Being “safe on the surface of Dromund Kaas” is an entirely relative concept. Kaliyo and I are no longer in the direct control of a Grand Moff and his murderous droid, but Dromund Kaas is an inherently unsafe place to be. In galactic terms, the Dromund system is right down the road from Korriban, the literal and traditional homeworld of the Sith species and Sith ideology. Dromund Kaas was annexed into the Sith Empire in antiquity, but possessing no special resources or attractions, its precise location was lost to time. Following their defeat in The Great Hyperspace War, Sith survivors sought the Dromund system for decades as a possible refuge unknown to the Republic or the Jedi. When Dromund Kaas was finally rediscovered, the Emperor established Kaas as the seat of power for the Sith and ordered the construction of a fortified city to house the Dark Council, the Imperial Bureaucracy, and the Military.
Over time the Bureaucracy has become dominated by Internal Affairs, or Imperial Intelligence; and as the “Military” is housed almost entirely in the Armada or is stationed at any of the thousands of worlds that comprise Imperial Might, the former Command Headquarters has been given over to the Mandalorian mercenaries allied with the Empire. When you consider most Sith Lords and Moffs spend their time on private fleets or on their favorite world of governance, those that remain are mostly those playing at power. According to the Chiss Expansionary Defense Force, even the Sith Emperor has been absent from the planet for decades; possibly centuries.
There are no travel guides to Dromund Kaas. Only the Sith and the current incarnation of the Galactic Empire knew where it was until the recent war. And the Sith are VERY picky about who they let in. Very few private ships are allowed onto the surface…even official Imperial transports have to go through Vaiken Spacedock to reach Dromund Kaas. This is only partly due to security, however; the atmosphere is so heavily ionized communication and sensors are almost entirely ineffectual. Only specially trained pilots or ships with the proper equipment and programming can land directly on Dromund Kaas.
Dromund Kaas is usually described as a “jungle biome” with “perpetual thunderstorms.” According to legend, it wasn’t like this until the Sith Emperor settled his throne and the Dark Council here. For the past one thousand years (hint: anything that takes or lasts 1000 years is almost always a myth) the Sith Emperor has been researching “Dark Rituals” and creating machines and devices powered by the Dark Side of the Force, and all that messing about with dangerous energies created the never-ending lightning storms. Maybe, but they’ve been doing all the same things on Korriban, and for even longer, and that place is just a barren lump of rock. I think this place is just a thunder jungle.
Outside the spaceport, I realize we are OUTSIDE THE SPACEPORT and Kaas City is NOT. I finally have to admit to Kaliyo: I’ve never been to Dromund Kaas, either. I went straight from Chiss space to Hutta. Kaliyo is able to derive amusement from my consternation with the situation, but I am a bit too focused on the DIRT PATH that is the only way forward…straight into the jungle. In the distance, I see massive towers rising in to the sky…I presume this to be Kaas City but I also note the presence of a rocky ridge rising from the jungle even closer. Stupid paranoid Sith. I bet THEY get to land in the city.
Kaliyo nudges me and points to an Imperial officer standing near a raised platform with several speeders. How quaint. This is the sort of thing I expect on a bog-covered backwater like Hutta…certainly not at the Imperial Capital. We approach the officer to see about using one of the speeders, and he assumes I’m here to fix the spaceport landing beacons. The local “wildlife” doesn’t like the ultrahigh frequency they emit and keeps attacking them. I get the feeling he assumes I am the repairman because I’m an “alien.”
I have to take several steps away before my dagger slips. Kaliyo had mentioned only moments ago this is the first world she’s been on where someone could be sentenced to death for littering, and it wouldn’t look good to have a Chiss Intelligence Agent murder an Imperial Commander in front of witnesses, without a damn good cover story. I was warned of Imperial Xenophobia, but the man’s attitude is so…garden variety dismissal he caught me by surprise. You always expect things like this to be big, loud, objectionable hatred; but a casual assumption that the offender doesn’t even notice does so much more damage. I mean, he almost lost a kidney. At least.
Controlling my impulses, I tell Rilan I’m with Imperial Intelligence and need to get to The Citadel in Kaas City immediately. I watch the turmoil on his face as he wrestles with the idea of “an alien” being an Imperial Agent. You can see the moment when he realizes the claim, coupled with my very presence on the surface, is so audacious it must be true…and the realization that he just insulted someone who *might* be able to ruin or even shorten the rest of his life. Rilan “lends” us his personal speeder and tells us we will have to stop at a checkpoint just up the road before being allowed through to Kaas City. At the checkpoint, Guard Kullin stops us. The path through the jungle to the Kaas City outskirts is accessed through a shallow canyon, which allows them to control traffic. Not as much for security, but because the local “wildlife” can’t stand the sound of repulsorlifts any more than they can stand the sound of landing beacons. The fatality rate of Kaas City visitors that don’t rank private transport to the city is something only a Sith would be proud of.
