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The Life that's Left


EverSteam's Avatar


EverSteam
04.20.2013 , 10:05 PM | #101
Gah! Sorry for the late update. Here's a small rant on why it's late:
Spoiler


Quote: Originally Posted by Stacelita View Post
I love this. All of it. You are an amazing writer! And... More stripping Gault plx... :-)
Oh wow, thank you so much
You really did just make my week.
If only you told me that before I wrote this post... but I'll see what I can do later (because there is always a later)

Quote: Originally Posted by Mathemagica View Post
It continues, yes! Interesting how Blizz' last holocall turned out.

But the piece I love most is this one.

I just had to laugh at their battle of words. It is so beautiful. And when I wondered why Gault was still alive, for some reason a certain other liar (and traitor) came to my mind who never gets killed as well. It somehow changed my viewpoint on many fanfics about said traitor and his class-master.
Blizz will always play an important role whether he's there or not. He's just so darn cute.
I'm glad you liked it and found it funny! I find it amusing but then I wonder if that's only me...
Yes, why are they both still there?


-----


On Leer's ship after the amount time it takes for a certain agent half way across the galaxy to shower and almost finish procrastinating...


We unpack the last of the supplies. In the end, Gault ended up only carrying one small and light crate. I had given him three but his whining was not worth a mildly lighter load. Supply shopping is one of the few things that doesn't remind me of him. Was always Gault's and Blizz's job with me, with Mako making the lists of necessary items. Eyes still immediately found the items for tiingilar and gihaal in the stalls. Quick to avert my eyes like a coward.

I hold up a bottle of whiskey we just unpacked and raise an eyebrow in question to Gault.

'Nah,' Gault declines with a shake of his head.

I hold back the snort of disbelief because I feel my chest sink to somewhere down around my ankles and a rope tighten around my neck. Never known Gault to turn down a drink. Feel like I know what's coming. Torian got me used to sensing goodbyes.

'There's some business that's been waiting on Nar Shaddaa a little too long and now I have my reach around Iziz, I think it's time I left.'

His thumb indicates over his shoulder to where the exit is unseen; the strong walls, a few doors and the great desert of the cargo bay are in between us and the only escape route. Often don't come to the galley. Can't stand the walk. Guess I don't eat as much as I should. Doesn't really matter.

'Business never sleeps,' I sagely comment. I put the bottle back and smile a little.

I don't blame Gault for wanting to run away. His courtesy in staying this long surprises me and reminds me of someone else. Nothing new there. Everything reminds me of him. Except for supply shopping, I think with a sad, wry smile.

'Exactly.' He pauses and we both have nothing to say. The time apart may be indefinite yet that doesn't make any words come to mind.

'I'm not sure I'm suited to being in a camp of Mandos,' Gault eventually says. 'The whole fighting and honour thing... it's a little-'

'Intense? Strict? Demanding?' I give him a wry smile and close the cupboard.

I lean against its closed doors and wish it was that easier to keep the fear, anger and desolation inside my chest and away from sight by merely closing doors somewhere. I wish there was a kolto patch that could be put over Torian's exit wound. It won't stop bleeding and it's slowly killing me.

I guess there is a way. People always say feeling pain is better than feeling nothing. Do I really want to test that? Guess when I do, I will forget it and there will be no comparison. And what if it doesn't work? What if it breaks like it has in the past? I'm not that desperate yet. Not yet.

Gault gives me a wry smile and shrugs his shoulders. He leans against the opposing cupboard and crosses his arms and rests one ankle over the other.

'Something like that, my dear. It's just really not my scene.'

'Thought you would feel that way.' I shrug. Guess Gault was leaving in the next twelve hours or past twenty four no matter what happened. 'Not sure you'd be welcome either with all the rumours about us. Rather not have to kill my in-laws.'

Gault chuckles and I allow myself to indulge in another sly smile. Not much else to do but joke about it. Guess killing anyone I see with a camera is an option. Guess I'll think about it before heading to Dxun. Not like there'll be much else to do except talk to HK who, now that I think about it, I haven't seen since I got back here. Guess that should make me feel nervous but it doesn't.

'Well, I guess this is a temporary goodbye then, my dear,' Gault clumsily says with a shrug and averted eyes.

'You have a shuttle prepared?' I inquire with more concern and care than I feel.

'Yes, there's a noble here who I believe has a large amount of credits and a strong interest in seeing Nar Shaddaa. They also have their own shuttle.' I know the deviant glint in his eyes and that sharp toothed smile.

I shake my head at it and smile. 'She was easy pickings?'

'Unbelievably so.' Gault chuckles with contempt.

Wonder when he'll get tired of it. Wonder if people do get tired of it. Guess I wouldn't really know. Can't imagine Gault living a life other than the one he has. And a wife? Like he said, it is impossible to imagine. A wife would have nothing to give him he couldn't get through other means. Guess the impossible can happen. I got married.

'Wouldn't be a wrong guess to says she's pretty?'

He shrugs again and waves a hand. 'She's alright.' He pushes off the storage case and steps closer. 'She's got no-'

My holo bleeps and it cuts off Gault's sentence. He steps back and returns to his casual lean. Wonder sometimes if Gault knows how to stand straight and alone.

Decide to answer my holo after a few beeps. Feel a mild surprise at seeing Damin. Doesn't call for three weeks and then twice in the span of a galactic standard day? Must have a reason. Must want something. Wonder if I'm fit enough to play these games still. Something tells me Damin will win in the end. It feels inevitable.

'Good evening, Leer.' Damin slightly bows and Gault snickers.

Scan my eye over Damin quickly before making a reply. Notice his buttons on his white, neatly tucked in shirt are all one button off from where they should be.

'Cipher, this is an unwarranted novelty,' I matter-of-factly comment.

Gault begins to make faces and a range of crude gestures behind Damin's holo and I smirk and shake my head at them. Always something amusing about Gault when he decides to hate someone. If my interpretation is correct he's making assumptions as to Damin's parentage and others that I'm not quite sure I want to be able to figure out.

'Yes, I wanted to call and make sure you were ok.' Stop talking, Damin. ' You seemed shaken at the end of our last conversation. I hope my news that-'

'Nothing to worry about, Damin,' I cut in sharply.

I glance at Gault and see he falters and gives me a sharp look. He doesn't need to know everything. That hasn't changed. I promised him nothing. And this revelation is also nothing. Close the cupboard.

'I feel that you are not alone.' Almost sounds like an aggravated accusation. Too many layers to the agent for me to unravel and this games objectives are still unknown to me. Guess I'm wary but I'm also apathetic. Because apathy makes your cheeks flush and blood pump faster. Always a liar.

'You never miss anything, do you, Damin? Except your shirts done up on the wrong buttons,' I smirk at him and leave him baffled as I twist my wrist so Gault is in its beam. 'I believe you know Gault Rennow.'

Gault bows in mock of Damin. Damin only returns the greeting with a warm and civil smile. Can I presume to still know him well enough to be seething on the inside? I don't think the agent has lost any of his pride. Imperial's never lack pride which never fails to amuse me. Remember breaking Imperial's was always the best. Better than Jedi. Jedi code isn't bred into them like an Imperial's pride is. Making someone forsake the core of themselves was always the most gratifying.

Tingle of desire runs down my spine and I know Damin's right. It doesn't leave you.

'Yes, I have been following his illustrious and prosperous career. It's amazing what common smugglers turned con men turned bounty hunters can achieve these days.'

He speaks without sarcasm or open threat but the idle praise is nothing else. It amuses me to watch the hesitant man I once knew put Gault into his place with only two sentences while still retaining such a civil smile that so uncannily represents sincerity it repulses me. He has gotten very good. For the first time since I have ever met Damin, I almost fear him. Feel like I'm standing near cliffs edge and there's a strong wind, and though my feet are on firm ground, though the edge is far away, the fear of falling and the doubt of my safety still prod at the edges of my mind. I am a fool to allow these conversations but I would be a bigger fool to underestimate him or trust him. I am not stupid enough to even dream of turning him into an enemy.

So, Damin knows who Gault is. Anyone with half a brain could guess. But maybe no one wants to look close enough. Intelligence, the Organisation and SIS aren't the only ones that can make people disappear. Also think more than enough people live happier thinking Lokai is dead even if it's a lie.

Did some digging on him when he first joined up. Records of Lokai only existed for thirty years. Who were you before being Lokai, Gault? Who are you, really? Guess it isn't my place to ask about pasts. Guess Gault and I aren't too different in some ways. Might make a good story though. Remember what he said about forgetting them. Wonder if Gault's as bad as mine. Guess I saw him as Lokai for a while. Don't know when he did become Gault.

'Anyone who is a resourceful enough can make a fortune out of war. I believe Cipher's are one of the best paid employees of the Empire,' Gault returns with a civil smile that fails to hide the mocking behind it.

I twist my arm back. Damin frowns slightly at me.

'I had hoped to have the pleasure of speaking to you alone and on your ship, Leer.'

Gault raises and eyebrow and makes suggestive gestures as to the nature of our interaction. Maybe if the hand gestures weren't so unbelievably graphic, I would think it childish.

'I am on my ship. Gault is a crew member. Why wouldn't be here?'

'Maybe I will show you the list of reasons I have made some other time.'

I doubt the joke was not founded in hard evidence but it still makes me smile. Not like it isn't the thing I ask Gault most.

Damin's smile is small as he speaks but still there: just a slight upward twitch of the corners that don't reveal his dimples with lips slightly thinner and lighter from pressing them against teeth I know are perfect and white. Wonder if he still has the right dimple or whether it was removed when he gained the burns.

'My father hates to see me smile: the dimples are an imperfection and deformity he cannot stand the sight of as well as evidence of a lack of stoic obedience. Military men should not smile. However, my mother loves them in the way anyone in Intelligence loves a natural charm that can assist with their ambitions and missions.'

I remember those words. I remember the hatred in his voice that hadn't yet found a way onto his antagonists instead of himself. Can't understand how people find the difficulty in hating their parents. Guess mine weren't around long enough to teach me that. Wonder if he has found how. Wonder if when he returned, they greeted him with open arms and love. Hope they did for his sake.

'I like them,' I remember I said in reply. I liked his masculine jaw, straight nose, perfect facial symmetry and ever so slightly large eyes. Don't know how I noticed all this when it came to him and not any other man. Maybe it was because he was so exceptionally handsome. Still is despite everything. Wasn't why I wanted to say that. Felt like the words might comfort him. I don't know how I thought I could act as a kolto patch over his wounds.

'Why?' he asked in return. I had no answer.

'You did not answer your ships holo,' Damin continues before I can voice a request of comparison of lists or remark on the jealousy or interest making such a list would involve.

'I was out if you must know.'

'I was aware but thought you had returned already,' he replies with patience.

'Oh, and how were you made aware?'

'Holonet, naturally.'

Gault looks at me and seems bursting to say something. I can think of a list of what they are. I sigh and shake my head. What a nuisance.

