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(L,F&E 65) Honor Among Friends

kalenath's Avatar

07.05.2012 , 06:56 AM | #1
<A small starship, hyperspace>

Helen sighed. This was getting completely out of hand. Her voice was sharp. “Zinoa… Stop that.”

The Trandoshan stopped where she was and froze as Cradaask snarled at her. The Hunting Boar was not a large ship and Cradaask had made his opinion of the wounded Trandoshan female quite clear. It was only made worse by her cringing when Helen so much as looked at her. Zinoa had apparently expected to be made a slave, or worse, by Helen and when the human woman hadn’t the Trandoshan outcast was thrown into complete confusion. She respected Helen of course, only a fool would not be on a ship full of Trandoshans at least somewhat in her employ. None of whom liked the Trask clan one bit, and all of whom found Zinoa and her weakness to be beneath contempt. Of all the crew, only Der’Daask, the medic, even tolerated the newcomer at all. All four of the others were barely civil at the best of times, which this was not.

Zinoa’s current submissiveness was not helping things. Trandoshans as a whole valued strength, cunning and skill. Weakness of any kind was abhorrent to them. The fact that Zinoa had been totally outclassed by her opponent and then been left alive by Helen’s father was…unsettling to the Daask clan hunters. To them, the only good enemy was a dead one. Helen was strange by their standards, but she knew how to act around them, and truth be told, she liked the Daask clan hunters she worked with. They were rude, crude and socially unacceptable, but under all that, they were decent sorts who did what they did not out of bloodlust or desire to hurt others, but to make a difference for their clan. And they were making a difference, especially now that Helen had joined them. Helen was more analytically minded than most of the others, so she helped with planning and organization, leaving the others to handle things like, oh, blowing stuff up and causing general mayhem.

Bounty hunting was not a cheap enterprise and it was hard work. Helen had to smile slightly as she recalled the way she had originally thought hunters worked, that is, run in, blast everything and leave to collect a bounty. Truth be told, some hunters did just that, they were the ones who gave all bounty hunters bad reputations. But they were few and far between. Most bounty hunters could not afford the astronomical fines that might be levied if they shot the wrong person or blew up the wrong building. So research and planning were keys to the job. One had to know where the target was, what he was doing and what to expect when one went to apprehend, or…not. Helen wasn’t so keen on the other types of bounties, the ‘wanted dead’ ones. But the bounties that the crew had taken were all on scum, people whose absence wouldn’t be missed by anyone but other scum. But that meant they had a job to do, and their ‘guest’ was getting out of hand.

It wasn’t that Zinoa wanted to cause problems, she was just bored with lying about. Her body’s natural regeneration had sufficed to allow her to recuperate very quickly after Der’Daask had saved her life. But now by her very presence, she was causing trouble, so… The Trandoshan woman tried to genuflect again and Helen sighed.

“Come with me, Zinoa.” Her tone brooked no argument and the other two Trandoshans watched with some amusement as the small human led the larger Trandoshan into her office and shut the hatch. Helen sat in the chair behind her desk and waved Zinoa to another. For a moment, the Trandoshan looked worried, but Helen shook her head. “Zinoa, I went to a great deal of trouble not to kill you. Give me a bit of credit. I won’t kill you now unless you give me a reason. Cradaask and the others however…”

Zinoa sat, obviously uncomfortable. “…want me dead.” Her Basic was only slightly accented. She was well educated and well trained. It wasn’t her fault that facing the combination of Will Kalenath and Istara Andal had totally outclassed her ambush team. Not that she saw it that way.

"No." Helen shook her head. “They don’t want you dead; they don’t care one way or another. They care that you are not acting like a Trandoshan. More like a Correllia chicken lizard.” Zinoa sat up straight at the insult. She opened her mouth, but then closed it. Helen waited, but the Trandoshan didn’t speak. Finally Helen broke the uncomfortable silence. “Zinoa… What should I do with you? If you keep acting like this, one of the other crew is likely to kill you out of hand. Are you trying to get blasted?”

Zinoa stiffened. “No.” She said quietly. Whatever she had been expecting, she had not expected Helen to launch herself over her desk, throwing the stuff on it every which way. The smaller human grabbed the Trandoshan by the front of her ship sit and literally hauled her out of the chair. Helen was smaller than Zinoa -actually Helen was fairly average in size for a human- but working with Trandoshans had built her strength up significantly.

“I don’t believe you.” Helen’s voice was cold as she slapped the Trandoshan, once, twice. “Fight me!”

"No..." Zinoa stared at the human woman. Helen was maybe half her mass. “I… No, I must not.” Instead of responding, Helen slugged the lizard woman. Then she kicked the lizard, hard.

<Fool!> When Helen spoke it was in cold and clear Dosh. <If you don’t fight, I am going to beat you to within an inch of your life. Fight, you spineless excuse for a Trandoshan. Fight!> She punctuated her sentences with slaps. <Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!> She slapped the Trandoshan again.

Between the insults and the slaps, which did little damage but were humiliating, Zinoa lost her temper. With a roar, she grabbed Helen. Well, she tried to. Every time she swung, Helen simply wasn’t where the punch went. She was so enraged she barely heard Helen speaking. She was so focused on grabbing and hurting the woman that she totally missed the woman’s dodge and slide to the side that allowed Helen to take Zinoa to the floor hard. She grunted in pain as a heavy weight landed on her back and her arm was hauled back in a totally unbreakable hold. Zinao shook her herself, trying to figure out what had happened, but when she tried to move, a pull on her wrist had her stopping. Helen might not have a mass advantage, but she had position and leverage. Helen’s voice was soft.

“Better. It seems there is some true Trandoshan left in you." Helen said coldly. "The Trask clan has not totally inbred it out yet.” Zinoa snarled again and tried to throw the smaller human off her back, but a stunning impact had her back where she had been. Helen’s voice turned actually gentle and kind now. “You lack skill in fighting smaller and more agile opponents. That can be remedied. I actually had no idea how to fight Trandoshans before I came aboard. I learned quickly. Zinoa, what am I to do with you?”

"I don't know." Zinao spoke softly, muffled because half of her face was pressed hard to the floor. “All I knew was being Zinoa’Trask, warrior and hunter of clan Trask. Now… What am I? Nothing…” Shame colored her words. The weight left her back and her arm was released. She looked up to see Helen step out of reach, smart of the human woman. She stared as Helen went back around her desk and sat again, as if nothing had just happened.

“You are not nothing. You lack purpose at the moment. That also can be remedied. What would you like to do?” Helen had one eye on her terminal and one eye on the Trandoshan who was just now climbing to her feet a bit shaky at how easily Helen had taken her down.

Zinoa sat in her chair again, her face eyes alive with wonder at this change in Helen. Where before the human woman had been kind and gentle while Zinoa had been recuperating; now Helen was hard as nails, fast and tough. In short, Helen was a very capable woman, far better than Zinoa herself as a matter of fact. The Trandoshan stared at the floor before responding.

“I don’t know." The lizard woman admitted. "All I know is hunting, fighting and killing. It is all I have ever known.”

"Zinoa..." Helen’s eyes were both on Zinoa now. “Don’t tell me you have no other interests at all. Come on? Art, music, basket weaving…?”

"What?" Zinoa stared at Helen, her eyes alight with curiosity for the first time in a while. “Why?”

"Zinoa." Helen sighed. “I can’t keep you here. I am not a slaver, and you are treating me as one. The crew will kill you eventually if you keep acting like this.”

Zinoa froze. “I…”

"Zinoa, its okay." Helen shook her head. “You don’t intend to, that is obvious to anyone with eyes. But you do it. Every time I pass, you bow and cringe like I am some kind of deity. Zinoa…” Helen’s voice was exasperated now. Zinoa shook her head. She had no idea at all how to handle this. Now Helen’s voice was kind again. “Have you done anything except fight, ever?”

"Yes, but..." Zinoa stared at the human woman. “I… Oh, it is silly…”

"No, silly is acting like I am some sort of deity." Helen snorted. “Silly is genuflecting to me. My MOM doesn’t like people genuflecting to her, and she is a queen. Me? I’m just an ops planner for a bounty hunter ship now.”

"Understood." Zinoa sighed. “I… What was that song you were singing when you found me?”

"That?" Helen smiled sadly. “It was an ancient tune, it is called ‘Bind me not to the pasture’. It’s about soldiers coming home after a war.”

"Yes...A haunting melody." Zinoa nodded. “I liked it. I… I like music. But I cannot sing.” Not anymore… She thought with a pang.

"Indeed?" Helen smiled. “Have you tried recently?”

"Oh?" Zinoa stared at her before laughing coldly. “As if that would go over well with my old clan?”

"Well..." Helen smiled a bit. “You are not with them now, Zinoa. Here… Listen…” She hit a control and soft music filled the office. It was the tune Helen had been singing. Zinoa found herself humming along with it. Helen’s voice was soft. “I can’t keep you here, Zinoa.”

“I know.” Zinoa nodded. Her voice was sad. “I do not intend to be disruptive, it just… happens.”

"I know." Helen nodded. “I have made some calls, I have found a place for you. One I think you will like.” Her hand came up with a dart gun, a soft sound and Zinoa slumped in her chair, falling so slowly to the sound of sad, soft music. She was singing along with it as she fell asleep.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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07.05.2012 , 07:06 AM | #2
<Some time later>

Zinoa came awake to the sound of an irate female voice. “You know, would it be too much to ask for one of our ‘special’ patients to arrive by walking, instead of being tranked, in stasis, carbonite or something?” Zinoa shook herself, but gentle hands held her down on the surface she was on. “Oh, no… None of that, young warrior…” Zinoa’s eyes gradually focused on the being who was holding her, a female Cathar who was wearing a medical tunic.

"What?" The Trandoshan was confused, so she focused on speaking as clearly as she could. “Who are you?”

"I am in charge here." The Cathar smiled at her, but had her lips tight over her teeth. In Trandosahn society, showing one’s teeth was a challenge. “My name is Katherine. You are Zinoa, right?”

"Yes." Zinoa nodded slowly, aware of an ache in her head now. “I am Zinoa. Where am I?”

She looked about her. The room was a standard medical ward, bed, monitors, medical equipment ready to use, a droid sitting idle nearby. From the gravity, she was on a planet, but the climate controls of the room were good, she couldn’t tell what kind while lying here.

"You are in no danger here unless you bring it upon yourself." The Cathar nodded and stepped back. “You are on Tattooine, at a clinic in the city of Anchorhead. May I ask what clan…?” The medic broke off as Zinoa stilled.

Zinoa looked away. “I have no clan.” She was startled to feel a gentle touch on her arm. She looked up into the concerned eyes of the medic.

Katherine sighed. “I don’t know a lot about your people. But I assume that being clanless is a very bad thing, correct?” Zinoa nodded. Katherine slumped. “Well, I can’t wave my hands and make it all better. All I can do is make sure you are fully recovered before you go out to do… whatever it is you plan to do.”

"I..." Zinoa shook her head. “I have no idea what to do. I was a warrior, a hunter. But I was not good enough.” Shame colored her words. “Now, I am nothing, weak, pathetic.”

"Indeed?" "Katherine raised an eyebrow. “From the evidence of injury that I have seen, you were nearly killed by whatever you faced. If you had been weak, it would have killed you.”

