised her to be aware of. Some notable Navy uniforms. And then, with surprise, and a warm feeling of gratitude, she found two more familiar faces seated in the first tier on her left: Senator Arvuus of Iktotch, and Minister Chafee of Dereygon.

She had first met Arvuus years ago, when he’d been a young resistance fighter under Yalseen’s command. Alyonna had warned her that Arvuus was ill and had not left Iktotch for  months, leaving Senate business to his Representative. She had not spoken to Arvuus in many years but, as her dream had reminded her, memories of shared experience in war were not soon forgotten. His presence here was unexpected, and she had no doubt that in making the effort to travel to Coruscant he’d done so as an ally.

The same would be certain for Minister Chafee. As the civilian head of Dereygon’s government, the fact that he too had made the trip to be here, rather than merely leaving it to their world’s Senator, was a statement in and of itself. Niarra had known Chafee for years. He’d been Legate of the Planetary Militia some years ago, when she had led the Republic’s negotiations with the Empire to shift Dereygon back across the Treaty line. The years had been kind to Chafee’s career, and he had enlisted her aid as a diplomat only recently, even with the Order otherwise broken – and in defiance of Saresh’s bans.

Alyonna and Dreikan, Arvuus and Chafee. Proof, to both sides of her, of what she always strove to teach as a Jedi Master – that acts of compassion and loyalty could resonate in the Force, sometimes returning to you magnified many times over, just as acting on fear or aggression always risked those things being returned to you as a dark echo many times stronger in its effect than anything you might have done to trigger it. All acts touched the Force, and the Force touched all things in return.

But for each ally here, she was certain she had an adversary. The most prominent of which was Senator Ulis Farteen of Brentaal, who had taken the High Adjudicator’s chair on the tri-seat dais that spanned the far end of the Hall, opposite the entrance doors. Niarra stood mid-way between the two, and at this distance she could not make out the nuances of Farteen’s expression beyond his obvious scowl; projector screens set up around the Hall could show her more, but she had always preferred to watch the flesh and blood person rather than their image.

The more interesting figure was the Mon Calamari woman seated to Senator Farteen’s right: Igala Ryss, Vice Chair of the Senate. Appointing Igala Ryss had been a strategy of Madon’s to appease those who had been most vocal about questioning the legitimacy of how he’d assumed the Chancellorship in succeeding Saresh. Igala Ryss was a staunch traditionalist and had in fact served time in detainment herself under Saresh’s rule, after being indicted for repeatedly disrupting Senate proceedings in protest that protocols were not being correctly observed. On the surface she seemed a potential ally, but Niarra suspected she would also be precisely the sort of person who would be most uncomfortable with the legal gray areas that had always existed in the agreements between the Jedi Order and the Senate. Undoubtedly that was why Senator Farteen had requested her presence here. Though the Vice Chair outranked him, her position in the seat to his right made it clear that she was here only as a panel member, second to Farteen as the hearing organizer.

Niarra knew that nothing she might say or do today would win over Ulis Farteen, but that was not her aim; Igala Ryss, the other Senators, the representatives of the press sitting quietly in their designated box, they were her aim. What remained to be seen was whether or not Farteen knew that, and how much leverage he might give or deny her.

It was time to see how good a Dejarik player her opponent might be.




5.

Fifteen minutes into the proceedings, Farteen was still going strong on his opening remarks. He had not addressed Niarra nor given her a chance to speak, and in fact he seemed intent on not looking at her at all. Inwardly, Niarra was quietly amused, but outwardly she made sure to maintain serenity and stillness, her hands resting, loosely folded, on the lectern before her.

He spoke at length about how the Republic had suffered under Zakuul’s shadow, and invoked the names of many senators who had died during the final attack -- an easy way to purchase from his audience the sympathy of solidarity. He praised Madon for demonstrating “strong and independent leadership” and though he did not go so far as to openly praise Saresh or her legacy, he did speak of the mystery surrounding her departure from the galactic stage, framing it as an ominous sign that rogue forces beyond the control or oversight of any galactic government could so completely and secretively remove from the picture one of the galaxy’s leading political figures.

It was not, all things considered, particularly subtle, and Niarra was not at all surprised when he used it as the segue to finally acknowledge her presence in the Hall.

“We are convened today to hear this woman speak in defense of other such rogue elements, so that we who bear the heavy burden of representing the best interests of the Republic’s citizens can be sure we are not recklessly ceding authority to those who have not been sanctioned by those citizens to act on their behalf.”

It was blunt, and quite transparent, and coming as it did before she had even been acknowledged or given rights to speak it meant that she could say nothing to dispute his framing.  Niarra was a bit surprised that he would be so heavy-handed so soon, but it was still too early to determine whether or not it would work against him. There were always those over whom clumsy appeals to emotion held great sway, and Farteen undoubtedly knew it.

“Identify yourself for the record.”

“Niarra Reymark. I hold the rank of Master in the Jedi Order.”

“You are a citizen of Caamas.”

“That is not correct,” she replied calmly. “I was born on Caamas, but my planetary citizenship was voided when rights of legal guardianship were transferred to the Jedi Order.”

“I see,” said Farteen, without so much as a pause – which immediately told Niarra that she was so far playing to his script. “That’s an unusual method to sidestep questions of civil jurisdiction. The Jedi aren’t a planet, after all.”

“The Republic’s Articles of Planetary Sovereignty grant member worlds the right to draft and enforce their own citizenship laws,” she said. She had served as a mediator and ambassador on many worlds, and the Articles were the foundation upon which any diplomat’s education was built. “The Caamasi constitution permits the renunciation of citizenship provided said person falls under the jurisdiction of a Protected Civil or Religious Entity, as defined by the Caamasi constitutional convention of 1654 BTC, a designation for which the Jedi Order qualifies under Caamasi law.”

Vice Chair Igala Ryss blinked her large eyes slowly, and Niarra scored it as a victory. Countering Farteen’s emotional opening salvo with cold law might not paint her as particularly compelling to those listening with an emotional ear, but it would certainly help her with Ryss, and those like her.

“To those of us representing worlds who might not be as enlightened as Caamas,” said Farteen, with no attempt to veil his sarcasm, “that sounds a little bit like saying you want the rights of a ‘protected entity’ without having to pay the dues of a normal citizen.”

“On Umbara, paying the dues of citizenship includes respect for an ancient caste system which forbids ninety percent of their population from ever traveling beyond their homeworld,” Niarra said, taking care to speak neutrally, with no inflection that might convey condemnation or approval. She also took care to speak at a swift pace, to prevent being interrupted. “Whereas on P’Taua, a P’Tani cannot even be granted the full citizenship rights of an adult until they have spent three years offworld and then returned, to take an oath of planetary loyalty with full knowledge of the outside galaxy whose traditions they are rejecting. Both worlds are members of the Republic, and respect Republic law in matters of inter-planetary relations, and yet their definitions of what constitutes a normal citizen and their dues could not be more different. With such a rich diversity of worlds all entitled to their sovereignty in such matters, I believe it would be counter to the very spirit of the Republic to require that all bow their heads to only one interpretation of a citizen’s duties.”

Several people murmured to each other in the stands in tones of assent, spoken in many languages. And Niarra thought she heard a very faint snicker from somewhere in the general vicinity of Dreikan’s delegation to her right.

Farteen, on the other hand, did not look at all amused.

“But the Jedi Order is not a planet,” he reiterated. “Nowhere is it mentioned in the Articles of Planetary Sovereignty.”

“That is correct.”

“And so?

“I cannot provide an answer to a question that has not yet been posed, Senator.”

“Just what world are you a citizen of?”

“Of no world, Senator.”

“Then how can you claim to hold Republic citizenship? Which I assume you do... unless you consider yourself above such needs.”

“Under the Baltara Accords, members of the Jedi Order are qualified for Republic citizenship irrespective of their homeworld of origin, even if that world is not a member of the Republic.”

