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Saga - OT Outsiders | Drama/adventure | Eli Vanto, Vah’nya, Thrawn, Ezra, Ar’alani, OC | Epic, 5 ABY & beyond

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Chyntuck, Jul 1, 2021.

  1. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Title: Outsiders

    Timeframe: This story begins shortly before the Battle of Jakku (5 ABY). The flashback chapters (titled ‘memories’) cover the gap between the end of Rebels and the fall of the Empire.

    Continuity: Canon

    Characters: Vah’nya, Eli Vanto, Ar’alani, Thrawn, Ezra Bridger, Al’ahae (OC), a smattering of other established and original characters

    Genre: Drama/adventure, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

    Length: Long. Very long.

    Summary: The Chiss Ascendancy is in the throes of civil war when Thrawn returns from his purrgil-assisted trip. Things get worse before they get better.

    Canon sources: This story will refer frequently to elements from Rebels, the Ascendancy Trilogy and the canon Thrawn Trilogy. Some essential background information about the Chiss is included in post #2 below together with a list of characters that I will be updating as I go along. I will also be including explanatory endnotes at the end of each chapter with a focus on elements from the Thrawn books.

    Warning: This is a story about a civil war. There aren’t many fluffy little tookas to be found here, although you’ll spot them if you look carefully in the corners. There will be sweat, blood, tears and most probably several character deaths. You have been warned.

    Challenge responses:

    • The prologue, chapters 1-3, chapter 6 and chapter 8 were written as part of a response to the 2021 Fanfic Olympics – Star Wars Decathlon.
    • Chapter 1 is also a belated entry for the MMM ‘Just a touch’ challenge.
    • The ‘Memories’ I-III chapters were written as part of a response to the 2021 Fanfic Olympics – Star Wars Pentathlon.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2021
  2. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Background information – The Chiss Ascendancy

    Nine Ruling Families: Ufsa – Irizi – Dasklo – Clarr – Chaf – Plikh – Boadil – Mitth – Obbic

    Forty Great Families: Coduyo – Csap – Erighal – Kiwu – Pommrio – Xodlak; more to be added

    Lesser Families (total number unknown): Kivu; more to be added

    Family ranks (highest to lowest): Blood – Cousin – Ranking distant – Trial-born – Merit adoptive

    Military ranks (highest to lowest): Supreme Admiral – Supreme General – Fleet Admiral – Senior General – Admiral – General – Mid Admiral – Mid General – Commodore – Senior Captain – Mid Captain – Junior Captain – Senior Commander – Mid Commander – Junior Commander – Lieutenant Commander – Lieutenant – Senior Warrior – Mid Warrior – Junior Warrior

    Political ranks (highest to lowest): Patriarch (head of the family) – Speaker (head of the family’s delegation to the Syndicure) – Syndic Prime (head syndic) – Syndic (member of the Syndicure) – Patriel (handles family affairs on a planetary scale) – Councillor (handles family affairs at the local level) – Aristocra (mid-level member of one of the Nine Ruling Families)

    Naming conventions: The full name of a Chiss consists of three parts. These are, in the following order: the family name, the first name and a third section indicating other social elements (e.g. Mitth’raw’nuruodo, Irizi’ar’alani). A full name can be shortened to a core name consisting of the last few letters of the family name, the first name and the first few letters of the third section (e.g. Mitth’raw’nuruodo becomes Thrawn, Irizi’ar’alani becomes Ziara). When a Chiss leaves one family and is matched to another, their name changes accordingly (e.g. Thrawn was born in the obscure Kivu family and was originally named Kivu’raw’nuru/Vurawn; his name changed to Mitth’raw’nuruodo/Thrawn when he became a merit adoptive of the Mitth ruling family). Exceptions to this rule are those who are considered to serve the Chiss Ascendancy as a whole and are therefore required to forego family ties, such as navigators and flag officers of the fleet. In this case, the first section of the name which refers to the family is dropped altogether (e.g. Irizi’ar’alani/Ziara becomes Ar’alani when she is promoted to commodore).

    The Sight: The Sight is the name the Chiss use to refer to Force-sensitivity. Unlike species of the known Galaxy, for which Force-sensitivity results in a wide array of abilities, in the case of the Chiss the Sight consists of telepathy (known as Second Sight) and precognition (known as Third Sight). Not all those gifted with the Sight can exercise both of these abilities, with Second Sight being a rarer skill than Third Sight. Furthermore, with only one known exception as of the beginning of this story, the Sight is present only in children, mostly girls, aged between seven and fourteen. Because the Chiss do not have navigational computers, children gifted with the Sight, known as sky-walkers, serve as navigators on Chiss military ships.

    Dramatis personae
    (in order of appearance)


    Ar’alani – Chiss female, Admiral of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet
    Eli Vanto – Human male, former Imperial commander who joins the Chiss at the end of the novel Thrawn
    Vah’nya – Chiss female, navigator
    Thrawn – Chiss male, former senior captain of the Chiss Expansionary Defence Fleet who was exiled, joined the Empire and rose to the rank of Grand Admiral
    Cinsar – Chiss male, officer of the Chiss Expansionary Defence Fleet. As of the end of Thrawn: Treason, he is a senior commander. In the time between the end of that novel and the beginning of this story, he was promoted to senior captain.
    Mi’yaric – Chiss female, navigator of the Chiss Expansionary Defence Fleet. Her precise age isn’t specified in Thrawn: Treason; as of the beginning of this story she is 13 years old.
    Ezra Bridger – Force-sensitive Human male, Jedi and member of the Rebel Alliance
    Commodore Karyn Faro – Human female, Imperial officer, first officer of the Chimaera until just before the end of Rebels
    Commander Hammerly – Human female, Imperial officer, serving as the Chimaera’s sensors officer
    Senior Lieutenant Lomar – Human male, Imperial officer serving as the Chimaera’s communications’ officer
    Lieutenant Agral – Human male, Imperial officer, serving as the Chimaera’s helmsman
    Senior Lieutenant Pyrondi – Human female, Imperial officer serving as the Chimaera’s weapons’ officer
    Khresh – Chiss male who served as the Steadfast’s senior captain in the Thrawn: Treason novel (i.e., just before the end of Rebels)
    Brierly Ronan – Human male and Imperial colonel, former assistant director of the Stardust project under Orson Krennic, who was persuaded by Thrawn to join the Chiss at the end of Thrawn: Treason (although clearly not for the good reason)
    Gilad Pellaeon – Human male, Imperial officer serving as the ISD Harbinger’s captain. His ship is attached to the Seventh Fleet at the end of Thrawn: Treason.
    Tanik – Chiss male, serving as a mid commander on the Steadfast as of Thrawn: Treason. I promoted him to junior captain in the time between Treason and the beginning of this story.
    Un’hee – Chiss female and navigator, aged 12 as of the beginning of this story. She first appears in Thrawn: Treason where she is rescued from the Grysks who took her hostage when she was 5 years old.
    Al’ahae – OC, Chiss female, aged just under 4 as of the beginning of this story.
    Carvia – Human male, Imperial officer serving as a major aboard the Chimaera, in command of the stormtrooper contingent.
    Xoxtin – Human female, senior lieutenant aboard the Chimaera where she serves as chief hangar master.
    Laknym – Chiss male, currently serving as a mid commander of the agro-ship Lifeline. In Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good, he was a lieutenant commander.
    Sun’atis – OC, Chiss female and navigator. She is 12 years old in the flashbacks and 17 years old as of the main story.
    Washeeya – OC, Human male serving as an ensign aboard the Chimaera. If the name sounds familiar to long-time readers, it’s because you already met him as a background character in Ἀνάγκη – Necessity beyond Sway.

     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2021
  3. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
  4. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Note: this chapter was written as a response to three events of the Fanfic Olympics - Star Wars Decathlon featuring Eli Vanto and Vah’nya, namely the Single Sentence Shot Put (a story told in a single sentence about your character, family, friendship or couple), the 110 Word Hurdle (110 words in which the name or names of your character, family, friendship or couple aren’t mentioned) and the 100 Word Sprint (a 100 word drabble about your character, family, friendship or couple using any theme). These are indicated between brackets in the text, but it reads as a single chapter.

    Prologue

    [Decathlon - Single Sentence Shot Put]

    Many months later, as she faced the firing squad, Admiral Ar’alani was to remember that distant day when she’d come to the realisation that Vah’nya’s decision to join Eli Vanto’s family would be the final blow that brought down what was left of the Chiss Ascendancy.

    [Decathlon - 110 Word Hurdle]

    Things didn’t have to be this way. The sole Human officer of the Chiss Defence Fleet and the only sky-walker known to have maintained her Third Sight past adolescence were among the best people she knew – competent, dedicated and loyal to a fault. Far more loyal, as a matter of fact, than the dregs of Chisskind who had taken control of the Syndicure and destroyed her people’s principles and values. Over the years she had mentored the young couple, and they, in turn, had advised, assisted and helped her as best they could. Her only regret was that they would now have to continue the fight on their own.

    [Decathlon - 100 Word Sprint]

    No, she reasoned with herself. They would never be alone. They had Mitth’raw’nuruodo – or rather Eli’raw’nuruodo, as he called himself since he had renounced the Mitth and opted to be matched to them instead, choosing to start anew from the rank of merit adoptive despite their protests – and they had the hundreds of rescued children who thought of Vah’nya as their mother. They were the largest family. They were the future.

    The traitorous patriarch of the Mitth stood in front of her. “Do you have any final words, Ar’alani?”

    What could she say? She spat in his face.

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

    Endnotes
    In case you hadn’t noticed, the first sentence of this story is shamelessly borrowed from One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, which I firmly believe to be the greatest novel of all time.
    Chiss Expansionary Defence Fleet
    Syndicure
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2021
  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oh yay! I was so excited when I saw you sign up for the Olympics, especially when I saw your cast of characters! There's still no other fanfic author I know who writes Thrawn quite like you do, and I know you're going to this entire cast of characters justice throughout this collection.

