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Zero (rewrote)

Angedechu's Avatar

11.16.2012 , 11:58 AM | #1
Here is my fully rewrote introduction to my Zero fan novel project. It occurs shortly before the great galactic war. You can summarize ''Zero'' as ''the Count of Monte Cristo with spaceships''. (I rewrote the first draft of the project, to make it more readable. As I'm extremely bad about inventing names, out of the six OC, the three females are named from French aircraft compagnies in WW2 (Loire, Morane, Dewoitine), and the three males from British aircraft companies (Havilland, Vickers, Bristol) As you can see, the setup is, well, kinda lenghty.

Minus 300/High Orbit, Brentaal IV…

The charting of the Hydian Way marks the dawn of a new era for the Republic…

The new hyperlane have already boosted significantly trade and business…

Traveling to the Tingel Arm will soon be as easy as booking a transport to Coruscant…

The savage Trans-Hydian is the new frontier of the Republic….

The influence of the Republic will be a stabilizing factor much welcome in the wild-

The last one actually made most of the occupants of the shuttle chuckle. The Human female that had been trying various lines for her opening pitch was rather annoyed, and threw a furious look to the five other sentients that made up her team. The «her» part in her team was however very contestable point. Contestable as in Dewoitine calling herself the uncontested leader of this pinnacle of journalism, and everyone else protesting over this auto-proclamation.

Ignoring the snide comments and sarcastic suggestions, Dewoitine resumed her attempts to find a killer opening sentence for her next piece. She was trying hard to convince herself that this was an exciting subject that could make her a star-or at the very least, allow her journalism career to progress a little bit, as the said career was currently somewhat stalled.

People that signed for journalism at a decent university were usually smart enough to not think that their work would be like in the holos: changing the galaxy, informing the public, being the mythical fourth power of the Republic. Most of those would be journalists, however, did not thought that actual work could be that dreary. Not to mention that despite her abilities (or according to the crew, because of her abilities), Dewoitine had a knack for securing the most exciting and enthralling assignments available.

Dewoitine had schemed enough to secure on her paycheck the title political journalist, in theory the top of the reporter pecking order. The detail was that the station hiring her was maybe first in the rankings, but only first in the 45-60 years old male Human blue collar demographic, and only in the northern continent of her Core planet. Accordingly, it was a bit hard for the station to finance for Dewoitine to report from Coruscant. She was thus affected to local interest politics.

This was a code word for filling up the quotas about locally produced content. Dewoitine actual job mostly boiled down about listening to press conferences about sewage management in some second rate city or interview angry seniors complaining about property taxes hikes. The female Human could no longer stand this kind of work, especially considering that in her list of assignments lurked the coverage of the planetwide charity drive for neutering stray cats.

So, when Dewoitine had heard that the station was planning to send a team to cover up a naval deployment on the relatively nearby Brentaal system, and then to follow the fleet along the Hydian Way, she had called every favor she could think off to be assigned to the team. As everyone else found the job extremely fishy looking, she had ended up with it.

According to Dewoitine, the terms standards of journalism and ethics were used so much nowadays that they had lost all their meaning. Despite what her beloved crew wrote in anonymous messages sent to station’s board, Dewoitine was not «so dimwitted that she have trouble to follow the intrigue of Gamorrean detective shows»: she was plainly aware that if someone had paid for a shuttle, fuel, lodging fees and new cameras, it was probably not only for the sake of informing the population about changes into the galactic economy.

It was certainly a corporate sponsor. The said sponsor had been very discreet to this point, and Dewoitine would play along with it when the inevitable requests would be made. Reporters complaining about corporations and their influence on the medias were probably not the ones sent to cover school boards elections for the 2AM news bulletin.

The low-visibility of the sponsor was certainly related to the matter at hand. The team had been sent to cover what was labeled in the Senate a lifetime opportunity to steer the Republic on a new path, an occasion to allow all citizens of the Republic to dream and hope again, bla-bla-bla. And as Dewoitine was from a world whose main exportation was machinery for the dairy industry, she would have to be somewhat cautious in her approach. After all, it was probably that the viewers sense of wanderlust would be a bit affected if she inserted random soundbites in her report about how totally awesome was for the local community were the devices of a manufacture of milking equipment. Of course, it was probable that the sponsor would want mostly reports interesting for him. There was a way to combine this and real journalism, right ?

