Lodestone: A Wynston/Ruth Alternate Universe
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12.30.2012 , 12:40 AM |
L + 15 years 2 days, part 2
Orphea pulled Vector aside the moment the party returned to the
"How is the Wrath?" asked the Joiner.
"Paranoid," said Orphea. "But functioning." She shook her head. "I can't risk that again."
"But we have no good excuse for another agent to step in."
"I'll find an excuse. Vector, keeping your cool to sneak up on a careless Force user is one thing, facing her is something else entirely. If she recognizes something in me it's over. For both of us. And I don't trust Larr Gith and Scourge to pull off the long game alone." Orphea considered. "Also I'm not that eager to die."
"What is the plan for now?"
"Go back into the field. Put out fires. Keep our resources invested in locating the Emperor's true form." She paused. "Watch out just in case Ruth crosses our path."
L + 15 years 2 days, part 3
Colrand sat opposite his father in the living room. He was a little surprised to find that Quinn was capable of sitting at all; even now he seemed stiff and uncomfortable, but at least he was at eye level.
"Does the Wrath visit the city often?" Quinn had questions about everything. At Colrand's slightest hesitation he would stop, apologize, and move to neutral subjects, but he was obviously dying to know all about the household he had gotten dropped into.
"Yeah," said Colrand. "When she's in town. You know. Sometimes Citadel business, sometimes visiting Aunt Jaesa."
"She chose an odd time for a social call. The assignment is clear."
"The last couple days she hasn't liked the assignments much."
"Very true." Quinn looked down at his drink. "I understand that the matter of the agent is personal. At the same time, her reluctance to leave yesterday was pointless. She should know that duty overrides personal objections. I fear she is not thinking clearly in this matter."
"Mom always thinks stuff through," he said stoutly.
"Colrand, your mother has a remarkable mind, and her tactical acumen is first-rate." Quinn took a moment to choose his words. "Her strategic-level decisions are not always above question."
Weighty. Colrand took only a moment to think. "That's why you sold her out," he said, and immediately regretted saying it like that.
"Yes," Quinn said shortly. "That is why I sided with her master over her years ago."
"She never talks about it." Her mentions of it were so rare, and he had always been afraid to bring it up.
"That doesn't surprise me."
"So you thought something was wrong with her strategy? I don't really understand her options. Her master decided she had to die. What was she supposed to do, give up and flop over?"
"She could have tried to make amends. Restored alliances that would make her position defensible." It wasn't a real answer. The tiniest tension around his eyes, the smallest flicker of emotion in the Force, betrayed Quinn's anger. And his sorrow.
"Sorry," said Colrand. "I just, that's the whole reason things happened like this, and nobody told me anything."
"It's a matter best left buried," Quinn said quietly. "It was a matter of my duty and her rebellion. That duty is hard, Colrand, especially when one reaches the heights your mother has. She understands the action now. I fear that she has not been afforded the time to recover from it, and she may misstep as a result."
"So what are you going to do?"
"Assist her. That's what I was sent here to do. I…" Quinn met Colrand's gaze head-on. "I have her best interests at heart."
"And your duty," Colrand said carefully. Ruth had warned him.
"Yes. Every person of honor remembers his duty."
Wynston talked a lot about how one's duty was to the right before any authority, but Colrand would have to be a lot dumber than he was to talk about Wynston with Quinn. He would just have to think about it.
Later. Colrand moved on. "When you and Mom do leave. It might be a while, huh? They kept saying 'campaign'."
"Yes. It's likely to be an extended assignment."
"Can I come with you?"
Quinn did a double take. He very nearly smiled. "It should be safe enough on board the
The decision will be up to the Wrath, of course."
"I should be the one to ask. Just…you know. So she won't turn it down right away."
He sobered. "That would be prudent, yes."
Quinn seemed so…defeated, about Ruth personally. And she, well, she had always hated him. "I'm…I'm sorry," said Colrand.
"None of this is your fault."
"Yeah, but…it's tough. You're still my father."
There was a hitch in his breath. "Cole, I have only met one other person who was so quick and so warm in welcoming an ally." He gave a little corner of a smile. "You are very, very much like her."
That poor kid is gonna have to handle a lot of traffic control and conflict management in the weeks to come.
L + 15 years 2 days, part 4
Ruth was standing, somewhere, nowhere, she couldn't tell. It didn't matter because Wynston was there with her, kissing her, his arms securely around her, his caresses as playful and wicked as they were the day he had first held her. 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.
