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Beyond - Legends The Value of Freedom OC: Challenge

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Anedon, Sep 12, 2021.

  1. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Title: The Value of Freedom
    Author: Anedon
    Timeframe: 38 ABY
    Characters: Ulrika Grau, Tobin Redan, others
    Genre: Drama
    Challenge: OC Revolution - The Background OC Challenge - Plus
    Summary: Ulrika and Tobin travel to a gala event in the Senex Juvex Sector, and are confronted with the realities of the locals slave trade.

    Thanks to @Adalia-Durron for the support on this as well as to my friend Crazy Kenny (who isn´t on the boards) for his advice and suggestions.



    One

    What to say when meeting a slaver? The question circled in Ulrika's head and only strengthen the feeling of sickness in her stomach.

    What am I even doing here?


    Your duty was the less than satisfying answer. Duty, reasons of state, simple courtesy all those where the arguments brought forth by her commanders as she had requested not to take part in this mission. But of course it had mattered little, as a war heroine it seemed to be her duty these days to be nice to people she had nothing but disgust for.

    So in a way the same as always.

    During the Vong War, her sarcastic and at times rebellious behavior had seen her chosen to fake a desertion from the ORSF allowing her to infiltrate the forces of the Peace Brigade who where gaining recruits even on Eriadu and other places in the Galactic South. She had stayed in this undercover role for the majority of the war. Doing what she could to disrupt the internal workings of the Vong and their allies, while feeding all information she could gather back to the Eriaduan military. It had been a dark time, filled with the constant fear of being discovered. But it had given her a perspective on the war barely anyone else had and in the end she even had been able to ignite a rebellion of fellow Peace Brigade Forces against their Vong Overlords.

    "Are you feeling well?" It was the first time he spoke to her since they had entered the ship. And now it seemed he had noticed her discomfort.

    Ulrika, Ulrika you are getting sloppy if you let your thoughts be read like that, she scolded herself, but now it was too late to claim otherwise.

    "Not really a mission I'm looking forward to, will tell you that," she told him bluntly, not wanting to waste time with pretentions. Still she didn't dare to look at him, to look at...

    "I agree on that, but then again, is going to a formal meeting really comparable to sitting in a trench, covered with mud while blaster fire hits all around you?" He continued.

    Ulrika knew her fellow squad leader was right, it was rich of her trying to complain about having to attend a nice gala evening while other ORSF soldiers risked their lives keeping the Seswenna Sector save. And yet...

    "Guess the grass is always greener on the other side," she muttered. "Just wish they had chosen someone else."

    After the achievements in the Vong War Ulrika had been hailed a heroine and, using at times very elaborate disguises taken part in further undercover missions. Had pretended to be amongst others, a bounty hunter, a member of the Back Sun or a slave dancer.

    Not that she was to pretend something today, no, today she was here as herself, Ulrika Grau, Colonel of the ORSF. Representative of Eriadu at a gala hosted by the ruling elite of the Senex Juvex Sector. It was an infamous event hosted every year, allegedly to 'further cooperation between the people of the Southwest' yet in truth only served as a front for backroom deals and other shady deals to be made by the rich and powerful.

    Like in every year the Eriaduan delegation consisted of a handful nobles usually younger siblings of Quintad members, and several squads of ORSF soldiers for protection. These squads, often handpicked and lead by well known veterans mostly existed to display strength and to brag about the Eriaduan victories. Which was probably why they were here now, even though many younger commanders envied them for this position.

    Ulrika had never understood why the chance to travel to this meeting was so sought after by parts of the ORSF. The stories she had heard, of the event itself and the 'entertainment' waiting for them had only turned her stomach and it made her sick to see several of her comrades being actively interested in partaking. Relax yourself it's just one evening, just one eve of being nice. You have spend years doing the same thing before.

    But was it really the same thing? For a moment she looked around, at her squad, all clad in their shiny black and gold dress uniforms. They looked up to her, their leader and she knew that for them she had to be an example of strength and confidence.

    As she glanced further her gaze fell on him, the man sitting next to her in the best seats of the ship. Tobin Redan, a face known to every citizen of Eriadu, for smiling down from half the recruitment posters made since the Vong War, a living legend not only on their homeworld... and the boy who Ulrika cost an eye many years ago.

    She had no idea how to even talk to him. Back then, when the incident had happened she had worried she had caused even more damage, as her stick had hit his face there had been blood everywhere and in the dark of night she had, had no idea how bad it had been. So she had followed her instincts and run away wanting to leave it behind, to hide, to deny having been involved with this. The fear had nearly destroyed her, what if he boy would have died? What if she was a killer?

    She had tried to mask her fears, like she always did, by acting confident and as if she couldn't care less. But it had only been after Ilona had told her that the boy had lost his eyes that she had allowed herself to relax. He hadn't died and an eye was easily replaceable. Her life hadn't been destroyed.

    For a moment a expression of disgust moved over Ulrika's face as she remembered Ilona's reaction to the incident. How she had revealed her 'holier than thou' attitude, how she had dared to judge Ulrika for what happened despite having partaken in just the same prank that had gone out of control. As she, instead of seeing it as the accident it obviously was she had acted as if Ulrika had gorged out the boys eye on purpose.

