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The Rebel Faction » Forums » Role Playing » The Battlegrounds » Hoarding Patience and Dealing in Time (Closed)

1  3:26am 16/05/16        
Former Director General, Free Trade Directorate
((OOC: I have taken the liberty of incorporating dialogue from a previous thread, Liberty and Justice for All, so that I could provide Maru's perspective of the events that occurred. This is part of a larger re-introduction narrative, which I will be continuing to write in forthcoming posts, so that I can get my character where he needs to be historical and in the context of the galaxy as it is now. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.))

Time has a way solving all things. And being starved of your ambition only grows your desire to sate it. So much time lost; everything done, in the pursuit of deeply-held long term goals, now seem absolutely meaningless. Sei Maru opened his big, almond-shaped eyes, both glinting in the low light like pieces of sharp obsidian prime for utility. He touched his chin, out of habit, before being reminded he no longer had that small tuft of hair to balance his then portly head. He was still held in a prison cell, as a slave to his captors. Looking around the room, nothing assured him. It was bare, fashioned in a deep dark teal. And all he could do is think.

Recalling every detail from his memories became a daily challenge, as it now fleeted his mind along with his hope. He never envisioned falling so swiftly, without much fight, and with such treachery. Did no one trust him? Why didn't he see the signs? Obviously, loyalty amongst the Sullustans was fragile. Just when you thought you had unquestioning loyalty, they turn their backs on you. And of course, now Maru’s became the scapegoat for trumped up charges, alleging he was behind some careful scheme to collude with the Imperials. It was hardly accurate. In spite of the situation he found himself, he remembered how everything went down that very day.

Maru had just left a meeting via teleconference with Rob Stellar. The businessman gave him some song and dance about how the G&A rates for this latest shipping venture and how it did include costs associated to the FTD. But Maru didn’t see it that way. The costs being funneled to them seemed rather low, and Stellar hadn’t been on the up-and-up with Maru for awhile. Yet, the Sullustan wanted to keep his cards close. He wanted to find out what Stellar was doing, and nothing had come up—just yet—to justify breaking up their longstanding agreements. He bid Stellar goodbye, before leaving the secured conference room. Just as he was preparing to depart the conference room, he received a page from his personal assistant, the ever resourceful Tana Barris. He picked up his small communicator to answer the call. The feminine Sullustan appeared with deep chestnut hair.

“I know… Time to see Mr. deGrasse. What room he's—”

“Director Maru, we have a development,” She interrupted, a look of regret cast on her face for the curt response. He turned to his meager detail, comprising three Sullustans with one being an actual security personnel, and motioned for them to stay in the room while he walked across the room to the other side to digest this sensitive news.

“What do you mean?” He intoned, trying to hold the communicator up.

“Sir, a couple things. A disturbance on Sulon. Looks like a coordinated attack on the headquarters..." Then she stopped to form her words while reading another report coming in, "Also, did you authorize the routing of credits from your various accounts. The financial monitoring system threw red flags on yours and no one else’s,” She confirmed.

“What!?” He almost shouted. An attack? And what was this about routing of his funds? How and why? Who was behind this attack? Was Stellar behind the funds? He wouldn't be so stupid.

“What do we know about the attack?” Maru further inquired.

“It’s the New Sullustan Brethren—they’re attacking a nearby facility. It has some sensitive equipment and vehicles—the Draykhan project,” She informed while again looking at the report streaming in, “We have moved a substantial portions of our security forces there to snuff it out. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see many Sullustan guards in the heart of the Sorosuub complex.”

He blinked. An NSB attack? On the Draykhan project? “Don’t let them get access to that equipment. That content is highly-sensitive.” He didn’t want the project compromised. If the NSB found out he was trying to create his own little military, he would have to explain it to the Sullustan Council and surely the Alliance and TNO would want to know everything about it too. Maru wanted to avoid that, especially after the TNO court case he had some time ago—not good for press relations.

“Acknowledged. Sir, I recommend you head into the inner sanctum of the headquarters,” Barris suggested.

“Let me know about the funds—the funds!” Maru reminded her.

“Yes—well... Right now, I see Alliance protocols around this routing signature, but I can’t confirm anything. Quite frankly, the accounts they are routed to are not even disclosed.”

“Shut down the financial system—now!” He blinked, thinking about the loss in fiduciary value. Is this coincidental?! He braced, “I’ll be heading back to my office in a bit.”

“Understood—uh sir!” Barris’s tone changed in mid response, “There’s reports of unknown craft at the edge of the sector—something’s going on!”

Why am I last to know anything? And why is all of this happening at once?

“Move my electronic funds to the secure enclave, once the financial system is severed from outside connection—you know the ones—do it now.” He motioned for his detail to get their weapons ready. Then realized only one of them was unarmed. 

“I don’t know anything about this… Find out more about these ships?!” Thankfully, he created the cloaked reconnaissance beacons at the very edges of his space, so he knew what was coming his way even before they got to the system. The beacons had sensors stretching out a quarter of a lightyear.

He thought quickly before interrupting himself, “Put Sorosuub on lockdown. And start getting our defensive posture ready. And get Nplr on—”

Communications blacked out. Something serious was going on. Robust relays supported the communications infrastructure, which are tied into the internal auxiliary redundant systems. They’ve been operational since the days of the Old Republic. How on Sullust did communications drop? Have they infiltrated or started their attack on the system? Nothing was making sense to him.

‘I need to barricade myself in my office until I can figure what the hell’s going on.’ He turned to his detail, “Code Black. We’re at situation Red—Red.”

His detail formed a close order diamond formation and everyone hastened out the conference area for his office. He only wished he had more in the way weaponry protecting him, but all he had to do was get back to his office. Hopefully, Barris was able to steer some Sullustan security personnel to his office for added assurance.

Entering the hall, it was quiet. And notably empty. Taking a right down the hall, to a quicker route to his office, they approached the open area where the HoloNet projection was. Some people were still standing around, loitering it seemed, in the area, so maybe things were not so bad as he thought. Then across the room, the turbolift opened. He saw deGrasse. What was he doing there? He started to gather his attention but then he recoiled. Why is he walking over to the door panel? He has something to do with this!?

“Go.” He hushed at his detail. Then one of the gentlemen with deGrasse approached his detail as they made their departure of the open concourse. Then the doors shut, locking down the room. Sullustans all around started to shriek in confusion. And the guy pulled a weapon, leading many to scream and yell that he had a gun. He immediately shot down a couple of his men, and his bodyguard now collapsed on the floor. The gun was pointed at Maru. The room was still rife with outbursts with fear ever present on their murmurs.

‘Damn.’ He thought.

The guy spoke sternly, “Sir, I’m afraid you’re coming with us now.”

Maru tried to send a coded transmission letting his security network know he was in danger. He went to grab it immediately but the other gentleman, who flanked the gun holding the weapon, grabbed his arm and fished it out of his pocket.

