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Beyond - Legends Saga - Legends Ἀνάγκη – Necessity beyond Sway | Thrawn, OC, drama/tragedy, pre-ANH to TTT | Epic, e-book available

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Chyntuck, Oct 6, 2014.

  1. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    "The needlebug sting" sounds like some old Big Band dance. :)
    Ayesha seems so much more relaxed and happy with her brother around.


    Ayesha’s turn to spar with Brightwater came and LaRone retreated to the bench along the wall to sit at Rumpy’s side. “He can’t win,” he chuckled after watching her bow, duck and twirl for a few minutes, avoiding the scout trooper’s training dagger with every graceful step. “She’s too supple for him, and she still doesn’t follow conventional moves. It’s like she’s dancing.”

    The Wookiee rumbled. [She is dancing.]


    Love that! Of course she's dancing. Everything in her world is art. Even this.

    I'm impressed with her decision to go visit Thrawn. They actually had a civil conversation, and then they went together to the bridge. Nice how it was an act of kindness towards another that brought her back to his company, at least momentarily.
     
  2. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing! A few quick replies before I post chapter 8.
    Thank you! It's easier for Ayesha and Thrawn to have a civil conversation while sticking to a safe topic (if you can call Rukh or Nuso Esva safe!) than discussing the heavy stuff for sure. And I just love writing Rukh. It's everything or nothing with him, he doesn't do half-hearted.
    Oh I'm so happy you like Rukh! He's one of my favourite alien characters in Legends, to the point where I was thinking of writing a story about him. And yes, having him as an ally and a friend counts for a lot, although that could be a double-edged sword once he realises he's been manipulated. That moment is still far away, though.
    I forgot to put endnotes about this -- of course, all the combat forms are named after Legends animals (mostly predators) of Kashyyyk. Yet another thing I need to add to my fanon post, which is expanding to the size of an encyclopaedia by now [face_hypnotized]
    Hehe. For once you won't need to wait for too long for answers -- not that they're coming today of course, that would be too easy, but they'll be here next week.
    ;)
    Oh yes, Thrawn knew exactly what happened on Honoghr, and yes, he's been lying about it to Ayesha. He is anti-slavery, but he's also willing to use 'unorthodox' methods to achieve his goals -- I actually liked how this was foreshadowed in Outbound Flight, when he argues with Maris that killing the slaves is an acceptable price to pay if it will stop the Vagaari. And about the Noghri, of course there's a moment when that will come and bite him in the butt -- not only with regard to his own assassination by Rukh, but also because he won't always be able to keep the truth from Ayesha (spoilerific hint: check out the comic Star Wars: Republic 68: Armor).
    No, there isn't... for now [face_devil]
    [face_laugh]
    She is, isn't she? It helps to have someone in whom you already have absolute trust :)
    Thank you! Unfortunately I haven't been able to complete my OC challenge autumn entry yet, but you will find some background about her dancing there. Oh, and also in the upcoming chapter!
    Being kind to Rukh is also a way for Ayesha to thank Thrawn -- by proxy, if you will. She's still not too secure about addressing him directly, so talking about Rukh was a way around that. But of course, chances are that he misinterpreted it a bit... ;)

    Thanks again, everyone! Next chapter coming up in a few minutes.
     
  3. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading [:D]

    ----------------------------------------------

    Chapter 8: The dance slave

    The two Star Destroyers continued their journey in the Unknown Regions in their chase after Nuso Esva, navigating carefully around the borders of the Chiss Ascendancy towards the depths of space. The alien warlord’s fleet was nowhere to be seen, nor were his Vagaari enemies, but the probe droids constantly fed clues of his passage to the Admonitor. The ship’s slow progress soon slowed down even further as Thrawn took to sending exploration missions to every inhabited planet they encountered to ensure that Nuso Esva had not established himself there and to seek, to the extent this was possible, an alliance with its people.

    It was during such a diplomatic visit to a relatively primitive world called Besron II that things went awry, and the news spread across the Admonitor like wildfire. One of the guptas that the Besri worshipped wandered into the streets of the capital as Captain Parck headed to the Teskabesri’s palace. The speeder hit the giant lizard, which then went on a rampage, and LaRone shot it in the eye, killing it on the spot. The Besri were in an uproar, the Teskabesri’s guards arrested the three-man delegation, and Parck, LaRone and Colonel Sbatkh were to be sacrificed to appease the guptas on the inaugural day of the Feast of the Sun.

    Thrawn and Niriz were conferring with the Admonitor’s and the Grey Wolf’s senior officers when the noise of a heated discussion outside the meeting room became too loud to ignore. Niriz slammed his hand on the door’s activation panel. “What is this ruckus?” he thundered.

    Rukh’s sinewy shape appeared in the doorframe. “I cannot contain Ayesha clan Vos, Captain,” he mewled. “She insists to talk to you.”

    Niriz’s eyes moved to Ayesha, who was standing behind Rukh, flanked by her brother. “Is Daric going to be okay?” she asked anxiously.

    The Captain sighed. “Miss Eskari, this is not the time –”

    “Let Miss Eskari in, Captain,” Thrawn’s even voice came from inside the room. “I believe that she can help us with our planning.” Niriz couldn’t hide the disapproving expression that flashed across his face, but he motioned for Rukh to stand aside and ushered Ayesha and Rumpy in. Thrawn gestured for them to sit on two empty chairs to his left. “Miss Eskari, this is a military meeting,” he said coolly. “It is not an appropriate venue for emotions and fidgeting. Am I making myself clear?” She nodded. “Now here is the situation we face. The Admonitor is not in a position to extract our men before the Feast. Inserting a rescue commando is not an adequate solution on an all-alien world and the risk to the prisoners is too great if we botch this operation. We have therefore decided to resort to a ruse. We sent a message to the Teskabesri to express our dismay at the killing of the sacred gupta and agreed to attend the Feast as originally planned to seal our alliance with them. The military parade our troops were due to conduct before the inauguration has been cancelled, but the Teskabesri is demanding that we participate in the ceremony before the sacrifice as a gesture of goodwill. We are currently discussing options that would enable us to create a diversion to grab the hostages and run for our transport in the general mayhem.” Ayesha nodded again. He activated the holoprojectors. “This is our collection of Besri art. It is admittedly limited, but I would like to hear your thoughts about it.”

    There was a long silence as Ayesha observed carefully the display of paintings and sculpts. “Movement,” she said finally. “Movement and dimensions.”

    Niriz gave her a quizzical look. “Meaning...?”

    “They’re not very mobile, are they?” she asked absent-mindedly, her eyes still on the holos. “Or rather, they’re limited in their range of motion.”

    Thrawn nodded. “Indeed. The Besri are a reptilian species. They are best described as large tortoises. They do have six small limbs but their ability to move is largely dependent on their tail muscle. They coil it underneath their body when immobile and use it to propel themselves from one spot to the next.”

    “But the gupta are the opposite,” she said, pointing at a sculpt representing a winding form covered in misty veils. “They’re flexible and graceful. And they have some sort of thin wings, don’t they?”

    “Are you saying that this represents a gupta?” Niriz asked. “I assure you they look nothing like it.”

    “Yes,” she answered. “Stylized, of course. It shows why they worship them. Look at how these flat triangles curve down and flutter, only to revert to their original form. The Besri are fascinated by the fact that a two-dimensional surface can become a volume.” She looked at Thrawn. “You said there is a ceremony and a feast? Something like the Dance of the Seventy Violet Veils should be more than enough to throw them off-balance. They’ll be completely enthralled.”

    She was interrupted by the buzz of Ensign Washeeya’s comm unit. “We received the details of the ceremony, Sir. The Besri expect you to attend accompanied only by your honour guard, a maximum of twenty people. You will be sitting to the left of the Teskabesri in the centre of the semi-circular amphitheatre. The ceremony itself and the sacrifice will take place on a stage that is being set up in the middle of the arena.”

    Thrawn remained silent for a moment, his eyes glittering with concentration as he scrutinized the holos. “Very well. Please inform the Teskabesri that we will be honoured to be her guests and that we will contribute a dance performance to the inauguration of the Feast.” He turned to an army officer who was sitting next to Ayesha. “General Tasse, I need you to select twenty men for this mission, preferably twenty Chiss with a good knowledge of Minnisiat. Grave, Brightwater, Quiller and Marcross will escort us but remain as backup on the Baratta. Make sure that she is equipped with appropriate sensor jamming against the detection of lifeforms and weaponry. You shall also request all necessary medical equipment from Doctor Cottle; it is likely that our men who are currently being held have been mistreated, and we cannot exclude the possibility that there will be casualties.” His eyes turned to Niriz. “Captain Niriz, contact Captain Vaantaar. He must purchase and send us a dancer at once from one of the worlds which –”

    He was interrupted by Ayesha’s gasp. “You’re going to buy a slave? You’re going to take someone who can’t say no and make them risk their life for you?”

    Thrawn arched an eyebrow, his face as cool and calculating as ever. “We are a little short on time, Miss Eskari. As you know we do not keep a dance troupe on board. We will do our best to ensure that the dancer is safe and we will of course grant him or her freedom as soon as this operation is over, but I do not see that we have any other options.”

    “You have me,” she countered. Rumpy growled tensely. She ignored him. “I’ll do it. You need a dance slave, I was trained to be one. I can do it.”

    Rumpy growled again as Thrawn’s expression wavered ever so slightly. “We might have to take Miss Eskari up on her offer if we are to go ahead with this plan, Sir,” Niriz piped up. “There are only three standard days to the Feast. That we would be able to secure a dancer at such short notice is questionable at best. However, if you will indulge my speaking out of turn, I personally recommend that we don’t involve her and seek a different solution altogether.”