    After the incident she had expected to be contacted by the boys family over what had happened, and she had been willing to pay for prosthetic eye. But instead nothing had happened and she had only seen the boy again when his death had been reported in the Vong War as he stayed behind on Coruscant with his squad during the evacuation.

    It had made her feel guilty but at the same time a part of her, a weak, cowardly part, had been glad that the whole mess was over now. But it wasn´t, as Tobin Redan and his squad had been too stubborn to die, and survived the two years of Vong control deep in the debts of galactic city. They had become legends and now, they where here.

    Ulrika was proud of her squad and their accomplishments over the years but she knew that their records could never compete with that of Tobin's soldiers.

    And yet, for her these stories mattered little, what worried her was what had happened all those years ago, and how she should even talk about it with him.

    But she needed to get this out of her system, or she would live the rest of her life in fear of retribution. So she took a deep breath, "so about what happened all those years ago."
     
  2. Adalia-Durron

    Adalia-Durron WNU Mod - Aussie Rebel At Heart. star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2003
    Well done good start! Keep it going.
     
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  3. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    A great start with her out of her comfort zone seeing Tobin again
     
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  4. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Thanks, already on it.

    Indeed, their first real meeting since that night over a decade ago.



    Two

    Tobin turned towards Ulrika. Seems you already lost your bet Ilona. As he had first been told with whom he would travel to the gala his girlfriend had instantly gone on a long tangent about what a terrible person Ulrika Grau was, mentioned various incidents of their prank war and of course eventually come back to that night all those years ago. Telling him that Ulrika would never bring up the topic on her own and if pressed only try to excuse herself if even that.

    Tobin himself had never met Ulrika again after that night, at least not in a space that gave them any privacy. In fact he had only even learned her name almost a decade after the incident when Ilona had told him the day they had met again.

    "Yeah?" he said, trying to keep his voice as neutral as possible, curious what she was going to say.

    He noticed how Ulrika avoided his glance, especially looking towards his stylized prosthetic eye. An obvious sign of guilt, or fear.

    She took a deep breath and her eyes darted back to him, even though they remained focused on his normal eye.

    "I'm sorry okay? Sorry for what I did that day..." She pressed through her teeth.

    The awkwardness had almost made Tobin smile, but the topic was too serious for that.

    That night confusion and pain had overruled all thoughts of revenge, as had Ilona and Kat´s help in getting him back to the boys camp. It had only been later, after he had returned to Lyceaus that the rage that come, the desire to take revenge on whoever had done that to him one way or another.

    "It was an accident," Tobin said, slowly. At least in this regard Ilona was wrong, even though she couldn't have known it. He himself had chased down Ulrika through the woods, tackled her to the ground and begun to wrestle with her. "You defended yourself."

    "I..." confusion appeared on Ulrika's face. Whatever she had expected it wasn't this.

    "What I cannot understand," Tobin continued, his voice getting a bit harsher. "Was the absolute silence afterwards. No attempt to contact me, no apology, no questions about my condition. Not even an attempt to excuse what happened. Just complete silence."

    Tobin had accepted something would come, even if it was only a try to halt a possible retribution from his family. But nothing ever had. So he had eventually decided to go looking for the girl himself, but his uncle had talked him out of it.

    "I..." Ulrika started again, her voice struggling. "I expected you would make the first step, whether with a demand for satisfaction or by sending some thugs to beat me up." She took a deep breath and Tobin noticed how her hands where shaking. "And to be honest a part of me hoped it would blow over and could get away with it. And if I say a part of me I mean most of me."

    Tobin's disgust towards her began to lessen as he noticed the honesty in her words. This was a side of her Ilona hadn't mentioned.

    The Vong War had extinguished most of Tobin's feelings towards whoever had cost him his eye. The horrors he had been confronted with during his two years in the debts of Coruscant's underworld, they had made the accidental loss of an eye seem irrelevant. And after he had returned from the war he had barely given the incident another thought, until he had met Ilona again.

    Hearing her version of events, and how Ulrika had acted afterwards, it could made him angry. Filled him with a new desire for revenge, but instead it had only added to his disgust of the Eriaduan nobility and their attitudes, just another example amongst thousands of others.

    "What made you change your mind now?" he asked instead, softening his voice just a little bit.

    Again Ulrika took a deep breath, "I want to say my conscience and it alone, but there is still some worry left about what you might do to me, now that the incident is back in our minds." He noticed how she struggled with these words, but continued. "Goddess, what I did back then was wrong, it was cowardly. I'm sorry for that."

    Tobin allowed himself a little smile, as he said "apology accepted."

    Ulrika raised an eyebrow, "it can't be that easy."

    In many ways it was, Tobin wasn't someone to hold a long grudge and he knew, better than most what regret did to a person, and Ulrika had clearly gone through it, beyond just her worry for self preservation.

    "It can be as easy or hard as you choose," Tobin said. "Yet I appreciate your honesty. A rare thing in our society."

    "True," Ulrika agreed, her body having stopped shaking. "Yet I still feel I owe you something for it."

    His smile grew a bit, "I will keep that in mind." The Redan wondered what Ilona would say if she knew her hated rival considered owning him a favor. Probably instantly think of a way to use it to humiliate Ulrika.

    They sat in silence next to each other for a moment.

