The Grand Ceremony

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The Grand Ceremony

Post by Kane » 2010-11-15 15:23

The grand day was here. Around a million people had gathered to commemorate the festivities, and an expected hundred trillion were watching the live broadcast. The list of prominent representatives was perhaps equally impressive, as was the guest list, full of holovid stars, planetary governors, senators, nobles and moffs, in short a good selection of the rich and famous in the galaxy today.

The ceremony had begun with mass parades and shows all while the massive shape of ICE floated close by outside the domed city network of Bilbringi VII, with a huge holographic show accompanying the celebration below and inside. Arguably the most important people present today was His Imperial Majesty, Kane I, and his bride.

The Emperor stood up to deliver his speech. "Citizens, friends, gentlebeings of all kinds. We are all here today to participate in one of the greatest adventures this galaxy has ever seen. Ever since explorers first set out among the stars countless millennia ago, we have remained here, in this galaxy we call home. Today we prepare to leave it, to see brand new stars, planets never before visited, and beings of which we know nothing at all. The galaxy may be a large place, home to four hundred billon stars and twenty million sapient species, but it is but one out of quadrillions of others. It is a wild, untamed space that we now set forth into. We will see wonderous phenomenon, experience exceptional things, and make new friends, perhaps even new enemies, that we could never have dreamed of. Today marks a new beginning, and a new future for us all. The New Imperial Federation will lead the race toward the final frontier, take charge of our future, to be part of a greater whole and our mother, the universe itself. There was once a philosopher who said that we, the evolved sapient beings, is the universe's attempt to understand itself. If this is true, then it is imperative that we learn as much of it as we possibly can, both for our own sake, and for hers. Perhaps, out there, we will not only find new questions, but also new truths and understanding, different from what we believed we knew. Aside from knowing yourself, it is truly the greatest adventure one can set forth upon, and we send our hopes and dreams and prayers along with those brave few that goes to represent us who cannot go with them, out into the intergalactic void and beyond. I wish I could be part of that adventure, having also experienced years of waiting in deep space, not knowing if we would ever be able to return home. Life itself means uncertainty to us all, but we who stand here today can unitedly say: it is worth it. This journey is about more than just to explore new lands. It is about exploring ourselves, to expand our knowledge, and to find those who would join us in our search for the ultimate answer to the question of life itself. I salute you who will brave the void, may the Force reflect upon you and give you what you have earned. as unto us all."

With that, the Emperor drew his lightsabre and ignited it before slowing raising it in front of himself. He stood there silently for a while before retreating to his seat. Massive applause followed, whether it was real or aided. Not until a full minute later was it calm enough that the next speaker could be announced, Vicereine Aklee Roosh.
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Iaex Larek
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Re: The Grand Ceremony

Post by Iaex Larek » 2010-12-12 01:06

The festivities were all prepared, and they were enormous. The gathering of people here in person could quite easily have been a cross section of "Who's Who in the Galaxy" and the broadcast was being sent to trillions of others. Parades, state meals, and presentations about the new mission had been the fare thus far, but now the many people were gathering to hear a speech by the Emperor himself. Standing up where he could be seen by all within eyesight, the image of the Emperor was also projected on trillions of display screens across the galaxy so all could see what he had to say.

Iaex, as one of the key personnel on the mission, and also as the representative of the Dark Jedi Order which he had just recently been inducted to, had a place in the first few rows of people watching the Emperor's speech. In contrast to his dress uniform, he had opted to wear the dark robes of the Dark Jedi Order for this occasion.

The Emperor's speech was one which would come as a surprise to most of the inhabitants of the galaxy, but to Iaex and the specially picked and trained crewmembers who had been working on the project for some time now, the announcement was nothing out of the ordinary. The New Imperial Federation was to attempt that which had never before been done - a successful expedition out of the galaxy and to the next. In short, it was the fulfillment of all the life dreams Iaex had ever possessed. His yearning for the stars and the unknown had drawn him from the backwaters of the galaxy, and anything he had ever known, to the very core in the New Imperial Federation, and now was drawing him far from anything anyone had ever known.

With a solemn grace, the Emperor ignited his lightsaber and extended it up towards the sky, seemingly pointing the green blade towards the ICE floating far above, but visible to the naked eye because of how close she was orbiting. The applause at the conclusion of his speech was deafening, and it was several moments before the announcement could even be made for the next speaker to come to the podium.
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Re: The Grand Ceremony

Post by Aerith Sunrider » 2011-01-13 02:15

Having preferred to remain aboard ICE, Aerith was... encouraged to attend the ceremony that would mark the beginning of their departure from Bilbringi VII to the vast unknown. The sheer spectacle reminded her of a holo she had once watched when the New Republic had liberated the capital world of Coruscant, how the entire world was celebrating the victory and freedom from the iron grasp of the Empire.

While this ceremony was hardly of the same magnitude but what made this event remarkable was it marked the last time she would be standing on soil in a familiar galaxy. From here on out, there would be nothing familiar beyond the large devastator that would serve as their flagship. Sitting in the crowd, she clapped once upon the conclusion to the Emperor's grandiose speech. Amusingly enough, she couldn't relate to a single thing he had said aside from today marking a new beginning and a new future.

Seeing the laser sword ignite was perhaps the most fascinating bit of the whole affair so far. She had only heard tales of such weapons in cantinas and spaceport bars from drunken travelers who boasted they could fight (or fought) a Jedi wielding such a weapon. Aerith easily dismissed such tales as boastful banter, the spacefarers just trying to attract a crowd for whatever reason they fancied at the time.

"Show some respect," an officer sitting next to her said suddenly, his stern gaze disgusted with her obvious lack of consideration at the man who had just spoke.

