Saga Worth Fighting For: Captain Rex/OC, romance/drama. Sequel to The Fighting Kind, Updated 11/17/14

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by laloga, May 26, 2014.

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  1. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Super. I love how Chopper and the rest are finding a home niche--an absorbing line of work in a lovely tranquil place (for now.) ;)

    I love that Bren and Rex are on the same page pragmatically as to leaving and emotionally, ready to embark on a new situation together. :)

    The Rebellion will be a fascinating adjunct once locating the scientist and the aging quandry have been resolved.

    Totally loved the tone of this post! [:D]
    Last edited by Nyota's Heart, Jul 21, 2014
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  2. laloga Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2011
    star 2

    @Nyota's Heart: Thank you for the comment! [face_love] [:D] It was really nice to write the clones finding their "places" in the galaxy; the poor guys deserve a proper home! Yep, Rex and Bren are on the same page, for now. ;)


    *****

    Chapter Ten
    One week later...

    The evening before Rex, Brenna and Iri were scheduled to depart for Loronar, Jensine had insisted on having a sending-off party. It was a cool evening, so a few outdoor space-heaters – often used in place of torches or other devices that relied on flame – were situated at intervals along the rear porch of the main house, which was where the dinner was taking place. The heaters provided warmth while also giving off a pleasant glow that illuminated the surrounding area and cast everything in wavering, golden light. A long table had been set up along the brick patio; presently, it was covered with enough food to feed a small army, which Rex supposed he and his brothers could be considered in a sense.

    It reminded him a bit of the clones' arrival to Alderaan six months ago, after the Wars had ended; at the time, neither Rex nor his brothers had ever seen so much food in one place, but in the meantime they'd adjusted quite well.

    Hey, Rex...hand me some of that roasted gorak,” Jesse said as he selected a portion of flatbread for his plate; the request was punctuated with a belch.

    Rex frowned. Perhaps they'd adjusted a little too well.

    Seated between Brenna and Coric, Rex lifted his brow and Jesse grinned as he said: “Hand me some of that roasted gorak, please.”

    Sighing, Rex passed over the requested dish, then helped himself to a measure of kebroot stew. The rest of his brothers were chatting amiably amongst themselves and with Edme and Jensine. Beside Rex, Brenna had been trying to get Iri to eat, not play, with her food, though apparently she'd given up by now; across from her, Caith was doing much the same thing with his son.

    Because he thought it was the right thing to do, Rex leaned over and got Brenna's attention. “Anything I can do to help?”

    No dinner!” Iri replied from her duraplast booster-seat, slapping her hands on the table before her. “Iri play!”

    Brenna shot him a wry look even as she shrugged and turned back to her own plate. “Not unless you can do a Jedi mind trick on her.”

    But she needs to eat, right?”

    At this, Brenna speared a piece of roasted gorak with her fork. “She ate a little bit...some kids just go through a phase of not wanting to eat. Don't worry,” she added, smiling at him. “She's not going to go hungry.”

    Brenna's right,” Edme added from across the table. “And if you keep trying to offer her food, she'll just learn that she can refuse it in order to get your attention.”

    It felt a bit counter-intuitive to Rex, because in his mind, a child needed to eat and that was the end of the story, but he decided to defer to the judgment of those with more experience in these matters. Not for the first time since they'd decided to leave Alderaan, Rex felt a pang of worry – a brief, small one – that he was leaving behind the only other parental figures that he knew. He still felt like he had no idea what he was doing where Iri was concerned, and it had been nice to know that he had Brenna's brother and sister-in-law to turn to if he needed help.

    But, he reasoned, he always had Brenna, which was more than enough. So he nodded and – on a whim – gave Iri one of his best stern glares. “Irini Damaris: please eat your flatbread at once.”

    For a moment the toddler stared at him, then she tipped her plate backwards and onto the ground, holding his eyes as her food splattered against the bricks and a look of defiance on her face. Although he'd read about events like this in the parenting manuals he'd found, Rex's brows lifted in surprise, while beside him, Brenna was fighting back a snort of laughter, and when he looked at her, she started laughing in earnest.

    I guess she's done,” Brenna said after a moment, shaking her head and smiling at him. “That or she doesn't like roasted gorak.”

    Rex thought that there had to be more to it than that, but he took a breath and nodded. “I'll clean it up.”

    Don't bother,” Jensine spoke up from Iri's other side. “We'll get it later on.”

    Bren shot him a warm look and he felt her hand give a squeeze against his knee, which made him smile as well. “You made a great effort, though.”

    There was relative quiet for a few moments, then Jensine spoke again. “So, you're all packed?”

    She'd spoken to Brenna, who nodded. “Caith's going to give us a ride to Belleau-a-Lir first thing in the morning; from there, we have a few hours before we'll arrive at Sabo.”

    I haven't heard of that city,” Caith said. “It's not the capitol?”

    Rex shook his head. “It's one of the more populous cities on Loronar, and is pretty much a hub for travelers who arrive on-planet. Bren's job is in Fierr.”

    We've got a temporary place to stay,” Brenna added, sitting up in her chair. “It's about forty-five minutes by hoverrail from Sabo; Fives and Marliss are going to meet us there once we arrive.”

    That part of the plan had taken a bit of coordination, but Rex was pleased with how things had turned out; though Fives and Marliss had left the morning after they'd brought Chopper about a week ago, he'd been able to get in touch with his brother and make the necessary arrangements to do all of this. Fives had been pleased that Rex was going to help them join the search, and had even sent over something that Rex had never owned before, but would come in extremely useful.

    An identity.

    Rather, it was an ID card – forged, of course – but an excellently-done forgery, according to Brenna and Caith. It was strange to see his face and the name “Rex Damaris” on the pass, but Rex knew that it was necessary to have such a thing if he were going to travel with Bren. And while he still had his reservations about his face being recognizable, Fives had never had any trouble with being spotted as a clone. Admittedly, Rex's hair was a little bit longer now, and without the armor, dressed in the manner of a civilian, well...he blended in about as well as he could, he supposed.

    While Brenna's reaction to the ID had been positive, Rex thought that he'd caught a flicker of sorrow across her face; he wondered if seeing him with her last name – a tradition on many worlds when two people got married – had only served to remind her of his reluctance.

    His only consolation was a hope that such a thing would change very soon.

    Jensine's voice broke him out of his reverie; she was leaning over Iri and stroking the child's curls fondly. “I'm going to miss my granddaughter,” she said with a sigh. “And Iri's going to miss her Nana...aren't you, sweetheart?”

    Iri burbled a reply, but it was Caith's next words that caught Rex's ears. “Bren, you're sure that this is going to work? I really do think you and Rex will need support for Irini. Even staying away for a year...it's a long time.”

    We can handle it,” Brenna replied, straightening. “Caith, you and Ed have done a lot for me and Iri, but it's time we made our own way.”

    This is not the time to be cavalier or stubborn,” Jensine interjected. “Brenna, I know you want to be independent, but do you really think that taking off and leaving your family is the best way?”

    When Brenna looked at her mother, Rex watched as something passed between them, something to which he wasn't privy. He'd never prided himself on being an expert in parent-child relationships – certainly, his time with Iri was proving that he was hopelessly ignorant on the subject – but he thought again that maybe Brenna did need a bit of space from her mother, who was even now regarding Bren like she was about to start scolding the brown-haired woman.

    Let it go, Mom.” Brenna's voice was soft but filled with durasteel, and Jensine's eyes tightened as she looked away.

    To hopefully diffuse some of the tension, Rex glanced over the table at Kix, who'd remained quiet for the most part while he ate his stew. “Thanks for taking up Nova's training. She's coming along pretty well, though I'd like to get her to be comfortable with a rider firing a blaster.”

    Kix offered him a smile and a duck of his head. “I'll work on it, Rex.”

    Nodding, Rex glanced at his other brothers. “That reminds me; that mountain anooba is still out there, somewhere. Keep it in mind when you're moving the villies, and I think it's best if no one goes out alone...”

    He trailed off at the look of mock-irritation that had come over Jesse and Coric's faces. “What?”

    Jesse arched his brow. “We've got it under control, Rex. Don't worry about us.”

    As the others chorused in agreement, Rex nodded, though he felt...strange. He'd spent his entire life training to be a leader for his brothers, and even though he understood that things were different now, it was taking some getting used to.

    However, he felt Bren's hand on his knee again; looking over, he watched as she offered him a smile. “Don't worry, I definitely need you,” she said in a soft voice. “So does Iri.”

    The feeling of strangeness evaporated and he smiled back. “Good to hear.”

    Hey, just because you can't order us around any more doesn't mean we're not going to miss you, Rex,” Jesse spoke up, causing the others to look his way.

    Kix nodded in agreement. “You've got your own path to follow.”

    With that, Caith lifted his glass of water, his eyes on Bren, Rex and Iri. “May the road always rise up to meet you,” he said in the traditional Alderaani blessing. “May the wind always be at your back.”

    The others' voices rose in a chorus, repeating the second line in a way that made Rex's heart swell. “May the wind always be at your back.”

    Beneath the table, he took Brenna's hand in his own and savored her warmth. They were together, they had each other; everything would be fine.

    *

    Two days later...

    Thank goodness we're here,” Brenna said from her seat beside him. “I think Iri's more fed up with all of this than either of us.”

    Indeed, the toddler was in her mother's lap, sniffling after the remnants from her hysterics. Rex had bristled when the other passengers on the transport from Byblos – where they'd been rerouted to after leaving the Core – shot glares at the little girl whenever she started crying, but Brenna had done a remarkable job of keeping Iri quiet for the most part; now, the toddler was tired and fussy and clearly ready for the journey to be over.

    Rex knew how she felt.

    From the moment they'd left Belleau-a-Lir, he thought that everything that could have gone wrong, had gone wrong. It had begun the morning they'd left the ranch when the speeder had broken down about halfway towards the town; from there, there'd been a seemingly endless array of delays and problems, until he and Bren were running an entire day behind schedule.

    It was another thing that was vastly different from his time in the GAR. Back then, there had been no delays of the mundane kind. If a transport's progress was halted it was because the LZ was too hot or the troops were being rerouted to another site altogether. It had certainly not been because there weren't enough passengers for the transport company to bother even making the trip in the first place.

    The transport they were on was a far cry from any LAAT/i that Rex had ever boarded, but he had to admit that being seated was better than standing and hanging onto the dangling handles, hoping not to get shot down by enemy blaster-fire. The interior of the transport itself was dim and perhaps not as clean as it could have been, but Brenna had said that was to be expected with transports of this nature; she had been reluctant to spend too much money on a nicer vessel, which Rex had thought prudent. There were a myriad of travelers of all species, most of whom kept to themselves, though their voices added a chattering background against the drone of the vessel's engines.

    When an announcement sounded over the comm, saying that they were only minutes away from reaching Loronar proper, Brenna shifted in her chair. “I hope we land soon,” she said, twisting to look towards the exit. “The 'fresher's been out-of-order for hours, and I don't think I can hold it much longer.”

    At this, Rex glanced at his chrono. “Shouldn't be much longer.”

    When he looked back up at her, he noted that her hair was messy and the buttons of her shirt were done up out of order – Iri had a fondness for playing with them – and she had a smudge of what he thought was a remnant of Iri's muja-sauce on her cheek. However, heedless of any of this, Brenna snuggled Iri closer to her and kissed the little girl's forehead, murmuring something in her ear, and as the toddler cooed with pleasure Rex felt a thrill of happiness run through him at the sight of his girls.

    Hey,” he said, reaching for Bren's cheek to wipe away the smudge. “Have I told you lately how much I love you?”

    Warm brown eyes met his and he watched as spots of color appeared on her cheeks; he saw none of the disheveled nature of her appearance, because in his eyes she was the most beautiful person in the galaxy. “Yes,” she replied as she smiled at him. “But I don't mind it when you repeat yourself.”

    Rex nodded, intentionally keeping his expression business-like, which he knew would amuse her. “Good. Because it's more than I can really say.”

    It's been a rough journey,” she admitted with a sigh. “But I think it was the right decision.”

    Me too.”

    They exchanged a warm look, then he slid his arm around her shoulder and kissed her forehead; against his body, she was soft and familiar, and he savored the scent of her shampoo – nearly faded, now, as she'd not had a chance to wash her hair since leaving Alderaan – and the press of her body to his. Even faint as it was, Rex thought it was a scent that he'd never get tired of. Iri was even quiet, and for one moment everything was still and perfect between the three of them, even as the other passengers of the transport muttered about the delay and shifted in their seats.

    He was almost disappointed when the message came over the comm that they were about to land

    Brenn, however, nearly jumped out of her chair. “Thank goodness...I'm about to burst.”

    *

    Of course, before they reached anywhere that had a 'fresher, there were multiple ID checkpoints that all travelers had to pass through before being allowed to continue on their journey. This, Rex had learned, was the one part of traveling as a civilian that he disliked above all others.

    Leaving Belleau-a-Lir had been relatively easy and the guard hadn't given him or his ID so much as a second glance, which was heartening. It had been much the same on Andara, where they'd been rerouted after Alderaan, and again on Byblos, though on that planet the guard had given Rex a look that the former captain recognized well; it wasn't quite suspicious, but it was on the way, and he'd felt a knot form in the pit of his stomach after the fact.

    Now, so much closer to their destination, Rex took few deep breaths to remain calm. Logically, he knew that many of the galactic population had never seen the clones without their armor, so his face was not as recognizable as he'd feared. On the journey out here, Iri had garnered far much more attention than himself, but still...

    He was nervous.

    The line before them snaked through a rather busy terminal. From where he stood, Rex could make out dozens and dozens of species, most of which were hurrying along from place to place unless – like himself and Bren – they were waiting to pass through a checkpoint. Florescent lights were set into the ceiling high above his head, and in the background, beyond the din of countless voices, Rex could hear the ubiquitous buzz of engines.

    Brenna was beside him in the line, bouncing Iri on her hip and speaking softly to the little girl while he carried the bags they'd brought along; they'd left most of their belongings on Alderaan, as Fives and Marliss had offered to bring the rest at a later point in time. Rex shot her a glance. “Want me to take her?”

    No, thanks,” Bren replied, leaning on the balls of her feet to try and see above the line. They were fairly close to the guard station, and Rex estimated that they only had a few more minutes before their turn. “She's a good distraction. Ironic, huh?”

    This was said to the toddler, whose eyes were drifting shut as she grew more and more tired. At Rex's look of confusion, Bren clarified: “She practically played bolo-ball with my bladder while I was pregnant. It was awful...I couldn't go for five minutes without running to the 'fresher.”

    Sounds like fun,” he replied with a grimace, as the idea of having another person growing inside of you was...well, he was just glad that he was male.

    Before she could reply, the line moved forward and they were next.

    The guards were both Human males, their uniforms gray and crisp in the manner that Rex had come to associate with Imperials, despite the fact that he'd only seen a few on the journey so far. They also wore the local insignia that defined them as part of the Loronar government and not directly of the Empire. Brenna stepped ahead of him, holding out her ID to the first guard; he scanned it with a device attached to his belt and asked her a question about Iri that Rex didn't hear, because the other guard was studying him.

    Almost three years old,” Brenna replied, shifting her daughter, who was starting to sniffle in the manner she did right before she started wailing.

    The guard who was looking at Rex was a little older than the one speaking to Bren. He had the bearing of a soldier, and Rex wondered if he'd been involved in the Wars at all. The guard speaking to Brenna nodded and let her pass through unmolested; she took several steps forward and paused, waiting for Rex to follow.

    When he stepped up, the younger guard scanned his ID, but the older one continued to stare at him. As the younger guard nodded to Rex to proceed, the elder held up his hand. “You look familiar,” he said in heavily accented Basic. “I feel like I've seen you before.”

    Not sure, sir,” Rex replied, injecting respect into his tone. “I've never been to Loronar before.”

    The elder guard's brows knitted as his eyes flickered to the ID in Rex's hand. “You sure about that, Mr...Damaris?”

    Before Rex could reply, the sound of Iri's cries broke above the hubbub of the crowded terminal, and his eyes flicked to Brenna, who was trying to shush the little girl. “Excuse me,” she said, causing both guards to turn her way. “Are you going to keep him much longer? Our daughter's getting fussy...we've been on the move for a long time. I think she's ready for a nap.”

    She added an apologetic smile that was a bit wider than her normal kind, and reached her hand up to smooth Iri's blonde curls back, turning so that the child's face was visible to the men. At this, the elder guard's features softened just a little bit; he glanced back at Rex and nodded for him to pass by. With an inward sigh of relief, Rex hefted the bags and stepped through the checkpoint.