    Then Ulrika asked, "the coat that I took from your tent in that night. You fought over it like a madman, was there something valuable in there."

    Tobin said nothing for a moment, then his smile returned. "No, at least not in a common way. It was my first longer trip outside of Lyceaus. I grew up there amongst exiled nobles and bitter old men. This camp... it was the first time I would be with teens of my own age. And I was afraid, didn't want to go. So my uncle gave me that old army coat of his, called me his little soldier. And it worked, gave me courage and confidence. So when a twelve year old brat stole it you can imagine how upset I was." He didn't tell her how he had continued to wear the coat during his military career, how it had given him comfort in the darkness of Coruscant Underworld and even now helped him to keep the nightmares away every night.

    "I'm sorry for that, this whole thing was my idea you know?" Ulrika said. "It was supposed to be a joke. Just scare you boys a bit, steal some of your stuff. Typical hazing between camps, I never wanted it to escalate like it did."

    In this case Ilona and later Kat had given him similar apologies, both also feeling guilty about what happened that night and their own role inside of it, though they both had placed the majority of the blame squarely on Ulrika.

    A part of Tobin wanted to tell her about this, but for now he felt it was better to keep his relationship with Ilona a secret, especially to her hated rival.

    "Think a lot of people acted wrong that night," he said quietly and Ulrika nodded.

    Tobin still wasn't sure what to make of her, she was clearly not as terrible as Ilona had described her but he wouldn't let her in on his private thoughts too much. So instead he decided to switch the topic.

    "Been to the gala before?"

    Ulrika shook her head, "no, heard a lot about it. Some good, some not so good."

    Are careful answer as she was unsure of his stance on it. So instead of going in kind he decided to test her by stating his honest opinion. "I've been there before, every gala since the Vong War in fact. Worst eve of each year if you ask me. Playing nice with slavers, telling them old war stories for the thousands time." There were even worse things like the half naked women who had offered him that he could 'use them in any way he pleased', or having to watch the deadly gladiator matches their hosts considered 'entertainment'. Each time he had wanted to vomit in disgust, and sometimes he had.

    "We shouldn't be doing this," Ulrika said, the heat in her voice telling Tobin that she wasn't just trying to butter up to him, but truly shared his stance. "The ORSF fights pirates and slavers every day, but at the same time we are making deals with others?"

    Tobin nodded sadly, "the whole galaxy does, everyone claims they don´t but still do. But you will see it tonight for yourself. VIPs from each and every corner of the GA will be there."

    Ulrika grinded her teeth, "wish we could do something about it, crash the whole event."

    "I thought about doing that every year, but we are under orders, causing trouble there, it could start a war."
     
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  5. Adalia-Durron

    Adalia-Durron WNU Mod - Aussie Rebel At Heart. star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2003
    Not pretty, doubt they will tolerate it long.
     
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  6. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    I hope they will do something about that. Slavers and fights are disgusting
     
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  7. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    It will certianly be hard to do that...

    They certianly want to. Question is, how much can they do?



    Three

    "Another drink?" A young pretty red-haired girl asked Ulrika. She was barely out of her teens and the outfit their hosts had put her in left little to imagination. Ulrika shook her head, drinking might help quell the rage building up inside of her but she didn't felt like taking anything in this place. The first times it had been scantily clad young men who had approached her offering drinks and 'more if she desired it'. With her having now rejected them it seems they tried a different angle.

    Most of the servants in the hall where humans. Before this day Ulrika had believed the slaves in the Senex Juvex Sector where exclusively non human but Tobin had told her that in the Sector everyone could be enslaved. That poverty and weaknesses in society could make one a target. They buy from slavers and pirates from all over the galactic south as well. He had also told her about a case during the last year when a few captured ORSF soldiers had been sold as slaves. The government of the Senex Juvex Sector had returned them with an apology, yet only under the promise that the Eriaduan government wouldn't make the affair public. A rare fruit of diplomatic meetings such as this.

    She felt sick, beyond sick. And with each moment was reminded of her time in the Nightclub. But there people had just leered at her, for these slaves, things where much worse. Why was this happening? Why was nobody stopping it?

    Because so many are complicit. After they had entered the main hall on this space station Tobin had pointed out several VIPs from all over the galaxy. Former and current members of the Imperial Military, but also ex Senators of the New Republic as well as current GA politicians and military figures. It where so many that Ulrika wouldn't have been surprised to even find a Jedi amongst them. The only thing that gave Ulrika some comfort, was that her squad did not take any more kindly to this than she did herself. As she looked around she saw Tobin in one of the corner of the hall talking to a young woman in the clothes of a local noble. Did he have a girlfriend here? Or was she just someone wanting to hear his story about how he survived on Vong controlled Coruscant?

    The young servant gave Ulrika a painful look. And she could almost hear the silent plea behind it. Would this servant be punished if she didn't at least take a drink? Ulrika wasn't sure but slowly reached out and took one of the drinks. It tasted like acid in her mouth and she spat it out instinctively, directly at the young woman. The drink itself hadn't been too bad, at least she assumed that but the sheer stress of the evening and the sickness that had been building inside her stomach had caused this reaction.

