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Beyond - Legends DonoSlane Excursions - Paying back debts (Myn, Kirney, Wraiths)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by -thor-, Oct 28, 2018.

  1. -thor-

    -thor- Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2002
    Dramatis Personae:

    Kirney Slane (human female from Coruscant)
    Myn Donos (human male from Corellia)

    Garik 'The Face' Loran (human male from Pantolomin)
    Voort 'Piggy' saBinring (modified Gamorrean male from Gamorr)

    For the Epilogue:

    Kell Tainer (human male from Alderaan)
    Tyria Sarkin-Tainer (human female from Toprawa)
    Shalla Nelprin (human female from Ingo)
    Elassar Targon (Devaronian male from Devaron)
    Hohass "Runt" Ekwesh (Thakwaash male from Thakwaa)

    Timeframe:
    ~ 10.5 ABY (3 months post "Dark Empire")

    Author's Note: This is my take on something I had not thought possible, but the release of X-Wing : Mercy Kill has forced me to reconsider. The reactions of the old Wraiths to Kirney (and that little dialogue between Sharr and Voort about the King of the Droids ploy) were so overwhelmingly casual, they must have known she was alive for a long long time.
    The story follows the good old Extended Universe that Disney carelessly declared void at the stroke of a pen. Well, two can play that game. *waves hand* This is not the disneyfied Star Wars you're looking for. Move along.

    PS: Thanks to WarmNyota_SweetAyesha for proof-reading and reassuring me that this story arch works.

    ***​

    Sentinel-Class Landing Craft Fair Trade
    inbound to Coruscant

    The cockpit was filled with the gentle hum of the hyperdrive and the breathing sounds of its three occupants. Kolot sat in the co-pilot's seat, the metal extensions he used to reach the controls tucked away in the rack Myn had installed in the niche between the gunnery station and the environmental systems controls. He held a datapad in his paws and was reading the manual of Myn's new Hermes-class courier to familiarize himself with the ship's systems. They'd bought the ship two weeks back but were still working their way through the operational manual and the technical specifications.

    Tonin, linked to the ship's systems via his droid station, let out a soft warble and the navigation display appeared on one of the forward displays.

    "Alright, folks," Kirney said and began to strap herself in. "We're sixty seconds from reversion to realspace so if you'd be so kind to buckle up in case we run into a bunch of sunday pilots I'd appreciate it."

    Kolot put the datapad away and reached for the extensions before he followed Kirney's lead and strapped himself in. "Acknowledged."

    Kirney cast a glance at Myn, who was sitting in the chair of the engineering station. He, too, was busy fastening his crash webbing but he didn't offer a verbal reply. "Are you planning to sulk all the way to Coruscant?" she inquired letting a touch of exasperation creep into her voice.

    Myn let out a snort but didn't look at her. "So what if I do? You know what I think of this stunt."

    "Yes, I do." She rolled her eyes. "You've been quite clear on your opinion ever since I told you. What would have you done if I had gone ahead with my idea without telling you?"

    He gave another snort. "I'd have come after you with a sniper rifle, shooting anyone who'd given you as much as a strange look."

    "Look," she spat and swiveled her chair around to face him, "if I had known you'd be such a pain in the ejector seat I'd have left you on Corellia. This overprotectiveness thing may be cute the first few times, but I'm seriously getting tired of it, so knock it off!"

    He glared back. "I've already been through losing you once and I don't want to go through that again. Is that so hard to understand?"

    She shook her head. "No, it isn't. But they are our friends. Don't you trust them?"

    Myn remained implacable. "With your life? No."

    Kolot let out a growl and turned to glower at the two humans. "Leave hyperspace first, go on arguing later," he grumbled.

    "Right." Kirney swiveled her chair towards the frontal viewport again and put her right hand on the lever of the hyperdrive. As the countdown reached zero she pulled it back and the swirl of colors outside the ship collapsed into realspace again.
    They'd come out of hyperspace on the outer edge of Coruscant's traffic zone. The city planet never slept and the sheer number of ships waiting for their cue to begin their final approach was a sight to behold. There were one-person ships not larger than a snubfighter waiting next to titanic container freighters with thousands of tons of cargo – as long as you didn't have a priority code you had to wait for your turn, regardless of your ship's size and displacement.

    "Home sweet home," Kirney remarked sarcastically as the sparkling night side of Coruscant loomed ahead. "Ferrocrete City, choose between overpriced, overcrowded and unhygienic or take all three at the same time."

    "How about neither?", Myn gibed, the first sign of humor he'd shown since they'd left Corellia, before taking a deep breath in a conscious effort to pull himself together. Kirney was right, not that he'd admit it to her, but sulking wouldn't see them through this. "What's the plan?"

    "First we establish an operational base," Kirney said as she guided the shuttle towards the closest congregation of waiting ships. The recent battles for the city planet had left much debris in orbit making it necessary to herd traffic along narrow corridors. And these had to be swept for floating junk on an hourly basis. "Meaning we find a clean hotel with reasonable prices and a few decent tapcafs nearby. I remember your tales of fast food vending machines and I don't think my stomach could tolerate that."

    "I'd figured that out," he muttered dryly. "I was thinking about how we can get in touch with Face and all that. Remember I dumped my comlink so we don't have his frequency."

    "Hold her here, Kolot," Kirney instructed her co-pilot after she'd brought the ship to a stop at the end of the queue of waiting freighters. Then she swiveled her chair around again. "I wasn't thinking of giving him a comlink call. That would be too obvious, it would leave too many traces." Her eyes narrowed to slits and she had that flicker in them that Myn associated with her thinking heavily. "I think the best course would be to use the public communication system. I can generate an empty message to a public com node with just enough coding that the system will automatically forward it to an address of our choosing. And if we use a public com terminal there will be no trace that could be backtracked to us."

    "Ah." For Myn the world of data deception was and would always remain unfathomable and it showed in his blank stare.

    "You haven't understood a single word I said," she remarked with a grin.

    "I think I got 'to' and 'it'. But how will you get it to Face? I don't suppose secure NRI communications nodes can be looked up in the HoloNet directory."

    That drew a snort. "NRI headquarters has its own public node and if we address the message to Captain Garik Loran and attach a small data package encrypted in an old Wraith Squadron code … " Her voice trailed off and she gave Tonin a glance from the corner of her eyes. "You still have them, haven't you?"

    The astromech gave a happy trill of affirmation.

    "Of course." Myn finally understood. "And what will that package contain?"

    She gave a low chuckle, her green eyes twinkling with amusement. "It's obvious you've never had any Intelligence training."

    "For which I'll be eternally grateful," he shot back wryly.

    "Yes, well …" She gave him a look of patient amusement. "That package will only contain three things: a location, a timestamp and a note that it's urgent." The slight smile grew into a smirk. "And, of course, an automated notification bounced back to us once the package has been correctly decrypted."

    "Of course," he said nonchalantly. "And what if Face isn't around? Remember my little predicament a while back?"

    Kirney smiled mock sweetly. "Which is why Shalla and Piggy will receive identical messages. Just sent at a different time from different com terminals."

    A frown stole its way on Myn's face. "Face and Shalla I understand," he said and gave her a look of puzzlement. "But why Piggy?"

    "Several reasons." She began to count things off her fingers. "First – the professional reason. Face is the boss, Shalla is his second-in-command. Number three in the pecking order is Piggy. Didn't you tell me a while back that he'd been promoted?"

    "Yes, I did." Myn nodded but still looked puzzled. "But Kell has been a Lieutenant for much longer and has seniority over him. Rank-wise, that is."

    "True," Kirney admitted. "But he's content just being Demolitions Boy. I don't think he wants that kind of command authority."

    "Makes sense," he agreed after a moment of contemplation. "So with Face, Shalla and Piggy we have three times as many chances to set up this meeting. What are the other reasons?"

    "The second reason," she began by ticking off another finger, "is training. Face was an actor. He's trained to read people's body language like a holobook." A rueful smile appeared on her lips. "He blew my cover, after all."

    "Yeah," he muttered, looking uncomfortable. Even though years had gone by since Kidriff Myn was still not completely at ease with what had happened.

    Kirney raised an eyebrow, he blushed and cleared his throat. "As for Shalla," she continued casually but still managed to give him a pointed look, "she was trained in all kinds of Intelligence things and knows the business. She probably understands my situation best of them all. More importantly, though, she will understand the importance of what we agreed to offer."

    "And Piggy?"

    She let out a sigh. "Piggy's upbringing taught him all kinds of ugly things about prejudices. Which is why I never noticed him having any. Additionally he is the most level-headed of all Wraiths and his affinity to mathematics means he's more likely to focus on the known facts instead of reacting emotionally."

