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Minister of Lothal

Chapter Text

     Newly appointed Minister Erso stared down at Commandant Aresko and Taskmaster Grint, not bothering to hide her displeasure. Beside them, if she was to trust the information provided, sat the alien who had been at the heart of the disturbance. Her plans had been to take her first day in office slowly, to calm herself as she waited for Agent Andor's preliminary report on the Empire's personnel here. If what he had found on the surface had angered her, she had no doubt that looking deeper into the cesspool that had become Lothal's command structure would send her into a silent rage. Unfortunately, the dark haired woman thought, her plans had been cut short.

     "Do you know why you're here," she asked the men before her, looking between the three of them.

     "Minister Erso," the Commandant spoke, his voice going honeyed. "I'm so pleased to meet you. I don't know what lies this creature told you," he shot a venomous look at the alien, "but I assure you, we-"

     "You're not here for pleasantries, Commandant," the woman interrupted him, smiling sweetly at his wince. "We're here to discuss your actions. This citizen says you-"

     "You little Loth-rat," the Taskmaster snarled, and the citizen cowered back at his expression. "I'll have you-"

     "You will do nothing to this man," she snapped, and all three jumped at her harsh tone. "You are officers of the Empire! It is your duty to protect these citizens- not steal from them, or imprison them on false charges! And yes," she cut the Commandant off before he could speak, "we questioned the troopers who accompanied you, along with several witnesses they identified- this man said nothing that would warrant a charge of treason. I witnessed your questioning at Agent Andor's hands, and I will say this," she lowered her voice to a near whisper, standing to lean over the two. "You lie poorly. Now," the Minister continued, struggling to relax her posture. "It is my first day as Minister, and firing you would set a poor precedent for my term. No," she muttered, letting poison slip into her voice, "you won't be fired. Now leave us, officers, I will speak with you both later." The officers flinched at her tone, standing to silently obey. All former confidence had vanished, and she bit back a sharp grin at their grim visages. Good. She paused after their departure, turning to study the alien man who sat before her. He had hunched in on himself, black eyes looking at anything but her. "Now," the Minister started, actively working to soften her voice. "The troopers Agent Andor questioned were also able to confirm that you aren't, as Commandant Aresko was so quick to point out, on the registry for traders on Lothal. You do understand that all trade must be registered with the Empire, yes," she asked, and received only silence. Minister Erso sat back, closing her eyes as she wondered just what the alien had to gain by flaunting the rules. "Let us reach a compromise." That caught his interest, black eyes flickering back up to her own. "My people will help you register as a trader, and I will ensure that you are compensated for your lost wares. That is your right, as a citizen of the Empire. I will do so regardless of what you say next. However, I would like to extend an... invitation to you."

     "Invitation," he asked, suspicion and weariness mingling thickly in his voice.

     "Yes. This incident is one of many, I'm discovering, of Imperial Forces on Lothal abusing their power." She closed her eyes, taking a sharp breath before she continued. "I will not let that continue. My people have found deep rooted corruption here, in every layer of command, and I will not stand for it." He flinched at her fury, and she struggled once more to soften her tone. "I am going to make an example of Commandant Aresko and Taskmaster Grint- they will be my message to all that things are going to change." She caught the interest that flickered through his dark eyes, giving the alien as soft a smile as she could manage. "I'm inviting you to testify before the people of Lothal- to speak the truth. In return, I will ensure that justice is had. You have nothing to lose, citizen. Commandant Aresko and Taskmaster Grint will be punished regardless of your acceptance or rejection. You could walk out of this place, register, and never hear from me again. Or," she continued, looking him in the eye, "you could testify. You could help me show the people of Lothal that things will change under my command, and that this change will be for the better. I won't force you," she reassured him, "it's your choice." Minister Erso sat back, watched as the alien mulled his options over.

     "I," he started, and she caught the cautious glimmer of hope in his eyes, "I accept. I'll testify."

Chapter Text

     Agent Andor surveyed the scorched buildings below him, eyebrows furrowing as he turned to the newly arrived Agent.

     "They knew out protocol," Andor informed the man, his hands tightening behind his back, "and were waiting in position." Agent Kallus gave a sigh, turning to glance back at the brunette.

     "I've no doubt," he muttered. "You're not the first on Lothal to be hit by this crew." Was that supposed to reassure him? Repeat offenders who hadn't been caught would cause only trouble for the Rog- Minister Erso. She didn't need extra distractions, not when weeding through the corruption here had turned out to be a larger task than expected. He had no doubts in her ability, she would eventually drag every guilty party into the light, but having open dissenters would force her to divide her attention. No, Andor thought, hand brushing his sniper rifle, better to deal with the group before things escalated.

     "That's not good," he muttered, when the other Agent looked to him. "I apologize, Agent Kallus, but Minister Erso's transition to power hasn't been smooth. I assume you're here to help us?" The blond man removed his helmet, resting it against his hip as he turned to fully face the other man.

     "The Imperial Security Bureau pays attention to patterns," Agent Kallus answered. "When the Empire's operations are targeted on an ongoing basis, it could signify something more than the theft of a few crates." The man turned once more from him, both of them surveying the troops below. "It could signify the spark of rebellion." Blaster fire. The civilian he was helping screamed in agony, fell limply from his grasp. The Sniper cursed, dropped low as a shot missed him by inches. The stench of scorched flesh invaded the air, and he gagged as he ducked behind cover. The Sniper glanced back, where empty green eyes seemed to stare at him in accusation. Why were the rebels shooting at civilian- "-time they make a move, we'll be waiting for them,"  the Agent continued, unaware of Andor's momentary slip up, "to snuff out that spark before it catches fire." At any other time, he would have had to fight off a smirk at the man's melodramatics. But now, as the remembered smell of charred flesh slowly faded, he was glad for the Agent's words. They gave him something to focus on, anything to forget the- No. He had promised himself he would never dwell on That Day again.

     "What do you suggest," Andor asked, looking him in the eye. Agent Kallus smiled, confident and bold. For a brief moment, Andor wondered how the man would react if he knew of his past identity. Would he still exude the same self confidence, the same control, or would he give way to Andor? But no, the Agent thought as he focused in on the finer details of Agent Kallus's plan, it was better to leave the past in the past. His transition from the Sniper of the Knights of Ren, to Agent Andor of the Lothal Imperial Security Bureau, had been a demotion of sorts. It had been a demotion for all of the Knights. Still, none of them would ever question their Lord's orders, and he... He was glad. Here, they were free for now from the bloodshed they had witnessed, had committed, as the Knights of Ren. He could sleep more soundly on Lothal, a planet that none of them had ever visited while they were Knights. And here, having been appointed to power by Lord Vader himself, the former Knights could finally do what they had always dreamed of. They would finally be able to clean out corruption in the Imperial ranks. A single planet would mean nothing in the vastness of the galaxy, but it would mean everything to them. Here, they could return the Empire to its original ideals. Here, they could change the planet for the better. Here, Andor thought as he looked to the stars, was hope.

