5 ABY - Power Plays

Teren Rogriss was no young pup, but even he could feel a little anticipation when power gathered in one place. For they were here, them who had become rulers of the Galactic Empire in the aftermath of the Battle of Endor, not even a year and a half ago.

The Imperial Ruling Council.

Headed by Ars Dangor, they made up the advisors of Palpatine, Admirals of the navy, the Grand General, and the remaining Grand Moffs. Surrounding them, dotted along the seats of the sunken arena, the circular table at the centre, were the Moffs and lesser officers and so forth. All were present in person, to cluck over the results of the last round of hostilities with the New Republic. Together, they were the Empire.

Or, more precisely, what was left of it.

Skeletal Ars Dangor called the table to order with the slight jingle of a crystal bell, cutting through the miasma of conversation. Rogriss blinked as he stood, and immediately gestured towards Rogriss. 'We would hear your report first, Fleet Admiral.'

A title which rang hollow when Teren had taken it by default, one of the few Imperials to obtain victory against the Rebels in the closing months of the war, defending Bilbringi with the 181st fighter group. Lately he had considerably less success to report.

Fishing in a pocket for his datapad as he stood, he pointed it at the holoprojector that was central to the table's features, a simple galactic map showing a multitude of colours denoting borders, streams of light for major hyper lanes, and bolder stars for key worlds of major economic, political or military importance - dark blue for Imperial forces, with lighter variations for warlord territories, and red for the larger New Republic. He spoke shortly after his eyes had adjusted to the features, expecting his colleagues to need more time.

'Our net gains cancel out our net losses, in terms of territory, but the loss of Kuat, Anaxes and Ord Mantell cannot be stressed any more strongly as to how weak our position is, especially in light of the dozens of lesser shipyards lost as part of our agreement to the Galactic Concordance, notwithstanding the brief resumption of hostilities to seize territory from Zsinj, a calculated risk which has not paid off.'

'Nor should we forget how strong our position is.'

A powerful voice to his right, only just beating out the sound of the opening of the doors to the room, supposedly sealed shut, causing many within the room to turn to see who was speaking. Teren was surprised to see a blue skinned humanoid, with blazing red eyes, striding into the room garbed in the spotless white of an Imperial Grand Admiral.

Voices rose in consternation, but the alien raised a hand to forestall them. 'I am Thrawn. I have met many of you, others, I have not. For those, I am, yes, an Imperial Grand Admiral - the last of us, elevated in secret by the late Emperor on the death of Zaarin. I do not propose to address comments as to my rank, which my colleagues will confirm was rightfully earned, nor do I propose to discuss my heritage.' His eyes seemed to burn into those gathered at the table as his eyes took them in turn, Teren only casting his gaze over the politicians to see various members nodding and whispering to the others. Movement beside him required Teren to turn back, to find Thrawn had turned to look at him.

'Admiral Rogriss, if I may.'

Rogriss felt the eyes of the room on him again, but there was an expectation within them that he would refuse, allowing others to do so also, and equally an assumption that he would step down, to prevent another bought of the all too often repeated acrimony that had a habit of subsuming any progress - apart from when it was ill-advised, and had resulted in Imperial forces breaching the Concordance and the New Republic exacting their due punishment.

Thrawn and he kept this moment for a heartbeat, but Rogriss already knew that he was not the man to lead the Imperial Navy onwards, and definitely not interested in becoming a de facto co-Emperor with Dangor. If Thrawn wanted to take over, then Rogriss would allow it, for a chance of victory, even if Thrawn was an alien. 'Of course, Admiral,' Teren said, taking his seat and leaning forward.

'Excellent,' the Grand Admiral continued, before raising his own comlink to the room. 'I have taken the presumptive step to invite other parties to this gathering.' With an audible click, five spectral blue figures joined their meeting by hologram, and Teren recognised them all about half a second before the room burst into uproar.

Gaen Drommel. Ardus Kaine. Delak Krennal. Treutren and Kosh Teradoc.

The uproar did not keep itself to the room's original occupants, either. Drommel snapped accusingly at Krennal for his treachery at Tantive V, as the Teradoc's exchanged snide comments and gestured at Teren, who himself felt heat rise in his cheeks as he recalled his defeat by Treutren at Junction, opening his mouth to join those exhorting Kaine in language that was not befitting for the leaders of the Empire.

Thrawn did not wait for the tumult to subside, lifting his comlink to his mouth and speaking through it, his voice amplified. 'Enough.'

The room silenced quicker than Teren would have expected, his own jaw snapping shut, but Thrawn's authority resonated upon them - he acted like he was in charge, and it was on a level far above some of the advisors, who came across as more pomp than power more often than not. 'Traitors, yes, but I would argue that anyone who signed the Galactic Concordance is a traitor.' The room stirred at that but Thrawn did not give them chance to continue. 'To give acknowledgment to the Rebellion, to abandon our legitimate claim on governance of the Galaxy, to cede Coruscant, in spite of our still holding portions of the planet.' His voice trailed off, to stress his point, but into that void Advisor Quest spoke up.

'What else would you have had us done? The Battle of Jakku lost, the loss of the [i]Razor's Kiss[/i], the collapse of more than three quarters of the Empire in a year? A treaty gave us chance to hold onto what we had, and work towards reclaiming the rest.'