Aerith snorted. "We're not going to see the Emperor in person, possibly ever again." And frankly, she added to herself spitefully, I don't see him making life better for the rest of my kind on Arkania so he doesn't deserve any applaud from me.
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Re: The Grand Ceremony

Post by Cidan Himmibi » 2011-03-15 20:42

“Hand me the alluvial dampers,” said Cidan, rolling out from underneath the twisted mesh of wires and gridwork of the YT’s inner workings. A few of the satellite rigs had shown a bit wonky on the sensor relay screens. The YT-2000 was all Cidan’s, it had been donated to him by Coronet University, where he’d donated lots of his time for research in his past. They had given it to him as a gift, with exploratory equipment modifications and all, and he’d christened it the University, in honor of their gift. On it, he had been supplied terrific, compact research toolkits, benches, desks, and a mini-lab that actually put the old one he'd had at the last place he'd professored at to shame.

However, some of the modifications had led to some problems, and Cidan found himself putting his hobby of repairing old shuttles to good use. Repairing old shuttles in garages was how he'd paid his way through school.

“Can we hurry up with this?” said Mesfer anxiously. “I wanna get outside and see everybody off.”

Cidan could hear the crowds outside as announcers pointed out the details to the various onlookers. There were also reporters out there, the whole deck was teeming with them, and they were just as excited to get a peek at the ships and the explorers that would occupy them as were the common folk.

“I want these problems seen to before we head out,” he said to his assistant.

“Cidan, if we don’t walk out there and see these people now, we may never see any of them ever again.”

“True. But you’d better get used to not seeing these people—the journalists, the excitable crowds—because the mission we’re on has its demands. I hope you realize that. If you can’t stand to be away from them right now,” he joked, standing up and wiping his greasy hands off with a fresh towel, “then I’d suggest you rethink your career choice.” Mesfer smirked, in a very Human gesture of sarcasm. A bit more seriously, Cidan said, “These sensors…they’re a bit a off in their relay. If they can’t scan accurately, then we could find problems if we suddenly come across a troubling ionosphere.”

Mesfer pulled out his holopad, and switched it on. “Speakin’ of letting go of the journalists…have you seen your interview?”

Cidan walked to the fresher to wash his face off, dried off, and got himself a new shirt from his small closet. He walked up beside Mesfer, who was already smiling and watching the vid. Cidan said, “Gods below, look at my face. And do I really sound like that?”

Mesfer grinned.

In the vid, the interviewer was asking saying, “…and so do you believe that you can expect to find signs of life out there?”

In the vid, Cidan shrugged, trying to look noncommittal. “I’d be surprised if we found no life at all,” he said. “Since what we’ve seen of our galaxy so far is absolutely teeming with it. But intelligent life, or at least life as intelligent as our own? It’s doubtful. After all, a Class 5 civilization would’ve collided with our own by now.”

“Explain that. What do you mean by ‘Class 5,’ doctor?”

“A Class 1 civilization is as primitive as it gets, it reaps none of the benefits and suffers none of the drawbacks of communication with any other civilization outside of it. A Class 2 is still primitive in technology, but it at least has an awareness that others live outside of them, somewhere on their planet. The scale goes all the way up to a Class 5, which is ours—no known power in the universe can destroy a Class 5 civilization because a Class 5 civ is a spacefaring race that has mastered the ability to terraform other worlds and leave dying suns behind.”

The reporter seemed to be only half listening, and had changed directions on Cidan, asking, “You wrote an essay on the studies of the Force, and you’ve said plenty of times in your HoloNet lectures you’re your primary reason for going with ICE is to see the extent of midi-chlorians in other life-forms outside of our known galaxy. Now, as far as I know, you’ve done the most work scientifically on studying the Force in the last ten years. Explain why that is.”

Cidan shrugged in the vid, and watching himself, Cidan winced at how casual and “un-scientist” he appeared to be. “Most physicists and scientists are more interested in the motions of large and small bodies in the cosmos, or else trying to develop cheaper, cleaner energy sources, or developing faster and smarter droid brains, or else trying to use their intellect to help out large cities with their expansion by helping them to integrate newer technologies—and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he made sure to add quickly. “Absolutely nothing. I, however, am more interested in fields that I feel haven’t been adequately studied. We’ve heard a great deal about midi-chlorians, but what are they? We know they’re isomorphic, but that’s about it. The most research ever done on them was to determine the relationship with convergent evolution, and that was done by researchers on Vjun many decades ago and that was only because midi-chlorian counts were a mark of status, possessed by the most prestigious families. Nobles on Vjun conducted illegal experiments just to try and force Force-sensitivity into a child.”

“Weren’t there also experiments conducted by Jenna Zan Arbor?” the reported asked him.

“Yes,” Cidan had told her, glancing down at his chrono to see how much time was left. He remembered feeling anxious during the interview, knowing that he still had a lot to do before sailing off for parts unknown. “She’s undoubtedly the one whose research is most cited when discussing the Force in academia. But she only did as much as she could do at the time, and developed the so-called Force Detector, an item that ancient Sith were actually able to produce as well in their DRK-1 Dark Eye probe droid.

"Frankly, though, we in the scientific community, as well as Force-users themselves, remain mostly in the dark about the nature of the midi-chlorians. It surprises me that so few researchers have wanted to know about the nature of midi-chlorians; they seem to favor detecting it over understanding it. ” He’d shrugged. “I’d like to come to a greater understanding, and I think we can if we see how life evolves elsewhere—for example, can life evolve without midi-chlorians? It would be very exciting if the answer is yes. If so, what would that life look like?”

Presently, Cidan sighed and shook his head. “Turn that off,” he said. “Let’s check the spectrometer’s circuits again.”

“But we already checked them, Cidan!”

“Hey, who’s the assistant here and who’s the doctor?” He jutted a thumb towards the main circuitry panel.
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Re: The Grand Ceremony

Post by Cale-Wan Calad » 2011-03-18 05:38

Cale knelt to inspect the couplings. Beside him, both the droid running the scanner and the human engineer double-checking the droid’s findings stood quietly, waiting for his assessment. Cale sensed nervousness from them, even from the droid, its programming no doubt forcing it to do its own double-checking to meet with the moff’s high standards. “Give me the readings on the molecular furnace, please,” he said.

“Spectroscopy is functioning properly,” said the engineer. “And discrete energy level readings all show green, sir.”

“The whole range of spectroscopic analysis? Spectrometer Main, Spectrophotometer Main, Spectrograph Main? All of them?”