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     These were the rebels they were fighting? Andor bit back a wave of disgust at the furred creature's last words, an empty parting compliment that would do nothing for the boy. And he really was just a boy, the man realized as Agent Kallus forced the youth ahead of him. He had seen young rebel fighters before, misguided youth whose minds had been poisoned by their elders, but this? Their new prisoner was young. Just barely on the cusp of adulthood, if Andor had to guess, or just shy of it. That... complicated things. If he knew anything at all about the group he had been with, Andor had a suspicion that Agent Kallus wouldn't hesitate to turn to interrogation. And all agents, he knew, were well trained in the arts of torture. As they headed for the detention section, Andor prayed to the Force that the boy knew nothing. If he did know something, if the other Agent made use of his skills, and the R- Minister Erso discovered it? Well, not even the Force would be able to save the other man.

 

     Bright blue eyes looked up at their entrance, filled with defiance and fear. Oh Force, please let the boy know nothing.

     "I am Agent Kallus of the Imperial Security Bureau." Agent Kallus introduced himself, descending into their prisoner's darkened cell. The man stayed straight backed, tall and foreboding as he examined the boy. "And you are..."

     "Jabba the Hutt," the dark haired boy replied, deadpanning in a way that would have made the He- Taskmaster Malbus laugh. Please know nothing, Andor prayed once more, his discomfort growing. Please know nothing. The quip received only a single raised eyebrow from the Imperial Agent. "Look," the boy spoke more quickly, "I just met those guys today! I don't know anything!"

     "You're not here for what you know, 'Jabba'." He wasn't? Thank the Force, Andor wasn't sure he'd have been able to make up a convincing story for the man's death if the- Minister Erso killed him. "You're here to be used as bait upon our return to Lothal."

     "Bait," the boy repeated in disbelief. He gave a cynical laugh at the man's words, nearly harsh and mocking. "You seriously think..." Blue eyes went wide at the flat look the Agent gave him. "Wow," he continued, "you're about as bright as a binary droid. They're not gonna come back for me. People don't do that." And he spoke the words with such bitter knowledge. What had this boy been through? What past betrayals had he suffered, before this newest group had abandoned him? Agent Kallus inhaled deeply at his words, and Andor felt something relax inside slightly at the muted reaction. The man wasn't completely ruthless, then. Near golden eyes looked into blue, as if searching for something within them, before the Agent turned from their prisoner. He ascended to the exit without another word to the boy, apparently satisfied with his claims of ignorance. Andor slowly let out the breath he had been holding, and turned expectantly back to the other man.

     "Search him," the Agent instructed the troopers who waited outside. "Then secure him here." Andor glanced back just in time to catch true fear flicker deeply through the boy's blue eyes, and he gritted his teeth as the troopers moved towards him without relaxing their stances. 'Jabba' drew back at their approach, pulling his bag to his side as he leaned away, arm flying up as if to ward off a blow. Damn it.

     "Stop," Andor heard himself say, sharper than he had intended. "I'll search the boy, return to your posts." The two paused, their helmets turning towards the door as if to silently ask for direction, but Agent Kallus had already continued onwards. "Go," he encouraged them, "he isn't a threat to me." They paused, then gave short nods of understanding. The door slid shut behind them, and blue eyes slowly met his. Damn it, where was the Mo- Lieutenant Îmwe when Andor needed him? The man wouldn't have struggled for the right words to say, wouldn't have floundered before this young boy as he was now. He thought about contacting the man, calling him down from the bridge, when movement once more caught his eye. The boy had drawn his knees to his chest, watching him silently. Damn it, he'd just have to try his best.

     "I need to search your bag," he told the boy, keeping his movements slow as he knelt low. The boy clutched it tighter, shaking his head. "How about this," Andor started, keeping his stance relaxed. "If you let me search your bag, I promise I'll give it back to you."

     "Like I would really fall for that," their prisoner snapped. "How stupid do you think I am?"

     "All right, 'Jabba'." Time for a new tactic. "Andor." The boy startled at his words, blue eyes once more looking down at his. "My name is Cassian Andor. If I take your bag and I don't return it, you can tell J- Minister Erso that I broke my promise." Andor gave an exaggerated shiver, giving the boy an overly worried look. "She'd thrash me, 'Jabba'. So I can't break my promise, you see, because you know my name now." And yes- there it was. A sliver of amusement, minuscule and fleeting, flashed across the boy's face. He gave him a smile, patiently holding his hands out. And damn it, a heart he had long thought dead warmed ever so slightly as 'Jabba' slowly handed over his bag. It was still a hesitant action, filled with deep underlying fear and distrust, but Andor would take his victories where he could. His quick search yielded nothing that could truly harm the prisoner's guards. He carefully slipped its contents back inside, holding it out to the boy. Who gave him a look of frank disbelief, a hand flashing forward to snatch it back. Their prisoner clutched it close again, folding back in on himself. The Agent paused, looking down at the small restraining device he held. No. Andor slipped it into his pocket, standing slowly. He had subjected the boy to enough discomfort, he would never trust him enough to allow the attachment of the device. Enough was enough, he was content as it was. "Thank you," he murmured lowly, giving the prisoner a nod. The Agent hesitated at the door, though, looking back at the boy. As far as their still returning intelligence could tell, the rebel group he had been with operated almost exclusively on Lothal. There weren't many other planets the boy could have met them on, and Andor didn't like the picture that drew for him. "Do you live on Lothal?"

     "Maybe," the sullen answer came. Definitely, then.

     "I'll contact your parents when we return," he replied, "they're probably tearing the planet apart looking for you."

     "I don't have parents," the boy snapped, his suddenly angry blue eyes burning brightly in the darkness.

     "You-?" That was a problem. "Do you have any living relatives on Lothal?" He asked, "anyone I can contact?"

     "No." Andor frowned, crossing his arms as he considered his options. If the boy had indeed had family living on the planet, convincing Agent Kallus to release him to them would have been a cinch. If not, Minister Erso would have made it a cinch. But if he truly didn't... How would Andor talk the Agent into letting him go, once they had captured the other rebels? The boy would likely be carted off with the rest of his former partners, and Andor had little doubt as to what would happen to him then. The rebels had already abandoned the boy once, he would truly have no one on his side if they left the planet. He would-. Andor's teeth clenched at the thought, cutting himself off before he could finish the grim thought.

