It was a fine soiree; one of the best laid and planned dinner parties he’d ever seen. The food was exquisite and tailored to the tastes of the Imperials for whom the event was staged, the drinks of a variety and fineness to which he was not accustomed — he was accepted as coming from ‘good stock’, but his family was not wealthy.

So unaccustomed to the finery and expense of the occasion was he that he found himself searching for some sort of quibbling wrong with which he could anchor himself in his surroundings, and found it in the very architecture of the hall, which despite what he had learned was a constant chill in the atmosphere was constructed as an open pavilion with a balcony on the edge of one of the breathtaking spires of rock upon which was built the Neimoidians’ city. To combat the chill great heating elements that were run without pause were set along the outer edges of the pavilion and through its floor; he found his military-honed sense of efficiency affronted at the ostentatious and wasteful display, despite his own mental admission that as an officer of the Galactic Imperial Starfleet, he was on shaky ground, but at least the enormous cost and the nearly theatrical display of aggression and force of the ships from their design to the tactics and armaments served a purpose beyond their own grandiosity.

Which brought him back to the grandiose gala he was attending as lightly as he could; he stood upon the balcony overlooking the foggy lowlands that served as the foundation for the awe-inspiring rocky plateaus and arches that jutted out of the fog like islands in a stormy sea.

“Ah, Felline. I had thought you would be hiding along the outskirts.”

“Jasat,” he said, hiding his surprise at his friend’s approach with a sip from his wine. The smile upon the other Lieutenant’s lips meant that he perhaps had not hidden his sudden start as well as he would have liked. “Mingled enough, have we?”

It was a clear and well tread subject between them: Lieutenant Jasat Teoan thrived in social situations such as these with a gregarious personality and a quick wit and temper, while Lieutenant Vance Felline was much better suited to small gatherings and solitude with a more serious and thoughtful disposition.

“I will admit that there are fewer approachable women here than I would prefer,” Teoan said wistfully. “Far too many stiff-necked Neimoidians trying to ingratiate themselves upon whomever they feel can profit them, and ignoring the lower officers from whom they can’t squeeze any influence.”

Felline nodded. A tone, clear and pleasing echoed throughout the pavilion, and all turned to the platform raised in the middle where the musicians had been playing easily forgettable background music. A Neimoidian was standing there, his hand raised for the attention of the guests.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said, “I thank you for gracing my household and property this evening to celebrate the maiden voyage of Her Majesty’s ship, the Fearless, the newest of that most estimable class of warship, the Raider-II. If Captain Merose could join me up here that we may toast his and his ship’s and his crew’s health and wealth and courageous service, I would be honoured.”

Felline sipped his wine to keep from snorting overloud.

“Any thicker and I could have poured it over the pastries like honey,” Teoan muttered quietly, causing Felline to fail and nearly spill his drink on his jacket, but the sight of Captain Merose alighting onto the platform preempted any words on his part. The Neimoidian — Felline could not recall his name — raised his glass.

“To you, Captain, for your service and honour,” the Trade Representative said. The assembled throng raised their glasses and repeated the words.

Felline was about to turn and spend some more time staring out at the vista when he caught sight of a disturbance near the entrance of the pavilion. A speeder, more utilitarian than any he’d seen yet that evening had stopped and an alien woman was speaking with the valets. Jasat followed his eyes and smirked.

“Not much chance she’ll be allowed entrance, though she is —”

He stopped when she stepped past the valets and the guards to the pavilion, some of whom attempted to stop her but were almost literally swept aside as she almost bulled her way through to the entrance of the pavilion; she did not need to push anyone out of her way physically, as the sheer presence she had moved all away from her without a touch.

Felline frowned thoughtfully more than out of a shared distaste for the woman’s lekku and reddish hued skin. It was outrageous that an alien would be so bold and brash as to make such an entrance to this party, and he was offended more at the slight to the Neimoidian’s person and honour for the effort and expense in giving them this send-off — no matter how self-serving it in fact was — than at the fact that she was in effect crashing the gala to pieces.

It was then that he noticed the colouring of her cloak.

“Jasat,” he murmured, breaking his friend out of his own disturbed thoughts. “That blue—”

The other man’s eyes lit in recognition, and his face twisted into an expression of distaste.

“—She’s an Imperial Knight.”