    Thrawn took another, careful look at the holos before glancing back at Ayesha. “No,” he sighed. “There is no other solution. Miss Eskari, I will come and brief you once we finalize the details of the operation.” Rumpy let out a furious howl. “I understand your concern, Rumpacharet, and you may want to believe that I share it. However, your sister is a responsible adult and can make her own choices.” The Wookiee grunted angrily. “The Way of the Wookiee is not the law of this ship,” Thrawn said glacially. “We have three good men down there and I intend to get them back.” He motioned for Prashat, who was standing behind him, to step forward. “Sergeant, you will take Miss Eskari to the ship’s tailor. He is to provide her with everything she may need. You will find the more exotic types of fabric in the storage area under the secondary deck.” He stood up. “You all know what to do. We will meet again tomorrow at nine hundred hours. Dismissed.”

    Niriz approached Ayesha as they filed out of the ready room. “You don’t have to do this, Miss Eskari. You shouldn’t be putting yourself in harm’s way, and I’m saying this as Parck’s friend and colleague.”

    Rumpy growled his approval. “I’m not doing it for Captain Parck, Captain,” she snapped. “I’m doing it for Daric. He’s my friend and I should be there for him when he needs me.” She took Rumpy’s paw in her hand and dragged him away. “Don’t even discuss it,” Niriz heard her say. “It’s a life-debt, you said so yourself.”

    * * *​

    Ayesha looked around in awe as they made their way to their seats in the semi-circular amphitheatre. The stands of the huge arena were occupied by row upon row of strange creatures that looked like giant snakes whose bodies, by an irony of nature, had found themselves encased in tortoise shells from which six disproportionately small limbs were protruding. Thrawn led the little troupe of Chiss warriors to a particularly large female Besri who was sitting on her coiled tail in the middle of the front row. Her grey-green shell was elaborately carved and her scaly head was covered in a sophisticated headdress made of various types of bone. Thrawn bowed deeply as the reptilian sentient surveyed the group. “We agreed that you would be escorted by only twenty people,” the Teskabesri finally hissed in oddly accented Minnisiat. “I count twenty-one.”

    Thrawn tugged none too gently on the chain linked to the collar around Ayesha’s neck, causing her to fall to her knees. “This is not a person, Your Excellency,” he replied in the same language. “This is a slave. Her dancing is the gift we intend to honour you with.”

    The Teskabesri’s neck stretched out of her shell until her head was level with Ayesha’s. A sickening, purplish prehensile tongue emerged from her mouth to draw her face up. Ayesha couldn’t suppress a shiver of disgust. Thrawn took a step forward. “This slave is the property of the Empire of the Hand. It is forbidden to touch her under our law. We came here to make amends and seal an alliance with the people of Besron II on the occasion of the Feast of the Sun. I trust that we both want to avoid any further... misunderstandings.”

    The reptilian alien’s head bobbed up and down as she retracted it into her shell. “That will be acceptable,” she whistled. “Let the Feast begin.”

    Ayesha curled up at Thrawn’s feet, the veils of her dancing costume pooling around her, and surveyed the layout of the place as the ceremony unfolded. The three prisoners were displayed on the stage in the centre of the arena. Their clothes had been torn to shreds and they all sported bruises and gashes as if they had been flogged. They were spread-eagled on large vertical stone disks facing the audience. They had visibly been cuffed in this position for several days, the skin around their wrists and angles was raw and there was blood streaming down their arms. All three men’s heads were sagging on their chest in utter exhaustion.

    The Teskabesri gave a push of her powerful tail and propelled herself from her seat to the stage, where she gave a long speech in a language Ayesha didn’t understand. Her movements were clumsy but they betrayed immense strength. Ayesha’s eyes wandered to the metal grid on the arena floor in front of her. She caught a glimpse of clawed paws and forked tongues underneath, and came to the conclusion that the guptas were held in some sort of underground cave, waiting to be unleashed on the prisoners.

    The Teskabesri sprang back to the stands and Thrawn and his escort stood up. They marched to the arena in perfect military unison and took up their positions on either side of the stage while Thrawn stood alone in the middle and addressed the crowd in Minnisiat. Ayesha saw LaRone’s head jerk up at the sound of his voice. He was covered in bruises but the spark of life was there in his eyes as he took in the scene. A flicker of astonishment crossed his face when his gaze met Ayesha’s. She merely gave him a small wink and returned to Thrawn, who was now announcing her dancing as the gift of the Empire of the Hand to the Besri people.

    She glanced at the prisoners again as she rose gracefully to her feet, letting the translucent fabric of her costume flutter behind her as she switched places with Thrawn. The thin, reedy sound of a flute echoed across the amphitheatre. She focused her mind on the holos of Besri art that she had spent her days studying, picturing the flexible curves and the misty wings of the stylized gupta. The veils hanging from the metal bracelets on her arms and legs flared around her as she moved; a larger, stole-like piece rippled as she lifted it over her head. She saw in the corner of her eye that the Chiss lined around the stage were collecting the veils she was discarding; they waved them in the air, creating a visual shield as they slowly regrouped around the prisoners. By the time the heavy drums kicked in, she had become the sculpt.

    She danced with astounding grace, twirling around the stage like the breeze before a storm, her body flexing and bowing as she flew with the stole. She was nearly naked now, having shed all her veils, but the stage behind her had become a blur of misty movement, and only Thrawn was standing perfectly still, alone to her right as his warriors prepared for the rescue, the hand holding her slave chain barely moving to follow her steps. The assembled Besri were swinging their heads, their tongues extending out of their mouths and floating back and forth, as if seeking to mimic her moves. There was something so obscene to the gesture that she nearly recoiled in horror, but her eyes caught LaRone’s as she spun in a languid pirouette, and the thought of what was in store for them if they failed steadied her step. She was so absorbed in the dance that she hardly noticed the Suwantek shoot overhead, until Rumpy landed at her side with a deafening roar.

    Blaster fire erupted across the arena as Grave and Marcross took up positions in front of the prisoners and started shooting to keep the audience at bay while Brightwater’s speeder bike circled the amphitheatre, spitting laser beams. The Teskabesri ululated an ear-splitting shriek. Her tongue darted forward to get hold of Ayesha, who moved swiftly to the side. It caught the chain instead, tugging it brutally and throwing both her and Thrawn off the stage, while several Besri fighters, who could be distinguished by the baldrics slung over their shells, sprang ahead and landed on the platform with a crash. The Chiss warriors pulled out their charrics and started shooting as well to defend the small group that was working on releasing the prisoners. Rumpy let out another war cry as he unsheathed his ryyk blades to slice the Teskabesri’s tongue off the chain, causing the alien leader to scream again and thrash in pain. The convulsions of her tail activated a lever, the metal grate started moving, releasing the guptas, and as the giant lizards joined the fray, the whole scene descended into chaos.

    More tongues flew towards Ayesha and she thought that she would be dismembered as the purplish muscles wrapped around her limbs, tugging her in all directions at once. Rumpy chopped off the tongue holding her arm, enabling her to pull the chain and whip it viciously at the gupta towering above her. The elegant beast bolted on its rear legs, screeching in fury. Its claw caught the cup of her metal bra as it fell back on all fours in front of her, slicing into her flesh and tearing the bikini off her chest. She saw the massive jaws open, revealing several rows of needle-sharp teeth, and she was lifting the chain again when a blaster bolt hit the dragon-like creature straight in the eye, causing it to collapse on its flank as its wings flapped above it in its final death throes. A fraction of a second later, Thrawn was at her side, his sidearm spitting fire with deadly precision as he aimed it at the guptas that were swarming on them, while Rumpy’s blades spun in the air, releasing her from the Besri’s grip. Rukh was flying around them in a blur of steel grey, stabbing his fighting sickle and his assassin’s knife in the face of any Besri that came within spitting distance. “Now!” the Grand Admiral ordered as the Wookiee finally broke her free.

    Without a sound Rumpy threw her over his shoulder as if she were a sack of chyntuck and grabbed Thrawn by the back of his collar, propelling him on the stage before leaping behind him, followed by Rukh. The Chiss warriors had liberated the prisoners and were retreating towards the Baratta that was hovering in the back of the arena, its boarding ramp lowered on the edge of the platform, while Grave and Marcross provided cover fire. Her head was bobbing on her brother’s shaggy back as he strode across the stage, and she could see Thrawn sprinting behind them, when she glimpsed a flash of slimy purple catching his ankle. He fell flat on his face. “No!” she screamed over the din of the battle. “Thrawn! Rumpy, get Thrawn!”

    More tongues darted towards Thrawn, wrapping around his legs and dragging him back towards the frenzied guptas. Rumpy dropped her unceremoniously among the Chiss warriors and leapt to help Rukh disentangle the Grand Admiral. Their blades shone in the sun in a deadly whirl, and seconds later he carried Thrawn up the boarding ramp, followed by Rukh and finally by Grave, who was pushing Ayesha backwards into the shuttle while still taking out the guptas one by one. A green head suddenly materialized at their feet and flung its tongue around the stormtrooper’s thigh. Without thinking, she grabbed a hand blaster from his belt and fired at point-blank range before the ramp jerked up, throwing her flat on her back and sending Grave tumbling on top of her. Brightwater’s speeder bike shot in behind them and Quiller lifted the Baratta into the sky.

