Grand Admiral Thrawn enters the lodge aboard a prototype Imperial Executor-class Star Dreadnought and views a 50 Imperials milling about in it. A false fireplace glows as its flames dissipate. The smooth wood panelling wraps the walls and columns with moldings made from the planet Alderaan for its dark mahogany lumber. The Empire logged all the Alderaanian mahogany timber only for the shavings for the wood panelling made popular by Imperial interior decor. Too bad the entire planet's mahogany forests' ecosystem collapsed.
Thrawn notices that the bar and furniture were of the same mahogany, and the style is a fern bar similar to the bars on the planet Corellia, several palm green plants from the planet Scarif, and green leaded glass lamp with a mosaic design that dimly lit around the area. Along the walls were taxidermied heads of creatures from various systems that hung around, from terentereks of Drommand Kaas slaughtered by the famed military leader, Grand Moff Odile Vaiken in 3600 BBY, to the five-kilometer wingspan of the pilotta Thrantas of Alderaan. Several coral alabaster pedestals from the planet, Savareen display Krayt Dragon pearls of Tatooine and large kyber crystal shards of Ilum. Thrawn sighs, knowing that the Empire destroys planets by taking all their raw materials for starships and arrogant opulence as demanded by its Imperials. He knew he is a part of the Imperials, but he is Chiss, an alien; his people of the Chiss Ascendancy deplete raw materials from planets. They would never do it because his homeworld Csilla suffered a cataclysmic event, and his people survived by conserving their resources. Then, they expanded into their space to bring balance to the star system and its wonders. To change the hoarding of the Empire -- he is only one person, and he could feel his heart sink as he stands to survey his surroundings.
Thrawn could see an alien advantage in the ultraviolet light spectrum that humans did not have and realize that a yellow-green vapor flowing through the lodge. His heightened sense of smell tells him that he is from the planet, Lothal, where he is building his TIE Defenders. Lothalian greel-wood sap is made into a narcotic incense that guests inhale to inebriation to relax and coerce them to divulge information. His brow rises with a smirk because any good interrogator would create an atmosphere to target those more amenable to reveal secrets. And Thrawn is a Chiss, which his metabolism is different, and the narcotic incense only causes him a slight buzz. Then, his jaw shifts tightly to an indiscernible flush of his Cerulean skin when he becomes aware that Sabine is not immune to its narcotic incense. And he could not see her in the lodge. His buzz wanes from his worry that he tries to conceal when he needs her to remain sober to pull off their ruse.
He walks around in the lodge at an imperceptible fast pace, and he sees various Imperials that wore formal uniform attire, dissimilar to the art auction. The chief of the Imperial Navy, Conan Antonio Motti from the planet, Nixor, wears a red and black sash across his chest to suggests he is royalty. He is not. Thrawn could recognize that Motti thinks he is topping secrets off to Director of Advanced Weaponry, Orson Callam Krennic, who Thrawn has seen in holograms, but already distrusts because Krennic tries to pass off false data to the Emperor. But to play their game, Thrawn has to show deference because they only see a blue-skinned alien near-human that should not be on this prototype ship. But to Thrawn's chagrin, they do not care to acknowledge his presence. Thrawn smirks as he walks past them, thinking they are -- xenocentric chauvinists.
Thrawn quickly passes by Grand General Cassio Tagge in a standard Imperial khaki uniform with a yellow sash of his nobility. Tagge family are nobles. He converses with Colonel Wulff Yularen, who wears his off-white Imperial tunic and long Jodhpurs breech flared black pants. They actively discuss armor and blasters points as if they were going to hunt for one of the beasts of some planet to place it on the wall. Thrawn stops and nods in deference to them.
“Ah, Grand Admiral Thrawn." Yularen's voice welcomes him. "I was just mentioning a new kind of blaster cartridge for those Tusklan beasts told us about in the Chiss Ascendancy space. That the way you hunt them is from all different directions, correct? Do you have time to explain it to us again?” Yularen voice commands Thrawn to stay for confirmation in the debate.