Then deGrasse with his pathetic and forlorn expression, “I’m sorry Mr. Maru… They made me do it. If I don’t do what they say, they’re going to kill my daughter—”

Unbelievable this man—simpering in victory! The guy, who seemed to be in charge, showed his colors, admonishing the weak businessman: “You, shut up.” A smirk crept on Maru’s face.

“Have a backbone,” Maru said with conviction at deGrasse, “Here you have subdued me and you apologize. You’re pathetic!” He couldn’t get the words out fast enough. Maru then turned to the gentleman in charge, “What name do I call you? And who are you with?”

“Sturm. And this is the Alliance.”

“Oh really?” Maru patronized, “I figured that. Your signatures are all over my financial accounts. Is the Alliance that desperate as to steal money? Overthrow our businesses and political leaders? Seems a bit lowbrow.”

“You’re coming with us,” Sturm replied.

Leaving the open inner foyer, they took the turbolift to another part of the headquarters. Once in an austere room, Maru was told to sit. He was then shackled to the chair. A few minutes later, another human came in: “Mr. Maru I presume. My associates have told me much about you. And now, you’re going to tell us… exactly what we want to know.”

Still perceiving a high level of importance, Maru attempted to resist, responding emphatically, “I won’t tell you anything. You’ll kill me first.”

Then the guy sighed and started to reassert his dominance in the interrogation, “Stevens, you and Kraten make sure we’re not interrupted… This may get a little…messy.” Maru looked on as the guy pulled a knife from his boot and began to open his flowing robes and starting serrating his long inner shirt.

“What are you doing?” Maru responded to the gall of this man's behavior.

“It’s for me to know, and you to feel…that is, unless you want to give us the information we desire.” 
Then Maru felt the knife against his skin. The sharp edge just lightly digging against his flesh. His fingers trembling against the chair arms he was shackled to.

He had no idea why the Alliance was here. What actions had he taken to lead him to this interrogation? He stayed out of the conflicts with both the TNO and Alliance. Surely his arrangement with TNO could not be so important as to warrant capturing and torturing him. The gentleman spoke softer, “This is just the beginning.”

Maru shuddered. He wanted this over with. More importantly, he wanted to know if the NSB was working with the Alliance and also what happened to Sullust? Were the Alliance occupying the system? What leadership would take his place?

Then two men in Alliance uniforms entered the room. Maru wasn’t paying close attention to their dialogue but heard about them having to escort him to an undisclosed location.

“Where am I being taken?!” Maru was becoming distraught.

“You are lucky, Mr. Maru… Where you’re going will be like a hotel compared to what I had in store for you.”

Maru was unshackled and escorted out of the room. The two men never spoke. After taking a lift several floors to the ground surface, Maru was escorted from the headquarters. Once the turbolift opened, many Sullustans working in the headquarters were gathered. It was as if the Alliance wanted to make an example of him. Many of the Sullustans looked on confused, and some appeared severely disappointed in him—in him—for what, he had no idea.

Maru took one last opportunity as he was escorted out of the building, “I am innocent of whatever's going on. The Free Trade Directorate is above board on all its dealings. I will fight this gross injustice!” But he could see in the eyes of Sullustans that he lost favor. They lost faith in him. In a matter of hours, years of planning and preparation and strategy went down the drain, with no idea as to how this mess started.

Walking out of the front entrance, he felt at once that he would never see this front entrance or this headquarters again. Outside, a shuttle was waiting for him. He followed his monitors onto the ramp, bidding Sulon and Sorosuub a bittersweet farewell. Once he was seated and cuffed to the seat, Maru looked out the viewport one last time as the moon disappeared from view.

One of the gentleman came up to him as the shuttle was making a trajectory change. “Mr. Maru, you must take this.” Without further questions, a hypo-syringe was inserted into his neck. Then everything went black.

Waking up now as he had for all the time he's been incarcerated, nothing can be so difficult as to being clueless of the galaxy around you. But his forced ignorance had nothing on his appearance. Maru, no longer with a small beard, woke up in his cell with a shaved chin. He wasn't even given the satisfaction of a mirror. He hadn't seen what he looks like in months. His portly exterior almost gone. He could tell that by the constant change in his clothing size. Months of rationed eating ate away at his largess, leaving him as an empty and lanky Sullustan. And that's what this whole year has been... one long gnawing blur, eating away at his former self. No certainty each day, except these dismal walls and the poor lighting. 

If time solved everything, then patience was the methodology. He exchanged it like currency for the time he was there, hoping it would bring some added knowledge or keen insight in his misfortune. It was the barter that provided the most risk. Maru hoarded patience with zeal, if only to give him hope his situation might change. But patience can eat away at someone. And with almost no visitors, this hotel was still only a prison. So like every day since then, at the ready, he waits.
This post was edited by Sei Maru (3:54pm 16/05/16, 3 years ago)
2  12:24am 19/05/16        
Former Director General, Free Trade Directorate
Maru rubbed his face in his hands. Tough. It was tough. Such isolation was not healthy, and, after so long, he finally appreciated the need for social interaction. At times, he wondered if the color on the walls was actually teal. He started to question everything. What time was it? Was the feeding schedule random? He had free reign of the light fixtures in the cell, so he was constantly in a state of confusion as to whether he was sleeping during the day or night. No books to read. No sympathetic ear. With only the slight twitch that runs through his body as the only comfort that something was happening on some sort of frequency.

He slid back on his bed and stared at the ceiling. He just shook his head, wondering what brought this about. Sleeping day in and day out, he didn’t understand what caused that sudden interest in liberating Sullust from his grasp. From his perspective, Sullust had minded too many masters—had too many foreign influences in their politics and their internal affairs, stemming from the exuberance of the old Galactic Empire and to the Rebellion taking hold. In his eyes, either faction was anathema. They did nothing to support the cause of individual Sullustans, sure, the Rebellion offered a less invasive posture during the intergalactic civil war, but he expected, as did many Sullustans, more autonomy for their affairs. The arrangement didn’t work out that way. The issue stemmed from Sorosuub Corporation. This one company was the crux of the problem. Being so efficient in building starships and other space-faring vessels meant that major factions wanted as much influence as possible.

That never sat well with him.

When he arrived in his current prison arrangements, his captors told him upon entry that a selected justice advocate general was going to hold counsel with him, as he was confronting mounting legal judgments associated to his arrest and subsequent removal on Sullust. His name? Fionn Enneb. He was Bothan.  A hairy freak in his eyes. The absolute irony of it all. He had apparently spent much of his career working this prison, working on behalf of all the prisoners here. His claim to fame was remotely impressive. And he was intensely skeptical. When he entered the room for the first time, Maru was just getting used to his attire, a dull lavender but more like a lavender frost. He hated the color. It blended with the walls, in his opinion. Did they expect him to bleed into the wall and never be found again? Hardly.

The prison cell door opened and a slender Bothan covered in a sandy-cream fur walked into the room with a digital pad, “Mister Maru.”