    Ayesha scrambled to her knees and stared in horror at the olive goo splattered over the floor. A blue hand removed the blaster she was still clutching and pulled her to her feet. “Thank you, Miss Eskari,” Thrawn said softly. He took off his white uniform jacket and helped her slip it on to cover her nudity, then steered her gently towards the cargo bay. He was limping. “Doctor Cottle should have a look at that gash on your chest. You are losing a lot of blood.”

    “I’m fine,” she mumbled. “It’s just a scratch.” Thrawn went to object but she ignored him and stumbled to the makeshift med lab. The Emdee droids were lowering Colonel Sbatkh in a bacta capsule while Parck lay immobile on a stretcher. He was deathly pale and had visibly passed out. A medic was affixing a drip line to his arm. Thrawn stood in the doorframe and watched her make her way to LaRone. The stormtrooper’s bruised head was propped up on a pillow as Cottle waved a handheld scanner above him. She dropped to her knees at his side. “Are you okay?”

    LaRone laughed, then winced in pain. “Don’t move, you stupid nerf-herder,” the doctor grumbled. “I won’t get a proper reading and I’ll have to start again. It’s bad enough that you went and got yourself caught, and Ayesha had to come and rescue you.”

    LaRone let out a chuckle and lifted a hand to reach for Ayesha’s face. “You didn’t see her out there, Doc. I might get myself caught again just to watch another one of those rescues.”
     
  4. K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku

    K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Jedi Grand Master star 3

    Registered:
    Apr 18, 2000
    I have no words for how wonderful this story has been! I love how we have seen Ayesha go through unimaginable loss at great cost and arrive some place where she is starting to put the pieces back together and do more than just function but live. She is finally able to give of herself again, perhaps not often, but she is starting to *want* to do things for others. Having Rumpy around has certainly helped as has using her talent to analyze the art in the sector.

    I'm glad Thrawn and Ayesha are at least talking, even if it is simply the communication of daily life. While I want to see Thrawn and Ayesha work things out romantically, I hope that they can at least regain their friendship. They need each other to be their best selves.

    Bravo!
     
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= Ayesha is simply simply amazing! Not only does she step up to the plate, but she knocks it out of the park into the next county! [face_love] [face_love] She has that innate sense of the thing to do and the willingness to do it. Her caring and compassion have not been squashed flatter than a cockroach which you'd expect after everything, practically. LaRone's comment at the end had me [face_laugh] ;)

    And I have to think talking about "daily life" stuff comfortably is a crucial and natural first step. :)
     
  6. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Wow, fantastic rescue scene and action writing there! Ayesha took a huge risk by going as the dancer herself (more soon on that) but pulled everything off spectacularly. Those slimy, prehensile tongues, especially en masse, sound supremely creepy—I wouldn't wish them on anyone! :eek: Hope LaRone and his comrades will have a smooth recovery, but they're in good hands with Cottle even if he is a grouch. :p (And I'm glad to see it wasn't just Ayesha he was getting all grouchy with!)

    That said, this chapter 'kind of brings to light some disturbing aspects of Ayesha. The way she is able to slip so easliy back into the role of nameless slave dancer, even after she's been away from that life for numerous years now (almost like riding a bicycle?!), to the point of being perfectly OK with Thrawn introducing her as "not a person"—it all goes to show, in a way, how much she's internalized the idea of not being her own person or even not being a person at all. And the really harrowing thing here is that, if she hadn't taken on that role, her comrades would have died a gruesome death. :eek: I wonder if there's any hope of her ever truly healing from the feeling of being a non-person—maybe so, but it looks like there's a long way to go on that still. [face_thinking] Lots to think about, indeed!
     
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Findswoman - wow, what an intriguing and thought-provoking spin on Ayesha's volunteering to take on the dancer's role! [face_thinking] I always see her as continuing on her journey of self-reempowerment. @};- But it makes sense that there is some residual effects of her early experiences, still, despite being uber-loved by Yakooboo and others. [face_love]
     
  8. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for the reviews! My week didn't go exactly as planned, so I'm late, I'm horribly late (I actually finished editing this post during my lunch break, and then my [face_love] amazing [face_love] beta worked her magic to have it ready on the spot) so I'll do replies over the weekend [face_blush]

    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading [:D]

    ---------------------------------

    Chapter 9: Deserters

    Thrawn found Ayesha the next morning in the bacta room of the Admonitor’s sick bay. She was wearing a hospital gown and looked very pale in the bluish lights as she stared at the lifeless forms of Parck, Sbatkh and LaRone floating in three tanks. Rumpy was standing at her side, his furry arm wrapped protectively around her shoulders. Thrawn took a step closer and coughed softly to signal his presence. He was leaning on a cane. “How are you feeling?” he asked. “Doctor Cottle informed me that he brought you out of bacta immersion during the night, but I did not expect to see you up and about.”

    She forced a smile. “I’m okay. The bacta treatment was a bit overkill. It was really just a scratch.”

    “It was a brave thing you did, Miss Eskari,” Thrawn said. “On behalf of the crew of both ships, I want to express our most heartfelt thanks.”

    She sighed and gestured towards the three patients in the tanks. “Apparently, it wasn’t good enough. They were smashed up pretty bad during the rescue.”

    “That was to be expected, Miss Eskari. It is not something you could have prevented, your extraordinary talent notwithstanding.” She shrugged. “If I may add,” he continued a little hesitantly, “I do realise that playing the role of a dance slave must have stirred unpleasant memories. I am doubly grateful that you chose to go ahead with this ruse nevertheless.”

    She shrugged again. “It was easy. It’s just what I used to be.”

    There was an uneasy pause. “I also owe you an apology,” he said. “I did not anticipate that the Besri would focus their anger on you. I expected to bear the brunt of their counterattack. It was truly not my intention to put you in harm’s way.” She blushed a little and looked away. Rumpy let out an angry growl, but, to the Grand Admiral’s surprise, it was directed not at him but at her. He hobbled along to face her and cocked an eyebrow. “You knew,” he breathed incredulously. “You understood that they would view your dancing to distract them as an offense to their beliefs, yet you went ahead and volunteered nonetheless.”

    Her gaze returned to LaRone’s limp form floating in the thick liquid. There was a long silence. “You care for Commander LaRone a great deal,” Thrawn said finally.

    “I do. I owe him.”

    There was another long silence before Thrawn spoke again. His tone was now crisp and formal. “I understand. Thank you again for your actions on Besron II. I wish you a prompt recovery. Now if you will excuse me, my presence is required on the bridge.”

    He turned on his heel and limped away. Ayesha sighed and leaned against Rumpy’s chest, her eyes fixed on LaRone once more. The Wookiee ruffled her hair with his paw and let out a small moan.

    * * *​

    Two months passed. LaRone was soon back in business and the little group of friends resumed their daily activities, sometimes in the company of Rukh. Ayesha asked once why the Noghri wasn’t joining them more often. “My duty is to the Grand Admiral,” the alien mewled in his gravelly voice.

    Ayesha didn’t hide her puzzlement. “Surely Thrawn doesn’t need you all the time, does he?”

    “It is not my place to question whether the Grand Admiral needs me. It is my duty to be by his side at all times.”

    Rumpy grumbled an explanation and Ayesha nodded her understanding. “Would you like me to ask him to release you more often, Rukh? I’m sure he won’t mind, and I would like it very much if I could see you more often.”

    The Noghri bowed to her, his hands splayed off to the sides in the gesture she had come to associate with deep reverence. “You honour me deeply, Ayesha clan Vos. But I must fulfil my tasks as demanded of me. The Grand Admiral may require my presence at any time.” Another grunt by Rumpy elicited a small smile. “It is always a source of pleasure to be in your company and in that of your kin-sister, Rumpacharet. But it is above all an honour. Ayesha clan Vos carried the soul of our lord Darth Vader. That she graces me with her presence is beyond what I deserve.” He bowed again. “I must return to my duties. Thank you.”

    The Admonitor and the Grey Wolf were continuing their search for Nuso Esva, but the elusive warlord kept evading them. There were a few chance encounters, sometimes with his fleet, sometime with one of his scouts, and Ayesha was awoken in the middle of the night by the battle stations alarms, but the alien ships always jumped to lightspeed before the Star Destroyers could engage them, and the prevailing mood among the Imperial senior command was one of increasing frustration. “This is like playing hide-and-seek in a big, empty area of space,” Quiller told Ayesha. “Every time we think we have him cornered, he’s gone. He’s too mobile for us. Of course, if the Grand Admiral didn’t insist that we kill two mynocks with one shot and drop deep space probes along the way, we’d be moving faster. He wants to check if the Vagaari or anyone else is hiding out here, but they’re nowhere to be seen either.”

    “That’s weird, you know,” she said thoughtfully. “Especially for the Vagaari. They should have attacked us a long time ago. The art Major Lasall showed me proves that they’re around, and from what I see I’d expect them to be rash and opportunistic, not to wait for a perfect opportunity to ambush us. It’s like they’re under the command of someone else, someone with a long-term plan.”

    “You think they’re in league with Nuso Esva and they’re putting up this show of fighting among themselves to fool us?” Quiller asked.

    She gave him a perplexed look. “Where in the Galaxy did you get that idea?”

    “You said ‘someone with a long-term plan’. That’s a description that fits Nuso Esva. His plans are all wheels within wheels within wheels.”

    She shook her head. “Oh, no, I didn’t mean that. An alliance between them wouldn’t work anyway, they’re both too power-hungry. There’s no way he could beat them into submission with the resources he has – or so Thrawn says – so my guess is that they became a vassal entity to a more powerful species.”