“Is that true, Grand Admiral?” Tagge studies Thrawn’s eyes cautiously. Tagge does not want his reputation sullied by cavorting with an alien, but Thrawn is exceptional at what he does, so he has heard. Tagge shifts his chin slightly with the expectation of an answer in a secret hope that perhaps he will work with Thrawn.
Thrawn stops his tracks to answer the question respectfully. “Grand General Tagge, and Colonel Yularen, I must say your debate is fascinating. No. We had several weeks ago in the board meeting, and I said that it depends on your weapon's bore. You can choose how you want the pelt. If you want to hunt and kill the Tusklan quickly, then you use a large bore weapon. But the first shot better count to kill the Tusklan, or it will kill you upon its charge. But if you want to attack all sides, you use tiny stingflies. The stingflies kill the beast slowly. However, the pelt is damaged. The point to the cadets which we," Thrawn looks to Yularen, then back to Tagge, "Is to teach patience in the process of hunting, and therefore, strategic battle planning.” Thrawn nods and steps quickly. “If you would excuse me, I am looking for my--someone.”
Yularen glances at Tagge to see he accepts Thrawn's answer. Indeed, the impression left by Thrawn on Tagge is favorable with his nod. Then when Tagge prepares for another question, Thrawn is gone. Tagge stares back at Yularen, whose head turns to follow Thrawn's path. "Is the Grand Admiral married?" Tagge asked.
Ashen into surprise on the look from Yularen's face as if he knew what Thrawn does privately. "I -- he has an exemplary and respectable record that does not allow for such," His voice quivers slightly. "Things." He blinks, trying to make sure his secret weapon against the underhanded Imperial machine of blindsided backstabbing. Yularen knew Thrawn could easily unravel Imperials' intentions, and for whatever reason, Thrawn would tell him about his results. But, in Thrawn's office, he describes the Rebel Sabine Wren's painting and the discovery that Kallus is the Rebel spy, Fulcrum. Yularen's brow furrows slightly during Thrawn's description painting. By the inflection of Thrawn's voice that seems like he is happy to share with the ISB Director. Is Yularen's perception correct? How could Thrawn have feelings for this girl? Yularen brushes off any rumor-mongering as he stands with Tagge.
Tagge, unaware of Yularen's close connection to Thrawn, shrugs. "It would seem Thrawn has a relationship the way he is looking for this person. I know I do that when I have lost my wife in a crowd. She will be fashionable late as usual to this event. Let's hope it is before the Emperor and Lord Vader arrive."
A voice interrupts the discussion that picks up on the tail-end of the Tusklan discussion. "I think families bring stability that we desperately need in the Empire." Baron Leon Danthe of the similarly named Mining Corporation on the planet Gorse with drinks. "The Chiss is off in a hurry, isn't he. Let's hope he is happy. Cheers."
Thrawn does not complete his sentence and walks past Admirals Screed, and Rancit wears gray double-breasted long jackets with button hangs. They gobble down hors d'oeuvres still alive as the server droids bring them more. Thrawn nods to them, respectfully and they nod back. Disgusting eaters.
Admiral Garrick Versio enters the room with his entourage as Thrawn searches hurriedly for Sabine. Thrawn is in a panic and turns to search for her. He wears his off-white Imperial tunic with his Jodhpur flared black pants. He touches Thrawn to pull him aside. “This ship is huge--” He sees Thrawn’s rank and the sash that represents his people. “I’m sorry, Sir. I--.”
Thrawn nods for Versio’s oversight. “It’s quite alright; I’m looking for a woman in an off-white and gold crepe dress -- she can’t speak Basic yet.”
Versio’s brow frowns, then turns to a laugh. “Oh, yes, the young woman you met at the art auction. My - she is one helluva a looker. A woman like that does not need to speak much Basic, Grand Admiral. Good luck finding her before some other Imperial does.”
Thrawn smiles as he winces at that comment and continues his search. He notices that not many spouses of the elite Imperials are at the lodge. Moreover, he does not see many women, Imperial officers, or otherwise. It confounds him. There is more gender diversity at the art auction than at this formal ship launching event. These invitations must be very selective.
Grand Moff Tarkin walks up to him with a young woman captain in a short green jacket with a long skirt with a front slit. “Grand Admiral Thrawn, I would like to introduce you to Commander Natasi Daala.” His swarthy smile moves even across his face.