“Ah yes, the Baltara Accords. Let’s talk about those, shall we? The agreement,” he said the word with a very faint sneer, “between the Galactic Senate and the Jedi Order that dictates our respective... obligations to each other.”

Niarra chose not to interrupt him, even though it could certainly be argued that the Accords put little to no obligation on the Republic at all; almost all of its clauses dictated what the Order’s duties should be. Respecting the Accords had allowed the Senate to draft the Jedi into military service in conflict after bloody conflict.

“Few legally binding agreements this old are still recognized in the Senate these days,” Farteen went on. “And certainly none that have been revised quite so many times. We have revisions after nearly every period of widespread galactic unrest, don’t we? Usually to retroactively accommodate for whatever role the Jedi decided they wanted to play in the conflict just passed.”

“That is not correct,” Niarra said, very simply.

“Isn’t it?” Farteen said, with a faint smirk.

“It is not.”

“Do, please, enlighten us.”

“If I might be granted a copy of the Accords from which to read, I would be pleased to read out in their entirety the clauses that would disprove your representation of their contents.”

“Don’t stall for time, Jedi. Just answer the question.”

“I am flattered that the Senator believes my memory to be so precise that I might recite the Accords flawlessly without a reference, but I regret to admit that it is not. I cannot cite the exact – ”

“So you don’t want to defend your position, then.”

“I am not defending a position, Senator. I am defending an assertion I have made about the contents of the Baltara Accords, of which a reading of the text should show that you are not correct in stating that they retroactively accommodate – ”

“I’ll just put you down for not wanting to answer the question, then, and we’ll move on.”

But, as Niarra had counted on in attempting to force him into a conversation about legal language, his desire to paint her as uncooperative by sidestepping it entirely did not sit well with Vice Chair Igala Ryss.

The Mon Calamari lifted one webbed hand and said, “I submit that a copy of the Baltara Accords be entered, in their entirety, into the record of these proceedings. And I’d consider it a personal favor,” she said, rolling her left eye a bit to pin Farteen with a lidded glance, “if you were to be more specific in your references to any clauses you would like to debate, Senator. So that the rest of us can follow along on our datapads, if we’re so inclined.”

Senator Farteen gave Niarra a decidedly unfriendly look and then said curtly, “Let it be so submitted.”

Niarra merely inclined her head in a silent gesture of gratitude; a lack of spoken words gave him no leverage to reject her gesture, and that gesture, unchallenged, would make it seem like her victory.

Farteen’s unfriendly look turned even more sour.

Niarra realized she had rather missed this. It was wise for all Jedi to recognize their own foibles and the unique risks presented by those things in which each personality liked to indulge – and the quiet thrill of wordplay, perhaps especially when the stakes were high, had always been one of hers. Dejarik of the mind. The pursuits and teachings of a Jedi were at the core of everything she was, but outside of them there was no denying she had always felt quite at home in political arenas such as these.

“My interpretation of the Accords,” Farteen resumed, and Niarra had to give him credit for neatly avoiding his own trap by now taking the interpretation angle, “is that the Order serves the Republic. I assume you’d disagree?”

“In fact I do not. That is my interpretation as well.”

“Is it?” He sounded genuinely surprised. “Then you admit that the Accords your Order willingly signed state you are supposed to serve the will of the Galactic Senate?”

“I do not admit that, nor do I agree with that interpretation.”

“But you just said that you did. That the Accords mandate the Order serves the Senate.”

“I agreed with the interpretation of the Accords as stating that the Order serves the Republic. Not the Senate.”

“The Senate is the Republic!”   

Niarra kept her expression perfectly neutral, as she had all this time, but slowed the cadence of her speech now to further weight her response. “I question whether the average Republic citizen would agree with you.”

There was a faint rustling from the press box at that – a whir of floating holocams shifting position, and the soft clicks and beeps of datapads. In her peripheral vision, Niarra could see many of the delegates turning to glance at the press box, or each other. Everyone here would be very aware that on the other end of those holocams, the ‘average citizen’ might be watching.

And Farteen obviously knew it as well. He hastened to reply, “Even during our terms, Senators are still members of the Republic.”

“As are the Jedi,” Niarra said somberly. “We dedicate our entire lives to service.”

“So do we. But unlike the Jedi, we Senators are answerable to the citizens, and have to abide by the same laws. The Jedi don’t have to play by those rules, do they?”

Niarra knew she might have been able to tangle him up in asking him to define the ‘rules’ he was alluding to, but while that might have worked earlier, now it would seem like avoiding a core emotional truth. She had to meet him on his terms, for the time being.    

“When not in active military service,” she said, “if a Republic soldier kills a man, it is judged an act of murder. But in war time, serving in battle, that same soldier can kill and it is not considered murder.”

“Your point?”

“Republic soldiers also serve the citizens of the Republic, but while they are in battle the laws to which they are answerable are different. Republic law acknowledges that the roles in which we serve often come with unique parameters.”

“Jedi aren’t members of the Republic military.”   

“We are not, and yet the Accords obligate the Jedi to participate within the military hierarchy of the Republic if the Senate invokes the Accords to request such aid.”

“You just said the Jedi don’t serve the Senate.”

“No more than soldiers of the Republic do, Senator. They, like we, serve the Republic. It is up to the people of the Republic to determine which senators are in power to be making military decisions.”

Even across the long stretch of polished stone which separated her podium from the dais where Farteen was sitting, she could see the momentary flash of panic in his expression.

“You’re still avoiding the question of responsibility,” he said very hastily. “A soldier must respect the chain of command and answer to civilian authority. You don’t.”

“A soldier can remove his uniform and become a civilian again, Senator. Both their privileges and duties under the law can change. A Jedi does not have that choice. Under both our beliefs and the legal obligations of our Order, we serve, at all times and under all circumstances.”

Just as clear as his brief flash of panic had been, now there was an even more obvious flash of triumph.

“Are you saying your service is more noble than that of our soldiers?”   

“No, I am not. A Jedi does not choose to be Force sensitive, that is merely an accident of birth. A Republic soldier chooses to make the sacrifice of service. We both believe in duty, but it is the soldier who voluntarily and without obligation leaves behind the freedoms of their life who is making the greater sacrifice.”

“So what does that make the Jedi?” Farteen sneered. “Just martyrs?”

And now Niarra knew, with perfect certainty, that Ulis Farteen had been underestimating her as the opposition. Not only was he getting flustered and letting his genuine disdain color his questions, but he was also leaving many opportunities to press her unclaimed, moving from one emotional angle to another. Niarra made the decision, then, to play his game of shifting the debate into the personal, risky though that might be, because it seemed by doing so she might get him to unravel himself.

“I do not consider myself a martyr.”

“Oh really. And that is why you submitted yourself to arrest when all of your associates scattered?”

“I submitted to arrest because I wished the opportunity to speak before those who might have questions of me and my Order,” she said, setting him up to give her her next victory, should he stumble into it. And to make sure he’d be angry enough to do so, she added humbly, “And I thank you for giving me that chance.”

“You’re not here to have a platform for your agenda,” he said, voice rising, “you’re here to answer for the misdeeds of your Order!”

The sound of murmurs from the watching delegates, and of people shifting uncomfortably in their chairs, was considerable. On the Force, Niarra could sense hostility from more than just Farteen, but overwhelmingly the feeling on the air was one of trepidation and uncertainty. Those who had been open to seeing where these proceedings might go were beginning to wonder why, exactly, Farteen was leading them there.

And Farteen had walked her right into the opportunity she’d wanted.

Very calmly, Niarra said, “If you will present me with the charges of which I stand accused, then I will speak to them.”

“This is bigger than mere charges!”

Even had she not been playing a very conscious game, Niarra would have met such a clumsy response with skeptical silence. But here, she was careful to present the silence she gave him with all the right cues of expression and body language to convey politeness and patience – someone waiting courteously for an elaboration they both knew perfectly well he couldn’t provide.

Farteen glared at her. But as the moments stretched while he struggled to formulate his next words, and during which the murmurs in the Hall increased, finally it was Vice Chair Igala Ryss who stepped in to break the silence.

