((Continuation of the story started here and continued here, here, here and here. Told from Kyriaki's point of view))

Our significantly diminished convoy left the wreckage, the blood and the bodies behind it. The groundcar races across the road. Seated at the front in the passenger’s seat, I can hear Lachesis speaking into her comm. She is speaking to
Eisen. “...my Leader, with all respect, we cannot respond with half-measures. If the Dominion has the temerity to strike deep into our territory, we should rain fire down upon one of their towns and show them what fear truly means. Or perhaps launch a border incursion. Tenopolis is within range. They’ve set up a lot of industry there – and filled it with refugees from Nexus.” I wonder what story they will feed the people. Truth be told, I wonder how many stories I see on the newsreels are true. I have been fed lies ever since my first flash memories entered my mind.

“Lachesis, my dear, as angered as I am by this cowardly attack on you, it is well within expected boundaries. We shoot some missiles at them and drop some bombs, they respond in kind to dispel any notion that the infantile Republican Guard has given them such a good clobbering that they cannot harm us,” Eisen replies. His tone is terribly casual. I wonder whether he is deliberately trying to rile her up.
“And if they strike at us with impunity, we appear weak.” Her anger is palpable. ”Coming so soon after Maysaf’s destruction, it will only feed Erlösung’s propaganda machine. It will look like capitulation before the Jedi infidels. If the lower...”
“Are you questioning my authority, Lachesis? Perhaps you imagine yourself sitting upon my throne, as the standard bearer of ‘true Humanism’? Or perhaps you wish to distract from the fact that the commander of the forces at our border was your appointee.” I did not know that. “Maybe your lack of vigilance is to blame.”
“It is to assure our dominance that I would strike. I think only of the wellbeing of the Imperium, my Leader.”

“And I am its embodiment. We’ll strike at a suitable target on their border. Our response will be unambiguous...and measured. In the meantime, you’ll proceed with your investigation with alacrity. In fact, I want you to widen it to encompass the whole province and determine whether there might not be Dominion agents at large. First, they fall behind on their quotas, and then a convoy bearing one of my most trusted lieutenants is struck by a Dominion air strike with pinpoint accuracy.”

“I will..,” she pauses. I imagine she wants to say something else, but then she drinks into the sour apple and climbs down, “see to it, my Leader. As our founding father said, where is the xenos, there is the saboteur. I will also mobilise the Kylo Ren Sky Base and pay its commander a visit.” Hope Falls will receive a new quota. This time it will be one of bodies.

“Good. I expect to hear of the first results by the time the Legions of Dusk strike back. I have full confidence in you, Lachesis. You are authorised to make examples. I will confer with Marshal Nikator on a target for our retaliatory strike. Praise Vader!”

“Praise Vader.” She slams the comm down hard. “I should not have called. That coward Thrul has been whispering in his ear, I know it. You want to say something clever, girl? Go ahead, say something clever.”
My throat feels tight. I can think of a few clever things. None of them would be smart to voice. What do I say? Is this a trap? I cannot afford to get on her bad side anymore than I already am, but flattery will not work on her. And if I say anything disparaging of Eisen, she will undoubtedly report me. “The Supreme Leader sees further than all of us. We must follow him, even if we don’t always understand his commands. I believe our first objective must be to stamp out the cells of disloyalty in this province. I will do all in my power to support you in this endeavour, my Lord.”
“You’re so perfect, aren’t you? You always have the right song to sing and commit to anything. That may suffice in the academy, but will you keep your nerve on the battlefield? We shall see.”

The convoy leaves the highway. There are trees and fields can be seen in the distance. There is a river. It must connect to the waterfall Hope Falls derives its name from. It flows very fast. We pass what I believe is a masonry ditch. It is facing inward – towards the settlement. The road we traverse passes over the ditch. As we pass over it, I catch a glimpse of what I am certain is part of a skeleton. “That is the part of Hope Falls we don’t show in the movies,” Lachesis says conversationally. “Of course, every citizen knows how things are done. We just don’t talk about it.”

A large gate looms ahead of us. There is a sign that reads ‘Welcome to Xenos Reservation Zone
Hope Falls.” Soldiers and tame Nexu are on patrol. The men-at-arms are a mixture of humans and xenos. The latter are predominantly Houk and Gamorreans. I see the logic in that. Both species are simple-minded brutes. Throw them a few scraps and raise them as you would a guard dog, and they will obey. There are other guards who look like...chicken? The xenos’ equipment is very basic – helmet, a flak vest and an old slugthrower. The human element fares better. Weapons’ emplacements have been set up in watchtowers. These soldiers belong to the Public Force.

