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I Remember Me


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Lesaberisa
04.11.2013 , 07:42 PM | #1
Boring disclaimers/background:

Spoiler


Note: this takes place approximately eighteen months after Ayrs' misadventures with a prank gone wrong, as he nears (intended) graduation from the Republic academy on Corulag.

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Ally had gotten stuck in a tree again. Fourth time this summer already, but she was at that age where they know everything and need to hear nothing. Not like I was any better, anyway. Neither were Dio or Ver either, but Ally was our last memory of Pop, and that meant a lot too.

Making my way through the Kyns’ yard, I waved at creepy old Torvin and grinned at his profane salute in response. I caught a glimpse of Ariel’s red hair too; it reached down past her shoulders and – though as beautiful as anything I'd ever seen – was the plainest thing about her. Her laugh, that smile she had whenever she saw me (except when I’d messed something up, of course)…knowing what I meant to her. With Ariel, I was more than some random kid from a nowhere planet; I always felt like I could be more, that I was more.

I could hear Ally giggling ahead, so I shouted out. “I remember the last time you did this, Ally, and I remember what Mom did then too. You should too”

A deep, decidedly male, voice responded, “Ayrs. Ayrs, are you listening?”


I shook myself awake.

It was four in the afternoon. Outside, the sun shone brightly across campus as cadets scurried like insects in a hive. Dravis and Mori were probably off at the cantina with the rest of the gang. I should have been, too, but instead I was here, with the least pleasant person on campus, Dr. Avant.

The good doctor was a middle aged man, a fact his receding hairline and expanding gut did much to reinforce, to say nothing of his complete incomprehension of anyone under the age of twenty-five or from outside the Core. Unfortunately, he had also become my regular companion on Friday afternoons for the past several weeks, on orders of the headmaster.

The bad news had arrived on my datapad, a direct communication that brooked no dissent.

Quote:
Cadet Martell
Pursuant to Article III, Section B of the Campus Code of Responsibilities, and in light of intervening events on Ithaca, you are hereby ordered to attend mandatory counseling sessions at 3pm every Friday with Doctor Avant in the administrative building
.
The message was nearly as laughable as it was aggravating.

In light of intervening events on Ithaca, legalese for ‘because your entire family was slaughtered by a bunch of sithspawned pirates.” Funny how bureaucrats could manage to sound as cold as Hoth even when they tried to find the appropriate euphemism to sound human.

So, here I was with the main campus psychologist. A never-was trying to be some sort of hero in a desperate attempt to find meaning in his life as the years passed. Always asked me the same damn questions every time, never offering anything of any use. I could almost recite our conversations word for word before either of us spoke. He wasn’t a complete moron, but that awareness was about the only positive thing I could say about the man.

I heard him clear his throat, so I stifled a yawn and tried to pay attention.

“Ayrs, I know this has been difficult for you, but these sessions are important. The headmaster is concerned that you’re attempting to downplay the psychological trauma you’ve suffered, and I have to say I feel the same way. I understand your desire to appear disciplined in the face of tragedy, but it isn’t healthy”

I shrugged, more to myself than anything. Karking intellectual had been in the Core his whole life. The most action he could have seen out here on Corulag was the intramural sports outside his window. People like him never could understand what it was like out on the frontier. He’d never hunted a rabid predator in a downpour in order to protect his town’s kids. The most dangerous thing in his life was his karking diet.

“Definitely, doctor. It hurts, a lot…I’m not denying that at all. But I know what’s ahead of me and I’m ready for that too. I’ll find my own way, make my family proud, and take it from there.”

Instead of nodding in approval, as I’d expected, he frowned. Uh oh. I could see those gears working overdrive in his head.

"I think you want to make a name for yourself, yes, but I think you’re willing to die to do so. Too willing. The Republic needs its heroes, but it doesn’t need dead ones or ones that get those around them killed."

I shifted in my seat, uncomfortable with his sudden aggressiveness. Maybe I was also uncomfortable with the fact he was probably more right than I wanted to admit. Give him the answer he expects to hear or the one I want to give?

“What do you want me to say, doc? Y’all are concerned about me but I’m here to finish what I started and join up like ma- my mother did.”

His frown deepened further, and his display of more thoughtfulness in five minutes than he’d demonstrated in the previous five weeks left me off-balance. I felt a solitary drop of sweat beading at the spot on my neck where my shaved hair met naked skin. It slowly travelled down the length of my neck and down into my fatigues.

Avant replied carefully. “I’m not sure that’s good enough, Ayrs. Neither is the headmaster. If we aren’t reasonably satisfied that you won’t be a danger to yourself or your fellow soldiers....well.” He drifted off with an unhappy look. “We’ll have to find some other duty for you. Non-combat,” he said coolly, meeting my eyes with his beady black ones. He didn’t flinch, at least, I’ll give him that.

“With all due respect…”

He cut me off with a glare and a sharp hand gesture.

“This doesn’t just come from the headmaster or me, Ayrs.”

Rissa? Drav? I didn’t want to imagine either of them selling me out like this. Both? I grimaced.

“So I guess I’ll just let it all out then, doc, and we’ll see where we are when I’m done.”

