Suspicion and Interrogation

By Bernadette Crumb and Debbie Casselbury

Time: Now
Location: Palpatine's secret clone labs

Dr. Thalia Padi was waiting at the entrance when Palpatine arrived with his 
escort of scarlet clad guards. The gray haired woman, clad soberly in 
shades of gray and a pristine white lab coat, bowed deeply as he scowled at 
her. "Your majesty, I appreciate your hasty response to my communication."

"Yes...yes, Dr. Padi. Your rare missive alarmed me. We need to talk--privately"

"If you would follow me, your majesty." She led him to her office in the 
back corner of the lab, passing the gleaming equipment that initiated and 
supported the creation and growth of full-body clones. She opened the door 
to her office and ushered him into it, offering him her desk chair before 
turning on the compscreen and displaying a readout for him. Reports, graphs 
and printouts were neatly stacked in the center of the desk as well, along 
with several datacards.

As Palpatine glared at the data on the screen, she said, "In the course of 
a random audit of inventory of stored genetic materials, consumable 
supplies and energy consumption, I discovered that there is missing 
material from the genetic storage facility. And missing supplies. Enough to 
create and maintain a full body clone. Also," she continued as she pressed 
a key and changed the screen's view, "I discovered a discrepancy in the 
power drain on our plant. Apparently someone, for over than a year, has 
been powering a sparti cylinder that has been in offline storage due to a 
recurring maintenance problem. When I investigated the tube, I found that 
the external visual readouts had been disabled and there would be no way 
for someone to be aware that it was in use." She took a deep breath and 
finished knowing that she had failed her master. "Sire, I believe that 
someone has made an unauthorized duplicate. I make no excuses for not 
realizing it was happening, but it was very cleverly hidden, and if I 
wasn't meticulous about my periodic audits and inventories, it might not 
have been noticed for some time to come."

There are very few who had free access to this highly secured facility. The 
Emperor scowled and glanced at the clone cylinder in the room and shook his 
head. "There is no doubt. This entire lab must be transported to another 
location with utmost secrecy."

Padi bowed deeply. "I will do as your majesty desires. Do you intend to 
transfer my staff as well, or shall I be provided with new individuals to 
train once the transition has been made?"

He rose from the chair and moved to the cylinder holding his primary clone 
and caressed the shining surface with a pale crooked finger. "It must be 
protected at all costs, Padi."

"With my life, Majesty. And when I cannot be in the lab itself, this room 
is sealed against all others. None can enter, save yourself."

"In answer to your question--My own guards and aides from the ECLIPSE will 
assist you in this move. We are not certain whether the minds of the 
present staff have been tampered with. The thief may have done more than 
just removed supplies and samples and used that cylinder, Doctor. The 
ECLIPSE has the capability to move this entire lab and its contents to a 
new location. I will personally interrogate your staff, and you and I will 
further discuss the future changes in the next operation."

Palpatine stared hard at the printouts laying on the desk and gingerly 
picked up one of the datacards lying there. "I want a complete copy of your 
findings, Padi. Once we finish transferring everything aboard I want to 
read the report on the ship at my leisure."

"It will be as you wish, your majesty." The doctor nodded and glanced at a 
surveillance monitor mounted on the wall showing alternating shots from 
various holocameras mounted in the facility. One of the images was of a 
conference room with a dozen lab technicians seated around the table. Most 
looked very nervous and any conversation was muted. "I had them wait in the 
conference room, your majesty. Would you desire to deal with them now?"

"Yes. Now."

(to be continued)

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