    How could she not have been disgusted at the 'interesting' flavors of meat offered at the dinner. Meat from species even the Eriaduan government considered sentient. 'Spiced up' with drugs Ulrika herself had spent half of her life get out of circulation. This whole gala seemed to have been designed to enrage her, and every other person with a working conscience. If Ilona Malek had been here, she couldn't have made her rival even more angry. In fact, if she had been here Ulrika at least would have had someone to relief her aggression onto. But of course she wasn´t and her orders where clear, 'don´t cause a scene, don't create an international disaster'. Well, the disaster was still waiting to happen, but the scene was now there as the serving girl screamed in shock and all eyes turned towards them.

    Ulrika felt how her hearth began to beat faster and faster. As an honored guest she wouldn't have to take the consequences of this. but instead it would be the servant to be punished. And maybe others as well.

    "I'm sorry!" she said loudly as several members of security approached them. Apologies had never come easy over her lips especially when she had felt to be in the right. But here, with possibly the girls life on the line Ulrika instantly abandoned any sense of pride. "It's my fault. I'm sorry." She needed to get the attention focused on herself, then maybe the girl would be able to get out of this.

    "Are you okay ma'am?" She was asked by several members of security.

    "I... I am." Ulrika said, overplaying in hopes of keeping them focused on her. "Can.. Can I get a glass of water?"

    She spent the next few minutes playing the apologizing confused dumb noblewoman until they finally left her be, but the charade had been worth it: At least for now the serving girl had been able to disappear without issue, hopefully cleaning her outfit or getting a new one.

    Ulrika spend the next hour chatting with her squad members, to distract herself from the goings on around her. Her pride for her girls only grew as she noticed how professional they took the situations. Their true thoughts hidden behind stoic courteous faces. They were doing their job better than she was. Just a few hours ahead, just a few more hours and they could leave this place behind again. Just a few hours and she could pretend to have never been here. Just a few hours...

    She took a few more drinks, this time more carefully, to ensure she didn't cause any further trouble and eventually headed towards one of the restrooms to relieve herself of the liquids. As she entered for a second she believed to have seen a shadow in one of the corners but she paid no attention to it. Entering a cabin she moved her hands down to open her pants as she was grabbed from behind. Having been a soldier and having spend years on various undercover operations this wasn't the first time this had happened to her and in this case her attacked wasn't very strong or threatening, even with the cold object pressed against her throat Ulrika felt confident that she could throw her attacker of with no real risks to herself.

    Yet she didn't, as she noticed her attacker, it was her. The servant girl she had spat the drink at. Now threatening her with a shard of broken glass.

    "Don't scream," the slave woman said and Ulrika noticed desperation but also determination in her voice. The voice of someone who has nothing left to lose. Who is willing to do everything.

    Ulrika wasn't sure what the meaning of this was. She could throw the girl of her, knock her out and call security. Then this time the young woman wouldn't get away, she would die for this action.

    Feeling pity and uncertainty Ulrika instead decided to slowly raise her hands. "Okay, it's okay. What is the meaning of this?"

    "You have helped me out there," the girl said quietly. "And your rank and actions show us that you are not the fool you've pretended to be. This leads us to believe that you could help us."

    "Us?" Ulrika asked.

    "I will remove this shard, but once I do remember, we are all around you. If you mention what happened here to anyone. One of us will find you and your precious neck."

    "Okay..." Ulrika said slowly.

    The girl removed the shard and Ulrika turned around to her. "Thanks, what is happening here?"

    The young woman crossed her arms and looked at Ulrika, when she spoke again the Eriaduan could hear her desperation. "we crash the gala tonight. We have a plan, but we need an outsiders help for it..."
     
  8. Adalia-Durron

    Adalia-Durron WNU Mod - Aussie Rebel At Heart. star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2003
    Tension!!! Clearly they want out too!! Feels like they need a Hero........

    [​IMG]
     
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  9. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    great, the slaves are fighting
     
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  10. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Well a hero won´t come, guess Ulrika has to suffice. ;)

    They are, they definietly are.



    Four

    "Where is your brother?" Tobin asked Alejandra once the crowd around them had cleared a bit.

    His friend rolled her eyes. "He managed to excuse himself for the evening. Said there are urgent military matters to attend to."

    The Senex Juvex Sector hadn't been very involved with the Vong War and only send a few fighter squadrons as a token gesture. Alejandra's brother Francesco di Comte had commanded them and was now the closest thing the Sector had to a war hero. He and Tobin had met in the early days of the war before the fall of Coruscant and then been reunited during the first gala after the war. Their friendship had endured and they would visit each other several times during the year, though usually on a more private place than the gala.

    "So he send you here?" Tobin said with a weak grin, as the two slowly walked towards one of the niches of the room.

    A shadow crossed Alejandra's face, "we drew sticks on who had to go. And of course mine was the shorter one."

    Tobin had his own theory on why Alejandra was the one here but he kept it to himself. They sat down on a couch in niche. And for a moment Tobin's eyes scanned the room for Ulrika. Her face gave away her disgust at this whole event, even though she tried her best to hide it.

    "You... you look great," Alejandra stuttered pulling his attention back to her.

    Tobin had always found it amusing how the normally pretty fierce and confident Alejandra became so awkward on topics like this.