He nodded and quickly added, “That’s all I want, Ayrs. To know what you want”

“What you want is to hear what y’all expect me, the typical Rimdweller, to say, right? That I want to hunt the karkers responsible down, that I want to be the one to see the life drain from their eyes? That I can’t sleep at night without seeing my mom and pop there with me, and my brother and sisters too? You want me to tell you how I wake up every morning breathing heavily and wantin’ to do a lot of damage to all the right people but for the wrong reasons. That’s what y’all want, isn’t it?”

I took a breath, which gave him the chance to interrupt.

“Is that what you really feel, Ayrs? If it is, then it’s what I want to hear. If it isn’t, you’re not helping anyone by holding it in.”

How’d I get here, trapped in this room with this karking doctor? No room to maneuver, no escape.

“Well, Doc…yeah. What I want is to find the scum responsible for Ithaca, hunt’em all down and show them that a Martell never forgets that kind of evil. What I want is for my mom and pop to be alive, or another day of running through the forest with Dio and Ver and Ally and Tor without a care in the world. I want to feel like I did when Ariel told me she loved me for the first time. But I ain’t ever going to get that, am I?”

He shook his head, almost sadly. He’s almost human.

“All I want is to be given the chance to find my own way in life. I’ve lost damn near everything I’ve ever had…everything I ever loved….but I ai...". I paused and gathered myself, taking a couple of deep breaths. “I am not going to get myself killed or anyone else. Not Rissa, not Drav or Mori, not anyone else’s mom or pop or anyone. I’m going to wake up every morning, take a deep breath, and remind myself that I'm still alive, that I can do the right thing, do some good for the galaxy. It's what mom wanted, it's why she wanted me here and why I wanted to be here too. I'm sure as hell not going to ruin that for the sake of some blood."

The doctor started to respond, but I wasn’t quite done. I’d never said this to anyone before, not even Rissa. I sure as hell wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass by because of Serge Avant.

“But I can’t do that if you don’t clear me, doc.” My voice shook a bit, and my vision got a bit blurry. Sithspit, I’m getting emotional. “If you don’t clear me, all I’ll ever have are the ghosts and memories, anger and pain. I’m never going to make it on only that..”

Doctor Avant looked at me with warm, sad, eyes full of understanding and compassion.

He began to reach out a hand, then stopped and removed a glove first; looking closely, I recognized the outline of a power box and realized it was a prosthetic, an older model too. He noticed my reaction.

“Three tours with the 22nd Division, lost my hand on Duro. Reminds me of where I've been, who I was, and who I want to be.” He smiled knowingly at me. “We all lose things in life, not everyone gets a chance to pick up the pieces and move on. Everyone deserves that chance, son. I know you’ll make me proud.”

I felt like a karking idiot, not for the first time. My face definitely shading red, I gripped his hand in mine and smiled the best I could.

“Thank you, sir. I’ll do my best.”

I’ll find you, Ally. I’ll never let you fall.

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
04.24.2013 , 07:30 PM | #2
Disclaimer/notes:
Spoiler


No game spoilers
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Graduation was coming up faster than I could believe, and more than ever I wasn’t quite sure how that made me feel. Corulag had never been a real home to me; it never could have been, really. Still, after the news from back home had filtered in, I guess it’d been a sanctuary of sorts, and the closest thing I had. Now, that security blanket was being taken away from me. Worse, Drav was being assigned to garrison duty on some no name colony, I was was heading to a recon unit and Rissa was going to be groundside working for R&D somewhere.

Most everyone was finding a way to enjoy themselves, but remembering why I’d even decided to apply had sucked any interest in celebrating out of me. Ever since I was old enough that I should have known better, I’d wanted to live up to my mom’s example - fighting the good fight, doing my part for the people around the galaxy who couldn’t always defend or help themselves from what threatened them. Now...now what once felt like the culmination of years of dreaming felt more like a trap, but one I didn’t really want to escape. Not like I had anywhere else to go.

Some academy routines still had to be followed - I’d composed a few letters to instructors I wanted to thank personally, ensured everything I had to take care of administratively was in place and…then sat and thought a lot. I hadn’t been all business, though – I’d watched a few holovids, spent quiet evenings with Rissa or Drav and the gang. Mostly, though, I spent a lot of time thinking about where my life was; I could still try to live up to the ideal I’d built for myself, but everything else felt like a mess. I wasn’t sure what would happen with me and Rissa being this far apart for the first time, wasn’t sure how I’d keep in touch with Drav. Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t even sure I wanted to think about what life would be like if and when I left the service.

Tonight, I was sifting through what few possessions I had in my quarters, the kind of mindless rearranging of objects people do when they have too much time to think and too little they wanted to actually think about. For a lot of the people here, graduating was just one objective within a larger strategic plan for their life. They’d put in their tours as required, leave for the private sector, then their lives would really begin – families, money, everything I either didn't have any more or never had in the first place.

