(About eight months later)
For once, all three of them managed to meet up at the same time, the first time they'd been together since the Warhammer. They'd all stayed in touch, of course, but mostly only brief holocom exchanges as far as Cirean and Lokin were concerned. Meeting face to face was more difficult.
It was their first evening. They were just being tourists on a package holiday, sitting on the terrace of a hotel on Aphran IV, and watching a particularly fine sunset over the hills and lakes. It was a Republic world, which made travelling complicated, but certainly not impossible for three experienced Intelligence agents.
Lokin felt more relaxed than he had for a long time. The view was magnificent, the chairs were comfortable, the serving droids were attentive but not pushy, they were well supplied with drinks and a selection of the local fruits and nuts to nibble while they waited for their food to be cooked, and it was early enough that there were few other people around. He was with his only two friends, and there was no sign of surveillance, either from the Empire or Republic. (They'd all checked as a matter of course.)
Cirean, naturally the most talkative of them, was chattering about what she'd been doing.
"I'm paired with a Chiss at the moment, two-man assassination hit squad round the Inner Rim. No targets on Aphran IV though, this is a proper holiday.” She smiled cheerfully. “Nothing very interesting about the jobs, get a kill list, work through it, rinse and repeat. It's a three year posting, half way through now."
"A Chiss? What's he like?" enquired Lokin with professional interest.
"She, actually. Not that it would make much of a difference, I think." She grinned and shook her head ruefully. "Don't know anything about her at all. Ruthlessly efficient, thoroughly competent, but I have no idea what she's really like, where she trained or anything else about her. You know Csilla, the Chiss homeworld, is in a major ice age? Covered with glaciers, they all live in ice caves, or underground, or something. Anyway, she's a lot like a glacier herself - smooth, cold, slippery, hard. Not a crack in her yet. And those blank red eyes, hard to read. Haven't you met any yourself?"
"Glaciers aren't smooth", objected Lokin. "They have lots of cracks. At least, the ones I climbed over on Hoth did."
"You have to be so pedantic!" Cirean flicked a cobnut at Lokin, which he evaded.
Twelve laughed. "You'd be surprised if he wasn't."
"Yeah, I'd think he was ill or something." She threw another nut at Lokin, who smirked.
"Accuracy is important. Especially in our jobs - you wouldn't get very far down your kill lists without hitting the targets", he pointed out.
"That's not the same at all! Besides, you know I scored highest on accuracy rates three years running at my academy, you've seen the certificates. When were you on Hoth?
Lokin pondered. "About two and a half years ago now. Holiday, not business. A group of us from the climbing club I belong to went to try some ice climbing. It's interesting, different to climbing on rock."
"I didn't know you belonged to a climbing club. How else do you spend your spare time?" Cirean was getting interested.
"Illegally." He grinned. "I'm in a number of hacker groups, again pleasure, not business. Not subversion or terrorism, of course, but I probably know rather too much about some criminal activities which go on. It's handy for breaking into the ISB nets, picking up tips and tricks from the pros."
"And you're an Intelligence officer, and you work for the police." Twelve shook his head. "Do they know?"
"Of course not, we're all as anonymous as we can be. I'm not sure whether I'd turn any of them in. I'm not particularly bothered about criminal activity. Frankly, if people can't secure their financial transactions or holomessages properly, they deserve everything they get."
"What if it was a little old lady being scammed out of her life savings?" asked Cirean.
"Some of the scariest people I've met are little old ladies." Lokin took a sip of his drink and continued, "Talking of being old, I try and keep up with freerunning too, but I'm considered past it by the teenagers now." He sighed a little. "I've often wondered why every teenage generation thinks it's unique, and anyone with an age starting with two or greater is hopelessly out of touch."
"Aww, poor old man." She laughed.
"Hey, I'm seven years older!" Imitating Cirean, Twelve threw a cobnut at her, which she caught and threw back.
"You'll always be young to me." She leaned over and took his hand, and they exchanged a tender look. Twelve raised her hand to his mouth and kissed it.
Lokin looked away, embarrassed by the open display of affection and with a feeling of intrusion.
Cirean drew him back in. "Eckard, maybe you should have studied psychology instead, being a permanent teenager yourself ... wait a minute, how did we change the subject like this?"
"Another of his gifts", observed Twelve. "You can ask him a question, he starts talking, five minutes later you're on something completely different and half an hour later you realise he never actually answered the question you originally asked."
"What can I say?" Lokin spread his hands and lowered his head in pretended humility.
"Nothing, for a change?" Cirean stuck her tongue out at him. "Except answer the questions: did you ever meet a Chiss and would you stop someone scamming little old ladies?"
"The answer to the first is yes, there are several working at the ISB. As you say, hard to read. Very dedicated though. Unquestionably loyal, in my humble opinion. In fact ..." He stopped.
"Go on", Twelve prompted.
"Oh, nothing. We can discuss it later, I don't want to get into business yet. Let's discuss little old ladies instead. Did I ever tell you about the gang leader on Nar Shaddaa known as the Beauty Queen?"