“Master Reymark, there are no official charges leveled against you personally. However, there is some question as to whether former Chancellor Saresh’s Chancellary Proclamations can be legally upheld, and many of those did condemn the Jedi Order for acts of treason against the Republic, in actions going as far back as the military engagements on Yavin 4.”

At that, Niarra perceived faint motion from the area slightly behind her and to her right, where many Navy Admirals were seated. Grand Master Shan had not been the only commander of forces making controversial decisions in that conflict, and no doubt there were concerns about the broader ramifications should such politically volatile Proclamations be upheld.

“I understand,” Niarra said, inclining her head to Igala Ryss. “The validity of such Proclamations is a matter for the Senate to decide.”

“So it is,” Igala Ryss replied, her wide lips thoughtfully pursed.

“But as part those discussions,” Farteen leapt back in, “it is incumbent upon us to take this chance to define what the Jedi are. Are you soldiers or priests? Just what are you responsible for?”

Before Niarra could reply, however, she saw a light flash to her left, where Senator Arvuus had lifted a small, glowing globe into the air, indicating he wished the right to speak. It was not common, in such proceedings, for that to be granted until such time as the High Adjudicator had opened the floor, but it would be the height of disrespect to ignore the request, and Farteen obviously knew that. He didn’t look pleased, but he nodded to Arvuus nonetheless.

“The Senator from Iktotch is recognized.”

Arvuus stood up. The signs of the illness with which he was struggling were evident in how heavily he leaned on the worktop before him for support, but his deep voice was steady when he spoke.

“If this hearing is merely going to revisit questions that have already been resolved in the concluded proceedings concerning the Custodum, then I submit that this session is unnecessary and ought to be immediately closed. Those proceedings dealt with the only official charges of treason which have so far been brought against the Jedi Order in any capacity, and those charges were dismissed.” He paused, with a soft wheeze as he recovered his breath, and then he looked to Farteen and said, “Unless the honorable Senator from Brentaal is privy to information that has been denied to the rest of us.”

Farteen looked annoyed and poised to retort, but the Vice Chair held up her webbed hand again and spoke first. “As I said, there are no formal charges being leveled against Master Reymark, or the Jedi Order.” She turned her head this time, to grace Farteen with a stare from both of her wide-set eyes. “The purpose of this hearing is to provide the Senate with some much needed... context and insight.”

“I would like to state for the record,” Arvuus went on, “that I am uncomfortable with the vague justifications which have been used to detain Master Reymark and to conduct this hearing in the first place. I find their legal merits to be tenuous at best.”

“Thank you, Senator Arvuus,” Farteen said sharply, pressing the button on his worktop that shut off the Iktotchi Senator’s globe, exercising the sitting Adjudicator’s right to indicate that his time to speak was ended. “Let the record note your statement. And I would like it to note that you are known to have a shared history with Niarra Reymark that predates your time as Senator, and that your objections ought to be considered in light of this as well.”

Arvuus’s dark brown skin paled to a sickly tan, and though he did sit down it was slowly – and Niarra was quite certain it had nothing to do with illness, but rather with reining in his rage. She had seen Arvuus in battle many times, and was quite sure that if Ulis Farteen had shared that wartime experience he would never have dared to be so cavalier in his dismissal. That, unfortunately, was not uncommon in representatives of some core worlds, when dealing with rim worlds like Iktotch. But whether he realized it or not, Niarra knew Farteen had just made himself a tenacious enemy. The Iktotchi resistance had been short-lived, but brutally effective.

“Senator Farteen,” Niarra said, seizing the opportunity to reclaim the initiative, and pitching her voice just low enough to force the murmurs around Arvuus’s treatment to fall silent, in order to hear her. “You asked what the Jedi are responsible for. I would argue that we are no different from any other being, in that we are responsible for acting with consideration of the effects of our actions, and that we exercise the right of all Republic citizens to establish a doctrine of beliefs to govern our behaviors.”

“And are you responsible for the war with the Empire?” Farteen demanded, with an eagerness that betrayed this was not a spontaneous question, but one he had been waiting for a chance to spring. “Because many would say that you are. The Empire is ruled by Sith, and aren’t they just a splinter faction of your religion? Don’t you bear some responsibility for them?”

“When the Nemoidians invaded the Jular system and conquered six inhabited planets to claim them as purse worlds, were the Duros at fault?” she asked.

There was a noise from the general direction of the Durese delegation that was a little too loud to qualify as background murmur, and too evidently outraged to qualify as polite. Duros were notoriously touchy about being reminded that the Nemoidians were a genetic offshoot of one of their most ancient colonial expansions.

And Duro was a far cry indeed from being a non-influential rim world.

“Not the same!” Farteen objected immediately, his expression betraying another flash of panic. 

Niarra pressed on. “Do Humans in the Republic bear responsibility for the actions of the Chiss in alliance with the Empire?”

“That genetic theory isn’t even prov – ” Farteen began, then cut himself off, trying to look less flustered, and instead snapped, “You’re avoiding the question again!”

“I am merely pointing out that while it is true an ancient schism within the Jedi Order led to the formation of a separate group who would later take to calling themselves Sith, that schism occurred tens of thousands of years ago. Under Republic law, a being cannot even be held legally responsible for the actions of a direct parent, much less for those of ancestors going back hundreds of generations. If over the course of twenty thousand years we are willing to acknowledge the divergence of entire genetic species, surely you are not trying to say that a divergence in philosophy is being held to a more stringent standard? The Jedi have no more control over the actions of those who now call themselves Sith than the Duros government has over the actions of the government of Cato Nemoidia.”

Niarra turned her head this time to directly face the Durese delegation, and she gave the Senator there a single nod – which could, of course, be interpreted to mean just about anything, but which the Senator seemed to take as an affirmation of his outrage, if the vehemence with which he returned her nod was any indication. Niarra kept her smile in check and turned back to Farteen, knowing just as well as he did that he was now on dangerous political ground.

“That is... a fallacious argument, Jedi. It – ”

Niarra chose to press her advantage, and actually cut him off. “If it is fallacious, it is in that I compared a difference in doctrine to a difference of biology, or to a difference in actions. In the Republic, we hold beings legally accountable for their acts alone. Whatever doctrinal differences may, many thousands of years ago, have led a group of individuals to break from the Jedi Order, I find it difficult to believe that you, Senator, are currently interested in arguing about philosophy texts. Your interest surely lies in actions undertaken in war by an inter-planetary Empire, not in a school of thought around study of the Force.”

“My interest lies in the fact that the Sith have trampled over the rest of us in their eagerness to reach you!”

“When Imperial ships destroyed Republic vessels in the Tingel Arm in the first move of the Great War, not a single Jedi was aboard those ships,” Niarra said, speaking with the relentless calm she knew could totally stymie more inflammatory personalities. “When world after world fell to the Imperial advance, those worlds were decimated and seized to weaken and conquer the Republic. Are you saying that the Empire considered the Republic a mere stepping stone, in their military strategy? A small nuisance on the way to another target? That the billions of people who died attempting to defend their homeworlds were mere footnotes in history? That an Empire which, in size and strength, rivaled a Republic twenty thousand years in the making, was built with the sole purpose of destroying a religious Order that at the start of the Great War numbered only in the thousands of beings, and now may only number in the hundreds? That there was no greater strategic aim in mind? You credit the Jedi with an astonishing degree of power, Senator Farteen, if we are to be considered that great a threat. And I would argue that you presuppose a lack of ambition on the part of the Empire that is not supported by the evidence.”

“The Jedi are dangerous,” Farteen insisted, “and no attempt on your part to gloss over that fact makes it less true. If the average person goes rogue or loses their mind, they can’t manipulate the fabric of reality to bring the rest of us to heel.”