Surprising, but it had to happen this way. "I'm sorry," she murmured against his lips.
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.
Nothing else happened around her. She dropped her saber, held Wynston's heavy head against her shoulder. It hurt, everywhere, everything. It hurt so much she could barely think. Nothing else happened; no one else came. It was all her.
L + 15 years 3 days, part 1
Both Ruth and Quinn were up when Colrand got up for breakfast. Surprisingly, they were in the same room, and talking to each other.
Both of them looked up to Colrand. "Good morning," he said.
"Good morning, Cole," said Ruth. "It looks like I'll be leaving on Quinn's command ship today. I'm afraid we don't have a lot of information on the assignment, but I'll be in touch."
"I…" So Quinn hadn't mentioned it. "I was wondering if I could come with you for this one."
She immediately turned to Quinn, her smile vanishing. "Your idea?"
"Mine, Mom," Colrand hurried to say, before the situation could get worse. "I don't want to be stuck here for this. I don't even know when you'll be back. Please."
is defensible, my lord," said Quinn. "He would be in very little danger there."
Ruth considered. For a while. Finally she shook herself and said "Cole, that's not a good idea."
"Do I have to watch both of you walk out on me?"
She looked like he'd slapped her. "No. No, I…" Her throat worked for a moment. "I guess I would have the chance to keep an eye on you. All right." She stood. "Pack for an extended stay."
So he did. He accompanied Ruth and Quinn to the spaceport where she kept a private hangar; the Fury opened at a signal from Ruth. Quinn hesitated at the base of the ramp, scanning the ship with a thoughtful look.
"Father?" prompted Colrand.
"It has been some years since I set foot on a Fury-class vessel," he said quietly.
"But you lived here for a while before, right? With Mom?"
"Yes." He got moving, following Ruth onto the ship and through to the bridge while speaking to Colrand. "I lived here and operated, maintained, and piloted the ship." He came to rest on the bridge and looked around. His expression was a little wide-eyed; he seemed younger here.
Cole looked around, too, even though he already knew the place. "So you piloted actual stuff. Instead of, you know, point A to point B. Was this in many battles?"
"Several, I should think," Quinn said with a small smile.
"Hard to think of this old thing as a real fighter. Mom just drives it around."
"It isn't so old. And this vessel was top of the line when it was assigned to your mother."
"I've kept it upgraded," Ruth said suddenly. "Her components are up to date and better experts than me tell me she's fit to fight."
Colrand blinked. "But…why? You don't even use it except to commute."
"Just in case." She quirked a little smile. "Weren't expecting that, were you? Would you like to see what she's capable of?"
"I'm not sure I believe you otherwise."
Ruth looked from Quinn to Colrand and back. "I never do show Cole anything exciting when it comes to piloting. If you want to put her through her paces, there's fuel to spare. And some time."
Colrand watched eagerly. Quinn gave Ruth a troubled look, but then caught Colrand's expression and collected himself. "As I said, it has been some years."
Ruth ignored that and headed to the main pilot's console. "We've got all the standard training sims, of course. The Aurek point defense–"
"The Aurek point defense is for Academy freshmen," Quinn said stiffly, and paced over to take the pilot's seat. At a tiny gesture from him Ruth backed off. He started to work. "My lord, if you would bring up the copilot display for Cole's benefit." His hands flew across the console, bringing up some glowing display and triggering a subtle whine from the engines. "Cole, buckle up once you're situated. The acceleration during combat cannot be compared to anything you experience in normal operation."
This was more like it. Colrand settled in the copilot's chair and tugged out and fastened the safety harness he'd never bothered using before. Ruth had brought up a displayed synthesis of the space around them and some simulated obstacles in the way; now she was fussing over his harness, tugging at individual buckles with an expression of something approaching fear.
"Mom, I'm fine," he grumbled. "If you go much tighter I can't breathe."
"Keep your head back," she ordered. "I know the impulse is to lean forward to see things, but for stars' sake when we're in a maneuver just keep your head back against the seat. I don't want you breaking your own neck."
"I'm not gonna break my own neck."
"I'm not going to break my son's neck," muttered Quinn from his station.
Ruth made a distinctively motherly face and headed to a chair of her own. "Just a moment while I set the guns to training mode; this close to Dromund Kaas I'd hate for us to misfire and actually hit something."
Colrand blinked. "You're gonna gun?"