“Yes sir, Moff Calad. All gauges are signing in with ICE’s brain at one hundred percent.”

“No more nitrogen dioxide decay in the channelers?”

“None, sir.”

“EPR?”

“Electron paramagnetic resonance also scans fine, sir.”

Cale nodded. “What about polyatomic gauges?”

“Reading all anions and cations just fine, sir.”

He patted the generators, each of which controlled an important and powerful section of the World Devastator. Cale stood up, and said to the droid behind him, “Interface with the central computer, make sure that the monatomic problems we had earlier were taken care of.” The droid moved ahead of him and wordlessly obeyed, using a jack that extruded from its chest to interface with the droid brain of the World Devastator.

While the droid checked, Cale took a couple of steps back and took an appreciative look at the operator control panel. Once ICE was officially launched, very few people would ever actually have to set foot down here—the droid brain, and the various worker droids walking all around them, would be the only maintenance staff required for the most part. So he marveled at what an achievement the structure was.

The droid currently interfacing with the Devastator’s droid brain was a specially manufactured model called the M7-8-Nj, an “interface droid” known ubiquitously as “Enjay” and sometimes as “Liaison” amongst those who dealt with it on a regular basis. The droid was programmed with a tremendous amount of maintenance knowledge as well as knowledge of the sections of the ship it helped to oversee. The Enjay droids were just one of many, many fail-safes put into place to guarantee high operational integrity of ICE that would be carrying them across the universe.

“All is well, Moff Calad,” said Enjay. “Monatomic readings are exactly as they should be.”

Again, he nodded. Moff Cale-Wan Calad had spent the last week going over every aspect of the WD. Yesterday it had been the astrogation computers, the day before that it had been the launch bays, the day before that it had been the sublight thrusters. And today, it was the molecular furnace, the gargantuan device responsible for breaking materials down to their basest molecular level, altering them so that they would be me malleable, more susceptible to change, thus transforming them through the WD’s manufacturing factories. All of these things were entrusted to the droid brain for the most part, but even an advanced droid brain could get things wrong from time to time, typically through a programming error that was the fault of a sentient, but still, it happened.

“Well, my friend,” he sighed, looking at the engineer. “I suppose we can attend the ceremony, after all. Or, at least, you can.”

“You’re not coming, sir?”

The moff shook his head. “Too much to do here, but nothing I need you for,” he said, looking over his shoulder at the Liaison droid. “Enjay can help me out with everything else, including the minor plumbing problem in the fresher in my room. I don’t think I need an extra set of eyes for that.”

The engineer smiled. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Do you want me to bring you back anything? Souvenirs? Food? This is the last time you’ll get anything from galactic civilization ever again…” he offered.

Cale smirked and said, “I’ve already said all my goodbyes. Now, go and see off whatever girlfriend whose heart you’re breaking.”

The engineer winked, and saluted once, then turned and left.

Cale stood there for a moment, alone with his thoughts, looking at the primary readout screens for the molecular furnace. He thought for a moment about the farm he grew up on, his mother and his father and the work they did for him to teach him integrity, and how their deaths had come at a time that left him with a great deal of land and money to use to buy his way into a terrific education, and the Galactic Civil War had ended at just the right moment so that it could change his focus more so. Then, nine years later, the ESD Nemesis had returned and changed everything.

Everything.

Now, because of all those coincidences, Cale had ended up here, standing in a position to help command the single largest exploration campaign ever undertaken. Here he was, standing at the other side of the dreams he’d had as a child, wishing to be joined with the stars, hoping to touch alien worlds that no others had ever seen.

In a way, it was a relief for him. There were almost no more frontiers left to blaze in this galaxy, and what frontiers they were were more like philosophical ones. Cale-Wan Calad wasn’t much one for philosophy. He was a straightforward kind of man, who wanted to see physical barriers broken down, just as he’d yearned to leave the farmhouse as a boy and yet couldn’t allow himself to entertain the notion that it might even be possible.

Yet here we are, he thought. Hours away from one of the most momentous moments in galactic history. We will be a part of the answer to that old question: Are we alone in the universe? Is our galaxy unique? Do others teem with life like ours, or it is a vast, cold, empty expanse? There was only one way to find out.

Behind him, Enjay reported, “Moff Calad, the Vicereine wishes to speak with you. She is moments away from giving her farewell speech, but requests that you wait in her quarters until she is able to confer with you.”

The Enjay droids were also good as assistants to high-ranking officials on ICE. Quick, efficient communication would be absolutely paramount for this endeavor, and the M7-8-Nj series had been designed just for that—superior communication between the sentient commanders of ICE, as well as the vast AI network streaming throughout it.

“Send her a message back,” Cale told Enjay. “I’ll be there.”

He turned and left the readout room.


* * *


Emperor Kane was giving his speech, commenting on the momentous occasion. Cale watched in via a holoprojector in the turbolift on the ride up to the Vicereine’s quarters. “…once a philosopher who said that we, the evolved sapient beings, are the universe’s attempt to know itself.” Cale smiled. He knew exactly which philosopher the Emperor was quoting, for that same philosopher had been a great hero to Cale in his time studying astrophysics. “If this is true, then it is imperative that we learn as much as we can, both for our own sake, and for hers…”

Cale couldn’t agree more. It made it feel both glad and sad, all at once, to hear Kane speak these words. He knew what he was doing was for the glory of the NIF—and who knew, maybe he would return here someday—and that the future of their galaxy was in the connections they made abroad. Cale was going to be a part of that, as was anyone else launching with ICE…only they would probably never live to see the full ramifications of their expedition.

Life itself means uncertainty to use all,” Emperor Kane went on. “But we who stand here today can unitedly say: it is worth it. The journey is about more than just to explore new lands. It is about exploring ourselves, to expand our knowledge, and to find those who would join us in our search for the ultimate answer to the question of life itself.” The Emperor raised his voice a degree, imbuing every word with just the right spectacular quality it needed. “I salute you who would brave the void, may the Force reflect upon you and give you what you have earned. As unto us all.”