    "Likewise," he replied friendly. Giving her simple yet elegant red dress the respect it deserved, while feeling a sense of guilt rising in his chest. Alejandra had developed a crush on him from basically the day her brother had introduced them towards each other. But to Tobin she could never be more than a good friend.

    She must have noticed the expression on his face, as she took a deep breath and asked, "still together with her?"

    "Yes," Tobin said gently. "We are doing great."

    Alejandra gave him a grin as she leaned back, "well, at least something I guess..."

    "Alja..." Tobin said, using her nickname.

    "No its okay, you've made your choice. I'm the one who should learn to accept that." She lazily sipped at her drink. Then she chuckled, "worst part is, I can't even get myself to hate Ilona."

    There was a certain irony in the fact that Francesco and Alejandra where both amongst the very few people who knew of his relationship with Ilona. But then again, he and Ilona also knew about the siblings secrets more than most other people.

    "How are things going on your side?" Tobin asked, lowering his voice a bit.

    Apparently glad to switch the subject Alejandra leaned forward. "There is much to tell, good and bad. But more good thankfully enough. The pressure is rising, slowly but it is. Some of the investors have demanded the Sector to own up to their promises. As do some GA politicians, though at least for now far too few..."

    The Senex Juvex Sector was facing financial problems as their slave based economy was superseded by more and more nations around the galaxy. To modernize their failing industry they hoped for investments from the core, but those didn´t come without the demand for reforms.

    "Your brother said you´ve got a few potential investors to withdraw?" Tobin asked.

    Alejandra nodded, "yeah, the pictures and videos of slave abused we send them on the holonet made the shareholders 'reconsider their offer' for as long as 'these practices are still in place'." She was quiet for a moment, then she continued. "The problem simply is, for everyone we convince not to make deals with them they find some new scumbag who simply doesn´t care. Just look around the room, all of these jerks just ignore what is going on around them."

    "That's the problem with this galaxy," Tobin agreed. "From Hapes to Ryloth, people tend to rather look away from oppression as long as it doesn't affect them personally."

    Alejandra nodded slowly, "sometimes I feel like everything we do is pointless. That nothing works, we cause the slavers to lose an investor? They find a new one. We rescue slaves? They buy new ones. We post some revealing reports on the holonet? They launch a propaganda offensive to overwrite it. It's an endless struggle."

    "You are saving lives, that alone makes it worth it," Tobin said quietly and his friend nodded again.

    "That´s the point, and we are growing, solely but surely. The younger generations... some of them at least are starting to see the galaxy with different eyes, to second guess what has been taught to them as the natural order of things. And it's not just the younger ones, some of the older ones have also begun to reconsider it... whether out of a genuine change of heart or simple pragmatism."

    "Do you still smuggle people out?" Tobin continued. While the politics of the Senex Juvex Sector where Alejandra's battlefield her brother had taken a different approach. Helping escaped slaves leave the sector, and using his family's wealth to secretly buy the freedom of others.

    "We do, but it doesn´t seem to impact the system. For each slave we free the Iron Alliance brings in ten more from the wild space." Alejandra said. "They are in many ways the biggest problem. They provide the sector with an unending stream of slaves and in return we keep those pirates feed and armed." She pointed at a couple of Twi'lek amongst the guests. "See those two? Both are members of that pirate syndicate, and high ranking ones. Sharing drinks with the people who are supposed to bring them to justice."

    "Can we prove their connection to the Alliance?" Tobin asked.

    Alejandra shrugged, "probably not. And even if we did, the government would act all shocked, claim they had no idea who these two where. Some pawn might be blamed for letting them in and that would be it." He shook her head, "but I feel it might be where this battle is to be fought. If the Sector would lose this 'trade partner' they would be forced to make concessions. Maybe even the government would collapse. Which is where we put our hopes in you."

    "Me?" Tobin was surprised.

    "Well the ORSF, it's the only military force in the Southwest to pose a serious threat to the Iron Alliance." Alejandra pointed out.

    For a moment Tobin sat next to her in silence, "well I've been trying to convince the ORSF of taking a harder stance against the alliance, but the Quintad isn't interested in starting a massive war. And even if, the ORSF is too small to fight this war on her own." He had thought about this before, even dreamt up a plan to unite other worlds in the Southwest in a Pact to stop the Iron Alliance, but it seemed so impossible to him to achieve this.

    "So another uphill battle?" Alejandra asked.

    "As everything in this galaxy," Tobin answered.

    They continued to talk for a while, discussing some of the events of the last months and their strategies going forward. Then suddenly they heard it, sirens, and alarm. Broadcasted through the entire station, followed only seconds later by all sprinklers in the hall activating and spraying water all over the screaming crowd.
     
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  11. Adalia-Durron

    Adalia-Durron WNU Mod - Aussie Rebel At Heart. star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2003
    [​IMG]

    Funny how people panic getting wet :p
     
  12. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    that deluge should get them into panic
     
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  13. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    It sure is. :)

    Well it would do that to most people wouldn´t it?


    Five

    Ulrika took a deep breath as she quietly scanned the room ahead of her. It seems her new friends where right, the guards had been sent away. Her heart was beating fast inside her chest, but she wasn't second guessing her decision for a moment. She had herself, for a single week, experienced how the slaves were treated every day, well if she was honest her time in the nightclub as terrible as it had been probably didn't come even close to what these people suffered through.