'My desire is still valid,' Damin continues. 'I would like a private word with you, Leer.'

'Leer, now, is it?' He slightly inclines his head, his hands clasped tightly behind his back and his back unbreakable straight. I shrug and flick my hair away from my eyes. 'Gault was just leaving. I'll call you back soon.'

I shut Damin off before he can agree. I want to scold Gault for being an immature idiot. I want to protest to the hand signals. Find I only chuckle and shake my head instead as I put the comm back into my belts pocket. Notice the pouch is coming off and other places are well worn. Need a new one.

'You do know you're playing it dangerous by talking to a Cipher, right?' Gault has the sharp look in his eye he does when evaluating a good he's considering buying. Same look he has when he's thinking of rebuking me or with unbelievable concern.

'Yeah, I know,' I reply with a shrug. Not going to discuss Damin with him.

'Just be wary, okay? I'd rather not have you unnecessarily put your neck on the line.'

'Because it will be bad for your business and might endanger you as well?' Voice slices across the three metres between us a little too sharply.

'That's only a bonus,' he defends. I raise a sceptical eye brow and continue to stare into his eyes. 'Ok, it makes up about 40% of it. The rest is entirely sincere concern for my favourite mass murder.'

'Sure, Gault.'

'Just want to check that you are aware that being close to Imperial Intelligence generally isn't good for your estimated lifespan and that you have thought this through. Not to mention what a conceited and snobbish bore he seems to be.'

'Jealous again, are you?' I sneer.

'Of that rigid metal cut out and poster boy for Imperial Intelligence? You must be joking! Though you aren't always very good at those.'

'Very funny, Gault,' I spit back.

'Nooo, what would be 'very funny' and very stupid is if you trusted that phoney blue-boy.'

When did Gault move to stand so close to me? When did I also move towards him? I look up into his crimson eyes with a hostile eye. My breath comes short and heavy through my nose and I want to make blood pour out from his.

'Wasn't aware you had a say in who I trust or not. Who would you suggest I trust? HK? Blizz? You?'

'Yes, me,' he almost shouts back. The two words ring in my ears.

'Don't. Make. Me. Laugh. I would sooner believe the flirting **** that comes out of your mouth than trust you.'

'You can trust me, babe,' he almost pleads if it weren't for the frustration and gritted teeth. 'You know I-'

'Never lie to you,' I finish with scorn and laughter. Gault only continues to stare down into my eye and I am surprised and angry to find there isn't any hatred there. What's it going to take for him to leave me?

'Aren't you supposed to be leaving?' I frostily ask as I step back.

I hear his quick heart beat and his even breathing. I hear the rustle of his shirt as each breath moves in and out and I hear the workings of my own body and mind.

Gault shrugs with an rustle. 'What's the hurry? Eager to go talk to blue-boy?' Scorn in his voice is palpable and I wonder why we are even arguing.

Not like the other times we've had this banter. No humour in this. My body is tense and I realise my blades have slipped out.

'No but I don't want you to keep your noblewoman waiting. Must be eager to leave if you turned down a drink.'

Calm down, I reprimand myself with. I avert my eyes from Gault and force my blades back in. 'Sure you won't stay until the morning?'

I glance back up at Gault and see the tight frown is still there. He waves his hand like he's swatting at a sand fly. Remember how comforting it was to hold it as I fell asleep: smooth and slightly warm but not burning, his long red fingers wrapped tightly around mine. Missing him already? When he's still here? You're pathetic.

'Nah, hate to wake late and find I'm in a camp of Mandalorians.'

Shrug my shoulders and feel the weight of my armour. 'Suppose.'

I don't know what to say. I guess what I want is to ask if afterward he will join back up. Would it be so stupid to think he might even after this?

'Call me when you're done with them.' I look at Gault and see that strange sharpness in his red eyes, like he knew what I was thinking. I hope Gault never does know what I think. It might drive him insane as well.

'I'm not sure my Empire can stand a prolonged separation,' he jokes with a secretive wink.

'Ah, we wouldn't want your Crime Empire to crumble now would we?' I give him a sly smile and raised eyebrow before looking to the low ceiling. I guess the bathrooms above here.

'Never, babe. Don't worry so much. You know I'll be back.'

I hate it when he says things like that. Phrases like that, looks like that, sentiments like that look like they spring from an emotion I know can't be the right one. All point to something that could be undoubtable if it wasn't Gault. Feel inept when it comes to the people around me. His words inspire hope but I can't trust them. I can't understand how they can be true. I just don't get it and sometimes I wonder if Gault really knows either.

Guess I must be ****ed up if I can't believe in the existence of friendship and even more twisted that I can't
understand what it's meant to feel like or really mean. People are equations: their behaviours are caused by certain biological, cultural and personal factors that lead to predicting behavioural outcomes in certain situations. I see the figures but they lack any emotive ability. Guess that does make me a droid.

'Like a cold you just can't shake.' I chuckle but don't take my eyes from the ceiling.

Could never look at Torian when he left. Never watched Damin's shuttle leave. I didn't wave goodbye to Blizz. Only listened to Gault's departure from his empty room. I can't watch the people I care about walk out of my life. Never had trouble watching the General walk away and imagining a blaster bolt shot through his back.

'Come on, I'm not that bad. I want your word that you will call me, my dear.'

'And I want yours that you will stop siphoning credits from my account but we can't all get what we want,' I snap back. He touched a nerve and a muscle twitched: he moved quickly and I'm back in my shell.

What is it with people wanting to call me or me to call them? Gault knows about Blizz. He should know I will never make a call asking for them to come to me.

'You win some, you lose some. You just keep losing some,' is Gault's only reply.

Gault walks out of the galley and into his room. The strange dejection that settled on me seems to be pulled tighter. It isn't like him to not argue with me.

I stand in the hallway outside his door and look across the cargo bay. Gault picks up his packed bags and walks past me into the cargo bay without a glance. I feel my chest tighten and my fists clench. I hate that room. I hate that door. I hate that I can't let them go. I hate that when it comes down it, I don't hate them at all. The happy memories are now painful and this room and ship is a prison. But I'm institutionalised and I can't leave. I love Torian too much to let anything go even if it's killing me.

Gault stands at the exit and I am forced to walk again through the cargo hold. I shiver and my skin tingles as if I can still feel burning Torian's touch over it.

'Cyare...'

'So, do I get a goodbye kiss?'

I roll my eye at Gault who stands closer than I thought he was before. I cross my arms over the comforting hardness of my armour.

'Keep wishing, Gault.'

Was that convincing? Gault didn't hear it. Guess I am going mad. Feel I should care more. Feel I should be terrified of losing my sanity before I lose myself. But hallucination or not, the ghost of his touch and the loud echo of his voice make me feel secure and safe. If anything unnerves me, it's that I feel the most contentment and the most security when I'm hearing his voice.

'You gave me one last time if you remember.'

I remember. Corellia. We just landed. Gault jumped ship to go find Hylo.

'Wish me luck with a kiss?'

'Need more than that, Gault.' Hell has no fury like a woman scorned. I know that more than most.

'Is that an offer?' he slyly moves back closer and I look up at him levelly. I didn't mean it like that and he knows it. But I'm taken by a brief spout of compassion for the irritating and roguish Devaronian. I kiss his cheek quickly but counter it with a slap on the other. Don't want him to get ideas for things that are beyond impossible.

I smirk at him as I step away and he sighs dramatically, rubbing his reddening cheek with the back of his hand. He picks up his bags and heads for the door. But he doesn't walk through it without hesitating and turning his head slightly, his eye catching mine.

'Will you miss me?'


Guess the look that unnerved me then has come to be one of his most frequent now. When did we start to change?

'Asked me the same thing eight months ago. Gave you one and I didn't see you for four months. Think if I don't this time you might come back sooner to collect.'

Gault must step closer because he seems very close. 'Will there be something to collect, babe?' he asks quietly.

I shrug. 'Guess you'll have to come back to find that out.' Because I honestly don't know.

Gault shifts his bag and brushes my hair back from my cheek. It had fallen over my cybernetic eye hiding it in a way that reminds me of Damin. I feel Gault's finger tips on my cheek and I refuse to blush this time. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

'I liked your hair when it was shorter. It's past your shoulders now.'

'Are you saying you're not coming back because you don't like my hair? Or that you will only come back if I cut my hair?' Raise an eyebrow like I always do with Gault and smirk up at him. He smiles back and he twists my hair around his finger, the colours almost matching. Almost.

'Neither. Don't worry, my dear, I'll always come back for you.'

'Like you did for Hylo?'

I feel his finger unwind from my hair. Gault steps back from me back but doesn't go to move out the door. Think those five words were more painful than a slap. But he got too close.

He looks away from me and I feel I just changed something. I feel I lost something I can't get back. I will wonder when I look back on this conversation, whether what happened later would have happened differently if I hadn't said that. I think Gault will remember those words and it will make him make a choice that will change everything.

'No, not like I did for Hylo. I'll be back a lot sooner. You can trust me, my dear.'

'Don't get carried away there, Lokai. But I'm sor-'

'Yeah, yeah. Stop getting all touchy-feely on me.' Gault twists his face into teasing disgust but I didn't miss his frown. It was only an instant and though it's now captured in my memory, can I still be mistaken in thinking he looked the most hurt I had ever seen him?

He turns and opens the door, walking down the cargo ramp before it's extended. He jumps off the end nimbly and it doesn't break his stride. Gault looks different from usual as he walks away then: he wears the same shirt and pants that probably cost far too much since he will never wear them again; his black shoes are quiet in the large, echoing hanger bay; his skin is the only colour that can be seen amongst the grey steel yet something was different.

I close the exit and bring the ramp up. I can't watch Gault walk away any more. Know after this, that he won't be back. I hit below the belt too many times in one day. I glance at the crates still arranged like a table. See Torian sitting there for an instant, watching me with those intent blue eyes and a frown on his face.

Shake my head and walk up to the comm room. I talk to Damin for hours. I'll never know it but while I spoke to Damin, Gault didn't leave the spaceport that night. He didn't go to the woman he promised to see. Instead, he turned right and bought a ticket for a shuttle to Nar Shaddaa that was to leave in the morning. He spent the night pacing through the space port, wondering if he'd made a mistake and whether that shouldn't be a goodbye.

He thought of Torian. He remembered the rebuke he gave Torian for leaving her and Torian's objection that it didn't matter because he came back. Gault thought he was right in arguing against it but now he isn't sure. She shouldn't be left alone.

'I thought I told you I'll stay and do what I want as long as she wants me. I didn't hear a 'no' just now, did you, kid?'

He remembers the words. He remembers how he had only said them to aggravate the kid. He isn't sure when they started to be true or if they are. He thinks he might want to be with her more than she wants to be with him.

He went to her hanger door more than once but something other than the knowledge that HK could be programmed to shoot him kept him from entering my hanger. In the morning, he will almost miss his shuttle because he stood too long waiting on the roof to watch my ship leave.

