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Supreme Leader Xaanan
Dec 25th, 2015, 05:35:03 PM
Supreme Leader's Flagship - Near the Hapes Cluster

It was one of the great disappointments of the cosmos: that the luminescent gases of nebulae like the Transitory Mists beyond the Supreme Leader's viewport did not drift and swirl the way that one might have imagined. Intellectually, Xaanan understood why. Such phenomena spanned parsecs: the Hapes Cluster itself was vast enough to contain 63 inhabited systems, and several hundred other stars. Any variations in the motion of the energised particles surrounding it would be imperceptible at this distance. Even the discharges that made the Mists so treacherous were tiny pinpricks from this far away, so slight and subtle that one could never be sure if they were real, or merely the conjurings of a wishful mind. It was disheartening, though, the glowing cloud of gas hanging frozen in the sky, paralysed from the opportunity for evolution and progress.

So much of the galaxy was the same. Especially the politics. Explosions of causality made the promise of change, but on a vast scale everything advanced so slowly, the shockwaves crossing the lightyears at a soul destroying crawl. Sheev Palpatine had plunged the galaxy into the Clone Wars, using it as a fire to gradually forge himself into an Emperor, and his Republic into an Empire. Yet, despite all the promise of that diametric shift, progress had advanced at a glacial pace. Two decades had passed before the Senate had finally been eradicated, and it took only one decade more before the Alliance of Free Planets had revived it from the ashes. Even the Empire itself had not lasted, blurring together with the Alliance to form a New Republic like some elastic regression to the way that things had always been for countless millennia.

The leather on Xaanan's gloved, mechanical hand creaked as he idly clenched it into a fist. Where had the Empire gone wrong? Why had the order and efficiency it promised ultimately amounted to nothing? These were the questions that occupied his thoughts, each day more than before. To learn from the mistakes of the Empire, to avoid every error and circumvent every flaw, that was his ambition; his driving motivation. He would finish what so many had started: the vision of Valkorion, of Palpatine, of Callidus, and so many more would weave together with his own, and he would imprint it irrevocably on the face of the galaxy.

He felt a tug across his consciousness, familiarity brushing across the edges of his perceptions as the Knight and the Marshal approached. His two greatest allies. His two greatest assets. His hands clasped themselves loosely behind his back as he continued his vigil of the Mists, his mind reaching across the vastness of his dimply lit private chambers, triggering the mechanism of the doorway before either of his visitors had the chance.

Tarek Avesca
Dec 26th, 2015, 05:33:35 AM
The Knight was the first to arrive.

Garbed in his unmistakable black cloak, his hood hung heavy around his face. The robe shifted as he strode to the Supreme Leader's side, revealing glimpses of his dark leather armour, bound tight along the forearms and shins in the style of the Nightbrothers. The distant light of the Transitory Mists illuminated just enough skin beneath his cowl to reveal a mouth pressed in a thin, bloodless line.

For a moment, Tarek Avesca allowed his attention to stray to the expanse ahead of the flagship, white eyes narrowing. The glittering shroud that encircled the Hapes Cluster appeared to the naked eye as beautiful and esoteric as the Consortium itself. They marked a dizzyingly impenetrable border between that Cluster and the Galaxy at large, a boundary line that his father had made sure was indelible. Deep in the heart of the Consortium, Tarek's own sister was hailed as Chume, the Queen without equal. The reign of Beatrix Alastor had been key in his father's plans, providing the martial and political might necessary to begin the dismantling of the New Republic.

In the end, it would be Tarek himself who would truly realise the designs of Callidus.

His eyes shifted to the profile of Xanaan.

"You called upon me, Supreme Leader," he spoke, his voice cold and even.

Supreme Leader Xaanan
Dec 26th, 2015, 09:25:43 PM
Xaanan didn't move; a barely perceptible inclination of his head was the only acknowledgement he offered to Avesca's rhetorical statement. His eyes continued to stare out at the Mists, as if his gaze could somehow pierce the veil and see the fearsome navy that lurked within. The Hapans were a useful ally to the First Order. Their fondness for tradition and pageantry was not quite to Xaanan's taste, but it made them a structured and predictable people. The Supreme Leader relished predictable: known variables were the foundation of a sound strategy.