    “But who?”

    She shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe those Far Outsiders people keep talking about. The weird thing is that we haven’t found many traces of their passage either.”

    Their conversation was interrupted by the wail of alarms, and the stormtroopers stood up, with the exception of Brightwater, who was nursing a sprained ankle from a particularly gruelling training session with Rumpy. “Gotta go,” LaRone said. “But my guess is that we’ll be back soon. If this is Nuso Esva, he’ll escape again.”

    They left her alone with her brother and the scout trooper, and all three gathered by the viewport to see what was happening outside. A Star Destroyer soon glided across the black sky. It bore scorch marks on its hull but it didn’t seem the worse for wear. Ayesha was about to ask if anyone but the Empire used Star Destroyers when Brightwater muttered, “It was true, then.”

    “What?”

    “I’ve been hearing that a third Star Destroyer would be joining our fleet. No idea how they found us, or how they even knew about us for that matter. The existence of our task force is supposed to be a secret.”

    The newcomer was now manoeuvring to position itself at the side of the Admonitor. Rumpy rumbled a question. “Surely they didn’t call battle stations for a friendly ship, did they?” Ayesha translated.

    “I’m sure they didn’t,” the scout trooper chuckled. “There’s got to be –”

    His answer was interrupted by the appearance of a small fleet in their field of vision. From what they could see, a half-dozen large craft were facing the three Star Destroyers, while at least three large spherical grids were deployed above them. “That’s the Vagaari all right,” Brightwater said. “I read descriptions of their ships. See those ovoid bubbles on their hulls? It’s where they put their slaves, to use them as living shields.”

    Ayesha was horrified. “Are we going to shoot at them?”

    Brightwater gave her a tight smile. “It wouldn’t be the Grand Admiral’s way. I’m sure he’ll try everything else before he goes for a straight kill.”

    The floor under their feet shuddered as the Admonitor began firing her turbolasers, and a quick look outside confirmed that the other two Imperial ships were firing as well. “What are they doing?” Ayesha screamed. “There are sentients in there, they –”

    The scout trooper grabbed her arm. “Calm down and watch. We’re not shooting at the ships, we’re shooting at the gravity well projectors.” One of the spheres exploded into a cloud of fiery dust as he spoke. “They were planning to trap us here in order to hammer us at will, but Thrawn knows the trick. I read it in a report from an old mission he did, when he was still with the Chiss.”

    The battle was over before it really began. A few more well-placed turbolift beams eliminated the remaining spherical grids, and the Vagaari fleet vanished with a flicker of pseudomotion. Brightwater let out a very rude interjection. “They’re gone,” he said grimly. “Looks like we’ll be playing hide-and-seek a bit longer.”

    “This doesn’t make sense,” Ayesha mused as they returned to the lunch table. “They jump here as if they want to pick a fight, any fight – and then, as soon as they lose the advantage, they run away.”

    “Makes sense to me,” the scout trooper countered. “It’s a pretty good harassment strategy, if you ask me.”

    “But that’s not their psyche,” she insisted. “Their art says that they should go all in. They care about losses only when the time comes to take revenge.”

    Rumpy grunted his approval and Brightwater raised his hands in surrender. “I have no idea how you people come to this sort of conclusion. Here, eat your food. For once you’ll manage to finish your plate before Quiller eats it for you.”

    * * *​

    LaRone and Quiller had returned to join their friends, and the little group were enjoying a cup of caf after their meal when the doorbell rang. “Probably Grave and Marcross,” Ayesha said as she stood up to open the door. “They must be hoping to get a bite of the Eskari special chyntuck pie, as if you’d left any for them.”

    The panel slid open and she found herself facing a Navy officer with laughing blue eyes and a pretty brunette in civilian clothes. Her jaw dropped. “Hello, sweetie,” Matt Ruud said with his trademark grin. “Long time no see.” He held out a small chrome sculpt that represented something half-way between a fish and a ship, and pointed at the broken fin on the top. “I was hoping you could fix this for me.”

    The fish-ship clanged to the floor as Ayesha leapt in his arms, nearly throwing him over. “This is becoming a habit,” Valeria chortled. “Every time we see you, you tackle Matt. Remember the day we got married? I thought you’d send him flying across your atrium.”

    They finally managed to disentangle themselves from Ayesha’s embrace and took a step back to look at each other. Valeria had changed a little in the two years since Ayesha had last seen her – she had more poise, for lack of a better word – but Matt still sported his boyish good looks. “I can’t say how happy I am to see you,” Matt said. “Thrawn told us that things were difficult for you, and we were really worried. Why didn’t you write? We all thought you’d forgotten about us. Tam was so upset.”

    Ayesha blushed intensely. “I was a prisoner,” she mumbled, “I –”

    The young captain gave her a stern look. “Do you seriously believe Thrawn wouldn’t have allowed you to send letters?”

    Valeria placed her hand on his arm. “It’s okay, Matt. We’re here now. We’ll catch up.” She turned to Ayesha and whispered, “You need to introduce us.”

    Ayesha turned around to see that her three stormtrooper friends were standing at respectful attention near the sofa. She went to speak, but Matt slipped past her and gave them a military salute. “Senior Captain Matthias Ruud, commander of the Star Destroyer Discipline,” he said. He let down his arm and smiled. “However, as long as we’re in here, I’d be more comfortable if you could just call me Matt.”

    As soon as the introductions were over, Valeria sat without further ado on the floor near Rumpy and engaged him in an animated conversation – her understanding of Shyriiwook was excellent, and Brightwater was struggling to follow – while Matt updated Ayesha, LaRone and Quiller on the latest developments in the known Galaxy. The picture he painted was grim and he didn’t mince his words about the Imperial leadership. The Empire had recently lost Brentaal IV to the Rebellion, who had thus gained a foothold in the Core, despite the presence of the 181st Imperial Fighter Wing, whose leader, Soontir Fel, had disappeared after the battle and was presumed dead. “Fel was the best pilot I knew and an extraordinary officer. When he took over the 181st, it was this unit where they would shunt the worst recruits in the Navy, and he turned it into an elite group in no time. And now we lost him, not because he wasn’t competent for the job, but because Pestage and Isard were too busy stabbing each other in the back to give him the support he needed. Worse, I think they set him up, Isard at least did. She wanted him to lose that battle so that she could overthrow Pestage and take his place on the throne.”

    He went on to explain that Ysanne Isard was now empress in all but name, having marginalised, outmanoeuvred or killed anyone who could challenge her authority. “She’s running the Empire as if it were a single, massive intelligence operation. She’s more concerned with potentially seditious citizens than with the Rebellion, and the wave of repression is unprecedented. They’re arresting and executing people left, right and centre, without any sort of process, just because they think they might be Rebel sympathisers or friendly towards one or another of the warlords that carved up a territory for themselves. And then they came for Commander Deplat, my second-in-command. They told me to arrest him, that he was a mole for Zsinj. That’s when I lost it. I consulted with my officers, and we all agreed that this isn’t what we signed up for. So we sent out a bogus distress signal, dropped some wrecked spare parts in space and disappeared to come here. They think the Discipline is lost, and us with them.”

    There was a silence as the little assembly pondered his words. “So you won’t be able to go home anymore?” Ayesha asked.

    Valeria gave her a sad smile. “Coruscant isn’t our home anymore, Ayesha. Nowhere in the Empire is. If you could see what Isard is doing...”

    “We decided that we’d rather be in the middle of nowhere doing useful stuff than serving under her,” Matt added when his wife’s voice trailed off. “Thrawn had contacted me after Endor, he said I could count on his help anytime. Well, the time has come. We’ll be staying here now.”

    There was another silence. “So you’re a deserter,” LaRone said. It was a statement, not a question.

    Matt’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly. “I like to say that I will continue to serve the citizens of the Empire in a different capacity, but I guess you could put it that way. Is it a problem?”

    “Not at all,” the stormtrooper said with a wide grin. “We’re deserters too.” He held out his hand. “Welcome to the club.”

    -------------------------

    Notes: The slaves used as human shields on the Vagaari ships and the Vagaari's use of gravity well projectors to trap their enemies are both borrowed from Outbound Flight. The battle of Brentaal IV, the story of Soontir Fel's disappearance and the power struggle between Pestage and Isard come from the Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron comics.

    And the chyntuck pie is, of course, a creation of the wonderful divapilot for The Way to a Princess's Heart.
     
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] I got the chapter around 8:00 a.m. ET which is too perfect timewise.

    ~~!

    First scene: Ayesha and Thrawn's talking about her volunteering. She really is amazing. Glad he shared his gratitude.

    *~

    The scene discussing the Vagaari. I agree with Ayesha. They are acting unlike themselves. Subtle is not their long suit at all! :p

    *~
    then, =D= =D= =D= excellent stuff on what has been happening in the Rebellion. Especially with Isard. :p Dovetails quite splendidly with Volshe's characterization of an earlier Isard. :rolleyes: [face_batting]

    Then the woot, jinkies appearance of Valeria and Matt! [face_dancing] [face_dancing] I would've tackle-hugged him too!!!!!!!!! the only thing that would have lifted sweet Ayesha's spirits more would have been if Tam came aboard! :D :D

    Oh blisses! Ayesha has lost her dearest Y. but she has her new family of the heart with LaRone and friends and Rumpy, and now Matt and Valeria.

