Golden seas, pink clouds, port cities where anything and everything could be obtained; it was no wonder that Canntrop had become the playground of the wealthy and powerful within the Imperial Remnant.
Lira Wessex felt so out of place among the guests on board the yacht. Holostars, fashion models, bankers. They were fickle and shallow people who knew nothing of the realities of galactic politics. There were quite a few Imperial officials present too. Deep in the heart of every Imperial Moff was the desire to be surrounded by a gang of suntanned and attractive young women.
The yacht was a massive vessel, a star destroyer of a pleasure boat, with no less than ten bars and its own leisure complex below decks. It was the property of the party's host, a banker from one of the Core worlds still loyal to the Empire.
A waiter, a blue-skinned male Twi'lek offered to refill her glass. Lira nodded. At least here, the non-humans were kept in their place. These days, as the Imperial population shrank with its dwindling territory, non-humans were increasingly getting promoted. It was a worrying development.
Lira glanced at Admiral Yartek, who gave a loud guffaw as he conversed with a blue-haired young human in a shockingly low cut dress. The admiral was dressed in a civilian suit. This was a non-uniform event. Like the other guests, he was barefoot. No shoes were allowed on board the boat to protect the precious Rheeshwood decking.
The Rheeshwood felt delightfully smooth beneath Lira's naked feet. For the occasion, she was dressed in an elegant white dress. Gone were the days when she had dressed in just a simple engineer's jumpsuit. Her hair was dressed up in an elaborate braided style that ended in two points like horns.
A woman padded over to Lira. She had an attractive heart-shaped face and long, coppery red hair that fell down her back. She was dressed in a lovely green gown. A glass of Paricha was held in her hand.
Admiral Natasi Daala. It was so unusual to see Daala without her admiral's uniform.
"Admiral Daala, what an honour," said Lira.
"Lira Wessex, the pleasure is mine. I never tire of telling people how much I admire your work. The Imperial-class Star Destroyer is in my opinion, the finest starship ever designed," said Daala.
Lira smiled at the compliment.
"With hindsight, I think I would have designed a quite different ship. The mistake we always made was putting too much faith in oversized vessels. The Rebels showed us how well they were able to use smaller, more maneuverable craft," replied the engineer.
"You might get the chance. Pellaeon asked me to tell you that he is hoping you will get involved in developing a new version of the Star Destroyer," said the admiral.
"I seem to recall you making the same invitation, admiral," said Lira. "It seems every leader of the Empire since Palpatine has invited me to come out of retirement. Triolocus, Thrawn, Isard, yourself, now Pellaeon. I've had a dozen offers from various warlords, all wanting me to build some crazy superweapon. I'm really not interested."
"You would be well rewarded, Lira. With our present position, we could really benefit from your expertise in strengthening our position," said Daala.
"Admiral, I have retired. I spent my life working on starships, developing new technology to feed a never-ending civil war. I'm tired of war. I may not have fought directly, but it took its toll on me. The civil war divided me from my own father. The civil war may go on, but I can't. I just want to play with my grandchildren, write my memoirs and grow vegetables."
Daala looked at the engineer solemnly.
"You know what, Lira, I don't blame you. I have not yet announced it, but I intend to retire from the fleet. Pellaeon is a good man, but I have no intention of serving under his leadership. I think it's time for me to move on," said Daala.
"Good for you, admiral," replied Lira. "I have to say I really admire the way that you were ready to relinquish power to Pellaeon. It is so rare to see such humility and integrity within Imperial leadership."
"Thank you, Lira," said Daala with a faint look of embarassment.
"I take it Pellaeon intends to carry through with your reforms?" asked Lira.
Daala gritted her teeth.
"He does. I know what you are getting at. I read both your letters. I know you are not comfortable with the new developments and I really do understand your concerns."
"You and I are both women. I totally approve of your desire to promote more women to high office. The Empire needs that. But is it wise to give more and more power to non-humans?" said Lira.
"We have lost a lot of the Galactic Core. We have been reduced to a smaller and smaller portion of the Galaxy. The Empire cannot afford a fight within our own borders. We need to accommodate ourselves to the non-humans who live in our territory," insisted Daala.
"Yes, but there are more of them than there are of us! This Empire is built on high human culture. We cannot risk throwing that away and allowing non-humans to corrupt the work of Palpatine, admiral."
"Look, we are making these changes gradually, Lira. We are not about to turn the Empire into a rabble-run democracy like the New Republic. We are allowing non-humans into the higher ranks, but we intend to keep humans on top. There will be no majority rule, at least not for a long time. I don't envisage the appointment of any non-human moffs for a while," said Daala.
"That is re-assuring, admiral. I hope that Pellaeon will take what is truest and noblest of Palpatine's traditions, for all the changes he pushes through."
"I think you can be sure of that, Lira," said Daala.
"So what are you going to do with your retirement, admiral?" asked Lira.
"I really have no idea. I need to give it some more thought. I was thinking about perhaps starting some sort of colony."
"Now might be a good time to think about finding a decent man and starting a family," suggested Lira.
Daala said nothing.
"We have to move on from all the war and all the fighting. You are still young. Have children while you can. Becoming a mother will help you forget the war and all the losses," said Lira.
"I'll think about that, Lira," said Daala with a thoughtful look.
"Make sure you do," said the retired engineer firmly.
The Twi'lek waiter returned and offered to get Daala another glass of Paricha. She nodded enthusiastically.