His attention shifted, everything but his eyes considering the young man beside him. Xaanan didn't need the familiar features on the boy's face to comprehend the traces of his father left in him. Xaanan had seen enough holomovies, and served beneath enough preening Imperials to understand that at moments like this he was expected to say something profound. Such was not Xaanan's way, however. Salem Ave had always been the master of words; Xaanan preferred to let his strategies and his actions speak for him.

"It will soon be time to advance our plans," he mused quietly, fingers from his remaining hand drumming idly against their prosthetic counterpart behind him. "Are you ready to begin completing your father's work?"

Xaanan had his own judgements in that regard; but how Avesca responded would speak volumes about how his studies were progressing.

Tarek Avesca
Dec 29th, 2015, 10:28:43 AM
It was a question that Tarek had contemplated many times before.

Since his first breath, every moment of his life had been directed towards a single purpose, by an unyielding hand. It did not matter that Callidus had been a distant figure, scarcely seen, shaping his son and heir from afar. He had sent Tarek away, to Dathomir, because that was where the boy had to go - because it was where Tarek would become the successor that his father deserved. Now, united with his father's old ally, Tarek could bring the full force of his training to bear against their enemies.

There was no place in his mind for doubt. He had to be ready.

"I am ready."

Supreme Leader Xaanan
Dec 30th, 2015, 09:14:45 PM
Xaanan could feel the confidence in that response: born of certainty, not arrogance. This wasn't someone who thought himself prepared for anything purely because their imagination was too insufficient to conceive a scenario for which they were not. This was someone who had earned their certainty; forged it and honed it through years of preparation, focus, and sacrifice. It didn't waver, or swagger: it simply was, because it needed to be.

It earned a rare, small smile from the Supreme Leader.

"Then we must hope," Xaanan replied, raising his voice enough so that it filled the room, conveying the words to the arriving Veers, "That the Star Marshal and his men are ready as well."

He tore his gaze away from the viewport, turning at a leisurely pace to look at his military commander, to whom Xaanan had deferred the responsibility of building and perfecting the First Order's nigh-perfect arsenal. Stormtroopers raised and reeducated to have unequalled skill and unwavering loyalty. Officers who knew no other home beyond the Star Destroyers on which they had trained for their entire remembered lives. Technologies created in secret facilities scattered across the Unknown Regions and Wild Space. The finest weapons; the finest ships; the finest soldiers to wield them.

"What say you, Veers? Is the First Order ready for war?"

Cortus Veers
Jan 1st, 2016, 01:09:42 PM
"We have the finest men and women in service throughout the galaxy."

Slowing to a stop alongside the Ren Knight, Star Marshal Cortus Veers clasped his gloved hands behind his back as he addressed the Supreme Leader.

"I'd wager one of our troops against five from the illegitimate Republic."

There was little braggadocio in Veers' claim, and he continued to explain the reality as he observed it.

"That being said, the Republic can field at least fifty for every one that we have. Before we go to war, we have to confront that fact. If we rely on a frontal campaign and attrition, we may gain many star sectors, but we will surely lose them once the Republic finds its resolve."

The Supreme Leader had shown that he wasn't infected by the arrogance and pride that had been the ruin of the Imperial Founders of before. He was a calculating leader, and Veers felt he could speak with some degree of candor if he arrived at the truth of the matter.

"My men on Entralla report that apart from our raiding sorties, we have twenty six new star destroyers awaiting your command. Another twelve are in construction. With a concerted attack from our strongholds in the colonies and the interior, a well-planned first strike could cripple the enemy's resolve before they can make the decision to strike back."