Dewoitine could do like one of those fancy reports she saw often on the real channels: award winning pieces about renowned journalists investigating remote planets. She would just have to do it with exotic and lush planets teeming with a never be seen fauna, but fauna that produced some sort of smelly and weird looking milk. She could bring tears to the public by telling about the quaint customs of some bizarre tribe, especially one lacking as much money as clothes, but she would have to pick up tribes that were interested into buying the fine products of an industrial cheese processing machines mogul. And she would still discover herself in contact of a three eyed alien, but while offering him frozen yogurt instead of a pen or a cultural relic.

Creative standards of work set aside, the sponsoring was quite understandable. For any serious industrial, the quest for new markets was perpetual. But normally, new markets were limited to a single system, after a revolution or a regime change. The opportunity to expand into several thousand systems was something that could make even the most prudent and conservative businessman willing to try something, even something as stupid as spending mountains of credits on a publicity stunt spearheaded by Dewoitine.

And «the several thousand systems of the Trans-Hydian» was just a conservative estimate. It would have been exaggerated to claim that most of those new markets were actually new markets, as much of those markets had been Republic members for centuries. Virtually forgotten members, that is, too far away from hyperlanes to have any kind of viable trade. Until the charting of the Hydian, that had cut the costs of shipping by ten, despite abject insecurity.

The opening of the Hydian Way was the largest macroeconomic change for the Galaxy since immemorial times. There were truly countless possibilities opening for the worlds of the Republic: new trade lanes, new sectors to chart and to claim, new systems to colonize, whole sectors that could be truly integrated to the Republic. This could be either the opening of a new era of prosperity, or another of those botched occasions that littered the history of the Republic. Conscious both of the challenge and the limits of the Republic, the High command had, perhaps wisely, decided to focus at first at actually clearing the Hydian Way itself from various threats: petty dictators bullying their neighbors, civil wars, pirate, slavers. And ever for Dewoitine, who had extremely limited notions on space warfare, the task force earmarked for this occasion looked awfully small and inadequate.

As the team’s pilot and tech guy, Havilland, was moving the shuttle closer to the Republican flagship, the whole alleged fleet came into view. Around twenty capital ships and maybe twice as many escorts. The only vessel that was not older than the crews was the said flagship: needless to say, the size of the task force had not prevented the High Command to give it rather lavish goals. On the rather eyebrow raising presentation given to the press by the PR department of the Navy, the naval detachment was supposed to travel from Brentaal to the frontier world of Bonadan and the mining colonies in the area. The task force was supposed to «securize» the Hydian on the way, using using local Republican strongholds on or next to the route as bases of operations. There was a list of those strongholds included, and people taking the care of doing a 10 seconds database search could see plainly that a lot of those strongholds were old Pius Dea military colonies/depots, such as Ord Cestus and Ord Radaman. The value of those planets as operational base was likely to be rather abyssal, without considering the probable hostility of the locals to the Republic that had marooned them there.

But of course, stating that such and such backwater planet «was the sentinel of the Republic for milleniums» sounded way better than «this is a planet that was used as a base centuries ago, and that we abandoned repeatedly». In a rather humorous move, Taris was also listed as a Republican bastion, without doubts in another attempt to attract funds for reconstructions schemes. Even on the rather bombastic presentation, the Navy was however forced to concede indirectly that the only real stronghold past the Inner Rim was the ever loyalist Telos system. The numerous mentions of the Telosian navy role in local peacekeeping was a pretty crystal clear sign that the Telosians had lobbied rather hard for keeping control of their defense assets.

Lobbying and cheap politics were as much as a concern for the informed public than the puny size of the force. Not only the Republic could only afford to send a paltry naval division up and down a hyperlane-while hundreds of systems and corporations have launched their own trading and colonization initiatives-but the naval group was corseted with orders that had already made it the laughingstock of military pundits across the Galaxy. Thanks to the latest budgetary crisis, admirals had been courting influent senators on Coruscant for months now, exchanging help for various pet projects with «comprehension» concerning defense funding. As a result, most of the task force instructions were made to please special interest groups and factions.