    Speaking of Val, her gal-pal perspective is just, just what's needed to get Ayesha/Thrawn back to yumsville! [face_laugh]




    Paging Chyntuck - just noticed the title bar needs to be updated with the newest chapter. #9. :)
     
  10. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Oops, I forgot [face_blush] Thank you! I updated the title bar and the table of contents.
     
    AzureAngel2 likes this.
  11. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    I'll be intrigued to see how (or if) Ayesha's deductions about the imminent Vagaari menace pan out—both about being allied with someone with a long-term plan and about their all-out style of fighting. It almost looks as though she's being proved wrong on the latter, which is a scary thought indeed given that her art-based deductions up through now have been right (or at least have seemed to be). What does it all mean? I guess we'll find out soon.

    It's great to see Matt and Valeria back on the scene. Besides the fact that it can't hurt for the crew of the Admonitor to have more allies in general, Ayesha needs all the friends she can get right now, and I'm thrilled to see she'll now have some female company too. And it's interesting to see the ranks of Imperial deserters swelling—of course, with Isard running things, that doesn't totally surprise me.

    Just an observation: It looks as though the number of people beholden to Thrawn is increasing pretty steadily. There's Rukh, with his sense of duty toward Thrawn; Rumpy as his kker-bashha and with the life-debt issue; and now Matt and Valeria, who were told they could always count on Thrawn's help. As I recall, the Gree, too, several chapters ago, felt themselves very indebted to him. Ayesha can't be oblivious to the fact of all these people being indebted or obliged or otherwise bound to her former lifemate, and I wonder, what effect will it have on her? Will it make things better between them, or will it breed resentment? It looks very much like it could go either way. [face_thinking]

    Anyway, just some ruminations, but I'm glad to see this back to a regular schedule. :)
     
  12. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 14, 2005
    I truly must remember to breathe when reading your updates. Because this time I read three of them in a row.

    You never fail to come up with new surprises such as Ayesha's art analysis skills or her slave dance. (Saw one myself during the Noris Force Con in Nürnberg/ Germany by the way.)

    I also love that you stick so close to Timothy Zahn´s books. Now we have even more characters "on board" of our heroine´s journey.

    Can´t wait for more!
     
    Chyntuck and Nyota's Heart like this.
  13. Kahara

    Kahara Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2001
    Commenting on previous chapters since I still need to read the most recent:

    It's really cool to see Ayesha doing more analysis and kind of coming into her own as a support to the crew here -- it's a great way for her to feel like she's accomplishing something. (Though I do wonder whether it'll come back to bite at her vaguely Rebellious conscience that she's helping the Empire, if rather indirectly.) And the interaction with Thrawn is both very well-written and painful to read given how close they used to be. :( He's really trying not to cling, which is good in principle -- but I wonder if he's leaning too far in the other direction now. [face_thinking]

    Anyway, I like the introduction of Rumpy (another Wookiee nickname that manages to be both humorous and totally serious on its bearer ;)) and the complicated life-debt and family customs situation that his presence creates. Love the idea and scenes of him and Rukh being friends! :) (And that Ayesha wants to cook for Rukh; that's a very thoughtful idea.)
     
  14. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Awesome update, as usual!

    I think Thrawn thinks there is something lovey going on with LaRone and Ayesha. Of course, she does nothing to confirm or deny. I think it's deep respect and friendship, but it's got to hurt Thrawn to see her care so intensely for someone else the way she used to care about him. :(

    Love seeing Matt and Valeria again! (Why is Valeria there? Is she stationed on the Discipline as a specialist?) Goodness knows Ayesha needs a woman to talk to.

    And the chyntuck pie makes its appearance! =P~ Just remember to take the twigs out of the crust.
     
  15. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Reply time! Thank you all for reading and reviewing [:D]
    First of all, let me say how wonderful it is to seeing you more active on the boards again -- we all missed you, and I hope DRL is giving you a break now!

    Second, thank you for your kind words and I have to say that you summed it up perfectly with "more than just function but live". It goes back to what was said in previous discussions on this thread: Ayesha is becoming her own person again. LaRone obviously played a huge role in that, and now the people who acknowledge her as an independent and worthy person are multiplying.
    They're sorting it out, slooooowly. They're not very good at dealing with this, are they? [face_whistling]
    Thank you! As you know, I love the Timothy Zahn books, and he's my main source for part III of this story, now that the OT film storyline is over -- although I will be using a few other EU books as well in future chapters because some ideas in there were just too good not to use ;)
    Thank you! On your first point, even though Ayesha has no love for the Empire, I think she is now able to see that what Thrawn's task force is doing in the Unknown Regions is not like Palpy's Empire at all. Also, she has a lot of "Imperial" friends now, so keeping to herself is becoming increasingly difficult. On your second bit about Thrawn overdoing it in keeping his distance, well, all I can say is that you may have a point... [face_whistling]
    Hehe. The idea for Rumpy's name came from all those very healthy little kiddos I know, whose butt is bigger than their head :p And while having him around is wonderful for Ayesha -- he's one of the people dearest to her -- his life-debt situation and friendship with Rukh do complicate things. But they'll sort it out in the end.

    Chapter 8
    "squashed flatter than a cockroach" [face_laugh] I think that this is what Palps was aiming for, although he would put it differently. Oh, and obviously, he failed.
    Thank you! This was the first proper action scene I wrote, and as you can imagine it went through an infinite number of re-writes. I'm glad it came off okay in the end. I need to write up about the Besri and the guptas for my fanon post (that's becoming a never-ending saga, isn't it?) but they're also the first all-original alien species I created, and they're just yuck. Not bad people, but yuck, and they messed up with the wrong guy ;)

    And yes, Cottle is a total grouch -- in Battlestar Galactica, he's the guy who "goes over there, lights a cigarette and grumbles" but he still has a heart of gold :)
    I don't think that someone with Ayesha's life experiences could ever heal completely from everything she endured, but as I was saying in my reply to K'tai above she has come a long way already. It's a constant dichotomy in her personality, demanding on the one hand to be seen as a person by the people around her, but on the other hands always having doubts for herself.

    Chapter 9
    Awww. He tried to be kind, didn't he? Not that they really communicated at that point ;)
    "Subtle is not their long suit at all" = understatement of the year :D As Ny already knows from beta-ing the upcoming chapter, they're not entirely alone though. And, well, there will be signs that their lack of subtlety will come and bite them in the butt.
    I LOVED Volshe's story about Isard and Palps (although that is definitely the creepiest pairing I can imagine!) I'm going to be writing her too soon, and I hope I can do her justice. But yes, she is driving a lot of loyal Imperials away, and another one is about to turn up...
    And having this family of the heart nearby makes it more difficult to leave, doesn't it? [face_devil]
    Again, as Ny knows from beta-reading the upcoming chapter... [face_whistling]
    Not only the Gree, there were also the Troukree, the Talz, and several more species I didn't mention because of length constraints. And, well, just scroll down to the next chapter. As usual, you're in my mind [:D]
    Thank you! About LaRone, Ayesha doesn't even realise that there's a need to confirm or deny -- it's a life-debt and she's in Wookiee mode right now. But Thrawn may not understand that...
    Yes, she is -- it's all explained in the next post (oh, and you're in my mind too :p )
    The Eskari version of the chyntuck pie is twigless [face_laugh] (Oh, and I forgot to credit you -- actually, I forgot the endnotes altogether, I need to fix it, sorry [face_blush])

    Thanks again, everyone! Next chapter inbound.
     
  16. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading [:D]

    --------------------

    Chapter 10: Guest

    “You’ve changed,” Valeria said. “When we were on Coruscant, you looked different. You’re thinner now, more muscular. And you stopped braiding your hair.”

    Ayesha shrugged. “Daric wasn’t subjecting me to this crazy training regimen on Coruscant. You’d think there’s a murderer lurking in every corridor of this ship waiting to jump at me. As for my hair... they don’t have a hairdresser here. The guy who gives the crew a buzz cut is nice, but he’s no Eliskandro.”

    Valeria laughed. “He says hi, by the way. I went there to have my white hair camouflaged a few months ago. Do you have hair beads?” Ayesha nodded. “Then get them and sit here. I’ll do your hair for you.”

    Ayesha’s routine had been transformed since the Discipline had joined the Admonitor and the Grey Wolf. Matt regularly came on board for day-long meetings with Thrawn, Niriz and Parck between jumps to hyperspace, and Valeria, who was a civilian consultant on his ship, had been appointed to liaise between the Admonitor’s and the Discipline’s scientists. At Major Lasall’s insistence, Ayesha participated in the briefings and – unsurprisingly – the two women turned out to be a very efficient team. The classification criteria they had introduced in the analysts’ databanks enabled them to better extract cultural and xenosociological information about species of the Unknown Regions, and they were able to identify commonalities and differences that left Lasall open-mouthed. “That’s what you get for spending years and years in Imperial training,” Matt told him one afternoon when he and Thrawn joined the two women in the science department. “We’re taught to think only inside the box. These two” – he pointed at his wife and Ayesha – “are the opposite. Outside the box is where they live.”

    Thrawn looked carefully at the updated map of incidents and anomalies the technicians had built using the newly gathered information. “There are two different patterns, you say?”

    “Tentatively, yes,” Valeria answered. “These here are worlds where we believe that Nuso Esva tried to set up shop and was ousted by the Vagaari. The dark blue dots indicate evidence of a settlement by sentients of his species, the pale blue ones only minor traces of their presence. However, given the possibility of hyperspace travel between them” – she keyed a few commands to superimpose a map of hyperspace lanes over the star chart – “we are quite confident that even these small indications can be considered as reliable. On the other hand” – she keyed a few more commands, and a series of red dots appeared – “these are all the worlds where we have evidence of Vagaari presence. As you can see, this series here matches Nuso Esva’s itinerary, but that one seems to be totally unrelated.”

