Chapter 2: Jazal

Coruscant

"We are being deployed to the front," Tarkin explained matter of factly.

Riding up the turbolift to the Chancellor's office alongside Tarkin, Jazal sighed. It was a mixture of disappointment and relief. Both of them had been subpoena'd by the Senate regarding the Trajan Kran affair. If the Senate started snooping around there, perhaps auditing Jazal's finances, then other secrets could be exposed.

"Well, you just told me that," Jazal muttered. "What are we meeting the Chancellor for then?"

"That, I do not know," Tarkin admitted. As he held his hands behind his back, Jazal sensed him grip his wrist tightly, shifting on his feet.

The degree of nervousness she sensed from Tarkin mystified her. From everything she had ever heard, the Chancellor was very agreeable and not someone who invoked feelings of nervousness.

As the turbolift slowed to a stop, the doors opened almost noiselessly. Jazal sensed a spacious room with a broad desk, beyond which was a large window. The room felt warm and well insulated for how much window it had, much like the Jedi Council chambers.

Seated alone behind the desk was the most powerful man in the Galaxy, Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine.

"Ah Wilhuff, General Jazal, please take a seat," Palpatine said warmly.

While the eyeless Miraluka could not see anything in the room, the atmosphere felt cozy. Comforting.

As the duo approached, Palpatine hit a few buttons on his miniature holoprojector. Jazal heard a humming noise of an active holoprojector, but could see nothing.

As Tarkin took a seat, Jazal remained standing. Holding her hands together, clasped between her billowing sleeves, she tried reaching out to the Chancellor. Rather suspiciously, this warmth she sensed felt small—No shallow… Incomplete.

An eerie smile formed on Palpatine's face as he regarded her.

Realising she was reaching out so hard with the force she was straining, Jazal stopped, then began brushing the front of her robes as if they were dusty. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Chancellor."

"The honour is all mine, I assure you, Master Jedi. Now please, take a seat."

Jazal sat down feeling somewhat embarrassed. The Miraluka briefly wondered, in horror, did he feel anything?

If the Supreme Chancellor felt anything, he made no mention of it. "As you might have gathered, some developments have come up." Palpatine reached to something over his desk, a hologram, Jazal surmised, and pinched mid-air. "I am going to need the two of you to personally test new protocols and weaponry. I predict they will be of great use in subduing the threat from Murkhana."

"Respectfully, Chancellor, I cannot see what you are referring to. Might I connect this device to your projector?"

"Certainly," Palpatine answered in a reassuring tone.

Jazal pulled her ShadowSync datapad and wireless uplink from her pocket, straining as she plugged the uplink in. "That should do it," she sighed, running her hand over the screen. It was a group of blobs orbiting around a bigger blob with Aurebesh letters spelling "Murkhana."

"I regret to inform you, sir," Tarkin suddenly stammered, "that we have no means of ingress in the Murkhana system. Without—"

"—Nonsense," Palpatine interrupted with a warm smile. "With the developments that just came out of the SBI, I am certain Murkhana can be pacified in a frontal assault from a covert strikeforce."

Jazal wondered for a moment why the SBI was involved, but not Republic High Command or the Jedi High Council. More concerning was the fact the Chancellor seemed to be at the forefront in developments of new technology, without either the High Command or Jedi High Council's involvement.

"This command," Palpatine continued, withdrawing a datacard, "will shut down every droid in the system. Thus, a small fleet consisting of the troops already under your command should be enough."

"Chancellor," Jazal said, finally sensing the moment to speak up. "Has the Republic High Command or High Council been apprised of these developments?"

"Not directly," Palpatine answered. "But, I feel I am fulfilling that requirement by involving a Jedi. Don't you agree, General?"

Jazal worked her mouth for a moment, but said nothing. The question was so surprising that she did not have an answer for it. She could not quite comprehend how the Senate Bureau of Intelligence could develop a shutdown command for the droid army, nor why Palpatine, the civilian leader of the Republic, would be able to determine what size of military force would be necessary to take the system. Nor for that matter, why Palpatine seemed to want them to test the shutdown command in this one battle, instead of exploiting its usage in the largest possible way.

"Of course," Palpatine said suddenly, interrupting the awkward silence. "You could inform the High Council with my blessing. Make them aware of this operation. Shift some of the weight of responsibility off your shoulders."

Jazal sighed in relief, saying brightly, "thank you Chancellor. I always feel like these sorts of decisions should involve as much of the leadership as possible."

Tarkin squirmed uncomfortably. The Miraluka could sense the warmth of Palpatine melt, replaced by a degree of shock and surprise. He clearly anticipated she would say the exact opposite. He expected her to rise up, take command of the entire operation enthusiastically and shoulder all of the responsibility.

At this development, Jazal frowned with suspicion, folding her arms. "Or, if you don't like my choice or belief in fuller disclosure, perhaps you should find another Jedi to represent the High Council on the Strategic Advisory Cell."

"It's… Heavens no it's not that!" Palpatine stammered. "It's not that I am against disclosure, and am including as few beings as possible in this mission for secrecy. No Master Jedi, I feel that time is of the essence. The HoloNet has been down for nearly a month, the longer you stay on Coruscant instead of tackling this threat, the longer it drags on."

And the closer Tarkin and I get dragged to a subpoena, Jazal suddenly realised. "You're right of course… The High Council can be quite slow to act."

"We are in agreement then," Tarkin said with a smirk. "A small secret taskforce consisting only of elements under the control of the Strategic Advisory Cell and Office of the Chancellor will be involved."

"How quickly can you be underway?" Palpatine asked urgently.

Jazal opened her mouth to answer but Tarkin spoke first. "Two days, three at most."

"Which ships are we planning on taking?" Jazal asked, then suddenly felt like she should know the answer to that.

Tarkin glared at her for a moment.

Palpatine regarded the Admiral and the General for a moment. "I'll let you two work out the details. But take this," he added, firmly placing the datacard in Tarkin's hand.