     "I will speak to Minister Erso on your behalf," he spoke once more. "She will ensure your release." His promise made, Andor left.

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     Nepotism. Bribery. Extortion. Embezzlement. Falsification. Harassment. Kickbacks. Racketeering. Corruption in nearly all of its forms stared back at her from the datapad, its putrid contents the fruit of Agent Andor's search. The Minister had known she would find corruption here, but this? This had been going on for years, had likely become as natural to the low to mid rank Imperials here as breathing. The dark haired woman slowly placed the datapad back on her table, her hands shaking as she stood. Slow breaths, she told herself, slow breaths. She would not draw her sidearm, she would not hunt down every individual- well, no. She would hunt them down, each and every one of them. But not today, the Minister reminded herself, she had bigger Loth-rats to skin. Like the pretty little red icon attached to one of the many entries on her datapad. Agent Andor had flagged it as one of their current highest concerns, a matter that demanded her immediate attention. She took a breath, opened the entry, and set about the task of reading it.

     Hidden behind pretty, patriotic language, the true message revealed itself. T-7 ion disruptors. And several groups within the Imperial Army stationed on Lothal intended to mass produce and sell them to several interested parties, parties Agent Andor had noted were going to purchase them for suspected use. The knowledge left a vile taste in her mouth, and she moved onto the attached list of names the Agent had compiled of confirmed participants. Force, most of them were upper echelon Imperials, finding suitable replacements for them with clean records would take ti- Oh. The Minister felt her lips peel back in a grin as she read two names she already knew. Commandant Aresko. Taskmaster Grint. She could use that. Perhaps, she thought, it was time to have that private discussion she had promised the two. A quick message, brief and to the point, and she sat back to wait. Their lesson apparently learned, the two officers arrived early, looking a fair bit less confident than they had before.

     "Please," Minister Erso said, gesturing to the seats before her, "sit." The two did as she asked, slowly, hesitantly. No good- if she wanted to achieve her goal, she'd have to repair the damage she'd done during their first meeting. "Gentlemen, why the long faces? Oh," she faked baffled understanding, letting an amused smile curl across her face. "The alien- you actually thought I meant what I said?" The Minister laughed, loosening her posture as she sat back. "It was a good show, no?"

     "Show," the Commandant repeated, still cautious.

     "Of course," the Minister reassured him, "first impressions are everything, gentlemen, having the citizens on my side will make life so much easier." They slowly relaxed, gave each other relieved grins as they pretended to know that she had been 'joking' all along. Oh, the Minister thought, she was going to enjoy administering justice when the time came. "Now that we've gotten that silly bit of business out of the way, I'd like to speak with you about a more... private matter. It was recently brought to my attention by a colleague of mine that several, shall we say, 'shipments' are scheduled to arrive here within two weeks." Ah, and there was the spark of recognition. "I believe you know her: LSM-09?" Both men nodded. "Good. I was wondering if perhaps there was a way for the arrival of these ... 'shipments' to be accelerated?" The two shared a glance, once more betraying slight caution. It was a risk to ask them to deviate from the plan she'd read, but maybe if she sweetened the pot... "I have a contact on Nar Shaddaa who expressed a level of, shall we say, interest in what's being shipped, and I owe her a favor. She decided to call it in, and offered to sweeten the deal with credits. Now, my promotion has given me many benefits, so I won't be hurting for them." She paused, examining her nails as she watched them from under her eyelashes. "But of course, I'd be deeply grateful to the people who helped me out. And as we all know, all sorts of simple mistakes can happen when credits are being transferred- a misspelling, a technical error, so many little things that could accidentally put credits from one account into another." The Minister stifled the urge to tense as the two shared a glance, cursing her own low skills in the art of persuasion. Being the Rogue had never really called for the ability to convince others- it had merely involved killing the targets whom her Lord pointed her at. She'd been trained to shoot people in the head, not sweet talk them. And her little talk hadn't been at all subtle, if they thought she was coming on too strong, if they didn't buy it...

     "Indeed," Commandant Aresko replied, giving her a look of knowing look of false sympathy, "mistakes happen all the time. I sincerely hope you don't fall victim to them, Minister, it would truly be a shame." She gave the man the sweetest smile she could manage, taking her victory. It burned her innards to let the diseased creature that had become their Imperial presence on Lothal live for even a day more, but it would be worth it. She would relish burning it to the ground.

 

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     Their arrival at the shuttle had gone seamlessly, and she felt her anticipation grow. Everything had gone well so far- Mr. Wabo had betrayed no suspicion upon meeting her. She had been cautious, uncertain if the quickening of his time table had given him any cause to suspect her, but she hadn't caught any weariness from the alien yet.

     "This way, Mr. Wabo," she instructed the alien, following after the man as they boarded the transport. "We have seats in the front." The dark haired woman assumed her seat, ignoring the creature's foreign language as she looked back towards the entrance. The translator would be here soon- ah, yes. The golden protocol droid entered just on time, its companion, a smaller astromech, rolling along behind it. She had been surprised when Senator Organa had offered the droids' services, and in hopes of improving Lothal's relationships with the prosperous planet, she had accepted his gracious offer.

     "Sentients," the pilot spoke, pulling her from her thoughts, "please prepare for takeoff." The Minister crossed her legs and tightened her gauntlets as the shuttle ascended, turning to face her alien companion as they entered hyperspace. He caught her gaze, spoke in his guttural native language. It flowed over her in a senseless jumble, and she turned expectantly to the protocol droid.

      "Amda Wabo is most honored you are joining him on Garel, Minister Erso." Her hired interpreter translated for her. She gave the droid a smile, pleased that he had confirmed her hopes. The dealer suspected nothing, then. "And, um," it continued, more hesitant, "if I might add a personal note..."

     "Will you cut it out!" A young boy's voice drew her attention from the droid, and she turned to watch the drama unfolding before her. "You have pleny of room!" The boy insisted, pushing at the astromech beside him. "Stop crowding me." She felt an eyebrow lift as the it shocked him in retaliation, surprised at its bold moves. The passenger behind them stood as the boy collapsed backward, his exasperation clear.

     "Kid, how 'bout you get the rust bucket under control," he snapped out, gesturing sharply at the astromech. The Minister felt her other eyebrow join her first as it whipped around, menacingly waving its arms at the man.

     "Mind your own business," the orange clad boy snapped when he regained his seat, only for the astromech to take another opportunity to shock him.

     "Hey, pilot," the other man called out, "isn't there some rule against droids in the passenger area?" The pilot gave a small sigh, seeming to shrink in on itself at the reminder of the Imperial regulation.