“Grand Admiral Thrawn. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’ve heard great things about you.” She grins as she extends her hand to shake Thrawn’s hand boldly.
Thrawn shakes her hand with a firm grip and stares directly into her eyes. “Commander. I hear you are an expert slicer. You cracked the codes of our--” He mouths. “Rebel insurgents?”
She titters at Thrawn’s compliment and humility of his rank. “I doubt you can say all that. I just programmed on the com that predicts the Scum’s maneuvers.”
“Pardon? Scum?” Thrawn blithely asks as he scans the room for Sabine.
“Oh?” She laughs and says casually. “Rebel scum. Everyone uses that term. Sir? Are you looking for someone, Grand Admiral?”
Then in a corner alone, Sabine stands in front of a piece of holographic art. She removes purple and orange spraypaint bottles and paints over the Imperial art quickly. Thrawn gawks internally, but his face did not show it as Sabine vandalizes the art with her graffiti. She paints over the landscape and animal life paintings. She thinks she is hidden. He wonders how long it will take the Empire to learn it is her, for he already knows. Then she looks around to see if anyone is watching her as she scans the room. She catches Thrawn’s red-in-red eyes that glow with ire when she sees him. Sabine shifts her jaw in pride for her vandalism in front of Thrawn as he puts one hand in his pocket. She works through the crowd and enters into the group as he speaks.
With a smile, Thrawn grins as his eyes slightly flick toward Sabine and her compliancy. “I believe that currently, we have to try several tactics to pound hard against the Rebels’ backs with heavy thrusts - err, I mean - threats.”
“How do you plan to do that without expanding the military,” Daala asks.
“Yes, Thrawn, we have several concurrent projects.” Tarkin chimes.
“Managing them one individual at a time, vigorously to dismantle their defenses, but only after intense study.” Thrawn bores into Sabine’s eyes. “May I uh, introduce you to - my date.”
Tarkin and Daala tilt their heads at the same time to learn her name.
“Ni gai Sabine aliit Wren,” Sabine says rapidly in Mando’a with a thick Krownest accent.
Tarkin and Daala stare at her attempting to follow her and then look at Thrawn.
“I’m a Chiss; I have no idea what she said.” Thrawn laughs.
Sabine looks up at him as a droid server doles shots of whisky. Thrawn grabs two, one for Sabine and one for him. “Watch it; it burns your tongue,” Thrawn warns her, sticking out his tongue to show her and then downs his with a grimace from the alcohol burn. He watches Sabine imbibes her similarly, without a grimace. Tarkin and Daala drink theirs and grimace from the alcohol burn.
Tarkin speaks. “Whisky’s good. Where’s it from?”
“One of Canto Bight's moons.” A new voice enters the fold from the Governor. “Governor Tarkin. Commander. Guest?” She turns to Thrawn with a slight sneer. “Grand Admiral. I provide the best when I hear the Empire brought me a Dreadnaught prototype to my system.”
“Yes, well, after all you have been through in this last system rotation, it seems that you would hardly have time to attend a function such as this,” Tarkin announces.
Daala presses Tarkin inquiring what he means. He whispers in her ear about the art auction fiasco. “Oh? Her?” Daala exclaims with another titter. Then she sees a friend and rushes to catch her. It was Assistant Director Ysanne Isard in an off-shouldered burnt orange dress that fits her form perfectly.
Both men, Tarkin and Thrawn, slightly grin as they gaze at Daala's and Isard's large asses leaving them. Then they turn back with a gaze at Sabine, who wears a deep low cut neckline bustier. The neckline on the dress lifts and plumps together voluptuous breasts, which often are concealed behind her Mandalorian armor. In truth, both men looked down at her dress to see them jiggle when she moves with their discretion not appearing on their faces.
The Governor glares at Daala and Isard and then to Thrawn, who ignores her when his hand falls to pats Sabine on her ass to draw attention. “I must say we caught the thieves, but they destroyed the painting.”