No one would have dared to stop Lachesis’ limousine or demand identification. But this humble groundcar looks a lot less prestigious. So a human officer stops us. “Praise Vader! Welcome to Hope Falls. I need to see some ID.”
“Do you know who’s in this transport?” the soldier driving the groundcar snaps. “Darth Lachesis, Lord of the Disciples of the Vader.”
The officer pales. “My apologies...I didn’t know. Just a miscommunication, my Lord. If there’s anything I can...”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, get out of the way,” Lachesis snaps from the backseat. “And send out patrols. Make your xenos dogs do something useful for a change. And call the Sky Base. I want our birds in the air because apparently someone missed a Dominion air strike.”
“Right away, my Lord. Apologies again. Praise Vader!”

The gate opens and our small convoy passes through. There are more soldiers on patrol. I also see trons. I hear small drones fly through the air, keeping watch. But overall the landscape is dominated by vast grain fields. Men, women and children of various alien species are toiling in the fields. Our pace is fast, but they seem to be mostly working with their hands. They look scrawny and their clothes are threadbare. Most of the guard posts we see roaming the perimeter are xenos. Grain fields and farms stretch as far as the naked eye can see.

“Look at these beasts,” Lachesis remarks. “No doubt many laze around the moment we are not watching. Without a firm hand, they succumb to idleness. Do you know anything about agriculture, girl?”
Why does she ask this? “Can’t say I do, my Lord.”
“If you serve the fatherland as well as you say empty courtesies, maybe one day you’ll have an estate of your own, with little beasts like these to command. Give it a few decades, and this place will look very different. Clean. Pure. The whole Imperium will.”
“You mean we’ll have taught the xenos how to act civilised?” There is a Mon Calamari hanging from a tree. He bears a sign proclaiming him to be a wrecker and sloth who stole grain.
“I mean that it will be free of xenos.”
“We need them as workers. Our industry runs on them. They are everywhere – in the factories, the farms, the construction yards,” I point out.
“For now. The productive ones will live the longest. In the long run, being dependent on them would be our undoing. It leads to decadence. A few will remain, no doubt. To perform menial tasks. Or live in a state of total barbarity in lands we don’t want. As for the rest,” she trails off. “You’ve read Glorious Conflict. Our people need living space.” Inwardly I shudder and feel sickened. These are the people I serve and whose goals I further. I think of Shakka. And how long will it be until I am told: ‘we don’t need defective Disciples anymore?’ If only the Dominion attack had killed Lachesis. If I had not been so concerned with myself, I could have taken a shot at her. It would have been so easy to miss in the chaos. No, that is an absurd thought. She would have crushed me like a bug without the slightest effort. And where one Lord dies, another takes their place.

We pass through a gate upon which the words ‘to each what he deserves’ have been inscribed. Now we can see the settlement proper. Some of the drab, concrete buildings are covered in propaganda posters. In the distance, there is an enormous bronze statue of Darth Eisen. A welcoming committee of sorts awaits us. I see troopers from the Public Force and xenos civilians. I imagine the latter are the presentable ones. They wear proper clothes rather than rags. None of the xenos wear a collar, but not all chains are visible.

A man dressed in a grey Party uniform and, of all people, a Gungan stand at the head of the welcoming committee. A Gungan! Can they even speak proper Basic? This one seems to know how to dress. Two officers in a Public Force uniform, a Gamorrean and a human male, stand close to them. I have no idea what gender the Gamorrean is. They all just look like walking pigs to me.

As we step out of the groundcar, a herald of sorts announces Lachesis. “Darth Lachesis, the Dragon, Lord of the Disciples of the Vader, Minister of Reclamation and Settlement, Imperial Commissioner for the Strengthening of Humanism, member of the Grand Council of Humanism...” She has many titles, though Eisen still beats her. It is almost as if every grandee is in a competition to see who can hoard more grandiose titles. Needless to say, I have one. I am just another Disciple. It has its advantages. Someone who stands on a pedestal becomes the target for everyone else's barbs.