Maru didn’t respond. He was still sitting on his bed. He wasn’t sure he wanted to walk over and speak to this…creature. Bothans and Sullustans? They never got along. Ever since the Bothans withheld information about the attack on their homeworld, they never forgave them. Or so that was the prevailing animus. Maru never trusted Borsk Fey’lya. And he certainly didn’t trust this legal officer to met or secure any justice for him.

Enneb tried to speak reassuringly, “I know you, as many Sullustans still think, that Bothans have it out for you. But I c—”

“You presume too much, Bothan. I want nothing to do with you or your kind. Yet I don’t get a choice. So now that I have said my peace—go right ahead,” Maru interrupted, making his position clear.

“Now that we’ve got that business out of the way. My name is Fionn Enneb. I am a dedicated justice advocate general for this prison. I have worked tirelessly on behalf of many inmates here. So let’s look at your case, shall we?” Enneb looked over at Maru, who was still sitting on his bed.

Maru jumped from his bed, realizing that he had to try to be successful on this trial in order to claw back from political oblivion. If he was able to secure a win on this case, then maybe he could be let go or even win a moral victory. He sat in front of the wolf-like Bothan, “Go on.”

“Well, it seems you’re implicated in several crimes to include money laundering, illegal weapons trading, and conducting clandestine activities for The New Order.”

Maru’s head tilted, “And who is bringing up these charges?”

“The Sullustan Council.”

Maru’s fist slammed into the table with a force and reckless abandon that somewhat unsettled Enneb, who felt as if the table was going to break.

“So you… refute the charges?” Enneb clarified.

“None of this makes any sense. And those damn traitors think they are going to hang me out to dry. I won’t do it. I’ll fight them jowl for jowl,” Maru emphasized, driving his finger into the table surface.

“Well then… Explain some things to me about how the Sorosuub Corporation worked under your administration,” Enneb requested.

Maru stared at him hard before moving or even saying anything. Was he really going to get a chance to speak? Was he really going to be able to provide a clear response to these charges? He wanted his words to be heard.

“The Sorosuub Corporation is a powerful instrument for good in the Sullust system. It is the very essence, economically and political, of the Sullustans.” He paused, “I found the corporation had spent too much time under dubious and duplicitous masters. Most of Sullust works there. Either you are working permanently for the company or you’re a prime contractor or sub-contractor doing supporting work for it. When this company is doing well, everyone is doing well. And regrettably when there’s setbacks, the whole planet reels from it.”

He turned away from the man and started staring off. “I came to the company because it was the biggest opportunity available. And I worked hard and rose through the ranks. But, mind you, my allegiance was to the company… But my heart was with the planet. This is our home,” He was overcome with emotion, a rare instance, that he quickly subsided and turned back realizing he opened up too much for his liking. “It’s our culture. We are the only ones who can thrive in such a caustic environment. So when I became the Chief Administrative Officer for the company, I knew that I was next in line to take over the company as a whole. Essentially, I’d been groomed for several years, but it was in fact going to happen.”

His disposition changed, “But failed leadership placed very awful people in power. Not awful in a bad sense, but people who didn’t exercise or understand how power works, especially on our planet. Power is something you don’t give away freely, and too many of the people who were in charge were too diffident and lacked the fortitude to do their jobs. So, the company, which by proxy we’re talking about the planet, suffered under such unaccustomed people lacking real leadership qualities. So I took it upon myself to consolidate power,” He let that hang in the air for a moment.

“Understand something about me. I don’t care how people perceive me. The only thing I care about is did I make the best decision. I am not swayed by the people, but rather I sway the people. I am wiling to do the dirty work, but many people aren’t. If all you see around you is pristine, then the dirt and mud covers someone somewhere—I’m that person—I’m the one who has to do things that no one else wants to do. This was the challenge before me when I was in this unique apex of power.”

“The company was facing two major structural problems. The Sullustan Council wasn’t working. The political mechanisms were always weak. They depended too much on Sorosuub for guidance. So I thought that the political system needed to be overhauled to give much more power to those making decisions at the corporate level, namely me. But I saw this as part of a larger strategy. This strategy leads to the second structural obstacle, which included having more influence and sway when it came to intergalactic business deals and trade agreements.” He paused again, sizing up the Bothan. He wondered if he was grasping any of this. “All of Sorosuub’s business dealings were under the direct pressure from external factions, whether it be the Alliance or The New Order or even the Common—“

“They’re the Republic now,” Enneb interrupted to clarify.

“As if the name change mattered,” Maru responded, despising the interruption of something as superfluous as a name change. “So any new trade agreements or business deals have only the interest of whatever faction has control over the sector. Nothing is done in the interest of the Sullustan people. It’s a shame. And I wanted to change that paradigm. We haven’t had any independence in our internal decision making since before the Galactic Empire. So, any foreign policy, any trade agreement, any memorandum of understanding, any economic interest wasn’t done in our planet’s interest but the faction’s.”

He stopped to add, “Do you understand?”

“Yes… Please… Go on,” Enneb encouraged.

“I thought the best way to effect Sullustan interests in this vastly complex, convoluted, and chaotic intergalactic system was to establish our very own faction from which to run this sector. To do that, I coupled the political system with the corporation so that decisions could be made quicker and more efficiently. And through a trade consortium like the Free Trade Directorate, we would be able to secure our own interests and be able to apply the necessary pressure to exact our aims and goals. Something we haven’t enjoyed for decades.”

Now he was coming to his point, “These are trumped up charges. They want me to suffer and pay dearly because we didn’t consider the interests of the major factions in the galaxy. That’s not my job. That’s not the job I took. And that’s not the job I signed up for. If anything, I am guilty of not showing enough progress to the Sullustan people, and for having less than fruitful dialogues with various internal political factions. But I don’t care. I don’t care if they feel their interests are not being represented. They don’t have to deal with the galaxy the way it is. I do. The corporation does, or at least it did. And I spent a lot of time traveling around the galaxy to sign and uphold these agreements under the FTD. And while the people might not see any progress, the corporation and the system were in a much better position now than they ever were.”

“That whole business about colluding with The New Order is absurd. This corporation falls under their jurisdiction, or at least it did. We had no choice but still maintain some relationship with them. In fact, I briefed them on the very purpose of the FTD, so they could get off my back. I spoke with Grand Moff Drayson and assured the TNO powers in this region that the organization was really focused on consolidating interests for Sullust. I made even clearer that any obligations already and forthwith are still valid. Nothing would change. And seeing as those obligations were not entered into freely, how can these charges suggest otherwise?”

“These charges are absolute nonsense. They wanted to take the territory from the TNO, and my people—not to mention—Sorosuub being caught in the middle. This was the very thing that I guarded against and why I felt the FTD would give us some badly need support for our own interests. No one—and I do mean no one—cared about our interests.” His voice wavered a little, “And now it appears hopeless.” Maru’s elbows were now supporting his head as he cradled it on top of this hands, looking deeply exasperated.

