Part 12: In which there is a family discussion
As agreed, they met at the big sprawling clan compound on Balmorra, and spent the first day catching up with everyone’s news, admiring babies, marvelling at how much children had grown, gossiping about who was doing what (and with whom, in some cases), all the things you generally do when you meet up with clan you haven’t seen for a while. Their parents were delighted to have all of them home at once, and insisted on cooking an enormous evening meal in the big meeting hall to which half the clan turned up, and which inevitably went on far into the night.
Eventually, the elders began to totter off to bed; parents scooped up young children who were curled up asleep on chairs, tables, the floor, and, in one case, a bookshelf, and took them home; the teenagers gathered up most of what remained of the drink and went off in a noisy gang to enjoy the rest of the night; and finally it was just Standtrae, Deuchar, Taberon and their parents left.
They did some desultory clearing up before agreeing the rest could be left for the morning, and went out into the cool clear night. It was about an hour past midnight, very quiet and still apart from occasional bursts of distant laughter from whichever house the teenagers had ended up in.
As they walked back to their parents' house, Deuchar looked up. “You know, it’s kind of weird. I miss the stars when I’m away.”
“How can you miss the stars when you’re out in the middle of them all the time?” asked Standtrae.
“No, I mean these stars”, and she made a wide sweeping gesture at the sky. “All the old familiar stars we grew up under and dreamed about exploring one day.”
Standtrae clearly didn’t understand, but Taberon was nodding. “I know what you mean”, he said. “On Tython, I go out at night and meditate under the stars, and they’ve become very familiar to me, but it’s not the same.”
Their mother smiled as they entered the house. “Home is always the best place. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live somewhere else, but I think I should hate it. Balmorra has its troubles, but when all’s said and done, it’s where I belong. I don’t know where you three get your wanderlust from, not from me or your father, that’s for sure.” She smiled at him, and he smiled back, acknowledging the truth of it. “You’re right, my dear, we suit each other perfectly, quite happy to stay at home.” He tried to suppress a yawn, but failed.
“Time we old ones were in bed, I think.” She chuckled. “We’ll leave you three to talk in peace, it’s been obvious since you got here that you didn’t all turn up at the same time by a nice coincidence.”
“Are we that obvious?” asked Deuchar with a grin.
“Oh yes, love, even as little children I could tell what you were up to together most of the time, and none of you have changed that much. Tab was the most unpredictable of you, because he always thought so hard about everything before he decided, but I could normally guess which way you would go. Whichever way Trae didn’t, usually, and he was easy to predict.”
Standtrae and Taberon both chuckled, and after a moment so did Deuchar, looking a bit sheepish. “We did hate each other when we were young.” She grinned ruefully at Standtrae, who grinned back.
“Used to make me furious sometimes, the way you fought”, said their father. “Several times I wanted to give you a right old beating. But your mother said to leave you alone, you’d sort it out in the end when you grew up, and she’s always right. Makes me proud to see the three of you independent and happy and getting along together.” He yawned again. “Best be off, or she’ll start nagging.” He winked.
They all exchanged good nights, and then their parents walked arm in arm away to their bedroom.
Deuchar looked at her brothers. "So guys, time for some explanations, right?"
They both nodded. "Let's get another drink", suggested Standtrae. "This could take a while."
Deuchar looked slightly bemused. "Ok ... let's see if I've got this straight. Some evil Sith guy called Baras has been cloning himself, this non-evil Sith woman called the Wrath - kind of not convincingly a non-evil name - wants to find these clones and kill them off, the only lead she's got is some old doctor who's vanished, and you want me to find the last person he was known to be with, who's a top secret imperial agent that no-one knows anything about."
"That's pretty much it", nodded Standtrae. He'd done most of the talking, with Taberon adding a few explanatory interjections here and there.
"And you don't know where to start looking, and I'm not allowed to tell anyone what I'm looking for. Trae, I know I'm pretty special, but I don't do miracles."
"We're not expecting a miracle", said Taberon, smiling. "Only that you could put out some feelers, try and find where Cipher Nine might have ended up. You have contacts in many places, and they will have other contacts, and they will have still more, a vast network of knowledge which neither of us has access to. The information is out there somewhere. Standtrae and I are hampered by our official positions, a lot of people won't want to talk to us, whereas you ..." He left it hanging.
Deuchar sighed resignedly. "It's true, I guess, we do have information networks that pick up a lot of stuff that never makes it into 'official' news. But why not get the SIS involved?" She looked at Standtrae. "Surely you've got some authority you could use?"
Standtrae shook his head. "This has got to stay cloaked from all the sensors for now. Secret as possible, we don't know if there are any of these clones but if there are, we don't want them knowing anything. This Baras was a crafty old devil, spies everywhere."