    I'm admittedly still catching up on the Ascendancy trilogy - by which I mean to say I'm rereading the Thrown trilogy to ground myself before having a marathon read :p - so I hate that I am not able to give as terribly in depth feedback as I would like. Yet I can at least say that I already love Ar'alani, and I appreciate the grace you have given her here in her final moments. She knows what she's fighting for - she's proud for what she has fought for, and those she's fought alongside with - and her last act of defiance was a fitting gesture. There was a wonderful power in the brevity of these snippets adding up to tell a larger tale, so much so that I didn't quite know what to quote in particular; every word added up to the whole so seamlessly. This set is going to linger with me for a while, I know, and will certainly be in the back of my mind while I catch up on canon. [face_love]

    This is off to a wonderful start already, and I can't wait to see where it goes. =D=
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2021
    AzureAngel2, Chyntuck and Findswoman like this.
  6. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for the review and the kind words @Mira_Jade, that's high praise indeed coming from you!

    I hope you'll enjoy the two new Thrawn trilogies; I know I did! Ar'alani was one of my favourite characters in those books. She gets a lot of "screentime" in Thrawn: Treason and even more in the Ascendancy Trilogy, and I love that she's presented in many ways as Thrawn equal. She's an extremely competent and courageous military commander, and even though he's still the military genius she's able to keep up with him and they form a flawless team. At the same time, she's also presented as having more qualities than him as a person, with a better understanding of what makes people tick and she's more considerate towards others. It all makes for a really, really good female character.

    Thanks again, and thanks to all readers and lurkers! Next chapter coming up straight away.
     
    AzureAngel2 and Mira_Jade like this.
  7. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    This chapter was written in response to the Fantastical Fencing event of the 2021 Fanfic Olympics as part of my Star Wars Decathlon featuring Eli Vanto and Vah'nya: a story of at least a 100 words involving your character, family, friendship or couple in which something fantastical happens. It is also a belated entry for the MMM "Just a touch" challenge: Write a story in which characters show affectionate feelings toward each other through touch – whether it's a gentle pat, a hearty noogie, a tight hug, a warm cuddle, or any other gesture (within the bounds of the TOS, of course). As always, the relationship can be romantic, platonic, or familial.

    Chapter 1


    “Senior Commander Eli’van’to,” Admiral Ar’alani said as soon as she saw the Steadfast’s only Human officer. “Your shift should have ended hours ago.”

    Eli looked up from his questis. His shoulders were squared in perfect Chiss military posture and his expression formal, but there was no mistaking the deep dark circles under his eyes. “I’m trying to finish this analysis, ma’am. We’re going to need it if –”

    Ar’alani raised a single blue finger to stop him. “You are no good to me in this state, Senior Commander,” she said with the unique stern-yet-kind expression only she could manage. “You shall go and take your rest period now. We will be arriving at the Haven soon and we will be staying there for several days. You shall complete your analysis after you have slept for at least six hours. I have no doubt that the Galaxy will still be spinning when you wake up.”

    Everything about her, from the particular way she held her hand to the deep red glow that emanated from her narrowed eyes, screamed that this was non-negotiable, as if Eli didn’t know better than to question her orders. Besides, she was right. He bowed crisply and collected his questis from his station.

    The door slid open as he made his way towards it and Navigator Vah’nya entered the bridge. She gave him a small smile as she walked past him and brushed her fingers on his shoulder, as she was wont to do every time they ran into each other. Eli didn’t fail to notice the underlying tension in her formal stance, but this was not the time and place to stop and ask her what was wrong. Their rest periods should have overlapped today, allowing them to spend some time together in the secondary starboard observation deck like they often did when their duties allowed. The fact that her shift at the navigation console began now told him how many extra hours he had just clocked.

    Within the boundaries of the Chiss Ascendancy, ships didn’t need a sky-walker – a navigator gifted with the talent of precognition – to travel the hyperlanes. Celestial bodies there were well charted and mapped, and the Steadfast’s pilots were fully qualified to take the admiral’s flagship anywhere within Chiss territory without the help of Third Sight. But here in the Chaos, only the ozyly-esehembo could guide a ship across the turmoil of dying stars and space anomalies that dotted the region. With the civil war that raged between the Ruling Families, the Steadfast and her little fleet of ships whose captains had remained faithful to the founding principles of the Ascendancy were spending far more time outside their home systems than within them. Thankfully, the flagship had on board several of the girls who could handle a journey to a four-star system such as the one to which they were now headed. This allowed for a duty roster that didn’t lead to their total exhaustion. Given that all of them, except Vah’nya, were children, some as young as seven standard years of age, Admiral Ar’alani was adamant that they should not be overworked like the rest of the crew.

    Concern for Vah’nya started gnawing at the back of Eli’s mind as he walked briskly to his quarters. The young woman was dear to him – dearer than he cared to admit, seeing as she was a valuable sky-walker of the Ascendancy while he remained a mid-level officer and an alien at that. Over the years he had spent with the Chiss, he had developed relationships that he could cautiously describe as mutual esteem with many of his colleagues and superiors, but Vah’nya remained the only person on board of whom he thought as a friend. When he was honest with himself, he acknowledged that he was profoundly in love with her and that, in a different context, under different circumstances, he would be openly courting her. While their respective places in the fleet didn’t allow for anything of the sort, military decorum didn’t prevent him from caring deeply for her, and anything that troubled her troubled him as well. As soon as he entered his suite, he pulled up the duty roster on his questis to see when they would have another rest period together. He had no doubt that she would share her thoughts and that it would help alleviate her worries, whatever they were.

    It turned out that less time had passed than he’d initially believed, and, while he should indeed have left the bridge several hours earlier, Vah’nya hadn’t been due to report for duty for another forty-five minutes. There must have been a change of plans at some point that he hadn’t noticed – perhaps Navigator Mi’yaric had shown signs of sensory overload and had to leave her station early – and it seemed that the roster hadn’t been updated to reflect this new situation. He would have to check again in a few hours then; assignments were bound to be reshuffled once the quartermaster caught up.

    He pondered for a moment how much of a rest period he should grant himself in the meantime. The analysis of supply depots with which Admiral Ar’alani had tasked him needed to be completed as soon as possible to enable the fleet to plan its next move, but in his current state of weariness he would be prone to making mistakes with potentially disastrous consequences for the ship and her crew. Ar’alani favoured accuracy over speed, and there was a good reason for it.

    He noticed as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully that a stubble was forming on his cheeks, and he allowed himself a chuckle. Despite everything that was going on in the Ascendancy and the Unknown Regions at large, his Chiss colleagues were the image of military perfection, and he had never seen a stray hair on their heads or an unwanted crease on their uniforms. Well, this was as good a way as any to begin his rest period.

    He had just finished shaving when a buzz in the living area signalled that there was someone outside his door. He gave his face a cursory wipe, pulled on a clean undershirt as he walked to the entrance and palmed the activation panel.

    Vah’nya was standing in the corridor, holding a box in her hands. She was unusually serious. This was not the unreadable expression that she presented when she was reporting to the bridge, nor the perfectly straight face she bore when she prepared to tease him. This time, there was a true intensity to her gaze.

    He gave her a half-bow to hide his surprise. Not only was he expecting her to still be on duty, but in all their years of friendship, it was the first time she came to seek him out in his private space. “Navigator Vah’nya.”

    The young woman bowed back. “Senior Commander Eli. Is this a bad time?”

    “Not at all.”

    She hesitated for the briefest of moments. “May I come in?”

    Eli took a step back and ushered her in, grabbing a uniform jacket and pulling it on as he closed the door. She walked to the tiny sitting corner of the living area and placed the box on the table. Her glowing eyes wandered around the room for a few moments and returned to him as he fastened the clasp of his jacket. She gave him the familiar mischievous smile that meant she was about to roast him. “You do not need to out-Chiss the Chiss, Eli. As surprising as it may seem to you, we don’t sleep in our uniforms.”

    Eli shrugged. “As surprising as it may seem to you, I was never invited to anyone’s private quarters. You haven’t been much help in that regard, Vah’nya.”

    She smiled again. “No one is allowed in the navigators’ suite, but I’m sure it’s quite different from everywhere else on the ship. I doubt other members of the crew have building snaps and coloured graph markers spilling all over the floor.”

    Her face reverted to seriousness and she let her gaze wander around once more, as if looking for something. “Is there something wrong?” he asked.

    “You haven’t put anything of yourself in this space,” she said after a silence. “Everything here is standard-issue CEDF. It’s as if you don’t live here – as if you feel you don’t belong.”

    Eli opened the door to his sleeping cubicle and gestured for her to come closer. She walked up to him and brushed the back of her hand against his as she peeked inside. The resting area was as austere as the living area, with everything impeccably neat and tidy, but the far wall was covered in holos and trinkets, not unlike the memory walls Chiss officers kept in their quarters.

    He pointed at a middle-aged couple standing in front of a small house with a garden. “These are my parents back home on Lysatra. This one” – he pointed at a different image, where he could be seen between them, wearing an Imperial uniform – “was taken when I graduated from the Royal Imperial Academy. And this...” He walked her though more holos of his family, his old rank plaque from the Imperial Navy, a badge of his favourite limmie team. There was also a group picture of the Steadfast’s bridge crew on which Vah’nya stood next to Admiral Ar’alani, the only holo of her he had been able to get hold of. He decided not to comment on that one.

    “And these” – she interrupted as they reached the final cluster of images – “are from your missions with Grand Admiral Mitth’raw’nuruodo.”

    “Indeed.” Much as he tried, he couldn’t prevent his tone from growing darker.

    The warmth of her hand left his side and came to rest on his shoulder. “You miss him.”