I'll never know what he thought as he watched it fly straight to the large, green moon that hung so large in the sky. His actions will prove or disprove the honesty of his words. Neither of us could have known then that Gault held the key to my freedom in his hands.

----

Spoiler

EverSteam's Avatar


EverSteam
05.15.2013 , 12:58 AM | #102
Gah! Sorry I'm late again! But I will update this weekend! I promise!


On Damin's ship at the end of their holo call...


'Aww is the agent's little friend too busy with another mate to speak to him?'

Kaliyo steps from the shadows of the corridor behind the agent as she speaks and saunters over. With every step, he feels her desire to step on him.

He smoothly turns to her, appearing unfazed by the jab. 'It appears so, Miss Djannis. How are you this evening?'
Damin moves his hands to edge of the terminal and leans back on them as if relaxed and casual. He can't remember ever genuinely feeling relaxed. As he fiddles with the vibro knife handle in the pack of his pants, he thinks he has been tense and wary for his whole life.

Kaliyo stops in front of him and rests her hand on her hip. She is still dressed in the red singlet from the morning and plain black pants. The bare skin makes the urge to hurt her and kill her that much stronger in the agent. The desire claws at his stomach and makes his fingers twitch. It has been too long since he had a play thing.

'Peachy, agent, real peachy. I was just walking past and couldn't help but over hear your little talk. It seems it's your time to swoop in if Rennow is gone.'

'You seem to have a talent for listening to things that do not concern you,' Damin replies with a friendly smile and a gentle expression.

He steps forward to close the distance between them: the footfalls loud. A countdown to the coming pain. He draws his knife from the sheath strapped to his wrist. His arm is quick as it moves to slice her right ear off. Her blood and mind freeze for a moment before the first begins to ooze out and the pain encloses the second. Her scream is refreshing and satisfying in his own ears. The Ratattaki is hard to stun but this movement has. Her thoughts are too clouded to slap, punch or shoot him in the way any other behaviour might have produced.

The day dream only lasted a moment and leaves a frustrated disappointment behind. Damin finds it difficult to not lick his suddenly dry lips.

'I know. So are you gonna catch her on the rebound?' The Ratattaki folds her arms over her small chest as she asks.

His deflection came easily but her return to the trail doesn't surprise him. Her constant interest in this subject could only mean she plans some personal gain or pleasure from his relationship with Leeriah.

'Yes, Miss Kaliyo, this is my chance to achieve my ultimate goal of *********** Leer.' His conviction is feigned and though the disdain doesn't taint his velvet voice, it is thick in the air.

'Hold back that sarcasm, agent, or you might just start being mistaken for a real boy.'

'I shall make a note of it, Miss Kaliyo. Do you have any other words of advice for how to conduct my behaviour in the future?'

What has started to happen to him? His perfection is slipping. He is becoming a real boy.

'Apart from keeping your clothes on at all times, agent? Not really, though maybe you could be gracious and let a lady win a friendly drinking game.'

'If I ever find myself competing against a lady then I shall be sure to. Until then, I shall continue my winning streak, Miss Djannis.'

'Cute, agent, real cute,' she sneers with narrowed eyes and a scrunched nose.

Her eyes are a similar colour to Leeriah's but maybe it's the naturalness that produced the colour that makes the difference. Leeriah's is a twisted flower of sharp and shining metal with an dark stigma at its core: Kaliyo's is the steel walkways in Nar Shaddaa's scummiest sectors.

'Thank you, Miss Kaliyo.' He gives her a small bow with his hand on his heart.

He can feel a strange pounding that is 0.56 seconds faster than the beat he had become accustomed to. He had become aware of such a phenomenon approximately fifteen minutes before this interaction began. He also experienced difficulties breathing and tense muscles. Maybe it's that flu that was going around Alderaan...

'Agent, call me 'Miss' again and I'll punch your lights out.'

I genuinely doubt that you will be able to even brush the air near my head, the agent thinks with smug contempt.

'I shall bear that in mind,' he replies with a friendly smile. 'Until then, would you mind setting course for the Imperial fleet? I want to take off as soon as Leer has called me back.'

'Don't go thinking you can boss me around, agent,' the Rattataki reprimands as she walks to the cockpit.

He turns and watches her and notices a lack of symmetry between her shoulder blades. One begins slightly higher and is more prominent than the other which is thinner. The weakness is in her left arm. Interesting, he idly thinks with a scrunched nose.

'I would never dream of it, Miss Kaliyo,' Damin vigorously assures as he turns his body and attention to the holo terminal again. He dodges the knife thrown at his head with ease.

He was the best student the Academy had seen in years yet nothing he had learnt then or after could stop his heart from beating quickly as he waited. Everything he has ever failed at has always involved her.

A rational part of him realises he needs to take this to a different room. His quarters are too familiar and intimate. The conference room, he decides and begins to make his way to the door located approximately 6 metres away. Vector is in the silence of the medbay across the way communing with the hive. Kaliyo will remain for at least another fifteen minutes in the cockpit and the formality of the conference room usually deters her from approaching it.

It occurs to him as he adjusts his black sleeves as he walks, that his ship is quiet. The engine is always a low purr, the machinery all a gentle, unobtrusive hum. His footsteps remind him of the falling of a tree in the forest around a silent glade. The thought of whether Leeriah's ship is as silent and isolating as his is, is an unwelcome thought that as he takes a seat at the end of the conference room table (the door securely locked) only produces more.

He couldn't refuse this mission. His career, his success, the achievement of their dream, hangs on it. But if the worst is to happen, how could the dream they shared ever come true? How can he let go of something so important even if it is going to destroy him?

The holo's insistent beeping interrupts his thoughts and his eyes refocus on the terminal in front of him. It is all irrelevant, he resolves as fixes his fringe and checks his shirt for imperfections. He is a Cipher and must work for the glory and success of the Empire. He must hold the Republic by its throat. He must. If he doesn't, everything will of been for nothing.

The agent presses the answer switch hard enough that it temporarily leaves an imprint in his dusty-blue finger. He needs to move forward with force and certainty. Scars are temporary. He believes he will always find the strength to move on.

Her holo figure is small and something in that appeals to him. He smothers the smile. Perfection, agent. You aren't a real boy anymore, he reminds himself. Only real boys feel stupid.

'Are you really so stupid as to start talking about that when Gault's around?' Her question is spiked with emotion and little needles prod the agent's heart. It isn't the informal greeting he had been expecting. 'Never took you for a ebeucot.'

With one word she excites a longing to hear her speak his language again. He wants her. He wants her worse than he ever has wanted her. One word has broken fifteen minutes of concrete resolve as if it were only crystal.

'Cut your tongue out if you were here,' she ends in a quiet voice that travels as clearly as if she were before him.

It's a voice that is a little too soft to encircle such a sincere threat: it's tone is low and warm like a small flame on a cold night. It is inviting and he wants to be lured to it like an insubstantial, trusting moth. But the agent can see the tears that can never be shed building up. She is about to cry and like it did back then so long ago, it is about to break his heart.

'It was a simple mistake, Leeriah, and I apologise.' It is what the Cipher needs to say to do his job. That is all it is. It is. Genuinely. Honestly. He does not mean it. Does not mean it at all.

'Exactly! A simple *********** mistake that you, a Cipher, shouldn't have made!' Her shout is like a blazing fire and he can feel her disgust and anger burning away his flesh and seeking out the vulnerable centre deep within his heart. It does not have to burn deep to wound any of his pride.

'I see I was correct in thinking my news had distressed you,' he peacefully redirects. The Cipher remains calm on the outside. That is what his training is for. His understanding of her character allows him to know the best way to appease her isn't by vicious retaliation.

'I wanted to apologise for this as it was not my intention,' he appeals with rational dignity.

'What is your intention, Damin? Why the **** are you bothering with me now? You've known where I've been since I left the organisation yet you've waited three entire *********** years to contact me and even then you made it look like coincidence.'

It is not until then that the Cipher realised how suspicious, how cautious and how perceptive she is. Her occupation was similar to his yet he underestimated that. She is more than a perfect killer.

'It was, Leeriah. I knew you were on Nar Shaddaa, it is true, but I did not dream that our paths would cross.' A part truth is best, he decides.

'You're a shameless *********** liar, you know that?' Best but not quite good enough.

'I do not lie to you, Leeriah,' the agent calmly defends.

Her fists clench and she looks away. Her body seems to shake and the agent wonders what memory was stirred with his words. Her husband, he hesitantly concludes. Only an echo of her husband's words could shake her so deeply.

'Don't you dare say that to me. Do you want to lose the other eye? Burn the other cheek?' The warm flame is back yet all it does is seem to chill the agent's skin. He can feel the blunt truth to her words. He cannot imagine a more dangerous dog to call and tame.

'You never did those things to me. However, if that is what you wish then I will follow it though it does not change the truth of my words. I am intrigued as to why you did not want your... friend (he could allow the drip of scorn into the word, couldn't he?) to know of our conversation or its contents. Does he still not know of your situation?'

'If you mean that my husband is a burnt corpse then yes, he knows. He confronted me on it after your call yesterday.'

Her voice carries the note of victory yet her twisting fingers by her side suggest fear and uncertainty. He doesn't let his eyes linger on the fingers that dance on normally impossible angels. There is something unnerving in it like the twisting of a too realistic dolls head until it faces the wrong way and stares into you with observant, judging glass eyes and porcelain skin.

'I see. It led to his departure as predicted.' 'Neutral, agent, neutral,' he reminds himself.

'Not sure that's any of your business but since it gives me pleasure to tell you that you wrong, will tell you that it had nothing to do with that little revelation.'

'How can you be sure?' Doubt. It's his best weapon until he understands them. It will not matter if that petty criminal doesn't return but Damin doesn't know whether he will or not. Never live in a castle of certainty built on sand. It will only fall on your head.

He watches her. He sees the flinch of her shoulders and the widening of her eye before it narrows. He wonders what words are going through her mind. He wants to know what they said after his call. He needs to know what actions were made.

'Who would you suggest I trust? HK? Blizz? You?'

'Yes, me!'


Her hands begin to scratch her wrists. Isn't satisfying when her nails are broken. Rub of skin on skin only makes her scratch harder until friction numbs her finger tips.

'I don't think my Empire can stand a prolonged separation.'

She glares at Damin but has no words to defend herself or Gault with. Saying Gault will be back and there was no correlation would mean that she trusts and believes in Gault. Her fingers rub her wrists harder.

'I apologise, it is none of my business,' Damin says after watching her scratching.

He never used to see her wrists. They were always covered in metal plates that were long, finger-less gloves. He notices the wrist guards she had had on are now gone. He waited half an hour. A lot can happen in half an hour: clothes can be taken off, acts performed and clothes can be put on again in half an hour.

'However, as I am concerned for you, it does concern me,' he continues.