My inventory was pretty bland for the most part. Aside from my equipment and other standard gear, I had some civvie clothes I rarely wore, a few pieces of huttball memorabilia, my family locket, pictures Rissa and I had taken while on recess this year, some carefully modified alcohol. Mom’s old DV-22 pistol too, same one that’d helped keep her alive all those years she spent fighting the Empire, pirates, Hutts, and whatever else decided to try their hand against the Republic. “Final Verdict”, the commercials had named it, as subtle as a rancor. I remembered how lovingly mom had taken care of it, which made me smile. It also made me a little sad. She should have been here.

Last, I carefully removed my locket from the pile of things and looked at it, not for the first time tonight. The small holo-still picture sprang into view. Mom and Pop were there, smiling back at me like they always did back home, like I hoped they were still doing from wherever they were now. It was their favorite picture, with Mom in1 her old armor and Pop in his old robes; it’d been taken on some mission they’d been on together, before he’d run off with her and thumbed his nose at everything else. Mom and my siblings had been gone almost three years now, though, and Pop even longer, and the hole they’d left sometimes felt like it was eating me from the inside out.

I hated being reminded me of what I lost, and loved seeing it all the same. I wasn’t sure if that was healthy or a sign I needed more counseling. Or maybe I'm already a bit nuts.

I sighed softly, then slipped the locket’s chain over my head and let it slip beneath my shirt. Painful as it might be, it was important to remember where I came from. As the doc said, even painful experiences can be used to build a life out of. Not sure I believed that as much as he did, but thinking about that sometimes made me feel a little better about myself.

I heard a soft knock on the door. Rissa

“Come on in cutie,” I said, using the affectionate term I knew would let her know I was alright and not merely sulking in my room as I was occasionally want to do. Only worse thing than being down was getting the people around me depressed to, so I tried my best not to. Course, it helped a lot that it was damn near impossible to feel too bad when I was around her.

She bounded into the room with a huge smile on her face, kissed me gently on the lips, and plopped down on the bed next to me, falling backwards to rest her head on the pillow. Not being the kind of guy to ignore an invitation, I fell back next to her, bending my arms and resting my head on my hands while mimicking the pose of a tough guy from the holovids. I threw in a scowl and winked at her for good measure. She smiled brightly at me, then kissed me again before letting loose with a nervous giggle. I knew then that I was in trouble, and her words just confirmed it.

“So, Boo….I realize you haven’t gotten the chance family yet. Sort of silly since we’ve all been on the same planet together for so long” Kark. She paused for a moment, obviously going through some lines she’d prepared beforehand. “But with graduation coming up and our assignments up in the air for another couple of weeks….I really want you to at least meet them.” Kark kark kark.”You know, say hi, put in an appearance. You’re important to me, and I love you, and there’s no reason they won’t too.”

About fifty possible answers to that flashed before my eyes, most of which I saw having fairly negative consequences for me. My throat was suddenly as dry as a desert and I was pretty sure I could feel the goose bumps forming on my arms. Simple solution; play it safe.

“Uhhhh, okay. I’d love to. It’s important that they at least know me and, really, how bad could it be?”

She narrowed her eyes at me for a moment, and her smile disappeared as well. I felt a choking sensation beginning to work its way through my throat and that ever present bead of sweat forming. Then she laughed and her eyes radiated amusement.

“Oh, don’t be like that. Meeting my family isn’t that bad, not like what they put you through after the Ortola Incident. That was hardly reassuring, but I nodded in mute agreement. Nodding along never got me into trouble. “I promise, I’ll make sure my parents are well-behaved.”

I sighed heavily. The Harvin family wasn’t likely to be too impressed with me. They were a long line of wealthy industrialists, I was some Rimmer from a colony nobody’d ever heard of and even fewer, and none of my ancestors had risen as high as theirs had. From the way Rissa described them, her father probably had more cufflinks than I had credits in the bank, and probably would prefer I was another of his servants than dating his daughter.

Still, I could see the potential benefit, if I could play my cards right, that’d be a huge burden I didn’t need off my shoulders. If I didn’t…hmmm. I wasn’t really sure. Best not to dwell on that, I guess. I suppose, even then, it might not matter as long Rissa didn’t mind putting up with me some more. She had thumbed her nose at them to be at the academy in the first place, after all.

Speaking of Rissa, I suddenly realized I’d left her waiting for a response when she cleared her throat softly to get my attention. Not being the kind of guy to leave a lady hanging, I ventured forth as best I could.

“We definitely should meet your parents, not just because they’re in town for the ceremony, but also because it’s the right thing to do.” Always start carefully, I say. “I’m sure I’ll be able to find something to impress them with. If not, I’m sure Drav will have some ideas for how to make our meetings less awkward.”

I grinned like an idiot at my joke, then felt like one when I saw the stone-cold look on her face. For a moment, I had the vain hope that was just an act, but as her jaw set more firmly in place, I realized I needed to take it a bit more seriously.

“It’s not a laughing matter, at least not to me, Ayrs.” There was an edge to her voice and an almost dangerous glint in her eyes. That tingling feeling was back with a vengeance. “I’d like to think what we have is as important to you as it is to me, and my family’s also important to me. I know it’s probably not going to be fun or enjoyable, at least at first, but I’d hate to think you can’t see why this matters.”