    He gave a low whistle of appreciation. "You've put some serious thought into this, I see."

    Kirney didn't smile but the corner of her lips twisted into a sour grimace. "I was taught to do this kind of evaluation," she reminded him. "It's kinda like a program running in my head."

    "Oh." He looked down for a moment, not sure how to continue as he knew that her service with Imperial Intelligence was still a sore spot for her. "Any further reasons?"

    "Personal history." She exhaled noisily. "Face knows how it is to serve the Empire while not knowing what it's really like. He knows how it is to have an epiphany and still feel unable to pay back the debts one has piled up." She looked at Myn to check his reaction but he merely gave a nod. "Shalla … I remember you told me she was torn about my motivations when you were listening to my message. By including her I make it clear that I am not attempting to set up this meeting just with people who can relate to my situation. I don't want to create the impression that I'm arranging things in my favor."

    Myn's eyes widened. While he'd agonized over the things that could go wrong and ways how to get out in that case she'd considered things he'd never have thought of. "I … This is far beyond my limited horizon." He looked embarrassed. "My Mom sometimes calls my father a 'dumb grunt'. Lovingly, that is. I really feel like that at the moment."

    "I was trained to do this," she reminded him gently, "and you weren't. Don't beat yourself up." Then Kirney shook her head as if to clear her thoughts and struggled to focus on the main issues. "And Piggy," she went on and her voice once again strong and businesslike, "was born just to be a lab specimen, an experiment. He knows how it is to rise above what had been ordained for you by other people."

    "Makes sense," he agreed. "Was that all?"

    She smiled again, a crooked smile full of mischief. "Psychology." That earned her a blank stare and she giggled. "It's simple but most people aren't aware of it. By sending out three messages I increase the chance that at least two of them will show up. By having two, maybe even three of them in this meeting we grant them either numerical parity or superiority. Which, to put it bluntly, will not put them on the defense and make them more amiable."

    Myn narrowed his eyes and shot her a glare as some pieces he'd never quite managed to sort clicked into place. "So this is why you won't let me come along to those business meetings of yours."

    "Correct," she returned impishly. "Gotta take all the advantages I can, haven't I?"

    "Tonin, remind me never to play a game of chance against her. Ever."

    The astromech hooted an affirmation that sounded entirely too much like a chuckle.

    Kirney pouted at him, the expression exaggerated enough to make it clear she was fibbing, before she patted the rounded top of Tonin and asked nonchalantly, "Have you got our landing slot, yet?"

    The droid chirped a cascading sequence of sounds and projected a schematic holo into the air.

    Kirney raised a dubious eyebrow. "Newport Sub-Five?" She cast a glance at Myn. "Ever been there?"

    He frowned. "Not that I remember. It's one of Newport's auxiliaries, right?"

    Tonin's whistle confirmed his supposition.

    "Okay, shorty, I've got a job for you," the droid's mistress cut in. "I want you to access the planetary data network and list all hotels in the proximity of that spaceport and sort them by price, quality, restaurants or tapcafs nearby and relative distance. You got that?"

    The astromech hooted and began to fulfill the task he'd been given.

    The freighter in front of them began moving ahead and a green light was flashing on the console. Kolot, who had been silent throughout the discussion, spoke up again. "Fair Trade cleared for landing."

    Kirney swiveled her chair back around and flipped a switch. A holographic indicator appeared on the frontal display. "That's our vector, Kolot. Take her in."

    The Ewok gave her a toothy grin. "Yub-yub, Captain."

    ***​
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  2. -thor-

    -thor- Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2002
    ***​

    Newport Entertainment District – Coruscant
    three days later


    The human man of average height, dressed in what could be construed as spacer's garb, was leaning against one of the glowlight posts dotting the small alley and watched the proceedings in front of him. He didn't attract interest from the many passers-by, spacers were common in this area, and neither did the Gamorrean swathed in a baggy jumpsuit next to him. There were empty spots for hook-and-loop logo patches on their jumpsuits, commonly used to display company or ship logos, which looked much cleaner than the rest of their clothes. The lack of said patches wasn't unusual as many crewmen preferred a bit of anonymity when spending their hard-earned pay in the entertainment districts. If you got into a scuffle somewhere you didn't want trouble following you back to the ship.

    A shrill whine drifted over from the cruise liner terminal of Newport and the blond man, his hair somewhat shaggy as were the mustache and goatee, turned to watch the spaceship take off before spitting the piece of spicetack he'd been chewing on into a nearby garbage can.

    "Hard to believe that this is Coruscant," the Gamorrean said, not bothering to activate the throat implant. "It's so … squeaky-clean."

    Face nodded and scratched his chin. The sithspawned beard would have to go and he had grown tired of the dirty blond of his last cover. "This whole district is brand new, less than two months old." He jerked his head at the houses on the other side of the road. "A wrecked Star Destroyer came down a few hundred meters from here and tore a crater five klicks in diameter."

    Piggy let out a snort that conveyed both derision and amusement. "Knowing what this area looked like before the crash I guess that was a considerable improvement."

    "Cynic," Face drawled casually but his eyes were doing a visual sweep of the people around him. Not that he noticed anyone paying them too much attention, there were too many beings around, but it had become a habit since his transfer to Intelligence. "You've got any brilliant last minute insights into what this is about?"

    Piggy grunted again. "Sorry, fortune telling is not my specialty." Then he dropped the pretense of grouchy humor and stilled in contemplation. "But I must admit I find myself intrigued. Non-traceable text messages sent via the public com system, old Wraith Squadron encryption from our days with Starfighter Command, a brand-new location with thousands of beings around … This has all the markings of a prank as Grinder used to play 'em."

    "Yeah." Loran rubbed his face wearily. "Only that he's been dead for years and pranks are now Runt's domain. Although he isn't nearly as creative."

    "No," Piggy returned ruefully. "He's rather consistent in his pattern."

    His friend chuckled. "Come on. Let's go see what this is about. You're armed?"

    The Gamorrean nodded and patted his forearm. "Holdout blaster in forearm holster, one vibroblade in each boot." He held up a hand and curled it into a fist. "And, of course, two of these here."

    "Good." Loran's lip curled into a grimace. "Too bad that Shalla's out in the field with Kell and Tyria. She wouldn't even need a weapon."

    "Don't worry," Piggy soothed mock gently before his expression turned dark. "If anyone wants to play us I'll happily put his head through the nearest wall."

    They slipped into the stream of people promenading past shop windows, holographic cinemas, gambling establishments and tapcafs with the ease of experienced undercover agents. Their destination was on the other side of the alley some forty or fifty meters ahead, a tapcaf just as new as the building it was situated in and, judging by the general tidiness and the prices on the menu holo near its entrance, attempting to cater to a higher-than-usual audience. As the sun was high up in the sky most patrons had chosen to eat lunch or nurse their drinks on a small patio underneath broad parasols.

    After briefly scanning the people sitting outside, most of which were either office clerks from nearby companies on their lunch break or spacers of various kinds, Loran marched straight into the establishment and breathed a sigh of relief when a cool breeze from the air condition caressed his face. He paused for a moment, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the much dimmer illumination, and began another scan of the patrons. "You see anything?" he asked Piggy.

    The Gamorrean was doing a sweep of the room as well until his gaze fell on a human man sitting at the corner table to his left. He froze. "Your nine o'clock, corner table. Human man with black hair and black jumpsuit."

    Face casually turned to look into the direction and did a double take. "Isn't that …?"

    Piggy nodded. "I think so."

    The human had noticed them and gave them a minuscule nod.

    "Get us something to drink, would you?" Loran muttered. "Ebla beer for me and whatever you'll have. I'll pay you back when we get home."

    "I've heard that before," Piggy snorted but moved towards the bar.

    Face turned to the left and slowly made his way over to the corner table. "Well, well," he greeted the raven-haired man sitting there with an ironic smile. "Fancy meeting you here."

    Donos gave him a thin smile and gestured at his friend to sit down. "It's a free galaxy."

    Loran sank into the chair across from where the Corellian sat and studied him. It was still the same unruly black hair and the contemplating blue gaze that he'd associate with Myn Donos forever. Gone, however, was the perpetual aura of dour intensity and quiet sadness that had once surrounded the man like a blanket. Apart from the changes to his presence Face was amazed that the once straight-backed soldier had done away with the upright military posture and stern mannerisms and was slouching in a way that looked entirely natural.
    As for his clothes … they were civilian. The black jumpsuit was custom-made and obviously pretty new. Yellow trim on the sleeves and seams accented in red provided an interesting contrast to the black garment. A brand new company logo patch had been sown to the spot above his heart and Face arched an eyebrow at the company's name. "You're still flying?"