Sabine jumps slightly from Thrawn's pat on her ass and then releases a gasp because what the governor said is not true. She knew that her team knows the pricelessness of the painting. Unless the ditzy Governor covers her ass to explain her security nightmare at the art auction, after all, Sabine was able to enter without much scrutiny. But then, of course, she had an idea why. She diverted the Imperial's attention as they gaze upon her in a provocative dress, and her body lifted to appeal to them sensually. It worked for Thrawn, did it not?
Thrawn knew the Governor is lying. He notices Sabine tugging with her big beautiful gold-brown eyes to indicate she needs to use the refresher. “Yes, but no dawdling.”
Tarkin whispers. “How does she understand what you’re saying, Thrawn?”
Thrawn shrugs. “You know, I do not know? It is truly a pleasure to have that communication than to hear nagging.” Thrawn and Tarkin watch Sabine walk away, swaying her hips with her large ass that bounces to the refresher.
The Governor interrupts. “I hate to interrupt your patriarchy, but honestly, Tarkin, your commander? And you Thrawn, you got an escort from Zeltros to fulfill your needs?”
“That will be quite enough!” Tarkin speaks up. “You are fortunate that this Rebel plot does not implicate you.”
“I had nothing to do with it!”
“But it was your art auction event, and you lost a piece of the Emperor’s collection.” Tarkin chides.
“Revise your report, Governor. You know that the Rebels did not destroy a priceless painting.” Thrawn glares into her wide eyes. Then he sees in the distance a young Loyalty Commission Officer, Sinjir Rath Velus. With a slight grin, he offers an alternative in a lowered tone. “The Rebels stole the painting, and you may know them, personally. We confirmed the presence of the CEC-VCX-100 light freighter in high orbit. If you confirm this intelligence, the Empire might absolve you of this indiscretion.”
“No, Thrawn! You do not get to tell me what to do. No one will. We could have created a technology center of the Empire happen. But you thought it better to exclude me from your little plans when you brought that-that -- little whore!” She snarks.
“Then Governor, why don’t you explain it to the Emperor when he and Lord Vader arrive,” Tarkin states flatly. He catches another shot of whisky to drink.
“What? The Emperor will be here?” She shouts, so every Imperial present heard it.
The Imperials in the room stop, and all eyes were on her; she slows her movements and glares at Thrawn, but Tarkin blocks any more verbal attacks on Thrawn.
Daala chats with Isard in the refresher as she interrupts Daala's blathering about her position again. “Pardon me, Natasi. Is that the System Governor who broke poor little Ottlis Dos' heart? She's such a floozie?”
“I think so, too. The Governor has no military training and somehow hurts a gorgeous intelligence agent who has -- uses." Daala says 'uses' not meaning missions but for other nefarious uses too pornographic for civil society. "I heard she could fight, but rumor has it that some little Mandalorian girl electrocuted the mess out of her in an Imperial detainment facility.” Daala cavalierly answers.
Sabine exits the refresher. She acts like she cannot understand the full conversation as she washes her hands. Then Isard holsters her tiny side gun to her thigh. “Oh. I thought we were in here alone? Look, we know you understand Basic, courtesan, so hear this: do not tell anyone here of my weapon, and I won’t kill you. Understand?”
Sabine moistens her lower lip and follows Isard's fear in her shaking eyeballs. Isard is 5 cm taller than Sabine in her sky-high heels. Sabine opens her purse and adds some lip gloss to her lips to expose her personal self against Thrawn's warning to handle these bitches as they should be. “You need to place the TX32 barrel toward your outer thigh, so when you grab for a shot, it will improve your aim. You only have six shots and two lethal targets on a body. But I’m sure you know that Director Isard.”
Both Natasi Daala and Ysanne Isard's eyes widen then they turn to each other and laugh profusely. “YOU. LITTLE. FAKER!” They say in unison.
Isard quickly washes her hands and races to Sabine. “Are you an assassin? Because I’m hiring, and I must say - You. Are. Gorgeous. None of these Imperial assholes would suspect you -- too busy looking at your tits and ass.”
“You know, in the galaxy, we girls must stick together.” Daala chimes. “You are on a highly secure base. Do the Rebels own you? Because the only way you’d know about that gun is if you are one of them.”
Sabine stops to look at them with a sly grin.