    When he reached Brenna's side he gave her a nod that he hoped conveyed his relief and appreciation of her assistance. She nodded back and they continued through the terminal, unhindered.

    ****

    A/N: Remember the note at the beginning of the fic? (That there's lots of angst and drama!) It's about to really kick in, so consider yourself duly warned. :D


    Thanks for reading! :)
    Last edited by laloga, Jul 28, 2014
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  3. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    The departure went smoother than one might have feared. I love reading Rex's musings on Irini, Brenna, and being a family, etc. You can feel the support Brenna's getting from Caith and Edme. Always can count on them to understand. Kix and the others understand also, I think, knowing that each needs to find their 'place.'

    Bracing myself for the angst because I know the mush! will be worth it. ;)

    [:D]
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  4. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    [face_rofl] This part had me laughing out loud. Wonderful.

    Still finding the romance adorable. :D Nice mush before we apparently head into more treacherous territory...
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  5. laloga Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2011
    star 2
    @Nyota's Heart: Rex and Bren have an amazing support system. :) Yeah, there's about to be a lot of angst, but there will be an equal amount of fluff as well, (maybe more. ;)) Thank you for the comment! [:D]

    @Kahara: Rex vs. Iri in a battle of wills...he doesn't stand a chance. ;) Thank you for the comment!


    *****
    Chapter Eleven

    Brenna thought that she was about to burst; the very moment that Rex was clear of the checkpoint – and that was something of a close call – she began scanning the busy terminal for the nearest 'fresher. Walking beside her, Rex was looking as well, though it was almost impossible to make anything out through the crowd.

    Please tell me you see a 'fresher,” she said through gritted teeth.

    He frowned. “Not yet...wait-” A moment later and he indicated a spot to the right that she couldn't make out through the press of people. “There's one. You're in luck.”

    Thank all that's holy...

    Here,” she said, passing her now-snoozing daughter to Rex. “I'll just be a minute.”

    At the sudden change in location, Iri's eyes opened and she gave Brenna a worried look. “Mama?”

    It's okay, sweetheart. I'll be right back,” she replied as Rex took Iri in his arms, somehow managing to do so despite the fact that he was carrying their bags as well. To Rex, she said: “She's tired, but she's probably hungry too; if we have time, we should get her a snack.”

    Rex indicated a series of seats along the wall opposite the 'freshers. “Sounds good. We'll be waiting right there.”

    Because she thought she was going to explode at this point, Brenna only nodded and turned away from them, darting across the crowded terminal – more so, now, than it had been even a few minutes ago – and reaching the 'fresher not a moment too soon. Despite the number of beings outside, there was no one else inside the 'fresher, which was a relief. Once she was finished, she stepped out of the stall and made her way to the row of open sinks against the wall, thinking to wash her hands and maybe wipe off her face, as she was pretty sure she that some of Iri's lunch had made its way to her cheek.

    As she leaned over the sink, Brenna heard a soft throat clear behind her, the sound almost-but-not-quite echoing in the empty room. When she turned, she saw a petite Iridonian woman holding a folding flimsi map and wearing an embarrassed expression; she had tan skin, reddish hair done in a single braid down her back, a series of intricate geometrical tattoos on her face, and a small knapsack hanging off of her shoulder.

    Excuse me,” the Iridonian said, meeting Brenna's eyes with hesitation. “Do you have a moment to help me? I'm new here, and I'm afraid I'm in the wrong terminal.”

    I've never been here before, either,” Brenna replied, turning off the faucet and shaking out her hands under the air-dryer. “But I can try to help you figure it out.”

    The other female smiled as Brenna stepped over to her; despite her small frame, she seemed a bit older up close. “Thank you,” she added as she held open the map for Brenna to peer over. “You're very kind.”

    As Brenna studied the map, she shook her head. “It's no trouble-”

    Before she could finish the sentence, she heard a soft exhalation of breath and felt an accompanying whisper of air against her nose and on her lips, as if a very fine powder had been blown over her face.

    A heartbeat later, everything changed.

    Instantly, she knew that something was wrong, but at first she couldn't quite put her finger on it. She felt normal enough: her heart-rate was steady, her breath was even, but something was off-kilter and for a moment she was quite confused. Her eyes moved to the Iridonian, who was watching her with unconcealed interest, and Brenna opened her mouth to ask what was going on.

    What's your name?” The pitch of the Iridonian's voice dropped, just a bit, and Brenna felt a thrill of alarm.

    Wrong. This is wrong. She wanted to say as much, but instead she said: “Brenna Damaris.”

    Fear began to beat a rapid cadence in her brain and she tried to move her feet, tried to move her hand, but it was as if she was frozen in place. What's going on?

    The Iridonian nodded once and continued to regard her. “Your shirt is dirty,” she said after a moment, reaching in the knapsack she'd been carrying and pulling out a black, long-sleeved tunic. “Take it off and put this on, instead.”

    No, she would not do this. She would shake her head, brush past this woman and walk out of here, go back to Rex and Iri, who were probably starting to wonder where she was.

    But Brenna's body did not obey the commands of her mind.

    Instead, she slid out of her button-up shirt so that she was only wearing her tank-top, reached for the tunic that the Iridonian offered, and slipped it over her head. It was too big around her waist and hung lower than the one she'd been wearing. Her old shirt fell to the floor, so the Iridonian bent to collect it, then looked at her again. “Come with me, Brenna, and don't say anything to anyone.”

    No. No! In her mind, Brenna was shouting, but it was as if her consciousness was somehow caged, trapped within her body, which seemed to be in total compliance with the Iridonian's commands. Terror struck her, but it was purely mental. There were none of the accompanying signs of fear in her body: her heart continued to beat its normal pace and her breathing felt calm and even.

    But within the confines of Brenna's mind, she was stricken with utter terror. What is happening to me?

    The Iridonian turned and walked out of the 'fresher, and Brenna followed despite herself. There was a moment of hope that cut like a beam of sunlight through her fear, because she knew that once Rex spotted her, he would see that something was wrong and come to her aid.

    It will be okay, she told herself as she watched the petite Iridonian slip into the seething mass of sentients that was just outside the 'fresher door; there were so many people now, it was a dizzying sight, and she found that it was almost impossible to focus her attention on anyone or anything beyond the Iridonian. As they went, Brenna tried to turn her head and look for Rex, but her brain felt overwhelmed and cloudy with fear, and her body still refused to do anything other than follow the Iridonian along.

    Come on, Brenna,” the Iridonian said suddenly, turning and touching her wrist. “Keep quiet, but hurry. We don't want to be late.”

    Late for what? But she didn't speak the words, only thought them, and her confusion was heightened as panic was rapidly growing within her, making it impossible to thinkclearly; she'd heard about such things happening when a person was traumatized, so she worked to push her fear to the side and instead focus on what was happening. Where are Iri and Rex?

    Her mouth opened but no sound came out, and the Iridonian gave a sigh of exasperation and turned again. “Hurry up. Don't turn around.”

    Despite her frustration and fear, Brenna's stride lengthened and her pace increased to match that of the Iridonian, who was walking quickly without seeming to.

    Mama?”

    The sound struck at some primordial nerve within her mind; it was the voice of her daughter, but Iri sounded scared, and Brenna had an overwhelming, all-encompassing urge to turn and run to her child...but she couldn't do anything, not even look over towards the direction of Iri's voice, not even tilt her head. She was a passenger trapped within her own body. Instead, her vision tunneled towards the Iridonian woman who was walking ahead. Brenna's body paced along as if nothing was wrong, but her heart was wrung tight with fear.

    Mama!”

    Irini...

    Terror beat against her brain, constricting her thoughts and focusing them like a point of light on her baby, on her precious child. Iri needed her, but Brenna's body refused to move except to keep walking forward, weaving through the heated press of bodies as she followed the Iridonian woman. Had she been able, she would have screamed in frustration and terror. Why is this happening? Why can't I turn around?

    Brenna!”

    Rex, she wanted to shout. Rex, I'm here, but something's wrong! His tone was worried as well, confused and bordering on angry, but mostly she could hear that he was afraid. There were so many people around, the terminal was thick with sentients of all kinds, and Brenna wondered if she was even able to turn her head if she'd be able to see Rex at all. Furious and frightened, she mentally shouted at her body to turn around, to run, to do anything but keep walking like nothing was wrong, like everything that was happening right now was perfectly ordinary except she was maybe a little late for her transport.

    But nothing changed. She walked along and did not hear Rex or Iri's voices again. Despair clutched at her heart, but she shoved it aside and tried to focus on getting away. You can do this, she told herself, willing her body to respond to the commands of her mind. You can break this hold, whatever it is. Iri needs you. Rex needs you.

    Suddenly her comlink began to buzz in her pocket. Rex. Brenna tried with every bit of her concentration to coerce her hand to move, to reach into her pocket and withdraw the device; if she could even get it out, answer it...somehow...

    But nothing. She just kept walking.

    However, the Iridonian woman glanced her way and frowned, then looked into Brenna's eyes. “Don't turn around, and don't speak. Take your comlink out of your pocket and drop it on the ground.”

    No, no, no...

    As if moving of its own accord, Brenna's hand reached into her pocket, pulled out the comlink, and dropped it, the movement of her own foot knocking the device across the tiled floor of the terminal. With a nod, the Iridonian picked up her pace and they began to thread through the thickening crowd a little quicker than before.

    Within her chest, Brenna's heart was filled with anguish. Her only link to Rex and Iri was gone, and she was a prisoner.

    After a few more moments, the Iridonian nodded towards what appeared to be an alcove in the wall beside them. “Go in there. And keep silent.”

    It was a corridor of some kind, perhaps a staff entrance, as it was devoid of any other life-forms, but was dimly lit and filled with shadows. Once they'd both entered and walked several meters, the Iridonian turned to Brenna and took her wrist again, not meeting the human woman's eyes as she spoke to someone that Brenna couldn't see. “We're here.”

    Here?

    The corridor was quiet, dark, still. Behind her back, Brenna could hear a blaring loudspeaker making an announcement in a number of languages, the sound barely discernible through the rush of the crowd, and she was afraid again, too much so to even register the words when they sounded in Basic. The Iridonian female had halted in the shadows but did not release Brenna's wrist when she spoke again. “Where are you?”

    Calm down, Zoea,” a man's voice said, bubbling up as if from the shadows of the corridor. “I'm right here.”

    Something in Brenna's mind broke open and a new kind of terror poured into her, because she knew this voice. No.

    When Arcas stepped into her field of vision, she only looked at him stupidly, but within her mind she was backing away, because of all the people in the galaxy, the man whom she wanted to see least – ever again – was standing before her now, regarding her with his gray eyes that had once stolen her heart right before he'd crushed it.

    No. No, no, no...

    When he smiled at her, his teeth were pearly white against the shadows of the corridor. “Bren,” he said, taking her hand. “It's so good to see you again.”

    Run, she told herself as she tried to calm down. The touch of his hand made her recoil, but her body held still. Run away, right now.

    Arcas studied her very carefully, but when he spoke again, she knew it was to the Iridonian woman who had escorted her here. “How much did you use on her? Hycosine isn't exactly cheap.”

    I used enough.” The Iridonian sounded irritated. “Didn't you want to make sure she'd come quietly?” Arcas made a noise of assent and the Iridonian – Zoea, he'd named her – sighed. “Well, it worked, because she's totally compliant; I was worried when someone started shouting for her, but she didn't so much as turn her head.”

    Nodding, Arcas held Brenna's eyes and as he did so, she felt like she was eighteen again, fumbling and strange and wholly unprepared to handle him; the difference was that now she had an idea of what she was in for, and now she wanted to do nothing else but get away from the dark-haired man.

    Good girl, Brenna,” he said with another smile, rubbing his thumb along the inside of her wrist; the intimate nature of his touch incited a blaze of fury within her mind, for all that she was unable to so much as pull her hand back. “You're worth every effort.”

    She'd better be,” the Iridoninan replied, crossing her arms. “We should get going so she can start paying for all this trouble we've gone through to get her.”

    Arcas' smile gleamed in the darkness, and fear rose within Brenna's mind, warring with the anger, because she knew that look and knew it meant trouble. “Don't worry, Bren,” he said, lacing their fingers together and turning to walk so that he was now leading her down the corridor, to the darkness. “I just need you to use your slicing talents for me. All I could manage was to slice into Loronar Corp's database and access the potential candidates for the security job...and I was very pleased to see your name. Nice resumé, by the way,” he added with a chuckle. “Didn't I always say you had potential?”

    Anger dropped out of her mind, momentarily replaced with chagrin. It was a scam; he just wants to use me...again.

    She wanted to run, wanted to scream and lash out at him, but her legs only walked along and her voice was silent. In this moment, Brenna was nothing more than a passenger in her own body, and she could do nothing at all but follow the man who'd broken her heart so completely all those years ago.

    Brenna...it'll be fine,” Arcas said, his hand sliding out of hers so he could guide her by the small of her back. “I promise.”

    She knew it was a lie.

    *

    Minutes ago...

    The moment that Brenna hurried off to the 'fresher, Rex maneuvered through the throng of sentients to reach the seats where he'd told her they'd wait; it was something of a relief to set down the bags, though he kept a firm hold of Iri, who even now was twisting in his arms to follow her mother's progress.

    Mama gone?”

    She'll be right back, Iri'ka.” He debated sitting down, then thought better of it; after spending so long seated on the last transport, he felt better being on his feet. For a moment he watched the passers-by, studying the vast array of species who were at this terminal, and thinking that it was a little too warm for his liking, here.

    A few minutes later, Iri looked up at him, her honey-brown eyes wide and her lower lip trembling as it did when she was about to start crying. “Mama gone.”

    The last thing he wanted right now was for her to have a tantrum, so Rex shifted his hold on the little girl so that she was facing him fully. “Why don't you help me keep an eye out for her? I can put you on my shoulders if you hang on...would that be okay?”

    She paused, as if debating, then nodded once. Rex chuckled and hefted the toddler so that she was on his shoulders, taking care to ensure that she was secure; he held her lower legs with one hand and reached up with his other to place her palms on his head. “Hang on.”

    Kay, Rex.” Immediately, he felt the press of her tiny fingers against his skull, and he couldn't help but chuckle again as he turned and faced the direction of the 'freshers where Bren had gone. There were a few moments of quiet, during which the little girl held very still. He was a bit uncertain if Brenna would approve of Iri riding on his shoulders, but it seemed to have prevented an imminent tantrum, which was a good thing, in his book.

    Do you see her, Iri?”

    There was a pause, then he felt the little girl sigh. “No Mama.”

    Rex's brows knitted and he glanced at his chrono; they didn't have much time before they had to leave, and he was starting to wonder if she was okay. He debated comm'ing her, then decided against it. He was probably being paranoid, and in any case he didn't want to move overmuch while the toddler was balanced on his shoulders.

    Iri sighed again, and – unexpectedly – he felt her cheek lean down to rest against the top of his head. “Mama gone.”

    She'll be right back,” he said again, though he felt a flicker of apprehension at the little girl's words. Very carefully, so that he wouldn't jar the toddler, he lifted his chin and scanned the area by the 'freshers, searching through the increasingly thickening crowd of beings for Brenna's distinct form. Kriff, it was getting really busy, and he wondered if a large transport had arrived and unloaded, which might account for the growing numbers of travelers.

    Another few moments passed; now his gut was telling him that something was definitely not right, so he glanced down and began to dig around in his pocket for his comlink, thinking to send her a brief message.

    As he did so, he felt Iri's cheek lift from his head. “Mama?”

    Where?” Rex looked up, scanned the crowd for her, but didn't see her. “Iri, where is she? Point to her.”

    In his peripheral vision, he saw Iri's tiny hand reach out to his left. “Mama?”

    Suddenly his heart was beating faster than it should have and he felt his throat go dry, because he didn't see her, anywhere. “Iri...where is she?”

    On his shoulders, Iri was practically kicking his chest with her heels in excitement; she ignored him and called out again, her voice plaintive and tinted with fear. “Mama!”

    There! When Rex spotted Bren, his eyes narrowed and fear tugged at his heart. She was walking through the crowd of people with an Iridonian woman he'd never seen before, and she was dressed in a shirt he didn't recognize as one of hers...

    What the hell? Rex took a breath, because there was no way she was just leaving. Surely there was a logical explanation for what was happening.