    Myn nodded. "I joined forces with an already existing shipping company and so my partner and I decided to rename the joint venture."

    "Ah." He gave Donos a pointed stare. "I am a bit miffed that you disappeared without saying goodbye and without providing a way to get in touch with you."

    "I had very good reasons," Myn returned evenly and took a sip of his non-alcoholic drink.

    "Like what?" a mild computerized voice asked from behind Face. Piggy placed a bottle in front of the former actor and, after a distrustful glare at the flimsy chair, sat down on the bench.

    "Hey Piggy," Donos greeted him before turning his attention back to Face. "I went home, to Corellia. Which means there are some influential members of the society who aren't the greatest friends of the New Republic," he explained patiently. "The Diktat's censors are monitoring any type of communication between Corellia and worlds belonging to the New Republic. A message from you would have put me on their sensors. I didn't want that." The Sabacc mask gave way to a cynical smile. "Besides, you work for a person who doesn't see people as living beings but as resources to be exploited. Had I left behind a way to contact me your big boss would have found out at some point and I'd have ended on his list of potential assets."

    "For someone so intent on not becoming an intelligence asset," Face returned with quiet amusement, "you've put much effort into using the methods of the business. Non-traceable text messages, an old encryption from our starfighter days …" Loran smiled wryly. "I'd never have thought this technical stuff to be your style."

    "It's not," Donos returned evenly before smiling at the confusion on his friend's face. "I'm just … well, you could say I'm the vanguard. My job is to keep your attention while my partner is making sure you don't have someone trailing you."

    "What do you want from us, Myn?" Piggy asked, his computerized voice pleasant and even but the Gamorrean grunts betrayed exasperation.

    The Corellian looked at Piggy and the smile disappeared. "For the record: If I'd had a say in this, I wouldn't have arranged this meeting. I wouldn't have contacted you ever again. I was, indeed, very much against all of this here, but my partner was adamant."

    Face looked at Myn suspiciously. "Your partner?" he prompted but did not receive an answer. Instead he heard Piggy utter a grunt of disbelief and saw the Gamorrean's eyes widen at something or someone behind his back. He turned around to see what his friend was staring at and saw a redheaded woman in a black jumpsuit with yellow trim and red seams sauntering towards them. For a moment he couldn't place her, although she seemed familiar ... Suddenly he remembered. "Fierfek!"

    Kirney moved forward with a shy smile on her lips until she reached the table. "Face. Piggy. Long time no see." Then she cast a glance at Donos and narrowed her eyes. "Myn," she growled, "take your hand off that blaster, will you?"

    Myn shot her a look of annoyance but took his hand off the weapon's butt. Instead he crossed his arms in front of his chest in another gesture of quiet defiance.

    His girlfriend rolled her eyes and slid onto the bench beside him. "I'm sure you have questions," she addressed Face and Piggy, both of whom were still gaping at her with complete stupefaction.

    "You're dead!" Piggy's vocabulator totally failed to convey the complete disbelief and confusion that was carried by his Gamorrean voice underneath. "You were shot down and killed. General Antilles himself witnessed that."

    "Shot down, yes," Kirney admitted. "Killed? No." She shook her head. "Before I took off from Iron Fist I deactivated the emergency transmitter of my ejection seat. Instead I had modified a comlink to transmit a tight-beam signal on Tonin's specific communication frequency so he could find me and pick me up."

    "Dammit, Lara," Face muttered and held his beer bottle in a death grip, "I thought …"

    Kirney held up a hand. "Lara Notsil is dead, Face. And so is Gara Petothel. I'm Kirney now and for all parties involved it's better that these two women stay in their graves."

    Face looked at her in consternation. "But … Why?"

    She gave him a small smile full of sarcasm and weariness. "Because, for all its claims of equality, justice and personal freedom, the New Republic is awfully unbending when it comes to giving people like me a second chance. Regular dolts like me, who simply had the misfortune of growing up on the wrong side of the frontlines, whom nobody showed the realities of the galaxy and who have worked for Imperial Intelligence as undercover agents don't get the chance to switch sides."

    Piggy leaned forward. "What do you mean? You could have come back."

    Kirney's eyebrows went up towards the hairline. "I had sworn an oath on the New Republic under an assumed identity," she returned evenly. "Then I reported secrets back to my Imperial superiors. In the eyes of the law I am a contemptible traitor, a person whose usefulness begins and ends with being executed for treason as an example."

    Face darted a look at Myn, who was still silently glowering at them, before he focused on Kirney again. "But all the things you did for us …"

    "… aren't relevant in court," she finished for him. "Look, I know at the moment you're too surprised to evaluate this objectively. Otherwise you'd know that, if I were to return to the Wraiths, you simply could not trust me ever again. I would be a potential security risk every time you venture out into the field and every single time things went awry you'd wonder if I had betrayed you." She arched her eyebrows expectantly. "Am I right?"

    Face exchanged a look with Piggy and grimaced. "True."

    "Besides …" Kirney fell silent and cast a glance at the nearby tables to make sure there was nobody else listening. "Besides, if Imperial Intelligence knew I was alive they wouldn't merely shrug and say 'Who'd have guessed?'. I and everyone around me would be a target and they wouldn't stop trying until they managed to kill me." She shook her head adamantly. "Not that it would make your job easier if the Imps began to assemble a more thorough profile of the unit. It would make insertions into imperial territory that much more difficult."

    "I see." Piggy was studying her thoughtfully. "But why are you here? I don't see a reason for you to show up and tell us you're alive." His gaze cooled considerably. "Unless, of course, you want something."

    Donos opened his mouth to respond but Kirney put a hand on his arm and shook her head. "No, let me." She looked the Gamorrean straight into the eyes. "No, I don't want anything from you."

    "Then why? And why now?" Piggy uttered a grunt which his implant failed to translate. "It's been what? Nearly three years?"

    A pained expression found its way onto Kirney's face. "You were the first real friends I had in my entire life. Since I've left I've had flashbacks of my time with the squadron, of little things I experienced or suddenly I remember how one of you said something in certain situation. At first I tried to forget all of that. I told myself that you hated me." She looked at Donos, her voice dropping to a husky whisper. "Just like I thought Myn here hated me."

    Myn took her hand and kissed her palm.

    Kirney gave him a brave little smile before pulling herself together. "But the more time went by the stronger grew the urge to attempt a reconciliation. You guys were an important part of my life, a part that was missing for the last three years. Is that so hard to understand?"

    ***
    [face_batting]
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
  3. -thor-

    -thor- Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2002
    ***​

    Piggy stared at her for what seemed to be an eternity, then he looked away and sighed, "No, it's not."

    "Can I ask you something, La …" Face shook his head at himself. "Sorry, Kirney."

    Myn offered him a tight smile. "Don't worry. It took me a few days not to think of her as Lara, anymore."

    Kirney chuckled quietly. "Ask away, Face."

    The former actor fixed her with an inquiring stare. "When did you reach the point that made you realize that there is no debt for you to pay down?"

    She started in surprise as she had not expected this question, then turned contemplative for a few long moments. "To be honest," she began hesitantly and tucked a strand of her coppery hair behind her ear, "I never reached that point." She looked at Myn but he smiled and squeezed her hand. She took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds and then exhaled slowly. "I simply realized that I will never be able to begin repaying the debt I've accrued. At least not in the way I would have wanted to, in a way I felt would be appropriate."

    Piggy took a sip of the weird green-blue concoction he'd bought and tilted his head. "Care to explain that?"

    Leaning back against the wall Kirney let her head drop back to stare at the ceiling. "I feel guilty for all the wrongs I helped perpetrate in my former life. The problem is that the only way I would have wanted to fix what I had once wrecked has been closed to me ever since Kidriff. Flying a snubfighter, taking out those who serve megalomaniacs like Zsinj, making the galaxy a better and safer place for all those innocents I once foolishly endangered … That was the only way I would have deemed acceptable to do so. At least after I got off Iron Fist at Selaggis."

    "And before?"

    Letting out another deep breath Kirney grabbed Myn's drink and took a sip. "I was very much willing and prepared to give my life in exchange for Zsinj biting space dust. I deemed every risk worthwhile as long as it brought down this maniac." She tipped back her head and drained Myn's glass, wincing a bit at the sour note of the mixture. "At least that's what I told myself, maybe I even believed it. But when the time came I found myself fighting for my life with everything I had, even going for another charade, namely engineering my death."

    Face nodded. "I know. Been there, done that, too, you know?"

    "You?" Piggy looked at his friend in surprise. "How come?"