She doesn't really hear the agent's words. Thoughts are back with Gault who by now is clear of the space port and already on his way to or on top of his rich schutta. Can see the hurt when she said that name to Gault in her memory. She can trust that her words finally cut Gault deep enough that he will never return. Lokai. Why'd she say it? He tapped her knee with a mallet and she kicked him on reflex. Been a long time since she's really done that.

'I'll be back a lot sooner. You can trust me, my dear.' Never. Can never trust. Not again.

'Shove it, Damin. Gault's gone and not coming back. Pity from an Imperial, especially if genuine, would only be Hutt spit in the wound.'

He evaluates her calmly. 'I can never provide evidence to you of my honesty in concern to you.'

It is strange, he thinks dejectedly as he feels himself watch and listen to this as if a bug on the wall. It is strange what beings can do to their voices and expressions - what they can control - with a little bit of pain, hatred, teachings, meditation, training, lessons and beatings. It is strange that someone should be able to hide the deep defeat and ache from their voice. It is strange for someone to live a lie. Does the air taste sweeter like killik honey instead of military rations for others? Is the sun brighter to them and not a compound of chemicals that will eventually die? He would like to know just once before he dies how it is to live the life of an honest man.

'Probably because there isn't any. Even if there was, I would think you had made it.'

Her insight is piercing and incorrect. She couldn't know that on a small, war free world there is a warehouse and in that warehouse under a fake name is a large, locked crate and within that crate is a datapad and on that datapad are her last words to him before they were to meet again until ten years later.

He thinks of it so far away as he watches from the wall. It is the only thing left of their relationship. Intelligence doesn't know that they knew each other. Their orders to him were get close and turn or break. Maybe one day, he will travel there and retrieve it: maybe one day, he will travel there and burn it.

Even locked far away, he has lived his life by those words. He began to attend classes that bored him. He became everything necessary to climb whatever ladder was handed to him. He worked as hard as he could to be able to achieve those words to the most of his ability. He made himself something else for it. He tore away his everything for it. Will she ever know that her words are the words he built his life around? Maybe in the end when this is all over - if it ever can be over - he will tell her. Yes, when the job is done, she will know.

'It is understandable that my occupation would give you doubt. That does not change my capacity for honesty to you.'

'Right, Damin,' she sceptical replies. She rolls her eye and scowls up at his figure. 'Let's just drop this.'

'If you wish.' Damin swings his legs onto the metal table and leans back in his red lined chair. He pulls a shiny metal ball from his pocket and throws it up and down with his left hand, watching it's progression up and down with curiosity.

'Where has your lackey gone?' Damin jovially asks after seven throws.

'Notice you don't particularly like Gault. Any reason?' Leeriah ignores the ball. She knows games. She focuses her eye on his mouth and eyes and doesn't let it move no matter what.

'He is driven by greed (up) lust (down) self (up) preservation (down and hold) And has no loyalty to anything or anyone other than himself.' He holds her eye then looks to the ball. Up again. 'With you being the exception, of course.' It is a begrudging admittance. dealt smoothly.

'Guess you read the holonet then.' Her smirk has too much apathy for his taste. If he had a real identity, he believes his pride would loathe the stupidity of the media and feel disdain at the scandal. After all, an identity should be something that is cherished and never violated.

When did she gain such an amused indifference to the world? When did she stop caring about people and their thoughts, beliefs, actions, needs, desires and hopes? When was it that she came to only laugh at them from afar as if she wasn't one of them?

It must have been after I left, Damin concludes. He wonders if it was sudden or gradual. He has never been compassionate. People are his studies, his fascination. Like a scientist may observe the behaviour of womp rats in different conditions or with different mutations, he observes people. But Leeriah's distance is different. There is something colder and violently apathetic in it, he realises. When her passions and grudges are removed, there is something cold and hard at her centre and the agent wants to know whether it was what she went through that caused it or whether she was born with a shard of ice in her soul and all it took was some excavating.

'Yes. I suppose that proximity breeding intimacy is shown in your preference for that being to myself.' He continues to throw the ball up and down. It begins to feel heavier and heavier with every throw.

'Oh, your jealous. Gotta say, I've seen three men jealous in the past two years and it seems to suit you least.'

She looks to her broken nails quickly before hiding them in clenched fists at her side.

'I am not jealous. It is none of my business who you ****.' That action would hurt him less. What tears at his chest is whether she gave the Devaronian the goodbye that Damin wanted so badly. 'Did jealousy suit your husband?'

'Something endearing in listening to a man threaten another over you. Why all the questions, Damin? Trying to find the best way to get close?'

Yes, because I was given you as an assignment. Yes because that is the only way of completing it. Yes because I want to know you again. Yes because I don't want to have distance between us. Yes because it is all I want and why I follow what was written on the datapad that she left in pocket. Yes, yes, yes.

'I am merely fulfilling the part of the conversation dealt to me.' She frowns and her fists clench. Too much apathy? 'I must confess some confusion over your associates presence and existence. It puzzles me greatly.'

'Glad I entertain,' she sneers.

He catches and holds the ball, moving his hands behind his back.

'You do, Leeriah.' And a whole lot more. 'If one were to factor in the dissimilarities of your interests and personalities while taking into account your temperament, personality, the aggravating environment of Tatooine and the long chase Gault provided you, he should have died in the Great Hunt as was dictated and never made it aboard your ship alive.'

'And according to some of those factors, plus or minus some, I should have done my job back on Tython and we shouldn't be having this conversation.'

She sounds angry. He knows it isn't from the truth in his words. She is displeased with her Devaronian. Good.

'That is entirely different. I am smart, charming, attractive, mysterious and you once loved me.'

'Wrong, agent. Make mistakes like that often?'

'No. I never make a mistake.' Liar.

'Some would say calling me is.'

'Then they are wrong,' he vehemently retorts. It is the closest to speaking loudly that she has heard Damin's voice taking on. It shocks her and a disturbing and unpredicted warmth trickles into her chest.

She makes a snort of derision but can't think of a rebuttal. She can't think of much but one of them is why this conversation is even happening. She has something at stake, most likely her freedom, and he has his life at stake.

'Tell me what kind of man you do like.' Was that roughness in his voice? A rough patch created by wear and tear in his velvet voice.

'Is that an order?' She ask with amusement. The amusement is shallow though. He can sense the attack that might ensue like the watching of a Wookie load their crossbow. Damin does not appreciate being target practice.

'A friendly request.' His smile is gentle and sweet.

'How could I ever disobey a friendly request from my lying, scheming and most likely back stabbing Imperial friend?' she sneers.

The smile disappears and is replaced with a stern frown. The agent knows the truth in her words, and though it stings somewhere in him, he acts the role of someone hurt because that is how he should.

'That was uncalled for, Leeriah,' he quietly reprimands.

The breaking of a stick never occurs at once: different parts snap before others. A rope must have each thread fray before its cut. It is the same with people. We do not realise that they are slowly shaping us and cutting away at our hearts or defences until they politely knock on the front door or until they open it and step inside. Maybe it was something in the frown that reminded her of her husband or maybe it was a trace of affection for the blue alien that programming and time hadn't worn away entirely but whatever it was, the cutting of thread led her to the melancholy and thoughtless honesty of her reply.

'Told a someone once 'they have to be able to kill. And like to kill. Strong. Loyal. Genuine. Honest. Have a great body'.'

'Somebody like your husband.'

Damin allows his facial muscles to relax into a feigned look of compassion. He alters his tone into one of gentleness.

'Yeah... someone like him,' she affirms from half way across the galaxy. Damin's words were a reflection of her own and she feels the memory play back before her eye.

'We can talk later, Cyare.'

What do we do with the voices of the past? How do we remove the biting irony? How do we stop tomorrows pain? Our constitution is the same as the branch and twig. It can only take so much before it breaks. Only so much pressure can be applied before it will just... snap.

Her mind comes back to the present and her harsh reprimand shakes Damin from any gentle reverie he had entered.

'That list and the one I have of you aren't compatible, Damin.'

'I can make them be,' he smoothly and reflexively assures.

'You can only act that role. I know that isn't you. You meet only three of them.' She holds three fingers up and until then, he had never hated the sight of her slender fingers.

'Tell me at least one of those three is that I have a great body,' he jokes.

She notices his smile is only thin and small. He isn't laughing. He isn't happy. He isn't pretending very well.

'Guess you meet four then,' she returns with a wink and smirk.

It doesn't get the reaction she wanted. He doesn't flash his perfect teeth or chuckle lightly. His frown tightens and if she could see his hands pressed together behind the back of his chair, holding the ball so tightly, she'd see that they were clenched until his knuckles glowed a human white.

'I can be loyal to you, Leeriah. I was always genuine to you and honest. I was willing to forsake everything in my life to be with you.'

The bitterness is back. That sharp edge under his collected, formal charm. The anger of disappointment and rejection. Was what she did really so horrible? Was it so unforgivable? Did she hurt him so deeply?

'And I knocked you out and sent you home,' she concludes.

Is that sympathy or regret he can hear? No. Never that. She made her decision. Even now, she would choose revenge before anyone or anything. That is what the agent thinks. Maybe it is what she thinks too.

'You remember.' He has returned to holographic indifference: no accusation, no sadness, no pleasure.

She taps the side of her head and smiles. It isn't happy and kind. 'I remember everything.'

'Then you must remember my honesty.'

How can he do it? How can he remark on their past as if it were only predictable weather on the outside of a building we would never leave? she speculates in frustrated aggravation.

She does though. When it comes down to it, she remembers everything they went through in those months. She remembers the sweet young man that didn't belong in that place. She remembers the kindness he had never shown another human before her. She remembers his dissatisfaction with a life that tried to constrain and shape him: that tried to force him into a uniform two sizes too small. She remembers a young man wanting direction and an escape from the irksome mediocrity of his peers and the stuffy, empty authority of his superiors. She remembers the hatred that that place bred into him. She remembers how red his eyes would glow when he thought of destroying the Republic. He learnt hatred there. Real hatred. That changes someone. She wonders how long it will be until she sees how much and what is under his charade.

She remembers thinking that he would never let the Republic stand if he were to ever leave. She remembers thinking he would shape his life around making it crumble. And she remembers what the General forced her to do. She remembers what the General made her watch. She can never forget.

'Didn't say I don't. Person you were then isn't you now.'

His lips are moving and he can't stop it. Something in her words forced him to ask what he vowed to never ask.

'Do you ever regret that decision?'

'No.'

His bravery was rewarded with the answer he knew and the disturbingly strong ache it produces in the area of his heart. He has heard it. He can let it go. The 'what ifs' she has awaken can sleep again.

'Your revenge was worth it.'

'Let's talk of something else, Damin.'

'Such as? Recent history contains either your Mandalorian or Crime Lord. The tightening of your jaw and narrow eye suggests you don't want to talk of anything related to them. However, your time in the Organisation would be fascinating to hear.'

'No,' she flatly refuses. 'Why don't we talk about you?' she slyly asks.