Suddenly, Kane lit his lightsaber and slowly raised it in front of himself. Thunderous applause followed him to his seat, just as the next speaker was being summoned to the podium, Aklee Roosh, the Vicereine herself.
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Re: The Grand Ceremony

Post by Aklee » 2011-03-18 19:58

“Catri!” Aklee picked the sippy cup up off the small conference room floor. “You're almost a big girl now, try to act like it.”

“I am a big girl!” The five year old exclaimed with a big grin.

“Tell that to the sippy cup.” She ruffled her daughters hair.

Her son Zeak, now seven, just stood there in silence. He looked more like his father, with much lighter skin and almost brown hair. He was holding a model of ICE, no doubt given to him to by his father as a replacement for any real comfort for the absence of his mother. Zeak had an expressionless look on his face. Aklee just looked back at him, feeling the pressure of the strained silence that had long since come to characterize these visits. Catri just filled her mouth with her sippy cup, bounced a couple of times, then pretended to be fascinated by the muted holoprojector playing on the wall behind them. Catri was almost a clone of her mother, with the deep almond skin and deep black hair and eyes.

Her ex-husband, Torm, as waiting outside with his new wife Silara. The both of them had expected to be in the room too, but she'd said goodbye to Torm a long time ago. She'd ordered the guards to hold the two of them outside, perhaps the first abuse of her new power. Maybe she'd chide herself for that later, but when it came to her children all bets were off. The Vicereine demanded an empty room, and the people obeyed. To hell with what the son of a bitch and his tramp thought.

“Oh, Zeak,” she began, leaning forward in the hovering office chair to address her son with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. “They gave me certain naming rights on the ship. I had to share with the other VIPs, but they let me name main observation deck. Can you guess what I named it?”

“No,” he said softly, but she could see that he was holding back a smile.

“Rakkatan!” She clapped her hands together and watched the smile release across her boy's face. It was the name of his favorite action hero holovid. Really, she'd named it Zeak, but she knew he'd smile bigger this way. “Everytime I go up there to look at the stars, brand new stars that no one has ever seen before, I'll think of you.”

“What about me?” Catri demanded, again dropping her sippy cup.

“I named my quarters after you. The Catri suite. You'll be my home.”

Catri smiled and swayed back and forth a bit.

“Now stop dropping your cup!” Aklee pinched her daughters nose.

“What about Daddy?” Zeak's smile was already gone.

“What about Daddy?” Aklee raised her eyebrows.

“Did you name anything for him?” Her son knew it was a hot button, but he didn't like the idea of the divorce one bit.

“Aww, son, I couldn't name everything. It's not my ship. I was happy to just carry the two of you with me, in a way.”

Zeak didn't appear satisfied with that answer, but as usual Catri came to the rescue with a change of subject. “Will you call every day?”

“We talked about this sweetie. It'll take a really long time for our faces to reach each other. I'll record a message for you everyday, but you'll probably get a whole bunch all at once every so often.”

“I'll talk to you everyday Mommy!” Catri wrapped her tiny arms around Aklee's waist, not really phrasing what she meant quite right.

Aklee embraced her daughter. “It'll mean a lot to me if you do, as often as we can receive communications.” Just then her chrono chimed. She knew she didn't have much time left. The kids didn't need to be told either. Zeak's usual straight face slowly contorted to tears. Of course, as soon as he started crying Catri always did too. Aklee pulled both her children into a hug with each arm. Even she teared up a bit. “I'll miss you both so much.”

“Don't go!” Zeak pleaded.

“Zeak...” She kissed the top of his head, and then Catri's. She couldn't find any appropriate words, so she just squeezed them. “You both be good,” she said finally.

“We will!” Catri announced with a cracked voice, trying to stay positive.

“Zeak, you take care of your sister.” She pulled back from her son.

“Okay.” His eyes were red, but otherwise he'd calmed himself down as usual.

Aklee smiled at them as she wiped her cheek clean. “I love you both very much.”

* * *

Any employee of Kessel Transportation could vouch for Aklee's dislike of motivational speeches. Maybe it was the last fading ember of military in her, or maybe the years of drifting in the face of a quiet and forgotten death. It just made words hollow. In the void, only actions mattered. Those who couldn't self motivate always committed suicide, no matter how stirring their leader's attempts to lift spirits.

Ace used to be the same way. But then he became an Emperor. It seemed like his face dominated the holonet these days, with his show wife at his side. Not that she blamed him. Circumstance and environment had their ways of changing people. As she stood before the crowd of a million, with a fleet of holocameras trained on her face, she hesitated just a moment to reflect on how this new journey might change her. Her and all the men and women coming with her.

No doubt the pause was noted. The cheering came to an abrupt stop, and in the critical moment when she was expected to open her mouth, for a half a beat too long she just stared and let them all sit in an uncomfortable silence. She tried to find a familiar face staring back, but found none. Then, just like in front of the mirror several hours ago, she began.

“It would be too easy to regale you all with allusions to the rise of the New Empire, and all the struggles we've all faced together to bring us to this new challenge. However, that would be dishonest. Amongst the crew on this journey are sapient species as diverse as the distant worlds they hail from. The publicized dossiers list us all as New Imperial citizens, but none of us were born as such. Amongst us we have former Republic citizens, indeed, soldiers of the Alliance. Many of us, myself included, were Imperial long before the historic Nemesis Project. Others still come from independent worlds the galaxy over. In the face of some of the bloodiest battles our fledgling nation has ever known, we endeavor to take the most unifying step any denizen of this galaxy ever has. It is my hope that history will remember today not as an Imperial moment, but rather as a galactic one; and it is my great honor to serve the brave volunteers of this expedition, and represent the great people of this galaxy regardless of their nationality or ideology. Thank you.”

Naturally the pundits would be mincing her words in a matter of minutes in the post ceremony analysis programs. A few of her older critics would probably indirectly allude to her speech as treasonous during a time of open conflict and war. But the crowd before her at least seemed to genuinely resonate with her message. All of them were exhausted with all the fighting. Perhaps the galaxy was ready for a step like this. Indeed, perhaps that was why it was happening at all. The notion brought a smile to her lips. She bowed her head and retreated from the podium.