    Loran smiled sadly. "After I'd been kidnapped by the ex-Alliance extremists, after they'd shown me what the Empire really was like, after their fight to the death with the Imperial Commandos sent to rescue me, after the Imps couldn't find me or my corpse and left …" He gripped his beer bottle tightly and tossed back a mouthful. "For a few days I remained there, among the corpses and the carnage, waiting for death to take me as well. I felt so guilty back then, guilty for helping the Imperial war machine, for spreading their lies. But when the time came that dehydration and hunger were beginning to take their toll I also began to fight for my life. Something within me refused to meekly accept death as suitable punishment for my mistakes, something revolted against me taking the easy way out." He shook his head. "And yet I felt as if I had a debt to pay down, a huge debt, one which I never would be able to eradicate entirely."

    The redhead eyed him curiously. "So when did you reach that point you were asking me about?"

    "Not for many, many years," Face admitted quietly. "I mean, at that point I was barely a teenager. In my anger at the Empire I wanted to lash out, to make them pay for using me to further their schemes." Dark amusement flickered across his face for a brief moment. "As I told my parents, to their utter horror, I wanted to 'shove a proton torpedo so far up Palpatine's exhaust port that his head was going to spin'. But I was so young, I knew I would be in no position to do so for many years. Instead I focused on learning. I finished my schooling, looking for useful skills for my plans and decided on astrogation and starship maintenance, though I have to admit I was a total failure in the latter subject so I dropped it again." He took another sip of his beer. "After I finished school I took flying lessons and despite Palpatine's death at Endor there was no change in my outlook. The Empire was still out there and I had still not managed to even start repaying the debt I had accrued."

    "So you short-tracked your way into Starfighter Command by buying an A-Wing," Myn added with a nod.

    "Well, yes." Face paused. "Ton Phanan reamed me a new one when I told him how I perceived my service with the Wraiths, that I had to balance my account. Shortly before he died he said something to me that will remain in my heart until the day I die, even though I did not appreciate or even understood it at that time. He said 'The account doesn't need balancing. You cannot reduce sapient lives to numbers and exchange them like credits.'" He shook his head. "It wasn't until we took down Razor's Kiss, after that TIE damaged my X-Wing and wounded me, when my snubfighter was on a trajectory towards Iron Fist and I thought I was dead, anyway, that his words came back to me and I finally understood. I did not seek to balance an account, that was but a rationalization to anesthetize myself. I did what I did in an attempt to punish the revoltingly adorable little boy who had been handpicked by the Imps to give a friendly face to their propaganda."

    "Oh." The redhead glanced down at her hands, one of which was still held by Myn. Then she shook her head. "I understand where you're coming from, Face, but there is an important difference between our cases. I did all these things as an adult, I chose to remain loyal to the Empire, I chose to continue believing their lies even after they killed my parents. Sith, I even hated myself for missing my parents, telling myself that they'd been kriffing traitors instead." Angrily she wiped a few tears from her cheek. "What kind of person believes a government more than her own parents?"

    "A little girl who had just lost her parents and the only anchors she'd had in life," Myn said gently, giving her hand yet another squeeze. "A little girl that was so scared of being killed as well that she withdrew into herself and let the teachers, the instructors and the superiors do to her whatever they wished. A little girl who saw no other way to survive but to bend with the storm in order to not be broken or blown away."

    Kirney's eyes opened wide but did not really see anything beyond her own thoughts. Those had been her words, uttered years ago during one of their long conversations during his first visit. A memory floated up from the depths of her mind, a part of the message she'd sent Myn after Kidriff.

    'All the furniture that made up the way I'd thought and felt about things all my life started coming loose in my head. Nowadays it slides around and breaks into pieces and I have no idea what parts of it are real and what aren't. It hurts, and a lot of the time I don't know who I am anymore.'

    Had Gara Petothel, perhaps, been but another role she'd played in order to hide from the enemy, only that this enemy had been the Empire, the teachers who had held her parents' fate over her head at every opportunity, her instructors and her superiors with Imperial Intelligence who had always demanded not only unwavering and total loyalty but complete and utter abandonment of self? Had the loss of her parents, her early acclimatization to playing roles even as a child and ultimately her habit to bury her own self deep within where nobody could reach it stunted the development of herself as a person? And if Gara had been but a role, a shell that kept the Empire away from the little frightened girl that was cowering in the deepest reaches of her soul, what did it mean?
    The notion itself was chilling, the idea that until her awakening when serving alongside the Wraiths there had been but roles and characters she'd played but her real self had never truly existed. It had always been buried underneath layers of something oppressive, a destiny intended for her by others, including – and that was a truly disturbing thought – her own parents.
    The three phases of her life – her childhood spent being groomed to fulfill a role preordained for her by her parents, her adolescence filled with fears, studies, training and traumatizing mental manipulations by her instructors and ultimately her service with the now hated Imperial Intelligence as an adult – were now brought forth by her inner self, embodied by the three people she saw in front of her mind's eye: First was the small dark-haired girl cowering fearfully in a corner, her eyes full of terror, clutching a long forgotten stuffed animal in desperation. The second was a teenage version of the girl but with eyes that were as empty and hollow as her life throughout those years had been and the third was her old adult self, dressed in a crisp but boring gray Imperial uniform, glaring disdainfully at her younger selves but somehow exuding the same emptiness and loneliness as her younger versions.

    And then the truth hit her with the force of the shockwave of a thermonuclear explosion, the impact nearly making her gasp: Just like Face had said she was not trying to settle a debt she had accumulated as an adult, she was trying to punish the frightened little girl for not standing up for herself, the empty-eyed teenaged Gara for not revolting against the circumstances and the indoctrination and the adult for her willful ignorance and blindness even in the face of evidence for the Empire's failings. Like sunlight breaking through a slowly dissolving cloud layer this realization lifted a fog in her mind whose existence she hadn't even realized, almost like a gray haze dulling the vividness of colors. With it gone she could finally see a fundamental truth, one that had been hidden from her for years, a truth that did set her free from the ghosts of her past at long last.

    The only thing I can do is to live my life to the fullest, she realized, feeling as if she'd been relieved from a great weight that had been placed on her shoulders. That is the only and ultimate 'Kriff you' to the machinations they put me through. Living the life I want to live is what matters and nothing else.

    "Kirney." Loran's voice shook her out of her reverie. "Do not punish yourself. This kind of debt-service-thinking is self-destructive. Take it from someone who has been there, too."

    She nodded. "I won't," she promised and gave her friends and then Myn a shaky smile.

    The Corellian smiled back and leaned forward to capture her lips with a soft kiss. "I'll hold you to that," he whispered.

    Piggy exchanged a smile with Face, then cocked his head and asked softly, "So where does that take us now?"

    Kirney paused, both to regain some semblance of control over her confusing emotions and to shape her thoughts into complete sentences. "To something I wanted to offer, anyway." Giving her friends a wry smile she added, "Although I had considered this as first installment of my debt to you guys. But now?" She shook her head. "Ton Phanan was right – a person's life can't be treated like an account that needs balancing."

    "And what is it now?" the Gamorrean asked.

    "What friends do for one another," the redhead said simply. "It's a way to let myself sleep better at night knowing that I have done everything I can to keep my friends safe." She looked at Piggy, then her gaze darted to Face. "One very important lesson I learned during my Intelligence days was to always have resources that were not part of the kit and contacts provided by my superiors, resources my superiors were not even aware of. I always had one or two skifters up my sleeve, an identity to use for disappearing should things go awry, a bolthole to hide in should my employer decide I was no longer useful …"

    One of Piggy's eyebrows arched upwards. "Meaning?"

    "Myn and I, we both have ships. My shuttle can carry up to thirty people, his courier at least three or four." She looked at him and he nodded back since both had agreed in advance to make this particular offer. "I've set up a bogus com address on Commenor and configured it to route an incoming signal through several planetary communication networks before it's bounced to us. Should you ever need extraction that the New Republic can't or won't provide I want you to have a way to get yourself out of trouble. Contact that address and we'll drop everything and come to get you out, no matter where we are at that moment, no matter what we're doing."

    Face blinked. "You would do that?"

    Donos leaned forward, planting an elbow on the table and peered intently at his friends. "Didn't you listen?" he asked softly. "You. Are. Our. Friends," he said, emphasizing every word. "Of course we will do that."

    "I thought you didn't agree to setting up this meeting?" Piggy said and arched an eyebrow. "Quite a turnaround, don't you think?"

    Myn looked at him thoughtfully, wondering briefly whether to be completely honest about his worries. In the end he decided to reveal what was bugging him. Keeping such things bottled up inside was supremely unhealthy, as he'd had to learn himself.