Zinoa shook her head slowly. “You do not understand. To save my life, I gave up clan, family, all ties…I…” To her absolute horror, she felt her eyes start to burn. For a Trandoshan to cry…well… it took a lot. To her surprise, Katherine turned away. She stared at the Cathar, and then nodded. Katherine might not have known much about Trandoshans, but she knew one of the proud warrior people would be greatly dishonored or insulted if people saw her cry. She stammered out words now, her Basic becoming accented and broken as she fought her emotions. “Healer… I… I cannot… I must…”

Katherine didn’t turn back. “There is no dishonor. You have been hurt; your body is not yet fully recovered. Rest and heal, young warrior. I will have a proper meal sent in for you. You should stay in the bed for at least another hour, by then your body’s regeneration will have kicked the residue of the sedative out.” Without looking at the Trandoshan, the Cathar walked out of the room, leaving Zinoa to stare after her in wonder.

How did she know how to react to my weakness if she did not know us?

<A few minutes later>

Zinoa was amazed. The food was good. Oh, who was she kidding? It was incredible! Now if only the human would stop staring at her. She finished another bite and met his gaze levelly. Her voice might have been a bit on the cool side. “Is there a problem?”

"No." The boy shook his head. “I am to collect the dishes after you are done. I am sorry, I meant no offense. I have never met one of your people before.” Zinoa stared at him. He was young, perhaps, twenty human years old, and his face and body showed signs of serious injury. He walked stiffly, as if in great pain. And his face was a mask of scars both old and new. His voice was quiet. “If you wish me to leave I will, I was just curious.”

"No, no matter." Zinoa felt something flare in her, something she had no words for. She shook her head. “I am not…” She snorted sourly. “I took no offense young human, but another might. Many of my people take offense very easily and react to being angered… badly. I know I did, before…” Before she had been beaten nearly to death, before she had given up clan, home and family to survive, and before she had changed from Zinoa’Trask to this shamed, weak and pathetic creature.

The boy nodded. And then to her surprise he spoke in Dosh. Rough and difficult to understand, but he was trying. <I am Marcus.>

Zinao smiled slightly. When she spoke it was in Basic. “Less ‘Ah’ sound, and more deep on the consonant. Like this…” She spoke slowly. <I am Zinoa>.

"Thank you." Marcus nodded. “I like to learn as much as I can. Less chance of giving offense by accident if I know as much as I possibly can.”

"That is good, but..." Zinoa sighed. “Marcus, no matter what you do, you cannot please everyone. What might be pleasing to one of my people, would likely be insulting to a Mon Calamari.”

Marcus nodded again, but then he winced. “I under… I understand.” Zinoa stared at him. Was his skin supposed to be that color?

Zinoa’s voice was quiet. “Marcus?”

"No..." Marcus stood up. Well, he tried to. Zinoa was out of the bed in an instant and caught him as he fell. His voice was low, pained. "Got to..." He shuddered, his head slumping.

"Marcus?" Zinoa was at a loss. “Marcus!

Zinao stared wildly around, unsure what to do. She saw a buzzer on the wall. She hit it and a moment later the door burst open. Katherine stood there, and two guards as well. The guard’s blasters didn’t move from Zinoa who froze.

Katherine’s voice was soft. “Zinoa…. What…?”

Zinao laid Marcus gently on the ground and stepped as far away from the boy as she could, her hands clasped over her head. The guard’s blasters tracked her slowly. Marcus spoke up from where he lay.

“No… Katherine… No… It wasn’t her…” He shuddered and passed out.

"Marcus?" Katherine came in and slowly knelt down beside Marcus. “What happened?” She asked carefully.

"I do not know." Zinoa didn’t take her eyes off the guards, and her voice was quiet. “He collapsed. His skin changed color and he fell. I caught him and hit the buzzer.”

“That is not a buzzer Zinoa." Katherine said with a sigh. "That is a general alarm. Every guard in this place just went on full alert.” Zinoa’s eyes went wide at that, but Katherine was looking at the boy now and shaking her head. “Idiot child.” She muttered under her breath. “I have told him, and told him and told him not to push this. But he insists on hurting himself. I swear this time I am locking him in the bed.”

Katherine busied herself with the boy and Zinoa just stood there, unsure of what to do. Neither of the guards had relaxed. The Trandoshan obviously didn’t know what to do, and after a moment, Katherine looked up and took pity on her.

“What you did wasn’t wrong, Zinoa." Katherine said gently. "If it had been a bona fide medical emergency, as opposed to a young human’s stupidity, no one would have minded at all. But with our current situation… Well…”

"I understand." Zinoa shook her head slowly. “I will accept whatever punishment you decree.”

"For trying to help?" Katherine snarled. “Geez, Zinoa I would have to punish almost everyone in the clinic. Did you know that was an alert buzzer?” Zinoa shook her head and Katherine sighed. “Then you did the right thing. The wrong way, but the right thing.” The guards came into the room slowly, never taking their eyes off Zinoa who sighed and knelt. She held out her hands for binders. Katherine shook her head. “You have got to be… Hey, wait a second…!”

One guard moved closer to Zinoa, careful to stay out of his colleague’s line of fire. Zinoa didn’t move as the guard stepped behind her and spoke quietly but with command.


Zinoa put her hands on her head and she didn’t resist as the guard pulled them behind her and something cold clicked shut on her wrists. Katherine was sputtering, but her focus was torn between Marcus and the scene with Zinoa.

"Healer." Zinoa spoke slowly. “I messed up, Katherine. I do not blame them for being… cautious. Where to?” She asked the guard in front of her calmly.

The guard met her eyes and there was grudging approval in the human’s. “Until we know what to do with you, you will stay in a cell.” Katherine was shaking her head, but the guard sighed. “Doctor, Cranna’s orders are clear. Until we can check her bon-fides, she is to be sequestered. The cells are the safest place.”

Katherine sighed. “Sometimes I really, really hate that slug. Fine.” Her voice was resigned. “I will check up on her regularly. You better get her decent meals, and for the love of the Force, keep Meelie away from her!”

Zinoa could only stare in wonder as the guard shuddered. But the human’s voice was crisp. “Yes, Ma’am.” A hand on her arms exerted pressure and the Trandoshan woman rose slowly. The guard ahead of her waved her out and she started off towards an unknown fate.

<Several hours later>

Zinoa had expected a dingy, dark and damp hole in the ground. This was not what she had expected. Yes, the cell was small, maybe five paces by five paces. But it was almost painfully clean and neat. The bunk, while really too small for her form, was comfortable. And the meal that had been delivered had been more than satisfactory. She had heard whimpers, screams and laughter from nearby, but nothing had happened to her. Maybe because she had a guard at her door? She had heard the guard outside explaining things several times to someone, telling that person to lave several times, each time in a gentle voice. The last time, she had heard laughter that had sounded insane. But then another cell had clanged open and screams had started in that one, mixed with sounds of… ecstasy? That made no sense.

She was dozing a bit, she had nothing else to do, when the door of her cell slammed open and a huge furred form walked in. Her eyes went wide as she recognized the Wookiee from descriptions. Olanagychew was a wanted Wookiee, a known companion to the being she had tried to ambush, Will Kalenath. She tensed. The Wookiee was well known for martial prowess, some stories stated that he had killed more beings with his hands than Will had with his guns. She gave herself very low odds of surviving an attack. But the Wookiee didn’t attack, didn’t move from the door in fact. She stared at him and then stiffened as a voice came. One she knew.

“You always do make a mess, don’t you Zinoa’Trask?” Another Trandoshan walked into the room and smiled at her expression. L’trask was shaking his head. “This is another fine mess you have gotten yourself into, isn’t it?” The chief healer of the outlaw vessel Stormhawk looked her over and shook his head again. His eyes however, were dancing. Much as she remembered her elder clanmate from way back when, when he had tossed her into the air and caught her as a nestling.

"I..." Zinoa shook her head. “I am not Trask. Not now.”

"Baloney." L’trask sighed. “Come on, we need to talk.”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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07.05.2012 , 07:13 AM | #3
<An hour later>

Zinoa had expected many things when she had woken in the ‘care’ of Cranna the Hutt’s people. Cranna didn’t like the Trask clan, and it was reciprocated. The Trandoshan had expected to be interrogated, maybe tortured and then killed. She never expected to be having dinner with a relative, sort of relative anyway. She poked at her food, unsure about this. L’Trask looked at her from across the table.

They were sitting in a small private suite. L’trask had given her a tour before saying one of the rooms was hers if she wanted it. She had glanced into the room and been astounded. While not palatial buy anyone’s standards, the room was more than comfortable. It was set up for many different species, a sand bath as well as a water one in the refresher gave her all kinds of ideas, but right now, she had to focus. L’Trask was speaking.

“Come on, eat. You are too thin, Zinoa. The injuries you sustained had your regeneration working overtime.” The older Trandoshan put words into action, slicing off a chunk of meat and stuffing it into his mouth. She looked at him and he smiled at her. She shook her head ruefully and started eating. As he ate, L’Trask spoke. “I don’t know all of what happened to you, but I do know Will was involved.”

"Yes." Zinoa nodded as she ate. Her feelings on the soldier who had defeated her were ambivalent at best. But the Wookiee that sat glowering at her nearby was a pointed hint that insults might not be such a good idea at the moment. When she spoke, it was slow and careful. “He is good.”

L’Trask nodded sadly. “That he is. And his history with the clan gives him an edge in dealing with members of the clan.” Zina noticed that L’Trask didn’t say that either of them were still in the clan. She filed that away for review later. L’Trask shook his head slowly. “Zinoa… The clan was always out for his blood, but I asked him not to kill.”

Zinoa nearly spit out a bite she had just taken. Her voice was incredulous when she managed to speak. “You asked him…?” She broke off, unsure if she had given offense, but the Wookiee didn’t move.

"Yes." L’Trask nodded as he took another slow and careful bite. “No matter how the clan feels about me, in my heart I am still Trask. And my memories of you and the other nestlings are memories that I treasure.”

Zinao felt something. Something she couldn’t define. Something that she was sure she knew the name for, but… It was odd. Whatever it was wasn’t something she dealt with regularly. She shook her head and winced as L’trask glowered at her, his eyes went to her plate and she smiled slightly as she picked up another bite. Her voice was low. “I do not understand.”

L’Trask nodded. “When I left the clan, I knew they would send hunters after me. I knew once they figured out who Will was, who had slipped right through their claws, they would go after him as well. What would have happened?” Zinoa swallowed audibly and L’trask nodded. “Yes. At best dozens of lives lost and no gain. That human…” L’Trask shook his head. “He scares me, Zinoa.”

"But..." The frank admission had the female Trandoshan freezing. She shook her head slowly. “You work with him.”

L’Trask nodded slowly. “I do. And that makes me more afraid. I know what he is capable of. I have seen it firsthand. Zinoa, you have faced the man. Why did he leave you alive?”

Zinoa winced in memory. When she spoke it was low, worried. “Because the female human with him asked him not to. He slaughtered the team I was with. He and that woman. He…” She was shaking now, lost in her memories. She barely felt it when scaled arms enfolded her.

"It’s okay Zinoa." L’Trask’s voice was gentle. “He is terrifying. And I say that as someone who I think he counts as a friend. He is quite probably the most cold blooded individual I have ever met. I hope so anyway. If there is someone, somewhere, more of whatever he is, I certainly never want to meet them.” She looked up and his eyes were dancing.

"I..." Zinoa reached up and slowly returned the embrace. “Thank you, I… I failed. And I was dying. Helen saved me. I am obligated to Helen, and I couldn’t stay with her.”

"I know." L’Trask nodded slowly. “She called me.”

"Huh?" Zinoa stared at him. She couldn’t keep a note of disbelief out of her voice. “She called you?”

L’Trask grinned. “I do know her. I have treated her often enough. She and those crazy Daask clan fools get into enough scrapes even when they are not trying to find Will’s daughter.” He shook his head. “Zinoa… What the flarg possessed the Elders to send C’Trask of all people? They had to know how Will was going to react. C’Trask’s reputation… They had to know how Will was going to react.” The late and unlamented bounty hunter C’Trask had possessed a reputation for brutality and mistreatment of his marks exceptional even among brutal and amoral bounty hunters.