“That would depend on the position of power said person holds, would it not?” Niarra asked calmly – and felt the ripple of emotions move through the room, with memories of Saresh still fresh in everyone’s minds. “But on one level I do agree with you, Senator, and in fact you have spoken to one of the core principles behind Jedi doctrine. One who is born Force-sensitive has the power to affect their surroundings in dramatic ways, and that is precisely why the Jedi teach self discipline as one of our chief tenets. And it is precisely why previous Senates signed the Baltara Accords, which in addition to granting the Jedi Order the right to self-governance also restricts Jedi from holding any political rank within the Republic except as sanctioned explicitly by the Senate.”

“That’s incredibly convenient for you, isn’t it, Jedi? When your old enemy comes knocking, then you get to pick up the Republic army and use it as your shield, while shirking any responsibilities otherwise.”

“When the Jedi Order sent our ships to the Minos Cluster at the start of the war, the Senate had not even committed to a military strategy to counter the Empire’s advance. The Jedi went alone to defend those worlds as best we could, just as we came alone to defend Coruscant as best we could when the Eternal Fleet attacked. When the Sith go to battle for the Empire they do so because they hold the power of life or death over Imperial citizens and soldiers alike, because the gains and spoils of war can be claimed by them personally, and because they are subordinate to one of their own who governs as supreme ruler in the form of an Emperor. But when the Jedi go to battle alongside Republic soldiers, we do so only when asked, we cannot and do not wish to lay claim to territory or spoils, and there are no Emperors among us.”

“You are talking a great deal but saying very little of relevance, Jedi. What is your point?”

“I am merely attempting to provide a context which your line of questioning seems not to include, Senator Farteen. In the absence of official charges to which I can speak, I am left trying to interpret what the intention of your personal questions might be.”

“You’re attempting to represent your own opinions as those of your entire Order. But that isn’t the case, is it? I’m sure you’re familiar with footage that was anonymously leaked to the press some months ago, in which a Jedi spoke of death and destruction being the Force’s will?”

Niarra reached into herself to summon true calm, and not just the outward presentation of it. “I am familiar with the footage.”

“And what do you have to say about it?”

She could have crafted words to play for the long game, to try to bait him into another trap, to make the vague sound substantive... but she did not. Not because Bren was her friend, but because this spoke to the heart of beliefs larger than just her own. When she replied, it was steadily, her head lifted, her gaze unblinking on Senator Farteen.

“That I mourn the fact that we have been so injured by war and by the abuses of those with power over us that evidence of a man’s torture is being discussed as anything other than a tragic violation of the principles of justice for which the Republic is supposed to stand.” 

A deep silence fell over the Hall.

Farteen’s face grew red with anger. “Your arrogance,” he said tightly, “is astounding. You would completely dismiss what this Jedi said?”

“Can you prove, Senator, that this footage was not manipulated?”

Even if Niarra hadn’t personally known for a fact that it had been manipulated, she had no doubt that even a cursory examination of the footage would prove it. The blatant static, skips, and distortions in the footage should have raised questions in all but the most gullible.

“Can you prove that it was?” Farteen retorted.

“Am I charged with proving that, Senator? Or do you believe that the other beings in this Hall are incapable of forming their own opinions about the video’s validity, based on the evidence of their eyes and on common sense?”

Farteen’s face flushed even darker. He touched a key on his worktop and said, “I am entering the referenced footage into the record of these proceedings as evidence of – ”

An illuminated globe shot up into the air to Niarra’s right, accompanied by a very loud, and incongruously cheerful, “Excuse me!” It stopped Farteen mid-sentence in surprise.

Niarra did not turn to see what Dreikan was doing. Probably standing. Maybe waving his arms. Undoubtedly smiling inappropriately. Even facing steadfastly forward, and a lifetime of Jedi training notwithstanding, it was all she could do to keep her expression under control.

Farteen glared. “The Representative from Zeltros is not recog– ”

“I know, I do apologize, but my Senator couldn’t be here today, very busy. I just wanted to say that if we’re entering unverified news reel into the official record then I think we also ought to enter the footage aired by RNN two days ago, in which Master Reym – ”

“I said you are not recognized, sir! Please resume your seat!”

“Oh, very well,” Dreikan said, with a heavy sigh. Niarra heard him collapse back into his seat with an audible, fabric-muted thump. There were some mutters of disapproval, and also a few muted chuckles, from the stands.

“As I was saying,” Farteen went on tersely, “I am entering the – ”

But the light of another illuminated globe went up, this time being held aloft by Senator Rhybak, her glare focused on Farteen, daring him to shut her out.

“Senator Rhybak,” Farteen said through almost gritted teeth. If he was even trying to hide his dislike for Alyonna, he wasn’t doing a good job of it. “I assume you are going to speak whether or not you’re recognized, so you may as well.”

Dreikan gave an inarticulate huff of indignation, but Niarra knew it would be feigned for show.

“I must formally echo the concerns of the Representative from Zeltros,” said Alyonna. “A vid depicting a confession rooted in torture, likely edited by those responsible for that torture? You may as well enter evidence of a Sith decrying the Republic as evidence the Republic is bad.”

“You are just trying to inflame the issue by making unwarranted correlations, Senator Rhybak. There is no mention of  – ”

“A man that is captured, tortured and recorded, Senator Farteen, cannot speak freely, cannot speak his true thoughts. He becomes nothing more than a mouthpiece for the monsters that would inflict such brutality.” Alyonna raised herself up, looking over the full assembly. “If it were a Republic soldier in the Jedi’s place, the Republic Military would hold that soldier to be innocent of any crimes. They trust that the people of the Republic, and the representatives that guide its fate,” Alyonna said, staring directly at Farteen now, “would know who the true criminals are, and would not promote the opinions of our enemies.

“The footage is evidence of a brutal man’s skill at torture and nothing more. Keep it off the record, lest the honor of this chamber be shamed further, and so we need not spend time on a motion to censure you, Senator Farteen, for disgracing this chamber further. I cede the floor,” she said, sitting down, not letting her eyes off of the fellow Senator.

Farteen sighed sharply through his nose, and shifted pads on his worktop with a force that clearly telegraphed his annoyance. “Very well. Since so many of my colleagues seem reluctant to entertain a variety of arguments and points of view, I will not submit any publicly aired footage into the record.” He flicked a brief glare in Dreikan’s direction.

Before he could proceed further, the Senator from Duro stood up, his lean height drawing more attention than the globe he held near his waist. He spoke before even being recognized, the dual-toned resonance of his voice carrying clearly in the Hall. “I move that these proceedings be opened to the floor immediately. If we’re to determine whether or not we have grounds to hold this Jedi in the absence of formal charges, then I daresay we’ll only come to that decision when the rest of us are given the opportunity to ask our questions. Is this a discussion, or a speech?”

Although she had not drawn the comparison to the divergence between the Duros and the Nemoidians in order to gain an ally, Niarra realized it may have done just that; Alyonna had previously reported that the Durese Senator had seemed generally ambivalent about this whole affair.

Ignoring a core worlds Senator in a request such as this was a politically riskier decision than shutting down colleagues who spoke for less influential worlds, and Farteen knew it. “Is there a second for the motion?” he asked, grudgingly. There was rustling throughout the Hall as many people leaned forward to key in their approval on their worktops. Farteen watched the readings come in on his display and, with a glower, keyed in acknowledgment. “The motion is carried. The floor will be opened to other speakers. Requests to speak will be granted in standard assembly order.”

Assembly order was something of an archaic holdover, Niarra knew, and was generally only enforced in the full Convocation Chamber when there was the expectation that a substantial percentage of the Senate’s members would wish to speak – a process that could, depending on the length of the speeches involved, take several days. Speakers were ordered according to galactic system coordinates, from Coruscant outward, and as such the method was often decried for pushing the voices of worlds outside the Inner Rim to so late in the proceedings that few representatives would have the stamina to endure the debate long enough to even hear them. In smaller gatherings such as this one, the move seemed designed only to serve as a reminder of political influence. Had Ulis Farteen not been representing Brentaal, one of Coruscant’s closest neighbors, Niarra was quite certain he would have chosen a different process.

