It has been a very long time since I actually wrote something on fanfiction, so I wrote this in a fit of inspiration. This oneshot takes place during the Rebels episode Call to Action. I don't own Star Wars. That would be the Mouse. If I did I'd be rich. Do I look rich to you? I thought not. I hope you enjoy! And Please leave a Review!
The office was cold, metallic, and spartan, the epitome of Imperial functionality. Everything was well within regulation. There was a place for everything and for everything a place. But for the first time in living memory the occupant of the office felt that she possessed something that had no place. The memories and the emotions which they elicited were unwanted and yet they remained.
The stench of burning flesh still affronted her nostrils.
It had been hours, and yet the smell continued to linger. For what felt like the thousandth time that day Minister Maketh Tua felt herself take a deep breath as she tried in vain to push the memory to the back of her mind and from there completely out of recollection. But the smell continued to haunt her, and the smell naturally brought the memories rushing to the forefront. Tremors rattled through her left hand, and not for the first time she cursed her weakness.
Looking back she had been somewhat surprised at the lack of blood. Then again it had been a lightsaber that had done the deed, hadn't it? Energy blades like that cauterize the very wound which they create.
Perhaps plasma makes up for this lack of blood with the smell. There is something particularly nauseating about the stench of burning human flesh that really drives the point across. Perhaps that is what the Grand Moff had in mind.
How could he be so…detached from it all? How could any person be so numb to such brutality?
The worst part had been watching the blade slowly cut through their necks. It had only taken a few seconds for the Inquisitor to sever their heads, but he had been just slow enough to ensure that they felt the blade blister and break the skin on the back of their necks.
Her hand was still shaking.
The meeting had ended shortly after the Grand Moff had finished giving them his marching orders. It had taken about a minute or two afterwards for someone to clean up the bodies. By this point the Inquisitor and Tarkin had already left, as had Agent Kallus, quick to follow Tarkin's orders and make up for his previous failings. But the good Governor had not been kind enough to give Maketh any immediate orders regarding the capture of the Rebels.
And so she had been left alone for a minute, a minute which at the time seemed to stretch into eternity as her gaze was drawn inexorably to the severed heads of Miles Grint and Cumberlayne Aresko. Aresko's dead eyes gazed up at the ceiling, his face contorted into a look of pain and surprise. The Minister idly thought that she'd have to find a new Commandant to replace him at the Imperial Academy.
She had never really liked Aresko. While he was certainly smarter than Taskmaster Grint he had certainly not been the most intelligent man she had ever met. He had proven himself to be a pompous and unlikable buffoon.
But was it really fair to have him killed and then disposed of like garbage? He and Grint had been instructors at the Academy for heaven's sakes! While they were trained for front line duty she doubted that they would have the skills necessary for sustained anti-terrorist operations. Surely Governor Tarkin would recognize that?
The Minister permitted herself to take another deep, cleansing breath. And her hand still shook. Of course he knew that. He just didn't care. Failure was failure whether you were trained to handle the situation or not. The Rebels had slipped through their fingers on more occasions than anyone could count now. Such repeated failures had to be punished. She understood that.
But death? Surely a demotion would have sufficed. Reassignment to a lesser post, even dishonorable discharge would have been understandable. But summary execution? Something about that just didn't sit right with her.
The Minister was no stranger to cruelty. One did not become an important Imperial official by playing nice. She had forged alliances with powerful benefactors and broken those alliances just as easily when it suited her. She had been one of the first on Lothal to offer her full hearted support for the Empire when they had first established their military presence on her homeworld. The Empire could never have entrenched themselves so thoroughly on Lothal without her help.
She prided herself on her strength. She was not some dainty princess living in a palace. She was someone who actually worked for a living. And yet her hand continued to shake. She allowed her frustration to grow, hoping that, as in the past her anger would now give her focus and permit her to control her nerves.
With nothing but her own wits and ingenuity at her disposal Tua had managed to climb the social ladder to a level of respectability as the second most powerful woman on Lothal, just beneath the Imperial Planetary Governor herself, Arihnda Pryce.