“I think we have a few angles we can use. I’m sure I can put out a subpoena for documents from the company. And I can also file some petitions under disclosure agreements. I think you have an opportunity here.” Enneb pointed out as he explained the way they would be able to make his case.

And so the thaw began. Just a tiny amount of openness flooded into cooperation. For Maru, it was cathartic. He needed to flesh out from his own mind what he had been trying to accomplish all this time. As they discussed the strategy in more detail, Maru learned that he wasn’t able to be present for the trial. He had to rely on the stewardship of his attorney. He had to accept it. But he would’ve relished in standing from the juridical stand and holding his own as he gave his testimony. He always performed best under intense pressure. Maru was able to read a room very well and turn the tables when he was backed into a corner. You can’t exactly do that from a prison cell.

It was so long ago when that first meeting happened. Enneb returned often to disclose what he found, and they would discuss it in explicit detail. Working on the case recharged his desire to step out into the world. His freedom was near: he could taste it. But one faithful day, Enneb entered the cell and gave the news.

“You’ve been convicted.”

Everything went awry, almost like the room was spinning.

“What? Why?! How did this happen!? We… The defense was ironclad.”

“I know. The plaintiffs withdrew every bit of our claims. I even implored them to allow you to testify, but they didn’t want to hear of it.”

Maru pounded his fists into the table with the same veracity as he did on their first meeting.
“What’s my sentence?” Maru trying to find some serenity in this next challenge of his life.

“It gets worse,” Enneb added.

“How much worse?” Maru braced for the pain.

“15 years,” Enneb responded dejectedly.

“Years!? 15—fucking years?! What kind of advocate are you!?” Maru balked at the sentence.

“Also, you can’t appeal this decision. You can’t have any contact with former associates or confidantes. They want you to have no real meaningful contact with the intergalactic community at all,” Enneb explained to weighty silence. It was so much to sink in at one time.

“And this is our last meeting. I am so sorry that I could not secure a favorable judgment. Whoever did this to you wanted you gone—for good. In any other court proceeding, this wouldn’t happen. Please take care of yourself and hold steady for the next 14 years and 5 months,” Enneb ended before heading for the door. 

When the door shut, it was like he was being shut from everyone and everything he ever knew. All he had was his thoughts and even that was failing him, at times, with this intense isolation.

Now, as it occurred then, he was held in this cell, waiting for his time to end. The light still dim and his prospect even more grim as the wait soldiered on. He had no idea how long he had been staying in this cell already, but he tried desperately to give into his patience and allow time to needle along the long thread of his sentence. But this detention was really starting to get to him.
3  4:02am 21/05/16        
Former Director General, Free Trade Directorate
He laid back down on his bed and closed his eyes. All he wanted to do was put it out of his mind, where he was and how long it would be. But then his ear perked as he caught yet again the dulcet humming of the room. After spending so much time spent in his cell, he knew the sounds very well. They were subtle, almost indistinguishable, but over time Maru drew comfort from its continuous presence. Maru slid into a deep sleep again, a feeling of comfort washed over him. Probably the serotonin doing its work. He savored every time he could depart his reality to the recesses of his tortured mind.

Outside his cell, muffled reverberations wafted down the lonely corridor in Maru’s prison wing. Ever so slightly. Then more. Doors to the wing hushed open with hydraulic steam hissing from the pressure. He could barely hear the sound, but he knew someone was coming through the prison checkpoint. This wasn’t out of the ordinary. Maru heard footsteps. But the main checkpoint doors open all the time for many reasons. Most cases, prisoners were escorted for parole reviews or even executions, though less likely at this prison: or so he assumed. Rarely did he have guests or visitors and it didn’t seem, based on his sleeping schedule, that his meal was coming at this time. Usually, with meals, they signal with a dull beep, so as to curry prisoners’ undivided attention. In his case, that was not the meaning of those steps.

But then something unexpected happened. With his eyes closed, his ears perked like eyes trying to peak around the corner, trying to guess what was coming next. Was this for me? Couldn’t be. The footsteps grew louder and louder and then he could easily hear it just outside his door. Maru bolted up from his bed. What’s going on? Are they coming to execute me?! That wasn’t my sentence! He started to become hysterical in his forced silence. Then the lights flashed on, with vicious searing white light blanching his eyes. He turned into the shade of his body to undercut the heavy light in the room. And the cell door hissed open. Maru dared to fight the bright overhead light to see who it was. Coming into the room was his former advocate. “Enneb?” Maru said incredulously, “What are you doing here? They didn’t change my sentence—did they!?”

Enneb motioned for the guards to enter the room with him. The door shut. Maru had never seen guards come into his quarters with Enneb. Something was wrong. And Enneb’s face was unexpressive to say the least.

“Come join me, Maru,” Enneb spoke as he sat at the table, flanked by guards.

Maru stood from his bed and staggered a little to his chair. He got up a little funny in his shock from Enneb’s appearance.

“I’d say I’m pleased to see you but being flanked by these guards brings me pause,” Maru said before continuing, “That and you and I were never to see each other again.”

“Yes… About that,” Enneb grew quiet as he waited for the right moment, “The charges were dropped.”

Maru’s eyes flew open like his prison cell door. Dropped? As in, he was acquitted? Records expunged? No more convictions? Freedom?

“Before you respond let me explain what has transpired for months. And I don’t mind telling you that you’ve been in this cell for close to 22 months. I know… A long time. But so much was going on while you were within these walls,” Enneb began to tell him.

“I did some digging, even deeper than you had in your mind, perhaps. Now… You provided me with all the appropriate details I needed to know so I could search in the right places. I was in touch with your old assistant… Ms. Barris.”

Maru started to smile at hearing her name. He hadn’t heard that name in so long. It was like a memory that was hidden in plain sight but wasn’t visible until he heard it again for the first time in months. Enneb still spoke, “It seems you lost some funds and they were traceable to Alliance protocols and accounts that we couldn’t at first determine. But she went to bat for you. She was able to use some effective investigative approaches to find out who took the funds.”

“More to the point, your suspicions were right. It was the Alliance. Or at least they were led to believe that you were doing nefarious things. Ships had gathered outside Sullustan space just before you were arrested. The ruse had been planned for a long time. But we couldn’t bring it to court because I received an ultimatum to no longer appeal your case. So all this information was fully-disclosed to certain people, with the looming threat of producing its contents for the HoloNet.”

Maru’s smile grew wider at the idea. Barris had secured a coercion scheme on the part of Sullustan leadership. Very shrewd. 

Enneb continued to lay out what transpired, “The leadership who was aware of this information has becoming increasing willing to allow your release. They are the ones who went about persuading the Alliance to clear your judgment and clear your record… On a light note, your funds were replenished. And your record has been expunged.”

“Who was behind this?” Maru wanted to know.

