Title: The Price of Victory Author: Anedon Timeframe: Mid 44 ABY Characters: Ulrika Grau, Ilona Malek and other OCs Genre: Friendship, Adventure Summary: The battle for Qaelan did not just changed the Southwest of the galaxy forever but also the lifes of our heroes, as each of them struggles to adjust to their new responsibilities, a new threat is rising on the world they fought so hard for to liberate. This story is the next part in my growing Ilona/Ulrika verse. Which includes the Main stories: -Shadow over Curean -Path of Lies -The Value of Freedom -Into the Fire -Following the Thread -Trials and Tribulations As well the additions: -Anarchists and Aristocrats -Summer Camp Shenanigans -Old Friends -Can Love be a Sin -To Dathomir, with a Friend -Tales from the Southwest -The Beast and the Beauty Which also feature some of these characters. Prologue It had been a long day, like any day in the last few weeks had been and Callisto was breathing heavily as she finally slipped through the door of her apartment building and made her way up the stairs. Most of the dirt had finally been cleaned and even the weak roof lighting was working again. "Only question is for how long..." she muttered over the clanking from her high heeled leather boots as she reached the door of her small flat and pushed it open. "Mommy!" Mya threw herself at her mother before she could even react. Wrapping her small arms around her. Then she stepped back again, a bit of a sheepish expression on her eight year old face. Callisto gave her daughter a patient smile, at the first day she had left Mya had been delighted to have their small flat all to herself for once. But having to spend all day alone, especially after the preceding weeks had clearly frightened her, even if she still tried her best to claim otherwise. It wasn`t that Callisto wanted to leave her young daughter without care, but that she had no other choice. Normality, which what had been their live... it was over. It had begun with the explosion at the administration building, the fighting in the streets, and then the invasion. The Sephi woman had assured her daughter up until the final day that the war wouldn`t come to Qaelan. That the cruel woman with the short hair, the Butcher of Metallorn, the young blonde goddess of death as the news had called her, wouldn`t come here. That the monsters could never hurt any of them. It had been cruel pictures, pictures and videos that had frightened Mya to no end on the holonet, seeing the black clad, armored human soldiers, their faces hidden behind gasmasks advancing through towns, massacring everyone. Burning non humans alive in the name of their cruel, bloodthirsty, goddess. There would be no mercy for any of them, the news had proclaimed, and Callisto had been drawn to agree with them, she had read about the Eriaduans, her parents had battled the old Republic and she had seen the crimes of the Empire first hand. "Did the bad men hurt you?" Mya asked as she grabbed her mother's hand and lead her to the table in the middle of the small room. Clear worry in her voice, worry and also a determination to make the people suffer who hurt her mother. Callisto couldn`t help but smile at her courage, even if it was born from naivety. "No, sweetie. Even got some tips..." she placed some small credit chips on the table. Mya´s eyes widened as she grabbed one of them, "can we buy sweets for those?" Callisto sadly run her hand over her daughters hair, "better not, not yet. We need to keep it in case..." in case things got worse again. In case this current calm was just an illusion, in case the propaganda was right after all. Mya pouted, sticking out her lip, "that´s unfair!" "The whole galaxy is unfair..." Callisto muttered more to herself than anyone else. Life had never been fair to her family. Her parents had been respected and hardworking members of the Sephi military but any future they might have had, had been burned to ashes in the Clone Wars. They had escaped with their lives... but only to find new struggles and trials with the millions of refugees trying to flee to the last Separatist Strongholds in the Outer Rim, in their case the Southwest. They had continued to fight, for Gizor Delso and Mikael Altuin, and later the Iron Alliance. But all it had won them in the end were early graves and a daughter left behind on the street of Qaelan. Callisto knew that she was already one of the luckier ones, having avoided being enslaved like other orphaned kids... but had her fate really been better? She had started working at a local bar at the age of twelve, serving drinks and food, for a bit of change and being allowed to sleep on a mattress in the cellar for a few hours and eat whatever scraps the customers left behind. And as she had grown older, and her body more mature, other `duties` had awaited her as well. Thankfully she hadn`t been forced into prostitution and she didn`t minded dancing, liked it even... but having strange hands all over her body all day, touching, pinching... it had sickened her. "Did the evil men forbid sweets as well?" Mya asked, still mostly concerned with the options the money left them. "No..." Callisto said. "I... I´m not even sure if they are that bad." She had seen little reason to live in those days, outside of the drugs she took, and the brief affairs with co workers or friendly customers... she had been a hedonist... the proud daughter of a higher race... reduced to a hedonistic party girl... Until she had gotten pregnant, by a lover she no longer even remembered. Until Mya had been born, until her life had been given a reason. She had taken her savings and bought a small apartment, just one room and the refresher, but it was a home, a home for her family. And up until the invasion had daughter had even been able to go to school, to dream of a better life. "What? But the holonet!" Mya stared at her mother, her eyes widened. "The holonet lies..." Callisto muttered. During and after the invasion she and Mya had hit in their apartment as the bar and school were closed anyway. They hadn`t seen much of the battle, but heard the thunder of artillery and the screeching of Fighter engines above. Callisto had feared it would come to a bombardment, but it seemed at least the major habitation blocks had been spared that. Then a few weeks ago, the bar had opened again, and so she had resumed her work, knowing that now more than ever she needed every credit. And it had been okay, locals and invaders had both frequented the bar. Looking at each other, with a mix of disgust, hatred, worry and curiosity. The soldiers she had served had been polite, even if it had surprised her that these human supremacists would want to watch someone like her dance... She had dared to hope that maybe things would just go back to how they had been, but then today she had been assaulted, two mercenaries, members of a company who had switched sides during the battle, had held her down, torn of her skirt and begun to rip away at her underwear. Usually, the bouncer of the bar a large and bulky Skakoan, would step in, and any patron trying to rape a serving girl would be banned from the bar... but now, with the enemy soldiers even their bouncer had been afraid to step in, knowing that resistance would have been their doom. So even Callisto had stopped resisting, as she didn`t want to leave Mya alone in this cruel galaxy even if that meant... "But you..." Mya started... "I was wrong sweetie," her mother said softly. Before they had ripped away her underwear the two mercs had been stopped, by two female soldiers. One of them had been a large Karkarodon, covered in scars, who had broken the mercs arms... and the other... the other had the same pointed ears and the same catlike eyes and grace as Callisto herself. A Sephi in the uniform of an Eriaduan officer, a Colonel even. She had spoken to Callisto gently, and even admitted to being half Sephi, just like Mya. Was that even possible? But as soon after several female human soldiers had arrived and taken the two mercs into custody, referring to the woman, Kinga, as their superior Callisto had believed it. Now she was even to give a statement at their tribunal, a tribunal? Things like that didn`t happen on Qaelan, never had. All they had been able to do with rowdy customers before was to permanently ban them from their bar... but now... things were changing. "Some of them are just like you..." Callisto smile, as she run a hand over her daughters right ear. "There are other Sephi?" Mya looked up, excited. "Is she a soldier? Or an officer? She must be their leader right?" "It seems so," her mother replied. "One of them saved your mommy tonight." And there was something else, something the strange woman had mentioned after they had chatted a bit. "And they say that the schools will be opening again soon." Mya´s grin became lopsided, "oh no! Do they have to?" Callisto smiled, "I fear they have, but who knows if you learn well, maybe you will one day be able to be such an amazing officer as well."