As an example, to appeal to the Core demographic of the Senate-this pun never got old-the task force was supposed to detach some warships to end up the Kanz Disorders. The whole matter was getting quite embarrassing to the Republic, to say the least, thanks to latest religious fantasies of the local ruler. But sending a major fleet in the area would have infuriated the Outer Rim S.I.Gs, and the lobbyist working for them, as the said groups were clamoring that the Core only cared about Lorrd because there was Human sacrifices there. This was a tactful and sensitive position compared to shockjocks from the Rim screaming that all of this was yet another conspiracy from the Core to attack an innocent regime. So, to please everyone, the mission had been labeled as a peacekeeping operation. What a couple of old frigates were supposed to do against a whole sector was not made clear, especially considering that the sector was «close» to the Hydian way only in the most relative of manners. But, hey, what mattered was to be able to vilify the opposition on the Senate floor.

And the list of those addendums was long, very long. Some items were merely idiotic, like fostering cultural exchange between Aldreaan and the remote Tantive system-without a doubt some sort of ploy from the very contested Alderaanians royals to secure some sort of foreign policy success to use against their opponents at home. Other addendums betrayed much darker motivations. Thus, to get some Jedis onboard the ships, someone had coughed funds to reinforce a Jedi pet project, some sort of research station above a forsaken desert planet in the enticingly named Stygian Caldera. Apparently, the project did mattered for Jedis, as they had sent several masters and their padawans onboard the flagship.

The presence of the Order had led to rather bitter arguments about the opportunity of having them onboard. Cynics pointed out that the venerable age of the vessels and the rather aggressive nature of some of the instructions could lead to a truly explosive confrontation with locals, and that nothing motivated the Jedi to «negotiate» with local powers like dead members of their Order. Less jaded observers noted that the task force was truly what the Republic could spare with the recent increase in brushfire wars in every quadrant of the Galaxy, and that the Jedi could actually help with the negotiations. Partisans of free trade pointed out with rage that the Jedis, with their position on material wealth, understood nothing about economy, and would end up as usual as backing the positions of the bureaucrats of Coruscant. Their opponents said that only the Jedi could «put in their place» the corporations expanding in the Hydian.

Angedechu's Avatar

11.23.2012 , 12:58 PM | #2
Speculations aside, one thing was sure: the Senate wanted Jedis on the task force. And all the tricks on the book were good to achieve this goal. The cheapest ploy was in fact just ahead of the team. Cheapest only from a certain point of view, in fact, as the said ploy, a newly christened Valor class cruiser, was certainly not cheap for the taxpayers. This ship, the destination of Dewoitine and «her» team, was about to host yet another press conference/PR event/orgy of boring speeches. And of course, the reporters were there to film the proceedings.

Reaching the Valor was an exercise in tedium, as the spacelanes of Brentaal IV were a hive of activity, rivaling Coruscant according to Dewoitine-who had of course never been therebut was trying to show off with rather pitiful results. The traffic was of course quite related to the task force long term goals. The Brentaal system had been transformed, almost overnight, from an somewhat important Core system into a major trade hub, thanks for the incredible fortune of being at the crossroads of the Hydian and the Pern’.

As a result, economic boom was not adequate to describe what was happening on Brentaal; economic big-bang would still have been an understatement. Over 10% of the Republic orbital construction machinery was currently above Brentaal, set up new orbital docks, warehouses, and similar installations. If the Republic had sent the task force with the hidden goal of intimidating the various noble houses of Brentaal, it was quite a failure as the naval group was completely dwarfed by the swarms of vessels in orbit.

Havilland had another heated exchange with the pilot of a tug ahead of the shuttle-it was remarkable about how spacers could put in so few words allusions about corpulence, intelligence, competence, sexual orientation and faithfulness of significant others-before receiving the final clearance to proceed to the aft docking bay. As the name of the Valor came into view, Havilland expressed one more time his puzzlement about this choice.

Havilland was a history major, which probably explained why he had ended up piloting shuttles for such prestigious reporters. That the Senate had a stupid idea for naming a ship was business as usual, but how exactly the Order had fallen for it ?

«I know this is for getting the Jedis onboard, but who had the genius idea of name this ship the Gav Daragon. Not only this guy was a Sith, but-»

«Meh» replied another female of the group, Morane. «according to the paragraph about him in the press kit, he ended up destroying a Sith fleet. Okay, if I understood correctly he had brought the fleet in the first place, but Jedis always end up doing stuff like that….»

