The Storm King
There were many bits and pieces about life on a planet that simply didn't exist in the same way that it did on a starship, minor things that those groundside took for granted. The day-night cycle, for one. In the cold black heart of space, there was no star to signal the transition from waking hours to that of rest. All light was artificial, and constant. Hours were regulated based on millennia-old galactic tradition, and crucial things such as sleep and mess time were relegated only to the spare moments that a crew member would have, when they could be afford to be away from the duties of their station.
For Kiff Brayde, however, there was some sort of comfortable sense of familiarity in the lack of any order. He thrived better in it, at least, then a stuffy desk planetside on Naboo. The underwater headquarters of the Confederacy military were impressive from an architectural and engineering standpoint, sure, but for someone who had spent the majority of their life in space, it was unbearably suffocating. The private suite of his flagship suited him much better, and besides allowed him to travel around the nation whose defense he was charged with. Better for a leader to be among his people, to inspect his soldiers with his own eyes than delegate it to the task of lesser individuals.
But if only he had a hundred of him, then he might get some damnable rest. He was only able to keep his body physically going from the copious amount of substances and supplements he was taking, an amount that was even beginning to worry his personal medical droid. Kiff hadn't even known that he got his own personal medical droid until the unit had showed up in his quarters for a surprise but apparently routine inspection. It was one of the perks of being the Minister of War for the most powerful nation in the galaxy -- that, and the constant anxiety that was eating away at his core.
"Alban Roble is on-transmission, Minister,"
the airy, light voice of Ibri called, interrupting his thoughts. The tall, slender Lieutenant Commander stood in the open doorframe of his suite, her dark hair swooped back in a tight knot beneath her officer's cap. Bragga was Kiff's second-in-command aboard the Storm King
, captaining the ship in his stead when the Minister was unavailable. "Where's the fething secretary droid Roble promised?" Kiff wondered out loud in an off-hand tone. Bragga merely shrugged before a ping on her comm device stole her away her attention, and she left him at his desk.
Sitting up from his reclined position, closing the sliding blast doors to plunge his suite into complete privacy, he inhaled sharply as he jogged his memory for why Alban Roble would be calling at this hour. With so little sleep, the days had begun to meld together in his mind. He made sure that the proper transmission jams were still in place, to prevent any listening devices from picking up his conversation; Kiff didn't enjoy other Ministries listening in on his private discussions. That was another reason why he so-often abstained from his Naboo office, because there he could never be sure who was listening. At least in the private suite of his own flagship, he felt a smidge more secure.
With the press of the button, the miniature holographic form of Alban Roble rose to life on the table before him. The executive's well-groomed and immaculate appearance was a stark contrast to Kiff's mussed hair and wrinkled uniform, but he was too tired to pay any mind to it. "Minister Brayde,"
Roble greeted him with a slight tone of familiarity. After all, this wasn't the first conversation the two had shared. "I am pleased to find you in good health."
The man must've had an extremely low standard for 'good health.' "How goes your crusade for that funding increase of yours?"
Kiff snorted in derision. "Days upon end of 'deliberation', and I can barely squeeze a credit out of the Viceroyalty. You've dealt with them before -- what would you expect?"
"Nothing less, I suppose,"
Roble mused. "Though I have found they can be surprisingly tractable. It's all about manipulating it so they see a proposal as a way for them to use you, not the truth of it being the other way around. That, and a few patriotic words can make them be oh-so generous with their pockets."
"You'll have to teach me your ways then, for when I have to inevitably suffer through a legislative session,"
Kiff replied off-hand. "But I expect that eventually I will get at least a portion of the credits I need, which will be enough. How fares Project: Oversight?"
"It fares well,"
said Roble, a slight wit to the wording of his answer. "Surprisingly well, if I do say so myself. Tell me, are you familiar with the Enclave?"
"The Mandalorians? I've heard of them. Read a few reports that crossed my deck. Several rotations ago High Marshal Oldo was complaining about a group of them at one of the hypergates, that was an amusing report to read. What of them?"
"The Enclave have been in the business of rebuilding from the genocide their people face, or so they've told my representatives,"
Alban said. "Either way, they've been large purchasers of material and technology from Roble Manufacturing, but with little credits of their own they've paid through other means, quite priceless means if I do say so myself. Kyber crystals, whether it be from fallen Jedi and Sith or naturally mined, I cannot say, but I also really don't care to to find out. Kyber has been quite hard to find on the markets, what with the entire northern galaxy in the state its in. And even better -- Beskar, Minister, possibly the only source for it outside of the black market. While we've received only a pitifully small amount, even an ounce of beskar is a treasure on its own, and we have acquired a deal more than that. Suffice to say, the Enclave probably had a hard time parting with it."
So far, Roble's words were boring Kiff. "So you've gotten trace amounts of rare materials. Is that all, or is there something I'm missing?"
"Trace amounts, yes. But those pale in comparison to the true treasure we uncovered. Apparently the Mandalorians are utilizing an advanced artificial intelligence, something leaps and bounds beyond my own systems, which are fairly advanced if I must say." Of course you must say
, Kiff thought, though his interest had been rekindled by the mention of artificial intelligence. "What we know is very little and only comes from the briefest of instances, when this system interacted with proprietary Roble Manufacturing servers. But the data we collected was enough to advance Project: Oversight by months, at the very least."
Kiff nodded. He could see what Roble was getting at without needing to ask any further questions. "Hopefully that means it'll be online well before we'd be in dire need of it,"
Kiff said, as much his thoughts spoken out loud as a question, but Roble confirmed with a nod of his head anyways.
"Most of our algorithms have been ironed out and holistic processers have already entered the infantile stage. As we complete construction on the core facility, it'll grow exponentially. Though that reminds me: the protection of the facility is of the utmost importance. I trust that--"
"Fondor's defenses have already been increased tenfold,"
Kiff said, waving the question aside before Roble could even get to it. "It'll take a while for the infrastructure and fleet movements to kick in, but the commands have been issued. You aren't alone in your concerns. The entire Bassadro sector is getting the special treatment, from Fondor to Yesmireen. Though for specific coordination of defenses, you'll have to speak to High Marshal Oldo. I can promise you however that I am watching very, very closely."
"I am glad to hear it,"
Roble replied. "The hour grows late on Fondor, and now I fear I must take my leave of you, Minister. There is still much for me to attend to."
He bowed. "A pleasure, as always,"
he said in farewell.
Kiff repeated the words, before signing off of the transmission and taking a swig of the still water at his desk. It wasn't liquor, but he didn't need drunkenness to be added to his list of self-afflictions. Besides, it rinsed the taste of business executives fairly well from his tongue. They were a necessary evil, and Alban Roble was certainly a better specimen among them, but at the end of the day Kiff could only tolerate so much interaction before his irritation with their games of profit and economy caught up with his thinking. He made a mental note to send a missive to Oldo to inform him that elements of the Trevura Sector Armada would be arriving, and another formal inquest to the Vicelord on the state of his funding request.
But first, he needed some sleep. Perhaps if he was lucky he could even get a few hours before it was more work, again.