    “There’s something more we noticed,” Ayesha interjected. “Major Lasall, can you please isolate the second Vagaari series for me? And then add the landscapes incidents.” The holomap shifted again, displaying this time a line of red dots surrounded by a cloud of yellow pinpricks. “The yellow worlds are those for which the images reveal anomalies in the landscape – anything from erupting volcanoes to ravaged wilderness or sinkholes or abnormal piles of rocks. It’s as if the Vagaari opened the way – apparently they focused on those planets where there was something to plunder too – but they were followed by someone else, someone with the power to manipulate nature. And then” – she pointed to the end of the line – “everyone vanishes. No trace of the Vagaari or that mysterious someone since the day Matt and Valeria arrived, except those two wrecked Vagaari ships we found floating in space three weeks ago. I don’t know where they’re going now, but they’re not following Nuso Esva anymore, and neither are we.”

    Thrawn stepped forward and brought up the landscapes incidents holoshow. His eyes were glittering with concentration. “Major Lasall, could this be a form of terraforming or xenoforming?”

    Lasall gave him a look of grim understanding. “It could very well be, Sir. The question has been on my mind as well. If that is the case, it is extremely worrying, because it means that the Far Outsiders have come much deeper into the Galaxy than we previously thought. However, I would like to have more data before I come to a conclusion on the matter. We also launched a number of deep space probes towards the edge of the Galaxy, but I do not expect any transmissions from them in the near future.”

    “Indeed,” Thrawn said. “It should be at least a year. Miss Eskari, do you see any indications that –”

    His question was interrupted by a huge explosion – or perhaps a collision – that rocked the Admonitor. “Bridge to Grand Admiral Thrawn,” a voice came over the intercom a few moments later. It was tense but perplexed. “Something... hit us, but the sensors aren’t giving us any information.”

    The discussion ended there, with Thrawn and Matt leaving hurriedly for the bridge while Ayesha and Valeria were shooed away towards a safer area of the ship for a few hours – but there appeared to be no threat, and soon Valeria flew back to the Discipline with Matt while Ayesha returned to her quarters. In many ways, Ayesha commented to Valeria over lunch a few days later, that incident had been a strike of lightning in a blue sky. The last few weeks had been eerily calm and quiet, and the three Star Destroyers were travelling across the Unknown Regions as if there were no one else there.

    Ayesha raised the question again as she brought the box of snow crystal hair beads and sat on the floor at Valeria’s feet. “No news from that mystery impact a while back?”

    “Nothing,” Valeria said. “Matt had me look at the data, in case I saw something different from him. We’re not even sure what hit us. It could have been an asteroid, he says, but there were no debris. The sensors picked up another asteroid a few moments earlier, but then that one vanished too.” She pointed at a small parcel on the desk. “I brought you Matt’s fish-ship, by the way. It fell and broke again when the ships rocked. He’s very fond of it, you know, so he was wondering if you could fix it.”

    Ayesha nodded and Valeria started separating her hair in neat sections. “It’s really weird, this collision story,” she said. “Even Thrawn is baffled. That says a lot.”

    It was Valeria’s turn to nod. “It does. He’s the smartest man I know.” She paused. “This fleet isn’t what I expected, you know,” she continued. “Back in the known Galaxy, you just felt that people were doing their jobs, or that they believed in the values of the Empire, whatever those are. Here... I always feel that people on this ship are doing things out of a personal commitment to Thrawn.”

    “Not only on this ship. You should see what happens planetside, on the worlds that we are protecting. The Troukree, the Talz... they speak of Thrawn as if he were the Maker himself. He’s good at securing people’s absolute allegiance.”

    The bitterness in her voice didn’t escape Valeria. “You’re not implying that he tricked them into fealty, do you?” she asked cautiously.

    Ayesha shook her head, causing a few hair pins to fall to the floor. “Not the Troukree and the Talz, or you or Rumpy, no. But I’ve had time to think back – heck, time is all I had – and I see now that he manipulates people. A lot. He creates situations to test them, and if they don’t pass the test... well, I’m not too sure I want to know what he does. And when it comes to those he doesn’t trust – I’m not even talking about enemies here – he’s ruthless. When I think of what we did on Besron II... a lot of innocent sentients died that day.”

    “What happened on Besron II was necessary, Ayesha,” Valeria said softly. “Where would Daric be now if Thrawn hadn’t been ruthless?”

    “I know. And I was part of it, and I’d do it again if I had to. Still, I’d rather it had not happened.”

    There was a silence. “He’s a good man, Ayesha. I understand that things went terribly wrong for you two, I understand that you have a different perspective about him now, and I’ll even understand if you tell me it can’t be fixed. But he’s a good man. Don’t forget that.”

    There was another long silence until Ayesha spoke. She was staring blankly ahead of her. “I know.”

    * * *​

    A Lambda-class shuttle landed in the Admonitor’s main docking bay as Ayesha finished welding the broken fin back on Matt’s sculpt. In the corner of her eye, she saw a tall, handsome man with a black goatee step off the boarding ramp, followed by Major Vermel, who was carrying a four or five year-old child in one arm and holding the hand of an older one, perhaps seven or eight years old. Vermel hadn’t been able to reach the task force since Thrawn’s return due to developments in the Core, and his presence on board heralded the arrival of fresh news from the known Galaxy. Ayesha was putting away the microwelder, wondering how soon her stormtrooper friends would get their hands on the newsflimsies, when her comm rang, summoning her to Thrawn’s office.

    She found the Grand Admiral sitting behind his desk, but as was his habit he stood up and came to sit on one of the guest chairs to face her. His eyes flittered briefly to the snow crystal beads in her hair. “I have received good news for you, Miss Eskari,” he said with a forced smile. “Your arrest warrant has been formally revoked. You are now officially a guest on this ship.”

    He paused, waiting for Ayesha’s reaction, but there was none. If anything, she was squirming uncomfortably on her seat. “Unfortunately, I cannot organise immediate passage to the Core for you. As you know, we are in an extremely dangerous area of space, and Major Vermel took great risks to reach us. He told me, and I quote, ‘I would never have brought my children on such a trip if the situation on Chandrila weren’t so appalling’. I therefore regret to inform you that you will have to wait a few more weeks before you can dispense with our company.”

    Again, there was no reaction. “We are on our way back to the Fortress of the Hand on Nirauan – with a few stops, of course. We will provide you with accommodation there until our first supply convoy leaves to the known Galaxy, most probably to Bilbringi, and we will arrange passage for you to some planet in Rebel-held space, from where you should have no difficulty reaching Kashyyyk or any other destination of your choice. Given all the work you have done for us since Captain Niriz asked you to assist our analyst team, I instructed our administrative service to draft for you a civilian consultant contract. You will receive nine months of wages on the same salary grade as Miss Dalissis. It is not much, but it is enough to help you settle in your new life until you can secure inter-sector banking services on your world of destination. Your bank account on Coruscant is of course still operational.”

    He paused again and scrutinised her face. “Thank you,” she said shyly.

    “However,” he continued in his cool voice, “I must place a condition on your return to the Core.” Her eyes shot up at him. “You have spent more than two years on this ship, Miss Eskari. I believe, or at least I hope, that your time with us, albeit involuntary, gave you some insight into the importance of the work we are doing in the Unknown Regions. As you may remember, the extent of this expedition was a secret within the Empire under the reign of the late Emperor, and it is a secret that I also intend to keep from the Rebellion until the time is right.”

    She held out her hand, as if expecting to place her palm over his, but he didn’t react. She stopped mid-gesture and merely nodded. “You have my word, Admiral. Your secret is safe with me. With both of us,” she added. “Rumpy won’t say anything either, I can vouch for him.”

    There was yet another, uneasy silence. “I am glad that you chose to accept your brother’s life-debt to me as your own,” Thrawn said finally. “I understand that such a commitment matters a great deal to him; however I also know that he would be utterly miserable if he were to remain here without you.” He took a deep breath. “You should also know that I am willing to release Commander LaRone from his service on this ship. If he wishes to go to Kashyyyk with you, he is free to do so.” Ayesha gave him a perplexed look, but he didn’t give her time to answer. “That will be all, Miss Eskari. Let me only say once more how much I regret all the ordeals I have put you through. I am fully aware that I cannot compensate for my mistakes in any way. Should you ever need a friend or an ally, I will be there for you.” And with that, he stood up, gave her a military bow and gestured towards the door.

    -----------------------------------------------

    Note: The on-going war between the Vagaari and Nuso Esva is something I made up for the purposes of this story -- I imagine the Unknown Regions to be a sort of Wild West where it's everyone against everyone else. On the other hand, the idea of a collaboration between the Vagaari and the Yuuzhan Vong is implied in Legends when the Vagaari are shown to be using biots (notably in Survivor's Quest).
     
  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Liked the talk between Valeria and Ayesha. Warm and honest, as I knew it would be. Wow, so that confirms earlier speculations in the thread. [face_nail_biting] About the Far Outsiders + Vagaari, not a good mix. :eek: And also Kahara's comment earlier as well--Thrawn is definitely jumping to erroneous conclusions about Daric and going too far in the oblivious direction. :p =D=

    I see the loyalty of Thrawn's crew and the gratitude of the citizenry of various worlds Valeria alluded to as a direct result of being someone of honor and integrity and brilliance, someone who sees and does many times the compassionate thing, not just the clever one. [face_thinking]
     
  18. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Boy, Thrawn is kind of a maschocist in the name of being considerate. Their formality is painful to watch. Of course, he thinks that Daric is her cup of tea ([face_coffee] ) now, but he sometimes can't read what's going on correctly. And she either doesn't recognize that he is misinterpreting the situation, or she doesn't get it at all. Thrawn is being a teensy bit patriarchal here - assuming that Ayesha needs a man in her life and has replaced him with LaRone.