"I don’t know." Zinoa shook her head. “I had no idea. I was told he was just another bounty. I asked why four cadres were being sent after him, and… I was punished for asking.” She hung her head and then stiffened as L’trask hugged her again.

"Oh dear." L’Trask’s voice was sad. “Zinoa… I don’t know what is going to come of this. If Nia dies or that pod makes it to whatever Sith it was sent to… You saw him Zinoa. What will he do?”

"He will... He will..." Zinoa bowed her head and spoke a word in Dosh. <Vendetta.>

"Yes. For his daughter... Yes he will." L’Trask nodded soberly. Blood feuds, or Vendettas were not uncommon in Trandoshan society. But when one being took on an entire clan, that one being either had a death wish, or was incredibly good at what they did. Will was firmly in the latter category. Although L’Trask had suspicions… The older Trandoshan sighed. “What is worse... He has access to weapons of mass destruction and uses them.”

Zinoa shivered, and the arms that enfolded her tightened in sympathy. She had heard about the large baradium device that Will had detonated on the Sith world of Korriban. And the briefing she had received on the man, as skimpy as it had been, had warned of the possibility of nerve gasses. He was well known for using them as well. The thought of either one of those horrible weapons going off in her home city… Even if it wasn’t her home anymore…. Just the image was horrific. But then she couldn’t stop shivering. A gentle hand touched her on her scalp and L’trask cursed.

"Girl..." His voice was gentle. “Zinoa, when was the last time you slept, without being sedated?”

"I..." She shook her head. “I don’t know. A while…” Now she was falling, no, she was rising? She stared up and couldn’t restrain a wince as she looked into the face of the Wookiee who was carrying her. But she couldn’t summon the energy to be afraid. Sleep claimed her before she could summon energy to do anything.

<A few minutes later>

L’Trask finished putting his niece to bed and sighed as he covered her. Olanagychew was looking at him as the Trandoshan stood and moved slowly to the door. The Wookiee moved out and after a moment, L’Trask shut the door behind him. L’Trask sighed at the Wookiee’s expression.

“Go ahead, Olana.” His voice was quiet as he moved to sit back at the table.

<Do you have any idea how dangerous this is, doc? She is a hunter, a killer. Her team tried very hard to kill Will and might have succeeded if not for the woman with him.> Shame colored the Wookiee’s soft words. Will was his oath brother, the Wookiee had sworn a life debt after Will had rescued not just Olana, but his sister and many others from a Sith slave mine. Will had been in danger and Olana had been busy baby-sitting an information broker.

L’Trask nodded. He understood Shirwook well enough, having dealt with Wookiees for a long time now. He couldn’t speak it, but he understood it just fine. “Tell me something I don’t know furball. Like where else can she go? You… You saw…?” It wasn’t really a question.

<Yes.> Olana slumped. <I saw. She is broken, hurting, in pain. You wish to heal her?> The Wookiee’s voice was neutral.

"If I can." L’Trask sighed. “It wasn’t her fault Olana. She was following orders. Ah…” He shook his head sadly. “She was such a good one, all bright and bubbly. And always singing. The Scorekeeper cannot be happy with what the idiots running the clan have done to that poor child. And then she faced Will… Part of her did not survive that encounter. They abandoned her to die by all accounts. She owes them nothing.”

Olana sighed deeply. <I know.> When he looked up, there was no give in his expression. <Doctor, my orders are to keep you safe while you are off the ship. Even broken, the female is dangerous.>

"I know." L’Trask nodded. “Which is why as soon as she is reasonably stable, we care catching a ride back to the ship.” Olana stared at him. “Is there anywhere else in the galaxy where she might have a chance to be herself? And not be a danger to herself and others?”

<You...> Olana’s eyes went wide at that. <You cannot be serious.> L’Trask just stood there and the two stared at one another before Olana sighed. <Fine, you get to explain it to Boss.>

“Won’t that be fun?” L’trask said as he sat to finish his meal.

Olana sighed as he sat as well. <You have a very strange definition of fun, doc.>
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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07.05.2012 , 07:20 AM | #4
<The next morning>

Zinoa was a bit bemused by this. First she had been a guest (maybe a slave even if Helen had been totally against that idea), then she had been a patient and then a prisoner. And now, she was a guest again? She shook her head slowly as she followed L’Trask up the ramp of the small ship.

When she had woken, she had felt a lot better. She was almost fully recovered physically. Emotionally, spiritually? Not so much. She found herself humming in the refresher when she had cleaned herself and stopped herself cold. Music wasn’t frowned upon in Trandoshan society, but her choices of music had widened a few eyes. Ballads of war, fighting and death were acceptable. Happy songs of peace and love? They were not, or at least, not in her clan. And then L’Trask had brought her breakfast and an offer. And what an offer…

"I..." She shook her head as she followed L’Trask deeper into the ship. “I think…” she broke off as L’Trask stopped to look at her.

“Yes, Zinoa?” The doctor’s voice was neutral.

"L'trask..." Zinoa sighed. “I don’t see how this can work. I mean… They hate the Trask clan. Aside from you.”

L’Trask patted her on the shoulder. “Zinoa, I don’t know if this is going to work or not. I give you my word that no one will hurt you unless you bring it on yourself. Be yourself, be honest and work hard and things will work out. If it doesn’t work out, as long as you don’t do anything too dumb, we can probably set you up with something somewhere else. So, just give it a try.” For just a moment, the older Trandoshan looked old and tired. “Please…?”

Zinoa stared at L’Trask. “I… I don’t want to hurt you… I…” Her voice was soft, scared almost. “I don’t know what to do.”

L’Trask sighed and then gathered his kin-lizard in his arms. She relaxed a little in his embrace. She wasn’t normally touchy kind of Trandoshan, but with him, it didn’t seem to matter. He was twice her age for one thing, and gentle. He spoke softly. “That’s okay, Zinoa, we are making this up as we go.”

"Indeed?" She couldn’t help it, she laughed. “Sounds familiar.”

L’Trask snorted. “Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? You can call me ‘Uncle’ if you wish, even though I am not really.”

Zinoa smiled, a bit sadly. He wasn’t really related to her except very, very distantly, the Trask clan was a large one. She returned his embrace and spoke softly. “Close enough. That is what I called you when I was a nestling. Times have changed. Have we?”

"Ah..." L’Trask sighed as he released her and stepped back. “Everything changes Zinoa. Everything. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.”

"Uncle... I need to know..." Zinoa met his gaze calmly and spoke evenly. “Are they going to shoot me? For being who I am?”

L’Trask shook his head. “No. They will be upset. I…uh… Well… I won’t tell them until we arrive that you are with us. Otherwise, Boss is going to tell me to drop you somewhere.” Zinoa froze and L’Trask shook his head. “Hey!” He affected hurt pride. “You are the only family who has talked to me in eight years. If he tells me to ‘get rid of you’ I know a few places where Trandoshans are not unwelcome.”

"Um..." Zinoa thought for a long moment. “Will I be a threat to you? To the ship?”

"A threat?" L’Trask looked at her. “Maybe. I don’t know.”

"Then..." Zinoa shook her head. “Maybe you should just… ‘Drop me off’ as you said.”

"Zinoa…" L’Trask grimaced. “If I do, how long will you last? As you are?”

Zinoa tensed, but then relaxed a bit. A scared Trandoshan? A weak Trandoshan? She slumped. “About as long as it takes for another of our people to find me.” Most Trandoshans would react to her inability to act Trandoshan as the Daask clan hunters had. Badly. The only reason Cradaask and the others hadn’t killed her had been Helen.

"Yes." L’Trask nodded. “I can help you Zinoa. It will take time, and not a little of it. But I can help you.”

"Okay, I will try." Zinoa smiled a little. “Thank you Uncle.”

L’Trask smiled back. “You are welcome, come on, we lift in a few minutes.”

Zinoa grinned. “At least we don’t have to worry about my baggage.”

L’trask smiled at her. “Indeed not.” Inwardly, he was jumping for joy however. A spontaneous grin, she was recovering. Now if only he could get Boss to understand, and this ride might not be all fun and games either.

<Two hours later>

L’Trask watched with barely concealed worry as Zinoa played Dejarik. The Wookiee Olanagychew was one heck of a Dejarik player, but it seemed he may have met his match. Zinoa moved a piece into a commanding spot and trounced another of Olana’s pieces, and the Wookiee reacted by cursing loudly in Shirwook. Olana jumped from his seat and started pacing, growling. Zinao sat where she was, petrified.

L’Trask sighed. “Olana…” His voice was a bit on the stern side and Olana stared at him, and then at Zinoa, who was obviously terrified. L’Trask moved to stand beside his ‘niece’ and laid a clawed hand on her shoulder. “Zinoa… It’s okay. That’s just how he deals with losing. Badly.”

"I…" Zinoa stared from the Wookiee to the other. “I should let him win…” She slumped and moved to wipe the board. But two furry paws took her hands before she could touch the controls and held them tight. She looked up slowly and Olana, his face stern, shook his head slowly. She stiffened, afraid to even move as Olana moved her hands gently back to her lap and laid them down there before stepping back. The Wookiee shook his head and spoke in a low tone to L’Trask.

L’Trask smiled. “I know you don’t speak Shirwook. So I will translate until you learn, if you wish to. He says ‘No, don’t let him win. If he wins all the time, he will never learn how to play better. He is happy for an opponent who isn’t afraid to beat him. Everywhere he goes, people say ‘Let the Wookiee win.’ He says he doesn’t enjoy hurting people; he is just good at it.’” L’Trask’s voice was weary.

Zinoa stared from L’Trask to Olana and something in the gray furred form’s eyes… She met the Wookiee’s eyes and nodded slowly. “So am I, but I don’t enjoy it either.” She waved at the board. “Shall we?” Olana smiled widely and sat again. “New game?” Olana shook his head and Zinoa smiled a little. He was going to play it out to the bitter end; she would have done no less.

<Five hours later>

Zinoa was finally asleep. She and Olana had gone at it tooth and claw on the Dejarik board. She had taught Olana a few things and Olana had taught her a few. And it was amazing; L’Trask thought the two of them might actually be on the way to becoming friends. She would likely still be trying to figure out one of Olana’s utterly evil moves if L’Trask hadn’t insisted she get some sleep. It would be stressful when they arrived at their destination. L’Trask came back into the common area to find Olana staring at the board with a rapt look on his face.

"I am amazed." L’Trask smiled. “Finally met your match, eh, furball?”

Olana looked at him and admiration was in his eyes. <She is good.>

L’Trask smiled. “You were throwing the first game, weren’t you?” Olana smiled at him and L’Trask shook his head. “Every time I think I have you figured out, you do something strange.”

<Just to keep you on your toes, Doc.> Olana shook his head slowly. <She is…a good being. You heard her humming.> L’trask nodded.

“Yes.” The healer’s word was quiet. “She used to sing all the time. Until the Elders took offense.” For a moment, L’Trask looked old, tired and sad.

Olana looked at him. <What did they do to her? She has a wise heart for one so young. In a hunter, that is unheard of.>

"Yeah." L’Trask shook his head. “I don’t know what they did, and I won’t ask.”

<Doc...> Olana sighed. <You know Boss will. He has no choice. He has to maintain security.>

"Yes." L’Trask sat heavily. “I know.”