«One more time» said Dewoitine «no one care about this. Especially not the viewers: they want topical pieces, not being bored to death with old wars»

«Oh boy, you just learned a new exec-speak word» said sarcastically Morane.

«You have no vision except book-keeping !» said an exasperated Dewoitine.

«No, I do have visions. I’m better as a Jedi when it comes to visions concerning your ideas. It’s not hard, as they always involve hefty bills and hordes of lawyers»

Morane had a host of tasks with the team, but they mostly boiled down to accounting and administrative duties. Accounting was a very important task, considering the truly obscene funds that the sponsor had granted to the station. Morane’s position was not thanks to her rather dubious attempts at humor, but rather because of her incredible capacity to say no. And frankly, the team did not complained too much about Morane’s draconian expense control Sure, the cantina were they took their meals was only a spot above a soup’s kitchen, but it was something to endure to avoid Dewoitine’s ideas.

«Look» continued a Dewoitine quite unwilling to let anyone recall one of her recent ideas for original content, «I just meant, who care about the details of this story ? Jedis love those sappy histories about redemption, but I’m sure they would be a hit in the right demographic-»

«You do know» said prudently the third and final female of the group, Loire «that it seems that our reports will be broadcasted between PodRacer Weekly and Pazaak with the Stars ?»

Poor Loire was officially the research assistant of Dewoitine, which was an understatement for «doing the actual research», as Dewoitine had rather sloppy standards. As the supposed «head reporter» had taken the insinuation rather badly, Loire’s job basically translated into being, well, the slave of Dewoitine. Figuratively speaking of course, but honestly, between being chained to a Hutt and having to cope with Dewoitine demands…She was merely trying, one more time, to make Dewoitine understand something about the station’s target demographic.

But it was useless, of course. Dewoitine wanted social interest pieces about Jedis, and she would produce social pieces about Jedis. As Morane had put it, there was at least a slight advantage : Jedis very rarely hired lawyers to sue for defamation. Of course, they were known to behead their opponents, but a decent burial was remarkably cheaper than legal proceedings.

Knowing how much Dewoitine hated Loire-the former called the later Miss Diversity Quotas, and not even behind her back, Havilland tried one more time to impress a point on his «beloved leader». After all, his name was going to be put on the next piece they would produce.

«One more time, «boss» I would strongly advise that you double check your sources»

«Is this my fault if no one of you understand the concept of bullet points ?»

As Morane was mumbling something about «the only kind of bullet points that would do would be lines from an edutainement show with stuffed animals», Havilland tried to be diplomatic.

«It’s just that, you know, there are nuts everywhere. A slight inaccuracy and the station can get flooded by angry emails from veteran associations and such. »

«Who cares about tiny details ? It’s not like I’m changing important stuff.»

«Well, in the piece you made about the Mandalorian Wars, you wrote Darth Raven and you said it was a female. It’s not exactly a detail»

Sure, this piece was not exactly aiming for university standards, as this was meant to be a story wrote about a professional gladiator pay-per-view event hosted by the station. One of the stars of this «sporting» event had been a heel «Mandalorian» whose gimmick was that he was the clone of Rohlan Dyre «Spikes», one fondly remembered heel from the Mandalorian Wars era, hence the need to present to the public the said Wars. Still, despite the remarkable lameness of this «angle», Havilland felt that the presentation should have been at least vaguely accurate.

«This is not my fault if the documentation I found on the Holonet was this inaccurate »

«You did not found it slightly suspicious when half of the content of your historical novella was description in lurid details of various sexual encounters between «Raven» and her crew ?»

It was pretty telling about Republican security procedures that the tech crew monitoring the communication between the Gav Daragon and the shuttle did not reacted much when they overheard a violent struggle within the shuttle between Dewoitine and Morane punctuated with screams and rather wild insults. Well, with the exception of one technician asking sarcastically for a video feed «if possible».

«Schoolgirls fighting each other get old after seeing it dozens of time» replied a hardly amused Havilland, before being hit with a precisely thrown datapad.

Fortunately, there was a large transport docking ahead of them, which gave time to the shuttle occupants to give themselves a new composure. Havilland had done what he felt he was morally responsible. He would let Dewoitine hang herself.

As seen with the Darth Raven debacle, Dewoitine was often trying to push op-ed pieces, imitating the style of more reputable and known reporters, while more often than not ignoring any advice from the rest of the crew, and especially documentation gathered by Loire. The results were usually quite comical, as she had a marked tendency to copy other sources, while not being very good at selecting the right ones.