But she also felt certain that Farteen was making another mistake. In his desire to remind people of his influence, and perhaps to rally fellow power players to his cause, he seemed to be overlooking the fact that this was a smaller assembly. There would be ample opportunity for the representatives of many worlds to be heard, with all members still present – and among the worlds that would be speaking last were many of her allies, and Niarra was confident they would take full advantage of the chance to seize the power of the final word.

As representatives began to speak, it became quickly obvious that many were, as was sadly too often the case, merely taking advantage of the opportunity – and the attention of the drifting holocams – to allude to other grievances and disputes that had at best only tangential relation to the matter at hand. Still others seemed to be smarting over the conclusions of the committee that had judged the charges against the Custodum, particularly if they hadn’t themselves been invited to participate in that discussion.

Among the core worlds representatives, the Senator from Corellia spoke most openly in favor of the Jedi, crediting them for playing a pivotal role in liberating Corellia from Imperial occupation seven years ago. That broke into a moment of heated contention when the Senator from Balosar pointed out that the whole mess could have been avoided if half the Corellian government hadn’t “turned traitor and run to the Empire to begin with.” Niarra counted it as something of a draw, where her own agenda was concerned.

In general she was able to field the questions that were directed to her quite easily, but she suspected, when the Senator from Anaxes deferred his position in the speaking order until after Alderaan, under the pretext of needing to review his notes, that the chance he was conferring with Farteen via worktop was high. When his turn finally came up, he pretended to ignore the holocams entirely and wasted no time on introductory speech-making; he immediately turned his full attention to Niarra.

“Jedi Reymark.”

Niarra inclined her head. She did not for one moment believe he had dispensed with her Master’s title out of ignorance about Jedi ranks.

“According to Senate records, in the year 21359 of the Coruscant Standard Calendar the Jedi Order reported having conducted a total of nearly two hundred investigations into alleged suspicious activities related in some manner to elected representatives of the Galactic Senate or to members of their staff. Is this correct?”

“I was neither a member of the Jedi High Council nor a liaison with the Judicial Department at that time. The year you cite is not only prior to the outbreak of the Great War, but also prior to that of my birth. I cannot speak to the accuracy of this statistic.”

“Well, it is what Senate records show. If your Order even still has a governing council, they’re no longer submitting reports of any kind to the Senate, so for all we know there could have been even more investigations that the Jedi just never told us about. Isn’t that right?” 

“If you are questioning the accuracy of Senate records in this matter, then it is equally possible there could have been fewer, correct? Is your question to me pertaining to the operational status of the Jedi High Council, or to my level of confidence in Senatorial record keeping?” Many years of diplomatic practice allowed her to keep her tone unfailingly polite while still imbuing it with the faintest undercurrent of humor, and she was rewarded with a few chortles from around the Hall.

Accurate record keeping in a bureaucratic body as large as the Galactic Senate was a task of epic proportions, and every world’s Senator typically had a staff of at least a dozen people dedicated solely to validation and redundancy-checks of all documents that might pertain to their worlds in any way. Many laments had been sung about the virus-like rate at which an unfortunate misspelling of a name might propagate, and some particularly unlucky Senators had been immortalized in the annals of history as the authors of spectacularly embarrassing gaffes caused by a translation software error that slipped through a validation team’s cracks.

“Neither,” said the Anaxes Senator curtly. “So let’s just go with the figure of two hundred reported investigations, which is quite alarming enough as it is. Can you tell me what made the Jedi Order think it was necessary to interfere in the affairs of the Senate to this extraordinary degree?”

“Without knowledge of the particulars of the investigations in question, there is no way I could in honesty form an opinion on their validity. Does the Senator know the total number of similar investigations conducted by the Galactic City Police and the Internal Examinations office of the Senate Guard in that same year, that I might put the number of two hundred into some sort of context?”

On the Force, Niarra sensed a sharp spike of triumph and amusement behind her, and knew that in order to be feeling it so clearly it must be coming from a person with whom she felt some form of connection. Dreikan or Alyonna, certainly. She trusted either of them to feed her the next bit of ammunition she could use, and in the meantime kept her gaze steadily on Senator Parvel of Anaxes.

“Please do not dodge the question,” Senator Parvel responded, with a frown. “I asked what you felt gave the Jedi Order the right to conduct these investigations.”

“Respectfully, Senator, your question as initially phrased was about degree. But in response to a question about authority, I would call attention to the fact that the results of a Jedi Investigator’s investigations are accepted as admissible evidence from a sanctioned entity under Judicial Department statute.”

“But the Senate has no oversight of the methods being used by these so-called Jedi Investigators, or any visibility into their operations.”

“Nor does the Galactic Senate have such visibility or oversight into the operations of the Corellian Defense Force, and yet a CDF officer’s investigations might lead them to investigate the activities of a member of the Senate or their staff.”

“But an officer in the CDF is answerable to Corellian law, and Corellia has signed on to the Republic charter. Can you name me any example of independent agents not answerable to a member world’s government other than the Jedi who presume to claim legal authority of this kind?”

“Senator, is it not the case that a bill was passed just six months ago in the Securities Committee that approved the issuance of a Republic Certificate of Deputization to bounty hunters who register with planetary or sector law enforcement agencies, irrespective of whether or not the individual in question is a solo operator or a member of the Bounty Brokers’ Association?”

Senator Parvel paused. It was quite obvious he had not been considering anything even remotely like bounty hunters, either in formulating his question or in his anticipation of what she might say in reply.

Niarra took advantage of the pause to continue speaking. “Is the Senator attempting to suggest that twenty thousand years of alliance between the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic sets a precedent so unreliable that it should be met with more skepticism than that afforded to the assurances of a bounty hunter when it comes to compliance with Republic law?”

Dreikan’s voice suddenly interjected, from behind her, blithely breaking speaking permission protocol, “My staff has just informed me that the total number of investigations opened by – ”

“The Representative from Zeltros is not acknowledged!” Farteen tried to silence him.

Dreikan kept on without pause, “ – the Galactic City Police and the Internal Examinations office in the year 21359 into the less than salubrious activities of Senators or their staff was two thousand one hundred and five.”

“Please do not disrupt – ”

“And all I can say to that is that I wish I’d been here at the time, because that sounds like it was a scandalously fun year for Senate parties.”

Several people tried, and failed, to stifle shocked titters of laughter.

“I insist that – ”

“Yes, I know, I’ll be quiet.”

Senator Parvel of Anaxes was stubbornly refusing to look away from Niarra even for a moment, but his displeasure was clear. He waited until the murmurs caused by Dreikan’s disruption had died down, and then he spoke again. “The total number of cases is irrelevant.” He paused to give weight to his next sentence, but Niarra again took advantage of the pause to respond swiftly.

“I would submit that it is relevant, Senator. Throughout Republic history the Jedi have served as peace keepers, and their testimony, evidence, and delivery of suspects for trial has been accepted under law. Additionally, any attempt to paint the investigations of the year you cited as somehow being in excess of acceptable norms must consider the proportional role they played in the overall body of investigations of a similar nature. If Jedi Investigators participated in less than one tenth of the cases, can an argument for – ”

“I’m not here to discuss the particulars of any one case,” he interrupted her, “or to discuss percentages. I want to know what you feel justifies the Jedi in appointing themselves investigators in the first place.”

“Your framing of the question suggests the Jedi are not sanctioned to do so, which is not the case. But in answer to what drives a Jedi to pursue their missions, it is conscience and duty.”

“Duty to whom?”

“To the ideals of the Republic, and to – ”

“Forgive me if I am not entirely convinced that you place the ideals of the Republic over the religious tenets of your Order. Isn’t it true that you are pursuing justice only as you see it, and the rest of us be damned?”