Not much to say in response to that, since she was right. Speaking slowly, to be sure I didn’t get myself into any more trouble, I added. “It does matter to me, Rissa. I’ll be honest, your parents scare the kark out of me, more than anything else in the galaxy. And I…I just don’t want to screw this up. With everything that…that’s happened, I can’t bear the thought of losing you because I told a bad joke to your dad or something.”

“Well, that’s easy enough to solve.” Her hand moved up my arm and cupped my cheek. “Just don’t tell him any jokes.”

I was slightly confused, “Are you saying I can’t tell which of my jokes are good or appropriate and which aren’t?”

“No,” she replied calmly, as if she’d been waiting for me to say that. “I’m saying all your jokes are bad.”

We lay there next to each other for a long moment, no sound to be heard except our breathing and my ego shattering. I leaned over towards her and gave her cheek a quick peck. Always dangerous to have a girlfriend that’s more clever than you are, I’d found out more than once. She gave me a knowing smirk that melted quickly into a smile and a girlish giggle.

I decided to seize the initiative.

“Since I’ve been so awesome and understanding about both meeting your parents and your cruel attack on my comedic talents, maybe we could find a better use for our time than crumpling my clothes and possibly breaking that Weequay Wampas sculpture you’re on top of.”

She smiled at that, then casually rolled over onto her side before slipping her hand under my shirt and laying it gently on my chest. “What did you have in mind?”

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
05.01.2013 , 03:18 PM | #3
No game spoilers. Time to get Ayrs off Corulag finally. Putting them behind spoiler tags because of length, didn't really want to post twice.

Minor notes:
Spoiler


Graduation...

Spoiler


And roughly two weeks later:

Spoiler

Caernos's Avatar


Caernos
05.01.2013 , 08:11 PM | #4
Just wanted to step in real quick and say that I am enjoying this so far, please continue.
Cynfor Cinderheart and the Cinderheart Legacy: The Ebon Hawk
The FanFic Works of Caernos:
Red Invitation, Parents,
Beskar Bonds and Cinder Hearts

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
05.02.2013 , 03:52 PM | #5
Thanks (always nice to have fans!) . I've been enjoying yours as well, especially since I haven't really done much with my BH and it's providing a lot of insight into how I might look at mine.

And, so I'm not shamelessly bumping my own thread to respond .... minor notes:

Spoiler


They called the 23rd Recon and Tactics Group the “Underbelly Dwellers”, and I understood why when we got our first assignment, place called Chalcedon that I’d never heard of before and wish I’d never been to once we landed. Planet wasn’t Republic, which was why they sent us – Recon and Tactics being the regular military’s way of avoiding calling a unit infiltration. The planet’s volcanic environment, importance to the slave trade, and the foul odor that seemed to follow everyone and everything probably explained not being in the Republic.

Captain Niamdi had made joining 2nd Squad about as smooth as I could hope for. A ten year veteran of the military, her striking features could have made her a popular model if she hadn’t been so keen on trekking around the more unseemly parts of Republic and neutral space doing her part for the galaxy. The others had also been pleasant surprises, given all the nasty stories about hazing and the like we heard about back at the academy. Sure, there’d been the incident with the Bothan back on the fleet, but that didn’t count. Mostly.

Tavon, a Devaronian who looked eerily like the one that had given the speech at the academy graduation, was an overly-serious sort. Or so it seemed, until we got our hands on a sabaac deck and we discovered he was also an expert on separating fools from their credits. There was a certain sadness to him too, although I hadn’t figured out why quite yet, and the other squad members hadn’t commented on it either. I wondered if he might have been driven by the same forces and emotions that kept me going through the day too, the way his eyes would harden whenever someone mentioned home or family.

Alix Montague was a fellow human, whose family had been forced to move from their own home out in the Outer Rim after the war ceded their planet to the Empire. She’d picked up a pair of fierce-looking facial scars from “extracurricular activity”, as she termed it, before joining the military for some payback. They clashed a bit with her black ponytail, but she seemed to like it. Not like I was one to judge a woman's grooming.

Last was a Bothan with graying fur named Haskit, who never failed to tell people “no relation” after revealing his last name was Dall’ag. I didn’t get it; in fact, none of us did, but the man did good work with explosives and was good for getting us into the best cantinas. He also seemed to have an encyclopediac knowledge of daytime holovid soap operas, which was both entertaining and more than a little frightening.

I hadn’t had much time to keep in touch with Rissa though, let alone Drav, Mori, or the others. I’d managed to shoot off a holocall to Rissa about a week back, when she was supposed to have been arriving on Corellia, but she hadn’t picked up, so the timing had been off. It always is. I’d have more time soon, I told myself, but not really believing it. Recon and Tactics meant seeing a lot of the galaxy – both good and bad – but it also meant spending a lot of time travelling. And when we weren’t travelling, we were hunkered down in some bog or watching shipping habits on backwater colonies.

Still, her last message to me had been as happy as I could have hoped for. Her parents, apparently finally recognizing defeat, had given her their blessing to “follow her dreams” (she’d rolled her eyes describing the term), and had apparently even wished me well, which was more than a little surprising. Recon and Tactics did have one benefit - a more flexible deployment schedule. Maybe, if I was lucky, I could find a few spare days in our schedule and surprise her over on Corellia.