    I'm glad that Ayesha has Valeria now. (And not just to put all those crystals on her hair...) After Ayesha's trauma, it's about time she had a woman's voice in her life. The guys are sweet, even Rumpy is a doll, but no one but Valeria can understand what it must have been like to survive such a horrifying ordeal and to lose a pregancy, even if Valeria never personally experienced such a thing. The residual effects of the assault and of the experience of having her consciousness sublimated to another being's soul will be with Ayesha for a very long time. A fresh perspective (female, non-military, from her own personal past) will help to ground Ayesha again.

    I like that Ayesha is seeing that there are decent people among the imperials, that there are good people who trust Thrawn. The universe is not black/white. As an artist, she should recognize that there are always shades in between.
     
  19. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Valeria and Ayesha make a great team! Just goes to show what science and the humanities can accomplish when they work together—Valeria's xenobiology background combined with Ayesha's artistic knowledge and imagination are pretty much the perfect combination for the challenges currently facing the three rogue Star Destroyers. It would be great to see further details of how they work together, in future chapters, because I bet they really do bring their two very different respective disciplines into dialogue in interesting ways. :cool:

    The results they've found in tracing the Vagaari's movements are definitely food for thought: some correspond with Nuso Esva's presence, but a bunch don't, and then the weirdly "terraformed" worlds seem to suggest that Nuso Esva isn't much more than a red herring (though imagining a bigger menace is going to be hard). "Power to manipulate nature"—that reminds me of [hl=black]the devastation the Yuuzhan Vong wreaked on so many worlds (and eventually on some of the most familiar ones in the GFFA)[/hl], though I'm not sure offhand if the chronology is right for that at this point. And that mysterious point of disappearance... what is that all about, I wonder? [face_thinking]

    Though there indeed is confirmation of my previous point about beholdenness: Valeria's insistence that Thrawn is "a good man." We shall see? It's so, so gray here, because Ayesha's right on about the way he manipulates people—and yet it seems to have tangible good effects, at least in some cases. (And the way you get that "gray" aspect of Thrawn's character across is one of the masterful things about this story. :cool: )

    I guess I'm glad to hear that Ayesha's not technically a "prisoner" anymore, but that gesture strikes me as a bit "too little, too late," especially since she's de facto still stuck on the Admonitor and in this remote region of space. I wonder what she'll choose to do or where she'll choose to go once they reach Nirauan (if nothing else comes up to waylay them—which is always a possibility given the dangers surrounding them...). [face_thinking]
     
  20. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you all for reading and reviewing!
    Well, it's the Unknown Regions -- there are all sorts of baddies out there, and they're competing with each other, and with the Empire of the Hand, for territory and influence. There are also a number of minor conflicts going on here and there, but as you will find out soon, a lot of it has to do with the main bad guys ;)
    Thrawn just gets it all wrong when it comes to Ayesha. It's a bit of a recurring pattern, isn't it? He always thinks that he's doing what's best for her, and in some way he is -- just at the wrong moment :p
    Thrawn is much smarter than Palpatine when it comes to government. He knows that making allies is a far better long-term strategy than forcing worlds into submission, and he understands the importance of the various species' code of honour. But as Ayesha said, he can and will be ruthless when necessary -- he does have a darker, uglier side, but if he didn't he wouldn't be much of a military man, would he?

    "a bit teensy"? [face_laugh] He's totally patriarchal, always was and always will be! And it's not only about Ayesha needing a man in her life, but also about the idea that needs protection. You'd think that between her work at the Centre, the way she called the death mark on Malki and more recently her dancing on Besron II, he would have realised by now that she can mostly take care of herself.
    It's wonderful for Ayesha to have Valeria, but in a sense it almost comes too late -- she would really, badly have needed Valeria when she first arrived on the Admonitor more than two years ago. Of course, maybe she wouldn't have listened to Valeria at the time, since she wasn't willing to listen to anyone. At any rate, now that she finally has a woman friend to talk to, she's on her way out, but it may still help [face_whistling]
    Oh, I think she's getting there... As a matter of fact, she got there already ;)

    Ask and you shall receive [:D] Yes, there will be more of that later in part III.
    About the Yuuzhan Vong: they're already in the Unknown Regions at this point. The Chiss first encountered them before Outbound Flight, so that would be circa 30 BBY. But for now, they're still amassing forces and infiltrating the Galaxy little by little -- chances are that they don't even know how far they are from the Core at this point. And I'm stopping now, because I'm going to spoil my own spoiler :p
    Thank you! I think that Valeria has a fair point, in the sense that Thrawn is not a power-hungry maniac (and he's never depicted as such in the Zahn books, even if he's the villain in TTT). On the other hand, he does what he has to do, and there aren't really any red lines that he's not willing to cross -- as opposed to Ayesha, who has so many of them.
    The answer to all this is in the next three chapters. Stay tuned :)


    Thanks again, everyone! Next chapter up in a few minutes.
     
  21. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Tags: AzureAngel2 Findswoman Gemma K'Tai qel Letta-Tanku Mando-Man Mira_Jade Raissa Baiard
    Please let me know if you would like to be added to or removed from the tag list.
    And as usual, a big thanks to Nyota's Heart for beta-reading [:D]

    -------------------------------------

    Chapter 11: Soontir Fel

    Rumpy could see that Ayesha was deeply preoccupied all afternoon and evening after she returned from what he thought to be the hangar bay, but she was not forthcoming with information about the cause of her concern and she answered his discreet questions with monosyllables. Night finally came and when they settled in their bed, comfortably huddled against one another as they used to do in their childhood during the harsh Kashyyyk winters, he finally summoned the courage to ask her point-blank what was troubling her.

    “They received my flimsiwork,” she whispered. “I’ll be free to leave as soon as we reach a more hospitable area of space.”

    She didn’t sound particularly happy. The Wookiee pulled back a little to look at her. [Is it not a relief to know that you are formally free to choose where life will lead you?]

    “It is,” she sighed. “But I have to make decisions now. I’m trying to think of where I should go, what I should do.”

    There was a pause. [So you have decided to return to the known Galaxy.]

    She let out a bitter snort. “Thrawn decided that for me. He has it all planned out. The only thing he hasn’t chosen for me is my final destination.”

    [My Kker-Bashha would not object to you staying here,] Rumpy objected. [He knows that I –]

    “He doesn’t want me here, Rumpy. He doesn’t want you here either for that matter. He wants us to leave. He even offered to send Daric away with us.”

    At this Rumpy reached for the neuro-lamp and increased the setting to maximum. He was utterly shocked. [Did my Kker-Bashha tell you as much? That we are not welcome on his ship or in his base?]

    “Well, he didn’t put it that way,” she conceded. “You know how he is, he’s... polite. But he basically called me to tell me all the details of our trip back home, and then he almost kicked me out of his office. The message was pretty clear.”

    The Wookiee sighed emphatically. [Rryi-Bashhi, you ought to discuss this with him in a straightforward manner. Did it even cross your mind that –]

    “There’s nothing to discuss, Rumpy,” she interrupted angrily. “He wants us gone, and that’s his prerogative. We’re on his ship. So we’ll go. Now let’s sleep, we can discuss where and when tomorrow.”

    Her face was set in the stubborn pout that told her brother it wasn’t the right time to continue the conversation. He lowered the neuro-lamp again and lay back on the bed, hugging her tightly. [Will I be coming with you?] he asked.

    He felt her smile. “I’d like that, if it’s okay with you.” He nodded in assent. “But on one condition,” she added, returning his hug. “I don’t care what the Way of the Wookiee says, I’m still calling you my little brother.”

    * * *​

    Ayesha forced herself to remain perfectly still all night not to wake her brother, but she wasn’t able to sleep. By the time five hundred hours came, her anxiety had gotten the better of her. She slipped out of bed, put on a jumpsuit and ate some breakfast, then she went to the training room. She sat cross-legged on the mats, trying to meditate in the silence – the only sound that could be heard in this part of the ship at such an early hour was the distant, muffled rumble of the engines as the Admonitor sped through hyperspace. She had managed to steady her breathing and sought to empty all concerns from her mind, when the swoosh of the door pulled her abruptly out of her reverie, causing her to give a start.

    The handsome man with the black goatee who had arrived in Vermel’s shuttle was standing in the doorframe, apparently as surprised to see her there as she was startled to see him. There was an aura of honesty about him, but the serenity of his demeanour was belied by the concern simmering in his eyes. “My apologies,” he said in a deep bass voice. “I did not expect to find anyone here at this time.”

    She stood up. “There usually isn’t anyone here at this time,” she said with a smile. “I’m Ayesha Eskari, by the way.”

    “I remember you. I saw you at the Emperor’s ball a few years ago. You were the Grand Admiral’s dance partner.” She blushed a little. “And I saw your works in the Galactic Museum. I went there once with my wife. I’m Soontir Fel.”

    He gave her a firm handshake. “I heard about you too,” she said. “Although I’ve been stuck out here for far too long to know much about prominent people in the Navy, I just read a few things in the newsflimsies we receive from time to time. Matt thought you were dead.”