Her speech had been expected to be the center piece of the ceremony, and indeed the Empire had supplied a speech writer. He was good, of that she had no doubt. But she had respectfully declined and written her own. She felt the Emperor's eyes on her as she stepped back towards the sanctuary of her seat, but then she'd never been able to read Ace very well, even when he was just a pilot. Hopefully he was still a man about results rather than show. Either way, she flashed a soft smile his way before taking her seat, but couldn't help but notice a veiled look of judgment from the Empress.

Before long the VIP boarding procession began. The majority of the crew would be boarded over the next two hours, but as with everything else they were making a big production of all the big names boarding first. She intended to spend the wait time celebrating with the Moff Calad and going over some of the plans for the first few weeks of the voyage. All the journalist grabbed their cameramen as the Emperor himself once again took to his feet to bear the Vicereine farewell. She rose and took his hand for a shake, only to be surprised as he lifted it to gently kiss it. “May the force be with you,” he said.

Aklee's lipstick shimmered under the light of the holocams, accentuating her typically softly curved smile. “And with you as well.”

Next she took the hand of the Empress who planted a kiss on both of her cheeks. While still hovering near her ear the Empress Ederlaath whispered, “I picked that writer for a reason.” When her majesty withdrew, she wore the perfect smile. Of course Aklee smiled back, a little wider than usual.

* * *

The doors to the Catri suite whooshed open to reveal a grand sight, though she had seen it all once already. It opened to a greeting space as large as her office back at KT, with a very comfortable looking sofa with a matching love seat and arm chair all facing a large holoprojection terminal. Quality fake plants and modern lighting fixtures adorned the living space in a style akin to how she had decorated her office building. A small door off to the right side of the room lead to a personal kitchen and separate dining area, and to the left another door lead to a sleeping area with another smaller holoprojection terminal, a desktop data terminal, and a large bed. But the best part of her new accommodation was the door directly across the room, leading to her own small observation dome over looking from the top of the starboard living quarters.

Cale was waiting for her as she had asked, presently leaning against the sofa. But he stood to his full height as soon as she stepped inside.

“Moff,” she said with out missing a stride on her way into the small kitchen.

“Vicereine,” he responded in kind.

“Ah ha! The fruits of power.” She called back after checking the icebox. “I hope you're a drinking man Cale.” Aklee stepped back into the living area with two glasses and a bottle of Firedancer in hand. She nodded towards the small observation dome. “Come on, it's not every day you say goodbye to the galaxy as we know it. And they were kind enough to give us private seats.”

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Cale-Wan Calad
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Re: The Grand Ceremony

Post by Cale-Wan Calad » 2011-03-20 02:29

Beckoned by the Vicereine to a seat within the empty observation room, Cale obeyed. His personal mini-datapad hummed—he’d set it to vibrate—and when he checked it he saw a text message waiting on him. It was a message from the University of Charmath. A number of the university’s high-IQ society had created a page for Cale on the HoloNet, and almost every day sent him updates on all of their group meetings, which discussed ICE and all of its implications. He’d been a guest speaker a year ago once he’d been made Moff, just a few days after he’d had the conversation with Admiral Pellaeon in his room on Bilbringi VII.

The view out the observation deck revealed a vast open arena. The vast asteroid and minefield that stretched throughout Bilbringi lay before them, and light that emanated from a distant star blended with light that resonated from the vast shipyards and splashed across the various shuttles moving about to see to the very last details on every single one of the ships coming along with ICE.

Cale and Aklee stood inside the World Devastator looking on the system. From this vantage point, they could see the main asteroid itself, Bilibringi VII, and it seemed to sitting in a beam of light, as if there was some special significance to this gigantic lump of rock. But it was just an accident of optics and geometry, the light refracted from the multiple light sources splashing against the transparisteel window and creating the illusions.

From the holoprojector in the corner, the farewell celebration could be seen happening live. The volume had been lowered, the scene of all the excitement had been taken down to a level barely audible, and within the observation room there was little hint that anything exceptional was happening.

“Consider that rock,” said Aklee.

Cale glanced sidelong at her. Over the last year, he’d gotten to know the Vicereine rather well. She’d been entrusted with maintaining the order of ICE, in conjunction with the expedition’s military captain, of course. “Consider it, ma’am?”

“Yes, and while you’re at it, consider the stars all around us. Almost all of them are lights emanating from objects within this galaxy.” The Vicereine sighed. “That’s us, you know. Every bit of it. That’s our galaxy. In it, everyone you love, everyone you hate, everyone you know, every person you’ve ever heard of, every person who ever was, lived out their lives here.”

Cale nodded. “You’re right. Every young couple in love. Every supreme leader. Every mother and father. Every inventor and explorer. Every corrupt politician and teacher of morals in the history of our species.” He smiled. “You’re quoting the same philosopher that Emperor Kane did in his speech,” he said.

“He was right, you know.”

“I know that. You know that. But how many others know that?”

There was a long, pregnant pause while Aklee looked into her wineglass. “We’re leaving this place behind, and it there has been…rivers of blood spilled, so that one man or group of people could become the momentary masters of a single galaxy.” She shook her head. “Not too long before all that, all of our ancestors didn’t even know there was a greater galactic community. Hyperdrives were invented, and one by one, we were able to visit one another and establish relations, and over time there came more conquerors, more death, more xenophobia, and now we have a galaxywide awareness that we are not alone.”

Cale took a sip of his own wine, and set the glass down on a table where a server droid rolled up to put a coaster underneath it. “Now you’re wondering what we may find out there, huh?” he said. “More rivers of blood, you think?”

“Maybe,” she said, sighing. “Just the way it’s always been when two cultures first meet.”

“We’ve got the military with us for that sort of thing,” he said. Then, he acknowledged, “But I understand what you mean, ma’am. What good are intergalactic relationships if we have to talk to our new ‘friends’ with all of our guns pointed at each other?”

