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Old 04-12-2006, 03:13 PM   #24
machievelli
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Dénouement

Daysah rubbed her head. She had a splitting headache. Where-

A net falling, power surging through her sending her into blackness.

She snapped upright.

Not a good idea. Her head seemed to lift, then swivel as if it were going to fall off. She clutched her head, whimpering. The noise faded as she made it. Soundproofing. Where was she?

She opened her eyes just mere slits, but the light didn’t increase the pain. She opened them fully, looking around. It was a luxury suite. She looked down, and grimaced. That damn gown was on her. The flowers she saw, went where they would fig-leaf her breasts and crotch, and had opened of their own accord, the cerulean color offsetting the teal.

Beside her on the night table was a carafe of water, and two small pills. Beside them was a card.

FOR THE HEADACHE

She poured then considered. The water might be drugged. She took the carafe into the fresher, dumped it, and used one of the sanitary wrapped glasses from there to drink tap water. It was only after she had swallowed them that she considered that they could have easily slipped whatever drugs they wanted into the pills she had just taken. For that matyter into the air or the very tap water she had drunk.

She padded back into the suite, and began searching it. A closet held more clothes than she had owned in her lifetime, all of it the same quality and cost as what she wore right now. Of her own gear, there was no sign.

There was a gentle bell tone, and she looked around frantically. The Com annunciator on the night table was blinking gently. She walked across, touching it.

“This is Dasa. Care for that dinner you missed now?”

“Let me out of here.”

“I will be down to get you in a moment.” The light shut off. She touched it again.

“I’m sorry, all communications lines are temporarily out of order. Please try your call again later.” A recording answered her.

She flounced into a chair, crossing her arms angrily. Whatever they were up to, there was nothing she could do at the moment to stop them. She considered slamming something on that idiot Sunrider’s head, then shook her head angrily. If he had a brain he would have a guard or two with him. If he didn’t just send a guard to get her instead. There wasn’t anything heavy enough to hurt someone through a helmet in this room.

A short time later, the door opened. Sunrider was standing outside in the passageway. Two men in security uniforms flanked him. “Please, this way?” He motioned gracefully.

She stood, storming out. The passageway was a step above the opulence of the typical passenger quarters. This must be the first class area. Sunrider walked beside her, directing her to the lift, and they shot up two decks.

If the regular passenger quarters were elegant, and the room she had left opulent, this was positively sybaritic. The floor were a deep pile carpeting thick enough to lose shoes in. The walls were Coruscanti marble in a smooth continuous sheet broken only by doorways. Sunrider pushed open a double door into a private dining room twice the size of her apartment. Larger than the three room suite where she had woken up.

There were three place settings at the far end of the table, and Corona sat at one, flipping through a fan fold report. He looked up, standing and moving toward them.

“Well, Professor, what do you think?” He waved at the room. The clearsteel windows beyond looked out over the planet. “The quarters and dining area for Tokara Board members and their families. If we booked these rooms, they would cost more than you make in a year. And we would already have a waiting list a year long for them.” He motioned, pulling out a chair. “Have a seat. We have a business proposition for you.”

Daysah sat, looking at the place setting before her. All her life she had dealt with meals by using a single fork knife and spoon. Before her were six forks, three different spoons, and as many knives. Already she was out of her depth.

A silent droid rolled in, and a bowl of soup was placed at each seat.

“Lastafarian Snailfish. The absolute best soup made anywhere.” Sunrider boasted. “Dig in!”

The men began to eat, and she watched before picking up the matching spoon. Whatever else happened, she needed to eat. The soup was excellent.

“Running a major corporation is not easy.” Corona commented between spoonful. “We have so much competition that sometimes it’s a war going on. When we discover a planet it seems like you have time for one deep breath before someone else is there trying to muscle you out.”

“Oh how dreary.” Daysah replied smoothly.

“Yes isn’t it.” Corona ignored her sarcasm. “Until a few years ago we were running into so many problems. Until I found a solution.” He looked up and she flinched at the cold look on his face.

She’d seen a huge Pantha cat at the zoo when she was young. Two meters at the shoulder, rippling muscles. It fed on herbivores the size of cargo lifters. Like any kid she had pressed herself against the armorplast of the enclosure.