"Someone's got to," she said, strapping herself in. "I used to do this all the time. The Force turns out better than a targeting computer once you know what you're doing."
"She would have been a credit to any squadron in the fleet," added Quinn. And, quietly, "If she had applied herself."
"I was busy with other things, Quinn." She didn't sound annoyed, exactly. Colrand couldn't place the tone of her voice.
"I know," said Quinn. He was still brisk. "Sith aren't numerous enough for us to spare them in any capacity so pedestrian as gunnery."
Colrand's display changed slightly. A targeting reticule blinked into being. Ruth called across the bridge: "Lower control stick, Cole, swing it up and toward you. Squeeze the big red button along with the trigger to fire. I'll grab the secondary turret." She grinned across at him. "Let's see what you can do."
Quinn picked up. "Colrand, the enemy in this simulation is a Republic fighter wing and minefield, with one pass by a frigate. As a rule you'll want to fire at the threat with the greatest power-to-structural ratio; given the manufacture of these specific adversaries, you'll want to clear our path through the mines, then the frigates' turrets if any are in range, then the fighters, and finally any remaining mines."
"Quinn, don't overload him."
"Mines for a path," repeated Colrand, eager to get it right. "Then turrets when the frigate comes up, then fighters. I want to hit what's hitting me hardest and I want to knock out the weakest such targets as fast as I can to cut incoming fire before I go for the sturdy ones."
"Exactly," said Quinn. He sounded satisfied. "Ready?"
"Yeah," said Colrand.
"On your mark, my lord."
"Have at it, captain."
The ship jumped so hard Colrand's first thought was that they were going for hyperspace. A couple of the stationary bright points on his opening sim view immediately started streaking towards him.
He took a couple of experimental shots, saw bright red simulated fire streaking from the ship into the distance. A tooth-rattling turn spun his perspective around – head back, head back – and brought more targets into sight.
His senses were on fire trying to keep up with the ship's wild motion. He was taking out targets at a decent rate, he thought, but they kept coming. He felt his will glancing off Ruth's a few times while they flew, their intents overlapping on one target and hers instantly flying away to something else, leaving him free to fire. Gradually he also started sensing things about Quinn's plans. It gave him the chance to anticipate those insanely sharp maneuvers while he was placing shots. Only a stab of neck pain reminded him to put his head back; there was too much else to think about, too much to try to perceive at once.
The sim fighters finally stopped coming, and Ruth and Colrand cleared the last of them out. Quinn carefully placed them back in a tranquil wide orbit. The moment Colrand heard Ruth undoing her harness he started unstrapping his own to hop out. "Wow," he said once he was free. "That was
Ruth took a dizzy stumbling step that Quinn seemed about to intercept. He stopped in place. She, flushed, took a second to breathe.
"Those shots were remarkably efficient, my lord," observed Quinn. "No overlapping coverage with Cole's shots whatsoever. And you've never practiced with him before?"
"Force," she grinned. She was smug about it. For that matter, so was Colrand.
"Very well done."
Ruth pushed her hair back and looked at him, wide-eyed. Colrand had never seen her that uncertain while happy, nor that happy while uncertain. She inclined her head toward Colrand. "Thank you," she said to Quinn.
He bowed a little, then turned to Colrand. "I didn't quite reach this vessel's limits, but I hope that gives you an idea of what it was designed for."
Wow. "We're doing its limits sometime. Right?"
Quinn looked very briefly at Ruth. "Everything goes faster than it used to," he said thoughtfully. "But I believe I can arrange that."
"Everything does," agreed Ruth. "Um, I'm just going to let you two deal with the stress test."
"My lord, are you well?"
She grinned. "I'm fine. Just don't take any sharp turns on the way to the mothership." She beamed at Colrand, then suddenly frowned at Quinn, then beamed at Colrand some more, then gave Quinn a tentative smile, and then she very quickly left the bridge.
"That was really neat," Colrand told Quinn. "Thanks."
"That was my pleasure, Cole. I do not know how much time we'll have to spare in the weeks to come, but…" He looked over at the doorway. "I hope we can do more."
When do your reflexes slow down noticeably, anyway? Quinn's in his mid-40s here.
Anyway, this has nothing whatsoever to do with main plot. I was just thinking HEY, FIGHTERS. PEW PEW! Also stuff that Colrand just hasn't had the chance for yet in life, that would be fun.
Also, I'm due for a Wynston POV? Gah, stuff to do!
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