Dacre Hannity held a hard copy of a freshly printed fourth edition of The Naboo Times. He had to pinch himself to double check that he wasn't stood in some sort of dreamworld. A few short months ago he was a nobody, a failed journalist whose luxurious lifestyle was funded not by his meager earnings but by inherited wealth.
However, now he was one of the most spoken about editors in the known regions; The Naboo Times was making waves not just on his home planet but, owing to the galaxy-wide attention the planet received by the Jedi being based here, across hundreds of different planets.
Admittedly, the mysterious and somewhat intimidating source of the funds meant that he could splash the cash and not worry about the bottom line, but it wasn't this intriguing benefactor writing the words that people were lapping up, it was him and his staff. The coffee-swillers in the streets of Theed, several floors below the elegantly furnished office in which he stood were reading his articles, his paper.
After allowing a few moments of congratulatory self-talk, Dacre looked down at the copy of The Naboo Times and was somewhat irked. Realising what it was, he commed through to his PA.
"Beryl, arrange a meeting with the Design guys, we're going to give the 5th Edition a makeover."
A sinister and mischievous grin spread across his face.
"But make sure you leave the next hour free. Once you've sorted the meeting out I want you in my office so that you can show me why I pay you far more than the going rate for a personal assistant."
Outside Hannity's office, Beryl shuddered. And believing he had terminated the line said to herself.
"Next hour? Dream on, more like three minutes."
"Erm, Beryl. I heard that. I'm afraid you'll be working extra hard for that comment."
Reading the paper, Mak downed the glass of scotch he had been nursing, seething at both how Dacre was painting them to the Galaxy and questioning how he was receiving his information. Some of it was tabloid, such as the take on the Boonta Eve Classic, but there was truth mixed in, information that was supposed to be only known with the leadership.
Ever since he was first mentioned, Mak had kept an eye on the paper. While some in the Order found it funny, Mak was uneasy at how fast Hannity was moving up. There was little to be done, though. If he went after the man, Mak would be labeled as someone who despied the freedom of the press, leaving only another blight against the Jedi.
However, no one said he couldn't talk to the man as an interested reader...
Slithering from the bar, Mak finally found a quiet place and pulled out his hologram communicator, getting the Naboo Times on the line. Only a moment later, a young woman appeared before him.
"Thank you for contacting the Naboo Times, where we speak the truth to the people of Naboo and beyond. How may help-"
As she saw Mak, her mouth dropped open. No doubt that since he was one of the three images on the front of their latest edition, it had to be the biggest shock for him to be calling up.
"Yes, I'm Jedi Master Mak Manto, as you most likely know. I'm sure that this must be strange and probably out of the ordinary, but could I speak to Mr. Hannity?"
"Mister- Master Manto, I mean, I'm- I apologize, but as of right now, Mr. Hannity is currently... busy. Could I have him... contact you?"
"Well, my schedule is quite filled up the next few weeks. Are you sure he can't speak for a few minutes?"
As Hannity's PA Beryl began to reluctantly undress, they were disturbed by a knock at the door. In a rage, Dacre screamed in resposne.
"What on Coruscant do you want?!"
Through the door the familiar voice of the receptionist came.
"Erm...sir....there's a phone call for you."
As it was the receptionist bringing this news to him, the call came into the public line, not Hannity's own, so it could be any fool trying to get in touch with him. His staff knew the protocol on this. The receptionist was pretty, so Dacre would be reluctant to fire her but this behaviour would not be tolerated in his organisation.
"So what! Unless it's to my private line then you know to TAKE A MESSAGE!!!"
Beryl took the opportunity to button back up her blouse and move towards the door. When the receptionist spoke again, Dacre's mood changed from anger to intrigue mixed with a little fear.
"Sorry sir but it's...it's Jedi Master Mak Manto, the one from the front cover."
"Ah. Interesting. Yes. Put him through."
Returning to the seat behind his desk, Beryl scuttled from the office, relieved that she may be spared from the more unpalatable responsibilities her job entailed. Dacre activated his holo-link and was faced with the peculiar snake-like Jedi appearing on his desk. He tried to hide his disgust at his appearance and tried to hide the trepidation from his voice.
"Mr. Manto. Do you need me to direct you to sales so you can sign up for a subscription? I'm sure we could come to some sort of arrangement for someone so high profile."
As Dacre's face appeared, the immediate reaction would've been hidden for about anyone else in the Galaxy, but during the years when Palpatine's Empire was in control, he had grown accustomed to that look when xenophobic Humans saw him. It was disgust at who he was, at what he looked like. However, it had never bothered him enough to lose sleep, and it wasn't the reason why he had contacted him.
"The day I decide to get a pet bird and I need liner for the bottom of the cage, I'll remember your offer..."
Smiling, his voice was nothing but genial, however he knew that Dacre had to sense this wasn't going to be a pleasant call.
"I just saw your latest issue. I must say, I'm happy that you used that picture of me. I always preferred that one then the others. It captures my radiance. And the Theed Three! Even I was impressed by that! Such a catchy title for your readers to latch onto!"