All in all, things could be a lot wor...

Even as I was finishing that thought, I stepped in something sticky, and an especially awful smell wafted into my nostrils. To my dismay, some sort of magenta goo covered most of my boots. I heard Alix snicker. I walked right into that one.

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Lesaberisa
05.14.2013 , 11:26 AM | #6
Notes: A few weeks after the previous post. Very very minor trooper class spoiler at the bottom. This is my first time (ever) writing any kind of action, did get some help from a friend but I tried not to rely too much on him, so please feel free to point out where improvements can be made. Just be sure to sugarcoat it

Spoiler tags due to length. Some minor violence/unpleasantness.

Spoiler

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
05.14.2013 , 03:05 PM | #7
And now to get Ayrs to SpecOps, updating his love life and other tomfoolery. No game spoilers, but have the tags because of length.

Spoiler


And roughly a month later…

Spoiler

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
05.17.2013 , 02:48 PM | #8
I hung from the bar, both arms straining to hold my body up, let alone do anything more. I wondered again whether I might have made a mistake in coming to Corellia. General Grand- Garza had seemed confident in my abilities, but I was still fairly fresh out of the academy in general, let alone compared to the other candidates around me. Hell, some of the guys here made me feel like I was undersized and I had the build the recruiters could dream of. Getting full of yourself, Ayrs.

As if to ensure my feelings of inadequacy were complete, rumor had it that at least one of the spots out of this group was going to be for Havoc Squad, which only emphasized how out of my depth I felt. A little over a year out of the Academy, and I was supposed to be competing for that? Maybe the general was a bit crazy, I wasn't sure.

Still, I couldn’t deny that having a real challenge like this in front of me was doing me some good, even if the summer climate wasn't doing my outfits any favors and meant my undershirts needed more than their fair share of laundry. At least it meant something other brooding about Rissa or missing Drav, Mori and the rest of the gang. Well, that wasn’t entirely true, I still did all that, but most nights I was too exhausted to spend more than a few minutes on it. Corellia being the home of some of the finest breweries in the Core was only a bonus, particularly when one of my squad members proved to be a local.

I shook my head. Focus, you idiot. Focus. Just one more to go, and I just barely managed it before my right arm finally waved the white flag and I took the hint and dropped off the bar. The white undershirt I was wearing to keep from overheating was soaked in sweat, and even my regulation shorts felt a bit damp. Nothing had made the difference between a skilled unit like the 23rd and actual SpecOps more clear than the physical training; top-end performance out there or back at the academy was – at best – barely tolerable here.

At least I was done for the day, though, pretty much every hurt and my sprains felt like they had their own sprains to deal with. I limped slightly, and headed into the barracks, dodging a couple of other candidates who were all too eager to avoid being sweated on. It also helped that I was well-built even for a SpecOps candidate, so I was regularly given a respectable amount of room. Your presence is just too much for -

Crack

“Kark!”

I got a few stares from the candidates lounging in the recreation room, and more than a few laughs, as I rubbed the painful area on my head ruefully.

Someone back at HQ had determined that a way to mold candidates into being ready to operate in cramped or otherwise unusual physical circumstances was to build structures with hallways that sometimes had their ceilings higher or lower or whose widths changed depending on where you were. You got used to it, mostly, but at my height it couldn’t be avoided entirely, and I was sure that whoever that genius had been was probably enjoying blooper reels of me blundering my way through his buildings. Sometimes, at night when I was reciting Thorus’ name under my breath, I added that guy’s name to my list of people I would hunt down.

I pushed in the door to my room and peeled my shirt off carefully. Glancing at the mirror, I was pleased to see my hard work in the field and weight-room was more than cancelling out my disastrous attempts at cooking and occasional drink. I absentmindedly traced the scar that started on my left shoulder and ran under my armpit when a sharp wolf-whistle let me know that I wasn’t alone.

“Drav?! The hell are you doing here?”

His shaved hair had grown back somewhat, but otherwise he looked the exact same as the day I’d last seen him back on Corulag. He looked a little tired though, bags around the eyes, stress line around the forehead, even his smile looked a bit weary. Of course, seeing as he was supposed to be on the other side of the galaxy right now, it might all just be the result of some hard travelling.

"Hey, chum, I’d hug you but it looks like you’re as wet as a...err Mon Calamari.” I wondered what that was all about, then heard a couple of the female candidates walking past in the hallway. Always the gentleman.

I laughed, then clapped Drav on the back. He gave me a half-smile back, then continued his epic tale. “After you told me that you were going to be out here doing some additional training, me and Mori figured it’d be nice to surprise you. Had to call in a few favors, and couldn’t get a spot for Mori unfortunately, but I hauled myself out here on a freighter carrying toothbrushes to the CorSec Academy. Oh, and Mori says hi.”

I gave him a side-eye glance; I could never be sure which of Drav’s stories were true and which weren’t. Even those that were rooted in fact tended to be….embellished…even then. About the only thing I could say I was sure about was that Mori said hi to someone, somewhere, but damned if Drav wasn’t a sight for sore eyes.

“I’m sure the captain appreciated your incomparable wit, Drav. I’m not complaining though, it’s great to see you. Catching you and Mori on the Holonet every few weeks isn’t the same, and I’ve lost touch with too many people from back at the Academy.”