A good example was her legendary editorial about the latest tensions between Coruscant and Alsakans, made with using as the key reference a documentary made by the Holonet Historical Channel. The editorial was thus heavy on «Pius Dea secret routes», «Celestial cults», «Sith sects kidnapping girls from the Core to use them as sexual slaves», the usual fare of the HHS-how this was exactly related to trade disputes was not very clear in the HHS documentary, and even less the editorial. Dewoitine thought she had deleted all copies of this masterpiece-Havilland had however kept some copies, in case Dewoitine managed-again-to get another promotion by getting into the bed of a director.

It was thus a small wonder that the mood of the six beings was rather dour when they finally left the shuttle with their gear, to be ushered toward a small booth next to the principal hangar, where the main event was being held. Their communication technician, Bristol, was remarkably unimpressed by the ship and its crew.

«I think most of the crew was selected for their looks in uniform rather than performance….»

Bristol was the only of them with any kind of military experience, as no one wanted to remember their two-weeks experience as embedded reporters during the annual manoeuvres of the Planetary Defence Force. It had translated into two weeks of walking circles in the mud while being shout at, one anonymous letter to the station board of directors for proposing the piece for the annual journalism prize and five signed letters asking for a transfer anywhere possible, even to the continuous weather channel.

Rather remarkably, Bristol was not boasting about his time with the army. He admitted plainly that he had enlisted into a planetary defense force for paying for college and got some technical courses: he had been taught how to use a blaster, and might have fired it one or two times during his two years stint. Still, it made him a grizzled veteran compared to the others.

Him, Havilland and Morane were soon busy exchanging not terribly positives opinions about the ship, their field of expertise giving them uniquely negative point of views. Havilland could point that the Valor was built using technology from the already centuries old Hammerheads, while the budget minded Morane, whose leisure apparently included reading the Republican fiscal previsions, could point out that the Defence Committee had come with a rather amusing way to cut costs on capital ships, which was to cut on the numbers of main guns. To be honest, this was not such an idiocy considering the lack of any ship that could oppose the new Valors, but this brought the question of why building them in the first place.

In fact, the design and the commission of Valor cruisers had been rather controversial. The main reason for their design and commission had been to finally get a true capital ship, only three centuries after the abject failure of the last Republican attempt to produce a similar ship, the optimistically named Inexpugnable-class. Ships produced for the sake of keeping expertise tended to not be very groundbreaking, to say the least-not to mention when the said designers had very stringent budgetary requirements. It was thus not really surprising that the design of the Valors had been mocked by many military pundits often savaging the concept, with catchphrases such as the ship being more appropriate for showing the flag than being a flagship. It was true to a certain point: the Gav Daragon had very lavish facilities for shuttles and transports, but remarkably few fighters docked in those bays.

Angedechu's Avatar

12.08.2012 , 01:47 PM | #3
The news team had very specific instructions for tonight. Specific and simple: they were supposed to film the reception. Their position was perfect for the task : the booth and its twin on the other side of the hallway commanded an excellent view on the conference room. In fact, the job could have been as easy as settling the main camera and feeding the data. Of course, it was not going to be that easy, thanks to Dewoitine.

Vickers, the sixth and final member of the team, nodded as the supposed lead kept babbling about getting interviews with the crew, embedding themselves with the pilots, this kind of idiocies: he was quite willing to endure this for having the privilege to work with this kind of gear. Vickers was the cam guy of the team. He was competent enough for the job or rather he was as competent as you could get with this payscale: as a big fan of cyberpunk holos, he was fond of playing the role of the master hacker with personality quirks. This said, his preferred tactic for acquiring a whole array of ever more expensive specialized devices (usually not really related to holo-journalism, despite his empathic claims) was mostly to ask Morane to pay for them, which was slightly less spectacular than making viral assault on bank vaults. In fact, the most complex hacking stuff Vickers ever done was related to some pictures of Morane after she refused to pony up the credits one more time.

But even Vickers could not find anything to improve over their current gear: he was utterly mesmerized by it. The cameras and the transmission gear were so top of the line that even the SIS probably not had stuff this good. Whatever the sponsor wanted, he wanted it in extremely high definition. And on this point, everyone had its own opinion about content worthy of this kind : sporting events, action holoflicks or even classics butchered by a director’s cut. Sure, the sponsor had apparently a knack for boring speeches, but he was one paying. It was a safe bet that he would not be happy to see Dewoitine’s lines instead of what he asked for.