    Brenna!” He pitched his voice as loud as possible but she didn't so much as turn her head. A few passers-by glanced at him but for the most part no one paid him any mind. Refusing to tear his eyes from Bren for even a moment, Rex made a snap decision. “Hang on, kiddo.”

    With that, he gripped Iri's legs firmly so that she wouldn't fall off his shoulders, and began to dart through the crowd as best he could, given the seemingly endless mass of beings. It was slow going and Rex couldn't quell his growing agitation with each passing moment, because it was getting harder and harder to pick her out of the crowd. Had Brenna been running he might have been able to spot her, but she was walking just like everyone else in this place: at a normal pace, as if nothing was wrong, as if she wasn't leaving behind her daughter and the man she loved.

    But when he felt his train of thought getting more and more out of hand, Rex reeled in his worry, because surely he was overreacting. She was probably just going to find a snack for Iri, like she'd mentioned. Maybe she'd spilled something on her shirt, and the Iridonian had provided a spare. It was so loud, maybe she hadn't heard him and Iri shouting, and he was probably being very foolish for worrying like this.

    Surely there was a logical explanation for this, he just needed to speak with her.

    As he moved – or tried to – through the crowd, Rex managed to pull his comlink out of his pocket to call her; once he spoke to her, it would be okay. Still moving, he tried the code that would reach her, but she didn't respond. Gritting his teeth, he tried again, to no avail.

    Rex had no idea what was going on, but he felt that squirming in his gut that he'd always relied on in battle, and he knew that something was very, very wrong. Still on his shoulders, he could hear Iri beginning to cry; and when he looked for Brenna again, he realized with a jolt that she was gone.

    Vanished.

    If she were able, she'd answer. He knew this, so the inevitable conclusion was that she was unable to answer for some reason. No kriffing way this is happening, he thought, fury coiling within him, warring with his fear. I can't let it.

    Gripping Iri's legs again, he pushed his way through the crowd, to the last place he'd seen Bren, beneath a sign indicating a series of terminal hubs. When he reached the spot, he stood for a moment, surveying the area and trying not to be buffeted by the people sidling past him and Iri, who was still calling out in a plaintive voice.

    Mama!” Iri wailed, the register of her voice reaching an octave that Rex had rarely heard. “Mama gone!”

    He wanted to reassure the child, wanted to offer some kind of consolation or comfort, but he didn't know how to do so. As it was, he paused his steps and – still searching – reached one of his hands up to rub Iri's back, as he'd seen Brenna do in the past. As he did so, his eyes fell on something small and gleaming on the ground a few meters ahead; after managing to duck through the crowd, Rex came upon the object, which was when he felt his heart get stuck in his throat even as his stomach plummeted to his knees.

    Bren's comlink.

    No, he thought, bending to retrieve it, to make sure. No, no, no...

    It was hers, he recognized the make and the few mods she'd made to increase its range. Iri was crying in earnest now, but he could do nothing to help her, because if he were honest he wasn't that far away from doing so himself.

    Rex stood amidst what felt like a river of beings, and realized that he was lost, too.

    *****

    Next time: security guards, and Fives' return.

    Thank you for reading! :D


    If you're looking for some lovely Rex/Bren fluff, check out Nyota's Heart's fabulous one-shot, A Tangible Gift of Words. [face_love] @};- [:D]
    Last edited by laloga, Aug 4, 2014
    gracesonnet and Kahara like this.
  6. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Yeesh, that was one frustrating and spooky first scene. Like one of those dreams you have where you can't move or talk of your own volition. That stuff works like a hypnotic suggestion. Can't wait for it to wear off. That Arcas is one nasty piece of goods. [face_nail_biting] Don't want Bren to be sucked into some criminal thug activity. Somehow the defense of "I was drugged" would probably be one that was 'heard and used' before and even harder to prove.
    laloga, gracesonnet and Kahara like this.
  7. gracesonnet Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2014
    star 1
    Acckk, now I'm freaking out bc Iri and Rex are freaking out.
    I hope someone punches arcas in the face, even if it's Iri.
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  8. laloga Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2011
    star 2
    @Nyota's Heart: The drug used on Brenna is a Star Wars version of a "real" drug in our world called scopolamine. I saw a Vice Guide that talked about it, and yeah...it's some scary stuff! [face_hypnotized] Which of course meant I had to work it in a fic somehow. Sigh. Poor Bren!

    @gracesonnet: I think Rex would much rather take a shot at Arcas. ;)

    Thank you both for the comments! [face_love]



    *****

    Chapter Twelve

    Even stricken as he was, the part of Rex that had never stopped being a soldier seemed to snap to attention, and he automatically slipped into his battle-calm. Prioritize immediate problems, acquire necessary information, formulate a plan, then execute it; it was a formula that had served him well during the Wars, and he knew that if he had any hope of finding Brenna, he had to follow it, now.

    Right. First things first. Iri was getting increasingly upset, so Rex slipped out of the main thoroughfare to a spot that was somewhat empty in order to take her off of his shoulders. The toddler's face was red and tear-streaked, and she was crying in a way that he'd never seen. This was no temper-tantrum. This was a terrified child.

    Irini,” he said as he held her close to his chest. He could feel her little heart racing, so he took a breath and pitched his voice to be calm. “Iri, listen to me.”

    Mama gone...”

    Right now, she is gone,” he replied, feeling his throat get tight. “But Iri'ka, I need you to be strong for her, okay? We'll find her, but we need to stay calm and quiet. Can you do that? Can you be strong for your mother?”

    He felt a little foolish, for he had no idea if his words were sinking in – she was so young, after all – but after a moment he watched as her features relaxed just a little bit. Her eyes were red-rimmed and bright, but there was determination on her face. “Iri strong.”

    I know you are,” he replied, feeling a little better. “It's in your blood to be strong.”

    Even though she looked confused, he felt a thrill of satisfaction, because strength was in her blood. Strength was her heritage. Any child of a clone could – and would, he thought – survive when things got tough. “That's my girl,” he added, kissing her forehead quickly before turning to hurry back to where he'd left their belongings. “You'll be okay.”

    Several minutes later, he'd discovered that – thankfully – no one had stolen their bags, which was a small mercy. Still in his battle-mode, Rex took a moment to shift Iri around so that he could carry her safely and comfortably among the bags, then he turned and scanned the terminal again.

    The crowd had eased up, just a little bit, so he was able to find a map with relative ease; it was a tall, solid piece of flexiplast, lit from within and detailing each section inside the terminal. As Rex scanned it, searching for the nearest guard-station, Iri sniffed and leaned her head on his shoulder, pressing herself to his chest. “Iri miss Mama.”

    His heart constricted again, the feeling threatening to eke away at his control, but he forced the feeling aside because now more than ever was when he had to remain in control of his emotions. “I know,” he said, pulling the toddler that much closer. “Me too, kiddo. But we'll find her. Be strong for her, okay?”

    Iri sniffed and did not reply.

    He spotted a guard-station not far from his location and nodded to himself as he turned and headed for the office. The sooner he reported Brenna's absence, the sooner the authorities could intervene; he knew from his experience on a few missions during the Wars that the first few minutes of a disappearance were critical, so he injected swiftness into his stride.

    The guard-station consisted of a small alcove set within one of the walls of the terminal. At first Rex couldn't spot anyone beyond the empty counter that served as a front desk; there were several monitors that displayed sections within the terminal, but otherwise the little station was bare. Just as Rex was about to step through the door marked “Staff Only” and start his own investigation, a Human male appeared from a door at the rear of the station, and Rex felt his stomach twist with warning.

    It was the same, elder guard who'd nearly stopped him before, when he and Bren were just arriving. The moment that the guard's eyes fell on Rex, his forehead creased and his jaw tensed, though he approached the counter anyway. “Can I help you?”

    I need to report a missing person,” Rex said, shifting his hold on Iri. “My...wife, Brenna Damaris. She went to the 'fresher fourteen minutes ago, and came out with someone I'd never seen – Iridonian female, about a meter and a half tall, tan skin, red hair – and left the area with her. She didn't respond to my calls, and a few minutes later I found her comlink abandoned on the ground-”

    The guard held up his hand, effectively halting Rex's words. “Slow down,” he said, glancing down at the desk before him. Rex watched as the white-haired man picked up a datapad and perused it, entered some information, then glanced at the former captain again. “You can make a report, but legally we can't do anything for forty-eight hours.”

    Rex felt his eyes widen. “Forty-eight hours? She could be halfway across the galaxy by then. That's-”

    The law,” the guard interrupted, setting set the 'pad down and fixing his gaze on Rex. “Generally, folks who take off from their families will check in within that time period, which means that the matter is a domestic affair and not our jurisdiction.”

    In his arms, Iri squirmed and burbled something, but all of Rex's attention was fixed on the guard. “A domestic affair? She was forced to leave...she didn't do so on her own.”

    You saw that she was bound?” the guard replied, lifting his brow. “You saw her being dragged along against her will? Is that what we would find if we checked the security vids?”

    The warning in Rex's gut twisted again, accompanied this time by a sinking feeling that there was nothing he could do. But he refused to believe that was the case, so he straightened his shoulders and gave the guard his most discerning look, the kind that had always gotten results when he was in the army.

    She wouldn't have left her daughter willingly. Something was wrong.” As he spoke, Iri gave a small whimper in response, and he realized that he was gripping the little girl rather tightly, so he relaxed the muscles of his arm and took a deep breath.

    However, the guard shrugged, then flicked his eyes across Rex and Iri, giving the impression that he was looking at something unpleasant on the bottom of his shoe. “It's happened before,” he said in a dark voice. “People get...caught up with those that they don't mean to be, and they find a way to leave if they can.”

    Anger coursed through Rex at this and his own voice dropped, darkened as well. “What's that supposed to mean?”

    The guard crossed his arms before his chest. “You know what I mean, clone.” The word was practically spat, but before Rex could respond, the white-haired guard spoke again. “Maybe your wife made bad decision, and is trying to salvage her life.”

    Brenna would not have done that,” Rex replied, but he could feel himself losing control as fury worked its way through his veins. “She's-”

    He broke off as Iri sniffled in his arms; looking down, he saw that she was staring at him, pure fright on her features, and he realized that he was trembling in his anger. He glanced back at the guard, who was still watching the two of them with contempt. As Rex met the guard's eyes, the other man spoke again. “I'm in no hurry to orphan a child, even if it is the child of a clone. But if I see you around here again, you'll be arrested and sent to the Empire to be with the rest of your kind – where you belong. I suggest you leave.”

    Mama.” Iri's voice was plaintive, and she buried her head in Rex's chest; he could feel her tears against his shirt, the trembling of her tiny body indicating that another bout of hysterics was coming.

    The realization kicked him right in the heart: Iri was his first priority, no matter what. If Rex was arrested and sent away, he had no idea what would become of Brenna's daughter; he imagined they'd eventually send her to Alderaan, but the guard's unyielding expression of disdain did nothing to soothe Rex's nerves. Just the opposite. Yes, Bren was missing, but it seemed that he had to take matters into his own hands for her sake as much as for Iri's.

    So he swallowed his anger, pushed past his grief and fear, and met the guard's eyes. “Noted.”

    With that, he turned on his heel and walked away, and tried not to think with each step that he had failed the woman he loved, again.


    *


    As Arcas led her down the darkened corridor towards a door at the other end, Brenna's body was still unable to respond to the increasingly frantic commands of her brain, and she could feel her mind starting to numb with terror.

    No, she told herself, trying to push past the feeling. Stay calm, stay focused. Rather than dwell on her fear, she tried to absorb her surroundings, thinking that perhaps she could learn something useful, somehow.

    However, when they reached the end of the corridor, Arcas turned to her again, his smile bright in the darkness as he pulled a pair of dark goggles from his pocket. While Zoea stood by the door, glaring at Brenna, she watched as Arcas reached up in order to cover her eyes with the goggles, which turned out to be opaque. After he made sure they were secure, she felt a warm whisper of his breath against her ear. “Good girl.”

    Get away from me, she wanted to say, but her voice didn't work. She wanted to gag, to step back, to hit him, but her body remained frozen in place, and she felt another thrill of terror race through her when his hand slid down the length of her arm before clasping her wrist.

    Are you finished, yet?” Zoea sounded irritated more than anything else.

    The way should be clear,” she heard Arcas say after a beat as his grip tightened on her wrist. “The others were keeping a lookout; no one uses this entrance, anyway.”

    Zoea muttered something under her breath but did not make a reply that Brenna could discern, and she heard the door hiss open a moment later. Arcas led her along, his fingers wrapped around her wrist with a grip that she didn't know if she could have broken even if she was able to move of her own accord. He'd always been deceptively strong; it had been one of the things that had attracted her in the beginning, because she'd taken it to mean that he had other good qualities that were not always recognizable right away.

    But that was years ago, and she'd learned that quite the opposite was true in the meantime. Brenna felt herself being led along, through various doors and hallways, but she had no way of knowing exactly where they were; there were almost no sounds besides their steps and the occasional rumble of a nearby transport, so she figured they were still somewhere in the terminal.

    She tried not to think of Rex or Iri, because doing so would send another wave of roiling fear and horror through her. They would be worried, no doubt...would Rex be able to find her? And Iri...would he be able to take care of her properly?

    Brenna tried to mentally shake the thoughts away. She had to trust that Rex would take care of her daughter, no matter what happened to her. Rex was all that Iri had right now, until he could get her home to Alderaan.

    Had she been able, Brenna knew that she would have been crying.

    Finally they stopped. Arcas dropped her wrist and she heard him speaking to others, the low murmur of their voices adding a sinister backdrop to the sounds of multiple footsteps gathering around her. Inwardly, she tensed and waited, but her body held still. Fear began to thrum within her mind again, not new, but returned, but this time she was unable to fight it back.

    Suddenly, a hand grabbed at her left upper arm, shoving her forward with enough force to cause her to stumble; she was unable to catch herself and hit the duracrete floor hard enough to send a jolt of pain through the side of her head and her shoulder, which both took the brunt of the impact. Now she was lying on the ground and she could hear them in the darkness: footsteps on all sides, surrounding her.

    No, no, no, this is not happening. This is a nightmare...

    She's prettier than you described, Arcas.” It was a male voice, speaking heavily accented Basic, though she was unable to place the origin of the accent.

    Arcas' reply was immediate. “Hands off, Oro. She's not for you.”

    With that, Brenna felt someone grab her shoulder again and she was hauled to her feet in one, rough motion. There was a light touch against her cheek, at the site of her new injury, and she tried to recoil instinctively; but she was frozen. The one named Oro spoke again, punctuating his words with a low whistle. “How much hycosine did you give her, Zoea? She should be fighting at least a little bit.”

    I gave her enough,” the Iridonian snapped.

    You overdid it,” Arcas replied. “You know she's no good to us if her memory starts to deteriorate.”

    Zoea snorted. “That hardly ever happens.”

    Deteriorate?

    The fear spiked again, sharper and more distinct than ever before as it quickly barreled over into panic, and she realized that she didn't know how much more of this she could take.

    Arcas spoke again. “The ship is ready?”

    Someone else answered in the affirmative, and Brenna felt Arcas' hand on her wrist again. “Come on, Bren. I've got a job for you.”

    He walked; she followed. Behind her, she could hear the others' footsteps and the occasional mutter about her body that she tried to ignore. Totally compliant as she seemed to be, as this “hycosine” had made her, she was well-aware that she was at a high risk for violence of all kinds, and that Arcas seemed to be her best bet for protection from such a thing. He'd spoken to the others like he was in charge, and as much as she hated the idea of relying on him – or trusting him – for anything, she had to acknowledge the slip of relief she'd felt when he'd silenced the others' threatening talk.

    Brenna had no idea how long she was led along, only that after some amount of time she could tell that the air around her had changed, and that they appeared to be in a larger space of some kind; a breeze hit her, and she thought that they were outside, or at least near a ship, for she heard the whine of an engine a moment later.

    Again, terror sliced through her. They were taking her away, to who-knows-where, and she was leaving behind Iri and Rex. If she left Loronar, she knew that Rex's chances of finding her were exponentially smaller. She wanted to scream, to wrench her hand out of Arcas' grasp and pummel her way through the rest of them, because she knew that if she could just get away, nothing in the galaxy could keep her from her daughter or the man she loved.

    The whining of engines grew louder and she felt her hair being picked up by the displaced air. Arcas' pace increased and she stumbled when her shoes hit the slanting edge of a loading ramp; she nearly fell again, but he caught her in his arms. This time, as he righted her, she felt his hand caress her breast almost absently beneath her shirt, but she hardly registered the fact because her mind was growing weak from the prolonged fear.