Supreme Leader Xaanan
Jan 2nd, 2016, 12:35:45 AM
Xaanan nodded quietly at the Star Marshal's words. This was why he had selected him, chosen Veers from among the cohorts of their Pentastar Alignment to lead the unified forces of the First Order. True, Cortus Veers carried a name with recognition and pedigree, and that was in itself a useful tool in manipulating the obedience of the Imperial masses. Xaanan put little weight behind such trappings though: it was the man beneath them that made the difference. Far too many of the Imperial Remnant regarded Palpatine's New Order with nostalgia and reverence. They worshipped at the altar that the Emperor had built for himself, and were blind to it's faults and it's flaws. The old Empire had believed it could become invulnerable by sheer force of will, and that hubris had blinded them to the many weaknesses they had crafted for themselves; weaknesses that the Rebel Alliance had exploited to victory, and that the Alliance of Free Planets had capitalised upon to drag the Empire into a sarlacc pit of peace.

Back in those days, Xaanan had been a weakness of his own special breed. To his mind, peace had been a close synonym of stability; close enough to justify the sacrifices needed to achieve it. He had seen order as something that all should aspire to equally, rather than something that needed to be imposed by the wise upon the naive, for their own good. The Force had chosen to rectify him of that misbelief, and so much the better. Xaanan had witnessed the way that the Force intended the galaxy to be, and through his First Order he would bring it to pass.

"A crippled Republic is insufficient."

There was no condescension in the Supreme Leader's tone, no dismissal of the suggestion that Veers raised, merely a respectful and considered counterpoint. He welcomed the insights of all his leaders; to quash them too swiftly would only inspire silence, and the reluctance to contribute. Xaanan had no use for silent and compliant advisors, and Veers' contributions and insights were far too valuable to sacrifice in such a way. Instead he chose his words carefully, deftly aiming his criticism away from the Star Marshal himself.

"Palpatine and Tarkin's greatest mistake was underestimating the structure of the galaxy's resolve. They believed that by destroying Alderaan, fear would undermine the populace, and they would crumble into obedience. Instead the populace shattered, and those fragments turned their sharpened edges upon the Empire. Practitioners of the dark side believe that they draw strength from fear, anger, and hate; what Palpatine and Tarkin failed to see is that rebellion and resistance draw their strengths from the very same thing."

He allowed that notion to settle for just a moment, glancing across at Avesca. Perhaps the analogy would not carry weight for Veers, but Xaanan hoped that it would resonate with the Knight. It was one of the lessons that Xaanan sought to learn from the mistakes of his predecessors. Emperor Palpatine and Lord Vader had invested so much effort into instilling fear in their enemies, never realising that they were inadvertently inspiring the very same strength that they themselves drew from fear. Xaanan's desire for the First Order was different. Fear was how you reacted to the possibility of danger, the possibility of harm. Xaanan strove to ensure that the First Order's victory was not a possibility to be feared: it needed to be a certainty, one that the galaxy would have no choice but to accept.

"I have no doubt that your men and your Destroyers could devastate the Republic leadership, and throw the galaxy into chaos and disarray. But with the Senate and government gone, the people will turn to the Resistance to lead them instead. For as long as people stand against us, the galaxy will cling to that faint shred of hope with vice-like strength. Just as we did with the Jedi Order, we must remove the Resistance as a hope for salvation. Only then will the galaxy's resolve truly be broken, and only then will our victory be assured."

Tarek Avesca
Jan 2nd, 2016, 05:03:35 AM
"We must not under-estimate them. They are not as complacent as the Jedi were."

The razing of Ossus had not been a one-sided conflict, there was no doubt of that - but there was no denying that the Jedi Order had been caught off-guard. The appearance of safety in their so-called Sanctuary had made the sudden assault by the Nightsisters and Nightbrothers of Dathomir all the more potent. There had been no anticipation or fear of its arrival, only the sudden, sharp realisaton that they had been betrayed. Such was the extent of his fathers deception.

The Resistance enjoyed no such illusion of stability. To truly eliminate their foe, the First Order would have to scour the corners of the Galaxy and flush out every potential hiding hole. Like bacteria, the Resistance would multiply if not.. cleansed.

Tarek turned near-white eyes to the Supreme Leader.

"Where shall we begin?"