A child’s choir breaks into a song. The uniforms of the little xenos are clean. Indeed, they look new. Quite a few of them look like a poor fit, as if they have been distributed on the quick without anyone bothering to take their wearer’s measurements. But the children are thin. Their faces look happy, but when I reach out, I feel fear.

“Resounding, like birds one after the other,
A song flies over the fatherland.
A song of hope and joy.
‘Living has become better, living has become happier.’
We beg the Great One to protect, forevermore,
Our Iron Benefactor.”

So they sing. The local officials approach us. Gungan speaks first, after bowing her head deeply. “Great Lord Lachesis, welcome to Hope Falls. We are honoured by your visit.” Her voice is feminine, and she is speaking in near-flawless Basic. I am floored. “When we heard of the cowardly attack, we were greatly concerned. It is heartening to see that you are unharmed.”
“I am sure it is, Mayor’ Nass,” Lachesis hisses. She looks like she would rather have her tongue cut than speak to a xenos, let alone acknowledge even a nominal title. There is no craftsmanship in her. I would not trust her to make a cloak for me. Her stitches would be unevenly spaced and sized, like a jagged lines across the sleeve. If conversation was a garment, hers would be crude. Thugs – that is what all Vaderites amount to. Some just have better table manners.

“The Public Force has increased its patrols to do its part to make such an incident does happen again,” the Gungan, who is apparently called Nass, continues. It as if Lachesis’ words have sheeted off her like rain does off her wall. Or maybe it is just a survival mechanism. It is one I know well: courtesy is my armour. Her tone is polite and her expression conveys submission. Her eyes tell a different story. Appeasement is her only weapon. Somehow, she seems more of a lady than this preening despot.

“My Lord,” the Party official says respectfully – but warily? “It has been a long time since Hope Falls received such an illustrious emissary. If we had had a bit more time to prepare, I would have been able to welcome you in style.”
“Or to clean up your record, no doubt,” Lachesis says coldly. “We have much to discuss. You have a great many things to answer for.”
“I assure you, Hope Falls wants nothing but to be a productive member of the Imperium,” Nass says diplomatically. The Party bigwig is holding back. It is no surprise that the Gungan has not been briefed, but it seems he has not either. She glances over to me. “May I enquire about the identity of your companion?”

Lachesis has opened her mouth, but before a word that would pigeon-hole me into a nonentity can leap from her tongue, I speak. My tone is clipped. “Lady Kyriaki. I’ve been sent by order of the Supreme Leader to inspect this settlement.“ It is all technically correct.
“Young Kyriaki has been assigned to assist me,” Lachesis interjects authoritatively. Score one for me, nonetheless.
My eyes turn to the Party bigwig. “I don’t think we’re acquainted, Prefect...”
“Nikolaos Kollias,” he finishes.
“Related to Governor Kollias?”
“He’s my uncle.” It explains a few things. Self-importance oozes from him. But I also feel uncertainty.

“We will gladly give you a tour of the settlement,” Nass speaks. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the truck has come to a halt and soldiers are disembarking. Shakka is among them. She looks alright – physically at least. I contain a sigh of relief. Wordlessly she falls in line, keeping her head down. As we walk onward, various xenos in strange outfits perform a...dance for us? It looks like a cultural thing. It is accompanied by more singing. I must admit, they dance well. I wonder how long they trained for this occasion.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, stop prancing around,” Lachesis hisses. “And that singing – it sounds like a chorus of animals in various sharp-toothed traps.”
The Gungan passes out instructions and a minion seems to order the dancers and singers to disperse. “My apologies, we wished to give you a friendly welcome. The Supreme Leader liked the show when he visited years ago.”

“Send those brats to the fields. If they want to eat, they will work.” I can Nass’ open her mouth, but then it shuts and see nods. Lachesis preens herself. “You should have things well more in hand, Prefect. Fortunately, I’m here to make sure none of you forget your obligations. Today, we will see the true Hope Falls.”
“I swear, my Lord, the Public Force has not let down its guard for even a moment. Just a week ago we taught some wreckers and sloths a lesson, didn’t we, Gorn?” the human officer brags. The Gamorren grunts something. I suppose it is in affirmative.
“We shall see how well your vigilance holds up when it is put to the test. Now, let us not dally. You will show me your fields and silos, then your books.” With these words from the lord of many titles in mind, we take our first steps into Hope Falls.