    “I do,” Eli sighed. “He made me into so much more than the man I thought I was. I didn’t realise how much I had to be grateful for until he disappeared.” He pointed at an Imperial-issue data reader on the bedside table. “He gave me his journal when I left the Chimaera to come here. I still don’t know why.” He lowered his voice to a whisper to hide the pain that transpired clearly in his words. “I like to think that he wanted me to read the entry on friendship, but I don’t even know if we were ever really friends.”

    He felt a sense of serenity flood his mind as she rubbed his shoulder. The feeling vanished when the soft contact disappeared. “Don’t give up hope,” she said, very quietly. “He may still return.”

    “He may. But after all this time I doubt he will.”

    There was a heavy silence until she spoke again. “Please invite me to sit down, Eli,” she said finally. “I brought us some refreshments.”

    They returned to the living area and sat side-by-side on the small couch. Vah’nya opened the box she had brought and extracted from it two goblets of Celwisian tea and a self-heating bowl of yapel triangles. She uncapped the cups, placed them carefully on the table and relaxed against the backrest.

    They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes. Eli could see that there was something on her mind, but before he could ask, he felt a slew of her emotions seeping into him. He had never truly understood this aspect of her power, and he wasn’t certain that she fully understood it either. He knew that the Chiss called it Second Sight – the ability to connect with another person’s soul – and he had seen Vah’nya use it deliberately at times when she had to obtain information from another navigator who was too stressed to put her thoughts into words. What he didn’t know was if she was aware that she was sometimes giving him a peek into her mind. He had often wondered if she was broadcasting her concerns to anyone nearby, or if the bond they had developed over the years simply made her lower her guard in his presence. Today the sense that emanated from her was a mix of distress, loss of self-worth and fear of rejection, but also of giddy anticipation.

    The words escaped his mouth before he could think better of it. “Vah’nya, why are you here?”

    She gave him a worried look. “Are you displeased to see me?”

    He shook his head. “You know very well that I’m not. But I can see that you’re not quite yourself. You never came to find me in my quarters before, even when you wanted to talk. And I couldn’t help but notice that you came early for your shift on the bridge, and left even earlier.”

    She stared at her hands for a moment. “My shift today was very brief,” she said finally. “But the time I have spent on the bridge was longer than any other sky-walker in the history of the Ascendancy.” She looked up at him. “My Sight has faded, Eli. Admiral Ar’alani tested me today. I won’t be navigating the Steadfast anymore.”

    “Oh.”

    Eli hesitated briefly before wrapping an arm around her shoulders and holding her for a moment. He knew that she had come aboard at the age of eight, as soon as she had completed her sky-walker training, and she had hardly ever left the Steadfast since. Over the past few years her ability to guide the ship through the Chaos had waned, albeit much later than was the case for most sky-walkers, whose powers normally subsided as they reached their teens. It had been clear to him that she wouldn’t remain a navigator for long, seeing as she was already in her mid-twenties, but he hadn’t realised that the moment when she would lose her place among the crew was at hand.

    “How do you feel about that?” he asked.

    She gave him a small, sad smile. “I don’t really know. I’ve been on this ship for nearly twenty years. This is the first time I get to choose who I want to be and what I want to do. And I am not certain what to make of it.”

    “But your Sight isn’t entirely gone, is it?”

    She shook her head. “No. I can still see things. But I tried to follow Mi’yaric when she manoeuvred us into the Haven, and I couldn’t picture the disturbance and the minefield at the same time. In an era of peace, I could probably still handle simple hyperlanes for quite a while. In the times we live in, however… I am likely to get us all killed.”

    He squeezed her shoulder again and let her go. “What do sky-walkers normally do when they... retire?”

    “They are matched to a family – usually one of the Forty, or even one of the Ruling Families – and sent to complete their basic education. The second part obviously doesn’t apply to me anymore. As for the first... with the situation in the Ascendancy right now, I don’t think it would be wise.”

    Eli snorted. She could say that again. “Would you like to return to your birth family?”

    She shrugged. “I could. But I don’t know them. I hardly remember my parents and I don’t know how they would treat me. I don’t even know what side they’re on.”

    Eli paused. “Is it possible to remain without a family at all?”

    “I am not aware of anyone in that situation, unless they’re a flag officer of the fleet or a navigator. A simple civilian without a family would be very vulnerable indeed, in a society like ours. Especially now.”

    There was a long silence. Vah’nya entwined her fingers loosely in his, tracing the veins on the back of his hand with her thumb. After several minutes she straightened herself, and Eli sensed that she had somehow decided to go through with whatever had brought her to his quarters. “There is one family to which I would like to be matched,” she said. “It is small, but strong. Loyal. Incorruptible. It is a family that serves only the Ascendancy, not itself or its members. It does not seek power but the greater good. It would be a privilege to be allowed to join it.”

    The young man smiled. “Sounds like the right sort of people for you. Are there members of this family on board that you could talk to?”

    She turned to look at him, her eyes glowing intensely. “There is only one.” She took a deep breath. “And I am talking to him right now.”

    Eli’s breath caught in his throat. He suddenly became acutely aware of how close they were. All he wanted to do in that moment was to take her in his arms and hold her tightly, to tell her that she wasn’t only part of his family, but part of his very being. However, he feared that he might be overstepping if he did, and it was clear to him that the young Chiss had no idea how Human families operated.

    “Vah’nya, you honour me,” he said, choosing his words carefully to strike a balance between Chiss gentility and the tide of very Human emotions that was rising within him. “And it truly touches my heart that you would choose my family as your own. But this is not how my culture works. We don’t have merit adoptives and Trial-borns and such where I come from. Our families are merely people bound by blood.”

    The glow of her eyes became a blazing fire. “Or marriage.”

    He opened his mouth to answer, but he had so much to say that he didn’t know where to start and he closed it again. He pushed away the low table to let himself slide to the floor so as to kneel at her feet. He reached for her hands and arranged them in her lap, resting one in the other and then both in his cupped palm. He took his time, as if this were a very delicate and important task, until he could will his heart to stop thumping and he felt ready to speak. He lay his other hand on top of hers and looked into her eyes.

    “There is nothing – nothing – that I desire more than to spend every day of my life with you, Vah’nya. I believe that you know this, or you would not be here. But I am a Human among the Chiss and many of your people think of me as a monster and a traitor. I will forever be – at best – an outsider. Is this the life you want? Have you thought it through?”

    The sad smile was back. “We are all traitors, Eli. If the Syndicure ever got hold of me, it would be to dissect me and find out how I managed to keep my Sight for so long. As a sky-walker I was an outsider from the start, and when my Sight didn’t go away, I became nothing more than a valuable oddity. Even if my people ever found peace again, I would still be just that – an oddity.” Her expression shifted, and with it, the sense that she was projecting in Eli’s mind. “But now that I can choose my own path, that we can allow ourselves to acknowledge this special bond that we have... you and I could be oddities together.”

    Eli rose to his feet and pulled her up. He gazed at her for a moment and wrapped his arms around her. The vague emotions he had been sensing from her abruptly coalesced into a flood, and now he could experience her relief, her respect, her trust and her pure, boundless, unconditional love. All he could do was to hug her tighter and press his lips to the top of her head. There were no words, there was no gesture that would allow him to express his own feelings in return.

    He didn’t know how long he had been holding her, inhaling the spicy scent of her hair, when he suddenly felt her tense up in his embrace. “Something is about to happen,” she whispered.

    The words were barely out of her mouth when the proximity alarms started blaring across the Steadfast. “Contact,” Senior Captain Cinsar’s voice echoed from the loudspeakers. “Unknown ship coming out of hyperspace at starboard. All crew, full battle readiness. I repeat, all crew, full battle readiness.”

    Eli let go of Vah’nya and turned to the porthole. The newcomer came into view. He inhaled a sharp breath.

    It was an Imperial Star Destroyer, one that had seen quite a bit of mileage – so much mileage, as a matter of fact, that she very nearly qualified as a derelict. Entire chunks of the hull were missing, the main bridge was a charred husk – whoever was at the helm was clearly sitting in the secondary command deck – and what armour she had left bore too many laser scorches to count. The Steadfast’s cannons were already swivelling towards her, but the Star Destroyer’s weapons didn’t appear to activate. Instead, she rotated vertically on the plane of battle, lifting her bow to expose her underbelly to the Chiss flagship.

    And there, on the torn, burnt plates of the hull, Eli was able to make out the outline of a creature he hadn’t dared hope to see again.

    “This is Senior Commander Eli’van’to,” he said in his comlink, mustering up as much Chiss military formality as he could in his voice. “Do not shoot. Repeat, do not shoot. It’s the Chimaera.”

    “It’s Mitth’raw’nuruodo.”

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

    Endnotes

    Eli Vanto’s exceptional talent for data analysis is developed at great length in the novels Thrawn and Thrawn: Treason. His budding romance with Vah’nya is also hinted at in Thrawn: Treason.
    The system I refer to as ‘the Haven’ in this story is the
    unidentified four-star system from Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising.
    Building snap
    Celwis
    Graph marker
    Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaera

    Lysatra
    Questis data-link reader
    Royal Imperial Academy
    Chiss heavy cruiser Steadfast
    Yapel triangle
     
  8. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    I don't know too much about Thrawn (I haven't read much about him) or the Chiss. These entries are compelling so far. I'm looking forward to more. =D=
     
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  9. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for the review @JediMaster_Jen and welcome to this story [:D] There's a lot more about Thrawn and the Chiss in the New Canon novels than in the Legends ones, and while he's still the same character by and large, there are some important differences. I'm doing my best to integrate all that in the text rather than rely on endnotes, but if something is unclear by all means feel free to point it out and ask.
     
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  10. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    The idea of using italics for Thrawn's thoughts is borrowed straight from the New Canon Thrawn books. Zahn manages to go at it for pages and pages without Thrawn ever using the first person; I'll do my best to emulate that.