The Governor…bah! She was hardly ever there to begin with. Once again Maketh felt her ire rise. She didn't deserve Tarkin's contempt. Governor Pryce was always flying off on some mission, hobnobbing with the Emperor on Coruscant or chatting up some Moff at a conference on the other side of the galaxy, leaving lowly Minister Tua as the de facto leader of the Imperial regime on Lothal.
"All of the responsibilities, none of the rewards or recognition." She murmured to herself.
She had stepped on a few people on her way to the top, she could never deny that. But it was only politics. A few careers might have been ruined, but nobody had been killed. Besides, it was only natural that the best should rise to the top. And she was the best, she told herself. After all, hadn't she graduated at the top of her class at the Academy? Hadn't she taken her little backwater of a world from the depths of depression and brought her people into a new age of prosperity almost single handedly? A few farmers and small businessmen might have been inconvenienced here and there, but it was all for the greater good.
So she told herself.
Shouldn't the Grand Moff have realized that she didn't deserve the blame for all of this? No, Pryce got all of the credit for her hard work while Minister Tua got all the blame. And those damned Rebels hadn't helped. They had been a constant thorn in her side for months, disrupting her plans, undermining her authority.
Making her look like a fool.
She seethed and raged at how idiotic they made her look. They flouted the law, sowed chaos and reaped disorder wherever they went. And who had to clean it up and restore the peace afterwards? Why, Minister Maketh Tua of course.
The Inquisitor was too busy hunting for the Jedi while Kallus plotted and schemed against the rest of the Rebels, but SHE was the one who had to keep word from spreading to the public of the Rebels' misadventures. It was she who had to rebuild everything the Rebels destroyed. It was she who had to make do with the supply shortages the Rebels caused every time they raided an Imperial convoy in order to keep the planet running. And it was she who had to keep a lid on the social upheaval that was slowly spreading across Lothal like a virus despite her best efforts.
She had done her best. But she wasn't in the military. She was a government official. She had never dreamed that she would ever be in a position where she would be forced to hunt down insurgents. She didn't have the training for it. And now her mind was haunted by the deaths of Grint and Aresko, knowing that she was next in line for her perceived failings.
"It isn't fair." She whispered to herself as she stared out the window of her office at the high rises of Capital City.
"Few things in this galaxy are fair Minister. I suggest that you get used to that."
The Minister turned in her chair towards the door. Agent Kallus stood in the doorway, ramrod and proper as always.
For a moment a look of surprise alighted on the Minister's face, only to be quickly suppressed by a mask of cool professionalism.
And yet her hand continued to tremble.
"Agent Kallus, is there any news on the insurgents?"
Kallus nodded. "I've just returned from a meeting with the Governor. One of our probe droids spotted the Rebels near the main Communication Tower."
Minister Tua permitted a small amount of surprise to appear in her expression.
"Do you think they are planning to destroy it?" she asked.
Kallus approached her desk and moved to sit down in a vacant chair across from her.
"I'm not sure. Governor Tarkin plans to lure the Rebels into a trap, utilizing the Communications Tower as bait." He said. The ISB agent leaned forward and lowered his voice.
"We cannot afford any more mistakes Minister. The security of the Empire may very well rest on our ability to bring this Rebel cell down in the next 48 hours."
"We both know the consequences of failure." The Minister responded.
Kallus nodded briefly, his eyes flickering to notice the movement of her hand.
"Are you all right Minister?" He asked.
Maketh noted his line of sight to her hand and quickly moved it out of view.
"I'm quite fine Agent Kallus." She stated; her voice clipped and angry. She didn't dare look him in the eye.
Kallus leaned back and folded his arms over his chest.
"Was that your first execution?" He asked.
For a moment there was a brief pause. Then she nodded.
"You're afraid." Kallus surmised.
The Minister practically leapt from her chair, her face contorted in anger.