One moment, the great cat was simply laying there, almost asleep. The next she was bounced back as it leaped, slamming a clawed paw against the glass at her face. The cat’s expression had not changed between those moments. It would have killed her without a thought of malice. Just because it could.

Corona had the same look.

“I found a way around all of that three years ago. I was commanding Coruscanti Sheen, one of our first armed, or at least partially armed vessels. I found a pair of rival corporations arguing about an unnamed little planet in the mid-rim. I was really upset. The planet would be a perfect home for colonists, the company would make billions. But here we had two others already squabbling over it.

“We were on the very edge of their sensor range, but they were too busy watching each other to notice us. I suddenly considered that you have two very hotheaded crews arguing over money. Then I had a thought...

“When you have two people or groups arguing, what can cause them to go from argument to fighting? You’ve seen it. The two rival gangs standing each other off then suddenly a rock comes out of nowhere. Maybe it’s just some kid standing on a fire escape and no one is watching him. Everyone assumes the other side threw it. The fight is on.

“We had some missile pods. Not much really, but enough for my purpose. I had one pod inserted in a slow orbit. When it reached the area between the ships, it automatically locked on one of the ships. A Hutt ship if I remember correctly. Half a dozen concussion missiles. Not enough to even scratch their paint. But the Hutt reacted as anticipated. Their guns tore into the other ship. A Twi-Leki I recall. The Twi-leki opened fire, and a minute later, poof!” He threw his hands up as if throwing money into the air. “Both ships were dead in space.

“We waited for a while, then approached, and collected the bodies and their data recorders. I checked, but neither one had recorded the missile pod.

“So I had a newly discovered and unclaimed planet, and the salvage from two ships. The Company didn’t have any rules about salvage at that time, so the crew spilt it. Fifty men were rich over night. They weren’t going to complain. The Company had the planet Naboo. They weren’t going to complain.

“I used the same method a few other times but not enough for a pattern to be noticed. A rival company would approach a planet we traded with, and boom. Another horrible pirate loss.

“Then there was Sullust. A planet with a native species, so we couldn’t really stop anyone from trading there, could we?” He smiled, a feral grin that didn’t touch his eyes. “Unless they attacked us first that is.”

The second course arrived, and as horrified as she was Daysah kept eating. Whatever else happened she would need the energy to survive.

“So I had some very special cargo loaded onto one of our older ships the Tokara Star. It was sent to deliver a load of consumer goods to the planet. The Catharia Corporation was building an orbital warehousing station to use, and had half a dozen ships there, including two armed vessels. My ship Tokara Venture was already in orbit, and was headed out. A computer program activated, and the Tokara Star detected a missile launch from one of those armed ships. They frantically called us. You see, we were armed, but they were not. Then the cargo did what it was supposed to do.

“Four hundred kilos of thermo-concentrate blasting explosives, scattered through her cargo holds, marked as different items. One minute our ship is there, the next it is gone. And we have Captain Maro Antilles’ voice saying they are under attack. So elegant.”

“Antilles?”

“Yes, the Admiral’s son. A martyr for the people.”

“You sick bastard.”

“Well things escalated as you might imagine. Both Corella and Coruscant sent warships in. Soon thirty warships were jockeying for position, ready to blow each other to hell at the first provocation.

“But military men are more restrained than merchants. They have to have proof, and orders before they do what they do. When my ship returned a month later, they were still there, posturing and complaining. Something had to be done to break the deadlock.

“I had some computer records of the Corellian navy when they were testing some of their new fighters. I had my first officer splice the record together so that it looked like a possible attack. A pair of my crewmen went out in spit-kits, and they used a small cannon to pound a few shells into us. Not enough for real damage, but enough to appear serious. Then I set out two of our missile pods at a sharp angle from us.

“Then the poor under armed merchantman screamed for help. Of course everyone had to charge toward us. The Corellians to find out what the hell was going on, the Coruscanti to gains revenge for the cowardly attack. When they were close enough, I activated the pods, one at the Corellians, the other at one of our own ships, and ducked for cover. They blew each other to hell before the Admirals could stop the fighting.

