Jenlan Scree sat in the opulent antechamber for the trillionaire industrialist, Grantham Grislaw. Grislaw was born into wealth, into a family that had used economics rather than military might to enslave a planet’s population and build upon the vast family fortune. And the reception area reflected it. Imported marble floors, furniture made from precious metal alloys, trisilicadioxide glass, and the finest shimmersilk and dazzlesatin fabrics. Five secretaries behind desks that rivaled the cost of a fully equipped starfighter. Each. It made Scree sick.
Oh, he admired Grislaw. The ruthlessness and cold-hearted devotion. But wealth never did interest Jenlan. It was a tool, nothing more. One way to achieve power. Since the death of the Emperor, so many years ago, Scree had lost his way. He felt Palpatine’s death, from the other side of the galaxy, as surely as if D’Gomo had hit him in the chest with a truncheon. Left him rudderless and depressed. He eventually toadied up to Grislaw, seeking to bask in the glow of unimaginable wealth.
Until now. Scree resented the humiliation of loss. Anger burned inside him, burned off the years, no, decades of rust and barnacles that crusted his soul. How often did he have to hide his rage behind a smile, let a calm façade disguise his true nature? Let Grislaw bully him, treat him like an office flunky while he flaunted his credits around like they mattered more than the Force?
The Force. Though the former Inquisitor never lost the feeling for the mystical energy field, and used it often, still he felt he had betrayed it for the pursuit of mammon. And after failing to secure Grislaw’s products against the depredations of that group of unknown Force-users, Scree had a new purpose in life. Though he hated that group of beings, whoever they were, still they awakened his old ambition. Ambition that was drugged and diverted by the allure of easy credits.
One of the incredibly beautiful secretaries that Grislaw employed sashayed up to Scree, her tight, sumptuous shimmersilk gown betraying to the naked eye every single curve. She could have been a high-price model. Another testament to the vanity and ego of Grislaw. “Mr. Grislaw is sorry about the wait, Mr. Scree. He will see you now.” A vacuous smile spread across her flawless face as she gestured to one of the doors that lined the curving wall of the oval antechamber.
Scree walked across the polished marble and into the private business office. It was even more expensively adorned, with rare artwork and tapestries dressing the walls. A transparasteel window looked out over the private park in the heart of the industrial complex, an endless ring of factories and laboratories surrounding the oasis and stretching as far as the human eye could see.
Grislaw was perched behind his desk, his assistant hovering to his left. The industrialist scowled. “What have you got to say for yourself, Scree?” sneering out the name.
“My team did their best, and we lost a lot of good beings. The commando unit that committed the theft was made up of powerful Force-users, and there is nothing we could have done. However, with enough funding I have a plan . . .”
“Force, my eye. I think you are deluded. The Force is nothing but simple tricks and nonsense, used by charlatans to bilk fools out of credits. It is a fraud. Since you can’t seem to protect my assets, you are fired.”
Jenlan felt the hot waves of rage undulate from his chest to his arms, legs, and head. Grislaw was a fool, and that flunky beside him was a simpering, smirking toad. The former Imperial Inquisitor reveled in the feelings that made him feel strong. And young. And invincible. It was like the old days.
“I ordered security up here to throw you off my planet. You are finished here, Scree. You’ll never work for a reputable company in this galaxy, because I . . .” Grislaw began to choke, his face turning red, then purple. A hand went up to his throat and pulled at his collar. His assistant leaned over, his face turning an ashen color in his helplessness. After a minute the magnate was dead, slumped face-down on his desk.
Jenlan slipped his lightsaber from the eyelet woven into his robe, ignited the blood-red blade, and levitated the befuddled assistant over to within a half-meter of himself. The only sound in the room was the hum of the saber, which Scree laid next to the neck of the toady. “Do you think the Force is simple tricks and nonsense?” he asked his brand-new minion. “From now on I am the Chairman of the Board, and you work for me.”