"Afraid?! Agent Kallus, you presume too much! You are addressing a Minister of His Majesty's Government, not some petty schoolgirl."
Kallus grimaced, adopting the same look he always developed when it came to dealing with Minister Tua, that of long sufferance.
"Apologies Minister," He offered. "but it is a natural emotion to experience, given the circumstances."
Maketh deflated slightly and slid back into her chair. She sighed again, clutching her trembling hand with the other.
"As I recall you yourself were unnerved by the experience." She said.
Kallus nodded. "I was unnerved by the demonstration because I knew that the Governor's patience had rightfully expired. I admit freely that my attempts thus far to bring the Rebels to justice have not come to fruition. Continued failure ensures that my life is forfeit. I am cognizant that continued failure is no longer permissible. But you Minister, your reaction was different. You weren't just worried about your own fate as I was. You were sincerely horrified by the execution."
Kallus narrowed his eyes, as if Maketh were some sort of mysterious puzzle he was trying to solve.
"Why?" He asked.
That question floored the Minister. Why? Why?
"Why?" she repeated. "Why wouldn't it disturb me, or anyone else for that matter? Grint and Aresko might have been incompetent, but surely no officer of the Empire deserves such a fate." She reasoned.
"Their repeated failures were so monumental and so idiotic that they besmirched the uniforms they wore. Killing them removed the black stain they had placed upon the Empire's honor." Kallus retorted.
"They were Imperial officers…they were on our side…" Maketh tried to reason.
"Grint and Aresko were as clumsy as they were stupid." Kallus quickly fired back. "Their gross negligence was a drain upon Imperial resources. Removing them could only benefit the Empire."
"Removing them, yes." The Minister said. "But to kill them in such a brutal and painful manner…"
"Incompetent officers are executed all the time Minister." Kallus answered. "Their deaths serve to galvanize their subordinates and superiors and insure that they do not repeat the same mistakes. I myself have partaken in several such executions."
Tua stared at him. Her eyes appeared to almost glaze over. The tremors in her hand worsened.
"I thought that the stories about officer executions were just…well…stories told by enemies of the Empire to tarnish our good name."
Kallus offered a small smirk. "If I might say, it seems that you've gone out of your way to keep yourself ignorant of the greater galaxy outside of Lothal."
"Excuse me?!" She asked, outraged by his assertion and blatant disrespect. It didn't really matter. A part of her knew that, while she might technically outrank him as a government minister, the reality was that, as an agent of the Imperial Security Bureau Kallus was effectively above the law and thus above her. He could be polite and respectful to her when it suited him, but the reality of the situation was that in their working relationship Kallus had all the cards.
She hated that fact.
She also feared it.
As soon as that thought entered into her mind she moved quickly to suppress it.
Kallus continued. "We live in a dark and dangerous universe Minister. Stern words and half-hearted measures will only take us so far. If the Empire is to maintain its supremacy over the galaxy it must prove its strength. Fools like Aresko and Grint hold us all back by making our Empire look weak. Killing them and fools like them reasserts our authority."
"I still believe that it is excessive." Minister Tua responded.
Kallus rolled his eyes. "In the service of our Empire I have found that one can never utilize enough force to bring about the Emperor's objectives."
The Butcher of Lasan would say that, Maketh thought. But she wisely never said a word.
"I love the Empire, Agent Kallus." Minister Tua said. It was always good to remind a loyalty officer like Kallus of such things now and again, especially when one was expressing doubts over an issue that was apparently official policy. "I love the Empire because I believe it brings light to the darkness and creates civilization where there would only be wilderness. The Empire gives us order and security, and of that I am glad. But such blatant injustices only work to strengthen our enemies by giving them fuel for their rhetoric."
Kallus had a face of stone as he looked at her. "Are you questioning the Governor's judgment Minister, or are you questioning Imperial policy?"
Minister Tua bristled. "Have a care Agent Kallus. You are addressing a patriot. I have spent my entire adult life in the service of our Empire, and in that time my work has been exemplary."