<Okay.> Olana looked from the doctor to the Dejarik board. <Well, I can say this with absolute sincerity. That young one is good. Sneaky and the same time, honest. A very rare combination. Whether she can be trusted or not, that remains to be seen. You know what will happen if she can’t be trusted.> It wasn’t a question.

"If..." L’Trask spoke softly. “If it comes to that, I will do it.”

<Let me.> Olana shook his head and continued kindly. <Doc, you are not a killer. If it must be done, let me do it. I will make it quick, clean and painless.>

"No." L’Trask shook his head. “She is my family, Olana.”

Olana looked at the Trandoshan he called friend. <And if Boss orders us to kill her? Can you pull a trigger on one of your family?>

"I..." L’trask sighed. “I don’t know Olana, I just don’t know.”

<I hope you don't have to.> Olana slumped. Then he stood up and walked towards the cockpit. <I will be in the cockpit if you want to talk.> Then he was gone. L’trask sighed a then stood up himself. He started towards the small medical area of the transport, he would inventory the supplies they had onboard, send requisitions for what was needed. The mindless work would keep him from thinking. From imagining what was going to happen in about five more hours. And then maybe, maybe he could sleep.

As he started opening cabinets he shook his head. I have done all I could. Now it is up to you, Zinoa’Trask. I just really hope you can prove to Boss that you are trustworthy. Or this will have no happy ending… He shook himself and started inventory, trying to get the tune Zinoa had been humming out of his head. Something about ‘Bind me not to the Pasture’.
My stories in order:
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07.05.2012 , 07:27 AM | #5
<Five hours later>

Zinoa was scared out of her mind. She had been less than enthused with what L’Trask had told her about what was going to happen. But she figured that she really didn’t have much of a choice. Either the crew of the Stormhawk would kill her immediately, or more likely, they would interrogate her, and then kill her. After all, she and her team had gone after one of their crew. They had failed spectacularly, but that was beside the point, she had tried to kill the man. A gentle hand on her arm steered her and she nodded slightly. She had been even less than enthused when told she would be blindfolded for the walk from the ship to wherever they were taking her. Being blind was not fun. Of course being drilled by multiple blasters would be even less fun, so she had acquiesced without complaint. The grip on her arm was gentle, but solid and truth be told, she needed the help to walk.

When she had woken, L’Trask had been there along with two armored forms. She had complied with every instruction. L’Trask had apologized quietly as he had bound her wrists in front of her and ankles with a hobble chain. But she hadn’t taken her eyes off the two Stormhawk marines. For their part, neither of them had taken their eyes off of her. They had also been very careful to keep their rifle muzzles pointed at her despite L’Trask being in the way. Zinoa was not about to endanger what might be the only member of her kin who would still talk to her, so she had quietly, meekly even, complied with all instructions. After her limbs had been bound, she had been placed on her feet and a loose hood had been placed over her head. Whatever it was made of, she couldn’t see anything through it, and then they had started her off. She had felt a ramp. Then she had heard lots of noise that was normal in hangar bays or flight decks, then a hatch hissed shut behind her and she was walking endlessly through darkness.

Being blind was no fun at all, she decided and she hissed a little as she stumbled just a bit. The hand on her arm gave a gentle squeeze that she took for reassurance and then guided her to the left. She followed without comment. A hatch hissed in front of her and she tensed as a voice came to her ears.

The female voice sounded bemused. “Do you have any idea how much trouble you just caused, L’Trask?”

The voice of her kin-lizard spoke from nearby. She felt a bit bereft that he wasn’t the one guiding her, but then again, she was dangerous. It wouldn’t make sense to have him in the position of a potential hostage. L’trask’s voice was weary, as if he hadn’t slept recently. “Yes. I do, Gaia.”

His simple words had Zinoa tensing. Was he in trouble because of her? What had she done to him? The hand on her arm twitched and she followed the instructions. The hand led her to what felt like an examination table and then several hands helped her get up onto it. It was fairly comfortable as examination tables went, and she lay back and tried to relax as her bonds were removed. She didn’t resist as other restraints were locked into place. These were stronger, and more comprehensive as well as being totally beyond her ability to break in any way. She ignored them, trying to hear what was going on around her. A clawed hand patted her shoulder and she relaxed just a little.

“Watch your eyes, Zinoa.” L’Trask’s gentle words had Zinoa shutting her eyes tightly and then she felt the hood come off. “Ok, you can look now.”

Zinoa opened her eyes and smiled at L’Trask who nodded and smiled back to her. Then she looked around. She was in a fairly standard medical examination room. All around her equipment hummed, some of it she could identify, some of it she couldn’t. Then she saw something that had her stiffening in the bonds that held her tightly in place. The creature’s many eyes on their stalks were all looking at her. She had never seen that species before, but it looked…hungry.

L’Trask looked at the creature and shook his head. “You are scaring her, Gaia.”

Half of the creature’s eyestalks turned to look at L’Trask and when it spoke, it was the female voice from before. “She is not scared of just me, are you girl?” Zinoa would have nodded, but her head wouldn’t move. Gaia sighed. “Smart girl. I won’t hurt you child. Your name is Zinoa? Mine is Gaia.” The voice was gentle now, and despite her fear, Zinoa felt herself relaxing. Whoever this being was, she wasn’t going to kill Zinoa out of hand, probably. “You have an appointment, L’Trask. Don’t keep him waiting.”

L’Trask nodded, but his gaze went back to Zinoa. “Zinoa… I have to go for a while; I have to talk to some people. Gaia will do a complete examination. I will be back as soon as I can.”

"Did..." Zinoa made a face. “Did I get you in trouble?” Her voice was quiet.

"No." L’Trask snorted. “I got myself in trouble. I can do that just as well as anyone else.” He patted Zinoa’s shoulder and then turned to Gaia. “Be gentle.” Then he was gone.

Zinoa stared after him for a long moment before turning her eyes back to the strange creature, which was also staring after him. A mass of ripples went through the huge jelly-like body as the creature turned back to face Zinoa. The Trandoshan could not resist a shudder as the being came a little closer and many eyes looked her over. Gaia’s voice was quiet.

“I have never seen him so worried." The creature said softly, unsure. "Who are you, young one?”

"I..." Zinoa closed her eyes. “I am Zinoa, of no clan. But before…. I was of the Trask clan, and I called him ‘Uncle’, even if he wasn’t really my ‘Uncle’, he liked being called that.”

"Uh..." Gaia stared at her. “Trask clan… Oh dear…”

Zinoa sighed. “Do whatever you must, just… whatever you do, don’t let them hurt him. He was kind to me. He didn’t need to be, but he was always kind to me. I…” She shook herself as much as she could in her bonds and sighed again. “Do what you must.”

"Easy, young one." Gaia rolled closer and there was a peculiar note in her voice when she spoke. “I will be as gentle as I can girl, I swear it.” Zinoa tensed as a pair of tentacles reached out towards her, but then they touched her something odd happened. She was tensed, but her body relaxed of its own volition. Matter of fact, she couldn’t move at all! She tried to speak, tried to scream, but nothing came out and the huge form sighed again. “It will be okay. Sleep, child…” Another tentacle touched the side of her head and she was still screaming silently as darkness claimed her.

<Not very nearby aboard the ship>

“Have you lost your mind?” The cold, clear words of Stormhawk Boss had L’trask tensing. The fully armored form sat behind his desk in his spartan office and just shook his head.

"I don’t know." L’Trask shook his head slowly. “Maybe. But she needed help and she wasn’t going to get it. Cranna has a history with the Trask clan hunting me, just as this ship does.” The Trandoshan shook his head. “Boss, I knew this was going to be a problem, but I couldn’t just leave her there. She was…” L’Trask felt his eyes burn and he looked away. He tensed as he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“What, doc? What is wrong with her?” Boss’ words were soft. The human didn’t try and look the healer in the eye, Trandoshans did not cry in public, it simply wasn’t done. And as long as neither acknowledged the tears that were falling now, it would be fine.

“She is afraid.” L’Trask said simply.

“And?” Boss prompted quietly.

L’Trask shook his head. “Of everything. Istara and Will very nearly killed her, and then she believes she had to give up everything she believed in to survive. She feels she failed her kin, that she failed herself, and she is afraid of everything. You know how my people feel about cowards.”

“Osik…” Boss cursed softly. “Doc… Why? Why bring her here? You have to know how the crew is going to react.”

"Because..." L’Trask sighed. “Because anywhere else I could have left her, she was going to die. She was such a good kid before they twisted her into a ’perfect’ hunter. Always singing, always laughing. I…” L’Trask froze as Boss spun him around.

“Doc, are you asking me what I think you are asking me?” Boss’ voice was quiet, but commanding.

"Yes." L’Trask nodded. “This may be the only place in the galaxy where she can heal, where she can be herself. I ask that you put her name forth to join the crew.”

Boss stiffened into immobility. “Doc…” Then the armored form sighed and went back around his desk. He was shaking his head. “Always the hard way, huh, doc?” L’Trask remained silent and still. “You know I can’t decide this on my own. I will put it out at the meeting tonight. You better stay away from it, doc, it’s likely to get… loud.”

"I know." L’Trask nodded slowly. “I am too close to this, Boss, I can’t…remain…objective… I…” He broke off and turned away again.

Stormhawk Boss sighed. “I know. Gaia and Hawkir will do what they can for her. Does she know what you planned?” L”trask nodded silently. Boss’ voice was sour now. “I am glad someone did. But you know the crew’s judgment will be final. Nothing I say or do will change that.”

"I know." L’Trask nodded as he turned back to face Boss. “I know. If it comes to it, I will do it.” He dreaded the thought of shooting his ‘niece’ but if it came to that, he would prefer that he did it, rather than some vengeance crazed crewperson. At least if he did it, he would make it quick and painless.

"Okay. I don't like this. You shouldering this, but okay." Boss sighed again. “Well, what am I to do with you then? You willingly and knowingly brought a security risk aboard. A bounty hunter of a clan that hates our guts.” L’trask remained silent and there was a long silence. Finally Boss spoke softly. “Until further notice, you are confined to quarters. Gaia and Hawkir will cover your shifts. Go on, get out of here.” L’trask nodded and left the room. Once he was gone, Boss shook his head slowly. “Of all the people on board, why did it have to be his niece…?”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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07.05.2012 , 07:37 AM | #6
<Some time later>

Zinoa woke up scared. That was nothing new. She had woken afraid ever since she had… She froze as a quiet voice sounded from nearby.

“Hello.” The voice was pleasant. Zinoa’s eyes shot open and she stared at the female Cathar sitting just out of reach beside the bed the Trandoshan was lying in. This wasn’t a being she knew.

“Um… hello?” Zinoa said a bit shyly. She wasn’t sure what had happened after she had been sedated. The last thing she remembered… She stiffened. The last thing she remembered was the odd alien knocking her out. She stared around. She was in a different room from the medical bay she had fallen asleep in. It looked like a fairly standard shipboard room, bed, desk, several chairs, one of which the Cathar was sitting in. The Trandoshan tried to sit up and couldn’t. She wasn’t restrained, just very weak. “Wha…?” She asked in a quiet voice.

"It’s okay Zinoa." The Cathar smiled gently. “I am Nine, we use numbers instead of names aboard because it’s safer for members of our families, such as they are. You feel weak because the docs put you through the wringer. It is standard operating procedure when we get a newcomer aboard. But in your case, we had to be extra sure.”

"What?" Zinoa looked at herself, but there didn’t seem to be anything physically wrong with her. “Why…? Oh… yeah…” She slumped. “Because of who I was.”

"Yeah." The Cathar, Nine, nodded. “Yeah, we had to be sure you were not carrying anything. It wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to get something nasty aboard.”

"I...see..." Zinoa thought about that for a moment, and then she shook her head slowly. “Would the medics at Cranna’s clinic have missed something like that?”