Lighing up his pipe again, Mak blew out a ring of smoke as he analyzed the man.
"Very interesting how you're getting your information, Mr. Hannity. Some of it resides at the top of the Jedi chain of command. As an "interested reader" of your paper, would you care to let me in on the scoop on how you're doing it?"
Slightly taken aback at confronting even a hologram of the legendary Jedi Mak Manto, Dacre had to remind himself that it was just a communication image and that he wasn't stood within his office. As soon as he was convinced the snake-like creature couldn't ignite a saber and run him through, he regained his composure.
"Mr. Manto, come now. I'm an editor and journalist, my secret sources must and will remain exactly that. I suspect I would be as reluctant to reveal that information as you would be to reveal exactly why you and that...that...that...Gungan..."
He spat out the word.
"...disappeared together in a shuttle the other week."
The fear had left Dacre as he started to speak to the point that he started to enjoy the exchange.
"Or where you purchase your Scotch from. I'd very much like to make an investment in that particular business!"
"Believe me, if you'd like to know where Master Bokoto and I were at, or where I purchase my scotch from, I could make a return trip to Naboo just to see you personally so we can talk about it..."
He wasn't stupid enough to not believe that Dacre might have their call recorded. Anything that was deemed a threat, an attack on the man or his paper, any possible words that came out the wrong way would be used against the Order. He had long given up on trying to have the Galaxy see him as anything else than an alcoholic warmongering rogue. The rest of the Jedi, however he felt from time to time, didn't deserve the brunt of his actions.
"Tell me, Mr. Hannity, to what end is your paper trying to reach? A society where everyone knows the unfiltered truth on public leaders in government and peacekeeping..."
Blowing out a ring again, Mak's eyes hardened this time.
"Or to see the Jedi ruined through the press by public relation disasters...?"
"I don't know what you mean, Mr. Manto. Our modus operandi is to merely shine a light on an organisation that have become de facto rulers of our planet. I don't recall any such election that made the Jedi the ultimate authority on Naboo, which even you must accept is the case regardless of the official hierachy."
Hannity took a generous sip of brandy to steady his nerves as he continued.
"For too long the Jedi have ruled without scrutiny and look where it has got us? I think you share these concerns, Master Manto. You returned to the Temple but refused to join the Order. Why? Maybe you and I have more common ground than one might assume. What is the Order right now? Only recently it failed to prevent a destructive assault in Theed, on their own doorstep. They are headed up by a Grandmaster with a penchant for going on a rampage who is held accountable by a Council clearly to fearful of him to ensure his vengeful rampage received adequate punishment. And who do we have behind the crown? An aged Gungan who spent years abandoning the Order but now expects to be taken seriously, a couple of Vallens with their clandestine familial objectives and some blind bloke. The threat of the Sith is rising, do you really believe these are the people best equipped to defend us?"
He gave a self-satisfied smug grin at his mini diatribe.
"The Order has been allowed to fester for too long, with the media in thrall to them, reporting only what the Jedi permit. This has allowed a complacent approach to the monitoring of threats, a capital city in constant fear of the next attack and a ruling body simply not fit for purpose. Perhaps, with The Naboo Times shining an essential spotlight on activities within the Temple, we will end up with the Jedi Order that the galaxy needs and and the people of Theed deserve."
It wasn't as if he was entirely wrong. After Shule's plan of taking back Naboo had ousted Korran as King of Naboo, Mak had made a passionate speech to having the Jedi leave Naboo. The countless attacks on the world by the Sith, the Empire, the Witches, Artemis Obauldi and many more had soured Mak's view that they should remain here. He wanted them to find an unoccupied planet hidden from the Galaxy, but he had been strongly voted against. Yet, if the people of Naboo weren't able to be protected at all times by the Jedi, then why were they still there?
"Be mindful of those people that you consider to be failures and threats. Each and every one of them has done more to save not just Naboo but the Galaxy as a whole from conquest and destruction. Though, do you really want a Jedi Order that the Galaxy needs... or one you want to see with only... certain types?"
Dacre ignored the last comment. For some reason it was no longer acceptable to publicly state your belief that humans were the superior race in the galaxy, despite it seeming patently obvious to Dacre and anyone else with any sense.
"I'm sorry Mak, but saving the Galaxy is kind of their job. I don't expect any pats on the back for publishing my paper, a Jedi shouldn't expect too much praise for removing a few threats from the galaxy. For too long when they have failed to do so, or when the collateral damage of their crusades makes you wonder whether it was worth it, the matters were brushed under the carpet. I admit my platform's is a touch rigorous in its scrutiny of the Jedi, but a competent, efficient, well-run and well-led Order should have nothing to fear from rigorous scrutiny. It's telling that the New Jedi Order don't appear entirely comfortable with our approach."
"I wouldn't say that they're uncomfortable, but more that they're concerned the Galaxy isn't being shown the full scope of what they're actually doing. I'm sure in your next edition that you and your staff will take into consideration of thst fact, Dacre."