Aklee shrugged. “That…and other things.” She took a sip of her wine and looked out the window. Cale followed her gaze, watching a Star Destroyer hit lightspeed after some of its personnel had attended the ceremony in the wake of all their efforts to help ICE get off the ground.

Cale decided to change topics. “You’re leaving family behind. That must be tough, huh?”

“I’d rather not talk about that right now, Cale. If that’s okay?”

He nodded. “Sure.”

An Assassin-class corvette was moving into position. It was the ship known as Frost, taking up its position around their World Devastator. It was the same position that the corvettes had been rehearsing for the past year.

Very soon now, he thought. The fleet is taking up formation, and eventually the penultimate moment will be upon us. The final look at our galaxy as it is. Our final part will have been played in the goings-on of the ongoing struggles for peace, and our concerns will no longer be those of the Galactic Community. We’ll have trials and tribulations of our own, no doubt.

The thought made Cale very briefly reconsider his decision. He’d known this would happen, that sudden last gasp of his spirit that felt like it needed to remain near the familiar. But it was immediately quashed by the titanic force of his need to leave this all behind. Cale had had doubts about ICE at the beginning, but they were so miniscule now that they barely required recognition. Stewjon, his homeworld, would very soon be a distant memory, as distant as he would be to it in proximity. His life would be one of constant journeying, constant discovery, and as trepidacious as he was, he was excited to get on with it.

Let the Sith and Jedi have this galaxy, he thought. And gods, let us find one where the Force doesn’t hold sway, where the great historical moments are not defined by war, but by discoveries and enlightenments. Cale watched as one of the other corvettes, Snowflake, took up its position outside, as well.

He held up his wineglass to the Vicereine. “To us,” he said suddenly into the silence that had taken up root between them. “And to ICE.”

Aklee looked at him, smiled, and clinked glasses with him. She took a sip, watched the last of the fueling and maintenance shuttles detach and fly off. The ceremonies were still going on strong on the holoprojector, and there was a great amount of noise coming from the hallway outside. This particular observation area wouldn’t be used frequently, but the hallways outside led to a variety of communications rooms—the crew were taking up their official positions after receiving their last briefing and taking final pictures for the history books.

The Vicereine looked at him. “Well Cale, very soon now the captain will be calling me to verify our destination, and get final authorization on our trajectory. We launch soon. For the Federation, and for the stars. Anything you want to do before we leave this galaxy? It’ll be your last chance.”

Cale thought for a moment. “I suppose it’s too late to strip myself naked live on the HoloNet?” He smiled. “Give them a lasting impression of me?”

She chuckled. Humor was good. They were going to do need it on the long, long road ahead of them.
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Re: The Grand Ceremony

Post by Aklee » 2011-03-20 11:01

“So that’s why you hung me out to dry up there all by myself? To spare us your porn show?”

“I look ridiculous when I blush.”

Aklee winked over at him before plopping down in one of the very comfortable chairs. “Then it’s a good thing you missed all the tabloids.”

Silence fell between them for a few moments, but it wasn’t an awkward guest. For that she felt relief. Nothing but silence waited for them in the coming years, interrupted perhaps by brief moments of excitement. In a way, she’d be perfectly satisfied if nothing exciting ever happened to her again. Vast new civilizations and revolutionary new scientific discoveries could wait. In all likelihood, this would be a long, insular, and quiet ride. At least, that was why she signed up.

“Ugh.” She grunted, taking a sip of her wine with a thin scowl.

“No good?” Cale raised an eyebrow, and perhaps by reflex lifted his own glass to his nose.

“No, it’s fine. I just keep second guessing this whole thing. I keep trying to think of it as a really long business trip on a luxury liner. At least the accommodations fit the fantasy.”

“That’ll pass,” Cale remained standing, leaning against the rail and looking out the massive viewport to the boisterous station below. A long line of crew was still filing along the ramp, and though none of it could be heard from here they both felt the magnitude of the crowd below. “Just as soon as the business part starts, it’ll pass.”

“Yeah,” she sipped the firedancer again. “All the more reason to get started immediately I say, I don’t plan to give them time to get complacent or even used to their new lives. I’ll need you playing good cop.”

Cale glanced back at his seated colleague. “Well what do you plan to do? Lock up the rum, double swab duty, and space every tenth man?”

Aklee looked at him for half a beat before answering. “Back when we were just starting up KT, when the New Empire was just starting to really take off, the SCO tossed us some really incredible government contracts.”

“I remember the Chrono’s article on it. Voyqes roused quite the rabble over that.” Cale turned around completely, leaning back on the rail with his elbows. The lights from the celebration behind him cast deep shadows under his prominent brow.

“He couldn’t touch us. We were on top of the galaxy. Sure we had to borrow on the vessels to handle the order, but they returned on the investment fast, and we all knew it too. We even over ordered by at least twenty five percent in anticipation of expansion. The instant we slipped out of the red for good, how long was it?” She looked at the stars for a moment. “Four months? Five months? Anyway, it was faster than anyone expected. The first thing I did after signing the final payment was call a board meeting. I had half our new fleet donated to that independent charity association, MERCET, doubling the load on the remaining ships. Our investors were dry by then, and were all expecting to fatten up on their shares alone. When all my executives’ jaws were rattling about their ankles, I gave them the floor.”

“Really?” Cale tipped his head to an angle. Aklee made sure this story didn’t get publicized, so not many people heard of this one.

“Yep, it was either work our people to death and keep the profits, albeit with no room for growth; or tighten the belt for another year or so at least and rebuild the infrastructure in a desperate attempt to keep up with the rapidly expanding Imperial market. Needless to say, no one above or including middle management got a holiday bonus in that first year. We just couldn’t afford it.”

“I take it they bought new ships?”

“Of course.” Aklee stood up and came to the rail next to him. “I would have canned their asses otherwise, and I’m pretty sure they knew it. The decision-making wasn’t the point.”

“You just wanted them to sweat a bit, eh?” Cale turned again towards the station, but kept his eyes on the Vicereine.

“Yeah. If we were going to be hugely successful just because I served with the damn SCO and future Emperor, then I wanted everyone to feel the desperation and uncertainty that would see us through if we ever had to make it alone.”