Isard looks as Daala, then offers. “Your secret is safe with us. But good luck fucking that Blue alien admiral if he's your target. I guess that’s your thing. Just know he’s not human. He can't give you the kind of life you desire with a human male in the Imperial Patriarchy. Chiss are devoid of feeling anything worth your effort.”
Daala says. “Hey, don’t feel bad; sometimes, you have to fuck who you want to get ahead in this place. I am.”
Isard blurts. “You are?”
Daala says. “And he’s damn good.”
They laugh together and then look at Sabine. She closes her eyes to draw an image of what it be like to punch these bitches faces into the mirror. It is a fleeting second, and she hates gossip. Thrawn’s warning about Imperial xenophobia proves to be true. She slowly opens her eyes and stares into Daala's and Isard's eyes with a huge grin. “Oh, what do I know? Canto Bight designers fashion my gown, and I can dance the Zeltros Courtesan Tango.”
Isard and Daala chuckle staring at her body, grinning at one another.
Sabine fake giggles as she exits the refresher hurriedly but bumps into the chest armor of an Imperial. She follows it up to his face and sees the Loyalty Officer Sinjir Rath Velus, who drinks whiskey on ice in a lowball glass.
Daala and Isard follow her but sees the Loyalty Officer's Imperial insignia. They look at him and hug one another, not wanting to cross swords with a Loyalty Officer, a nascent agency in the Empire, for fear of an investigation for treason and handing it to ISB. They stop their bullying of Sabine and quickly leave in separate directions.
Sabine stares in the middle of his chest with his Imperial cog emblem. She looks up at his lightly tan face.
Sinjir takes a whiskey drink as the ice cliques against the lowball glass and smiles slightly at Sabine. “Your graffiti on that holographic art is perfect. It adds color and vibrance to this dull-drab place.”
“So, another Imperial that likes like art, too? I ought to give art lessons if they were legal.” Sabine mumbles.
“Does Grand Admiral Thrawn know who you are, Sabine Wren? Exactly who you are?” Sinjir counters.
Sinjir closes his eyes to process his next comment. “Everything that you are? Meaning, no one here can harm you in the Empire despite your -- silly past alliances?" He draws out the 's' in his comment and then quickly shifts his eyes at Thrawn speaks to Imperial officers. "Or dalliances?”
Sabine narrows her eyes in confusion. “What is your name?”
“Loyalty Officer Sinjir Rath Velus from the Loyalty Commission.” He places his hands behind his back.
“Ranov’l’alor?” Sabine asks in her heavily accented Krownest Mando’a.
“With the little Mandalorian I know, then yes, the Imperial Secret Service under ISB.” Sinjir prides himself on his translation skills and knowing what Sabine spoke. He takes a more somber look. “Have these Imperials learned who you are?”
“Ner’aliit naka’mir.” She looks away.
Sinjir puts his hands on his hips. “Well, girl, how are you going to get yourself out of this mess you cooked up? Will you shoot us all?” He chuckles at his joke.
Sabine realizes his inflections and genuflection. She stands on her tiptoes and lends Sinjir's ear to whisper. “Grand Admiral Thrawn's thrusts are quite vigorous, and I like fucking him.”
Sinjir gives a strange look to wonder what the hell would Thrawn see in her to fuck her like wildly that? He studies her body. Thrawn was a boob and ass man. Thrawn is a sapiosexual who loves it when certain women wear sky-high heels to strut around privately. Sinjir read Thrawn's dossier. Not one blemish of personal indiscretion on his record. But his love of art what unprecedented. No one knew why until Sinjir looks at Sabine's dress Thrawn obviously purchased for her -- Thrawn is a boob man and probably has a lactation fetish. He likes to assert his dominance over sugar babies.
At that moment, off in the distance, another Chiss woman enters the bar with a pregnant belly and an Imperial man with the rank badge of commander. Still, he wears another military uniform with a Chiss sigil. Sinjir tilts his head and starts to piece together the picture as the circumstances unfold. “How much do you know about the Chiss?”
“Other than recent events? Nothing. Myths and stereotypes spacers tell. You are secret service; you tell me ?” Sabine replies.
“Do you know that -- Chiss?” Sinjir points toward the Chiss woman.