    * * *
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Enjoyed the initial meeting: the "is it you" and "how is that possible" reactions. =D= I love the instinctive alertness of those in Intelligence - the complete observableness of the surroundings. And Myn--he only went along because Kirney insisted, but you can tell he's not sure how it's going to ultimately unfold. [face_thinking]
     
  5. -thor-

    -thor- Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2002
    Actually Kirney put the proverbial blaster to Myn's chest and said "Help me or get out of my way." After that he tagged along only to make sure they escaped once things went wrong. Did I mention he was convinced that things would go wrong in the most horrible way? Personal fear mixed with leftover paranoia from his last campaign with the Rogues (see "Putting down roots" for more details).
     
    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha likes this.
  6. -thor-

    -thor- Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2002
    * * *

    "Piggy, have you got any idea what kind of personal hell I went through after Kidriff?" he said, not bothering to hide the sorrow he felt at the memories. "Not only had I shot at her in a fit of unconscious rage, a rage that I couldn't even blame on someone else because it was mine no matter how much I hated myself for it; I had driven her away and into what I thought to be a suicide mission. And then, when I thought death had claimed her and that I was once again completely alone in the galaxy, life for once did not take away something or someone important to me but gave me a second chance." He tilted his head. "Do you have any idea how it is to find the person you thought you had lost for good and still be worried about her safety because of this kriffing hypocritical legal system? Why do you think I disappeared so quickly, without saying goodbye, without leaving a way to contact me? I was and still am deeply terrified of the possibility of losing her a second time. I don't think I could survive that."

    "Myn," Kirney tried to interrupt him, but he put a hand on her arm and gave her a pleading look.

    "No, let me, love. Force, I need to get this off my chest or my head will explode and now is as good a time as any." He stared at the table for a long moment, then raised his face to look the Gamorrean in the eye again.

    "Do you have any idea how guilty I felt for walking out on you guys like this, for treating you as potential dangers? Even now, after talking to you for a while, I am constantly on the edge because in the back of my mind there's this nightmarish scene playing where some NRI-hired thugs burst into the tapcaf to take her away from me again. Worse, yet, I am torn between my friendship with you and my instinct that is telling me to grab Kirney here and get off Coruscant. Kriff, Piggy – I don't want to be forced to chose between Kirney and you guys, because I know I'd always pick Kirney no matter the cost to me. I don't want to make this choice, I don't want this fear, I don't want this sithspawned tension and yet I've been feeling it nearly constantly since she told me what she was planning." He took Kirney's hand, interlacing his fingers with hers and squeezed it gently. "But she is stubborn, there was no way I was going to talk her out of this here. So I figured we're in this together and all I can realistically do is support her, be there for her and hope none of you is going to seek retribution instead of offering forgiveness. Because, when all is said and done, you guys are still my friends and like she said: Knowing that you have this additional way to get yourself out of a tight spot is going to let both of us sleep better."

    Face eyed him sympathetically. "You love her." It was a statement, not a question.

    Donos nodded. "So much that it sometimes scares me." He smiled at his girlfriend who was blinking away tears of joy. "But I wouldn't have it any other way."

    "How long have you known?" Piggy asked. "That she isn't dead, I mean."

    "Since the evening before Mon Remonda reached Coruscant." He cast a dismayed stare at his empty glass. "I need another drink. Want one?" he asked Kirney.

    "Yes, please. One of those," she responded, clinking a fingernail against the empty glass. Scooting aside she let him get out from behind the table, then slid all the way over to where he had been sitting before while he walked off towards the counter.

    "Well, that explains where he disappeared to immediately after we got to Coruscant," Piggy chuckled. "Corellia, huh?"

    Kirney nodded. "We live in a suburb of Coronet City. Spent six months expanding the attic of Myn's childhood home and only moved in a few weeks ago."

    Face was surprised. "You're living with his parents?" At her nod he added, "Do they know?"

    "Yes, they know everything." The redhead shook her head in slight disbelief. "They never judged me, welcomed me with open arms despite knowing what had transpired between me and Myn from the start. And when he was off with the Rogues they became my rock, my shoulder to cry on, my confidants." She paused, her lips twisting into a wistful smile. "Myn's father told me they saw me as the daughter they never had and to me they are what I wish my own parents could have been. I sometimes wonder what I've done to deserve so many good things in this new life of mine."

    "Well, think of it as life paying you back for all the bad cards it dealt you before," Loran suggested smartly. "If life gives you an 'Idiot's Array', go all in."

    Kirney's smile widened and the two Wraiths were surprised by the peace and contentment she was exuding. "I intend to," she said cryptically. Turning her head to look at Myn carrying to glasses as he approached she whispered to herself, "I intend to."

    They fell into a short comfortable silence until Donos reached the table. He placed one of the yellow and orange concoctions in front of his girlfriend, then dropped onto the bench and drank a mouthful of his own. "That's better," he sighed. "What did I miss?"

    "She told us you still live with Mommy and Daddy," Piggy deadpanned.

    Myn cast a glare of mock vexation at the Gamorrean. "Piggy, how could you? You were the beacon of sanity among this bunch of miscreants." Turning his glare on Face he went on, "You have corrupted him. I hope you're proud of yourself."

    Loran chuckled. "He's a Wraith. It was bound to happen."

    Donos rolled his eyes before turning serious again. "I've got a question for you," he said, turning briefly to look at Kirney who arched a curious eyebrow. "Well, actually two questions, but the second depends on your answers to the first one. And I want you to answer it as honestly as you can."

    Piggy looked at him with a raised eyebrow and gestured for him to continue.

    Myn, buying a little time to steel steel himself, took another sip of his drink. "Now that you know," he began and cast another glance at his girlfriend from the corner of his eyes, "about Kirney I mean, how do you feel? And please, no platitudes and no sugarcoating. Brutal honesty, remember?"

    Loran opened his mouth … but then he hesitated and snapped it shut again. A frown stole its way on his features as he pondered the question as deeply as the Corellian had asked him to. Was he glad to see her alive? Was he indignant about having been kept in the dark for so long? Or did he feel hurt, hurt because of her lies? There was a jumbled mess of emotions wafting through his heart, a chaos far too convoluted to be easily unsnarled or to even conceptualized. Sith, he grumbled inwardly, what a mess!

    "I feel conflicted," Piggy's voice was surprisingly gentle but it snapped Face out of his thoughts. "Talking to you, sitting here at this table … I catch myself falling into well-worn patterns, patterns I got used to back then." The Gamorrean sighed. "I start to relax but then I remember how you lied to all of us … It makes me angry, for a little while at least. Because then all the things you have done for us come back to me, how you sabotaged Zsinj from within. And then I suddenly feel guilty for being angry with you, I start to relax and the whole cycle starts anew." Piggy looked up and gave Kirney a hard stare. "You were right, too. I can't trust you. You forfeited the trust we put in you."

    Instead of hurt her face showed acceptance. "I know," she answered. "It will take a long time for me to regain your trust."

    "And how do you think you can do this?" Face inquired. "Because Piggy is absolutely right."

    "The only way I can," she returned evenly. "Namely by staying as far away as possible from your work. The only way I can show you that I care about you as friends is to keep our contacts on a strictly personal level. Meaning I will neither ask about anything NRI-related nor do I want to hear anything about it from your side …"

    "Makes sense," Face admitted. "But you must be aware that the way you got in touch with us is not exactly inconspicuous. It's exactly the kind of thing you did back then, isn't it?"

    "I know." Kirney took a sip of her drink and sighed. "That stuff was drummed into me when I was a teenager. It's nothing I can simply forget, I can't give myself a memory wipe to forget all of that," she muttered before looking somewhat hesitantly at Loran. "Can you simply forget the stuff the Imps taught you when you were practicing for your roles in the holodramas?"

    The former actor grimaced. "No," he admitted. "No matter how much I wish I could."

    "As for the matter of contacting you," Myn said reentering the conversation, "I think you'll agree that marching straight into NRI headquarters, kicking in the door to your briefing room and saying 'Surprise! Look who's back!' wouldn't have been sensible, would it?"

    "At least the reactions would have been interesting," Piggy snorted. "But you're right, of course …" He looked at Kirney. "Provided you do want to let the rest of us know about you."

    "Of course I do," the redhead affirmed. "I don't want to burden you with yet another secret, especially one that is so unnecessary."

    Myn was silently tracing the edge of his glass. "And that is the reason for my second question," he said quietly. "How do you think the rest of the gang will take it?"

    Loran took a deep breath, held it for a moment and then exhaled slowly. "That's a good question," he admitted and exchanged a glance with Piggy. Earning only a shrug in return he went on, "To be honest I never thought about it. I mean, until about …" He looked at his wrist chrono. "… twenty minutes ago I had no idea that you're alive and well. It was something we never talked about, partially because I suspect we were all conflicted about your memory and avoided the topic."