“Justice is not an objective concept, Senator. That is a reality the Galactic Senate contends with every single day, in attempting to reconcile the laws of individual worlds to allow for the formation of a unified Republic. Under the Republic charter, both worlds and spiritual organizations within the societies of those worlds are granted the freedom to define their own beliefs, and the fact that the Republic has championed freedoms of this kind is precisely why the Jedi Order answered the Republic’s call for alliance millennia ago. Is it a surprise, then, that the Jedi hold beliefs of their own, under this arrangement? Rather than ask what motivated the investigators, would it not be more helpful to ask how those investigations ended? If a Jedi and a bounty hunter, both sanctioned under law, pursue a suspect and both deliver them to the proper authorities for trial, is there a reason you distrust the one who does so out of conscience and duty more than you distrust the one who does it for money?”

“Conscience and duty are words that zealots can twist for too many purposes.”

“And money has been twisted for every corrupt purpose known to sapient beings, Senator. Yet that either can be true in some cases does not make either true in all cases. And are not conscience and duty the very words a soldier or even a Senator would claim guides their actions?”

“I can see you’re more interested in debating word choice than you are substance.”

Niarra knew better than to engage such an obvious baiting tactic with a verbal response. Instead, she merely raised her eyebrows a bit, conveying a quiet skepticism about the personal nature of his response, and then she folded her hands on the lectern and simply waited in silence – forcing him to shape his next attack, and thereby reveal more of his agenda, by giving him no knee-jerk response of her own for him to spring from.

After a long pause he sighed, shaking his head in a show of obvious disappointment. But she was not at all surprised when he just leaned back in his chair, keying out his time on his worktop as he murmured, “I see no point in further questioning. I cede my time.”

As more Senators and Representatives assumed their turns to speak, Niarra tapped into her training, and oneness with the Force, to remain standing with a stillness as close to meditation as she could manage – hands barely moving atop the lectern, head held consciously at a steady angle, shoulders down, her breathing quiet and regular. She knew such careful serenity, sustained for so long, might make her seem other and unrelatable, but she hoped it would also present her as embodying the position of peace she wanted to represent. Distant from the anxieties and outrages of emotional agenda.

Eventually, when Senator Farteen looked to his worktop for the next speaker, Niarra knew by his faint grimace that he must be about to point to Alyonna, and rather suspected the Cathar woman would find Farteen’s obvious disgruntlement somewhat gratifying.

“The Senator from Feldinar may now speak,” Farteen muttered.

Alyonna nodded at him. “Thank you. Fellow senators, assorted representatives, citizens of the Republic, I will not pretend impartiality in this matter. As many of you know, this Jedi saved my life, freeing me from rubble that would have crushed me to death. And this was after a different Force User, a former member of the Jedi, protected me from Zakuul’s final assault and kept the rubble from crushing me in the first place.

“So, no, I am quite biased. But, in fairness, this is nothing new. There was the Battle of Corellia, where a Jedi intercepted a Sith charging my platoon's position. There was Balmorra, when a sniper would have removed my head, had the Jedi not sensed the incoming shot. There was the Liberation of my homeworld, where a Jedi occupied a fortified turret’s attention, allowing me and my men to reach good cover.”

Alyonna shrugged, and continued. “But that is war. You save others so they might save you later, and I cannot count the number of times a Jedi defended me from harm, but neither can I count the number of times I defended them. Are they perfect people? Of course not, but they have defended the Republic for countless generations. We should not stop them now.”

Alyonna’s eyes drifted back to Farteen, who was doing a poor job of pretending to be more interested in a datapad before him than in her speech. “As to the theory that the Sith only wish the destruction of the Jedi, and would leave the Republic alone? Hah. I have seen what the Sith have done to the common soldiers, to the citizens of our worlds that they have conquered, my homeland included. They have never been magnanimous in victory.

“The fiction that the Sith would simply leave the people of the Republic alone is a comforting one, but a fiction is all it is. The Sith have no interest in being ‘good neighbors’ with the Republic, and we will need the help of the Jedi if we are to survive.

“There will be plenty of arguments to come about the precise relationship the Republic will have with the Jedi Order, and I know we are all looking forward to that,” she said to a smattering of chuckles. “But let us not throw away an ally, one that has protected us for so long, one that I am certain we will need.”

Alyonna bowed head, sitting down, and gave Niarra a slight, appreciative nod. Niarra returned it with a tiny one of her own, keeping her expression neutral.

Farteen wasted no time in turning his full attention back to his worktop, but the fixed look of distaste on his face made it clear the speaking order was no longer granting him any sort of respite between opponents.

“The Senator from Iktotch may now speak.”

Arvuus stood again, and his struggle to do so in defiance of the obvious effects of his illness conveyed all the stubbornness Niarra remembered about him, albeit tempered now with a new dignity that perhaps had come with age. Or perhaps it was his anger that was affecting his bearing, anger that was still quite obviously simmering behind his eyes as he turned to direct his words not to Niarra or to the holocams, but to Farteen and those with him on the Adjudicator’s dais.

“I’ll keep my comments short,” Arvuus said, his voice almost a growl, “because something blunt and impolitic is all some of the people in this room deserve. To the best of my knowledge, the only other Senator here who took up arms during the war with the Empire is sitting right there.” He pointed, straight-armed, at Alyonna Rhybak. “So it may be that I’m just not subtle enough,” he said with deep sarcasm, “to follow all the ins and outs of the arguments being made here, since I’m just an old warrior. But I decided to serve in the Senate because I wanted to make sure that my world would never again be gambled, broken, and discarded as a mere playing piece in a game of politics and conquest. 

“Is the Jedi Order a political body? A military one? A religious cult? To be honest, I don’t care. When my resistance cell was fighting for our lives against the Empire, this woman,” he pointed now at Niarra, though his gaze remained on Farteen, “fought at our side. No one forced her to. She chose to. And when the blockade of our world was broken, and she left, other Jedi came to take her place, to help us rebuild. If their freedom to do so, when even the Republic military did not, comes from the autonomy they are given, then I say let them keep it. Because even when they knew coming to Coruscant to fight against the Eternal Empire might result in the Republic turning on them, they came anyway. They come when we call, and they come when we’re too stubborn or stupid to call, and whatever other baggage they might bring with them, I’ll take an ally like that over the fears and schemes of those who have never bled for the policy they make. At least when the Jedi choose to act, whatever their reasons are, they put their bodies on the line to do it.”

With a grunt, he nodded to indicate he was done, and lowered himself back into his chair. Only then did he seem to become aware that there were at least three holocams hovering less than two feet from his face, and with a speed that belied his illness and harkened back to the fighter he had once been, his clawed hand darted out and swiped at one of the holocams with such force that it smashed into the polished stone floor of the Hall before wobbling back up and sparking its way in retreat to the press box. A few people laughed, but many others looked shocked and disapproving.

((Continued in next post.))
« Last Edit: 05/18/17, 03:14:02 AM by Niarra »
Niarra Reymark, Jedi Master and Diplomat // Derrad Reymark, Starfighter Ace and Softie // Jheva, Padawan and Pattern Reader // Yatei, Jedi Knight // Zelek Arr, Corn Grower
Sivala, Sith Academy Overseer // Rannayel, Sith Lord and Museum Curator
Erran Veshkgalaar, Mandalorian Accountant // Caustrin Neyvor, Dangerous Puppeteer // Ariza Fey, Psycho and Pyro // Kettur Vaen, Semi-Spook

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Re: Serenity's Gambit
« Reply #3 on: 05/18/17, 12:13:00 AM »
((Continued from previous post.))

When Farteen was then forced to turn to the Zeltron delegation as the next speaker, he found Dreikan covering his mouth with one rose hand as though he could barely contain his amusement. With a languid wave Dreikan indicated he would not take his right to speak, a gesture which obviously surprised Farteen as much as it gave him cause for relief. Niarra, on the other hand, understood and approved. Dreikan had assumed the role of the buffoon for these proceedings as a tactic to underscore his opponent’s flaws and absurdities, and it had worked well. But it also meant he had compromised his integrity as a speaker on her behalf, and he knew it.