“Nayc.” Sabine looks to see her and then looks up at him.
“Something is going on.” Sinjir takes a deep sip of his liquor. “Thrawn better have your best interests at heart because if he does not, the Empire will have Hell to pay, and it all started with this Chiss invasion. Are you sure he knows everything about you, Sabine?”
Sabine shrugs. “He says he does.”
“The Emperor and Lord Vader will be here in minutes. You must be with Grand Admiral Thrawn to pay homage to His Majesty and Lord Vader. None of this Rebel Scum osik. Understand?” Sinjir orders.
Sabine stares at him and complies with a grin. “Okay.”
“I will find a way to get you back to Mandalorian Space. It might take 2-3 days before I can do that. But I’ll find some way.” Sinjir thinks.
Sabine presses her lips and admits. “I did not steal that painting. It’s a weird painting, though.”
“I know. I saw both of you. I know who stole the painting. The Governor did not steal it, but she lied about it. I don’t know why she does this, and she has been warned.”
Sabine raises her brows in confusion and then rolls her eyes as she pieces the Governor's ignorance together. She scoots across the crowded pub between filthy Imperials.
Sinjir watches Thrawn from a distance. Thrawn approaches the other Chiss in congratulatory gestures and hugs of joy. “Sabine, do not discuss our conversation with Thrawn.” He gently presses Sabine’s side and pushes her toward this Chiss as they speak their language, Cheuhn. Thrawn sees Sabine enter their circle to welcomes her.
In a lowered tone, Thrawn introduces Sabine to Vah'nya with pride. “Sab'ika, you are free to speak Basic here." Then he turns to the Chiss woman, "Nizehin'ci Vah'nya, Sabine Wren of Krownest, Mandalore Space.” Thrawn shifts and stares into Sabine’s eyes. “Sabine aliit Wren, this is Navigator Vah'nya.”
Sabine bows her head and looks at the Chiss woman incredulously due to her pregnancy. “You have a huge belly, Navigator.”
Vah'nya's confusion as her Basic is limited. Eli Vanto whispers to her what Sabine said, and Vah'nya laughs, rubbing her stomach. "Yes. So tired. Swollen."
“Sabine, this is Commander Eli Vanto. He helped me get accustomed to lesser space.” Thrawn introduces.
Vanto places his hand out to take Sabine’s hand. “Hi, Sabine. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Sabine places her hand carefully on Vanto, and he lifts it to his lips to kiss the back of her hand. The astonishment on her face causes her to squeak. “Why, Commander, so formal.”
“Formality is my duty, milady.” Vanto smiles.
“You’re from Wild Space?” Sabine asks innocently.
“How could you tell?” bemuses Vanto.
“Much to say about Wild Space Hospitality toward Mandalorians.”
Thrawn intervenes. “Eli, I wonder if you are flirting with my vesen?”
Vanto replies succinctly. “Veah tuzir Ch'ah ch'acen'bocat veo Ch'ah csarcican't cart ch'a ticsi bitbo.” Clear and concise Cheuhn.
Vah'nya laughs, holding her stomach as she looks at Sabine approvingly, like a sister who likes her brother’s new girlfriend. “Ch'ah ch'acacah len, Mitth’raw’nuruodo.”
Thrawn smiles. “Ch'ah k'ir, cssi.” His arm drops down Sabine’s back gently as his hand rests at the small of her back. “Sab’ika, are we okay?”
“Lek, Jatne Vod.” Sabine says in her strong Krownest Mando’a accent.
Vanto adds. “And she’s Mandalorian, Grand Admiral? You must love taking huge risks.”
Thrawn smiles. “Calculated risks. Sab'ika is no problem at all. Besides, I’m a Chiss exile from the Chiss Ascendancy.”
Everyone laughs aloud except Sabine because she did not know what they said. She could see how friendly they are with each other. Whenever she had a chance, she would teach herself the Cheuhn language. She fidgets again as she felt the hairs on her neck rise.