'My operations are confidential.' Bland. Disappointing. Predictable. Grating. The adjectives for him run through her mind.

'On a job now?'

'No.'

'Then your actions aren't confidential. Where are you going?'

'Dromund Kaas,' he smoothly lies.

'Family visit?'

'No.'

'How's your Ratattaki?'

'I assume you refer to Kaliyo. She is inconsequential.'

'How did your Academy training finish?'

'I was top of the school.'

'Sleep with any teachers?'

'I did not need to or feel the desire to.'

'Continue skipping classes?'

'No. Is this another interrogation? I think it is missing some chains and pain,' Damin dryly comments with his indifferent expression.

'Not an interrogation,' she sternly defends.

Her pout of what he knows are sculpted red lips makes Damin smile a little. Her offence at such a teasing accusation makes him... feel. He walks the line of realisation and denial perfectly.

'I see. You are attempting to have normal discourse.' His teeth flash for a moment, a small unguarded moment, into a smile. He doesn't know that while his heart stops every time she is thought of by him, that her body hangs suspended for a moment every time he smiles.

'It is a complete failure, Leeriah.'

'You fail as a human being, you know that, my dear?'

'Can go back to the pointless accusations if you want,' she snaps.

'My father is currently overseeing the mess still known as Correllia. My mother is on an operation somewhere.'

Why did he say that? The impulse was foolish. He just hated hearing her angry with him. The time will come when she will hate him and it will tear him apart. Until then, he will do whatever he can to appease her so long as it coincides with his loyalties and mission.

'Hear from them at all?'

'Yes. From my mother, it is every six weeks at galactic standard 1700. From my father, it is every month at 0600. The communication is only through mail.'

'Pleasant?'

'Excruciatingly painful,' Damin corrects.

She laughs. He's never been fond of her laughter. Even when it sounds so happy and carefree as now, he can only feel that it is the sound of a lie.

'Were they happy to see when you came back?'

'No. So what are you doing now? You have been on Iziz a while.'

'Come on, Damin, you're smarter than that. Where'd you think I'd be going next?'

'Dromund Kaas,' he replies immediately while bringing the ball out from behind his back and beginning to throw it again this time with his right hand.

'Smooth. As much fun as it sounds to walk all over the Dark Council's front door and pull my pants down, I think I'll skip unless you change it to a much more 'most wanted' friendly planet.'

'Interesting image. I think I and many others would enjoy seeing that.'

'Sure they would.'

'You are going to Dxun.'

'In-laws have called me home,' she affirms.

'Interesting.'

'As interesting as a sun shining.'

'I find the molecular composition and life of a sun fascinating.'

'What else do you find fascinating?'

'People. Environments. My work. War. You.'

'Smooth again, Damin.'

'You are fascinating, Leeriah. I have always thought so.' He smiles again and something in her moves. It would be a terrible thing to be drawn in by that smile. She would drown in that deadly sweetness.

'Sure that sounded a lot sweeter in your head,' she sneers back.

He catches the ball and closes his fingers around it. He looks to the wall a moment before staring deep into her eye. He takes his legs down from the table and leans forward.

'No, I was only admitting a truth. You are the only thing that truly fascinates me. If I were to try and be 'sweet' as you ineloquently put it, I would tell you that you are the most beautiful woman in the galaxy and I have missed you every day and every minute that we have not spoken or been together for the last decade; I would tell you that all I have been able to think about since we met again is you and it kills me inside to see you with another man and know that you have found another man to make you smile and to comfort you in the way I always dreamed of and want more than anything else in this galaxy or another; I would tell you that all the pain I felt through our acquaintance was nothing compared to the pain of being apart from you; I would tell you that I have gone from planet to planet hoping to find you or see you; I would tell you that when I finally found you, it was the happiest moment of my life and I wanted nothing more than to hold you in my arms and kiss you like I had been yearning to do since the first moment you walked through the cell door and I would tell you that every breath that I take as I speak to you, see you or think of you is like breathing in smoke and it is slowly killing me because I cannot live without pain in the knowledge that I will never have you.'

He pauses and regards her for a moment: her armour, her body language, her wide eye. The pale mark of that scar down her right eye. He wonders if she remembers how she got it. She does not move and appears to not be breathing.

It is ok, he decides. I've said it. Now to only make it a lie. It is better for both of us that it is. He swings his feet back up onto the table and begins to throw the ball up and down again, switching hands after every throw.

'That is what I would tell you if I wanted to be 'sweet'.'

'What would be 'very funny' and very stupid is if you trusted that phoney blue-boy.'

'Nice bit of bantha ****, Damin,' she sneers after a short pause. The words are hard to force through gritted teeth. She might hate it and she might not want it, but she knows that she will never be the last woman to be charmed by his words even if she was the first. 'How long have you been preparing that one?'

'I would not be much of an agent if I had to prepare every word I said. Sometimes, I can speak from my heart.' He glances at her as he says the last words. He doesn't drop the ball.

This is repulsive, Damin concludes. He thinks he would esteem her less if she were to fall for this ****. However, no training could prepare him for someone like her. How does someone tame and charm her? How did her husband do it? Until he knows a better way, he will follow what he would say to any normal woman.

''From your heart' and 'honesty' never have to be the same thing,' she scathingly replies.

'I can speak words as honestly as any man that has been walking the Dune Sea for weeks can say 'I need water'.'

These lines are an insult to his intelligence. But on all normal women, and sometimes on men, they work. Stupidity is a common occurrence in all species and it repulses and fascinates him.

'Yes, as honestly as a man that had been walking in it and that had twenty gallons of water with him. But then, it doesn't matter, does it? That was only the **** you would say and pretend to mean if you wanted to be sweet and I'm guessing your 'sweet' days ended over a decade ago.'

How is it that she can still make him love her after all these years? In moments like this, she has not changed. She is different from others and not ready to please or be pleased. She works against it and yet everything she says comes with an honesty that only pleases him and lures him in more.

'They will never end when it concerns you.'

'You really know how to lay it on thick, don't you?' she asks incredulously.

Damin catches the ball and holds it.

'I am not playing games with you, Leeriah, or feeding you false lines,' Damin testily returns.

Inside, he feels something get a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger in his chest as if his heart had just expanded by 2%.

'No, you just dangle the lines in front of me with charm, (he begins to toss the ball again) good looks and lame lines as the bait and your destined betrayal and occupation as the hook.'

'You think in interesting metaphors.' Another glance and another smile.

'It's a new habit.' All she does is shrug in return and stare up at him.

'Interesting. You think I'm charming and good looking.'

'You think I'm cute?'

'Only reason I bother with you,' she cruelly affirms. She isn't sure how much she means it. Isn't sure of much. But she smiles and her eye flirts with his heart.

'I-' The agent begins before cutting himself off. 'That-' He fumbles with the ball. Once he has it under control he holds it firmly in case it might slip out and be lost otherwise.

'Didn't think that would leave you speechless. Thought you'd get training against that.'

'I was not speechless. I was merely contemplating my words.'

'For an extended period of time after beginning things, ending them and opening and closing your mouth. Called speechless by the common folk,' she informs with a teasing sneer. She enjoys watching others squirm.

'Thank you, Leeriah, but I know what it means. I was also not exhibiting the behaviour.' He isn't aware of it but his chin lifts up slightly with Imperial pride that he can't quite shake.

'Like a fish doesn't swim, I know.'

He shakes his head and runs his hand through his fringe. She stiffens at the sight of that eye.

'You are impossible, Leeriah. Impossible, amazing, strong and beautiful.'

'I have relatives to see in the morning. Night, Damin.' She moves to cut the comm channel.

'You cannot run away forever,' he calmly informs her as he begins to toss the ball again.

'I never run away.'

'As you want it.' Just know I'm ready and waiting for you to run to me. 'I will be calling you soon.'

'As you want it,' she mocks.

Her figure then disappears from his long table and he is left to consider the empty seats around him as he casually throws the ball up and down, hand to hand. He tests the weight of the ball in his hand and then throws it with full force against the far wall.

The loud strike brings Vector to the door, enquiring in that strange tone if there is anything the matter.

'Nothing, Vector. I shall be in the bridge in a moment.'

Damin adjusts his shirt, fixes his fringe into position and then walks to the door. His eye is taken by the sight of the ball where it rolled into his path. He bends down and picks it up, tosses it once into the air and then places it back onto the table where he successfully hears it roll to the ground as he leaves the room. He doesn't re-enter the room to pick it up. It will still be waiting there when he returns.

-----

Spoiler

MilaniGrey's Avatar


MilaniGrey
05.16.2013 , 12:11 AM | #103
Yaaaaaay I was wondering where you went!

and I'm curious to know - how many words do you end up typing per post?
The Islingr LegacyShatter the Darkness
Astaron, Narithia, Xalkory, Áilleacht
The Ebon Hawk Server
Forever Shenanigans!

EverSteam's Avatar


EverSteam
05.16.2013 , 03:24 AM | #104
Quote: Originally Posted by MilaniGrey View Post
Yaaaaaay I was wondering where you went!

and I'm curious to know - how many words do you end up typing per post?

I didn't go far: I've been reading, looking in at everyone's threads, working on that, stressing over Damin, stressing over her stressing over my suddenly hectic real life, the usual, and then a month went by and I hadn't updated. I was so sad

And on the other note...
Welll... I don't mean to but it ends up being 5000 - 7000. That last one was 6,700.
I just start off with the grand plan, then I have my list of the conversations/events that need to occur to lead to end game, then write the dialogue for the selected convo/event, then flesh it out to how I imagine them standing/speaking/thinking/feeling and then put more dialogue maybe throw in another character... and before I know it I'm up to 6000.
That makes it sound a lot more structured then it is. I more just go with the flow of whatever they say and let their convos flow and sometimes take direction I don't imagine or intend. I'm not very organized in keeping the documents either, they're all scattered everywhere and from different places in the story and it's just chaos.
Not that you really wanted that much of an answer lol pointlessly long story short: 5000-7000.
So excited for Dxun! And then what happens after!! Good stuffs coming up! *runs away to write happily, then stops and comes back* I hope you're all still interested and excited even though there was a short break and things aren't looking up at the moment. They all turn around and then back again and around again and so on. And hope Damin is... not necessarily likeable (I like him despite everything) but more interesting

Rabbarabba's Avatar


Rabbarabba
05.16.2013 , 04:07 AM | #105
I would like Damin more if he had actually cut kaliyos ear off... she seriously pisses me off sometimes

EverSteam's Avatar


EverSteam
05.19.2013 , 04:25 AM | #106
Quote: Originally Posted by Rabbarabba View Post
I would like Damin more if he had actually cut kaliyos ear off... she seriously pisses me off sometimes
LOL!
I couldn't agree more but I have a plan there

And here's an update because I always keep my promises



A short four hour sleep later...



'HK, halt initiated orders,' I call to the darkness of three large cargo crates. Nothing overtly changes in the shadows.