    "And now that you do know?" Myn prompted. Seeing how both Piggy and Face sported looks of indecision he rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Sithspit, then speculate. I'm not asking for the numbers for the next round of Corellian Lottery, am I?"

    Piggy eyed him for a moment, then his eyes widened in disbelief. "You're not asking whether one of us will pull a blaster on her, are you?"

    When Myn hesitated Kirney's head whipped around and she gave him an incredulous stare. Suddenly she let out a disgusted, "Argh," and threw up her hands in exasperation. "Oh for Sith's sake, Myn, ease up on the paranoia, will you?"

    Loran leaned back in his chair and smirked at the almost-quarreling couple. "Protective much?" he asked Donos, his smirk growing wider when the Corellian turned to glare at him. Deciding to end the dispute before it even began he wiped the mirth from his face. "But to ease the strain on your nerves let me say that I do not think anyone will seek retribution of this type." He paused to contemplate the potential reactions of his friends to Kirney's sudden reappearance. "If I had to wager a guess you may have some problems with Shalla and Kell, maybe even Tyria. Elassar and Runt won't mind …"

    The redhead gave Myn one last hard look before turning her attention back to Face. "That's pretty much what I figured as well."

    "Oh, really?" Piggy asked curiously.

    "Yes." Her expression changed from mild vexation to contemplation. "Kell isn't one to trust people easily, never was and never will be. And Shalla was extensively coached in all things counter-espionage so she was groomed to root out people like myself." A corner of Kirney's mouth twisted into a self-deprecating grimace as she muttered, "And like you said I am not exactly in the position to ask for anyone's trust."

    "And Tyria?"

    Kirney sighed deeply. "We were roommates, apart from Myn here she was probably the one Wraith I was closest to." She briefly closed her eyes before she rubbed her face wearily. "Maybe I'm just being paranoid but I suspect she might not be a happy spacer about me having lied so much."

    She was surprised by Loran's snicker. "Psychological evaluation? Never took you for a shrink."

    "I'm not," she answered, "but it's yet another skill I was taught in my teens." A small self-satisfied smile appeared on her face. "Although I must admit it's quite handy in the business world."

    "How so?"

    "In my job I meet lots of different people," Kirney said as she leaned back against the wall behind her. "I've found it quite useful to be able to deduce what kind of person they are at a glance and after exchanging a few words. Some not only like small talk in advance but won't do business without it, some detest this kind of small talk entirely and want to go straight to the matter at hand, some are just smarmy and are trying to lull you into some kind of semi-awareness while they try to sweet-talk you into something and yet others are not even trying to hide that all they want is to take advantage of you."

    Face gave her a weird look. "Did you psycho-evaluate us, too, when you sent those messages?"

    Kirney blushed lightly. "Among other things, yes, I did. But before you decide to feel manipulated let me tell you that Shalla also got a message."

    "Oh." The former actor looked embarrassed. "Sorry, she's …"

    "… unavailable," Kirney finished for him and raised an eyebrow. "What did I tell you?"

    Piggy chuckled and eyed Face with amusement. "No talking about our work, we know."

    The redhead nodded. "Good." Digging into a pocket of her jacket she brought out a datacard and slid it across the table. "This contains the emergency com address we were talking about. Make sure everyone memorizes it. The other address on it is our business Holonet address."

    Loran pocketed the card. "What do you want me to do?"

    "Get the Wraiths together, those who remember me, that is," Kirney said. "Preferably away from NRI or military installations, maybe under the guise of a celebration or get-together. I'll leave that to you."

    "And then?"

    "Send a short note with time and location of the meeting. I'd suggest you conceal it as invitation to some business meeting of sorts … just to fool the Diktat's censors." She looked at Myn who nodded back. "And then we'll see how it goes."

    They spent the rest of the afternoon talking about everything and nothing. And the longer they talked the more tension seemed to seep out of them, much to their own surprise and relief. In the evening they went their separate ways, Face and Piggy promising to set up the meeting as soon as possible before they returned to their apartments in an NRI safe house while Kirney and Myn went back to their hotel and began looking for flight orders they could fulfill to make some credits upon returning to Corellia.

    * * *
     
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    That definitely went better than Myn expected :p and Kirney doubtless hoped. @};-
     
  8. -thor-

    -thor- Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2002
    * * *​

    Epilogue
    Coruscant – six weeks later


    The private dining room Face had reserved was part of an upper middle-class hotel in one of Coruscant's sprawling urban settlement districts, situated far away from the skytowers and government buildings of Galactic City and the Senate District just north of the planet's equatorial belt. The pastel yellow color of the walls was lit by subdued glowpanels and spotlights in the ceiling which gave the room a relaxing aura. The four corners of the room were dominated by permaglass terrariums depicting various ecological systems complete with the appropriate plants, animals and simulated weather conditions. A table was set in the middle of the room with dinnerware and cutlery for nine people, a second was pushed against one of the longer walls containing the utensils for an opulent warm buffet, but no fares were present at this moment. The other side of the room was taken up by an enormous shelf containing dozens of various liquors, a beautiful bar made from fijisi wood with taps for various beers and ales and a big fridge laid into the wall containing non-alcoholic drinks.

    Piggy held a device similar to a datapad in his hands and moved along the walls, tables and terrariums, his eyes never leaving the readout. He looked up when a door in the rear of the room opened.

    "All clear?"

    The Gamorrean nodded. "Scan was clean. Are they here?"

    Face took off his dark brown leather jacket and hung it on one of the hooks of a coat rack standing near the bar. "They're in the next room. Took me a moment to slice the virus into the security system, but it's done. The hotel staff will be surprised to find that none of their holocams work and that all of today's recordings are corrupted and not salvageable." He checked his wrist chrono. "Is the gang here?"

    "They're in the lobby, still savoring the welcoming drink we booked along with the room." He picked up a small satchel from underneath the buffet table and stowed the scanner in it before putting the satchel back underneath the table and behind the tablecloth. "Is it time?"

    Loran nodded. "Yes, it is. Go get them, would you?"

    Piggy nodded and moved towards the far side of the room where the door opened for him with silent efficiency.

    Face meanwhile had turned to admire the collection of liquors in the wall rack and the bar itself, his hand was tracing the clean lines of the counter and he smiled at the distinct honey-tinged warmth of the light brown wood. He inhaled deeply, expecting to smell cleaning solution or the tart tang of plasteel that was the hallmark of a replica but was surprised to detect the sweet telltale scent of real fijisi wood. His smile widened. Reaching up he took hold of a tall ale glass and held it underneath the tap marked with the distinctive sigil of a Coruscanti Lomin Ale brewery. After drawing himself a glass he held it up, looking at the amber tone of the liquid and the thick froth at the top before he brought it to his lips and took a sip. His surprise about the ale being cold, Lomin Ale was usually consumed lukewarm, was cut short by the sound of the door on the other side of the room opening to admit his friends.

    "Now why did I know I'd find you doing just that?" Kell's droll voice asked, his face wreathed into a wide smirk. "I thought it was bad style to open the bar before the festivities begin."

    "Hey, unlike other people here," Face retorted with a smirk of his own, "some folks actually had to do a bit of work to check whether everything is as planned." Giving the tumbler in his friend's hand a pointed look he added, "And before you decide to give me a lecture about alcohol intake I'd take a long hard look at that glass in your hand."

    That drew a laugh. "That's the 'Welcome Drink' we got from the hotel staff."

    "All part of the package." Loran raised his glass. "Just like this."

    "Well," Tainer drawled and directed a smile at his wife who had put an arm around his waist, "remember you're paying for it, Poster Boy, Sir!"

    He yelped when a hand gave the back of his head a slap. "We're off duty," Shalla reminded him with a glare. "No decor, remember?"

    Tyria mock scowled at the other woman who had gone to the fridge for a non-alcoholic drink. "Don't slap my husband," she said sullenly. "That's my job." Tainer grinned at her words but the grin died when her scowl turned onto him. "And you're going to be quiet now. Take a seat and behave before I decide that you need another one."

    Kell was instantly subdued. "Yes, dear."

    The rest of the Wraiths snickered and Shalla moved her right hand as if she were swinging a force whip. "Shhhhtttpuuu," she hissed the approximation of a force whip's signature sound, her dimples very prominent thanks to the broad grin she was wearing. The snickers grew louder and Kell threw her a fulminating glare.

    Elassar hadn't joined the hilarity for he was studying the table with a frown. "I count nine places with dinnerware," he said and gave Loran a suspicious look. "But we're just seven people. Do we expect guests tonight?"

    Shalla groaned. "Don't tell me you've invited General Antilles and Janson."