     "I am sorry, sir," it reluctantly addressed the boy. "Your astromech must proceed to the back of the craft."

     "Hey," the younger man objected, annoyance coloring his voice, "if my astromech's banished, then those two astromechs are banished too!"

     "Astromech," the translator questioned, clearly offended. "Me? I have never been so insulted! I'll have you know," it started in on the boy, "that I am a protocol droid, fluent in over six million forms-"

     "C-3PO," Erso cut the droid off, hoping to forestall any further conflict, "we'll continue negotiations when we reach the landing pad. It won't be much longer, go to the back until then." The droid begrudgingly obeyed, muttering angrily to its companion as they left her and her companion. As if thinking of him had tempted the Force, the alien turned to her as she sat back, speaking once more in his guttural language. "I'm sorry, Mr. Wabo," she apologized, "I don't understand you."

     "Hello," a voice smoothly broke in, and she turned in her seat to see who had spoken. "I couldn't help noticing your predicament," the Lasat said. "If it's of any help," he offered, "my ward here is quite fluent."

     "Oh," the girl started in surprise, her near golden eyes going wide, "I would never presume. Though," she tilted her head down, as if speaking to herself, "it would be good practice for my level five exams at the Imperial Academy." She looked up, as if realizing the Minister had hear every word. "No, no," the girl said, waving her hands desperately, "I couldn't." The Minister gave the younger girl a smile, even as a niggling sensation slowly took root. She ignored the strange feeling, giving the Lasat and his ward an easy shrug. It truly didn't matter- she knew every step of the alien's plan, Agent Andor had been thorough in his research. The translator droid had been a mere formality, only present to help her avoid garnering his suspicion.

     "Certainly you could," the Minister encouraged the girl, giving her an understanding smile as she gestured towards the alien. "Please, ask Mr. Wabo where the shipment is being held." The girl gave a nervous nod, leaning forward to speak to the alien. They had a brief exchange, after which the girl turned back to the Minister.

     "He said Bay 17," she explained, and the woman bit back a frown at the mistake. Bay 17? Agent Andor had made it clear in his report that they were to report to Bay 7- Erso had thought that a level five student would have received better teaching in linguistics. Still, the Minister allowed, she had never had the pleasure of attending any Imperial Academies, perhaps she was being too harsh in that regard.

     "Thank you," the Minister replied, giving the girl a smile as they arrived at Garel, their transport swaying gently as it descended. She waited patiently for the others to exit before them as it smoothly landed, giving the Lasat and his ward a wave as they passed. The path before her cleared, Erso stood, gesturing for the alien to advance ahead of her. He did so easily, Senator Organa's droids falling into step behind them as they exited the transport. It was easy to spot her squad of Stormtroopers, their white armor a sharp contrast to the darker clothing of the travelers around them. "This way," the Minister said, feeling herself relax at their reassuring presence. It had taken time, weeding through the lower ranks of the available Stormtroopers to find a squad more loyal to the Empire's founding ideals than their accounts. Still, she had eventually found them- and she had a feeling that they would serve her well. "Sergeant," she greeted their leader, LS-15, lifting an eyebrow as he turned to face her. The Stormtrooper gave a short nod at her unspoken question, and she felt a near feral grin spread across her face as the alien turned to face away from her. No matter what happened in the Bay, the alien would not escape them. "To Bay 7."

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     They arrived just in time to see the boy and the Lasat slide to halt before them, eyes wide at their apparently unexpected arrival. LS-15 advanced before her, raising his weapon as his fellow Stormtroopers fell into position beside him.

     "Hands up," the Sergeant demanded, and the Minister freed her own firearm as the Lasat complied with an ease that made her instincts scream.

     "Is there a problem here," the man asked, keeping his arms up as he slowly closed the distance between himself and the Sergeant. The alien beside her made a disgusted noise, speaking once more in his guttural language just as the protocol droid finally caught up with them.

     "Amda Wabo says those crates contain his disruptors," the droid translated, and even in the tense situation of her original plan gone wrong, the Minister felt her lips pull back in a grin. Wabo had danced around his knowledge of the true contents of the crates, but his words had sealed his fate. His disruptors, the alien had said, he had known about them the entire time- and she would have an unbiased party, the Senator's droids, as witnesses to his unintentional confession.

     "Uh," the Lasat spoke once more, drawing her gaze from Mr. Wabo, "must be some mistake. Can't possibly be disruptors in there," he said, "'cause they're illegal, right?" The Minister leveled her blaster at the alien, resting its tip against the side of the startled man's head.

     "Indeed," she replied, keeping her eyes locked on the still advancing Lasat even as she spoke to the alien beside her. "Amda Wabo, I am placing you under arrest for the possession of illegal firearms with the intent of distributing them. If you move," she spoke, her voice slipping into the darker tones of the Rogue, "I will assume hostility and shot you. Do you understand, Mr. Wabo?" The alien gave a short, jerky nod. "Good. LS-21, LS-32," she addressed the Stormtroopers closest to her, "escort Mr. Wabo back to shuttle." Each gave her tight salutes, boxing the alien between them as they moved to follow her commands. Her most pressing matter nearly taken care of, she lowered her weapon, ensuring that the Lasat could see her holster it. "I apologize, citizen," Minister Erso spoke once more, letting the true sympathy she felt bleed through. A Lasat and T-7 ion disruptors- if that wasn't a recipe for disaster, she didn't know what was. The siege of Lasan would always be a dark stain upon the Empire's history, an unforgivable act of genocide that they could never undo. And if the Lasat before her truly was a survivor, as she suspected now... "May I know your name, citizen?" He gave her a flat look of bafflement, his golden eyes wearily searching hers. "I-"

     "Minster!" LS-15's cry of warning caught her by surprise, and she stumbled forwards as he shoved her aside. Just barely catching herself, the woman watched as he fell, struck dead by the blaster bolt that had been intended for her. The Manadalorian woman who had killed him cursed, swinging around to aim once more at the Minister- Who fell away, the Rogue roaring to the surface as she flinted to the side and drew her own blaster. Old training steadied her aim, let her pull the trigger as the squad behind her engaged the enemy. The Rogue felt hot satisfaction as her shot found one of the openings in the Mandalorian's armor, searing into the vulnerable skin beneath. The younger woman gave a cry of pain, clutching at her shoulder as the Lasat advanced to beat a bloody path through the Rogue's forces. She snarled at the alien, all sympathy forgotten, before turning to the retreating group. To go back and help her soldiers, or to stop the thieves and murderers from escaping? The Rogue gritted her teeth, turning her back on the fleeing group as she lined her shot up. Not yet, not yet, not- The woman squeezed the trigger, watched as the Lasat's right leg gave out as her shot took out his Achilles heel. The alien dropped to his knees, his roar of pain cut short as one of the last troopers standing shot him. The stunned man toppled over, landing across the bodies of the troopers he had slain, and she swung back towards his fleeing comrades.