    "I will help you," Ulrika said. The girl raised any eyebrow, surprised and maybe a bit suspicious the person she asked was so willing to help. "What is your plan?" The Eriaduan continued. "Do you want to kill them?"

    The girl shook her head, "no. Stars they would deserve it, but if we do... we could never find peace anywhere. Their relatives would combine the highest bounty the galaxy has ever seen on our heads, and their governments would triple it."

    That made sense, so Ulrika nodded slowly.

    "We simply want to escape, get out of here. While causing some discomfort and confusion." she gave Ulrika a twinkle. "To that end, we plan on causing a fire alarm, activate the sprinklers."

    "What do you need me for?" Ulrika asked.

    "The alarm could be given from everywhere," the young woman explained. "The problem is that the security personal has to confirm it and activate station wide sprinklers. And we need a station wide alarm to cover our escape. The confirmation for that can only be given from the many security console. But the people around here aren't idiots. If a slave tries to enter the security station, our transmitters will be noticed causing an instant alarm and the console will shut down. We need an outsider to access it."

    Ulrika carefully stepped out of the shadows and slowly moved towards the console. She noticed the security camera at the wall and hoped the fake guard jacket would do its job. The slaves had acquired it in the laundry and Ulrika's black pants and boots where close enough to what the guards wore that the jacket made her indistinguishable from them, at least on a distance. To further her disguise she wore a guard helmet. It was broken on one side and had been disposed, but the slaves had found it in the waste and fixed it well enough. Both of this made Ulrika truly realize how much time they had already spent on planning this action. How much hope and fear rested upon her shoulders. If she failed, all of this would have been for nothing.

    "What about the transmitters in your bodies?" Ulrika asked. "Won't they blow you up if you try to leave?"

    The girl shook her head again. But before she could answer they heard steppes approaching the restroom. Quickly the girl threw herself at Ulrika and began passionately kissing her. Noticing the plan Ulrika shoved her against the wall and returned the kiss. The person entering was a guard, quickly checking the room, she had probably sought after Ulrika, or the girl who had probably been missing for quite a while now. Satisfied that their guest was apparently enjoying herself the woman turned around and left the restroom again.

    "Good thinking along," Ulrika complimented the girl.

    "You learn that very quickly if you want to survive around here," the girl said without much emotions. "But as for the transmitters the fire alarm will thankfully deactivate them at least temporarily..." she made a pause. "A few years ago there was a major fire during a gala like this. And the transmitter chips blew up the slaves who tried to escape... It was terrible. Cost our overlords a ton of credits, and opened a window for us to escape. The chips need to be reactivated, and we don't intent on sticking around for long enough for that to happen."

    Ulrika sat down at the security console as if it was the most normal thing in her life. Trying her best to keep her shaking hands calm, it was easy, all she needed to do was to give one confirmation. Just one press of a button and it was done. But she could only hope the other guards wouldn´t return in time. Some of the slaves had made a mess in the main hall and as they had hoped it had pulled the guards away from their stations to have a look at it. Now all she could do was wait, wait for one of the slaves to give the alarm.

    "And after the alarm is given? Do you plan on stealing a ship?" Ulrika had asked.

    "That´s the idea, steal a ship and make it to hyper drive. A few quick jumps and we are outside of the Senex Juvex territory. After that, well we have a plan but it's safer the less people know it."

    "Right, in case I get caught," Ulrika agreed. "Do I meet you afterwards somewhere?"

    The girl shook her head, "better not, for your own safety. It's already risky enough that they have seen us together this one time. Once you have confirmed the alarm, head back to the main hall, there is a bio disposal chamber close to the guard station. Use it to get rid of the disguises, then mingle with the crowd, act all confused and panicked."

    The waiting was intolerable, the pressure on her entire body becoming stronger and stronger and she was sure by this time that her entire clothing was wet from sweating. She tried to breath slowly and carefully. According to the chrono she had only waited for a few minutes but felt to her like an hour as the fire alarm finally appeared on her display. She knew instantly what to do, but due to her shaking fingers she would have almost declined the confirmation. Only in the last second she was able to concentrate enough to give the correct command and send the whole station on alarm. Sirens started blurring, and sprinklers where activated. For a few moments Ulrika watched the chaos unfolding over the various security cameras and couldn´t help but notice how several slaves began quickly moving towards the exists. Then she got up, moved quickly through the corridor. Several other guards passed her way but in the chaos no one paid much attention to her. Now everything was going fast. She quickly reached the disposal chamber and threw helmet and jacket into the fire. Only 30 seconds later she was back in the main hall.

    "That´s it," the young woman said. "I thank you a thousand times for doing this. You have a good heart."

    Ulrika allowed herself a grin, but something was nagging on her. She was glad to do something, but the slaves plan. The risks where too great, they could probably use any extra bits of help she could offer. And so, with shaking fingers she pulled her ID and her ORSF batch from her pocket. "Take these, many ships in the hangar are protected against being stolen, and even more will have trackers on them. With my batch and ID you can get inside into our ship. The Vigilance."

    The girls eyes widened, "I... I can't take this. You're already offering enough. We will take another ship."

