Lodestone: A Wynston/Ruth Alternate Universe
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12.25.2012 , 11:08 PM |
L + 15 years 1 day, part 1
It was raining harder than usual in the morning. Ruth put on the heaviest, most shapeless clothes she could find, and then armor, and then a coat. She considered wrapping a tarp over all that, or possibly just going back under the blankets for the day, but decided it would be better to get moving.
Quinn and Colrand were already in the kitchen, talking, smiling. Quinn at least put up some caution when he saw her.
"Morning, Mom," said Colrand. "Uh, how's it going?"
She had scarcely slept and she remembered too much of the sleeping. "Good enough," she croaked anyway.
To her surprise, Quinn reached across to a waiting serving droid to take up a steaming mug, which he pushed in her direction. "My lord. Hot chocolate, if you wish. Cole tells me you take it sweeter than I first attempted to order."
"He was gonna serve boiled bitterness," said Colrand. "With milk."
Which was what she had preferred ages ago. She had forgotten. That, and this bizarre facsimile of family life, made her a little sick. "I'm not hungry," she said, and walked out again.
Her steps quickened as she fled to the garden. The lilies were all slightly bowed under the rain; they seemed to stare at the ground, avoiding her and everything else around them.
It wasn't them she wanted anyway. She followed the winding path down toward the redblazes, all thorns half-hidden beneath nearly-glowing crimson flowers. Wynston loved to surround her with them during his visits. She hated, absolutely hated, that he had to die. It didn't make any sense. Her going along with it didn't make any sense. But it was necessary.
She wasn't going to hunt him. Not yet.
She knelt by one of the low bushes and tested her thumb against the thorn at the base of one flower. She slid up, considered snapping off the blossom to bring with her, decided it was better off where it was. She shouldn't ruin it.
Her thoughts felt numb and her heart didn't, if that made any sense. She stayed in place, wishing Wynston were here. Or even that he were across the galaxy, working his work, so long as he knew he could come home to her. She wished her home contained only her blood family and her chosen, with none of her mistakes.
Words cut through the hammering of the rain. "My lord?" There was a time when she had liked having her thoughts interrupted with that every thirty seconds, and a time after that when she had missed it. Right now it just sawed at her nerves. "There is an incoming holocall from the Emperor's Hand."
Ah. Her instructions. Maybe they would tell her which way Wynston had gone so she could keep at her job. She hoped not.
She didn't want to move.
"I can keep them occupied a while longer if you wish," Quinn said a little while later.
She didn't remember him being this solicitous when they'd been together. What his purpose was now – well, it was to get her to behave. She supposed they might think it effective to choose someone who had already demonstrated a willingness to inflict punishment for the job.
She braced her hands on her knees and struggled to her feet, fighting a wave of dizziness. She had consumed more drugs than food in the last twenty-four hours. She pulled herself to her full height, kept her chin up, and strode past Quinn, only to trip up on a loose cobblestone and stumble.
He was at her side in a moment, touching a hand to her elbow. Old habit; less physical support and more a reminder that he was there, ready to discreetly accept her weight if she needed it.
She jerked her arm away. "You haven't the right," she spat.
Silently he fell another couple of steps behind and followed her indoors.
Colrand was nowhere in sight. On the big holo, Servants One and Two were waiting.
L + 15 years 1 day, part 2
Larr Gith yawned. "So am I meeting this girl or not?"
"That's the trick," said Orphea. "She's got a little less freedom to move than we had expected. Also she's never met me personally and the contact she has met, namely my employer, she's got a fresh hit out on."
"So? I go where I want. Call her, I'll sort it out if you can't."
Lord Scourge shot a dark look at Larr Gith before turning to Orphea. "She is not renowned for her diplomatic skills," he growled.
"Nobody said it was important to make friends in this process." Larr Gith tossed her head. "Too bad she's a woman. I have less pull there. I knew a man once who could talk his way anywhere I couldn't and do it without ruffling feathers, much. But he's not around these days."
"I do not think he would have been willing to talk his way up to another Emperor's Wrath," said Scourge.
"Depends." She looked to Orphea. "Is she pretty?"
Orphea congratulated herself on not choking.
The most beautiful woman I've ever known, and even looking at you in cleaned-up form I can say that. But Orphea's straight.
"She's, um…I guess?"
Okay, I could've been more generous than that.
"Good enough for him." Larr Gith flashed a smile and shook her head. "Never mind. Give me either a holofrequency or some coordinates and I'll go meet your girl. I'd like to see anyone stop me."
"I cannot get you a free walk onto Dromund Kaas again," Lord Scourge grumbled.
"I can," said Orphea. "But let's do this carefully, yes?"
Orphea made the holocall alone. She would stay in character, but she did indeed want to be careful.
Colrand answered. "My lord," said Orphea, and nodded respectfully. "I'm Orphea. I'm with Wynston's people."
"You are? Is he okay?"
"He's alive. You understand he can't be around for a while."
"I take it the Wrath is already back on the job?" Orphea said apprehensively.
"Yeah." Colrand looked somewhere off cam. "She's in a briefing or something right now."
"Has she livened up any?"
"Some." His face suggested it wasn't necessarily in a good way.
"I see. Listen, I'd like to meet with her. Wynston told you, we found someone who could help. If there's a way we can get together…"
"Don't know if he also told you, Moff Quinn's here. He's…kind of Team Emperor, no matter what. I dunno how easy it'd be to explain you being here."
"It's the Wrath's own house. She can host who she likes."
"Maybe." Cole looked away. Shuffled his feet a little. "Listen, uh, Orphea. Is Wynston sure about all this?"
"We have compelling reasons, Cole…rand." Don't be familiar. Also don't burden the youngster with too much, including the Emperor's real game. "We'll be in a better position to talk about it once the Wrath is more herself."
"Okay," he said dubiously. "Anyway, you should think about coming in as Jaesa's friends or something. She introduces, you know, Sith, all the time."
"I'll do that. Keep this holofrequency and ask the Wrath to call us when she's done with her briefing, all right?"
"Yeah. Uh, just...don't ask her about Wynston, okay? And let him know she's sorry. Really sorry."
Orphea's chest hurt a little. "He knows," she said. "If you ever wonder why we're sure about this covert work? The fact that she had to do that is a big part of it."
Orphea wanted to say more. Something encouraging, something that the boy would accept from Wynston. But he wouldn't accept it from a stranger, and Orphea's identity was one more secret he shouldn't have to handle.
One person who could handle it was Jaesa. Time to see if she could finagle an introduction.
Orphea walked back out to the lounge where Larr Gith and Scourge waited; Larr Gith was brushing her shining waist-length hair while Scourge read. Both looked up.
"So are we going somewhere that isn't covered in cultists for once?" said Larr Gith.
She rolled her eyes. "Right."
Orphea really needed to find something to keep the Jedi occupied. "Have I showed you the
's cantina? I think you'd like it."
Larr Gith perked up. "Beats hanging out with this guy."
Guh. Ruth's day is gonna be really long. Cole's got a lot to explain. Quinn's got a lot to get yelled at for, maybe, if Ruth is feeling up to it. So much! Gah! Things happening! Angst bubbling beneath!
Larr Gith mostly has to look fabulous for now. Up to this point she has spent more time out in the field than on the
. Worlds to save and all that. I'm sure she'll appreciate the cantina's bar; Wynston himself had a hand in picking the selection, and what are you going to use a massive intelligence apparatus for if not to locate the most delicious beverages in the galaxy?
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