     "Zeb!" A young voice called out in desperation, and she remembered the boy, looking up just in time to see him fling his arms out- The air was knocked from her lungs as she careened into the wall behind her, her head snapping back to crack against the-

Chapter Text

     "Describe the thieves," Agent Kallus ordered, his arms crossed as he turned from the Stormtrooper.

     "There were five, sir," LS-15 started, standing at attention before them. "An adult male, a juvenile male, a juvenile female, an old C1 droid, and a Lasat." Andor caught the smothered surprise in the man's voice, frowning at his fellow Agent's sudden, odd smile. So they had been correct- the thieves were indeed the rebels they had encountered before. It didn't make sense. Why hadn't the Jedi and his Padawan gone to ground upon exposure- fled into the outer reaches of space to disappear? Surely the Jedi, at least, knew that the appropriate actions were being taken. He thought back to the report, to the fear and anger he'd felt at seeing Minister Erso's name amongst those listed as wounded. Apparently, such precautions were not being taken quickly enough.

     "Minister Erso, how is she?" he questioned.

     "She's refusing medication, sir. She... she told me to tell you that you were to retrieve the crates as soon as possible, that her 'announcement' schedule was moving up because of the rebels." Andor could hear the curiosity in the trooper's voice as he spoke of the Minister's announcement, and he ignored the unasked question as he too turned from the man. She was moving the schedule up? The rebels had truly provoked her to such a degree? He frowned at that, wondering what was going through the woman's mind as he turned back towards the Stormtrooper.

     "Understood, trooper, tell her that Agent Andor acknowledges her command and will comply. Agent Andor, out." The Stormtrooper gave him a rigid salute, one that he returned as their communication ended.

     "Announcement," Agent Kallus asked, his eyebrow quirked as glanced at his fellow Agent. The brunette considered his options, deciding that a guarded truth was better than outright denial.

     "The Minister is... displeased with Imperial operations on Lothal. She intends to fix that."

     "Huh," Kallus muttered, apparently intrigued by the tidbits of information he had been given. "I-" The door to their room slid open with a hiss, an aid  he didn't recognize quickly entering.

     "Agent Kallus, Agent Andor," he spoke, "a distress call to the Governor has been rerouted to your attention." Rerouted to them? Why? Andor's interest piqued, he fell into step behind Kallus as the man exited the room, curious as to what this new development would bring.

 

 

     Their arrival back on Lothal had gone far smoother than expected, a welcome change of pace to the oddly incompetent pilots he had been with before. LS-89, he would have to remember the squad leader's designation when he returned planet side. He had only been with her for a short while, but the difference in how her squad ran was exceptionally noteworthy when compared to most others.

     "Sir, we've spotted a single transport heading away from the location," the stormtrooper in question spoke, pulling him from his thought. "Your orders, sir?" 

     "Shoot it down," he said, watching in consideration as she sharply pivoted to relay his orders to her gunners. A single shot later, and the fleeing craft plummeted to the ground, a smoking heap of wreckage that made him want to smile. LS-89 and her crew certainly warranted further observation- they had displayed a greater amount of squad cohesiveness and competency in operations than most of their fellow troopers stationed on Lothal. Not that the bar had ever been high to begin with, but still, he would be certain to note down their skill in his operation logs. They had skill and unity- traits that would take them far under Minister Erso's rule. Andor shook his head and turned back to the small gathering of shacks, frowning as he noted the continued presence of the rebels. Why weren't they fleeing? He didn't like it. "LS-89, increase speed- be ready to release the walkers and land immediately." The trooper gave a wordless nod at his command, the ship shuddering around them as she turned her thrusters to their max capacity. Their ship entered range, shuddering again the walkers dropped to begin their own advance. The Agent readied his sniper rifle, feeling his adrenaline surge as the ship descended. LS-89 moved to stand at his side, her squad tightly forming up on him as they advanced to the ship's entrance. The Jedi and his Padawan would be a problem, but their official orders were to retake the crates- the Stormtroopers would be more than enough to sweep in and complete the mission. He and Agent Kallus would likely be able to hold the Force users off for- What? Why was the Agent and his people already descending? This wasn't what they had-!

     "Advance and fire," Agent Kallus commanded, the Stormtroopers with him rushing forward to comply. Andor frowned at the man's sudden impatience, hurriedly dropping down with LS-89 and her squad to rejoin their strength to Kallus's. He raced across desert ground, dropping to a crouch alongside Kallus's troopers as he added his own shots to theirs. He had barely fired his fifth shot when the stormtrooper in front of him was thrown back with unusual force, sprawling limply at his feet. His fellow Agent barely spared him a glance, stepping over the fallen man as he unslung the odd weapon he carried.

     "You!" The Agent called out, pointing at the Lasat, "Lasat!" The weapon opened, yellow electricity of a sort adorning both ends as it snapped out to its full length. A staff of some sort? "Face me!" The Agent yelled, the challenge in his voice clear to all. Andor watched as the creature looked at the weapon, recognition and rage twisting its features as it rushed forward. He cursed as the man broke ranks to meet the creature, his squad of troopers momentarily lost at the sudden absence of their leader.

     "Keep firing," Andor ordered, "focus on securing the crates! Advance now, with me!" They obediently formed up on him, LS-89's squad starting out before him to give cover fire. Agent Kallus had broken from their main objective, but Andor could still finish the mission with the troopers now under his command. They could still locate and secure the crates-? Which were rolling towards them? Andor's instincts screamed at him as the crates slowly came closer, and that was when he heard it. The beeping. He froze, and felt his face go as white as the armor his troopers wore as the death trap came straight at them. He turned then, shoved the nearest Stormtrooper back as he yelled for the rest to ru-! The explosion knocked him off his feet, slammed him into the ground with a force that took his breath away. He lay there for a moment, vulnerable and stunned. It was the cries of the wounded around him, the sight of white armor streaked by red, that brought him back. Andor wiped the dirt from his face as he slowly fought to gain regain his footing, stumbling as his leg threatened to give way. He looked down, pulled at the jagged piece of shrapnel lodged in his thigh, and hissed at the pain as it came loose with a swell of blood. A flash of yellow forced his still shaky gaze to the left, and he saw his fellow Agent stand tall before the wounded Lasat, his bo-rifle held high for the killing blow. Andor's lips peeled back in a snarl, and he couldn't stifle the vindictive joy he felt as the Padawan lashed out with the Force, throwing the Agent back in the same manner as he had done to the Minister. He took another step forward, ignoring the pain, the way his vision swam, as the rebels disengaged their forces and fled to their escape ship. Damn it- damn it! He had failed the Minister, the T-7 ion disruptors in pieces around him. He had failed the Stormtroopers, who lay wounded or dead around him. He had failed his Master, the Jedi escaping before his very eyes. He had failed them. A bitter taste filled his mouth as the rebel ship lifted off, fleeing faster than his scattered forces could ever hope to pursue. Movement to his right drew his gaze from the sky above, and he looked at his fellow Agent as the man rejoined him and let out a disappointed breath.