    This chapter is my first entry for a SW pentathlon featuring Thrawn and Ezra Bridger for the 2021 Fanfic Olympics. The two events here are the 110 Word Hurdle (110 words in which the name or names of your character, couple, family or friendship aren’t mentioned) and the 400 Word Cross Country (400 words about your character, couple, family, or friendship with any theme).

    Memories I


    [Pentathlon - 110 Word Hurdle]

    It has been six days since the purrgils seized the fleet. The Jedi is unable to stop them. In Commodore Faro’s absence, regulating the flow of reports has fallen to Commander Hammerly. She acquits herself of this task with efficiency. The damage to the Chimaera is not irreversible, but casualties among the crew are rising. There is no word from the remainder of the ships; it is, however, unlikely that their situation is different.

    The Jedi stands immobile at the back of the secondary command deck. His face expresses perhaps relief, perhaps sorrow. He saved his people, yes – but he is now beginning to measure how many he killed.

    [Pentathlon - 400 Word Cross Country]

    The Jedi abruptly flinches, as if confronted with an unforeseen event. The Chimaera shudders and reverts to space-normal, the purrgil’s tentacles still wrapped around her bow.

    The constellations in the distance are unfamiliar. The configuration of the ships floating in the void ahead is well-known.

    “To Chaos with you, Bridger,” Hammerly shouts. “You really had to drop us straight into a nest of Grysks?”

    The Jedi’s eyes narrow, but not in response to her yelling. The disruption of the journey was not his doing; he is visibly seeking to find his bearings. “It was not Ezra Bridger who brought us out of hyperspace, Commander, but a set of the enemy’s gravity wells.”

    She understands immediately and activates her occultation programme to find the cloaked devices. A cruiser of the Seventh Fleet flickers into view, only to explode a moment later, sending chunks of purrgil flesh flying in all directions. The Jedi winces in pain. His mind is still somehow connected to the creatures, even as he stands on our secondary deck.

    “Eleven of our ships are answering our hails, sir,” Senior Lieutenant Lomar calls from the communications’ console. “Twelve,” he corrects himself. “The Harbinger just dropped in. They await your instructions. Your chair’s comm is now active.”

    Twelve ships of an original forty. It is woefully inadequate to face a Grysk force such as the one arrayed here, but it is still a worthy fleet. There is but one order to issue. “All ships: prepare for battle.”

    More enemy craft are already rising from the orange planet in the distance. It is an entire armada.

    This is no mere Grysk outpost. It is the heartland of the Grysk Hegemony.

    “Lieutenant Agral, map the constellations and record any coordinates that would enable us to return to this location in the future. Senior Lieutenant Pyrondi, bring our turbolasers to bear on the Grysk flagship.”

    The Jedi’s hand suddenly appears on the armrest. It is curled into a stiff claw. “No, wait. Belay that.”

    A death trooper moves forward, his blaster at the ready. His face is hidden behind the helmet, but his stance holds concern. The Jedi’s brow knits in concentration, his hand reaching towards the Grysk fleet. “There are children on that ship,” he says finally. “Terrified children. Several of them.”

    “Children with Force skills like yours?”

    The Jedi nods. His hand reaches further. “Yes. But with a mind like yours.”

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

    Endnotes

    Purrgil
    7th Fleet
    Grysk, Grysk Hegemony
    It is established in the Thrawn Trilogy that the Grysks use cloaked cylinder-shaped gravity well generators to ambush ships travelling through hyperspace. The occultation programme used by Commander Hammerly was developed to enable their detection and capture.

     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2021
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  11. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Enjoyed these very much. :D Nice continuation from the last time we see Ezra and Thrawn in Rebels. =D=
     
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  12. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    I am only familiar with the old stories but I enjoy your story with Thrawn
     
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  13. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for the review Jen!
    This was the most intriguing bit about the end of Rebels for me. It was obvious that Ezra didn't die, since Sabine and Ahsoka went looking for him, so what happened in-between? The purrgils definitely took the 7th Fleet waaaaay out there, so there must have been some sort of modus vivendi between Ezra and Thrawn for them to survive.
    Thanks! I hope I can keep it up!

    Thank you to all the lurkers out there. Next chapter coming up in a sec.
     
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  14. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    The final section of this chapter is the response to the 400-Word Cross Country for my Eli & Vah'nya Decathlon for the 2021 Fanfic Olympics (400 words about your character, couple, family or friendship with any theme).

    Chapter 2

    Eli and Vah’nya were out of breath as they arrived in the Steadfast’s hangar bay just in time to see an Imperial Lambda-class shuttle manoeuvre onto the landing area. The boarding ramp came down in a hiss of released gases and a gaunt Human civilian barely out of his teens stumbled out. He looked positively exhausted. Behind him came a skeletal Chiss in an impeccable white uniform who was leaning on a walking stick. Eli’s heart was thumping so hard that he thought his chest was going to explode. It was Thrawn.

    Ar’alani walked up to her old subordinate and stared at him for a moment. “You look terrible,” she said.

    A weak smile curled Thrawn’s lips. “It’s nice to see you too, Admiral.” His eyes fluttered briefly behind her to look at Eli.

    She stared at him a moment longer and smiled back before reverting to her formal command stance. “Senior Captain Cinsar, you have the bridge. Put all ships on maximum alert. If the Chimaera could find her way here, perhaps unwanted visitors will follow. Senior Commander Eli’van’to, with me.” She gestured for Thrawn to walk with her. “My office. Now.”

    Eli gave Vah’nya an apologetic look as he squared his shoulders and took a step away from her. “If I may, Admiral,” he heard Thrawn say, “Navigator Vah’nya should be present for this conversation in her capacity as the Steadfast’s most experienced sky-walker.”

    Ar’alani arched an eyebrow at him, and, when he didn’t elaborate, merely turned to Vah’nya and motioned for her to follow. She led the way with quick steps. “How did you make it here?” she asked once the little group was alone in the hallway. “This system is heavily fortified. It should be impregnable.”

    Thrawn gestured towards his companion. “Ezra Bridger navigated us in. He is a Jedi – a powerful ozyly-esehembo from Lesser Space.”

    “He must be powerful indeed,” she muttered. “We’ve mined all the entry points. Our sky-walkers couldn’t bring us in if they didn’t know the explosives’ layout.”

    Thrawn glanced at Bridger, who was visibly a little wobbly on his feet. “That would explain how tired he is.”

    They covered the remainder of the distance in silence. The admiral palmed her door’s activation panel, ushered the little troupe in, and lowered herself into her chair. She invited the two new arrivals to take the visitors’ seats across her desk while Eli and Vah’nya came to stand at her side, with Eli settling into a relaxed formal position, his hands clasped behind his back. “What languages does your friend speak?” she asked Thrawn.

    There was a flash of lightning in the young Human’s gaze. “We are not friends.” His Cheunh was heavily accented, but it flowed naturally enough.

    “Indeed, we are no friends,” Thrawn said in the same language. “Jedi Bridger and I are reluctant, yet committed, allies of circumstance.”

    Eli stifled a snort. Thrawn had apparently perfected his maddening calm into an art form over the past five years.

    The admiral’s eyes narrowed. “Would you care to elaborate?”

    “It is unimportant. We are no longer enemies.” He paused to let the words sink in. “What matters is that we found ourselves in a position to rescue Chiss sky-walkers who had been abducted by the Grysk Hegemony. Jedi Bridger has been caring for the children, helping them cope with their trauma and teaching them to develop their skills.”

    Ar’alani gestured towards the giant shadow of the Chimaera beyond the line of portholes on her study’s outer wall. “Your ship sustained all this damage to rescue a handful of sky-walkers?”

    “Not a handful,” Bridger intervened. “We have four hundred and eighty-seven children on board.”

    Vah’nya twitched, Eli gave a small start, and even the admiral’s eyes widened ever so slightly. “Four hundred and eighty-seven?”

    Thrawn nodded. “We spent the past five years engaging Grysk forces and rescuing more sky-walkers as we made our way back here from the Hegemony. At this stage we have lost the rest of our fleet and most of the Chimaera’s fighting capability. For all practical purposes our principal activity now is child-rearing. We travelled primarily jump-by-jump, although Jedi Bridger helped with navigation when he could spare the time. Our goal is to return the children to the Ascendancy.”

    Ar’alani, Eli and Vah’nya exchanged uncomfortable looks. “Well, that might be a problem,” Eli muttered.

    There was a heavy silence. “The Ascendancy isn’t what it used to be, Mitth’raw’nuruodo,” Ar’alani said. “As a matter of fact, there isn’t much of it left. It is in a state of civil war.”

    “The Ruling Families sought to seize control of the sky-walker programme not long after the last time we saw you, sir,” Eli explained in response to Thrawn’s raised eyebrow. He spoke Cheunh fluently now, with only the faintest drawl to indicate that it wasn’t his mother tongue. He couldn’t help but feel a warm glow at Thrawn’s appreciative look. “They’re going by the logic that, if you control interstellar travel, you have power over the Ascendancy and the Chaos at large. They disbanded or otherwise destroyed the Navigators’ Guild, the Void Guides and other such groups. Then one of the Ruling Families started kidnapping sky-walkers and hiding them away.”

    Thrawn was staring at him, the glow of his eyes so intense that his voice faltered. “The other Ruling Families and even some of the Forty followed suit, to secure their own interests,” Ar’alani continued when Eli was reduced to silence. “It became an all-out war. The families summoned back their military personnel, and the Defence Fleet fell apart. The ships you saw here are most of what is left – those of us who chose to uphold the principles we swore to serve. Twenty-six warships. Fewer than eighty thousand souls, including the tech and repair crews.”

    “That’s how I was promoted from lieutenant to senior commander in just five years, in case you were wondering, sir,” Eli added self-deprecatingly to lighten the tension that was building up in the air. “Admiral Ar’alani had run out of senior officers.”

