Foundations and Factions 3
Nirauan was every bit as odd and as cold as I remembered it to be. An arboreal world which orbited a weak red giant it was primarily covered in jungles and lakes. The base, which Thrawn had set up, was located in a pre existing building that had been made from a stone which absorbed energy. It had been Voss Parck who had initially called the base ‘the Hand of Thrawn’ as a joke, a play on the fact that the five towers which made up the stone structure vaguely resembled the fingers on a hand reaching for the sky. Over the years the base had been added to and modified to be a formidable hideout, with the highest tower serving as the command center. It reminded me greatly of the bridge of Lord Vader’s Super Star Destroyer, not from a size point of view but from a technical standpoint. Had anyone from the New Republic managed to sneak a look at this base they would have shuddered in fear. What the base lacked in man power it made up for in technological advantages. Thrawn’s ability to use and combine other species’ technology was astounding and the engineers he had working under him had worked miracles.
The last time I had been on Nirauan I had not been in a particularly good state of mind. This time I saw it with different eyes and had been more than impressed as Thrawn had given me a fairly in depth tour of the entire facility. The base itself was remarkable, if the Empire had been as well run as this place was it would never have fallen. The end of the tour had coincided with the Med-lab where much to both my surprise and Thrawn’s Doctor Thracer had greeted me with a surprising enthusiasm.
“Well, Miss Gabriel, Look at you!” He exclaimed as he clasped me by my shoulders. “I see that planet he shipped you off to suited you well. Welcome back. I hear you will be staying with us for a while now.”
“Good,” He said, “now I have someone to play dejarik with who won’t always beat me in three moves!”
I wasn’t sure if that had been a compliment or not but that he was happy to see me made it perfectly okay either way. I had not expected his warm welcome and for the first time since stepping foot on Nirauan I felt as though I might have a place here after all. At least, I had thought as we had left the med lab so he could show me my quarters and my office, I have one friend here already.
The rooms designated for me to use as an office and a language classroom were located on the other side of the compound in the South East tower. The office was nice and the class room suitable to teaching a group of people up to ten or so. I was dubious about the whole language teaching thing but I kept my doubts to myself.
“You have computer access and there is a library as well. What you need will be provided for you within reason.” Thrawn said, breaking the silence as I stood just inside the small room staring at it, trying to imagine me as a language instructor. The image was coming to mind. While I had taught basic to some of the Dantassi it had been an informal thing, this was going to be a whole other game and I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of it. I suppose he read my uncertainty on my face because he smiled. “You will do fine.” He said.
I just glanced at him and shrugged in a way that said ‘what ever’. “So how about you show me where I will actually be living.” I said which made him smile again.
Thrawn’s personal living quarters were located in the North West tower, separate and quiet from the rest of the habitat areas of the base and far away from his official work area and offices. He had decided that it would be best if I were to live in the same place and I had been surprised to see that my rooms, though separate, adjoined his.
“You are my bond mate, Tekari.” He said frankly. “While I do not see any reason to actively advertise this fact, it is not a secret and sooner or later people here will figure out that you and I are a couple if they have not done so already. There are others here who have their mates with them and, although at the moment it is not exactly a desirable thing due to circumstances, perhaps there might even be a place for families here one day.”
His explanation surprised me a little but it also made sense. On board his ship he was distant, always on duty but being on Nirauan allowed him some personal time and I supposed that made the difference. I was not going to complain. I had not come here simply to be a language instructor or anything else, for that matter, I had come here to be with him.
The rooms I had been given were surprisingly spacious and light with a view that over looked the forest to the West. While sparsely decorated I could see it was a place I could come to like, and perhaps, given enough time, even call home. Though, I thought ruefully, really where ever Thrawn was, was home to me. I noticed that my belongings had already been brought to my rooms and all that remained for me to do was to unpack and settle in. It would take me a little while to adjust to Nirauan local time, unlike on all the Imperial ships which all ran on Coruscant Standard Time this planet had a twenty-nine hour day and a six day week. The planet had a steady, circular orbit which allowed for little variations in seasonal changes. According to Thrawn at the moment it was autumn, or as close to it as was possible. The temperatures were a little cooler and it rained more often. I didn’t mind rain. It was still a novelty for me to see water fall from the sky and I loved the scent of damp foliage and wet soil which always accompanied such weather. I glanced at the chrono on the wall, it was the middle of the afternoon planet side but for me it still felt like early morning. I was in desperate need of stimcaf.
“The training facility is open to you and there is a swimming pool in the subbasement.” He continued and then added with a sly smile, “You still remember how to swim don’t you?”
