Senior decided that he should survey the possible staging points for the Forno fleet.
'Pippin we need to investigate either Forno or Proxima to see where they are gathering,' Senior said, 'If we are ready we will check the closer one first.'
'Yes that is where Roos had her fleet waiting when they invaded your planet,' Pippin said, 'Via the service universe of course.'
Transferring back to the empty universe, the Big Red was set a course to first the planet orbiting Proxima.
Once in orbit Senior opened the video portal and observed the system.
'Ah, there they are,' Senior said, 'Two hundred Fornoon globes and darn, it looks like an Imperial Sun destroyer and three Corvettes. It seems that it is the same setup that Commodore Rham had when he met Humph. Perhaps this is his counterpart.'
'If it is, we may be able to talk sense,' Pippin said.
Senior guided the viewpoint over to the larger of the ships and drifted the camera through the hull into the bridge. Once there Senior found out some good news, it was indeed Rham's detachment.
Completing the survey and recording the main crew of each vessel Senior was soon conversant with the force that he would need to counter.
'I will just check the Engineering decks to locate the components we need to nobble,' Senior said as he did just that, 'Those being the bits seems easy enough. Reckon you can fix those?'
'Yes without dramas, I only need a small avatar to reach through the portal and do the work,' Pippin said., 'I can even open the portal behind the panel, and none will see me at work.'
'Let's return home and work our way through the data,' Senior said.
After settling into the office and resuming his tasks, Senior received a call that a taxi was parking in the visitor's lot. Taking a look through the window, he was surprised to see Ito Roos step out accompanied by an unfamiliar woman. These two made their way to the entrance; then Senior received a call that Ambassador Roos would like an appointment to speak with Steve Firebrand.
'Send them up, I need a little entertainment,' Senior said.
He stuck his head out and said to Anne, 'Do you think you can handle a visit from a Greenie?'
'What?' Anne answered, 'Do I have to bite my tongue?'
'Officially we are friends now, so grit your teeth for a bit,' Senior said, 'I will keep it short.'
A clerk escorted the pair to Senior's office where Anne greeted them with barely restrained dislike.
Senior invited them straight in and offered them a seat before asking, 'How may I help you?'
'Only a courtesy call with my assistant Veoos. I am now the roving ambassador for this sector, and I wish to establish a working relationship,' Roos said.
'Considering the last visit, it will take a little fence-mending,' Senior said, 'I suspect there is more?'
'Please remember that my part was just the initial scouting and first approach,' Roos said, 'You are right that I have an agenda, I am trying to lay a foundation to become a Droman friend. I have had a long talk with Rosebud and Algertz while we thrashed out the new treaty with our sectors.'
Senior asked, 'Pippin your opinion?'
'If Rosebud can work with her, there should be no problem,' Pippin said, 'I have read the trade accord, and it is quite favourable for all parties.'
'Well then, I suppose we can see how things run,' Senior said, 'I believe you would have more success with Humph.'
'That would be my next move, thanks for your time,' Roos said as she stood to leave.
Once the pair had left in a taxi, Pippin asked, 'You didn't mention your current problem?'
'Thought best not to,' Senior said, 'It does change my thoughts towards the other Roos. Potentially it frames her as more reasonable.'
As life usually does, it is a long, tedious time with not much happening until the next critical point. This event came months later with another visit from Roos; this time she flew a shuttle directly to the factory.
'That's interesting, a Humph's shuttle,' Senior said to himself as it landed. This time a young woman with brown hair and tanned face, exited the shuttle with Roos and made their way to Reception.
The Receptionist rang to inform Senior, 'Ambassador Roos and Captain Helen to see you.'
'Thanks, Karen, please send them up,' Senior said adding to Pippin, 'I wonder what she wants this time?'
By now, the staff were used to Roos' visits, and they ushered the women into Senior's office, and where Steve greeted them.
'Good morning Ambassador and Captain Helen,' Senior said as he invited them in, 'You know Pippin?'
'Good Morning, Commodore and Captain,' Roos then answered the implied question, 'My new companion Captain Helen Troy.'
'A Droman?' Pippin said, 'I am always glad to meet another person.'
'I have heard so much about you, Pippin,' Helen said, 'I am pleased to meet you.'
'I guess you have been successful with your friendship with Humph?' Senior asked rhetorically.
'Yes indeed, it is wonderful having Helen as a partner,' Roos said, 'However, I have some mixed news. I have helped establish an Adept Academy with Helen's help.'
'And what does that mean to the common or garden housewife?' Senior asked.
Roos was puzzled for a moment, then realising that it was only Aussie humour said, 'Amusing. It seems that extended contact with Dromans allows the transfer of symbiotic life forms to humans. This symbiotic state promotes Adept abilities.'
'I am sure there is a reason for telling me?' Senior asked with a raised eyebrow.
'Helen, would you like to tell Senior the news?' Roos asked.
