Just for fun! There's nothing polished here. I was just consolidating drafts and gathering things together for a PDF text-plus-comment-record like I did for NDOW and (sans comments) RMC, and I found some passages that never fit anywhere.
First, I found six distinct drafts of the Wynston/Quinn conversation on Corellia
(and I know I deleted/cannibalized more). Yeah, that conversation drove me up the wall. Some of the fragments in the reject pile just displayed too much anger on Quinn's part; as a character he had to stay on message more than he did in most of these drafts. I really do like trying to maintain Quinn as a consistent and rational actor. Consistent, rational, but terribly limited.
Quinn didn't shy away from Wynston's stare. "Agent Vulture," he said with that patented conversational disgust. His eyes spoke of desperation shaped into something fine and brilliant and deadly.
Wynston very briefly debated the level of courtesy to extend. "Captain Carcass. I have nothing to say to you."
"Noted. I have something to say to you."
His nostrils flared. "Has the Wrath told you she's with child?"
Hm. The man was prodding to determine or demonstrate who was closer to her. Well then. "Yes," said Wynston. "My deepest sympathies go to any child who can claim no better than you for a father."
Quinn looked him over. "There are those who would make even worse replacements. I am confident in assuming that you're grasping at 'replacement' as hard as you can."
"That's between me and her. There's no part of it I would sully by calling your attention to it." Not strictly true; if Wynston could be sure no one else was listening, he would take full advantage of any relationship he had or could invent to make the worm miserable.
Quinn paused, examining Wynston's face. "Are you going to tell me you haven't done worse for the mission?"
Wynston kept his voice level. It took some effort. "Everything I've ever done I've done for the right cause. So far I've seen you serve nothing but your own advancement. And the whims of a master as contemptible as you are."
"Advancement? I'm not the one who insinuated himself into the only occupation that would take him only to embark on a desperate campaign of sleeping with enough authority figures to evade the consequences of his own disgrace of a career." Quinn tilted his head and smiled thinly. "But that wasn't what we're here to discuss."
"I was never the one blinding her."
"Oh, really. Tell me, agent, when did she learn your real name?" Quinn looked Wynston over and continued in a tight cold tone. "Did you mention it before the first time you got what you wanted out of her? How about the second? Did it happen to come up while she was bleeding for you in the operation that went wrong because of your faulty intelligence on Alderaan? You're scarcely a reliable source. Her chances are better with me."
"I think she would disagree," Wynston said dryly.
Wynston shook his head. "I've served the Empire the entirety of my adult life, and I can honestly report that you are everything I hate about her. At least there's some comfort in knowing you're here in shackles, and everything I love about her is out there, free."
(Wynston tends to anthropomorphize the Empire. I don't know how often it comes up in conversation.)
"Suddenly deciding not to oppose Ruth really limits your career prospects vis-à-vis the one man you haven't voluntarily obliterated your chances with."
"He has no hold over me now. I have nothing left to lose. I do have one thing left to offer, and the Wrath is the only one I would offer it to."
"You really did come to care for your target, didn't you." Wynston said slowly. The depth of Quinn's conviction surprised him. "And then you pulled the trigger anyway. That makes you a failure coming and going, agent."
"Captain," snapped Quinn.
"'Captain' isn't the job that put you in here."
Quinn and Wynston: Infinite hatred in infinite combinations!
Other early-Lodestone passages heavily altered or rejected entirely for publication:
"Jaesa, I've never tended a wounded animal." This wasn't technically true, but delivering gundark-grade tranquilizers by long-range rifle and patching up the target as quickly as possible so as to get back to indoor civilization was not what people meant when they talked about saving wounded creatures. "But the principles still work. Slow approach." Unless it was him hunting her down to see her as soon as he could. "Keep talking, gently." Or alternately guilt-trip her and give her long physical periods of silence. "[something something hey bright put words here]." Come to think of it, he was pretty bad with tending the emotional wounded.
Her warmth was perfect as always, her curves no more than the occasional subtle softness between muscle and scar, present in just the right places, surprising every time. Wonderful. Not enough to justify self-immolation.
Falling in love is like enjoying Nautolan cuisine or being able to curl your tongue. Only some people can do it.
"My work was my first love. The one that's most likely going to kill me."
Vette being Vette:
"Is everyone all right?"
"Surprisingly, yes," said Vette. "I've gotten pretty good at hiding behind the Sith deathblenders."
"We're not deathblenders," Jaesa said with a patient air that suggested this wasn't a new objection.
"Tell that to the Republic," said Vette.
Wynston first meets the crew on Corellia, an earlier draft:
They all looked at Wynston with varying degrees of surprise and suspicion. "Hello, everyone," he said evenly, taking his place facing them. "You're the best-equipped team out there to take down Darth Baras. That means I'm joining you for the time being."
"I'm sure you are," said Lieutenant Pierce. There was a cool challenge in his eyes.
"Convenient timing, I know. That could go either way. But I came unarmed and I'll submit to security as Lord Ruth dictates."
"We're glad to see you," Vette said firmly. "We could use a little more sanity around here."
"It's good you came," added Jaesa with a shy smile.
Broonmark stayed quiet. He looked ready for a fight.
Ruth walked in to stand beside Wynston. "If you came unarmed you'll need equipment. Pierce, do we have a blaster to spare?"
"Hm. One got freed up just a little while ago, actually."
Ruth paled. "Not that."
"I'll take it if there's nothing else available," said Wynston. "I'll be using it the way it should have been used."
Pierce disappeared in the direction of the storage compartments and came back moments later with a standard-issue Imperial pistol, the signs of a couple of custom modifications visible above the grip. That was Quinn's.
When Wynston reached out for it Pierce seized his wrist in a grip just hard enough to remind Wynston that the bigger man could crush him without even trying. Wynston held still. From a standing start, Pierce was right.
"You came to beat Baras unarmed, did you?" Pierce said quietly, running his hand down Wynston's sleeves one at a time, feeling for hidden weapons.
"I came to see Ruth unarmed. I'm staying to beat Baras with anything I can get my hands on."
Pierce looked to Ruth, and whatever she did, he relaxed a little and handed Wynston the blaster. "Watch yourself, mate. We're the only people on this planet who won't chew you up just for existing. And we're only that nice because of her."
"Uh, sometimes I'm that nice just for the heck of it," volunteered Vette.
"Much appreciated," Wynston told her.
And, finally, more hanging out in rainy gardens:
"I think I'll try the florists instead," he told her. "There are some nonnative species you might like. There's one bred to be sensitive to temperature in humanoid ranges. It'll change color to suit you when you hold it. Very slightly different for everyone." It was one of the few nonpoisonous plants he knew anything about.
"And what color would I get?"
He took the chance to touch her hands, run a quick caress across her forehead. "Hm. Assuming my temp scale isn't off, very light violet."
Her smile widened. "And you?"
"Oh, Chiss run warm, and I'm bad even by Chiss standards. The poor thing would saturate through red to black. They look like they've died after I touch them."
"Does it come back when somebody cooler comes along?"
His hands were back in hers, and she was tracing his with her fingertips, light and suddenly extremely pleasant. He took a second to gather his thoughts because her touch was lighting up a bright trail of nerves while she held his gaze with her own, and then he firmly reminded himself that he wasn't a schoolboy. "We'll have to find out."