Nine sighed. “They have before. They are not perfect. But the good news is that you are clean, and you and are very clean, inside and out now.”

Zinoa stared at the Cathar and then her face changed color as she took the Nine’s meaning. “Yuck…” She said quietly.

"Yep, yuck." Nine smiled at her. “The good news is that you are done with that. The bad news is that now you get to go through another wringer.”

Zinoa couldn’t restrain a gulp. “Uh… Do I want to know?” She asked carefully.

Nine nodded. “You need to.” She said quietly. “L’Trask told us that he suggested to you that this ship might be a good place for you. What do you think?”

"I..." Zinoa seemed to wilt. “I don’t know. All I know about this ship is what I was told by my Elders. But since I have not been chopped into bits and served as a meal…” She grinned a bit forlornly. “I have no idea what to expect.”

Nine snickered a bit at that. ‘The day is young, girl. But okay…” She became serious. “I am the official crew representative. That is, I handle things that they want handled. And right now, they want to know about you. L’trask is a respected member of this crew. He has saved the lives of almost everyone aboard at one time or another. He has made his position quite clear. He wants you aboard, to be given time to heal, to learn and to come to grips with what happened to you. What do you want?”

"Me?" Zinoa stared at the Cathar. “What?”

"Zinoa..." Nine shrugged. “What do you want? It’s important, if you don’t want to be here, it will cause all kind sof problems. All kinds of worse problems I should say.”

"What do you mean?" Zinoa stiffened. “My being here is causing problems?”

Nine nodded. “Zinoa… Your clan has hunted this ship and her crew for a long time. And not just those who can fight back. Several family members of crew have been taken or killed by Trask clan hunters.”

Zinoa stared at the Cathar. “What?” Her voice was incredulous.

Nine sighed. “You have to know that they will do anything to get to Will…” She broke off as Zinoa made a small noise. She stared at the Trandoshan. “Zinoa?”

Zinoa barely heard Nine. Her eyes were large as they looked at Nine, but obviously, they didn’t see the Cathar. No, she was seeing something far different from the kind cat woman. She was seeing green eyes. Will Kalenath’s cold, dead green eyes as he looked her over in preparation to gunning her down. A droid might have had more emotion that that inhuman face. And then she wasn’t seeing him. She was seeing something else, something worse. She shivered a bit, trying to get the image out of her head. But the scowling Elder was reaching for her again, the shockstick in his hand. She heard Nine speaking again, but she couldn’t respond. Another voice was speaking to her, but she couldn’t focus on it. She couldn’t…

Zinoa’s cheek suddenly stung and she was pulled back to reality. A very different one from what she remembered before she had been paralyzed by her fear. She was sitting up in her bed and a warm body held her as she shivered. Nine’s voice was soft, concerned as furry arms held her.

“Was that necessary?” Nine's voice was sharp. "We know about flashbacks."

"Yes." A new voice said. Zinoa looked up into kind eyes as a human in Jedi robes stepped back a pace. His voice was even. “Hello Zinoa. I am sorry for striking you, but I had to get you to focus on the now, rather than the past. Sudden pain works sometimes and is often gentler than drugs or the Force.”

"I know." Zinoa nodded slowly. “Thank you. I… I haven’t had one that bad in a while.” It had taken Helen some time to calm Zinoa down from her last one. She felt the arms that held her tighten a bit as Nine gave her a squeeze.

"Oh girl..." Nine’s voice was calm and gentle but held horror underneath. “What did they do to you?”

Zinoa tried to focus, but she couldn’t. Suddenly, she couldn’t even breathe. The Jedi reached out again and Zinoa braced for another slap, but instead, the Jedi laid a gentle hand against her head and her fear…vanished. No, it didn’t disappear, but it receded and it wasn’t as strong. She gasped out words as her body relaxed. “Th… Tha… Thank you…” She slumped and the arms that held her lowered her gently to the bed.

"I am glad to help." The Jedi nodded as he stepped back again. “You are welcome, Zinoa. I am Hawkir Strum. How old are you, Zinoa?” His voice was moderated, even and gentle. It soothed her as Nine withdrew a bit.

“Twenty two standard years. I…” Zinoa’s face burned with shame as she recovered slightly. Not only had she made a complete fool of herself in front of strangers, but she had made a complete fool of herself in front of strangers she had been supposed to be trying to impress.

"Easy." Nine patted her hand where it lay on the bed. “It’s okay Zinoa.”

"No." Zinoa shook her head. “No, it’s not. I… I don’t know what to do…”

"Zinoa." Nine looked at her, and Zinoa could swear that compassion as in the other female’s eyes. “What do you want to do?”

"What do I want?" Zinoa slumped. “I want to go home, but… I can’t. Even if I did… I would be killed in seconds if I appeared like this.”

"Huh?" Nine looked at her. “Why can’t you go home, Zinoa? I know the Trandoshan view on cowardice, which this is not, but there is something more, isn’t there?”

Zinoa felt odd, but put it down to whatever had been done to her before. She shook her head. “I shouldn’t… I shouldn’t talk about it.” She put the slur in her voice down to her emotions. She had literally no way at all to know that she was still being drugged and every response was being monitored and recorded.

"Please." Nine’s voice was still gentle. “Zinoa… It’s important. When did you leave Dosha?”

"I..." Zinao sighed. “Nine standard years ago.” She didn’t understand the hiss that came from Nine or the sudden intent look of the Jedi. “What?” She asked blearily.

"You were... thirteen?" Nine stared at her. “Why would they send you out at thirteen? You cannot have been trained properly by then.”

Zinoa shrugged. “Big for my age. And…” To her horror, she started to cry. “They wanted me dead. I was useless… And now, I am again…” But when she looked up, neither of the observers was looking at her. Her eyes went wide as she saw Nine and Hawkir both looking away, giving her time to stop crying without being seen by them. She shook herself, focusing on her breathing. She managed to stop crying in a short while. “Thank you.” She said quietly as she shook her head.

"Who?" Nine’s voice was intent now. “Who wanted you dead, Zinoa?”

Zinoa shuddered, but managed to control her grief. “My parents.” Whatever the Trandoshan might have expected, the stunned sound that came from Nine and the hiss of disbelief that came from Hawkir were not it.

"I..." Nine’s voice was hushed, disbelieving. “Your parents wanted you dead?”

Zinoa nodded, and when she spoke her Basic was quick, jerky. “Didn’t hunt, didn’t follow scorekeeper as others did, didn’t obey, got punished too often, embarrassment to family… Sent me off to hunter cadre. Told to ‘Die well’. Elder of cadre… He…” She broke off, unable to continue.

Nine was leaning close now. “Zinoa, what did he do?”

Zinoa was shaking her head, and trying to cower away. “No… No… Please don’t make me remember that… please…” She was begging, a horrible thing for a Trandoshan to do, but she didn’t care.

"Come on girl, easy..." Nine was pulling the Trandoshan up and held her as the lizard shuddered, trying to control her emotions. “What happened, Zinoa? We need to know.”

"I..." Zinoa laid her head on Nine’s shoulder and tears were falling freely now. “I was given to the cadre. As a toy.” Nine stiffened and then hugged the Trandoshan tighter. Zinoa continued in a dead tone. “They abused me, but… Then he took me. He said he was going to ‘cure’ me. The Elder, Grul'Trask.” She couldn't keep a shudder from working it's way down her spine when she spoke his name.

"Zinoa." Hawkir’s voice was low and gentle as he stood nearby. “What did he do Zinoa?”

"He..." Zinoa’s voice was empty of inflection, but her eyes were full when she spoke again. “Three years. Every day for three years, he would spend the day breaking my bones, and then ‘instructing’ me in the proper worship of the Scorekeeper. Usually with a shockstick. Even the rest of the cadre, when they found out, they were appalled. But they didn’t stop him, he was an Elder.”

"My god." Nine squeezed Zinoa tight. “How did you survive?”

Zinoa slumped. “Played along, after a while. He was suspicious of course. But in the end, he was convinced that I was ‘converted’ to the proper faith. He was elevated and promoted for his success with me. I… I wanted to serve the Scorekeeper, but killing people never seemed right. Wanted to…” Her voice was weary now. “Wanted to make a difference…” She was weaving now and Nine laid her gently back on the bed.

Nine’s voice was gentle. “Sleep, Zinoa. No one will hurt you now. Rest.” The Trandoshan looked at her and Nine smiled. “It will be okay.” Zinoa took those kind words into slumber with her.

<Nearby, a few minutes later>

Stormhawk Boss sat at the desk and sighed as he stared at the screen that showed Zinoa sleeping. The lizard woman was twitching in her sleep, even the drugs she had been given couldn’t keep her nightmares at bay completely. His voice was quiet. “You believe her.” It wasn’t a question.

Nine nodded. “Both Gaia and Hawkir concur. The injuries she sustained left permanent marks in her skeletal structure. According to both of them, the injuries were not faked. It may be a long range plan of some kind, but… Her responses… Bad enough to be given as a ‘toy’ to a group of Trandoshan hunters, but then to be thrown to the tender mercy of a religious fanatic? Boss, the crew is unanimous.” Much of the crew had been watching the interrogation; after all, they had a stake in possible future crewmates. “We will give her a chance.”

Boss nodded slowly. “Okay, Hawkir…” The Jedi nodded. “Move her back to Medical. She is not to be left alone at any time. Nine… Would you mind being a mentor to her?”

Nine smiled sadly. “What else can I do?” Her voice held bitterness.

"Nine?" Boss looked at her. “Are Gaia’s therapies helping at all?”

"They are." Nine nodded slowly. “A bit, yeah, but I won’t be able to fly again for a while.” The inner ear damage she had taken during a dogfight had been… extreme. She hadn’t realized until much later just how extreme. The one, and only, time she had managed to get behind the stick, in a simulator, she had managed it for two minutes before becoming violently ill. Gaia had promised to help, and the Islanian’s medical ability was nothing short of astounding, but there were limits.

Boss nodded to all of the undercurrents to Nine’s words. “We will keep you busy. We do need you.”

Nine nodded. Then she saluted and left the room, Hawkir following silently. Boss stared after them for a moment and then shook his head and stared at the screen again. When he spoke it was quiet. “I promise you this, girl. If you are telling the truth, that Elder won’t get another year older. If Will doesn’t kill him, we will…”
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07.05.2012 , 07:42 AM | #7
<A day later>

“I do not understand.” Zinoa was more than a bit confused by how things had changed so rapidly. She had woken in Medical, under the care of Gaia and Hawkir again, but this time, she had been treated well, fed and cleaned and then she had been given this…

The uniform she was wearing now was a simple jumpsuit. But it was anything but simple on close inspection. The actual fabric, if her touch wasn’t deceiving her, was some kind of light armor. Add then the boots... She usually didn’t wear boots; most shoes wouldn’t fit her clawed feet, so she was totally unused to having things on her feet. But the boots also were armored, and they were comfortable, if odd. They were unlike any boots she had ever seen, thinner, yet stronger than any leather or plastic she had ever encountered. She smiled in wonder as she scratched one with a claw tip, but it left no mark. Whatever they were made of was strong! She had needed help to get into them, since she had never worn boots before, but Nine was patient and kind.

"Oh?" The Cathar was sitting nearby smiling as Zinoa put the new clothing through its paces. When she spoke, her voice was quiet. “What do you not understand?”

"Why?" Zinoa shook her head slowly. “Why are you being nice to me? I know I said a bunch of things when I was… I think I was drugged. Wasn’t I? I expected to be shot, or spaced.”