'You may have the ability,' Helen said, 'If the two of you close your eyes. Now, imagine a small flame in front of you.'
Pippin and Senior did so, 'Now gradually open your eyes without losing the image,' They did this and were surprised to see and feel the suggested flame before them.
'Now, gently feed the flame,' Helen directed, 'Careful Pippin.' As the flame in front of Pippin flared brightly.
'Relax and allow the flame to extinguish,' Helen said, 'For better or worse both of you have the potential to become Adepts of the Light.'
'As in Star Battles?' Senior asked, 'And why would I want to be one?'
'Remember Klien? His eyes are looking this way; we may need the ability to detect and dissuade any action on his part,' Roos said, 'You probably don't have the time to spend on Elysium for this.'
'Pippin, if you take my hand, I will transfer the data you need then you will be able to train Steve,' Helen said as she held out her hand to do so. Pippin took her hand and received this.
'I suppose as the old saying goes, "while you live you learn",' Senior said.
Roos and Helen said their farewells and left Senior to ponder the implications of these revelations.
'Pippin, suppose you can teach me, why do you think I would need this talent?' Senior asked.
'Since you plan to plant yourself on Rham's bridge, there could be a Dark Adept in situ,' Pippin suggested.
'Yes, unprepared we would be sitting ducks,' Senior said thoughtfully, 'Knowing my luck if I don't prepare for the worst it will happen. How much sweat is involved in this lark.'
'A lot, while I find that hard to believe, it made Helen tired,' Pippin said, 'But if the data is correct as soon as I start practising I may experience this condition that I have always puzzled me. To achieve the apprentice level, you may regret starting.'
'If I take baby steps, I suppose I will survive,' Senior laughed.
'I will get the props together and start the torture soon,' Pippin said, 'I have several toys on the bench as we speak. My, they are interesting. I am sure you will enjoy every bit of the exercise.'
'In the meantime, I need to accelerate the delivery of fighters to the service world,' Senior said.
Senior contacted his counterparts and found that the required number of ships, drones and infantry equipment were on schedule.
By the time he had finished his survey, Pippin had arrived with some new gear and invited him to the gymnasium. To one side there floated a little drone which looked familiar.
'Oh a laser drone from Star battles, does this one shoot ?' Senior asked.
'Yes, small lasers at targets on a harness,' Pippin said.
'Perhaps if I watch you I will learn the techniques required,' Senior said remembering how the newbie fared in the movie.
Helen set the drone running, and it started shooting lasers, which she parried with her sabre. Senior thought that she made look too easy.
'How do you tell what it is aiming at?' Senior asked.
'Clear your mind and feel the force, there is a slight point of focus from the drone as it readies to fire,' Helen said, 'Like this.' The last using telepathy.
Senior emptied his mind of thought while Helen set the drone running without actually firing. Slowly a picture of dots seemed to appear on the drone with a complementary dot on his harness.
'Ready?' Pippin telepathed, 'Starting lasers.'
The drone started shooting, and Senior moved his sabre to intercept the rays, gradually anticipating them as he became used to the technique.
Once Senior was confident, he suggested to Pippin that a visit to alt-Rham's ship and have an interview.
'I wonder what the date is in young Steve's world? Perhaps the Emperor has a bad cold and is about to fall off the twig. Our fella did so in 5 Abt which is 3067 RE,' Senior said, 'I will have to ask him.'
'Best you wear my suit under a Fearnaught,' Pippin said, 'That way I can boost your sword work if needed for a visiting adept.'
Pippin parked the Red next to the Sun Destroyer in the service universe ready to transfer onto the destroyer's bridge once the layout was determined.
They sent the spy portal across and studied the bridge activity for a time, becoming used to the routine and then located Rham in his cabin as the situation was standing by for orders.
'Yes, there is an adept, it is best we watch his behaviour,' Senior said.
Rham came out onto the bridge and received an update from the duty officer; the adept came over to listen and comment.
'What is the status? I haven't time to stand around twiddling my thumbs,' The Adept snarled.
'Feel free to return to Correlia if time is heavy on your hands, Adept Nige,' Rham said, 'I suggest that your talents are not required here.'
'I will be the judge of that, you have your orders, carry them out,' Nige said.
Rham gave him an icy stare biding his tongue.
'Acknowledge my order, or I find someone who will,' Nige said.
'Aye' Rham snapped, 'That is what I am doing.'
Rham clutched his throat as Nige lifted him off the deck. 'Manners,' Nige said.
‘Open a portal please Pippin,' Senior said, stepping through as this opened.
'Please put Rham down,' Senior ordered, applying a telekinetic choke-hold of his own.
Surprised the Adept did so and Senior also relaxed his hold. Nige face became red, and he drew his sabre.
Senior gestured and his sabre flew to his hand, 'May I introduce myself? I am Commodore Steven Firebrand, and you seem to be contemplating a hostile posture towards my world.'
'How the hell did you get here?' Nige asked.