    Piggy, who had brought up the rear, shook his head as he stood behind the chair next to Face. "No, nothing like that. General Antilles is too public a person and too much in demand to have time for something like tonight and Janson is a … complication … we decided we could do without tonight."

    The Devaronian tilted his head and stared at his commanding officer. "So who are the two guests we're about to have?"

    Heaving a sigh Face answered, "That is part of what we'll have to explain. Get yourselves something to drink, it's an open bar after all, and then take a seat so we can begin."

    It took a moment for everyone to decide what to drink and sit down, except for Face and Piggy who remained standing. "Thank you for coming tonight," Face began the explanation. "Several of you have already asked me what this evening is about and I asked for your forgiveness for not answering that question in any great detail. It is part get-together and part celebration, but the reason for this is quite complicated. Please bear with us while we explain."

    Piggy took over at Face's nod. "About six weeks ago I noticed a strange message in my inbox," he said and turned to look at Shalla who had perked up at his words. "Yes, Shalla, that message. Face and I got one, too."

    "What kind of message," Tyria inquired.

    "A bare text message sent through the public com system," Face responded. "It did not contain any text but there was a data package attached to it and that one was encrypted in an old Wraith Squadron code from our days with Starfighter Command."

    "Who has access to those?" Shalla asked with a puzzled frown. "I mean they're in the Fleet Archives, but even then some aspects of our deployments are still secret and under wraps even today. And that includes the encryption codes."

    Piggy chuckled at her confusion. "That is what we established, too. In fact …" He exchanged a small smile with Face. "In fact it took us a while to find the correct decryption sequence. And while we did it we checked when those files were accessed."

    "And?" Kell arched an eyebrow.

    "Not in the last two years," Face responded, his smile growing wider. "For a moment we suspected a prank, we even thought Iella may be the instigator but she was offworld at this point."

    "Doesn't stop some people," Piggy growled with a pointed look at Runt. The Thakwaash's lips parted for a smile that was all teeth. "Anyway," Piggy went on, "we decrypted the attached file and it turned out to be the coordinates of a tapcaf near Newport Sub-Five along with a timestamp set to noon two days after."

    "A meeting," Elassar said and got a nod in return. "With whom?"

    Face shook his head, his smile giving way to a serious expression. "You would never believe it. Trust me … I did not believe my eyes when I saw her."

    Suspicion was etched into Shalla's features as she inquired, "Her?"

    Loran and Piggy exchanged a glance, the Gamorrean giving a barely perceptible nod. "Well then … ,"Face said and brought out his comlink to hit a button on the device, "meet our hosts for tonight."

    The hiss of displaced air as the door behind him opened was almost completely drowned out by the collective gasp of disbelief and surprise emitted by the other Wraiths as they saw just who was coming through the door.

    "What kind of wizardry is that?" Kell demanded shakily, his face almost as white as the tablecloth.

    "No wizardry," Kirney returned quietly and darted nervous glances at her stupefied former squadmates. "I'm really here."

    "We're really here," Myn corrected and sneaked an arm around her waist, his chin held high as if daring anyone to make an acidic remark.

    "Kriff me sideways," Elassar muttered, his eyes wider than any of them had ever seen them. His usually dark gray skin had taken an ashen tone that looked decidedly unhealthy.

    The stunned silence was suddenly pierced by a whoop of disbelieving delight, the sound of a chair being pushed back with such force that it toppled over and banged onto the carpeted floor and the fast paced footsteps of a woman running.

    Tyria dashed around the table with seemingly unnatural speed and crashed into Kirney without slowing down, almost toppling her over in the process and forcing Myn to let go of her waist. The blond woman threw her arms around her and squeezed, eliciting a squeak of surprise from Kirney that was drowned out by Tyria's delighted laughter. "I knew it," she crowed and drew back slightly to look into Kirney's face. She brought her hands up to cup the other woman's face and said, "Thinking you were dead … it just felt wrong."

    Tears welled up in the redhead's eyes just as Tyria felt her own eyes water. It began as a choked sob and soon both women were embracing each other tightly and sobbing into each other's shoulders.

    Myn was watching the reunion of the two former roommates with a mixture of relief, amusement and even a pinch of disbelief. Kirney had confided in him that Tyria's possible reaction was her greatest worry and seeing them holding each other in a tight embrace, crying tears of relief and happiness into each other's shoulders reduced part of the tension he'd been building up since the morning. Face nudged him and smirked, clearly saying 'I told you so' and Myn shrugged his shoulders. Then his attention turned to Runt who had rounded the table, his grin so wide it had to hurt his face. He briefly wondered what the Thakwaash was up to and smothered a grin when Runt simply threw his long arms around both women, lifted them off the ground and laughed at their squeaks of surprise.

    "We like this surprise," he cheered and whirled them around in circles.

    "Watch it, Runt. Don't make them sick," Kell threw in with a small smile. The tall man rose from his chair, rounded the table and smashed his hand onto Myn's shoulder as if he were swinging a sledgehammer. "You rascal," he said and grinned when the Corellian stumbled back against the wall from the impact. "That's for keeping this a secret for so long."

    Kirney, who was still locked into Tyria's and Runt's embrace at the same time, gave him a look of wide-eyed surprise. "You're not angry?"

    Tainer bestowed a small ironic smile upon her. "My wife has given you a ringing endorsement. Who am I not to trust her judgment?"

    "Not to mention," Loran chortled, "that you'd be in trouble with her."

    Kell looked affronted. "I do actually have an opinion of my own."

    Face grinned back at him. "The phrase 'Yes, dear' comes to mind."

    Tainer rolled his eyes and turned to look at Kirney. "By the way … What do you want us to call you? Lara?"

    The redhead disentangled herself from Tyria's embrace and shook her head. "Lara is dead and it's better that way." Heaving a sigh she added, "I'd appreciate it if you would call me Kirney. That's what I've been calling myself ever since I moved to Corellia."

    "Another role you're playing?" The words were delivered in a rather frosty tone that was at odds with the happy reactions of the other Wraiths.

    Kirney looked at Shalla with a contented smile and shook her head. "No, this is finally myself. For the first time in my life I get to decide the path I wish to take." Looking at Myn she amended, "Well, part of it."

    Shalla remained unconvinced judging by the scowl she was directing at the redhead. "Really? Why should I trust you?"

    "You can't," Kirney returned evenly and shook her head. "In fact, none of you can."

    Tyria blinked and opened her mouth to protest but Kirney held up a hand.

    "No, Tyria, I'm serious. You may feel differently right now, but think about it for a moment." Directing her attention back to Shalla she went on, "I was an Imperial agent who infiltrated the Wraiths with the intent of betraying you to Warlord Zsinj … That is a fact, no matter how much I wish it wasn't so. By lying to all of you, by trying to take advantage of the trust you put in me after that mission to Lavisar I forfeited the right to ask you for your trust. And, to be brutally honest, you would be stupid to trust me right now.

    "I could offer you all kinds of things for your work right now, most of them having to do with computers and my slicing abilities, just to try and prove to you that I am no longer an enemy. I could put together all kinds of helpful programs to make your life as Intelligence Commandos easier, to help you survive … But I won't. Because you simply can't trust me. Because every time you were to use such programs you'd be wondering if this is really just the harmless little helper I made it out to be or if it was a nefarious ploy to expose you to the Empire and betray you. And every time something went wrong, and Intel is a business where that happens rather sooner than later and more often than anyone would like, you'd wonder if this just bad luck or if I had betrayed you."

    The dark-skinned woman cocked her head, her expression now more thoughtful and less suspicious. "So why come back at all? What's in it for you?"

    The redhead took a deep breath, her eyes clouding as she looked back in time. "After Selaggis," she said, "I went to Corellia. I told myself to start anew without the baggage of the past. I told myself that all those people who mattered to me hated me and that I would never be able to face any of you ever again." Her eyes cleared and she turned to look at Donos, displaying a vulnerability that none of the Wraiths had ever seen on her. "That didn't work with Myn," she added huskily, sounding so broken he moved forward and took her in his arms again.

    She let it happen, her head dropping against his shoulder as he simply held her close. They stayed that way for a few long moments, the room eerily silent around them, but finally Kirney withdrew from the embrace with a small grateful smile. She did not, however, let go of Myn's hand.

    "I had barely managed to rent myself an apartment with a small office," Kirney continued, "when I could no longer stand it. I simply had to record a message, to tell him that I was alive."

    "After a little prodding from Tonin," Donos added with quiet amusement.

    "Which explains where you disappeared to after Mon Remonda returned to Coruscant," Kell said. "I thought you needed time alone and away from everything to come to terms with all that had happened, but I'd never have guessed …" His voice trailed off and he shrugged.