Nine sighed. “Zinoa, you are hardly the first person to come aboard who has a history with us. Hell, we have even had Sith aboard, and that was not fun at all.” Zinoa’s eyes went wide at that and Nine shrugged. “The enemy of my enemy and all that, but it wasn’t easy, not by a long shot.”

Zinoa stared at the Cathar for a moment and then shook her head slowly. “I understand the boots, sort of. They feel weird, but then again, I have never worn boots before. But why these?” She was staring at a pair of gloves, large gloves that had three fingers; they seemed to be made of the same strange material. Likely they were just her size, like everything else.

Nine smiled a bit sadly. “We go into battle an awful lot, Zinoa. Far more than we want to. So, everyone aboard has to be ready to help out, we have no space or resources for deadweight. So… Do me a favor… Reach behind your collar.” Zinoa did as instructed. “There is a tab that should be properly situated for a claw there, if it’s not, we can adjust things a bit. Pull it.”

Zinoa blinked but did as instructed. She was startled when something popped off the back of her outfit. She froze. “Uh… What did I do?”

Nine nodded. “Reach down carefully and pull the mass up over your head. Once you are wearing the gloves you won’t have to worry about accidental punctures, but you will lose a little dexterity.”

"Um..>" Zinoa frowned as she did as ordered. “I didn’t have a lot of that to begin with… Whoa…” She smiled as she realized that what she was seeing was a hood. But it wasn’t decorative, as soon as it came down over her face; it slid down to her collar and latched with a click. She heard a soft hissing and the hood inflated a bit. “Is this what I think it is?” She asked in a delighted tone.

Nine smiled. “It is an emergency vac suit. We have taken hull damage in the past, enough to depressurize the ship on occasion.” Nine looked away for a moment, obviously lost in memory, and from her expressions not good memories.

"Oh." Zinoa slumped. “I am sorry.”

Nine snorted. “For what? It wasn’t your fault.”

"Um..>" Zinoa shook her head. “How do I get it off?” She asked as she explored the hood carefully with her claws.

Nine smiled. “On the chest piece, right below the neck in the middle, is a button. Hit it with a closed fist twice.” Zinoa did as instructed and stared in amazement as the hood unlatched and retracted. Nine spoke again, this time in a warning tone. “You only have about an hour’s worth of air in there, and the hood is much more fragile than the rest of the suit. But it can and will save your life if the ship takes hull damage again. I wish we had possessed these things before now. Might have saved a bunch of lives.” Her voice was sad now.

"I don't understand." Zinoa shook her head slowly. “Nine, this has to be expensive. This suit alone has to be incredibly expensive. Why waste it on me?”

"It's not just you." Nine sighed. “We all wear those now, and before you say anything, you need to know, this whole ship is wired for sound and video. So watch what you say, Internal Security has no sense of humor.”

Zinoa nodded. “I have seen the cameras, and I understand. With all the enemies that this ship has, I am amazed that you trust me at all.”

Nine shook her head. “We don’t.” Zinoa stared at her and Nine shrugged. “We can’t. We will give you a bit of freedom aboard. Abuse it and there is only one punishment. Clear?”

Zinoa nodded. “Clear.”

"Good." Nine smiled. “Enough gloom and doom, ready for a tour?”

Zinoa nodded as she picked up the gloves. She stared at them for a moment. “I…uh… I might need some help with these… I can’t seem to put my finger on the problem.”

Nine snickered at the Trandoshan’s tone and came to assist the younger female. “Keep your sense of humor, young one, it will keep you sane.”

Zinoa snorted as she and Nine struggled to get the gloves on. “Sanity is overrated.”

<Two hours later>

The tour had been fast, but comprehensive. They had started in Medical where Zinoa had woken that morning, and then visited the main hangar bays. It was odd, Zinoa reflected, to have landing and launch facilities separated, but it did make sense. This way, if a damaged ship crashed on landing, it wouldn’t mess up the launch facilities. And she was astounded by the number of fighters she saw in various stages of preparation. Aurek class tactical strikefighters, four Chela class interceptors, even something she was sure was an old Star Saber –a museum piece if anything was, but in prime condition- all looked to be in readiness for combat. Her tour of the bridge spaces had been quick and silent, the armored form of Stormhawk Boss had given her a small nod as she had passed, and she had been to unnerved to say or do anything. Mess halls, workshops, a small library, two rec centers, her mind was whirling at all the stuff that had been packed into this ship. Then she stopped cold.

"A pool?" Her voice was incredulous. “Who puts a pool on a spacecraft?”

Nine grinned at her. “We do. Swimming is good exercise and… Oh hello, One Eighteen.” Her voice was cool now.

A young human woman was coming out of what was obviously a locker room, toweling her hair. She froze on seeing Nine. “Uh… Hi Nine…”

Nine’s face was impassive. “You missed our last session.” Zinoa stared from one to the other; the human didn’t seem to notice her.

The girl gulped and stammered. “I… Uh… That is, I had a full diagnostic to run. I was delayed.”

Nine crossed her arms and looked stern. “One Eighteen, enough is enough. You have missed two sessions in a row, and three before that.” Nine looked at her closely and sighed. “You have been drinking again, haven’t you?” The girl shook her head, but Nine shook hers. “I can smell it, even over the shower. Girl… You are never going to get better unless you face this.”

"I..." One Eighteen shook her head quickly. “Nine, I need to get…” She broke off as Nine shook her head.

“You need to get back to your quarters and explain to your dad where you have been, next session is this afternoon. Be there, or I am coming looking for you. Clear?” Nine’s words made it clear that if the girl didn’t show up, Nine would probably bring a rope with her when she came looking.

"Clear." The girl froze. “Nine… I…”

But Nine had heard enough. She stepped close and grabbed the girl in a tight hold. “How much have you…? Aw crap… Come on…”

"No." The girl protested, but didn’t struggle, Zinoa noticed. “Nine, I have to be on duty in…”

Nine shook her head. “Come on, girl, to Medical with you. You are going to be very sick in the very near future. Zinoa, we can continue the tour later, can you…” She broke off as the girl in her arms convulsed. “Aw crud… Zinoa… help me with her please…” Zinoa came close and lifted the girl into her arms easily. Nine made a face. “She is going to be sick all over the place. Gaia dosed her with something to inhibit drinking after her last incident.”

Zinoa snorted. “Won’t be the first time I have had someone be sick on me, back to Medical…? Uh…?” She realized she had no idea where she was or how to get back to Medical.

Nine grabbed a handful of things out a convenient locker and started off. “This way and try not to… Aw man…” She was almost in time with the trash bag, catching most of what One Eighteen spewed. Some of it hit the floor, but not a lot. Most of what she missed landed on Zinoa who shrugged. “Idiot girl.”

Zinoa waited until she was sure the One Eighteen was done before starting off, tryignto keep the bounding of her cargo minimal. “What happened to her?”

"Not her fault, not really." Nine sighed as she finished cleaning up the small mess that remained and followed. “She was captured by the Sith and tortured. They are very good at breaking people. But we were in time, mostly.”

"Okay." Zinoa nodded and then stopped as she felt One Eighteen start to shudder. “Here we go again…”

"Yuck." Nine shook her head as she held the bag to One Eighteen’s face. “This might be a long walk…”

Zinoa snorted. “I don’t have anything else to do today.” Nine snickered at that and then focused on the girl in the Trandoshan’s arms. Finally, One Eighteen was done and Nine withdrew the bag, just a little.

“How do you count Jagganath?” Nine asked quietly when they started off again. Jagganath score was an important facet of Trandoshan society, with each point bringing them closer to their goddess, the Scorekeeper. But most Trandoishans counted hunts and kills to claim Jaggnath.

"I don't know." Zinoa sighed. “Nothing feels right, but fighting and killing truly feel wrong. Every time I have had to, I feel that the Scorekeeper disapproves.”

"I am glad. Not everyone is a killer." Nine smiled as she discarded the full bag and pulled another from the handful she was carrying. “Then we need to find you something that does ‘feel’ right for you.”

"Yeah." Zinoa smiled a bit forlornly. “Easier said than done.”

Nine smiled. “Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, Zinoa… Case in point…” One Eighteen was gagging again. The Cathar held the bag to the unconscious girl’s face again. Zinoa shook her head, this would indeed, be a long walk.
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07.05.2012 , 07:49 AM | #8
<Eight hours later>

Zinoa hadn’t been sure what to expect when Nine had suggested she come to the ‘session’ as Nine called it. But when she entered the room, the four others in the room nodded to her and smiled. Nine was sitting with the three others. One Eighteen was sitting looking like something a Nexu had dragged in, her face an almost Trandoshan scales shade of green. The girl hadn’t stopped throwing up until they had reached Medical. Gaia had been…less than enthused. The strange creature, Zinoa had finally determined that she was an Islanian whatever that was, had spent almost twenty minutes berating the young human for stupidity. Nine and Zinoa had left soon after they were sure that the medics didn’t need them. Then Nine had resumed the tour, and Zinoa’s head was whirling. There were so many facets of this ship, so many things working together to make this ship one of the deadliest in the galaxy and a home for a whole bunch of strange people. But now, she was here, but to do what? She wasn’t sure. It was a small room with five chairs laid out in a circle, the Trandoshan’s trained eyes noticed that the chairs were just far enough apart that no one could reach any of the others easily. Four chairs were occupied,a nd the fith, right beside where Nine sat, was empty. A small table with what looked like snacks was set up against a wall. Otherwise the room was bare.

"Hello." Nine smiled at her. “Zinoa, come on in, take a seat, we have refreshments on the table there. But no booze.” Her voice was hard now as she glared at One Eighteen, who flinched. Zinoa smiled at the girl as she stepped toward the indicated table and then stopped. Someone had been reading up on her people. Nestled in the group of snacks was a bowl that stirred a little. She stared at it, and then at Nine, who smiled. Nine nodded. “We thought you might like that.”

"Wow..." Zinoa stared at the bowl and then slowly picked it up. Indeed, it had the live worms that were a delicacy among her people. She smiled. “Thank you.”

"Well..." Nine sighed. “This is going to be rough enough, for all of us. You have met One Eighteen, this is Sixty Three and Ninety Seven.” Zinoa nodded to the two others. A human female with golden head fur and a Twi’lek female with green mottled skin smiled and nodded back to her. One Eighteen would not meet her gaze. Nine waved Zinoa to the sole unoccupied seat, and the Trandoshan sat carefully. She hesitated as she took a bite from the bowl, but none of the other occupants reacted, so she swallowed carefully. The delicacy tasted as good as she had imagined. Her orange eyes lidded themselves as she enjoyed the pleasure. But then she shook her head and set the bowl aside.

"I..." The Trandoshan’s voice was quiet. “This is good, thank you, but I should save some for later. I assume that this ‘session’ is about my… um…” She broke off, unsure of how to say what was on her mind.

"Actually, no." Nine shook her head. “These sessions are where we talk about things that we don’t normally talk about in public. What happens in this room stays in this room.” Zinoa stared at her, and then her gaze went to where the security camera was moving in its endless circuit. Nine smiled a bit savagely. “We have to maintain security. But…” She keyed a remote and the camera stopped whirring. Nine smiled at Zinoa’s expression. “We have an hour now.”

Zinoa felt herself freeze. To be free, even if just for a little while, from the omnipresent all seeing eyes that covered her… She wasn’t sure how to react. Nine took pity on her and spoke to the Twilek called Ninety Seven. “Cul’tai, how are you now?”