Behind her, a new group enters the room. Royal Red Guards march in as they surround the Emperor. Then Darth Vader comes with his 501st Stormtroopers. Her stomach churns with nausea suddenly for no reason. She looks at Vah'nya, who holds a calm demeanor, and Sabine tries to be like her. The Emperor goes to an assembled throne and sits as all the Imperials kneel. Sabine feels a tug of Thrawn’s hand telling her to kneel as his brows narrow slightly. Sabine kneels and looks around for any new people who enter. Secretively, a young woman, roughly Sabine’s age, is present with traditional hair buns on each side of her head. It was Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan. Barely a sigh of relief from Sabine as she is no longer the only Rebel operative aboard this Imperial vessel.
Then the Emperor lifts his hand. “Rise.” He looks around the room.
The Emperor’s royal crier speaks. “His Majesty, the Emperor, and his apprentice, Lord Vader, are ready to receive your homages to him.” The Royal Red Guard, Death Troopers, and Stormtroopers rally the attendees into a line for every Imperial Officer to offer their homage.
Director Orson Krennic is the first, and he kneels before the Emperor, who speaks a few words to him. Krennic bows his head a moves to Darth Vader, and proudly appears before him. Vader nods, and Krennic scampers off to his ship to go back to work. The royal crier calls “Director Orson Callam Krennic.”
Admirals Screed and Rancit walk together and kneel. The Emperor says a few words to them, and they move past Vader. They leave to their ships to get back to their work. The royal crier calls “Admiral Terrinald Screed and Admiral Dodd Rancit.”
Grand General Casio Tagge with his wife bow and curtsy before the Emperor, and he smiles approvingly, and Vader nods accordingly, and they move into the back of the room near the bar and food to stay longer. The royal crier calls, “Grand General Casio Tagge and his lovely wife from the planet Nixor.”
Then Grand Moff Tarkin, with Commander Natasi Daala and Director Ysanne Isard, bow and curtsy before the Emperor. He smiles approvingly, and Vader nods. They move to the back of the room near the bar and food to stay longer. The royal crier calls, “Grand Moff Tarkin, Commander Natasi Daala, and Director Ysanne Isard of the Outer Rim and Coruscant.”
Admiral Motti kneels in a cocky manner before the Emperor. As he spoke a few words, Motti stands and stares at Vader, who does not nod. Motti moves to the back of the room near the bar and food to stay longer. The royal crier calls, “Admiral Conan Antonio Motti of the planet, Seswenna.”
Thrawn’s brows rise because the protocol is varied. Those who stay and those who leave are stochastic. He studies the pattern longer.
Princess Leia Organa kneels before the Emperor, who speaks to her quietly. As she studies Vader, she felt a cold statue appear toward her. Princess Leia is allowed to stay, and she did; however, she thought she should leave. As she views the line, she sees Sabine waiting with that Chiss officer. Her desire to speak to Sabine to check on her status. But she knew she should not, or it could jeopardize their cover. The royal crier calls, “Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan and her court.”
This game calculates to pretend nothing happens and keep with the flow. Leia goes to her most common threat, which at the time is Tarkin. She speaks to him about the weather on Eriadu, given the global droughts they were having due to the sentient being-made unstable climate.
The Governor goes to kneel before the Emperor, who speaks to her. She rises very quickly and runs to her ship in tears without acknowledging Vader. Unbecoming behavior of an Imperial Officer. The royal crier calls, “The Governor.” The crier stops abruptly.
Thrawn crosses his arms, unsure if he should console the Governor or take his chances before the Emperor with his date, Sabine. He looks to the doors that the Governor ran through and flinches to rise as Sabine’s hand grabs him, and she shakes her head in the negative.
Sabine’s stare is as deadly as her whispered sneer. “Nayc, Mitth’raw’nuruodo. She has done wrong and must pay for her mistakes, just like the others who left.”
Thrawn feels Sabine’s icy stare that sends chills down his spine but opts to stay with her and knows, whatever happens, it will have to stay. He has met the Emperor and Vader before, but there is a chain of command and hierarchy. Why feel fear now? He is a warrior. Fear is of no use to him.
Then Thrawn saw Sinjir Rath Velus walk by himself and kneel before the Emperor. Sinjir looks up to the Emperor’s eyes, which has superstitions in what not to do. Sinjir rose in pride and nods to Vader. He walks carefully to the back of the room near the bar and food. The royal crier calls, “Loyalty Officer Sinjir Rath Velus of the Loyalty Commission of Coruscant.”
