[The Office of the Empress]
The dust had barely settled. The Clan limped home, considering themselves more than lucky to be alive. The battle had not treated them well by any means, and their forces were nearly decimated in the sheer intensity of the fight. How had they come to be so unprepared? Too many were lost. Far too many. Plans were already underway, preparations that would steel them against the next onslaught by the enemy. Military weapons and ships were but one piece of the puzzle—the summit’s strengthening but another. Shadow, Empress of the Imperial Clan, stared down at the datapad and the proposal it displayed to her golden eyes.
Mune stood, head held high, before his Empress. His expression gave away nothing. Only those that knew him best would take notice of the slight back tilt of his expressive ears as anything noteworthy. The feelings regarding their showing in the recent war remained buried deep enough that they were known only to him. He would happily keep it that way if he could, but nothing would change if he did.
“A training exercise,” Shadow queried softly, a brow arched curiously. “We are still reeling from the altercation with the Collective, is now necessarily the time for a training exercise?”
“That is exactly the point, Shadow,” the Shistavanen frowned. “Next time, we need to be prepared. You and I know well enough there will be a next time! Fancy toys alone are not going to get the job done! We need to better ourselves if we are to continue forward and survive the next wave of attacks by our enemies.”
The Sephi-hybrid’s eyes narrowed, a nail tapped her desk’s surface slowly, rhythmically, as her thoughts rolled around. “You forget yourself, you know.”
Mune drew in a breath, staring into his consul’s narrowed eyes, he did not flinch. He had not wilted under more dangerous looks than the one she offered him. He was not about to do so now. His own ruby eyes narrowed. “I forget myself?”
“Careful,” the words were a hiss between her lips. Her eyes held a warning.
Shadow trusted the ex-proconsul; she had no reason not to; his words certainly hit close to home. Placing the datapad face down upon her desk, she met his gaze. She laced her fingers and kept her narrowed eyes firmly on the vulpine glare of someone she had for no short time counted upon. Mune’s ears angled forward, and his tail held up in a dominant, if not stubborn stance. His body language bespoke someone expecting a fight. Shadow sighed heavily.
Mune gave a firm nod and made to turn but stopped at a clearing of the woman’s throat. He turned his gaze back towards his Empress.
“You are responsible, no matter the results of this venture,” she added firmly.
“Be they ill or favourable,” Mune acknowledged. He had expected no less. Shadow nodded. Without glancing back, Mune turned and left her to her office and the dark.
“The orders have gone out, sir,” the soldier eyed the Shistavanen nervously.
“Thank you. I apologize for the rush; I know it is highly unusual.”
“Sir. Not at all. I do not mean for you to apologize,” the soldier’s words spilled in a babbled rush. When he realized he was doing so, he stopped and cleared his throat, giving himself a moment to collect his thoughts. “I am here to serve.”
“I wouldn’t bother, Mune does not like being an inconvenience and will see it as nothing else other than one that he woke your men to act in haste.” Caleb came to meet the Force-user and soldier.
Mune shared a look of such warmth and adoration with the man that Caleb reminded him with a quick motion of his head that there was business to be attended. The Shistavanen, exhausted, tore his gaze away from the towering feline to meet the soldier’s eyes. The man was adamantly pretending he had not seen the look of affection the Force-user had openly displayed for the other man. Mune allowed himself a smirk, unable to return entirely to his business face. “If all goes as planned, we will see you and hopefully as many Clansmen as invited, in the Archipelago in short order.”
“You are not joining them?”
Caleb answered, “We’ve made arrangements of our own for transport.”
“Ah, Captain Vital has agreed then to transporting us? I was worried she would be unhappy to be woken.”
“I needn’t have woken her,” Caleb explained. The question filled Mune’s eyes, and Caleb saw it so continued unabated, “She had yet to sleep.”
[Above the Nethal Archipelago]
Mune transmitted the orders and could not help the grin that stretched back the length of his muzzle. Caleb watched the self-satisfied gleam in his mate’s eyes and chuckled softly to himself. “So, who are you tagging for Omega Team?”
“I don’t know.”
“Wait; what?” Caleb appeared incredulous.
“I said, I don’t know,” Mune set down the datapad. “Where is the fun if I know who the enemy is? Your mouth is hanging open.”
Caleb knew the mission. Team Alpha was to search for and retrieve an arftifact. As a team, they would seek out their target and secure it. The team was expected to work together, combining skills, knowledge, and even their abilities with the Force (for those that had its bounties gifted them). Mune had ensured that it was not only their Force-users that received the invitation. He was also aware that a Team Omega was to work within their ranks to win over the artifact through deception. Spies and saboteurs set on making their efforts that much more difficult. Caleb hadn’t realized that Mune would blindly select Team Omega.
“I… am admittedly surprised.”
“Fair play and all that,” Mune grinned toothily.
The Riptide, a star courier, began its descent. He closed his eyes. He felt the other man sit at his side and allowed himself to lean into the robust frame. Sleep took him quickly, dropping him into dreams. It would be no short time before they others began to arrive, and the mission began.
It seemed like so little time before he was awake and walking on the dry soil of one of the chain’s islands. The sun was bright on the horizon. He turned his eyes away from it to glance towards the incoming transport that held the other Scholae members. Anticipation made his tail sway lightly in excitement. “Let us get this thing started.”
This is the beginning of the run-on Training Exercises in the Archipelago. All Scholae Palatinae members are invited to join in the excitement. The instructions for creating a snapshot are in the competition details.