Thus, everyone was trying hard to look elsewhere or pretend to not to hear when Dewoitine was talking about her concepts. Morane, Havilland, Bristol and Vickers had a least a valid line of defense: despite all the claims of Dewoitine, they were not subordinated to her legally. She could not force them to execute one of her horrendous idea: she could threaten them, blackmail them, annoy them into doing it anyway, but not outright order them. Unlike Loire, who was basically taking the heat for everyone when Dewoitine was annoyed.

There was a lot of reasons about why Dewoitine disliked Loire to this point, her implied incompetence ranking quite high. But what made the rest of the team quite uneasy was how Dewoitine could be, well, mean with Loire, obviously enjoying every barb and every snide remark she could make about the girl. She especially enjoyed the remarks about the quotas, as the topic was obviously an abject humiliation for Loire.

Remarkably inept people were not only staffing second rate news organization. They could also to be in the cast of movies, like for instance the main lead of the latest tween romantic comedy of the year (only the 79th this year). This lead had been selected for how dashing he looked shirtless, not his wits. There had thus been a PR disaster of Celestial proportions when, during a press event, he answered candidly that there was only Humans in the cast because it was just cheaper and simpler to use make-up and prosthetics. A couple of billions of hits on streaming sites later, the matter had been brought in the Senate, and there had been a fairly usual answer to the matter. Which was of course to emphatically present a new law for diversity in the medias, while being very vague about how they would enforce, except by suing especially obvious cases. Local news organization, who bought the bulk of their content to major corporations based on Coruscant, could not afford the risk of trials.

And Loire had advantages. First she was enough not Human to allow the station to pretend that they had increased by 100% their non-Human workforce in the previous years (the said workface now totaled Loire and the Dug they employed on Malastare to cover podraces. And second, she was enough Human-looking to avoid being lambasted by shockjocks across the planets as «catering to the alien lobbies». Arkanians did look quite Humans.

Loire had thus to endure on a daily basis Dewoitine ranting about how Loire’s job was what preventing her to get a new promotion, how she was just there because of quotas and so forth. The rest of the team was not always a bed of roses too. Morane had showcased one more time her dismal lack of tact by telling Loire that she was not a charge to the station, as her job came with some fiscal deductions for the hiring of minorities-a well meant comment that had backfired. The three other members of the team were much more sympathetic to Loire, if only because she was hated by Dewoitine. The later frequently muttered rather venomously that there were two fairly obvious reasons why those guys were so nice with Loire.

But even while ignoring the downright heinous comments of Dewoitine about how Loire could be trademarked as the mascot for the planetary dairy industry thanks to the said reasons and how the said reasons were the primary motivation for her hiring, there was time when Dewoitine’s attack on her assistant were just too much. Like currently. Havilland and Vickers tried to break the unease they felt while hearing Loire excusing repeatedly herself for imaginary failures by attempting to switch subjects.

«So» said quickly Havilland to cover up Loire admitting that she was a failure one more time «what is happening exactly down there ?»

«Well, according to the press kit» replied quickly Vickers «this is mostly a cocktail for 4 VIPs. There is a table on the center of the room with four seats and three guys. So… »

«I mean, what is happening in the room? They don’t look to have much fun.»

Grinning, Vickers pressed a key, and launched himself in an enthusiastic explanation about how the new system they got could filter conversations from ambient noise. Havilland pretended to understand by nodding, but he was actually interested by what he heard. Or rather, he saw it as an occasion to get Loire of a tight spot, for at least a few minutes.

«We might pick something juicy. Want to help us, Loire ?»

A few requests later, Loire was sitting next to them, leaving a fuming Dewoitine trading jabs with Morane. Initially, Vickers and Havilland were mostly interested into the incredibly pretentious talk of the local aristocracy, but they noticed after a while that a lot of the conversation was apparently oriented toward a select few individuals. Well, they noticed it after seeing the ever conscientious Loire meticulously note down and organize individual phrases. They soon had an ever growing list of sentences far more intriguing than socialites gossip.

«…the Admiral is an interesting choice for leading this fleet, with the rumors….»