'Do you have a spare year or so?' Senior asked, 'While this system is not part of our sector, it is rather close and is an unacceptable threat.'
'Stand down from your threat posture or your life is forfeit,' Nige snarled.
'I have an energy-absorbing field which would destroy your sabre and damage your hand,' Senior warned, 'The screen is connected to accumulators sufficient to absorb all the weapon discharge in this area. I can depart if it is likely to be overloaded,'
Nige ignored the warning and attacked; the bridge crew stepped back for safety. The adept's sabre swung in an arc intended to disarm. Senior blocked the blow then riposted and set the adept stepping back. After a few passes, Nige managed to bypass Senior's sword and struck Senior's forearm with an explosion as the adept's sword hit, his handle had exploded hurling Nige onto the deck in agony.
'I did warn you,' Senior said.
Pippin emerged from a portal, collected Nige and evacuated him for medical aid.
Senior returned the sword to his scabbard and then addressed Rham, 'My apologies for this disturbance, Commodore Bento Rham. I am Steven Firebrand. May I restart this interview a little calmer?'
'You certainly have my attention,' Rham said, 'I can guess it would be as easy to deliver something unpleasant. At the moment I have a little spare time. You are caring for Adept Nige?'
'He is in good hands, and after a little first aid, he can be returned,' Senior said, 'Supposing that you would like that to happen as I interrupted some unpleasantness?'
'No loss to me. The Emperor may wish that I do,' Rham said, 'My sub-fleet is on station at the request of our Forno friends. Come into my ready room, and we can continue this conversation.'
'Please excuse my dress at the moment. I don't normally wear this for a chat,' Senior said, 'I can return a bit more suitably dressed if you wish.' Removing his helmet so Rham could see his face.
'I can stand it for a time,' Bengo said, 'Follow me.'
Adjourning to Rham's ready room he gestured Senior to a seat and said, 'Now I suppose that display wasn't only to entertain me?'
'I am in the process of negotiating with Captain Roos to avoid conflict. If I can persuade you to withdraw, I believe that I can talk her into a friendly trade agreement,' Senior said, 'May sound like a strange request, but what is your current date?'
'As you aren't from my sector, it is 3067 EE,' Bento said, 'Has that any significance?'
'Indeed it has, shortly you will receive the sad news that the Emperor and Adept Varta have become one with the Force. After a time you may receive orders to return to Corellia and disband after the Republic resumes control of Coruscent.'
'Strange forecast, returning to Corellia under that scenario would be difficult,' Bento said, 'How reliable is this intelligence, our last communication indicated that the Emperor was making a dramatic move to eliminate the Rebels for good.'
'While the odds of success seem good, he has made a trap for himself which he won't survive,' Senior said, 'Another little bit of news. Several small fleets are likely to go rogue between here and Auria. While they aren't likely to prevent your passage, they could cause some difficulty.'
'I am unlikely to jump for unsubstantiated word from you; I suspect that the situation is as you describe,' Bento said, 'Adept Nige would enforce our return if I proposed any other action.'
'Here is some data, it outlines a new planet which you may wish to settle, it also contains protocols to arrange negotiations with our sector for trade and diplomacy,' Senior said, 'As you may guess I have means of acquiring intelligence which I have demonstrated. May I stretch your credulity by informing that you have a counterpart. He and I are on friendly terms, giving me confidence that you are a reasonable man.'
'Well, you have been most entertaining. I regret that I cannot disobey my orders without communication from my superiors,' Bento said, 'For now I will maintain my current patrols.'
'That is the best answer I should expect. Digest the data and when the news comes through you will have to make your own decisions,' Senior said, 'Perhaps next time we meet I will be able to shake hands in friendship. Wouldn't be friendly, with an augmented suit at the moment.'
'Certainly, I will escort you on your way,' Bento said, 'How did you arrive?'
'If you guess it has something to do with the hyperdrive, I will step back to my ship,' Senior said, 'Once we are friends I can be a little more informative. For now, I should keep Adept Nige until it is safe to restore him to you.'
Rham ushered back to the bridge where Senior waved as he stepped back through the portal that he arrived by, leaving a puzzle for Rham and his crew.
Senior stepped back onto his ship, inquiring, 'How is our guest, Pippin?'
'On the mend and not happy,' Pippin said, 'Demands to be returned to his command.'
"I believe it is best if he enjoys our hospitality a little longer, I don't think Commodore Rham is in any hurry to have him back,' Senior said, 'Perhaps you can talk him around to see the light?'
'Miracles have been known to happen,' Pippin said, 'At our next practice session I will coach you on how to avoid his attack.'
'Good idea I may not have the luxury of the shield next time,' Senior said.
'There are armbraces to provide a deflector shield for that job. I can make a pair to match your sabre. Best not have an absorption field and have to wear a ton of accumulators.'
'Sounds good,' Senior said, ‘If Star battles are accurate, the bad guys aim at the wrists.’