Supreme Leader Xaanan
Jan 2nd, 2016, 06:42:35 AM
That was the critical question. Xaanan had tasked the Commandant of his Intelligence Corps with locating a priority target within the Resistance, but as yet the search had not yielded anything actionable. It was hardly surprising: enough veterans had survived from the glory days of the Rebel Alliance to pass on their aptitude for hidden bases and illusive formations. Even Darth Vader, with the finest resources the Empire could muster at his back, had been led on a chase across the stars for a decade, never finding the Alliance leadership swiftly enough to stop them from slipping through his fingers. It was not until Endor that the Empire had been able to strike a decisive blow, and even then the beheading of the Rebellion had not slowed it's progress. The price that the Empire had paid to spring that half-effective trap was too high; not a price Xaanan intended to pay himself.

Still, there were glimmers of wisdom in that strategy. The Alliance could not be found, and so drawing it out was the only logical reaction. Such a strategy might work here, if enacted correctly. But the First Order had no Death Star to bate the trap, and the Resistance lacked the Bothan resources that had made the discovery such a plausible part of the Emperor's deception. The First Order was not large enough for such a subterfuge; there was too little room for incompetence and disloyalty for anyone to believe that such information might slip out unnoticed. They would need to forgo subtlety in order to be noticed. It would have to be the New Republic that noticed, too; something that the Senate could easily ignore and dismiss, but that would filter through contacts and back channels to make it's way to the Resistance's ears.

Xaanan reached for a small control screen on his desk; a few keystrokes later, a holographic image of the galaxy emerged from a concealed projector, filling the air between the Supreme Leader and his deputies. A few manipulations further, and the display zoomed in on the northeast quadrant, and then further still. Auril Sector. Adega system. Ossus.

"We will send a scouting party to Ossus. Avesca will travel to the surface, and enter the ruins of the Jedi Sanctuary. The New Republic will have little concern for what we do on a dead world beyond their borders, but the Resistance will be watching, hoping for the slightest chance that the Jedi might somehow return."

The display shifted, panning out before sweeping across the galaxy to a more familiar region of the Mid Rim. Onderon and the Hapes Cluster burned red in proximity, but the world that the display highlighted was a short distance away: Ruusan. A thousand years ago, the final battles between the Army of Light and the Brotherhood of Darkness had been waged, bringing an end to the Republic's last great war before Darth Sidious and his apprentice had plunged the galaxy into the Clone Wars. The Ruusan Reformations that followed that last victory had reshaped the Republic into the final form that Palpatine had deconstructed; but while the name was familiar to all thanks to those changes, the world itself had been left abandoned, slowly fading into a forgotten monument to the Jedi and Sith who had perished there. The world was believed to have become a powerful nexus in the Force; but in this day and age, the Force was believed to be little more than mystical spiritualism. For all the New Republic would care, the First Order would be visiting a grave. The Resistance, on the other hand?

"From Ossus, you will travel to Ruusan, leaving behind only minimal forces to defend the Sanctuary ruins. Veers will redistribute forces to join you at Ruusan: from the Alignment, from Kuat, from Hapes; the more points of origin, the better. We will make it seem as if Avesca's discovery on Ossus has led us there, and that we are making every effort to defend it. The Republic will be mildly interested, but they will be reluctant to confront us so close to Onderon and the Cluster. The Resistance, on the other hand?"

A small, mirthless smile tightened Xaanan's lips. "Once you have the system secure, you will send for me. The Resistance will not be able to pass up the opportunity to strike at the Supreme Leader while he is out in the open."

Tarek Avesca
Jan 6th, 2016, 07:56:54 AM
Tarek had been only a boy when Sanctuary had fallen, but he had strong memories of the time nonetheless. Having witnessed the scouring first-hand, he knew that there was likely to be little gained from sifting through the ash and bones of Ossus. The Nightsisters and Nightbrothers had made sure of that.

In contrast to Ossus, Ruusan was... unknown. The planet had served no known purpose to his father, though Tarek could not deny that it had left its mark on galactic history. More certain still was the cunning in the Supreme Leader's plan.

“When shall I depart?”