He narrowed his eyes slightly. “Even Rissa?”

I felt a sharp pain in my chest, where what was left of my heart remained. “No, we’re still in touch. In fact, I’m supposed to meet her next weekend since I’ve got leave and she’s got….well whatever you call leave when you work at one of them science labs like she does. Probably inventing the next kolto or something.”

A pregnant pause followed, and I glanced at the floor a bit awkwardly. It'd been a few months now, but there hadn't been anything to plug the gaping hole Rissa had left.

“I’m glad to hear that buddy, I have to admit that I was worried about you. Mori too. Mostly Mori of course.” He made an exaggerated waving gesture with his hand while his eyes rolled. “Women.”

I wasn’t quite sure how best to respond to that, especially with the possibility of being overheard from the hallway. I figured it was better to let Drav have the rope to hang himself with if it came to it.

“I was meaning to ask you about that, Ayrs. Why didn’t you get ahold of me sooner about how things were going between you two? I could have arranged something to help."

While he’d been talking, I’d made my way over to the small sink and filled one of the plastic cups with some water. I’d been mid-gulp when that last bit hit my ears, causing me to spit it all out in a geyser of backwash and slightly discolored water. Hmm, is it always that color?

“Arranged something? What are you, the head of a criminal organization or something?” He laughed at that and ran a hand through his hair, pausing slightly as he reached the top of his head.

“I have my ways, Ayrs, I have my ways. Mori and I could have at least tried to get you an early leave out to Corellia or something, you know how creative we can be.” The smirk on his face convinced me to let that statement slide. “Besides, you’d have owed me huge for it, and what’s a better sign for how good a friendship is than one friend lording a debt over the other.”

I took that in for a moment, using that precious break to swallow what was left of my water and place my cup back in the rack where it belonged. “You, lord something over me, Drav? Perish the thought.” I wasn’t sure if it was what I had said or the expression of mock seriousness that did it, but I finally cracked his façade and got him to let loose with his trademark guffaw. “So, how long you here for?”

“Three days, then I’ve got some alternative activities to attend to.”

I was pretty sure I didn’t want to know what that meant “Perfect, buddy, time to show you some of the finest sights of this district.”

He reclined back on his seat and mulled that over. “Don’t think Mori will like it if I try to pick up another woman, Ayrs, but I’m sure we can find you a good one. Maybe a Selonian, might be hard to find one hairier than you though.”

I contemplated throwing the cup at him, but instead meandered over to the closet where my few civilian-appropriate clothes were hanging. I doubted anyone I met out there would have been impressed by the dull dress shirts, anyway.

“We’ll leave your matchmaking skills for another night. I’ll shower and then we can head out and see who’s the real man among us.” That provoked an eyebrow raise. Point, Ayrs. “Tell me, Drav, you think you can handle a contest of drinking Tramway Fire Ale, or has getting engaged left you an even bigger lightweight?”

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Lesaberisa
05.17.2013 , 02:53 PM | #9
Small notes:
Spoiler


The café Rissa had picked seemed nice enough, mostly mid-level bureaucrats and some students from the local university, so we’d fit in okay. Nice view overlooking the promenade, trees waving in the wind, that sort of stuff, if you were into that sort of thing, I guess. Maybe I’d have enjoyed the ambiance more if I wasn’t nervous as hell; already nursing my second glass of wine and sweating as much as I did during one of our challenge workouts. I tried to surreptitiously wipe off my forehead with a napkin, then surveyed the crowd, hoping to see her coming.

Still nothing. Of course, it probably didn’t help that I’d gotten to the café about thirty minutes early. Practicing reconnaissance, I’d told myself. Hopelessly stupid, more like. The waitress didn’t seem to believe my line that someone was going to be joining me anymore, but I couldn’t say I blamed her. Kark, I feel like I’m back in first year. It’s over, you idiot. Get it through your thick skull.

At last, I saw that familiar knockout combination of long brown hair and lively brown eyes bounding towards the café, wearing a surprisingly casual black tank top and skirt. I straightened my shirt, made one last pass at running my hand through my hair, pointless as it was given my buzz cut, then stood up and waved her over. A moment later, and helped by the smirk that appeared on her face, I sheepishly realized I probably looked like some overeager teenager.

“Ayrs!” She exclaimed, the smirk replaced by a broad and reassuringly genuine smile. She wrapped her arms around my shoulders, went up on tiptoes to give me a kiss on the cheek, and then pulled herself into a hug. I hugged her back, and for a moment it felt like things were just like they used to be. Only, my cheek wasn’t tingling like it would have been back then, and her grip loosened a lot faster. Over. It’s over. Get. It. Through. Your. Head..

I motioned her over and pulled her chair out for her, then made my way back to my own, no doubt making a good impression when I slammed my foot against the table and muttered a few choice words under my breath.

“Hey Ris, how’ve you been? Drav was wondering if we could maybe get a heads up if you invent anything impressive so we can get in on the action on the stock market.”