    "You were supposed to," Kirney soothed. "And yet …" She grimaced. "I constantly found myself reminded of you guys, of the little things I experienced, how one of you said something and it would come back to my mind in similar situations. Contrary to what I was expecting I was finding that the more time went by the stronger grew the urge to tell you about me being alive. You were … are … the first real friends I ever had in my entire life. And when Myn finally came home last Midwinter …" Her shoulders gave another shrug.

    Shalla heaved a sigh. "I don't know. I just can't … I need time to … I don't know."

    "I understand," Kirney said quietly. "And even if it turns out to be never I'll accept that as well."

    Face, who had remained silent throughout the standoff, came forward and put a hand on Kirney's shoulder. "Let's call the waiter droids and then sit down for dinner. We have more than enough time for further tales."

    At her nod he gestured at the other Wraiths to take a seat again. Then he moved to the comlink embedded into the wall and spoke a few words into the device. The door through which the Wraiths had entered the room opened and a procession of waiter droids holding plates, bowls and what looked like rectangular pans full of food came into the room, placing them on the prepared buffet table. When they were done the droids left the room as silently as they had come.

    As the door closed behind them Myn took his fork and clinked it against a wine goblet. "Since we've found a home on Corellia," he said with a small grin, "we decided to order Corellian fare for the buffet. The bar is, as Face has surely told you already, open and on our tab as well. And without further ado I declare the buffet open. Help yourself and enjoy the meal!"

    They ate leisurely for well over an hour while exchanging tales and anecdotes. A few times Kirney had to remind them not to speak of Intelligence issues – to the point that her asking pointedly 'What did I tell you?' became a running gag for the evening – but mostly she was telling stories about her life as shuttle pilot. Another hour went by. Then, when raucous laughter was rippling among them as she told the story of how she had ended up being friends with Jarrath Lund and how he got his unflattering nickname in the process, Myn decided to spring his own surprise for the evening.

    He picked up his fork again, clinking it against a glass and waited for the conversation to die down. He stood, moved around his chair and rested his hands on its back. "I have something to say. In fact," he directed a small sourish smile at Kirney, "I owe all of you an apology. I … I'm not good with words, so please excuse me if I'm rambling." He blushed slightly but fought the urge to look away. "For the last few years I have been treating you guys as potential dangers and not as the friends that you are. I think you may understand why now, but still I feel bad to have treated you like this. My sudden disappearance, the fact that nobody could reach me anymore and that I didn't tell either of you that I was retiring were all means to an end for me – I did these things to protect Kirney."

    He sighed again and his blush deepened. "When she told me of her plan to tell you that she's alive, to meet you face to face … Well, I'm sure at some point she thought I had completely gone Sith. I was sulking all the way from Corellia to Coruscant when we came to meet Face and Piggy, moping because I could not understand why she was taking this risk, unnecessary and foolhardy as it was in my eyes. I was so focused on my fears of losing her again that I refused to see things from her perspective. But she was insistent and I ultimately swallowed my pride. It did little to sooth my fears, though." He looked at Loran and shot him a self-deprecating smirk. "In fact I asked Face and Piggy in a very roundabout way if any of you would pull a blaster on her."

    Myn paused to take a deep breath. "But that is the past," he went on and let his gaze sweep across the faces of his friends. "The way this evening has gone has allowed me to breathe easier for I know that there is one less secret in our lives, one which has given Kirney much grief over the past few years. And it has relieved me of a tension that I have not been able to shake off ever since learning that she wanted to contact you again." A smile found its way on his face, a beatific smile he directed primarily at his girlfriend and held out a hand. "And it makes it so much easier for me to do the following."

    Kirney took it with an expression of confusion warring with suspicion and curiosity. He pulled her to her feet and turned to face her fully, taking hold of both of her hands.

    "Kirney, once we were enemies and I spent my time dreaming of dozens of supremely painful and horrible ways to kill the woman I held responsible for the death of Talon Squadron. All I had was her short Intelligence file and yet I thought I knew that woman …" He shook his head. "But I didn't. I didn't know you. And, as you've admitted in the meantime, neither did you know yourself.

    "Then we met, you as Lara, playing yet another role. But this time the role became something more for you and, for the first time in your life, you allowed yourself to dream. But still you weren't yourself. Not yet.

    "When I thought I had lost you forever I realized that there had been much, much more than hostility and enmity between us. I found myself mourning a future that wouldn't come to pass, lamenting the things that had happened, wishing for a sign that it wasn't my fate to lose all those people I cared about in horrible ways. That sign came, you gave me that sign." He shook his head in disbelief, a slight smile on his lips. "When I came to Corellia to visit you … I did not really know what I was doing. I didn't know what to expect, what I was actually hoping for, what I wanted. Was I looking for Lara or was I going to meet Gara? Would you be someone else? Whom did I want you to be? In the end I decided it didn't matter which name you were going by, I simply decided that I wanted to get to know you. And the more I learned about you, the more certain I became that I wanted a life with you. We may already be business partners, friends and lovers, but I know I want more. I want the whole package – the friend, the lover, the confidant, the family and, at some point, the mother of my children." He reached into his pocket and retrieved a small jewelry case.

    Kirney's eyes shot open wide in surprise and disbelief and her hands flew up to cover her mouth.

    He opened the cover and revealed its content, a small delicate golden band with streaks of copper spiraling around it and a green emerald sparkling at the top. He sank down onto a knee and asked nervously, "Kirney Slane, will you marry me?"

    Kirney was too surprised to speak, not to mention that she kept her hands over her mouth, but she nodded at him with, slowly at first, then with growing intensity and frequency.

    A devilish smile spread across his face and he put a finger behind his earlobe, pretending not to have understood. "Sorry, what did you say?"

    "YES," Kirney crowed and threw her arms around him as he stood, laughing happily. "I will marry you."

    Myn let out a relieved laugh himself, took the ring and slid it onto her finger. Their lips met for a kiss that was everything at once: tender, loving, full of promise, desperate, passionate ... When the lack of oxygen forced them to break the kiss, after what seemed to have been an eternity but in reality were just a few seconds, they found themselves surrounded by their cheering friends.

    A hand landed on Myn's shoulder that, judging by the force of impact, should have belonged to Kell or Runt. But when the Corellian turned around he found himself looking at a madly grinning Face Loran. "You rascal," Face said and landed another friendly punch on Myn's shoulder. "You've been planning this for a while, haven't you?"

    "Yes, I did," Donos admitted and gave his fiancée a sheepish smile. The smile widened when her eyes did at his admission. "In fact I wanted to propose a few weeks ago, but when you told me you wanted to meet with the Wraiths I knew I had to wait."

    "Why that?" Kirney asked across Elassar's shoulder as the Devaronian held her in a brief congratulatory hug.

    A touch of embarrassment was coloring his cheeks as he answered, "Well, to be honest I was listening too much to my fears. I was afraid that this evening would go badly ... and I planned to propose to you a few days after we returned home. I wanted to show you that I wasn't planning to run out on you. Ever." He chuckled. "But I like this outcome a lot better, because now we can invite all of you to our wedding."

    "Wouldn't miss it for anything," Tyria answered for all of them. She looked intently at Face. "Can you arrange for us to get leave for this?"

    The former actor frowned for a moment. "In theory it shouldn't be a problem given the months of leave all of us have accrued. Provided the Empire doesn't start making trouble at that point, that is." He fell silent for a moment. "I think I'll enlist Iella to get it done. She's got the ear of Cracken and can talk him into acceding to our request should the need arise."

    "Then it's settled," Kirney declared with a broad smile. "I ... We want all of you to be there. It means so much to both of us."

    "Even me?" Shalla asked mischievously, an eyebrow arched towards the hairline. She didn't give Kirney a chance to answer before she hugged her and whispered, "Congratulations," into the redhead's ear. After withdrawing from the embrace she added louder, a sourish smirk appearing on her face, "Just promise me one thing ... no dress uniforms."

    "Oh, I think that's an easy promise to keep," Donos responded with a laugh before his expression turned sly. "Now, frilly dresses on the other hand ..."

    Shalla rolled her eyes at her chuckling friends and picked up her glass from the table. "A toast," she said and raised it. "May this marriage bring you only happiness and good fortune. And may all of us be spared dress uniforms and frilly dresses."

    They burst out laughing again and it helped to dispel the last vestiges of hurt and distrust in the air. Many toasts were to follow that one over the course of the evening, how many nobody could say as they'd lost count pretty soon, and it wasn't before the orbital mirrors high above the city planet were beginning to direct the light of the new day to the district when they left the hotel.

    * * *
    The end (for now) ...

    * * *​

    Thanks for reading and have a nice Sunday.
     
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    What a delightful reunion/proposal! SQUEE! :)