Teren cleared his throat. 'In the short few months since we accepted reparations and the dismantling of several shipyards, our position has weakened dramatically, especially when we maintained a war footing against

Kosh Teradoc spoke bitterly, 'And even those of us who did not sign the treaty could not stand up to a New Republic with so many advantages as the sole galactic superpower.'

'Precisely,' said Thrawn, smoothly interjecting. 'The Treaty of Coruscant undermines us all, and I for one am glad that the further constitutional monarchy that had been proposed by Admiral Oxtroe had a terminal end.'

Teren briefly, along with others, no doubt, glanced to the vacant position of the late Admiral at the table. He briefly wondered who had [i]not[/i] picked up upon that hint, his lips twisting grimly. Clearly Thrawn was not above of acts which would have been considered dishonourable by him. An advisor spoke up, but quietly, in comparison to Thrawn's voice. 'And the Emperor's niece?'

'She remains safe, do not concern yourself with that.' Again, Thrawn drew an air of civility around himself, and Teren absently thought as to whether this could be consider patronising yet. The rooms spine was gathering, and Thrawn had yet to give anything of note save for dictating that they listen to him give thinly veiled threats. But Thrawn was not done, and he took step forward into the well, now lowering his voice. 'It is time for our counterstrategy, which I propose to give to you.'

Ars Dangor spoke with uncertainty, in spite of the boring gaze of Thrawn. 'Any sign that we are seeking to breach the Concordance again and the New Republic will conquer us.'

'That they cannot,' Thrawn said softly. 'The Rebellion has overextended themselves, and if they seek to defend everything they have, and govern, they need to ensure they are visibly doing so. This exposes their forces, and I can destroy them.'

'At which point the New Republic strikes back,' said Kaine, pointedly.

Thrawn pointed his own data card at the display, and stars lit up. 'Strikes which I, in command of the [i]Chimaera[/i], have launched against the Rebellion, with no resulting deviation in their stratagems at Kuat, Anaxes or elsewhere.'

Teren leaned forward. 'We do not have the strength to throw a full strategy together at them while you launch raids.

The aliens eyes seemed to glitter as he turned to face him. 'So don't. All I require is full command of the combined Imperial Navy and I shall do the rest.'

'What Navy?' Kosh spluttered. 'Do you expect us all to lend you fleets to use against us? Fleets which will be destroyed?'

'Not at all,' Thrawn said, continuing to look at Teren. 'I just require the unattached forces, as I have every intention of leaving the mainstream forces of the Empire in place, save for the required funds and troops.'

The human Admiral stroked his chin. 'The Endor task force. Since the [i]Vigilance[/i] was lost, twelve Imperial Star Destroyers, along with a pair of Interdictor Star Destroyers and [i]Victory[/i]-class ships, if we count the [i]Chimaera[/i] among them again?'

'A force conceivably small enough to have gone rogue,' Krennal said, thinking aloud, 'but also large enough to allow you to raid or even capture any system you chose.'

'Thus the Concordance with the Rebellion is intact and you can confirm your inability to do anything about me, due to the disarmament.' Thrawn did not turn back to his former colleague, still looking at Teren, who again could tell his approval was required at this stage, but after this meeting he would be unable to have any input as the public face of the Empire, and Thrawn would have a remarkable amount of freedom to do as he wished.

Teren instead looked to the warlords present, 'and you five will support this, and keep the peace between us all?'

A chorus of uncertain agreement, but Krennal was at least more forceful about it, even if reluctantly. 'Thrawn can do what he says. I have seen him do so with less resources in the Unknown Regions.'

Thrawn seemed to slightly change, and Teren suspected that the Grand Admiral would have preferred that Krennal not mention the forces within the Unknown Regions, though he had no doubt that the alien had prepared for it. 'And what of those forces, Grand Admiral? Or the quite substantial forces that fled from Jakku rather than return to us?'

'The former are tied down as similarly as yours are in known space.' A noticeable pause occurred, however. 'To the latter, they have driven deeper into the Unknown Regions than even I have. I have little doubt that they will be lost among the various warlord races of the Terrors.'

'The Terrors?'

'What my forces are turning back,' Thrawn said flatly, inviting no further enquiry as he gathered himself up to leave. 'So we are in accord, that the Empire shall follow as directed?'

Teren nearly lidded his eyes into a scowl, as Thrawn was already marginalising them, referring not to them as a confederation but as a unified entity, and disregarding the factions he had not addressed - Harrsk and Zero Command, as well as Sander Delvardus and the remnants of his forces in the Deep Core came to mind - but Ars Dangor nodded his agreement, drawing attention to him. 'Certainly, Admiral.'

Knowing the moment had passed but still wanting to feel as if he had some control over events - over his own life, a control he seemingly had became accustomed to having - Teren Rogriss added, no longer the real Supreme Commander of the Empire. 'We follow your lead, Admiral Thrawn.'

A smile graced the lips of the alien. 'I shall call on you when I need you, and look forward to regular reports about the state of the Empire.' Thrawn made to leave, before turning back one last time. 'To war, and victory.'

Teren didn't join in the cheers, though he certainly felt the buoyancy in the room.

Hopefully onto victory, he thought to himself darkly, wondering just what kind of Empire would be created by Grand Admiral Thrawn.