    She didn't know how much longer she could last in this state. All of the anger she'd initially felt was giving way to pure, pounding terror, and her brain was starting to feel foggy. As she was led through the interior of a ship – narrow passages that bumped her shoulders, a grate of some kind that rattled under her feet, the acrid scent of fuel and cigarra smoke – she found that she couldn't quite remember where she'd been when she'd encountered Zoea.

    The 'fresher, she reminded herself after a moment's concentration. I was in the 'fresher.

    The others had dissipated once they'd boarded the ship so it was just her and Arcas, now. When he paused, she felt him pull her arms around her back, felt the cold press of metallic cuffs encircle her wrists, then felt him reach up and remove the goggles from her face. This close, she thought that he looked the same as the last time she'd seen him, about six years ago, and the gray of his eyes was fixed on her face. “You're still cute,” he said suddenly, his eyes raking across her. “Even more so, now that you'll finally be useful to me.”

    His hand stroked her wrist but all she was able to do was look at him. Finally he palmed the door open and pushed her inside. “Wait here, Bren,” he said as the door closed. “I'll be right back.”

    *

    By some miracle, Rex made it to the cafeteria without Iri erupting into another full-blown fit of hysterics. After a few minutes of debate over what to get her to eat, he settled on a serving of honey-sticks. Not the most nutritious selection, but they would have to do for now. The cafeteria was crowded, like every other place in this damn terminal, so it took him another minute to find a place to sit in the corner. Finally he spotted a rickety table against the wall, and as he slid into the seat he felt a little better because he could have a sweeping view of the massive, open room filled with beings while his back was protected.

    There was no booster-seat for Iri, so he set her on the chair beside him so that she was between himself and a supporting column. “Are you hungry, Iri'ka?”

    Sniffling, she looked up at him and nodded silently. When he gave her a few honey-sticks, she seemed pleased and he felt a little bit of relief as she began to eat. One problem solved.

    For now.

    Shaking his head, Rex shoved aside his worry over Iri and pulled out his comlink from his pocket to call Fives. It took a moment for the link to take hold, during which his stomach became horribly twisted again, until finally he heard his brother's voice. “Rex?”

    Thank the Force. “Fives, I need your help.”

    Perhaps his tone was giving away more anxiety than he'd meant, as Fives' voice changed, dropped in pitch so that it almost felt like old times and they were speaking on a battlefield. “What's wrong?”

    Rex took a deep breath, than began to speak in Mando'a, partly because he didn't want Iri – or anyone else – to overhear and partly because it was easier this way. It helped to speak of the matter like it was a military operation, because if he allowed himself to really dwell on what had happened...

    No. Rex's hand tightened on his comlink as he reiterated Brenna's disappearance and his dealings with the security guard. The entire summation of the last half hour took him less than a minute, and when he finished speaking, there was silence.

    Finally Fives replied, still in Mando'a. “Your location?”

    Iri'ka and I are in the mess hall,” he replied, glancing around to make sure that the guard hadn't decided to go ahead and have him arrested, anyway. Happily, no one seemed to be paying him any mind, so he looked back at Iri, who was staring up at him with an expression of extreme concentration on her features. Absently, Rex rubbed her back, waiting for Fives' reply.

    Give us twenty minutes and we can come for you,” his brother said after a brief pause. “We were actually on our way...I've got some news. It's good,” the former ARC added as Rex's stomach dropped again. “Well, fairly good. I think you'll be...pleased.

    Fives.”

    Right.” The former ARC sounded abashed, then gave Rex a location, adding: “It's a cargo hangar...do you think you can meet us there? I don't want to go wandering around the terminal if I can help it.”

    Nodding despite the fact that it was a voice-only call, Rex flicked his eyes around the cafeteria again. “We'll manage. See you in twenty.”

    Rex?” His brother sounded worried, but the tone hardly registered with the former captain, because he'd spotted a trio of security guards moving through the area, their gazes sweeping the denizens of the cafeteria as if they were looking for someone. Beside him, Iri had thrown the remainder of her honey-sticks to the ground and was watching his every movement.

    What?”

    There was another pause, then Rex heard Fives exhalation. “We'll find her.”

    Rex didn't respond, just ended the transmission. He didn't allow himself a pause once he stowed his comlink; the destination where he was to meet Fives and Marliss wasn't far, but he wasn't one hundred percent certain on how to reach it, and he wanted to get moving as soon as possible. As he glanced down at the bags he and Brenna had brought, he debated leaving one of them, as they were slowing him down, but shook the thought away. When – not if – they found Brenna, she'd likely want all of her clothing.

    The thought should have made him smile, but he only felt a burning behind his eyes, so he gathered up all of the bags, then looked at Iri. She was still watching him; he could see that her face was speckled with crumbs from the honey-sticks and her eyes were red-rimmed, but she seemed a little calmer.

    If he didn't find Brenna, if the worst had happened...

    I can't do this, he thought as panic seized him. I can't raise her without Brenna, even if we do make it back to Alderaan. I can't-

    The toddler's voice broke through his thoughts. “Rex sad?”

    No, kiddo,” he said, taking another breath as he bent to gather her in his arms again. Now, more than ever he had to be strong; he had too much depending on him to fall apart. “I'm okay.”

    It was a lie.

    *

    Alone in the cabin, Brenna took a moment to assess her surroundings and try to get a sense of where she was: it was a small space, outfitted with a single bunk and no 'fresher or windows of any kind. The bulkhead was plain, with a few recessed lights in the ceiling and the bunk held just a single sleeping pallet. Beneath the grated floor at her feet, she could feel the ship humming as it took off for an unknown destination, and again she fought back a feeling of helplessness.

    Instead, Brenna concentrated. She'd been told to 'wait here,' and she could feel that her body wanted to obey the command, but now that she was alone, she wanted to try something. The fact that Arcas had bound her hands seemed to indicate that he was unwilling to trust in the drug's effects for much longer, which gave her a measure of hope that maybe she could free herself, somehow.

    After all, there was no one else to give orders but herself. First things first. Brenna took a breath and opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Frustrated, she tried again: same result. Had the drug impaired her speech as well?

    Never mind that, she thought, taking another breath. Regroup. Refocus.

    After a moment's concentration, she glanced down at her shoes. Okay, feet, she told herself. Go to the bunk.

    At first there was nothing, then – to her delight – her feet carried her towards the tiny bunk and she was able to take a seat on the edge. It was a small victory, but it gave her back a feeling of being in control.

    So she could fight the drug's effects, if she was on her own. Brenna opened her mouth, but again, no sound came out. She bit back her feeling of disappointment and instead focused on the cuffs that held her wrists; they weren't tight, so perhaps she could slip out of them.

    For a few moments, she twisted her hands behind her back, trying to work the cuffs loose, but just as she felt them slipping a little bit, the door hissed open and Zoea entered the room. Brenna could do nothing more than stare at the red-haired Iridonian female, who was looking at her with a frown etched across her face, her fists balled at her sides.

    Finally, Zoea tilted her chin, indicating Brenna's hands as she spoke. “Nice try. Come here.”

    No.”

    The word left Brenna's mouth before she'd even realized it, and she felt a thrill of satisfaction as she remained seated on the bunk, giving her captor a glare for good measure.

    Zoea's brow arched as she reached into her pocket. “Is that so?”

    Faster than Bren could make out, the Iridonian female opened her hand to reveal a small piece of flimsi; she unfolded it and stepped towards the bunk in a fluid motion, and before Brenna could react she blew the contents across Brenna's face again, then stood back and watched.

    This time the hycosine's effect was stronger than the last, and Brenna felt her consciousness sinking further back into her own mind even as her body relaxed. However, now her thoughts were muddied and she suddenly couldn't quite remember how long she'd been in this room, or what she'd been doing moments ago. Zoea's eyes narrowed and she cleared her throat. “Come here.”

    Brenna rose, stepped across the cabin to the Iridonian female, who looked up at her with a satisfied smirk. “Not so stubborn now, are you?”

    What the hell did you do?” Arcas' voice cut through the tension, and Brenna felt her eyes move to him even though she said nothing. The dark-haired man entered the cabin behind Zoea and glared at the slender Iridonian. “You drugged her again. I told you not to do that.”

    She was openly defiant,” Zoea replied, lifting her hand in a dismissive motion. “And I caught her trying to get out of the cuffs. What would you have done?”

    Arcas' eyes fell on Brenna again, and the nebulous sense of calm she'd felt a moment ago vanished, to be swiftly replaced with thudding terror that consumed her mind; it was strong, so much more so than before, and she didn't think she could have moved if she'd wanted to. When he spoke to her, Arcas' voice was pitched soft and dangerous. “You tried to get out of the cuffs...is this true, Brenna? Nod if it is.”

    She nodded.

    His eyes narrowed. “Behave yourself, Bren. No more trying to escape, or I will make sure you regret it. Do you understand? Nod if you do.”

    Again, she nodded. He smiled. “Good girl. Now,” he said, glancing at Zoea once more. “We've arrived at our first stop. Let's teach Brenna about her new job.”

    *****

    Next time: Brenna's put to work, and Rex & Iri meet up with Fives.

    Thank you for reading! [:D]
    Nyota's Heart likes this.
  9. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    The guard's disdain and cynicism worked my last nerve. :rolleyes:

    Whew, I'm glad Fives has got good news and hopefully they can work up a plan.

    Rex with Irini -- I just wanted to squeeze them both and never ever let go.

    Speaking of, Bren. Sweet wonderful Bren. I don't think I've liked an EU lady so much since ... Mara Jade. My, great company there. LOL ^:)^

    Where are they taking her? Hope it isn't off Loronar. [face_nail_biting] I would think they want her computer /technical savvy based on the fact that tracing her came through her job application. [face_thinking]

    Curious also on the hold that is keeping Zoea so subservient. :p

    =D=
    Kahara and laloga like this.
  10. gracesonnet Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2014
    star 1
    Poor Bren!! And Rex and Iri :-(
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  11. gracesonnet Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2014
    star 1
    Also, this is going to sound weird but I picture Arcas as looking like, Ewan McGregor when he's not in Obi-Wan Kenobi mode (so, minus the beard and less red hair, maybe?)
    Maybe I just really want McGregor to play a straight-up bad guy because I think he'd be good at it.
    Kahara and laloga like this.
  12. laloga Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2011
    star 2
    @Nyota's Heart: Rex & Iri against the world! They make a good team. [face_love] I'm so thrilled you love Brenna; she took on a life of her own. Thank you so much for your comments! [:D]

    @gracesonnet: Ugh, yeah, much angst abounds. Stick with me, though! It'll get better. ;) And I agree that Ewan would make a great baddie - he's got such a fantastic acting range! - but he will forever and always be Obi to me. [face_love] Thank you for the comments! :)


    *****

    Chapter Thirteen

    Arcas steered her from the cabin, his grip tight against Brenna's wrists as he urged her along before him, with Zoea leading the way through the dimly lit vessel. As they walked, Brenna fought against the onslaught of fear within her mind, but she could feel herself growing weaker.

    Everything was getting to be too much for her to handle, and she realized that she was reaching her breaking point. This, coupled with the slight foggy feeling in her mind filled her with a sense of hopelessness for all that she tried to push it aside.

    I have to be strong. I have to fight this. She thought of Iri and tried to find a sense of strength from the image of her daughter's face; she thought of Rex and his battle-calm, and tried to will such a thing inside of herself.

    For a few minutes it seemed to work. Despite the pressure of Arcas' hands on her wrists and the hostile glances that Zoea kept shooting at her, Brenna felt her mind relaxing just a little bit.

    As they walked, the ship's engines had thrummed a manner that suggested the craft was landing, and soon she, Arcas and Zoea came to a halt at what she assumed was the loading-ramp they'd brought her in the first time. Before she could get a true sense of her location, she felt Arcas' hands lift from her wrists as he placed the dark goggles over her eyes once more. “Don't worry, Bren,” he chuckled as she heard Zoea activate the hatch. “There's nothing to see, here.”

    She felt a rush of cooler air against her face as Arcas guided her down the ramp, though this time they paused at the foot of the thing, and she heard Zoea muttering as if into a comm. Finally, the Iridonian woman exhaled. “Oro says it's clear. Let's bring her and see if she really is worth all of this trouble.”

    She is,” Arcas said as he urged Brenna along. “I promise.”

    Yeah, well, I know how much your promises mean,” Zoea replied in a swift voice as they began to walk again.

    Before Brenna could analyze the words, Arcas pushed her forward, causing her to stumble. Beefore she could fall he caught her cuffs in his hand; the feeling of metal digging into her skin would have made her cry out, but she could make no more sound than a hiss of breath. Arcas pulled her back, sending slivers of pain through her wrists, and spoke into her ear, his voice quick and soft. “When we arrive at our destination, I want you to follow my instructions to the letter. Is that clear? Nod if it is.”

    Get your hands off-

    But she was getting tired. Prolonged stress and terror were turning her mind as numb as her body, and even as she nodded, she couldn't even summon the energy to finish the thought. Arcas inhaled, sending a rush of sound through her ear, then pushed her along again.

    This time, she had no idea how long they walked, only that their path seemed to be more disjointed than before, at the terminal on Loronar, and Zoea's words made her wonder if they were infiltrating a secure location of some kind. Coupled with Arcas' comment about Brenna's own skills, she figured that they were going to have her slice into something.

    Beyond that she didn't know what they wanted of her, but she realized at once that she was capable of a great deal, and if she weren't in control of her own body, most of that was likely to be harmful.

    Fear flurried within her again, mixing with disgust and humiliation this time, because she couldn't help feeling like she should do more; she should have found a way to fight, somehow, should have tried harder to escape.

    She was tired of feeling helpless. She was tired of wanting to cry and not being able to do more than blink stupidly.

    Finally, they reached a room filled with the low hum of electricity and the whirr of cooling fans, and she realized that they were in a main hub of computer consoles. Arcas pushed her forward, then gripped her shoulders and squeezed. “Sit.”

    She sat. The chair beneath her gave a little bit, and she felt him loosen the blindfold around her face. When she blinked in relief, all she could see were his gray eyes as Arcas filled her vision and her mind while he instructed her.

    Brenna, I'm going to unbind your hands because I want you to use them to slice into this console for me. I want you to find, access and transfer all of the funds in this account-” Here he held up a datapad for her to read, pointing towards the items he was referring to as he spoke. “-to this account. Do you understand? Nod if you do.”

    She held his eyes, but nodded once. Within her mind...

    No. Brenna tried to push back the fear and chagrin, tried to separate herself from what she was doing, because it was too much, it was too much for her to wrap her mind around, too much to think about, too much to dwell on. Her brain felt foggy and it was difficult to focus.

    Perhaps sensing this, Arcas rapped her cheek lightly; the resulting sensation was barely more than a sting, but it snapped her attention back to him. “Focus, Brenna. Nod if you understand what's expected of you.”

    Brenna nodded, and wished she could at least be sick all over him.

    Smiling, Arcas stroked her cheek once as if in apology, then stepped aside so she could face the console. For a moment she simply stared at the screen, her mind working over what needed to be done but unwilling to cooperate, then she felt the cool press of a blaster-muzzle against the back of her neck. Zoea's voice was harsh with exasperation. “Do as he says, girly. Now.”

    Brenna lifted her hands to the console.

    The rest of the “mission” was something of a blur. By the time that she was brought back to the cabin where she'd been before, she was wrung from fear and anger, and could do little more than collapse on the bunk from sheer exhaustion.

    *

    When she awoke, everything was dark.

    It took her a moment to orient herself with her surroundings, as for one moment she thought she was on another ship whose name she couldn't recall at the moment, but gradually, as she woke up she realized that she was still here. Wherever here was. Blinking in the darkness, she sat up and in doing so realized that her hands were not bound, which she noted because...

    They were bound before, she thought, frowning to herself and rubbing at her temple. Right? She thought so, because her wrists hurt, but she couldn't quite remember, which was not a good realization.

    This thought made her chest tighten with fear. How had she come to be here? Where was here? There was a humming beneath her that indicated she was on a ship of some kind, but more than that, she wasn't sure. However, the more pressing question was where did she come from? She knew – somehow – that someone was probably looking for her, but she couldn't recall who or why, which made her throat dry and her stomach drop to her knees.