“So should I just turn my hide in now, or do you prefer the thrill of the hunt?” Cale winked.

“Like I said, I need you playing good cop. It’s the rank and file I’m after. All the speeches were touching and cajoling, but this many people won’t be a team until they’re forged in a real fire. I’d rather be done with all that before we run low on food for the first time. Or force forgiving maybe we’ll actually find another civilization out there. Enough about that though. We’ll tackle that at the meeting in the morning.”

Cale chuckled. “I can hardly wait.”

Another silence fell between them. Aklee watched through the large station viewports as young women tossed arms around young men, giving them one last anonymous kiss before disappearing into the massive ICE hull. These exchanges even crossed species lines, but it all happened just slightly too far away to enjoy the bewildered but excited expressions on the young explorer’s faces.

“Zeak still blames me,” she frowned. Cale just nodded in silence, probably not knowing how to test the waters on the very topic she deflected just moments ago. He was well aware of her family problems, but mostly from her dossier and what the media had publicized about a year ago. They never really spoke on it much. Up until now everything had been professional and all business between the two. Only in the weeks leading up to the launch had she started to open up more bit by bit. The closer this day came, the more she realized that she’d need a friend going into this. “…and it won’t be long before Catri does too, whether I leave or not.”

“They’re young. By the time you’re in their textbooks in highschool, they’ll be bragging on you.”

“That’s sweet of you to say.” She gave him a small smile. “I know, it’s a rough topic and there’s nothing you could be expected to say about it. But there it is. Right there.” She pointed to an empty patch of space somewhere just outside the viewport. “I’m putting it out there so I can watch it drift away behind me. I’d rather not carry that kind of baggage along for this. I guess having a witness helps prop the metaphor up.”

Cale gave her a meaningful look in return. “They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. But when that doesn’t work I’ll have your back.” He tipped his glass up in a quick motion. “At least as long as your supply lasts anyway.”

Aklee grinned. “Well, my ass is hanging out there again. What about you? Anything you need to leave behind? Speak now or forever hold your pees.” Her crude pun was intended.

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Re: The Grand Ceremony

Post by Cale-Wan Calad » 2011-03-20 23:06

“Everything,” he said. “I’m leaving behind everything.”

The Vicereine gave him a highly skeptical look, smiling. “Oh, really? Just like that?”

“Just like that,” he said.

“Do tell. How do you do it?”

Cale took a sip of his wine, set it down. “It’s not all that hard for me, cutting ties. Never has been, really. Well, maybe when I was a kid, but…my mother and father passed away relatively close to one another timeline-wise. Even before that, I didn’t want to be there on the farm, I wanted to go out and explore every hill, horizon, star, planet and asteroid belt. Hell, I love being out here, away from it all,” he chuckled. “Everything we see, everything we do, it’ll be brand new. No one will have ever seen it before. That excites me, keeps me going, eager to see what’s over the next horizon.”

“And what if we journey for fifty years? Let’s say you stay alive that long, and in all that time we never encounter any other life-forms, nothing exceptional, nothing more than what we’ve already got in this galaxy here?” the Vicereine asked. “Will it have been worth it, in your opinion?”

Cale shrugged. “Why not? If we find that we’re mostly alone, then at least we were the ones who knew it. And I’m sure we’ll colonize planets as we go along,” he said. “That is part of our directive, after all. We’ll make new homes, new worlds, new horizons. And then, we won’t be alone in the cosmos anymore. Eventually, the universe will be populated by us. Think of it. A vast, intergalactic community, a universe teeming with life. It would change the entire context of looking out at the stars—instead of trepidation or uncertainty, you would feel neighborly towards them all.”

Aklee nodded. “A bold vision,” she granted. “Something even larger than the dreams of our ancestors when they thought about a galactic neighborhood.” She nodded. “I can appreciate that. But you’re sure you won’t miss anything about this place once we’re gone?”

“Let me put it this way, I’ll miss certain things about as much as I miss my mother’s cooking,” he said. “It was nice while it lasted, but it’s gone now and it’s never coming back, no matter how badly I want it to. It’s just not. And you know what? It shouldn’t come back. It's the past.”

“Is that bitterness I detect?” she challenged playfully.

“Not at all, ma’am. Not at all. I’m not much one for nostalgia, that’s all. I knew that as soon as I left school. There’s this one time I remember,” he said, thinking back, “when I ran into some old buddies of mine from school. This must’ve been, oh, three or four years after graduation. They were at a diner, and invited me over to sit with them. We chatted, and over the course of about 15 minutes, they talked about where they were these days—one of them was divorced with a kid, and the other was engaged and on his way to marriage—but after they established that, all they could do was talk about things we’d all done in the past. Saying things like, ‘Hey, remember when we did this or that?’ It went on uncomfortably long for me, and honestly I felt they were really pitiable people, trapped in the past.

“In my opinion, that’s most people. Always looking back, never looking forward. The one friend who’d divorced and had a kid, he never even told me what her name was, or what he was most proud of at the time about his child, or what he was looking forward to in the future. Likewise, the friend who was getting married never even told me his fiancée’s name, nor what she looked like, nor even where he met her or what their plans were together. Instead, all they could do was reminisce about the good old days.

“I’ve encountered people since then who say, ‘Oh, yeah, I hate it when people do that. I hate when people reminisce about glory days.’ Many times, those are the worst ones to do it, if you hang around them long enough. They’re locked in those glory days, can’t ever escape, and never, ever dream big.” Cale shrugged. “Frankly, I’ve come to think of those people as parasitic; they don’t actually offer you anything in the way of friendship, but they leach off of you for sympathy, for your approval of their past, their upbringing, their past accomplishments, and forget to blaze a trail towards their future to establish new avenues of thought, new accomplishments.” He looked at her. “What?”

The Vicereine was giving him a look. “Nothing,” she said. “But I think…I think they picked the right Moff for this job.”