     "They'll strike again," Agent Kallus said, his eyes fixed on the dwindling transport. "And when they do, we'll be-" Andor turned from the man, wordlessly limping back to the cluster of wounded Stormtroopers. His gaze flinted over each of them, internally cursing at how their armor prevented him from keeping track of who was who.

     "LS-89," he addressed the nearest trooper to him, the least wounded of the squad, "where is she?"

     "She," the man hesitated, his voice breaking as he looked down at the Stormtrooper that lay before him. Grim understanding descended on Andor as he looked at the dead woman. Shrapnel had pierced her neck- cut deeply enough that her death had likely been instantaneous. She had never stood a chance.

     "Who is her second in command?" Andor asked, his voice a touch softer.

     "Me, sir," the stormtrooper said quietly, still gazing down at his Sergeant.

     "Gather your wounded and focus on keeping them stabilized- I'll send a dispatch for immediate aid."

     "Thank you, sir," came the dimly surprised answer, and it told Andor more than he wished to know at the moment about Lothal's policy on the wounded and the dead. Force, how had they fallen so far?

     "Agent Andor," a woman's voice pulled his attention from the man, and he looked up as she gave a sharp salute.

     "What is it, trooper," he asked, reluctantly turning from the newly promoted squad leader to give his full attention the woman before him.

     "The transport we shot down- we couldn't find any drivers or passengers, but it had several crates of T-7 ion disruptors." Andor closed his eyes, rubbing at his bleeding thigh as he looked to the sky above. They had succeeded, then. His stormtroopers' deaths had not been in complete vain. It eased something in him, though it did so with bitterness.

     "Load them onto the transport," he muttered, "I'll forward the details to Minister Erso myself."

Chapter Text

     Six dead. Three critically wounded. How had such a simple mission gone so wrong, so quickly? The Minister set her datapad down, breathing deeply as she rubbed at her forehead. She tucked her bangs behind her ear, straightening in her seat to look back at the screen that hung before her. Reports and mission statements flickered before her, a mass of problems that made her lips twitch downward. The military, the politicians, the rebels- the Knights were utterly surrounded. And worse, it was on a battlefield she had little experience in. She had never governed anything before, never held a position of such power. She was... uncertain... as to how they needed to proceed. The woman clenched her fists together, resting her elbows on the table as she sat forward. Their Lord had never prepared them to rule a planet. What was she going to do? Erso's gaze flickered down to the Imperial patch that she wore, and she shoved her uncertainties away as she refocused on the screen before her. Whatever her Lord had planned, whatever he expected, she would not fail him. She moved the reports before her, dividing them carefully between the filed categories she had made as she considered her options. Best to face the worst first, she thought to herself, grimacing as she opened the military's files.

     Agent Andor's investigations into the Army had chronicled a level of corruption that still made her anger flare. Still, she would count the Force's blessings where she could. While the lower and middle ranks in the Army had proven to be a breeding ground for crime, the upper ranks had shown itself to be manageable upon deeper investigation. The Major General of Lothal's Corps would be a problem, but the better than average states of Lothal's Navy and Stormtrooper Legion would give her the respite she needed in order to find a way to deal with him. Any process she decided upon would be... problematic. The Minister couldn't simply sack everyone and start over- it would be a nightmare to find qualified replacements for the open spots such a move would leave. Likewise, simply ignoring the problem could prove risky. The dark haired woman shook her head, deciding to pass over the lackluster performance of the Stormtrooper Legion in order to focus on the last branch of their military, the Imperial Navy. They had a commendable track record, and she let herself feel a brief flash of admiration for the man they had to thank for it, Admiral Qen. Andor's investigation into the man had turned up nothing that could mar him. He'd proven himself in the days of the Republic, and he'd seamlessly carried his steady command into a flawless, if underwhelming, service to the Empire. He'd consistently done his job, and he'd done it well. Even better, the man had kept the Navy clean and efficient. The Minister allowed herself a small smile before she closed the military's folders with several taps. The Army was a problem she couldn't solve in a day- there was no need to tackle it all immediately. She cycled away from them, moving on to the file that had been compiled on the rebels.

     It was a blessedly small thing, containing only one sub-file so far. Yet if they didn't deal with the rebels while they were still so small, she had no doubt that the file size would quickly grow- they always spread like vermin. The woman bared her teeth at the thought, her former happiness fading, and she tapped harder than necessary on the inner file. Rebel Squad One, Andor had named them, designation RSO. She flicked through the meager photos they possessed of each member- grainy pictures that left much to be desired. Lothal’s intelligence division had only been able to positively identify two of the five. Sabine Wren- a former Imperial cadet and the daughter of Ursa Wren, with Ezra Bridger- a local of Lothal and son of Mira and Ephraim Bridger. The identities of the rest, though, continued to elude them. Still, Erso thought to herself as she closed the pictures, two was better than none. She trusted Andor, and Agent Kallus had come with several recommendations- she had no doubts that they would finish their task. Besides, the Minister thought as she closed the RSO file, the Grand Inquisitor himself had indicated an interest in the rebels. She didn't know why such a small group would catch his eye, but she would gladly accept his aid. Content to leave the rebels in her agents' hands, she focused on the last problem of her evening.

     Politicians. Her lips curled back in distaste, and she glared at the quagmire before her. Political parties, both major and minor, littered Lothal. Pro Empire, suspected rebel sympathizers, true neutrals- they were a powder keg that could just as easily blow up in her face as aid her. The only member of the Knights who had even a remote grasp of politics was Agent Andor, and that extended only to assassinations and cut throat espionage. He lacked the fine touch of a well trained politician- they all did. The Knights had only ever been used as a highly trained shock team, had only been expected to eliminate their targets. Here, however, things were different. She couldn't just kill her enemies, she would be required to reason with them, perhaps even work with them. It was... unnerving. She was out of her depth, and a mistake made here could ruin their chances at reform. She couldn't do it alone, that much had become clear. She would need an advisor, or someone savvy enough to aid her. But who? The politicians that were listed as prominent players left much to be desired. The planet hadn't become what it was today through the influence of the Empire alone- records showed that it had been on the path to rampant criminality even before Imperial interests had been established. Besides, if she took one on, she'd run the risk of them sabotaging her efforts if their interests ever conflicted. Could she truly reach out to such incompetent; compromised people for aid? No, the Minister decided, she couldn't. The woman sat forward once more, pressing her fists to her lips as she weighed her options. The leaders of the other planets in the Lothal sector had shown a near uniform disinterest in the actions of Lothal- some with polite dismissals, and others, with utter silence. If she dared not count on local or nearby aid, then who-?