“I must say that no one knows. It could be any member of senior leadership at Sorosuub or even the Sullustan Council. But I wager, Mr. Maru, that you need to keep in mind that this very galaxy is all about factions. I don’t think any one person is at fault, but I must confess that I don’t see how the Alliance felt it appropriate to depose you. They did, to their own admission, devote considerable resources to bring you in,” Enneb responded, looking at the answer from a different angle.

“Well, you are to leave this cell shortly. They will bring you the clothing that you came in with. In fact, your personal shuttle, the Eranthum is waiting for you. So, take care to gain one last glimpse of this cell as you will never see it again. And with that, I have done my job and wish you the best of luck,” Enneb ended as he went to stand and leave with the guards.

Maru stood quickly and walked over to confront him, “I must tell you… that you have done an… an outstanding thing. Bothan, you have caused me to rethink my prejudices. And I am eternally and deeply grateful… and humbled by your service to me and other erstwhile patrons of this abysmal prison… If you should ever find yourself in want of work, I could use a very good legal advocate.”

Enneb smiled warmly, “I do appreciate your words, Mr. Maru. I understand how hard old habits and views can be. They linger like leeches. I know. But I also am flattered by your offer, however, my work is on behalf of the many other current patrons who need sound legal advocacy. That’s why I do what I do… Good luck to you.”

With that, Maru nodded in acknowledgement and respect as Enneb, for the last time, exited the prison cell with the guards. Maru gazed around him at the cell, at his prison attire, and at his bed. He didn’t want to leave the room unkempt. He wanted to be seen as someone who respected this place, no matter the wrong that was made for his entrance there. He made his bed, as he did every day, straightened the table and chairs one last time, and sat simply on his bed taking in everything before he left this chapter of his life for good.

The cell door hissed open and a guard entered with his normal vestments. The guard took his leave, informing him to exit the cell once he finished dressing and to leave everything behind for collection,  and Maru went about putting on his clothes. The same clothes he was wearing that awful day when he was arrested. He took his prison clothes off and folded them and placed them in the center of the bed. Maru looked at the folded clothes. It was like he shed his skin of this despair. He put on his flowing tourmaline robes. The outfit flowed more than normal due to his drastic change in size and shape. He was more lithe and less portly.

In his old attire, he turned around the room and decided it was time to live again amongst the living. He exited the prison cell to find a couple guards who escorted him down the corridor, hanging a left and heading all the way to the prison checkpoint door. The large durasteel doors opened, with billowing steam, to which he and the guards entered. He was processed by the guard on staff at the checkpoint. They entered the turbolift for the very top, which was the spaceport. 

When the turbolift arrived, the doors opened to show his faithful shuttle prepared for his departure. His grin plastered across his face, as well as his eyes absorbing the sky. It was the evening. It was starting to go dark. He started walking and realized that the guards didn’t exit the turbolift. He was no longer a prisoner. Maru sucked in some air and proudly marched to the shuttle, ascending the ramp for his seat in the main cabin of the fuselage.

Maru sat in his seat and pressed his intercom: “Pilot. Let’s depart this planet and let’s set a course for Sullust. I have a few people I need to see.”

The shuttle ramp closed up and his shuttle lifted and pulled away from the planet. Now he needed to settle some scores, and he had a few people he needed to meet with first. And this time, it’s going to be vicious.
This post was edited by Sei Maru (11:35am 04/06/16, 3 years ago)
4  5:57pm 03/06/16        
Former Director General, Free Trade Directorate
A soft ion trail rippled in the wake of a Theta-class T-2c shuttle, as it traveled through space. Such an odd spacecraft, it glided sleekly as a nod to an earlier time. Introduced toward the end of the contentious Clone Wars that dismantled the Old Republic, this ship was owned by Palpatine. Maru wanted it that way. He came across this ship over a decade ago, and he wanted to purchase the ship as a symbol of his authority and set the tone for his arrival anywhere. This was the very ship that housed Lord Vader upon his fall from grace against Jedi Obi Wan Kenobi. But a patron like Maru couldn’t depend no ship from such a legacy. Ships that lasted this long were long decommissioned and thrown into the scrapheap of spacecraft oblivion.

But Maru had different designs in mind. Everything old is new again, in his eyes. Especially now. The Eranthum, as he hails it now, was meant to strike fear and foreboding. It was the visual emissary and reminder of who once occupied the vessel and what it stood for. In Maru’s case, it also served to his aesthetic pleasure. He loved the external design. He felt it was simple, elegant, and far more angular than its successor in the Lambda classes. When Maru purchased this shuttle, he went about making considerable structural changes and extensive updates to his underlying cadre of systems. He brought online heavy firepower: he replaced the quad laser cannons for 2 Taim & Bak KT6 heavy blaster cannons and an advanced proton torpedo launcher (holding a 10-compartment compliment). At first, such weaponized upgrades seemed impractical, given the shuttle didn’t function to attack, just modestly defend. Well, with so much cargo capacity potential, Maru decided to test its limitations and use a portion of its cargo capacity limitations to facilitate added real firepower for his own protection.

He, at the time, thought that given the role he would play, and how he might find himself in very dangerous terrain, that he should increase it for his protection. Another structural change is the color of the steel. He had the steel plating modified to a cool teal, Telgorn Corporation tri-level armor plate hull with robust Novaldex shielding configurations, along with state-of-the-art HoloNet relay and navigational computer system. Maru came up with the idea of integrating Imperial assault shuttle capacities and capabilities in his own ship. He even demanded its hyperdrive capability fashioned a class 0.6. To alleviate stopping in an unwanted place in route to a particular business meeting or political rendezvous. For a shuttle, this spacecraft was meant to transport only one person and maybe a very small entourage. This was Maru’s stellar headquarters when he was away from Sorosuub. He could do everything from confer with staff, provide or receive briefings, handle crises, and even hold large volume video conferences with other business and political leaders around the galaxy. This was his asset and he was determined to see that this shuttle breathed new life. And it did.

Maru felt he needed to be briefed on what was going on around the galaxy. He had to see what was going on. He hoped that Ms. Barris was not affected by any of this, so he patch for the pilot to send a hail to her last HoloNet channel.

“And make sure it’s encrypted,” He reminded him. Maru didn’t wanted to take anymore chances now that he was out of prison.

Then he heard the low hum, indicating that he was receiving a response from his hail. He pressed a button on his throne, which swiveled around 180 degrees to where the video screen appeared out of the wall. Just at that moment, a she appeared before him. Slight streaks of grayish-white appeared in her hair, probably from all the stress—but he wasn’t sure. She hadn’t changed much, probably unlike him.

“Ms. Barris, it’s Sei Maru. I am on my way back to Sullust. And before you ask, yes, I have gone through quite a few changes over the past couple of years,” Maru introduced.

“Mr. Maru, I am pleased to see you no longer being held in jail. I see your time there has led to quite a physical transformation,” Ms. Barris responded.

