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."