“I think I can manage not to drown, if that’s what you are asking.” I said as I began to open my bags and unpack my clothes. “I don’t happen to have any swim wear with me though. I don’t suppose this planet has a ladies wear boutique near by?”
“No I am afraid we are rather lacking in a viable commercial district but we do have a passable tailor who might be able to create something suitable for you. He is no Cati but he is skilled in his craft.”
“You have a tailor here?” I asked.
Thrawn nodded. “Yes, it was easier than trying to continually requisition clothing supplies from the Core. We acquire the materials from local systems to produce most of what we require here on the base. It saves time and makes us more efficient. Ordering and obtaining many supplies from the Core was next to impossible not to mention an enormous waste of time and resources before the Emperor’s death, now it is an impossibility so we became self sufficient.”
It made perfect sense. Reliance on the Core for supplies was time consuming. I just had not really given it much thought before. “Well, I guess I will have to meet with him then.”
“That can be arranged, my dear.”
“What about going outside?” I asked.
“Well,” He said carefully, “I will not restrict you if that is what you are asking but this world is wild for the most part and we have not yet been able to catalogue much of the indigenous life forms so I would not recommend leaving the base unarmed and alone.” He turned to look out of the window. “There are some avian creatures, mostly considered a pest, which dwell both in the underground caverns and on the cliffs near by. As far as I have been able to asses they are non threatening and for the most part stay out of our way. There have, however, been incidents with an insect that also makes its home in the caverns. They travel in swarms and devour just about anything living, as far as we can tell. We lost several good men to them so I would prefer that you stay out of the caves.”
“Insects? Swarms of flesh eating insects?” I shivered. That sounded like something out of a really bad horror holovid.
“Is there anything in these caves worth seeing that would make ignoring your request worth while?”
His lip twitched in amusement. “Not especially.”
“Then I suppose I can give them a miss.” I said.
“I would be grateful if you would.” He said. “Please do not go out alone. While I trust that you can take care of yourself I’d prefer not to have to waste time or man power on a search party should I be wrong in this.”
I nodded. Surprisingly enough I had learned my lesson in that particular arena. “This teaching thing won’t be full time will it?” I asked.
“No, depending on what schedule works best for you, perhaps a few hours a day or every two days.”
“Then I will need something else to do in between.” I said. “I don’t suppose you need a personal assistant, do you?”
Thrawn smiled. “From time to time, I dare say I could use your skills in this area, but this would also not be a full time job. However I have given some thought as to how to keep you occupied and out of trouble. I have told my chief grounds mechanic of your skills with ships and engines; he assured me that should you wish a place on his staff you would be more than welcome. He can always use a certified mechanic and you are more than qualified, my dear.”
I smiled at that, somehow it felt as though I had come full circle. I had been working as a mechanic when I was handed the job working for Lord Vader and now, after nearly seven years I felt as though I was right back to where I had started from, well almost. It was a good thing I liked working on ships’ engines.
“Well, I will go and speak with him; I’d like to get the Sigiri sorted out.”
Thrawn nodded, “Yes I thought you might. It would be of use to have another Imperial shuttle in operation; although she is your ship I am sure you would not mind occasionally doing some flying for me, would you?”
I glanced up at him, “That would depend on where you wanted me to fly to I suppose.”
He paused for a moment giving me a look I could not decipher then replied carefully. “Well at some point soon you will be returning to Coruscant to pick up some things from the flat there as well as your old place in the Palace. Perhaps along the way you might also need to clear out your old office as well.”
I regarded him carefully for a moment and then said. “So you’re going to allow me to go back there after all to do some digging?”
“Yes, I thought about it and decided that your idea has some merit. I will send a message to Isard letting her know that you might be returning to clear you your office there so that you might work full time for me. This way, when you decide to return to the Core, she will not have any reason to impede your stay there.” His answer was casual but his stare was not.
“Do you think she will be suspicious?”
“Of course she will be, she is suspicious everyone and everything. She did not get to be the head of Intel and the leader of this Empire by being naïve and trusting, but you, my dear, have certain talents that will aid you in alleviating her of these suspicions I am sure.”
“If you are talking about twisting her mind, that won’t be happening. Being able to give suggestions to a person only works on the weak minded. She is not weak minded.”
He nodded his agreement. “No she is not but I am sure that after working in close proximity with Darth Vader a face to face meeting with Isard will not prove terribly challenging to you. And, I am sure there is enough for you to do to keep your reasons for returning to the Core straight and believable.”
“How much time do I have to prepare?”
“As long as you need.”
“That is not very specific.” I chided.
He sighed. “Well, I want you to design a lesson plan for teaching basic so that I can get it added to the duty schedule and I thought it best if you repair your shuttle as that would be the ship I think you should fly to Coruscant in.” He said, “So I guess it will depend on how long it will take you to repair the Sigiri.”