    “You rose in rank because you are competent, loyal and dedicated, Senior Commander,” Ar’alani said firmly. “More so than a great many officers who are blood of the Ruling Families, and who chose to serve their own petty self-interest when the opportunity presented itself.”

    There was another silence. “I am very much afraid that some of our former colleagues haven’t been serving their own interests, but those of the Grysks, ma’am,” Eli said. “By my estimate there were 2213 active sky-walkers when the war began. We have 88. We know that the Ufsa have 134, the Irizi 167, plus the 42 of the Xodlak…” He tapped a few keys on his questis. “The 487 aboard the Chimaera pretty much add up to those that vanished without a trace after being taken by the Mitth.”

    Thrawn’s nostrils flared. “The Mitth?”

    Eli nodded. “Yes, sir.” He paused, then added with genuine sorrow, “I’m sorry.” He knew that Thrawn didn’t put much stock in his adoptive family, but it was clear from the tension around the grand admiral’s eyes that hearing of such a betrayal hurt.

    For a long moment Thrawn remained staring blankly at a point on the wall above Eli’s shoulder. He finally turned back to Ar’alani. “What has this fleet been doing to remedy the situation?”

    The admiral shrugged, and for the first time Eli could see how badly the years of conflict had worn her out. “We raid military depots to disrupt the Ruling Families’ supply lines while keeping ourselves afloat. We make contact with those families, or those officers within families, who see that this war is madness and will lead our people to their doom, and we seek to convince them to defect and join us. We fight the Grysks and their client species when we can find them, or rather, when they find us. And” – she let out a deep sigh, as if the weight of the entire Chaos rested upon her shoulders – “we abduct children.”

    “Say what?”

    Ezra Bridger’s tone was justifiably indignant, but such an outburst went against every rule of Chiss military protocol. Eli expected Ar’alani to shoot the Jedi one of her haughty stares. Instead, she bowed her head in shame. In that moment Eli was acutely reminded of the enormity of what they had been doing for the past five years.

    The admiral finally spoke again. “We abduct children gifted with Third Sight before their skills can manifest, to make sure that they don’t fall in the hands of the Ruling Families – or, as you have now confirmed, the Grysks.”

    Thrawn looked at Eli. “You have succeeded in your study of the navigators.” It was a statement, not a question.

    The Human nodded. “I have.”

    “You found why they come to be?”

    “I found why and how. I created a model. I can predict where a sky-walker will arise next.”

    There was a long silence. “Who knows of this?”

    Ar’alani snorted. “Everyone. I was foolish enough to trust Senior Captain Khresh with information of Eli’van’to’s achievement. Khresh immediately reported it to the patriarch of the Plikh, who mentioned it to Brierly Ronan. The atis’kar” – Eli didn’t know the word, but he was fairly sure it wasn’t a compliment – “made sure that the news spread like wildfire.”

    There was a steel-hard edge to her voice. “I take it that Khresh and Ronan are no more,” Thrawn said.

    The admiral raised her head proudly. “Khresh is dead, together with all those on the Plikh flagship. It was the least I could do. Ronan is still running loose, but I will be coming for him, personally if I have to.”

    Her words hung heavily in the air. “Some in the Syndicure seized the opportunity to label Admiral Ar’alani a traitor,” Eli said in a low voice, as if speaking softly would make it less painful. “A traitor to the fleet, a traitor to the Ascendancy and a traitor to the Chiss people, for revealing the secret of the sky-walkers to an outsider. That was when the Ruling Families started hoarding away the navigators. They claimed that she was going to stage a coup.”

    “And Eli is accused of every possible evil,” Vah’nya added when it became clear that neither Ar’alani nor Eli could find the words to complete their tale. “It’s said that he exerts a form of mind control over the admiral, that he holds her under his spell, and that he’s stealing Chiss children for his own nefarious purposes.”

    Eli let out a bark of a laugh. “It’s even been said that I’m not a Human, but a Grysk in disguise.”

    “You’re not,” Bridger blurted groggily. “Not a Grysk, I mean,” he added when all eyes in the room turned to him. “I’ve seen them up close. You don’t look anything like them.”

    Ar’alani gave him a withering glare. “Perhaps the solution to all our problems would be to take your friend – I’m sorry, I meant to say your ally of circumstance – to testify in front of the Syndicure, Mitth’raw’nuruodo.”

    Thrawn shrugged away the Jedi’s antics and turned back to Eli. “Are the Ruling Families exploiting your model?”

    “No, sir. They don’t have it. They only know that it exists.”

    “How many know the actual contents?”

    Ar’alani’s eyes travelled to Eli. “Only one.”

    Thrawn rapped his walking stick on the floor for a few moments. “Then we shall endeavour to keep it that way.”

    And with these words, it was clear that the discussion was over. Ar’alani drummed her fingers on her desk. “Thank you. This meeting will resume tomorrow.” She eyed Thrawn’s and Bridger’s emaciated features. “Thrawn, report to the medical bay. Jedi Bridger, return to your wards aboard the Chimaera. Your shuttle will be loaded with nutrient sipbags for your crew to tide you over until morning, as well as a first shipment of foodstuffs. More will follow tomorrow.”

    [Decathlon - 400 Word Cross Country]

    She went to stand up, then sat back, tapped her questis and turned to Vah’nya. “Vah’nya, please keep your quarters in the navigators’ suite for the time being. We will arrange new accommodations for you in the coming days.”

    Eli straightened himself and cleared his throat. “That won’t be necessary, ma’am. Vah’nya will be staying with me.”

    The admiral raised a sarcastic eyebrow. “As a customer of the guesthouse you’re running aboard my ship?”

    “As my wife.”

    The silence that followed was ominous. Ezra Bridger sank into his chair, as if trying to vanish into it, while Thrawn suddenly became very interested in his walking stick. Ar’alani rose to her feet, standing tall and regal behind her desk. “That is out of the question.”

    “Come again?” Eli was so stunned that the words escaped him in Basic.

    “A sky-walker of the Chiss Ascendancy cannot marry a Human. Not under these circumstances. I will not allow it.”

    Eli’s eyes blazed with fury. He opened his mouth to let out a scathing retort, visibly forgetting where he was and who he was talking to, but Vah’nya stepped forward and took his hand. “We were not asking for your permission, Admiral,” she said calmly.

    It was Ar’alani’s turn to remain slack-jawed. “As of a few hours ago, I am no longer a sky-walker and my private dealings do not fall under your purview,” Vah’nya continued. “I have requested to join Eli’van’to’s family and he has accepted me. There is nothing you can do about it short of removing me from the fleet and handing me over to the Syndicure.”

    The two women stared at each other for a moment, until a buzz echoed across the Steadfast’s hallways, signalling a change of shift. Eli composed himself as best he could, snapped his heels and squared his shoulders, standing at full attention. “Requesting permission to leave, Admiral. I am expected on the bridge in five minutes.”

    Ar’alani’s eyes narrowed. “You were scheduled for a rest period more than thirteen hours ago, Senior Commander,” she said glacially. “You will take it now. That is an order.”

    She slumped on her chair as the couple left. “She’s right, you know,” Thrawn said. “You have no authority here.”

    The admiral sighed. “Eli’van’to is a Human, Thrawn. Do you understand what this means for our fleet?”

    “No, Ar’alani. Eli Vanto is a Human. Eli’van’to, however, is one of us.”



    Endnotes
    The idea that navigation through hyperspace using Third Sight exhausts the navigator is established in the Ascendancy novels.
    The Navigators’ Guild and the Void Guides are groups of various species that offer navigators for hire in the Unknown Regions.
    The Cheunh insult atis’kar is my creation; just imagine it to mean something extremely rude that is not fit for these boards.
    The self-explanatory nutrient sipbags are also my creation.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2021
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  15. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    great discussions with Thrawn, Ar'alani and Eli'van'to
     
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  16. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Love that Ezra is helping the children. :)

    Interesting distinction Thrawn makes here. Can't wait to read more.
     
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  17. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thanks for the reviews @earlybird-obi-wan @JediMaster_Jen!
    Thanks! This chapter was a bit of an information dump, but it was kind of necessary in order to avoid putting a lot of the explanation into endnotes.
    Heh. I did need a way to keep Ezra busy for the five years he spent aboard the Chimaera if he was going to be in this story, and at the same time I didn't want him to become best buddies with Thrawn, because that couldn't possibly happen. Having him care for the children while they're all trying to survive was a way to keep him in the picture, because I thought that would definitely something he'd accept to do.

    Thanks again for the reviews and thanks to everyone who stopped by to read! Next chapter coming right up.
     
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  18. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    This chapter consists of my entries for the following events of my Eli & Vah'nya Decathlon for the 2021 Fanfic Olympics: 4x100 Relay (4x100 words on the four types of love as experienced by your character, family, friendship or couple in one post – in this case the order of the 4 types of love is: affection, charity, friendship, and intimacy); 200 Freestyle (a 200 word story about your character, family, friendship or couple with a free choice of any theme); and 1500 Word Dash (a 1500 word story about your character, family, friendship or couple with any theme).

    Chapter 3

    [Decathlon - 4x100 Relay]

    There was a warm weight at Eli’s side when he awoke, and he had to blink away the mists of the deep slumber that clouded his mind before he could remember everything that had happened within just a few hours before he’d gone to bed. Vah’nya was huddled against him, her hand resting over his heart as if to steady its beat, her long black hair spilling over his shoulder. Like him, she was still wearing her uniform’s undershirt. Her presence was reassuring, consoling even. The handkerchief that she had used to wipe away his tears lay on his chest.

    This wasn’t how he’d envisioned his first night with her. He’d never allowed himself to imagine the details of bedding her, but he was fairly confident that, if he had, it would have involved passionate caresses and declarations of love rather than tears and the venting of feelings of anger and frustration with their superior officer. Vah’nya hadn’t judged him for falling apart as soon as they reached his quarters – their quarters. She had simply been kind, and he could see in her eyes that she was just as pained as he was by the reaction of their mentor.