“Well, since you’re handing out compliments, have some of my own,” he chuckled. “They picked a fine Vicereine in you, ma’am. You’ll do fine. Better than fine, you’ll blaze a trail. Think of all the mothers and fathers in the past that had to leave their children behind in order to explore just this galaxy,” he said, waving his hand out at the space around them. “Think of all they went through. Probably no different than what you’re feeling now. Many of them went on long exploratory missions just like ours, with primitive hyperdrives, some of them never to return, probably lost in hyperspace forever. They knew that was the risk when they took it. They never came back, and you know what?” He stomped his right foot twice. “We’re all still here. We made it this far because of their endeavors.”

“And now it’s our turn, right?” she said. “To blaze this trail?”

“Absolutely,” Cale said. There was a twitter at his side, and he checked it. He looked at Aklee and said, “That’s the staff and faculty of the University of Drev’starn, wishing me a safe venture. Awfully big of the Bothans, especially considering today’s climate.”

The Vicereine looked down at the fueling shuttles as they scuttled away, finishing their preparations. “Speaking of that,” she said, “how do you feel about leaving all of that behind? You said the past is prologue, essentially, but what about the galaxy’s current problems, and its own future?” she asked. “How do you feel about not being a part of that anymore?”

“I don’t,” he said. “Because, like I said before, we are a part of that. After all, the galaxy’s going to need to repopulate, branch out, expand, if we’re going to survive the galaxy’s imminent death.”

She nodded. “But in your profile, it shows that you were never the most…loyal to the Federation. You switched sides easily, and happenstance kept placing you in Imperial hands, them essentially using your talents under threat of force. You were a conscript, yet here you are, on a major, major endeavor for the NIF.”

Cale looked at her, and smiled. “Are you suggesting I have ulterior motives for being here, Vicereine?”

“Just wondering why the NIF? Why stay loyal to the Federation when it only ever…?” But she didn’t seem to know how to finish the sentence.

“What, bully me around?”

Aklee said, “Yes.”

He rubbed at the two-day stubble growing on his face, thinking. How much to tell her? “The way I look at it is this: what does it matter who sends me on this mission? I want to see the stars, ma’am. To do it, I need a lot of ships with supplies and people willing to go with me.” He splayed his hands open, embracing her and all of ICE with it. “I’ve found them, haven’t I?”
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Re: The Grand Ceremony

Post by Aklee » 2011-03-21 12:06

“I’m not convinced you fully understand, Moff.” Just like that her business face was back on. “Yes, you did find ship and crew on the same mission, but don’t let the size of this fleet and World Devastator fool you. When the Nemesis was lost in space we were running with a less than optimal crew size, but even with a full compliment ICE carries tens of thousands of more people than the Imperial flagship. At a guess, I couldn’t precisely compare the living space between the two ships, but the Nemesis is over twice the length. Sure ICE is taller and fatter, but consider the percentage of that space that is devoted entirely to its function as a World Devastator. When compared directly to our time afloat for nine years, I’m more than comfortable in claiming that the three hundred thousand plus people you and I are now responsible for are more tightly packed than we were back in the day.”

Cale nodded in silence, the expression on his face noting his recognition of the shift in tone.

“In nine years I had twelve members of my wing commit suicide. That's just over fifteen percent of the entire unit. Seven more would have over qualified for a modern section eight. But we couldn’t send them home. All we could do was lock them up and stop them from harming themselves or others. Those of us that kept our lives and our sanity did so for a variety of reasons, but by far the overwhelming factor was the sense of community. Imperial pride. I’m sure you were shown my dossier as I was shown yours. You know of all the intergalactic and independent charities and foundations I’ve supported through KT. You know my politics diverge from the Emperor and our Imperial tendency to exert order through direct control.

“Yet I was there for Clak’dor Seven,” Aklee went on, “and so were you. We founded our Empire after that battle over the corpses of your militia. My wing flew in that fight, and at the time I did everything I could to kill every rebel I could squeeze into my firing zone. We still called them rebels at the time, can you believe that? I personally accrued four verified kills and assisted three others. Later I took a shot of firedancer for each one. All of the pilots were doing that at the time, honoring kills before honoring your unit’s losses. It’s why we took hold in the galaxy so fast and with such ferocity. We burned with a pride forged in a bond unlike anything I’ve seen before or since. Sure, ICE has a token Republic and Independent population, but this an Imperial ship. Technically, our FCO falls under normal chain of command beneath the Emperor himself as acting First Fleet commander. You and I got shoved into the equation simply because of the distances involved.

“You are surrounded by your usurpers, and you can expect insular thinking to run amok, and worsen as time goes on. And despite my own history of non-Imperial philanthropy, I’m not entirely convinced this inevitability is a bad thing. We’re going to spend a whole lot more time staring at grey bulkhead than we are at new stars. We’ll see a whole lot more of one another before we ever seen dazzling new species. If we can’t unite as a community, then this whole thing is an exercise in futility.”

Cale seemed to carefully consider her words before responding. “I think you’re miscalculating one important difference. ICE isn’t lost. We aren’t hoping to go back. We’re all here to go forward.”

Aklee nodded as she bought a couple seconds of time with a sip of her drink. “That’s true, and I’ve considered that. I don’t expect the suicides to be as bad, at least not at first. As time goes on it’ll depend more on what we find. I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but there’s a reason they picked a Nemesis survivor to head this up.”

“Not at all. I for one feel greatly reassured that someone with your experience is in charge. But I think there’s more to it than just your history on the Nemesis.” Cale turned to look out and up at the stars.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I don’t think it’s inconsequential that you do have a history of non-Imperial philanthropy, nor my own history with the rebel alliance and Republic. The Emperor remembers those old days too. He knows just as well as you what effects isolation have on a crew’s psychology. I think he put people like us in charge to help curtail insular thinking, to help keep the greater goals in sight.”

Aklee looked at Cale long and hard, even as he still glared out into the void with a look of anticipation and hope. Her classified orders ran through her mind, a thought that prompted her to down the remainder of her glass in one hard gulp. It burned the back of her throat, contorting her face for a second or two. She loved that sensation. Good old firedancers always hit the spot. “You’re right,” she said, not entirely believing it. “Thank you for coming along, Cale. Really. We’ll need people like you, and sooner than you think.”

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