"Aside from the work pertaining the Rebels." He noted.
"The last time I checked Agent Kallus that was your department, along with the Inquisitor."
His expression soured noticeably. "We are both tarred by the same brush Minister. The Governor is displeased with us both."
He paused and looked again to her trembling hand.
"You were always afraid Minister. Only now have you allowed yourself to reveal your feelings."
"I beg your pardon?" She asked, outraged at his impudence and yet still blushing at his declaration.
Kallus gave a conceited grin. "You have great ambition Minister, but you are limited by your experiences. You have seen little of the greater galaxy and you have done less to comprehend our ways. You do your best to ignore the distasteful little deeds that men such as I must perform in order to uphold the Emperor's just rule. Despite all of your enthusiasm for the Empire and all of your vitriol against the Rebels, which I know beyond all doubt to be genuine, you cannot stomach men like me.
"The Inquisitor and I are something new to a world like Lothal, men who do what is necessary by any means to ensure the Empire's security. We are the type of men you hear about, but rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to meet."
Kallus paused to raise his arm, showing Maketh his gloved hand curled into a fist.
"They aren't kid gloves Minister, and the fist beneath the glove is one of iron. Never fool yourself. We fight against anarchy and insanity. The Rebels would return us to the incompetence of the Old Republic, and I will never permit that to happen so long as I draw breath."
The Minister remained silent for a moment, deep in thought, before responding.
"And what of those sacrificed?" She asked.
"The foundation must be built on something." Kallus responded.
"Is that all men like Aresko and Grint are?" Minister Tua asked. "Slabs of durracrete packed together to prop the Empire up?"
"They are whatever the Empire needed them to be." Kallus concluded. The ISB agent rose from his chair.
"As much as I enjoy our discussions Minister I must now be off. The Rebels will soon be ours and I intend to deliver the Jedi to the Governor." Kallus turned to leave. He paused halfway out of the office. He didn't turn back to look at her. Instead he said simply.
"You've gotten this far because you are an intelligent woman Minister. I respect your skills as a politician, but if you continue to restrain yourself and turn a blind eye to how this Empire is maintained then I fear you will be next on Governor Tarkin's list."
"You would have me abandon my conscience to become as unfettered as you?" She inquired.
At this Kallus chuckled. "Men like I are the rule in this Empire Minister, not the exception. To survive one must be as ruthless as his colleagues. You've shown that you have that potential."
Kallus turned back to look at her.
"As for a conscience Minister, a conscience is simply a luxury we cannot afford. As I recall the Jedi were beings of conscience who refused to unleash their full potential. Look what became of them."
And with that he was gone.
Maketh turned to her desk, her mind swimming with details, factors, and considerations. On her desk lay requisition files, proposals and memos that needed her attention. For the first time in her life she felt as though the beating of her heart was no longer in step with the Empire she had always loved.
She was no saint, she knew this to be true. She had done some less than noble deeds in the past. But it had all been for the greater good of Lothal and the Empire. Hadn't it? But from a certain point of view the same could be said of the actions of men like Governor Tarkin and Agent Kallus. What then was the difference between them? Was there any? Was there some line separating their actions, with one side being acceptable and the other being morally wrong? If so, where?
For the first time in her life Minister Maketh Tua found herself without a clear cut answer to the problem which questioned her. In the end she was an average bureaucrat. She had never expected or trained for an eventuality like this. Jedi, Rebels, and Grand Moffs all bearing down on her from different directions were almost too much to bear.
She was in way over her head, and she knew it.
Under siege from all sides, under appreciated by her allies, outwitted by her enemies and saddled with the unpleasant task of running the day to day operations of a regime she once held as sacrosanct but now quietly questioned, Maketh Tua allowed herself to experience the one emotion she had always felt when in the presence of Kallus, the Inquisitor, and Governor Tarkin, but never permitted to control her.
Fear: pure, undiluted terror. Her next mistake might very well be her last.
The tremor in her hand grew worse still.