'Enter the ship,' I order as moments pass and it doesn't emerge. Eye leaves HK's favourite hiding place as I hear his movements and I look to the hanger door. It is like most hangers across the galaxy: large, durasteel, thick and impossible to blast through with a standard blaster.

Like most of the others, no one is there. There isn't anyone calling some line of an apology or a white flag. Turn my back on the hanger and the droid.

'He won't be returning,' I whisper to myself.

Walk into the ship and head to the bridge. Can't wait in the cargo hold. I can't stand near a holo. I feel a restlessness that hadn't happened in a while. Sleep didn't remove it. Only made it worse. Walk to the bridge doesn't calm it and the familiar doesn't either. Look to the control panels. Want to set a course for another target. Can't wait anymore for HK to find her.

Look around the cage again. Eye lingers on the Captain's chair. New upholstery doesn't change the memories we made on that chair.

'As much as I would love to interrupt your disgusting display of affection for no reason, we're here on your orders,' Gault sneers.

I sigh and sit back on Torian's knees. I don't look into Torian's eyes, over his shoulder to Corellia that floats out our window or over my shoulder to my crew. Interestingly, it finds a place to stare in Torian's neck. My eye watches the quick pulse that rhythmically moves under his skin.

'Jealous, Devaronian?' Torian goads.


I look over to the chair Gault would claim whenever he actually decided to sit instead of haunting the doorway or leaning on the back of my chair. See the slightly dulled metal on the arm rest where his fingers would tap as he read the terminal screen. The faster they tapped they more interested he was in what he was reading. They were tapping quickly one night and I listened to them with a strange fixation as I finished my push ups.

Eight, nine, ten, switch hands. One, two, three... switch hands. One, two, three... done.

I lower myself onto my stomach and roll onto my back. Stare at the ceiling of my room. Mind drifts to what I started this to escape from. Can't get it out of my head no matter how fast Gault taps his fingers down the hall and how hard I listen to it. Can't think of anything but-

'Interesting searches you're running.'

Hear the voice of the man I can't block out. Close my eye and concentrate harder. Been a long two weeks since leaving Taris. Been a long two months since we met on Dromund Kas.

'A man has to have some hobbies,' a higher voice replies. The tapping stops and I hear Gault's chair squeak a little as it spins.


Caught by even the Mando, Gault. You aren't very cautious. I want to sit up and face the door of my room that hides them from view. Know that won't help my hearing but something in me tells me it will. Don't want to miss a word by rustling though. Stay lying there as if paralysed.

'Call stalking you're crew members a hobby?'

'I wouldn't call it stalking so much as... investigating investments.'

'Called stalking anywhere else.'

'What's wrong, Blondie? Scared I'll dig up some dirt on you or your little dead dad?'

'Nothing to hide. Not like you.'

'Then which of our female crew members are you worried about? I hardly see anything wrong with a little look into a person's past. Or a person's lack of a past. Don't you want to know about the people you're living with, Mando? Haven't you wondered who she is?'

'She's Grand Champion. Helped me get my honour back. Don't need to know or have a right to know more.'

I hear a chair move with a quiet groan as it is relieved of Gault's weight. Hear Gault stand on his feet and take a stake a step.

'Well, come and find me if that stops being enough for you, kid.'

'Don't touch me.'

'Sorry, Mando, I didn't leave a crease in your armour, did I? Now, if that was all, I have some things I would like to get back to,' I hear Gault pleasantly dismiss Torian and take a few steps.

I don't think Gault walked more than one or two steps past the Mandalorian before Torian stopped Gault with his words.

'Not the only one doing background checks. Looked you up. Not much to find. Not much legitimate that is.'

'Well, I haven't led a very legitimate life. Now if you don't mind...'

'Hurt her in any way, Lokai, and I will make sure you regret it.'

'I'm the one least likely to hurt her on this ship. What will be interesting to see is whether you or her rank first.'

'Nothing could ever hurt her. Can't see how I could hurt such a warrior.'

'And with those words, you just took first place. Good night, Mando. Be sure to turn the console off for me, will you?'


How long had Torian stood watching him before speaking? Was he in the shadows of the doorway standing straight, proud and angry yet skulking and watching like a common voyeur? Did he read the console before turning it off? I do know one thing: Torian never went to Gault for information.

But it doesn't matter. It was a long time ago. I hadn't recalled that conversation in a long time. Hadn't thought much of it much even then.

I hear HK enter the ship and close the cargo ramp. It is easy to follow its haughty footsteps through the ship. My previous crew made me miss loud footsteps: Mako was quiet when she wasn't petulantly stomping; Gault is always light and quiet like a man who doesn't want to be heard by the world because he walks through it with theft in his hands and arms; Torian always walked firmly yet his footsteps were never very loud: a life with a culture around hunting game no matter how large and carnivorous that game is, learns to walk silently; Blizz was so small and swift he was little more than a scuttling, unobtrusive mouse; Skadge never moved enough for me to make a note of it.

'HK,' I call to it once it is still steps away. 'I want a status update. Been weeks. Tired of waiting.'

It halts in the centre of the doorway, standing straight and without support. I turn around and stare at it. My only companion. In the end, it always seems to be me and my psychopathic droid. Even if that one leaves, I will have myself.

'Apologies, master. Statement: the sabotage protocols in my system matrix continue to operate, master. If this-'

I shake my head and hold up a scratched finger. 'I don't care, droid. Have you found the targets locations?'

'Answer: locations remain unknown, master.'

'That isn't good enough. Your systems are beginning to interrupt with your operations detrimentally. You are no use on the field. While on Dxun you are to remain on the ship and find those targets. Call me when you find each one. Is that understood, droid?'

'Perfectly, master.'

I hear the words 'I want to kill you' in his voice. I glare at him a moment as his eye flickers. Soon won't be much better than my previous droid.

Turn my back on it and set a course for Dxun. Flight should only be half an hour. I receive clearance and begin take off. Isn't until we're clear of the spaceport and out of orbit that HK speaks again. Hasn't moved a metal limb and his voice sends a shiver of disgust and surprise down my back.

'Query: master, is the red organic no longer a member of your crew?'

'Yes.' Any human would leave it there. Any human would sense the anger, the stop sign and the gun I hold to their head.

'Eager query: can I kill him now, master? I have so longed to blast the organics brains out.'

'No. He is still under my protection.'

HK doesn't reply. Hear the whinging of a child in the silence. Not sure I want his systems restored. Not a threat this way. Can't be helped. Need him to find the Jedi. His uses won't stop there. I am always weary to throw away a possible asset. Is that why It remains in your engine room?

'Dismissed, HK. Return to post 2.'

The droid leaves in vocal silence. Dxun is large and green and only gets bigger as I fly closer. I know my thoughts should be on Corridan and what he wants. But as I fly straight towards Dxun alone except for my memories I only listen to a quiet voice that doesn't quite leave me be like a burst of fresh air from the unseen entrance of a cave or an echo of a call far, far ahead in the darkness.

'We're going home, Cyare,' it whispers. 'Trust it. Trust me.'


-----

Spoiler

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EverSteam
05.24.2013 , 07:39 AM | #107
Well, here's something a little experimental.
Third person but from Gault's perspective. He's having a fun shuttle ride. I'm not sure if I got his voice 100% spot on though but I wanted it to be a little lighthearted and was originally written for a few SFFWC prompts in mind. I might still post it there but this will require some more thought.
Since it has nothing to do with my stories canon so its an optional read and thus in spoiler tags (though it does introduce someone who may or may not become a character).
Spoiler

Well... I hope that was alright

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EverSteam
05.26.2013 , 05:58 PM | #108
Look! Updates are becoming regular again!
Well, I hope this is alright.


On Dxun...(finally)


I jump off the cargo ramp and feel the pull of the sallow, viscid mud on my durasteel boots. Hear the loud, final clang of the ramp as it closes behind me and shrug my crossbow into a better position. Look around me at the livid green foliage that circles the ship with trunks that stand like light brown jail bars. Feel the first splash of rain on my forehead. Dxun doesn't impress anymore on the ground then in the air.

Check my direction and begin marching straight ahead. Rains harder and the pale mud becomes black water as god know what is brought to the surface and the trunks of the trees turn **** brown with patches of dirty yellow. Reminds me of the food the droid would cook for us. See things move in the dark canopies above hidden by the now dark green leaves. All colours seem unnatural here as they shift from too light to too dark at smallest change of weather. There's something in this planet's air that I can feel clogging my lungs as if it doesn't want me to breathe here.

Wade through the tenacious undergrowth of branches and viscous grass at a steady and quiet rate. Not the animals in the trees I need to be alert for. Corridan knows I'm coming. The welcoming colonists are what I'm concerned about. Never thought of doing things certain ways just so the dead will be pleased because it would of been 'what they wanted if they were here'. But I don't want the mud to be stained red with his families blood. Too soon I see five figures ahead. Smell Corridan on the damp breeze. Hear their breathing through taunt chests and thick helmets.

The traditional Mando armour of the five metal statues are the only things in the jungle with a median colour: two tall and wide men watch the canopies above in undescriptive blue; another watches the left in grey armour that the mud can't find a stable pigment for; the fourth stands in green that is too average to blend in with the undergrowth. As I move silently and undetectably closer, I confirm that she is the only female of the five. She watches the right but she stands at the back. No one is watching their rear.

My permanent interest is in Corridan. His standard red armour is the only warm colour in this jungle yet it seems dull and old amongst the fanatic vitality of the forest around us. Like Torian, Corridan doesn't wear a helmet and his footing is assured. His eyes watch straight ahead for my approach and his hands don't hold a rifle like the others.

Corridan doesn't move when I emerge from the undergrowth as if he isn't surprised and knew I was there all along. The others turn to me and continue to hold their blaster rifles only now they are pointed purposefully at me instead of at the aimless sea of rippling green around them.

I take three more steps until we stand three metres apart. Silence enters the jungle as the animals above cease there scurry as if to listen; the rain alleviates a little as if its holding its breath.

'Corridan,' I neutrally greet.

The Mando's fingers aren't on their triggers but that can be solved as they watch from under thick metal helmets.

My concern is for nothing. Corridan closes the distance between us and pulls me into an embrace, patting my back three times before letting go. I stand very still, scared that if I even slightly move it will trigger a response to cut off his arms or shoot him in the head.

'It's good to see you,' he coarsely breathes as his right hand clasps my shoulder. Something about it doesn't suit this jungle of black and white and as if it realises the intruding feeling, it rains harder as if to wash it away.

I shrug Corridan's comradery and hand away. 'I wouldn't have thought so after our last little conversation.'

'Both said things we shouldn't,' he replies with affronted patience. 'Cui ogir’olar.'

I stop myself from cringing but I can't stop myself from taking a step back. Hearing that language is a like being thrown into a tub of boiling water after weeks on Hoth. The other Mandalorian's raise their blasters again. Wish the rain falling down my cheeks was as satisfying as if they were tears.