She smiled, and put down her menu once she’d attracted the attention of the waitress. “I’m good, really busy as you might imagine. R&D always sounds like it’s going to be fun and games but it’s a lot of work, especially since people are always eager to dump the grunt work on the new people like me The same for you in Recon, I bet?”

I nodded – some things were universal truths, and giving the unwanted work to the newest people was just another. “So that’s a no to giving us any insider information? I wouldn’t mind an early retirement, you know.” I waited for a minute, then, because I realized the waitress had finally arrived. Always observant, I was. Rissa ordered something called a smoothie, I had luckily already got myself one of the overpriced bantha steaks and a brew.

“Unfortunately, no,” she said with an exaggerated frown that made me smile in response. “When’d you last talk to Drav, though?”

“Oh, he was here about a week and a half ago actually. I asked if he could stay longer but he had to cut it short. Duty, he said. Mori, most likely.” I made a motion like I was using a whip and made a cracking noise to accompany it. “He also asked that you provide free medical care for him when he’s old and decrepit.”

She rolled her eyes a bit at that last one. “With his lifestyle, he’s likely to be that way sooner than he thinks, probably driving poor Mori nuts. How’d he get out here anyway, isn’t he on an active patrol?” I hadn’t even begun to process a reply when she shook her head. “Wait, never mind. It’s Drav, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.”

I grimaced and nodded my agreement. I didn’t doubt that one dark day we’d all wake up to Drav as Supreme Chancellor. Speaking of awkward things, though, I cautiously changed tacks. “So, how’re your parents, still giving you trouble?”

I could see the question troubled her, but she was bought some time by the waitress arriving with our drinks and my food. She mulled things over a bit as she drank a bit of the smoothie-thing, then leaned forward. “My mother’s still upset about the entire thing, but I think being assigned to research work on Corellia has eased her concerns a bit. Father….well I haven’t really spoken with him in some time. I couldn’t say.”

I frowned in response, and contemplated my beer for a moment. “Well, they’re the ones missing out.”

The rest of the lunch was less uncomfortable, luckily, mostly idle banter about where our friends were, how terrible our superiors could be, the usual. Apparently one of her colleagues was coordinating a project with Galactic Solutions Industries on something called a seeker droid for finding lost equipment and other items in combat zones, which sounded interesting enough once I got past the technical jargon. I didn’t really mind not understanding it, anyway, it was nice seeing Ris happy. Just wish I was the one making it happen.

As the shadows crept over our table, she glanced at the time and made a facial expression that resembled the bastard child of a grimace and the look she would get after I tried a new joke on her.

“Time to go?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

She nodded and knelt to get her expensive-looking bag off the ground. I hoped I hadn’t spilled anything on it. “I’ve got a meeting back at the lab to review some of the implications of some hypotheses posited in an Imperial medical journal.”

That caught me off guard a bit. “You guys read the Imp journals too.”

“Knowledge crosses borders, Ayrs.” She grinned that knowing smile she always got when I’d unintentionally amused her. “My supervisor was pretty impressed by the level of detail, apparently the author, Dorne or something like that, was still in the training process when she wrote it. She’s even Republic now, interestingly enough, defected a year ago or so. Unfortunately, SIS and internal security makes getting ahold of her a nightmare.”*

“No kidding.” Ayrs Martell, conversationalist without peer. No sense in prolonging things, though; I lurched out of my chair and enveloped Rissa in a big hug, which she returned. “Take care of yourself, Ris, and keep in touch, eh?”

She backed away from our embrace and looked me square in the eyes, with a look so much softer than that of a drill sergeant but so much harder to look back at. Then she cupped my cheek in her hand and smiled. “You too, Ayrs. I expect to see you on Havoc Squad’s roster soon.” With that, she turned and began walking back towards the tram.

“Keeping tabs on me, Ris?”

She turned back for a moment and gave me one of her trademark smiles like I hadn’t seen since Corulag. “It may not have worked out with us, but some things will never change. You’ve always made me proud, and you always will. I'm glad we could do this, and i'm glad to see you doing so well."

"Me too".

Just before she was swallowed up by the crowd, she turned one more time.

"Your family would be so proud of you right now."

Something caught in my throat, and she was gone before I could respond. My cheek did tingle a bit, though.

*
Spoiler

Lesaberisa's Avatar


Lesaberisa
05.20.2013 , 10:19 AM | #10
Not really pleased with this one, but he's got to join Havoc and get the main story started, so onward!
----------------

New orders were supposed to be coming in soon, so I abused my HoloNet privileges to check in with Mori and Drav for an extra few minutes. They seemed to be really enjoying their work with the geological office, which made no sense to me, but then again not much about them - especially Drav - ever did. It'd felt good to catch up, even made up for not being able to get ahold of Ris. The cold beer before bed felt good too.

It'd been another night of dreamless sleep when I was awakened by a knock on my door. I opened an eye and peered at the time. Still an hour to go. With a loud groan, I rolled onto my side and then swung my body so my feet touched the ground. The knocking returned, more insistent this time, but I was going to take my time. Hopefully the Empire wasn’t doing something crazy like invading Corellia or something, because I wasn’t going to be rushed at this hour.