After Dreikan waived Zeltros’s speaking time, it came to the Senator from Ithor. His floating translator probe did not, Niarra suspected, do justice to what came across as a metaphor-heavy speech about ecological systems, symbiosis, interdependencies, and the wisdom of the Mother Jungle. In speaking about the Jedi he seemed interested only in speaking about the Agricultural Corps, and although the other Senators did not appear to share his interest in one of the Order’s most innocuous Service Corps branches, it was clear his estimation of the AgriCorps was quite high. In the end, while his speech was unlikely to sway any skeptics, it at least went into the record as a voice of support for the Order’s work, and Niarra knew that sometimes even humble allies could prove helpful at unexpected times.

When the Ithorian Senator finished speaking, it took Farteen a few moments to snap his focus up from his worktop. “The Senator from Dereygon has relinquished her seat in these proceedings to First Minister Chafee, executive of the planetary government,” he announced then, and though he almost certainly knew that Chafee would be here to speak on Niarra’s behalf she had to give him credit for maintaining a courteous tone. “Minister, your speaking time is acknowledged.”

“Thank you, Senator,” said Chafee. Where Arvuus’s motions had been stiff and his voice rough, Chafee moved and spoke with the confidence and ease of a career diplomat. His charisma had made him a strong military figure in his time prior to civilian service, and it often lulled people who did not know his past into mistakenly thinking his experience must not have extended beyond desk work. He’d leveraged such misperceptions to his advantage over the years, and directly into the First Minister’s seat.

“Under Article 15 Section 9 of the Treaty of Coruscant,” Chafee began, splitting his attention equally between the holocams, the Adjudicator’s dais, and the other occupants of the Hall, “my homeworld of Dereygon was given up by the Republic, into Imperial control. It was not the first time our world has been occupied. Three hundred years ago our planet fell to the Mandalorian advance. After the Jedi and the Republic pushed the Mandalorians out, we were left to fend for ourselves, and then the Sith Army came and we remained occupied for decades. Dereygon was one of the last worlds where the remnants of the Sith remained in control even after the fall of their greater army, until our people were able to eliminate their garrisons once and for all. We had no help from the Republic in that effort, and it took us more than two centuries to establish healthy political relations with the Republic again.

“Dereygon joined the Republic only fifty years before the Great War broke out. We had barely begun to build our place in the galactic community before the Republic abandoned us yet again, with the Treaty. And yet, even abandoned, even occupied by the Empire, my people resisted. We were silenced, executed, starved on our own world. But we never ceased to resist. We fought with blasters, we fought with our votes, we fought with our voices, and we called to the Republic to fight to bring us home. When the Republic finally answered, it sent us an ambassador to negotiate directly with the Empire. A Jedi ambassador. The woman standing before us now.”

Minister Chafee turned and gave Niarra a bow that carefully echoed the Jedi style, and Niarra returned it. Chafee was a good speaker, but not a good improviser, and the fact that she knew all of this must have been carefully written and prepared in advance filled her with gratitude.

“We are grateful to the Galactic Senate,” Chafee went on somberly, “for their decision to relinquish control over key hyperspace routes to the Empire in exchange for Dereygon’s removal from the list of ceded planets. But we are also grateful for their choice of ambassador. I was serving as Legate of the Planetary Militia during the negotiations, and I witnessed Master Reymark’s work firsthand. It is my firm opinion that without her, the negotiations would not have succeeded. My world owes her a great debt, but I do not believe mine is the only world that owes such a debt to the Jedi Order. For millennia the Jedi have represented the Republic as diplomats and mediators in countless crises all over the galaxy. That is not an accident. The Republic has long recognized the diplomatic contributions of the Jedi, just as thirteen years ago it recognized Master Reymark was their best chance at success in freeing my world from Imperial rule.

“I will not attempt to say that I understand all the intricacies of law and history that govern the Republic’s relationship with the Jedi Order, nor will I presume to say I know best how those laws may or may not need to change. But I will presume to say that if we allow one Chancellor’s regime, in a mere seven years, to thoroughly undo what twenty thousand years have established, then we are sure to go down in history as the most gullible assembly of political fools I can imagine. And if we repay the service of Jedi like this woman with imprisonment and condemnation, then we will richly have earned history’s scorn. Or have we all forgotten how it felt these past years, while Zakuul Knights walked the streets of our worlds, with no sign of a Jedi in sight to oppose them?”

Many did not look at all happy to be forced to sit politely and listen to these words. Niarra herself was more than a little surprised; she had felt sure Chafee was here to speak in her support, but she had not expected him to be this forceful about it.

“Before I left Dereygon,” Chafee went on, drawing himself up even further before the holocams, “all three Ministries of our government approved a vote to withdraw Dereygon from the Hydian Trade Pact in protest, should this body not see fit to release Niarra Reymark from detainment immediately.”

A susurrus of movement and voices filled the Hall. Niarra did her best to keep her expression perfectly neutral, despite her surprise. Farteen, on the other hand, could not contain his shock.

“Minister Chafee,” he said, speaking with urgency. “Dereygon has no authority to dictate to the Senate on these matters, but more importantly there is no need for such an action. As grateful as you might feel to any particular individual, this is not a personal matter, it is much larger than that.”

“It is a much larger matter,” Chafee said firmly, his expression stern. “Which is precisely why we have taken this position. This is about more than one Jedi, regardless of their identity. It is about due process, and about whether or not the Republic honors its alliances. Dereygon has no desire to leave the Republic, but we remember very clearly how it felt when the Republic left us. So we have chosen to lodge our protest by speaking with our currency.” He gave a wry smile. “Which is a language I am quite certain everyone here understands.”

Farteen scowled. But rather than attempt to spar with Chafee further, he turned to the escape provided by the timer, and said, “Your presenting time has expired, Minister. Do you wish to make use of your questioning time?” 

Chafee shook his head. “I am finished. I hope the members of the Senate will see their way to wisdom and honor in this matter.” He resumed his seat, and unlike Arvuus seemed content to let the holocams hover for final shots.

Then Vice Chair Igala Ryss, who had remained perfectly silent and attentive through the speeches of all of her colleagues, now leaned forward. She was not waiting to be recognized by Farteen, which Niarra took as a positive sign. The holocams abandoned Chafee and swung in Igala’s direction.

“I have the dubious honor,” the Mon Calamari said, “of speaking last in these proceedings, for two reasons. One being that I am, obviously, the Second Adjudicator on the dais. And the other being that my homeworld comes last in the assembly order. It is far from Coruscant. So far, indeed, that it has now been behind Imperial territory since the signing of the Treaty. Even mere communications contact with our world is difficult. Few of my people, living now in this enforced exile, have any knowledge of what is transpiring there. It is a painful time for us. So I sympathize with the experiences of the people of Dereygon.

“But as the Minister himself said, this is about more than personal feelings – it is about due process, and the rule of law. I will be the first to admit that I have not been comfortable with the justifications used to detain Jedi Master Reymark, and that is why I insisted on being present here today. But it would be irresponsible of us to disregard everything that transpired within the Galactic Senate over the last seven years, regardless of who was sitting in the Chancellor’s seat at any given time. As everyone here surely knows, I had my share of disputes with former Chancellor Saresh. I am also not convinced that the legality of her Proclamations can be upheld, but until that matter is decided we must confront the fact that the Jedi were called to answer the accusations leveled against them, and they did not appear.”

Igala turned both of her large eyes on Niarra. “That is the matter I would like to hear you speak to, Master Reymark. A matter of laws, and of whether or not we can trust the Jedi to respect them.” 

Niarra sharpened her full attention, including in the Force, on the Vice Chair, and measured her words carefully. “Vice Chair, my answer in this must be twofold. In speaking to the letter of the law, the Baltara Accords have as their signatories the office of the Supreme Chancellor, the Chairs of the full Galactic Assembly, and the High Council of the Jedi Order. Under the Accords, it is only members of the High Council who can engage in formal discussion relating to the Accords, or formally represent the Jedi Order within the Senate. But when the Eternal Empire invaded Republic space, the Jedi Order was decimated. The members of the High Council went to battle on the front lines, and were either confirmed as dead or were lost.