'I thought Mando'ad draar digu,' I disparage as I recover.

'Haven't forgotten,' Corridan retaliates with a warning frown. 'If anyone is going to live through your visit here, then I suggest that you stop remarks like that.'

'Ke nu'jurkadir sha Mando'ade, huh?' I return with a delusive smile.

'Gar serim.' Corridan smiles but the fatherly wrinkles at the corner of his eyes don't appear. 'You've come alone.'

'I am alone.'

'Devaronian not with you?' he inquires with a glance behind me. Pointless question after my definitive declaration.

'Occurs to me no one uses his name much,' I comment as I begin to crack my metal knuckles by my side.
Corridan shakes his head and I feel no amount of shaking could really remove that frown from his lips anymore.

'Name doesn't matter.'

'Really, Corridan Ordo?' I sneer. 'Race matters, does it?'

'Not what I meant. Irrelevant if he isn't with you,' Corridan explains in short words and sentences. It makes everything a Mando says sound like an impatient order or keen truth.

'He isn't, wasn't and won't be again,' I grimly guarantee.

'Good.'

Corridan gives a sharp nod that's an order to the others and not one of approval to me. They lower their weapons and return to scanning the environment. Except for the woman in green. She watches me and I don't know why she does but I know it is with an intensity.

'Take one of the many stern talking to's off your list?' I slyly ask as my eye returns to Corridan.

'Gar.' A Mando's truth. Corridan turns to his small troop of guards. 'Introduce yourselves, verde.'

'Jakor of clan Vevut,' one man in blue says in Basic through a guttural, spitting accent as he beats his chest with primitive pride.

'Younger brother is Heelt.' Jakor's hand and arm motion are crude as he gestures to the second man in blue next to him. The younger brother stands silent and a foot higher than his brother.

They aren't human like I suspected. It's hard to make out their race but I think it may be Krish. Body type matches and so does the voice. Spent enough time around some to know.

'I am Vankx of clan Fett,' the human man introduces with a salute that more resembles a wave. I don't need to be able to see through his helmet to know that he is smiling with sparsely disguised curiosity and insolent mockery.

Then there is a pause.

It extends to only twenty seconds but that is long enough for a feeling of intensity to press up on us harder than the rain and all four men turn tight beneath their armour at its feeling like they were strings of a viol.

'My name is Karyan, ner vod,' the woman finally says.

Vankx turns his head from his watch to her and I wonder what meaning he was conveying behind metal walls. She ignores it and I know her eyes are looking into mine.

'Karyan of clan Cadera.'

And then the rain stopped falling.


-----


Mando'ad translations
Spoiler

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EverSteam
07.05.2013 , 06:02 AM | #109
Oh my poor, poor neglected thread! I won't leave again until exams come around again. I promise.

Well, here we go, taking off directly after the last one (which might need to be re-read if anyone forgot what happened all those weeks ago ).


------


I look to Corridan and raise an eyebrow. His heavy shoulders give a trivial shrug.

'Now come meet the other's,' Corridan orders as if nothing significant was said.

Three Mandalorians stand aside. The shorter Krish doesn't. He turns to the groups rear and stands waiting for us to form a formation I don't know. His brother takes the rear and I follow third after Corridan. The woman and human speak in hushed Mando'ad that isn't washed away from my ears by the persistent rain.

'We agreed to not mention it,' Vankx hisses.

'Nothing to hide. We are kin,' she steadily replies. Something about her words remind me of Torian. Clan members share characteristics. Think an open honesty might be Cadera's. Might of been the cause of what made Jicoln speak as a traitor.

'Don't talk to her. We don't know her.'

'I know Torian loved, trusted and respected her. Don't need any more than that.'

'You mean you don't need to know the news?' Vankx hisses with incredulous scorn.

'She is a strong fighter and fights against our enemies,' Karyan calmly defends and informs.

'Last time I checked the Empire wasn't an enemy.'

'Empire isn't family,' she steadily replies with a grim patience.

Corridan drops back to join me. Know he knows that I am listening with interest and an understanding on only a shallow level.

'How'd you find Iziz?' Corridan gruffly asks.

'Frigid.'

Corridan chuckles and shifts the blaster rifle strung across his back. It slips down the wet metal again immediately.

'How far until the camp?' I ask in reply.

'Hour walk.'

Time doesn't measure distance but I keep my peace on this count.

'And the woman?' I ask instead. It's Corridan's turn to keep his peace. 'That bad, huh?'

'Yes. She will most likely speak to you upon our return to the Camp.'

The rain becomes harder and the mud around us turns untrustworthy. The leading Krish pulls out a cable and throws it back to Corridan. Corridan clips one of the many hooks around his belt and secures it, passing the cable on to me as we continue walking.

I smirk down at it and test its strength. Fairly strong but not sure if it would be strong enough. Corridan gives me a stern look. One of his turning grey eye brows quivers into a raise and I tap my metal eye and then gesture down my body.

'Humour us,' Corridan sternly demands.

I give a nod and clip it on. I throw it back to the human man and match my stride to Corridan's.

'Didn't know Mandalorians liked to be humoured,' I comment with barely contained scorn behind a tight smirk.

'Watch it, Cadera,' Corridan warns without a glance. His eyes scan the tree tops where unseen and probably uncategorised creatures watch and follow our progress. 'Some men in the Camp don't want you there.

'So I've heard,' I grimly reply.

Corridan grimly nods. 'Comments like that will-'

'Cause a challenge and anyone who makes it will die,' I finish definitively. 'Taking a risk in letting me come.'
Corridan nods and a small upward tilt of his lips occurs. 'I know. Trusting my faith and Torian's wasn't misplaced.'

'Low card for you to play, Ordo, but it's a winner,' I grimly congratulate. 'Don't worry, I'll play nice. Unless-'

'They're far away,' Corridan replies.

'Good.'

We don't speak anymore and the others had stopped long ago. Corridan moves ahead of me again. The pace is slow and even. To tire in this jungle means death.

After 36 minutes of walking, Corridan drops back to my side.

'See the camp soon,' is all he says before walking ahead again.

Within two minutes, we break free of the trees and dense undergrowth. Corridan pauses for an instant just beyond the tree lines end to look back at me. He smiles at the uncontrolled surprise I show.

I stare at the perfectly smooth, brown wall before us. There are no seems in the metal and cement. It stands just under the height of the canopy. The buildings beyond are a little taller. Plants sprout from the tops of the buildings like bright green hair in an attempt of further camouflage. A second line of defence most likely. A city could not be kept secret without a cloaking device over it.

The others move up and spread out to the side of me and consider the city for an instant. 'Home' is what I hear them all think.

'We're home, Cyare.'

A gloved hand claps down on my armoured shoulder.

'Welcome to the Camp,' Vankx hospitably smirks. He laughs lightly and walks on with an eager, military jog. The others follow at a calmer walk.

My eyes scan the wall and look for the guards. I count fifteen on this side of the wall that are only visible through dark slits skinny enough for a sniper rifle and nothing more. The gates only extend up a fourth of the wall and they blend in with the wall seamlessly. They open a crack to allow the five through. Corridan stops at the entry and looks back to me. He doesn't speak or shout an order to run in. Corridan only nods and gives me that small sad smile before walking through.

Walk across the short clearing and listen to the sound of my boots squelching in the moss covered mud. I listen to everything around me and I listen for an ambush but I don't hesitate to walk through the gate. My boot clips on the metal floor on my first step in the Camp and it makes me look to the ground under me. Walk ways of steel cover the Camps floor. My eyes returns to look ahead. My welcoming party stands in the same formation as when I first saw them only their guns are away.

Don't let my eye wander too far from them but I can't see or hear any other people surrounding me. I look at the buildings that are all dark shades: their metal painted to blend in and not catch any shine from a stray beam of sun. The streets are clean and neat. I can tell they form an organised grid.

'Come on already,' Vankx impatiently urges with a tap of his foot. Corridan's finger moves out of place slightly in a motion for Vankx to remain silent. It is grimly followed.

My second step into the Camp is accompanied by the closing of the gate and the ceasing of the rain.

----

Spoiler

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EverSteam
07.13.2013 , 05:51 AM | #110
Yeah.... so it has been more than a few days but here it is.


------


A few hours later...


I take the glass of ale Corridan offers and can feel a clammy chill through my leather glove. The glass feels just as cold against my lips but my eyes don't leave Corridan. He takes the sofa across from me but sits on its cushiony edge. Nothing is said and he seems content to sit and meditate over his glass.

My eyes carefully scan the room and find no security cameras. The steel walls are decorated in places with a piece of armour or a weapons display. Can tell they are sharp and ready to be used. Everything is organised and clean. Very homey. Though I can't see into the adjacent room we haven't entered I would guess to its being Corridan's quarters and the other door to a refresher. My back is to the only visible entrance or exit.

Finish my glass and stand to get another. Corridan's severe eyes watch my progress and an amused spark lights them when I begin to pour myself some more. Scan this wall of the room and find nothing unnecessary or any security devices. Show of trust or confidence?

Take a different seat when I sit back down again. Red chair that has a view in the periphery of the entrance and most of the room. Backs to the bedroom but sacrifices must be made and I doubt there are men hiding in his quarters. I know there aren't any hiding in his quarters. Still. Trust isn't an option for me.

The silence carries on when I finally tire of observing ever inch of the room I decide to initiate the reason for my being here.

'You said on the holo message we had a lot to discuss,' I begin carefully. 'We've gotten the pleasantries out of the way, but I would like to know what the business part is so far. I'm not being threatened and I can't hear or see anyone ready to jump out and shoot me on your command so I'm guessing I'm not a traitor yet.'

'Far from it,' Corridan replies. He looks up to regard me and takes a sip from his glass. 'Have you heard the rumours?'

'I hear a lot of rumours, Ordo.' Recline in my seat but it doesn't remove the testy edge of my reply.

'Know which I mean.' Sound of Corridan's glass as it skids across the table is grating and testing.

'I don't think-' I realise in that my voice has risen to almost a shout in my anger and my fists are clenched. I take a deep breath and when I speak, it's low and very impatient. 'I do so why don't we drop the games?'

'So you have heard then,' Corridan confirms.

'I heard while on Onderon. Seems I'm a little behind on Mando news these days since I had to hear it from an Imperial.' Corridan raises an eyebrow leans a little closer. But that's all he's getting. 'How long until it begins?'

'Depends.' Corridan confidently shifts so he faces me completely. 'Mandalore hasn't called it yet. Needs a Huntmaster first. Last went down to the Shadowlands on Kashyyyk and never came back up.'

'So you want me to go fish another one out of Kashyyyk? I'm not cheap.'

Corridan's frown tightens and the deep wrinkles on his head become darker and prominent. His mouth opens and closes before he speaks and I know what he says is the second thing to enter his mind. I am sure I'm not the only one in the room to hear a lot of rumours.