    There was a hint of bitterness in his small burst of laughter. “Yes, many people think so, for a variety of reasons. I resurrected once already, but I assure you that I was very much alive throughout. Who’s Matt?”

    “Matthias Ruud, the Captain of the Discipline.”

    At this Fel laughed again. “Well, what do you know. I thought he was dead too. Is he a prisoner here as well?”

    Ayesha was a little taken aback. “Um, no. He joined the Grand Admiral’s task force a few months ago. And as you said, he’s very much alive.” She hesitated for a moment. “So you’re a prisoner?”

    “Yes. I am.”

    His face had darkened but Ayesha couldn’t suppress a chuckle. “One of the idiosyncrasies of this Star Destroyer is that they host prisoners in the VIP section,” she said by way of an explanation.

    Fel gave her a curious look. “Are you telling me that you’re a prisoner too?”

    Ayesha shrugged. “Well, not really. Or rather, not anymore. My release order came yesterday, but there isn’t anywhere for me to go.”

    There was an uneasy silence, as both pondered how much they should – or wanted to – confide to each other. Ayesha finally broke the silence. “You didn’t come here for a morning chat, did you? So here’s an idea. Would you like to train with me?”

    * * *​

    Soontir Fel was a taciturn man and he mostly kept to himself, but Ayesha did see him from time to time over the next few weeks. She enjoyed his company as a training partner precisely because he didn’t talk much, and most importantly because he didn’t question her on her plans for the future, as her friends were wont to do every time they saw her. She also ran into him a few times in the officers’ mess when she went there for lunch – he had the habit of getting there early, sitting in a corner and eating alone, but as the days went by she started seeing him in the company of TIE and clawcraft pilots, and once she found him sitting at Thrawn’s table, with Rukh watching over them as they were deep in discussion. The next morning, he came and knocked on her door. “My apologies if I am disturbing,” he said. “The Grand Admiral and Captain Ruud told me that you have been studying the worlds the Admonitor has mapped. Would you be willing to explain your findings to me?”

    They booked the analysts’ conference room and she gave him a long presentation about the various species they had encountered, their culture and their art. She noticed that there was an amused twinkle in his eyes and she asked him why. “You remind me of the day I went to the Galactic Museum with my wife – it was a few months before we got married. She was seeing things in the pieces on display I never knew were there.”

    He went on to explain that his wife was the actress Wynssa Starflare, that they had met shortly after the destruction of Alderaan and that they had two children. “Where is she now?” Ayesha asked finally.

    “Somewhere in the New Republic. Her brother is one of their pilots – or rather one of their heroes, I should say. He’s the only man who survived the attacks on both Death Stars.”

    He maintained his usual calm demeanour, but Ayesha could see the concern in his eyes. She had learned from Valeria that Fel had defected to the Rebellion after the Empire lost Brentaal IV, and that he had later been kidnapped by Isard and handed over to Thrawn. “I’m sure they’re fine,” she said softly. “I’m sure the New Republic are doing everything it takes to protect them.”

    He shrugged and gestured back towards the holos. “Anyway. You were saying that there are three major threats out here.”

    Ayesha hesitated to continue her line of questioning, but she realised it would be indiscreet. “Yes,” she said. “There’s this warlord called Nuso Esva, who, as far as I can tell, is a master strategist. However, his forces seem to be dwindling as of late – apparently he’s in a conflict with the Vagaari, who are more powerful and better equipped than him. They would be the second threat – they’re a very aggressive spacefaring species, and because they’re nomadic, it’s difficult to get hold of them. And then there’s a third race, I’m not too sure who they are. What I’m sure about is that they’re in league with the Vagaari – or they were in league with the Vagaari, because we lost track of both and I suspect that they turned against each other. The people here think it’s an extragalactic species for which they don’t have a name, so they call them the Far Outsiders.”

    Fel looked at her straight in the eye, as if trying to decipher her intention. “You think they’re real.”

    “I don’t know if they’re extragalactic, because we haven’t found any art from them, just a series of ravaged worlds and I’m not competent to analyse that sort of information. But yes, they’re definitely real. There’s someone out there who’s wreaking havoc and destruction everywhere they go, and they do it in a way I just can’t grasp. It’s like they’re experimenting to transform planets to suit their needs.” Fel keyed for the specific subset of holos and looked at them thoughtfully. “You should ask Valeria for more information about them, or better yet Major Lasall,” she added. “I only saw one of their paintings a long time ago on Coruscant. If it’s really them, they’re the creepiest sentients you’ll ever meet.”

    He smiled. “Lasall already told me a lot, but I wanted your opinion. You were a prisoner here. I trust you to be unbiased, as opposed to career officers of the Imperial Navy – or their wife.”

    She gave him a puzzled look. “Weren’t you an Imperial officer too?”

    “I was. That’s why I know exactly what I’m talking about.” Her perplexity increased to bewilderment. “I was a good and loyal Imperial, Ayesha. I thought that I was defending law and order, that I was protecting the people of the Galaxy, that it was for us Humans to impose our rule and values on other sentients. I started realising that I was wrong just before Derra IV. Vader was briefing us on our attack plan – it was a brilliant, well-thought-out, subtle plan – and I saw that it couldn’t be his. It just wasn’t his style. But there was an alien standing behind him.” He sighed. “I had believed for years and years that aliens were lesser sentients, and I understood suddenly that this blue-skinned, red-eyed man was the best military commander in the Galaxy. But he didn’t say a word, he was all but invisible in that briefing – and after we won the battle, they gave us rewards and promotions and estates and titles, and he got nothing. Nothing. He wasn’t even mentioned. For years I’ve been wondering why such a genius strategist would work for the Empire. I wondered what sort of propaganda they fed him to get him on their side, or how they blackmailed him into submission. But now that I’m here, now that I spoke with him, and now that you confirmed what he said – I think I understand. There’s a bigger threat out there, something we need to prepare ourselves against, because when it comes – and it’s coming – we need to be able to fight back.”

    There was a silence. “You asked me to explain these things to you to decide if you should join the Empire again?” Ayesha asked.

    “The Empire doesn’t exist anymore,” he answered scornfully. “There might have been a time when it was the guarantor of order in the Galaxy, and after my time with the Rebellion I even doubt that. But with Pestage, and now with Isard, it’s a force for chaos more than anything else. No, I’m not joining the Empire. I’m thinking of joining the Grand Admiral.” He paused and added, “Like you did.”

    “I didn’t join the Grand Admiral,” she protested. “I didn’t,” she insisted when he looked at her with a raised brow. “I only analysed some art for Major Lasall.”

    He stared at her for a few moments and suddenly burst out laughing. “Okay. Keep telling yourself that. You might convince yourself in the end.” He stood up. “Let’s go for lunch. You can tell me everything there is to know about that painting you saw on Coruscant.”

    -----------------------------

    Note: The backstory of Soontir Fel is borrowed from the comic X-Wing Rogue Squadron 25: The Making of Baron Fel, and the story of how and why he chose to join Thrawn once he arrived in the Unknown Regions is my expansion on a throwaway line in Vision of the Future.
     
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    How incredibly fascinating The rapport and talk between Fel and Ayesha on the looming threats and their pasts. :cool: =D= =D=

    Hmm, in the first scene, I had a "what? What a load of horse puckey!" Guess Thrawn hasn't cornered the market on clueless. :p :rolleyes: Loving this more and more! [face_batting]
     
  23. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Woot, Baron Fel! :D It's intriguing to see him joining the ranks of "presumed lost" Imperial deserters; there's definitely something of a mass exodus happening here, no doubt leading up to something big. I'm not sure what to make of Ayesha's denial at the end that she too is in that category, that she "joined" Thrawn, nor of Baron Fel's response to her—who's right about such things anymore? I wonder whether Thrawn would consider that she's "joined" him. [face_thinking] Still, I can see Fel being a strong and helpful ally in confronting the unknown thread from beyond.

    Once again, I can't help but feel—along with Ayesha—that this "free to go" business is not all it's cracked up to be. There keep being reasons why she can't really go where she wants. One is that the arrival of Fel could be another thing slowing that down even more, because it's highlighting how dire this threat from beyond the galaxy really is. I'm almost afraid things will be worse for her in the end if she does go where she wants (kind of clever of Thrawn, really!). It's good that she'll have the companionship of Rumpy whatever she chooses to do.
     
  24. Csillan_girl

    Csillan_girl Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 6, 2003
    Back again! :D
    Haha, at the beginning of the chapter, I just wanted to grab and shake Ayesha. "He wants us to leave"...
    Thrawn being nice to her was not okay, now being formal and polite is not okay, either... aaaagh!!!
    And Thrawn... desperately trying to be selfless and getting it totally wrong again! That was the moment when I wanted to shake him!
    Both believe that they know exactly what the other thinks, and both couldn't be farther from the truth.
    I wonder what needs to happen that they really understand each other again (if they ever did in the first place)?

    And then, what a coincidence that Ayesha and Soontir Fel meet! ;)
    Part of some masterplan again? It's almost too obvious, Thrawn... [face_shame_on_you]

    Still loving it. Artistically done, as always! :)
     
  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I knew Csillan_girl would hit the nail squarely! This:

    Both believe that they know exactly what the other thinks, and both couldn't be farther from the truth.
    I wonder what needs to happen that they really understand each other again (if they ever did in the first place)?
    Couldn't've said it better myself! :p Yikes! All these years I thought L/M took the prize for huh? [face_laugh] [face_laugh]
     
    AzureAngel2 and Chyntuck like this.