Zinoa stared from Nine to the Twi’lek who smiled at the Trandoshan. There was a bit of melancholy to the smile however. When she spoke it was lyrical and quiet. “While we are not in public, we can use names. I… I don’t have any family left for people to threaten anyway. Except the ship and people will threaten them regardless. To answer your question, Sylvie, I… I don’t know.” Zinoa stared at the Twi’lek, her heart lurching as she realized something. The woman’s face was a mask, underneath the hard exterior, there was pain. She didn’t know how she knew it, but she did. Zinoa was trying to figure out what she was feeling when the Twi’lek spoke again. “You made me promise, but I… I don’t know. It hurts so much and I can’t…” The Twi’lek was crying now.

Nine, or Sylvie as she apparently was known here, sighed. “Cul’Tai, you are stronger than this, you need to be strong. For your family.”

"My family?" Cul’Tai shook her head slowly. “The ship? Or the ones who were violated and murdered in front of me…? I…” She shook her head quickly now. “I feel so torn, so… Barren. I want to go on, Sylvie, but…”

"Cul'Tai." The Cathar’s voice was intent. “How do you feel now? What do you feel now?”

Cul’Tai sighed sadly. “I feel… anger… fear… I don’t hurt. Gaia, L’Trask and Hawkir have taken care of the physical pain but… But they can’t…” Zinoa stiffened in her seat as One Eighteen snorted derisively.

"Wuss." The young human girl’s voice was dismissive. “Go ahead, blow your brains out, no one will…” She broke off as the Cathar glared at her.

“Brianna, shut it.” There was no give in the cat woman’s voice now. The human woman looked at the Cathar and froze from whatever she saw in Sylvie’s eyes. Sylvie’s voice turned sorrowful. “Cul’Tai…”

Cul’Tai was shaking her head slowly, and no one moved as she drew her blaster. She stared at it as if it was something she had never seen before. Zinoa felt something, something she hadn’t for a long, long time. She started to hum a tune. All eyes turned to her, but then she was singing.

’Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free…'

The tune was ancient, the words likewise, but the song was apparently fairly well known because by the time she started the verses a second time, three of the others were singing with her. She met Brianna’s eyes and the other woman was crying. Drawn by an impulse she couldn’t define, she rose from her chair and knelt in the middle of the circle. Then she changed tunes. This one had been popularized by a Bith band whose name translated as Atmospheric Logistics.

‘I know just how to whisper, and I know just how to cry...’

Her voice cracked about halfway through the tune, but she kept on singing. She was crying when she finished the piece and couldn’t move, couldn’t look up. She was sure she had horribly embarrassed herself, and maybe alienated… She was astounded when a pair of arms enfolded her. She looked up to see Brianna crying hard. Another set of arms encircled her and lekku stroked her head gently. Another set of human arms encircled her and then furry arms encircled them all. Zinoa tried to stop crying, but couldn’t, whatever was holding her wasn’t letting go. She started another tune, this one different. A Correllian band called of all things Adults Sans Headgear had popularized this one.

‘We can dance if we want to…’

She was sure she had transgressed when the song ended and no one spoke. But then Cul’Tai laughed out loud. “You are crazy girl… I like you…” Zinoa could only shake her head as the others hugged her again.

Zinoa’s dry eyes met the Twi’lek’s. “Better?”

Cul’tai smiled widely. “Yes, thank you.” Zinoa felt something go snap inside herself and she felt… Whole, for the first time in a long, long time. People liked what she did. She did something she enjoyed and wasn’t berated or punished for it. “You have a powerful gift, girl.”

"Gift?" Zinoa sighed. “Not very Trandoshan-like, my ‘gift’.”

“Who cares?” The hard words came from Brianna who hugged the Trandoshan again. “You have a gift, a gift of music, one I can only envy.”

"Envy?" Zinoa shook her head. “Anyone can sing.”

"yes, anyone can." Brianna shook her head. “But you… You can make music. There is a massive difference.”

Zinoa shook her head slowly, but Sylvie’s voice had them all looking to where the Cathar sat back in her chair now. “You know, I think we can help each other, all of us. How many songs do you know, Zinoa?”

Zinoa stiffened. “I uh…well… I had to study in secret, I had to keep the others from finding out, or I got punished. Usually they just broke my arm, but once they ripped it off.”

"Huh?" Cul’tai stared at her. “They tore your arm off?”

"Yeah." Zinoa sighed and nodded. “I disobeyed an Elder and he got upset. It regrew…” She flexed her clawed fingers.

"Gah." Sylvie smiled a bit forlornly. “No one is going to do that here. But would you mind… singing for us, the ship I mean…? You have serious talent girl. And no one will rip your arm off if you say no.”

"Um...?" Zinoa snickered. “Not even a Wookiee?”

At that, a laugh circled the room. Sylvie was chuckling as she waved the others back to their chairs. “Not even Olana would do something like that. Come on, we have thirty minutes left to get through before the camera comes back on. But now, we have something to look forward to.”

Zinoa blushed as Cul’tai and Brianna helped her to her feet. Singing didn’t look like hard work, but it was. She was staggering as she resumed her seat and she had to take two bites of the worms to settle her stomach.

"Okay." Sylvie smiled and turned to the other occupant of the room. “Olee, how was your week?”

The other human looked from the Trandoshan to the Cathar and smiled. “Boring.”

"Good." Sylvie smiled widely. “That is what we like to hear…”
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07.05.2012 , 07:59 AM | #9
<Some time later>

“I don’t know about this…” Stormhawk Two Sixteen as she reminded herself she was now, she tried never to call herself Zinoa at all, was nervous. Actually, she was more like terrified. Her companion smiled a bit sadly.

“You will do fine Two Sixteen.” Stormhawk One Eighteen, who was also known as Brianna, was sitting nearby with an unaccustomed smile on her face. The girl was still prone to moods, but, with the Trandoshan’s willing assistance, they had both improving daily. But now both were trying something a bit different.

The Trandoshan took a pair of deep steadying breaths, and then nodded to her companion. In unison, both stepped into a darkened room. As they had rehearsed, both took three steps and separated. Despite the very dim light, it was still easy for the lizard woman to find where she was going, a low podium. The others smiled at her as she passed and she smiled back. This would either be incredibly good or incredibly humiliating. She reached the podium and stepped onto it. Just as she stopped in front of the microphone, a bright light came on, dazzling her. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see One Eighteen standing ready in a spotlight of her own. She could barely see the theatre in front of her, but it looked packed. She looked to the side and nodded. The music they had rehearsed so much started.

It had taken some doing, but they had managed to put a decent band together. It was somewhat stereotypical, but a Bith was on the Loo horn. And Forty Seven, one of the engine techs, could make the thing wail like nobody’s business. A human whose number was Two Hundred Three was playing the drums. Nine was on the synthesizer, the Cathar had a huge grin on her face as she made it dance as she had once made her starfighter dance. Two Sixteen listened to the beat and as she waited for her cue, she remembered.

When Stormhawk Nine had proposed this crazy idea, the being formerly known as Zinoa had been dead set against it. When she sang, it was personal, for personal reasons. She was no holo-vid entertainer. She sang because she wanted to, because she could now and for no other reasons. But Nine had persisted. The Cathar had been kind, gentle and absolutely hell bent on getting this to happen. Zinoa had been adamant that she not do it, until One Eighteen had gotten in on it. The human girl had all the grace of a steamroller droid when she found something she enjoyed and what she enjoyed was this. The Trandoshan started off soft and the human moved in time with the music.

‘First, when there is nothing, but a slow blowing dream, that your fear seems to hide deep inside your mind…’

The music picked up the pace, the human girl started moving faster and the Trandoshan was smiling widely as she hit the refrain. Now she was dancing slightly, in time with the music. She could dance, but the moves that the human, who insisted that the Trandoshan call her Brianna in private, was nothing short of incredible. Trandoshan anatomy simply wouldn’t bend the ways that One Eighteen was contorting herself. It was carefree, for the first time in a long, long time, One Eighteen was free to be herself, and in such a setting as this. When the first piece finished, there was a long silence. For a moment, Zinoa felt fear again. But then the auditorium seemed to explode with the applause of at least a hundred beings of various kinds, all of them shouting approval. The Trandoshan turned to her dancer and smiled widely. The human smiled back. They both took a bow and set themselves again.

As prearranged, the Trandoshan gave the cue to start the next piece. This one was very different. She had actually picked it out herself from the mass of music that had suddenly appeared one day in her quarters. She had suspicions who had provided it, but no one would confess. The drums started rough and ready, then the synthesizer came in and right on cue, the Trandoshan came in, she felt rather than saw Brianna start her routine.

‘This bloody road remains a mystery. This sudden darkness fills the air…’

It was not a new song, this one, but it was still powerful. As she hit the refrain, she was started to hear voices join in from the crowd in front of her. But it worked, it sounded marvelous! She hit the final verse and now it seemed everyone was singing.

“We can’t afford to be innocent, stand up and face the enemy, it’s a do or die situation, we will be INVINCIBLE!’

If there was ever a song that called to her and the people that she called family now, this was it. They were all that each other had now. Some had kinfolk hidden away in an Enclave somewhere, but for most of them, this was it, this was all the family they would ever have. They knew in their hearts, each of them, that they were not invincible, this was no fairy tale, not work of fiction, but for just a moment, they could rise in unison, fist upraised. And she was amazed to see every single member of the audience on his, her, or its feet when she finished. All shouting. “More! More! More!”

The Trandoshan looked at her dancer, and the human girl nodded slightly. They had said two pieces, but the response they were getting was nothing short of exhilarating. They had been working on other pieces of course, the two of them. It had been mainly therapy for the two of them, at first anyway. Zinoa loved to sing and Brianna loved to dance. They had arguments of course, and even a couple of knockdown, drag out fights. Fights in which Zinoa had worked at being very careful not to hurt the human woman. Brianna was not a trained fighter, but she had such anger in her as Zinoa had rarely seen. She beckoned to her partner as she stepped away from the podium for a moment.

Her voice was low, to keep from catching the mike. “The March?” The human girl grinned widely, but then she frowned slightly.

“How is your voice?” One Eighteen seemed a bit concerned; the Trandoshan had been pushing herself to her limits.

Two Sixteen thought for a moment before smiling, her throat hurt, but it was manageable. “I have one more song in me. Are you good?” The human had been pushing herself past her body’s limits as well. The two nodded to each other and resumed their places. The crowd hushed into expectant stillness.

The Trandoshan spoke softly, but the acoustics of the room were good, even without the mike in front of her. “We will do one more piece. I am afraid that is all we are good for, but… if you all are nice to us; we might be persuaded to do this again.” A wide grin split her face as a chorus of cheers swept the auditorium. Now, the Trandoshan’s voice took on a solemn note. “This one I dedicate to all defenders, everywhere. All of those who put their lives and souls on the line to defend others, no matter their calling, creed, or caste. We call it ‘The March’. It is an ancient song, with ancient lyrics. Truth be told, I don’t know what a lot of the words mean myself, although I am trying to find out. I will let the tune speak for itself.”

She cast a clawed hand at the drummer who beat his deepest drum, a steady beat, a marching beat. Then the Loo horn came in, sounding deeper than usual, far away… Then the drums and horn were going together and it seemed to be coming closer. Then right on cue, she began.

‘Axes flash, broadswords swing, shining armor’s piercing ring...'

She hit the refrain and everyone was on their feet. ‘…How many of them can we make die?’

By the time she had tie she had reached the final verse, everyone was singing along with her. Then the music cut out and in the sudden silence, she sang alone.

‘Dawn has broke, the time has come, move your feet to a marching drum…’

She hit the refrain and she was amazed that the walls of the room didn’t explode outward from the sheer noise that resulted from a hundred beings singing it in unison, mostly anyway. Not that this tune needed voices to be in harmony, if anything, the discordance made it even more powerful. The final words were deafening, from so many throats.