“Yes… You wouldn’t believe how poorly I was treated—now mind you—I wasn’t beaten or anything. It’s just that I was left in a room with absolutely no context for time with absolutely nothing to do or to occupy myself. It was a shame,” He explained before realizing that he wanted to know more about what was going on in the world that they were living in, “So… I need to be briefed—on everything.”

“Well sir… So much has happened since you were arrested,” Ms. Barris began.

She explained everything about the various factions stretching across the galaxy, but definitely the Alliance was on his mind.

“Tell me more about the Alliance. I want to know why they decided to let me go,” Maru inquired, “I want to find more as to what I will face when I arrive in Sullust…” Then he realized that a more probing concern sat in front of him.

“Before you go there, I want to know… What’s the state of Sullust? Who is in charge? What’s going on?”

The look on Ms. Barris’s face said enough, but he needed to know. He figured the leadership was in total dysfunction if not disarray. They lacked a vision or even cohesion.

“Sir, understand something… We are rudderless right now. Nplr took over after acknowledging the Alliance’s help with liberating Sullust from the New Order. It was at the request of the Alliance, just after you were arrested,” Ms. Barris explained, “But the Sullustan Council seems to think it has autonomy. So now the Sorosuub are working independently from the Sullustan Council.”

Maru slightly shook his head. These men had no idea what they were doing. And now to consolidate power again it would take some time. He couldn’t come in and take on this role simply because he once held it. Maru had to show his credibility, and right now, it’s pretty sorely affected. The Alliance wanted the corporation under its thumb, and it does now. Sadly, though, they didn’t care much for Sullust except for the vessels they can create. It’s exploitation again, as he feared.

“Just another thing to note…” Ms. Barris cut into his internal thought process, “A fleet surrounds Sullust. Any information for why they are here is classified. The government claims that this force is required to protect the Sullustan government from The New Order coming back. I think it’s the Alliance still showing it controls business on the planet.”

“What are my prospects for engagement?” Maru asked.

“Sir, I regret to inform you that you are banned indefinitely from seeking or holding any political position or appointment, and you are barred from doing any work directly for the Sorosuub Corporation. These bans were part of a careful package that comprised your imprisonment,” Ms. Barris tightened her jowls. She didn’t want to receive retribution for offering such dismal news.

“Well…” Maru interjected calmly. “It seems they decided to undercut me long before I got of prison. I bet they coupled it with my conviction, so that just in case I do end up out of prison that I couldn’t come back to power.”

They were smart. Crafty. He didn’t see them moving so quickly to prevent him from having any sort of influence. But then again, he wasn’t supposed to be out of prison again. Since he was ultimately banned from public office, he had to maintain a visible presence. So he had to come up with some sort of role that would work in his favor. Something that offered him freedom to criticize without association and help Sullustans realize how they’ve been duped, and by extension gather how he was so horribly wronged.

“I think it’s time for me to make over. I’m looking to really put external pressures on this political quagmire, but from afar. I want to be a regular presence with the ability to criticizing everything that’s been going on for the past couple of years,” Maru spoke, trying to flesh out his ideas.

“Why not engage with one of the factions on your own? Seek to establish the trade group separately?” Ms. Barris suggested.

“No… Let’s just take this slowly… After all, I need to establish my credibility again. Let’s shoot for a public appearance upon my arrival. There, I’ll paint the blame on the Alliance but not our leadership. That way I can appear to deflect blame from them while planting a kernel of truth for people to question. And I can put unexpected pressure on them. It will be glorious,” Maru fleshed out his strategy.

“Now… Ms. Barris… I need you to start the media campaign. Let news surface that I’ve been released from prison and that my arrival is pending with an approximate arrival time. I want them to see the shuttle coming down for approach and descending the shuttle ramp. You can even say that I will be giving brief remarks upon my arrival at the surface.”

“Yes sir. Will you be taking questions?” She asked taking notes.

“Absolutely. They won’t expect me to. We’re going to turn the conventional media on its head,” Maru smiled, “That way I control the narrative.”

“Anything else sir?” Ms. Barris inquired as she brushed some of her chestnut looks from her face.

“Nothing. We’ll discuss further plans and arrangements once I arrive… OH! What about my living arrangements? Where will I be staying?” Maru almost forgot, wanting to know before he arrived.

“Sir, you will be taking residence in the elite suites on Sullust. A Sullustan transport will be by to take you to your condominium suite. Regrettably, your original apartments were seized. No one from leadership wanted your place and placed it on the market… You might be able to purchase it again, as no one wanted to purchase it and be seen as possibly being connected to you financially.”

“Interesting… Well… We’ll deal with it as it comes. Until we speak later on…” Maru found that tidbit curious as well. Food for thought for later.

“Yes sir,” she responded immediately.

“And Ms. Barris… Thank you so very much,” Maru provide his warm appreciation she has offered even when not connected to him for all this time.

The transmission ended and the screen went to black. Maru pressed on of his seat console buttons to retract the video screen behind the shuttle bulkhead. His seat turned around and he began to ponder his next move. He had to consider this carefully, because this would be his first time coming into contact with people since he was held in the cell.

Maru wanted to arrive with a bang. The arrival had to consume the local Sullustan news cycle. He wanted everything primed and focused on him. That way he had everyone's undivided attention. No distractions. No spin. Just him. The optics in his mind necessitated being able to garner some sort of legitimate claim to gather attention, dare the public not to listen or watch him.

He came up with the basic outline: he'd have his arrival leaked to the news, so that everyone would be aware he was released from prison. The landing pad would have people, mostly close supporters there to greet him on his return. He expected the media to cover this. Nothing this surmountable had ever occurred in Sullust. The shuttle would arrive and Maru would then descend to throngs of people to a lecturn for a press conference. There, he would speak to the people and explain what happened to him. Why he was arrested? Why no word from him? What were the charges? Could he refute them? All of these issues would be discussed in detail, but he would keep careful conigzance that he was not to blame the Sullust senior leadership. He had no proof, but most of all, he would use the anger of people to leverage them.

He had to keep his presense outside the political realm, but that doesn't stop him from being engaged in the issues of the day. And he would have a welcome opportunity to discuss what he was trying to do for Sullust. And place the blame squarely on the Alliance. Point out how the Alliance has done nothing to improve the very lives of his people, which was a thinly-veiled attack at the senior leadership. And to top off, he would answer questions from the media. Something he did but loathed to do while in his previous position. Now he would relish in the opportunity to say as he wanted and to set his record straight.

After making the necessary arrangements, Maru sent off an encrypted communique of his remarks for the whole advance strategy to Ms. Barris. He wanted the preparations to begin and hopefully he can see many supporters or interested people coming to hear him when he arrived back. He patched his pilot asked how much longer before they arrived in the Sullust system. The pilot informed the beleaguered Sullustan leader that the shuttle had to make a course adjustment in the next half hour and then go into lightspeed for the final leg. All in all, he gathered that five more hours of travel were needed.