    Gradually, her eyes had adjusted to the darkness of the cabin but she was reluctant to move from the bunk. It was too warm in this room; she wondered if something was wrong with the ship, or if something was wrong with her. She took a breath and tried to assess her physical state: aside from being tired and weak with sore wrists and a faint throbbing on her cheek, she thought her body was healthy.

    Her mind, however, felt jumbled and strange. Wrong. Her mind felt wrong, but she had no time to consider anything beyond that realization.

    The sound of footsteps outside of the cabin made her head jerk upright and her heart start to pound. As if acting on instinct, she scooted backwards so that she was leaning against the corner, her back protected and her attention fixed on the door as it hissed open. A beam of light sliced through the darkness and she watched as a silhouette appeared in the doorway, effectively casting another shadow through the cabin. Her body tensed involuntarily for one moment before she slipped of the bunk and got to her feet, still keeping her back to the wall.

    The newcomer was a male, Human, but she couldn't see his face as he stepped into the room; he was carrying a water bottle and a small package of some kind – food, she guessed – and when he crossed the threshold she watched as he flicked the panel by the door.

    Immediately, light filled the area from lamps recessed in the ceiling, and for one moment she missed the comfort of the darkness. The Human man was about her height, closely-shaved dark hair and dark eyes, with a nose that looked like it had been broken more than a few times in his history. He was not familiar in any way, save the sweeping realization that he was dangerous. Every one of her nerves screamed that he was a threat; that he was a criminal of some kind was a reasonable assumption to make, seeing as she'd been bound and likely imprisoned on this ship. If that were the case, then it stood to reason that everyone on this ship was an enemy, and not to be trusted.

    At first he only looked at her, then he chuckled to himself and stepped forward towards her, causing her to try and back further into the wall while she fought against the trembling in her knees. However, he only set the package – a self-heating ration pack – and the water bottle on the edge of the bunk as he spoke. “Boss said you'd be hungry.”

    She was silent.

    His name...she wracked her brain because she could have sworn that she knew his name, albeit she didn't know how she would have known such a thing. It didn't come to her, but she decided at once that it didn't matter; he was a member of this ship's crew, and likely a criminal. Her eyes narrowed.

    He stood at the edge of the bunk and studied her again, and this time she felt bile rise in her throat, for his eyes fixed on her breasts and did not stray. “No wonder Zoea's all bent out of shape,” he mused as she crossed her arms before her chest. “You're a looker, aren't you?”

    Get out,” she managed to say, though her voice wavered.

    In response, he chuckled again, then stepped towards her, moving around the bunk so that he was only an arm's length away from where she stood. Inwardly, she tensed her entire body as if in preparation, though for what she didn't quite know. When his hand reached for her cheek, she reacted without thinking.

    With one fluid motion, she struck out with her right hand, giving him a sharp blow to the underside of his jaw with what she hoped was enough force to at least jar him a little bit. It was. He yelled something unintelligible and jumped back, but she struck again, this time aiming a jab with her knee at his groin. With this, her would-be-attacker collapsed to the floor with a groan.

    For a moment she was stunned at her body's apparently automatic reaction. How the kriff did I know how to do that?

    But she didn't dwell on it, because in his haste to grope her needlessly, the man had left the door to her cabin open. She half-considered checking to see if he had a weapon, but decided against it in favor of just getting away, so she slipped out of the door and began to make her way down the shadowed corridors of the ship.

    Of course, she had no idea where she was or where she was going, but she couldn't resist the urge for flight any longer. Her encounter with the stranger had sent adrenaline coursing through her veins and it was all she could do to keep her movements as silent and fast as possible. So for about a minute she hurried through the ship's passages and tried to believe that she'd be able to defend herself again if it came to that.

    Voices stopped her in her tracks; she glanced around and realized with dismay that there was nowhere to hide. Before she could do so much as turn around, another Human man and an Iridonian female appeared around the corridor, and when their eyes fell on her she heard the man's voice.

    Brenna?”

    The realization that he was speaking to her caused her body to freeze. Brenna. My name. Of course. She hadn't known she'd forgotten it until he'd said it, which was suddenly the most frightening thing about this entire scenario.

    Something cold and hard pressed against Brenna's forehead; her eyes lifted to see the muzzle of a blaster right in front of her, wielded by the Iridonian while the Human man reached behind his back for a pair of cuffs. “I told you she needed to stay bound,” the Iridonian snarled as the Human grabbed at her wrists. “You're soft on her, Arcas. I knew it.”

    She's not a threat,” the man – Arcas – replied as he tightened the cuffs over her wrists. “She's barely standing upright. See how she's trembling?”

    It was dark in the corridor, but she – Brenna, she told herself – was able to make out the Iridonian's movements as she reached into one pocket of her pants and withdrew a scrap of flimsi. Arcas looked over at her, his eyes wide. “Zoea, don't! You're using too much-”

    But before he could speak further, Brenna felt it: powder, fine and soft, being blown across her face, and at once her body relaxed, causing her to swear inwardly.

    She wasn't the only one. Arcas glanced at her, then turned his gray eyes to his companion. “You're using too much, Zoea. You're going to do permanent damage to her memory, and then she'll be useless to us. All of our work will be for nothing – is that what you want?”

    Hycosine only affects her emotional memories,” Zoea replied in an offhand way, urging Brenna along back the way she'd come. “Her semantic and procedural memory will remain untouched, so you don't have to worry about her forgetting how to dress herself, or do the slicing that we need her to, for that matter.”

    Brenna wanted to run again, but her mind was latching onto each word of the conversation. She was determined to remember everything they were saying so that when – not if – she escaped here, she'd have some idea of what they'd done to her. But she still didn't know where she'd go if she left, where she'd come from, or who – if anyone – was out there, waiting for her. She thought so, but couldn't remember.

    One problem at a time, she told herself as they continued to bicker on either side of her. Focus on getting out of their custody, first.

    It's still risky,” Arcas was saying as they neared the cabin where she'd been before. “No one has studied all the effects of hycosine on the Human body.”

    Zoea snorted. “Yeah, I can tell you're real worried about what happens to her body.”

    This caught Brenna's attention, for she detected a note of jealousy in the Iridonian woman's tone, one that Arcas apparently picked up on as well, for his next words were soothing. “She's valuable to me because of what she's capable of,” he replied as they reached the cabin. “You know that, Zoea. Look...she and I...that was over years ago, okay? I had a better opportunity, so I took it. End of story.”

    And now?”

    A pause, then Arcas gave a small chuckle. “Now? Well, she's still pretty, I guess. But even at our most...intense, she was just a pretty girl. Nothing more. Nothing like you.”

    Anger.

    It seethed through Brenna's blood, and if she'd been able to move her body of its own volition she would have struck Arcas with as much force as she was capable of, even if she didn't understand why she was reacting in this visceral way. The context of his words implied that they had a history of a sort, and that he had left her, but try as she might, she couldn't actually recall the event he spoke of, which was alarming.

    How much of my memory has been affected? She hadn't had a chance to stop and really think, so she wasn't sure. However, the fact that she'd had to essentially re-learn her own name did not bode well. Hycosine...she didn't know what it was, but she resolved to find out, somehow.

    Zoea seemed mollified by Arcas' words, for her tone changed, smoothed out as if she was pleased. “Alright. If you say.”

    There was a pause as they stepped into the cabin, then the Iridonian sighed again at the sight that greeted them: the man that Brenna had fought away was getting to his feet, cradling his groin and wincing “Hello, Oro.”

    Despite everything else, Brenna felt a small measure of satisfaction at the sight; she also felt determination, because she'd gotten away once.

    Perhaps she could do so, again.

    *

    It was not until Rex and Iri were aboard Fives' and Marliss' ship, a small, roundish freighter of Corellian make, that he found he was able to breathe properly. The journey from the cafeteria of the Loronar terminal to this particular hangar had taken only a few minutes, but he'd spent the entire time on edge, because with every glance his way – by anyone – his breath grew shorter and his heart beat faster in his chest.

    Iri had been a distraction, and a welcome one, because Rex was certain that if he only had to think about what could be happening to Brenna at this moment, he'd go mad with worry. As it was, the little girl had wanted to ride on his shoulders again, but he was reluctant to allow her, thinking that he needed to keep their heads down in the literal and figurative sense.

    So he'd held her close to his chest and tried to keep her distracted, which, oddly enough, helped him stay calm as well. As they'd moved through the crowded terminal towards the hangar where he was to meet Fives and Marliss, Rex had tried to remember some of his more humorous anecdotes from his army days to relate to the little girl.

    While he found it difficult to laugh at anything right now, Iri had actually giggled. He'd wondered if she understood what he'd said or if she was just tired and delirious, but in any case she was remarkably well-behaved.

    When they'd reached Fives and Marliss' location, Rex had paused at the entrance to the hangar bay, which was busy with ships of all shapes and sizes, to survey the area before he barged ahead. However, before he could do so for very long, he'd heard a familiar, feminine voice.

    Rex.”

    Turning, he watched as Marliss appeared from behind one of the landing-struts of her ship, her one-piece jumper splattered with bits of engine grease and her blonde hair messy, and he was never so relieved to see another person. She approached him and smiled at Iri, who immediately reached out, chattering the blonde woman's name. “Sorry, Iri,” Marliss said as she held up her hands. “I'm covered in engine grease.”

    As Rex opened his mouth, Marliss indicated the hatch of the ship. “Fives is inside. We didn't want to risk more than one of you being seen at time. I've got to tighten down a few things, then we can go.”

    Thanks,” Rex replied, and turned to make his way into the ship.

    However, he was stopped by a light touch on his arm. “We'll find her,” Marliss said in a quiet voice as she met his eyes. “Rex...we'll find her, okay?”

    He couldn't respond with speech, so he only nodded.

    Fives was waiting for him just within the rounded corridor at the end of the boarding ramp; the moment that Rex saw his brother he exhaled in relief. They met wordlessly. Fives put his arm around Rex's shoulders and squeezed. “Good to see you, vod. Come with me to the cockpit and we'll get the Shereshoy prepped. Iri'ka, do you want to see Uncle Fives fly a ship?”

    The last part was spoken to the toddler, who leaned closer to Rex's chest, nodding wordlessly. However, the former captain glanced down at her. “She needs to sleep,” he said, shaking his head. “And a bath, and a change of clothes. She's toilet-trained – thank goodness – and we made a pitstop on the way here, but-”

    Slow down, Rex,” Fives replied as he nodded towards the direction of the cockpit. “One thing at a time. Look-” He paused and Rex felt a flare of agitation at the conflict in his brother's eyes. “Remember how I said I had news?”

    Rex nodded; inwardly he was aware of every second that ticked by, because it could be Bren's last.

    Fives took a deep breath. “We were going to call you early because we got intel on Nala Se's location: she really is on Cyrillia, and I think we can make it there to find her.”

    Blinking, Rex shook his head slowly. “Okay...but why do I feel like there's a problem?”

    There was another pause, then Fives met his eyes. “We got our intel from the Empire; they're looking for her, too. Vod...we have to hurry. If we don't get to her first, there's no telling what the Imps will do once they find her.”

    So you want me to just-” Rex bit back his words and took a breath. When he spoke again, it was in Mando'a. “You want me to just leave Brenna to her fate? I can't do that.”

    Fives nodded and replied in kind. “Of course not, but our best – possibly our only – chance at the cure for our rapid-aging is going to slip through our fingers if we don't make a move right now. But don't worry,” he added, lifting his hands. “I have a possible solution, though I don't know if you're going to like it.”

    This wasn't sounding good. Rex resisted the urge to pinch at the bridge of his nose and instead leveled his best glare on the former ARC. “Yeah?”

    Ahsoka.”

    The name was so unexpected, it took Rex a moment to comprehend that he'd heard it spoken. “Ahsoka? She's...she's around?”

    At this, Fives winced. “Er...sort of. I don't know exactly where she is, but we contacted her a few days ago and she mentioned she was on a job for Organa – something about a gang and getting a hold of a weapons supplier – but Rex...I know she'd help you.”

    Rex's head was spinning as his thoughts raced ahead of themselves. Ahsoka could find Brenna...if she was even free to do such a thing, that is. If not, maybe he could use her ship – if she had one – and try to find Bren, somehow. He could have someone take Iri home, then he could go back to Loronar, study the security footage, ask around – surely there was some kind of maintenance workers that he'd not thought of. Hell, even droids would do, provided that-

    Rex.”

    It was a long shot, a gamble if there ever was one, but he knew it was one he'd take. Nodding slowly, he looked back at his brother. “Right. Let's call her.”

    Not while we're dirtside,” Fives replied, shaking his head and thumbing towards the cockpit. “It's not safe, even with modified comms. We'll do it when we hit the black.”

    I'll have to try and call Alderaan, too,” Rex added. “Haven't gotten a chance, yet.” His stomach twisted at the thought; he hated the idea that he'd have to tell Caith through a comm message that Brenna was missing. That was the kind of thing that had to be done face-to-face.

    Or, he thought darkly. Not at all.

    Because he should have never let her go alone. Because he should have gone with her and stood outside the 'fresher; kriff, he should have gone with her inside the 'fresher.

    He should never have let this happen.

    A soft touch at his cheek brought his attention back to the moment and when he glanced down, Iri was looking at him with concern in her honey-brown eyes. It hit him again that he was solely in charge of her, now. There was no one else who could take care of the child, and the weight of it rested on his shoulders – impossibly heavy. Why was it like this? He'd been a captain in the GAR; he'd had twelve dozen men under his command and care at any given time, he'd been in charge of complicated, dangerous missions where far more lives were at stake than just one.

    But when he looked at the little girl who was regarding him with nothing so much as complete trust, he felt his stomach drop again, because this was different, somehow. It was so much more. He had to do more than keep Iri alive. He had to see her grow up, teach her what she'd need to know to survive, and he knew that he was wholly unsuited for this kind of responsibility.

    Half a life. Half a man.

    It was no way to raise a child.

    Rex.” Fives' voice was quiet. When Rex met his eyes, the other man offered him a smile. “One thing at a time, remember? Just like the good old days.”

    Right.” Rex took a deep breath. Prioritize immediate problems, acquire relevant information, formulate a plan, execute. “How far away is Cyrilla?”

    Not very. Just a few hours in hyperspace.”

    Rex allowed his mind to move ahead, planning the next move. As much as he disliked the idea, there was really no alternative to bringing Iri along on this venture; if time was of the essence, they didn't have any to spare. In his arms, Irini was warm and as he breathed in her scent, he felt a fierce flare of protectiveness for the child. Right now and in spite of all other things, Iri was his responsibility, and he'd be damned if he let anything happen to her.

    I still need a co-pilot,” Fives added, shooting a wink at the little girl that made her giggle. “Think you can handle it, Iri'ka?”

    Fives...”

    But the former ARC ignored Rex – again reminding him of their army days, but only the more annoying ones – and instead made his way to the cockpit. “Just set all your bags down anywhere,” Fives added with a wave of his hand. “We'll get 'em later.”

    Unc' Five,” Iri called out to the clone's retreating form, then she looked up at Rex. “Fly?”

    He sighed and set his and Bren's bags down against the bulkhead, ensuring that they were as much out of the way as possible, then nodded to her. “Sure, kiddo. Let's see what your uncle's up to.”

    The cockpit of the ship was small but not so much that it felt claustrophobic, so Rex was able to stand back and watch his brother run through a series of quick checks while they waited for Marliss. After a moment, Fives glanced back at Iri and indicated the co-pilot's seat. “How about it, Iri'ka? Will you be my navigator?”

    You know she's only three, right?”

    Fives grinned at the toddler, who was beaming at him. “Never too early to start learning, right Iri'ka?”

    Iri fly ship!” She'd turned her gaze to Rex, who idly wondered how in the void she was still conscious, because he felt like he was about to drop dead from exhaustion. “Iri fly ship? Please?”

    Oh, shab...

    Okay,” he sighed, bending to set her in the co-pilot's chair; he debated strapping her in, but decided against it because the safety-belt probably wouldn't hold her, anyway. Besides, he didn't plan on letting her stay there, long. “But don't touch anything, Irini.”

    At this, he gave his brother a warning look, but Fives winked at him, then began flipping various controls on the console before him, all while explaining what he was doing. Rex had no idea if Iri was able to understand it or not, but he thought she looked like she was trying to, and when he straightened back up he realized that his arms felt strangely empty without her presence.

    After a few minutes, they heard the buzzer that indicated the hatch was sealing, the sound followed by Marliss' voice calling out the all-clear. As Fives began the ship's ascent through the planet's atmosphere, Rex watched the terminal below them grow smaller and smaller, and his throat felt tight as his thoughts invariably turned back to Brenna.

