It amazed him that on a desolate Outer Rim planet, such luxury could exist. Baen Alis took in his surroundings through covert glances as he waited for Her to acknowledge him. Plush red carpet beneath his knee; a subdued color that was almost black. A glance left, walls paneled in rich red-toned wood, an extravagance on a desert planet such as Tattooine. A glance right, a tapestry done in geometric patterns of Imperial crimson and black. Pacing in front of him, not that he had the audacity to look up at Her, was one of the greatest leaders the Empire had ever known.
Madam Director Isard stalked across the maroon carpet, Her shining black boots traveling across his diminished line of sight. She paused in front of him; Alis fought the urge to look up at Her, knowing that such impudence would be severely punished. Instead he pressed his body against the carpet, waiting for Her to give him permission to rise.
Then he would be able to look upon Her face. So very beautiful, like a work of art. The darkness of Her hair contrasted by the pale locks flowing from Her temples. Sculpted cheekbones. Full lips. Graceful features accenting those stunning eyes. One the color of oceans of his homeworld. The other like a blazing sunset: red with swirling flashes of gold.
He closed his eyes, almost willing Her to speak. To allow him to bask in the brilliance of Her mind. She had been beaten. But not destroyed. Despite the luck of the Rebel Squadron, she had escaped. Lieutenants Celchu and Horn had targeted a shuttle they had believed to be transporting Madam Isard. But she had predicted that attack and had been well away from Thyferra before the first shot was fired.
He almost snarled at the thought of the two Rogues that had attempted to end the life of the brilliant woman standing in front of him. He would make sure, they paid for their impudence.
The Alliance and most of the remaining Imperial forces believed Her to be dead. But that would soon change. The galaxy needed, deserved, Her brilliance.
Alis knew that he had been told only a small portion of Her plans, but he knew that Her forces would succeed. There was no room for doubt in his infatuated mind. The fact that Rogue Squadron had foiled Her various schemes to reunite the Empire in Her name was ignored or brushed away as successes created by nothing but fools' luck.
Ysanne Isard was a goddess among mortals. He smiled against the thick wool. And soon, she would take Her place as ruler of the lesser beings of the galaxy.
Isard looked down at the man that almost groveled at her feet. He was competent, but his absolute devotion, though vital for her plans, was already beginning to tire her. For a moment, she wished Kirtan Loor was still alive, but she knew that she had acted correctly. Loor had become too ambitious. He had known her plans too intimately. He had been a liability that needed to be eliminated.
But Loor had lacked one important trait that Alis seemed to have: loyalty. The man was almost fanatical in his loyalty to herself and the faded, almost dead, Empire. She knew his feelings for her had not been created by any "glory of the Empire" type sentiments. The man seemed totally and completely obsessed with her. She might have felt fear at this total devotion, but at this time, she needed someone that she could completely trust.
And despite, or because of his fanatical devotion, Baen Alis was that being.
A casual word from Her full lips bid him to rise. As he slowly straightened, She moved to the heavy desk that dominated the room. He focused his gaze just above Her right shoulder, not wanting to offend Her with a presumptuous look.
"There is little time available for this assignment, Agent Alis, so I will be direct."
She had spoken of Imperial duties, now he could focus his attention on Her. Again, he was struck by Her beauty. The nerfhide-covered chair was a simple throne that she sat in with Imperial regality.
Swallowing hard, he ignored his emotions, steeling himself for his next assignment. "Whatever you wish of me, Madam Director, I will give to you."
Her eyes narrowed and Alis feared he had said too much. Would she strike him down for implying more than faithful service? For hinting at a more…intimate…relationship.
He let out a quiet sigh when she seemed to ignore the comment. "As you know, Rogue Squadron has been an annoyance to me for many years. Their infallible luck is a nuisance that this galaxy must soon be rid of."
His mind stumbled over Her words. "This galaxy?"
She sat back in the chair, Her eyes flashing with fire and ice. "The Rogues stumbled upon a passageway to another galaxy. Humans live on one of the planets, but their technology is millennia behind ours."
He tried to placate Her growing temper. "If these individuals are so unsophisticated, then how can they be a threat?"
"They are a threat," she snarled, "Because they support the Rebels."
Instantly realizing his mistake, Alis dropped to one knee before the desk. "Forgive my ignorance, Madam Director."
His action seemed to placate Her. "Despite, or because of, their technological deficiencies, the people of the Lucas galaxy are eager to support the Rebels. There is a series of vids that was released on their world that glorifies the War, making its young people zealous to fight against the Empire. The Rebels are opening up diplomatic relations in hopes of recruiting fresh blood into their military forces and into…" Her lip curled in distaste, "The newly formed Jedi academy."
Alis flexed his hands into fists. His hatred for the Jedi was almost as intense as his feelings for Rogue Squadron. One of the bastards that had attempted to murder Madam Director was now being trained as a Jedi. For months he had been watching that particular padawan and the Academy intensely, waiting for a chance to show his loyalty to Her by removing both annoyances from Her campaign.
"The treaty must be destroyed." She leaned forward, steepling Her fingers as Her eyes became unfocused. "If an inter-galactic incident were to occur. One that would lead to war between the Lucas Galaxy and the Rebels."
He knew where Her thoughts were leading and yielded to the urge to interrupt. "Then the Empire could offer aid to the foreign galaxy, gaining the resources that the Rebels crave and filling our ranks with new recruits. And," he added, bowing his head in reverence to Her. "If Madam Director's plans for this campaign are as brilliant as they have been before, then the Rebels will be facing two armed forces instead of one."
A flare of hope warmed him when a faint smile graced Her lovely face. "Very good, Agent Alis. Perhaps you are a worthy replacement for Loor." The smile quickly faded, "But the seemingly endless source of luck for the Rebels must be destroyed."
"And of course, the source of that luck is Rogue Squadron."
She nodded, then tossed him a data card. "The Squadron is on Earth, the only habitable planet in Lucas. That card has all the information you'll need. Itinerary. Lists of where the pilots are staying. Maps of the city. Intel will give you an orientation of the local customs."
She stood, clearly signifying the meeting was ending. "I expect an outline of your plans within three hours. A transport will be waiting as soon as I give my approval." Suddenly she was towering over him, Her mysterious eyes almost hypnotizing him. "I normally do not give my operatives this much freedom. Do not disappoint me, Alis."
With a wave of Her hand, he was dismissed.
Continued in Part Six