And soon all of Sullust would see and say his name... Again.
This post was edited by Sei Maru (3:13am 04/06/16, 3 years ago)
5  11:39am 04/06/16        
Former Director General, Free Trade Directorate
The volcanic, unsettling terrain of Sullust lay before a huge throng of sentient Sullustans waiting on a huge launch pad where a lone lectern stood with a small ensign with the now defunct Free Trade Directorate, adding to the audacious nature to this next bout of political theater. Chatter spread immediately upon hearing news that the previous Sullustan leader Sei Maru would be arriving during the current rotation cycle. News outlets from all over the galaxy and particular the local Sullustan media markets were in position as hundreds if not thousands of Sullustans and others stood in a massive throng around the political space where Maru would address the crowd and the Sullustan public at large. 

Evening media outlets had already billed the event as probably one of the most consequential events since the sudden infiltration by the Alliance a couple years ago, their rescue operation while during Imperial suppression, and even the Imperial blockade and control of the system many decades ago. This was a big deal. Never did someone so prominent appear in front of the public after being so unceremoniously humiliated and disgraced. But this was no typical person. Maru conjured many feelings in the system, especially the main planet of Sullust. He was a bit too authoritarian for some. He was very caustic in nature. He was calculated. And results didn't come forth quick enough for the public. It was unfortunate. Maru had much to answer for. 

Aside from all the talk, many senior leadership officials have had a hard time explaining the current string of events. In fact, some were surprised that Maru was even freed from prison. One such leader argued with the news, telling them that they were spreading lies about his release from prison. That the matters regarding him had been settled. Some, in fact, refused to take questions and avoided the press as much as possible. They didn't want to be caught up in the maelstrom. But they were part of it whether they liked it or not. Cancellation notices for all press availabilities for the senior leadership went out after news dropped of Maru's pending arrival and press conference. They didn't want to deal with saying anything uncoordinated and without consulting each other. It was obvious they didn't know what was going on. The Alliance hadn't informed them as to what they were doing. They had absolutely no idea. They assumed the court case was resolved over a year ago and that he was imprisoned indefinitely. It took all of them by surprise. 

Then it happened. The Eranthum exited hyperspace just before the large and imposing Sullustan system. The shuttle swallowed in a bathed glow of orange and red as it made its approach. Sulon could be seen. The large shipyards and the intense traffic neglected to stop for his arrival. But what seemed to take his pilot by surprise was the fleet holding orbit above the central planet. Were they going to encounter some trouble? 

The pilot patched to Maru letting him know the situation: “Sir… We have engaged a fleet orbiting Sullust.”

Maru pressed a button and his chair swung around and the video screen showed what the pilot saw. All manner of ships were taking hold over the planet’s near space. His eyes narrowed. ‘Did these idiots think having the Alliance here was a smart idea? They are effectively controlling who and what comes to the planet’.

“Pilot… Mask our signature and the shuttle ID as we enter the system for inspection. Don’t let them know I’m on the shuttle. Reports have scattered for hours about my release, and they might be prepared to take me in…” He said emphatically, “I need to get on the planet’s surface.”

Guarded, Maru waited until the shuttle got closer. Escort craft grew closer to inspect the shuttle. He didn’t want to be diverted or even arrested—definitely not prison again—for coming back. Then the pilot chimed in that they received authorization to pass through and continue to the surface. Maru didn’t want to reveal his hand until he was at the landing platform. Just as he had hoped. Things were going perfectly. And he didn't want to appear too much of a large-than-life presence. Humble was key. The shuttle with its low hum descended down to the planet, passing around large volcanic eddies and gusts of superficial lava bursts. And ahead was the landing platform, waiting for his arrival. The shuttle slowed again and came to a simple landing right on the platform markers. The landing ramp descended with steam billowing as the shuttle's systems powered down. Maru was now home. 

Maru stood from his chair and looked himself in the mirror. He was okay. He didn't have any other outfits, especially anything that fit his new physique. But he felt this stark change from what they've seen before may help to underscore what he went through. Maru was about to perform the biggest political act of theater of his life. Moving slowly to the landing ramp entrance, he decided to take it one moment at a time. His dark pink robes billowed around him as he walked down the ramp toward the lonely lectern. He heard gasps as he smiled toward the crowd as many screamed and clapped in effusive praise at seeing the former leader again. The responses were mix but the sentiment was still the same: positive. It was as if the landing platform shock at his greeting them, as he stopped at the foot of the ramp. He waved out at the crowd before walking up to the lectern to speak. 

He paused again to take it all in. His smile was genuine and hearing the praise told him he was doing the right thing. Then he spoke for the first time: "Thank you." He let it languish in his mouth as he stretched the words out. 

"Thank you so much everyone for being here. For those watching at home and wherever you are. Thank you to those who trusted me and have continued to trust me through a very trying time in my life," Maru spoke as the chatter and excitement mellowed, like a parting of the lava eddies to allow him to speak clearly and effectively to his people. 

"I am overcome with such emotion seeing my people again. To be here on Sullust once again. To be able to speak to all of you once more," Maru remarked to yet another thunderous response. 

"It's been almost 22 months since I was last among you. It was a very difficult time spent in prison. The isolation…" He let the word hang in the air. "It was maddening," He shook his head. "The silence..." And awkward silence once more before he broke it to continue on, "No one should go through that. I’m sure many of you see me here and wonder if it’s me—well, it’s me. Over these months, I have lost considerable weight and probably will require on-going therapy for severe psychological trauma. I think, on some level, I'll wrestle with it my entire life.” 

"But we are now beyond this. I am just grateful to be finally out of prison and among all of you wonderful people, my people. However, I would be remiss if I did not discuss the very questions that are probably sitting in your minds right now. Why was I let go? Why was I charged? All of these are very important questions that I hope I can explain to the best of my limited ability right now. I was arrested by the Alliance. They illegally came into our territory without prior notice and with fleets just beyond our system's edge. Yes. The Alliance wanted to remove me. I was perceived as a threat. It's no small secret that my efforts, while on the surface unsuccessful, were causing considerable complexity among the great intergalactic powers." 

"This faction arrested me and took me thousands of lightyears away from this system with the goal of keeping me locked away indefinitely without any hope of release and without any opportunity to interact with anyone while during my imprisonment. I stayed in a modest jail cell with no viewports and no sense of time. I languished day to day. And for those skeptical members of society, I want to dispel any assumptions that I used high-powered legal representation to argue my case before the court not long after my imprisonment. I was denied my own counsel. They forced me to use a prison-appointed counsel who did everything in his power to work on my behalf, a Bothan no less... Fionn Enneb. But even he conceded to me months later after I provided my deposition that I was found guilty of trumped up charges regarding money laundering, illegal weapons trading, and conducting clandestine activities for The New Order." 