    Ulrika pressed the cards into her hand, "no, it's too risky. I will claim you stole these from my pocket while we where making out. The ship has a tracker, but you can deactivate it. The code being 4 8 15 16 23 42 can you keep that in mind?"

    The girl muttered the numbers a few times, before giving Ulrika nod. "You... you have done a lot. I didn't want to give you my name, but kriff it. I doubt we will ever see each other again anyway and you are the first free person showing me any real kindness since I was taken from my home. I'm Hilda, Hilda Jeric." She offered her free hand to Ulrika.

    Ulrika took it as they gripped wrist to wrist. "Ulrika Grau."

    Hilda gave her a twinkle, "already know that. As I said, we were planning this for a while. Best of luck to you."

    "Likewise, I hope you can find a save place."

    Hilda's grin grew a bit, "whether we succeed or fail. It will certainly be a show these stuck ups will never forget..."

    With these words, Ulrika realized as she looked around the panicked crowd, Hilda had truly hit the nail on its head. But it also began to dawn on her what she had just done. She had saved these slaves from a horrible fate, but in doing so not only screwed up their diplomatic mission, but also handed over an Eriaduan ship, a captial offense. She could only pray it would never be discovered.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2021
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  14. Adalia-Durron

    Adalia-Durron WNU Mod - Aussie Rebel At Heart. star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2003
    A good heart is never wrong...........now its time to panic and run ;)
     
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  15. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Of course, in both cases. ;)

    Epilogue

    "So she caused all that mess?" Ilona sat up a bit in bed and looked over at her boyfriend.

    Tobin remained laying on his back as he looked over to her. The last few weeks since the gala had been utterly exhausting and more than once he had barely found sleep for days on end. His decision to leave the gala that evening on a different ship had been wise but the fallout had come quickly, and soon the suspicion had fallen on Ulrika.

    "Yeah, to her credit she admitted it to me while we were on the way back to Eriadu. So we could at least prepare for what was to come."

    Ulrika had been seen twice with that slave, and the second she had her keycards 'stolen'. Tobin hadn't been sure whether to praise Ulrika for what she had done or to kill her for the mess she had gotten all of them in.

    For a time the Senex Juvex Sector had even demanded the extradition of her for 'questioning'. And had thrown further accusations towards the Eriaduan delegation. Tobin though had decided not to hand Ulrika over for her actions, so he had denied the accusations and remained firm.

    Ilona shook her head, "that woman, always acts on her desires, without thinking of the consequences."

    Tobin place a hand on her elbow. "She saved those people, would you have acted differently?"

    Ilona looked at her boyfriend, "I... no, I mean yes... I.. I don't know. Maybe I would have, I can't say as I wasn't there. But I at least wouldn't have someone else take the fall for my actions."

    The accusations had gone back and forth for a while and in the end relations had been threatened to break down completely. Even throwing the shadow open hostilities over the galactic Southwest. It had been then that Alejandra had stepped forward. Had claimed responsibility for saving the slaves, that she had intended the idiot Ulrika as a fall guy to cover her tracks. And so the government of the Senex Juvex Sector had turned their desire for satisfaction inward.

    Tobin took a deep breath, "Ilona. Ulrika didn't want that to happen. Once she heard of what Alejandra had done she called me and offered to let herself be handed over. I was the one who convinced her that that wouldn't help."

    Ilona raised an eyebrow, "you? Why? Why have our friend take the fall and let Ulrika off the hook?"

    Tobin was quiet for a moment, but then he said, "because Alejandra and I agreed it was the only way to stop the situation from escalating further. Because she was confident she could get out of the situation better than Ulrika can." He wasn't happy with his decision, but he knew that even if he had handed Ulrika over he wouldn´t feel any better either. But this way, at least no one had been executed for it.

    "What did they do to her?" Ilona asked.

    "She, well her family, had to pay for the slaves and the ship." Tobin said, with bitterness in his voice. "To the slavers it wasn't even a capital offense, just 'property stealing'. She has also been put in house arrest." He made a pause. "They say the whole thing was nothing but a harmless, if expensive 'prank' by a dumb young girl."

    Of course if Ulrika had been the one to be judged Tobin knew she wouldn't have gotten of this easily, but probably lost her life, being presented as just another example of Eriaduan cruelty.

    "They want to give the impression that they aren´t hurt?" Ilona asked as she laid back down again. "That the whole thing didn´t cause them any major troubles?"

    "That´s the idea," Tobin agreed. "And use it as opportunity to discredit Alejandra and her party. That's the true price I feel, the reformists in the Sector have taken a big hit because of this. Many have turned on them."

    "So Ulrika saved a few dozen slaves but the fate of the millions still in the sector is now more hopeless than ever?" Ilona moved a bit closer towards him.

    Her boyfriend nodded slowly, "yeah, for now at least. I hope Alejandra and the others can recover from this. Francesco thankfully escaped major consequences because he wasn't at the gala and they can't prove he had something to do with the whole thing." He turned towards her. "I... I really don't know what I should have done. Maybe handing over Ulrika to torture and death could have prevented that... maybe it would have made everything worse... I..."

    His girlfriend placed her arms around him, "Tobin, you did what you could. At least you prevented anyone from dying. Goddess... Ulrika can be a terrible person at times but... I don't think she deserves to die for doing the right thing."