She finished the final refrain and bowed deeply. She turned to where One Eighteen stood and extended a clawed hand. The human came to her and they embraced, and then both of them left the stage to thunderous applause.

<A bit later>

The Trandoshan was exhausted. Fighting and running had never tired her out like this. She was actually a bit worried, but L’Trask was smiling as he refilled her water.

"it's okay." His voice was gentle, but held awe. “You used a bunch of muscles you don’t normally. Of course you are exhausted. That was incredible, the both of you. All of you…” He smiled to the group that sat around Two Eighteen’s quarters recovering from their exertions. The Bith nodded as he sipped his drink. The human who played the drum smiled as well as he massaged a sore arm. Nine was picking at a small dinner she had helped prepare after they had returned; none of them had the energy for anything more extravagant. And One Eighteen, was lying on the couch, her legs stretched out and a cold compress over her face as she dozed a bit. “That was… I don’t have the words, girl… I have seen many incredible things since I left Hsskor, but that…” He patted the younger Trandoshan’s shoulder gently. “That was absolutely amazing.”

Two Eighteen nodded slowly as she sipped, savoring the cool water. “I don’t know how often we can do that. But it was fun.”

“Yes it was.” Came the tired voice from the girl on the couch. “We rock!”

<An hour later>

Eventually, the group recovered enough to stagger off to their own quarters to get some much needed sleep. L’Trask remained however as his kin-lizard lay down on her bed. As soon as the others had left, he spoke quietly. <We have a problem, Zinoa’Trask.> His formal phrasing had her stiffening.

She stared at the being she still called uncle and nodded slowly. <The clan.> It wasn’t a question.

L’Trask nodded. <They know you are alive, and I am pretty sure they know you are here. I… um…correspond with a few of our kin on occasion. One of them told me to watch out, that you were marked for death as well as your sire and dame.>

Zinoa felt her guts freeze at that. Yes, her parents had shipped her off in disgrace, but they were her parents… <What can I do?>

L’Trask looked grim. <This is almost certainly a trap. For you, for me, for any of the crew they can snatch.>

Zinoa sighed deeply. <Then we had better make some plans.>

L’trask nodded. <Indeed.>
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07.05.2012 , 08:09 AM | #10
<The next day>

“No.” The word was actually kind and gentle, but the female Trandoshan show stood at attention in front of the desk shivered anyway. The armored form of Stormhawk Boss shook his head. “Out of the question.”

When Zinoa and L’Trask had worked out what to do, they had both known that this would be the hardest part of it. Boss was a hard man, a fair man and a man totally dedicated to his ship and crew. And now, one of his crew wanted to throw herself into the line of fire. While she tried to form a response, Two Sixteen let her eyes rove around the small office. But there was nothing to focus on, probably intentionally. There was no furniture in the office except the Boss’ desk with a terminal, two chairs in front of it, and a chair behind it where the armored form was sitting, even through the helmet, Boss was obviously staring at her in disbelief.

Boss spoke again. “Two Sixteen, I understand, better than you might believe; I understand what you feel right now. But you know it would be a trap.”

"I know." Two Sixteen nodded. “The part about my parents was a bit too much. While I do love them still, they…” She looked away for a moment. When she continued it was quiet. “They never loved me, I don’t think. At the very least, they never understood me. I never fit in, I never…” She was shivering hard now and she stiffened slightly as Boss stood up. “Boss… I…”

Boss came around the desk slowly and she was totally unprepared for the armored form to place his arms around her. But then she relaxed slightly into the embrace. She didn’t fully understand why the Stormhawk crew had taken her into their hearts, but they had. Boss gave her a squeeze and spoke softly. “We cannot lose you Two Sixteen. You are special. The boost in morale that you give us is only the smallest piece of why we like you.”

The response to the concert had been overwhelming. Everyone on this ship was apparently asking each other ‘When is the next one?’ But they didn’t press her. She had a job now, she was an assistant engine tech, and even if the Stormhawk’s systems were far more advanced than the engines she had worked on in her hunter cadre, an engine was an engine. She enjoyed the work, as hard and dirty as it was. It was something she could do, something she knew how to do. If there was one thing she had never minded, it was getting her claws dirty fixing something. Many beings, especially many Trandoshans, thought of maintenance as a black art. But an ounce of prevention saved a bucket of sweat. She tensed as she remembered who had told her that. Her dad. Boss squeezed her again and she relaxed a little.

"I..." Two Sixteen sighed. “Boss. I know it’s a trap. They want me dead, but they also will want information on this ship, and they all know how I felt about my parents. I don’t want to endanger the ship, but I am. The Trask fleet has left Hsskor. I don’t know why. They can’t find this ship, but they are obviously up to something. Knowing them, something bad for this ship and her crew. I may be your best means of finding out what.”

"Oh?" Boss gave her a small shake. “And you getting yourself killed will help us… How?”

"They wouldn't kill me." Two Sixteen shook her head. “Not immediately. They will want information on where I have been and what I have been doing. They cannot know for certain that I am here. And even if they do… Boss, we need to know what they are up to.”

"No." Boss shook his head. “Two Sixteen… If they take you, they will interrogate you and we may not be able to save you.”

"I know." The Trandoshan nodded. “But I can do this. You need information and I can get it for you. I know for a fact that the clan was ordered to find the pod that C’Trask had. Maybe they have more information on that.”

"I... I can't believe I am contemplating this..." Boss shook his head, but his posture was resigned as he let her go and stepped back. “You know how dangerous this will be. Can you do it? Act as you did once?”

The Trandoshan straightened herself up and snarled at him. “Try me.”

Boss turned to the door and it hissed open. The Trandoshan hadn’t thought she could get that stiff, but she managed as Will Kalenath walked in. His eyes were on her, but they were not the cold, dead orbs they had been. No, these eyes were alive, sad and tired and… She stared at him and then she nodded slowly. “They may have information on your daughter. I can get it.”

"Two Sixteen." Will shook his head slowly. “You have courage to spare. I am glad I didn’t shoot you.”

"Me too." Two Sixteen smiled a little. “But you are wrong about courage; I am scared out of my mind right now.”

"So?" Will nodded as he sat in one of the chairs. “True courage is being afraid and not letting it stop you. True courage is facing your fear and doing what needs to be done. But you have done enough. Let me handle this.”

Two Sixteen shook her head. “How many will you kill, Two? How many nestlings and breeders? How many?” Her voice was quiet but she didn’t take her eyes off of his.

"Ah girl..." The man who was one of the most wanted beings in the galaxy at the moment sighed and shook his head. “Two Sixteen, if you go, they will snatch you, interrogate you and then kill you. Which would be a massive waste of talent. Your singing is amazing.”

The Trandoshan sat abruptly in the other chair. Her legs suddenly didn’t seem to have the strength to hold her up. “You… You were there…?” She hadn’t seen him, but then again, she hadn’t seen much past the first three rows.

"I was." Will smiled, and his smile would not have been out of place on any Trandoshan face. “Sneaking around is what I do.” But then his smile gentled. "You are amazing. We don't want to lose you."

"I... am not sure how to take that, actually." The Trandoshan nodded slowly. “Do we know how they found out? Or what they know?”

"No." Will shook his head. “According to my ‘sources’ they don’t seem to know anything. Just that you vanished and were seen leaving Tattooine with L’Trask. That means they know you are here, or at least strongly suspect.”

The female in the chair shuddered. “Do I want to know how you got that information?” Will shook his head and she nodded. “So… Wait a moment…” She shook her head slowly as if contemplating something. “If they don’t know what has happened here, or why…?” Her eyes took on a speculative cast as she looked from Will to Boss who both recoiled a bit.

"No." Boss shook his head. “Not going to happen. You show your face out there and you are snatched. Don’t think I don’t know you that you tranked yourself before coming in here to stay calm.” The Trandoshan stiffened, she had been discrete.

“Boss… I…” She shook herself. “I can do this. I played the part for six years. I can play it now.”

Boss looked from the lizard woman to the quiet man sitting in the other chair. Will shrugged. When the soldier spoke, it was quiet, thoughtful. “We have hit a bit of a dead end with the shipping data. Amarath assures me that she can find out more, but it may take some time. We do need to keep tabs on what that clan is doing.”

"I..." Boss shook his head. “I do not like this.”

The woman in front of him nodded. “The needs of the many, Boss. I can do this.”

"You won't be going in alone." Will sighed. “Not a chance.”

The woman looked at him. “You show up and all hell is going to break loose.”

Will smiled darkly, and his expression gave her goosebumps. “Provided of course that they see me...”

<Three days later, on space platform near the world of Kuat>

Zinoa’Trask snarled as the droid brought her drink to her. And that was totally in character for her. She was wearing clothes that she had stolen, and carrying as much firepower as she could scrounge. She paid the droid and sat back watching the clientele of the cantina come and go. Most of them gave her a wide berth. Two of her people were sitting in a corner, but they were Holsk clan, a minor house that stayed out of the feuds of the larger ones. Comments that she had overheard said that they were muscle for a small time crime lord named Guvas, whoever the flarg that was. Not that it mattered. The two had taken one look at her and avoided all contact. The fact that she was wearing obviously scavenged armor and carrying a motley assortment of weapons wasn’t what had made them recoil however. It was the look on her scarred face.

L’Trask had offered to try and make cosmetic damage to her face, but she had declined. Anything too superficial would not be believable and would essentially be an instant death sentence. Instead, she had asked Will to hurt her, and the man had, reluctantly. A baton, a chair and other improvised weapons had made sufficient impacts and damage to her body to kill any being without a Trandoshan’s natural resilience and regenerative ability. The loss of an eye was bothersome, but it was totally believable. If she had been, as she had put in her communication, left for dead, then she truly had to look the part. Will, Boss and L’Trask had all promised to heal the damage. She had thought Brianna was going to attack Will on her own when the girl had first seen what he had done to the Trandoshan. And even after it had been explained to her, the human woman was still irate. Brianna ina rage was impressive to say the least…

A shadow fell over her and she looked up into cold orange eyes. The male Trandoshan looked her over. <Zinoa’trask.>

She met the gaze of the lizard evenly with her single eye. Her blaster was in hand under the table. Her voice was cool. <I don’t know you. Your markings are of Trask clan, but they can be faked.>

<Who would dare?> The lizard facing her stilled into immobility and all noise in the cantina stopped as his rifle rose a fraction of an inch at the insult. But then he snorted in laughter. <I am Juo’Trask.>

<Okay.> Zinoa smiled thinly, but her blaster didn’t move from its aim point. <Join me for a drink, then? Clan brother?>

Zuo’Trask shook his head. <No time sister, we have a meeting to attend.>

<No.> Zinoa shook her head slowly, never letting her eye drift from her enemy. <I just got my drink.>

The male lizard moved to sweep the drink off the table and Zinoa raised her hand. Her blaster was visible now and aimed. His rifle was out of position to shoot her. For a moment, nothing moved in the cantina. Then the male lizard hissed in approval. <Finish your drink.>

Without taking her eye off of him, she reached down, picked up her drink with her free hand and drained it in one gulp. Then she rose. <Where to?>

The male Trandoshan smiled. <After you, we go to a dump called the Spacer’s Rest. Our people have… commandeered it. You are late.>

<You try getting away from those people, ‘brother’…"She snapped. "...then talk to me about timetables.> Zinoa didn’t move from where she stood and the other lizard nodded in approval.

<Come then, sister, our hunt continues.> The other Trandoshan started off at a rapid pace, leaving Zinoa to follow as she could. She still hurt, but the pain was passing. And she could keep up easily, the crowd made way for the two armed Trandoshans. Unseen by any, a shadow moved in other shadows…
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