Shuffling over to the door, I yawned, stretched a few times, then slapped a hand against the control panel to open it. Awaiting me wasn’t another candidate or – thankfully – Drav, but Major Lon Anderson, the ranking officer. I snapped to attention and fired off the most professional salute I’d given since joining up.

“Sir, what can I do for you?”

He jerked a thumb out the window and over to the administration building. “You’re needed. Congratulations, son.”

And with that, maybe the second thing he’d said to me since I got here, he was gone. Well, they never said SpecOps troopers were trained to be social.

I shrugged, more to myself than anything, and quickly pulled on my non-combat fatigues. When I was younger, a wakeup like this would have been most unwelcome, but these days I didn’t have any pleasant dreams to be shaken from. Maybe if I was lucky, I would get some kind of posting on a world where I could let myself be distracted for once. Maybe with a Zeltron or something. I stopped for a moment, feeling the strong urge to slap myself in the face for that one.

Shivering a bit from the morning chill, I trudged across the under-lit campus, mulling over the possibilities in my head. Maybe the 23rd needed me back, maybe Drav had named me in a plot to seize control of the Hutt Cartel, maybe someone had finally realized it’d been me stealing extra chocolate cake from the mess hall back on Corulag. I strode through the main door, hoping I looked more in control than I felt. A protocol droid was waiting for me. Oh boy.

“Greetings, kind sir, May I please direct you to Conference Room 23…”

I kept walking, couldn’t stand protocol droids. Bad enough when it was another person telling you what to do, what to think, where to sit. Even worse when it was some metal contraption yapping at you, I couldn’t even imagine being one of those people that had one around all the time like some mechanical butler. No matter, a couple more corridors and I could see what warranted getting me out of bed forty six minutes early.

The doors opened with a loud Tsssssssh and I came face to face with a life size holo of…

“General Garza! Sir, it’s an honor.” I snapped back to attention, and did my best to at least match the salute I’d given to Major Anderson minutes before.

She looked a little amused by my gung-ho soldier routine and waved at me to let me know I could relax.

“Specialist Ayrs Martell. It is my honor to inform you that have been selected to join Havoc Squad.” I practically soiled myself at that, but she kept going. “In addition, in light of your meritorious service in your previous tour and outstanding achievement in singlehanded preventing the capture of Counselor Matrik on Bantonin, you are hereby promoted to the rank of Sergeant, First Class. You will have two days to arrange your effects and any personal matters that need to be taken care of, then you are expected to report to Hanger Bay 36A for briefing. Congratulations, Sergeant.”

My mouth was dry and I felt a bit dizzy. I wondered if this was what Drav felt like when he couldn’t think of something witty to say.

“Th-thank you, Sir. I can’t tell you how much this means to me, how much it would have meant to my parents and family too.” She smiled at that, one of those small knowing smiles that people give when they know more than you do, but also more than they could ever share. It was also a little scary, coming from Elin Garza.

“It seems soldiering – and serving the Republic – runs in your blood, sergeant. Your mother was a fine soldier as well, an example for us all. And an even better woman.”

I’d almost forgotten that my mother had served under Garza, all those years ago. Mom didn’t talk about her military days much, said she didn’t want to influence us kids too much when it came to planning our future. Not that that had done much to dissuade me from leaving for the academy…leaving my family behind. I winced slightly. Focus, the general deserves better than to have you reminiscing like some idiot.

“She always spoke very highly of you, sir. Said it was an honor to serve under you, and she always meant what she said.”

Garza – well, her holo - looked over my shoulder for a moment, but her gaze was unfocused so I didn’t know if it was something I said, boredom or her trying to identify something across the room. “Your family is a proud one, Sergeant, and serves as an example to us all.”

“The galaxy calls, my families answer.” To my surprise, that managed to inspire a real smile from her. It was the same feeling I’d had when I’d finally managed to leave Drav speechless once. And still no cam to get proof. After her smile died off, I finally took the plunge. I had to, or that nagging feeling in my stomach would eat a hole through me. “Sir, might I ask a somewhat pointed question?”

The holo nodded.

“I guess I just don’t understand why I was chosen for this position over some of the others. They’ve been in the service for far longer, I’m only a little over a year out of the academy. Not that I’m complaining, sir.”

She looked off to the side for a moment; I recognized a time-buying habit when I saw one, but her response was as forceful as if it was prepared. “Your family has served the Republic with distinction for generations, and your own service has been extraordinary. You, personally, have overcome great personal tragedy to put the needs of the galaxy above your own. The experience comes with time, your talent and determination do not.”

“So I’m getting the spot for a bit of PR? Sir?”

Garza shook her head. “No, you misunderstand. The Republic cannot rely on old institutions and traditions to justify itself to its people and the galaxy, it needs to demonstrate strength. We must show we will fight the Empire wherever it threatens our people and their freedom, in space, in the skies, on the ground. We will be the vanguard of the Republic’s victory, fighting the battles that need winning. Your name may never be remembered, but your actions will be”

I wasn’t sure how much of that I believed, but she believed it, which was good enough for me. Hell, I was always a sucker for good speeches in the holovids too.

“Yes, sir. I won’t let you down.”

The general’s face softened somehow, almost reminding me of Mom for a moment, and her voice felt softer too.

“You never have.”