    At one point he’d tried to pull himself together from the sobbing mess into which he’d collapsed. He wanted to be strong, to put on a brave face, to be worthy of her – to be... Chiss. He sought to apologise for pouring his heart out about all the indignities and the mistrust he had endured since joining the Ascendancy. She silenced him with a finger over his lips. “I may be your wife, but I am still your friend, Eli Vanto,” she said firmly. “I will listen to your pains, your concerns and your sorrows. That has not changed.”

    And now she was sleeping in his embrace, as naturally as if it had been her place all along, with a quietude and a serenity that could only come from absolute trust in the man that held her. He let his fingertips graze the length of her arm, then lifted her hand carefully and pressed his lips to her palm. She half-opened her eyes, gave him a small smile and went back to sleep. In that moment, he knew that he wanted this to be the truth of their marriage: not lust or passion, but unconditional confidence in each other.

    [Decathlon - 200 Freestyle]

    The wall chronometre indicated that he still had some time to go before he would be expected to report for duty, but he knew that he needed those two hours to clear his thoughts of the conflicting feelings that churned in his mind – wonder, delight and bliss at the unspoken vow of everlasting love he had exchanged with Vah’nya, elation at the return of the man he admired above all else, and deep pain and bitterness at the humiliation to which Admiral Ar’alani had subjected him. He had never, in a million years, expected such a reaction from her, and he resented her for poisoning what should have been a few hours of pure joy.

    He disentangled himself gently from Vah’nya – from his wife, because she was already his wife as much as she’d ever be, seeing as they wouldn’t be able to hold any sort of marriage ceremony among the Chiss – and slipped on a pair of trousers. He gazed at her for a moment, pulled the covers to tuck her in and made his way to the ‘fresher. He splashed cold water on his face and was reaching for the towel when the door buzzed.

    [Decathlon - 1500 Word Dash]

    Vah’nya was already stirring as he tiptoed through the sleeping cubicle. He shushed her soothingly and made his way to the door. When the panel slid open he found himself facing Ar’alani and, behind her, Thrawn. He stood immediately at full attention. As sleep-tousled and unkempt as he was, he wouldn’t give the admiral a pretext to find fault with his attitude.

    It was a blink from Thrawn that invited him to eye the woman more carefully. She stood silently in front of him with her hands clasped behind her back, but he had never observed this particular stance of hers before. Her shoulders were hunched as if in defeat or surrender and her head was bowed humbly. It took him a few heartbeats to understand that he was expected to speak first.

    “Yes, Admiral?”

    “I would like to speak to you in private, Eli’van’to, if you would accept me,” she said without looking at him. “To you and to Vah’nya. I assume that she is here.”

    Eli stepped aside to let them in. It was the first time the admiral addressed him without his rank, and he didn’t quite know what to make of it. He glanced behind him to see that Vah’nya was emerging from the sleeping area. Like him, she was barefoot, dressed only in her uniform trousers and undershirt, but she didn’t seem embarrassed to be seen like this by her commanding officer. She came to stand at his side as Thrawn and Ar’alani walked in, and slipped her hand in his. The door slid shut.

    “I have come to apologise,” Ar’alani said after a few moments. “I was out of line when I spoke to you last night. I have no excuse.”

    Eli opened his mouth to answer, but a soft squeeze of Vah’nya’s fingers told him to remain silent. “I have nothing but respect for you, Eli’van’to – for your honesty, for your dedication, for the kindness you have always displayed towards the most vulnerable among us… for your loyalty to us all. For a loyalty that we Chiss, as a people and as a nation, have done nothing to deserve. A loyalty that I, as your commanding officer, squandered in a moment of sheer senselessness. I elected to assuage my people’s xenophobic tendencies and let my fear of this fleet falling apart take precedence over the fact that you have proven, time and again, that you are committed to your path with us, and that you have done more for the Chiss Ascendancy than any of us can ever repay to you and your kind. In doing this, I am aware that I insulted you grievously and that I am not worthy of your forgiveness. Of all the Chiss who had the good fortune to meet you, the sole person who truly deserves you is Vah’nya, because she has gifted you with the same unconditional loyalty that you have gifted her.”

    There was a silence. “Admiral, I know that it will be difficult for some among the fleet to accept this – us – Eli and me,” Vah’nya said softly. “But… we may be a navigator and a Human, but we are people nevertheless. We still deserve to live the best life we can have in this situation.”

    Ar’alani looked up. Her posture still conveyed humility, but it was clear that she wanted to lend weight to her next words. “You deserve a much better life than what this fleet has to offer. Each one of you separately, and both of you together. Unfortunately, it is not within my power to give you that life. I can only hope that the one you have chosen here will be a happy one, and I will do my best to shield you from the unpleasant reactions that are bound to occur once word of your marriage spreads.” She bowed her head again. “Is my apology accepted?”

    Eli cleared his throat. “Admiral, I –” he began in a trembling voice. “Yes,” he blurted when he realised that he wouldn’t be able to string a sentence together. “Yes. And thank you.”

    There was another, longer silence during which Eli sensed that much of what had been left unspoken fell in place. “If it is acceptable, I would like to suggest two mitigating strategies for the future on the admiral’s behalf,” Thrawn said.

    Vah’nya nodded, as if she could anticipate what he was about to say. “We will keep a low profile, Grand Admiral.”

    “But do not hide,” Ar’alani intervened. “Allow the crew to make their assumptions and come to their conclusions on their own. They will find it much easier to accept that a navigator married a non-Chiss if they have seen it as a fact of life.”

    Vah’nya glanced at Eli, who was visibly still too emotional to speak. He gave her an imperceptible nod. “We agree, Admiral,” she said. “And the second suggestion?”

    Thrawn’s eyes bored into Eli’s. “Senior Commander, you have been with the Chiss Expansionary Defence Fleet for six years. The admiral believes that we need to remind our people at every turn that you are not a mercenary. You are every bit as much a Chiss warrior as they are. Embrace this identity. Do not be Eli Vanto. Be Eli’van’to. Be Senior Commander Ivant.”

    Vah’nya looked questioningly at Eli, who was now staring at Ar’alani. “I trust the admiral’s judgement,” he said when he found his voice. “Not only to propose what is best for the fleet, but what is best for each one of us separately, and for both of us together.”

    Ar’alani bowed deeply. “Thank you. I am grateful. I know that I do not deserve your trust, but be certain that it is not misplaced.” She straightened herself and allowed her face to relax into an almost-smile. “Now. There is one more thing. Mitth’raw’nuruodo?”

    Thrawn took half a step forward. “Yes, Admiral.” A twinkle of mischief was playing in his eyes.

    “As we know, Chiss marriage merely consists of a private exchange of vows between the individuals involved,” Ar’alani said. “However, my understanding is that Human marriage involves a ceremony and an exchange of tokens.”

    “Indeed. They are called wedding rings.”

    “I am further told that, in the event that two individuals choose to get married aboard a ship, the ship’s commanding officer will be expected to officiate at the ceremony.”

    “That is correct.”

    “Then I suggest that we proceed.”

    Thrawn turned to Eli and Vah’nya, extracted a small box from his pocket and opened it. Eli glanced at the contents and froze.

    The box held two simple but exquisite rings made from sculpted wire. The curls and angles were delicately enmeshed in a waving motif, but as he lifted them in his hand, he saw that the pattern on the larger ring read Eli’vah’nya and the smaller one Eli’van’to in elegant Basic script from the Middle Era of the Old Republic. “Admiral Ar’alani has a hobby of wire sculpting,” Thrawn explained. “I merely supplied a form of calligraphy that our fellow Chiss cannot decipher.”

    Eli looked up at Ar’alani. He was lost for words. “You have honoured our culture for many years already, Senior Commander,” the woman said. “It is only fitting that on this day we should honour yours. You may exchange rings.”

    Eli took the smaller piece of jewellery that bore his name and slipped it on Vah’nya’s ring finger, then handed her the larger one and let her slip it on his. “It is witnessed,” Thrawn said very formally.

    Ar’alani stepped forward and wrapped her fingers around the couple’s joined hands. “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

    There was an awkward moment as Eli and Vah’nya stared at Ar’alani, unsure what to say or do. “Oh, don’t look at me like that, you two,” she said with a chuckle, dropping all pretence at formality or military decorum. “Do what people normally do in these situations. If I am to believe the holodramas from Lesser Space, I should say something ridiculous along the lines of ‘you may kiss the bride.’”

    Eli threw his head back and let out a bout of warm, hearty laughter. Vah’nya wrapped an arm around his waist. “Thank you, Admiral,” she said. “Although I must say that, there again, we weren’t really waiting for your permission.”

    Ar’alani laughed, then reverted to a more formal, even solemn, demeanour. “Thank you. Thank you for listening to my apology, thank you for not losing faith in me and thank you for allowing me to be with you in this moment.” She squared her shoulders into her command stance and walked to the door. “Sadly, the current circumstances do not allow me to allocate more than a moment to such joy. I will be expecting both of you in my office in two hours, to brief you on your new assignments.”

    And with a curt nod, she was gone. Thrawn stepped forward, gave Eli a firm handshake, nodded to Vah’nya, and limped away behind her.


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

    Endnotes


    The xenophobic tendencies of the Chiss are hinted at in the new Thrawn novels. Ar’alani’s hobby of wire sculpting is mentioned in Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising and is actually an important element of Thrawn and Ar’alani getting to know each other as cadets.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
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  19. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Sweet moments of love and great banter
     
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  20. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Awe, a wedding! :D I love Eli and Vah'nya's relationship; full of love and sweetness.
     