And I guess that really explains it all, doesn’t it? The entire point of this planet was to hide the Emperor, hide the Dark Council, hide the Empire. Even now that the Empire has “announced itself” by launching a war against the Republic, the Imperial government wouldn’t want to “normalize” travel to the planet. Just reaching Kaas City is a life-and-death challenge. At this point I won’t be surprised if we have to defeat the door guard in hand-to-hand combat to gain access to The Citadel. Just to have a meeting with my boss.
Kullin recognizes Captain Rilan’s speeder and asks if we would mind running a report back up the road to HIS boss. Kaliyo explains Rilan is aiding “us,” not the other way around, and waits for the Guard to process the explanation. Within seconds, he orders the force field blocking the path opened and reminds us to be wary crossing through the jungle. I am very much coming to detest this entire planet. The other end of the canyon terminates in a full guard station that appears to be part of some kind of wall construction. We seem to be about even with the towers I had noticed from the spaceport, so I would assume we’re actually at the edge of the city. A Mandalorian mercenary talking with the guards stationed here confirms this outpost will soon be the spaceport-facing entrance to Kaas City…but the Empire’s many problems, along with the fact that NO-ONE with any actual influence or power stays on this cursed planet, has brought almost all Kaas City expansion to a halt. He tries to recruit me for the assassination of a Mandalorian captain that has eschewed his “contract” to clear the area of fantastic beasts and set up a Fight Club instead (as Mandalorians are wont to do), but we REALLY DO have an appointment to get to despite this planet’s best efforts to prevent that from happening.
A guard assures me I really am close to Kaas City, now; we just need to continue down into the valley ahead. Avoid the left turn toward the new wall, as there is a slave rebellion prompted by the ego of a power-mad Sith Lord going on. Also, don’t take the right turn into the canyons just outside the old city walls, as there is a suspected Republic infiltration that the City Guard is trying to root out. As long as we stick to the *slightly better* path that runs next to the massive lightning rods that dot the landscape, eventually we will come out of the valley at the current central city entrance. I really do feel they should just be playing horrible, spooky music through hidden speakers everywhere. This place is like a nightmare theme park. YOU HAVE TO WALK THROUGH A JUNGLE TO REACH THE IMPERIAL CAPITAL. I know for a fact on Coruscant you can take a ship to a spaceport RIGHT OUTSIDE the Republic Senate Chambers.
Of course, the Sith used that spaceport to sack Coruscant only a few months ago. They still haven’t rebuilt the Jedi headquarters building. I have to admit the Sith won that design decision. But still…walking through a jungle to meet with your boss. It’s mind-bending. When we finally reach the city itself, our joy over being out of the jungle overrides any disappointment. Kaas City isn’t large, but it IS secure; matching the theme of the day. Massive walls surround the central city, which is decorated with gleaming, shiny, heavily illuminated monuments to the Emperor and recent Sith war victories. The Citadel is built literally into a canyon with no direct ground access from the rest of the city: speeders only. Every step requires identification.
Imperial Intelligence occupies the wing of The Citadel originally meant for the entire governmental bureaucracy. I’m not sure if the original idea was just shortsighted, or if the architects understood the Empire is run by murderous lunatics whose concept of hierarchy doesn’t extend past establishing who is at the top of it. Regardless, the Intelligence offices are now a series of open Operations Rooms dominated by huge viewscreens hanging over large computer terminals. An aide stationed near the entrance directs me to the “deepest” OPS room, which is also near Keeper’s office. The aide, and everyone; really, are nervous and frightened. Maybe it’s our recent trip through the thunder jungle, but I didn’t pick up on the tension until now. The tension increases as we progress deeper into the building, and Kaliyo reminds me of something I had forgotten: the Sith Lord Darth Jadus was personally interested in the Hutta mission. My sudden fear is confirmed as we approach two men talking at the rear of the last OPS room.
I recognize Keeper from his communications on Hutta. The thing next to him must be Darth Jadus. I’m not sure what I missed, but the bit of conversation I witness is comprised entirely of Jadus menacing Keeper and affirming his assumption of leadership of the Ministry of Intelligence. He makes a point of relating how he made the Minister of Intelligence cry. I am strongly tempted to point out that no one with real strength needs to tell people how strong they are, but a bigger truth prevents me: you don’t fake having force powers and sitting on the Dark Council. He may be acting like a daycare bully, but that doesn’t mean he lacks sufficient power to end careers and lives. Keeper earns my respect by humbly asking Jadus to leave the building “because his intimidating presence is frightening the staff.” This man knows what he’s doing. Jadus responds with “I’m leaving, but not because YOU ASKED ME TO.” And then unfortunately notices me. My fault for standing right behind him. Habit, really; you never know who needs a knife to the back when you’re meeting new people.
“You, agent. You served me on Hutta.”
I resent his ongoing attempts to force his influence. Damn the torpedoes. I address my response to Keeper: “What’s going on, here?”