“I offered my ship as a meeting place, and mediated the dispute despite my own losses-”

“Losses.” She knew what he was going to say even before he said it, but there was a horrible fascination at the rendition.

“Of course. Two of my men were on the hull when the attack occurred, and they were both killed rather horribly. My first officer against orders attempted to rescue them but one of the fighters brutally strafed him. A tragedy I had to set aside.

“Both were upset about their losses, and Catharia wasn’t helping, but here was a mere captain setting aside his own pain to bring peace.

“I suggested that Sullust become a protectorate. That both sides patrol the planet to assure this didn’t happen again and all companies would be allowed to trade. They hailed me as a master peace maker.

“Of course who do you think got most of those contracts? The horrible Corellian company that had started it? Or me?

“Tokara Company suppled snub fighters and escort class warships to the Sullust. My Company built their industrial infrastructure.” He leaned back, happy.

“So you’re doing it again. And this time who do you blame?”

“Why those horrible Jedi of course.” His face turned ugly. “We had a very profitable deal going on a planet named Triseki. The politicians were so corrupt we didn’t even need to bribe them. They wanted money fast, and we supplied them with Ridastinal a drug manufactured by another company. The Twi-Leks use it, as do the Hutt. Humans use it for... mood alterations.

“But those damn Jedi broke the drug ring wide open. Fifty of the local politicians and their flunkies were thrown in jail, along with four captains of our ships implicated. The Corporation lost those ships when the more honest government seized them for transporting the drugs. It cost us billions.

“So I am going to inflict losses on them. When this is over no one will ever even think of asking a Jedi for anything!”

“But why?” She screamed. “You own the planet no one can-” She gasped. “The hammerheads are intelligent, aren’t they?”

“As intelligent as you or I am.” Corona answered softly. “We didn‘t discover that little fact until we‘d already started construction of the hotel complex, however.

“But they won’t deal. To them that-” He waved toward the planet, “-is sacred! They haven’t developed technology because of the possible repercussions to the environment! We have a paradise that is worth trillions of credits in tourist trade and they won’t deal!” As he reached the sentence he was on his feet roaring.

“If they’d fight us it would be easier. Mean and nasty primitives murdering our people. But on top of that they’re pacifists!. They obstruct, they plant trees in the areas we’ve cleared, but they won‘t fight! Our crews won’t shoot at them because all they need to do is push them out of the way as they work!

“Then something changed. Someone started sabotaging our equipment. First it was just dirt in the fuel tanks, or bolts loosened in the earthmovers. Then they began ripping moly-circs out of them, shredding the bundles. Those cost over 5,000 credits apiece!

“But as much as the board was upset, I was not. You see, if they are natives, we can’t exterminate them. But a pirate force using the planet?” He smiled. “All bets are off there. We can pursue them to extinction and be applauded.”

“So the attacks, the people, your own people down there...”

“Yes. A small team of security personnel sent on the last ship. They were shipped down secretly. Their orders were to make sure first that natives were accused, but with a twist I added. They had regular weapons, but they weren’t supposed to use them until told to. Meanwhile they had some extra, special weapons.”

“The Echani pistol.”

“Correct. We couldn’t assure which planet the Jedi sent would be from. We have weapons made on every planet that supplied members to those fanatics. All we needed to do was make it look like a badly botch frame-up, yet leave one item that can be tied to a specific planet. The planet the Jedi came from.

“We carried several tons of additional weapons aboard this ship. Crates and crates of weapons and ammunition made on Coruscant, Corellia, Echana, you name it. Even Twi-Lek and Mandalorian weapons.”

“But Breia and the Jedi will deny it!”

“Oh the Jedi will. But our delivery ship, manned by several men, was painted to look exactly like the Millennium Falcon. So was her transponder. When we took the Millennium Falcon we merely assured that our ship was between the planet and the frigate, so they didn’t see the switch. Then the ship took off, attacked us, and ran away. A pity the mercenaries didn’t know about our cannon. They died sure we would miss them.

“The only loose end is you. And you are going to help us.”


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile
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