'Nayc,' Corridan negatives. His hands entwine and his two pointers press against each other in a fleshly, stern triangle. He points there tip at me. 'Mandalore wants you to be it.'

'His adopted daughter the Huntmaster?' Corridan isn't moved by my scorn. 'Don't think that will look impartial.' And I don't hink I could live with calling another Champion.

'Impartial in the way that matters during a war.'

'Hasn't been a Great Hunt called in less than half a decade in a long time. Haven't most Mando's been called to war?'

'All except you.' Corridan's confirmation is stern and I wonder how much I am testing the Captain's patience with my dismissive sarcasm.

'I'm flattered,' I reply with another derisive prod.

'Should be.' Corridan gives his head a sharp nod. I know the look his eyes have. It's the look any animal tamer gives to their pet when they try and make it jump through a loop; it's forceful and makes you think there is only one option. I never have only one option.

'So, let's speak even plainer then, Corridan,' I begin with a pleasant smile. I lean forward and rest my elbows on my knees. 'Mandalore - the leader of the Mandalorian's that adopted me a year and a half or so ago and I haven't heard from for a year and two months - wants me to be the new Huntmaster because...'

'Mandalore's been busy,' Corridan immediately defends. He couldn't be any plainer in telling me to stop than if were holding a sign saying so in five different languages.

'Haven't we all?' I clench my fists and when I speak it is low and threatening, the lava that waits to burst from a volcano. 'Last message he sent me told me to take care of Jicoln's son. That son died because of me and I heard nothing from Mandalore.'

'He died with honour and is remembered,' Corridan sombrely recites. 'Mandalore is sorry-'

'Sorry!? What would he know about sorry? What is his apology going to do? My husband died for me. I know what it is to be sorry. Rejorhaa'ir Madalore nar'sheb kaysh suvarir laam kaysh osik palon jorcu kaysh teroc, shabla bal skanah bal kar'taylir nas be ner or'trikar bal nayc baatir. Rejorhaa'ir kaysh bah shabiir tracy'uur bal narser te trigger.'

'Don't think I can pass that along. Like to but value my head.'

Narrow my eye at Corridan and he only watches me with grave, tired eyes and white teeth that stare behind quivering, upturned lips. I shake my head and give a short hiss. It's pointless to let it out on Corridan.

'Will you take it up?' Corridan asks when he sees I'm more collected.

'Don't know,' I shortly and testily reply.

'Understand. Torian would want you to,' Corridan gruffly coaxes.

My eye turns to regard Corridan and consider my next move. I extend my blades but watch Corridan. He hardly moves at first and I know he is thinking rapidly first. Action needs to comes second.

'Think I'm going to have to kill you Corridan. Know my weakness too well. And too willing to exploit it,' I add after a moment.

Corridan's body stiffens and his fingers twitch. They're ready to reach for a weapon and pull a trigger. I laugh and shake my head, retracting my blade. Raise a questioning, belittling eyebrow. Corridan relaxes and shakes his head.

'Was only joking. Told Torian I wouldn't kill you,' I ad with add as an explanation and a smirk.

'Keep Torian on his toes this much?' Corridan asks with a wry smile. He reclines back into his seat for the first time and he knows that I would never break a promise to Torian. Not unless I had no other choice.

I laugh darkly and take off my boots, bringing my socked feet up to me. 'Could be worse, Ordo, I could be throwing crates at you.'

Corridan silently asks me for an explanation with only his eyes that laugh at an imagined reply. I smile and shake my head.

'Training. I would throw crates of varying sizes at him for practice when fighting a Jedi. Flicked some cereal at his face once too,' I add after a moments consideration.

'Not gonna be cereal a Jedi is throwing at you or milk shooting out of a troopers gun. You need to be ready for that. Real training is starting now, Torian.'


I laugh at the memory but it can't last long. Everything happy of then is now tainted with the present. I haven't spoken this much about Torian since it happened.

Corridan doesn't laugh. Can see the cogs of a Commander turning behind his flesh and not the man close to being a friend. The only thing that binds us is that we both lost the same person and that neither of us can completely recover from it.

'Worked?' Corridan asks seriously.

Nod and give Corridan a small smile. The movement makes me feel a weight in my head and pressure. I move my fingers and toes but stop when I imagine the flimsy skin splitting. Want to check my hands are whole.

'Very well,' I confirm. Keep your mind here, I remind myself. Corridan isn't a man to lose your marbles in front of.

'Hmm,' Corridan mumbles as he begins a musing that doesn't need any input. His fingers drum on his knees and I watch them. They are callused, tanned and hairy. Wrinkles and spots of age threaten to take them over and I wonder if he will see the end of this war.

'Going on a hunt tomorrow,' Corridan almost barks. 'Join and train the men.'

I raise an eyebrow and smirk. 'But not them women?'

'Both, naturally,' Corridan impatiently replies. The fingers begin to drum faster as they reach a crescendo. The ideas are flowing through his mind and so is a plan. Corridan was born to lead an army and raise soldiers, I realise suddenly. He should be more than a left hand.

'They all need it,' Corridan comments. Haven't been tracking Corridan and I feel he has seen too many near defeats. I've cut myself off from the galaxy and placed myself in a bubble where I don't even know which side is winning anymore.

'I would have thought real life experience would be better training,' I taunt.

'Men are dying. Better training could stop that.'

It can't stop them all dying, I think. But it wasn't a defect in training that was responsible for Torian. Only a defect in character. Corridan is right. Training is for home not the battlefield.

'Command or request?' I clarify with a wry smile.

'Request.'

'Fine. Hope to be gone in three weeks. It's all you're getting.'

'Won't complain,' Corridan answers with a slightly relieved grimace. His fingers stop and his focus returns to me and not the battlefields of the future. 'Where you off to next?'

'Don't know,' I reply with a shrug. Swing my legs over the edge of the arms rest and rest my elbows on the other. I throw my head back and look to the ceiling. 'Waiting for my droid to find the targets location.'

'Bounty size?'

'Money wise? Nothing. Otherwise? A lot.'

'Personal?' Corridan asks. The warning is clear in his voice and it's strange to hear how someone feels so clearly and without deceit. Or maybe I just lack suspicion.

'Don't worry,' I assure as I lean further back to look at an upside down Corridan, 'they're a Jedi. The enemy. Don't think there's any honour to be lost through it.'

'Agreed to be Mandalore's daughter,' Corridan asks in reply. Wonder how long Corridan has wanted to know the answer to that. 'Why?'

'Saw a pretty blonde at my ceremony for the Great Hunt. Thought it might be a way to see him again,' I joke with dry laughter. I push myself up again and don't look behind myself to Corridan.

Corridan scoffs and looks away to the shield on the far wall. 'Why?'

'Even I need an ally,' I confess with a devious grin. My reasons lack any depth. I needed someone to think twice before wanting me dead and the Republic wasn't. Might not be what Corridan wants but it's the truth. Torian couldn't change the past.

'Being Mando'ade means being part of a family,' Corridan distantly answers. 'From tonight onwards you are entirely part of it or you are not.'

'Drawing a line in the dust, huh?'

'Turns out Corridan heard about us taking down Jicoln on Taris.' He pauses a little. I wave him on. 'Sent me an invitation.'

'A friendly invitation?' I stare at the carbonite man in the cargo hold. I still find it hard to look Torian in the eye. 'Didn't draw a line in the sand I hope.' I draw a line between us in the thin layer of dust. It clings to the tip of my leather gloved finger.


'Reject us then I expect you gone by morning,' Corridan continues as if I hadn't spoken. 'Staying means accepting us and our way.'

'Interesting. And what happens when I want to leave in three weeks?'

'You leave as a Mando'ade. You remember it. You respect it.'

Corridan's eyes were blue once but now they are a dull grey. His eyes are the eyes of a man willing to die for what he believe in. I wonder what it would be like to be willing to die for ideals and family. Maybe it's worth a shot. Torian thought it worth something. For a while I thought it might be too. Maybe...

'I promised to train your men. I'll be here for three weeks. Mando'ade keep their promises, don't they?'

Corridan nods solemnly. 'Before breakfast at dawn, go to Tent 3B ground floor. There's someone who wants to see you.'

'Karyan?'

'Elek. Be nice,' Corridan orders as an afterthought. I slide down the red leather chair and move my head over the edge of the armrest again. I looks at him upside down and for a moment my vision glitches and it can't orientate itself.

'Being nice to family part of the package, is it?' I ask with a sly smile.

Corridan's wrinkles twitch and shift when he smiles. I roll my head to the side and look to the entrance and wonder how many times Torian walked through that steel door way or sat in this room. I wonder where he slept. I wonder if Corridan is haunted by the memories of those who never come back when he is back at Camp. Maybe sometimes he sees more ghosts than people.

'Vercopa...'

The word catches Corridan by slight surprise and his eyes search my face with sombre understanding.

'I know,' Corridan replies as his gaze joins mine at the door way. 'Echoy'la never ends.'

'I never thought he would come back to me after that hunt. If he had chosen to stay with you-'

'He would have died protecting my back or mooning after you,' Corridan sternly replies. His fists clench and I take my legs from the arm rest and hold them to my body.

'It's happened. I wouldn't of wanted it a different way.'

'Can't mean that, Ordo,' is my stubborn reply. Cynicism is an impossible disease to kill. 'Torian was better than me. Torian meant more to you. Torian-'

'Made his choice,' Corridan rumbles in a yell. I will not be intimidated into silence or belief.

'And how can I live with that?' I shout back. My legs move to the ground as I turn to completely face Corridan. My feet touch the ground it is with an inhumanly loud thud and my toes clench and unclench.

'Because he would want you to,' Corridan reasons in a barely controlled volume. The truth is always hard to confront or make a reply to. I have nothing to say in return.

'So you threw cereal at him?' Corridan asks with a smile.

'Elek.'

Corridan chuckles and regards me curiously. 'How'd he take it?'

'On his left cheek,' I reply with a grin. Corridan's laughter is loud and like a rumble of thunder in the distance. 'Was more surprised than anything. This other time...'

We trade stories all night of the one man we had in common until it was time for Corridan to begin organising the hunting party. Neither of us felt it relieve anything. If anything, his death pressed heavier on us with every story we shared. They only made us realise even more how much we had lost and that we would never get it back.

----

Mando'a translations:
Rejorhaa'ir Madalore nar'sheb kaysh suvarir laam kaysh osik palon jorcu kaysh teroc, shabla bal skanah bal kar'taylir nas be ner or'trikar bal nayc baatir. Rejorhaa'ir kaysh bah shabiir tracy'uur bal narser te trigger.
= Tell Mandalore to shove his understanding up his **** hole because he is a pitless, screwed up and despised and knows nothing of my grief and doesn't care. Tell him to **** a blaster and pull the trigger.
(I couldn't find a translation for trigger)
Nayc = No
Echoy'la = searching, mourning, lost
Elek = Yes
Vercopa = I wish