    Tobin allowed himself a small smile, "so you do actually care for her?"

    "I..." Ilona's face turned red. "No, that arrogant butt of her needs to kicked, but I am the one to do that. Not some horrible slavers."

    "Just tell that to yourself and maybe you will eventually believe it," Tobin teased her. "I think the two of you have more respect for one another than you would ever admit."

    Ilona's face softened a bit. "Well she is an excellent pilot, a good leader, and she the confidence to act and do what is right in situations where I would remain uncertain..." Then she gave him a twinkle, "but if you tell her that, you are dead."


    On the other side of the town Ulrika lay alone on the couch of her apartment and looked outside onto the nightly city. Still wearing her workout top and shorts, her arms, legs, back and stomach aching from the intense training. Usually a physical workout helped her getting to rest and sleep, but in the last few weeks her mind was far to restless to allow her the sleep her body so desperately needed. When they had left the gala Ulrika had been relieved to get out of dodge, yet she had still felt the need to admit to Tobin what she had done, so he could prepare for what was to come.

    Thankfully he had been understanding and decided to help her. And she was glad for the help, though she wasn´t happy an innocent woman had taken the fall for her, even though she understood the necessity of it. I will repay this debt to Alejandra, whatever it takes.

    Sitting up she stepped towards the window and gazed at the dark ocean behind the city, to the harbor where even now ships entered and left, to hunt for the colossal sea creatures found in the dark oceans of her homeworld. There were times were Ulrika wished she had simple life of these sailors, a hard life for sure but maybe also one that allowed them to sleep easy at night and not be overwhelmed with conflicting emotions over the decisions they had made.

    It had been here in this flat that she had been confronted with the realities of her choice. As she had been watching the news and heard her name, and the accusations made against her. As she had found several holo messages, some praising her for what she had done, but many more insulting, calling her a traitor. It had made her realize just how far her decisions reached, how she had almost caused a war, sending thousands to their deaths. It didn´t happen... but it could have. She had been thoughtless again, just as all those years ago when her prank had gone wrong and cost Tobin his eye, and herself two close friends.

    When Alejandra had taken the fall, the admiring messages had stopped, and those calling her a traitor had called her a dumb whore again. That was in some ways the worst part. She had been disgusted at the practices at the gala, and now everyone though she had taken advantage of the slaves as well. Her head was of the chopping block but in many ways she still stood accused. The ORSF had decided not to put her only trial for losing the ship, but had made it clear that she could say goodbye to any future promotions for the rest of her life.


    At least her squad still stood behind her, the girls had been very dedicated to cheer her up in the last few weeks. But they of course knew the truth. A truth the public could never know. Gazing over the dark city Ulrika wondered if Tobin had told Ilona about what she had done, and how her rival had reacted to it. Probably harsh and judgmental.

    And maybe she was even right, maybe she had done the wrong thing. Maybe she should have just looked away like everyone else. Ulrika shook her head, she needed to stop thinking like that. So instead she walked back to her holopad.

    As expected new hate mail had appeared so she began the tedious process of deleting it. Sooner or later she knew it would get less, people would forget, they always did. As she was deleting the last ones she found another mail that seemed to be consisting of nothing but scrap code. She almost had deleted it as well but there was something stopping her. There seemed to be patterns inside the scrap code, as if they were hiding something. It was probably nothing but Ulrika opened a decrypting program. The same the ORSF usually used. To decrypt the text she needed a key as well, usually a series of numbers. Could it be?

    With shaking fingers she typed 4 8 15 16 23 42. Her heart was racing as she confirmed it. The decryption only took a few seconds.

    Dear Ulrika

    I thank you, all of us thank you.

    That was the only text but the rest of the scrap code had translated into a picture. A picture showing the interior of the Vigilance. And people, about three dozen men and women, humans and non humans, sitting on the seats and couches giving her small thankful smiles. Hilda sat in the center and seemed to look directly at her.

    Ulrika felt how her eyes filled with tears and her heart became heavy. She let out a sob and then started crying, tears falling onto her pad. She wept with emotion, but also joy, joy over what she had done. It was in this moment that the doubts left her.

    Sometime later Ulrika was laying in her bed and listened to the raindrops on her windows. She had put the picture onto her night desk glancing at it as she finally drifted to sleep.
     
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  16. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    A great ending for Ulrika. She has done the right thing saving those slaves
     
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  17. Kit'

    Kit' Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Amazing response to the challenge and really lovely ending too. Glad I caught up on it :) Amazing stuff as always :)
     
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  18. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 9, 2001
    Great job! That was definitely a no-win situation for Ulrika to be in. No matter which decision she made, people's lives were going to be drastically affected, and that's a hard thing to face. I'm glad to see that even in the midst of her future career prospects going up in smoke and learning other good people made decisions that adversely affected them as a result of this, that Ulrika found peace with what she had done for the slaves. Great work! =D=
     
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  19. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    She did, but not without a price. Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

    Glad you´ve enjoyed it, have quite a bit more content featuring Ulrika and her 'frenemies' here on the boards if you are intrested. ;)

    Yeah, it kind of was, though being the person that she is she acted without considering the consquences too much, that only happened later. But as you said, in the end she found peace with her descision. Thanks :)
     
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