    I'm doing the best I can, Bren, he thought, closing his eyes for a moment and imagining her face. I hope it's enough.

    *****

    Next time: Finding Nala Se.

    Thanks for reading! :)
    Last edited by laloga, Aug 18, 2014
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  13. Kahara Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 3
    I see the roller coaster ride has begun. :D The description of Bren's disappearance and her unsuccessful struggles to do anything about it is scary. Reminded me of the one time I've been under general anesthesia (for wisdom tooth removal.) Only much, much less soothing.

    Rex's prioritizing and worries about Iri as he tries to organize the search for Bren all sounds like his reaction; he's too experienced in bad things happening to truly panic but he's definitely had the floor yanked out from under him. Pity the guard was so unhelpful and threatening about it -- sounds like he may have reported them after all, too. I like the hints that this is getting Rex to get over his avoidance of Iri, by necessity if nothing else! He's scared of not being there for her long enough, but at the moment there's no one else (until Fives and Marliss get there, anyway.)

    Arcas is a creepy-tastic son of something unmentionable. Yuck. Doesn't sound like he has an ounce of conscience, or ever did. At least Bren got to lay the smackdown on his henchman, temporarily. The lessons in fighting are paying off a little.

    That's just chilling. Not good that Zoea seems determined to wipe her brains entirely, whether Arcas allows it or not. [face_worried]

    Good to see Marliss and Fives again; at least they were close by! I hope they do manage to find Nala Se and/or the information they need. Hmm, splitting the group? Well, it's practical. Somehow, I worry about it anyway. At least they seem to have Ahsoka on the line to track down Bren.


    Ouch.


    Watch out, Rex. She'll be eligible for her driver's license any day now. :p
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  14. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    The thing with the memory bothers me to no end. [face_nail_biting] I hope it's temporary. And how can Brenna say or prove she was working under coercion? Glad there's a plan of action but I'm so blooming antsy for Bren to get quit of Arcas and his nefarious types.

    LOL Can we have a midweek update, perhaps? [face_batting]

    [face_love]

    =D=
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  15. gracesonnet Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2014
    star 1
    Nooooo! Poor Brenna! Arcas is such a [bleep] and Zoea is no better. I kind of hope Bren does forget how to hack into computers and wrecks all their plans.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  16. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

    Game Host
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 6
    Or LOL Remembers how to plant a virus that eats all their data and their hard drives -- like a cybercop who knows how the techie mischief is created. :cool:
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  17. laloga Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2011
    star 2
    @Nyota's Heart:
    You asked. I delivered. ;) Thank you for your continued support and encouragement. [face_love]

    @Kahara: Yeah, things are going to be tough for a while. Buckle in! :p Thank you for the comment!

    @gracesonnet: There are many, many words to describe Arcas, and they are all bleep-worthy. Thank you for the comment!

    *****
    Chapter Fourteen

    Once they were far enough away from Loronar, Fives felt comfortable using the comm to call Ahsoka, so it was that Rex found himself seated in the co-pilot's chair, waiting for the link to take hold and wondering if she'd look different. The last time he'd seen Ahsoka she'd been far from at her best; the night of Order 66, while it hadn't taken her life, had left its share of emotional scars on his friend, and he'd been thankful to know that she'd survived long after his role in her rescue.

    The link caught and he watched as the Togruta's familiar form bloomed before him. She was seated at the helm of a ship, dressed in a nondescript coat, trousers and boots, and he could see by the taller sweep of her montrals that she'd grown up a bit more over the last half-year. Her face was a little less round but her eyes were still large, and when they fell on him, he couldn't help but chuckle at the astonished look that crossed her features.

    Rexter?”

    Hey, kid.”

    She blinked at him, then a huge smile spread across her face. “It's good to see you.”

    You too.” He paused, then shifted the holo-transmitter so that she could see Iri as well. “Iri'ka, this is my friend, Ahsoka. Will you say 'hello?'”

    Seated in his lap, the toddler tilted her head and studied the Togruta for a moment before she ducked her face into Rex's chest as if shy. Chuckling, he rubbed her back, then looked back at the holo, where Ahsoka's eyes had grown even wider as she glanced from Iri to Rex, her lips parted. “I didn't know... ”

    He frowned to himself because he couldn't remember if he'd told Ahsoka that Bren had a daughter or not; he thought she'd known, but the look on her face suggested otherwise. “She's Brenna's,” he replied, shaking his head. “Not-”

    He was going to say “not mine,” but that didn't sound quite right. Fives shot him a concerned look from the pilot's seat, but remained quiet.

    However, Ahsoka shook her head as well. “Fives mentioned something about her to me, but...well, Rex...what's she doing there? Aren't you guys on a mission?”

    At this, Rex took a deep breath and glanced down at Iri. He could see that she was interested in the conversation, but he could also see that her eyes were finally starting to droop. Fives and Marliss were still in the cockpit, but they were giving him plenty of space, so he looked over at the blonde woman standing behind his brother at the pilot's seat. “Marliss...I'll give her a bath later on, but is there somewhere she can sleep for now?”

    Sure; I'll take her.”

    He watched as Marliss gathered up Iri and carried her to the back. While he didn't like the idea of passing on the care of the child even for a moment, he knew that it was necessary to do so right now. There was no way he wanted Iri to hear what he was about to say. Bad enough she'd had to listen to that shabla security guard back on Loronar say all that osik about Brenna leaving them.

    Once Marliss and Iri were gone, he looked back at Ahsoka, who was regarding him with an expression he couldn't read. Out of instinct he straightened in his seat. “What is it?”

    Nothing,” she replied with a half-smile.In spite of himself he gave her a knowing look and she sighed. “It's just...I always knew you'd make a good dad.”

    The word made his stomach twist again, but he tried to ignore the feeling as he spoke. “Brenna's gone,” he said, watching as his friend's face stilled. “She was kidnapped on Loronar, and I have no idea where she is right now. But Fives got word that Nala Se-” He paused to confirm that she knew the name. Ahsoka nodded, so he continued. “Nala Se's been spotted as well, and we're afraid the Imperials might find her before we can, and right now she's our only hope of working out the rapid-aging cure.”

    What do you need me to do?”

    There was so much surety in her reply; Rex had hardly finished his explanation when she'd spoken, and he was a little humbled by the immediacy of her offer. Rex took a deep breath and looked into Ahsoka's eyes. “I need you to find Brenna, kid.”

    Consider it done.”

    At the word, Rex cocked his head and frowned at her. “Don't you want more information before you jump in?”

    Ahsoka rolled her eyes . “We've met before, right?” At his sigh, she gave him what he used to think of as her “serious look.” “Rex, you're my best friend in the galaxy. The woman you love is missing...of course I'll help you. Beats dealing with the Black Sun sleemos, anyway.”

    At this, Fives leaned forward. “Black Sun?”

    I'll tell you later,” Ahsoka said with a meaningful shake of her head. “It's too much to go into right now.”

    There was a pause, then Rex began to relate everything he could remember about Bren's disappearance, right down to the color of her shirt. When he mentioned the Iridonian female, Ahsoka sat up a little. “She had red hair?”

    Rex felt a flicker of warning. “Yeah. You know her?”

    Ahsoka's lips pursed into a line. “I know of her. I think.” Seeing Rex's expression, she took a breath. “There's a gang – a smaller one – called Red Star Ring that's been edging in on some of Black Sun's turf. I'm looking into it for...a friend. It's one of those 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' situations,” she added with a grimace. A moment later, her expression turned thoughtful. “So, while I'm tracking down Brenna, you guys are going after Nala Se?”

    That's the plan,” Rex said as he shot a glance at Fives.

    Speaking of which,” the former ARC said. “We should probably get a move on.”

    Nodding, Rex looked back at the holo. As he studied his friend, she seemed to study him as well. “You look good, Rexter,” she said after a moment. “You both do. I think civilian life agrees with you guys.”

    You too, kid.” He paused, then added: “How's Bon-”

    Her face clouded and she broke in before he could finish the question. “I should get going, too. I'll comm you when I have her. When,” she added, giving Res a meaningful look. “Not if. Stay safe, guys.”

    The clones returned the farewell, then the transmission ended. There was a moment of quiet before Rex looked at Fives. “You said we have a few hours until we reach Cyrillia, right?” At his brother's nod, Rex got to his feet. “Right. I'm going to check on Iri. Let me know if something comes up.”

    It took him a little time to navigate his way through the passages of the ship, but before too long he found one of the spare cabins. Marliss was seated on the edge of the bed, her gaze on a sleeping, blonde form; at his entrance, she looked up and he could see that her eyes were bright.

    Before Rex could say anything, Marliss sniffed and swiped at her nose with her sleeve, then got to her feet, hurrying past him as she spoke. “She's sleeping. Poor thing passed out right away. I brought your stuff, too,” she added, nodding to the bags that Rex had left in the corridor. “I'll go check on Fives.”

    With that, she slipped out of the cabin and left him alone with Iri. Rex approached the bed and knelt beside the toddler, ensuring for himself that all was well. It was. Her face was slack, her mouth open, and her pale eyelashes rested along the curve of her cheeks. As he smoothed back her baby curls he was reminded of Brenna.

    He knew he had to call Caith and tell him what happened, but suddenly he was too tired to do much more than step out of his boots and carefully settle on the bunk beside the little girl. There was a moment where he thought he'd woken her on accident, as she gave a soft murmur, but rather than wake, Iri turned and snuggled close to his chest before giving out a deep sigh that was nothing but contented.

    Maybe, just maybe, it's going to be okay. he thought, encircling the child with one arm as he felt himself dropping off into sleep. Somehow.

    *

    The following evening...

    As it turned out, Nala Se was not on the planet of Cyrillia, but she was nearby.

    After a fruitless day of searching, the sensors on Marliss and Fives' ship had detected a slight pulse of energy too consistent to be an erratic blip. Further investigation revealed its source: an abandoned shipyard a few light years away from the planet itself. Once they drew closer, Rex, Fives and Marliss discovered that a single transport vessel of Kaminoan make appeared to be functioning even as it was adrift among the wreckage of countless other ships, the hulls of which littered the area like an asteroid field.

    Like the other Kaminoan vessels Rex had encountered in his life, this one was spherical in shape with smooth edges. It was not an overly large ship, perhaps twenty meters in diameter, and he could make out scorched marks of carbon scouring the hull. There didn't appear to be any viewports or windows that they could see, and it had taken a few minutes for Marliss to even locate the port that would allow their ship to dock.

    Rex had tried to make contact via a comm channel, to no success, so it was decided that he and Fives would pay a visit to the long-neck – Nala Se, as Rex reckoned they should start referring to her by her name rather than the slightly derogatory term – and see if they could convince her to leave with them. There were no signs of Imperials in the immediate area, but Rex figured that such a thing would change, as his luck had been particularly bad of late.

    Once Marliss had managed to dock the Shereshoy alongside the Kaminoan vessel, Fives and Rex prepared to leave, suiting up in what Fives called 'soft armor' in the entryway of the ship. While the reinforced, padded jackets and trousers were in no way a replacement for the clones' old plastoid armor, Rex thought that it was comforting to have something between himself and the world other than his jacket and shirt. In any case, it felt good to have a utility belt and sheathes on his hips for his blasters again. Fek, it felt really good to wear blasters at all, even if they weren't his beloved DC-17s, of which he still thought about with fondness.

    In fact, in many ways this was like any other mission that Rex had been on, except this time he had someone waiting behind for him, someone who was not pleased that he was leaving without her.

    Rex stay!” Iri wailed, clinging to his neck. “Stay, Rex! Please? Please?”

    His throat was tight as he embraced her, but he shook his head. “Iri'ka...I have to go, but I'll be back very soon, I promise.” Looking down into her honey-brown eyes, he realized how hard this was for her; she'd lost her mother – not forever, he told himself – and now he was leaving her as well. I promise. Brenna had said the same thing, hadn't she? Poor kid.

    It wasn't that he was completely fine with leaving her, either, but he didn't think he had a choice; skilled as Marliss was, she was no replacement for a soldier of his caliber, and Rex knew that both himself and Fives were necessary to complete this mission. Still, he couldn't suppress the uncomfortable, twisting feeling in his stomach that he was making the wrong decision by leaving the little girl behind.

    Listen to me, Iri,” he said firmly, wiping away the streaks of wet left by her tears and pressing his forehead to hers so that he held her gaze. “I know that you're scared I won't come back, but I will.” He kissed her forehead once, fiercely, before looking back at her. “Be strong for me, okay?”

    Her eyes were still streaming with tears, but the crying had stopped at his words. Despite the trembling of her lower lip, Rex watched as the toddler hiccuped once then nodded slowly, and he felt a flare of something like pride, but it was much, much stronger. “Rex...come back?”

    He nodded and hugged her again. “Rex will come back, Iri'ka.”

    Iri hiccuped again then pressed her face into his chest. “Iri love Rex.”

    It was completely unexpected and for one moment he was flabbergasted. His eyes lifted up to see Fives and Marliss standing together by the Shereshoy's hatch, and he watched as both of them very obviously looked away from him like they hadn't been listening to the exchange.

    When he looked down at Iri, she was still pressed against him; he wondered if she had any idea what the words meant, then decided he didn't care. Rex knew that he was probably doing this all wrong and Iri would be scarred for life because of his inexperience, but in this moment he thought that the most natural course of action was the correct one, so he embraced her again and kissed her cheek. “I love you too, Irini. Help Aunt Marliss keep an eye on the ship, okay?”

    The little girl nodded into his chest and did not argue when he passed her over to the blonde woman, who looked at him with an expression of warmth like he'd never seen. “Don't worry,” she murmured as Rex reached for the blasters that Fives was handing him. “I'll take care of her until you get back.”

    Thanks,” Rex replied, swallowing hard as he looked away from the child. He glanced at Fives, who'd been leaning against the bulkhead in a casual manner that Rex knew better than to believe; the tension in his brother's jaw indicated that he was nervous about this mission as well. “Ready?”

    I was decanted ready,” Fives replied with a wink at Marliss, who rolled her eyes even as she blew him a kiss with her free hand.

    Iri had turned to watch the clones leaving. As the hatch opened, Rex watched as her eyes grew big and fear crossed her little face. In response, he offered the toddler a sharp salute, taking heart when she actually giggled even though he could see that she was starting to cry again.

    I'll be right back, Iri, he thought as he forced himself to turn away. I keep my promises.

    When Rex followed Fives onto the Kaminoan ship, the first thing he noticed was that it was quiet. Had he voiced the observation, no doubt his brother would have quipped that it was too quiet, but neither one said anything as they slipped into a corridor that he figured used to be pristine.

    Time and disrepair had left it dingy, and many of the lights set into the ceiling flickered and sputtered, as if they weren't getting enough power. The floor had once been smooth and polished, but was now scuffed and littered with bits of debris. It was far too warm and there was a somewhat damp, rancid smell to the air, as if some kind of fruit had been left out in the open to rot. Rex wondered if the conditioning unit that normally kept a ship like this at a comfortable temperature was malfunctioning.

    Fives indicated the hallway before them and the two clones began to walk forward with cautious steps. “Mar said that the sensors found a life-sign coming from the area up ahead.”

    The cockpit?”

    The former ARC pursed his lips. “No. Cockpit's behind us, from what I could tell. Must be her lab or something.”

    Rex placed a hand on his right-hand blaster as if to reassure himself. “Right. Let's move out.”

    They moved carefully, but tried not to take too long, as each second that they spent here was bringing them – and Iri and Marliss by extension – further into danger should the Imperials show up. Again, Rex felt apprehension about his decision to even have Iri along on this mission, but he forced it aside to focus on his job. He'd made a choice; besides, Marliss had been given strict instructions: should the Imps come, she was to make a break for it immediately, whether or not Fives and Rex had returned. As far as the former captain was concerned, Iri's safety was his highest priority no matter what the situation.

    But still, he wanted to return to her.

    Having taken point, Rex paused at an intersection of hallways, ears straining. He'd thought he heard the soft beep of a computer console, but wasn't sure. Beside him, he felt Fives halt as well, felt his brother tilt his head to listen for whatever it was Rex had heard. After a moment it sounded again, louder and more distinct, and Rex nodded to the corridor that led to the right, where they could now see an open doorway with a light shining through. Fives took a breath. They stepped forward together so that they could peer through the doorway.