«….the promotion he got to this Moriban (?) planet is the literal upward kick-apparently, the girl have ruffled some feathers, and she was no longer welcome on Coruscant….»

«…a land baron from Brentaal. He paid for the trailblazing. And for the trailblazer…»

«…I heard she is just a pirate queen from the Outer Rim: pardon in exchange of star charts…»

«….tramp freighter captain at best….»

«…You are dense sometimes. No, I was not speaking about the delegate from the Rishi Maze. She is very proud of her lineage apparently, and they don’t like that…»

«…he is more renowned for fighting in the Senate above the Navy budget than anything else…»

«…my cousin told me that she is just some daddy’s girl, who spend her father credits….»

«…but he did not get the best end of the deal with the Hydian Way rights….»

«…a lieutenant told me that this alleged «ship» was attacked by some pirate gang….»

After a few minutes of this, Havilland noted a fairly obvious pattern. Most of the interesting conversation was about the VIPs. What they did. But a fair part of conversations were about a fifth and unknown character. Who she was. Curious, to say the least. But the small talk gave a new perspective on the august guests of the reception. It was actually really easy to connect the dots, as the press kit included a somewhat detailed (if suspicious) mini-biography about each.

The first guest was Admiral de Bourmont, in the rather outlandish uniform of the Navy. According to the press kit, he was a distinguished war hero. An obvious interrogation was «In what war ?» : it was probably an euphemism for operations against pirates and smugglers.

The second honored being was Sivial Brentioch, landlord and business mogul on Brentaal IV. Widely hailed at having provided the financial back-up for the charting of the Hydian, most astute financial analysts pointed out that thus far, his investment had secured him glory, honor, but not much wealth or revenues.

The third one was a bit surprising. On the brochure, he was known as «Independent shipping contractor» Lyons (his full name was deemed not necessary). Well, surprising was not the exact word: that he had been picked was surprising, that someone like him had been picked was not. This dinner (and by a fair degree the whole task force) was at core a photo-ops for showing the concern of the Republic for all its citizens in those savage reaches.

One of the best ways (other people would have cheapest or crudest) way to achieve this was to find a spacer rescued by the Navy, and to present him to the cameras, if possible with a harrowing tale of survival. Well, judging by the looks of Lyons, either the High Command was keen on avoiding accusations of utterly staging the event or either they had been very short on spacers rescued. Even without the transparent euphemism, Lyons screamed smuggler and not the kind featured in romantic novel. He was presented as «rescued with the assistance of the Republican Navy» : oddly specific formulation.

And the fourth spot, the empty one, was for the Arlésienne of the soirée, the Jedi Master: he was in fact inbound. When Dewoitine heard on the PA the announcement of a Jedi shuttle docking, she put in motion one of her latest idea: secure an exclusive interview with each of the guests of honor, in the typical «astute and sympathetic reporters meeting with members covering all spectrum of society» gig. Despite the sarcastic comments of the team, Dewoitine had apparently and probably accidently struck a point: the four guests were indeed making off a crude coverage of Galactic society, at the very least one like in cheap comedy holoflicks: a stern soldier, a wise Jedi, a supposedly charming scoundrel and a business mogul. Rather obviously, this peculiar composition was due to the organizer of the reception, not Dewoitine.

The rather unmartial nature of the Gav Daragon was evident on yet another point: the booth, which would probably serve as a tech room for the main conference room, had several monitors relaying camera feed from other parts of the ship. As, at least according to holoflicks, every space battle ended up with the captain calling the engineering crew for «more power to the shields», it was presumably useful to relay images to the conference room, especially on large monitors that would explode at a dramatic moment. The news team had thus access to views for most of the non-critical areas of the ship, which was of course useful for their job-they could see for instance guests coming toward the conference room, and film them. Obviously, they did not have access to the feeds themselves. Vickers had boasted that he would crack the passwords quite easily, and Dewoitine had briefly considered to let him try it, without doubt drooling at the thought of seeing her name next to a report that could have been named Security failures exposed galaxywide: Morane had brought them back to reality by evoking her lack of interest at seeing a Republican fireteam chug teargas grenades at them when Vickers would flag an alarm, an event followed by spending days chained in the brig, especially in company of Dewoitine. But while keeping in mind this serious security flaw, the news team had access to the main hangar view. And sure enough, two beings left the shuttle and started to head for the hall.