"Money laundering was laughable. In fact, I was informed just before my arrest, that day, that money was being funneled from my accounts based on Alliance protocols to undisclosed accounts. I can only assume they’re probably held by the Alliance. Not to mention that I was carefully stockpiling weapons, bought legally, for the purpose of creating and staffing a Sullustan defense force because I felt it necessary to establish domestic security due diligence. I refrained from informing the public until I was able to secure all the necessary resources. I even informed various members of many factions to allay concerns I was trying to creating a standing army with the purpose of seeking new territory. It seems the Alliance felt threatened. Ironically though, The New Order or the Republic or even other lesser known factions didn't seem to care. Do you find that uniquely interesting?”

He heard an affirmative from the crowd, “Well, I do as well.” 

"As for conducting clandestine activities for The New Order, it's no secret that before the Alliance invasion that we were under the steward protection and dominance of The New Order. Pure and simple. I could not do what needed to be done because Sorosuub Corporation was too much of a intergalactic political asset. All the major factions wanted control of it. I wanted to wrestle control from them, but we were not in any position with the Free Trade Directorate to effectively protect and stage any secession from them. We still had to provide tribute and create vessels on contract. Should I be blamed for that? Hardly.” He let that statement linger for a moment.

“But I will take responsibility where it rests. I only provided vessels under contract to The New Order. Now… These were all charges that I refuted while in prison. And these charges still stuck because the Alliance courts tried my case in absentia. They prevented me from attending court and decided to make a mockery of my political position and my integrity. Well... As low as I was, how can you make me feel anymore ignoble?" 

"I have no idea who decided my sentence. But as I have warned before numerous times, I said that our power must come from us. We have had too many masters. But we still have to deal with them. But now, we have to start changing the calculus. I was a threat to the status quo, and I paid for it...dearly. So imagine my surprise that I was abruptly told this very day that I was to be released. Why was I released? The Alliance must've no longer seen me as a threat. They may be right. After all, I have decided without reservation that I will no longer work for the Sorosuub Corporation or in any capacity for any Sullustan political institution. I am now a private citizen who comes home to live out the rest of his life and hoping to contribute in any way I can to the betterment for Sullust and Sullustan interests going forward. I trust that your senior leadership is doing their best to handle the complicated and unique circumstances that we find ourselves. I trust they have continued to put forth policies and goals that move us away from these factions, who give no regard for our self-determination. At least, that's what I expect to find out. That was my goal all along, and I do hope this is how they've conducted themselves since I was forcibly removed." 

He stopped for a moment to take stock of the platform. He thought he said enough on his behalf. Maru turned the tables on everyone. Then he began again, "Thank you so much for indulging me, and I'll now take some questions." 

Maru pointed at the female reporter who shot her arm in the air, “Yes ma’am.”

“Mr. Maru, have you reached to any of the senior leadership in the Sullustan Council or the Sorosuub Corporation? If so, who have you consulted since you were deposed?”

“I have not spoken to anyone since I was led out of there. Understand that the people who took custody of me while I was in the Sorosuub compound were planning to torture me. They were almost going to do it. But other troops interrupted the interrogation and escorted me to the shuttle.” His response drew many Sullustans to murmur to others. It seemed as if the leadership didn’t explain all that was going on. Did they even bother to explain how the events unfolded—probably not. “As for the leadership, I have not heard from them at all. I don’t even know if they offered any supportive evidence to help me escape my ridiculous charges. But I don’t blame them. They were probably under pressure not to involve themselves. I just hope they have not given up a prime opportunity to reaffirm our self-determinative aims.”

“Next question… Yes sir…” 

A male Sullustan reporter piped up, “Mr. Maru, can you elaborate on what your role will be going forward? You spoke about contributing to betterment of Sullustans. What do you mean by this?”

“Thank you for the question. Right now, I have to undergo some therapy to wrestle with some demons. Isolation has really affected me. And this is the first time I’ve been around so many people in a long time. There were days if not weeks where I never saw anyone. So understand that I need some time to deal with me. But I plan to provide my input whenever necessary, whether on policy debate or choices the corporation decides to do. I am going to inject myself in the discussion, because I feel it necessary that we continue down the responsible path. And I also hope to start refocusing my Free Trade Directorate as an entity that forges effective and sound trade agreements across the galaxy, so that any and all systems can become members and have legal, verifiable assurances on various modes of intergalactic economic behavior.”

“It’s high time that these larger, military factions come to terms with their iniquities. They’re not doing anyone any favors. All they do is control and consume. I don’t think the whole galaxy can afford another century or millennia of zero-sum year in and year out. We have to start thinking rationally about our use of force and the effect of sound, legally-binding trade agreements. Too many systems, not just ours, are under their thumbs. All these systems want is access to a reasonably stable and peaceful market for trade. Because right now, we are all just pieces on a game board. And quite frankly, I am done playing games.”

The throngs just roared in excitement. Many of the reporters were taken by surprise by the response. Then people started chanting “no more games” over and over again. Maru didn’t exactly smile but he acknowledged the crowd’s comments before they settled down.

“Next question…”

“Mr. Maru, do you have anything to say to Sullustan senior leadership? Or any regrets from your time in leadership?”

“Actually, I have nothing to say about current Sullustan leadership. I only recently heard that the Sullustan Council received new representatives, offering a fresh perspective. I welcome that. But as for the corporation, I have no place there, and I know nothing of what their current goals. I only just arrived… I hope soon that I can provide reliable feedback going forward. But I will say… I find the fleet holding orbit above this planet rather peculiar. And I’ll leave it at that.”

“As for your other question, if a major faction felt the need to forcibly remove me from office and detain me, then I must be doing something right. I have no regrets. And, quite frankly, had not for the fortune of mercy with someone at the Alliance—such a surprise it is to hear me say—then I would still be in prison.”

Some then shouted out their question as Maru’s body language indicated he was ready to close the press conference, “Sir! Are you saying that you find this orbiting fleet a troubling?”

“I’ll let Sullustans come to that conclusion. All I can say is… This planet has never been truly free since I was a child. And many of you who have more yesterdays than tomorrows definitely recall what life was like after that. I’ll let Sullustans to decide for themselves how they feel about that. But I definitely don’t like having to explain myself upon arrival at my own home planet… I keep my trust with the senior leadership and bend toward their guidance… Thank you everyone!”

Maru turned from the lectern and walked over to a waiting hover transport to take him to his new residence. Those on the platform were screaming and shouting and chanting as he left. Whatever the sentiments of the public at large that were watching, these people would spread his points across the planet. He was going to have a fair opportunity to remake himself. He decided at that moment that his earlier approaches were not going to work. He had to work within the public’s favor. And by being not of what he was, he can effectively remake himself and put the necessary pressure on the people that do. Things were about to get very interesting, and Maru wanted to put himself in lock step with the public. Hopefully, he was able to bend their influence in his favor.

Entering the hover transport, it veered away from his shuttle, leaving the platform behind. He needed to regroup with much needed rest and some considerable strategizing. This was a fight he had to win this time.