Jadus doesn’t even flinch. Of course, his entire visage is hidden behind a blank metal mask. Poker Face indeed. He continues as if my action wasn’t a direct affront to him. But if I know Sith, he’s seething inside. Only the one-two punch of Keeper’s desperate ploy to maintain control followed by my own indifference in front of many witnesses is keeping him in check. At least, I would like to think that, but honestly his lack of response confirms my own suspicion: he needs the people standing here. At least for right now. We will have to deal with the consequences at some point, I imagine.
“You performed well dealing with Nem’ro. You will serve me again.”
Yay. “What do you mean?”
“All will become clear.” He turns back to Keeper. “You will use this one as I instructed.”
Keeper protests my lack of experience, but Darth Jadus is already leaving.
Keeper addresses me: “Congratulations, Agent. You’ve made a friend.”
I would not have figured Keeper for a comedian. To be sure, it’s not a laughing matter.
“Believe, me; sir. That wasn’t the intention.”
“I noticed.” He almost smiles. I think. “Best not to talk about it. You will find a locker assigned to you in the corridor behind this room. Grab the contents then meet me in my office next to the lockers for your debriefing. And new orders.”
At the lockers, a woman who identifies herself as “Watcher Two” takes Kaliyo away for, I would guess, a great deal of paperwork and probably a medical scan. In Keeper’s office, I notice the standard lack of doors the Imperials are so dedicated to. But I also notice a mech droid in the corner plugged in to a security terminal, and plenty of signs of signal jammers, dampeners, and scramblers. He starts standard: pleased with my performance, maybe I went a bit overboard on the murders, but he brings me up short with one question: “Why did you join Imperial Intelligence?” I make a classic blunder and pause for a split-second. I doubt it’s a fatal mistake, but anger at myself surges. I decide to lean into it.
“My reasons are my own. I promise you can find everything about me that is knowable in my dossier.” I match his stare. He looks away first. I’m thankful…the moment was getting uncomfortable.
“I had my own reasons, too. It took me years to reconcile them with reality.” He pauses, and I use the moment to remind myself this man is very likely a master deceiver. Everything he does could be an act. He steps closer and looks me dead in the eyes again. “Make no mistake, we’re not spies. We’re janitors. We clean up the messes left by the Imperial Military and the Sith. We do it because no one else will, and no one else can…and without us the Empire will fall apart. Do. You. Understand.”
I almost want to hug the man. He could be Chiss. But I check myself emotionally…master deceiver. Remember that.
“Yes, sir. I understand completely.”
Keeper calls the woman “Watcher Two” into his office, as well as Kaliyo. It turns out we will be working openly on Dromund Kaas for the moment, investigating a terror network. There are thousands of dissidents on the planet, something I find incredulous considering how hard it is to even BE on the planet. Watcher Two, however; explains that most of them are members of some various cult or cabal plotting to overthrow the Emperor, the Dark Council, the head of their local planning department, or the wine steward at the Nexus Room cantina. Or, as Kaliyo describes it, “just normal Sith Lord stuff.” But only days ago Intelligence started picking up rumors of an impending attack on Kaas City…a massive threat that was meant to destroy a significant percentage of the city and possibly even reach The Citadel. Keeper confirms this is the task Darth Jadus wanted handled immediately: he claimed to be aware of this growing threat through his own sources. He was, apparently, chastising Keeper for not knowing more about this terror threat when I arrived.
Unfortunately, the only real lead Intelligence has produced is a slave rebellion near the outskirts of the city. “Interesting,” I interject. “We heard about it on the way in. Maybe Intelligence *did* miss something.”
“No, we haven’t,” Watcher Two clarifies. “We have followed the so-called slave rebellion for weeks. It’s nothing. The slaves are fighting amongst themselves. There have been no escapes. They’re owned by Darth Vowrawn, or rather; Vowrawn’s apprentice Qet. Qet is building a massive statue to honor his master…I doubt Vowrawn has even noticed. Darth Vowrawn works in the highest levels of Dark Council intrigues.”
Keeper clears his throat. “I’m sure you understand none of this information leaves this room. Anything you EVER hear about the Dark Council…I suggest you forget.” He fixes his gaze on me again. “When dealing with the Sith, remember your feelings can be used against you. I have no doubt you comprehend the implications.”
This is a dangerous man. Perhaps I need to be a bit more careful when we interact.
Keeper delivers my instructions: “Investigate the slave rebellion, Agent. It may be nothing, as we have surmised. But we must know. In the meantime, Watcher Two will develop more leads. Dismissed.”
“Think we can hit that cantina Watcher Two mentioned before we leave the city?” Kaliyo asks. “Wandering through the jungle looking for a giant statue wasn’t on my to-do list this morning.”
“Nor was it on mine,” I respond, looking over the briefing from Watcher Two. “But according to this, we shouldn’t have to do much ‘wandering’ to find it.”
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