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  21. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Thank you for the reviews @earlybird-obi-wan and @JediMaster_Jen ! I had a great time writing the wedding bit. I asked myself how the Chiss would just expedite things, because that's what they do, and this was what I came up with.

    On to the next chapter, which is not a FF Olympics entry. Thanks to all readers and lurkers!
     
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  22. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Chapter 4

    The visitors’ seats in the admiral’s office had been pushed aside when Eli and Vah’nya were invited to come in, and Senior Captain Cinsar, the Steadfast’s first officer, stood at Ar’alani’s side. Her desk was covered in a mix of questises and Imperial datapads, and her eyes constantly travelled between them as she spoke. This was not the humble, apologetic woman who had come to their quarters a few hours earlier. Now, she was all business.

    “At ease, Senior Commander,” she began without lifting her gaze from the information displayed on the devices. “As you have seen, the Chimaera sustained heavy damage. However, Grand Admiral Thrawn assures me that her fighting capability can be at least partially restored. With him as her commanding officer, she would be a formidable addition to our fleet. You will fly over and assess the needs of the ship as well as the spirits of her crew. You will be given an inventory of available equipment and repair materials, and you will determine what we further need to procure.” She glanced at another datapad. “The first officer of the Chimaera is one Gilad Pellaeon, who holds the rank of captain. However, I am told that he is currently hovering between life and death in the medical bay. In his absence, the officer in charge is Commander Hammerly.”

    Eli nodded. “I know her, ma’am. She’s a competent officer and a good person.”

    Ar’alani fumbled in her drawer for a moment and pushed a pair of small objects across her desk. “Your new rank insignia. Congratulations, Mid Captain.”

    Eli stared at the collar pins in wonder. “Two ranks at once, ma’am?”

    “Two ranks. It was long overdue too.”

    “With respect, Admiral,” Cinsar said, “while I fully agree that Eli’van’to is worthy of this rank and much more… Junior Captain Tanik will be displeased to hear that he was passed over for a long-awaited promotion.”

    “As he should be,” Ar’alani said. “He clearly deserves better as well. However, we need Mid Captain Eli’van’to to outrank Commander Hammerly and to be Captain Pellaeon’s equal if he is to be our liaison to the Chimaera.” Cinsar twitched ever so slightly. “You disapprove, Senior Captain?”

    “I do, ma’am,” the man said gravely. “I do not deem it wise to put the mid captain in a position of divided loyalties.”

    Vah’nya tensed up and Eli stifled a sigh. He had worked closely with Cinsar over the years – the man had been responsible for his orientation when he’d come aboard the Steadfast – and he’d talked himself into believing that he had earned his trust. Apparently not. He squared his shoulders to shift from his relaxed stance to a more formal one. “I am loyal to this fleet, sir.”

    “I would be a fool to question your loyalty to the Ascendancy, Mid Captain,” Cinsar replied. “What I doubt is your former colleagues’ willingness to recognise and accept it.”

    Ar’alani’s gaze travelled from her first officer to her newly minted second officer. “It will be no issue, Senior Captain. The crew of the Chimaera knew Commander Eli Vanto. They will now meet Mid Captain Ivant.”

    She allowed for a few seconds of silence and observed Eli as he straightened himself to his full height. She gave a satisfied smile and turned to Vah’nya. “Vah’nya, there are nearly five hundred rescued sky-walkers aboard the Chimaera, and only Jedi Bridger with the remotest understanding of their skills and experiences. You will be travelling there daily on the same shuttle as Mid Captain Ivant to provide the Jedi with assistance to the best of your ability. Once we have established a relationship of mutual trust with the Chimaera’s crew, Grand Admiral Thrawn will have quarters assigned to both of you to enable you to spend days at a time on board as needed.”

    Cinsar arched an eyebrow. “Two caregivers to cater for five hundred children, ma’am?”

    “Jedi Bridger has been managing alone for five years, with help only from mechanical contraptions known as protocol droids. I am certain he will welcome Vah’nya’s support.”

    “Is there no way we can release a few of our caregivers to assist?”

    “Our caregivers are overstretched as things are. Those we could spare have already been reassigned to the crèche that hosts the infants we abducted. Each one of those who are left is looking after five or six sky-walkers at a time.”

    “With all due respect, ma’am, one to five or six is light-years better than two to 487,” Eli said.

    “Our sky-walkers keep our fleet alive, Mid Captain,” Ar’alani said in a tone that indicated that this was not up for discussion. “Their well-being is paramount to our survival and to the survival of the Chiss Ascendancy. We must provide them with the best care there is.” Her voice softened. “I do not like having to work around such petty calculations anymore than you do, but this is a simple fact.”

    “The admiral is right,” Vah’nya intervened. “We’ll just have to do the best we can with what we have. I will see how I can assist Jedi Bridger, and if you don’t object, Admiral, I’ll ask Navigator Un’hee if she would like to join us from time to time when she isn’t on duty. She was a prisoner of the Grysks. I think she would be able to help.”

    “Excellent. Ah, and Mid Captain – I will require your analysis of the Ascendancy’s military supply depots. The needs of our fleet didn’t come to a halt with the arrival of the Chimaera. On the contrary, they have increased rather dramatically.”

    Eli tapped the screen of his questis. “I am sending it to you now, ma’am, together with my recommendations for our next operations. I completed it this morning. I took the liberty to include a few civilian depots that would carry age-appropriate supplies for the Chimaera’s sky-walkers.”

    Ar’alani simply nodded her thanks. It was clear that she had expected no less of him, even though she knew firsthand that he had been getting married only three hours earlier. She extracted a few cards from the datapads arrayed in front of her and handed them to Eli. “Some material for you to read during the shuttle trip. Grand Admiral Thrawn won’t be returning with you today. I was finally able to convince him to have himself looked over by our medics. You will be transporting foodstuffs for the Chimaera’s crew. Be warned that you are about to board a ship that is on the brink of famine. Dismissed.”

    Eli saluted, Vah’nya bowed, and they made their way to the door. “Pull up a chair, Senior Captain,” Eli heard Ar’alani tell Cinsar as they walked out. “I need advice from the engineer in you. Let us discuss how to transform one of our cargo barges into a high security childcare facility.”


    * * *

    The information on the datacards that Ar’alani had given him painted a dire picture of the situation aboard the Chimaera, but it was when they stepped out of the shuttle that Eli properly took the measure of things. Commander Hammerly was so frail that he barely recognised her; the hangar crew who were waiting to offload the supplies he had brought were cadaverous, with sunken eyes and greyish skin; and even the armour of the stormtroopers who stood in neat formation at the foot of the ramp sagged over their bodies, indicating how malnourished they were. He gave Hammerly a crisp salute, and without further ado turned to a man with a major’s rank plaque who was obviously the quartermaster. “I am Mid Captain Eli’van’to of the Chiss Expansionary Defence Fleet,” he said in his most formal command voice in Basic. “You may address me as Captain Ivant. This shuttle carries 50,000 rations of nopa bean paste. When combined with the algae gel you received yesterday, nopa paste forms a complete, easily digestible meal. A second shipment of both will follow later today. The Steadfast will further send you two dozen crates of basic medicines.” The quartermaster hesitated, as if wanting to ask something. Eli allowed his stance to soften ever so slightly. “All of it is suitable for Humans, Major. Trust me. It has been tested on me.” He straightened himself. “Two of our medics will be coming aboard to brief the Chimaera’s doctors. They both speak Sy Bisti and Taarja. Make sure to prepare a protocol droid if necessary. We do not have translators for Basic.”

    The man merely blinked his understanding. He was visibly too exhausted to speak, but Eli could see the gratitude in his tired face. He turned to Hammerly. “Commander, given the urgency of your situation, let us skip the courtesies. We will lead Vah’nya” – he gestured at his wife, who was standing at his side – “to your childcare facility, so that she can assist Jedi Bridger. Then you and I will conduct a quick assessment of the Chimaera’s needs.”

    Hammerly gave him a formal nod. “Yes, sir.” Her face broke into a weak smile. “It’s good to know that you’re taking charge, sir. Thank you.”

    She led the way to a bank of turbolifts. In the corner of his eye, Eli noted that some two dozen TIE fighters, as well as five of the twelve original Defenders, were nestled in their cradles along the walls. Beyond that, the hangar bay was eerily empty, with the exception of a single Lambda-class shuttle, a haphazard pile of scrap metal and spare parts, and some large cylinders that Eli knew to be Grysk gravity well generators. The crates of algae gel that Ezra Bridger had ferried along on the previous night were now neatly stacked in a corner. The durasteel wall behind them bore multiple scorch marks, as if a battle had taken place there. Apparently the Chimaera had been boarded at least once in her years of fighting the Grysks.

    He came to a halt in front of a turbolift door that had been blown open and examined the blast marks carefully. These were not the doing of Grysk lightning or pellet weapons. As a matter of fact, they bore all the hallmarks of Imperial rifle shots.

    “Over here, sir,” Hammerly called from a few steps away. “Those lifts don’t work anymore. Only this one does.” She turned around to find him staring at the burnt door and sighed. “I will tell you about it later. Things became complicated around here when food started running out.”

    As they rode down and then walked to the deep storage area that, as Hammerly explained, had been converted into a boarding school of sorts for the rescued sky-walkers, Eli began to dread what they would face. Every member of the crew they met along the way was dragging themself in the hallways like a wraith, and he feared the condition in which they would find the children. He could see that Vah’nya was similarly tense. He decided to focus on feelings of steadfastness and encouragement, on the off-chance that she was attuned to his thoughts.

    The sound of young voices and laughter echoed ahead of them when they turned the corner into the final corridor and Vah’nya’s relief suddenly flooded his mind. They arrived in a vast room where hundreds of Chiss children, the overwhelming majority of them girls between the ages of seven and fourteen, were running, jumping and throwing grav-balls at each other under the watchful gaze of a line of protocol droids. They appeared to be clean and well-fed, and the neat jumpsuits they wore had been tailored to their size from repurposed Imperial uniforms. The contrast with what he’d seen of the crew couldn’t be any starker.