Cortus Veers
Jan 6th, 2016, 11:59:42 PM
Something in this plan annoyed the Star Marshal, and for once it wasn't the murmurings of the arcane that the Supreme Leader often engaged in with the Ren Knights.

"I have alerted the greater balance of our fleet to be on standby for your order, Supreme Leader. I would caution, however, that if we move a considerable force from the Alignment to Ruusan, the Republic may not consider such a repositioning an immaterial move. Moving freely in the Outer Rim is another matter from moving freely in the Mid Rim. Our last force repositioning to strengthen Onderon was tracked."

Veers' gloves tightened behind his back.

"Reinforcing Ruusan from our inner holdings should not be difficult, but I recommend no more than two destroyers from the Alignment."

Supreme Leader Xaanan
Jan 15th, 2016, 10:43:14 PM
The Supreme Leader inclined his head in silent ascent to the Star Marshal's suggestion. While Delgado Xaanan was no stranger to matters of strategy and military operations, he was no seasoned veteran, either. He understood the limitations of his knowledge; how understanding a principle and being aware of it's past success in similar situations was not the same as understanding it's application, and the subtleties of how such principles were enacted. That was why he surrounded himself with advisors such as this: delegates whose expertise in certain areas exceeded his own. This was one of many ways where the Galactic Empire had failed itself: powerful men believed that they were omniscient; wise men understood just how far from omniscient they truly were.

"Deploy your forces as you see fit, Marshal, but be cautious. If we refrain from utilising ships from the Alignment, we must redeploy forces from elsewhere in their stead. Any ships from Kuat and Tepasi will move through the very heart of the Republic to reach Ruusan; not even the Senate's ignorance is limitless, and their complacency towards us is not an asset we should carelessly squander."

Avesca's question was afforded more thought, a gentle frown and a contemplative breath enlisted to assist in the effort.

"Wait until I have departed from Hapes; and do not travel to Ossus directly. We do not know quite how much scrutiny the Republic and the Resistance have brought to bear on our movements, but we should make every effort possible to obscure them."

A flicker of memory tugged at the corners of the Supreme Leader's eyes, his vision focused for a moment on events long in the past.

"Subtlety and subterfuge were always the favoured weapons of the Alliance. We shall take those tactics, and turn them against their former masters."

Cortus Veers
Jan 16th, 2016, 10:31:52 PM
The Star Marshal seemed to stand a bit taller at the Supreme Leader's words. He had a gift with charisma, that was no mistake. It was through his will alone that the disparate fragments of the old Empire had been reshaped into something that was not content to take flight or lick it's wounds. The Pentastar Alignment had been by far the largest of such fiefdoms, but even it's strength would never have carried the day alone. The Supreme Leader was wise. He'd rallied the tattered banners to him, led them into the Unknown Regions, and they had worked tirelessly to temper the steel and leave behind the dross of the new order. Ineffectual warlords and sycophants were purged. The old ways hadn't given them the mettle needed to end the Rebellion, and against a nascent New Republic, they would have been even less effective. So the Supreme Leader effected the fundamental change to transform the scraps of a dead empire into the First Order. Gone was the graft and greed of the bloated politburo of regional governors. Gone was the arrogant posturing of a regime too high in it's tower to view the fires and pitchforks below. He had created a state that was more lean, more austere, and more unflinchingly loyal to a cause.

The cause of Order.

Now they stood at the vanguard, the bringers of a new religion to a galaxy that had known only dissolution and disarray for over a thousand years.

Tarek Avesca
Jan 19th, 2016, 08:34:42 AM
He listened in silence to the talk of the fleet. Not lacking understanding, he nevertheless lacked the motivation to consider the Star Marshal's caution with any kind of critical analysis. He had none to offer, after all. The First Order's fleet was a essential tool, better left in the hands of the Star Marshal.

Curiosity crawled across the surface of his mind - Did the Supreme Leader have business in the Consortium? - but it had scarcely scuttled into his consciousness before Tarek squashed it. Whatever the Supreme Leader required of Hapes, it was of no concern to him. His orders were clear, his goals precise. There was no need to muddy that clarity with further chatter.

“If you have no more need of me, I'll begin preparations.”