Yularen is next and can pass and stay. The royal crier calls, “Colonel Wulff Yularen of the Imperial Security Bureau of Coruscant.”
Then, Thrawn’s and Sabine’s turn. Sabine clings to his arm tightly as they both kneel. She could tell the Emperor’s eyes bore down upon them, and then he speaks to Thrawn. “You captured her in a manner unexpected. Your position and qualifications are superior to most assembled here, Mitth'raw'nuruodo.” Thrawn looks up at the Emperor in confusion. “Oh, you thought you brought a Rebel spy before me?” The creaky laugh of the Emperor becomes louder. “Rise, both of you.”
Thrawn rises faster than Sabine to help her. Once on her feet, the crooked hand of the Emperor touches her stomach. Sabine falls backward in a dizzy spell as the wind is knocked out of her from an invisible gut punch. Thrawn narrows his red eyes and catches Sabine. He carries her in his arms. Then, the Emperor cackles and murmurs to Vader. “Mandalorians willful, unlike any other.”
Darth Vader, who hardly speaks at these events, responds to the Emperor. “A different kind. These bloodlines can be of great benefit to our plan.”
Thrawn hears their words in wonderment. Did we meet our demise? He looks to Eli Vanto and Vah'nya, who kneel before the Emperor. Then he realizes Sabine and the royal crier had not made an announcement.
The royal crier announces, “Grand Admiral Thrawn of the Chiss Ascendancy, and Countess Sabine Wren of Mandalore.”
Thrawn stops and, in shock, stares at Sabine, who awakes from her stupor. He puts her feet on the floor as she stands slowly and grips his shoulder. The rest of the Imperials stare at Sabine Wren in confusion as Thrawn with shock. Thrawn asks Sabine softly. “Countess of Mandalore — MiLady?”
“Yes.” Sabine looks at him as she stretches from what felt like a long slumber, then avoids his gaze. “Ner’aliit -- my family told me to be silent about my title. Guess the Emperor and Lord Vader knew about it and decided to announce it.”
“Sab’ika -- my apologies, MiLady. You never hide these facts from me--err--I mean, the Empire.” Thrawn concedes quietly. He grabs the back of her neck carefully and kisses her lips. “You have to go back to Mandalore, and I will have to request to escort you back there.”
“What? No. I have to stay for my--” Sabine says in shock, and then she whispers to him. “I can find my way back to Mandalore.”
Princess Leia Organa touches Sabine's shoulders and interrupts. “Countess! I am so glad you are here. I’ve been waiting for you. I hologrammed the Regent when she told me you were visiting this system.”
Sabine shakes her head, still groggy. "Ba'vodu Bo'ika? I mean Regent Bo-Katan Kryze?”
“Yes. I know the Regent of Mandalore.” Leia nods to convince as sleepy Sabine to leave with her,
Tarkin speaks. “Grand Admiral, I want you to take this Star Destroyer and escort the Countess back to her homeworld without incident. As for your fleet--”
“Belay that order." A booming mechanical voice speaks. "The Grand Admiral will take the Chimaera and the 7th fleet to Mandalore, Grand Moff Tarkin.” Darth Vader steps forward with a new order.
“Lord Vader, we need the other ships to protect the asset and any incursions at that vault.”
“The Grand Admiral needs his fleet.” Vader turns to Thrawn. “Countess, we extend our assistance to Mandalore, should you ever need it.”
Vader’s mechanical voice box jolts Sabine's bones as she backs into Thrawn. “Yes, Lord Vader.”
Thrawn holds Sabine's hand. “We will leave Canto Bight immediately, my Lord.” He backs away from the group with Sabine to board his shuttle. Thrawn walks briskly as he tightly grips Sabine’s hand as she trots behind him. Thrawn's calculations have to change as thoughts roll through his head. Sabine being royalty and Mandalorian royalty, changes his plan for her. Harm to a member of Mandalorian royalty could cause endless war beyond any threats in the Unknown Regions. A loose coalition of Mandalorian Military Forces with guerilla surprise tactics against the Galactic Empire could destroy this entire galaxy.