    The children stopped playing when the little troupe walked in, as if they expected Hammerly to address them. There was a moment of eerie quiet, but then they noticed Vah’nya and pandemonium broke loose.

    They crowded around her, trying to touch her, to hold her, to hang on to her arms and sleeves as if they were drowning and she was their only chance for survival. Within seconds, a blue-skinned tide had carried her to the middle of the hall.

    “Are you our new momish?”

    “Will you stay with us?”

    “Are you taking us home?”

    Eli could see Vah’nya talking to them soothingly, caressing the heads of those she could reach and laughing with them as they led her further and further away. He disciplined his face to remain impassive, but deep within his heart he felt once more the pull that had attracted him so irresistibly to the woman who was now his wife. However, his contemplation was disrupted by a sharp tug on his tunic. He looked down to see that a very small girl – she couldn’t be more than four years old – had stayed behind.

    He lowered himself to one knee so as not to tower over her. “I am Eli’van’to,” he said in Cheunh.

    “I’m Al’ahae.”

    “Are you a sky-walker?”

    The girl shrugged. “Not really. They said that I could become one, but they didn’t teach me a lot. They said I’m too little.”

    Eli had a myriad questions – at what age her Sight had manifested, when she had been taken, who the ‘they’ was – but he filed them away for later in a corner of his mind. “Why don’t you go with the others and Vah’nya?” he asked instead. “They seem to be having a good time.”

    Al’ahae shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other. “I’m too little,” she repeated. “The others don’t want to play with me.”

    Understanding dawned on him. He tucked his hands under the child’s armpits and lifted her to sit on his shoulder as he stood up. “There. You’re not too little anymore. Now you’re the biggest person in the room.”

    He felt Vah’nya’s gaze upon him, and he looked at her to see that she was waving at them from amidst the crowd. Al’ahae waved back a little shyly, then turned a bright shade of purple when all the children’s eyes travelled to her. She wriggled down to the height of Eli’s chest and buried her face in his neck.

    Commander Hammerly, who had disappeared through a side door when the mayhem began, returned with Ezra Bridger. The Jedi eyed the scene pensively. Vah’nya was now clapping her hands in a bouncy rhythm, leading the children into a song. He shook his head in disbelief.

    “Look at them,” he told Eli in Basic. “Look at her. It took me months, even years, to gain a modicum of trust from them. Some of them don’t trust me even now. They just stuck with me because they didn’t have anyone better to go to. And all she had to do was walk in”

    Eli reverted to his formal voice. “She’s one of them, Jedi Bridger. You’re not.”

    “Neither are you,” Bridger shot back. “Yet this little one” – he angled his chin towards the child that was hugging Eli fiercely – “chose to come to you.”

    Eli winked. “There’s more to me than meets the eye.” It was so tempting, he realised, so easy, to be just Eli Vanto in this time and place – the warm-hearted, spontaneous young man from a middle-income family that ran a shipping company on a backrocket world of Wild Space, and who had chosen to join the Imperial Navy as a mere supply officer. But here and now, he needed to be Mid Captain Ivant. He composed himself. “A more likely explanation is that this child can sense that Vah’nya knows me and trusts me.”

    The clapping grew louder as the children joined in Vah’nya’s song. “You should go with them, Jedi Bridger. They will like you better for it.” He moved behind the younger man and settled Al’ahae on his shoulders. “Take good care of Al’ahae,” he added in Cheunh. “She’s my friend.”

    He watched the Jedi move tentatively towards the crowd of singing children and turned to Hammerly. “Shall we?”

    The deckplates under their feet shook with thunderous applause as they left. The song was over, and the sky-walkers were clapping and cheering. “Vah’nya! Vah’nya! VAH-NYA! VAH-NYA! VAH-NYA!”


    * * *

    Eli experienced a pang of nostalgia when he entered the commander’s office. He had spent quite some time in this room five years ago, when the Chimaera’s first officer had been Commodore Faro – a simpler time when the Empire controlled the known Galaxy and the Chiss Ascendancy was a beacon of stability in the Unknown Regions. Now, the information he was receiving from Lesser Space told him that the Empire was crumbling, and the Ascendancy had collapsed into a state of disarray. He shrugged his thoughts away and sat in the chair that Hammerly pulled up for him. He saw that a bowl of green mash had been placed on her desk.

    “You should eat, Commander,” he said immediately. He spoke in the tone of a friend but it was clear that he wouldn’t allow her to protest.

    She didn’t even try to. Before she even sat down, she had grabbed the spoon and was shovelling the bean and algae purée in her mouth.

    “I’m sorry we didn’t send something tastier,” he said after she had gobbled down a few mouthfuls and stopped to catch her breath. “If I’d known how bad things were, I would’ve made sure your first proper meal in what appears to be a long time would be something you’d actually enjoy.”

    Hammerly shook her head as she took another spoonful. “It’s fantastic, sir. It really is.”

    He chuckled. “I’m glad you like it. There’s a lot more of it where it came from.” She gave him a questioning look. “We have an agro-ship,” he explained. “Beans and algae are the fastest crops to grow. And spices, of course. Next time we’ll send you spices too.”

    He sat in silence and watched her. “What have you been eating, Commander?” he asked when she slowed down a little.

    “For the past six months –” she realised that she was talking through a full mouth and paused to swallow. “For the past six months, half a ration bar per person per day. Before that, one ration bar per person per day. Before that, a ration bar and an energy biscuit.”

    Eli ran the numbers in his mind. A Star Destroyer was normally loaded with two years’ worth of food in addition to ration bars and energy biscuits. Stretching these supplies to last for five years would be difficult even with the most draconian rationing measures. The Chimaera must have recovered additional food from other craft of her doomed fleet, of course, but she also likely played host to members of their crews. While what he had seen in the hallways didn’t indicate an overpopulated ship, in their state of physical and mental exhaustion it was unlikely that her men and women milled about if they could help it. What was obvious was that the crew had given up their regular meals early on to ensure that the sky-walkers were properly fed. If the blaster marks in the hangar bay were any indication, some had disagreed rather violently with this approach.

    Hammerly scraped her plate clean, pushed it aside and wiped her mouth. “Thank you, sir.” She eyed him carefully as he straightened himself in his chair, indicating that they were now in business. “Will the Grand Admiral be returning to the Chimaera?” she asked.

    “He will, eventually. For now Admiral Ar’alani confined him to the Steadfast’s medical bay, to have him checked over by Chiss medics.”

    “So he doesn’t intend to stay with his people?”

    “The Chimaera is his ship, Commander. He will return to his ship. Why would you assume otherwise?”

    “Because he lied to us,” she said flatly. “He lied to us, for all these years. We thought he was loyal to the Empire, but he was only ever loyal to the Chiss.”

    Eli paused. “Did you ever see him say or do anything that went against the interests of the Empire?”

    “No,” she conceded. “But it doesn’t make me feel any less deceived. And now he has us gallivanting around the Unknown Regions in the company of a Jedi for his own, private purposes.”

    Eli stared at her for a few moments. There was fury in her eyes.

    “Commander… why are you here?” he asked.

    “This is my kriffing office, Vanto,” she said in exasperation. “Where do you expect me to be?”

    “That’s Mid Captain Eli’van’to to you, Commander,” Eli said sternly. “Captain Ivant, for short. And you’re not answering me. You had five years to abandon the Grand Admiral to his Chiss quest and return to the known Galaxy. Why are you still here?”

    “Because the bastard is my best chance to get out of this alive.”

    There was a pause. Eli sat back in his chair, relaxed his shoulders and crossed one leg over the other. “You stuck with him through thick and thin. You look like you’re on the verge of starvation, you spent five years fighting his battles in a ship that’s as close as it gets to a derelict, and you put down at least one mutiny. It all sounds like a pretty good way to get killed to me.”

    Hammerly’s entire body slumped. She suddenly looked very vulnerable. “We did it for the children, sir. We couldn’t possibly abandon them to their fate once we’d seen the Grysks, could we? What those mudscuffers do… it’s worse than death.”

    Eli nodded. “Then you know that he’s fighting for a worthy cause, even if it’s not out of loyalty to the Empire.”

    There was a long silence. “Damn you, Vanto,” she said finally, but he didn’t feel the need to call her to task this time because she was grinning. “You’ve changed, haven’t you? You’re not just his sidekick anymore. You’ve grown into your own.”

    Eli felt his face warm, but his years with the Chiss had taught him to keep his expression in check – well enough to fool a fellow Human, at least. He settled for a small smile of his own. “I only do my best.”

    “Your best is good enough.”

    They stared at each other for a moment longer. It was Eli who broke the silence. “Now, Commander,” he said, bringing his voice to full formal, “tell me what you need to restore the Chimaera’s fighting capability.”


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

    Endnotes


    Caregiver
    Nopa bean paste, algae gel and the agro-ship are my creations.
    Sy Bisti
    Taarja
    TIE Defender
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2021
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  23. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    great chapter with Eli discussing with Hammerlly
     
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  24. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oh, I loved every bit of this. The warm gentleness between Vah'nya and Eli. Thrawn's inscrutableness [face_love] and Ar'alani's blend of humble apology and brilliant tactics in dealing with the Chiss civil war and the Grysk all at once. [face_thinking] =D= I am very happy this is an epic LOL

    [:D]
     
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  25. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2002
    Excellent entry!=D= Enjoyed the conversation at the end between Hammerly and Eli. It seems to me that she should know that as long as the Empire's goals matched up with those of the Chiss, Thrawn would be loyal to the Empire, but once there was a divergence, all bets would be off and his focus would be about the Chiss. :D And I really don't see a problem with galavanting around the galaxy with Ezra. :p
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2021