Lodestone: A Wynston/Ruth Alternate Universe
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12.24.2012 , 11:07 PM |
L + 15 years, part 6
One of the handlers Wynston had assigned to keep Lord Scourge and Larr Gith occupied on the
was awaiting him in the hangar. "Good eve…morning, sir. Any new orders?"
"Keep giving Scourge anything he needs for his ritual-tracking. I'm going to sleep. I'll be busy until tomorrow afternoon. This afternoon."
He stalked to his quarters without greeting anyone else. Once inside he just started pacing. No. No, no, and no. The Emperor's target was all wrong. There were a couple of figures that should've looked more strategically interesting than Wynston; to be honest he'd been watching to make sure of it. He should have had more time. Everything he had told Ruth was supporting the war effort. Everything he had done behind her back was done anonymously, with a different face. He should have had more time.
She shouldn't have been able to do that.
You should know you can terminate anyone if you really have to.
He had spared one once, but even a strike like that was possible for some professionals, harder ones…
She was never hard.
It wasn't her choice. You saw. Imagine if you'd had that keyword command. Be rational about this.
For fifteen years – no, seventeen – that voice, that mouth, those hands, those eyes have been nothing but –
Shut up. She's an uncontrolled element. It isn't her fault but it is your problem. You have to get Larr Gith to her; Orphea should be able to do that, easily, she was always meant to. Ruth doesn't know how advanced the disguise generators have gotten; she won't detect yours. Orphea can reach her. Assuming Quinn keeps his distance.
Why the hell is he there? I can't have him there. Ruth, my people can reason with; Ruth will be willing to go meet with people. Quinn's on the other side. I can't have him watching.
Dammit, I wish Cole hadn't been there. Sod Ruth's orders about Quinn, if not for Cole I would've removed the problem with one blaster shot.
The way she looked at me…
It had been some time since he'd felt iffy enough to drink himself to sleep; his quarters weren't stocked. He stole out into the hall and down to the big stock rooms. A sizeable bottle of anything at all, as long as it was strong.
Vector intercepted him on his way back to his quarters. The Joiner fell into step and smiled worriedly. "Wynston. We didn't realize you had returned."
"I stayed up late to get back," he said.
Vector kept pace with him. "There were difficulties?"
"Worst-case orders," he said. "Well, Larr Gith herself would've been worse. But close enough to worst-case." He took a drink, ignoring Vector's air of mild disapproval. "I wasn't ready."
"We doubt that one is ever ready to watch an ally turn. Even knowing it is forced."
"I still have Colrand. If Quinn gets out of the way we proceed just as we would have. If he doesn't…" Wynston tapped the disguise generator implanted in his hip. "If he doesn't I should bloody well move him aside and take his place."
"We have no construct for him, Wynston, and it would be detected from her knowledge of him in any case. It will not be forgiven."
"Does that matter so long as it lasts long enough for her to earn her freedom? I've already lost her, Vector." His head knew that wasn't true. His everything knew otherwise. He reached his own quarters and let Vector in with him. "I knew it might happen like this, and it did, and I wasn't prepared, and she went after me with – just nothing in her eyes, and now she's gone, and my attention
be on the mass destruction her master is preparing all around us and all I can think about is her."
"Should we strike directly at the Emperor? This would break his hold."
"First we would have to know where his true form is, and then he would still call her in to confront us. Scourge and Larr Gith would think nothing of striking her down if she got in our way. I can't let that happen." He gestured helplessly. Decided that that was another good opportunity to drink. "I've been failing spectacularly at not letting things happen. I should've just carbonized her on the spot. Frozen in carbonite, not burned to carbon. Freeze her, lock her up until this is resolved." A little more energy abandoned him. "But I need her."
Vector was mercifully quiet.
Wynston took in a breath. He huffed out a breath. Time to start in on the reassurance. "I'm not going to drag Ruth home in carbonite."
"Good," said Vector.
"And I'm not going to try to impersonate Quinn enough to fool her."
"I'm also not going to walk up to the Emperor tomorrow and try to stab him myself."
"I have never in my life been in this much pain. I can see why people try to avoid it."