Wait.

     Lothal wasn't completely alone, another planet had shown interest in helping them. She thought back to her first run in with the rebels, remembering the translator droid and his small companion. The idea slowly took root, and she pondered it as she sat back once more. It was a risk- the man was suspected of being a subversive element in the Senate, and it was whispered that he secretly sympathized with the rebels, but still... The leaders of the other planets in the Lothal Sector had met her formal inquiries with utter disregard. She would find no help there, at least none willingly. On the other hand, Alderaan had shown an interest in the new leadership of Lothal, had even reached out to make first contact. Besides, if the Senator was a part of the Resistance, she could use his heart against him. Even though she sought to benefit the Empire, her reforms would also aid her people, and the Resistance did so love to help civilians. Yes, she thought to herself. Lothal would receive the political aid and advice it needed, and she could use her time with the man to determine where his true loyalties lay. A win-win situation, if she could do it with enough tact and caution. The Minister turned in her seat, looking past the screen and its information to the fading sunlight that shone through her window. It was a risk, but one she was willing to take. Her decision made, the woman stood from the table, tucking her datapad beneath an arm as she exited the room. She would contact Senator Bail Organa in the morning, and see if the man would take her bait.

Chapter Text

     Darkness. He was certain that all on the bridge felt the sharp chill of the Inquisitor's presence. The man wasn't even there, had left to assume his position in the Spire, but his dreary shadow lingered still. Andor worked his jaw, forcing himself to unclench his teeth as he watched the security footage before him. It was... unnerving, to be back in the presence of a Dark Side Force user. His training made it somewhat of a struggle not to kneel before the man, to wait obediently for orders, to complete them as efficiently as possible. Still, even with the Force user's impressive presence in the Dark Side- his appearance, his demeanor, his manner of speech- all helped Andor resist the urges of his training. The Grand Inquisitor was powerful, the Agent would never deny that, but he was no Darth Vader. He clenched his hands behind his back as he turned his gaze back towards the screen, only glancing in his fellow agent's direction as the man stepped up to join him.

     "The rebels are inside?" Agent Kallus asked, his deceptively calm gaze fixed on the feed that showed the Inquisitor.

     "Affirmative," he managed to speak, the man's question making him all the more keenly aware of the absence of his team. The Knights would have already been at his side, wordlessly monitoring the situation before them. They would not have been like blond haired man beside him, who had arrived just on time for an operation he barely bothered to hide his feelings for. The Grand Inquisitor had surprised them by arriving ahead of schedule, a plan of his own already in place and in action. His inclusion of them had felt like an afterthought on the part of the Inquisitor, and he had only given them the briefest of outlines for his plan on their trip to the Stygeon System. Though both of them had sat in silence through the short explanation, Andor had sensed the indignation of his fellow agent at being forced into participating in a plot not of his own making. Foolish. If the man didn't start being more subtle with his feelings, he would risk the wrath of the Inqusitior. Andor-

     "They're nearing the cell," Agent Kallus muttered, his sharp eyes tracking every move the two rebels made. "Focus on security camera B-I-21," he instructed, and Andor watched as the feed from the cell the rebels had entered grew to cover the screen.

     "- to her?" The Padawan, his blue eyes wide, finished asking. He looked to his Master in confusion, "I don't understand."

     "No? It doesn't seem complicated." The Inquisitor's voice sounded from behind them, and Andor stared in blank amazement as the man threw away any element of surprise. What was he doing? Both the Padawan and the Master turned as his words, visibly startled at the man's presence. "I am the Inquisitor," the man declared, igniting his lightsaber as he stepped into the cell. He grinned at the two, his yellow eyes never wavering as the door behind him slide shut. "Welcome." What... what was he doing? Confusion sank its unwelcome claws into the back of Andor's mind, and he tried in vain to shove his sudden feelings of uncertainty away as he focused back on the screen. "-ara died with Republic, but her bones continue to serve the Empire, luring the last Jedi to their ends." The dark haired agent was only vaguely aware of his fingernails digging into the flesh of his palms, the ache of his jaw magnified as he clenched his teeth. What was the Inquisitor doing!? Why was he telling the rebels the truth behind one of the Empire's best assets in the Stygeon System?

     "Specter-3," the Padawan spoke quickly into the small communication device he held close, "come in! It's a trap!"

     "There will be no reinforcements," the Inquisitor told him, and at that, the Master struck out. Bright blue flashed across their screen, and the yellow eyed man barely moved to dodge the blow, the searing red of his own lightsaber crackling as their blades met. The Master swung again, a sweeping cut meant to severe the Inquisitor in two, when the other man ducked under the fatal arch. The Jedi was left standing wide open! Anticipation flooded Andor as the pale Force user thrust his blade forward, a blow that would surely kill- and stopped. Feeling as if the breath had been punched from him, the human stared in disbelief at the screen before him. The Inquisitor had had the Master- a single finishing blow and only the Padawan would have remained, and he hadn't taken it.

     "What," he managed to choke out, unaware of the way the crewmen around them flinched, "what is he doing!?" He stared, unblinking, at the screen, watching as the two fou- No. This wasn't a fight. It had been only on rare occasions, but Andor had seen their Master fight Jedi. He had seen what two Force users doing their level best to kill each other looked like, and this? This was not that. What was happening before them was a fight only to the Jedi- the Inquisitor was acting like this was a Force damn training duel!

     "-Master Depa Billaba," the Inquisitor spoke, a grin stretching across his pale face.

     "How..." the Jedi stuttered, shaken. "Who are you?" The yellow eyed man shoved him back, their blades crossing once more as the Padawan slipped behind the two, reaching up towards his pack.

     "What is he holding," Agent Kallus demanded, his tone equally sharp as he glared at the screen.

     "I..." one of the crew spoke, her voice small in the face of their shared anger. "I'm not sure, Agent Kallus-"

     "Find out," the blond man commanded, his brown eyes cold as he looked at her. "We have to insure that it's not a threat to the Inquisitor! Comm him, warn him about the boy!" The woman froze where she stood, her face as pale as the Inquisitor's as she stared at them like a Loth-rat caught in the crossfire.