    Within was a laboratory of some kind, though Rex knew immediately that this was no normal, Kaminoan-sanctioned operation. There were no working lights in the ceiling; rather, the strong glow seemed to be emanating from the myriad of computer consoles which were scattered around haphazardly, on desks, tables, chairs or on the floor itself, and there were copious wires running between them, creating a network of tangled lines that were just waiting to be trod upon. Along with this, Rex could make out several larger pieces of equipment that he presumed had some scientific worth, though he had no clue what their use might be.

    The rancid smell was strong, here. Rex and Fives exchanged a wary look, then moved across the threshold, searching the area for any signs of life. As he moved, the thought occurred to Rex that Nala Se was dead and all their efforts had been for nothing, but he had to know for certain. Glancing at Fives, Rex moved his left hand in the signal that meant “check the perimeter;” while his brother nodded and moved to do so, Rex continued stepping through the center of the room.

    Since he wasn't technically dealing with an unfriendly, he'd not drawn either of his blasters even though his hands were itching to have a weapon within them. Rex took a deep breath, tried not to gag at the kriffing stink, and surveyed the area, searching. The room wasn't particularly large, and from what he could see, all the power on the ship had been routed to this area, which indicated that Nala Se – or someone – was spending all of their time in the lab. How in the void could a long-neck hide in this room, anyway? He spotted Fives along the far wall; his brother glanced around and gave a shrug that seemed to say, I don't know where she is, either.

    Are you here to kill me?”

    Despite the fact that the voice was slightly hoarse, the familiar lilt of the Kaminoan made the hairs on the back of Rex's neck stand up. Very slowly, he turned his head to see her step out from behind some kind of massive, blinking piece of lab equipment. Large, liquid gray eyes were fixed on his face and she moved like a shadow on the sea, blinking at him slowly in the manner the long-necks did when they were confused.

    He saw at once that she had not been taking care of herself, either because she was preoccupied with some other task or because she didn't know how; jobs like cooking and cleaning were usually reserved for Kaminoans of a lower station than Rex supposed Nala Se had been on her homeworld, so perhaps she'd never had the chance to learn such things. Where she normally would have been dressed in crisp, white clothing common to her kind, she was wearing something tattered and careworn, a tunic that was clearly made for another species because it was far too big for her.

    For one moment, one moment only, Rex allowed himself a flare of anxiety at seeing a Kaminoan again, but he pushed the feeling aside to complete his mission. “No, ma'am,” he said, adding on the honorific out of long-ingrained habit. “We're not here to kill you. We mean you no harm.”

    With this he gestured to Fives, who came to his side immediately. The clones faced the Kaminoan and for a moment it was silent save for the beat of Rex's heart, so clearly discernible in his ears.

    Nala Se stood a few meters away from the clones, blinking and tilting her head to the side as she replied. “You are no stormtroopers.”

    No, ma'am,” Fives said. “But we are clones.”

    Of course you are,” she replied, clasping her hands before her and – to Rex's surprise – giving a low bow. “I must admit, it is good to see a familiar face.”

    By the incredulous look Fives shot him, Rex wondered if the other clone thought it had been a joke as well, but there wasn't time for them to dwell on such things. Rex cleared his throat and pitched his voice to be low and urgent even as he spoke in a normal rhythm. “You are Nala Se?” She nodded and he felt a knot in his chest relax just a bit. “We're here to rescue you.”

    From what?”

    She sounded truly perplexed, which made Rex's brows knit. “From the Empire.”

    Who are on the way even as we speak,” Fives added as he tilted his chin towards the entrance. “Which means we shouldn't linger.”

    Nala Se blinked again and cast a brief glance around the lab before looking back at the clones; the movement of her head showed Rex how gaunt she looked, how wan and abnormally pale, even for a Kaminoan. “I am afraid I cannot leave, just yet. I have much work to complete.”

    We know,” Rex replied. He considered, then took a step towards her, watching how her eyes seemed to swirl like quicksilver, an indication of agitation. He pitched his voice to a softer register and tried not to think of the irony of a clone consoling a long-neck. “That's why we sought you out-”

    I cannot return to Kamino,” she broke in, adding a single shake of her head. “I have been exiled; a device has been embedded into my tissue so that should I attempt to return to the planet's surface, I will be destroyed.”

    At this, Rex and Fives exchanged a look of frustration before Rex took another step forward. “We're not going to Kamino, ma'am. My brother and I want to find a cure for our rapid-aging, and were hoping that you could help us.”

    I am trying,” she mused, stepping over to the nearest computer console and studying it as she spoke. “But it is taking longer than it should-”

    Her words halted when Fives' wrist-comm began to chirrup. Rex felt his body tense as the image of Marliss – Iri seated in her lap – bloomed before them. “Long-range scanners picked up three Imperial class ships approaching,” the blonde woman said without preamble as her eyes remained fixed on a point out of their field-of-vision. “I'm not sure of their exact heading, but if they're coming here, they'll arrive within an hour.”

    Fives swore under his breath, but Rex looked back at the Kaminoan, noting how her eyes had latched onto the holographic image of the woman and the child. “None of us have as much time as we'd like,” he said, causing her to look at him. “And while I don't know exactly what the Empire will do to you if they find you, I can't imagine it will be to your liking. I think it's best if you come with us.”

    Nala Se did not respond for a moment; instead, her gaze remained fixed on the image of Marliss and Iri, which Fives acknowledged, then dismissed after thanking Marliss and bidding her goodbye. Just as Rex was going to speak again, the Kaminoan turned her eyes to him, and he was stunned to see that she was trembling, though from what he couldn't have said. It was a bizarre sight, as he'd never seen a Kaminoan express any kind of true emotion, but as he studied her, he thought that she seemed...stricken.

    Of course I will come with you,” she said after a moment. “Of course I will help you with your cause. But my work...” Long, graceful arms swept around the room. “I cannot leave it behind. I will also require adequate facilities in which to complete it.”

    Rex nodded and glanced at Fives; this had been discussed to some degree, though he had not had a chance to speak to Caith or Jensine. “We have a...base on Alderaan,” he replied. “It's secure and there's a good deal of room.”

    The Kaminoan nodded again and her gaze grew distant, as if she was lost in thought. It occurred to Rex that she was not completely in her right mind, but he had no time to dwell on the matter. Fives made a sound of irritation under his breath and spoke so that only Rex could hear. “We need to get moving, vod.”

    Nodding, Rex cleared his throat, causing Nala Se to look down at him again. “We'll help you transport some of your equipment, but we can't take everything; if you show us the most vital components, we can bring them aboard our vessel.”

    About half an hour later, Rex and Fives had managed to carry several consoles, crates of datapads, and some heavy, shabla thing called a “genetic image sequencer” aboard the Shereshoy; the clones had grown more and more anxious with each passing minute, but they tried to collect everything they could, because all of this would have been for nothing if Nala Se could not do her work.

    Finally, they were ready to leave the Kaminoan vessel. Because the Imperials were on the way, Fives and Rex had decided that it would be best to destroy all evidence that Nala Se – or themselves – had been present at all, thinking to make it look as if the ship had been attacked and destroyed by pirates or brigands. Once Rex ensured that Nala Se and all of her equipment were safely aboard the Shereshoy, they did one last sweep of the Kaminoan vessel, searching for anything else that might prove useful, then headed back to their ship.

    The moment that Rex stepped through the hatch, Iri, who'd been in Marliss' arms just as she'd been when he left, shrieked his name and reached for him with her little arms. While Fives and Marliss moved to the helm and guns, respectively, to maneuver the ship to a safe distance, Rex embraced the small girl and held her tightly, inhaling the scent of her soap as he felt a swell of gratitude that he had been able to keep his promise.

    She is your child?” Nala Se's voice was soft against the whine of the Shereshoy's guns as they powered up. At the sound of the Kaminoan, Iri looked up with wide eyes and Nala Se stared back down at her.

    Rex pressed the toddler to his chest and thought about Brenna. “Yes. She's mine.”

    I have never-”

    The Kaminoan was cut off as the sound of cannon fire filled the area. Iri whimpered and ducked her head into Rex's shoulder, trembling, and he spoke softly to her, trying to calm her down. “It's okay, Iri'ka,” he murmured, rubbing her back. “It's just Uncle Fives and Aunt Marliss making some fireworks. It's not going to hurt us; I can show you, so you can see for yourself.”

    As he spoke, he moved to the cockpit, Nala Se trailing behind. There, Fives was grinning as a hail of plasma bolts were lobbed from the Shereshoy towards the Kaminoan vessel, igniting it in a shower of saffron sparks that were almost immediately sucked into nothing by the vacuum of space. Rex felt Iri turn to watch, and he had to smile as her eyes widened at the sight. It was pretty impressive.

    Once the display was over, Fives pressed a button on the comm. “Great work, Mar'ika.”

    I can aim when it counts,” was her reply, and Rex had to snicker as Fives shifted somewhat uncomfortably in his chair.

    The former ARC glanced back at Rex and Nala Se. “So...next stop: Alderaan?”

    Brenna. It had been nearly two days since she'd gone missing; now that his own mission was over, Rex found that he could turn his attention back to her, and he felt the sting of fear again. What had happened to her in the interim? Was she okay? Was she even alive...?

    He shook the thought away and took a breath; Ahsoka had promised to comm the very moment she knew something, and he had to get his daughter home before he could start his own search. His daughter. In his arms, Iri had leaned against his chest again, her eyes still fixed on the remnants of the explosion. No matter what, Rex knew that they had to leave this place at once. “Yeah,” he said after a moment, swallowing thickly. “Let's go.”

    *****

    A/N: I wrote this fic long before the premier of Season Six. Though Nala Se is now portrayed in a negative light, prior to this, she always struck me as one of the more sympathetic Kaminoans where the clones were concerned.

    Marliss' “aim where it counts” comment and Fives' subsequent discomfiture are references to an event in Chapter 27 of TFK, and one of my favorite jokes ever. (Because kicks to the groin are funny and I'm a twelve year old at heart.)

    Thank you for reading!

    Next time: Brenna vs. Arcas
    Last edited by laloga, Aug 20, 2014
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  18. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

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    Whew! I am glad they got Nala - just in time and hopefully her essential datafiles and equipment too will help in the further investigating/uncovering of a cure.

    **

    Ahsoka was a treat to read of. Sounds like she's having a whirl of riveting adventures. Touched by her ready assistance for Rex [face_love] but am puzzled and concerned about her terseness around her own personal situation. She deserves happiness too. :)

    **

    Rex with Irini - continues to be absolutely d'awwww. [face_love]

    [:D]

    [:D]
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  19. gracesonnet Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2014
    star 1
    I was also annoyed at how Nala Se wound up being a jerk in the season 6 episodes. I prefer to think of her like this instead.
  20. laloga Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2011
    star 2


    @Nyota's Heart: You'll learn more about what Ahsoka's been up to in later chapters. It was fun to write her - especially with Rex. :) Gah, writing Rex and Iri was too much fun, even through all the angst. They are a treat together. Thank you so much for the comments! [face_love]

    @gracesonnet: Ugh, yeah, her character's turnaround was bizarre, but I guess that's par for the course in TCW. [face_dunno]Thank you for the comment! :)



    *****

    Chapter Fifteen
    Meanwhile...

    She was certain of only two things: that her name was Brenna, and that she was going to get out of this mess if it kriffing killed her.

    At the rapid rate that Arcas and her other captors were pushing her, she thought that it very well may come to such a thing. To the best of her reckoning, given that she hadn't seen a chrono in some time, they'd had her for nearly two days, and she was falling into something of a rhythm. She would be brought from her cabin with her eyes covered, then led to wherever they wanted her to slice from so that she could “do her thing,” as Zoea had put it. When she was done, Brenna's eyes would be covered again and she'd brought back to the criminals' ship.

    She had no idea how large their operation was, or how many other people were involved in each of the “jobs,” as she had only seen Arcas, Zoea and occasionally Oro. The Iridonian had drugged Brenna a few more times to ensure that she remained compliant, but Brenna was learning that she could fight the effect of the hycosine if she concentrated. At first her ability to resist had been small, when she'd spoken back to Zoea before, but gradually she discovered that she could do little, rebellious things that increased her confidence and helped her focus her anger and her fear. She tripped – on purpose – when they told her to walk. When she was ordered to remain quiet, she coughed or cleared her throat, or hummed under her breath. If she was told to be still, she tapped her foot inside of her shoe.

    Little acts of rebellion, indeed, but they granted her courage. With her courage, came hope and later determination, so that on the second day of her imprisonment, even as she felt the fine hycosine powder blown across her face, Brenna was planning her escape.

    The obstacles to such a thing were many: bound hands, behind a locked door and weak from exhaustion and the lingering effects of the hycosine and the terror it had induced. Brenna also knew that she was no match for any of her captors, physically or – she reluctantly admitted to herself – mentally. Not right now, when it took so much energy to keep the emotions of fear and anger, the ones that had been overwhelming for too long, at bay. Anyway, had she been able to escape, she had no clue where she was or how to get...well, anywhere, really, because should she manage to leave, she didn't know where she'd even go.

    That, more than anything else, was the most frustrating part of the ordeal; the blank wall in her mind that separated now from before. She was aware that the loss of her memory was due to the hycosine, but she wondered as well if her mind had finally been overcome with the relentless onslaught of emotions and had shut down in a way to protect herself, to allow her to focus on the very basics of self-preservation rather than dwell on the terror that would have otherwise crippled her to the point of helplessness. She decided that it was wisest to dwell on now and worry about before at a later time.

    Brenna was done with feeling helpless.

    Patience, however, that would be her ally. As much as it frustrated her to wait, she knew that eventually her captors would make a mistake, and she vowed that she would be ready, hence the little rebellions; they gave her something else besides grief and fear to focus on, and increased her courage and confidence.

    On the later part of the second day of her capture, Arcas came to the cabin where they'd been holding her. She'd been seated on the bed, leaning her head against the wall and trying to sleep in order to gather her strength for the next ordeal; it wasn't working. The moment she heard the door hiss open, she tensed but did not move, did not even open her eyes to see who'd come in because she'd learned their footsteps by now. Arcas' tread was erratic and light, as if he wasn't truly touching the floor. Despite her slender frame, Zoea's was heavier and held more purpose. Oro's steps were slurred and sullen, something she likened to the blurred speech of someone who was drunk.

    So she knew without having to look that it was Arcas who had come to pay her a visit. He stepped into the cabin and closed the door behind him; she heard the soft beep of the panel as it locked, then she heard him approach her apparently sleeping form, coming to a halt beside the bunk about an arm's length from where she leaned against the bulkhead. It had been some hours since Zoea had drugged her last and she was tired, though the presence of this man had set her on a knife's edge, because unlike any of her other captors, Brenna understood that Arcas knewher from before.

    I know you're not sleeping.” His voice...it moved through her with all the familiarity of a shiver wrought by an icy gust of wind, and despite herself she trembled. Fear hammered within her heart but she tried to push it away, to focus on what he was saying and why, rather than think about how unfair it was that she could remember the sound of his voice and so little else. “Brenna...open your eyes.”

    Damn the hycosine. Her eyes opened and she started back, her head knocking into the bulkhead because he was closer than she'd reckoned. Gray eyes held hers and she shivered again because there was no warmth in them. For a long moment he studied her, then he reached his hand forward to skim her chin; rather than jerk away she forced herself to remain calm and focused on keeping her mind alert for anything that might serve her single-minded purpose of escape.

    Perhaps she should have felt something when she looked at him; she remembered doing so, before when he'd indicated to Zoea that he and Brenna had a past connection of some kind, and she'd felt a corresponding flare of anger. But in the time since she had been unable to remember exactly what it was that had passed between them to elicit such a response. Now, her emotions were centered on her captivity, on her present predicament. Her past brought her nothing, and she knew that she couldn't dwell on it, right now.

    But still, there was anger at what he'd done to her recently. There was fear as well, for she was all-too-aware of how vulnerable she was in the drugged state of the hycosine; neither Arcas nor Oro had tried to take advantage of her – save that one occasion with Oro, when she'd nearly managed to escape – but she did not expect such a thing to last.

    Beneath the anger and the fear, bolstering them, was determination.

    It was this that she kept in the forefront of her thoughts when she met his eyes. Arcas looked at her another long moment, then exhaled. When his breath touched her lips it made her want to grimace. “You always were fun to have around, if nothing else.”