"It is rare to hear you acknowledge it."
"Yes, well. My usual sounding board is gone."
"We will prevail. And her orders cannot last."
"Of course." He took another deep draught while gathering his thoughts. "Anyway, I bugged Ruth's ship prior to her last trip – not onboard audio, just transmissions; I have a little captured data about where her Voice is. I need our people on locating the Emperor's true form. I hate to call in SCORPIO, but if she's still lurking around that data conduit on Nar Shaddaa we should set her the challenge of deducing his location. I'll talk to Jaesa and see whether she's had word from the graduates of her little academy; the Emperor's got to be getting his fanatics from somewhere and if they recruit, sooner or later ordinary Sith in ordinary jobs may hear about it. We should touch base with Vette about artifact hunting, the big stuff. The powerful stuff. Anything that might give us an edge. Then…then I just need to deal with the same meeting I was going to arrange. This is within projected parameters. There's just one unexpected variable and we can work around him." He turned away from Vector. "Go. I've got some prep work to do–" he waved the bottle – "and Orphea will be ready for work by noon."
"We know that she loves you," Vector said gently.
Wynston knew that. He knew. Which was why his throat still wasn't working quite right. "Get out, Vector." He had exhausted the extent of what a listening ear could do.
L + 15 years, part 7
Ruth was standing, somewhere, nowhere, she couldn't tell. It didn't matter because Quinn was there with her, kissing her, his arms securely around her, his mouth warm and tender as it was the day he had first held her. Somehow she had forgotten how tall he was, how solid. It was impossible to hurt when he was here like this, and so without thinking too hard about why, she poured herself into it. She ran a hand through his hair, down around his neck and arm, thrilling to his touch. It was a surprise to realize that her hand at his back gripped a lightsaber.
"Are you ready?" he whispered, and captured her lips for a long few moments before letting her answer.
"No," she said hoarsely.
"Angle the hilt up. You'll want to strike the heart when you activate." He buried his fingers in her hair, gently worked it loose of its ties, kissed her again while she pulled him closer and struggled to drop her weapon. Somehow her hand wouldn't let go.
"Go on," he murmured. "Prepare now and you'll be able to make it quick." His scent had always been faint and subtle, even this close; it was shocking to smell it again. "Wouldn't that have made things simpler?"
With fresh agonizing clarity she remembered loving him. Remembered that this was the way to touch his face with her one free hand, this was the way to arch into him when he ran his hands up just so. Even so, she prepared to kill.
"Ready?" he asked again, very gently.
The dream changed.
Wynston was shorter, thinner, warmer, and she couldn't meet his eyes. He wrapped his arms around her and waited silently. It was her task to start this scene.
"I'm sorry," she said.
He stroked her hair. "Don't," he said. "Ruth, if you can hear me, don't do this. You're being controlled. This isn't you. Fight it."
"Wynston, I have to." She squeezed her eyes shut and kissed him; her saber was still ready at his back, angled to kill him without piercing through to her.
He hugged her tighter and took a long while to return her kisses before pulling away. "Stop," he whispered into the space between them. "I love you."
"I love you, too." She slid one hand up, mussed his hair in that way he still pretended annoyed him. "But I have to do this."
She activated her saber. She chose to, for some reason, and Wynston went cold in her arms.
Quinn walked up out of nowhere and stopped a few meters away. "You did well," he said gently.
Ruth could finally drop the saber. She cradled Wynston's heavy head on her shoulder and held on to him. It hurt, everywhere, everything. It hurt so much she could barely think, and she still felt that the guilt wasn't complete yet. The real stuff would hit any moment now. "I was never in the dream for the next part," she said to Quinn. "What happens now?"
"Now you wait. Sooner or later it all happens again. That's how this world works." He looked around at the formless white around them. "Or were you asking whether it's going to hurt more than this? It will. Still, you did well." He bowed a small crisp bow, one fitting to one professional respectfully acknowledging another. Or to a distant acquaintance offering what condolences he could. Then he walked away again, leaving her suddenly, wholly alone.
Ruth, hon, you should probably come up with alternate means of working through your problems, because the dream thing isn't fun for you at all.
The old recurring dream:
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