“If the Galactic Senate were ever to break as a body, the worlds of the Republic would be left each to govern themselves, the unifying ties of shared government between them severed. That is the situation in which the Jedi Order has found itself, with individual enclaves and temples struggling in isolation to survive, lacking a High Council to unify us. We did not have a governing body to represent us in an appearance before the Senate, and as a consequence a direct summons was also never actually delivered.”

“I see,” said the Vice Chair, her large eyes half lidded. She clearly had thoughts about this, but merely said, “And the second part of your answer?”

“In times of strife and confusion,” Niarra went on steadily, “it is incumbent on every individual and all peoples to weigh their conscience against what is being demanded of them, and to decide where the path of duty truly lies. When the Eternal Empire first invaded, cutting across the galaxy until they had a blade pointed at the very heart of the Republic, and promised destruction if we did not surrender, I ask you to consider what happened then.”

Niarra paused, allowing each person in the room to sit for a moment with the spike of discomfort this thought was likely causing them, as they all knew perfectly well what had happened. Then she proceeded to emphasize it anyway.

“Supreme Chancellor Saresh refused to surrender, and issued Proclamations mandating that all Republic forces continue the war. But the Senate weighed their conscience against obedience, and chose to act to preserve lives rather than uphold the letter of the Chancellor’s law. It was a group of Senators who defied the mandates of the Chancellor to go to Zakuul and sign the surrender. And despite what happened to those Senators afterward, the rest of the Galactic Senate agreed to abide by the terms of that surrender, in defiance of the standing Chancellary Proclamations.”

Niarra imbued her words with as much sincerity as possible, and with a willingness to reveal weakness in an appeal to empathy and honesty, as she continued. “In the same way that the Senate decided that their greater duty was to the safety of their people, so too did the Jedi decide, in our effort to preserve what little of our Order remains. And yet, when we heard that the Eternal Fleet was attacking Coruscant, we knew that no matter what had been decided about the changing nature of laws or Proclamations, our duty to the Republic, to its safety and its ideals, had to be honored. Vice Chair, the evidence would seem to be clear, that in this at least you can always trust the Jedi – that we will fight for the survival of the Republic, and for the ideals upon which it is built, no matter the cost to ourselves.”

The Vice Chair’s cheeks inflated and deflated a little as she breathed, her eyes still narrowed as she contemplated Niarra’s response. After a pause, she said, “You will fight for it, yes. But not obey its commands?”

“With all due respect, Vice Chair. Obedience is the due paid to Emperors. Dispute and dissent, however difficult and untidy, is the price of a Republic. And it is with a Republic that the Jedi Order signed the Accords, and it is a Republic that we will defend.”

There was a long pause, and then, slowly, Igala Ryss smiled. She stroked a hand down her face tendrils, the gold of her web piercings catching the light. “So it is,” she said quietly. 

Niarra did not smile. She did not move, except to give the Vice Chair the smallest of nods. She did not look to the holocams, or to any of her allies, or even to Senator Farteen, from whom she could feel waves of anger on the Force.

But the Force told her something else as well. With quiet certainty, welling inside of her like the clear water of a bubbling spring, she knew she had at last, after all the months of confinement and waiting, arrived at a moment of rightness. In the game of Dejarik they had all been playing here, Niarra now knew where the victory lay, and she did not try to deny or subdue the intensity of the relief she felt.

What had happened in this Hall was only one victory in a larger struggle, a struggle that all of the Jedi had waged up till this point, and would continue to wage in all of their scattered and besieged enclaves and temples, and in exiled ships drifting among the stars. Survival. Duty. Unity. Reconstruction. All were victories. All were vital. And perhaps all could now come together into the building of a new future.

Niarra allowed herself to hope that the time for their homecoming had finally arrived.




6.

The closing deliberations in the Hall took two hours. Niarra was escorted to another room to wait – one with a small courtyard garden. It was the first time she’d had access to open sky and the scent of growing things in months, and she would have happily sat on a bench there for many times two hours, content merely to breathe.

The fact that it was only two hours was a good sign, however, and when the sound of Senate Guards engaged in the routine process of clearing a visitor drifted to her ears, Niarra stood up, brushing down the white fabric of her skirt, expecting to be called back in.

But when she saw that the person stepping out into the sunlight of the courtyard was Dreikan, she realized that she might not be called back in at all. She knew he would only have pulled the strings necessary to be the messenger now in order to be the bearer of very good news. 

The brilliant grin he gave her as he strode between the planters, with the fabric of his extravagant coat floating about him, drew a broad smile from Niarra in spite of herself – even before the exuberant burst of pheromones hit her as he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her into a hug.

“Congratulations, Niarra. You’ve succeeded in giving Farteen an aneurism that may just convince him to take a sabbatical. The Republic owes you a great debt.”

Niarra laughed, the sound of it muffled in cream fabric. She tried, with a gentle push of her hand on his chest, to put some breathing room between them, but Dreikan was having none of it.

“Also, I think Senator Rhybak winked at me. I’m quite sure of it.”

“I would not be so certain, Neru.”

“No no, I’m sure of it. I call it a win for everyone!”

Niarra finally managed to get him to disengage, and took a small step back, again smoothing down her skirt. She drew in a breath to speak... and for one of the very few times in her life, found that she could not immediately think of what to say. She was relieved, and pleased, and still more than a little sad that any of this had been necessary. And in such a moment, the heightened emotions Dreikan was projecting made it all the harder to think clearly.

“Well!” he exclaimed, grinning again. “Are you ready to go home, then?”

Home.

Niarra turned away, just enough to draw in another deep breath, one a little more clear of pheromones, a little more full of the scent of trees and sky. She thought of Talravin, and the many faces she was looking forward to seeing again.

“Yes,” she said, with a soft smile. “I think I am.”

“Good! You can’t, of course,” he added, and then chuckled. “Not without slogging through a few press conferences, a few post hearing committee discussions, some private meetings with important people, and – oh yes! At least one celebratory dinner with that dour Iktotchi and the handsome Minister. And Alyonna, of course. I’ve already put my staff on making the arrangements. And then you owe me a private dinner. You did promise.”

Niarra turned her face upward, to the soft amber glow beginning to creep up the sky as Coruscanti dusk approached. Of course it couldn’t be as simple as hopping on a transport and leaving. Dreikan was right. Such things were also part of the game, and often even more important than what was said on the floors of Halls or Chambers. Her work wasn’t yet done. But knowing she’d have free access to the sky again... that was enough to keep her energized.

“I suppose I did agree to that,” she said at length, giving Dreikan another smile. “Thank you, old friend. For all of your help.”

“Oh, nonsense,” Dreikan said, flicking his indigo hair back from his forehead with one long-fingered hand. “Have you been living in the same galaxy as the rest of us lately? That was the most fun I’ve had in years.”

Dreikan stuck his arm out for her, and with some difficulty she managed to tuck her hand under the ornamentation of his elaborate sleeve in order to take it. He patted her fingers once and then started to walk her toward the door.

“Let’s dive back into it, shall we? I think Senator Rhybak has something to give you.”

Her lightsaber. Niarra had not allowed herself to think on it much, so as not to let its absence be felt too keenly. But now, for the first time in months, she opened herself to her connection with it, and could feel its nearness on the Force.

Lightsaber. Freedom. Home.

There were times when peace and happiness could be the same thing, and Dreikan was right – the galaxy had not allowed for many moments of that these past years. Niarra embraced it gladly, and let herself be led back into the Senate Rotunda to face the work that was to come.
« Last Edit: 05/19/17, 02:44:16 AM by Niarra »
Niarra Reymark, Jedi Master and Diplomat // Derrad Reymark, Starfighter Ace and Softie // Jheva, Padawan and Pattern Reader // Yatei, Jedi Knight // Zelek Arr, Corn Grower
Sivala, Sith Academy Overseer // Rannayel, Sith Lord and Museum Curator
Erran Veshkgalaar, Mandalorian Accountant // Caustrin Neyvor, Dangerous Puppeteer // Ariza Fey, Psycho and Pyro // Kettur Vaen, Semi-Spook