    Fury swam through her veins, alternately setting them afire and filling them with ice. But still, she forced herself to remain quiet, to stare at him as if she were still addled by the drugs and helpless. Soon, she promised herself as she watched the corner of his mouth lift into a half-smile, a mockery of something she couldn't quite recall. Very, very soon.

    There was a hissing sound as the door opened behind him and Zoea stepped in, fingering a blaster on her hip even as she held a second within her grasp. “What are you doing, Arcas?”

    Just checking to see if she needs another dose,” he replied, easing away from Brenna. “Have we reached Fondor?”

    Fondor. It was hardly anything, just a crumb of information, but her brain leaped for it, latched on and consumed the morsel as if it were a feast. Fondor...in the Colonies. Near the Core.

    Nearly.” Zoea stepped forward, reached out to tug the sleeve of Arcas' jacket and pull him towards her with her free hand. “Leave her, Arcas.”

    There was anger in the Iridonian woman's voice when she spoke, and her eyes flashed to Brenna once before locking onto Arcas. “She's still feeling the hycosine? It's been a long time since I dosed her.”

    Arcas had turned and put his hands on Zoea's hips; Brenna wanted to look away but did not want to give them any reason to think that she was cogent, so she kept her head where it was and her gaze ahead, unfocused and lazy. He smiled and ran a fingertip along one of the tiny horns at the top of Zoea's head, causing her eyes to close in pleasure.

    Oh, Force. Brenna tried to fight back a grimace. Please...just go before you get too affectionate.

    As if reading Brenna's mind, Zoea caught Brenna's eyes and pulled Arcas to her in a passionate kiss, which he returned with enthusiasm; even as her gaze remained on them, Brenna unfocused her eyes and diverted her attention to the hum of the ship's engines, which were reaching the pitch they did when the vessel was preparing to drop out of hyperspace.

    When the lovers parted, Zoea gave Arcas a look that was strangely familiar. Love, Brenna realized after a moment. She loved him. A glance at Arcas showed that he seemed to be returning the look, but Brenna had her doubts.

    It didn't matter.

    Here,” Zoea said, handing him the spare blaster she'd brought. “We'll need all the help we can get, here. Oro says this place is likely to be hot.”

    Arcas accepted the weapon and stowed it in a holster at his side, then nodded to the open doorway behind him. “They can do it, though, right? They can keep the authorities occupied while we do our thing?”

    Oro and the others done a decent job, so far,” Zoea replied with narrowed eyes. “You're not getting cold feet now, are you?”

    He smiled at her, and Brenna felt her throat get tight despite herself; she knew that smile. The idea occurred to her that she used to love it, and the realization made her a little sick to her stomach. “I'm ready to be done with this, so we can start the next phase of our plan,” he said in a quiet voice, stroking his fingertips along the geometric tattoos that crossed Zoea's cheek. “Aren't you?”

    More than ready.” In the background, Brenna could hear the ship's engines whining as they slowed further, shifted to impulse power, then slid the vessel to a halt.

    Arcas beamed down at the Iridonian. “Then let's go.”

    *

    Like every other time, Brenna was led along; this time, however, she was more in control of her faculties than ever before, and as she followed Zoea and felt Arcas' grip at her bound – again – wrists, she was able to pay close attention to the site of this “job.” Even limited by the opaque goggles, she could tell that they had brought her aboard another vessel of some kind, and that it was relatively quiet at the moment, though she could hear a distant alarm.

    This seemed to add a sense of urgency to Arcas and Zoea's steps, and Brenna was forced along faster than ever before so that she was practically running. Finally, they reached their destination, and she was plopped into a chair as the goggles and the cuffs were removed so she could do her work. While Arcas muttered instructions to Brenna, Zoea stood by the door, blaster raised.

    As before, Brenna's body and mind seemed to know what to do without her having any recollection of how she knew such a thing; Zoea had mentioned that hycosine did not affect her semantic or procedural memory, which may have been a comfort had Brenna been able to devote part of her attention to caring about such a thing right now.

    Always, it was money that they were after, so Brenna's fingertips moved of their own accord as she initialized the transfer of funds into one of the accounts that Arcas had set up. The sound of the alarm grew louder and she felt Arcas tense beside her while she worked; she noted that he and Zoea exchanged nervous looks and she realized that something was not going as it should. Hope flared within her heart as her body worked.

    Suddenly there was a choked sort of noise over Zoea's comm, and when the Iridonian woman replied, Oro's voice sounded. He was afraid. “We need help...what is your location?”

    Help with what? The guards?” Arcas' voice was wary and Zoea repeated the question into her comm. As she listened, Brenna noted that the attention of her captors was elsewhere, so she hastily pulled up a general query of the area, thinking maybe she could find a map, a way out. There. Yes, they were on a ship of some kind, a mobile banking unit favored by some of the larger companies. There were escape pods...a bit far from her location, but she thought she could make it if she was fast.

    Oro's reply to the question of the guards was...confusing, to say the least. “I...I don't know...it's...something's not right, not at all. We need your help. Where are you?”

    Zoea narrowed her eyes again and shot Arcas a look as she hefted her blaster. “I'll go check on them. You'll be okay?”

    He nodded and the Iridonian slipped out of the room. Now, Brenna and Arcas were alone. Having closed the schematics of the ship, Brenna had resumed her initial task, but she was counting down the seconds in her head, waiting for the right moment, because once Zoea was far enough away, Arcas would be unable to get help.

    And he would need it, because there was only so far a desperate woman could be pushed.

    Maybe he sensed her intent, somehow. Maybe he knew her well enough to note how her fingertips had slowed their movements, or how her breathing became suddenly and suspiciously deep. Maybe she was not as clever as she hoped.

    Arcas cleared his throat and spoke to her. “It won't work, Bren. Whatever it is you're planning...it won't work.”

    You don't know that, she wanted to say, but her words died inside her throat when he pressed the muzzle of his blaster to the side of her temple. Apparently he wasn't taking any chances.

    Get up.”

    She complied, rising from her chair in one motion. The movement caused the seat to swivel to one side and bump against the desk.

    Put your hands behind your head.”

    Brenna did so, noting how her hair felt greasy beneath her palms, as she'd not had a chance to wash it recently. Since...

    She didn't know.

    On your knees.”

    Again, she did as he said, but within her heart, within her mind, she knew it was for the last time. Her heart was beating fast but she was strangely calm, as if she'd broken through a cloudy cover of terror and was surrounded by clear, cold rationality. The metallic floor was cold even through the material of her pants, and she listened as he stepped close behind her, the blaster now at the back of her neck, just below the place where her hands were clasped together.

    It's a pity, Bren,” he said slowly, pushing the muzzle closer to her spine. “You and I...we could have done great things together.”

    Liar,” she managed to reply, then everything happened at once.

    Brenna's body was ready, more so than her brain, it seemed. There was no thought that propelled her actions, only pure instinct that had been sharpened by fear and anger over the course of the last two days. The muscles of her calves and thighs bunched, brought her to standing even as she twisted her torso and jabbed her left elbow backwards, directly into Arcas' crotch; she allowed herself no satisfaction from his resulting yelp because there was no time for such things. Instead, she whirled her body around, managed to send her foot into his hand for a swift kick, knocking the blaster from his grip and sending it to the floor with a clatter.

    On the edges of her vision, she caught a flicker of a strange color, a dusky kind of orange, but she paid it no mind because all of her attention was taken up with her impending freedom.

    Arcas was groaning over her attack, but he'd remained upright even as the blaster had slid from his grasp; there was a beat, then they each lunged for the fallen weapon. Brenna reached it first and within moments she was gripping it with a surety that she didn't know she had, and she was pointing it at Arcas.

    Now, time slowed.

    Gray eyes met hers and his hands were trembling as he raised them. She watched as his mouth opened like he was about to speak, which was when she pulled the trigger. The blaster-bolt illuminated his face – was he surprised? She certainly was – scorched his chest, his heart, and pushed him backward onto the floor where he'd had her kneeling moments ago.

    Arcas was dead and it was by her hand, but her first thought was to wonder if she'd killed before, because the blaster felt right in her grip. The idea was beyond unsettling, but she tried to ignore it for now and focus on getting out, as the alarm was still blaring and she figured that Zoea would be back any moment. She took a breath to collect herself, then looked up towards the exit, because she only had seconds to get out and find an escape pod-

    That was when she saw the Togruta female.

    Standing almost within the shadows cast by the consoles where Brenna had been working minutes ago, the Togruta was younger than Brenna by a few years, at least, though it was difficult to gauge such a thing when you didn't know your own age. Her montrals curved gracefully upward, not quite full-grown but tall enough to show that this woman was moving through adolescence at a good clip. Blue eyes, large eyes, watched Brenna's movements with an unsettling kind of familiarity, though there was a sort of calm within their depths as well, one that Brenna recognized a little bit.

    Her hands were bare and raised, palms slightly bent towards Brenna as if in supplication, or to show that she held no weapon, which was far more likely. She was dressed simply: a long coat, boots, pants, shirt, all in dark colors as if to keep her inconspicuous. But such a thing would have been almost impossible with the Togruta's striking coloring: skin the color of warm cinnamon, white lines that marked the delicate planes of her face, and alternating blue and white chevrons that covered her montrals and lekku.

    But that surprise of seeing a stranger here and now was nothing, nothing compared to the moment when the newcomer spoke. “Brenna Damaris?”

    Who are you?” And how do you know my name? Brenna had no wish to shoot her, not at all, but with freedom so close, she couldn't risk any of Arcas or Zoea's coworkers stopping her. She had not seen this female before, but that didn't mean much to a woman whose memory was in fragments. Brenna kept her blaster trained on the Togruta and added: “Get back.”

    Nodding, the Togruta took a step backward so that she was nearly pressed to the wall. The alarms were still blaring, adding a surreal quality to the already bizarre moment. “Brenna, I'm not going to hurt you,” the Togruta said, her eyes holding Brenna's gaze. There was earnestness in her voice. “I'm a friend of Rex's. He asked me to find you.”

    Rex.

    The name was familiar, but only in passing. The Togruta seemed to study Brenna as she'd said the name, but all Brenna could do was focus on the first thing that had startled her. “You know my name.”

    I do. Brenna Damaris.” The corner of the Togruta's mouth lifted into a smile, incongruous against the sound of the alarm in the background and the sight of Arcas' body on the floor between them. “We've met before.”

    The Togruta paused, then placed a sienna hand against her chest and met Brenna's eyes. “I'm Ahsoka Tano.” She seemed to hesitate, then gave Brenna a look that was filled with sorrow. “Rex asked me to find you. Rex. He's with Irini, and they're both safe, as far as I know. They're worried about you, Brenna.”

    Rex. Irini. The names were like the melody of a song she'd heard once but couldn't recall how the lyrics went. But she wanted so much to believe that there were people looking for her out there, people who loved her and wanted to find her, for all that she couldn't remember their names or their faces. So Brenna took a deep breath and tried to ignore the wailing of the alarm and remember, but it was no good. All that she found echoing in her mind were the two names, but there was nothing attached to them that would clue her in to their connection with who she'd been.

    You don't remember.” Ahsoka's voice was quiet and her eyes seemed even larger than before. “I thought-” She paused and shook her head, her lekku swaying slightly, then she stepped forward.

    Brenna's hand tightened on the blaster, causing the Togruta to freeze and raise her hands again. “I don't want to hurt you,” Brenna admitted with a shake of her head. “But I'm leaving this place, and no one is going to stop me.”

    I know,” Ahsoka replied, nodding. “But where will you go?”

    I'll figure it out.”

    Come with me.”

    Brenna stared at her, trying not to appear dumbfounded. “And why should I do that? How can I trust you?”

    Ahsoka's chin tilted to the side and the movement that followed was too fast for Brenna to catch until it had already happened. One second the Togruta's hands were raised, outstretched, the next she'd reached into her coat and pulled out a slender cylinder that Brenna found she recognized. A lightsaber.

    You're a Jedi?”

    A flicker of a smile crossed Ahsoka's face as she held out the cylinder towards Brenna, who noted that what appeared to be the hollow from where the energy blade would spring was facing the Togruta as she offered the hilt of the Jedi-weapon to Brenna.

    I am a Jedi,” Ahsoka said in a quiet voice. “This weapon is my life, and right now, I'm giving it to you, Brenna. You can take it if you want. You can turn me into the Empire, but I don't think you will. I know that trust has to be earned, but that takes time that we don't have-” Her montrals tilted as the alarm blared. Was it louder, now? “-so I'm giving you my trust in the hopes that you'll give me yours.”

    You could have stolen that.” Even as she said the words, Brenna lowered her hand to let the muzzle of the blaster slide down harmlessly. Her eyes were fixed on Ahsoka's face and she was trying so hard to remember, to part the veils that rested over her mind and see what was in front of her.

    There was a weighted pause, then Ahsoka shook her head and stepped forward, the hilt of her saber still extended to Brenna as an offering. When Brenna didn't take it immediately, the hilt lifted from the Togruta's hand and began to levitate slowly towards Brenna, the sight causing her to suck in her breath. “I didn't steal it, Brenna. I made this weapon with my own two hands. It's my life, and for now I'm giving it to you.”

    Now they were only a few paces apart. Ahsoka's eyes had not left Brenna's, not once, and she realized that her own eyes were pricking with unshed tears. Everything else fell away: Arcas' body, the alarm, the glow of the consoles and the presence – somewhere – of Zoea and the rest of the criminals who'd taken her life away from her. Brenna tried to swallow back her grief but it refused to stay away, and when she spoke her voice was barely a whisper. “I don't want your life. I want mine back.”

    Ahsoka nodded once. “I know. I can help you, Brenna. I know it's hard to trust anything right now...but please come with me.”

    Brenna wanted to trust that Ahsoka spoke the truth, but she was afraid as well, because right now she felt like she was standing at the edge of a precipice, looking into the unknown, into a great inky blackness, and this woman – Ahsoka – was asking her to take a step forward and fall.

    As if reading her mind, Ahsoka spoke again, her voice quiet against the sounds of running footsteps as Zoea and the others made their way back. Time was even shorter now than it had been, before. “Rex is lost without you, Brenna. Please come with me. Please come back to him.”

    Rex. Irini. The names were written on her heart, somehow, and she resolved to find out how, and why, for herself. Brenna took a deep breath and nodded slowly, lowering the blaster but keeping her finger by the trigger as she reached forward and took the proffered lightsaber. “Okay. Show me the way.”

    *****

    A/N: This final scene was one of those I had in my head long before I wrote it. I know that I tackle the “memory loss” trope in a lot of my fics, but there's something about the idea of rediscovering oneself that's endlessly fascinating to me.

    In the outline, Bren wasn't supposed to kill Arcas, but Zoea. However, considering the history that Bren and Arcas have, this felt more realistic and intense.

    Thank you so much for reading! [:D]

    Next time: Bren and Rex's reunion, and angst. Yes, there's going to be angst for a while, though not forever. I promise things will balance out very soon. :)
    Last edited by laloga, Aug 25, 2014
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  21. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

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    Let me tackle the memory thingy first. Yikes, hopefully in familiar surroundings and less stress, and with time from the last infusion of the hycosine, stuff will start to fall back into place. [face_thinking] Irini, for one, would find it hard to comprehend that her mother has actually 'forgotten' who she is. :( :eek:

    But Bren with Arcas - is she the awesomest or what? =D= Ahsoka was perfect in that final scene, full of trust, urgency, and openness.

    Looking forward to the reunion and I am prepared to squee!!
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  22. gracesonnet Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2014
    star 1

    When I first read "Yikes, hopefully in familiar surroundings and less stress, and with time from the last infusion of the hycosine, stuff will start to fall back into place," I somehow stuck the word "wine" in there and was like, "yes, wine will bring Brenna's memory back!"

    I think I need a nap after this chapter's excitement. Also, shut up, Arcas. Shut up, permanently.
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  23. Nyota's Heart Combos & Paragraphs Host

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    Yup, wine with chocolate. [face_laugh] And strawberries, oh yeah, and Rex. Oooh, my memory would certainly return =P~
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  24. laloga Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2011
    star 2
    Strawberries, chocolate and Rex...where do I sign up? :D
    Last edited by laloga, Aug 27, 2014
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  25. gracesonnet Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2014
    star 1
    I must have watched Empire Records too many times as a youngster because whenever I hear "Rex," I think of the running jokes about Rex Manning, Rex Manning Day, "Oh Rexy, you're so sexy!", etc.

    I can't imagine Anakin going up to Rex and saying, "Heyyy, it's Sex-ay Rex-ay! How you been???" without it ending badly.
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