     "But... The Inquisitor said that we weren't-"

     "Clearly," the cutting voice of the Grand Inquisitor drew their gazes back to the screen, "you were a poor student." Andor flinched as the man stood still, his arms spread wide, as the Padawan's projectiles flickered harmlessly across his armor. Why had he taken the risk!? "Is that really all you've got, my boy?"

     "Well," the Padawan retorted, gesturing back to the small device, "I've got that." The explosion took everyone on the bridge by surprise, and they collectively flinched as the cell camera died in a violent blaze of shrapnel and smoke.

     "Get us a view of the hallway," Kallus demanded. "Now!" The woman who had answered them scrambled to obey his orders, her hands shaking as she flicked through the many camera views.

     "One second," she told them with a trembling voice, "one second... one second... there!" The dark screen before them flickered back to life, just in time for the agents to watch as the Inquisitor Force pushed the Jedi well past his Padawan.

     "Your Master cannot save you, boy," he told the Padawan, his tone taunting and dark. "He is unfocused and undisciplined."

     "Then we're perfect for each other!" The boy snapped back, his wavering voice going solid in wake of his declaration. The Inquisitor blocked the gleaming projectiles that were fired at him, rushing the Padawan as he once more swung his lightsaber in a blow that held little real killing intent. The dark haired boy leapt away from the blade, shoving off the tilted walls to put distance between himself the Dark Side Force user.

     "I do so admire your persistence," the Inqusitior complimented him, slowly spinning the lighsaber he held. "Ready to die?"

     "Just kill them!" Andor lost his patience, yelling at the screen. He stamped down on his self control, gritting his teeth. The Inquisitor's golden opportunity to kill the two long past, the agent could only watch in silent, seething anger. Was the man insane? The sight of him walking, walking after the two as they ran, was what finally broke him. Andor struggled for a moment, trying to regain the ability of speech as his nails dug into his palms. "Agent Kallus," he managed to speak at last, the man's brown eyes flickering to him. "I... will be in my quarters. Please, inform me upon his return if the... Inquisitor is successful in his mission." He wouldn't be. Walking past the silent crew, his head down and his fists clenched behind his back, Andor knew that the pale man wouldn't kill the rebels. What had Jyn once nicknamed men and women like him? Ah, yes, showmen. People so assured of their own skill that they treated their enemies like an audience. And, he thought, you couldn't put on a show if your audience was dead. If he did kill them, it would be a mistake, or a stroke of bad luck for both parties. Passing through the white hallways, the low murmur of cautious crew members barely reaching his ears, the agent tasted only bitter disappointment upon finally reaching his room. Perhaps he was wrong about the Inquisitor. Perhaps today had been a horrendous fluke, or a tasteless act to make the rebels underestimate him. He allowed himself a moment of flat hope, but shoved it away as he entered his room. The door shut behind him the faintest of hisses, and he stood for moment. These were the men the Minister was having to trust to solve their rebel problem? No, he thought to himself as he sat down. With time? Perhaps. But he'd seen the damage rebels could do with time- it wasn't a risk he was willing to take. He pulled his datapad off of its resting place on his bed, powering it up and making his way to the small contact list it held. He scrolled through them, clicking on Jyn's name when she came up. If they wanted to eliminate the rebels quickly and efficiently, they would need the help of a third party.

Chapter Text

     Jyn ended the call, tossing her datapad onto the bed beside her as she sat back in bitter disappointment and rubbed at her eyes. She had been so hopeful when the news of the Inquisitor's sudden arrival had finally reached her. The man had appeared to be every inch of the proud Imperial she had imagined him to be, his confident voice never breaking from its professional tone as he requested the presence of Agent Kallus and Andor aboard his ship. The woman had complied without a question, moving to have the two agents relocated as quickly as possible. And just as quickly as the Inquisitor had appeared, so too had he left, her agents in tow as he disappeared back into the starry blackness of space. Her hands clasped behind her back, Jyn had stood at the head of her command center and felt proud- proud in the Inquisitorius, her agents, her Empire. She had thought that the Inquisitor's quick response had been proof of his diligence, his devotion to insuring the elimination of their rebel threat. She had been so proud. And she had been so damn wrong.

     The Minister ground her teeth together, clenching her fists as she let out a low, hissing breath. There had to be a way to salvage the situation, but how? What had been her hoped for best asset had just spaced their best chance at ending the rebel threat. The Inquisitor's actions had lost them the element of surprise, but what could Jyn do to regain it? The rebels would know now that the Inquisitor was pursuing them, and even worse, they knew what he looked like. Feeling an unhappy sense of familiarity, she wondered once more how such a straightforward mission had ended so badly. Andor had asked her to consider outside help, and she... she could understand where his request was coming from. In nearly any other circumstance, she would have found such a move reprehensible. Even with their past positions, the Inquisitor was their senior in rank now, and any move to circumvent his authority made her uneasy. Or rather, Jyn thought to herself, it would have made her uneasy. All hesitations on that regard had since then been overshadowed by fact. The Grand Inquisitor was a showman. And Force or no, superior rank or no, they couldn't trust a showman to deal with the rebels. Their only other primary asset, Agent Kallus, had ultimately proven himself to be only somewhat better. The man had done suitable work in the past, but the rebel Lasat had somehow emotionally compromised him. He had abandoned his position, his men, and his duty, to face the creature in close combat. And it wasn't the first time his emotions had gotten the better of him- she could remember Andor's account of their first joint mission, how he had also reacted poorly to the appearance of the Jedi, and kicked a trooper to his death over wounded pride. A trooper who, if his last words could be trusted, had faced Jedi before in combat.

     "Damn it," the woman muttered, still angered at the event she could do nothing to change. It had been a slim chance, but the man could have proven useful- any experience against Force users was better than none! She shook her head, releasing her anger at the waste as she considered what little she knew about Kallus. Andor... had genuine cause to regard him with caution. She disliked admitting it to herself, but there were too many unknown variables when it came to Kallus's emotions and his reactions to them. She wasn't sure Andor could trust him when push came to shove, and that made him an unwelcome risk. She didn't like unwelcome risks.

     Jyn let her head thump down into her hands, pushing her curled fingers against her closed eyes. The woman sucked another breath in, slowly releasing it as she rose to pluck her datapad from where it had landed. Trying to return to bed would be a useless endeavor. Besides, she now had messages to send; favors to call in. If Jyn was going to ask for aid, she would ask for the best she could get. That would, unfortunately, take time and effort to obtain. After all, who could best beat the rebels at their own game than an Imperial Storm Commando?