“Well, I haven’t seen her yet. So that depends on how badly she was damaged and the availability of parts.” I shrugged, “I got the impression from Voss that she was in damned bad shape but at the time, to be honest I was not thinking very clearly so I don’t know what needs to be done off the top of my head.”
Thrawn nodded slowly. “Well, let me know when she is space ready.”
I just stared at him for a long moment. “You are not happy about this idea are you?”
“Of course not.”
“Then why are you letting me go do it then?”
“Because I need your help in this matter and you are the best chance I have to obtain information that is not tainted or simply Isard’s propaganda.”
“Don’t you have any spies on Coruscant at all?” My curiosity was getting the better of me.
“Yes I do, but I assure you none have the vast knowledge you have of the palace layout and none have the opportunity you have to simply waltz in the front door more or less welcome.”
I nodded, toying with my necklace. “I have some ideas about where to find information she might not know about.”
“I trust that you will be subtle and professional, that you do not wish to end up incarcerated or worse. The Lusankya Detention Center is not a very welcoming place.” He warned.
I nodded. It was not my plan to end up in prison or dead. “I will be careful, I promise.” I said then added, “You won’t be sorry.”
He made a face which said I am not so sure about that and then tilted his head slightly to one side. “I will be giving you dispatches to take to Isard, updates and information she has been asking for. It will make this trip seem more legitimate. When you are ready, I will be sending the ISD Fearless to Bilbringi for supplies, you will travel with them and once they are in orbit, you may fly the Sigiri on to Coruscant with an appropriate accompaniment,” he held up his hand before I could protest, “It would look odd if I were to allow you to fly solo with no protection at all, you will be carrying Imperial dispatches with valuable information, armed guard is a must so there will be no discussion on this. Do not try to talk Captain Grayson out of this either because he will be under orders to make sure this happens or else shoot you.”
“Okay.” I agreed after a moment unsure if he was actually joking about the shooting part or not.
“We can discuss the details of this mission once you have settled in a bit.” He replied the hardness in his voice softening a little. “Will you feel up to joining myself and Voss for dinner this evening?”
“That would be nice.” I said. “I need to speak with him anyway, I owe him an apology.”
“Yes, you do.” He said a little more tartly than I expected he meant to but it hurt anyway. I suppose it showed on my face because he reached out and caressed my face in a way that said I didn’t mean that to sound so harsh. I just smiled and leaned into his touch. It felt good to be so close after the cool separation on the Grey Wolf.
“I’m sleeping with you in your bed tonight, you know.” I told him as I pulled away to finish up my unpacking.
His smile reached his eyes. “I had expected as much.”
“As long as that’s settled. What time is dinner?”
“Oh nineteen hundred hours in my private dining room.” He replied. “Wear something nice but it’s not formal.”
“I think I can manage that.”
“Very well, my dear. I will leave you to settle in. If you need me I’ll be in my office. If you need anything else just ask the Quarter Master, he knows you’re here and he’s been told to assist you in anyway he can.” He said giving me an absent kiss on the cheek before he headed out.
I sat down on the bed, amidst the remnants of my unpacking and let out the breath I felt I had been holding since forever. Coruscant, I had not been there in over two years and now I would be going back not just to pick up the remaining pieces of my life there but to hopefully set up some sort of spy network for Thrawn so that he could obtain information from the Core without Isard censoring it first. The prospect was a little daunting. I was certain this could be done but I would need some help. I hoped that Shiv was up to the job and then smiled. His last holovid to me had been light hearted and full of news from everyone I knew but I had read between the lines easily enough and I knew he was worried. He did not like Isard and he did not like what she was doing as leader of the Empire. With a sigh I heaved myself off the bed and put away the last of my things. I had not actually expected Thrawn to allow me to do this and now that he had I had needed to think about it, because this would require some planning and some work. I was glad we had brought the Ahnkeli Su’udelma from Hjal, she contained a copy of the exacting blue prints of the Palace and the old Jedi Temple that I had once found in the small, secret library the Emperor had granted me access to. Thrawn did not have to tell me twice to be careful or consider well what I was going to do, if he though I would find a face to face meeting with Isard easier than working for Lord Vader then he was sadly mistaken, I was terrified of Iceheart and with good reason where Lord Vader had been hot headed and bad tempered she was cold and cruel and unlike Lord Vader she saw no value in me what so ever. She would not hesitate to have me shot or worse if she thought I was going against her will.
I shuddered at the prospect and then, because I really didn’t know what else to do, I went off in search of some stimcaf and the docking bay to check out just how much work the Sigiri needed. At least that was something I could do to keep me occupied and out of trouble until dinner time.